On two subjects I shall be addressing a Conservative audience, bewildered and no doubt slighly annoyed at being presented with an entirely unknown Liberal economist:
After the Crunch: how best to beat poverty? Kate Green of the CPAG is the star turn here, though Theodore Dalrymple and Tim Montgomerie are also speaking.
TD is actually Anthony Daniels. I note in Wikipedia that
In his commentary, Daniels frequently argues that the so-called “progressive” views prevalent within Western intellectual circles minimize the responsibility of individuals for their own actions and undermine traditional mores, contributing to the formation within rich countries of an underclass afflicted by endemic violence, criminality, sexually transmitted diseases, welfare dependency, and drug abuse.
So I am not expecting from him the answer “Bung them more benefits. If only we tax the rich 20% more, we can beat poverty”. I will not be so bold as to say what I do expect, because I don’t really know if there is an honest Conservative answer to how best to beat poverty, except “Each person beats poverty themselves: it is not someone else beating it for them”.
Whereas from Kate, I am expecting: “Bung them more benefits. If only we tax the rich 20% more, we can beat poverty”. I can guess this because I have seen her in formidable action at several previous events. Two weeks ago I was annoyed because of the fiscal indifference. But as I was reminded by a mate, what do you expect? CPAG to check the deficit and change their mission statement from:
to be the leading charity campaigning for the abolition of child poverty in the UK and for a better deal for low-income families and children.
“make child poverty a little less bothersome, if the Treasury can afford it and subject to nothing else more pressing coming up”
The only original thought I have for this blog is: should benefits per head rise in a recession? Because in boom time, not getting a job is more a matter of choice, in a slump it’s nothing of the sort. And the rise would add even more heft to the automatic stabilizers. But could they instead exacerbate the swings?
The other topic is Public Services: 10% cheaper, 10% better. The other speakers are Stephen Freer of CIPFA and John Redwood, MP. Gulp. I’m fairly clear I can tell what the views of the latter on public spending per se are. No surprises there, but his generalisation between recent growth levels and public deficits is a bit lazy. Our recession on the whole has been less than Germany’s, and the US has had a better year with a much bigger deficit. Keynesianism in a slump is not so easily dismissed.
But the topic is delivering public services, not their fiscal-economic impact. And here it is harder to get a clear view, beyond some straightforward maths: if we used to have 450,000 civil servants and now have 750,000, there must be waste. This makes it seem a little too obvious:
Savage cuts are not a good idea. There is a need to administer the obvious cuts, the efficiency raising cuts, the termination of undesirable programmes, the cuts that would have many of us cheering in the streets. We want an end to the over bossy surveillance society, an end to the waste and fraud, to the needless industrial and financial subsidies, to the over regulation of local government, an end to enforced regionalisation and to national databanks. We want an end to roadworks which make the roads more congested and less safe, an end to the explosion of inspectors and thought police, an end to the consutlants gravy train and the culture that makes us pay three times over for anything the public sector attempts to do.