Category Archives: statism

Chinese flu and the inveterate statism of the French

How much government do they want? Nothing less than total

Picking up the Paris newspaper the Monde, Dalrymple comes across an article titled Effondrement, décroissance, relocalisation: comment la gauche pense l’après-coronavirus. There are, Dalrymple says,

no prizes for guessing

how the Left thinks of the post-coronavirus. An economist quoted in the article says:

One has seen, as in every crisis, the retreat of governments.

Dalrymple notes that the economist

omits to mention that public expenditure accounts for 56% of France’s GDP, and that one now needs a laissez-passer to leave one’s house or one will be fined by a policeman.

England’s shambolic economy

The economic auguries for the UK, writes Dalrymple,

are poor, though not only, or even principally, because of the European Union’s hostility. Britain is unlikely to be able to take any advantage of life outside the European straitjacket because its own political class is in favour of straitjackets that are no better, and quite possibly worse than, the European ones.

The present prime minister, Theresa May,

is very much a statist, indistinguishable from European social democrats.

The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, who has a strong chance of taking over from May,

is an unapologetic admirer of the late Hugo Chávez.

In light of this, Dalrymple notes that

it is hardly to be expected that foreign investors will place much trust or confidence in an isolated country whose next government might very well

  • weaken property rights
  • impose capital controls
  • increase corporate taxation in favour of supposed social justice

It would not take very long, Dalrymple points out, to turn England into

a northern Venezuela: a Venezuela without the oil or the tropical climate.

Dalrymple lists some of Great Britain’s economic weaknesses:

  • a large and persistent trade imbalance, because Britain does not produce enough of what the world wants and cannot easily be made to do so
  • a large national debt, about the same size as that of France, but without a highly functioning infrastructure such as France’s to show for it
  • household debt which is among the highest in the world

For many years, Dalrymple comments, UK economic policy

might as well have been presided over by Bernard Madoff.

Charity begins at home

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 07.56.38Save the Children certainly believes so

Dalrymple points out that Save the Children, like so many charities in the UK,

is not a charity, at least not in the normal sense of the word. It is part of Britain’s charitable-bureaucratic complex. Like most bureaucracies, it is there to serve itself.

Save the Children

  • spent £88m on humanitarian assistance in 2009 and £58m on staff wages. (It was far from the worst in this respect: the Child Poverty Action Group spent £1.5m of its income of £2m on wages.)
  • In 2009, its chief executive was paid £137,608 which, while not vast by the standards of commercial chief executives, was more than six times the median British wage at the time. This is certainly not what individual donors might think or hope their money is spent on; and it is certainly not what I think charity is.
  • Fourteen of its staff earned more than £60,000, and 150 between £30,000 and £40,000.
  • It ran a fixed-benefit pension scheme.

This ‘charity’

  • spends about £500,000 a year on efforts in Britain; local government makes donations to it of about £500,000.
  • The largest donor to the ‘charity’ by far in 2009 was the government, at £19m. The European Union chipped in with another £12m, the US government with £11m.
  • Private donations have been going down as a proportion of the total income of the ‘charity’ (and the expenses of fund-raising are equal to 31% of the funds raised), while government contributions have been rising.

Large charities in Britain

are increasingly in hock to the government and its bureaucratic machinery, with its statist outlook, and share its vocabulary. When I looked on one website advertising charity jobs, I found 21 with salaries between £50,000 and £80,000, with titles such as corporate development manager. Is this really what the old ladies who volunteer at charity shops think they are raising money for?

Save the Children

is not trying to save the children of Britain, it is trying to save the jobs in the British welfare bureaucracy.

The collectivist rot in Britain

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 07.54.19An infantilised people

Its sense of irony, writes Dalrymple, once protected the British population

from infatuation with utopian dreams and unrealistic expectations.

But the English are sadly changed.

A sense of irony is the first victim of utopian dreams. The British tolerance of eccentricity has also evaporated; uniformity is what they want now, and are prepared informally to impose. They tolerate no deviation in taste or appearance from themselves.

