The Crashing System

Unfortunately, the decision at National Review to cease providing access to the online issues of the magazine to print subscribers has left me unable to copy and paste interesting passages from its pages, and inasmuch as I’m not going to pay for two subscriptions and like the portability and markability of actual paper pages, I’m not willing to switch media. But some thoughts from an essay by Anthony Daniels are worth typing. (The article’s here, if you can access it.)

The angry young people [of Europe], not unnaturally, want the same privileges that their parents awarded themselves in the high-minded name of social justice, on the live-now-pay-later principle. Why should they, the younger generation, have to live harder, more arduous, less secure lives than their elders lived? If their parents enjoyed free education, secure employment with guaranteed holidays and sick pay, and early retirement with generous unfunded pensions linked to the rate of inflation — what the french call les acquis — why should not they? Is not an ever-rising standard of living, with more and more entitlements and holiday destinations within the reach of al, the fundamental law of the universe, to say nothing of the meaning of life?

There are moral and philosophical aspects of the topic, of course, but the economics are full of lessons (emphasis added):

That the scheme of the welfare state was in essence improvident if not outright criminal was known from the very first. The British Labour politician for long revered in some quarters of Britain as the founder of the National Health Service, Aneurin Bevan, famously or infamously boasted that the great thing about the National Insurance Fund (from which various benefits were to be paid the sick, the unemployed, and the retired) was that “there ain’t no fund.” Payments were thus to be met from current tax receipts, which, if insufficient, were to be augmented by borrowing. Bevan gloried in the improvidence because he knew that it would change once and for all the relationship between the citizen and the state, increasing enormously the power of the political class and its bureaucratic clientele. It would destroy saving for a rainy day as the personal source of security, replacing it with dependence on the government. A strong government needed a feckless population, and — certainly in the case of Britain — got it.

To some extent, this system provides an economic boost by transporting wealth from the future to the present, via borrowing. Moving more of that inclination from private debt to government debt helped to obscure the economic fact that the future might need that money.

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13 years ago

But here is an opposing view of history expounded by Hilaire Belloc.

During the eighteenth century England came to be finally, though insecurely, established upon a proletarian basis, that is, it had already become a society of rich men possessed of the means of production on the one hand, and a majority dispossessed of those means upon the other. With the nineteenth century the evil plant had come to its maturity, and England had become before the close of that period a purely Capitalist State, the type and model of Capitalism for the whole world: with the means of production tightly held by a very small group of citizens, and the whole determining mass of the nation dispossessed of capital and land, and dispossessed, therefore, in all cases of security, and in many of sufficiency as well. The mass of English men, still possessed of political, lacked more and more the elements of economic, freedom, and were in a worse posture than free citizens have ever found themselves before in the history of Europe. . . .
In other words, by the first third of the seventeenth century, by 1630-40, the economic revolution was finally accomplished, and the new economic reality thrusting it self up on the old traditions of England was a powerful oligarchy of large owners over shadowing an impoverished and dwindled monarchy.

Change “monarchy” to “republic” and you get the U.S.A. in the 21st Century.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
13 years ago

I am not really familiar with Hilarie Beloc, but I note from his Wikipedia biography that he was impecunious. Further he purchased an estate in England shortly after his marriage to an American. This suggests that he “married for money”.
When this is coupled with early Marxist phraseology such as “the means of production”, I become suspicious.

13 years ago

You may “speculate” as you wish. Speculation and inference are tools of the ignorant and prove nothing. So your speculations are worthless. Here is what the Encyclopedia Brittanica has to say about Hilaire Belloc: Hilaire Belloc, in full Joseph-Hilaire-Pierre-René Belloc (b. July 27, 1870, La Celle-Saint-Cloud, Fr.—d. July 16, 1953, Guildford, Surrey, Eng.), French-born poet, historian, and essayist who was among the most versatile English writers of the first quarter of the 20th century. He is most remembered for his light verse, particularly for children, and for the lucidity and easy grace of his essays, which could be delightfully about nothing or decisively about some of the key controversies of the Edwardian era. Belloc was educated at the Oratory School, Birmingham, and then worked as a journalist. After military service, as a French citizen, he entered Balliol College, Oxford, in 1894. He graduated with first-class honours in history, was president of the Union (debating society), and in 1896 married Elodie Hogan (1870–1914) of Napa, Calif. He became a naturalized British subject in 1902 and sat as a member of Parliament for Salford (1906–10), first as a Liberal and then as an Independent. Verses and Sonnets (1895) and The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts (1896) launched Belloc on his literary career. Cautionary Tales, another book of humorous verse for children, which parodied some Victorian pomposities, appeared in 1907. His Danton (1899) and Robespierre (1901) proved his lively historical sense and powerful prose style. Lambkin’s Remains (1900) and Mr. Burden (1904) showed his mastery of satire and irony. In The Path to Rome (1902) he interspersed his account of a pilgrimage on foot from Toul to Rome with comments on the nature and history of Europe. Born and brought up a Roman Catholic, he showed in almost everything he wrote an ardent… Read more »

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