About James Bartholomew

JAMES BARTHOLOMEW has spent most of his life working as a journalist and author. He is currently working on a new book about the welfare states of the world and how they are changing the way that people live and behave. How have welfare states changed cultures and life-styles? How is world civilisation changing?  He will be making comparisons between different welfare states and seeking out the models that perform the best and do the least damage. The working title of this new book is The Way We Live Now. His previous book, The Welfare State We’re In, was about the British welfare state and argued that it had done considerable damage to British society.

He originally trained as a banker in the City of London but before long moved into journalism first with the Financial Times and then the Far Eastern Economic Review, for whom he worked in Hong Kong and Tokyo. His experience in Hong Kong influenced his political outlook – an influence which was re-inforced when he returned to England on the Trans-Siberian Railway through communist China and the Soviet Union.

After some years of freelancing and then being employed to investigate investment opportunities in the newly liberated Easter Europe,  he became a leader writer on The Daily Telegraph,   the Daily Mail and then back on The Daily Telegraph again.

He has been freelance for many years now and has written many a comment article on politics, economics and a wide array of other subjects. As he is now researching a new book, he only contributes to newspapers and magazines occasionally – most recently for the Daily Express and The Spectator. He has written  a column for The Daily Telegraph on investment for more than thirteen years now.

One temporary and very satisfying interlude in his working life was when he gave it all up to  home-educate his younger daughter for two years. This involved visiting Italy (more than anywhere else), France and China.

He has made many appearances on radio and television, particularly since The Welfare State We’re In was published. Most notably, he put forward his arguments in a 45 minute BBC Radio 4 programme where he was opposed by four people including two professors of the London School of Economics and an MP. In 2010 he gave a talk on Radio 4 in which he advocated the abolition of the NHS. In the same year, he also gave interviews for a Channel 4 documentary on debt and failed government expenditure. He has made other appearances on Channel 4 programmes and BBC2. He has appeared a many times on Radio 5 Live and a few times on both the Today programme and The Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4.

He has given talks on welfare state issues in America, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. For two years he was the Earhart Foundation Senior Fellow in Social Policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs. He remains a fellow of the Institute of Economic Affairs and is also a fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. During 2011 he did some research in Sweden and Italy. Other research visits are to be arranged from the Autumn of 2011 into 2012 will be to Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, Australia and the USA. Other countries may be added if time – and the cost – allow.

The Welfare State We’re In was the winner of the Institute of Economic Affairs’ 2005 Arthur Seldon Award for Excellence.

The Welfare State We’re In also won the 2007 Sir Anthony Fisher Memorial Award which is awarded by the Atlas Foundation in America. The award is made to the think tank or institute associated with what the judges regard as the best publication. The book won in the ‘established institute’ category from over 70 entrants.

James Bartholomew’s previous books were very different in nature:  The Richest Man in the World: The Sultan of Brunei and Yew and Non-Yew. He lives in London.

How The Welfare State We’re In came about

The preface in the book tells the story of its beginnings. What it does not describe are the many obstacles that existed between the idea and the book reaching the shelves.

The individual who published James Bartholomew’s successful first book, literally screamed at him when he heard the idea for The Welfare State We’re In. He was a socialist who was appalled. He shouted “You can’t really believe that!” It was almost as if the idea was either a) sacriligious and b) not to be permitted.

Various synopses were written and re-written. The publisher of James Bartholomew’s second book (which also was very successful) was approached. She, too, turned it down. It was pointed out that the head of her large company’s UK operations was a friend of the Blairs.

It soon became all too obvious that the publishing world in Britain is dominated by those who are either passionately Left-wing or ‘moderately’ Left-wing. Either way, they were offended by the idea behind The Welfare State We’re In. In any case, it was thought that there would not be a big readership for the book. Time passed and the author had to continue earning a living. His agent tried various publishers. The synopsis was re-written.

The author sought out publishers who had published free-market-oriented books before. Synopses were sent. It was claimed that another journalist was already writing a book saying the same thing. Meanwhile, as the months and years slipped away, a change was happening. The ideas which seemed almost wild in 1993, began to seem less extraordinary even to those of the “centre”. The failings of the NHS became better known. The idea that it was “the envy of the world” began to fall into disuse. The author got close, or so it seemed, to being commissioned by first one small publisher, then another. Both fell through. (One of the publishers went bust.)

Then Charles Moore, editor of the Daily Telegraph at the time, agreed to recommend the book to his own publisher, a senior figure in the Penguin group. A synopsis was sent. A commission was not ruled out. But more information and data was wanted. Meanwhile the publisher Politico’s was approached. Iain Dale, then in charge of this small publishing house, was reluctant. The author asked Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute and a friend of Iain Dale to try to persuade Iain to see the author and consider the idea. A meeting was arranged. The author threw himself into trying to convince Iain Dale and finally succeeded. But there was no advance for the author at all.

Considering the amount of research involved, the lack of an advance was a fairly serious matter. It was then that it occurred to the author that perhaps he could get some sponsorship. It seemed an outlandish, unlikely and even greedy idea. But he came to realise that think tanks and political parties all rely on sponsorship. The Welfare State We’re In had the potential to influence the political debate in Britain and there were some wealthy people willing to help the author achieve that end. So a number of people kindly contributed to the cause, as described in the acknowledgements in the book.

The writing of the book took far longer than the author had expected (or budgeted for). Iain Dale became infuriated by the delays. Then, finally, the book was delivered and there came the worrying wait to see if Iain liked it. Thankfully he was full of praise. His lieutenant at the time, Sean Magee, was of a different political complexion, which made his approval even more significant. His treasured response was “It is well argued – as it had to be”.

Even then there were obstacles. The original concept was for a book that was readable and approachable. Part of that meant pictures – and not just a ghetto of pictures in the middle but pictures integrated in the text. That meant a higher quality of paper must be used, a picture researcher must be hired and a designer would have to do a lot of work. All that cost money – and for a book which might sell only 1,500 copies. The publisher was unlikely to wear it. But meanwhile John Blundell, director general of the IEA, had seen the first draft and become an enthusiastic supporter of the book. After various discusssions with Politico’s and the author, the trustees of the IEA agreed to “get behind” the book. They would buy 2,500 copies and send them free to MPs, active members of the House of Lords, teachers of economics and supporters of the IEA. This bulk purchase put money into the hands of the publisher which was therefore able to put more into the production (and promotion) of the book.

Still, the contract said that the author was responsible for paying for the pictures. So the hat went round for more support from friends and fellow believers. The author also went out and took some photographs himself and tried, wherever at all possible, to get permission to use images without a charge. Those sympathetic to the book could help it along simply by not demanding payment for copyright.

There was, over the years in which it was written, much debate about the title. But nothing better than The Welfare State We’re In was discovered, so we went with that idea (Iain’s) even though the author was not keen on the fact that it was derivative. The cover was a problem. Actually, the titles of all his books have been derivative.  The book deals with many fields of human life. But a cover showing a collage of images would be weak. Other concepts were thought of, tried and discarded. Eventually Sean Magee asked if any suitable image had come out of the picture research. Two possibilities were looked at: a cartoon about a doctor not being at his surgery but leaving an answering machine to see patients, and the second, the image of two youths hanging about on the street. The latter was chosen and much played about with. It is a strong image and one which suggests one of the central themes in the book: that Britain is a less civilised place than before and that this is because of the welfare state.

From idea to book was a long but, in the end, satisfying journey.