We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“It is not the State that creates a healthy society. When the State grows too powerful people feel they count for less and less. The State drains society, not only of its wealth but also of initiative, of energy, the will to improve and innovate as well as to preserve what is best. Our aim is to let people feel that they count for more and more.”

- Margaret Thatcher, 10 October, 1980. Taken from the rather good tome, Great British Speeches, a collection compiled by Simon Heffer. Perhaps out of an impish desire to annoy, the book contains Blair’s ghastly and embarrassing ‘forces of conservatism’ speech, perhaps the ugliest statement of political authoritarianism in recent British political history.

10 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Mary Contrary

    perhaps the ugliest statement of political authoritarianism in recent British political history.

    There’s quite a lot of competition for that title.

  • Paul Marks

    The quotation shows (as many other quotations do) that Mrs Thatcher had a much better understanding of what “society” is than her critics.

    As Mrs T. pointed out there is no such “thing” (enity) as society – society is the nonviolent interaction of human beings (civil interaction is what “civil society” is) as individuals and as familes (and voluntary associations, commercial and noncommercial).

    It is vain to expect the left to understand this. The whole basis of the left is that “society” is a thing that can have “priorities” and can do things (as if the complex net of relationships that is civil society was a being or a machine). However, the “right” do not understand it either.

    For example, in the last edition of the “Sunday Telegraph” (supposedly the main conservative newspaper on a Sunday) the television critic (Mr Preston) was full of praise for Andrew Marr’s (the B.B.C. man who also writes for the “Daily Telegraph”) television history of post World War II Britain.

    This standard leftist account was praised for describing the Welfare State as the “poetry of fairness” (and so on). And Mr Preston made a special point of snearing at Mrs T. for holding that there was no such thing as society – wise people who held that there was such a thing would love Mr Marr’s series (as he did).

    In this Mr Preston showed that he thought that society was a “thing” (the state) – exactly the total misunderstanding that Mrs Thatcher attacked.

  • what a wonderful and prophetic quote.

  • M. in Boston

    Never having read Blair’s infamous speech, I Googled it, and have a question for UK dwellers about the following bullet points he proclaimed:

    “More than 1 million still unemployed.

    Schools and hospitals still needing investment.

    Pensioners still living in hardship.

    People still petrified by crime and drugs.

    3 million children still in poverty.”

    From what I read on Samizdata and the UK newspapers I can tolerate, it looks like Blair’s legacy is either stasis or decline in each of those categories. Or have I been misinformed?

  • guy herbert

    You’ve been misinformed, but not perhaps in the way you suspect.

    Blair’s premises are false. The dreadful things he complains of as the fault of the preceding Government are either artefacts of governmental definition or not things government can do much about, or not things government should do things about.

    The categories are meaningless. Fear of crime and drugs, his administration has actively promoted. The concept of “investment” (greater public spending) being insufficient and necessary to improve education and medicine, ditto, even as it has been increased by a third or a half.

  • Nick M

    Paul,
    I rather liked Andrew Marr’s show. What I took from it was that the Attlee Government was leading us up the garden path. I rather liked the subtle manner in which he made the Attlee administration’s “New Jerusalem” sound just like Blair’s “Things can only get better”. And I got the very distinct impression that if Churchill hadn’t won in 1951 we’d have been thoroughly buggered. I’d never really thought about Churchill’s post-war contribution before, beyond him defining the “Iron Curtain”. It was a good show and deceptively subversive. Yes, it started out singing the praises of welfare and the NHS but then it showed the failure of both. It also showed that post-war rationing was unhelpful and the economy only really began to get back on track when it ended. I suspect that Mr Marr is, in his impish way, rather more conservative than many suspect.

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    It is a real shame that Thatcher’s government was not able to live up to her ideals. Spending on the NHS and education increased between 1979 and 1991 by an average of 3% and 1.2% respectively annually in the UK. Only public infrastructure spending shrank an average of 3% annually.

  • Paul Marks

    Nick M.

    I respect your judgement.

    Therefore I am glad that I did not write a posting on the Marr show.

