We all know the story by now, it goes like this: The world was good, back then, in the 1950s and 1960s. We had a nation state that cared for us, one that was actually capable of doing things: it built roads, provided decent schools and education, and, most importantly, it lessened poverty and social inequality. Why couldn’t it just stay that way forever? Why on earth did Milton Friedman, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan have to come and clatter around our golden age of welfare paradise? Because so they did, around 1980, when Milton broadcast his famous, free-market advocating TV series Free to Choose, when Ronald gave speeches about choice and opportunity and when Maggie started her war on unions and state-owned businesses. Why couldn’t they just leave us alone?
As you may have noticed, I am slightly sceptical about that story. To me, it seems too simple, too conservative, and too centered on the development in the West, especially the US. This is not to say that it is utterly wrong, but rather that it is only a tiny shred of a much bigger story that is much more complicated and harder to grasp in all of it’s facets. I will hopefully explore this in a longer essay in the near future. However, what concerns me here is a new and very impressive piece by David Simon in The Observer. David Simon is the creator of The Wire, the best TV series of all times (even better, one might claim, than Friedman’s Free to Choose). As you know if you’ve watched it, it is about the decay of an American city, the great gap that divides American society, and the drug trade as a war on America’s underclass. If you haven’t watched it, just do it. Now. Nothing else matters. You can come back to this text once you’ve finished all of the incredibly good five seasons and 60 episodes of the show.