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The ideology that broke Britain Our unwieldy and bureaucratic state is heading for self-destruction

Today's state has failed(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Today's state has failed(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)


February 3, 2021   6 mins

It is difficult, when considering how the pandemic has revealed the total incapacity of the British state, not to think of the parasitic tropical fungus Cordyceps. When an ant is infected by its spores, the insect is compelled to engage in behaviour disastrously fatal to itself, but essential to the fungus’ reproduction. Driven by a suicidal urge it cannot control, the ant climbs to the highest branches of a nearby tree, clamps down hard with its mandibles on a leaf and dies.

Its brain eventually erupts into a cylindrical fruit, which pushes its way, like an exploring finger, from the ant’s head to release its spores on the breeze and infect nearby colonies. The ant’s survival is not an evolutionary concern of the fungus; all that matters is its ability to totally manipulate the ant’s functions, and to spread its spores as far as possible, at whatever cost to its host.

Such is the British state after forty years of exposure to neoliberal ideology. After four decades of privatisation and outsourcing, it hesitates to close the borders to a lethal pandemic because feeding a few thousand travellers in airport hotels is beyond its capacity; it can’t produce a functioning track and trace system; when the pandemic began, it had no stock of PPE and wasted millions trying to procure essential supplies from private profiteers. Even supplying free school meals to quarantined children transpired to be beyond the capacity of the fifth-largest economy on earth, leaving the government hostage to the ineptitude of the profiteers to whom it outsourced the role, and humiliated by a Premier League footballer’s PR advisor. Even as the British state is brought to the edge of destruction, it cannot shake itself free of the ideological parasite of outsourcing, deregulation, and  privatisation which controls its every action.

All because the British state has been hollowed out to the point that it can barely be said to exist. Its survival, even within the short term, is doubtful: but then the host’s survival, and that of the colony to which it belongs, was always secondary to the parasite’s desire to reproduce itself and unleash the free-floating spores of capital.

A recent academic paper by the political scientists Lee Jones and Shahar Hameiri lays out, in forensic detail, how Britain’s record-setting death rate from Covid derives from the failures of what they term the “neoliberal regulatory state”, whereby both Conservative and Labour governments have retreated from active “government” in favour of hands-off, vaguely-directed “governance”. This has, they explain, resulted in “the deliberate reduction of popular expectations of public authority; the outsourcing of responsibility to technocratic, private and quasi-autonomous actors, weakening lines of control and accountability; and the hollowing-out of state capacities and authority to the benefit of frequently inept large-scale corporations.”

Over the course of decades, “state apparatuses were
 reconfigured to reduce their responsiveness to popular demands.” State-owned industries were privatised and “authority and control over resources were extensively transferred to unelected technocrats, independent regulators, quangos (quasi-autonomous nongovernmental organisations) and public-private partnerships.”

The results, once this mutilated state was faced with a deadly virus, are clear to see: 100,000 dead and counting, and a devastating economic collapse. Yet there was nothing inevitable about this outcome. The destruction of the British state was a conscious, willed decision by successive governments, who adopted a naive and idealistic faith that deregulation and privatisation would make us richer, happier, and above all freer. The state, they declared, was unwieldy, bureaucratic and wasteful: shifting governance to market forces would be more cost-effective, responsive and, above all, efficient.

As we now see, this was pure fantasy, a construct of radical ideology marketing itself as “common sense”. Marketisation, however, has not led to the eradication of waste and inefficient bureaucracy, but to the vast growth of both, taken out of democratic control and oversight. As Jones and Hameiri observe, and as any of us can see every day, “the neoliberal regulatory state is actually characterised by greater bureaucracy and considerably higher governmental spending (including on welfare) than its predecessor”.

Costs and bureaucracy have risen exponentially, even as capacity and accountability were frittered away: “neoliberal states may be highly functional for large-scale, internationally-oriented capital, but they have clearly become dysfunctional for solving very basic social problems.”

Modern society is not, as was promised, based on a self-regulating market, correcting itself and achieving desirable outcomes through some “hidden hand” — a faith which betrays its roots in Enlightenment Deism. Instead, it has become a construction of purely parasitic private enterprises, the outsourcing firms and consultancies which waste vast sums of taxpayers’ money on the inept delivery of services that are rightfully the state’s domain. We have rendered what is Caesar’s to Deloitte and SERCO, and are presented with the bill in the daily litany of deaths announced on the evening news.

The reality of neoliberalism, Jones and Hameiri underline, is that “precisely because markets are not natural and spontaneous phenomena, they have required extensive state de- and re-regulation in order to create and maintain them, spawning vast, complex bureaucracies”. Yet at the same time, “rising government spending has often been directed to maintaining this burgeoning ‘quangocracy’ and related private-sector consultancies, and the outsourcing of public services to capitalist enterprises.” Today, they point out, the state has become so dysfunctional it has entered “an asymmetric relationship of co-dependency,” with the British state and its outsourced parasites locked together in a downward, deathly spiral of decline.

This is not a bug, but a feature of today’s society. As the left-wing writers Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams observed in their 2015 manifesto for radical futurism, Inventing the Future, “contrary to its popular presentation, neoliberalism differs from classical liberalism in ascribing a significant role to the state. A major task of neoliberalism has therefore been to take control of the state and repurpose it.” Like the Cordyceps, these enterprises depend entirely on the state for their survival — whether to bail out their failed adventures on the free market, or, functioning as a pure parasite, compelling the state to act as an accomplice in its own destruction.

It wasn’t always like this, Srnicek and Williams remind us, and it doesn’t have to be this way. “In its origins, neoliberalism was a fringe theory,” they observe, “its adherents found it difficult to gain employment, were often untenured, and were mocked by the Keynesian mainstream.” As the historian Peter Hennessy notes, before its spores infected Thatcher’s Conservative party, neoliberalism’s ideologues were mocked and marginal figures, frustratedly complaining about the “Tory paternalism and a dash of dirigisme” which marked her predecessors, and Macmillan’s “Tory government with a large chunk of socialism built into a consensus,” which emphasised state capacity and growth through government-directed investment in core strategic capabilities. The nation’s needs came first: the remorseless, destructive power of the market was kept at a cautious distance, where it belongs.

It took the oil crisis of the 1970s and the collapse of the Trente Glorieuses of post-war reconstruction for neoliberalism to achieve Western hegemony, the cultural and political dominance by which such a radical and unlikely ideology was adopted as “common sense”. Yet the dystopia in which we now live vastly overshadows the Winter of Discontent, the crisis used to justify this new order in Britain, in its severity. We are enduring the worst disaster since World War Two, and its effects have been vastly amplified by the deconstruction of the state. Now, the pendulum must swing the other way: our essential task is to revive the British state before its total collapse.

After all, who can say with a straight face that the British state of 1971, or of 1961 or 1951, would not have dealt with the Covid crisis more effectively than our current collection of hapless outsourcers? As Fukuyama observes, it is the functioning state bureaucracies, with their legacy of top-down dirigisme, of South Korea and Taiwan, that have performed best in this crisis, and we must turn to them as our example.

There is a tragic irony in observing today’s ideologues helplessly lament the British state’s incapacity on Twitter, like the sorcerer’s apprentice at the mercy of the forces he unwittingly unleashed. This is the country they built. And now that their ideas have failed, it’s up to us to rebuild our state in a way that works. It is time for a new hegemonic understanding, a new common sense, of the necessity and desirability of the state directing private industry and national resources in the pursuit of strong national capacity.

Jones and Hameiri remark that the one functioning arm of the British state in this crisis has been the armed forces, the one sector shielded from the destructive logic of the free market. To this we must add the marked success of the government’s programme of vaccine research, procurement and delivery. It has been a top-down marriage of private industry, the intellectual resources of Oxford University and the capacity of the NHS — directed by government under the realm of a politician, Matt Hancock, who we must now reassess as a serious and competent state functionary worthy of praise.

In the success of Britain’s vaccine programme we can discern the outline of a certain dirigiste future: not an enemy of private enterprise, but its director in the service of the national good; not the creative destructor of the state’s capacity, but its rebuilder in a modern, efficient and effective form. It is a return to a hegemonic understanding of the state’s role expressed by Macmillan himself in a diary entry that “[the] forces at work [are] now too complicated, [the] risks of setback too great to leave to market forces and laissez faire. Dirigisme. But it must be creative dirigisme.”

It may be too late for the British state, but we must try. The state is too weak to host its parasitic accretions any longer. Like the ant colony which discovers the Cordyceps infection amongst its number, we must remove the baneful ideological spores of self-destruction from our government if we intend our nation to survive.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago

France, Aris, France.

That country right next door which provides the perfect model for how you envision the UK should be.

Where the Covid death rate is the same as the UK, except that the government is too incompetent to even tell you what the actual death rate is so they only report half the numbers.

Where the government is completely incapable of running a vaccination programme.

Where the president is a lying, anti-science, demagogue, though no one in the state-funded gravy train cares to acknowledge it.

Where the overpowerful state has snuffed out the prospects of generations through over regulation and taxes.

Your argument does not stack up to reality. Go spend some time in the banlieues or rural areas (or, for that matter, anywhere outside of the 7th and 16th) if you don’t believe me.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

..

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

How do you know that France only reports half the numbers?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Germany does not report those who died in care homes – and they have been sending people from overcrowded hospitals to care homes.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

What is your news source?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

You can Google it.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Google provides many sources. What is YOUR news source?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

What is your point? I’ve forgotten. To prove that everything you say is factually perfect to the letter? Get a life.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I am just asking you!
You can not prove it, that is all.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I must admit – I generally do try and check what I perceive to be facts by checking their source before relying on my dodgy memory before posting.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

As you see, I have approved your post. I have followed what you have said in other discussions and I agree with 95% of your comments. Here you are just wrong and you are missing the point.
If the argument is actually going in a positive direction and achieving an end, facts are very important but if the argument is totally negative looking for someone to blame, then facts are tedious and meaningless – just a matter of proving you are right or wrong. I live in a small community of German ex-pats, I know Germany well, I call people in Germany every week, I speak fluent German. I am correct but it is not at all important to prove it to someone who is being totally negative.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Your whole comment is “feelings over facts”

Anne Poitrineau
Anne Poitrineau
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

That’s called a bad faith dodge. How do you know those forgotten sources were reliable? You do not, apparently.