    I did not watch the first episode (although I watched the second half of the second episode – I was bored, but then I have heard this stuff very many times before).

    Relying on reviews (either by Mr Preston, or by the leftists of the Economist ["there are Conservative party members who work for the Economist", no doubt someone will point that out, - this simply indicates how many leftists are in the Conservative party] – which I read in Kettering library today, in the break between Council events) is not sensible.

    “Define leftist” – certainly, what I mean by the term “leftist” is someone who supports more government spending on the Welfare State (on top of the vast amounts that are already spent on it – indeed even as a percentage of the economy) AND supports various new regulations (on “campaign finance reform”, “antitrust – competition policy”, “gun control” and so on) and tends to dismiss with contempt the social customs (such as traditionial families) that dominated Western civilization up to a few years ago (it is the CONTEMPT for such things as traditional religion, families and so on that is the mark of the leftist – being an athiest and so on does not make someone a leftist, just as being a homosexual does not make someone a leftist, but being a homosexual “activist” out for “anti discrimination” regulations and other such, does).

    By such a definition the “Economist” is a leftist magazine.

    My comment was really about Mr Preston (a rubbish reviewer whose stuff I know well), if my comment about Mr Marr’s show was wrong I apologize.

    As for Mrs T. – yes Bredon the lady did allow the increase of government spending (although not a percentage of the economy – unlike the present government).

    As boy I first understood what a bunch of liars the B.B.C. were when EVERY DAY the B.B.C. mentioned “the cuts in government spending” when, in reality, government spending was going up.

    Indeed from 1979 to 1982 it not only went up in both money and in inflation adjusted (“real” terms) it went up as percentage of the economy as well (contrary to the myth Howe was a rotten Chancellor – he greatly increased overall taxation as well).

    I already knew that the things teachers told me at school could not be trusted.

    But the B.B.C. stuff was blatent disinformation.

    Still the fact that the Conservative party government would not get rid of the B.B.C. (it just bleated from time to time about its bias) meant that it deserved all it got.

    Of course I.T.V. was almost as bad as the B.B.C. (the regualtions and administrators that broadcasters operate under in this country mean that stations have to be “balanced” which the powers-that-be ensure means leftist), and the Conservative government later set up the leftist C4 station as well (which is still subsidised because it provides an “alternative” to the other stations, even though its political stance is also leftist).

    The establishment thinking is rather like today’s events in Kettering Council.

    Lots of talk about how people’s lives should not be influenced by where they live (this is against the sacred God equality you see).

    And lots of talk about the need to spend money on…. (well everything). With the only reference to tax being that Council Tax is really a national tax (due to the influence of central government in how much it can be increased) and how it never brings in enough money.

    Vote how you like – the powers-that-be remain the same.

    As Mrs T. and Denis knew well – as they sat on Sunday afternoons reading the newspaper and denouncing all the terrible things the govenrment was doing.

    No – this was BEFORE Mrs T. was backstabbed in 1990.

    As Prime Minister Mrs T. had some influence – but only some.

    The E.R.M. is a good example.

    Mrs T. knew it was insane – and said it was (lots of times). But we still went into the E.R.M. (a form of exchange rate rigging) whilst the lady was Prime Minister.

  • JohnOfBorg

    IIRC, according to Melanie Phillips in All Must Have Prizes, it was Mrs T who introduced by far the greatest tool of leftist social engineering, the National Curriculum.

    She intended it simply to set minimum standards in the three R’s. Presumably for all her undestanding of society, she did not understand government well enough to anticipate what the NC would turn into.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes indeed – the core curriculum mutated into the National Curriculum (as anyone who understood how the activists involved operate could have predicted).

    Of course, a libertarian way of dealing with the decline of edcuation would simply have been to close the state schools – but the lady was not an extremist (for all the claims that she was).

    A more moderate approach (which might, or might not, have worked) would have been vouchers or radical tax relief (moderate tax relief was introduced).

    And Mrs T. was favourable to both vouchers and radical tax relief – but the powers-that-be proved too strong for the lady.