I have just finished reading “Ill fares the Land”, written by Tony Judt. It is the Penguin paperback (ISBN 978-0718191412) obtained through the computer reservation system at my local Idea Store (library, in English).
It is the work of a dying man (now gone) and it was odd to see the old arguments of “progressive” thought being presented as real conservatism. For quite a while now the progressive, social democratic ideals which grew up in response to the inequalities of the first age of globalisation, the Great War (WW1) and subsequent economic oppression have been denigrated as stale and discredited. Neo-liberal economic thinking rules and the idea of a morally guided politics seems naive in the age of Blair and Cameron.
Judt wants a return to properly state-run natural monopolies (rather than the privatised nonsenses which are our rail and domestic energy “markets”). But, even more, he wants the return of anger, passion and conscience to our political thinking and an active citizenry keeping our value-free politicians on track. it is almost a left-wing version of a “Moral Rearmament” (under-60’s can Google it) tract.
The strange thing about Mrs. Thatcher was that her rhetoric did not match her actions. Contrary to myth, she did not cut hard into public services. Her governments balanced the books by surfing the wave of money provided by North Sea Oil. But what she had managed was to change the tone of discussion. It was Major and Blair who felt the need to privatise everything in sight and implemented the most ludicrous PPI/PFI initiatives.
And now even Politicians talk about “getting politicians out of” things like setting interest rates, running schools etc.. Let us trust the technocrats and spreadsheets, the think-tanks and the social “scientists'” research.
Mr. Judt reminds us that these things ARE political and we need to bring our minds and passions to bear on them.