AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Berman
When I was an undergraduate, I was fascinated by the final decades of the Roman Empire. How had the citizens of the empire perceived the process of dissolution? It came in fits and starts, and at any point the populace could console themselves with a false sense of stability. “At least the worst is over,” many likely said to themselves at various periods of the long decline.
I have had cause to reflect on that attitude, having spent the end of 2022 in London. For decades London has been, and arguably continues to be, the city of choice for the global elite. It is a mixture of accessible pedestrian living, shopping, and nightlife, combined with the presence of many commercial powerhouses.
However, London in 2022 is not the city it was in 2012, the year of the Olympic games, or even 2016. For one thing, the city is cold. Many acquaintances are being forced to huddle at home under multiple layers, as consequence of heating prices that have increased four-fold in two years. Escaping to pubs is no answer, as most can’t afford to turn on the heat either.
Once revered for its public transit, getting anywhere in the city is now a crap shoot, with bus and train services on regular strike. Anyone trying to leave the country risks being unable to return, as the border force that manages customs is also striking.
The government has taken to warning Britons to avoid risky activities this winter: ice skating may be fun, but injuries are extra hazardous when the ambulance services are on strike. Even if you can reach a hospital, there is no guarantee of treatment when nurses are also striking.
Then there is the crime. The police are, thankfully, not on strike, but they may as well be. A combination of underfunding and increasingly restrictive policies have led them to abandon enforcement of property crime, something reinforced by the decision of government-employed defense barristers (lawyers) to strike. As a result, the courts have allowed many of those charged and awaiting trial to wander freely. Much as in New York, “law enforcement” is becoming a joke, the punchline being that the “enforcement” part makes it an oxymoron.
Comparisons have been drawn with the 1978 “Winter of Discontent,” when a wave of strikes brought down the Labour government of James Callaghan and ushered Margaret Thatcher into office. There are elements of the Conservative Party that would love to exploit the comparison by going to war with the unions. But having achieved the confrontation they sought, they seem to lack any idea of what to do with it, much less how to turn it to their advantage.
Margaret Thatcher played a clever game of divide and conquer, confronting one sector at a time. Most importantly, Margaret Thatcher also held out a carrot as well as a stick. She did not demand that the coal miners accept less to perform the same work for a greater number of hours. Rather, she argued that the government should cease subsidizing them for performing economically inefficient tasks, when both they, and the country would be better off doing other things. Thatcher was not fundamentally threatened by coal miners closing pits, because she ultimately wanted them closed as well. The only threat arose when the miners attempted to disrupt other economic activities, and there it was relatively simple to justify the use of force to protect the right of other workers to do their jobs.
By contrast, the Conservative government of Rishi Sunak is not willing to downsize the striking services. For all the talk of reducing the number of civil servants in the abstract, the government complains about shortages of teachers, nurses, and transport workers. The government needs them to do their jobs, but insists it cannot pay them, or cannot match their pay to inflation. It is the striking workers, therefore, who hold greater leverage over the government in this new Winter of Discontent.
For all her failings, the short-lived government of Liz Truss seemed to understand that you could not demand sacrifices without offering something in return. Truss recognized the dangers posed by the interplay of inflation, the vast sums spent by Boris Johnson (with now-PM Rishi Sunak as Chancellor) during the pandemic, and any efforts to control wages or giving into demands. With inflation over 10%, public sector workers could be forgiven for seeing a 2% rise in wages as a pay cut.
Sunak, by contrast, insists flatly and unapologetically that there is no money. His policies have combined tax increases with cuts in spending. Solidarity, in his view, is established when everyone suffers together.
The results have certainly brought people together. The rich and middle classes are as inconvenienced by the collapse of transport and higher taxes as the poor and working classes are by austerity. The UK already had the worst economic performance in the G7 for 2022, and it managed to underperform even these pessimistic projections in the third quarter. It is hard to imagine the strike-ravaged figures for the fourth quarter not being even worse.
What would perhaps be most shocking to visiting Americans is how readily the British seem to have accepted this state of being. Some of Liz Truss’s advisers suggested that the British had learned to become comfortable with “managed decline” and that institutions at all levels would resist any attempt to leave their comfort zone. The behavior of the Conservative Party in removing Liz Truss for bad poll ratings, only to unanimously install Sunak, whose poll ratings have barely improved, seems to vindicate that.
This is not to say the British people are happy, or even that Sunak is. Sunak seems out of touch, even bored with the job. He has seemed petulant when asked to discipline the behavior of his ministers, and his political instincts have been called into question, when, as the richest member of Parliament, he chose to make a major issue of the Labour Party’s proposal to tax private schools.
