The U.K.’s Spoiled Brits


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No one should be surprised that the government is looking for ways to reduce its fiscal debt. Britain, like other advanced economies, is currently experiencing the most difficult economic environment in decades. The latest estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility, an independent panel set up by Her Majesty’s Treasury, cut GDP growth forecasts and estimated a staggering budget deficit of GBP 148.5 billion.

But British students—most of whom have been raised on a steady diet of entitlement programs—seem not to appreciate the fiscal straits through which their once proud country is navigating. What British undergraduates pay now is negligible, especially when compared to the actual per capita cost of education. Most seem to care only about maintaining their subsidized education, a testament to the long-term effects that a paternalistic system can have on a society. Accustomed to cradle-to-grave government assistance, people raised in such societies easily lose appreciation for individual effort, forget the meaning of sacrifice and become resistant to the idea of self-reliance.

Much of this was apparent during the protests of November 24th last week. Many students spoke of injustices. “Our rights are being impeded upon,” said one. Another one told the BBC: “[t]his is what happens when they oppress students for so long!” (His pressed clothes and robust countenance raised serious questions about his understanding of the real meaning of oppression.) Billed in London as a “carnival of resistance”, another protestor’s comments belied the seriousness of events when she said, “[h]opefully, it will be a nice, fun way to express our anger!”

Throughout the day, it was clear that the vast majority of protestors weren’t angry in the traditional sense. They were merely looking for excitement and the feeling of belonging to something bigger and greater than themselves. In fact, at times the whole gathering looked more like a dance party: giggling teen girls—some of them well made up—flirted with hoodie-wearing boys, while behind them, hip-hop rhythms blasted from large sound systems.

Student leaders have repeatedly tried to compare their actions to the 1968 student uprising at the Sorbonne. But the only thing these nouveaux student protestors have in common with their French forerunners is that they all seem to come from comfortable backgrounds. These are the spoiled fruits of an age of government largesse.

Still, they put on a good show for the media. On last Wednesday’s day of action, small bonfires were started on the streets of London (using traffic cones), while a police van was attacked outside of Whitehall. There were reports of simultaneous protests in Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Warwick and Edinburgh. At Cambridge, protestors vaulted over the gates to get to University administration buildings. At Oxford, students occupied the famed Bodleian Library, while outside, others held signs that read: “F**K [sic] Fees! Free education now!”

In London, students marched down to the offices of the Liberal Democrats, whose leader, Nick Clegg, is accused of having reneged on a promise to abolish tuition fees. Faced with the anger of the mobs, Clegg apologized profusely saying, “I hate in politics … to make promises that you then find you can’t keep”

One wonders if officials like Clegg could have done a better job of explaining the reason for the proposed changes. Unfortunately, some of the very officials who should have been speaking out against the protestors instead gave them support. Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter and president of Universities UK (an industry association), expressed sympathy for the student protestors, saying that “[we] absolutely support their right to do this … they care about the future.”

Really? Do those who were not protesting and breaking windows not care about the future? Are the students who stayed in their rooms to study indifferent to the ‘plight’ of their classmates? Of course not. It just means that there are still a few sober souls in the British academy who understand that their primary responsibility is to study, and who are likely to feel grateful that they have the opportunity to study at a venerable institution like Durham or Oxford.

In a more competitive economy like the U.S., students typically take on part-time jobs, scrimp and save, take out loans—or rely on their parents—if they need funding. But when one is raised in a welfare state economy like Britain’s, where education, health and housing are provided for by the government as a matter of ‘social  justice’, the importance of real effort—and the value of the things obtained through hard work, personal initiative and, yes, sacrifice—is lost. Britain is reaping what it has sowed: a generation of disgruntled students who feel entitled to a free university education because they consider it a ‘right’ rather than a privilege.

Johann Vaduz is a graduate student of the University of Oxford. Mariano Navarro is a graduate student of the University of Leiden and works in Vienna.

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  • Joe

    The difficulty stems from the insane labour party decision that 50% of young people should go to university. since it is generally accepted that only about 10 to 15% of the population have an IQ level which equips them to undertake and benefit from a PROPER university level of study the inevitable consequence was the dumbing down of the pre-university examinations and the entry standards for university (to ensure the requisite numbers were attained and the "diversity" and "inclusiveness" criteria beloved of the PC brigade were also covered)

    This was compounded by the decision in the 80's top turn many colleges of further education and polytechnics into "universities". These institutions previously did a good job in providing vocational courses for people (often on the basis of working as well as studying) which actually equipped them to do a real job. Now they provide second class degrees of questionable status. The result is that many graduates now work in jobs for which a degree is not required having incurred significant debt (£20K plus) on obtaining questionable qualifications.

    When a small number of students went on to tertiary education the state could afford to pay for/subsidise their courses. Expanding this to meet social engineering objectives inevitably results in a fiscal problem, particularly if the universities cannot charge a realistic fee level.

    Net result: a drastic decline in general academic standards in the UK and a struggling tertiary education system! It all reinforces my opinion that most things are better if government doesn't interfere.

    • Michael

      This is absolutely correct, though I don't agree that polytechnics are, or ever were, second-class institutions. I attended one and in 1984 graduated with a degree in German and Economics every bit as respectable and academically rigorous as you'd find in any university.

      The problem was that, after I graduated, I found that my degree – and all my education – was about as welcome on the job market as a criminal record. It is not only that no more than 10 to 15% of the population have an IQ level which equips them to undertake and benefit from a proper university level of study.

