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The Philpott case should prompt debate about Britain’s underclass

4 April 2013

6:39 PM

4 April 2013

6:39 PM

The Philpott case has already turned into a row about media reporting. You can see why. It is so much easier to argue about a newspaper front-page than to talk about the terrible underclass this country has created.

In a nutshell our problem is this. For hard-working couples, having children in 21st century Britain is unbelievably costly. Having been taxed at every turn of their lives they have to think extremely carefully about whether they can afford to have a child. Many will decide they cannot. Others will decide that they can but will spend endless nights worrying over how they are going to support the child they have brought into the world. If they find they can afford that first child they will still think very hard about whether they can afford a second, let alone a third.

The cosmic joke is that at the same time that such couples are worrying about their bills, they will be paying money to encourage another group of people to have children with few such concerns. Of course most of this latter group do not live like millionaires. And naturally most do not burn their children to death. But there is a substantial class – or underclass – in this country which no longer shares the concerns of what used to be ordinary people.

If you think this is not an issue – like much of the political left – then you have to ask yourself a straightforward question. What is the long-term future for a country where responsible people are discouraged from having children and the irresponsible encouraged? And yes – it is not just irresponsible, but deeply, deeply irreponsible to bring a child into the world if you do not have the means to support that child, let alone no intention of obtaining such means. Of course some peoples’ circumstances change for the worse and the welfare state should be there precisely to support such people. But people who have no job and no prospect of getting one and yet have more children are bad and selfish people.

A simple reversal needs to take place so that people on welfare are dis-incentivised from having children and working couples are incentivised. Exactly how this should be done can be debated. But what should not be debated is that people on welfare should not just worry about having children as much as working couples do – they should worry about it far, far more. And that is not just because the cost of their actions ought to be higher, but because the cost of their actions is higher..

However, as the war against Iain Duncan Smith’s efforts has shown, this country appears unwilling to make such basic judgements. It often seems that we are going to have to hit the bottom and break completely before some people realise it needs fixing at all.

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