I picture any retrenchment of absorbed social welfare like this:
Do you remember back in school days when a teacher would pass back an assignment or a test and review it with the class? Or perhaps he/she didn’t review it but the individual students looked over the test to see what questions they got wrong. Occasionally a student would point out a teacher’s error which would alter some students’ scores for the better but others’ for the worse. But no teachers that I can remember – from elementary school up through college – would ever fully recalibrate the test scores. They’d always assume the error and leave the now-wrong students’ scores the same while increasing the now-right students’ scores.
Teachers didn’t take back the points of the now-wrong students because they knew that those students would either be humiliated by having their wrongness directly pointed out (a direct redistribution of points is difficult for students to swallow), or they would whine saying that it wasn’t fair that they had their points taken away. Passing up the opportunity to teach students about rights, the teacher naturally capitulates; since test points aren’t mutually exclusive (grade on a curve? Do you want to keep your job?) there is no reason not to give as many points to as many students as possible.
To me, this is a microcosm of our social value system which becomes more entrenched with each socially liberal government policy. Money to pay someone not to work or to have more children grows on trees; test points can be handed out like Smartie’s on state examination day. Once something has been imbibed and digested as a piece of property or a right, taking it away is an affront to rights. Crying and whining – like that displayed in Wisconsin earlier this year and in U.K. during the student protests – are weak manifestations of this; rioting and looting are stronger reactions to this perceived slight.