For the first time in history, half the population of Britain will be entitled to receive welfare benefits. The latest national budget, unveiled last week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, gives families with incomes up to £66,000 a year ($94,380) the right to claim money from the government for the upkeep of their children.

A family whose yearly income is nearly $100,000 is hardly poor, of course, and the economic absurdity of taking money from people and then handing some of it back to them, in the process losing a goodly portion in administrative costs, is evident. But from a slightly more sinister point of view, such a proceeding makes perfect sense. First, it creates a very large class of people who are or appear to be or believe themselves to be dependent upon the government for a portion of their income, and who will be loath to change the government for fear of losing that portion. Second, it creates and gives a livelihood to a substantial number of semi-educated bureaucrats, who might otherwise have to do productive work for a living, and who will naturally support the kind of government that called the bureaucracy into being. It also creates an atmosphere in which people will regard the state as every child’s third—or, in a growing number of cases, second—parent.

Britain is fast returning to the pre-Thatcher world of high taxation and statism, under the pretext that it is the government’s duty to provide its citizens with the good things of life, whether they deserve them or not. As the psalm puts it, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; but in contemporary Britain, our money is the government’s and the fullness thereof. Of course, it allows us a little pocket money each week, as any caring parent should.


City Journal is a publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (MI), a leading free-market think tank. Are you interested in supporting the magazine? As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, donations in support of MI and City Journal are fully tax-deductible as provided by law (EIN #13-2912529).

Further Reading

Up Next