Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Rethinking Socialism In The UK

At the heart of socialism and the left is an incredible arrogance. It is the arrogant belief that central planners know themselves what is best for each individual and locality. It is the arrogant belief that the individual and localities cannot be trusted to make decisions on their own, but rather must be controlled through mountains of central government laws and regulations. It is the arrogant belief that resources are most efficiently doled out by government entitlement rather than earned through individual labor. It is the arrogant belief that one more law or regulation is what is need to solve all problems. It is a system that inevitably leads to ever more invasive social engineering.

Britain, which adopted socialism as its governing model immediately after WWII, has gone much further down this socialist road than its ideological cousin, the United States. Britain of today is very much a nanny state run by socialists for whom the thought of devolving power often does not even arise in the their consciousness. For example, a common complaint in Britain is that the police are not responsive or accountable to the local communities. Given an ever increasing amount of serious crime – a reality not changed by Labour’s cynical statistical manipulations – this is a critical issue in the UK. A few months ago, John Reid, Labour's then Home Secretary, attempted to address this issue, but the mere mention of local elections to hire and fire local police chiefs did not even pass his lips. Instead, he spoke in platitudes and made promises of more regulation. The centerpiece of his scheme to increase accountability was simply to hand out to the public the direct phone numbers to local policing teams. It was emblematic of the insanity arising from the arrogance of the left.

And the cracks in this government scheme are becoming ever more evident across all facets of UK society. The cracks are occurring because centrally controlled government is almost always too inflexible to respond to new and different pressures, such as Britain is experiencing with the rising tsunami of immigration. Yet rare is the socialist who can realistically respond to pressures by arguing for a devolution of power. The only prominent case of which I am aware is Deng Chio Ping who devolved economic power in China, leading to what can only be described as an economic revolution in that society.

Thus it is with more than a little amazement that there appears in today’s Telegraph a Labour MP, Frank Field, arguing for some very practical efforts to devolve power, from local police elections to school choice:

A smaller state in Victorian terms isn't on the cards. The electorate would take flight at such talk. What the electorate is after, however, is a redrawing of the state's boundaries. There is no fall in demand for collective services like health and education but voters are seeking two clear advances in their freedom from such a redrawing exercise.

The first is to gain greater freedom from a centrally run ration book-type state service where there is a set menu, often a single item, that has to be consumed at a certain time.

The second demand is for taxpayers to use their own money to run their own services.
Much of the Left has thrown up its hands in horror at such a suggestion - my own scheme for welfare reform had this element built into it. But these new services would be collective while most definitely not being centrally controlled.

What might redrawing the state in a way that enhances freedom while protecting the position of ordinary, particularly poor, people look like?

Here's a starter for five. We know that the nurturing of children during their first two years of life is crucial to their long-term wellbeing (and ours!). But mortgages based on two salaries force most mothers back to work all too soon.

Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit now average payments over a child's life approaching £100,000. Why not offer to mothers or fathers the right to draw a quarter of this sum to look after their child full time? £25,000 tax free over the first two years of a child's life would massively increase the freedom of families to choose to care for their own very young children.

Payment for the rest of the child's life would be decreased commensurately, but the right of parents to command when they draw a large part of state expenditure on children would begin to give public expenditure a totally different feel and meaning.
Next, the Government should reconsider its policy of locking up all children in education until they are 18. The trend to stay on is well established and should be encouraged, but over half of all young people leave school without minimum qualifications for 16-year-olds. Too many cease going to school as early as 12.

A government intent on moulding public services to individual needs, rather than forcing individuals into a one-size-fits-all service, would introduce a school leaving certificate testing basic skills.

Those people at 14 who then left school for work would have the £20,000 budget for education for all 14- to 18-year-olds held as a dowry. This would be the pupils' own capital to use themselves when they knew what long-term jobs they would like and for which they would need serious training.

Similarly the young unemployed who are sent on job-lot training schemes bought by the Department for Work and Pensions on a regional basis should have the right to own their own training budgets.

Those companies that have pulled the wool over the Government's eyes, gaining huge sums of taxpayers' money but providing little or no work-based training, would soon be out of business. Young people I have spoken to simply would not countenance paying over "their" grants to them.

Next, a redrawing of the state's education boundary is urgently required. Denmark has long run the little Danish school scheme. Parents of 300 pupils can draw the education budget for these children which would otherwise go to state schools.

Again the idea is not a panacea to a state system that still fails half of all our children. But to allow people to run their own small school, with what is in effect their own taxes, would unleash into a public service the self interest of parents that would enhance the opportunities that a good school offers.

Taxpayers should also be given a direct vote on how well part of their taxes are being spent. A weekend poll provides worrying reading for the Government. Over the past year the number of voters reporting anti-social behaviour as their biggest concern has surged by a fifth - up to 59 per cent of the entire electorate.

It is time to drop all the centrally run anti-social behaviour projects and give voters the big say. Voters expect the police to deal with this issue.

Chief constables are too remote for local people to hold to account - a damning statement in itself. Chief superintendents are responsible for local police services. Their posts should be put up for re-election. It wouldn't take many elections to see a revolution in the way the police employ their record number of staff - in a way voters approve. Anti-social behaviour would begin to be curbed for a start.

Letting go of central control would entail a revolution in the way Gordon Brown does politics. It would be the kind of dramatic gesture that would signify to voters that something fundamental had changed. That is precisely what the voters are now looking for from their Prime Minister.

Read the article here. These are words of heresy to most socialists. Yet Mr. Field is clearly a person to watch. If he ever rises to power in the Labour Party, his ideas might actually salvage a government sagging precipitously under its own socialist weight.


Peter Horne said...

Maybe someone should tell Frank that the Libertarians are coming.

GW said...

Thank you for the comment and the link to your site. I think the Tories have so far left the beaten conservative path that there is little or no way ever to find their way back. Cameron's refusal to say plainly that the Tories will guarantee a referenudum on Lisbon is almost as egregious the perfidy of Gordon Brown. With all that in mind, I wish you all the best of luck.

Saltburn subversives said...

Thank you. Much appreciated.
There is also a forum which can be accessed from


You don't need to be a party member to view or contribute.

Happy New Year!

Peter Horne said...


That comment should have been made in my own name.