Monday, 2 December 2013

Popper's theses on gov't (5): institutions are insufficient without traditions

Institutions alone are never sufficient if not tempered by traditions. Institutions are always ambivalent in the sense that, in the absence of a strong tradition, they also may serve the opposite purpose to the one intended…To sum up: Traditions are needed to form a kind of link between institutions and the intentions and valuations of individual men [sic].

Popper’s fifth liberal thesis seems a comment upon the national and international institutions set up in the wave of collectivism that followed the Second World War.

I’d like to look at Great Britain’s welfare state, set up to combat the "five giants" identified by Sir William Beveridge in his report of 1942: Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.

The welfare state had no traditions in British society and therefore became a political football at elections times, and at other times it housed a massive unelected Establishment intent upon walking a socialist state into our systems, no matter the political hue of the day’s government. The result: Beveridge’s five giants are bigger than ever:

Food banks are proliferating, as are payday loan companies.
The National Health Service is in a perennial state of collapse and, at the last count, 13,000 people have died unnecessarily in just 13 trusts.
The Teaching Times reports that 17% of school leavers are functionally illiterate; this despite unprecedented funds being pumped into education since 1997.
It seems children are found living in squalid conditions every week, with social services aware of their condition. There's countless articles on this - check it out.
Idleness has long been a political synonym for unemployment. School-leavers struggle to find jobs because older immigrants with more mature social skills take bottom-rung positions that school-leavers traditionally occupied. Further strain is put on the welfare system by immigrants who come here specifically to claim benefits without working.

It’s no surprise that Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has announced that the welfare state needs "permanent cuts" if its cost is to be sustainable. Had William Beveridge been less dazzled by the hope of collectivism, he might have seen that the War to End all Wars was never going to come, and cut his cloth – and ours – accordingly.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

This series:

Popper's theses on gov't (1): state a necessary evil

Popper's theses on gov't (2): democratic government can be got rid of without bloodshed

Popper's theses on gov't (3): democracy confers no benefit on citizens

Popper's theses on gov't (4): we're not democrats because the majority is always right

Popper's theses on gov't (5): institutions are insufficient without traditions

Popper's theses on gov't (6): Utopia is an impossibility

Popper's theses on gov't (7) - liberalism is evolutionary, not revolutionary


Social Insurance and Allied Services Report by Sir William Beveridge (The Beveridge Report

Numbers relying on food banks triple in a year -

13,000 died needlessly at 14 worst NHS trusts - Laura Donnelly and Patrick Sawer, July 2013, The Telegraph

17% of school leavers "functionally illiterate" - Teaching Times

Autumn Statement 2013: Britain can no longer afford welfare state, warns Osborne - James Kirkup, December 2013

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