It would be churlish to do anything other than praise the technical brilliance of the Olympic opening ceremony. The choreography and the execution by both the professionals and volunteers were terrific. The whole atmosphere of spontaneity also hit the right notes. Despite this, the content was highly questionable. We know from the IEA/Liberty Fund publication The representation of business in English literature that there is a subtle anti-business bias in literature and the arts. This was certainly apparent at the opening ceremony.

We start with a rural idyll with well-dressed people playing happily in the countryside. They are then ripped from their roots as the horror of the industrial revolution takes place. There is no sense of the uncertainty, dreadful poverty, disease and malnutrition of rural living of the time giving way to migration to cities to lead a better life where, despite the difficulties, many more people had food on the table and some degree of certainty.

I don’t wish to make the opposite error of suggesting that rural poverty gave way to an industrial idyll, but the reality is one of progress and a pretty grim life in pre-industrial Britain. The ceremony moved on to highlight protest movements. Not the Anti-Corn-Law League which did so much to reduce the poverty of working people, but the suffragettes, trades unionists and, later on, quite extraordinarily, CND.
This article originally appeared on Conservative Home. Read the rest here.

Philip Booth 154x154
Philip Booth is Academic and Research Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs and Professor of Finance, Public Policy and Ethics at St. Mary's University, Twickenham. From 2002-2015 he was Professor of Insurance and Risk Management at Cass Business School. Previously, Philip Booth worked for the Bank of England as an advisor on financial stability issues and he was also Associate Dean of Cass Business School and held various other academic positions at City University. He has written widely, including a number of books, on investment, finance, social insurance and pensions as well as on the relationship between Catholic social teaching and economics. He is Deputy Editor of Economic Affairs and on the editorial boards of various other academic journals. Philip is a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries and an honorary member of the Society of Actuaries of Poland. He has previously worked in the investment department of Axa Equity and Law and was been involved in a number of projects to help develop actuarial professions and actuarial, finance and investment professional teaching programmes in Central and Eastern Europe. Philip has a BA in Economics from the University of Durham and a PhD from City University.

4 thoughts on “The truly international, communitarian Olympics opening we could have had – but didn’t”

  1. Posted 30/07/2012 at 13:37 | Permalink

    Artistically one could argue that the opening ceremony put far too much emphasis on appealing to the 80,000 or so people present in person. After all, if, as has been suggested, as many as one billion people were watching across the globe on television that means there were 12,000 people watching on television for every single person actually present in the stadium. As to the content of the opening ceremony, it is hardly news that the British intelligentsia misunderstand the implications of the Industrial Revolution. They take its enormous benefits for granted while pretending (like Bertrand Russell) that it somehow made most people worse off.

  2. Posted 01/08/2012 at 03:15 | Permalink

    I think you’re really missing the point with regard to the protest movements. Yeah, it didnt show the anti corn law movement, but to be fair, most non-historians/economists or whatever aren’t familiar with it. The women’s suffrage movement and trade unionism are better known to the public (and international community) at large. You may need to come down from your ivory tower! As for your comment about CND (quote: quite extraordinarily CND) my understanding is that any card-carrying free market liberal is against war – I could at this point trawl through google and find some quotes from some distinguished free marketeers to support this, sadly I can’t be bothered- and the construction of multi-billion dollar redundant defence systems is hardly what I’d consider a pareto optimal outcome..

  3. Posted 01/08/2012 at 10:18 | Permalink

    Yes, why object to the women’s suffrage movement? I rather like be allowed to vote.

  4. Posted 01/08/2012 at 23:21 | Permalink

    They are fair points about the protest movements. I have nothing against women’s suffrage, of course. But my point was that together they reflected a certain worldview. Michael Foot would have joined all the one’s shown. The NHS and the destruction of the rural idyll (together with it being so parochial were my main points) – though see the interesting points about the commentary on Steve Davies’ post.

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