have the mixed privilege of being born and raised in Scotland's
largest city, Glasgow. Mixed, I say, because of its present as well
as its past. Once a bustling centre of tobacco trade and ship building,
it also exported human talent as its sons and daughters departed
its urban throng for America and settled into fruitful and influential
lifestyles that today leaves the USA with six towns bearing the
the glory has also departed and Glasgow is now a city that bears
the scars of an economic landscape under the 75-year cosh of socialist
economic policy at all levels of government. And now it is no longer
industry and commerce that leaps to mind when the word "Glasgow"
is mentioned but more likely Rangers or Celtic.
the scales are beginning to fall from the eyes of the typical Glaswegian
as they look at the prosperity of Britons around them and are now
asking questions of their local leaders. To be more precise, they
are providing the answers by way of votes as a referendum last week
on whether to privatise Glasgow's socialist housing schemes was
passed by a margin of 58.3 per cent to 41.7 per cent. "Ya beauty!" as Glaswegian libertarians are wont to utter.
put it concisely, the public sector stock of 78,000 homes will now
be put under the administration of its new private landlord, the
Glasgow Housing Association (GHA). This is one of those PFI schemes
(Private Finance Initiative) beloved of our not so leftist Labour
Party which is part publicly invested in return for certain rents
guarantees and targets. That I am not so keen on, but the long-term
outcome is a private company running on private money.
what can be said of its former incompetent administrator, Glasgow
City Council? The state of their management was akin to one of their
dilapidated houses that blighted much of Glasgow's cityscape. I
should know, for I spent my formative years amongst such properties.
the capacity for reason awoke in my infant mind, even that nascent
libertarian realised the flat he was in courtesy of socialism was
not up to the job. We lived in a typical Glasgow tenement house
and we had a one bedroom flat for a five-person family. My brother
and I slept in a bunk bed in the kitchen alcove and we were small
enough to have our baths in the kitchen sink which is just as
well for there was no bathtub!
you, the provision of rats in the backyard was generous and thanks
to free enterprise we had two grocery shops competing against each
other across the road. As for ongoing government maintenance, I
always recalled there being a large gouge in the wall beside our
bed and it stayed there until we moved out. I must ask my mother
if the council ever bothered to repair it.
think the tenements predated socialism, so they were generally of
good structural integrity and durability. Unfortunately, ours was
not and the council decided to condemn it to the iron ball and we
were moved out to the suburbs and the latest thing in local government
design semi detached houses.
true Stalinist style, having plucked the chicken, they now fed it.
Three bedrooms, a private garden and a bath to boot! Was this the
socialist utopia promised by the prophet Marx? Yes, it was, for
the Great Groucho did once observe that he also had worked himself
up from a state of nothing to extreme poverty.
the providence of God, I think we were just plain lucky. But, then
again, with hindsight I now know the architecture was just as ugly
and unimaginative as the rest of the centrally planned efforts across
the city and beyond.
running sores across an otherwise acceptable panorama, socialism
erected tower after tower of high-rise flats reaching up to thirty
floors or more. These were no penthouse or skyscraper affairs. They
were dingy, grey, ugly and guaranteed to complete the destruction
of the soul of those already trapped in the vicious circle of state
observe that people tend not to destroy things of beauty if they
can help it. These monoliths were not things of beauty, therefore
their tenants set about the vandalisation of these monuments to
a likewise crumbling ideology. In due time, the powers that be got
the message and the towers began to be pulled down as more humane
forms of housing such as our own came into vogue. Pity they wasted
the money in building them in the first place. Nothing like the
housing free market to determine what the customer really wants.
outside Glasgow, in the socially-engineered "new towns"
such as Cumbernauld which were meant to solve Glaswegian housing
congestion, the government carefully and ostentatiously built row
upon row of grey box-houses and thoughtfully provided a fully functional
shopping centre with somehow won an award winning architectural
Bruce Lee, Enter the Free Market.
shopping centres elsewhere that free market innovation produced
were much nicer. Thanks to the increasing private ownership of cars,
Cumbernauldians abandoned the Statist shopping centres and drove
out of town. Not surprisingly, our government-approved shopping
centre is now in a rather awful, unkempt state.
who once spake like a dragon is now silent they say. Not so, for
in this housing privatisation the voice of Margaret Thatcher rings
loud and clear from the vaults of political history. Whilst Glasgow
City Council were racking up eventual debts of £900 million
in their mishandling of that closed housing market, Mrs. Thatcher
cut the Gordian Knot of tax and spend despair by giving public sector
tenants the right to buy their houses off their local government.
effect was electric as the housing consumer was freed from their
chains and allowed to express themselves. Today, in my childhood
street, practically all the houses are now owned privately. Socialism
indeed proposes, but Capitalism disposes.
predictably so, for our central planners did not reckon on the revolution
in home ownership which gave everyone a chance to own their own
house not only as a dwelling place but as a tangible asset bought
with fixed term mortgage payments rather than interminable lifetime
socialist bourgeoisies probably knew it was far more efficient for
their tenants to buy off their houses but when power-driven ideology
demands you keep your voting tenants under your thumb, reasoned
compassion takes a hike.
for an egalitarian socialist state where everyone is equally poor
and they cannot look across the road at their neighbours' privately
owned houses going up in value by a third in ten years! The doom
of Socialism is always writ when it is forced to cohabit with Capitalism
in a mixed economy. Mind you, it cannot even survive on its own.
so we come to the end of an era, or rather an error. Scotland still
professes Socialism but another of its features was chipped from
the edifice this week. Socialism is dying everywhere, gorged on
coerced tax payments for decades, it is stumbling and awaiting the
next blow from Free Market Capitalism that will stagger its gait
that little bit more.
under patients who are living longer to enjoy more diseases, the
nationalised health service is next. Soon to stagger under the weight
of a higher proportion of pensioners to workers, the welfare sector
Market Capitalism is also struggling under the Socialist tonnage
thrown on its broad shoulders. That burden is diminishing and I
envy my future grandchildren for when I am gone they will have to
ask my aged offspring what this socialism thing was they keep on
reading about in Grandpa's old Lew Rockwell articles.
wonder if my kids will be able to answer!
Watson [send him
mail] writes from Edinburgh, Scotland.
needs your help. Please donate.