Whatever Sunak’s issues, MPs show few signs of removing him. What else would they do? The sense of despair is palpable. Whereas Americans unhappy with government tend to make their displeasure known, as they did over COVID-19 shutdowns and school closures, British MPs seem despondent. Removing Truss seems to have exhausted the final shreds of the Conservative Party’s tradition of ruthless self-preservation. Apart from a few MPs on the right pining for Boris Johnson to return, the rest seem to have resigned themselves to the impossibility of doing better.
The same despondency seems to be on display in reaction to the collapse of services. I have encountered no end of griping from acquaintances of all ideologies and social classes, but the one unifying belief is that no one could do much better. There is a broad consensus it would be hard to do worse than Sunak’s Conservatives, and that is what is driving the party’s 20-something percentage poll rankings. But for everyone else, it is already accepted as normal that you only heat rooms when you absolutely need to, that you spend as much time at home as possible under the covers, and that you keep your phone hidden when in public lest it be grabbed.
There are some vague aspirations for the future. But most involve emigration. I am constantly told by friends or even strangers I run into that they hope “to someday move to the United States.” Parents of students I work with are entirely focused on admission to American universities. Hope exists in finding ways to get out of Britain, if not for oneself, then for one’s children. That extends to professionals in their late 20s and early 30s, who lament a sense of abandonment by friends who have moved across the Atlantic.
The idea that “someone” should “do something” is largely limited to the unions, who in many ways are merely repeating the words and phrases of their predecessors from the 1920s almost as religious ceremony rather than a concerted strategy.
The only groups which have shown a sense of vitality in British life are the ethnic minorities. Not the Welsh, whose devolved government and national movement is comatose, nor the Scots, who echo the unions in reciting the words and phrases of their glorious defeat in the 2014 independence referendum, unwilling to engage with the eight years that have transpired since. No—when it came to opposition to sexual education in primary schools, it was largely Islamic immigrant communities who rallied, only to be denounced as threats to public order. The willingness of Muslim parents to protest such lessons, was, in a touch of irony, seen by the establishment as proof they were “un-British.”
From a geopolitical standpoint, the British Empire has been declining for a century. But in nearly a decade of living there, I never felt the degree of despondency among the population I have experienced during my visit this winter.
A nation can survive economic crisis and defeat in war, but it cannot survive its own population losing faith. As Churchill once said, “Nations that go down fighting rise again, but those who surrender tamely are finished.” The British Conservative Party now seems content to surrender tamely to entropy, the unions to see what they can extract on the way down, the Labour opposition to merely wait to inherit office, and the public to hope to escape to somewhere better and preferably warmer. Liz Truss’s vision may have had problems, its execution was without a doubt flawed, and Boris Johnson too was far from a savior. But they, at least, had something to unite people. In this new Winter of Discontent, the best anyone in Britain hopes for is for things to get only marginally worse.
Daniel Berman is a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He also writes as Daniel Roman.
As the pitiful collective west declines as its leaders still happily bathe in the blood of millions of helpless middle east citizens. It seems that everything went swimmingly when the western powers started wars against one small country after another but the west got in over their head when they decided to continually push the Russian bear with their insistence on the sprawl of the military industrial complex wet dream called NATO and their eventual proclamation that Ukraine would be the next member of that odious organization. Well, Russia isnt a land of uneducated, ignorant goat herders and stood up in defense of their land only to watch in amazement as the European west began sanctions………on themselves. Nope, no more Russian energy for them and the result? They either pay 5X the price of Russian energy by buying from the US (who initiated the conflict), or………cut back and do without. Heck, who needs heat or food right?
Its awesome to see the murderous west get their comeuppance. I cannot wait until the US Dollar loses its reserve currency status and we all get to see what happens to a country with a currency backed by NOTHING.
The west brought all this on themselves, its a kind of Karma for 80 years of evil aimed at the world outside the collective west.
What a cheery fellow. Has Putin given you orders to step up the propaganda campaign or face the prospect of accidently falling out the window like a few of his close associates did recently? You do realize most people here do know you’re just a Russian troll right? Anyway, in the spirit of the holidays, have a happy new year in 2023.
Agree with you PaulE
Fortunately Casey C Matt, the majority of Americans have hope and are willing to fight for a better future. Your world looks very similar to communism where all hope is lost which has infiltrated America with the socialist/democrats. America’s past is coming to light as the truth will be undeniable. The future of American politics is about to change and may once again become that shining light on a hill that nations will look to for strength.
What about the billons of dollars given to other countries by the USA, and the fact that when a country is hit with a natural disaster the United States is first on the scene with aid? How many countries would help rebuild their enemy after a war? The USA is the defender of freedom around the world but that doesn’t mean that things always work out the way it’s planned. A lot of folks would miss the USA if it were gone, well at least miss our money.
