Tuesday, 28 June 2011

You can't avoid a hangover by carrying on drinking

Barroso and Rompuy: from 'managing decline' to 'accelerating destruction.'
This blog has often pondered on the question of how the Islamic world, once the most enlightened, scientifically advanced and wealthy civilisation on the planet, could have become a by-word (however lazy) for poverty, despotism, intolerance and all-round backwardness.

Think it can't happen here? Think again. Societal collapse is often such a protracted process that few even notice, let alone accept it, but the study of declines and falls - from Edward Gibbon to Niall Ferguson - are very clear on their cause; a combination of declining civic virtue and growing government interference.

Few now deny that the west is in decline relative to the new power and wealth of the east but some saw this - and a more absolute decay - sooner than others. In his 1918 Decline of the West, Oswald Spengler saw around him a society in which logic and reason had been sacrificed for an unattainable goal and, after the war, Evelyn Waugh bewailed what he felt was a coming 'dark age of the common man'.

Europe, as the oldest custodian of western civilisation, is naturally the most at risk and there is a mounting body of evidence which suggests we are well on the way, after 500 years of global dominance, to following our middle eastern neighbours. The present crisis over Greece and the euro is quite the most perfect illustration of this.

Already in Europe we have allowed a caste of largely unelected rulers to emerge at the pinnacle of a system that is willing to sacrifice absolutely everything - democracy, the rule of law, even a whole nation's livelihood - at the altar of an idea that, at every available opportunity, people overwhelmingly vote against.

Not that there is much reason behind domestic economic policies, either. At a time when the United Kingdom owes a crippling £4.8 trillion in debt, for example, the government has committed itself to twice as much spending in two eurozone bailouts than it has saved through cuts to public services. At the same time, it has led the country into yet another costly desert war in Libya.

And yet even this insanity is not quite enough for some people. Public sector employees are now striking because they believe themselves to be so special that their gold-plated pensions ought to be excluded from changes taking place in the private sector - at great public expense, of course.

And only a month ago - as damning revelations were made about the future cost of elderly care - Ed Miliband criticised the government for its attempts to reduce the deficit by warning that his children's generation risks becoming one which will not become richer than its parents' and would 'bear the burden' of the government's decisions - presumable intimating that more government spending was the solution.

Well, they're bearing a burden, alright. A great deal of fuss has been made lately about the amount of money young people will have to borrow if they choose to go to university but this completely ignores the fact that every child born in Britain today already owes £17,000 before its first day of life which - when the hangover finally does come - will have to be paid through astronomically higher taxes and even more greatly reduced public services.

And Mr Miliband's colleague, Tristam Hunt, compared - almost to the point of comedy - the government's spending cuts to the misery of the Victorian workhouse. But what he and Miliband seem completely unable to comprehend is that their addiction to more and more and more public spending as the solution to all ills is the single most likely thing to return our society to that nightmare scenario - a future in which the state is so bankrupt, so owing in debt, that it is forced to discard all provision for the poor, leaving them once more to fend for themselves.

It's an old adage, certainly where I live, that the best way to avoid a hangover is to keep on drinking. But any sensible person knows this not to be the case - each drop makes the inevitable pain even worse one it arrives and, if you do manage to avoid it, it's because you're dead.

Given that the present cuts, though painful, will not even pay off a penny of our £4.8 trillion debt and the government has decided to borrow an extra £485bn, it's worth keeping this in mind.

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