Monday, May 07, 2007

Poolside Reflections On The Enlightened Elite


The 1947 Time cover is of Oxford historian Prof Arnold J Toynbee, grandfather of our own dear Pol. Half a century may separate them, but like other members of the clan, both belong to Britain's "enlightened elite".
Pol of course needs no introduction, being chief cheerleader for NuLabour and its vast expansion of Big Government.
Arnie is less well known today, and is often confused with his identically named uncle, the founder of Toynbee Hall. But back then he was well and truly a member of the elite, and cheering on the Attlee government's New Jerusalem fantasy world.
I've been sitting poolside reading Correlli Barnett's excellent 1985 book The Audit of War, looking at the failings of British economic policy before during and after WW2.
A key part of Barnett's thesis is that in the thirty years from 1920 to 1950, Britain's "enlightened elite" served us up a catastrophic double whammy. First during the twenties and thirties they gave us pacifism, unilateral disarmament, and appeasement. Then as we scrabbled to pull that particular lump of fat out of the fire, they saddled us with their equally potty New Jerusalem: the planned economy and cradle to grave welfare.
In teeth grinding detail, Barnett spells out how the likes of Toynbee and Beveridge systematically ignored the cost of such policies, and blithely asserted that the success of wartime planning could be simply turned to generating peacetime prosperity for all.
It was all cloud cuckoo nonsense. True, wartime production had been expanded far beyond anything attained in the pre-war depression years, but that achievement rested not only on American money (via Lend-Lease), but just as importantly, on American technology and management know-how. Once those had gone (and nobody could have seriously believed the Americans were going to sub a socialist government so it could give its citizens more welfare than US citizens), the whole house of cards collapsed.
Cloud cuckoo wishful thinking, no consideration of costs, naive disregard of practical implementation issues... you'd almost think we were talking about the £3bn Sure Start fiasco. Or any of Pol's many other pet nanny state money pits.
Who said we weren't slaves to our gene pool?

1 comment:

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