Theodore Dalrymple presents a case history of an 18-year-old murderess in England. It's a story of child neglect, sexual abuse, and subsidized premature "emancipation." Children growing up in a moral and emotional wilderness, all expenses paid by the state.
The moral of the story, according to Dalrymple:
This murder, exceptional in some characteristics as it undoubtedly was, took place in a social universe that liberals have wrought, and whose realities they are too guilty or cowardly to acknowledge. It is a universe that has no place for children or childhood in it. Believing that man is the product of his environment, they have nevertheless set about creating an environment from which it is truly difficult to escape, by closing off all the avenues and bolt-holes as far as possible. They have destroyed the family and any notion of progress or improvement. They have made a world in which the only freedom is self-indulgence, a world from which--most terrible of all--prison can sometimes be a liberation.
The author's thesis is that welfare benefits subsidize and modern secular values encourage sexual irresponsibility, idleness and the production of bastards who grow up with no structure and no morals. This may well be true, but it's not as if lower-class London before the welfare state was a place where loving and stable families flourished, children said "please" and "thank you," and did their lessons.
Mr. Dalrymple should read Defoe or Dickens if he thinks these patterns are all new and attributable to "liberals," i.e., socialists.
In a rush to discredit policies and an ethos (or anti-ethos) that do deserve criticism, we must not lose sight of the history and complexity of these issues, and the darkness of the human heart.