- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2000

One hundred years ago Great Britain was the world's only superpower. Today even its culture is disappearing. The nation that stood up to Napoleon and Adolf Hitler has been overcome by the welfare state.

In the 1960s, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, now a U.S. senator from New York, pointed out that welfare, not the Ku Klux Klan, destroyed the black American family. Just at the point when discrimination barriers to black progress had been removed, the welfare state took over from segregation as the obstacle to black advancement.

Welfare is not a racial affliction. It has had the same effect on British people. In a recent analysis, American sociologist Charles Murray finds British illegitimacy has soared and marriage no longer is a strong institution serving as the cornerstone of British society.

As the London Times put it, "What were once conventional norms of behavior are being overturned across the board." The Labor (socialist) government "is more concerned with gay issues than the collapse of the traditional family structure." "The truth is," the Times says, "that Britain is no longer a tolerant society united by shared values and civilized attitudes."

The English were proud of their civilized country. Violence was rare, and the police did not need to carry guns. The British never imagined they would overtake the United States in violent crimes, but they have.

Letters published in the Times in response to Mr. Murray's analysis show a nation in denial. The facts are indisputable, but a generation of brainwashed British cannot accept that their "compassionate" welfare system played any role in the destruction of their culture.

Dr. Gordon Bowker writing from London says it is not British welfare but American capitalism that has brought "about a more crime-ridden Britain."

Alistair Sinclair from Glasgow agrees it is America's "worst aspects," its "greedy, self-indulgent and money-grubbing culture" that has unraveled British culture.

The Rev. John Root, Dean of Brent in Middlesex, says Mr. Murray doesn't understand that "the moral standards of the comfortable- [sic] off don't work for the poor."

Trenchant minds seem to have congregated in Middlesex. Catriona Woolner sets Mr. Murray straight for being judgmental, blaming the victim and stigmatizing "vast numbers of people" with the term "underclass" that "carries within it notions of undeservingness."

Audrey Bronstein of the U.K. Poverty Program says the underclass is the product of "inequities of power and wealth."

These responses describe the manifesto of the Labor Party. Social institutions, such as capitalism and the family, that permit individual success are viewed as culprits. Subscribe to this thinking and the way to avoid an underclass is to avoid having a successful class. Thus, policies that break down the family and property are Labor's mainstay.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor government intends to extend the estate tax exemption to co-habiting homosexuals. This effectively abolishes the legal notion of inheritance based on kinship and family.

The Labor government also intends to extend the franchise, both for local and general elections, to squatters who break into property and illegally occupy homes and businesses. Roving bands of new age "travelers" of no fixed address will be permitted to vote in whatever ward they wander into on Election Day.

The Labor government intends, as well, to give the vote to prisoners. This will have an interesting effect on local governance of small wards in which large prisons are located.

Explaining the new franchise, the Labor government says: "The idea is to help those who have become disenfranchised from the voting process to return to it."

British culture has disappeared because the British government can tell no difference between those who carry the burdens of society and those who burden society. To the extent the government sees a difference, it sees the law-abiding citizens who support the government with taxes as a "hegemonic class" whose judgmental moral values discriminate against lawbreakers and drifters, thus casting them into an underclass.

Under the equal rights provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, which will become part of British law this year, denying the vote can be an act of discrimination.

These new voting rights offer interesting opportunities. Under the new arrangements, Gypsy caravans will be able to congregate in smaller wards and take over the local government. Would the citizens of London decide to follow this example, drift to Birmingham in time for a local election and leave those citizens with the cost of maintaining London's public services?

Now that people with no roots in a community can decide its affairs, will the English use Mr. Blair's reforms to migrate electorally to Scotland and Wales and reclaim these provinces that are being lost to devolution? Perhaps a resurgence in English imperialism will be the unintended consequence of Mr. Blair's new franchise.

Paul Craig Roberts is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.

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