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By Theodore Dalrymple

The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism.

Eye on the News

Theodore Dalrymple
A Right to Trashy TV
A new proposal threatens to sink British social policy to another new low.
8 January 2004

A tax on knowledge is a terrible thing, of course, but a tax on ignorance, or at least on liberal prejudice, evasion, and half-truth, is even worse. And that is what every British household with a television must pay, for the privilege of having the earnest but frivolous lucubrations of the BBC purveyed to it, whether it wants them or not.

This tax—the TV license fee, as it is known—is not negligible: about $190 per household a year. It is thus worth evading, and in 2002, authorities caught 398,000 households doing so. Unfortunately, it cost nearly three times as much to catch them ($250 million) as the license fees would have raised if paid. And 40 errant householders, predominantly single mothers on welfare, went to jail for persistent non-payment.

A liberal think-tank close to the government has come up with a solution to the problem: halve the license fee for single mothers. In other words, we should subsidize a subsidy, in the name of a universal “right” to misinformation and trashy entertainment (and at the same time confer yet another incentive—albeit a small one, though such incentives are additive—for single parenthood). Reportedly, the government is favorably inclined toward the proposal.

Here is the definition of current British social policy: an idiocy wrapped in a lunacy wrapped in an absurdity, to produce misery and squalor.

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