The organic myth of the British constitution

Michael Gardiner writes at openDemocracy on 'public' services in Britain:

William BeveridgeThe British left is packed with voices demanding an unreflective defence of ‘public services’. This public is frozen beyond any evaluation of commonality, is held to be equalising even as its bases fall away to reveal the private ownership concealed within them. The barrage is triggered in part by the Great Recession, but also in part by the sovereignty challenge being felt in the UK, concretely in Scotland in 2014. Now is a good time to reflect that the British sovereignty behind these public services has always in fact defined itself as a defence against popular sovereignty, a defence projected as timeless inheritance which is intuitive and ‘just there’.

If the nationalism standing behind the ‘British public’ throughout the press and left commentary seems oddly transparent, this transparency derives from Britain’s unusual licence to exist ‘beyond’ the national. For this is less a nation than it is a rationalisation of credit. The British union arises from the import of the Anglo-Dutch financial system after 1688, its guarantee in perpetuity by the Hanoverian crown, and central banks which supported it from the 1690s. As Daniel Defoe was describing at exactly the time of the Acts of Union in 1706-07, Britain’s raison d’état is as an investment entity, a guarantor of global money. As has been described in many accounts of the close of the seventeenth century, in this new state citizenship is understood in terms of naturalised property and the avoidance rather than the promotion of shared action. Reform it as much as you like, but collectivity is not within the scope of the British constitution.

Read the rest here.