The Welfare State We're In, The website of the book by James Bartholomew
April 30, 2007
'The Welfare State We're In' receives award

I am delighted to say that The Welfare State We're In has just won the 2007 Sir Anthony Fisher Memorial Award which is awarded by the Atlas Foundation in America. More precisely, the award is made to the think tank or institute which is associated with what the judges regard as the best publication (presumably published in the previous year). The book won the Sir Anthony Fisher award in the 'established institute' category (there are two other categories). I am told that there were over 70 entrants.

The Institute of Economic Affairs has become associated with The Welfare State We're In in several ways since it was written. For example, it has arranged for one of its sponsors to pay for distribution to all Members of Parliament and all working members of the House of Lords. It also made a bulk purchase of the original hardback edition and then, again, of the revised and extended paperback edition (which won this new award). It also arranged for me to be made the Earhart Foundation Senior Fellow in Social Policy at the I.E.A. for two years (2005, I think, and the current year).

It is a great honour and I would like to thank both the Atlas Foundation and the Institute of Economic Affairs.

But I also want to add that the book was written entirely before I received any funds or agreed to receive funds from any of the above organisations. I considered it very important from the outset that this should be my own book written without any pressure - even unintended or self-imposed pressure - from any organisation at all. Nor did I want anyone to be able to suggest that the book was written to fit in with the 'line' of any organisation. The Welfare State We're In is entirely my own work. I wrote it because I passionately believe that the message in it is true and important.

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March 24, 2005
About James Bartholomew

JAMES BARTHOLOMEW trained as a banker in the City of London before moving into journalism with the Financial Times and the Far Eastern Economic Review, for whom he worked in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Returning to England on the Trans-Siberian Railway through communist China and the Soviet Union – an experience which influenced his political outlook – he subsequently became a leader writer on The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

He continues to write occasionally for both newspapers, as well as The Sunday Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday, the Daily Express and The Spectator on a freelance basis. But, for a year or two, much of his time is being taken up with home-educating his younger daughter.

He has made many appearances on radio and television, particularly since this book 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. He has given talks on welfare state issues in America and Germany. He is currently the Earhart Foundation Senior Fellow in Social Policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

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

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


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 to the author 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 budgetted 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 1500 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. 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.

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