Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Reflections In The Pool

Poolside, Tyler is reading Peter Hennessy's Having It So Good, 735 pages on society and politics in the 1950s. As you'd expect, it's an immensely well informed book, packed with detail about the world in which 1950s politics played out. But while not a difficult read, it is pretty dense, and Tyler's wondering if he'll get through it much before Christmas.

Still, from a vantage point on page 238, one thing comes across loud and clear - the 1950s were when our broken society first headed for the cliff edge. The 1960s may have been when we actually hurtled over, but it was definitely the 50s when we passed the point of no return.

Consider - the 50s were when the Tories swallowed Labour's New Jerusalem hook, line and sinker, and what's more, consolidated it from temporary Festival of Britain hardboard into the permanent shiny new town of Welfare State. And the 50s were when the... er, "intellectual elite" began pushing for more welfare than Beveridge's basic social insurance safety net - when they redefined poverty itself in relative rather than absolute terms.

And as a barometer of social dysfunction, the 50s were also when crime started going though the roof - recorded offences per million rose by 60% during the decade. And the government response? Far from zero tolerance, they did SFA - instead the "intellectual" debate began focusing on the problems of the criminal rather than the victim.

So who exactly were these "intellectuals"? Yes, that's right, they were the Prog Con of the day.

Take Michael Young, Baron Young of Dartington. In the 30s he was a card carrying Communist. He then switched to Labour, among other things writing their 1945 manifesto. Then in the 50s this PhD holding member of the ruling elite campaigned against what he christened the meritocracy. His landmark 1958 book The Rise of the Meritocracy laid into the way he reckoned education creates a new class structure of winners and losers. The book was highly influential in getting the grammar schools abolished and supposedly eliminating the new class system of sheep and goats.

What a shame Young and his fellow intellectuals couldn't wrap their tiny Marxist minds round the all-too predictable consequence of the next two generations of working class kids they so romanticised being consigned to schmuck schools. Oh, and although Young lauded family and kinship for the working classes, he himself went through three wives. In short, he was a Grade A humbug.

I missed Dave's speech on personal responsibility on Monday, but judging from the hype and the text, it does sound like the wheel has finally turned back in the right direction. Sure, repairing the social wreckage at the bottom of that cliff will not be the work of a moment, or even a decade. But putting responsibility back on the shoulders of individuals is at least pointing us back the right way.

Normal blogging resumes next week.

PS A quick comparison of villa rental rates against villa prices tells me the Spanish property market is still about 100% overpriced. A lot of pain yet to come. Lovely.

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