I was born into life under a socialist government. The United Kingdom voted the Labour Party into office in 1945 shortly after Conservative Winston Churchill had led the country to victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. I was born three years later and I spent the first fifty years of my life there. Even though there were periods of time when the Tories regained power, there was not a major change of policy that I can recall, until Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979. But the social welfare programs, the public health service and many other elements of post war socialism remain in place to this day.
My family has its roots in the county of Staffordshire, England, famed for its pottery. But according to what I have been told, until the early 20th century, my ancestors were not potters but farmers. But that does not suggest that they were wealthy landowners. It is probably more the case that land was first rented from an estate – a squire or other member of the so called “landed gentry” would allow individual farmers to lease plots of land to grow crops and raise animals. These plots were actually “strips” of land. Under the 3 field system, which covered much of England, all the land around a village was divided into three large fields. Each farmer would own several strips of land in each field. Later, in the 18th century, land was enclosed – in other words the three large fields were broken up and each farmer had his own fields. That meant that each farmer had all his land in one place instead of scattered across three fields, thus being more efficient. But nevertheless, it was quite possible that the land that my great great grandfather worked in the 1800’s was rented – but I am not sure.
The point that I am making is this. The social structure of England evolved from a feudal system. The King would give land to friends and relatives, people who had done service to him. You might say, rather like the way politics works today. But I digress. Those landowners would, rather than get their hands dirty, allow the peasants to work the land in return for payment to the lord.
Life changed in a major way from the mid 1700’s onwards, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. By the late 1800’s most people had moved to the towns and were working in factories, mines and in other forms of employment. The fabric of British life changed. But the framework remained – with the landowners and aristocracy as well as the factory owners on the one hand and the “peasants” or workers on the other.
I came across the pond at the age of 50, some 225 years or so after the Declaration of Independence. I married an American or, to be more precise, I married a Texan. I left behind socialist Britain and came to the land of the free, the land of opportunity, these United States of America. Little did I know that soon after gaining citizenship last September, I would be able to vote for a new President and to witness the gigantic shift of government that has taken place in the first few weeks of the successful candidate.
I came here with the knowledge that America welcomed entrepreneurs. I knew that the United States encouraged small business success and congratulated those that were willing to step out in faith and be creative. I neither looked for charity nor expected it from government. But I knew that there was a tremendous opportunity for anyone willing to work hard on their own account.
But I see this country heading towards the socialism that I had left behind. Irrespective of the fact that it did not work in 21st century Britain and despite the fact that socialized medicine is bankrupt even in Canada, these United States are seemingly heading that way. Why?
As a child I was brought up in a working class home. The newspaper that was delivered to our house reflected the left wing political views my parents eschewed. That was not unusual. Because the Conservative Party that I knew represented the inheritance from the landed gentry from whom my ancestors had rented strips of land and to whom they paid their dues. That was a somewhat different scenario to the political picture here in the USA, where conservatism reflects the entrepreneurial spirit and the free market open to all. Those with liberal views, on the other hand, can be associated with such diverse groups as trade unions representing car workers on the one hand and millionaire Hollywood actors on the other.
Everyone is telling me that socialism is not something that America is accustomed to. I can understand that completely, because of the different history that it has experienced in its short life, compared to the history of Europe, including my country of birth.
I really hope that someone wakes me up before this nightmare plays out.