Anne Poitrineau
Anne Poitrineau
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Yes, please what are your sources? Googling it is not an answer. I can Google Trump and get “The Epoch Times” as a source…and then my info is one sided rubbish. So what are these google sources you are quoting???

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

‘Half the numbers’ is an exaggeration, but the French do not report people who die at home. Meanwhile in the UK any death that takes place within, from memory, 28 days of a positive Covid test is recorded as a Covid death.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

How do you know that? News source please!

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

www dot lse dot ac dot uk backslash social-policy backslash Assets backslash Documents backslash PDF backslash working-paper-series backslash10-20-Anne-West.pdf
Symbols replaced by words to ensure this doesn’t disappear.
You could have found it yourself in 15 seconds by googling.

larry tate
larry tate
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I must congratulate you in your very direct and intelligent way in which you have shifted the conversation from a biased article by Roussinos into a silly and completely irrelevant question about the numbers of deaths in France.

The point is another entirely. Just think of the biased and mediocre phrase “precisely because markets are not natural and spontaneous phenomena”, and you can get right into the obscene mind of our commentator.

If the market is not natural, then we better start looking for fresh ideas elsewhere. Clearly this article is absolute nonsense.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

You actually believe UK Covid death numbers?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

I believe that the ONS has the correct numbers and they are higher than those defined by the UK government.

Anne Poitrineau
Anne Poitrineau
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Yes, and according to the ONS numbers…France is doing better than the
UK. In the UK, we have more housing issues than in France (not that
France does not have housing issues).

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

In the UK there the incentive for the organisations concerned is to push the figures as high as reasonably possible. I am not sure this is true elsewhere

Anne Poitrineau
Anne Poitrineau
3 years ago

You what???? Where does this incentive come from. what are you talking about?? The government has devised a reporting system that enables it to omit certain deaths, hence the ONS figures. PLease, what are your sources for this?

Anne Poitrineau
Anne Poitrineau
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

Your analysis of France is a mish-mash of truth and untruths.
Yes, Macron is an idiot.

No about death reporting. It is not more poorly reported than in the UK. And testing was, for a long time, a lot easier to get than it was in the UK. The vaccination issue is concerning, but it is concerning in a lot of EU counries, so I would not link it to France being France.
Trains work better and are cheaper. Universities and health are also more accessible and cheaper in the end.

You think the prospects of future generations is not bleak in the UK??? go and have a look I know, I teach them.

Finally for now: are the French banlieues worse than UK deprived council estates? I do not think so. I know, I teach them.

charles.reese
charles.reese
3 years ago

French Covid deaths figures do not include people who died at home, so their real numbers are at least as high as the UK’s. Testing may have been easier initially in France, but the UK has performed 76,432,166 tests compared with France’s 45,597,298, or 67% more tests in the UK.

Trains are not cheaper in France, they are more expensive (which is why they work better). It is simply that the French state (i.e. taxpayers) subsidize them to an eyewatering degree. Healthcare is not cheaper either; France spends more of its GDP on healthcare than the UK. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it is a fact. Universities are more accessible in France because everyone who passes their Bac has a right to go to any university. This is an absurd system which causes an enormous drop-out rate and completely debases the universities. No wonder France has no university in the world top 50 (QS rankings). The UK has Eight in the top 50 in the same survey.

Who knows if French banlieues are wore than British council estates? They certainly cause more crime and rioting.

So it seems your analysis of France is mostly untruths.

Walter Hirsch
Walter Hirsch
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

France is a special case with a self-reproducing highly centralized elite that captured the state burocracy for themselves since the french revolution.

Nikolaus Gramm
Nikolaus Gramm
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

France today is in now way a hyper-dirigiste state. The French state has been hollowed out by EU membership and neoliberal policies mutually underpinning each other. The ENArque elites, in a very perverse form of incestuous relationships with the private sector, became a class of state-destroying civil servants, a phenomenon known as “pantouflage”. Thus the very weak response to Covid-19 is not really surprising. What’s happening (or not) in France confirms Aris Roussinos’ claim that the UK (as well as France) needs a comeback of dirigisme.

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
3 years ago

Because those non free market institutions like the NHS and education have proved so successful? The example of the successful vaccination programme would appear to be a clear candidate for the neoliberalism being denounced. A vaccination programme run by outsourced scientists and commercial enterprises, largely freed from the normal regulatory burdens, supported but not directed by government.
I don’t know but suspect half the reason for the Asian countries success has been a lack of rabid attacks in their respective media on every government decision. Maybe they could focus on some facts instead and possibly investigate what percentage of the reported deaths are actually primarily as a result of covid. Just a thought.

Jerry Mee-Crowbin
Jerry Mee-Crowbin
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Mitchell

My cousin, an epidemiologist in London, was complaining recently about the extraordinary number of deaths that were marked down as due to Covid 19 when they patently were not.
Interestingly, the World Economic Forum, a non-elected body headed by its founder, a certain Prof Schwab, has a plan that they describe as the Great Reset which they wish to see implemented worldwide to impose severely Green policies. This will be done on the back of Covid using the excuse of ‘Building Back Better’. Exaggerating the number of Covid deaths suits this plan perfectly as an easy means of getting support from a terrified public.
It is an anti-capitalistic policy openly supported by very wealthy individuals and various nonentities from the entertainment world (who won’t be affected by this policy at all, obviously) including strong support from our much indulged and highly deluded future king. One wonders if Her Majesty has any idea of what he’s planning! Whichever way one looks at it he’s risking the very existence of the monarchy.
Bizarrely, and worryingly, Schwab is on record as a great admirer of the People’s Republic of China and the means used there to keep the population of that country well under control. Democracy will be brushed aside as unimportant in the face of the ‘crisis’ that, according to Schwab, needs to be addressed immediately. Will the UK government allow this? Of course it will, just as it didn’t debate the idea of Net Zero, costing the country trillions, it will simply be nodded through by MPs too ignorant and ill informed to realise what they are doing until it is too late. The policy has also been described by the WEF itself as: ‘You will own nothing; you will be happy’.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago

Thank you for explaining more about the Great Reset, which I keep hearing about but wondered if it was an urban myth. Apparently -and worryingly- it is not. Covid seems to have arrived from China at just the “right” time, how fortuitous. My instinct so far in this “pandemic” as been to distrust most of the publicity, death rates, masks, purported virulence etc.
Schwab seems to be the ideal person to welcome our new Chinese overlords. Can’t anything be done ? Anyone ?

Anne Poitrineau
Anne Poitrineau
3 years ago

You are dangerous, so is your cousin.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago

Why, for conveying information that is already extant in the public realm?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

The pig don’t fly – that is a fact. Now, it could be that pigs don’t fly because of biology/evolution or it could be that pigs don’t fly because of China. Jerry Mee Crowbin comment is a long conspiracy theory

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Jeremy, you are a spanner sometimes.

Epicurus Araraxia
Epicurus Araraxia
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Great Reset is not a conspiracy theory. It’s an agenda. The WEF as represented by Schwab has an agenda for remaking the world, and for him, the pandemic that China exported to the rest of the World is an opportunity to kickstart that agenda.
Anyone who happens to point out that the “Great Reset” agenda amounts to rolling out Chinese Communism to the rest of the world gets the “Conspiracy Theorist” slur applied to them. No one is supposed to notice that the “You will own nothing, but you will be happy” slogan is probably stolen from Mao’s red book.

stefan
stefan
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Mitchell

Exactly. I’m struggling with the idea put forward in the article that the problems dealing with the pandemic were down to neo-liberalism etc when Public Health England plus NHS employs more people than the Russian military and is the last bastion of that 1940s “Whitehall knows best and runs it all” approach of the Left. PHE was an utter disaster and typifies that mentality. NHS front line workers are too often “lions led by donkeys”, to coin a phrase. It’s quite a bizarre article and I wonder what the point of it all is when it’s so evidently just plain wrong.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  stefan

What’s the size of the Russian Military got to do with it? (Other than irrelevant rhetorical flourish)

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

What a lot of ludicrous – no, cretinous – leftist hogwash.

Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I could write a long response to the article of my own. But you have summed it up perfectly, thank you.

It’s absolute nonsense, written in the style of a bad student submission, and not worth much time at all.

Paul K
Paul K
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I don’t see anything ‘leftist’ about calling for a strong centralised state to direct a nation. Anarchists would despie the idea. Falangists would love it.

Do you have any substantive criticism of the argument?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul K

“What a lot of ludicrous – no, cretinous – leftist hogwash.”

This is like saying, I’m going to say something insulting because I can’t be bothered to think today. Whenever you get a site with a preponderance of views leaning to one side, you just don’t have a discussion.

The point for me is that the only alternative to the way we are is …. socialism.
If you read the journals like Socialist Review, Chartist, New Statesman, you get venom and garbage but from the ‘other’ side. I suggest that the anger and negativity and constant blaming of people should stop and someone should come up with a new idea.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

the only alternative to the way we are is …. socialism.

the anger and negativity and constant blaming of people should stop

Well, come on Chris, which is it? Are you a socialist, or do you object to anger, negativity and blame? You can’t have it both ways. Because socialism is all about all those things, which are all manifestations of vicious, slothful envy. That’s why when socialism fails, as it always does, it’s always someone else’s fault.

And those whose fault it is – white people, men, landlords, high earners, private schoolchildren, drivers, small business owners – should be defined as such, targeted as groups for hatred (“Black Lives Matter” – pfft), and expropriated and silenced by the state (see most of the guff produced by Moonbat, Toynbee and More) to show them how how much you hate them.

You can’t have socialism without hate, envy, blame, anger, or negativity, and stop trying to kid anyone that you can. Own it and admit that you hate, really hate, a lot of your fellow citizens.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

How would you describe what we currently have in place after a year of ‘Health Emergency’ autocratic rule?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

He will not explain it. His answer will have the word ‘Left’ in it.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

Which part of ’emergency’ didn’t you follow?