I guess you never heard about the billons of dollars given to other countries by the USA, and the fact that when a country is hit with a natural disaster the United States is first on the scene with aid? How many countries would help rebuild their enemy after a war? The USA is the defender of freedom around the world but that doesn’t mean that things always work out the way it’s planned. A lot of folks would miss the USA if it were gone, well at least our money.
Patriots, Unless we protest in mass America as a democtacy is doomed.
we need leadership to rally the masses. Pray to God that they will come forth to lead us.
I will march till I drop . I need YOU to march with me.
Your grand kids will live with the boot of Communisium on their necks.
Socialism is like fire. Wherever its lit the arsonists assume they will be able to control it. But fire has a will of its own and quickly spreads. It is now consuming the west, including us. We’re headed the same direction englands in. Just a matter of time now.
Maybe let California become it’s own country?
That’s the curse of embracing socialism- you may wind up living under it. Pay attention, America!
It appears Britain has hit the point of “Run(ing) out of other people’s money”. Just a heads up to Brits wanting to emigrate to the USA. If you are nonwhite, come on. If you are white the best advice would be go to Mexico and walk across the border. If the Border patrol asks your name, answer “Jose Jimanez” or something.
The British could try coming via Canada, a much larger boarder for them to cross (or swim across one of the great lakes).
Go a bit further west than Minnesota and you will find a nice dry border to walk or drive across.
The nationalization of some industries didn’t help. You’re screwed when the number of people working in private businesses and the numbers working for a government and on the dole is the same. We may be headed there. A government means any government, federal, state, county, city, town, borough, or township.
We are headed in that direction. Federal intrusion into student loans, Obamacare, transportation, government over-regulation of energy, subsidized food production, public education, local building codes (beyond safety measures), down to what is or is not acceptable by your homeowners’ association…we can see who’s in control here. The more control “they” wield, the fewer freedoms we enjoy. Revolutions happen when that imbalance becomes too much to bear, with The People banding together in protest. That’s a good reason why conservatives fight so hard to keep government out of our lives.
While Medicare and Social Security help ~60 million Seniors, we are held captive yet again. They decide which procedures and prescriptions are covered and which are not. My insurance supplement just increased 40%.
When the money runs out to keep the government monster happy, this is what happens! Didn’t Thatcher warn everyone of this? America is on the same path so what happens when it all collapses cuz they can’t feed the greed of government? The dictators come in and everyone becomes a slave to the state? I remember when Obama tried to sell Americans on the idea that we should all get used to doing with less while he and his cronies took resources for themselves! Yeah, Marx is rolling in his grave overjoyed that his vision is becoming a reality!
When obama campaigned on his “change” theme, he actually meant we would only have change (coins) left in out pockets.
We will see how the dip ship Dems like their new country in less than a decade. Misery for all.
Sunak is what I would describe as your typical status quo career politician. He looks the part. He speaks in “political speak” quite well, which is to say he says a lot of words that mean literally nothing. He may indeed know what the right policy actions might be to course correct the British economy, but he neither has the will nor the courage to implement anything that will work. He kind of reminds me of the Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell type politicians we have here in the United States on the Republican side. So-called conservatives that are actually little more than Democrats with a (R) after their name. Which means he will ultimetly do as little as possible and just hope to ride out his term in office as PM without the bottom completely falling out of the British economy.
Truss at least had mouthed some of the right words in her brief term in office, but then she under-cut herself by trying to appeal to both the conservatives and the socialists. Trying to be part Thatcher and part Tony Blair. That of course won’t work, as capitalism and socialism are incompatible economic ideologies. So Truss quickly found herself out of a job.
My view is that Great Britain will continue on its downward trajectory given either the inability of their leadership to make the right decisions or the desire to do so. By the way, Great Britain is by no means unique in terms of its steady decline as a country. I’ve seen pretty much the same thing from most of the leaders of Europe over the last decade. The rate of decline is accelerating as the burdens of ever more handouts and subsidies increases and consumes more and more of the nation’s GDP. Social welfare states, which is what almost all of Europe has been since the mid 1970s, are ultimately designed to implode in on themselves.
I understand why the American media chooses to focus on Great Britain. It is easy and readily relatable. No language issues for the American press to contend with. Yet most European countries are in the same boat as Great Britain at this point. Certainly both France and Germany are barely treading water at this point and they both continue to shoot themselves in the foot with their adherence to adopt green energy policies with reckless abandon.
As for the United States, I see Team Biden and the Democrats racing to catch up to where most of Europe finds itself today. Mired in economic stagnation, crippling national debt, and declining standards of living. All while claiming everything will be fine and there is nothing to worry about, as they normalize an almost 50 percent increase in government spending as “the new normal”. Going from a $4.4 trillion dollar federal budget in year end 2019 to now a standardized $6.3 trillion dollar federal budget with the just passed omnibus bill and $1 trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. At this accelerated rate of spending and deficits, we will catch us up in no time. I say we should achieve relative parity with most of western Europe by the end of 2024 or 2025.
