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.

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Samizdata quote of the day

George Osborne was recently in New York, soaking up plaudits for boldly leading Britain into fiscal austerity at a time when, apparently in contrast, America’s feckless political elite has allowed the national debt to balloon. The problem is that UK austerity, so far at least, is a myth.

November’s national accounts, released last week, were shocking. Government spending last month was sharply up on the same month in 2009 – yes, up! British state borrowing is still escalating, with the national debt rising very quickly.

Liam Halligan.

However I do rather roll my eyes at the word ‘shocking’ as it has been screamingly obvious what was happening for quite some time. Sometimes I think Samizdata needs a category called ‘No shit, Sherlock’. How anyone could have thought Cameron’s dismal followers were ever serious about actually cutting back the state is hard to fathom.

30 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • PeterT

    Well, what you say is true. But Cameron and Osborne did not get elected on a slash and burn the state manifesto. Nevertheless, if they do follow through on the budget the state will have been somewhat diminished. While unsatisfying, it is better than nothing.

    What will happen of course is that they will only be able to cut half as much as they have set out to do by the next election. Maybe the economy rebounds in a couple of years thus making the size of the state more ‘affordable’, thus reducing the sense of urgency in cutting it. So I doubt we will get very far.

    I think the best hope for libertarians is some ‘tea party’ style of revolt within the Conservative party. The ‘conservative conservatives’ and ‘libertarian conservatives’ are only keeping quiet at the moment since it is still the early days of the government. All Cameron needs to do is announce a referendum on our membership of the EU (I don’t think there has been a better time for it than now) and use open primaries for the selection of Conservative MPs. This would effectively fold UKIP into the Conservative party.

    If we combine this with an imploded Liberal Democrat party and a still direction less Labour party, we may end up with a properly conservative Conservative majority government. Hopefully this could achieve some more radical objectives.

  • While unsatisfying, it is better than nothing.

    No, it is worse than nothing, much worse, as the continued increase in spending has been branded as ‘cuts’ and bizarrely broadly accepted as such. It is thus the worst of all possible worlds.

  • Well, this is much as all but the most naive/optimistic among us expected to happen.

    It’s not really about money anyway though. It’s not how much the State spends, it’s what the State does. We already have slews of social engineering coming in- from more “equality” laws to more overtly puritan attacks on smokers, drinkers and the plump, and overt internet censorship. Not to mention the three billion new windmills that will apparently erase carbon forever from the Periodic Table.

    So, depressing, but predictable. Hands up everyone who was stupid enough to vote for them…

  • Tom

    I think you should add phewee to the no shit Sherlock.

    Government borrowing is a balancing act and the inexorable arithmetic will catch up with them – but what happens then? Who has legitimacy?

    Really, what happens when crash and burn occurs? Devaluation via inflation is already underway but can that be controlled? I’d suggest not – certainly not by this lot – fiscal austerity ? Yow! they really do think we’re all stupid and not paying attention

  • Ian F4

    we may end up with a properly conservative Conservative majority government. Hopefully this could achieve some more radical objectives.

    The reason why we got in this mess was having an untouchable government for 10+ years. As you stated, a “tea party” style revolt is probably necessary to highlight issues and get the ruling party to comply, it isn’t going to be done purely along partisan lines.

  • Stephen Willmer

    Not only is it a mistake to pin any libertarian or pro-individual hopes on the Tories, I have come to the view that it always was. That is, the Tories have not in some sense betrayed their roots or their mission (as might plausibly be said of the American congressional Republicans) so much as they are broadly what they always were – devoted to preserving the current power settlement – and, while it may be true to say that at some point in the past what they were/are implied a commitment to property rights, small government etc., that was merely a secondary consideration, a flag of convenience used in support of the primary goal aforementioned. When this flag ceased to be convenient, it was abandoned.

    I used to get very bent out of shape over the Tories, regarding them as having betrayed all and everyone that should have been central to their worldview. But am now less sure.

