No, I don\’t think so

We are sometimes told that Britain remains a fundamentally social ­democratic country.

I\’ve said it before and will no doubt have to say it again. I simply don\’t think that Britain is fundamentally a social democratic society. It might be possible to persuade me that the Celtic fringes are, but not I think England.

We simply don\’t have, as a social or cultural bedrock of the society, that belief that the men with clipboards know what they\’re doing or have our interests in their hearts. That belief being the necessary underpinning of the sort of deference to government that makes social democracy work.

I really don\’t think it\’s a surprise that the lessons of public choice economics are more readily heeded in the so called \”Anglo-Saxon\” economies. For I think that to a large extent they\’re just the formalisation of what the culture itself already believes, in a way that isn\’t true in places like Germany or the Nordics.

It is of course hugely dangerous to start talking about \”race memories\” and the like: doing so brings accusations of BNP style stupidity in 3…2…1…

Similarly, Whig style history, it\’s all been getting better and better until we ended up in the enlightened times (which can be variously placed to suit prejudice) can be rightly derided.

But a huge amount of English social and cultural history has been kicking against the pricks who purport to rule us. In a manner very unlike a lot of other places. If you like (and this edges eerily close to that race memory rubbish) it could be characterised as the Anglo Saxon fighting back against the imposition of Norman rule over the centuries. It wasn\’t until, oooh, say, the 1850s, 1880s, that men of property (but not of course those of none or women of course) had the same say in who ruled them, how, and what the law was that their forefathers had enjoyed pre 1066.

Yes, of course that is laughably silly, pretentious and broad brush. But if you look at the Parliaments of other places, Iceland say, or other Nordics, the power struggle simply hasn\’t been the same. To a much greater extent than we were, they were ruling themselves over those centuries.

So the handing of power to the State is less of an issue: it\’s \”us\” dealing with common problems while handing power to \”us\” while in England there\’s a great deal more of it being \”us\” handing back power to \”them\”. The them we\’ve just spent a millenia wresting power from.

OK, OK, take off the rose tinted historical glasses. But I still don\’t think that England is a naturally social democratic country. Mutualist, communitarian in parts, even voluntarily socialist at times: but not willing to agree that government is the solution, for government has been the enemy for most of our history.

8 thoughts on “No, I don\’t think so”

  1. Certainly an interesting question! I also have the feeling that England may have in common with the US that personal responsibility has an intrinsic value. In Germany, the High Court just ruled that the dole amounts are too low and amount to an attack on a person’s “Menschenwurde”. ( Interestingly enough I can’t really come up with an English translation for Menschenwurde on the fly. I would look at Human rights but that implies responsibilities which Wurde does not. )
    In any event raising the dole amount will lead another 500,000 people or so to leave their jobs as the amount paid for doing nothing climbs over the amount for working and most Germans would see this in a positive light. Somehow I think Americans and the English would, in general, react differently and I think this reaction is a result of the feeling that most people should be responsible for themselves and government payouts should only be used as a safety net and not a life plan.

  2. Most of the Scandinavian countries have a very high proportion of employment/labour force so I’m not sure that’s got much to do with it.

  3. So, yet another reason not to vote for Dave. Get rid of the one-eyed Scottish git and replace him with yet more Scottish rule? I don’t think so!

    Home rule for England! (Especially to include an English Monarch!)

  4. “Yes, of course that is laughably silly, pretentious and broad brush.” You forgot woefully inaccurate and risibly sentimental, I suspect.

  5. Iceland is a small port and even now has population about the size of Croydon`s nit gained its independence from Denmark quite recently . What other Nordic did you have in mind when you mentioned their history of self rule , Sweden had an absolute Monarchy until the Napoleonic Wars and it was conjoined with Norway afterwards and I think Norway was ruled by Denmark
    When did all this ruling themselves happen then ? Looks like Kings and despots to me , incidentally the ferocious capitalist trading culture that established their wealth and went up to modern times , the war basically ?

    What does that tell us ?

  6. Dictionary-owning Passer-by

    Menschenwurde = human dignity. It may be a woolly concept, but it’s not a difficult word to translate. And it’s not the High Court, it’s the Federal Constitutional Court.

  7. Tim,

    As much as it pains me to say it, I have to agree with Newmania and Dearieme.

    Re Norway, it was rules by Denmark until about the time of the Congress of Vienna, when it was transferred to Sweden, then ruled by Bernadotte, a Napoleonic import. If memory serves, the Norwegians gained their independence about 1905. I would also suggest that your analysis of pre-Norman history might be a bit rose-tinted.

    You write, ‘a huge amount of English social and cultural history has been kicking against the pricks who purport to rule us’; well, aye, yes and no. Perhaps a slightly more correct rendition might be it’s been one set of ruling wallies kicking against another set of ruling wallies – the ‘Glorious Revolution’ was a very upper-class affair, for example. ‘We’ have often had little to do with it; and when we have tried to influence matters, such as during the Robert Kett uprising. the Peasants Revolt, the Pilgrimage of Grace, or at Peterloo, we’re slammed down pretty hard. I read a shocking statistic last week in a book about Prussia called ‘Iron Kingdom’, by Christopher Clark – under the ‘bloody code’, we out-executed those horribly militaristic Prussians by a factor of sixteen to one; and if you were to ask a Chartist what he thought of public choice, he’d probably tell you.

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