Vigorous polemic on the makeup of England’s ruling elite, with eerie parallels to the inequality in the United States.
Guardian columnist Jones (Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, 2012) embarks on another scathing examination of British systemic ailments by directly challenging the powerful interest groups that essentially rule the country. Politicians, financial titans, media barons, and an authoritative police force form the pillars of society, and since the 1950s, when Britain collectively shook off the “defeatism” and “permissiveness” of the postwar era in order to embrace an “open economy,” these pillars have turned increasingly reactionary. Where once the aristocracy and Church of England formed the Establishment (both still hold enormous tracts of land, the author notes), the “outriders” who championed the return to laissez faire economics at the Mont Pelerin Society of 1947 (Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman et al.) got their deliverance with the accession of Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s. They forged a new Establishment, founded on free market principles and libertarian philosophy. In the U.S. under Ronald Reagan, that philosophy was reflected in the attempt to roll back FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society programs. Jones looks at the role of conservative think tanks, such as the powerful Institute of Economic Affairs, in launching an all-out offensive on the working class, the trade unions, and the “little people.” This offensive often goes hand in hand with a 24-hour news cycle that popularizes their ideas to the public. In successive chapters, the author tackles one pillar after the other: the “Westminster Cartel”; a dishonest, corporate-fed media playing into racism and other prejudices (e.g., the Rupert Murdoch press); the “boys in blue,” who are authorized to use unlawful force; and tax dodgers and financiers operating with impunity. The supreme irony, Jones emphasizes, is that these “free-market” pillars actually derive their power from the “largesse of the state.”
An invigorating book with much fodder for thought on this side of the Atlantic.