I'm going to include a responses section, though I suspect I'm going to wish I hadn't. Oh well, here goes.

Chapter 1

The Mighty Lu Blu: You've touched on a tendency by both sides to dismiss the other, and this is something that I try to avoid (let the record state that I have seen many sensible essays written by even the most rabid right wingers). I'm glad that at least a couple of people think the same way.

Alyx Bradford: You are right up to a point. 'To make the safety net too strong would dull the impulse to climb.' (Quoted in Thatcher's Britain: a Guide to the Ruins). However, the workhouse system was a major effort to emphasise motivation and deterrence, and history has shown that it failed miserably to reduce unemployment levels during periods of trade depression. The moral was that some people can't help being unemployed. I apologise for showing off a bit.

MrFlames: I'm going to assume that this is sarcasm, and that you think I'm stating the obvious about something that everybody should agree with. That's a bit dismissive of those who may hold differing views.

chronic asshole: I don't think he was being entirely serious. You need to read up on some aggression management techniques, friend, whoever you are.

Loganberry: In the name of being scrupulously even-handed, I must point out that Dickens had an agenda, and was therefore prone to exaggeration. With a few notable exceptions, the horrendous scandal at the Andover workhouse being one, most workhouse masters were far less unpleasant than anything Dickens could create. I have to admit that I find his books rather impenetrable, as well; he got paid by the word, and it shows.

I've since learned that the exact figure is £88; not much more, really.

Tiefling: You are an example of the majority of current or former welfare recipients. There'll always be idle bastards, but there will also always be people in genuine need.

Steven Lawrence: There's some sense in what you say. It's a painfully delicate balancing act between giving people help in times of need and discouraging them from relying on it. In my opinion, we have the balance as close to right as we will ever get in Britain. I don't know what the weekly welfare allowance is in the USA, but I think £88 (about $120 or thereabouts, though I don't follow the exchange rate as closely as I should) per week qualifies as a small dose, don't you? At this time of year fully a quarter of that would be taken up by heating bills, too. Also, in most countries where Communism has been established, it is to all intents and purposes a criminal offence to be unemployed. Finally, you are very ill-advised if you take people who voluntarily appear on chat shows as a representitive sample of the human race, let alone the unemployed. The sort of person too idle to work is the sort of person who would voluntarily appear on chat shows, but if they form a majority then I would like very much to engineer a mass outbreak of the Ebola virus.

Retlor: If you want to have an argument with Steve then please do it by email, NOT my review board.

Chapter 2

The Mighty Lu Blu: I think I've covered everything I can say in the first chapter's responses. I did see a good quote about the matter of differing political views by one Lord Palmerston, spoken whilst actually in Parliament: 'We are here an assembly of gentlemen and we who are gentlemen on this side of the House should remember that we are dealing with gentlemen on the other side.' I'd like to carve that in stone above the Speaker's seat in the House of Commons.

Teifling: David Blunket would call you a 'health tourist' and make you pay for it, may he burn upon the fires of hell.

tofujunky: Apologies if I assume a certain foreknowledge, but I tend to write with a British audience in mind. Glad you still agree with me.

Chapter 3

Retlor: You are talking more sense than the average Member of Parliament. Like I said, a temporary work permit and maybe some instruction in things like welding or road repair would not only allow these people to earn a living and contribute positively to the country, but relieve the enormous tax burden. Even if they were then obliged to return home, they would be taking with them a skill they could use to work themselves out of poverty. It wouldn't work for absolutely everybody but it would at least be a start.

fugiguru: My point exactly. The United States was built by immigrants- admittedly immigrants who seized posession of the whole country, but immigrants nonetheless. I'm sad to say that this country's policy makes Long Island look civilised.