Sunday, June 06, 2010

What is truly necessary?

Norman Tebbit has really got into this blogging lark: I particularly like the way in which he answers his commenters directly in the articles that he writes. And those articles are, usually, filled with good sense—especially as regards the size of government.
We need to ask ourselves what are the things which a government must deliver in order for a nation to function effectively because we cannot do them for ourselves, what are the things which it may be able to deliver better than anyone else, and what it should not do.

First of all, for a nation to exist and to enjoy the benefits of its homeland territory, its government must be able to defend its borders against any unwelcome intruders. We simply cannot do that for ourselves. It is first the first duty and priority of government. Second, the government must preserve “the Queen’s Peace”. That is more than just law and order. It is the right of the subject to go about his lawful business in peace. That requires a system of criminal law and the means of enforcing it, including the judiciary and the police. Third, the government must provide a system of civil law for the settlement of disputes between individuals or groups.

From here on we begin to move from the absolutely mandatory towards the highly desirable. At the top of that list is the provision of a stable currency to be used as a medium of exchange and a store of value. Then there follows a structure of commercial law and regulation, and the provision of infrastructure, or the facilitation of that provision by others.
After those comes a long list of desirables which are increasingly not absolutely necessary for a state to exist. Indeed there was a perfectly viable state and an effective government before they began to be provided by the state.

Universal education is highly desirable, but it does not have to be provided by government. The same is true of health care. Ignorance and disease can both be threats to a society or nation. So too can be poverty and policies to reduce poverty are highly desirable too.

What has happened in recent years is that the state has tended to monopolise the provision of these desirable goods and services in its own hands, freezing out alternative models, even if they may be better or less expensive, on the spurious grounds that uniformity matters more than quality, choice or variety. At its extremes this infantalises the citizen and increasingly baroque, overmanned and high cost structures are designed to give an illusion of choice.

In contrast, in the provision of food, the retail trade and food producers continually extend choice and drive down prices, in a manner adjudged impossible in the state sector. As ever, those who find managing their own responsibilities too difficult turn to displacement activities, principally the bossy intrusion into the rights of free speech and personal responsibility.

It must be said that I entirely agree with Tebbit's assessment, and that I also agree with the method by which we determine what the state should do; and it will come as no surprise that I also agree with his assessment of the risks of government providing services, especially as regards the "freezing out" of better—or, at least, varied—options.

As I keep on emphasising, we cannot continue with our present model of state provision, not least because we simply cannot afford it—something that Call Me Dave is at pains to highlight in his interview with The Times today.
We move on to an issue that will prove a greater challenge to his leadership skills: the draconian public spending cuts needed to balance the £163 billion budget deficit. Cameron is keen to soften up the public for a budget in a fortnight’s time that he admits will cause “pain” to many, but he insists will be “pain for a purpose”.

“The problem of the deficit and the mounting debt is huge. The simple matter is that the more we borrow the more we have to pay back; the more we borrow the more the danger is that interest rates get pushed up; and the more we borrow, the more debt interest goes up. If we don’t do anything about it, it is going to be £50-£60-£70 billion. We will be spending more on debt interest than on educating our children and defending our country.”

There are many who maintain that libertarianism is some unreachable Utopia: but most of these same people would carry on as we are, providing all of the services that the state currently provides, at the same levels (or higher), because it's the "right thing to do".

To maintain this attitude is utterly unrealistic—we cannot afford to carry on as we are. No one can. Almost every one of the Western democracies is up to its eye-balls in debt and it cannot continue indefinitely. Just like the banks which they criticise, too many governments have just carried on racking up huge debts in the hope that something might just turn up.

Something will turn up eventually—and that something is called "bankruptcy".

10 comments:

Shouting Into The Void said...

State monopoly on law and order - Good.
State monopoly on education - Bad.
State monopoly on currency - Good.
State monopoly on health - Bad.
Pick one or the other. Either you believe the state's use of force and coercion in order to implement things "for the greater good" is desirable or it isn't. If you're going to make that case isn't the universal provision of food equally desirable as education or law and order?
If the state utterly screws up the things it handles why on earth do we want to leave the government handling the most important things like currency? Because leaving the state being able to print money and loan money to itself inflating away people's savings is a good thing? It's exactly the tool that got us into the mess we're in in the first place! The things you agree with are exactly the methods of control which allowed the state to control everything else.

Anonymous said...

Lord Blagger:

Even so, your parallel legal systems still need to be "permitted" by the overarching legal system of the state.

Lenty:

Nothing was said about a state monopoly - he only said that he thinks it is best if the state was the provider of certain things. Basically, a state represents its citizens. The problems we have are entirely due to the fact that people can't just create a new state when we feel like it.

Anonymous said...

Lady GaGa (aka Thatch), aka St Margaret of Finchley (PBUH).

BrianSJ said...

Anon 4:02 on defence.
Machiavelli pointed out that a militia is much better than a standing army; it will defend its loved ones very effectively but will not sign up for vanity expeditionary warfare.

Roger Thornhill said...

@Lenty,

The Libertarian Party policy is to end State monopoly over currency.

I think this time is a good opportunity to put that idea to Lord Tebbit.

the a&e charge nurse said...

"The Libertarian Party policy is to end State monopoly over currency".

Has any other state adopted such a policy, if not why not?

Currency left in the hand of the profiteers - what is there not to like?

paul said...

I think you mean government sanctioned PRIVATE BANK monopoly over currency.
If the state controlled its own currency they wouldnt have to borrow it at interest from banks and we wouldnt be in the mess we are now because there would be no national debt to pay back.

Roger Thornhill said...

@Paul "I think you mean government sanctioned PRIVATE BANK monopoly over currency.
If the state controlled its own currency they wouldnt have to borrow it at interest from banks and we wouldnt be in the mess we are now because there would be no national debt to pay back."

that is wrong on so many levels.

The state does control the currency enough to avoid borrowing money, as the QE £200bln shows. Problem is when it does, wealth is stolen.

Anonymous said...

Dave does not have the balls to deal with the problems and Nick has even less.

I fear that when the magnitude of the problems and cuts necessary to rectify 13 years of crass incompetence become apparent they will both show their true colours.

The Thatch had more balls than both of them combined.

Roger Thornhill said...

@A&E "and you seem to be presenting dogma (state = bad ....... in ALL spheres),"

seem being the operative word and in that you are mistaken. The issue is monopoly. It looks like it is the State, because the state uses force and subsidy to often engineer by accident or design it's own pet monopolies.

Your argument about "show where it is working" is no counter. Think about it.