7 July 2010

The path not taken

While I certainly never entertained any hope that a coalition led by David Cameron would have the guts to challenge the statist quo in any fundamental way, I did think it possible that it might have enough political wit to know that salami slicing could not possibly do more than reduce the cost, but not the extent, of a decade of relentless statist expansion.

The lessons from New Zealand's successful assault on bureaucratic mission creep have been well known since the publication of The Kiwi Effect (pdf here) in 1996. The key lesson was that a reforming government only had one shot at it, and had to act decisively and quickly before the special-interest groups had time to combine against it. By that measure, one must recognize that the new government has already failed.

The author of the Kiwi reforms, ex Finance Minister Sir Roger Douglas, is adamant that the only durable changes are the big structural ones: decide what functions government really has to provide, abolish the inessential programmes and departments entirely, and then see how those core functions are best provided from the more concentrated spending made possible by the abolition of the inessentials. Even large budget reductions that leave inessential programmes intact will be reversed by renewed bureaucratic imperialism over time.

Bear in mind that it was a Labour government that liberated New Zealand from decades of bureaucratic accretion. How totally, sadly different the situation in Britain, where the new government has not even had the courage to attack the vast quangocracy staffed by Labour supporters that will do everything in its power to ensure the failure of the Coalition.

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