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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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David Cameron has now launched the end of "compassionate Conservatism", pledging to end the "entitlement culture" of benefits. Twitter has, predictably, exploded: the irony overload of being lectured on entitlement by somebody who inherited his own wealth from a tax haven and went to an extremely privileged public school is, of course, unbelievable.

I think, though, that there's a deeper question that needs to be addressed, one that we are so blind to that we hardly ever think in these terms. We are so used to the idea that nobody should ever get something for nothing, or that only those with needs that they can't cater for on their own should receive benefits, that we almost cannot think otherwise. With 23 job hunters going after every single job (on average), we need to see the third way.

We need more entitlement.

There, I said it. We need everybody to be entitled to a decent life. We need everybody who wants to work to be able to work (job sharing). We need to give up on the idea that everybody does have to work. Contrary to Tory beliefs, most people do want to work - it gives you a sense of purpose and fulfilment. However, in our current situation where many cannot work, society has not broken down, but grown utterly unequal. Those at the top can afford to pay people not to work, they just don't want to, believing their own success to be as result of merit, rather than luck (it's the latter).

The other unacknowledged truth is that the real reason for coercing people to work is that the bulk of jobs in society are menial; they are "underemployment". They are a waste of a life to do. Those that claim they are hard-working and are least keen to give to others rarely seem to be those doing the hideously boring tasks. I suspect that, if forced to do the tedious grind, they'd change their tune.

Capitalism has its up-sides, but it needs severe regulation and mediation. Dialectically posing an internal, sub-communism could perform this function. Entitle people to be able to live, whether they work or not.