Monday, August 13, 2007

Mr. Slater's Parrot

I don't get it (nothing unusual there). Yet again, the hoary old subject of whether the Tories should try to get elected on a policy of promising tax cuts is being discussed.

Every day we see examples of the current government wasting money, or boasting about how much more money they can spend (which by extension means they have to raise taxes to get that money), but suggest that if you get elected you might actually try to spend less money is seen as utterly unpalatable.

We now appear to have a system where the government has the biggest take from people's wages in history. They take this money, launder it through an increasingly complex, labour-intensive, and bureaucratically terrifying system only to parcel it back out, mostly to where it came from in the first place (with administrative costs removed of course.)

We're constantly told that the only way to deal with a problem is to buy our way out of it. This was how to fix the NHS. What we've ended up with after all the money was sunk into the NHS is better paid staff (good thing) but the same staff have never apparently been more pissed off with the system in which they work. One bad set of stats. that are almost inevitable after periods of major upheaval and the government feels obliged to jump in and spend more money redesigning a system that barely had a chance to bed in and prove if it made any sense or not.

I guess my argument is simplistic but I just no longer see the connection between more money being spent equalling an improvement in the services provided. Politicians seem locked into a mad scramble where to get elected you have to boast about how much more money you can sink into a problem. There's rarely any sense of the money being spent wisely. Invariably they will just spend years building another multi-billion pound database that won't work and can't talk to any other systems. I'd have thought if you want to keep a record of all the paedophiles in the country, a half competent secretary could knock something up on a spreadsheet in a morning and that would do the same job - it would certainly do 90% of the job almost immediately and give you a system to start with whereas usually we seem to go five years down the line and some outsourcing company has blown billions on the project before everyone agrees the idea appeared to have been fundamentally flawed at the outset.

So, there's been no apparent improvement in healthcare in the last 10 years. Education is visibly worse. Crime? Well it's difficult to tell because the way statistics regarding crimes committed against crimes detected is such a statistical hellhole of smoke and mirrors that anything could be happening out there and the government no more knows the answer than you or I. Pick any other state provided service and it's the same story.

I don't think the Tories neccesarily have have the answer and I'm pretty sure they won't get my vote because they're just as obsessed with touting bullshit as the current government. The Lib Dems are non-starters as well, they're so obsessed with not offending anyone that they'd never get anything done. Shirley Williams crackpot logic, recently touted on Question Time, regarding Salman Rushdie's knighthood proves she, and you must therefore assume, the party she represents, appear to have lost all touch with reality as they would appear to want to delegate the responsibility of deciding who gets a UK knighthood to a random collection of flag burners in Islamabad.

I guess government logic is that money cycled through the State is better than money flowing around outside it. Of all the people the government hires and has to pay, they know they're going to get 50% of that money straight back into the system through PAYE, VAT, car fuel taxes, speeding fines, Lotto etc. etc. The problem is you need a bloody big system if you want to control all that money and keeping it all balanced and justifying taking it in the first place requires an ever expanding bureacracy to control it all. If our system of taxation was more transparent it would scare the bejeesus out of the government because we might finally see how much less was needed to pay for the services people need and how little was needed to run the machinery of state.

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