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The Welfare State We're in Paperback – 15 May 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Politico's Publishing Ltd; 2nd Revised edition edition (15 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842751611
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842751619
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 323,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A splendid book. A devastating critique of the welfare state. A page-turner, yet also extensively sourced. I congratulate Mr Bartholomew. -- Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize-winning economist --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Author


The preface in the book tells the story of its beginnings. What it does not describe are the many obstacles that existed between the idea and the book reaching the shelves.

The individual who published my successful first book, literally screamed at me when, in 1993, he heard the idea for "The Welfare State We’re In". He was a socialist who was appalled. He shouted "You can’t really believe that!" It was almost as if the idea was sacriligious.

Various synopses were written and re-written. The publisher of my second book (which also was very successful) was approached. She, too, turned it down. It was pointed out to me that the head of her large company’s UK operations was a friend of the Blairs.

It soon became all too obvious that the publishing world in Britain is dominated by those who are either passionately or moderately Left-wing. Either way, they were offended by the idea behind "The Welfare State We’re In" which argues, of course, that the poor even more than the rich, have suffered because of the welfare state. In any case, it was thought that there would not be a big readership for the book. Time passed and I had to continue earning a living. My agent tried various publishers. The synopsis was re-written.

I sought out publishers who had published free-market-oriented books before. Synopses were sent. It was claimed that another journalist was already writing a book saying the same thing. (Nothing similar ever appeared.)

Meanwhile, as the months and years slipped away, a change was happening. The ideas which seemed almost wild to many people in 1993, began to seem less extraordinary even to those of the "centre". The failings of the NHS became better known. The idea that it was "the envy of the world" began to fall into disuse. I got close, or so it seemed, to being commissioned by first one small publisher, then another. Both fell through. (One of the publishers went bust.)

Then Charles Moore, editor of the Daily Telegraph at the time, agreed to recommend the book to his own publisher, a senior figure in the Penguin group. A synopsis was sent. A commission was not ruled out. But more information and research was wanted - with no guarantee that it would be commissioned, even then. Meanwhile the publisher Politico’s was approached. Iain Dale, then in charge of this small publishing house, was reluctant. I asked Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute and a friend of Iain Dale, to try to persuade Iain to see me and consider the idea. A meeting was arranged. I threw himself into trying to convince Iain and finally succeeded. But there would be no advance at all.

Considering the amount of research involved, the lack of an advance was a fairly serious matter. It was then that it occurred to me that perhaps I could get some sponsorship. It seemed an outlandish, unlikely and even greedy idea. But I came to realise that think tanks and political parties all rely on sponsorship. "The Welfare State We’re In" had the potential to influence the political debate in Britain and there were some wealthy people willing to help the author achieve that end. So a number of people kindly contributed to the cause, as described in the acknowledgements in the book.

The research and writing took far longer than I had expected (or budgetted for). Iain Dale became infuriated by the delays. Then, finally, the book was delivered and there came the worrying wait to see if Iain would like it. Thankfully he was full of praise. His lieutenant at the time, Sean Magee, was of a different political complexion, which made his approval even more significant. His treasured response was "It is well argued – as it had to be".

Even then there were obstacles. The original concept was for a book that was readable and approachable. Part of that meant pictures – and not just a ghetto of pictures in the middle but pictures integrated into the text. That meant a higher quality of paper must be used, a picture researcher must be hired and a designer would have to do a lot of work. All that cost money – and for a book which might sell only 1500 copies. The publisher was unlikely to wear it. But meanwhile John Blundell, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), had seen the first draft and become an enthusiastic supporter of the book. After various discusssions with Politico’s and the author, the trustees of the IEA agreed to "get behind" the book. They would buy 2,500 copies and send them to MPs, active members of the House of Lords, teachers of economics and supporters of the IEA. This bulk purchase put money into the hands of the publisher which was therefore able to put more into the production (and promotion) of the book.

Still, the contract said that the author was responsible for paying for the pictures - and the pictures included some which could be expensive, such as stills from a Cary Grant film and "Brief Encounter". So the hat went round for more support from friends and fellow believers. I also went out and took some photographs myself and tried, wherever possible, to get permission to use images without a charge. Those sympathetic to the book could help it along simply by not demanding payment for copyright.

There was, over the years in which it was written, much debate about the title. But nothing better than "The Welfare State We’re In" was discovered, so we went with that idea (Iain’s) even though I was not keen on the fact that it was derivative. The cover was a problem. The book deals with many fields of human life. But a cover showing a collage of images would be weak. Other concepts were thought of, tried and discarded. Eventually Sean Magee asked if any suitable image had come out of the picture research. Two possibilities were looked at: a cartoon about a doctor not being at his surgery but leaving an answering machine to see patients, and the second, the image of two youths hanging about on the street. The latter was chosen and much played about with. It is a strong image and one which suggests one of the central themes in the book: that Britain is a less civilised place than before and that this is because of the welfare state.

From idea to book was a long time : eleven years in all. But it was worth it to produce what I believe is a convincing explanation of what has gone wrong in Britain.

