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Mark Steyn chose an interesting time to visit London

Mark Steyn has been in London, and although his visit has coincided with truly wonderful weather – I have spent a great afternoon with my wife and friends eating good food on the side of the Thames in Richmond – it has also been a time of protest:

“In a democracy, there are not many easy ways back from insane levels of “social” spending, and certainly not when the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition panders to the mob by comparing them to anti-apartheid activists. Judging from the many marchers partial to robotic, pseudo-ethnic West African drumming, the British left’s plan is presumably for the entire country to relaunch itself as the world’s least rhythmic percussion ensemble.”

This denial of reality is everywhere. Consider this YouTube spot featuring Mark Littlewood, head honcho of the Institute of Economic Affairs (and a friend of mine) alongside some hard-leftist type who regards the mass protests yesterday as an example of the Labour movement “striking back”. As far as this guy is concerned, our national debt is relatively low (seriously), we can, somehow or other, grow our way out of any problems that might exist, etc. In fairness to the BBC interviewer, she did not let this guy make these points without challenge and I thought Mark acquitted himself well. A good, perhaps “soft” point to make here, as Mark did, is the “think of the children” angle. The protesters who want to protect final-salary public pensions, vast numbers of state jobs, etc, are choosing to do so regardless of the debt being loaded on the shoulders of future generations. And in their adolescent fantasies, they imagine that all the mess can be somehow put right by taxing the evil rich bankers. There is, in this worldview, a pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow, usually located in a tax haven. But what these folk don’t seen to understand, or perhaps, don’t want to understand, is that taxing banks even more means lower savings rates, higher borrowing charges, worse service, lower investments. If we drive sources of capital away, as happened in the 1970s, then does this young activist really believe that will benefit the more vulnerable people in this country in the medium-term? I suspect he either does not care or imagines that somehow, something will turn up.

This mindset does not come out of thin air. The activist was trotting out the standard, dreary line about how all the things he imagines are good (and I regard as thoroughly bad), such as comprehensive state schooling, socialised medicine and Big Government, arose even when Britain was broke after WW2. Arguably, these developments ensured we stayed thoroughly broke, right up until the 1970s when the UK was, humiliatingly, bailed out by the IMF. As Mrs Thatcher said, in the end, socialists always run out of other people’s money.

A difficulty for any government is that once the drug of state dependency has been created, it is a long, hard road back to sanity. I don’t like this government, which is hardly close to my own classical liberal worldview, but some measure of credit is due here. A larger chunk of voters than is perhaps realised have no conception of self reliance, independence, or a desire for said.

Many voters have been clients of the state all their lives; changing that will be enormously difficult. Whole cities, such as in the north of the UK and pockets elsewhere, derive the bulk of their incomes from taxpayers in the more prosperous parts of the UK. Londoners are a fairly stoical lot, but we are getting a bit tired of folk coming to the capital, trashing it, and demanding that this evil den of capitalism should go on providing them with the lifestyle to which they think they are entitled. Maybe London should declare itself an independent state and we’ll see how well the rest of the UK can cope without this high finance. The Atlas Shrugged narrative continues.

Independence for London. Hmm, there have been worse slogans.

16 comments to Mark Steyn chose an interesting time to visit London

  • Johnathan, I have for long argued for independence for England from the UK. This would partially solve London’s problem at a partial stroke, for it would remove from England the endemic majority of StaliNazi seat in Westminster caused by the adduction of Scotland and Wales onto England. I’d let Scotland go and I’d “give it the oil” 9revenues). I’d tell Wales to go and I’d merely send it an invoice.

    If London wanted to leave England, then Manchester just down the road from me would make a fine capital city. The Socialist-Nazis currently running it could be dealt with my making it into one constituency, and the Councils would simply be disbanded and locked-down by me and Sean Gabb.

    Or Oxford at a push but it would need an international airport close by – I’d put it on Ot Moor – the four runways could be at least three miles long.

  • But if London went, be careful: you might get Boris Johnson as your PM.

  • Frank S

    An adult and a child being interviewed in that clip. We see childhood going on far too long in this country – one of Labour’s ‘gifts’ to us.

