Sunday, March 02, 2008

I like the state, the state is great

Iain Dale, in a post called 'The Creepingly Insidious Powers of the State', writes that, "All my instincts tell me that the electorate are beginning to cry out for a kind of politics which seeks to give meaningful power back to the individual and shrink the size of the State."

I don't think Iain's instincts on this are correct. We'd probably agree that some of the issues which most concern people are immigration, crime, tax, health and housing. Of those:

On immigration, a majority want the government to do more to keep people out, deport foreign criminals more quickly and generally 'get a grip'. This would require expanding the powers of the State.

On crime, a majority of people want more police, more people put in prison, criminals kept in prison for longer, and tougher action against (young) people behaving anti-socially. Again, this would require an expansion in the size of the State.

On tax, a majority think that they are over-taxed, with council tax and inheritance tax particularly disliked. Score one for reducing the size of the State.

On health, people don't want to see the NHS privatised, or insurance systems replace the current way it is paid for, and want a better service, whether from GPs, in hospitals, or in long term care for the elderly. This is an explicit preference for the State-run option over the private alternative, and belief that the State should be doing more.

On housing, the government gets at least some of the blame for the fact that young people are priced out of the housing market, and many people think that it is unfair that they or their relatives can't get a council house because there aren't enough and they don't agree with who gets priority in being housed. The reason why housing is now one of the top issues is precisely because the government (rightly or wrongly) has kept out of the way and has left the market to get on with things.

So of these five issues, I score it 4 for more state, and 1 for less state.

5 Comments:

At 8:33 am , Anonymous hughes views said...

Iain Dale is a classic example of the species “simple-minded Tory”. These dear souls are manic control freaks to a (wo)man. They want everyone who thinks in precisely the same way that they do to be left free to live their lives just as they please. All the rest of us should be in jail.

 
At 1:18 pm , Blogger Andrew R said...

"I want a smaller state" generally translates as "I want the state to stop doing things I don't like - never mind if the majority do like." Very few people want the state to stop doing things that benefit them, even if that stance doesn't jive neatly with their "political philosophy".

Thank for the link, BTW!

 
At 7:49 pm , Anonymous ad said...

The reason why housing is now one of the top issues is precisely because the government (rightly or wrongly) has kept out of the way and has left the market to get on with things.

It is planning laws that restrict the supply of new housing, and therefore drive up its price. You may agree with the States actions, but there is no doubt that they have an effect.



Iain Dale, in a post called 'The Creepingly Insidious Powers of the State', writes that, "All my instincts tell me that the electorate are beginning to cry out for a kind of politics which seeks to give meaningful power back to the individual and shrink the size of the State."

All my instincts tell me that people want other people to do things that benefit them and those they care about in exchange for nothing at all, as long as they can come up with a justification for this demand. Coming up with this justification is a large part of politics.

 
At 12:27 am , Blogger donpaskini said...

hughes - :)

andrew r - I normally link either to blogs which link to me or demolish libertarian arguments. Doing both is just overkill.

ad - I take the point, there certainly isn't a total absence of state intervention in housing policy. But I think you'd agree that a majority of people aren't saying 'if only the government interfered less with the housing market, I could buy a house/get a council house'.

 
At 8:22 pm , Blogger Jackart said...

The best proxy measure for the power of the state is the amount of tax people pay - tax freedom day for example and do you think people want a bigger tax bill? Of course not. They want their neighbour whom they suspect of earning more than him to pay it

Sure, in the big areas people want an effective state to protect them from bad guys. Not being economists they don't see government interference in the housing market reduces long-term supply and hence the raises long-term costs.

When we talk about shrinking the state, it is often the petty irritations of an over mighty bureaucracy which is the focus. It's too easy to suggest that a tax cut will fall on teachers and Nurses instead of pen-pushers and outreach co-ordinators. The ovemighty state is the fact that the poor pay a higher rate of tax than the rich, and that is a direct result of a welfare state which reaches too deep into people's lives - even ones with moderately well paying jobs.

The NHS costs 17,000 lives a year compared to an OECD average health system. The people have been brainwashed into loving it.

Just like big brother and the British surveillance state.

So in the terms your rather smug post puts it - you're right. The people do want big state. That doesn't make them right, or me wrong.

 

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