Britain’s Trillion Pound Horror Story

Excellent documentary about the british welfare state, and the lies it is founded on. Made by Martin Durkin, who also brought us the marvelous documentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle". A real Hero, out there changing the world for the better! - Highly recommended.
(Found it on  Monokultur )

Interesting Q&A with the filmmaker followed the broadcast on Channel 4

Channel 4 Community Manager: 
Britain’s Trillion Pound Horror Story has had a tremendous response on’s commenting section. We’ve taken a cross section of your questions and comments and invited Martin Durkin to respond here. Let’s get started…
Monday November 22, 2010 21:16 Channel 4 Community Manager
[Comment From ChrisChris: ] 
I wish to make a complaint this is a totally bias programme from right wing neo-liberals, are you going to invite a more balanced programme, or a programme with a different view. What they forget to acknowledge there has been a lot of privatisation of states services, I work for such a company and have found that private companies do not put the customer first, it is the pursuit for profit, the service is worse, staff training and development diminishes. colleagues stop sharing info and learning from each other as they are just motivated by meeting targets. It is ridiculous to suggest that providing public services stops corporate investment. In fact the private sector has been assisted and encouraged by the public sector. There are good well run public services in Europe the programme did not acknowledge this. I would like there to be a right of reply
Monday November 22, 2010 21:19 Chris


