Monday 11 August 2003

Book people

Yesterday afternoon my wife and I paid our first visit to the Edinburgh Book Festival and went to a talk given by Radio 4's Nick Clarke and Linda Colley, the historian. The topic was British National Identity. Both speakers gave interesting presentations and afterwards signed copies of their books. Clarke thought that the class system was alive and well in Britain, largely because we did not face the trauma of defeat in either World War. He also condemned the "celebrity culture". Of course, we libertarians use class analysis to examine how individuals use the state to exploit others. The greatest period in our history occurred when businessmen asked for the state to get out of the way rather than to provide special benefits for some. As Linda Colley wrote in her book:
But at a deeper level, these private organisations also bore witness to dissatisfaction with the more formal institutions of the state, to a growing belief that they were too hidebound and too exclusive to carry out all the changes that traders wanted.
She was writing about the 1760's. Eventually we achieved free trade and prosperity followed. I was saddened therefore to hear Colley say that she had no idea why so many British people were concerned about the EU's Social Chapter. The emerging Euro-state has also become "too hidebound and too exclusive." Why can't Linda Colley see that?

(Incidentally, I noticed that the programme showed the 1130 slot being filled by (1) a Dinosaur Workshop and (2) Roy Hattersley. Couldn't these have been combined as "Old Labour"?)