a reply to: Tulpa
From a practical POV, the welfare state was in a more robust state. Since employment was high, benefits claimants were left to get on with it, and the
dole was sufficient to get by on while you were looking for work - it was never intended as a substitute for wages, and no-one treated it as one,
But then, this was a period when you could quite possibly quit a job on Friday and have a new one by Monday. Businesses were much more free and easy
with hiring, and the reason this has changed has nothing to do with 'red tape' or 'health and safety' or any such nonsense (The Health and Safety At
Work Act was passed in 1974!)
More poignantly, there were next to no people sleeping on the streets. When a 'tramp' came to town, everyone knew about it, and it was a source of
sadness and curiosity. They were known to be people who had hit the road, and turned down all the help that was available to them and freely
available to anyone. They were regarded as eccentric at best and mentally-ill at worst.
I was looking through an old mid-70s issue of Private Eye magazine recently, and there were some cartoons that featured 'beggars' - the notable thing
was that the beggars lived indoors. It was taken for granted that beggars might not have been able to afford a stick of furniture, and had to sit on
old packing crates and had to dress in cast-offs, but they had a roof over their heads and were safe, even if it was a very dilapidated residence with
broken windows and a leaky roof.
Less unhappily, the national utilities were dirt-cheap. Basic, but dirt-cheap. There is no way that your winter energy bill would plunge you into
poverty for two months if you were on an average wage, as it does now, for example. Train tickets were affordable - I can't find any price lists on
line, but since 1995 alone rail tickets have gone up by over 200 per cent, with no commensurate improvement in services. In fact, there are fewer
services and they are run poorly.
Don't get me wrong, the 1970s were not a land of milk and honey. But we threw away the best aspects during the 1980s, when the Thatcher-Reagan
revolutions sold us a dream of free market prosperity. It would be misleading to say the effects were all bad, because they weren't. But looking
around us, we can see that we threw the baby of social quality out with the bathwater of the 1970s.