Re: The welfare state and the lack of influence of the ordinary person
The welfare state is really important and needs to be kept, however keeping in mind the way public pensions work (current pensioners getting money paid in by current workers) and demographic shifts (more pensioners per worker) is not sustainable in it's current state.
The problem is that no matter how critical you think the welfare state is, it simply has no long term sustainability. You've identified the pension issue. You mention briefly but largely ignore the demographic issues. And you skipped key rational behaviors of the welfare state.
Pensions: while I personally would prefer to have all of my retirement money invested in publicly traded companies (shares and bonds), even that hides the reality that current pensioners are always paid from current workers. That is fine as long as there are 20, 10, or even 5 current workers per pensioner. Which brings us to the demographic shift.
I haven't independently confirmed that the UK has a baby boom issue similar to the US, but I imagine you do. Right now the number of people on pension is growing to the point that you have at best 2 people per pensioner and are rapidly shifting to 1 employed per 2 pensioners. There is no level of productivity that makes that work.
Finally, you have the rational reaction to the welfare state. This was actually the key bit of the Laffer curve and which progressives are always in denial. If you have welfare benefits* to the tune of say $25,000/year, and someone offers you a job at $26,000/year, is it worth it to take the job? The rational answer is probably not. In particular, if at $26,000/year you lose the welfare benefits, your marginal increase is $1000. For which you are going to have to work 2000 hours. That works out to 50 cents and hour marginal gain. So from a purely self-centered view, you're better off keeping the free time than taking the job. It's a perverse incentive and it is only one of them. Even if you fix the pension and demographic problems, this part will eventually overwhelm any welfare state.
*Using US numbers since there the ones with which I'm most familiar. While the specific values will change for the UK and various EU countries, the principle remains the same.