Saturday, 27 October 2012

Douglas Carswell - The End of Politics: A Review

“On the day the wall came down/The Ship of Fools had finally run aground…” Pink Floyd, A Great Day For Freedom (The Division Bell).

“Who can give them back their lives/And all those wasted years?/All those precious wasted years - Who will pay?” Rush, Heresy (Roll The Bones).

In the dying days of the last Labour government, Douglas Carswell MP invited his blog readers to suggest a subject for him to raise at Prime Minister’s Questions. To my pleasant surprise, he chose my question about ruling out UK participation in Greek bailouts. The PM fudged the answer, no doubt in the full knowledge that the political class would in due course contrive indirect UK participation whether the electorate liked it or not. Which just about said it all, so far as the attitude of Big Government towards the public at large is concerned.

It is therefore only right and proper that I return the favour with a review of “The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy”.

The first seven chapters cover “The End”. It is a fair portrayal of how and why our current political system is rotten to the core. To recall a phrase from the sixties, The Man in Whitehall still thinks he knows best. We are given many examples of how government grows by stealth, how it has to be seen to be doing something (think of projects like HS2, or NHSIT – beware of accidental transpositions with that one), and how it deliberately debauches the currency with quantitative easing and aims to inflate the ever growing debt away. Bad luck on savers and foreign travel lovers if your private pension turns out to be of Zimbabwean purchasing power and your holiday pound drops to parity with the Vietnamese Dong.

The political class are portrayed as knowing full well what they are doing, probably only wanting to be sure they see their time out before the consequences of their actions catch up. It is perhaps not surprising that one commentator has already suggested that in days gone by, someone from within who exposed the true nature of how we are overtaxed, overregulated, overgoverned, badly governed and governed by the wrong people (EU bureaucrats, the opinion forming elite etc) would probably have been burned at the stake.

So where are we to find hope? The second half, “The Birth”, suggests that the digital revolution will render the Big Government model obsolete, as choice displaces top down prescription. “A cultural revolution is coming that will unseat the constructivist elite”, it is suggested, where taxpayers decide to buy less prescribed government services, make more of their own decisions and keep more of their own money for this purpose, all aided by technology. Hmm. Without wishing to drift too deeply into a debate as to what state services are truly essential, we may wonder how much those taxpayers would voluntarily spend on some of the great functions of government that have emerged and then snowballed since the end of World War II. The health and safety industry? The discrimination industry? The financing of ambulance chasing claims handlers? The food and drink division of the nanny state?

It probably leads to a key issue not really addressed in the book, namely what if the political class refused to accept that the days of Big Government were over, that their system was wrecking not just wealth but lives too, and that they should give up and get out of the way, pausing only to start lowering taxes and deregulating. Would there be a soft landing or a crash, and how bad would any crash be? And would there be danger of a similar scenario from the two sets of rock lyrics with which I opened, whereby the initial euphoria at the collapse of East European communism quickly gave way to deep resentment at their former rulers after all those wasted years? Who would be burned at the stake (or even Ceausescued) then?

Hopefully the author’s conclusion, that our best days lie ahead and that we will be healthier, wealthier and happier in several generations’ time after Big Government has been laid to rest, will be borne out without too much of a crash. And perhaps the current Western political class would be spared the fate of many a former dictator, as long as they submitted to a course of Sackcloth, Ashes and Penance. Which provides me in conclusion with a neat way of promoting my own recent book, a political/legal suspense novel that probably has about as much underlying respect for the political class as The End Of Politics, expressed largely through the perception of an “ordinary person candidate” believing that the invitation to help clean up politics in the wake of the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal was meaningful and sincere…

Oh yes, before I forget. A resounding five stars for “The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy”.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review!
    Better than Charles Moore who wanted us to skip the first half .

    Pl get rid of the ridiculous non-robo test I fail every time .

    Man of Kent