The sovereign individual

The people of the world are moving on, says Mark Steyn, and leaving Western Europeans — and Canadians — far behind

The people of the world are moving on, says Mark Steyn, and leaving Western Europeans — and Canadians — far behind

New Hampshire

I was stunned to hear they were closing the Rover plant at Longbridge. Mainly I was stunned because I had no idea they still made cars at Longbridge. I was vaguely following things up to a decade or three back: I knew that ‘British Leyland’ had gone, and that Red Robbo was no longer picketing the plant every night on ITN and the BBC, and that various foreigners owned what was left of the British car industry. But the news that Longbridge is going out of business is far less amazing to me than the news that they were still (after a fashion) in business — in 2005!

I would hazard that most Britons psychologically closed down Longbridge a generation back. During last year’s Thatcher jubilee, in among the huzzahs, I received a striking number of letters from self-described Conservatives bemoaning the way that, thanks to Maggie, Britain no longer ‘made’ anything. That may be so, but it’s not thanks to Maggie so much as the two decades pre-Maggie. Permanence is the illusion of every age, and the trade-union colossi who traipsed in and out of No. 10 throughout the Seventies were too dazzled by their own unlikely eminence to consider what the world might look like the day after tomorrow.

The question I find myself mulling over now is this: what’s to stop everything turning into the British car industry? Thomas Friedman’s new book, The World Is Flat, includes among many intriguing titbits a fascinating item about the number of US tax returns being prepared by accountants in India — that’s to say, you’re a guy with a house and a job in North Carolina and your taxes are done by a fellow in Bangalore, who knows his way around the W-2s, W-4s, 1099s, etc.

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