The pressure to conform

to the canons of (lack of) popular taste has never been stronger. Those without interest in soccer hardly dare mention it in public. A dispiriting uniformity of character, deeply shallow, has settled over a land once richer in eccentrics than any other. No more Edward Lears for us: we prefer notoriety to oddity now.

The English are no longer sturdily independent as individuals, either. They now

feel no shame or even unease at accepting government handouts. (40% of them receive such handouts.)

Many Britons

see no difference between work and parasitism.

They are left with

very little of importance to decide for themselves, even in their private spheres.

The State

  • educates them (at least nominally)
  • provides for them in old age
  • frees them of the need to save money (doing so is in many cases made uneconomic)
  • treats them when they are ill
  • houses them if they cannot afford housing

Their choices

concern only sex and shopping.

No wonder, says Dalrymple, that the British

have changed in character, their sturdy independence replaced with passivity, querulousness, or even, at the lower reaches of society, a sullen resentment that not enough has been or is being done for them. For those at the bottom, such money as they receive is pocket money, reserved for the satisfaction of whims. They are infantilised. If they behave irresponsibly it is because both the rewards for behaving responsibly and the penalties for behaving irresponsibly have vanished.

Such people

come to live in a limbo in which there is nothing much to hope or strive for and nothing much to fear or lose. Private property and consumerism coexist with collectivism, and freedom for many people means little more than choice among goods. The free market, as Hayek did not foresee, has flourished alongside collectivism.

We’re doomed

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 08.32.34The 20th century, writes Dalrymple, was Europe’s

melancholy, long withdrawing roar, and just as Great Britain would not long be suffered to be the workshop of the world, so the world did not long suffer the continent of Europe to dominate it, economically, culturally and intellectually. Europe’s loss of power, influence and importance continues; and however much one’s material circumstances may have improved, it is always unpleasant, and creates a sense of existential unease, to live in a country perpetually in decline, even if that decline is relative.

Combined with this, he points out, is the fact that most European populations

experience a feeling of impotence in the face of their immovable political élites. This feeling is not because of any lack of intelligence or astuteness on the part of the populations: if you wanted to know why there was so much youth unemployment in France, you would not ask the prime minister but the more honest and clear-headed village plumber or carpenter, who would give you many precise and convincing reasons why no employer in his right mind would readily take on a new and previously untried young employee. Indeed, it would take a certain kind of intelligence, available only to those who have undergone a lot of formal education, not to be able to work it out.

The motor of Europe’s decline, says Dalrymple, is

its obsession with social security, which has created rigid social and economic systems that are resistant to change.

An open economy

holds out more threat to Europeans than promise: they believe that the outside world will bring them not trade and wealth, but unemployment and a loss of comfort. They are inclined to retire into their shell and succumb to protectionist temptation, internally with regard to the job market and externally with regard to other nations. The more those other nations advance, the more necessary does protection seem to them.

The State

is either granted or arrogates to itself ever greater powers. A bureaucratic monster is created that is not only uneconomic but anti-economic and that can be reformed only at the cost of social unrest that politicians wish to avoid. Inertia intermittently punctuated by explosion is the outcome.

Dalrymple notes that the British government

has increased public expenditure enormously, such that the British tax burden exceeds that of Germany, which is a heavily taxed economy. The ostensible purpose has been to improve public services while serving the cause of social justice, a rhetoric that the public has hitherto believed; the hidden purpose has been to create administrative jobs on an unprecedented scale, whose function consists of obstruction of other people as they try to create wealth, and to bring into being a clientèle dependent upon government largesse (half the British population is in receipt of government subventions as part or the whole of their incomes) and results in an ‘keep a-hold of nurse for fear of something worse’ psychology.

The dependent population

does not like the state and its agents, indeed they hate them, but they come to fear the elimination of their good offices more. They are like drug addicts who know that the drug that they take is not good for them, and hate the drug dealer, but cannot face the supposed pains of withdrawal.

