I found this snippet in the Times:
One in three households across Britain depends on state benefits for at least half its income, according to a report released today by the right-of-centre think-tank Civitas. It says that the figure is far higher for single-parent homes, with 61 per cent relying on state support compared with 9 per cent of two-parent households
(The actual Civitas report says “some 30 per cent of households”, but the editors of the Times clearly feel that percentages are beyond their readership.)
While I have not had the chance to verify this, I find it deeply disturbing. As the welfare state expands, it begins to lose its original purpose of ensuring a healthy and cohesive society in which nobody need want for education, health care, nor for food and shelter if they are out of work. Instead, it has become a massive patronage system, whereby an ever greater proportion of society has become dependent on the state for their living.
At the very least, this places an increasing burden on the more productive elements of society, creating tension between those who pay taxes and those who receive benefits. The contributors become resentful, while the beneficiaries increasingly come to see benefits as a natural state of being – it becomes normal to go through life on welfare. The more people are beneficiaries of the state, the harder it is to reform welfare to reduce costs and encourage greater independence, as those with a vested interest in the status quo gain greater political clout.
More importantly, the creeping expansion of welfare undermines the autonomy which is an essential element of a free society. Instead of individuals being in control of their own destiny, making decisions about how they lead their lives that benefit both themselves and their neighbours, they become vassals of the state, infantilised by permanent paternalism.
The fact that a third of households rely on benefit for over half their income is not a sign of a prosperous society giving generously to the most needy. It is not a sign of the success of our welfare state. It is a sign of terrible failure that in one of the richest countries in the world, a third of households are reliant on hand-outs.