In City Journal Dalrymple provides a detailed analysis of England’s budget crisis: the position in which the government finds itself, how it got there, and the difficulties and Catch-22s of finding a way out.
The biggest demonstration against the government’s proposals was on March 26. A quarter of a million people took to the streets—in solidarity with themselves. Many were teachers protesting the proposed cuts in education spending. Yet after a compulsory education lasting 11 years and costing, on average, $100,000 per pupil, about a fifth of British students who do not attend college after high school are barely able to read and write, according to a recent study from Sheffield University. Considering the disastrous personal consequences of being illiterate in a modern society, this is a gargantuan scandal, amounting to large-scale theft by the educational authorities. No anarchist ever smashed a window because of this scandal, however; and so it is impossible to resist the conclusion that the demonstration was in defense of unearned salaries, not (as alleged) of actual services worth defending.….So it is not surprising that the Guardian, which one could almost call the public-sector workers’ mouthpiece, has reported that hospital emergency departments are already feeling the budgetary pressure and risk being overwhelmed, even before the cuts have been implemented in full. Meanwhile, one can still find plenty of bureaucratic jobs advertised in the Health Service Journal, the publication for nonmedical employees of the NHS. One hospital seeks an Associate Director of Equality, Diversity, and Human Rights; another is looking for an interim Deputy Director of Operations and Transformation. Part of the “transformation” in that case seems to be a reduction in the hospital’s budget, and it is instructive that the person who will be second in command of that reduction will be paid between $1,000 and $1,300 per day.…We seem caught in an eternal cycle, in which a period of government overspending and intervention leads to economic crisis and hence to a period of austerity, which, once it is over, is replaced by a new period of government overspending and intervention, promoted by politicians, half-charlatan and half-self-deluded, who promise the electorate the sun, moon, and stars.….As soon as the crisis is over, though this may not be for some time, the politicians are likely again to offer the public security and excitement, wealth and leisure, education and distraction, capital accumulation without the need to save, health and safety, happiness and antidepressants, and all the other desiderata of human existence. The public will believe the politicians because—to adapt slightly the great dictum of Louis Pasteur—impossible political promises are believed only by the prepared mind. And our minds have been prepared for a long time, since the time of the Fabians at least.