Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Littlewood: Hack away – and smile while doing it, minister

More excellent work from Mark Littlewood:
Hayek argues for strict limits on state activity and intervention. But he offers a very different take on the nature of the individual from that often — if wrongly — associated with free-market capitalism. Hayek sees individuals as intrinsically social beings. His vision of a free society is not one where men and women are trampling over one another in pursuit of narrow, venal self-interest, each using their own freedom of action to exploit others. Hayek believed each individual would benefit as much from the exercise of others’ freedom as their own.

This optimistic view of human nature should be what guides the British government as it grapples with the shocking state of the nation’s public finances and attempts to provide some coherence to its big society agenda. Too often the message appears to be that the upcoming cuts and austerity measures are a practical but unpleasant necessity to prevent the economy falling off the edge of a cliff.

There is undoubtedly a lot of truth in this assertion, but it is hardly an inspiring, grand narrative about the future of our nation. We shouldn’t just be seeking to reduce government expenditure and intervention because we have to, but rather because we want to.

The extension of public sector tentacles into almost every part of our lives is not just wasteful, but has the effect of crowding out more innovative initiatives carried out by individuals, the voluntary sector and community groups. The more the government is providing to your neighbours, friends, work colleagues and relatives, the less obligation you feel to act yourself. We need to rediscover in ourselves a confidence as citizens that we can find the solutions to problems on our own doorsteps.
I recommend the whole article.

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