|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
On Monday evening I watched The Grand Experiment, a documentary in a series on Great Thinkers: In Their Own Words - their words to, and on, the BBC: which institution, we are reminded, was a grand experiment in itself. I spent the rest of the evening and too much of the small hours watching BBC News 24 on the riots, the night Croydon burned.
The Grand Experiment was, of course, the postwar Keynes-Beveridge full-employment welfare state. Supported by the main parties of left and right, by the end of the sixties it was coming under attack from both flanks: you can see Tariq Ali calling for the abolition of money and the power of the soviets, and Milton Friedman calling for the ascendance of monetarism and the freedom of the markets, and in the middle some floundering mouthpiece of the consensus, such as poor old Lord Balogh marching into the lions' den of Chicago to defend the Labour Government.
It seems obvious now that the postwar settlement had reached its limits by 1979. But I sometimes wonder if a more rational left than I was part of could have carried it forward, rather than helped to bring it down.
I blame the parents, and the parents were us.