It was the day after Christmas and I was sat at home in the UK on a warm, cosy sofa watching Harry Potter with the family, having eaten far too much food for the second day running. It’s certainly a life of warmth and provision I’m lucky enough to be living. Family discussions on Greece and news-related reminders got me thinking however, am I “lucky” to be living in these conditions? Well yes, of course, but what I’m saying is, I’m lucky to find myself on a cosy sofa, with food a plenty, but this situation is not down to luck. There’s a fine distinction.
My lucky Christmas was thanks to a series of decisions made individually and collectively that span the last century or so (and beyond). Now, in a horrible attempt to analyse the history of Britain’s current socio-economic situation in a few key decisions, we would sweep through the agricultural and industrial revolutions, consider its trading past, not forgetting, while not praising, colonial encounters, to reach the mid twentieth century as a developed economy.
Considering pre and post-war contexts, at this point you could then siphon welfare reform into some specific moments – focusing on the establishment of the welfare state including pensions, free school meals, and national insurance – aided largely by the Beveridge report of 1942 (an economist who wished to slay the five giants of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness). The establishment of free, widespread and compulsory education for both boys and girls should not be forgotten either, nor should universal suffrage, or the establishment of a supporting infrastructure for development… the list goes on… (Okay, horrible summary finished).
Thanks to these decisions and others, my father did not have to worry about his next meal like his grandparents did, he could even climb the socio-economic ladder through education, get into a profession his parents never could, and was left with a small disposable income his parents never had. My family could then buy a cosy house and have enough to put a feast on the table. It may seem simple, but for many families across the world those two things are so very hard to come by. Many families can only dream of the economic security and circumstances which would allow them to have a warm and decent meal with their families.
Am I saying that the British economic situation is a beacon of perfection? No, not at all. Do I realise that all UK citizens are not as lucky? Of course. Poverty and unemployment persist across the country and there are still many, many improvements to be made. Do I think that the path to Britain’s economic development is nevertheless golden. Absolutely not. But if you can forgive the gallop through recent British economic history and a narrow view of the current situation, permit this parting thought: economic welfare is not down to luck, it’s down to what we make it.