Sunday, 19 December 2010

Sorry Students - the Statists let you down

When discussing LPUK policy with a distinctly statist friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, we got onto the subject of welfare reform, and explored our basic aim of incrementally rolling back a great deal of the welfare state. He said to me in a rather animated fashion "look Daz, I've been paying into the system, so if I lose my job tomorrow why should I not get the dole?". This brought to me that what we are really looking to do is renegotiate the terms and conditions between state and citizen in a way that we believe will benefit the individual in the long run, and was at the front of my thoughts while watching the first genuine riots seen in this country for many years.

The state currently guzzles almost half of GDP in Britain, a frightening statistic, and one which we all want to see gradually brought down to a figure that leaves a skeletal safety net while causing minimal infringement on people's ability to live prosperous, free and fulfilling lives. However, if one works from the assumption that big brother takes 45-50% of the cake, then I don't think it's unreasonable to say "yes I want an education and a state pension to come out of that - after all if you hadn't taken the money from me/my parents that is what I/they would have spent it on". Not everybody has even a basic grasp of economics, and the importance of risk vs reward equations in driving growth in the private sector. Nor is it fair to expect everyone to read Milton Friedman...the Welfarists of Labour and the Corporatist Tories have lied through their teeth to people and tried to run an unsustainable system for decades.

Now we are where we are, and the students of today wonder why the education that had been 'free' to their parents (who had the same 'tax-welfare contract') is no longer free to them. They were misled, and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the system finally imploded. Yes I feel sorry for them.

The conversation people always seem to have is "do we want a health system run on NHS principles?", "do we want comprehensive education directed from the centre?" and "do you want taxation to fund a state pension?". Scared of change or that their taxes will not be cut in line with reduced state provision, many answer "yes". What is very rarely if ever asked, certainly not in the statist media, is "is that model sustainable given the country we have now, and the changing demographics from the birth of welfarism 60 years ago?". I'm no economist but even a layman can see that what we need more than anything is real growth, a rapid reduction in the relative size of the state in terms of spend, and a fundamental shift in what government takes from you and gives back in return.

In the short-term, perhaps we should go back to the old arrangement of free degrees, but with only the best and brightest doing them (this is purely a personal view and not LPUK policy), Further downstream, allowing parents to keep more of their hard-earned will mean that many will be able to look at these choices themselves more proactively, whereas the challenge for us will be seeing the best of the American model adopted over here. Nobody who gets a place at Harvard ends up declining it because of their background and encouraging a climate of social mobility out of the rubble of the present will not be easy. Neither will re-visiting the state-citizen contract that has been in place since 1945, but when something is not nice, that normally means it is necessary.

1 comment:

J A Y B said...

"In the short-term, perhaps we should go back to the old arrangement of free degrees, but with only the best and brightest doing them (this is purely a personal view and not LPUK policy)"

I thought that was the case anyway - silly me. What is the point otherwise? Just somewhere to go onto if you can't find a job, if there is a job to find. Now I'm confused :) Why go onto higher education just 'because you can' (exam results and career aspects not withstanding)? Waste of the student's time, the university or college time, waste of energy and aspirational expectations through possible low marks; though I guess it is possible that the student will be so jollied (I know, old fashion word) up by it all that they will surpass themselves and given expectations of them.

Cheers, you've given me things to ponder about at a more intellectual level - love it.