British Television and History

It’s occurred to me that lately I’ve only been watching British television shows. I recently discovered Foyle’s War, which is your typical cop drama…in WORLD WAR TWO, which makes it a lot more interesting. Watching Housewife, 49 rekindled my interest in the Home Fronts of World War 2, particularly that of Britain, which was one of the most tightly controlled societies in the world during the war outside of the Soviet Union. As a libertarian, whenever I hear people recounting the war and how it went (“Rationing started today,” “got fined for violating the blackout,” and so on and so forth), I can’t imagine how a libertarian would have reacted to it. We wouldn’t have wanted the rationing or the black out or being a “mobile woman,” and getting billeted where ever and with no ability to refuse. These are gross violations of every right we hold dear,  but in Britain, it was necessary. Did they really have a choice? Britain came extremely close to falling to Hitler. Arguably, had Hitler not invaded the Soviet Union, thus giving Britain some breathing room, they would have fallen. It was simply a matter a time.

But on the other hand, you can also argue that World War 2 destroyed British society. Rationing continued until 1953. It broke down all sorts of barriers to the government doing things. At the end of the war, Britain was broke—all its gold was gone. Cities were ruined as well. Consumer goods were naught. Government cheese remained the only cheese many cheese produces were legally allowed to produce until the 1980s. No wonder British cuisine is mocked! World War 2 totally ruined it. If you’ve been eating crap food from 1939 to 1945 or even until 1953,  how are you even supposed to know or remember how your food tasted before then?

I also watched Land Girls, which was, quite frankly crap. I only saw the first season anyway. If there was more I would probably watch it simply to see how it turns out. There’s only so much drama you can go for on a farm without making yourself look ridiculous and they already resorted to one character trying to break down social norms (fighting against segregation) that she would hardly have questioned otherwise. Not worth it.

Foyle’s War is outstanding, though. I imagine the darkness of the blackout served as the perfect cover for all sorts of illicit activity, though I do find it a bit annoying when they go after black marketers mainly because I want someone to just stand up and say FREEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOOOM! But I know, patriotism, it’s just for the duration and all that. I was disappointed to find out that when they found out it wouldn’t be renewed, they skimped over parts of the war to finish it by the time the show ended. And then of course it got renewed so now  they have to cover the postwar period.

Just yesterday at the library I picked up Berkeley Square, which I had been looking for after thoroughly enjoying The Duchess of Duke Street and Downton Abbey, not to mention Manor House. I just happened upon it at the library yesterday and so far so good! I love the Edwardian Period of England—the last hurrah before World War One, which set Britain on its path of destruction that World War Two merely completed. Sometimes I think the only reason the United States became a world power is simply because there was no one else. War exhausts resources as the United States is currently finding out.

I feel in a lot of ways that United States society today resembles Edwardian society closely. Wealth is very unequally distributed, there isn’t a whole lot of social mobility, and we all think these good times are going to last forever. But I love the beauty of the dresses and the general aura. While I know I would hate wearing a corset, I can’t help but admire the slim silhouette it gave its wearers.

I also watched a few World War Two era films that were on netflix. Though I was rather disappointed Mrs. Miniver was not available, I did enjoy Millions Like Us.

Mostly I leave these shows asking myself if American society would pull together as well as Britain did if we were under such a tremendous threat. The answer is obviously no. First of all, as a superpower, we could never be under such a tremendous threat. Strangely enough, conservatives really want that to happen: they want us to endure deprivations and restrictions similar to the ones we experiened during World War 2–they want a strong government. After September 11, many were hoping for it. You know, to defeat the enemy.

Friedrich Hayak was asked if there would ever be a reason for the government to take on a strong role in society and take everything over and he answered that maybe if it faced a huge external threat and such controls were the only way to save itself but even then, he wasn’t sure it would be necessary.

And, the more I watch, the more I read, the more I find myself agreeing with him. Some governments aren’t worth saving. Some ways of life–such as the Edwardian one–need to disappear simply because they are so unsustainable.