Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson


Book Review No. 15 is The New Serfdom: The Triumph of Conservative Ideas and How to Defeat Them.  I acquired that in Oxford, on my recent overseas excursion.  The title suggests original thought; but then, The Road to Serfdom was a polemic, and authors Angela Eagle and Imran Ahmed are Labour Party stalwarts, so perhaps I should not be disappointed that the riposte to the New Serfdom is the same-old, same-old.  Or perhaps I was jaded, after watching the state-run broadcasting company report on misdiagnoses by the National Health Service affecting prostate cancer and multiple sclerosis whilst over there (on the positive side, while I was there it appeared that both Commons and Lords had stirrings of what we would understand Stateside as Article I powers) to read through New Serfdom to find the National Health Service upheld as a shining example of Collective Action For All.  But I held off on writing this review until after recent root canal treatments.

What, then, is the road from serfdom, apart from ticking the Labour boxes on election day?  That, too, strikes me as anticlimactic.  Because Prime Minister Thatcher questioned the reification of society, the authors, unsurprisingly, assert "there is such a thing as society."  There are membership subscriptions therein: they call them taxes.  (I'm partial to the formulation, "taxes are the price we pay for our failure to civilize society;" I am prepared to be reasoned out of that position; Eagle and Ahmed haven't done so.)  They conclude, calling for a healthy, ethical society.  While common institutions undoubtedly confer evolutionary advantage upon adherents, the Scandinavian nostrums they (in common with some Stateside politicians) would like to emulate might not extend or scale to polities that are not so obviously extended families the way Iceland, for instance, is.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Tags: british, current events, politics

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