In 1940 would you have opposed Anderson shelters? You would, wouldn’t you? Am I right?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I am not a socialist but you clearly do not get my point. I am, therefore, not as well educated as you.

Kevin Armstrong
Kevin Armstrong
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Superb! Also France reports 76,000 deaths in a land area 2.3 times the United Kingdom, has a ‘glacial’ vaccination rate according to another Unherd article written by a Europhile, and has taxed itself into fiscal stasis, brilliant comparison

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

“fiscal stasis..”
And yet France is as rich as UK (that has lower tax rate).

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Well said!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul K

Well, essentially my criticism is that the writer relies on the arguments from supposed authority of a coterie of parti pris leftist, and therefore worthless, sources. Their case, as predictably as always, boils down to “because Fatcha”, who routed them and their ilk intellectually 40 years ago. They still hate her accordingly, for that and for not being a properly docile Labour-voting woman, so something that happened in China 30 years after she left power is of course her fault.

Their supposed research work is not reproducible, but a matter of mere opinion. It proceeds by simple assertion, and takes no account – indeed doesn’t even ask – whether demographic or other factors might explain national differences in COVID experience better than leftist doctrine.

The author never once mentions China, ludicrously, the statist top-down earthly paradise that caused all this. He carefully overlooks uber-capitalist Singapore’s success in dealing with COVID, while ignoring the abject failure of uber-statist socialist hellholes such as France. Not only have such countries not dealt with COVID any better, but they’ve also failed to get their right-on top-down statist Ê‥厉Ʉs together to work with industry to develop and deploy some vaccine, despite the example of Britain on their doorstep.

And the article has nothing to say about the socialist EU bloc’s attempt to steal from Britain what it couldn’t be bothered to organise properly for itself, i.e. a vaccine supply. Most people would consider this behaviour reprehensible, but getting the state to nick stuff off people you envy, to legitimise such expropriation and to save you the bother of stealing it yourself, has always been at the heart of socialism’s appeal to greedy, feckless riffraff. There’s no reason why socialism would behave any differently at a state level. It’s always all about levelling down until you run out of other people’s money.

I could have said all that, but it was midnight or something, and frankly, I think my original more succinct response made the same points more pithily.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Our problem it that our nominal “Conservative” Government is currently behaving like the CCP of China and bizarrely attempting destroy all small and medium sized businesses and our whole hospitality sector .

Because out whole political system is moribund and dysfunctional and now appears not even to be protected by a functioning Constitution ,we never get the Government we vote for behaving i te way we would wish.

It also now seems that Johnson’s personal idea of Brexit does not correspond with that of the majority who voted for it.

This is now just a Government of feather bedding Tory elitists melded with authoritarian Nanny State socialists from Government Agencies, the NHS and the Civil Service – it has very little to do with the will of the people (not to mention democratic accountability through the scrutiny of our currently addled and muted Parliament).

It seems that politics in the UK is now simply reduced to fooling most of the people once every five years.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Left, Right, Centre. Here we go!! End of dialogue into labels. have you ever worked, as in worked?

charles.reese
charles.reese
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Spot on!

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I have developed an approach to Unhers articles:

1. Look at the title
2. Approximate the length
3. If the subject of the title merits half a dozen lines but the article is several hundred skip to the comments

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

‘All because the British state has been hollowed out to the point that it can barely be said to exist.’

Yet it is larger than ever, employs more people than ever and assumes more tasks than ever – with many of those tasks being illegitimate or invented to keep countess people in non-jobs. Aris seems to write well on international, geo-political issues, but all his fine words on the UK speak to more state and more misery for the rest of us. The state – especially in the UK – will always be useless and counter productive. The vaccination is a rare success on the part of British state, probably the first since the mass house building of the 1950s.

All of this, as Peter Scott says below, is aided and abetted by the terrible and immoral leadership we have seen across the West for many decades.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Isn’t, in part, the point of the article that the state has expanded in order to sustain the private sector that feeds on it? It’s failing to deliver on core responsibilities because it no longer sees itself as responsible (that is the sense in which it is hollowed out) – responsibility has been outsourced to sustain an ideology that sees the maximisation of profit and shareholder value as the objective.

Aris also makes the point that the state of 1951 would be better equipped to deal with the current crisis – presumably because it would have the confidence to embark on a programme of direct action similar to the house building of the 1950s that you celebrate.

Chris Jayne
Chris Jayne
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

It is. It’s been very interesting to note the vehement reaction from the right of centre commentators because of who Aris sourced and the use of the word neoliberalism. But there is much truth in what he writes.

The state is intensely bound by the tens of thousands of existing policies and regulations it acts under. Most of which place administrative burden on it, many of which place a requirement for consultants or technical advice, but all of which shift function away from actually doing things themselves. If calling it neoliberal provokes a negative reaction then call it something else but the result is still a massive largely useless state that doesn’t actually do much.

The point on governance rather than government is also astute.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Jayne

is still a massive largely useless state that doesn’t actually do much.

Easy to fix then…

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

…if there was a will to fix it, which there clearly isn’t.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

Why not?

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

..look at the last 40 years, and that was someone fixing it?

Hate to see what it would be like if no-one was trying to fix it….oh, wait a mo…

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

Could it be that people don’t want it to be fixed?
Or they don’t see the problem that you do?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

When you say people, who do you mean? The people on this site? Intellectuals? You know as well as I do that about 99% of the population don’t think that anyone will listen if they argue.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The people as in the British people. Politicians listens the problem is that the People want different things; often they want contradictory things

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Ah yes, that’ll be it, it’s not broken!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

I did not say that it is broken or not.
If it is as obvious as you claim to be surely the voters……

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Everything is fine…until it’s not

Chris Jayne
Chris Jayne
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

It’s horrific to fix. The expansion of regulation means an expansion of compliance and monitoring and governance. You can’t just get rid of them as they’re normally based in statute and integrated into the practices of business wherever government and business intersect too. Most have a purpose or at least a justification for existing also.

I genuinely don’t see the ability to reform. Look at how many times it’s been tried in councils and NHS over the decades. They’re in a constant state of flux, but reviews don’t have the capacity or authority to remove obligations to comply with statute for example so it’s just shuffling the proverbial deck chairs. I see the state as a huge powerful oxen, which gets a new leech placed on it each and every day.

A Commentator
A Commentator
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Well said – this is exactly the point of the article and something almost every other commentator here has failed to appreciate.

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The state sector exists to provide those thing the private sector is unable to finance or operate profitable. Like the original supplies of gas, electricity, clean water, sewage, universal education, universal healthcare. These things may be operated by the private sector once they have been created by collective action, but standards will inevitably slide due to the profit motive.
Of course, conversely, bureaucracy will eventually stifle any publicly provided good.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

Spot on. An individual can’t be the police or the army on a one-person scale, so those have to be centralised.

There is no reason why the state should be in the business of providing healthcare, or making cars, or generating power, however. The case for the state providing education is marginal. There could be inadequate local private provision which would be regionally unfair, but then again the same arises under the state anyway, with eg those madrassas it runs in Birmingham.

If there is an argument that the state should make cars and / or provide necessities, then logically, there should also be a national food service. The food would be scarce, more expensive and worse, but to the left that’s an acceptable outcome as long as it’s equally bad for everyone (party apparatchiks aside obviously).

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

It may have missed your attention that control over education is one of the fundamental characteristics of modern Westphalian states.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Haller

It could change. The state could give parents a voucher and let them spend it with whichever education provider they chose, who’d redeem the voucher with the government. The government would collect taxes to fund the payments.

The state’s role in education would then be limited to setting standards and policing out any attempts at woke, ecofascist or any for of indoctrination.

It need not actually try to run education itself.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

The coherent place to start when deciding what does, and does not, warrant government control is whether or not the good in question is, or is not, a natural monopoly.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

The whole debate/tension between dirigiste government on the one side and neoliberal ‘hand it to the market for efficient accomplishment’ priorities on the other, is essentially irrelevant.

The mess we have been in for decades is due to bad leadership.

Good leadership, by honest upright people with right motivation focusing on a goal and using the least expensive way really to achieve it, makes ANY system work. Kate Bingham’s grip on and success with the British vaccination programme – in spite of being in a country, and run by a government, of which the very essence is Bungling – proves this.

Bad leadership – people with the divided intention of supplying public need but at the same time aggrandising themselves, relatives, friends, cronies – produces a costly mess; the extravagance of which eventually destroys the society it officially aims to support.

You get good leadership where the individual personalities in charge are infused and animated by a vision of life which is much larger than my-own-personal-gain-in-the-short-term principle.

You get bad leadership where this vision is missing because a society has decayed spiritually (which also means ethically and emotionally) and is no longr driven by the larger world-view.

With the steady decline of Christian belief (AND ALSO, for those who are not religious, Stoic Ethics) these past 4 centuries, we have gone from entrepreneurial vivacity to smugness to chaos.

In the 18th century bankers chased round the United Kingdom in their carriages looking for bright ideas of inventors to fund, so as to keep their promises to their investors and thereby prop up the Whig political settlement. Hence the industrial revolution, Britain being the workshop of the world and its chief trader.

After Trafalgar the Smugness set in; and by the 1850s Charles Dickens was tearing his hair out over ‘the whole art of government’ being ‘How Not To Do It’.

By the middle of the 20th century the chief impulses in public policy were Cowardice and Private Greed.

Socialism, capitalism, and all variants thereof, are not going to change that dismal scenario. Only spiritual renewal can do that.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Consummatum est!

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

The collapse of the Roman Republic, its rebirth as the Empire under Caesar Augustus, and the subsequent, and very prolonged, decline and fall offers an interesting comparison.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

It has been required reading as a ‘blue print’ for over a decade. We are currently after the Adrianople stage and heading towards Honorious ‘ (UVDL?) un-glorious reign .

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

Really, “required reading” by whom may I have the temerity to enquire?

Sadly UVDL is no Theodora.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Orwell in 1941, ‘England Your England’:

Thirty years ago the Blimp [middle] class was already losing its vitality. The middle-class families celebrated by Kipling, the prolific lowbrow families whose sons officered the army and navy and swarmed over all the waste places of the earth from the Yukon to the Irrawaddy, were dwindling before 1914.

