Category Archives: Thatcherism

An epiphænomenon in the life of the British people

It is often argued that Thatcherism played a rôle in

the terrible deterioration in the character of the British people,

but Dalrymple reminds us that

the deterioration was evident many years before Margaret Thatcher’s advent to power — which changed nothing.

Thatcher was

an epiphænomenon in the life of the British people. She spoke much, but achieved little.

Impenetrable drivel unworthy of the faculty of speech

The linguistic effluent that has engulfed Western society and economy

The linguistic effluent that is engulfing Western society and economy

Managerialese is the revenge of the unscrupulous and mediocre on the talented and principled

People who become managers in public service organisations and in large commercial firms, writes Dalrymple,

speak a kind of language that is neither colloquial nor technical nor philosophical nor literary nor precise nor poetic nor even quite human.

He asks whether their utterances correspond to what is going through their mind, or whether they have to translate their thoughts

into this simulacrum of language.

The bullshit piles up so fast you need wings to stay above it

The bullshit has piled up so fast you need wings to stay above it

No man of education and feeling can bear the tedium of it. A virus has entered the brain to

disarrange its language centres, rather as a stroke does.

Scourge of the talking robots

The source of the malady might, he suggests, lie with industrial concerns

and perhaps the business schools that trained their managers, as primates in the forests of Central Africa were the source of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Infection often escapes its original nidus to infect the surrounding population of the susceptible, in this case managers in and of the public service made susceptible by Margaret Thatcher’s ill-fated notion that the public service could be some kind of replica of private business.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 11.26.35Verbigeration

Dalrymple points out that the argot is both a symptom and a sustainer of a social revolution. Those who consult its claims are

ruthless and ambitious, mediocre in everything except in the scale of their determination to rule some tiny roost or other, and be paid accordingly. The quid pro quo is that they must learn a new language, whose mastery is far from easy: I am sure that if my readers will try to speak for only a few minutes in managerialese they will find it almost impossible, for meaning will keep breaking through their best attempts at meaninglessness.

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.

Thatcher handled the miners with determination and skill

Arthur Scargill: tried to use Thatcherite laws to buy a London council flat

Arthur Scargill: tried to use Thatcherite laws to buy a London council flat

Dalrymple writes that after Margaret Thatcher defeated the National Union of Mineworkers,

no other union would lightly take her government on. And so far, at least, British unions have not recovered their extraconstitutional role as the fourth, and seemingly most powerful, branch of government.

Thatcher’s empty rhetoric

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 07.57.42The economist Peter Bauer told Dalrymple he thought Thatcher had talked much but done little. Dalrymple writes:

She had even set her cause back because her strident language had convinced people that she had carried out her radical programme, thus arousing the undying hatred of her intellectual opponents as if she had done so, while in fact she changed very little, at least as regards the fundamentals. She thus gave the ideas for which she stood a bad name without their ever having been put into practice.

Thatcher was head and shoulders above the other political figures of her time

Screen Shot 2013-04-06 at 00.02.54And personally likeable.

Dalrymple writes that

to blame a figure for not having done the impossible is not to damage her reputation in the slightest. There is (thank goodness) a limit to what one person can do in countries such as the United Kingdom.

All talk and no trousers

Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 11.35.17Margaret Thatcher

spoke too much and did too little. Her strident tone, that was capable of cutting glass, gave even her best ideas a bad reputation, as if they had been put into practice when they had not.

By every measure, the public sector looms larger in Britain today than it did in 1979. Dalrymple puts it this way: Margaret Thatcher found the public sector inefficient

 and left it inefficient and corrupt.

Her noisy rhetoric against the state

disguised the fact that under her, the state remained as preponderant as ever. Government expenditure increased, above all in areas such as social security.

The disaster of Thatcherism

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 08.28.48Margaret Thatcher’s cultural effect on Britain was, overall, disastrous, writes Dalrymple. She introduced the commercial spirit

not only where it was needed, but where it was harmful. Almost all the legalised corruption for which the British public administration is so notable can be traced back to her. She believed in management as a science in the way that Latin American peasants believe in miracle-working Virgins. She introduced business practices (such as high and rising perquisites) into the public sector without the disciplines of a real marketplace.

She failed to learn an important lesson taught by the experience of the Russian communist tyranny, that

in centralised bureaucratic systems, the setting of targets results not in efficiency but in organised lying to pretend that they have been met. The result has been Soviet-type corruption, moral, intellectual and financial, some of it legal and much of it compulsory. Those who work in or for the public administration – it is increasingly difficult to tell them apart – have been comprehensively corrupted.

Mirror-image Marxism

Dalrymple writes:

Margaret Thatcher believed, in a mirror-image Marxist way, that the market automatically made men virtuous. Unfortunately, she did not so much restore a market economy as promote a consumer society in which most of the difficult aspects of existence in the modern world — education, healthcare, social security and many others — remained in the hands of the state. This meant consumer choice was largely limited to matters of pocket money. The combination of consumer choice and deep irresponsibility was not attractive. A large part of the population became selfish, egotistical, childish, petulant, demanding and whimsical.

Thatcher and corporatist corruption

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 08.25.01Margaret Thatcher‘s belief, writes Dalrymple, that the idea of public service

was a mask for private rent-seeking, which could be avoided only by the introduction of the management techniques of the private sector, paved the way for the corporatist corruption of Blair and Brown. She helped create a large class of apparatchiks posing as businessmen, who learned how to loot the public purse

Blair and Brown

expanded the public sector to secure votes and increased dependency on the state. They did so by borrowing.