The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The UK Continues Its Decline

From the Guardian:

The number of UK children in food poverty has nearly doubled in the last year to almost 4 million, new data shows, ramping up pressure on ministers to expand the provision of free school meals to struggling families.

According to the Food Foundation thinktank, one in five (22%) of households reported skipping meals, going hungry or not eating for a whole day in January, up from 12% at the equivalent point in 2022.

Regular readers will know I’ve written about this often. The UK appears to be in decline to third world status. While the EU is neoliberal, it was better than what UK neoliberals wanted to do by leaving it. The UK has spent the time since Thatcher deliberately de-industrializing, leaving it with little more than the financial industry and a few hi-tech spars remaining. Leaving the EU makes the “City” less valuable: being inside the EU was useful, and now it’s outside.

On top of this, financialization cannibalizes real industry, since financial profits are higher and the highest profits come from taking public goods and privatizing them. This has been done to everything substantial owned by the UK government in 79, when Thatcher took power, from railroads to water and electricity, leaving on the National Health Service. That’s the last big chunk of profits, and then they’re done.

At that point, what does Britain have to offer to the rest of the world other than a corrupt financial center? Little, and that financial center can’t, won’t and doesn’t want to support most of the population, since even if they could, that would defeat the point: the people who run it don’t want to share, they want to be rich.

The Russia mess has also made this worse. There was a lot of Russian money in the UK, and freezing or taking it means no more will come in and it also makes everyone who’s in a non US ally country wary of using London to store money, whether in banks, securities or properties. After all, they could be next.

Brexit done right could have been the start of rebuilding the UK, but that would have required reigning in the City and engaging in industrial policy to provide industries capable of employing Britons, supply domestic British needs rather than importing, and also able to export.

As it is, Britain is done. The political fallout will probably include, within a decade or so, the loss of Northern Ireland and Scotland. At which point the United Kingdom (Scotland and England unified) will be no more, and England will stand alone again.

The Sun does set, it seems.

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The US Endgame In The Ukraine


Open Thread


  1. rkka

    I think the examples Churchill set and the myths that British culture grew around them was fatal for British politics. They admire his opposition to Chamberlain’s “appeasement”, itself badly understood (Munich was about destroying the 1935 French-Czech-Soviet alliance that had Adolf stymied, and “Peace in our Time” was to apply only to Western Europe.), but fail to note the foreign policy alternative he offered, rebuilding “The Grand Alliance” between the British Empire, the French Empire, and the Russian Empire, in its Soviet incarnation. In other words, there was serious strategic thought behind Churchill’s stirring words.

    There’s been none since. Performances only. Brit polititians ape Churchill, rather than think for themselves.

  2. GlassHammer


    Don’t forget the UK has the second highest military budget in NATO next to the U.S. which means public funds are still directed to the military even in an overall economic decline. Given the circumstances that probably won’t stop in the short to midterm.

    Western governments haven’t pursued a peace dividend in a long time but maybe that will change in the presence of other competing priorities.

  3. Christopher Dobbie

    I’ve just finished volume 1 of Das Capital. The last several chapters says it all. Nothing’s changed.

  4. StewartM

    The political fallout will probably include, within a decade or so, the loss of Northern Ireland and Scotland. At which point the United Kingdom (Scotland and England unified) will be no more, and England will stand alone again.

    More than that, given the history of the former USSR. Like breaking up the USSR led to a kennel of independent states whose justification was built upon nursing (and often exaggerating) historical grievances, a broken-up UK may result in states hostile to each other, even to the point of invasion and war. Margaret “Iron Lady” Thatcher’s ultimate legacy may go beyond even the destruction of the UK, but could mean the return of wars on the British Isles between its former constituents that haven’t been seen in hundreds of years.

  5. Carborundum

    If skipping meals is the metric of decline, then things are pretty rough all over. I saw estimates at almost exactly the same level in Canada late last year, I see lower but still qualitatively similar numbers out of the Melbourne Institute from the same time frame, same same out of Germany. I could probably find another dozen examples were I to take an hour and try translated question phrasings (the language in the instrumentation to measure hunger isn’t 100% standard, but it does tend to be somewhat consistent in the elements). Similarly, we’re running about 1.5 million children in food insecure households per the latest STC estimates – and that was in 2021 when conditions would have been a bit better.

