Monday, 3 December 2012

Kelvin MacKenzie makes a good point – it's time to ask the rest of Britain to stand on its own two feet

There’s a splendid diatribe from Kelvin MacKenzie in the Telegraph today (here), in which he puts forward a proposal to declare the prosperous, hard-working South-East of England a separate country. Funnily enough, I started writing a post on this very subject last week, but got distracted.

Just as welfare – if too generous and made available for too long – tends to condemn potentially useful members of society to a life of idle, ennervated, truculent dependency by destroying any sense of personal responsibility, so (I’ve long suspected) convincing large swathes of Britain that they have a right to live off the taxes paid by hard-working southerners (while whining about what greedy bastards we all are down here) is morally destructive.

Mackenzie puts the case in a nutshell:
As a standalone entity, the people of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Sussex, Hampshire, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey and London are 18th in the global GDP league, just ahead of Indonesia and just behind Turkey. 
If you took this region out of the UK economy, it would be called Ethiopia.
(I’m pretty sure he means that what’s left would be called Ethiopia.)

Being an uptight, anal right-winger rather than a cool, laid-back liberal, I tend to get mini-panic attacks when contemplating basket-case cities like Glasgow and regions such as the North-East, whose sole raison d’être appears to be to bleed the productive parts of the country dry. Sky News carried a report yesterday pointing out that certain UK cities haven’t suffered double-dip recession since 2008 – namely London, Brighton, Aberdeen and Sunderland. While the first three avoided economic downturns by carrying on working hard and being clever, Sunderland – inevitably – has avoided recession only because of the industrial quantities of public sector cash that have been been poured into it.

What’s the point of Southerners working their socks off just so the citizens of Sunderland don’t have to figure out how to make their city economically viable without charity and the sort of tax breaks for business that amount to bribery? Why, exactly, are the rest of us supposed to go on feeling guilty about the likes of Liverpool – a city destroyed by the nauseating greed and bovine self-harming stupidity of its own unions and politicians?

Yes, many parts of the country suffered when they (inevitably) lost their massively-subsidised heavy industries in the 1980s. But that was 30 years ago – quite enough time, one would imagine, to realise that sitting around on their arses whining about Mrs Thatcher’s demonic cruelty and demanding ever-greater hand-outs is a recipe for misery.

MacKenzie sums it up with characteristic pithiness:
Why don’t they live within their means, or move down here and see what it’s like to be taxed until they weep? Frankly, we can no longer keep subsiding other people’s spending habits.
According certain races, regions and countries permanent victim status is one of the most ruinous habits of our age. I’ve written about the deleterious effects of having to spend so much time worrying about why blacks don’t do better in predominantly white societies - or in predominantly black societies, to be honest (read it here). There has to come a time when we decide that this endless angsting about race is counter-productive for the very group we’re all so determined to "help". Similarly, there has to come a time when we realise that constantly pouring South-Eastern taxes into Britain’s permanently under-performing regions and nations is simply putting off the time when those regions and nations have to figure out for themselves how to become economically viable. And there has to come a point when we stop feeling guilty about failed states like Somalia, Ethiopia and Afghanistan, pull up the drawbridge, and tell them to bloody well sort it out for themselves.

In “Binsey Polars”, a wonderful Hopkins poem in which he laments the deliberate destruction of a stand of “…aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled/Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun…”, he makes the point that often, when human beings seek to “improve” Nature, they destroy it: “…even where we mean/ To mend her we end her…” I have a horrible suspicious that the same is true of most of our well-intentioned attempts to “mend” people, regions and countries. Sometimes, it’s better to admit we can't force success on others, stop interfering, and leave them to try to figure it out for themselves.

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