A little item on BBC Four shows communicating with the left is a waste of time

On Saturday I listened to a BBC Radio Four show called “From Our Own Correspondent”. In one item a BBC lady in Sweden talked about the Swedish Welfare State. As the lady said, the British government is interested in the Swedish Welfare State. What the British government is interested in is choice in providers (health providers and other such) and recent cost saving measures – but that is not what the BBC person talked about. To her the “Swedish model” is the envy of the British government (and of her), for rather different reasons…..

Some of what the lady said was about various supernatural stuff (that need not detain us – supposedly the post Christian population of Sweden leave offerings to various supernatural creatures, although they are not yet burning policemen in wicker cages), but the BBC person did make some statements that were of interest.

Swedish people (according to the lady from the BBC) rush to tell the government about any improvements they make to their homes – and thus pay higher tax. This is because the “state is us”. Very Rousseau (although the BBC lady did not mention his name) with the idea that a, democratic, state someone is all the people (the collective is all the individuals).

© Per Ola Wiberg

According to the BBC lady the Swedish people see the Welfare State (or “People’s Home”) as a the source of FREEDOM  – as it prevents them being dependent on anyone. Again very Rousseau – he hated being an employee of any flesh and blood individual, whereas being employed by the state was fine (as the collective was all the individuals that made up the collective – the state is you). It was wrong (evil) to treat a married couple as a couple – according to the BBC lady they would be treated as unrelated (atomised?) individuals in everything, even in the bill for a meal.

For one person to pay for another (for example the concept of the “family”) was wrong and evil (according to the BBC lady) – individuals must be treated as atomised individuals in all things, even gifts were evil as they put you in the (moral) debt of someone else. Any form of help (for your parents, or your wife, or your children) is evil – for it makes them “dependent”, not free individuals. “Love” (according the BBC lady’s account of Sweden) can only come when the state pays for everything – your wife (or…) can not really love you if she is financial dependent upon you (rather than on the state).

The idea that it if the state pays for your food (and so on) you become dependent ON THE STATE did not occur to the BBC lady – after all the state is you, The state is the source of all “freedom”.

Now I have no idea whether the BBC person was telling the truth about the Swedish people – perhaps a few Swedes are like this (i.e. space monsters) and most are just human beings no worse than people in other countries. But I am sure the BBC lady was telling the truth about her own opinions and those of her Comrades at the BBC and in the universities (and so on) that produced these Comrades.

Think about it. Leave aside the supernatural stuff (I am not suggesting the BBC, or the left generally, are about to conduct human sacrifice rituals outside their H.Q. in Salford), just the political stuff. According to this position the state (the collective) is YOU – there is no difference between the collective and individuals. All traditional cultural institutions (such as the family) are evil (at least in their financial aspects) and most be destroyed. Everyone must depend upon the state for all the basic things in life – private employment or even gifts are evil because they make people “dependent”, whereas the Welfare State (a total Welfare State that controls everything) is the source of true “freedom” and the precondition for “love”.

O.K. people – tell me again how we should “communicate” with the left (the establishment elite – the academic and media crowd).  And do not tell me that this person is not typical – because I assure you she is.

They (the establishment elite – both media and education system and ….) are totalitarians. Trying to reason with them is about as sensible as trying to reason with J.J. Rousseau.

I am sorry, but no long-term peaceful relationship between pro freedom (pro civil society – anti statist people) and types like this BBC person is possible. Certainly not while the BBC demands a special tax (the television “license fee”) to fund its hard-core collectivist propaganda.

The same hard-core collectivist propaganda the left establishment elite try to feed to the young in the schools, the universities and in the media and culture generally.



  1. I think many libertarians, at a cultural level more than a political one, would rather prefer to be treated as individuals. For objectivists, acting as one is a core virtue. The problem is that a one-size-fits-all dependant relationship with the state is not treaitng people as individiuals. An independant responsible individual is able to pick their relationships, receiving a financial safety net from a parent, for example, and picking a spouse with whom they can feel free. Also a more hiearchical (or actually more web-like) system of relationships involving family, freinds, sports team, clubs community groups, friendly societies, churches, even your bank manager, is likely to be a richer and more fulfilling than a uniform relationship with faceless bureaucrats, and can address a wider variety of needs and desires.



  2. For a textual version of the snippet on the programme which featured Jo Fidgen visit this link – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18432841. Could she be Penny Red’s twin?

