Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Plan

As readers will know, I generally think that Douglas Carswell MP is a sensible chap—his Direct Democracy site says some sensible things. Further, it was Douglas who—after a session on 18 Doughty Street—convinced me that devolving almost all taxation to a local level, via a Local Sales Tax, would not only be sensible but also feasible.

One of his partners in crime—and, I believe, best man at his wedding—is none other than Master Dan Hannan, with whom I have corresponded, on and off, for a little while now. I am delighted to note—having been prompted by Dan—that both of these gentlemen have discovered the wonders of Lulu.com* and are releasing a book through that medium.

The book is called The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain and is essentially a very libertarian manifesto. Dan explains...
What is needed is a completely different approach, one that tackles the root causes of high spending (ie, a bloated public sector whose chief purpose is its own expansion.) There are things that could be done to break the quango state and restore power to the citizen.

There are, of course, any number of books espousing low-spending ideas, but Carswell and Hannan have drafted in some well-disposed ex-clerks to lay out specifically how their ideas could be achieved in a single legislative session through some 30 legal acts.

And what are their proposals are? Well, here's a sample—again, in Dan's words...
  • A Singapore-style system of personal health accounts. This is not an insurance based system, since insurance has the same flaw as the NHS, namely that no one has any incentive to seek value for money. The doctor is in the same position as the builder who looks at your flooded kitchen and says, "insurance job is it, guv’nor?" before quoting his price.

    Our scheme does have a mandatory insurance component against catastrophe: getting MS, say. But this is a genuine insurance model, in the sense that most people will never need to access it, so premiums can be kept low. The rest of the account goes on day-to-day foreseeable healthcare needs.

    Singapore has a healthier population than the UK, despite spending less than half of what we do, not least because its system incentivises prevention over cure.

  • US-style welfare reform: ie, devolving social security to counties and cities, letting local authorities discern who are the deserving cases, and letting them keep any savings.

  • Allowing parents to opt out of state education, carrying with them a financial entitlement equivalent to what would have been spent on their child by the LEA.

  • Devolution of power to the lowest possible level: ideally the individual but, where this is impossible, the village or county.

  • Which will of course mean replacing EU membership with a Swiss-style free trade deal: you can’t decentralize power in Britain while centralizing it in Brussels.
    On the subject of Switzerland, we also want blocking referendums, allowing people to gather a certain number of signatures and force any new Bill to be submitted to the people. This rarely has to be activated in Switzerland as the very knowledge of its existence serves to deter lawmakers from being too ambitious.

    Result? The state is small, and the Swiss are rich and free.

It all sounds eminently sensible to me (I should apologise to the ASI's Tom Clougherty, with whom I disagreed about the Health Savings Plan. Although, to be fair, Dan has explained it rather better).

I shall be wandering along to the official launch tomorrow, netch'relly; in the meantime, you can buy the book—£5 for a download or £10 for a printed copy—at www.renew-britain.com.

* Your humble Devil has a number of book ideas in the works, and may well avail himself of Lulu too. I have, in fact, been compiling a book of my artwork for a little while (time flies!) and I have a few other ideas too...


Old BE said...

But they are both Tories, so in your book they are c**ts.

Anonymous said...

Some sensible ides, there.

Patrick said...

These may well be good ideas and indeed they do try and foster a more unique way of looking at taxation and removing some of its negative effects.. That being if taxation can ever be viewed as positive?..

However, they miss out one key historic component to the present tax problem.. That stealth taxes like these have only ever been used as a method to tax more and not as a means to replacing existing taxation methods..

If ones looks throughout taxation history, it has been littered with fairer schemes and less intrusive ones.. But they have never replaced an existent tax, its purpose was to always raise more revenue..

So I am cynical, not of its authors, but of future politicians that will view these ideas as a way to raise revenue and NOT replace it..

I know, I’m a killjoy..

Anonymous said...

Yes, Devil - I have heard many complimentary reports about the health system in Singapore.

Don't forget though, it's a small country [pop 4 million] which generally seems to have a healthier life style/diet compared to the average Brit ?

But the fundamental principle of marrying personal responsibility with a state funded safety net does seem very appealing.

Mind you, given how cack handed are politicos are, no doubt we would screw up this promising formula as well ?

