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

In times of commotion, certain things clarify

From the Daily Mail website:

Unemployed Julian Styles, 58, who was made redundant from his factory job in 1984, said: ‘I’ve been waiting for that witch to die for 30 years. `Tonight is party time. I’m drinking one drink for every year I’ve been out of work.’”

The article, which chronicles the outbreaks of violence and antics of – mostly – young people following the death of Margaret Thatcher, does not inform us as to whether Mr Styles has been permanently out of work since 1984, a period of 29 years. It may be that he has worked for periods, no doubt adding his magnificent skills, charm and knowledge to the global economy. On the other hand, I suppose it is possible that this individual has spent the last, entire 29-year period living off the benefits provided by fellow taxpayers. I hope he has managed to cope. He sounds as if he certainly will be able to drown his sorrows with plenty of drink.

Forgive my sarcastic tone, but while I certainly do sympathise with anyone made redundant – I have been through that experience and I know what it feels like – it seems to be stretching one’s natural compassion to the limit to feel much sympathy for a person who might have been out of work, or at least some form of productive activity, for almost three decades, even while remaining an able-bodied citizen. (The article does not say if he is disabled.)

Among the many things that the late Margaret Thatcher strived against was what she thought of as an “entitlement mentality”: the idea that we are, simply by virtue of being alive, entitled to coerce our fellow man into providing us with things or services. The assertion of such “rights” is impossible without stipulating that others have some duty to provide these things. But how much of a right does one have? To one job? To a permanent job? A highly paid one? A moderately paid one? In your home town? Globally?

To pose such questions is to cut to the heart of the incoherence and contradictory nature of such bogus “rights”. A right is, by definition, an assertion that one has a personal space that cannot be invaded, which is why property rights are an essential component of the idea, and why socialist “rights” are a hopeless muddle. I suppose all this philosophy might be a bit of a stretch for this ex-coal miner and his fellows, but it might be nice to think that in contemplating some of the sentiments of recent days, one might also reflect on the principles that are highlighted by Margaret Thatcher’s 11 momentous years in power.

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15 comments to In times of commotion, certain things clarify

  • Paul Marks

    How can Mr Styles afford all this booze?

    Unemployment did vastly increase after 1979 (although it was already FALLING by 1984). More so than it did in other countries hit by the world slump.

    It did so for two reasons…

    Firstly the vast increase in government spending – due to the accepting of the outgoing Labour government’s spending promises (on government sector pay and so on).

    To refuse to go along with all this would have meant total war with the trade unions (who had the same sort of grip on the British government in 1979 than they do on the New York and California governments now).

    Mrs T. was urged by most of the Cabinet not to take on the unions straight away – “it would be a return to the winter of discontent Margaret – the dead would go unburied and the sick would lie in their own filth in hospital….”.

    Tragically Margaret Thatcher gave in.

    The rise in government spending meant that the recession was worse in the Britain than it was in other countries (I know Keynesians will not understand that).

    The second reason for the rise in UNEMPLOYMENT was also union related.

    A slump can mean one of two things – falling wages or rising unemployment (or a bit of both).

    With the pro union legal structure in place in 1979 falling wages were not going to happen (the unions would not allow it) so exploding UNEMPLOYMENT was inveitable in the world slump.

    Mrs T. could have reformed the labour market (rolled back the pro union laws) but Mr James Prior (the “Employment Secretary”) and most others urged her not to do so.

    Again, tragically, Mrs T. gave in – and it was not till the time of Norman T. that real labour market reform started.

    By 1984 things were starting to get better – both on government spending and on labour market reform.

    By the late 1980s government spending (as a percentage of the economy) was LOWER than it had been in 1979, and unemployment was lower also.

    But do not expect the vile alliance of Thatcher-haters (Fascists,Racial Nationalists, the “Libertarian Left” and on and on…) to tell you that.

    I wish Mrs T. had faught the vile “Wets” from the start – but she did fight them later.

    Rest in peace old warrior.

    Rest in peace.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    The second reason for the rise in UNEMPLOYMENT was also union related.

    Indeed. For example the NUM strike made life considerably worse for miners than it otherwise would have been. Thatcher wanted to close the least productive mines because they were costing rather than generating money. When the miners listened to Scargill and stayed away from work for months, the mine-workings in productive mines deteriorated to the extent that mines which were intended to be kept open also had to be closed. Supposedly some of the miners tried to point this out on the picket line were shouted down by the union true-believers. Even in the mines that were shut, continuing to earn a wage while they were wound down would of course have been preferable to refusing to work altogether.