    When elevated levels of transfer payments unwind this is exactly the type of thing one sees – an excited market gropes to see where it can set prices and folks in the bottom quintiles pay an even higher than usual price for that discovery. Last I heard, Daily Bread was expecting to have 2 million visits annually – that would be up 18% YoY in the largest service area in the country.

  6. GrimJim

    “Western governments haven’t pursued a peace dividend in a long time but maybe that will change in the presence of other competing priorities.”

    Part of the benefit of the Russian Invasion to the Western Elite is that it means they can once again kick the can down a generation for ever providing a “peace dividend.”

    The masses cannot be allowed to have any sort of surplus, and can never really benefit from taxation. All public funds must be looted by the already stupidly rich, to satiate their greed and kep the poor and desperate, desperate and poor. That’s how the Neoliberal world works.

    The entire War on Terror was about two things. One, conquer as much as possible in the name of the American Unipower; and two, continue tomorrow up the Military-Industrial Complex such that the rich got richer and the masses never got any “Peace Dividend” from the end of the Cold War.

    Money isn’t for the Poors — their lives are to be nasty, brutish, and short, and expended to the profits of their “socio-economic betters.”

  7. Feral Finster

    Britain continually stirs up conflict around the globe, so that when the US steps in, Britain then can show its American master what a loyal lackey Britain is through its unquestioning support.

    That is not a sustainable business model.

  8. Ian Welsh


    second time you’ve corrected me, mostly correctly. Thanks.

  9. Ché Pasa

    The Irish seem to be the chief beneficiaries of Britain’s decline, at least on a monetary basis. Ireland just might be the richest country in Europe. Whether that’s a good thing is a matter of opinion, but the contrast between now and even a few years ago is startling.

    Britain’s elites may be as mad now as they were throughout the 19th Century, but the results now are on the whole worse for the British people. Of course, the elites won’t suffer; they rarely do. But the mass of Brits are being shoved into poverty and ill health and it will be a long time before they recover, if ever.

    I won’t blame British voters for their plight. They’ve tried, numerous times, to correct the course the country and withered empire is on, to no avail. It’s not unlike the situation in the United States, Canada, Australia, or the Anglo-Sphere in general.

    What a world, what a world.

  10. mago

    Che Pasa says, what a world what a world.

  11. Carborundum

    Not trying to correct, just more context. The challenges we face are broad-based and systemic (as in, we’re also up to our necks in the English disease [horrifyingly, PMO actually looks to them as a guide]).

    Near on two decades of choosing the easy option of ultra-loose monetary policy over the much harder work of productivity improvements that fit into a reasonable, non-electioneering fiscal envelope will do that, even if the current crew were great implementers – which they aren’t to a nearly unbelievable degree.

  12. GrimJim

    The entire history of the Anglosphere — the UK, US, and to a lesser extent Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc., has always been comparable to a flight of dragons.

    The dragons flew forth from the British Isles and looted and plundered everything they saw.

    Their descendents continue to do so, until at this point, the peasants are on the verge of starvation, the dragons feast on the last of the lambs, and next they only have each other left to turn upon for further loot and plunder.

    Eventually, one last, lone dragon will rule over a pile of gold amassed at the heart of the world-wide wasteland, and smile as he dies, because he thinks he “won.”

  13. Jorge

    Ireland also wins because Brexit has massively screwed up the legal regime on the border, which so many people died for. There is a confluence of factors, including Brexit and the fact that the Catholics have been outbreeding the Protestants for a long time, that could cause NI to be peacefully reabsorbed into the Irish state.

  14. Eric Anderson

    Continuing with the capitalism as mental illness prescription, both the U.S. and England’s identity appear closest to Borderline Personality Disorder.

    The core feature of BPD is an intense fear of abandonment. Individuals suffering BPD exhibit a variety of unsafe and unwise behaviors in an attempt to avoid said abandonment. They struggle with emotional regulation. Suicidal threats, attempts and behaviors are common among the borderline population. Self-injury is another maladaptive coping mechanism common among those dealing with BPD.

