Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop Clothing clo_fly_aw15_NA_shoes Shop All Shop All Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Shop Fire TV Shop now Shop Fire HD 6 Shop Kindle Paperwhite Shop now Shop Now Shop now
Customer Review

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An important message, undermined by overstatement and flippancy, 3 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Going South: Why Britain will have a Third World Economy by 2014 (Paperback)
The wheels came off the British economy in 2007, but that wasn't the beginning of the end for Britain, according to Elliott and Atkinson. The decline started a lot earlier than that - 1914 to be precise.

At the start of WW1 Britain was the world's only superpower, the world's leading exporter, and a major military power. A century later, we've experienced a relative decline as our national prestige has waned and other countries have caught up and overtaken us. We've had no particular strategy as a country, we have allowed a series of imbalances to develop, and there's no obvious way out of it. The economy is "slow-growing, unproductive, unequal, unbalanced and living beyond its means" say the authors. If we don't fix it, the future looks "shabbier, meaner and poorer".

This central premise is pretty much correct in my opinion, and a rather urgent message considering how complacent we appear to be. Unfortunately, the book itself leaves a lot to be desired.

Going South divides roughly into thirds, and only the middle third of it is actually any good. It begins by lamenting Britain's new `third world' status, a hundred pages of whining about how things aren't how they used to be. There are some good points here, but some of it is just downright silly.

The middle pages are the useful bit, where the authors look at the post-WW1 history of Britain's economy. This is a good overview, showing the strategies and government initiatives to stimulate the economy. Taking us up to the present, the book then looks at a series of problems that Britain faces in the coming years, and it is here that it is at its best. It includes the balance of trade, the pensions deficit, energy security, household debt and banking instability. It's convincing, and lives up to the chapter title of `the great reckoning'.

Then comes part three, where there is a tentative look at what we could do about it. The authors suggest Britain can go in one of two directions: a social democracy like Sweden, or a `freeport' capitalist model that would basically turn the whole country into an export processing zone. They then describe how Britain might look under each of these development paths. The former is a fairly attractive portrait, the latter a crass caricature that's more extreme than any other capitalist project yet conceived anywhere in the world. Why they think these are the only two options, I don't know. It's clear that they think Britain should pursue the Scandinavian model. They should just say so, rather than attempting to make the point with a false alternative.

My biggest problem however, comes back to the opening section and the argument that Britain is becoming a `third world country'. The authors recognise that the `third world' tag is used "routinely in pub and kitchen table conversation in response to railway strikes, political sleaze, to the council's failure to empty the rubbish bins." They insist that they "are not using the expression in that way", but then repeatedly do, referring to "Britain's banana republic transport system", or the police tactics of "third world Britain."

This just doesn't stand up to scrutiny, but once they've started they can't stop. Everything becomes evidence of Britain's new third world status. The list includes our politicians' search for a `big idea', bureaucracy, tax breaks for business, and an overcomplicated public service. Then it gets worse - the fact that we have a `tourist strategy', the National Lottery, or the desire to host the Olympic Games. Or consider this: "the large numbers of people employed to stand on pavements handing out leaflets, cheap telephone cards and free newspapers, or attempting to sign up customers for various services, is a sure sign of incipient third world status."

The Sky News subscription team in the mall make Britain a third world country? Seriously?

I know plenty of people like this sort of thing, but the tone of tabloid indignation undermines the very serious points made elsewhere the book. And that's a shame, because there's an important message amidst all the bluster.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in


Tracked by 2 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Jan 2013 08:47:09 GMT
B. Murphy says:
Good review, reflects my view of the book so far (I'm about 1/3 of the way through).

There is a lot of hyperbole here - I get the feeling that following the successful demolition of the Blair economy in the previous two books "Fantasy Island" and "Gods that Failed", vindicated by the financial crash, that this one smacks of hubris and just overreaches in many areas.

I think I can spot Dan Atkinson's influence here in the whining about immigration and public servants and bits of ludicrous rose-tinted nostalgia that riddle the opening 4 chapters or so.

I think so far "bluster" sums it up well.

Posted on 13 Jun 2013 19:20:27 BDT
Jay Nembhard says:
I wasn't sure I was going to buy this book until I read your review. I too found the "third world Britain" statement to be extreme. I'm British but I currently live in a third world country and I can tell you that the difference between here and England is like light and day. As a result I thought I'd give it a miss until you mentioned that there is a good message in the midst of the the bombast.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Aug 2013 15:23:06 BDT
I grew up in a third world country too, and tend to think that people who describe Britain as third world need to spend some time there.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›