Having being away from my desk for a few weeks coping with real life, it's good to be able to come back and talk about a death. Daniel Bell http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Bell has finally given up on the post industrial society he predicted and gone to reside elsewhere. Those not familiar with his work will have heard the phrases and perhaps read the work of his disciple, Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. Or perhaps not.
Bell was a bit of a worrier and probably not great at parties but he got quite a lot of predictions about the future spot on. His background made people take him seriously and the creator of futurology, or whatever its called, can probably sleep in peace knowing he wont be ridiculed as the man who said cassette tape would take over the world. In that respect he's luckier that George Orwell who, because he wrote fiction, is ignored as a prophet of the future despite his uncanny portrayal or 21st century Orange County in 1984.
What Orwell and Bell have in common, apart from the inability to breathe, is that they both predicted a world similar to the one we're sailing into. They gave their visions a relentlessly pessimistic spin. What neither had to do in their books was give space to the lobbyists and free marketeers who currently rule the known world. These economists, free trade fanatics, frowners and lickspittles are employed by and for the financial institutions and big industry leaders they are paid to comment on. Not a day goes by without be-suited men appearing in front of an office backdrop similar to the office backdrop the man they're talking about appeared in a few moments before. The BBC love these talking heads, they give them air time to fill air time. Today, liver experts, presumably with no axe to grind other than improving the nations health, published an article urging the Government to impose a minimum alcohol price per unit. The BBC managed to find the reasoned tones of someone from the Drink More Wine and Beer Association (I think that was the name) and gave him five minutes to ridicule these experts. The BBC, who didn't have a liver expert on, probably regarded this as reasonable, allowing the beleaguered side of the argument a free and fair response. I'm reminded of that fabulous line by Joe Strummer - "If Adolf Hitler flew in today, they'd send a limousine anyway".
What has this rant against free market ethics got to do with the Liberal Democrats I'd hear you ask if I weren't on a Computer and inhabiting an empty ether. Well we have a few good men in Orange out there who belatedly seem to be questioning the progress of free and fair debate in the Coalition. Nick Clegg may get a bit upset when Lord Oakeshott loses his temper with the Tories over insipid bank negotiations, he may tut at Liberal councillors pointing out the reality of massive cuts and privatisation and he may groan when he hears of attempts to hijack the spring conference by discussing policy but perhaps he should be studying his new friends instead and trying to work out his role in the joint decision making process. We have lived through twelve years of increasingly disappointing Labour rule and now look to be heading for a decade of state dismantling without so much as a whisper of dissent from the Liberal elite.
Why are the big ideas of the centre and left ignored by the Coalition? Obviously because they are abhorrent to the ruling grandees and rottweilers of the Tory party. Why is Nick Clegg unable to get past the blizzard of free market lobbying? Not so obvious, but I'm beginning to think its because, Europe aside, he agrees with it. No-one in this slick ruling elite is prepared to notice that they are failing their constituents. The labour party is unable to escape its past. The media is owned by, and full of, the global rich and the impartial state institutions such as the BBC are falling over themselves to canvass the opinion of the Coalition sponsored lobbyists.
If Daniel Bell took any satisfaction from his predictions coming true he hid it well. Mind you, no-one really came a calling, just as no-one really views Orwell as a visionary. If Adolf Hitler flew in today.......