THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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Slavery in Modern Britain

Yesterday, I walked around the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. On my iPod I was listening to Copland's "Lincoln Portrait", which includes a narration featuring some of President Lincoln's own words. One passage struck me as I enjoyed the Chinese art I had gone to see.

It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, 'You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle." --October 15, 1858 Debate at Alton

Many people in Britain are living by that same principle today. Do the able but unemployed or "economically inactive" on benefits not say "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it". How do they differ, precisely, from tyrants or slave-owners? For five months of the calendar year until "Tax Freedom Day", are we not their slaves, forced to work without pay to support them? After all, £200 billion of the UK's £600 billion annual budget is spent on welfare benefits.

Just before I left England last week, I was horrified to hear the story of a young man in his twenties who had been signed "on the sick" for 15 years, after being diagnosed with depression. The logic of his doctor was that it can take that long to treat. So it can - and not always with success. Equally, many of the most successful people in our economy are depressives trying to prove to themselves that they have a right to exist by making a positive contribution to society! I have worked with several. This young chap should, of course, get help but he is unlikely to recover by sitting home between therapy sessions contemplating his sad psychological fate.

In what sane economy would a young man, physically strong, be told to stay home until he is in his late forties because he has a non-disabling illness? Economics apart, what sane doctor would discourage a patient in such a shocking manner? I suspect the doctor did not regard him as a genuine case and chose to give what he thought was a routine lead-swinger exactly what he wanted, without the need to see him again.

How can kind intentions and a desire for social security have led to the majority of us living half our working lives as slaves to idlers? I exempt from all criticism those who are between jobs and seeking work; those who are genuinely disabled and unable to work. My concern is for those (and they know who they are) whose "bad backs," "depression" or whose selfish desires to have more children than they can afford lead them to live their lives in idleness at the expense of their fellows. They are slave masters and should be despised as such.