Sunday, September 07, 2008

David Cameron outdoes John Key

In the first year or so of David Cameron’s leadership of the UK Conservative Party I was critical of how much he was willing to step back from the proud tradition of Thatcher in rolling back the state. He was embracing the anti-rationalist philosophy of environmentalism, and inefficient producer interest shackled state institutions like the NHS. He didn't seem to stand for anything that different.

It seems Mr. Cameron has moved forward. With the gap between the Tories and Labour growing ever wider, he has become more confident. He now calls for the state to be wound back, if slowly.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph he makes it clear that the state must shrink to give the British public some of their money back. He is calling for tax reductions that are affordable. However more important he wants the proportion of GDP going to the state to shrink.

He opposes state intervention to rebolster the mortgage market, preferring to cut the punitive stamp duty - a tax on property sales.

He advocates the type of school choice ACT is promoting - the Swedish voucher system whereby the private sector gets funding per pupil as parents send their kids to the school of their choice.

However in New Zealand, after National had a wide gap with Labour, it became even more limp wristed and gutless! Bill English says that the growth in state spending should be less than under Labour. He doesn’t want the state to shrink, he just wants it to grow less. National rejected Rodney Hide’s suggestion that state spending grow no faster than population and inflation – which over time would be less than GDP growth. This modest proposal by ACT should be core National policy, on the basis that the state should be getting more efficient and if successful should progressively disengage itself from people’s lives.

Labour believes the opposite. Have no bones about it, Labour would increase the size of the state given the chance, as it has been. Working for Families is a part of that, free GP visits, student loan handouts, more state housing, state subsidised rural telecommunications, a grandiose underground railway for Auckland, greenplating a motorway so it costs $2 billion in a tunnel instead of a quarter that above ground. It is a vision of taking from everyone to giving to everyone, just in different proportions.

National is apparently incapable of fighting this, incapable of really articulating a vision that in a growing economy the state can easily and appropriately take a proportionately lesser role.

John Key is calling for tax cuts, but there is plenty of poor government spending that should be highlighted and cut. Come on John, if David Cameron can do it after 11 years of relatively centre-right New Labour, you can do it after 9 years of centre-left Clarkistani policy.

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