  • bloke in spain

    Listening to the clip, it’s clear that the left have generated a ‘narrative’ & we heard part of it Paul Brandon of the Right To Work campaign. It’s a work of fiction & rarely bares any relationship to reality but it’s very persuasive because to those who have difficulty with complex issues it reduces everything to simple blacks & whites
    Take Brandon’s version of the debt levels. He asserts that they are less than those in the immediate post war period. Littlewood’s response is factually perfectly correct but talk of trillions goes above an audience’s head. Trying to allocate a sum to every individual doesn’t help.
    To counter Brandon a counter narrative would be more productive. A simple one would be to equate the two debt levels & point out that the former was brought about by 6 years of total war & the latter by a Labour Government. That leaves Brandon with the task of quoting figures to refute the claim at which point the audience’s eyes glaze over.
    The point’s been made. It doesn’t even need to be particularly true but it’s memorable. Every subsequent attempt to refute it reopens the argument to an inconclusive result but reinforces the message.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Oh, Mr. Steyn! What have you said now to upset the locals?

  • I would love to meet one of these bankers who, if only they felt like it, could eliminate the entire UK national debt just by writing a cheque. I wonder if they hide in converted volcanoes in the Sea of Japan and spend their time stroking posh cats.

  • Endivio- good job they don’t, or the socialists would soon start running up another one, feeling vindicated.

  • Paul Marks

    I recently visited London – it (at least central London) is still a very intereting place,well worth a visit.

    It will certainly go downhill over the next few years – so now is the time to visit.

    As for the substance of the post…..

    Yes I agree.

    The measures being taken are minor (at best) – and yet the left opposes even these measures.

    So either the left are delutional – or they WANT bankruptcy, economic and social collapse.

    Or some leftists are delutional – and some actually want breakdown.

    David Davis:

    You have a point – Scotland does seem to have passed the point of new return politically, so perhaps it is time for them to go their own way.

    However, unlike yourself, I would not support England just declaring itself independent – Britain still means something to me, so I would leave the ball in Scotland’s court.

    No more extra seats in the House of Commons and no more extra money from the taxpayer – then if they want to leave the United Kingdom, that is up to them.

    If they come out with BS about “its Scotland’s oil” I am sure the Shetland Islands (and so on) would fast say “no it is OUR oil” and offer the oil companies a better tax deal.

    Even a low tax would go a long way divided between the people of the islands – if they did not have to share any money with the inhabitants of Glasgow (and so on).

    “But the oil come ashore in Aberdeen” – it need not do.

    Two questions remain.

    Ulster and Wales.

    Again – my view is that whether these places remain within the United Kingdom should be up to the people there themselves.

    No sell out of Ulster – and no pushing Wales away, if the Welsh people wish to remain British.

  • Paul Marks

    As for the minor measures.

    I very much doubt that TOTAL government spending will be less this year than last year.

    This will not do.

  • @Paul Marks
    The Shetland idea is one that I admit had not occurred to me: obvious really as most of the stuff is that far north. But my strategy in risking the triggering of a breakup of the UK, by England unilaterally declaring UDI from it, is to concentrate the minds of the various socialist N***s, who have got into the positions of running the bits on the edges while our backs were turned, on some reality. English taxation pays for most of what goes on in the “celtic fringe”, enabling the fellows there to lie about all day and get loadsafreestuff, while trading internationally in front of grandstanding pre-capitalist-barbarians in places like the EU and the UN, about supposed English culpability for their condition.

    Personally, I’ve had enough of that now, up to here, and the b*****s can go now, and then try to shift for themselves. I expect an immediate local popular backlash against this verdict on the S*******i politicians nominally in charge of these countries, when it becomes known to the people why I have cast their masters adrift so fully. It might even mean, after examination of their local accounts, that socialist caucuses will never be permitted to oppress the “Gaelic Peoples” ever again: this will be a necessary and, on its own, an insufficient start on the road towards the final abolition of the Socialist Meme. If memes can be deleterious to humans, then this is a cardinal one, ranking with but not ahead of greenophilia.

    Yes, I’d not sell out Ulster either, I think. I’d have to see what undertakings could be given about certain terrorists pretending to be MPs. They might need to be “put beyond use.”

  • Jonathan

    FWIW, I seem to remember that when the first referendum on Scottish independence was held in the ’70’s, something like 90% of Shetlanders voted to remain in the UK.

  • Cousin Dave

    That sounds a lot like what Quebec has been doing to the rest of Canada for the past three decades: they don’t really want independence, but by threatening it, they continue to get sweetheart deals and special privileges from Ottawa. It would be amusing to see California try that… at least 40 of the other 49 states would say “later, much”.

  • Laird

    “But what these folk don’t seen to understand, or perhaps, don’t want to understand, is that taxing banks even more means lower savings rates, higher borrowing charges, worse service, lower investments.”

    Of course they don’t want to understand that. Upton Sinclair got it right over a century ago (in “The Jungle”): “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

  • Well, EndivioR, there are plenty of people out there who think banks can “create money”, too.

  • Maybe Shetland can become a Charter City/Island…