    Scargill of course disappeared off with the equivalent of considerably more than £100k a year in modern terms, whereas the men he claimed to represent all lost their jobs. You’d think he’d be the figure of resentment, not Thatcher. He gambled, they lost.

    As an aside the story of the workers purchase of Tower Colliery is an example of a true win-win scenario that is in accord with the principles of liberty. It is am example of what might have been for many more mines had it not been for the cheap political point scoring of the NUM and Scargill. They only closed it a few years back when it was completely mined out.

  • RRS

    From the indomitable Dr. Dalrymple today (4/10/2013 – US style) over on Liberty Law Blog at libertyfund.org:

    “Her error in part was to have failed to recognize the change in the character of the British people. She imagined them as they were in pre-war Grantham, the small Lincolnshire town where she was born: honest, prudent, modest, striving, thrifty, virtuous, duty-bound and patriotic. The intervening years, however, had changed their character; they, or many of them, had become very nearly the opposite of all those things.”

    Emphasis added.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    RRS, I don’t always like Dalrymple (bit of a professional gloomster) but he’s on the money here. Nice quote.

  • razorbacker

    You can tell a lot about a person by the type of people who hate them.

    Mrs. Thatcher’s star shines even brighter in comparison to the quality of people celebrating her death.

  • RRS

    Hey JP

    he was a prison Doctor and psychiatrist, conducting colonoscopies on our social order. That will affect one’s outlook.

  • veryretired

    Doing colonoscopies and watching the evening news circus are about the same thing—staring at a–holes.

  • Stonyground

    “Unemployed Julian Styles, 58, who was made redundant from his factory job in 1984, said: ‘I’ve been waiting for that witch to die for 30 years. `Tonight is party time. I’m drinking one drink for every year I’ve been out of work.’””

    I was made redundant twice in the late seventies and early eighties. I then survived the period from ’81 to ’85 by taking on any temporary job that was on offer. This was a somewhat precarious way to make a living but I never got bored and I learned a lot. In November 1985 I got a permanent job and have been with the same company ever since. I have done different jobs within the same company, learned much while earning a modest living.

    If, as he implies, this guy has been out of work for thirty years and has simply sat on his arse, all the time blaming MT for the sad state of his life, then hopefully the worthless oaf will drink himself to death with his thirty drinks.

  • Vinegar Joe

    Back in the 80s in Asia, I roomed with a BBC correspondent. He used to brag about going back to the UK for his annual holiday and getting on the dole on arrival. He said he could “stay pissed for the entire month for free”…….

  • Regional

    WRT coal, British coal at the pit head was $100 a ton, coal from Australia was $60 a ton.
    Secondly why would a government deliberately put tax payers out of work?
    Top Gear presented by proud Englanders were not enthusiastic about the quality of British cars at that time and when attempting tasks from that period with English cars it was dodgey if they even made it to the start line due to the poor workmanship and running out of electricity, Lucas the Princes of Darkness.
    During the Second World War parts for British trucks had to be re-machined where as parts for Seppo trucks could be taken straight from the packet and used.
    It was the Trade Unions who put people out of work like they’ve done in Australia.

  • Old Owl

    @Regional, with regard to the quality of British cars, you can’t just blame the unions and workers for that. Management was also unbelievably inept. I worked in a mainly non-union factory making car parts for Leyland and Ford in the mid to late 1970s and we knew about the short-cuts, shoddy materials, out-dated equipment we had to use. Knowing this, I drove a Datsun. As many manufacturing concerns closed because of short-sighted and close-fisted management as because of shirt-sighted and stubborn trade unionists.

  • Tedd

    Before scanning that Daily Mail article, I didn’t realize that there’s a Thatcher Derangement Syndrome that’s even more pronounced than Bush Derangement Syndrome! I was also intrigued by the photos that seem to show mostly people too young to remember the Thatcher years — too young even to have been born yet, in many cases. It reminded me of the hockey riots in Vancouver: young people going off the rails for no other reason than having an excuse they think is plausible. Although, to their credit, at least the Thatcher-death celebraters are celebrating something of significance, however misguidedly.

  • Regional

    Old Owl,
    Agreed and incompetent government and Meeja included it’s amasing the the place still keeps functioning. If you reckon you’ve got effwits in Britain, come to Australia to experience incompetence as an art form.

  • Old Owl

    Regional, I *am* in Australia.