    For more on the nutty professor Lars Tragardh’s thoughts about love see this – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/10/swedish-model-big-society-david-cameron

    Basically what they want is to replace hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution with a new form of society – one where no one loves another but all love each other via the state. Caring for each other is not allowed, so people aren’t allowed to care for their elderly parents and children should leave home as soon as they finish school.

    Sounds like a big experiment that will turn into a disaster as there is no way you can change human nature – except through control, and lots of it. But then it all comes crashing down in the end. Just look at all the socialist countries that are falling apart.



  3. Anyone reading this article would think that the Swedes had a left wing government, however they are actually ruled by a right wing party.

    It is mistaken to imply as this author does that the UK welfare state is a creation of the left. Welfare as we understand it in the modern era originates with the Poor Law of 1832. This was a reaction to the enclosure acts which left people destitute as they no longer had access to the common land. The workhouses it set up were little more than prisons and can in no way be desribed as creations of the left.

    The next step in the creation of the welfare state was the creation of the National Insurance system. Churchill wanted to avoid the cost of welfare falling onto the rich so he asked

    Beveridge in 1942 to produce a report to see how this could be achieved. Rather than levying a tax on the rich it recommended that other low and middle income workers should pay for this.

    This is why NI is not charged on high incomes. Eventually Labour were won over and implemented the scheme but to present this as an idea of the left is a complete rewriting of history.

    A criticism of the left and the welfare state is that it encourages large families. Child benefit was was, however, introduced by the Conservatives before Labour came to power in 1945.

    The right were so keen on it they squeezed it through just in case Labour didn’t do it. Far from discouraging large families it encouraged them as it was not paid on the first child. The right, particularly the far right, has always favoured the family and encouraged people to have children.

    The next issue is the main one faced today, housing benefit. This was introduced by Thatcher.

    She sold off council houses and liberalised the rental market. The sale of council houses meant that there were insufficient properties so she introduced housing benefit. Many of the former council houses were then rented back to councils for housing benefit recipients. This madness was a creation of the right not the left.

    Finally DLA was also created by the Conservatives to reduce the unemployment figures. This was also not a creation of the left.

    The Conservatives like to privatise the profits and socialise the losses through the welfare system. This has been a pattern through the generations. To suggest that the welfare state as we know was created by the left is not backed up by the facts.

    If you want to communicate with the left you should talk about reducing taxes on earned income of those who might fall into the benefit system and increasing them on unearned income. A good starting point would be raising the tax threshold. Another possibility would be to shift the tax burden onto unearned income such as property. A mansion tax is not ideal but would be a
    start. Why did the right not argue for raising the tax threshold on low income households.

    If you want to talk about the Swedish welfare state you should speak to the right wing government that runs it. If you want to talk about NI, Housing Benefit and DLA you should speak to Thatcher and her predecessors. If you want to talk to anyone on these issues it is the right and not the left that you should start with.



    1. National Insurance was created in 1911, well before Churchill. It was a Liberal government of David Lloyd George who introduced it. Churchill only made it compulsorary after the war.

      The Beveridge report was produced for a LabCon coallition government during the war. Labour voted against it because they wanted a state run NHS, not that proposed which was more regional, amongst other issues. But when Labour came to power in 1945, they took it and abused it to the extent it is now. So whilst it was started by the right, the left took it to extremes. Both parties are at fault because they want more state control of anything and everything.

      Has the Swedish government always been the centre right Moderate Party? As I remember I thought that Sweden has had a social democrat government for the last 80 years or so. So it might be the right wing government at the moment, just like we have a nominally right wing party as our government, but that doesn’t mean that it’s at fault for the previous governemnt’s imposition of Swedish social welfare.



  4. I think sadbutmadlad is right in pointing out that the welfare state is very much the creation of Conservatives and Liberals, but I would argue that the Conservatives originated the bulk of the legislation.

    It is incorrect to suggest the welfare state is a creation of the left. The introduction of DLA and Housing Benefit meant that the welfare system had greater scope in 1997 than it did in 1979.



  5. Simon – agreed respecting people as individuals is not the same as making people totally dependent on the state.

    Ed Joyce – I was NOT giving my opinion of Sweden. I was giving the opinion of the BBC lady – my point was the attitudes of mainstream BBC people (and the international “liberal” elite generally) were so radically collectivist as to make it a waste of time trying to communicate with them.

    By the way…..

    There was no Poor Law Act of 1832.

    There was a Poor Law Reform Act in 1834 – which was about RESTRICTING (rolling back) existing local wefare payments. The expansion of the Speenhamland system after 1795 – using (or abusing) the powers granted under the 1782 Act, Speenhamland (i.e. the practice of subsidising wages) spread under the pressures of the wars with Revolutionary France.

