For 20 years Hutton has railed against Anglo-Saxon capitalism and lauded the European model. But with the eurozone in crisis, it's time for him to find a new tuneby Ferdinand Mount / February 19, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
If a book’s worth writing once, it’s worth writing several times. This homely maxim has often proved a recipe for success. Will Hutton is a case in point. Twenty years ago, he had a runaway hit with The State We’re In. He followed that up with The State to Come (1997), then came The World We’re In (2002). As Hutton moved from the editor’s chair at the Observer to the Work Foundation and now to the Principal’s lodge at Hertford College, Oxford, he has stayed heroically on his own message. The title’s tweaked, but the melody lingers on.
The continentals are enlightened, the Anglo-Saxons are deluded. Europe is the future and we would be crazy to stay out of the euro. John Maynard Keynes is good, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman are no good. The state is the solution, not the problem. It already showers blessings on us and would shower many more if only we could overcome our misguided suspicions. Government regulation and high taxes are the way to make us happy.
For painting in black and white Kazimir Malevich was a beginner compared to Hutton. There is no hesitation or deviation, although there is quite a bit of repetition, and rather too much of that too-tooism which we old newspaper leader writers lapse into when we’re in a hurry and lack the figures to back up our assertions. In this latest rumbustious jeremiad, How Good We Can Be, we are told three or four times on a single page that “too many” or “too few” people do this or don’t do that.
Hutton begins by telling us that “The State We’re In was that rare thing—a success that came out of nowhere,” and he goes on to quote from or refer to the prescience of his seminal work no less than 27 times by my count. The book was, we are told, the Bible of New Labour, and Tony Blair fell from grace because he failed to stick to the scripture. This is self-congratulation on an operatic scale. Hutton tells us too that he wrote How Good We Can Be in 11 weeks. He might have done better to keep this fact to himself, because the book sometimes reads that way.