Looking at comparative expenditure in health markets the NHS [up until recently] was still a relatively inexpensive system - here are a few stats

Anonymous said...

"Singapore has a healthier population than the UK...."

Not too good an example, given their diets and ours. So many of us eat borderline poison all our lives, then wonder why we get so much heart disease etc.

Like the idea otherwise though.

Sneaky Weasel said...

If these ideas are ever successfully implemented in Britain, I might actually consider coming home.

Mad unlikely though.

Panopticon Britain said...

I'm a bit skint at the moment, so looks like a download copy for me.

Anonymous said...

The education reforms won't make much difference until we scrap Ofsted. As long as they're around, all the schools will end up doing the same mediocre crap.

Anonymous said...

We are considerably richer and freer than thou.

Thatcher's Child said...

the single term idea sounds good - for these ideas to work properly, you need quick results, but the idea of change has been scared out of the population so that it is only acceptable in a catchphrase.

Hope their book does well though.

Ken said...

Why not go for something simple that will get a lot of support? Repeal Heath-Walker and restore the status quo ante? Cities go back to being autonomous as do counties. Towns and urban districts get some autonomy within their counties.

Little urban districts used to hire and fire headmasters and build council houses. Counties and cities used to actually run the police - and fired chief constables if they didn't shape up.

People in Salford, say, get the collectivist local government that they want, and folk like you get whatever you want.

New blog campaign?

Letters From A Tory said...

This is more like it.

Mr Cameron, I hope you are listening. This should be on the Conservative MP reading list.

Anonymous said...

Apology accepted!

And you're right, Dan has explained it much better than I did.

Of course, if I remember correctly, I was rather 'jolly' on champagne at the time...

Mark Wadsworth said...

It's a good list and most of that is in the MW manifesto anyway, but for the zillionth time, sales taxes or turnover taxes or VAT are The Worst Taxes, possibly even worse than a Poll Tax. Sticking the word 'local' does not improve them one jot. What about largely residential areas? Where's their money going to come from?

The most sensible local tax is Land Value Tax (also for the zillionth time).

Roger Thornhill said...

This contains many of the Libertarian Party policies. Alas, these guys are not really part of today's Tory Party, which is a power-seeking blue Labour embarrassment.

p.s. exile; "People in Salford, say, get the collectivist local government that they want, and folk like you get whatever you want."

Not so, the majority end up creating an involuntary collective. Rule of the mob.

The true devolution is from the centre to the individual.

Anonymous said...

The Swiss may be rich and free but no-one likes them and they don't even like each other.

Anonymous said...

exile said: "People in Salford, say, get the collectivist local government that they want ...".

Hmm, how quaint.

The 'People's Collective of Salfordograd' has a certain retro ring about it.

I wonder if running away from the people's paradise will be punishable by death as it used to be? That'll certainly put some revolutionary discipline into those workers.

No doubt every one will have equal pay as well: real equality. Except, of course the politicians running this collective, who must have more pay because of their extra responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

There is a problem with the pay-as-you-go with catastrophe insurance model that you propose for healthcare. You find it amongst the poor and the illegal immigrants in the US - treatment at a doctor's office is difficult to access (expense, medicaid bureaucracy, whatever) so people don't get treatment for minor ills.

Now often, that's fine - my preferred attitude to sickness is "just wait, and it'll get better" - but some times it isn't. In those cases, rather than getting treated cheaply by a doctor, our sick person waits until he is really very ill indeed, then shows up at the emergency room, where he can obtain free (but expensive) treatment of his nor rather more serious condition.

Maybe we should modify the critical cover plan to include one free annual checkup, to try and ensure that the poor don't deny themselves preventitive care and end up costing the insurer (aka the taxpayer) more in the end.

Anonymous said...

Some rich libertarian needs to ensure every Tory MP gets a copy.

Anonymous said...

MrDavies said...

The Swiss may be rich and free but no-one likes them and they don't even like each other.

Not sure the rich give a shit what anyone else thinks but if it makes you fell better . . .

Tomrat said...

Paper copy ordered. Looking forward to it; healthcare reform looks to be argued from the same standpoint of Tim Worstall - a combination of health-assurance (paid via taxation) against catastrophy (long term illness, palliative treatment) and health insurance negotiated for short term needs.

A brave new world; would love to see anyones reaction in the politico-realm to this.

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