    They’re no use to us, they’re not reformable, their devotion to power at any cost is not a glitch but a feature. Let’s move on.

  • Stephen, I entirely agree.

    One additional point is that some people in the “Libertarian camp” were arguing before the election that while yes, the Tories wouldn’t reverse anything they would at least be a “breather”, that is less fervent in the imposition of the Proggie Reform agenda compared to New Lab. I argued that that would not be the case. I think that that is now being born out.

  • Indeed Stephen, I have been making that very point for years. I think anyone who expected anything other than what we are seeing was wilfully blind. Cameron has bent over backwards to make it clear he was all about preserving the system, not remaking it.

    The Tories are the problem, not the solution, and the mere fact they chose Cameron over someone like, say, David Davies, should have been enough for anyone paying attention.

  • Brad

    Obviously austerity for the State is akin to a young woman who forgoes those fifth pair of boots and that tenth dress, vowing to only max out one new credit card instead of two or three. She then seeks out to be lauded for her iron will.

    There can be no doubt what is ahead of our countries, the question is what will come after collapse. When we have so many people who are so accustomed to the good life consuming other people’s labor, mental and physical, one can’t assume that some new, freer culture will follow. When the hoodwinking and blinkering come to an end, one can only assume the sharp blades will be pulled out.

  • When we have so many people who are so accustomed to the good life consuming other people’s labor, mental and physical, one can’t assume that some new, freer culture will follow.

    Doubt it. That has rarely happened in the past. Expect a thug on horseback, telling you you are now his serf and should be grateful he’s going to protect you from the other thugs on horseback and, oh, 1/5th of your produce please.

    The problem is, and always has been, the problem of oligarchy. Whatever anyone has tried, you end up with a parasitic class dominating the society and claiming ownership of most of its wealth. Pretty much every political theory is in some way trying to find a way around that, and nobody ever seems to. That is the issue really for libertarians. How do you behead the society, and prevent a new oligarchy forming?

    Anyway, nominally representative or liberal societies have tended in their death throes to collapse into oriental despotism, so I’m not one for the “phoenix of liberty rising from the ashes” idea. Looks to me like Europe is on the verge of looking for our Caesar. We’d better think of something pretty fast, or it might be well and truly too late.

  • Current western governments aren’t already “thugs on horseback”? 20% sounds like a bargain compared to what we pay now.

  • Paul Marks

    It is depressing that some people (in spite of the figures in the post) still believe that Mr Osborne and Mr Cameron are committed to less government spending.

    Consider what happened only a little while after the budget (even if you believe everything that was said at budget time), the government signed on for the Irish bailout. There was no legal reason to do that whatever – they did it because they choose to do it .

    A little while later the government (i.e. Osborne and Cameron) agreed to a bailout fund for all nations in the Euro Zone – even though Britain is not even in the Euro currency zone.

    Again they CHOOSE to do this – no one forced them to it.

    So the (very modest) overall reduction in government spending promised by the budget is already a dead letter.

    Also remember how that was spun.

    A very modest overall reduction in govenment spending was spun as a massive cut (as indeed “slash and burn”).

    If someone was really interested in reducing govenrment spending none of that P.R. would have been done (remember Mr Cameron is a P.R. specialist – indeed it is the only work he has ever done in his entire life) indeed one would have tried to DOWN PLAY the extent of the cuts (in order to reduce opposition).

    So why exaggerate them? Again even if one assumes there is going to be an overall cut at all – i.e. one believes every word in the budget.

    In order to please the bond markets…….

    We are in “confidence land” (by the way when a politician, or an economist, talks about the importance of “confidence” he means it in exactly the way a grifter does – i.e. a confidence TRICK with the people as the “mark”).

    Of course there are a few people in government who really are serious about cutting government spending.

    Mr Pickles (the main local government minister) seems to be utterly sincere – not only is trying to get rid of the (utterly vile) “Audit Commission” (believe me its activities had naught to do with saving money – quite the reverse, it was all about how to achieve various “social goals” and so on), but also he really has cut the government grant to local councils.

