Monday, November 8, 2010

How to get out from under BigGov

An interesting article  by Janet Daley in The Telegraph: "The West is turning against big government - but what comes next?".
On this side of the Atlantic, there is now a broad understanding that the social democratic project itself is unsustainable: that it has grown wildly beyond the principles of its inception and that the consequences of this are not only unaffordable, but positively damaging to national life and character. The US, bizarrely, is running at least 10 years behind in this process, having elected a government which chose to embark on the social democratic experiment at precisely the moment when its Western European inventors were despairing of it, and desperately trying to find politically palatable ways of winding it down.
The American people – being made of rather different stuff and having historical roots which incline them to be distrustful of government in any form – immediately rejected the whole idea. But in Britain, too, among real people (as opposed to ideological androids) there is a general sense that governments – even when they are elected by a mass franchise – become out of touch and out of control, and that something essential to human dignity and potential is under threat from their overweening interference.
So a generation after the collapse of totalitarian socialism, its democratic form is finally crumbling as well.
A good diagnosis generally, though one should question whether the principles behind the social democratic project didn't doom it from the start. And her prescriptions -- lower taxes, lower immigration -- are predictable. (Immigration, particularly, is a troublesome issue, and while I'm sympathetic to concerns regarding cultural change -- especially re: cultures antipathetic to Western values -- I'm not sympathetic to employment protectionism.) At the end, though, she at least puts her finger on what's really needed, while leaving its actual content entirely vague:
Finally, government must make us an honest offer. The rhetoric needs to be turned into a systematic programme that takes the moral instincts of ordinary people as its starting point, but goes on from there to outline a feasible idea of what it will be like to live under this new dispensation – which makes clear that there is as much to be gained as will be lost. Get past the threats and the vague hopes: give us a clear picture of where this is all going, and what is expected of us.  
 Except, of course, that there is much more to be gained than lost, and that it's not government that must do this, but we ourselves.

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