Thursday, 8 February 2018
Why I'm proud to be British - and why you should be too
There was one of those polls - not sure of its provenance or how its sample was constructed - that asked what things made people most proud to be British. The poll included assorted military victories (the Armada, Napoleon, WW2), having an Empire, the Magna Carta, Suffragettes and gay rights. Oh, plus the NHS.
Here's the result - unsurprisingly (and significantly) biased towards the more recent:
Now I'm not really convinced that creating the NHS is such a stellar achievement - it's notable that pretty much everywhere else in the world hasn't copied our system. Even the places with government services more-or-less designed by UK bureaucrats after WW2. But it does remind me of the extent to which the NHS is the most sacred of our sacred cows.
The thing, however, that bothers me isn't how the vote turned out but rather the huge - enormous and glaring - omission from the list. Not inventions or inventors - although we've plenty of those. Not social systems like the welfare state, for all their value and importance. Not sporting achievements (including inventing most of the sports we don't achieve in very much). Not education or research or literature (shouldn't Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens and Tolkien be on that list?) or music or art.
No. The thing that should make us Britons most proud is the thing that allows us to pay for the NHS. That supports our great education system. That provides for the welfare state. That funds our wonderful culture. The thing we've exported all around the world and which pays for other places health, welfare, culture and education. This thing also means most people - firstly in Britain, then in the USA and across Europe then Japan, now in China, India and a hundred other places - are no longer living in abject poverty scratting a meagre and short life from subsistence farming. This is what the British did first and that changed the world completely - for the better.
We call it free market capitalism and it is brilliant.