Not long before publication date, Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, was asked on my behalf to read it. Apparently he never endorses a book he has not read in full. But by late October 2004 he had kindly read it and he commented:

"A splendid book. It's a devastating critique of the welfare state. A page-turner, yet also extensively sourced. Demonstrates how attempts to achieve good
intentions have led to horrible results - increasing crime and violence, worsened conditions of the very poor, an extraordinary deterioration in the quality and character of British life. I congratulate Mr Bartholomew on how thoroughly he has marshalled the evidence and how effectively he has presented it."

For me personally, Friedman's praise makes the long journey I took to write this book extremely worthwhile. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Marta Clare on 16 Jan 2014
Format: Paperback
I read this book when it was first published. I found it quite difficult, as it did not just think the unthinkable, it actually said it. But the arguments made a lot of sense.
Is it not a fact, that institutions, when they start their life, are really necessary?They come about because they answer some pressing need in society. They promise great improvements in the lives of their supporters -- and initially they deliver. Then they become more and more powerful and at some point their power, far from being beneficial, becomes oppressive to the individual and damaging to society. This is what happened to the trade unions.

It is more difficult to evaluate the long term impact of the welfare state. How could anyone object to the wonderful idealism behind the creation of the welfare state? Yet, the tree is known by its fruit.

It took a great deal of courage for James Bartholomew to publish "The Welfare State we are in" in 2004. It was received with great enthusiasm by those who already thought that there was something not altogether wonderful about the kind of nation 60 years of the welfare state led to, and of course with derision by those who are hostile to any challenge to their cherished views.

The new edition is a paperback (I wish it was an e-book).
It has been brought up to date with another 10 years of experience of the ills plaguing our society. I wonder whether James Bartholomew's well documented analysis will bring him yet more readers who get a sense of relief when reading what they themselves do not dare to say and whether he is still going to get the customary attacks from the wilfully blind.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jonah on 27 Nov 2013
Format: Paperback
Bartholomew's book offers a telling and much needed exposure of how the modern welfare state has undermined the liberty and integrity of its citizens and created an evolving condition of servility and dependence. It is a must read for all those interested in reducing bureaucracy and enabling liberty and responsibility
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Boswell on 8 Nov 2013
Format: Paperback
This book is not what other reviewers have labelled it. That is to say, it is not at all a treatise on the need for charities to assume the functions presently carried out by government, nor is it an attempt at class warfare.

Mr. Bartholomew does not, it seems to me, want to harm the poor or their interests; quite the opposite in fact. His book attempts to show the inadequacies of the welfare state; the problems that it has caused society as a whole and particularly those who find themselves, through necessity, most subject to it; and, finally, to debunk the notion, which has entered the realm of received opinion, that the welfare state is and has been nothing other than a force for good in Britain.

The tone of the work is neither condescending nor idealist, but rests firmly in the domain of realism. It is refreshing in its objectivity and relies on a lightness of style that makes what is ordinarily a dreary subject stand out from the page.

Though hinting at possible solutions, this book does not set out any firm means of progressive change. Therein lies its weakness. Overall, it is a well-evidenced, balanced, and erudite work characterised by a humanist's touch and a satirist's wit.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Martin Durkin on 10 Jan 2014
Format: Paperback
Without question the most important book on the welfare state, but much more than this, one of the most important political/social/historical works of the last half century. Bartholomew describes, like no-one before him, how the welfare state has shaped modern Britain (for the worse) and indeed how it has damaged Western society as a whole in the past 50-60 years, in ways you can't imagine. Like nothing else I've read, the book shows, beyond any possible doubt, how the real victims of welfare are the very people it's meant to help. A devastating book, meticulously researched, brilliantly argued. I defy any supporter of the welfare state to respond in kind. I have bought many copies of this book to give to others. I would urge you all to read the thing, or remain in your black, stinking pit of ignorance and sin. I mean it.
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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful By David's on 11 July 2006
Format: Paperback
I bought this book along with Dalrympole's Life at the Bottom, and Magnet's The Dream and the Nightmare: the legacy of the nineteen sixties. Together they provided a necessary antedote to the tiresome, Marxist/feminist drivel passed off as rational social science in my university course. As with Dalrympole's view, Bartholomew argues convincingly that the welfare state has not only impoverished peoples' lives but controlled them. I am not sure if society would be better off without some form of state welfare, it certainly would benefit with reduced 'nanny state' levels that it has reached today. The 1946 National Insurance Act which enacted the Beveridge Report of 1942 was able to survive as it did thanks in large part to the UK's slice of Marshall Aid. The economic boom of the 1950s ensured full employment and a strong economic growth and industrial output. By the time the economic bubble finally burst in 1976, thanks to the oil crisis, the welfare state had become an uncontrollable monster, and was simply economically unsustainable. Thatcher tried to downsize it but expendature on welfare rose throughout her terms of office and beyond. Welfare has become so ingrained in society that talk of immigration is linked to their right to welfare rather than employment. Bartholomew injects must needed common sense into the debate on welfare. It's no surprise that the university material makes no referrence to his book, then again, the ideology of the course writers reflects the controlling ideology underpinning the welfare state that Bartholomew opposes. Another book I commend is Unlocking Carol's Smile (Trafford Publishing) which, although a novel, is a common sense approach to homeless issues. The writer draws on his experience working in the field to bring the characters and their conflicts to life.Read more ›
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