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as to disturb one's reasoning powers (as Salisbury said of Rhodes). I'm also a big geek when it comes to history, so as you can imagine I a lmost soiled myself when I first came across Collins' Atlas of World History. Among its many fascinating insights into human development, the book holds the f ollowing explanation of the difference between British and European industrialis ation in the nineteenth century; While in England private investors were generally able to raise the capital to f ound new business undertakings and public works without government assistance, p ioneer entrepreneurs on the Continent frequently had difficulty in securing the funds to build factories and modern machines. Consequently the state played a mo re important role than it did in England in fostering industrial expansion. Well, there it is. In one paragraph you have the very reason Britain was able to become 'the workshop of the world' and a global power extending her influence t o its four corners. It was that very Victorian spark that Margaret Thatcher so d esperately tried to reignite in what had, by 1979, become a hopelessly socialise d country. It was that Protestant work ethic, that vicious self-reliance and fam ed stiff upper lip of the British middle class. But how the mighty have fallen. It seems, for today's middle class, all that tal k of grit and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps was just so much hollow tos h. And, of all people, it took a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer to exp ose them for the hypocritical benefit junkies they are. You really have to ask yourself what business the state has in paying Â£1bn a year t o families already earning upwards of Â£44,000 per annum. But the very fact these pe ople reacted with such horror and outrage has to count as one of the Labour part y's greatest achievements. Like a smack dealer offering free samples to get peop le hooked, they have made the middle classes as addicted to the withered bosom o f state handouts as the underclass they despise. And just as the dealer's new addicts provide a guaranteed stream of clients, so Labour's tax-and-spend benefits guarantee millions of votes. It's the primary re ason Labour have a near-monopoly on deprived inner-city constituencies; though n obody has ever answered the question of why, no matter how long they're in power , things never improve. The army of quangos created under the last government have had a similar effect on business - a sector which, by its very nature, ought to be self-sufficient. Y et we are told on an almost daily basis that private sector jobs are reliant on the public sector. Only today Ed Miliband has criticised the government for axing an Â£80m loan to Shef field Forgemasters which, we are told, needs funds to manufacture parts for new nuclear power plants. Again, this socialist, statist expansion has twisted out o f all recognition what ought to be a basic principle of business - if it is a pr ofitable enterprise, funds will become available. Indeed, it seems as if the entire world has been turned on its head. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would ever see not just a Labour opposition, but unions and the far left defend state benefits for the rich. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber captured beautifully the lunacy of the mood by reversing those words the left have taunted the Conservatives with for decad es. No longer 'for the many, not the few', 'for the millions, not the millionai res'; left-wing opinion has been brought full circle with those bizarre words 'w elfare for all, not just the poorest.'