I always find the miserabilist claim that Britain has a broken society rather insulting to those millions of people who make up this society.  So all praise the Economist for giving this idea a thorough kicking.

I feel nervous about raising this issue with the good people of The Skeptical Doctor; for those of you new to this site, we have had a gentlemanly discussion since October when I reported back on the reaction of a left-leaning crowd at the Conservative conference to the miserabilist claims of Theodore Dalrymple, the striking, eloquent but overly-depressing-about-Britain writer and doctor. Look up any post with the word “miserabilist/ism” in it, or tagged that way.

Much of the stuff covered in the article – such as declining crime stats – was no doubt covered in previous posts.  In brief, when confronted with falling Crime stats, the dissenters say they are made up, in some way or another, and in such a way that they are more made up now, so that we have had a decline.  I doubt we will ever agree.  If anything, the Right seem to be doing more manipulating of stats, including my own MP.

Interestingly, the New Statesman has tried to do some forward thinking miserabilism of their own – premised on the ideas: “Cameron will get in – he will cut public spending – all the good things in life like a strong BBC and unpotholed roads stem from high public spending – we’re doomed”.   I object to this just as much.  Fiscal consolidations can be good times – witness the mid 1990s creation of the Internet.  Perhaps, people are willing to see the worst in the world – be miserabilist – so long as they have a political oppponent in charge to blame for it.

Oh, how sophisticated our political writers are.

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6 thoughts on “What broken society?

  1. Quibble:

    The internet wasn’t created in the mid-90s. The internet was created decades beforehand. The World Wide Web on the other hand, was created in either 89/90 (depending on your point of view).

    1. I see your quibble. But its like many things: it may be invented at a certain time, but it takes commercial drive and optimism to roll it out. When were steam engines actually invented, compared to when they were actually widespread?

  2. “Fiscal consolidations can be good times – witness the mid 1990s creation of the Internet.”

    You really need to establish a correlation between low public spending and the rise of the internet to
    justify this comment.

    I find the logic rather strange anyway to be honest, the Atom bomb was developed during the holocaust, does this mean holocausts can be good times to?

    1. Obviously I was being a bit quick there, sure. But my general point was that within the Westminster bubble, policy wonks in particular are prone to thinking tht if something is not done by the government then it does not exist, with the swift corrolary that when the government is suffering austerity then society is too. I remember the 1990s – a period of almost continual fiscal consolidation – as one of great expansion in other areas of life – not all of which are measured in GDP, let alone government spending. Did the government cutting back help this? Perhaps yes because in the macroeconomy of the time it lowered rates as a result. And less crowding out of other resources, like skilled people. If the governments of the world at that time had decided that it was up to them to provide the added increment of creative investment in the economy, we might have got a lot of things, but not Google. I reckon.

  3. This is less free thinking and more crass speculation. In the USA Cliton reduced taxes for lower income families and raised taxes on the wealthiest families. Maybe this redistribution of wealth allowed the internet to flourish, maybe the ratification of NAFTA? One thing for sure is that you can’t establish any correlation.

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