History instructs that when dispassionate regard of reality is displaced by belief, prejudice or the narcotic of wishful thinking we become vulnerable to events and superseded by those ready to accept the truth of their situation. So it was for Germany and Japan from 1945 – 1990 when we lost much of our traditional manufacturing to them.
This malaise also applies to apparently liberal beliefs that are considered in some way virtuous but which in reality are false and destructive. Among these are the doctrines of “appeasement” in the 1930s, “laisser faire” in the 1840s and trade mercantilism of the 16th and 17th centuries. Today the obsession with the notion of climate change shows how virtuous belief gives rise to the gravest crisis in our energy supplies that we have ever faced in peacetime bringing havoc on industry and hardship on the poor.
In politics the dominant virtuous belief is that only the State is to be trusted to provide the essentials of a fair society in health and education. This was the paramount assumption of the Socialist movement having its origins in Britain in the 1820s with industrialisation and the gross inequalities of health, education and opportunity that it brought into shocking focus. So it was that when the Socialist movement secured an unassailable majority in 1945 it determined not only that all should have equal access to health and education but that these benefits would be provided by the State.
The State is, as I have shown in earlier articles, unable to provide services or goods save at unacceptable cost, delay and inefficiency. After a period – which may be years – it becomes incapable of responding to the needs of the consumer since, not being dependent on consumer choice, it falls inexorably into a condition in which its enterprises are managed as much for the benefit of its managers, employees and consultants as for patients parents and children.
Whilst we cannot at a stroke expect that the State will cease to be the provider of health and education and transfer the funds it takes in taxes to patients and parents, we must surely insist that our political leaders openly acknowledge that these failing State enterprises must bear their share of the cost of financial and economic recovery. In 2009/10 public spending (adjusted to current prices) was £634bn. In 2011/12 it was 645bn and is now £647bn. It has not been cut. It is increasing.
Despite the supposed pay freeze public sector pay is 8.2% higher than in private sector and rising. Guaranteed pensions increase it even further. This is with job security unavailable in the private sector. Study after study show there is no correlation between more spending and better health or education. The Taxpayers Alliance has demonstrated that £120bn of gross waste can be saved without cutting NHS or education budgets. But we must now all accept that gross waste is endemic in these budgets and that savings must accordingly be made for the benefit of us all.