    I have seen the numbers for my own local council (Conservative) and we are getting a grant cut of about 15% in one year (this is real action).

    However, at the top (with Osbourne and Cameron) it is all smoke and mirrors – to them rolling back the state is just talk, all sound and fury signifying nothing.

    That is why it would be better (in a way) if Perry and Ian B. (and so on) were totally correct – if the Conservative party as a whole was like Cameron and co.

    The fact that it is not simply means that a lot of honest people who really are doing their best (I have given one example above) are going to be betrayed – it is only a matter of time.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way, Council Tax is going to be frozen – so a big cut in central government grant is just that, a big CUT in local government spending.

    Now the task is to convince people that this can not be done by “doing things better”, but only by the council NOT doing various things any more (because we can not afford to do them).

    However, there is always the UNSPOKEN counter argument that “we do not really need to act – Pickles will be gone soon” the knives are already out for such people (and there are not many such ministers in central government).

    By the way what is said about defence is also true – what is left of the Royal Navy and, to a partial extent, what is left of the Royal Air Force is being gutted.

    However, the government is managing to destroy the military and NOT save much money (at the same time) – this is because of various other military spending ideas (from the last government) that they are sticking to.

    “Depressing” is not really a strong enough word.

  • Paul Marks

    Mike Borgelt you have a point – and, to be fair, I do not think that Ian B. would really argue with you.

    After all feudalism does not always mean serfdom.

    And in the last feudal state in Europe (Sark) feudalism was rather popular (when the wonderful democracy was finanally IMPOSED by outside pressure – the people responded by voting their evil feudal ownerlords) back into power, showing their contempt for all the threats that were made about what would be done to them if they “voted the wrong way” by putting said feudal).

    Sadly the top man in Sark can not (is not allowed to) put the clock back.

    “Our entire tax code used to be one side of paper – now it is a small book. We used to have no paid government staff and now……”.

    Oh well what can be done to hold off “progress” will be done.

    That is the thing of course – even if the first feudal lords were thugs (and they often were) over the generations the families become “part of the land” (and intermarry with local folk, oh yes they do, – speak the same langauge and so on) they act as checks on each other, and checks on the King (who acts as a check upon them).

    Not perfect (wildly imperfect) – but no human government is perfect.

    Modern centralized (and bureacratized) “representative democracy” certainly is not perfect.

    Nor was the “enlightened despotism” of all powerful Kings – for (let us not forget) it was not revolutions from below that broke feudalism. It was power seeking Kings (and those who supported them) that broke the feudal institutions of Europe (the Estates, the Paliaments, the traditional limits on taxation, the old laws and the bar against making endless new laws agains the custom of an area…..).

    The French case is typical – 1789 did not break feudalism as a political system, it had been broken more than a century before.

    French aristocrats were toys at court (even carrying toy swords – look at a French court sword and compare to an English gentleman’s sword of exactly the same period) they had no power.

    Indeed there was only one major feudal (politically feudal) state in Europe by the late 18th century.

    Britain.

    Certainly power lay with the House of Commons and there were seats in the House of Commons where lots of people had the vote (Preston and other seats where any man who had a fireplace where he could put his own cooking pot had the vote), but there were lots of county seats (dominated by the landed interest) and lots of supposedly urban seats that had few voters (or, in the case of “rotten” places, were town that had been important at one time – but from which people had moved away) that the landed interest had a very great influence (although only as one of the estates, sections, of the nation – total power it would have been very unwise to try and take).

    This remained true right up to 1832 – whatever good came from the Great Reform Act, the idea of a “balanced constitution” of checks and balances (the armed stand off that “feudalism” really is – for remember a wise landowner depends on his tenants being armed to, otherwise he has few followers, and “unwise” feudal families do not tend to prosper over centuries) was a dead letter after it.

    A political order that had vanished in most of Europe centuries before – with the rise of powerful Kings (and so on) with their professional administrators (and big professional armies – making aristocrats either toys, as they were in France, or servants of the state, as they were in Prussia).

