In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Ministry of Love promoted nothing but hatred and the Ministry of Truth spread nothing but lies. Although totalitarianism of the kind described and analyzed by Orwell has all but disappeared from the face of the earth, give or take a country or two, totalitarianism of another, softer kind is marching its slow way through the institutions. In the name of diversity and tolerance, it enforces uniformity and bigotry: and there is no vice as insidious as that which, in the search for power, takes itself for virtue.
In England, this degeneration has gone further than almost anywhere else in the western world. In the northern town of Rotherham recently a perfectly decent couple who fostered children in need of care and attention had their foster-children removed from them because they were members of UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party, which was deemed by the local council, controlled by the Labour Party, to be racist. There were no allegations that they couple had maltreated any children; indeed, to all appearances they were exemplary foster parents (of children of non-British background, incidentally). Their only “crime” was to hold the “wrong” opinions.
What were these opinions, so terrible that no child should be exposed to them, or even to the mere risk of being exposed to them? Actually, it was highly unlikely that the couple ever spoke to the children about politics, and certainly never proved or even alleged that they did. Their opinions were thus like the miasma that for millennia was believed to be the cause of epidemics, they exerted a subtle and disastrous influence without anybody being able to explain exactly how. We are not very far here, either, from the witchcraft craze.
One can hear in one’s mind’s ear the kind of justification that led to the decision to remove the foster-children from them. The fact that the children were thriving under their care was, of course, of no account: for which child knows what is good for it? It is possible for children to thrive for the wrong reasons. And, while the foster-parents may not have tried to influence the children directly with their opinions, we all know that attitudes, especially racist attitudes, can communicate themselves by subtle rather than by overt means, implicitly rather than explicitly. So again, the fact that, outwardly, the foster-parents did nothing wrong is completely beside the point. Their unsuitability as foster-parents was essential, that is to say of their essence, not of their merely phenomenal, or rather epiphenomenal, appearance. Rotherham council no doubt has its own Malleus malefecorum for sniffing out such essences.
The opinions to which Rotherham’s incipient political police objected were the following: UKIP wants the United Kingdom to recover its national sovereignty by withdrawing altogether from the European Union, and also wants much firmer restrictions on immigration. It is far from certain that the majority of the population does not agree with it on both counts; but in effect, the decision of Rotherham Council is indicative of a will to place both questions beyond the range of permissible political discussion, at least if you want a license to do anything (and increasingly, such licenses are needed). You can have any opinion you like, so long as it is ours.
As it happens, the two political issues are very important. The British political class (including, but not exclusively, Mrs Thatcher) gave away British sovereignty without consulting the British population and even without much in the way of public discussion, the matter being considered too technical for the imperfect capacities of the average, or even the above average, man. This is as if the Congress unilaterally, without discussion, voted to abrogate the Constitution. UKIP is thus a serious, one might almost say revolutionary, challenge to the undisturbed predominance of the present British political class—no doubt to replace it by another such class, if the revolution succeeded.
The second issue is likewise important; and the fact that the issue obsesses genuine racists should not divert us from its real importance. It certainly didn’t divert the Labour Party, which wanted to encourage mass immigration in order to change the psephological characteristics of the British population, which it found previously unsatisfactory.
An important question for the country is the following: why did it import a large number of foreign unskilled laborers while maintaining an almost equal number of the native population in a condition of state-subsidized unemployment? In other words, why mass immigration and mass unemployment at the same time?
The reasons are not straightforward and no doubt resistant to political change, at least not without very considerable courage and a willingness to accept conflict. The reasons go deep to the heart of the social policies followed by the political class, including Mrs Thatcher, for the past sixty or more years.
The first reason is that the foreign workers are better than the British. They have a better attitude to work than British workers, they are often better educated than British workers, and before long will even speak better English than the British workers. If I were an employer and knew only of two twenty-four year old applicants for an unskilled job that one was a product of the British educational system and the other was Polish, I would unhesitatingly opt for the Pole. This very fact raises very unsettling questions about the nature of what we have done to ourselves, via our political class, for many decades.
The second reason is that we have created a system in which, for people at the lower end of the economic scale, the difference between working and not working, at least from the purely economic point of view, is minimal. So while minimum wages are attractive to foreigners, they are unattractive to the British unemployed. You would not have to be Nostradamus to see potential for real political and social conflict here.
The third reason is the rigidity of the housing market, in part created by housing subsidies. Such subsidies are not easily transferable from one area to another, and so people in receipt of such a subsidy cannot (or rather have a negative incentive) to move to where the work is. Thus a labor shortage develops in one area of the country, and mass unemployment in another. One area is economically dynamic, another has the atmosphere of the Soviet Union under Brezhnev (except that there is a little more state-subsidized consumer choice, because the subsidies go ultimately to state-subsidized licensed traders such as supermarkets, betting shop chains, etc.). Thus everything is distorted and corrupted.
No wonder the political class does not want such matters to be even raised, why UKIP seems such a threat. It must therefore be declared beyond the pale, unclean, like a mediaeval leper.
In the meantime, children are indoctrinated in schools. On a litter bin near my house, into which people are supposed to place the wrappers of their almost continuous snacks, there is a child’s drawing with the legend “Keep your planet clean”: not, nota bene, “Keep your town clean,” which is a call to decent behavior, but “Keep your planet clean,” which is an appeal to an ideology which must not be questioned.
This column first appeared November 27, 2012 at Liberty Law blog sponsored by Liberty Fund and is reprinted with permission.