The Null Device

The end of egalitarianism

Are we seeing the end of egalitarianism in Australia, with public opinion shifting against welfare? Is this a product of "shareholder democracy", where everyone aspires to be rich, and poverty is seen as a character flaw, or of the ruling classes no longer needing to put up with profit-sapping welfare programmes to keep the poor from revolting now that the spectre of Communism has been banished? Will our future look like Brazil, with gated communities and shanty towns, or perhaps Dickensian England, with "poor laws" keeping the rabble in their place? Discuss.

There are 5 comments on "The end of egalitarianism":

Posted by: Jillian Thu Apr 3 16:03:18 2003

I don't know anything about the dynamics of Australia, but I do now that egalitarianism does not exist anywhere. It is a utopian ideal. Capitalist societies cannot exist without class structure. As the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. In North American now, giving to the poor is seen as a charitable cause. Welfare reform has been instated in bother Canada and the US of the last few years... if you want to look to the future of your country, look no further than across the Pacific.

On the flip side, welfare is not meant to be a substitute for an income gaining job. It is meant to support people temporarily who fall on bad times. I imagine it's the same for you as it is for us. There are abuseres of the system - double dipper, lazy asses who won't look for jobs, cheaters... It's reasons like this that the tax paying portion of society wants welfare reform.

A lot of people here (in Canada) believe in "Workfare"... if you want to collect from the government, you work to get it. You clean the streets,

Posted by: Jillian Thu Apr 3 16:04:50 2003

the rest...

You clean the streets, you paint light poles... others believe welfare should only be for the disabled or people who medically cannot work...

It's an interesting debate around the world.

Posted by: acb Thu Apr 3 16:24:08 2003

OTOH, left to its own devices, wealth inequality increases as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Some (like P.J. O'Rourke) would argue whether that's a bad thing, though others would point that it leads to societies like Brazil, where the middle class is virtually nonexistent and democratic institutions are undermined by the difference in power between the ultra-rich minority and the rest of society. Some say the USA is headed rapidly in that direction (but they usually say so in columns in the Guardian).

OTOH, the old Communist dream of absolute equality is completely barmy and any attempt to implement it usually results in misery on a mass scale.

Still, there must be a middle ground of checks and balances to keep inequality from getting too extreme.

Posted by: gjw Thu Apr 3 22:44:09 2003

The checks and balances should just be common sense. The percentage of "bludgers" is actually quite low. I've never known one - the closest I've come to knowing a dole cheat is someone who was trying to convince centrelink their boyfrind was just a housemate. But I'm sure it makes perfect economic sense to provide welfare to those with no other source of income in order to prevent the crime that necessarily follows from people trying to survive on no income.

Posted by: dj http:// Fri Apr 4 03:40:32 2003

When has there ever been an attempt to bring about absolute equality on a large scale? Certainly wasn't the case in either Cuba, USSR or China. Right from the start the vanguard party was already a "little bit more equal" than everyone else. The groups that had a commitment to equal say in economic, social and political matters were generally opposed to the forces that 'won' each of those 'revolutions'.

My take is that welfare will be paid so long as it is seen to be politically and economically cost effective by the more powerful elements of our society. This would mean the levels and conditions will fluctuate, but it cannot disappear or go below a certain point. There are many variables including the amount of work done by humans, passivity of the population etc. It would be pretty hard to see the complete demolishing of the system though, it would reveal the complete bankruptcy of the current way of doing things.

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