    The small English army depended on high officers living off their own private means and (even) subsidizing the kitting out of their troops – right to the middle of the 19th century.

    In many ways Britain, especially ENGLAND, was the most reactionary state in Europe – for example lawyers in England did not even learn law at university (as they did virtually everywhere else in Europe). The English lawyers (in those days) learned the law on the job – in what was basically a guild like structure from the middle ages.

    A professional civil service, an educated legal system, a land register, a central code of laws, a strong government able to work out national policies (for state financed roads, canals – whatever) England had none of these things – and virually every other major European state did.

    Odd that it was this island that led the world economically – or perhaps not so odd at all.

  • A professional civil service, an educated legal system, a land register, a central code of laws, a strong government able to work out national policies (for state financed roads, canals – whatever) England had none of these things – and virually every other major European state did.

    Paul, this is why I am so interested in digging around in Victorian and previous England to understand why these things came into existence; how we turned from a decentralised into a centralised state, a process which was basically complete by 1914. We had a choice, back the, between liberalism and statism. There was a wealth of liberal philosophy, there were Adam Smith’s profound insights into the advantages of liberal economics, there were examples of despotism to serve as warnings in other nations- and yet we chose the statist path. That decision is something very important that we need as libertarians to understand.

    You know my proposed answer already of course; a moralist fervour initially triggered by religious revivalism, which remodelled the State as an organ for doing “good”.

    Politicians ever since have had to campaign for office on the basis of the goodness they will do, and be seen to be doing good things while in office. That leaves no room for liberalism, which by its nature is not a do-gooder philosophy, it is a “leave people alone” philosophy, and if you leave people alone you can’t do them good.

    Left and Right just argue about what Good is, and what Good should be done. To return to (or create, depending on one’s historical interpretation) a liberal society will require a profound change of our philosophy towards government. But after a century and a half of government as the national do-gooder, most people cannot imagine it any other way.

  • Stephen Willmer

    “…why these things came into existence; how we turned from a decentralised into a centralised state, a process which was basically complete by 1914″.

    Complete by 1914? I think you date it, Ian, both as a state of mind and as a physical fact, between 15 and 30 years too early, although I bear in mind the work of such as Forster and his system of state education dated to the 1870s.

    Indeed I am often struck by the fact hat there was no SoS for Transport until 1919. Or was it 1918? Anyway.

    I do, however, think there is much in your religious fervour argument.

    Other catalysts? Big government became possible. The study of systems and the ostensible triumph of rationalism created an underlying belief in the possibility of a rational, perfected government of professionals and experts.

    Finally, what I sometimes think of as ‘Hitler’s Victory': the corporatist centralisation directing the nation’s deemed interests as deemed necessary to direct us in what was deemed our necessary confrontation with the Nazis, as well as the People’s pay-off, the welfare state, for going along with the elite having picked a fight with the Nazis.

  • Well, 1914 is a good date if a little abitrary; after the Great War things were never the same again and never could be. There has been an ongoing process since- well, another abritrary date but I agree with Paul that the 1832 Great Refrom Act is a good historical marker- that is still ongoing.

    But by 1914 I would say that it had become accepted that the State could, and should, do anything in the pursuit of some goodness or other; in the public mind it had become unbounded.

    Another significant watershed IMV is the often overlooked significance of the nationalisation of the telegraph system in 1868, setting the precedent that the State could confiscate a successful, profitable, rapidly expanding business for, again, “the greater good”. There was negligible opposition to it. So 1914 may be too late a date to declare the end of the psychological change in some respects. I sometimes wonder if we should blame our downfall on the Post Office.

  • Stephen Willmer

    Ian, whatever the start date, this much is clear to me: we can’t(entirely) blame Marx and his acolytes. The idea of the general good and an overweening power both discerning what that is and applying a monopoly on lawful violence in it’s name has arisen in my view organically and separately from Marx’s teachings. Rousseau has, in that sense, much to answer for. Democracy, to which I am occasionally and increasingly hostile, creates a mechanism for the implementation of this school of ethics. We must address the assumption that something called the common good, even if it could be objectively defined as something other than the aggregate of all individual goods, is automatically superior to individual good. In short, that we exist for our own sake, not as fuel for somebody else.