The thing that had killed them was the telegraph. In a narrowing world, more and more governed from Whitehall, there was every year less room for individual initiative. Men like Clive, Nelson, Nicholson, Gordon would find no place for themselves in the modern British Empire.

By 1920 nearly every inch of the colonial empire was in the grip of Whitehall. Well-meaning, over-civilized men, in dark suits and black felt hats, with neatly rolled umbrellas crooked over the left forearm, were imposing their constipated view of life on Malaya and Nigeria, Mombasa and Mandalay.

[…] From that time onwards it has been next door to impossible to induce young men of spirit to take any part in imperial administration..

He says a lot and I have redacted a lot more – but it encapsulates this lethargy and lack of leadership and creativity that comes from bureaucracy.

The vaccine rollout in the UK shows how with the right direction, public and private enterprises can combine effectively. However the sad state of the rest of it tells a different story. I would 100% agree with you that one of the major factors is a lack of competent leadership.

(worth mentioning that Orwell is not lamenting the decline of Empire – rather the decline in entrepreneurial vigour and sheer effort that drove the Enlightenment and Industrial revolution etc)

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

British people voted for the welfare state in 1945. that is what they want.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

That was what they thought they wanted in 1945, but Labour’s failure to win an election under anyone but Blair for the last 50 years suggests they’ve changed their minds.

I wonder if they’d have been so keen on the welfare state in 1945 if they’d know that the number of hospital beds would fall from 480,000 before the NHS to 120,000 today?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

There were no labor governments in the 50s, 60s, 70s? Not one?
Surely Tories (winning elections and all that) had the power to “change” the welfare state?

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Bad memory or “deliberate mistake”?
You forgot Chairman Harold, Sunny Jim, Etc

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Not if Jon Redman lives in a parallel universe!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Just to be clear, you stated that

“British people voted for the welfare state in 1945. that is what they want.”

– of which I remind you because you seem to have forgotten. It reminds me of Remainer arguments that because 43% of the electorate voted for EEC membership in 1973, we must want to be a province of the EU today.

So by the same token, because people voted for Thatcherism in 1979, that “is” also what they still want. And as it’s more recent, I guess they want it more.

If your best argument for dismantling health provision from 480,000 beds in 1948 to 120,000 today is that people now mostly dead voted for it in 1945, you may not have fully understood how elections work.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I didn’t make any claims at all. So you are going on a tangent there.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Jon – this isn’t the place for a debate on changing methods and improvements in the way healthcare has been delivered in the last 75 years which have led to less reliance on hospital admissions and more outpatient, daycase and primary care treatments. That’s not to say the NHS has enough beds to cope with surges in demand but it’s a spurious argument. It would be like arguing the RAF has fewer fighter planes than it did in 1945 which demonstrates its decline.

rlastrategy2
rlastrategy2
3 years ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Yes, how could anyone forget the pipe gnawing twit in the Gannex macintosh …

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

No it doesn’t. It means that you need it to support your argument.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

You mean just like Brexit

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Yes

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

That’s true of course – not an argument being made. But welfare is not mutually exclusive to competent governance.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I think (taking all into account) UK GOV is pretty competent. Can it do better? Of course. But may be “doing better” means different things to different people and some of those people are not willing to pay the price for “doing better”.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

It’s a good point, we look for a perfect system to work without looking at the people who run it.

John Smith
John Smith
3 years ago

A consistent theme in Aris’s articles is the call for a bigger and better state and he retreads that ground here. My difficulty with this is I can think of no of examples of where a large and efficient state sector has gone hand in glove with liberal democracy and free market capitalism.

His arguement that the state has been hollowed out to the point of ineffectiveness is not just due to the ‘neoliberal’ desire to outsource everything, but also in the subsequent failure to reduce the size of the state at the same time, however Parkinson’s law has be operating unchecked.

Outsourcing per se is not bad, companies and businesses do it all the time in order to be increase their efficiency and focus on areas they regard as core. The problem comes when the quality of the outsourced activity is not effectively monitored or worse is assessed against a set of meaningless and irrelevant measures.

A recent example of this was the NHS attempting to increase the size of the vaccination programme by co-opting ex medical staff and doctors to swell the ranks of jabbers, which on the face of it a sensible strategy. However this perfectly sensible objective was then destroyed by requiring that volunteers provide certification for things that were utterly irrelevant to the task at hand: anti-radicalisation training, fire safety, child safeguarding, diversity and equality, etc.

The real problem of the British state is that over a period of decades its tangible responsibilities (Coal Board, Post Office, CEGB, BL etc.) were replaced with intangible ones (diveristy, equality, health and safety, human rights, climate change, hate speech, gender etc) and because these things are very hard to properly quantify and manage the ranks of civil servants have swelled accordingly.

If you want an efficient state (whatever its size) the objectives have to be clear, and the metrics and measures by which those objectives are measured need to be focused and relevant.

Katy Randle
Katy Randle
3 years ago
Reply to  John Smith

Really good points; thank you. Goes a long way to explaining why there is no clarity in terms of responsibility for various aspects of the handling of this crisis.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

There’s plenty of clarity. There’s no AGREEMENT.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  John Smith

‘The real problem of the British state is that over a period of decades its tangible responsibilities (Coal Board, Post Office, CEGB, BL etc.) were replaced with intangible ones (diveristy, equality, health and safety, human rights, climate change, hate speech, gender etc) and because these things are very hard to properly quantify and manage the ranks of civil servants have swelled accordingly.’

This paragraph expresses the ‘ideology that broke Britain’ far more accurately than anything Aris or any of his fellow travellers at the Guardian etc would ever be be capable of writing, or of even understanding. That said, I would not cite BL (assuming you mean British Leyland) as a ‘tangible responsibility’. it was, perhaps, the biggest industrial fiasco the western world has ever seen.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yes, 36 genders is the problem with blackpool!

Robert Thomas
Robert Thomas
3 years ago
Reply to  John Smith

Germany seems to be quite a success, both in terms of strong governance and a capitalist economy ….

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  John Smith

A good example of a successful market economy with a large State would be Britain after the war. Or Europe post war. Or even the US. Then comes neo liberalism and wages stagnate and industry disappears.

Another example would be China today.

Bob Bobbington
Bob Bobbington
3 years ago

An article written by someone who presumably is too young to remember how bloody awful things were when the state was more directly involved in running industries and regulators. Only such ignorance can explain a call for the government/civil service to be more directly involved in running anything. And as Andrew Harvey points out below, if he’s too young and incurious to know about that period in our history, he can look over the channel at Brussels or Paris.

The real analogue for the cordyceps fungus is the pseudo-liberal left which has taken over the institutions and is now openly destroying the core tenets of our society from within.

Stanley Beardshall
Stanley Beardshall
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Bobbington

Totally agree; see my post later. Also, since I’ve spent the post-Thatcher years in France I could show the writer just how bad “non-hollowed out” government really is – more than half of France either works for or is dependent on the State.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

And yet France is as rich as UK and with more productive labor force.

Stanley Beardshall
Stanley Beardshall
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Ha ha,, that has cheered me up, thanks. You shouldn’t believe all you hear about productivity and economics!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Happy to consider your news sources!

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Lol…yeah…I remember a few years back when a US company was buying out a french tyre company….it was discovered that over the years the employees had negotiated some cracking deals with the management…30 hour week, 13 monthly pay periods, 12 weeks paid holiday..

They are, in general, a bunch of work-shy lazy frogs

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

pointless anecdotal story.
Isn’t Michelin (French) the largest tire company in the world?

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

…that more or less describes the recalcitrant french attitude to work…

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

Why is France one the richest countries in the world?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Investment in nuclear power? The EU protection system?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

So nuclear power makes a country of 66m rich?
What do you mean by “protection” system?
Is America rich because it is (far more than EU) a protectionist system?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Yes. And the EU protection system guaranteeing farm prices for years.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Again a country of 66m people is rich because EU farm policy (France is a net contributor to EU budget) keeps food prices up. French agriculture is 1.7% of its GDP! That 1.7% is why France is rich?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

There are many reasons. It is easy to answer the question. France was later in having state pensions, etc. Lost interest in the conversation.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

…state pensions now?
Let me say it very politely : you have no absolutely effing idea why France is rich.

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Well it certainly helps.
Today we are buying 7% of our electricity requiremts from France.

The French politicians were sensible enough to buy 2 nuclear power stations a year, for 20 years. Whilst here in Britain, the politicians dithered about about and only order spasmodically. They are then suprised that we had no capacity to build any.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

There is no economic evidence that Nuclear Power makes a country rich. There is evidence however of Oil/Gas making a country rich.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

But doesn’t explain the differential between UK and French productivity.

Let me offer a possible explanation. French workers are more lazy. But British management are more incompetent. Hence the French manage to get a better result out of a lazier workforce. I don’t believe this explanation is correct, but can you provide one which is?

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  James Moss

Ha…I like the explanation, in my experience British management is incompetent and the French are lazy, so your explanation actually sounds reasonable.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

But British management is the product of the British society…no?

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Michelin, that’s the one!

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I would not go there

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

I did!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Bobbington

Absolutely. The goal of today’s university educators is to narrow minds, not to broaden them.

There’s one acceptable opinion on everything and you go there to be told what it is.

Matt N
Matt N
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Bobbington

6 months for a telephone line, and one model of telephone only. Only permitted to buy a cooker from the state vendor. Dark, quasi Soviet times, when you look back.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago

While the dysfunctional state hasn’t performed at all well in the pandemic, constantly tying this to Britain’s tragically high death rate as if this was its sole determinant is to hugely oversimplify.

How about reflecting on the general health of the British populace? The UK has one of the worst rates of obesity in the world. The English and the Scottish drink to excess more often than any other people in the world – which feeds back into the obesity problem and is also related to a whole raft of other health issues. I no longer know how many British smoke – my impression is that it isn’t such a problem as it used to be (but there again, coming from Austria, a chronically smoky nation, anything looks good).

