In its funny little way the news this week that the Advertising Standards Authority had banned reruns of the 1950s egg advertisements that featured Tony Hancock was more compelling evidence on the state of modern Britain than even Marr’s obiter dicta.
“Go to Work on an Egg” was unacceptable, we were told, because it encouraged an unhealthy lifestyle. I had no idea that we had a government body that still operated on Stalinist principles but there it is. How long will it be before it is not just the free speech of advertising that is curtailed but the evil practice it promotes, and we ban egg consumption along with smoking? Goodbye England. Welcome to Absurdistan.
At root of this nonsense is, of course, the sheer scale of government. The reason you can’t be allowed to eat an egg is that, because of the lack of real choice in healthcare provision, you’re no longer responsible for the financial consequences of your own actions. If you get heart disease from too much cholesterol, the State, collectively known as the NHS, will have to treat you; and that costs the State more and more money so the State will have to stop you from doing it in the first place.
This is the self-perpetuating logic behind the unstoppable momentum of the expanding State….
The bigger it grows, the more it intrudes into our lives, and the more it intrudes into our lives, the more dependent we become on it. Education is the same. Our great universities are struggling to compete in a global market because they are hamstrung by the State. They are dependent on central government for their funding; but that funding is insufficient to meet the needs of global competition. But because they need government money for what they do, they cannot break free.
Leviathan is now so large that, outside London, half the population is dependent ”“ either through public sector jobs or benefits ”“ on taxes. Its power is so large that it has bent us all into submission. It has produced a culture in which no one needs to take responsibility for anything because someone else is always there to back us up.
That in the end, was what was behind another sorry spectacle of Britain’s decline this week ”“ the Fulton inquiry into the capture of the Royal Marines and sailors in March by Iranians. It was of course, to outward appearances, magnificently Gilbertian ”“ the first Sea Lord doing the honorable thing and shuffling off the blame on to anyone but himself. But its message was very modern.
Mistakes were made but no one made them.