- a pre-Budget report which sounds more like a pre-Budget Budget;
- endless leaking of the details prior to the report in any case;
- shunting money between capital and current pots in order to sneak past a self-imposed rule;
- a five-year industrial plan for the country;
- locating spending cuts and other hard choices after the next election; and
- shamelessly political budgeteering.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Consider the evidence:
profligate prudent for a purpose.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Someone at the Guardian — Nick Watt? it appears under his name — needs a lesson in thinking.
Redwood said: "The deficit reduction plan was the wrong way round. It was rear-end loaded instead of front-end loaded. When you do these things you have to do the reductions, or the freeze, up front. They decided to have the easy year the first year. The longer you leave it the more difficult it is, because the more it is your problem rather than an inherited problem."Redwood's view is echoed by David Ruffley, a Conservative member of the Commons Treasury select committee, who served as a special adviser when Clarke was chancellor. "The chancellor should seriously consider having a new spending review to bring forward cuts due for later in this parliament to this year. We need tax cuts to increase aggregate demand and to get the economy moving." (src)John Redwood says the Government should have cut faster and harder. I'm inclined to agree, for similar reasons to his: a government can get a lot done in its first year or two; it will get a lot less done in its last year or two. But it's the last year or two in which this Government hopes to get most of its deficit-reduction done. This is poor strategic planning. It's also poor financial management, since every year the deficit runs, interest payments rise and it gets financially harder to close the gap.Ruffley, on the other hand, has not. He has been calling for unfunded tax cuts. I heard him on the radio yesterday saying, in terms, that the Chancellor should let the deficit widen in order to cut taxes. He was quoted in the Guardian itself only last week with a variation on the same theme, declaring that the markets wouldn't 'go haywire' over a looser borrowing stance from the Treasury. He thinks that the Government should be borrowing more to pay for a decrease in taxes.So we have Redwood saying decrease the deficit through cutting spending and Ruffley saying increase the deficit through cutting taxes. And we have someone at the Guardian who cannot tell the difference.
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Lynne Featherstone, the Equalities Minister has announced that religious groups will be permitted, if they wish, to host same-sex civil partnership ceremonies (src). The news will be welcomed by liberal groups (such as the Quakers and progressive Jewish synagogues), while it is being cautiously viewed by mainstream bodies such as the Anglican church. I have little doubt that more traditionalist and conservative religious groups will be mortified.I, though I would oppose any attempt to have our church building used for such purposes, support the freedom for others on classically liberal grounds. More on that later. However, it raises an interesting question about the functioning of the Equalities Act, on which I was ruminating the other day. It has a partial reference, also, to the bed-and-breakfast question which was debated prior to the election last year, and explains something of how freedom of expression functions in a liberal society. It is the following.Suppose I own and manage a firm of printers. I don't run it as an explicitly 'Christian' printers' shop, but generally print most business that comes to me. One day, inexplicably, the Jehovah's Witnesses come knocking on my door. Not so much to convert me as because they want some work doing: a tract printing off. It's pretty stiff stuff, attacking the doctrine of the Trinity and claiming that mainstream Christians a polytheists who believe in false gods.I refuse to print the tract because it is so pointedly written against my own beliefs. Most stuff doesn't cross any kind of line with me, but in this case I really am not happy with my printing press being used for such a purpose. They claim that this breaches their right to freedom of expression, and is unfair discrimination on the basis of religion. Should they be allowed to bring a case under either aegis?No. Free expression does not require any individual to sponsor, host or publicise your expression. And surely I must be quite free to refuse to allow my printing presses to go to work in pursuit of a position with which I profoundly disagree.For suppose that the government forced me to accept the business on the basis that to inspect the materials before agreeing to publication is discrimination on the basis of religion. My printing press has become somewhat less mine since the passage of such legislation. I can no longer decide what materials are printed on it: the government decides. To that extent, the government has become the owner of what was my printing press. To force me to do business is to nationalise my printing press.Fast-forward, then, to an Act of Parliament which forces all business owners to do business with all comers without discrimination, even on grounds such as religion. This amounts to nothing more than a nationalisation of one aspect of the entire economy: no longer can business owners draw a line on matters of principle even where they are relevant; the government has made those decisions for them. It is milk-and-water socialism, in one bill.And what then? By partially nationalising private businesses, the government has also arrogated to itself the right to decide what are matters of conscience. In short, it has not only nationalised businesses: it has nationalised conscience. We no longer enjoy the freedom of conscience which once we did.Hence my title, and my welcoming of Lynne Featherstone's announcement. For conscience ought not to be nationalised, neither for private business owners nor for religious organisations. (Ed. - nor for private individuals, but I had thought this would go without saying.) The present situation is that the government has decided on behalf of religious organisations that they will not allow same-sex partnership ceremonies in their buildings. The situation, surely, must be that it is up to those organisations to make the decision.Therefore, to announce that religious organisations will no longer be restricted is, in some small way, a success for the campaign to denationalise conscience. And so long as Harriet Harman's bill doesn't get drafted in to make what is permitted into what is required, we can hold onto one small area where conscience is private and free, rather than public and bound.