Roussinos points out that the army was the best performing element in this crisis. I venture to argue that this is mainly to do with DISCIPLINE – something which the ordinary British citizen isn’t terribly good at (spot the person who has been living in a Germanic country the last 16 years!). Obesity can be an illness and that’s a complex issue…but so many people out there simply do not have enough self-discipline to eat healthily, restrict their calorific intake and do sport. This is nothing to do with the government or the state and everything to do with self-responsibility – and would probably have cut the death rate. Vitamin D deficiency – a frequent problem in northern countries – should also be mentioned in this context.

Besides restructuring the state apparatus, a restructuring of the national attitude might be in order. The British seem to have forgotten that sustainable freedom can’t mean letting yourself go and doing what you want, when you want, all the time – it also means imposing limits on yourself.

Stanley Beardshall
Stanley Beardshall
3 years ago

The writer appears to have forgotten what happened before UK governments began outsourcing and privatising. As an 80 year old who was self-employed during the reigns of Wilson, Callaghan and Heath, I can assure him that the arrival of Margaret Thatcher was a bit like being freed from prison. Since her eviction we have seen undeniable proof of why, despite lots of failings, cronyism and crooked donations, Conservative government generally advances Britain ‘s prosperity. Marxist or Liberal alternatives have always achieved the opposite….

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
3 years ago

After living in the US for 24 years, I realised that one of its problems is the fact that anything to do with ‘socialism’ was stigmatised there, immediately associated with ‘bad’ Communism and the bogeymen Russians. But in Britain, over the 19th and 20th centuries, there was a new relationship built up between capital and labour, as philanthropy, rise of middle class, labour movement etc, evolved. To me Britain is remarkable because it seems to have been able to blend a kind society, including free health care, affordable education, public transport, with the forces of capitalism. I know terrible excesses and mistakes have been a part of this, but overall this is has created a culture and atmosphere so much more freeing to live in than America where the forces of capitalism are unmoderated. We need both forces, the one moderating the other. Right now what troubles me is that the left have no role. They’ve mistakenly gone down the road of attacking Britain and its culture, forcing fake diversity, and now the insanities and inanities of gender and racial bs. which is infecting our institutions wholesale. And also affecting the ground of freedom, freedom of thought and speech which has been alive in this country for centuries. In the US there is so much isolation and anxiety in the population, it’s so subtle that people don’t feel free in the same way. Both excessive capitalism and excessive socialism can lead to repression. But a balance brings life.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Diana Durham

You are not taking into account the young people.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Diana Durham

Very true.

Richard Burgess
Richard Burgess
3 years ago
Reply to  Diana Durham

A well written critique but the ‘young people’ just referred to have been deeply infected with the new cultural criteria which have taken root and the ramifications of which we will observe for some time yet.

gamer liv
gamer liv
3 years ago
Reply to  Diana Durham

Great post thanks.

Walter Brigham
Walter Brigham
3 years ago
Reply to  Diana Durham

“America where the forces of capitalism are unmoderated.” You state more succinctly the central thesis of this article. But that thesis is false. Capitalism is badly moderated at an unprecedented level.
Government NEVER shrinks – it slinks then morphs. Ronald Reagan was elected due to the no longer deniable malaise brought on by over-taxation and regulation. The US Department of Education was held up as an example of government ineptitude. 40 years later it plods along spending billions as education achievement declines.
This is but one example.
As always those able to influence government will use their influence for their benefit – capitalist, socialist, professional politician, bureaucrat.
This is why government MUST be limited.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

“It is difficult, when considering how the pandemic has revealed the total incapacity of the British state”

And here is where you can stop reading. What a load.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago

After all, who can say with a straight face that the British state of 1971, or of 1961 or 1951, would not have dealt with the Covid crisis more effectively than our current collection of hapless outsourcers?

I’m not sure that those of us who remember the “Winter of Discontent” (1978/9) would have been left with faith in the ability of that government to bury the dead or collect the rubbish under normal circumstances, let alone in a crisis.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

We would have had more of a debate in a free media and perhaps some statistics we could believe?

The Globalist Billionaire love affair with Communist China and their direct intervention in world politics has ended all that.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

The British state dealt extremely well with the 1968 flu epidemic by largely ignoring it. Still it only resulted in 70,000 excess deaths amongst a much younger and fitter population

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago

And a smaller population. But I don’t even remember anything about a pandemic. I just went to work and nobody mentioned it.

Stuart Mill
Stuart Mill
3 years ago

Neoliberalism?

Singapore is a free market utopia and they’re doing just fine.

For actual causes, consider the fact that BoJo is a clown.

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

“After all, who can say with a straight face that the British state of 1971, or of 1961 or 1951, would not have dealt with the Covid crisis more effectively than our current collection of hapless outsourcers? “

Previous administrations from the 20th century would have not messed up like this one has, because they would not have instinctively assumed the state could control a virus. This nonsense about lockdown comes from a left wing, indeed Communist mindset, not a free market mindset. Indeed free marketeers are possibly more able to comprehend viruses and admire their ability to thrive unimpeded by the state. This provides them with a much clearer idea about what the state could do effectively to minimise harm and what is pointless, but also gives entrepreneurs the ability to play the system and milk it for tax payer’s cash if the state is stupid enough to hand it out.

There were hundreds of thousands of deaths from respiratory diseases in the 20th century and up to the present day. Until now only those caused by air pollution and smog were reduced by states taking action against industry and businesses.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

Haha…yeah..

ZERO COVID!!
END COVID NOW!

Absolutely no idea at all

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

Sounds like a rant against something but I’m not sure what.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

As I say in my post below, I read and I despair. Everybody seems to be anti-something :- anti-big business, anti – Boris (before it was anti-May), anti-Left, anti-lockdown, etc.

I am old. It sounds to me that the people around me on UnHerd are old, thinking about some wonderful past. What are the alternatives?? We voted for Boris, we have Boris. Maybe we should vote for the Labour QC?

At the moment, I think there are two plans on the table: carry on as we are or socialism. Are there other ideas? If so, are they achievable within our way of life?? Abolish the House of Lords!! And then what? Abolish the Queen and have David Beckham as President, or even Tony Blair!! Did that work in the USA? Stop lockdowns!!! Easy to say at this stage.

I want to join in – let’s have an achievable plan. In case you haven’t noticed, as these arguments have continued over the years, there has been a quiet revolution from the Left and we are now living in it. Who needs a bloody revolution when you can sneak one in??

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The thing I find most depressing is that it is always some form of Socialism that is touted as an alternative.

Can we really not come up with something a bit more robust than f***ing socialism, again.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

More capitalism. Or maybe Nazism? Neither has ever really been tried.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

And that’s what I mean…”lets do capitalism again” lets do “National Socialism again”

Is there really nothing else?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

Very well said. But does anybody listen?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

What do you mean, “let’s do National Socialism again”? It’s never been tried.

If Marxists can make the same grossly offensive argument for a murderous creed like Marxism, I don’t see why the same can’t be said on behalf of Nazism.

Besides, and more seriously, there is a binary issue here. Does the state serve the people, or do the people serve the state?

Any supposed alternative to these has always consisted of some shyster like Clinton, Blair or Macron thinking he’s hit on a Third Way because he can use both the above in the same sentence. These frauds always get rumbled in the end.

Look at this way. the French fetishise liberty, fraternity, and equality. What if you could only pick one – what would it be? Mine would be liberty and I wouldn’t even need to think about it.

We don’t need any new ideas. There aren’t any. We just need liberty.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

What do you mean, let’s do Natioonal Socialism again”
Nazism is National Socialism, remember the misunderstood Austrian water colourist…

the French fetishise liberty, fraternity, and equality

When was the last time you were in France?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

I can’t believe in socialism either but I feel that it has won. All of the woke points have won the day and, in effect, we have had a revolution, without actually noticing it. My thought (as yours) is a bit negative but as we all have expounded our thoughts and argued with each other, day after day, the revolution has tightening its grip. Arguing the finer points, blaming Boris, etc, does not help.

At the risk of being boring, I was reading an unknown journal called ‘Chartist’ yesterday (you can guess the politics from the name). The author and leader of the discussion was Tessa Milligan, quite an important person in the ideas part of the Labour Party. She was talking about their ideas for government in the future and wanted to start the ball rolling with the abolition of the House of Lords, replacing it by an upper house elected by PR.

Now this is not new, but it might be new as a Labour policy. It is actually a good idea for discussion and underlines my comment that UnHerd does not come up systems for the future, only attacks against the present.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

How about Technocracy run by the Billionaire Club?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

Technocracy run by Dominic Cummings ?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

At the moment, I think there are two plans on the table: carry on as we are or socialism. Are there other ideas?
The third option is more freedom, which abandons the status quo and rejects further govt intrusion into people’s lives. Govt has a role, no question about that, but the role keeps expanding into areas where it really does not belong. Is it the role of govt to police someone’s social media posts? No. Is it govt’s role to engage in various attempts at social engineering? Again, no.

We have outsourced far too much of the risk in our lives to this unaccountable third party known as the political class which, by the way, has not missed a single paycheck while putting millions out of work. People complain about the govt’s inability to “keep us safe” from a virus, as if that’s even possible, but they’re perfectly willing to let those same govt people use our money to manage the climate. How does that even make sense?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Absolutely. But achieving this with you might be harder than with us.

Matt N
Matt N
3 years ago

“The state has failed… the answer is therefore MORE STATE!”

Ridiculous. The entire British establishment does need radical reform from the ground up, but in no way as this writer envisions.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

After all, who can say with a straight face that the British state of 1971, or of 1961 or 1951, would not have dealt with the Covid crisis more effectively than our current collection of hapless outsourcers?
the British state of those times was markedly different than the one today, in terms of both appearance and attitude. Govt isn’t magic; it is people, with the same strengths and weaknesses as the people who work for those apparently horrible “outsourcers.” Perhaps back then, citizens did not expect govt to think for them or to treat them more like subjects.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Those people are not beamed from space

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I didn’t say they were; I said they are people, not infallible beings who are bestowed with qualities absent in the rest of the population. Decades ago, it is doubtful that the public would have deluded itself with the idea that TopMen in govt can eradicate a virus.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Not sure that’s right – the major difference I see between now and the 1960s/1970s in this context is the loss of deference – and the resulting willingness (and ability) of the people to argue with their governments, rather than letting their unions or their political parties do the arguing. And I recall the cloak of authority that descended upon anybody who became a civil servant, or a teacher, or even a policeman. It made a difference, and the lack of this habit of thinking now will make it very difficult to give back to the state the operational authority and responsibiity it has been anxious to arms-length away for the last three decades.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago

I think you’re both right.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Excellent comment – sadly only 1 vote for you.

