Bogpaper Towers has a new resident! Russell Taylor, a classical liberal who believes in low taxes and a small state, and holds the Left responsible for just about everything wrong in the world today.
Let us know what you think in the comments below.
My mother grew up in a rented two-up two-down in South-East London, with her sister, parents and two grandparents. By all accounts, it wasn’t an easy upbringing. Her grandfather was permanently ill, and rarely left his bed in the front room. Her grandmother was a hard woman, who worked in the Woolwich Arsenal during both World Wars. Her mother spent nearly four years in hospital with TB, returning home minus a lung, a virtual stranger. Her father, a D-Day veteran, worked tirelessly to support the household and satisfy his wife’s demand that her daughters should never suffer the grinding poverty she had known as a child. By modern standards, they were desperately poor. Yet they worked hard, stuck together, and gradually lifted themselves out of the mire.
Don’t worry, this isn’t the start of some misery-lit novel. The moving tale of my family laughing through the tears ends here. The truth is there was nothing exceptional about my family. Many of their friends and neighbours lived similar lives and went on to enjoy comparable, or even greater, success. But from a modern perspective, this story is baffling – not because it is unconventional, but because it runs contrary to the contemporary understanding of how people respond to their circumstances.
Members of the modern Left, who cultivated this outlook, would presumably find it hard to comprehend how folk such as my family coped and prospered without helping hand of the state. There was no welfare state to put money in their pockets, no council houses for them to live in, no NHS to tend to their ailments, and no experts to tell them how to live. Without today’s levels of state provision, life should have been intolerable. Never mind improving your lot, just staying alive would have been a challenge.
According to conventional wisdom, my family should have died in the street for want of state hand-outs and sound advice. At the very least, they should have been immobilised in poverty, prone to criminality, and praying for state salvation. Yet, people at the bottom of the pile survived and thrived. They were hard-working and determined. They were neighbourly and generous. They had self-respect and self-restraint in spades. They didn’t just hope for the best, they worked for it.
If the nostrums of the Left are correct, sixty years of state benevolence should have improved matters considerably. Generous benefits, comprehensive education and fairer laws should have made a positive difference. With the deprivations and prejudices of old assuaged, crime and incivility should have melted away. With the state serving as a focal point for society, a sense of community should have been fostered. The miraculous improvements experienced by my family should be known by everyone. This should now be a land of hope, opportunity and brotherly love.
Does this sound like modern Britain? Are riots, a sky-high crime rate, and protests over government cuts proof of a contented populace? Do millions of benefit claimants speak of a dynamic, self-reliant nation? Are the disadvantaged known for their resilient, can-do spirit, and their admiration for other people’s success? I’d say not. In fact, I’d say that the policies of Left have achieved the exact opposite of their intended aims. Increased state intervention has done little to improve people’s prospects or character. On the contrary, it has promoted fecklessness, dependency and a bloated sense of entitlement.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we’d be better off without any state provision whatsoever. I like the idea of a safety net for those who cannot help themselves, and I’d rather the nation was defended by the British Army than G4S Security. But a quick reflection the difference between now and then makes a mockery of the idea that current levels of state spending are better for the soul of the nation than those of ten, twenty or thirty years ago.
Historical perspective is useful for measuring the effectiveness of current policies. Perhaps that is why historical revisionists reside almost exclusively on the Left. To remember is awkward, to forget divine.