  • Stephen, I put very little blame on Marx and marxists. The development of the State in the Anglo nations has little to do with them; even those intellectuals overtly calling themselves marxist in general just used marxist theory as a prop for their grand designs. As the paleoconservative Paul Gottfried has notably pointed out, “post marxists” aren’t marxists at all.

    As I said, our States are locked into a cycle of increasing statism to address not marxist concerns, but the pursuit of virtue.

    Democracy is a good system where common decisions are required; it is probably the “least worst”. It would be nice to try it some time. We have never had it. We have had something like “elected oligarchy”. That is not democracy. IF we had a system where for example a majority of the electorate must actively vote for a law (and perhaps a supermajority e.g. 66%) then very few of our oppressive laws would have ever passed. In “representative” democracy OTOH, the eletorate are only consulted occasionally, and never directly. It is doomed to tyranny; and that is why it is the system we are allowed.

  • Stephen Willmer

    Ian, whatever the start date, this much is clear to me: we can’t(entirely) blame Marx and his acolytes. The idea of the general good and an overweening power both discerning what that is and applying a monopoly on lawful violence in it’s name has arisen in my view organically and separately from Marx’s teachings. Rousseau has, in that sense, much to answer for. Democracy, to which I am occasionally and increasingly hostile, creates a mechanism for the implementation of this school of ethics. We must address the assumption that something called the common good, even if it could be objectively defined as something other than the aggregate of all individual goods, is automatically superior to individual good. In short, that we exist for our own sake, not as fuel for somebody else.

  • Er, I heard you the first time Stephen…

  • Ian: do you think direct democracy could be part of the solution?

  • Alisa, I don’t know. My gut feeling is that we’re too far down the road. Direct democracy of the extreme kind I propose could well have prevented the State we’re in arising, but the real problem is reversing out of it. How we practically do that… I have no idea, to be honest.

    If libertarians, anarchists, et al could win the argument, then reversal would be easy. But that means changing the entire “public psychology” of an entire society. I think it’s more to do with changing minds that particular structures. How do we do that?

    Wish I knew.

  • That’s exactly how I see it. Sigh.

  • We need a hill to walk over with our pots and spears… :/

  • Jim A

    It turns out that it’s more expensive to bail bankers out of their bad decisions than the poor. Surprise, surprise.

  • Paul Marks

    Ian B. – you are right that all the tools for statism were in place by 1914.

    Professional civil service.

    A government not “held hostage” by independent landowners controllling a large part (if not a majoirity of the House of Commons).

    And so on…..

    And most important of all – a state education system (whether local areas wanted it or not – for example in Kettering the people voted again and again against a School Board, but it was forced on us anyway, by the Act of 1891).

    So although the state was still small in 1914 (only just over 10% of the economy – far smaller than it had been even in the peaceful 1820’s) there was nothing to stop it growing – especially as government responsibilty for old age has just been accepted (1909) and for sickness and unemployment (1911).

    Religion – well David Lloyd George was more inspired by Prussia than by Christianity.

    Liberalism?

    Even leaving aside “new Liberals” (like DLG) the old liberals were mostly not against the 19th century changes (although 1906, unions above the law, and 1909 and 1911 went a bit far for “liberals of the old school” – in fact the unemployment benefit bit was a bit far even by Prussian standards, that was one thing that even Bismark had not done, although only people in certain trades could have all these benefits at first).

    Remember even the 18th and 19th century liberals were LIMITED state people (not minimal state libertarians).

    They wanted a modern efficient state that would do nice things for people – but not everything (they were not socialists – or even Welfare Statists).

    Sadly not even the Manchester Free Trade liberals believed in a libertarian (minarchist) view of government – as the rate payers of Manchester found out when the Liberals took over after the local government Act of 1835.

