Most helpful positive review
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Goes the extra step
on 11 March 2010
With his characteristic fluency and good sense, Eamonn Butler sets out the issues facing Great Britain two months ahead of the election which--whatever it does for our government--will at last bring the "rotten parliament" of 2005-2010 to an inglorious conclusion. Dr Butler writes from the perspective of the libertarian Adam Smith Institute, but he does so without knee-jerk attitudes or remedies.
Instead he goes through the big issues of what have come in the lifetime of the baby-boom generation to be the principal concerns of national policy: education, healthcare and welfare, pointing out that we would do better without the withering hand of central government upon these services. He reminds us that the State has undermined its legitimacy by taking on responsibilities which it cannot discharge and that in consequence frustrated politicians have become acutely victim to their deformation professionelle for mindless (and invariably ineffective) regulation. Thus the bully and surveillance state, which all too often fails in the State's original objective of keeping the peace. Possibly in despair, Dr Butler is silent on defence.
He reminds us that the perpetrators of the financial crisis were governments and the cheap money they pressed upon unqualified borrowers, and touches on the politicians' squalid campaign to avoid their responsibility for the mess they have created.
This takes us to the distinguishing character of the book, by comparison for example with the Policy Exchange's otherwise excellent "Renewal of Government" (in a bad night for London's policy-wonks, their launch parties coincided on the evening of 10 March!) Dr Butler wastes no paper, but finds space to take the extra step from defective policy, through the unintended consequences of political hyperactivity, to constitutional reform.
This is the elephant in the car park of British public life. Party leaders of every stripe are encouraging the electorate to sleep-walk toward the May election, as though the political class and the arrangements underpinning it were not utterly discredited. Perhaps they will pull it off. Dr Butler's book shows what they instead ought to be doing.