Chris, it’s perfectly clear from the responses to the film, that the arguments presented in it are almost never heard in the mainstream media – certainly not on TV. There is indeed a powerful bias in TV, and that is the Keynesian consensus. Much so-called privatisation of state services is phoney. When the state acts as a customer, it is in many ways just as poisonous as when it’s a provider. When a private company (A) hires another private company (B) to provide a service, it insists on good service at a good price, or it’ll take its custom elsewhere. Why? Because company A needs to make a profit. But the ‘buyers’ in the state sector are not spending their own money and they are under no pressure to make a profit. The relationship is not a proper market relationship. What is sometimes described as ‘market’ activity between the state and private firms is nothing of the sort. It is often corrupt and lacks the essential features of rigorous free market exchange. You say private firms do not put customers first. But if private firms do not give a satisfactory service at a good price they go bust. You say the service is worse from private firms. I would just urge you to look around you. Go to Selfridges. It’s nicer than the shops in Soviet Union used to be.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:21 MARTIN DURKIN
This was nothing but crude propaganda from the lunatic right of economics - monetarist claptrap of the worst kind and ludicrously unbalanced (no mention of the complete failure of this economic prescription here and in the US of the 1980s or in 1990s Japan). Will Channel 4 allow a similar facility to neo Keynesians who believe in a mixed economy?
Monday November 22, 2010 21:22 SLAWITJOHN
The ‘lunatic right’ jibe is curious. Keynes was a great admirer of Nazi economics. In fact, as many writers have observed, the fascist economies were Keynesian through and through.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:28 MARTIN DURKIN
Channel 4 Community Manager: 
A lot of viewers like Robert below have questioned whether the Hong Kong solution can work in a democratic country, can you comment on this?
Monday November 22, 2010 21:28 Channel 4 Community Manager
[Comment From Robert LedgerRobert Ledger: ] 
One of the issues that has made the growth in Hong Kong (and Singapore, modern China and so on) so rapid is the absence of democracy, which usually means different interest groups want public money in return for support. Is an adoption of economic policies like those seen in Asia possible in a democracy like Britain?
Monday November 22, 2010 21:29 Robert Ledger
I hope so. It will take guts. But then gutsy politicians have been bold before and been rewarded with admiration and affection. We (the electorate) are not totally dim. We admire politicians who see clearly and speak the truth. But we need to understand, collectively, that when politicians spend vast sums of money, it does enormous damage to the real productive economy. That money is not a gift from heaven. It comes from tax, it comes from borrowing – to be repaid with interest out of tax, and from printing money – a form of stealth tax so insidious it amounts to theft. We need a culture shift. On the BBC (a state broadcaster remember), interviewers on the Today Programme, say, will frequently berate politicians for not doing this or that, for not spending enough here or there, for cutting this or that. I have never heard them ask why if God’s name we’re in so much debt, or why we are taxed so much, or why the public sector is so big, or where they imagine all this money is coming from. They do it in America, but not here. It’s easy to be rude about those simple folk in the tea-bag movement, but I suspect your average tea-bagger has a much firmer intuitive grasp of basic economic principles than your average Today Programme presenter.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:30 MARTIN DURKIN
[Comment From John MJohn M: ] 
The programme was interesting but horribly skewed in my opinion. It hailed 18th and 19th century England as some sort of economic and social utopia. but what it failed to do was mention the fact most peoples lives were a living hell a child workforce, work houses for the poor and a massive social divide. This is probably why the "state' spent the next one hundred years getting involved with its citizens. Lower taxes, less government may well invigorate our economy but its no where near as simple as that and comparing the UK to Hong Kong is a mistake. This was a programme that im sure most conservatives would agree with. So in that sense it was politically biased ! Comments and contributions were all made by what looked like successful businessmen and/or economic experts. It was unbalanced, and hence over simplified the argument to make it sound like some sort of miraculous remedy. From what i read on here many have fallen for it.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:30 John M
Industrial workers in England were the best paid in the world. They were poor compared to us, but they certainly weren’t poor compared to what went before. Child labour was a feature of life throughout the middle ages. Industrial capitalism did not introduce child labour. It abolished it. The advances in the standard of living of ordinary people in the 19th century is indisputable and utterly extraordinary – like nothing that had ever happened before in human history. The social divide between the classes was eroded in the 19th Century. The vulgar masses were on the way up. There was social mobility like never before. In fact the toffs were quite alarmed by the newly enriched masses, spreading into horrid suburbs and demanding the vote.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:31 MARTIN DURKIN
[Comment From Bridget McGeechanBridget McGeechan: ] 
I just cannot believe what I saw on TV tonight. Back to the 19th century? How did these Wealthy companies make their money? Off the backs of folk living in slums, dying of all kinds of disease or in their hundreds from industrial accidents. Thank goodness for the NHS, Social Housing and a country that tries to look after the most vulnerable. Hong Kong has a lot of wealthy folk but also a heck of a lot of grinding poverty. When do we get a balanced view?
Monday November 22, 2010 21:32 Bridget McGeechan
The NHS was not the start of healthcare in Britain. It is the name we give to the nationalisation of existing hospitals. I can’t think of a single hospital in London, for example, that did not exist before the NHS. Before the NHS Britain had the best healthcare system in the world. ‘Social housing’ has been an unmitigated disaster. You can spot social housing a mile off. It’s the really nasty stuff. To get more affordable houses we must abolish the government’s monopoly control of land use. In short, abolish planning. I’m sure there are poor people in Hong Kong. But not as many, and not as poor, as there were back in the 1960s. Do you really believe economic growth makes people poorer?
Monday November 22, 2010 21:33 MARTIN DURKIN
[Comment From H.T. GrayH.T. Gray: ] 