Hey PaulE, do your write for the AMAC magazine? If not, they should hire you. You are clear and concise and very readable, and thought provoking, similar to their magazine. Thanks for putting in your thoughts on these articles.
Fully agree. Are you listening, AMAC?
Excellent analysis, PaulE. What’s happening here and in any declining society can be compared to the frog-in-hot-water process. Bit by bit, socialists (democrats) are taking over, instituting programs to “help” the citizens. Not much protest yet; the frog’s water is warming up slowly so he survives…for now. Those policies give definition to the word ‘insidious’. Before you know it, federal agencies have taken control of all aspects of our lives, and we’re stewed.
Too bad Britain didn’t give Truss even a year to make a difference. If the U.S. had the ability to change presidents as Britain does with their Prime Ministers, Donald Trump would have been booted out almost as quickly.
Yes, we have been the frog sitting in the slowly warming pot for about the last 30 to 40 years in earnest. A very gradual, yet constant warming of the water (gradual introduction of ever more socialsist policies with each passing year, nudging us steadily leftward). If you’re not familiar with the Overton Window, I would suggest you look it up. That is essentially what the left has been doing with the United States for decades. Gradually changing what the accepted definition and perspective of what “normal and acceptable” is as they nudge the country steadily leftward.
I agree Truss should have been given more time, but she would have also had to realize that she would need to fully commit to a Thatcher-like doctrine to be actually successful. Trying to balance on the head of a pin, by trying to please both fiscal conservatives and spend happy socialists left her with no real support in either camp.
As for Trump or even Reagan, we should thank the Founding Fathers every day for NOT giving us a parlimentary form of government. The parlimentary system is so deeply flawed that it essentially empowers the smallest, most radical political groups to hold inordinate sway over the larger political groups. In Europe, groups like the greens, the socialist democrats, the so-called “Peoples or Workers Parties” (usually all composed of communists) are able to prevent the advancement of pro-growth agendas in these coalition parties. The typical coalition governments that exist under that system are essentially crippled from Day One when they are formed as a result. Making any sort of large positive changes almost impossible. They do however make maintaining what are essentially do nothing status quo governments of ever larger more intrusive governments a reality.
Liked your first para although I would possibly put that the warming began in the last 50-60 years but what is a minor difference since I concur with your comment overall.
And old sleepy Joe Biden would not have lasted a month. And hopefully, Trump would have been back in the White House. Fortunately, Trump had a chance to institute some winning policies, the American people who had doubts about him had a chance to change their minds and now, even a lot of the diehard Dems are aware of just how devastating Biden’s and Obama’s policies are and how much damage can be done by a small cabal of freedom-haters and anti-Americans in a very short time. Oh! And let us not forget how useless affirmative-action hires (Kamala, Mayor Pete et al) can be.
“AWAITING FOR APPROVAL” once again. Why, AMAC, why?
They generally seem to dislike certain truths spoken in a clear and unambiguous manner. The response they have given me tallking about algorithms is blatant nonsense. Screening algorithms only do what they are programmed to do. Which means someone had to program their site filters to screen out terms largely used exclusively in conservative economic and political terms.
Biden’s open border, IMHO, is acquiescence to the New World Order. The problems London is having with the uptick in crime is the result of the EU erasure of European borders and although Britain has left the EU, the damage has already been done. When I was in London in 2001, I was shocked at the number of Muslims in the country. The only reason things aren’t as bad here as they are in London is because the US is so big. We are seeing it in blue cities, and it will encroach on surrounding areas. Our problem is Biden has 2 more years. He is too demented to know what is going on, but his handlers including Obama, no doubt, will continue the decimation of our Republic
The EU the US and the rest of the world will follow.
Except China. They will become the New World Power.
The WEF with Klaus Schwab and the elites are the new World Leaders. Their plan is working. By 2030 you will own nothing and you will be happy.
My money is on India, they have smartened up while China is making blunder after blunder — and it doesn’t appear they have learned from them.
It probably won’t be overnight and will probably take decades, but Xi’s push back toward communism (i.e. totalitarianism) won’t end well. The problem with that style of government is that you can’t afford to admit mistakes. At the same time, putting all the decision making in the hands of the few makes *major* mistakes inevitable (see Gilder’s book “Money and Power”). It gets worse as people figure out that the higher ups don’t want to hear bad news and start/continue hiding it from them. That makes more mistakes inevitable. China was on a good track and would have been top dog had Xi not come along, now they’re looking more and more like Japan, an “also ran”. They will never be inconsequential, but they won’t be top dog unless they reverse course quickly.
coming to a city near you very soon.
Winter gonna hit EU too