Mr. Colvile opens his polemic with this paragraph. Yet note the last sentence’s attempt at Oxbridger ‘humor’ of a kind?
It’s often said that the British civil service is incapable of acting at speed. That is horrendously unfair. When their summer holidays are on the line, its staff can act very quickly indeed. The last week of the parliamentary term before the summer recess is traditionally time for Whitehall to shovel out all the things it’s been sitting on, so that everyone can bunk off till September. But the past few days have taken that to the extreme. We’ve had big announcements, reports and/or speeches on green trade, innovation, regulation, prisons and justice, consumer protection, digital competition and NHS pay. We’ve had the new plan on the Northern Ireland protocol. We were going to have the social care plan, too, until Sajid Javid got the ’rona.
I offer a collection of revelatory, if selective quotation:
That tendency will be strengthened by a philosophy that runs through so much of what this government does: what is best described as a vaunting faith in the power of the state to remedy the ills of both society and the economy.
The new industrial interventionism, too, is informed by a conviction that government can successfully perform microsurgery on the economy. The state’s job is not just to set tax rates but also to identify favoured sectors; to use grants and tax breaks to nudge firms in a judicious direction.
In other words, the default assumption is that civil servants are better placed to rule on the economy’s day-to-day needs — and indeed individual companies’ needs — than the people who actually do the work.
It was Ronald Reagan who said that the most terrifying words in the English language were: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help”. But one of the more striking aspects of the great transmogrification of conservatism in recent years is that this strain of healthy scepticism appears on the verge of extinction — replaced by a conviction that the government that governs best, governs most.
This reader had encountered anti-government politicking long before Mr. Colvile’s birth. From Mrs. Thatcher herself ,and the utterly vacuous Capitalist Magpie Reagan, in all his political incarnations: from the Free Speech Movement in 1964, to the ‘Welfare Queens Driving Cadillac’s’ of ’76 and ’80. Reagan’s well worn political cliché , tag line, was ‘Government is the Problem’.
Note that another American, Walter Lippmann, was not just an advocate for Technocrats, like Mr. Colvile, and his Think Tank cohort, but an outspoken advocate of the ‘Expert’ as a check against ‘too much democracy’. This book provides further insights into Walter Lippmann’s connection to Neo-Liberalism, along with Lippmann, both Friedrich Hayek Ludwig von Mises were in attendance.
The Walter Lippmann Colloquium: The Birth of Neo-Liberalism