George Osborne has announced that Britain will emulate Canada in its actions to eradicate the budget deficit, and attempt to recreate the miracle of transforming a nine percent deficit into a surplus with three years. This will be achieved, according to Mr Osborne, by a “once in a generation” revolution in public services, instigated by the question; “what needs to be done by government and what we can afford to do”. Be in no doubt, if the Canadian experience is anything to go by, department budget cuts in the region of 20% will lead to nurses and teachers getting the sack in addition to the ‘faceless’ quangocrats that the public love to hate, but the result will be worth it.
At a time when Britain was facing a future trajectory that ends with a national debt of 400% of GDP with 27% of government spending to be dedicated to paying off debt-interest in the same period, we can only look at Canada’s example with admiration as they power out of the global financial crises with a GDP growth of 5.3%.
The key to the success of this plan, is to educate the public in the following two lessons, one classically Liberal, and the other classically Conservative, and both revolving around an absolute rejection of the big-state theology preached by the previous government:
1. Classical Liberalism –
Taxing more than 40% of GDP for use on public spending is frankly immoral with the term “moral” defined as being as close to 33% as can be achieved, particularly when deficit borrowing is conducted on top of such massive taxation.
It is immoral because:
> the state is tyrannical if it believes it is right to tithe that much from society.
> it depresses growth, which counteracts inflation, and thus erodes the buying power of available money (both public & private).
> it reduces competitiveness, which erodes the balance of payments between exports and imports, making us comparatively poorer.
> government is simply not the most efficient mechanism for spending this wealth, by some measure, so its capacity to waste must be minimised.
> the very definition of waste is endless debt-interest on the structural deficit, the accumulation of which is known as the national debt.
If that means that states such as the rich west must reduce the breadth and depth of their welfare states, so be it, because what cannot be afforded should not be spent, and the attempt to do will inevitably result in an state callous of individual liberty, with poor growth and competitiveness, and massive waste via inefficiency and deficit repayments, the result of which will be a poorer nation for everyone.
2. Classical Conservatism –
The big-state is an immoral enterprise as the desire for social engineering to continually redesign society is an ignoble goal.
Social science is not a true science, it is a faith that you can express the breadth of human emotion and frailty with a simplified model of collective behaviour. It is an arrogance that leads to ideology which is invariably a universal failure for the reason mentioned above, and it is usually grossly intrusive to the individuals it is practised upon.
Worse, the damage that is done by these social engineers is blithely disregarded as a necessary and temporary evil, to achieve the glorious emancipation of humanity……… as they see it.
There is, it is believed, a world of difference between a social engineer/scientist and an real engineer or scientist, and the Conservative will always have contempt for those that think they can engineer away the less perfect parts of the human condition via pseudo-scientific ideology, and disgust that they believe they have the right to try.
Those who act to practice social engineering on society are fundamentally immoral.
There is plenty of friction between these two position, for while they do not represent divergent extremes on the same spectrum, they are at best only marginally sympathetic expressions to two entirely different spectrum’s of political philosophy.
Here lies the crux of the challenge for the Right Honourables Cameron and Clegg; for the former must temper the base reflex of the conservative and re-educate his MPs that the Conservative tradition has often been radical, while the latter must wean his MPs of the soporific of left-wing politics, and reintroduce the classical Liberal tradition.
This common ground is termed the self-authored-life by its advocates, but its appeal to either party is for very different reasons, and whether it is broad enough for the coalition to shelter from the storm of a Canadian style fiscal consolidation has yet to be seen.
Given the ruin from which Britain struggles to fight free, versus the prosperity that beckons to Canada, we can only hope that the overlap in the argument against the big-state is sufficient to bridge the gulf between the two sides.