All three major parties are entering the election campaign with similar plans for cutting the deficit. The timing and magnitude of proposed deficit cuts are slightly different but all the plans involve raising taxes significantly. This comes after a period during which the main discretionary areas of public spending have increased dramatically – both in real terms and relative to national income. Tax rates have also increased very rapidly.
It seems that, once again, we have reached the position described by the late Sir Keith Joseph of a “socialist ratchet”. The greatest ambitions of the Conservatives are to reduce the growth of the state or, at best, reclaim a proportion of the advances in government encroachment that have been made by Gordon Brown in the last 12 years.
This is deeply worrying. A Labour government was elected in 1997 that has increased the role of the state in economic life dramatically. It may then be followed by a Conservative government whose greatest ambition appears to be to reclaim some of that ground.
Click here to read the rest of Philip Booth’s paper on tackling the budget deficit.