In the name of social justice,

personal and sectional interest has become all-powerful, paralysing attempts to maximise collective endeavour. The goal of everyone is to parasitise everyone else, or to struggle for as large a slice of the cake as possible. No one worries about the size of the cake. Après nous le déluge has become the watchword of the population.

It hardly needs pointing out that

the rest of an increasingly competitive and globalised world is not going to be sensitive to the same concerns as European governments.

The miserabilist view of the European past,

in which achievement is disregarded in favour of massacre, oppression and injustice, deprives the population of any sense of pride or tradition to which it might contribute or which might be worth preserving. This loss of cultural confidence is important at a time of mass immigration from very alien cultures, an immigration that can be successfully negotiated (as it has been in the past, or in the USA up to the era of multiculturalism) only if the host nations believe themselves to be the bearers of cultures into which immigrants wish, or ought to wish, to integrate, assimilate, and make their own.

In the absence of any such belief,

the only way in which people inhabiting a country will have anything in common is geographical; and civil conflict is the method in which they will resolve their very different and entrenched conceptions about the way life should be lived. This is particularly true when immigrants believe they are in possession of a supposedly unique and universal truth, such as Islam. And if the host nation is so lacking in cultural confidence that it does not even make familiarity with the national language a condition of citizenship, it is hardly surprising that integration does not proceed.

The problem is multiplied when a rigid labour market

creates large castes of people who are unemployed and might well remain so for the whole of their adult lives. The bitterness caused by economic uselessness is multiplied by the bitterness of cultural separation. In the case of Islam this is dangerous, because the mixture of an awareness of inferiority on the one hand, and superiority on the other, is a combustible one. Latin Americans have felt it towards the USA, Russians towards Western Europe, Chinese and Japanese towards Europe and America.

The auguries are not good,

not only because of the political immobilism that elaborate systems of social security have caused in most European countries, but because of the European multinational entity that is being created against the wishes of the peoples of Europe.

The European Union serves several purposes, none of which have much to do with the challenges facing the continent. It

  • helps Germans to forget that they are Germans, and gives them another identity rather more pleasing in their estimation
  • allows the French to forget that they are a medium-sized nation, one among many, and gives them the illusion of power and importance
  • acts as a giant pension fund for politicians who are no longer willing or able successfully to compete in the rough-and-tumble of electoral politics, and enables them to hang on to influence and power long after they have been rejected at the polls
  • acts as a fortress against the winds of competition that are blowing from all over the world and that are deeply unsettling to people who desire security above all else

An enormous vote bank in favour of ever-expanding government

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 20.17.09How is such a vote bank produced?

By a combination of immigration and emigration, Dalrymple points out.

And the means for that?

A longstanding state population replacement scheme.

Thatcher’s effect on the size of the state was nil

Screen Shot 2013-04-06 at 00.24.31Dalrymple points out that despite her reputation as a prudent or even savage cutter of public services, Margaret Thatcher failed to roll back the state, as it was her intention and vocation to do. In 1979 the public sector’s proportion of Gross Domestic Product was 44.6 per cent; in 2009, 47.7 per cent.

She did nothing to reduce dependence on the state as a source of primary income.

On the contrary, during her period in office, spending on social security increased. It was ethically, socially, and politically impossible to drive down the income of the unemployed to the value of their labour to employers. Government spending having declined as a proportion of GDP, social security increased proportionately even more. Mrs Thatcher did not, because she could not, effect any fundamental change in the model of the welfare state. That model, in democracies at least, has a one-way ratchet.

Miserable state dependence

Margaret Thatcher

extended the role of the state in the lives of millions. The de-industrialisation of large parts of Britain was almost certainly inevitable, short of what would have been disastrous protectionism; but the failure to replace the defunct industries by anything meant there was no means of support for people other than the state. And this dependence (visible in South Wales and much of the North) has lasted for decades. It is a miserable state of affairs.