macrohistory & world report

The United Kingdom

Map of Britain (United Kingdom)

United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland,
Scotland and Wales

You Tube: Queen Elizabeth,
morphing images from childhood to now.

World Factbook as of October 2014: "The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is the third largest economy in Europe after Germany and France. Over the past two decades, the government has greatly reduced public ownership and contained the growth of social welfare programs."

Value Added Tax since 2011: 20%

GDP growth rate:
2013: 1.8%
2012: 0.1%
2011: 1.1%
2010: 1.4%
2009: -4.4%

Unemployment rate
2013: 7.2%
2012: 7.8%
2011: 7.9%
2010: 7.8%
2009: 7.6%
2008: 5.5%.

Public debt as percentage of GDP
2011: 79.5, compared to 69.4 in 2011 for the United States

2011: Some might attribute the UK's better health figures (life expectancy and infant mortality) compared to the US to its government run National Health Service. Britain's health care covers all residents and is paid for almost entirely from taxes. Complaints have been made about low standards of care and long waiting – sometimes years to see a specific doctor. Britain appears too wedded to their government health care system for politicians to abandon it for the kind of privatized health care that exists in the United States.

Health expendutures
2009: 9.3% of GDP, compared to 16.2% for the United States

Britain imports about forty percent of its food, much more than Germany.

Britain produces more oil and natural gas than it consumes.

Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP
2005: 2.4%

Distribution of family income, GINI index:
Ranks 104th among 141 countries (lower rank number is less equal). More equal than the US, which ranks 41st.


Gender Gap: The World Economic Forum lists Britain as eighth in the world in the elimination of a gender gap. This is ahead of the United States, which does not appear among the top ten.

Living in an urban area
2010: 80%

Density for 2005: 250 persons per square kilometer.

Net migration rate
2012: More arriving than leaving. A net gain of 2.59 persons per 1,000 population.

Ethnic groups
2001 census: white (of which English 83.6%, Scottish 8.6%, Welsh 4.9%, Northern Irish 2.9%) 92.1%, black 2%, Indian 1.8%, Pakistani 1.3%, mixed 1.2%, other 1.6%

2001 census: Christian (Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist) 71.6%, Muslim 2.7%, Hindu 1%, other 1.6%, unspecified or none 23.1% (none is the US is a mere 4% for the year 2007)


Slightly smaller than Oregon. Capital: London


The United Kingdom consists of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a founding member of NATO and a member of the European Union but has not abandoned its currency, the pound, for the euro.

The UK is a constitutional monarchy and Commonwealth realm. Its chief of state is Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom since 1952. Her duties are largely ceremonial.

Scotland has its own parliament, and Wales has a National Assembly – in addition to Scots and Welch represented with others in the parliament in London.

Radio, Television, Journalism

Britain has numerous privately owned radio and television stations – the figure for 1995 being 219 AM and 431 FM radio stations and 228 television stations. It also has a news service, the BBC, financed by taxes put on the purchase of radio and televisions sets. There are no pledge drives on the BBC as there is with PBS in the United States. The BBC has more than 2,000 journalists in 7 bureaus within the UK and 41 bureaus overseas. Although financed by government, the BBC has demonstrated independence of government bias – as in an accusation that Prime Minister Tony Blair, before the Iraq War, deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. BBC news broadcasts are crisp, efficient and high quality journalism.

Recent History

The BBC writes: "Britain was the world's first industrialised country. Its economy remains one of the largest, but it has for many years been based on service industries rather than on manufacturing."

The Conservative Party's Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher (r. 1979-90) hated socialism but left Britain's public health care in place. She merely reduced its share of tax dollars from 5% of GDP to 4%.

In 1984, Margaret Thatcher cut corporate taxes on profits from 52% to 35%. In 1992 this was reduced to 32%.

The British in 1999 spent $1,675 per person on health care. This figure for the United States for 1999 is $4,271.

In the year 2001, a single worker without children earning an average wage paid an income tax of 29.7 percent. In the US this was 30 perent, in Belgium 55.6 percent.

In 2005 the UK became a net importer of energy.

In October 2007 the BBC reports that in Britain 55% of patients "said they had had difficulty getting access to GP (General Practitioner) care on weekends and nights." In 2004 a GP contract "allowed family doctors to opt out of providing out-of-hours care." The report describes 15% of Britain's patients as having to wait "more than six months for elective treatment." But a poll of over 12,000 patients in seven countries shows the British least likely to have problems with medical bills and insurance.

March 2008: Concern is expressed in a Cambridge University report that children are being over-indulged, resulting in their throwing tantrums and being abusive at school.

Conservative Party reforms: Timeline, June 22, 2010.

November 10, 2010:  In England, the government heavily subsidizes higher education and lends money to students for their education. As a part of its austerity program, the conservative government plans to treble tuition fees and cut university funding. Annual tuition fees are expected to rise to £6,000 ($9,600) or £7,000 annually, but students will not have to start repaying their tuition fee loans until they are earning £21,000 ($33,000) or more, and financial help will increase for students from households earning less than £25,000. The changes will take effect in September 2012. Middle class parents are concerned about their ability to send their children to a university, which they believe necessary. And some fear that a university education is becoming more fan an an elite again. Today, a peaceful student protest march by thousands against the changes turned violent at the Conservative Party headquarters, instigated by a small segment among the protesters. Windows were smashed and students stormed the building – to the disgust of the demonstration's leaders.

April 11, 2013: With Margaret Thatcher's death what she did when Prime Minister is much under discussion. An article in The Telegraph by Toby Young describes Thatcher as having inherited a state that had its "tentacles" in every nook and crann of BRitish life. "I'm not just talking about the nationalised industries, but about wages policy and the Price Commission and a top tax rate of 83 per cent – the whole ghastly panoply of a command and control economy. Had Labour won the election, the powers of the state would have become even more draconian. Among other things, the party wanted to introduce a wealth tax for everyone worth over £150,000, abolish independent schools and grant the Price Commission the power to force shopkeepers to cut prices." Under Thatcher, public utilities were privatised, the economy was deregulated. The top tax rate of tax had been reduced to 40 per cent."

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.