Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Not as bad as I expected

That was my take on Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain shown last night on BBC 2.

When I heard that Marr, was producing a series of programmes on the history of Britain, I was, to say the least, a little concerned. Marr is a BBC stalwart of course, and therefore inflicted by the hive mentality that permeates the BBC and his bias clearly slipped through on more than one occasion - not least with his glowing tributes to Maynard Keynes - but at least he mentioned that Britain was the largest beneficiary of Marshall Plan aid than any other nation - a fact often overlooked.

He didn't go onto mention that the vast majority of that aid was squandered by the Attlee government as they set about nationalising much of our industry and set up the welfare state - including the "jewel in the crown" NHS.

That annoys me, as the only thing that ever made the NHS affordable was Marshall Plan cash and that the use of that aid money was put to much better use in other European nations who set about rebuilding their ruined infrastructure, modernising their industrial base and putting economic structures in place for long term stability - most notably in Germany who, in a few short years and from a much lower starting position, had overtaken Britain as an economic force.

The immediate post war years are the most overlooked aspect of 20th century British history with far too much emphasis put on how the welfare state - particularly the NHS - was created with little consideration for how it was funded. The truth is that it was no more affordable then as it is now.


Anonymous said...

The main drawback with the NHS and indeed all of the post war welfarism, was not just the lack of foresight re future funding, but the introduction of the British public to the concept of the 'free lunch'. Thereby encouraging a once basically honest, responsible, and proud nation, to a 'rights demanding' bunch of apathetic free loaders and scroungers.

As a result, that which was created with the the best possible motive and the highest of intentions, has been reduced to a freeloaders paradise, and all that was once valued, has been reduced to a shadow of the original intention by the over-use and abuse of those who have never had to fight for the essentials of a civilised life.

Such is the way of socialism.

Coupled with a series of the most inept leaderships of any postwar government in the latter half of the twentieth century, such a decline has been inevitable.

Even the French manage to pragmatise their version of socialism so that it works in some worthwhile degree, while our dogma laden class warriors continue to fight ninteenth century battles.

Stan said...

The motives behind the creation of the welfare were, as you note, very worthwhile. It's worth pointing out that the "socialists" of that time were, essentially, still very much conservative.

The fact that it only took a generation for the welfare state to become a "freeloaders paradise" is something that I attribute to what I call "value recognition". By that, I mean that people attribute a value to everything they have or have access to and no one values things they get (or perceive as getting) for nothing.

The French pragmatism is,in fact,no more affordable than ours when it comes to socialism. They are heading for a pensions crisis that makes ours look insignificant in comparison. The simple truth - for France, Britain and every other nation is that you have to live within your budget and you have to budget within your means.

Anonymous said...

I doubt very much that Attlee, Bevin, Bevan and Morrison would appreciate the label of 'conservative', in whatever context you care to use that term.

Admittedly they were of a very different hue from today's socialists, who are probably better described as 'statist', but their quiet and more civilised demeanour did not make them 'conservative'. They still viewed politics in terms of the so-called, 'class warfare'.

That they did not have the intelligence or intellect to manage the victory, which they eventually won when the welfare state was created, says much of the socialist ethos of the 'group, or committee', with no-one wishing to take the responsibility for decisions, finding some sort of safety 'within the group'.

Present day socialists seek the limelight, but have found other ways of avoiding responsibility for their errors, notably blaming their predecessors, or by simply denying that any error has occurred. - ('The NHS has never been in better shape' - Beckett, April 2007.)

Without intelligent, dynamic leaders, any project will decline, as we have seen, to our cost, over the past fifty years.

Stan said...

Well, you're quite right that those old Labour socialists wouldn't have liked being labelled as conservative, but in the modern context they make your average Tory front bencher look positively Marxist - but I was careful to use conservative with the small c.

Good point about "intelligent and dynamic" leaders, btw - something which there is a scarcity of these days.