Wednesday, 15 April 2015
Meanwhile down in the cellar
With election day fast approaching, there are still plenty of people saying “I haven't decided which way to vote yet”, so here are some thoughts. All parties spend a lot of time telling us about details of their policies, just as people spend a lot of time on the everyday parts of their homes: the curtains and soft furnishings are what we all see. It's only rarely that someone pops down to the bottom layer to check the foundations; but it's important to know that what's there is strong enough to hold the whole thing up. So – a quick look down at the foundations, for the busy person in a hurry without delving into economic theory and without insulting your intelligence by talking down.
The most basic question is “What is the State for?”. Well I warned you it was fundamental: I'm asking why do we (the country, the County, the parish Council)- do public administration at all.
Conservatives (and some other politicians of the “right”) - will answer that the State exists only to do for people what they cannot do for themselves. For example it's neither desirable nor practical to have a private group of citizens assemble their own army in defence of the land, but private enterprise is always the most desirable way. Therefore the State should do as little as possible and hold as little wealth-resource as possible. Private is good because the possibility of your efforts and money investments making you very rich should be encouragement enough to make you work well.
Socialists (and the more so the further to the political “left” we look) - will answer to the contrary: that the State should do as much as possible. State ownership of industry is to be preferred over private. Public is good because ultimate control of production and management is in the hands of people who are looking after the Country's good as a whole.
An economy runs like an engine: fuel goes in (investments, people doing work, natural resources…) and useful stuff comes out (profits made, students taught, roads & houses built, people's health maintained, goods exported…)*. An economy is strongest and runs best when it's well-tuned to the best mix of public and private enterprise as appropriate, not one extreme or the other. That is the Liberal Democrats' starting point. Whatever follows is the detail.
With a strong economy we can have a fair society. That's why the Lib-Dem banner says Stronger Economy first, then Fairer Society.
* I promised no economic theory, no insult to the intelligence, by now, BBC Horizon would have given you a sweep-shot of a hand writing equations on a wipe-board and perhaps an explosion!