Is the Past in Our Future?

The political and economic autopsy of a nation. There’s this:

Very few… are prepared to enter politics… This is not due to the lack of public spirit, but to the personal abuse to which candidates are subjected and to the feeling that, if elected, they would be suspected of being associated with corrupt dealings. A certain number… have been ready to embark on a political career, but the professional classes generally have not responded. “Politics” have come to be regarded as an unclean thing which no self-respecting man should touch; the very word “politician” is virtually a term of abuse which carries with it a suggestion of crookedness and sharp practice.

And this:

The simple-minded electorate were visited every few years by rival politicians, who, in the desire to secure election, were accustomed to make the wildest promises involving increased public expenditure in the constituency and the satisfaction of all the cherished desires of the inhabitants… The country was thus exposed to the evils of paternalism in its most extreme form. The people, instead of being trained to independence and self-reliance, became increasingly dependent on those who were placed in authority; instead of being trained to think in terms of the national interest, they were encouraged to think only of the interests of their own district. Even within a district… there was no public spirit; in the struggle to secure a decent living, the average man sought only his personal advantage. The Government was looked upon as the universal provider, and it was thought to be the duty of the Member for the constituency to see that there was an ever-increasing flow of public money… The people were in fact taught to look to the Government for everything and to do as little as possible to provide for their own requirements.

And this:

Unfortunately, the benefits… were almost wholly discounted, as we shall show, by a reckless disregard of the dictates of financial prudence. The 12 years… during none of which was the budget balanced, were characterised by an outflow of public funds on a scale as ruinous as it was unprecedented, fostered by a continuous stream of willing lenders. Easy money… was looked for and was deemed in part to have arrived. In the prevailing optimism, the resources of the Exchequer were believed to be limitless. The public debt… was in 12 years more than doubled; its assets dissipated by improvident administration; the people misled into the acceptance of false standards; and the country sunk in waste and extravagance. The onset of the world depression found [it] with no reserves,… its credit exhausted. At the first wind of adversity, its elaborate pretensions collapsed like a house of cards. The glowing visions of a new Utopia were dispelled with cruel suddenness by the cold realities of national insolvency, and today a disillusioned and bewildered people, deprived in many parts of the country of all hope of earning a livelihood, are haunted by the grim spectres of pauperism and starvation.

Sound like the events of today? Actually these excerpts are from the Amulree Report of 1933, a Royal investigation into the catastrophic state into which the Dominion of Newfoundland had fallen.

As an independent nation, Newfoundland never recovered from the Great Depression. Great Britian took it into receivership during the rest of the 1930’s. Almost defenseless at the outbreak of World War II, it was as much as occupied by the U.S. and Canada. After the war, in a controversial plebiscite, its citizens opted to become a province of Canada.

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