John Major lost the British election in 1997 not because Tony Blair’s “New” Labour Party had stolen the Conservatives’ policies but because the Conservatives adopted socialist ones. The last ten years have seen an explosive rise in levels of bureaucratic regulation in Britain, which have particularly hit small business and also professional people, especially those working in the public sector. These groups may be considered a Conservative government’s natural supporters, but many of their members will have voted for the Labour or Liberal Democrat parties out of sheer frustration.

It is impossible to find good National Health Service (Britain’s system of socialized medicine) dentists any more because they have all gone private to avoid a system that insists on the provision and justification of a detailed treatment plan for each patient. As my own, now private dentist put it: “I came into the profession to look after patients’ teeth, not to fill in forms.” For exactly the same reasons many able and experienced schoolteachers have taken early retirement to be replaced by semiliterate young dullards who cannot teach but who love staff meetings. Everyone is tied up in the creation of paper trails for a distant centralized inspectorate that does not understand the old proverb, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” When a local doctor (a general practitioner) retires it is difficult to find a replacement, even though the job pays well and is rightly held in high esteem. Who wants to shuffle documents on a computer rather than cure people?

Attorneys paid by the government on a case-by-case basis to do “legal aid” work for the poor and who deal with divorce, small civil claims, and criminal defense work, constitute a patchwork of small partnerships spread across the country, but Major’s government deliberately sought to concentrate this work in the hands of a few large firms. Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who was the Conservative government’s Lord Chancellor (the head of the legal system), redesigned the system in such a way that poor clients will no longer be able to choose who represents them but will be forced to take their cases to lawyers belonging to a monopoly licensed and franchised by the state. Independent practitioners are being forced out of business by their own principled unwillingness to allow semi-educated high school graduates, employed by the British legal aid board as inspectors, to go through their confidential files.

Behind all these disasters lies a socialist obsession with providing everyone with more free health, “education,” teeth, and pseudo-safety. In the past this was done by raising taxes; under the pseudo-conservative John Major, the pretense was maintained that more of everything could be provided by employing extra commissars to squeeze the suppliers. Bold and meaningless planning targets worthy of Stalin filled such foolish documents as “Health of the Nation,” and absurd slogans, mission statements, and charters proliferated. The new professionally unqualified administrators all spoke about enforcing “policy” and “priorities” and demanded endless quantities of information to enable them to do so. This meaningless information is then used by these bureaucratic clerks to nag and torment the same skilled professionals who have slaved to provide it. Chuck it. Major . . . or rather, the British people chucked you.

In Britain, well-run and effective small private schools have been forced to close because they could not provide all the nonsense specified in the bureaucratic “National Curriculum” laid down by the central government, even though their pupils were better educated and better behaved than those from the state-run schools. Many other small businesses are in difficulties because they cannot standardize or label their goods according to the choking net of the law or comply with absurd and unnecessary health, fire, and safety regulations. A nonsmoking colleague of mine has recently been told that he is a fire hazard because he has too Chronicles accepts advertising from reputable book publishers and distributors and from companies selling educational and cultural products compatible with the magazine’s purpose and standards. Although we try to verify claims made by advertisers, publication of an ad does not in any way constitute an endorsement many books and papers in his office. How do British second-hand bookshops survive?

Many of these rules were invented by the enthusiastic socialists who run the European Community in Brussels, but why does the British government have to enforce them? In a British world of chronic shortages, why is there always enough money for administrators, snoopers, and regulation enforcers? A nonsocialist, freedom-loving government would have made sure that there were never enough staff and resources to enforce the decrees of Britain’s European masters. Why did Britain not simply allow her small traders to go on working just as they chose, by assigning an inadequate number of idle officials to enforce the rules, by slowness to prosecute, and by imposing trivial sentences? After all, that is the way the British government currently deals with juvenile delinquents, burglars, and illegal immigrants. Instead, the owners of small abattoirs, cheese-makers, and horticulturists have been relentlessly persecuted by British officials whose interpretation of the Brussels regulations is more rigid, detailed, and socialist than anywhere else in Europe. In no other country have Euroregulations been expanded and gold-plated in the way they have been in England.

Anyone who has ever complained to Britain’s politicians about these insolent folk or about the arbitrary behavior of Britain’s innumerable ruling quangos (quasi-autonomous, nongovernmental organizations) set up by Parliament has been told by politicians that they could not possibly interfere. In this way they hope that the British people’s resentment and hatred of living in an over-regulated society would be focused on their most immediate tormentors and not on those who were really to blame—the government. It was a tactic that did not work, and that is why John Major’s socialist government was ignominiously kicked out of office. The key virtue of British democracy is that the people do have the power to “turn the rascals out.” However, matters are now getting even worse. Although he will not admit it. Labourite Tony Blair loves the socialist regulated society even more than John Major did.