EDITOR'S LETTERMerryn Somerset Webb
Slay the Leviathan and create a smaller state
How big should the state be? The political consensus appears to be that it should be very big indeed. Last week the BBC’s assistant political editor referred to the idea of a smaller state as “utterly terrifying”.
Chancellor George Osborne went on Radio 4 immediately to dismiss this as “hyperbole”. But, as Janet Daley points out in her column in The Sunday Telegraph, he also effectively “denied that he had any intention of significantly decreasing the functions of government”.
Why? Because, like most politicians, he believes the general population can’t cope with the idea of a smaller state: the idea is not only “frightening, but incomprehensible – a dismantling of all the known laws of the universe”.
This is a shame. That’s partly because he is wrong in thinking that everyone in the UK agrees with state-supported assistant political editors. A large part of the population is well aware that the finances of the state are unsustainable and that the state must, as a result, shrink.
They would also vote in a government that was prepared to admit this. But it is also because Osborne has to cut the size of the state (at least relative to GDP) substantially: as the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank points out, without a “fundamental reimagining of the state”, his sums don’t add up at all.
So we have to think the apparently unthinkable. We have to confront the many vested interests in our public sector – the ring-fences around our sacred cow services and the automatic spending reflex to special pleading.
• Read the full editor’s letter here: Slay the Leviathan and create a smaller state