Newsnotes 031 – September 1992

Notes on the News

by Madawc Williams

An Englishman’s Home is his Bastille

Both on the left and the right, people talk about private property and the free market as if they were synonymous. But this isn’t true at all. Small scale production and widespread individual ownership needs a strong state committed to keeping a wide distribution of property. Leave it all to market forces, and small scale producers will keep on being broken by random free- market fluctuations. Small business people who believed the New Right fairy-tales of the Thatch^ – years are now going out of business ai . A unprecedented rate.

Other victims are home buyers. The Labour party ’ s well-mean t curbs on rented property decimated the private rented market. Council housing was supposed to fill the gap – but far too much of this was built in the style of “Neo-Vandalism”, disgusting to look at but not noticeably utilitarian, long lasting or convenient. Intellectual arrogance by Labour’s ‘elite’, a rejection of the traditional terraced housing that had actually worked quite well, created a great disaster and gave public housing a bad name.

Thatcher’s answer was to try turning everything over to the private sector. Councils were forced to sell to tenants. Some made a mint: others found that what they had bought was worthless because of bad building methods. In any case, with cheap rented accommodation taken off the market, prices soared. Building societies dropped the standard and sensible rule that no one should borrow more than two and an half times their income – the sky became the limit. But a dogmatic objection to credit controls has also meant that interest rates have had to go sky high, much higher than in most similar economies. Prices have fallen, people are trapped by huge debts, and the whole thing is an even worse mess than before.


Political Jokes

Bush is now trying to call himself ‘the comeback kid’. What he deserves to be called is ‘ the go away and don’t come back kid’.

The most amazing thing about Bush is the way he can find himself not responsible for things that are obviously his fault. He has power over one-third of the constitutional framework. He needs to work with Congress to bring down America’s huge budget deficit. Instead he promises tax cuts, which will make things even worse. He holds that he is not to blame, because the Democrat-controlled Congress will not accept his ideas for fixing things. These ideas consist largely of swindling the poor and middle-income groups out of their established share of America’s social wealth. The really rich have grabbed almost all of the increased wealth that was created in the Reagan and Bush era, and rewarded the rest of society with an economic crisis. But Bush wants more of the same.

Rather, he wants to go on saying it’s not his fault, rather than risking unpopularity. The US constitution ensures that the President and Congress either work together or stalemate each other. No one seriously expects Congress to go Republican in the near future, so Bush is really asking for another four years of doing nothing and holding others responsible.

He should be given a new theme tune. Not Don’t worry, be happy (which was taken without the permission of the man who popularised it). What Bush should have is the old Tom Jones song I’m not responsible.

Amazingly, Bush may yet win. Middle- income groups may vote for lower taxes, ignoring the fact that they have been swindled out of their fair share of the social wealth during the Reagan and Bush years. I wouldn’t be heartbroken if this happens. America is in decline whatever the politicians do, but Bush will offer a quicker road to ruin.

Eight or ten years ago, the USSR looked so strong as to be almost unbeatable.


Disneyland and Fools Gold

It is said that no one ever went bankrupt by overestimating the vulgarity of the American public. Bush may yet prove the truth of this old saying. But Europe is another matter. The coldly calculated tweeness of Mickey Mouse is not appealing to the French. And other Europeans are discovering that it can actually be cheaper to have a holiday at the original Disneyland than at the “European” one.

Meanwhile the BBC made a cynical calculated ploy with Eldorado – and also got it wrong. There isn’t actually that much demand for a soft-core pom soap opera: videos cater very nicely to all such tastes. Even the name was a folly. Didn’t they know that no one ever got rich searching for that place?



These Newsnotes appeared in September 1992, in Issue 31 of Labour and Trade Union Review, now Labour Affairs.  You can find more from the era at and