    The Poor Law itself goes back to the 16th century. Unless you mean the Scots Poor Law – which was only compulsory (in most of Scotland) from 1845 onwards.

    As for the Poor Law Reform Act of 1834 – again it was about RESTRICTING (rolling back) welfare provision. And it (of course) had nothing to do with the enclosure movement.

    As for the British Welfare State.

    It is created in two main stages.

    The Liberal Party government from 1906 onwards (most importantly the Old Age Pension provision of 1908 and the National “Insurance” Act of 1911). And the Atlee (Labour) government of 1945 onwards. Although there were also important changes in the 1960s and 1970s (under the Wilson governments – also Labour)

    The main Conservative party contribution was that of Neville Chamberlain in the 1920s and 1930s – extending the National “Insurance” provisions to people who had not been covered by them.

    With the exception of unemployment pay, the National “Insurance” system was an imitation of Bismark’s Germany.

    State eduction is a slightly different story.

    The main dates to remember are.

    1833 – first annual grant.

    1870 – the School Board Act.

    1891 – making School Boards compulsory.

    and 1902 – getting rid of the School Boards and handing of the state schools to Country Councils.

    The first three measures are Whig-Liberal measures, the last one is a Conservative party measure (although 1876 – making education compulsory in areas that choose to have a School Board, is also a Conservative Party measure).

    I would argue that the inspiration for state education (in both Britain and other countries) was the example of Frederick the Great in Prussia.

    I am always glad to be of help.



  6. In case people need a simplification……..

    The Act of 1834 (not 32) was about trying to REDUCE the Poor Law Rate (not increase it). The idea that it introduced the Poor Law Rate is a load of dingo’s kidneys. The Poor Law Rate (TAX) goes back to the 16th century – although the Acts of 1723 and 1782 (and the Speenhamland system that spread after 1795) are also important.

    The Welfare State was formally created by the Atlee (Labour) government after World War II – although Welfare State spending was small in the 1940s (these things always start small), although one can trace this stuff back to the Liberal party government of 1906 onwards.

    None of the above has anything to do with the improvements to farming – i.e. the enclosure movement (and other things).

    By the way had the agricultural revolution had not occured there would have been mass starvation in England. As there was in other places (such as Ireland) where an agricultural revolution did not occur.



  7. By the way …..

    Anyone who thinks that what happened in Ireland in the 1840s is an example of “laissez faire” should look up my old post at the “County Cats in Zanzibar” blog.

    Full discosure – my grandfather’s name was James Power (of the Waterford Powers).



  8. When we look at welfare policies we need to look at who devised them. It was the Conservative prime minister Churchill who was commissioned the Beveridge report and who was an enthusiastic advocate of it. Labour was initially hostile as they had their own plans but were won over to the Conservative strategy. Portraying this as a left wing strategy would be misleading, although you do seem to accept that the Conseratives were the architects of the Beveridge report. The early welfare state can be linked to Speenhamland but that was also enthusiastically supported by Pitt the Younger who was a Tory prime minister. None of these ideas had anything to do with ‘the left’.

    The changes that Labour made in the 60s that you refer to were to support working people on low incomes. I did not think that this thread was about the support of working people – I understood it to be about non working people. The changes that the Conservatives made such as DLA and housing benefit were primarily targeted at giving assistance and support to non working people.

    Under the 11 years of Thatcher welfare spending rose from 20.3bn to 52.8bn a 260% increase. In ten years of Blair the welfare state grew from 55.7bn to 83.5bn a 49% increase. Imagine if this was the other way round. Right wingers would be arguing that Labour polices had led to a gross balloning of the welfare state.

    It is the reforms of Thatcher that lead to the great increase in welfare spending that is derided by right wing commentators.



  9. When we look at welfare policies we need to look at who devised them. It was the Conservative prime minister Churchill who was commissioned the Beveridge report and who was an enthusiastic advocate of it. Labour was initially hostile as they had their own plans but were won over to the Conservative strategy. Portraying this as a left wing strategy would be misleading, although it seems to be accepted that the Conseratives were the architects of the Beveridge report. The early welfare state can be linked to Speenhamland but that was also enthusiastically supported by Pitt the Younger who was a Tory prime minister. None of these ideas had anything to do with ‘the left’.

    The changes that Labour made in the 60s described above were to support working people on low incomes. This thread isn’t about the support of working people but about non working people. The changes that the Conservatives made, primarily DLA and housing benefit, were primarily targeted at giving assistance and support to non working people.