    There were mininal statist liberal writers about (Herbert Spencer springs to mind – in spite of his early sillyness about land, which he grew out of anyway), but they were sadly not mainstream liberalism (I wish they had been in the majority – but they were not).

    Nor were the Christian “voluntarists” (the Leeds Mercury newspaper and so on) – at least not for long.

    This is the problem with the Scottish (Whig) enlightenment – Adam Smith, Duguld Stewart and the rest did not want a mimimal state.

    They wanted a modern efficient state (i.e. no more Tory traditions and interests blocking “scientific” action for the good of all), but on a limited scale.

    The trouble is if you knock down the walls built round a tiger – the tiger may do other things apart from let you ride him as if he was a donkey.

    The state is a tiger – a thing of violence, a sword.

    This the Scottish Enlightment limited state thinkers never really understood (least ways most of them did not) – although some Scots did.

    Sir Walter Scott for example – he understood that a state which had all the traditional restraints (customs, traditions, old loyalities, institutional blockages) removed from it, would not just act like an obedient beast of burden, doing a few nice things but leaving folk mostly alone. It is not the nature of the beast – and it is a beast.

    In spite of its many faults – the “other” Edinburgh magazine, “Blackwoods” (the Conservative counterpart to the Liberal “Edinburgh Review”) had things to teach that were worth understanding.

    I remember tracking down the works of the great philosophical rival to J.S. Mill among liberals.

    I already knew that J.S.M. was not the great pro liberty person (that libertarians think he is), but now I had some of the writings of Sir William Hamilton in my hand……

    And (for example) he defined a “university” in the following manner – “an institution established by the state for the purpose of…..”

    Do I really have to go on?

    Not only did Hamilton just assume that universities (and so on) must be established “by the state” he also (like any good liberal) assumed that the state could change any institution (even one it did not fund in any way) if it was not fulfilling useful functions.

    It was his job as a learned man to suggest wise policies to the state to help achieve useful things (just like J.S. Mill).

    I almost wept with vexation, as I smashed my fist against the wall and called a man (who has been dead a century and half) every nasty name under the sun.

  • I can think of little better examplar of my contention that the Anglo-State sees itself as using force to achieve “Goodness” than this ghastly bullshit from the mob in power-

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/8228620/Philanthropy-plan-donate-to-charity-every-time-you-pay-by-bank-card.html

  • PeterT

    Ayn Rand it ain’t.

    I wish they would stop doing this ‘big society’ stuff. Its embarrassing.

  • Paul Marks

    Ian B.

    The example you give is classic Cas Susteen (Obama’s Regulation Commissar) “Nudge” work, and indeed David Cameron gave a copy of “Nudge” to government ministers and told them to study it.

    In case anyone has the impression this was in order to fight this totalitarianism-by-the-instalment-plan type of thinking (“know your enemy” style)……. no, actually David Cameron thinks it is a nice book and governments should do this stuff.

    I hope this means that David Cameron does not actually understand what this work (and others of the type) are eventually aiming at……

    Actually this is too depressing, so I am going to talk about the general Ian point.

    All governments (even the most corrupt – in fact especially the most corrupt) think they are aiming at making people good.

    Christian or atheist, English speaking or not English speaking – the basic position is the same.

    Even Aristotle (in many ways a wise political thinking) declared that the role of the state was to make people “just and good”, and Aristotle wrote that (in the Politics) in direct opposition to Lycrophon who held that promoting goodness was not the function of the state.

    We libertarians are a rare breed – always have been (I am sorry to say). Many people (perhaps most people) do not like being ordered about personally – but they do not write works of political philosophy.

    People who write works on what the government should be like tend (no surprise) to be interested in government – and most such people are (at least in a limited way) statists, who want the state to do stuff that they want done.

    Someone who writes big work on why the state should NOT do things he wants done is a rare sort of person (and always has been).