A Commentator
A Commentator
3 years ago

Thank god for this article. It saddens me that the debate below has focussed narrowly on how covid deaths are defined rather than the tragic conclusions of this article. The only thing this government have got right this entire pandemic is the vaccine policy which they got right because it both arose through and was implemented under the direct control of the state. Firstly in terms of setting the procurement policy though the vaccines task force and second, in the roll out which has been handled brilliantly by the NHS – that’s right, the NHS, not some outsourced subsidiary of SERCO like Test and Trace (another example that proves the point of this article), but by doctors and nurses employed in the public sector doing their duty and working above and beyond.

Saul D
Saul D
3 years ago

Reads like someone who has read a lot of theory and books, but actually has zero empirical experience with logistics or the mechanics of running things and no idea of the trade-offs in costs and benefits and time and the challenge of management. To borrow from Scott Adams – #artist.

The first years of the 1970s would be the prime example of British government effing things up, not some glorious past.

Clare Haven
Clare Haven
3 years ago

‘markets are not natural and spontaneous phenomena’.

I’m no expert but this assertion strikes me as, to paraphrase Wolfgang Pauli – ‘not even wrong’.

Simon Davies
Simon Davies
3 years ago
Reply to  Clare Haven

There are plenty of markets that are contrived and are essentially creations of the neo-liberal state. The market in rail franchises is one example. They effectively have no risk and the dividends they pay to their shareholders come straight from subsidies paid to these companies by the state.

Clare Haven
Clare Haven
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Davies

This is of course true but the author didn’t make such a qualification.

Simon Davies
Simon Davies
3 years ago
Reply to  Clare Haven

‘markets are not natural and spontaneous phenomena’

The market in rail franchises falls precisely into this category.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Davies

The author didn’t say “some markets”. He said “markets”. That would mean all of them.

When I go and buy a car, that’s unnatural, is it?

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago

This young contributor clearly never experienced the debacle that was the statist mess of 1970s Britain. During that time the UK cod often not even generate sufficient electricity for its citizens. At one poi t during the Winter of Discontent, the UK state couldn’t even bury or cremate the dead in many areas. The Winter of Dscontent was a self inflicted disaster, brought about by the bullying greed of union barons over many years. The covid calamity is not self inflicted , but stems from an external event. They are entirely different. Yes the UK govt is inept, but are deemed competent in comparison to the debacle that was the Callaghan government

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  William Harvey

During that time the UK could often not even generate sufficient electricity for its citizens.

… it being regarded as self-evident at that time that the state and the state alone should provide all its citizens with all forms of energy: gas coal and electricity.

David Owsley
David Owsley
3 years ago

An interesting read with a few good points but overall missing the point entirely. What, pray, do you think governments can do better than professionals, in any given sector? The answer of course is nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Worse still the political class these days are not even good at politicking. A bunch of good-for-nothing, self-righteous, hypocritical, lying cretinous fools whose own sense of entitlement dwarves any speck of decency they may once have been.

The problem with the outsourcing isn’t those taking advantage, it is those who are meant to oversee it and allow prospective suppliers to take the p155. State contracts have become a joke with bidders putting in ludicrous OTT budgets knowing the State will say Yes. Plus giving away the crown jewels with literally no protective clauses is tantamount to criminality.

Civil servants and their servants – the politicians – and their followers not fit for purpose is the reason and could be solved in a month by someone who knows what to do and how to do it and with no fears about being unpopular.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

Worse still the political class these days

Were they better during the multiple £ devaluations? Suez? IMF crisis?

David Owsley
David Owsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I suspect not; like today I am sure there are a few gems hidden in the dirt pile as was the case back during the events you mention. I genuinely believe that we could remove 90% of our “ruling class” and nobody would notice. A move towards minarchism (but not quite arriving at [true] anarchy) is the best way.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

Because most things are either run by companies or civil service. You don’t need to go to the Post Office to get a telephone.
Government can not tell you how much money (ñ‚¬) you can spend on your Spanish vacation.
Many government (social?) programs are well established…so you just need mandarins to run it.

Margaret Donaldson
Margaret Donaldson
3 years ago

Parts of this article contain the biggest load of codswallop Unherd has ever published. Was the writer a young adult before 1979? Did he ever live in that mediocre, depressed state tyrannised by a trade union movement that had long since ceased to care about its members? Where was the sovereignty of the state then? Did he ever sit in a filthy train and I mean filthy, or try to get a telephone installed without a party line? Or even try to get a phone? The writer has a point in that since 1991 all our civil defence planning has ceased, at least until flooding and suicide bombers stirred things up. The rest sounds like the frustrated howling of someone who is like the rest of us: up against something that no-one could have expected. But the state is like a supertanker. It will take a while to change its course, ( Check WW2) and we have to sit tight and go with it. The state will be modified. This is a war we are fighting and if we keep looking back, we will never get anywhere.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

In 1978 I worked in an office in Nottingham city centre and I remember quite clearly we were told by the GPO we faced a six month wait for a second telephone line. Can you imagine that today? No I fear our author friend was not about in the 1970’s

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

Is this article even worth reading? I say that because the third paragraph stops just short of saying “It’s all Thatcher’s fault”!

Before we get into PPE shortfalls (and then the complaints about the speed with which the government solved the problem which appears to have really annoyed the left because they can’t complain about it any more) we must ask ourselves why the government did not close borders. The answer, regrettable, can be found in the reaction of the left when Trump closed borders. The left screamed “racist” and Sage said “don’t do it!”. Now the left are blaming the government for following Sage advise and avoiding actions that appeared racist by not closing the borders.

So the question is:

Was Trump right to close the borders or are the left racist?

Until the left address this question their attempts to blame every Conservative government from 1979 on is just political points scoring!

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago

Do they allow “the state” in the ‘Great Reset’ model we all appear to be following ?

Hancock “worthy of praise” ? What kind of state does the writer envisage? Mao and Stalin come instantly to mind.

What is happening now if not a ‘Cultural Revolution’ driven by Covid Fear?

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
3 years ago

Beware slogans like “neo-liberalism”. Where the article is correct, in my view, is that an ideology most certainly did take over, but it wasn’t in 1979, but a decade earlier.
A key factor in joining the EEC-the Jenkins/Heath answer to the double failure of state and economy-was the failure of Barbara Castle to impose statutory reform on the trade unions. There was good reason for this: law-free world of trade unions was a vital component of the hoped-for revolution. The result was to condemn British heavy industry, heavily unionised, strike prone, anti-innovation, anti-design, anti-authority, to the dustbin. Global market shares plummetted across the board from 1950 to 1979. Thatcher’s efforts were the last chance saloon before the UK became an Argentina. Had the Castle reforms been implemented-the reforms in effect which the TUC imposed on German unions in 1948-then the nationalised industries would have stood a chance. They would have had to be sold off to private owners- both strong state Korean and Japan had powerful private corporations, the chaebol, and zaibatsu, alongside the state bureaucracy. But they were largely junk yards by the time Thatcher took over. Also, the mess that was UK state-industry in the 1960s and 70s, was hopeflessly inflation-prone.
The Heath-Jenkins strategy for the UK was the EEC- the “cold winds of competition, a totally ludicrous idea when applied to the mercantilist states of France, West Germany and Italy, of the time. The root of the UK’s neo-liberalism was the European Communities Act Section 1-5 which recognised the supremacy of EEC/EU law. No other member state did at the time, indeed not until 1989/90 did France and Germany make limited concessions in that direction. ECA Section 1-5 was the bedrock of the governance philosophy, and the UK exported it enthusiastically to the EEC/EU. Everything that the author has used to describe the dysfunctional UK bureaucracy applies in spades to the EU. In fact, the reason why the UK voted Leave is because large chunks of its population saw no benefit from the EU whatsoever. Indeed, a Berthesmann Institute study on the benefits of the internal market from 2000 to circa 2020 showed that the internal market brought 2% gdp in benefits per annum to Germany and about 0.1% benefits in the UK.
So yes, a more effective state is going to be vital to Global Britain. But that must go alongside a Korea/Japan/German type corporate structure. We need corporate champions. That get us into M&A. Leaving the EU is decidedly NOT business-as usual, nor-as this author suggests, does it mean back to Labour’s mess of 1945 to 1972.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
3 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Story

I appreciate this essay, and I appreciate your point.

I struggle, too, with how to characterize the larger phenomenon. I have to think that the rise of the “Administrative State”, starting in the United States, say, with the management of the Civil War, would make for a good starting point.

In Korea post-1961, large firms operated as agents of the government. In the Soviet Union, of course, Soviet enterprises also operated as agents of the government, but those enterprises only served one customer: that same government. In the United States aerospace and defense contractors have largely served a single customer (the government). Meanwhile, the crony capitalism of the Gilded Age seems to be succeeded in the here and now by a nexus of tight relationships between large, dominant firms and the Administrative State. Are we becoming more Sovietized? Is the COVID experience merely just another chapter of mini-Chernobyl experiences? Are government failures being passed off as successes?

Sarah H
Sarah H
3 years ago

So the argument is that Corbyn (and socialist administrations in general) would have had fewer deaths. That is ridiculous. The premise of 100k Covid deaths is anyway flawed by clinical case anomalies, statistical flaws, test issues. Excess deaths are currently being pinned down but probably aren’t any worse than any bad winter flu outbreak were it not for lockdown deaths, illness and impoverishment. There is zero evidence that lockdowns do anything but make matters worse. So this piece is a poor basis to make a case for the benefits of socialism. We could just as easily be in a worse situation.

Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago

This is a abstract from a paper by the political scientists Lee Jones and Shahar Hameiri which Aris chose not to cover “The choice facing Britain in the EU referendum is best understood, Lee Jones suggests, by using two concepts he has discussed in his work with Shahar Hameiri: ‘the politics of scale’, and state transformation. In a nutshell, the EU emerged through the rescaling of governance to inter-elite networks insulated ““ by design ““ from popular control, which lock in anti-democratic and conservative policies. Restoring popular control has to involve leaving the EU and revitalising national democracy in a progressive, internationalist direction.”

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

What a pointless article.
You agree or disagree ( I am in the middle) with Maggie UK had no choice in the late 70s but reforms.
UK GOV (i think BoJo is a charlatan) has spend money like there is no tomorrow. What more do you want GOV to do? The pandemic (truly once in a 100 years) has proven that parts of the state don’t function well. But no state can throw money/resources at the possibility that 100 years down the road there will be another pandemic.
Aris b*tches for the sake of b*tching.

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
3 years ago

It’s quite a dense article. I would agree about the impact of neoliberalism on public services.
In the 1990s I watched in amazement as my local council “privatised”all its care homes, handing them over to a private company set up by Council officials, and operated by them thereafter. This was supposed to be more efficient and save money. The executives proceeding to pocket millions and the standards of care were steadily driven down. It was a car crash.
Wholly predictable by anyone not driven by Thatcherite economics.

Terence Raggett
Terence Raggett
3 years ago

‘Political Scientist’: an oxymoron, if ever there was one. Right up there with ‘jumbo shrimp’ or ‘military intelligence’.
I’m old enough to recall that our nationalised organisations were pretty sluggish and crippled by political agendas, mostly counter to the general public good. There is no way they could have acted with the agility of Bingham in procuring the necessary vaccines.
This article, however justified in its observations of the response to a pandemic, just reads like another attempt to justify some utopian plan – doomed, like all of them, to result in dystopian nightmare. This crisis has showed us the phenomenal value of ‘real’ science, and the need be world leaders in this area.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

The claim that there is any such thing as “neo-liberalism” motivating those who defeated the Left could only come from the Left. This is because to the Left, because there is only one acceptable opinion on everything, there must hence be only one opposing opinion, i.e. everyone else, and they’re all identically fascist / racist / whatever. Suzanne Moore and J K Rowling are both fascists to the loony left.

The odd fact is that conservatives are called that for a reason. They’re conservative and their worldview doesn’t change often or quickly. The left’s dogma in contrast is totally unstable and always likely to invert at a moment’s notice. This happens because Labour and the other fascist left are basically just the political wing of the grievance industry. As such, they capitulate to whomever is whining loudest, which is why they’ve gone from championing women to denial that women even exist inside about 10 years. It’s why Labour councils ignored child rape by Asian grooming gangs – Asians had the shriller, louder voice and a better-organised grievance lobby.

In 10 years’ time it’ll be some other fringe group of weirdoes running their show. My money is on Warhammer players.

Gerry Fruin
Gerry Fruin
3 years ago

Three times I have been blocked from posting! I tried to rejig my comments about the author and have no idea why except I have rubbished him a couple of times before.
If this is rejected I shall cancel my subscription.
Always carping on about what should have been done. Never any positive ideas for future development. Is that all journalism is about? The ant was interesting but does it know what ‘Radical Futurism’ and what is it’s ‘Neoliberal regulatory state’ at the moment? The ant I can believe in but the writer is a fluffed up cretin.

David Collier
David Collier
3 years ago

I don’t think Aris Rousssinos is arguing for state monopolies on everything, as some commenters seem to be suggesting – I too remember the inefficiencies at the time when that was the way. More that the state should not outsource its core functions. This has parallels with business. There was a period when it seemed fashionable to buy everything in, which is perhaps one of the tenets of monetarism – or was sold as that – but then companies began to ask themselves, what are we here for? The state is surely here primarily to improve the wellbeing of its citizens, or to set in place mechanisms that are designed to achieve that. If that breaks down, as Aris points out it has in certain respects as highlighted in the past twelve months, then it’s failing in its meaning and purpose of being. If it is, and I agree with Aris that it has, then that needs addressing. Any high-horse principles have to be chucked out of the window, with focus placed on the core mission.

Simon Holder
Simon Holder
3 years ago

In most ways, I agree with his interpretation: the liberaldemocrat-isation of the government has been a disaster because government – answerable to the people at elections – outsources common sense to quangos and the like to offset criticism and blame. The answer is to shut down quangos and the like and, with the money saved and interference in democracy negated, the civil service would be forced to take decisions. Whether these would be the right ones would be open to question but at least government would move closer to the elected caucus, not self-interest groups – most of which have, of course, been taken over by the illiberal, woke and anti-democratic left. Who thought pure market forces could become so corrupted?

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
3 years ago

Yes, the British State is not up to the job, but was it 40 or 50 years ago? Those were the days of industrial strategies, picking winners, endless strikes and waiting 6 months for a telephone. Neoliberalism was an obvious corrective, and the pendulum may need to swing back a bit – although preferably not too far.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago

In think the idea grew…after Brexit that the country was a shambles and chaos reigned.

But to my mind that was democracy in action, a narrow result (and a media/political elite heavily biased to the losing side.) created that, which was corrected in the December 2019 election.

The specific poor performance in terms of deaths has other potential causes than an inefficient state, and the performance in the vaccines areas shows that in that case the state/society was more efficient.

I think the wekness in the nationalist case in Scotland is shown by the way after 2014 the cause of independence was buried within *stopping Brexit*…specifically ‘a hard, cliff edge Brexit’ …I think this was a tactical sucess in the relative short term for the SNP but a huge strategic mistake the effects of which already appear to be showing in plls (despite the nuance being ignored by, or beyond much of the national media for whom polls simply show *a majority for independence*, despite that majority have dropped from 58% to 51% recently.

I think in all areas, Independence, Brexit and a number of elections the UK has demonstrated a committment and belief in democracy and democratic process which means our soiety is actually stronger than in say 2012, when many tensions were being submerged, much as they are in the EU as a whole now, and in consequence of tha suppression of emerging concernst, in many countries that are members but where people stubbornly refuse to vote the *correct way*.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
3 years ago

I thought the original problems with testing was too much centralisation (PHE) and it was only after Govt looked beyond to use private labs etc that it got moving.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

Top trolling Aris! That’ll bring them out in droves. 🙂

Muscleguy
Muscleguy
3 years ago

Here in Scotland we did not buy into this to the same degree except where forced by UKgov so prisoner transport is SERCO up here too. But we have no private prisons. Our NHS is not privatised the SNP after 2007 ended those and even bought assets back such Stracathro Hospital.

We get criticised for endless ‘working groups’ but at least then we aren’t spaffing money on consultants. Lots of us hope and will argue and vote for a rollback on neoliberalism once we are independent. The SNP behemoth will split, it is fracturing as we speak so multiparty coalition govt will the Northern European norm.

I wonder how many examples will be needed for Westminster and Whitehall to change tack.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Muscleguy

Yet I have read that the chance of dying is three times greater in a Scottish hospital relative to an English hospital. And Scottish kids continue to slide down the global educational tables. And Scotland leads the world – by far – in drugs deaths per head of population. And wee Niippy would turn the whole of Scotland into a giant prison if she could.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yes, but independence is a cute idea to get excited about. Get the independence first and talk about it later because Scottish politicians will clearly be better than others.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Not to mention the humungous alcohol related death stats.

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
3 years ago

He wants the state to run everything. He is entitled to want this, but it behoves him to explain why and how this would work so much better than a mixed economy. Some of the places where this has been tried don’t offer much encouragement. Think Venezuela. Shouting ‘down with neoliberalism’ does not of itself achieve much. The outsourcing of the responsibility for vaccine procurement in the UK, bypassing all the established channels and institutions, appears to have worked rather well. Sure, we have problems, but happily I don’t see a majority emerging for creating a carbon copy of Cuba.

Greg C.
Greg C.
3 years ago

Arguments about Left or Right ideology, about outsourcing or state provision obscure the fundamental point. The fundamental point is whether there is sufficient competition In the provision of goods and services to provide efficient delivery at a reasonable price. The state is by definition a monopoly and, to the extent that it involves itself in service provision, will be monopolistic (NHS etc). Whereas private industry will gravitate towards a cartel where there are few players and high entry costs (Test and Trace developers). When it comes to policy this is necessarily the province of government and by common consent the UK government has not covered itself in glory.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Surely its the conflict between statist self engorging bureaucracies and the Neocon “market first” school that is the problem. The Britich civil service or NHS etc are not failures due to either socialism or market driven neo liberalism. They fail because they are footballs contunually kicked up and down the park by the two camps. If enough reasonable people were in power the problem would stop. It is common sense that somethings require a state led public ownership solution (eg prisons or hospitals) and for others (Wimbledon tickets, sports motorcycles) a market driven equilibrium is fine. The only issue is where you draw the line. As the “common sense” brigade tends only to assert itself after large scale war or civil conflict we may have to wait a while.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Today I understand you; I didn’t yesterday. You are 100% right, How about an idea? Call it stupid if you like.

The NHS was only designed to last for a few years because it wouldn’t be needed in a glorious future. Over the years it has been kept going by successive governments and every year it gets worse. Its main function now is not to keep the population healthy but to prolong life (sometimes at huge cost) for ever. Now that we may possibly have seen the worst in the pandemic, is it not possible to redefine the role of the NHS, a country wide debate to discuss expectations, all mainstream media involved?

The debate would go on for a year but I would suggest that a written constitution should emerge after the sense of, it is the duty of each member of the public to be fit for life (however that is defined)

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Totally agree, mission creep and obligations to political and big pharma masters have warped what was once a noble idea. As far as written constitutions go the Hippocratic Oath seems to have most of what’s needed: Do no harm, keep patients confidences and share all evidence with the profession and learn from those who know more than you do. Countries like Spain and UAE as late comers to health services find it easier to keep to (most of) the oath having learned from our mistakes

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago

Over the course of decades, “state apparatuses were”Š reconfigured to reduce their responsiveness to popular demands.”