Programme give the impression that Hong Kong is Utopia. The people who don't pay taxes hardly get enough to feed and house themselves. Did he show the women begging for your empty water bottle for which they get a fraction of a penny for recycling it. Margaret Thatcher said the country did not need manufacturing and could exist on banking and insurance. Getting rid of public jobs is just putting more on the dole. If there are private jobs for them to go to why have we got such a high unemployment rate.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:34 H.T. Gray
Hong Kong is not Utopia. Utopia (if you’ve read it you’ll know) is very scary communistic society. I don’t recall Margaret Thatcher saying the country didn’t need manufacturing. She may have said the country didn’t need heavily subsidized manufacturing that merely drains resources from the genuinely productive bit of the economy. We have too few private sector jobs because we have too many public sector jobs squeezing the life out of the productive economy.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:36 MARTIN DURKIN
[Comment From Dave GeerDave Geer: ] 
In discussion of Hong Kong's economic miracle as a triumph for the private sector nothing was made of the fact that all land in Hong Kong is owned by the government and the revenue from these leases are what raises money for the state rather than taxation. So the low taxation This is merely one of a ream of selective omissions in the program.. It also fails to mention that the difference in standard of living between rich and poor is more greater in HK than it is on mainland China. I could go on & on & on, but this example will do.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:37 Dave Geer
It is true that there’s government monopoly control of land use in Hong Kong. We have something similar in Britain and the result is the same. Outrageously high house prices. Government interference has increased in HK since Cowperthwaite’s day. The Hong Kongers should be careful. There is indeed a greater difference between rich and poor in Hong Kong than there was in Communist China under Mao and the rest. Where would you rather live? There’s less disparity of wealth in Cuba than in the US, but you don’t see them building rafts in Florida. If the price of bashing the rich folk is a loss of freedom and a general lowering of prosperity, is it really worth doing it? Very big government means much less growth. Less growth makes everyone poorer.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:38 MARTIN DURKIN
Channel 4 Community Manager: 
Many viewers including Howard Yates and Cymro have asked how you came to the £4.8 trillion figure. Can you explain?
Monday November 22, 2010 21:39 Channel 4 Community Manager
It’s a widely used estimate, from a paper written by an economist called Nick Silver, A bankruptcy Foretold 2010: Post-Financial Crisis Update. The figure includes the official national debt, an allowance for financial interventions (bank bailouts) and the government’s pension liabilities. As it happens, a subsequent revision of the paper has raised the estimate to £ raise the figure to £6.5 trillion, based on more recent higher official national debt and based on the Office of national Statistics own accounting methods. There are other estimates around. All of them terrifying.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:41 MARTIN DURKIN
[Comment From Nick BrownNick Brown: ] 
the programme you state that someone on the average wage of £12K per year pays about £7k per year in tax; could you break down these figures please? Many thanks Nick
Monday November 22, 2010 21:43 Nick Brown
: People forget how many taxes we pay and the various forms of tax. We pay income tax and national insurance, VAT (soon to be 20 percent), council tax, road tax, stamp duty and the rest, extra taxes on things like alcohol and petrol and tobacco, and a myriad of ‘stealth’ taxes. Accountants profile typical families in different incomes groups (working out what they would typically spend on rent, food, alcohol etc) and work out how hard all the various taxes would hit them.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:43 MARTIN DURKIN
Channel 4 Community Manager: 
People want to know what’s next and how we can improve the situation, is it a campaign etc, can you a comment on that?
Monday November 22, 2010 21:46 Channel 4 Community Manager
All suggestions welcome. Form a new political party along the lines of the Liberal Party of old? Try to educate politicians and journalists (including ‘economics’ correspondents) in the basic principles of political economy? There are sections of our main political parties who get it. The radical working class wing of the Tories get it, but they are not in the ascendancy. The Etonians in charge seem wedded to the paternal state, or else are too craven to take on vested interests. The old classical liberal wing of the Lib Dems get it, but are outnumbered I think by numbskull social democrat-types.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:47 MARTIN DURKIN
[Comment From Peter BoundsPeter Bounds: ] 
I watched the programme. If the total debt is £4.8 trillion and the private sector employs 3 million people (including me), we each are in hock to the tune of £1.6 million. I will NEVER be able to pay that back! I pity my kids. What's the best place for them to emigrate to? This programme was so scary I bet it turned most people off - you know - the ostrich syndrome.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:48 Peter Bounds
Stay here and fight.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:49 MARTIN DURKIN
Channel 4 Community Manager: 
And finally - if we reduce tax to stimulate growth, what would that growth be based on?
Monday November 22, 2010 21:49 Channel 4 Community Manager
Lower taxes mean higher profits. Higher profits means you have more money to reinvest and more incentive to reinvest. So you get more home-grown investment, and also more investment is attracted from abroad (taxes are lower remember). More profit means a company grows, makes even more profit, gets to keep it and invest it, and so on. There is a terrible error that people make here. I have heard it argued that we can afford to shrink the state only after there are more jobs in the private sector. That we can cut taxes only after we are in a period of strong growth. This is like saying we should only stop pouring petrol on the fire once the flames have died down. Or we shall wait until the balloon takes off before we throw out the lead weights. We will not get strong growth without reducing taxes. Strong growth only comes from strong profits. Tax reduces profits. High taxes kill profitability. There is absolutely no way round it.
Monday November 22, 2010 21:51 MARTIN DURKIN
Channel 4 Community Manager: 
That’s all we have time for I’m afraid. Thank-you Martin and thank you to everyone who submitted a comment on this website, it’s been a very interesting Q&A. This event is now closed but if you’d like to add a further comment please use the submission form below.

If you’ve not yet seen ‘Britain’s Trillion Pound Horror Story, you can catch it on 4oD until early December

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Frank Kitman