Monday, February 11, 2008

Markets are not always best

John Gray in the Observer laments the "creeping authoritarianism" and "endemic disorganisation" of the British state. He argues that there "was a time when British Government worked"; for half a century after the Blitz. The great change came with Thatcher, who professed an intent to roll back the state but, as Gray argues here and Simon Jenkins argues elsewhere, actually led to an extension of central government and its greater intrusion into our lives. Gray says that "how we arrived at this state of affairs" - a less accountable, more intrusive, incompetent, distrusted central apparatus of government - is "a tangled tale". But " strand sticks out - the belief that markets must be injected into every corner of society". Absolutely. This is the dogma that has driven every government - Conservative and Labour - since 1979. It has led to greater inequality, the ghettoisation of unemployment (long-term and inter-generational) and the exclusion of those at the bottom of society from public concern, to billions being squandered on PFI projects, consultancy scams, and dodgy IT projects. Gray concludes that: "We should junk the idea that state-services should always be run as businesses; this has left public services struggling with debt and fixated on targets. It would be better to hive off some functions from the state altogether while accepting that others should be managed on non-market lines". Market is not always, universally, best; private is not always better than public. Speak it softly, for it is the deepest heresy.


Post a Comment

<< Home