Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Let's Have Some Common Sense

As Mr Eyebrows reminded us today in the Pre-Budget report, we are in the shit. Deep in it. Way past our armpits. There are just a few tufts of hair poking up from beneath the NuLab economic shit that has enveloped us. (And before you Lefties who always email me complain about the bias in that last sentence, remember this: we are the only G20 nation still in recession. Think about it.)

And we also know that we need to give the public sector a haircut. A massive one in fact to reign in public spending. Even NuLab and the Etonians agree on that; they are just arguing about when and how drastic the haircut should be.

So, let me in my sweet simpleminded way suggest some common sense to the thinking behind that public sector haircut.

The social welfare state in the form it has now grown into is ethically and financially out of control and now completely unaffordable. This is the time to be bold and re-model what type of social welfare state we want and can afford.

Four examples of how topsy turvy our social welfare state has become:

1. BOM is a wonderful blog I read daily. I do not agree with all that it says, but I respect its intellectual rigour and common sense economic logic. It had a really interesting post the other day, which in summary and in round numbers said this:

Good thing - 22 million private sector employees (aka the producers).

Bad thing - 12.5 million state pensioners, 7 million out-sourced Government employees, 6 million direct Government employees, 6 million people totally dependent on benefits (of one kind or another), 530,000 employed in further and higher education, 40,000 GPs and 33,000 working at National Rail. Thus 25.5 million public sector employees (aka those for whom the taxpayer pays.

Spot the problem? We have an imbalance. Too few in the private sector paying for too many in the public sector. We need a change.

2. Next, the NHS. Should your next door neighbour pay for you to have bigger tits just because it would make you feel a bit better about yourself? Should the people down the road pay for you to have your cock chopped off if you feel more like a woman than a man? Should the inhabitants of the next town pay for gluttons to have appetite suppressants because they are too fat? Should the taxpayer pick up the bill if you make lifestyle choices that have zero financial implications for yourself but significantly expensive financial implications for the taxpayer, like fags, booze and drugs? You get my drift.

We have an NHS where we have subverted 'no taxation without representation' into 'I do WTF I like and some other fucker should pay for my life choices'. We need a change.

3. Now, employment. Do we want a society where those that are willing to work are worse off if they do because the benefits system is too generous? Don't we want to make work a more attractive option than living on benefits? The so-called benefits trap. Crazy. We need a change.

4. Last, prisons. Under NuLab, we have locked more and more up in prison (and not built enough prisons so then let them out again, but that's another story). However, prison is so cushty that for many of those that end up there it is better than being outside. Here's David Bywater, an ex-prisoner:

"Things can get difficult if you are shoplifting or whatever you are doing. So you think, I will go to a prison for a bit of a rest period. You know you are going to get your drugs, methadone and what have you, so you are better off inside."

Or Andrew Whalley another ex-prisoner recently released after spending 10 years behind bars for a drug-related robbery with a firearm:

"I'm an addict, so if you give me free methadone, free drugs, keep me in active addiction, then release me out of prison, then surely when I come out of prison I've got to commit crime to keep me there." Was he ever offered rehab? "The last course I was offered was a safer injecting course". We need a change.

Now, of course I am being simplistic here. But my main point remains true. If we are to spend taxpayers hard earned cash that we have ripped out of their pay packets, then we should be giving them a good return on investment. Neither of these four random examples are doing that right now. And there are many other examples I could have cited. We need a much less generous social welfare state. Right now, it is too easy to beach yourself there and let the taxpayer pick up the cost. We need a strategic re-balancing.

Now, Lefties, before you cry foul and accuse me of being a self satisfied, arrogant fascist who does not care about those less fortunate than myself, consider this:

We are allowing our generous nature to (a) make the most vulnerable in society more dependent rather than less dependent, actually enslaving them to social welfare dependence and (b) bankrupting the country in the process. Is it sensible for the public sector to be larger than the private sector bearing in mind the latter pays for the former? Is it reasonable for taxpayers to pick up the bill for any damage I inflict upon society or myself; should I not have responsibility for my own actions? Should the benefit system pay me more than I can earn with my qualifications and experience? Should the prison system not be taking me off drugs and preparing me for an honest working life hopefully in the private sector?

So as the Etonians are 'blue sky thinking' about WTF they are actually going to do come 7th May 2010, they should be thinking on this: we need to use the discipline of having to downsize Government to re-fashion what Government should be doing and how it should be doing it.


Dave B said...

Philip Johnson had a very interesting piece in the Telegraph, about the early days of the Welfare State.

"When it became apparent in the late 1950s and early 1960s that the proportion of GDP taken by state spending was rising at too fast a rate, we could and should have carried out a fundamental reappraisal of what government should be doing. Instead, we had Plowden – in the words of one academic, less a milestone in the modernisation of post-war government than a millstone around its neck.

Plowden marked a crossroads: one branch led to ever more collective provision, the baleful growth of dependency, the unaffordability of state pensions and the eventual bankruptcy of the country; the other led to greater private provision, an emphasis on social insurance, more individual responsibility, less state interference and lower taxes.

We chose the wrong road, and Messrs Darling and Osborne are as much lumbered with the consequences as are the rest of us. There is a deeply ingrained institutional and political resistance to doing things differently: the sort of efficiency savings proposed by Mr Brown or Mr Cameron, such as freezing recruitment or cutting bureaucracy, are simply pointless without asking the more profound question of what the state should and should not be doing.

What is needed is a serious debate about removing the state from great swathes of national life that could usefully be handed over to the private sector or closed down altogether.

If the Tories want a growth strategy, then it has to involve paring back the public sector significantly to let private enterprise generate the wealth needed to drive the economy forward. If we had recognised this 50 years ago, we would today be a wealthier, low-tax country instead of the centralised, over-regulated, high-tax nation we have become."

Melvin Cragsbury (a pseudonym) said...

Dave B,

Wise words indeed.