1 thought on “Forget horse-trading over cuts: The Spending Review is an opportunity to rethink the state”

  1. Posted 11/11/2015 at 17:14 | Permalink

    This strikes me as rather an academic approach. Zero-based budgeting has always appealed to me in theory; but I gather that it can often be impractical. For instance, by what criteria does one judge whether government spending is ‘essential, ‘desirable’ or unnecessary’? And how much government spending are we talking about? Concentrating on ‘growth-enhancing’ capital expenditure sounds sensible enough (who would want ‘growth-reducing’ capital expenditure?), but is that much different from the old practice beloved of central planners, of picking winners? The record on that wasn’t very encouraging! I do agree with the third principle of trying to alleviate the likely long-term pressures from an ageing population — in particular increasing the age at which the state pension starts to be paid (by at least two years every decade until further notice).I also agree with the fourth principle, no ring-fencing. I prefer the old maxim: ‘No sacred cows’. I must admit I didn’t really understand the fifth and sixth principles. In any event, I would add a seventh: include among the people working on this approach, in each area, at least two ‘unreasonable’ devil’s advocates, who won’t be too ‘politically aware’, to press for really significant cuts in government spending. Otherwise we’ll end up with a meaningless exercise like the Prime Minister’s recent ‘demands’ from his
    so-called negotiations with the European Union — designed, as I think Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested, to make Harold Wilson’s negotiating achievements on the same general topic look good!

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