    And, I repeat, even corrupt politicians (perhaps especially corrupt politicians – to divert attention away from their own flaws) tend to try and follow statist advice – in both economic and moral terms.

    After all why be in politics if you can not pull strings and watch people jump? For their own good of course….. (everyone says that – including the Chinese Legalist School of Philosophy thousands of years ago).

    The British, especially the ENGLISH state did not go in for this much – basically because the MACHINE of state was not there (blocked from creation by old established interests – interests that reformers called, with contempt, “Tory”).

    For example, IDEOLOGICALLY the Elizabethan state was collectivist to the core (both economically and in moral policy) reading the 16th century statutes is horrific – the sentiments in them are utterly vile and wicked (from our libertarian point of view).

    However, the state did not have machine (locally or nationally) to put its evil plans into effect – at least on nothing like a truly effective scale.

    Local families dominated local government (via unpaid J.P.s – normally local landowners who had other things to do than try and impose totalitarian fantasies from London).

    It is true that the economic regulations had an effect – especially in the south east of England (up in Yorkshire and Lancashire many of the regulations were never in effect – perhaps a reason why the industrial revolution developed in the north much later on).

    And the moral regulations (by their very nature these need more enforcement officers and so on than economic regulations – a big trade in cloth is a less difficult thing to find than a brothel or a gambling den) – even just a few miles from Whitehall they were a dead letter.

    Just over the river from London (in Southwark and so on – then not part of London) enforcement of the various morality regulations was essentially nil (apart from under the Commonwealth period – when a state machine was put in place in England under the “Major Generals” and their modern structured staff).

    However, when well meaning reformers swept away the corrupt special interest dominated government machine (what machine there was) and replaced it (locally and nationally) with a government structure that could actually do stuff………

    Well they opened the tiger’s cage.

    Edwin Chadwick (and many of the other reformers) were not actually particularly religious. Nor (I repeat) is state control a particularly religious thing.

    The strong anti statist Christian political writers (Chalmers in Scotland, the “voluntarists” in England) may well have been a minority, but anti statists (really anti statist – not just using the words “freedom” and “liberty” a lot, like that hollow man J.S. Mill) were in a minority of secular political writers also – actually a smaller minority.

    The historian Eldon used to go on about how their was a “Tudor Revolution in government” and how this new effective government led to England-Britain becoming the top economic power.

    He was exactly wrong – the schemes of Thomas Cromwell (setting up government departments to cover all aspects of life and so on) were DEFEATED – the local and national great families did not want to be bossed about, and (whether intentionally or not) in preserving liberty for themselves they preserved it for others (it was ever thus – the Great Charter of 1215 was used by all sorts of people over the years and centuries, but he Barons who demanded it were thinking mostly of themselves and their families).

    And it was because the “Revolution in government” was DEFEATED that Britain became top economic power – as, unlike every other major European state, a modern government machine was not created, and power remained with (largely indifferent) landed families.

    Freedom economically – and social freedom also.

    Once the high minded reformers (mostly secular utilitarians carrying out the work of J. Bentham) had built up their modern machine of state (both in local and in national government – elected local councils, civil service examination and so on…..) things took their NATURAL course.

    Government grew (although economic growth masked that for a time) and both economic and social freedom eventually went into decline.

    OF COURSE IT DID – it would have been astonishing if freedom had not eventually gone into decline (in spite of all the good work of men like Herbert Spencer to hold back the growth of statism).

    Figures on everything (starting with such things as the Births, Marriages and Deaths Registration Act of 1836) and so on.

    I think the key thing was the old Bentham dream (perhaps the dream of Thomas Cromwell to) of a government department covering every aspect of life – starting with (of course) education.

    Not achieved till the 20th century (which is why government growth did not run totally out of control till the 20th century), but an aim from the start – held up by custom and tradition as much as by the determined ideological resistance of a few brave people (women as well as men).

    One hardly sets up a department covering every aspect of life – and then expects them to do nothing.

    Ditto with collecting figures and other such – one collects figures in order to DO THINGS.