    Under the 11 years of Thatcher welfare spending rose from 20.3bn to 52.8bn a 260% increase. In ten years of Blair the welfare state grew from 55.7bn to 83.5bn a 49% increase. Imagine if this was the other way round. Right wingers would be arguing that Labour polices had led to a gross balloning of the welfare state.

    It is the reforms of Thatcher that lead to the great increase in welfare spending that is derided by right wing commentators.



  10. I have hit the reference books since I wrote the comments above – and one of them says the Act I said was 1723 was 1722 (my memory – sorry).

    As for Churchill – I did not bother to that that Ed Joyce came out with. However, actually only two members of the wartime Cabinet expressed any reservations about how statist the B. Report was.

    One was Sir K. Wood (Chancellor) – and the other was Churchill. Both feared the costs would prove higher than Lord B. said they would be.

    As for the B, report being a cunning plot to keep down taxes on the rich…. sorry but I have reached my limit on tolerating bullshit.

    It should also be pointed out Churchill was in government (as a Liberal) at the time of the 1911 National Insurance Act – and it was always compulsory on the trades it covered (N.C. extended the Act after the First World War).



  11. On housing – I think that Ed Joyce is saying that he thinks that the Rent Control (introduced by the Liberal party government in the First World War) was a terrible mistake and undermined the private rented market.

    I agree with Ed Joyce on this – although it should also be pointed out that the Conservative party governments in the 1920s and 1930s (although they were often in pacts with other parties so “Conservative party governments” is often not accurate) were very slow to deal with rent control – indeed made the situation a bigger mess by the massive spread of Council Housing.

    By the way “Housing Benefit” was called “Housing Allowances for private tenants” before Mrs Thatcher (as so often we are dealing with a rebranding exercise – and the reorganizaton was a TOTAL MESS, spending has gone UP and UP).

    Council Housing did exist before the First World War – but on a vastly more limited scale. Neville Chamberlain was the main author of the spread of Council Housing and of other welfare provisions in the interwar period.

    Neville Chamberlain (although it has gone down the “Memory Hole”) came out of the interventionist Birmingham tradition of his father “Radical Joe” Chamberlian – one of the main foes of Gladstone in the Liberal Party right from 1865 (the “Radical Program”).

    Joesph Chamberlain believed that as long as a government was DEMOCRATIC it could (safely) be interventionist – and Neville Chamberlain.

    I have been told (although I do NOT know that Joe Chamberlain other sun, AUSTEN Chamberlian, had doubts about the radical liberal program (again I do NOT know this) and also had different attitude to international politics to Neville Chamberlain, Neville Chamberlain was shockd to the core of his being by the First World War – and was desperate to avoid another World War. He failed to see that deserate concessions to avoid war may be the very things to lead to war.

    The main Conservative Party bad guy of the 19th century was (of course) Benjamin Disraeli.

    It is hard to know where to start with “Dizzy”.

    His class war smear-the-rich efforts (in literature and elsewhere) were ignored by (stupid) Tory farmers who were only interested in taxes on imports (the Corn Laws). Dizzy used this stupidity in his attacks on Sir Robert Peel – whilst imploying to Lord Derby (and co) that he (Dizzy) had changed and was no longer a radical.

    In 1867 and 1868 showed this was not true – Dizzy attempted to defeat the (Gladstone) Liberal Party by giving the vote to some people who did not pay the inome tax and promising them XYZ (sound familiar). However, Dizzy lost that election.

    In 1874 both Gladstone and Dizzy promised to end the income tax (Gladstone was sincere and had already got income tax to TINY level – he was almost there).

    Dizzy won the election (on “a tide of gin and beer” – Gladstone having been forced into the terrible mistake of the licensing laws by the Low Church and Dissenter lobby) and proved to be a liar.

    Far from getting rid of income tax – Dizzy increased income tax.

    And he did not lots of other statist stuff as well.

    For example, putting unions above the law (1875), demanding that local councils undertake about 40 different functions whether local voters wanted them to or not (also 1875), and on and on. Only Dizzy’s death (in 1881) removed the threat to liberty this man was.

    Meanwhile in the Liberal party Gladstone was first challenged by Radical Joe (he managed to defeat that challenge) and then (in his old age) was out foxed by Harcourt (although Harcourt would never have won without the support of Rosebery).

    Gladstone (who had worked so hard to get rid of income tax) lived to see a Liberal party government introduce graduated (“Progressive”) income tax, and the Death Tax (Dizzy would have been delighted). Lived to see Sir William “We Are All Socialists Now” Harcourt win (although Rosebery proved to be a strange leader – not quite the puppet that Harcourt had hoped he would be).