      It is that many of the academically able 10 to 15% are not so rich that they don't have to work for a living, therefore it matters very much that they are spending the first three or four years of their adult lives acquiring 'universal knowledge' but not 'useful skills' which are best learned on the job and at vocational training colleges.

  • Lady_Dr

    The authors are to be congratulated on their clear analysis of the situation. And Joe as well. Yes, government interference is a real menace. The same thing has happened in the USA where marginally illiterates are often accepted into university. The requirements for passing any given course are repeatedly being dumbed down because of this.

    I got my B.A. and a certificate in London 30 years ago. One term I had a room-mate who complained bitterly about how little she received from the government and how unfair it was – yet somehow she managed to go on vacation to Turkey for a week. While I was up and out the door at 5:30 am to work before classes and back to work in the evening. It was unheard of and strange to the British but I had no choice and valued an education. I now have a doctorate and hated teaching because of the entitlement mentally in the USA. No wonder they voted to destroy America with the communist-in-chief. They didn't know any better as too many of them are barely literate.

  • USMCSniper

    The Britishacademics and British government deserve condemnation for turning a population of proud and independent people formerly at the forefront of industry and invention into a parasitic crowd of arrogant beggars who really believe they are entitled because they are entitled.

    Standby, Americans, nanny state is coming soon to your neighborhood.

  • waterwillows

    In the government's drive to make sure that every single moron in the country was equipped with a 'degree', they have caused a lot more damage than just is the universities. The 'papered' graduates are now in charge of much that affect the daily life of the people. With wisdom and discernment not their strong suit, it is a sorry day for the population. We have too many fools and not enough chiefs.

  • Maggie

    Tuition fees should be raised to stop this self-perpetuating spiral which has brought universities in the UK and in Europe into the sorry state they are currently in. In the name of equality of opportunity and affirmative action modern universities produce masses of pseudo-intellectuals whose little brains are only capable of appreciating philosophers (or rather philosophes) like Rawls, Sen or Nussbaum and then themselves become scholars (?!) by reproducing this nonsense.

  • cgerber

    Coming out of East Germany during the late sixties it has finally arrived, I enjoy watching sociialist paraisites destroying themselfs even to the detrement of my family self being. Since I have all to lose. I love the saying by Col. Jessup " You want the truth, you can't handle the truth, you want me on that wall, you need me on the wall, and I really don't give a damm what you think your entitled too" Socialism is going down it doesn't matter what they protest, once there isn't any monies left ,who your going to call gost buster" CHINA" This is just the beginning. Wait and see once the US Dollar collapses!

  • posse101

    maybe they can get the same low life scumbag Muslims, who rioted last year and turned over cars in France to help them. did i forget beat up old ladies too? yeah i guess i did. what about getting those smelly Arabs who celebrated Sept. 11 so fervently in London Square chanting "Death To America." maybe they can show up too. mix in a couple of miscreants who killed people to protest the publication of the mohammed cartoons and we could have a real barn burner.

    and don't worry peasants… CNN will be there live to show us all the protests with some shmuck like Wolf Blitzer reporting with the raging fire and violence in the background.

    but alas people, don't fret. after the camera stops shooting Wolf will get chauffeured back to the executive suite at the Palace Hotel where he'll call room service and order some surf and turf (over easy) and then he'll turn on the news and watch the replay broadcast of how "in the field" he thinks he is. life is good huh Wolf?

    • Jacko

      I was in Paris during the 67 student riots and met British professional agitators who in leading the students in their revolution. Much of it was organized by foreign mercenaries.

      • posse101

        Jacko,

        yes you're absolutely correct. it has been going on for quite some time now. these professional protesters (dupes) are paid for in large part by George Soros type funding, international answer type funding, the united nations type funding, and the saudi controlled, wahabbi sect of islam type funding. oh and i almost forgot the charming mrs. kerry or rather, mrs. heinz type funding.

        most americans in this country either refuse to believe this or are too stupid to do the research necessary to keep track of these groups and whom they fund. most of these useful (homegrown) idiots continue to blame America for these pre-fabricated and choreographed riots, thus taking the side of the protesters without even stopping for a moment and thinking that their own position aligns them with our idealogical enemy who has sworn to see us dead!

  • cgerber

    I think you need to hire Reinhart Heydrich he will help you with your indecisve decision problems or the USA current TSA adminsitrator can help it's his relative, they both had and have all the answers!

  • William_Z

    There's only two options, pay to play, even if you have to borrow or get a job. If you can't afford the fee and can't find a job whose fault is that? Hint: Britain has been regulated into oblivion, it's called socialism…

  • cgerber

    I love watching the the moronic Welfare states (countries) destroy themself. Haven myself come out of East Germany in late sixties these result are not surpising. Maggie said it best, everyone agrees the welfare state is unsustainable, next you run out of everyone elses, monies, and then the only thing left is what the day is that. It's very close. Like Col Jessuppe said it best " You want the truth…. You (they) can't handle the truth. You need me on that wall you want me on that wall! "We realy don't give a damn what your all think that your entitled too" It's only going to get better Britian, remember the late fifties and early sixties.

  • Lightning Jack

    What a shining illustration confirming the eventual outcome of European socialism and its ideological twin, the cradle- to-grave welfare state, which actually makes people worse.

    Great Brittan has only itself to thank for creating a society of narcissistic, hedonist life- suckers who believe that a higher education should be everyones right, irregardless of the consequences, and as long as someone other than themselves pays for it.

    Is it any wonder that Great Brittan's socioeconomic downfall will only continue as its collectivist entitlement programs reward non-productivity, especially people with too much time on their hands, and ultimately destroy that nations work ethic.