    It’s often described as a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity, beginning in early adulthood (read in this context “late-stage capitalism”) and presents in a variety of contexts.

    Certainly puts a fresh spin on the sun setting, doesn’t it?

  15. VietnamVet

    I have rather an addiction to Nordic Noir and British TV Mysteries – paying good money to stream them. Whodunit? There are many common similarities in the TV shows. Different nationalities all speak to each other with childhood learned, perfect, mass media English. There is crime and punishment.

    What they also indirectly show is that we are an Empire now that includes NATO and its wars. There are no accents like my childhood Swedish relatives. The latest season of “Vera” episode 2 (SPOILER) is the rather moving story of the murder of a British veteran living under Newcastle England’s main highway bridge after two tours in Afghanistan.

    This all goes beyond the House of Windsor being the official royalty of Canada and America’s unofficial King who is about to be crowned. Yet, the Power Elite, the Imperial Blob, and the EU are above nationalities.

    I think it is rather a simple matter, Wall Street took over from the City of London, and the world reverted back to the 19th century capitalist system run by Robber Barons. The Pandemic and Trade Wars cost Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, over 200 billion dollars. That is tax money that wasn’t spent for the public good instead it bought reusable rockets and electric cars.

    Everyone promptly forgot that societies armed with AK-47s can fight back successfully against colonists. The Western Empire’s efforts to gain control of Eurasia’s resources got itself into a proxy WWIII trench war with the Russian Federation. The leadership on all sides are as incompetent as in WWI. The last Allied Victory was against Imperial Japan. The last US war with China ended in a stalemate on the 38th Parallel.

    Little people (untermeschen) simply do not exist anymore. Public health, public education and public safety are being privatized. Only profits matter. Damn the consequences. The USA is on the same course as the UK. The abortion rights/pill uproar in the USA is due to the end of the separation of church and state. Religious beliefs are being imposed on others. Succession is inevitable. Will New Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Mountain Montana also include the Northern Plain States nuclear missile bases? “Six leaders — including two commanders and four of their subordinates — were fired from a key Air Force nuclear base in North Dakota.”

    Will Wales remain attached to England?

  16. c1ue

    None of this should be surprising: what is the point of Brexit if the UK continues to meekly follow US and EU diktats?
    Equally, it is increasingly clear that most of the so-called leadership in the Tories used Brexit to gain power, but ultimately seek reunification with the EU.

  17. Some Guy

    I always find in interesting to go to ‘our world in data’ and track ‘energy use per person’ by country over time.

    Some countries are organized more efficiently than others (e.g. Denmark and Netherlands are very efficient since they are compact and flat, rely on bikes and public transit heavily for getting around, have efficient industries, etc.), and some have more resource intense industries due to natural resources (e.g. Canada, Norway), but tracking the level of a country over time gives you a sense of how the country is doing, and even allowing for the above, there are absolute levels that tell you something as well.

    The UK had been falling behind other developed countries for a long time, but has really gone into decline since 2005, dropping from 45,000kw/h per capita then to under 30,000kw/h now, in that period going from triple the Chinese level, to below the Chinese level. 30,000 kw/h is very low for a developed country, hard to find another such major economy at that low level. They’ve even fallen behind Italy, who was long one of the lowest energy consumers, despite Italy’s aging population and moderate climate.

    Some of the decline in the UK is the decline of North Sea oil production, and some is just the UK failing to compete for resources in a heavily populated world. (e.g. Asian countries ramp up oil consumption, prices rise, and people in the UK go hungry).

    And that data only goes through 2021 – can only imagine what it will look like in 2023 following the disastrous imposition of sanctions on Russia.

    England is run by an incestuous club of incompetent ‘elite’ school grads and they’ve been failing for a long time but their hold on the media prevents change, so it is hard to see anything improving.

    Carborundum makes the valid point that these trends apply across the west, especially in English speaking countries, but it does seem like England, due to the special level of incompetence and corruption from its elites and its lack of energy supplies, may continue to be at the leading edge of collapse.

  18. I wrote a bit about this … wow … four years ago. Britain will find a good trade partner in China. They will be happy to help out a struggling third world nation, trying to upgrade.

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