Diary: Russian Lessons

Thursday 27 June

I am in St Petersburg both as a tourist and as a British observer of the second round of the Russian presidential elections. The excuse for tourism is that the House of Lords Bridge Club has been invited to play a match against the South African consulate. I fly to St Petersburg with my wife, Augusta and our younger son William (19). Our elder son, Edward (22), joins us from Moscow where he is working. Our leader is Richard Gisborough, who has organised the expedition. On arrival at St Petersburg airport we board a coach with a poster stuck on the front window with the words “House of Lords” written on it. A band strikes up God Save the Queen. I smile radiantly and am about to raise my hand to acknowledge the reception, when the band turns round to face the next coach and starts up the Marseillaise.

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Essay: Welfare without the state

There is widespread agreement that the welfare state needs to be drastically reformed, certainly slimmed down. Designed in the 1940s to protect weakened capitalist economies against the assault of revolutionary socialism, it is now under assault itself. Governments all over Europe are busy chipping away at entitlements and benefits built up since the war. Yet even minor cuts in welfare spending face huge political cost as Alain Juppe is discovering in France. The reason is that most people in Europe have come to rely on tax-financed welfare of one kind or other, and governments have failed to discover a political formula which might wean them from this dependence. Only in the US, whose welfare state is underdeveloped by European standards, does an anti-welfare ideology resonate Continue reading “Essay: Welfare without the state”