    The true end of Gladstone in politics is contested.

    According to Harcourt, Gladstone left his “friends” with mutual tears and loving words.

    According to other observers Gladstone left the Cabinet for the last time with a few cold words and a look of utter contempt upon his face.

    No prizes for guessing which account I believe.



  12. Yet again.

    The Welfare State was formally created by the Atlee government after the Second World War (with the National Health Service as its central feature) although government spending on it in the 1940s was much smaller than it was to become (these things always start small – look at President Johnson’s “Great Society” schemes, how their cost has EXPLODED).

    However, the principles of unemployment pay, old age pensions and sickness cover were established by the Liberal party government of 1906 onwards.

    They were actually imitating Bismark’s Germany (that is quite clear from Lloyd George) although unemployment benefit was the one thing they did that Bismark had NOT done.

    The 1906 Act (building on the 1875 Dizzy Act) also went further in putting unions above the law than Bismark did.

    Total government spending (as a percentage of the economy) first went higher (in peacetime) in Britain in relation to Germany under the Atlee government of the late 1940s.

    Under Mrs Thatcher there was hope that total government spending (again as a percentage of the economy) would go lower than in Germany – but in recent years (under Brown and under Cameron-Clegg) it has been HIGHER than in Germany (again as a percentage of the economy).



  13. As should be obvious……

    Government spending (either on the Welfare State or government generally) should be given as a percentage of the econony – raw numbers are rather useless.

    Although one can use them for propaganda purposes.

    For example, if one does use the raw numbers for spending on the National Health service (and so on) under Mrs Thatcher – then the leftist charges about “Tory cuts” look utterly absurd.

    Back in the 1980s I did this myself.

    “How can you say we are CUTTING – in 1979 X was spent, whereas now …… is spent, a massive INCREASE”.

    The leftists would then scream “LIAR” at me – and I would produce figures from a neutral (or even leftist) source.

    It would never occur to the leftist to ask for figures – as a percentage of the economy.

    However, even as percentage of the economy I do not think that the leftist charge that Mrs Thatcher “slashed the NHS” and so on, really stands up.




  14. The suggestion has been made that my figures stating that under Thatcher welfare went up by more than under Blair were distorted because they did not refer to the percentage of GDP that was spent on welfare.

    In the Blair era as well as welfare going up by less that in the Thatcher era GDP rose by more. This is despite his tenure being shorter. The quarterly figures for GDP are

    Thatcher 1979(q2) 181,895bn 1990(q4) 226,280bn rise of 24.4%
    Blair 1997(q2) 262,381bn 2007(q3) 365,092bn rise of 39.1%

    Despite the relatively smaller rise in GDP under Thatcher welfare spending rose by 160% (not 260%), whereas under Blair there was a rise of 49%.

    I do not believe that the implication that I have distorted the evidence “for propaganda purposes” is justified. It is clear that under Thatcher there was a substantial increase in spending of welfare as a proportion of GDP far greater than under Blair.

    I would encourage libertarians to think about why this is the case.



  15. Mr Joyce in your reply you do not actually give the percentage of GDP spent on the Welfare State (government education, healtcare, old age support – etc) under Mrs Thatcher or Mr Blair.

    You must understand what “government spending as a percentage of GDP” means, yet you write as if you do not understand (this is strange).

    Logically you should (to make your case) list such things as the percentage of GDP devoted to the NHS (or to government educuation – or to the Welfare State as whole) in 1979 and in 1990, and then do the same for 1997 and when Mr Blair left office.

    Yet you type up something totally different.

    And my mention of the words “propaganda purposes” was nothing to do with you, I was talking about the 1980s.

    By the way – sorry for not replying for so long. For some reason I am never sent comments to my posts on this system – I have to go looking for them.



  16. Yes Simon – my brain is mush, or I am distracted.

    Or both.

    Of course on income support (what Mr Joyce may mean by welfare) the big change under Blair-Brown was the growth of tax credits.

    Rather like the Speenhemland system of wage subsidies.

    Milton Freidman wrote about a “negative income tax” back in 1962 – but by the time of Nixon he was testifying AGAINST the idea (when he understood it would be added ON TOP OF, not in place of, government finance for health care and so on).

    Did not stop him repeating the idea in 1980.

    At least tax credits are supposed to be connected to work – the NIT is bit on the odd side , in that one gets the money even if one does no work at all (no offence to Milton Friedman meant – he had to work within the academic and political system).



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s