It’s (not) the welfare society, stupid!

This’ll be a quick one and mostly observational at that, but observation’s what I do best, after all.

Everyone from realpolitik Greg Sheridan to former Marxist-turned-libertarian Brendan O’Neill and now the Liberal Party’s favourite fish net wearing, private-school-accented-but-we-know-you’re-a-social-lefty-deep-down former foreign minister have recently jumped on the bandwagon to blame Britain’s riots on welfare dependency.

While I agree that attempts to paint opportunistic looting as political revolution should be viewed skeptically, as ideological point scoring by the old-guard Left, it is equally true that linking anti-social riots to the welfare state is no more than cynical rhetoric defending laissez-faire orthodoxy. Or something like that.

Surely the continued dismantling of social and community structures under the banner of economic rationalism has done more to create a generation of selfish, nihilistic youth than public hospitals and subsidised bus fares? As confessed social democrat and liberal humanist letter-writer John Knight points out, employment and education are key factors in preventing such pointlessly destructive behaviour. But as he would know, sometimes markets fail and jobs cannot be found. At which point, taking away people’s living allowances will not improve matters.

The point is not that we shouldn’t have ongoing conversations about why and how we provide welfare to the least fortunate in society, to ensure they are provided for but also to prevent, as far as possible, the development of a dependent frame of mind. The point is how transparently opportunistic these headline grabbing arguments linking welfare and social discohesion have been. They have been even less intellectually rigorous than attempts by some progressive voices to paint the rioters as victims. It’s almost as though someone in the broad right-wing decided that linking welfare payments to social unrest would be a good way of uniting social conservatives and economic libertarians along with everyone else who likes to rail against the well-meaning, do-gooder, bleeding-heart elites and then ran the entire field with it, never stopping to look back or, I don’t know, construct a convincing argument.

Oh, and politically correct. They also like to rail against people who are and want us all to be “politically correct”. And I can agree with that, to a point.

I hate what politically correct has come to mean for some people. Words do matter, but not as much as actions and when people suggest, for example, that a conservative writer like Andrew Bolt should face court simply because he offends certain people on a completely subjective basis, I get frustrated. Not least because it puts me on the same, tenuous side of the fence as Bolt, if only for a brief while.

But I would remind people like Geoffrey Crome (appearing on the same page as Mr Knight) who suggest multiculturalism is the cause of recent unrest (and raises that pathetically simplistic Left-slur of political-correctness gone too far) that rioting youth have included both whites and blacks. Those defending their properties and condemning the looters have included Muslims and other non-Anglo British citizens.

Politically correct it may be, but those are the facts.

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