I remember when telephones were a state-owned monopoly controlled by the Post Office. If you wanted an extension in your home, you had to apply to the GPO with a case for why you should be allowed to have one. If they agreed, they would inform you when they would come to install it, perhaps three months later. By 1970, I recall, there was a choice of instrument: you could have the 706 or the 712 (with radioactive dial). “Responsiveness to popular demand” was a fantasy.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
3 years ago

A usefully provocative article I would say, judging from the squabbling comments already posted. I think the most interesting assertion in the article is the observation “markets are not natural and spontaneous phenomena”. No source is claimed in support of that, and it is not correct. If you look at the circumstances of commonly traded goods and services of this day and age, it may look like that, since the blight of public and private sector bureaucratic bloat is so pervasive and normalized, as the article alludes to. But clear away all of that and return us to the schoolyard or any crowd of humans with a demand which exceeds the ready supply, and it quickly becomes clear that “market’s” are very much a spontaneous and natural phenomenon. And even in the digital age, where there are still wild spaces created by the internet, market forces flourish. But Aris does make a strong case against the impurity of what prevails at the moment, even in under developed economies. But the solution to the problems of scale and complexity is not to concentrate power in the hands of fewer humans or fewer human institutions, even those with alleged superior knowledge and experience, or institutional longevity. Time to have another read of C Northcote Parkinson.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

A focussed assessment on government outsourcing capability – with suggestions for improvement – might be more useful.

Nikita Kubanovs
Nikita Kubanovs
3 years ago

I got the half way through the article, the basic diagnosis of the issue, and it was so good so far but then he suggested we look to Taiwan and South Korea as an effective example and this is where it all crumbled for me. The way I see it is Aris compares our current government with a parasite but his solution for this parasite is not cutting it off and letting the host be free of it, it seems to just be a different kind of parasite, one that doesnt cause its host to walk into its own death but one that rather keeps it perminantly trapped in its grip while the parasite feeds off it.

I am always left bewildered that people who correctly achknowledge that government is not the answer always propose MORE government as the solution.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

The parasite that I always think of when I think of leftists is the tapeworm.

Leftists even look a bit like tapeworm.

chris
chris
3 years ago

the observations of failings are clear, and in places deeply structural. The solutions as prescribed i fear are wrong. I much prefer the Micklethwait and Wooldridge analyses and thoughts on solutions as described in their book ‘The Wake up Call’

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
3 years ago

The public vs private ideology tug-of-war has been going on for decades and IMO it never ends well because successive governments always forget why they’re there in the first place.
And that always leads to the worst possible condition: “The Fix is in”
Name any group – it doesn’t matter.
Bureaucracy.
Corporations.
Unions.
You name it.
When one reigns supreme ie; the fix is in – disaster is inevitable.
So it looks like Big Corp is running roughshod over the worker bees?
We’ll just nationalize and put a stop to that.
Oh but then that industry grinds to a halt because the “job for life” workers down tools every time the canteen runs out of biscuits?
No worries, we’ll privatize and let business expertise take over.

But what can government do about this age-old conundrum?
Not by providing products and services but by making sure they are provided for the good of all and not subject to the provider’s whim.

David Foot
David Foot
3 years ago

Regarding the pandemic I started looking at the figures and decided that a
very interesting figure was Number of Infected / Number of Dead and this would
give me the success or otherwise of the NHS and UK in general of how successful
it was at keeping people alive.

This number was consistently about 7 for the UK and other countries was much
higher such as 20+ or 30+ for Germany, Japan, Taiwan etc.

We have a God today it is our NHS religion worship so I will not rattle the leftie’s
writers cognitive dissonance as to what this points to.

In the NHS defence I would say that there were documents flying around saying
that “cause of death” bin could been COVID for “anything you like” so perhaps there is
something wrong with the numbers.

However where I have a bone to pick with the Marxists is that since 1945 we are
on a curve where centuries of wisdom have been thrown away in a lifetime. If we
don’t get off this curve which gave us the catastrophic Marxist decolonization,
the catastrophic Marxist devolution and in 2019 we would have got the splitting
up of England, the brainwashing against England’s great history at the same
time we would have got the invasion of the UK by many incompatible immigrants
who come with their own laws for us to obey, and if we criticize their politician who has published the most terrible things about us, if we draw a political cartoon they physically try to kill us! The Marxists are suicidal for England.

The Marxists threw at the leavers of UK power the Marxist / IRA which could have been fatal for our nation.

We need to get off this Marxist curve and to start unpicking the disastrous
direction which we have taken lead from inside, Moscow hasn’t needed to fire a
shot in order to “win the game”

The only spore that our ant must be protected from is Marxism which turns the
young in to suicidal snowflakes promoting Marxism which has generated only hell
holes and the Leninist Dictatorships of the Empires of Russia and China have
had to adopt a degenerated form of capitalism in order to survive the total
failure of Marxism.

On the other side the snow flakes don’t promote the Crown and Empire which
unlike all other ideologies and empires has generated so many fantastic places
to live where people are prepared to die with their children in order to get in
to them.

How can our young in England be promoting a regime like Marxism which
generated hell holes and invariably biblical genocides where people have been
prepared to die in order to get out. The Marxists without a reason or a cause
are that infected ant, and that ant is infected, it carries a virus which is out to kill everything even our history.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  David Foot

Look, first of all I agree with you. BUT..

If you look at LGBQT issues, immigration, the rise of BLM to a religion, the fact that the mainstream media don’t say/daren’t say anything — the Marxists have already won. It is too late. Added to the above, the young people are being taught a Marxist version of history (Churchill was an evil thug, the UK owes zillions of dollars to Africa as reparations). Worst of all, in my opinion, is the idea of manmade global warming – I do not believe but nobody would print my views.

The environmental police are trying to close down the mine in Durham, the third runway at Heathrow may never happen, the tidal power project was closed down because of environmental issues, etc.

This is a disaster. I have had this running argument below that we need not criticism of how bad the government is, the problems with the NHS, BUT where do go from here? I had the temerity to mention Socialism in an argument below – not because I agree with it but because I can’t actually think of any other arguments at all, that I’ve seen on these pages. All h**l was let loose.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

You forgot to credit our beloved trans activists by name. They wouldn’t like just being lumped in at the end of LGB..t.. watch this space

jonathan carter-meggs
jonathan carter-meggs
3 years ago

The article is nonsense. Limited resources are shared around to get the best outcome and that change when the need changes. No one can anticipate everything and supply resources to events that may never happen. Speed on response is an issue but, again, no-one can predict the future and resources are ALWAYS limited. Reducing the state down to a monitor and strategic planner and outsourcing everything to capitalist enterprise is the way to go for the most efficient response. Keep essentials to local suppliers. Vaccine delivery in the UK is a very good example.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago

And what are we to do when “efficiency” is not the answer, and “resilience” is? Also, some recognition of what are, and are not, natural monopolies is badly in order.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
3 years ago

Beware slogans like “neo-liberalism”. Where the article is correct, in my view, is that an ideology most certainly did take over, but it wasn’t in 1979, but a decade earlier.
A key factor in joining the EEC-the Jenkins/Heath answer to the double failure of state and economy-was the failure of Barbara Castle to impose statutory reform on the trade unions. There was good reason for this: law-free world of trade unions was a vital component of the hoped-for revolution. The result was to condemn British heavy industry, heavily unionised, strike prone, anti-innovation, anti-design, anti-authority, to the dustbin. Global market shares plummetted across the board from 1950 to 1979. Thatcher’s efforts were the last chance saloon before the UK became an Argentina. Had the Castle reforms been implemented-the reforms in effect which the TUC imposed on German unions in 1948-then the nationalised industries would have stood a chance. They would have had to be sold off to private owners- both strong state Korean and Japan had powerful private corporations, the chaebol, and zaibatsu, alongside the state bureaucracy. But they were largely junk yards by the time Thatcher took over. Also, the mess that was UK state-industry in the 1960s and 70s, was hopeflessly inflation-prone.
The Hea

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
3 years ago

The current vaccination programme suggests that there are green shoots of recovery in the Civil Service. The performance is in sharp contract with the ineptitude displayed in 2020. Brexit will also play a role. The British state will once again have to make decisions for itself.

Marcus Scott
Marcus Scott
3 years ago

This article is embarrassingly bad. Whatever its arguments it is undermined by extremely careless journalism. I like this website and this garbage is a poor reflection on the author and the editor.

it hesitates to close the borders to a lethal pandemic because feeding a few thousand travellers in airport hotels is beyond its capacity;

That is an extremely ignorant statement. I’m not defending the government’s decision to not close the borders but if you think that feeding a few thousand travellers in airport hotels is all that is required then you need to think again. I will give you a clue as to one of the problems. Ask yourself, how does freight get to New Zealand? By the way, strictly quarantining even a few people at hotels is not easy and certainly not totally secure. Some people aren’t all that keen on being stuck in a hotel room, without amenities such as alcohol, for two weeks and humans are very inventive when they want to get hold of something they are not allowed. There have been repeated failures of the traveller quarantine systems in Australia and New Zealand.

It can’t produce a functioning track and trace system; when the pandemic began

No it can’t. But tell me, who has? The Germans thought they had it cracked over the summer and they were entitled to think that due to the WHO issuing an edict early on that COVID-19 definitely wasn’t seasonal. The German system collapsed once the number of daily infections rose to a point where it was overwhelmed. If you have low numbers of infections the manual test and trace systems may be of some use. When you are up to 10,000+ cases a day it is all over. If this problem was to be overcome it needed a technological solution and no one has come forward with one.

Note to author: Royal Mail operates a system called Track and Trace. The system I believe you are referring to is Test and Trace. They are not the same thing. If you do get a call from someone claiming to be from Test and Trace do not go to the local post office expecting to pick up a package.

It had no stock of PPE and wasted millions trying to procure essential supplies from private profiteers.

The first part of that sentence is correct. “It”, by which I think you mean “the NHS”, had totally failed to maintain adequate stocks of PPE. According to media reports, the military officers who observed and assisted were appalled at the NHS logistics and the lack of any rationing of a product which was in short su