Peter Smith

A step too far?

I haven’t felt the same since I fell off the top of my washing machine. My side and back still hurt occasionally and my stomach has been playing up. Having been used to going to a medical centre in the city when I was working there, I thought it would now be more convenient to visit a local doctor.

Over coffee, a neighbour suggested his doctor. I called and was told by a receptionist, somewhat condescendingly I thought, that the doctor was accepting no new patients. But, hold on, as I knew a patient of his, I could leave my name and she would ask about possibly fitting me in. I declined this offer. I take my politics seriously. I don’t mind paying to jump a queue but objective to special favours based on who you know. It smacks too much of one of the many objectionable features of socialism. And, in any event, I did not want to give her the satisfaction of putting me in a queue; which, when you think about it, we would all have to get used to in a socialist paradise.

What is my point? My point is about entitlements. Unlike, say, free speech, an entitlement is a ‘right’ which can be exercised only if it is available and can be afforded. During past personal impecunious times my so-called entitlements were not generously upheld by shopkeepers or by my bank manager. Equally, any entitlement I might have thought I had to see that doctor was taken away tout de suite. He was full up.

On a personal level we have to accept that we can’t always have what we want. How terribly unfair is that? Politicians have become increasingly adept at tapping into these infantile frustrations. If only we elect them into well paid white collar jobs, we can, after all, have more of what we want. Disappointingly, Tony Abbott, as we know, is doing his bit to further the entitlement society. Who needs the parties of the left to get more of those alluring entitlements when we have parties of the right?

The music will eventually stop. Entitlements will become unaffordable. Where this will lead? Who knows; perhaps it will lead to despotism of some kind. The difficulties should not be underestimated. We are getting to a stage where in industrial democracies more than half the population, who would normally have taken care of themselves by working and saving, will have become dependent on the state for all, or a substantive part, of their sustenance. And it is getting worse all the time.

Is there hope? There seems none in sclerotic Europe. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope in the US. Perhaps Obama-Care has gone a step too far in the only country left which understands that freedom doesn’t come as a birthright but has to be fought for. Where else would the Tea Party movement have sprung up? The mid-term US Congressional and Senate elections in November this year might provide the Republicans with enough votes to repeal the legislation or at least to gut it of its most egregious parts.

It would be ground-breaking if a massive entitlement program were to be repudiated, after the inexorable rise in entitlement programs since the end of World War II. Reagan and Thatcher tried but failed. Entitlement spending went on rising; entitlement programs proved resilient.

It might be instructive and salutary for conservative politicians to see a concrete demonstration that there is another winning path; other than promising people that they can pay themselves more than they can ever earn. We have to depend on conservative politicians, whatever their past infidelities, because those on the left build their constituencies around undermining individual self-reliance and keeping people dependent. They would lead us to a socialist ‘paradise’ – loss of freedom, relative impoverishment and those queues – even while hiding behind their democratic credentials. Don’t think it can’t happen because it is happening and all we need is a few more decades of more of the same and too many will be on the public teat to turn it back. Eastern Europe had a glowingly better model on its doorstep. What happens if there is no better model, if even the US has succumbed, if it is all the same dross?

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