How to Destroy a Nation - undermine its foundations
What is a Nation?
A Nation is a human institution, and a “Good” nation is one that works for the vast majority of its citizens.
Because it is a human institution, comprising many communities, organisations and societies it is important that they blend together in ways that ensure that the whole nation is based on harmony between its many complex facets..
Manifestations of damage
- Degradation of the political system. Inability of different factions to agree on basic ideologies
- Lack of effective services to support the whole community
- Hugely varied social and economic outcomes, ranging from gross poverty at one extreme to great wealth at the other. The fact that groups and individuals from extremes are unable to mix and communicate freely owing to physical separation and housing disparities means that UK society lacks an overall “WE” factor that is a part of the binding of society
- Poor overall economic and social performance compared with comparator nations
Foundations of A Healthy Nation
Every nation, as a complex human institution, needs to be supported by common services that ensure the wellbeing of its members. It is important that there should be agreement on the basic definition on the need for and the character of such essential foundations.
At a very basic level there are several ways of considering how these services might be provided:
- Leaving them to individuals to look after themselves. A good example comes from premier Margaret Thatcher, who was also a passionate supporter of the Free Market as a solution to most social problems
“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!’ ‘I am homeless, the Government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.”
- Have the State provide everything, leaving little or no discretion to individuals or other institutions. There are examples of this coming from the Soviet Union, Republic of China and other centralised bureaucracies. The problem with this is a lack of humanity and gross inefficiency
- A Mixed Model, in which there is room for Regional and local initiatives, with some crucial national provision of services that ensure common standards. The provision of health services is one such example.
Enter the Free Market. Here is an extreme version:
“Our society is infected by a disease we call "free market ideology". Whatever the problem might be - climate change, poverty, educational reform - free markets are promoted as an answer. We are told that markets are the greatest anti-poverty program, that if we just leave things alone, companies will lift up the poor. Don't worry, we are told, innovation will solve global warming if only we give entrepreneurs the right incentives”
The State of The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom, which consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is a complex mix of different societies. But they suffer from a number of common issues. Taken as a whole, they are in the throes of a range of dysfunctional economic and social issues.
England is suffering from a deep malaise that infects the social and economic fabric of the country. Economically, it a very poor performer, lagging behind European comparators. Investment in industry and commerce ids very low, a majority of the manufacturing sector has been sold off to foreign competitors, productivity is very low and pay has been generally stagnant for decades – except of course for top earners and those in the finance sector. The whole economy is hugely dependent on consumer spending. This is now threatened by poverty and the cost of living.
The state of the poorer quartile of the community is verging on destitution. The growth of food banks to serve those who cannot afford food and such basics as domestic heating is reaching record levels. The National Health Service, still a star in a fading firmament, is suffering from serious staff shortages and underinvestment.
In fact, the very foundations of an advanced nation are crumbling.
Here are Some:
- Housing. Margaret Thatcher gave council house tenants the right to buy their publicly owned homes. Since then, most were sold by their new owners and local authorities failed to replace them, and the stock of affordable housing has plummeted. Now, more than a million people are living in expensive substandard accommodation, causing severe stress and deprivation
- Gross inequality and Poverty. More than a quarter of the UK population are living at or close to the breadline. Food Banks, which support many from actual starvation are booming. Many are not able to afford food, rents and other basics of a civilised life
- Pay and earnings. A relatively new phenomenon in Britain is the ”working poor”. Many people are employed on temporary contracts with no semblance of security and low pay.
- Education. Privately financed schools produce young people who mainly go to a few elite universities – and then on to employment in the law and finance industries. At the bottom end of the scale, young people are hardly prepared to live healthy lives in the community and have very low employment expectations and opportunities.
- Health and Wellbeing. The British National Health Service has been a beacon of hope, much admired across the world. But, owing to programmes of “austerity” pursued by successive Conservative governments, it is suffering from severe staff shortages and diminishing capacity. In parallel the privately funded health system has been enjoying something of a boom. The result is hue waiting list s for essential surgery.
- In Parallel, the quality of Social Security and facilities for long term disabled and elderly people has been grossly inadequate and is getting worse
- Supporting the Community. Taxation of the wealthy, is grossly inadequate. The growth of hiding wealth “offshore”and elaborate tax avoidance schemes by individuals and institutions has become a national disgrace. Successive governments have colluded with tax avoidance and the growth of large international Financial institutions which have used their powers to “advise” government on the design of taxation has been marked
- The London financial markets have failed the nation, by specialising in elaborate and complex money making schemes that are biased towards the rich. In effect, the “City” financial markets speculate in using money to make more money rather than supporting investment on industry and commerce. Thus, British levels of investment are hugely lower than European comparitors. Also;the gambling industry has grown unchecked, and adds to the damage caused by the financial markets.
- The British Broadcasting Corporation is internationally renowned as a beacon of unbiased reporting and an unparalled range of material from exceptional fiction and drama to factual investigative reviews of political and economic events. Unfortunately its funding is being reviewed, as the Corporation is disliked by right wing politicians
- The System of criminal Law is breaking down, owing to a shortage of barristers to prosecute and defend criminal cases. In some cases the delays in court hearings extend to years. There is a dire shortage of new barristers entering the profession, and barristers have recently gone on strike as a result of inadequate rewards.
Inadequate Oversight of Public Utilities.
The performance of Utilities such as water Supply and Treatment, Power generation and domestic electricity and gas, transport, particularly railways, has enabled suppliers to make excessive profits for poor services. The roles of government must be seriously reviewed as the wellbeing of a large segment of the population approaches social and economic disaster
Deep beliefs as a Foundation.
The Values and Beliefs that underpin a nation are probably the most important foundation of all. Probably most important in their effect are:
- A deep belief in the Market and the power of Competition as the creators of wealth and prosperity for all
- A fundamental belief in Collaboration between the different elements in society and a drive towards shared prosperity
It is fair to say that England and the United States represent Market-driven Societies and the Scandinavian countries as represented by Sweden and Denmark societies based more on the Value of Collaboration. Big political decisions in Sweden are made by collaboration between Central government, local government, Trades Unions and Capital.
Competition – Who will win?
Overall, Britain, particularly England is markedly riven by disparities between the increasing number of citizens who can not afford the basics of a good life, and a smaller number who have the wealth to enjoy the many benefits of a beautiful country with a rich history. This can be contrasted with the Scandinavian countries , which have cultures and institutions that provide support to the majority of citizens. Their watchword is “WE” rather than “US and THEM”.