The Return of the State by Graeme Garrard review – why big government is back

The pandemic has showed that everyone needs the state, but how can it continue to meet our needs in an era of mega-corporate power?

Lessons will be learned, says everyone trying to glean some wisdom from the calamitous pandemic that fell upon us in 2020. But looking back on the lockdowns and the deaths, family and friends unseen, the seismic social lesson was the shock reminder that everyone needs the state. There is no other saviour. Businesses big and small, alongside each citizen, rediscovered how much they rely on government to protect them. Here ends the long Thatcher era that cast its shadow down four decades. Her small-state message of the primacy of the individual and stand-on-your-own-two-feet brutalism is also a Covid victim, intellectually dead in the water.

The title of this book comes as a timely reminder that The Return of the State is here already. Its inevitability is thoroughly proved when it has been ushered in not by some socialist party but a stubbornly reluctant Conservative government. Anti-state in its marrow and all its sinews, it found itself obliged to borrow, tax and spend with Keynesian panache. Of course, they still kick hard against it as they keep trying to cut and cut again, impoverishing the already poor, but economically, socially and politically, they are finding out that small-state austerity is now a proven loser.

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