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The Welfare State We're In Hardcover – 1 Apr 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Politico's Publishing Ltd; First Edition edition (1 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842750631
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842750636
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.4 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 698,682 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

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.

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