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Smashing the UK’s Statist Mindset

by | Jun 19, 2024

Smashing the UK’s Statist Mindset

by | Jun 19, 2024

political crisis or environmental concept: mud cracks with uk flag

Mainstream British political thought processes contain an epidemic of dreadful reasoning. Witness the average political interaction between “popular” British parliamentarians and voters, think through the reasoning of the topics discussed, and you will know exactly what is lacking. Unlike the remnants that remain on the American political scene, talk of philosophy and deeper economic beliefs are extinct. The United Kingdom is gripped by an election which acts as the perfect situation for our leaders to breakdown their deeper beliefs so that voters can truly understand whether they identify with them whilst effectively thinking through the reasoning behind their beliefs. This has not been the case in the UK for a long time; instead, voters are treated to non-tangible, ambiguous, and abstract babble about the imaginary sunlit uplands that will appear from renewed state intervention.

Bear witness to the commentary in this election and you will find no deliberation on why the state should take a larger role; certainly no discussion about if the state should have a role at all. The default position for British parliamentarians is to use the brash tools of the state to fix any, and every, issue. When you realize that all of this is objectively true, you learn something that will never leave you: our elites are not very impressive people. Absent a discussion on the necessity of state intervention, the United Kingdom will continue down the path of slow destruction and ruination.

The British population has spent the best part of a century demanding the state steps in to solve societal issues. Very little actual debate has been had as to whether the state should have such a role. The National Health Service has replaced religion in Britain, with any criticism levied at it seen as coming from a place of pure evil and hatred. This is despite it consistently underperforming relative to healthcare systems from around the world. Supporters may snipe back with rhetoric that the NHS has been grinded down by the Conservative Party, but even during Tony Blair’s premiership, it consistently underperformed relative to other countries despite record investment. The much hated £350 million investment figure on the side of the big red bus designated for the NHS during the Brexit campaign has been matched and exceeded, yet the NHS continues to underperform. At no stage of the discussion around how to make sure people have high quality healthcare has it been mentioned that perhaps continuous state intervention is not the answer.

The British pension system is nearing the end of the road due to our dizzying level of unfunded liabilities, yet the Conservative Party has made pledges to make our pension system more extensive. There is a complete lack of alert to the fact that the pension system is like a metaphorical Titanic; heading for disaster with very little knowledge of the impending ruin. Every discussion of reforms to the pension system involves some sort of state intervention to fix it even though it is the state intervening repeatedly that has drove us to this stage. The lack of libertarian voices has set a time in the next decade, or two, for some crucial and painful decisions about how we deal with the impending pension crisis. To name but three recent scandals: the Infected Blood Scandal, the Post Office Scandal and the Ministry of Defence Hack, all of which were objectively caused by some variant of state intervention but did not lead to questions like if the state should have a role or if the state, as an institution, will continually cause such scandals. No, just more state intervention to fix the issues.

Libertarian voices that critique the extensive role the state has taken in society have been nowhere near the national discourse for decades. The United Kingdom has reached a stage where the answer is always more state intervention. The NHS waiting lists are longer than they have ever been, so how can the government spend money to reduce the waiting lists? The pensions are completely impossible to fund, so how can the government properly fund them? This recurring response to societal ills combined with a total neglection of analysis as to why the state keeps failing has placed the UK where it is.

John F. Kennedy famously said “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,” but I think British libertarians should be bold and “Ask not what the state should do but what you can do for those you care about.” This is not just the moral thing to do since forcing others to take the burden that comes with achieving your desired ends is wholly immoral but the noble thing to do. Take a portion of direct responsibility for helping those within your community. Gone are the times when direct community charity was prevalent in most, if not all, areas of Britain when you could witness the outcome of your generosity. People expect the state to take that role but as libertarians know, the state has failed to achieve these goals whilst burdening us with the consequences of its inevitable failings. The failure of the state is plain to see but the average voter has been convinced that fault lays at the door of individuals in the sense that if only the angel they desire roamed the halls of power, we would finally get the sunlit uplands we have been promised.

The tax burden is the highest it has been in decades yet we have little to no growth, a not insignificant amount of people in poverty, and a debt timebomb that those with any power to defuse are shoving to the back of their minds. The United Kingdom’s course is completely unsustainable; there will come a time when there will be immense pain for millions of people in this country when the solution. There was always a solution, but the mainstream chose to ignore it, and chose to carry on with failed ideas of economics and political philosophy.

Perhaps endless government intervention is not the answer? Libertarian thinkers like Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Murray Rothbard thoroughly explain a lot of society’s ills whilst providing a workable alternative to return society to one that sought after prosperity instead of hiding from it. It should not be taboo to suggest that the state takes less of a role in society because all that means is that you as an individual, along with millions of other likeminded people, take responsibility for your own lives without dragging down the rest of us. That is not the reality in the United Kingdom. And until this changes, the UK will repeat the failures of the past and never learn from them.

Owen Ashworth

Owen Ashworth

Owen Ashworth is a British political commentator who studies cyber-security, economics, politics, and history. He writes for his Substack, Libertarian Living in the UK.

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