By all accounts, it is perfectly reasonable to dismiss Roger Douglas as "selfish" or, to be strictly accurate, self serving. Douglas was a labour MP for twenty one years and a natural choice for the labour party heirarchy as his family had strong ties with the trade-union movement, and were actively engaged in politics. His father Norman and brother Malcolm were both Labour politicians. During the mid 'eighties, Douglas as finance minister pursued economic policies that were fully in step with the neoliberal policies of the Thatcher and Reagan administrations. As a result, he, with the support of the Labour caucus, managed to keep the Parliamentary Labour party in their careers by pursuing policies that were in direct conflict with the aspirations of the rank-and-file membership of their party. I say this neither to condemn nor endorse those policies, but merely to illustrate the self-serving nature of the political elite.
I agree that people need to take more responsibility for themselves, but to say they are "looking for the taxpayers to bail them out" is simplistic. The tax and benefits system is about co-responsibility and it is a form of insurance which some lucky individuals (like Douglas et.al.) will never be in the position of needing to avail themselves of. It is these individuals (or, rather, a subgroup of self-congratulatory ideologues) who vocally pursue this attitude of "devil take the hindmost". A few unfortunates will always need cradle-to grave support (or will we leave them on a mountainside to die, like the ancient Spartans?) The fact that there are people out there who abuse the system says more about the lack of moral values in our society which is in turn a result of a lack of social cohesion.
Why the emphasis on creating greater wealth?- the era of economic growth is all over bar the shouting. The global per-capita wealth has been falling since 1970, including right through the "efficiencies" of the Thatcher/Reagan/Douglas era and has nothing whatever to do with state versus private responsibilities. It is merely a function of population growth pitted against depletion of the worlds finite resources. Surely the most desirable outcome is resilient communities, from which the above-mentioned moral values, social cohesion and yes, even a full participation in meaningful democratic processes would naturally spring.
It is true that "many have come to accept that it is the responsibility of the government to continuously look after them" but this paternalistic attitude has been deliberately fostered by politicians of all persuasions in order to undermine the notion of citizens as Sovereign. it goes hand-in hand with the "trust us, we know what's best for you" attitude. Neither the established Left or Right has any interest in fostering "personal responsibility for our own lives" as it undermines the power of the Bureaucracy on the one hand, on the other the power of Corporate Capital. People who take "personal responsibility for their own lives" are fine if they are a few high-flying entrepreneurs, but a few million of them equals a revolution! There is no-one, NO-ONE! in the mainstream political arena advocating for rights, responsibilities and sovereignty of individuals. They are weeded out by party apparatus and the electoral system itself.
Given the chance, any public service will grow to the limit of available resources. Every sectional interest, be it health, pensions, education, defence etc. whether it be run as a bureaucracy or on a business model will seek to enlarge itself at the expense of others vying for the same funds. I do not believe that public sector inefficiencies necessarily cost more than extraction of profit by the private sector. Swings and Roundabouts. We need to decide how much to put in the kitty and what proportion goes to which service. Which we do. One thing is for sure, degenerate lifestyle choices makes for sick, lazy people who are a drain on us all. This goes back to moral values and social cohesion again.
Now is not the time to be encouraging people to be putting their hard earned cash into insurance companies and superannuation schemes run by banks. These loathesome snakes have been sucking the lifeblood out of society for aeons and are very soon going to get their come-uppance on account of the aforementioned "end of the era of economic growth". The banks are desperate to get "Mom & Pop" pension investors on board to justify future bail-outs when crisis comes round again (see here) (and here)