Everyone appears to have an opinion on the recent mayhem in our cities. The sight of young people rampaging, assaulting, looting and burning their neighbour’s properties has been truly shocking.
Not so long ago I carried out some research into the cost of creating employment and found that employers would need to pay four times as much to provide employment than in 1994. One of the biggest price tags was security and asset protection. In the past few days we have seen the investment wasted when attacked by a gang high on adrenalin, frustration and resentment who were allowed to discharge this unhindered.
To many of us it seems we have created or at least allowed to breed, an underclass of the work shy. It may look like, and the politicians responsible insist, there is a single generation of uneducated, uncouth, unconcerned and unemployable young people of all ethnic origins. Older observers know there is not a single generation and that the anti social and irresponsible behaviour has been with us for decades.
Prior to 1975 most of the work shy had employment; many in nationalised industries that were failing to provide anything other than a wage for masses of un-ambitious uneducated, uncouth and unconcerned individuals. They formed an army of influence controlled by uneducated but ambitious trade union barons and the educated, ambitious and misguided academic socialists who were the Parliamentary Labour Party. Many of the individuals, who attended their place of employment, remained there for the minimum time required and then demanded payment. These are the grand parents of the current underclass. They were entitled to be housed, fed and given beer money. They are still entitled to that but don’t even need to clock on for it.
We now hear a great deal about entitlement. Perhaps this is the Age of Entitlement.
1968 – the Age of Deference: educated young people ran riot and the richest nation sent their young people to slaughter in an alien environment for the sake of political ideology
1975 – the End of the Old Order
1979 should have been the end of the Age of Socialist Idealism even though the end of the Age of Communist Tyranny had to wait until 1988.
1997 was certainly the beginning of the Age of Professional Politicians, who are proving no better at defining priorities or identifying effective policies than their predecessors.
When the Age of Entitlement began is harder to decide.
Just like in 1975 we are facing another period of ‘Stagflation’, stagnant growth and excessive inflation, possibly worldwide. During this period we will all become frustrated and resentful, many of us will lose our businesses and even our homes.
If we have built businesses that succumb to the conditions we will have made ourselves unemployed and possibly unemployable; we will not be eligible for the State benefits enjoyed by those who never tried. We will be entitled to our frustration and resentment but little else.
We are told the young rioters, looters and arsonists were excluded from enjoying the benefits of our consumer society and resented this and that they were entitled to feel resentment. Tariq Jahan is entitled to feel resentment over the murder of his son and his son’s friends but he displays gentle dignity in his grief, he is entitled to our sympathy and respect. As a small businessman he is entitled to little else.
In the Age of Entitlement the same old rules apply; some entitlement is right and some is wrong. Who can we rely on to make the correct judgments? We have no power to do it for ourselves, we can only claim entitlement.