The Welfare State We're In Hardcover – 1 Apr 2004
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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
HOW THE WELFARE STATE WERE IN CAME ABOUT
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 Were In". He was a socialist who was appalled. He shouted "You cant 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 companys 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 Were 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 Politicos 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 Were 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 Politicos 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 Were In" was discovered, so we went with that idea (Iains) 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.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Since the author makes the case that it is the development of central government that has resulted in the decline of Britain, the book could equally have been titled, 'The Socialist State We're In'(Mr Cameron might call it the 'Big Society').Clement Atlee, one of the major figures featured in this book, used to advise people to adhere to the ethics of Christianity but ditch the 'mumbo-jumbo'. After fifty years of state socialism it looks as if it's the socialism that's the mumbo-jumbo.
Mr Bartholomew's book can be read after every general election and it still has a lot to say.
Crucially the author describes how, by the Sixties, the Tory party had largely agreed with Labour that big government was good government.Also he narrates that at this time the Labour party redefined poverty in order to keep themselves in business (for if poverty were really ended there would be no need for socialism).
I was born at the South London Women's Hospital. View the Wikipedia entry to see an example of the healthcare and it's origins that existed before the NHS. It was an NHS regional body that closed this perfectly good hospital in the Eighties - yet another example of the effect the NHS has had on hospitals that is described in Mr.Bartholomew's work.
The bigger the society, the larger the state; the larger the state, the bigger the need to micro-manage every person's life by central government. This is really the sub-text of Mr Bartholomew's book.
The welfare state as formulated by Aneurin Bevan was designed to sweep away the healthcare arrangements that existed previously; arrangements that gave individuals great personal freedom and mitigated against the extension of state power and the establishment of central government(really a few singular persons who have decided that they are so good that you cannot be trusted to live in the manner you think right, but must allow them to direct your life in every detail - for the 'greater good').
The welfare state came hypocritically clad. It pretended to allay the fears of want and penury, yet only played to those fears in order to smuggle in the State as a Trojan Horse. And as Mr Bartholomew describes, the State - central government - never likes the people over whom it rules: there's always something wrong with them that needs the state's 'correction'. Central Government always wants to take the speck out of your eye while leaving a log in its own.
One thing remains - how to cure ourselves of our addiction to being 'looked after' by the State.
What makes this book particularly interesting is that the modern welfare state is put into historical perspective, as the author himself points out: few people today are familiar with what came before the post-WWII welfare state. Also good is the comparison of the performance of our modern welfare state with other European nations which have traditionally been considered more socialist than Britain, but which it turns out have far more mixed systems than pure state-run Britain.
This book might not be liked by those with grand ideological pretensions as the language is purely pragmatic rather than abstract.
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