Key findings include that 9 per cent of people believe politicians and civil servants are well-equipped to make decisions on ‘my’ behalf, with 65 per cent in total disagreeing. Hurrah for choice and plurality and innovation and choice, you might think. But then 38 per cent of people believe the government has a duty to provide secure housing for people like ‘me’ whereas only 29 think not.
This goes back to the endless arguments we have – and will continue to have unless we change the way we think – over the role and therefore the size of the state. Or, as John Rentoul puts it more snappily in a column for Wednesday’s Independent, eating your cake and having it. If we want the government to do and provide and pay for all these things, we have to be prepared to pay for it in taxes – and we means lots of us, paying lots of tax either directly or indirectly.
A good example of this conundrum is Tim Montgomerie’s tweet:
This is the question facing all of us. If we want X, it needs to be paid for. I want to see greater transparency, greater choice, greater innovation and lower taxes – but I also know that we cannot continue to spend as we have been.
Everything is always too expensive – you never hear anyone saying that X is really cheap, or even really good value. We all value different things that our taxes pay for, for different reasons, but realistically none of us like paying for them. The real question therefore is what do we need, what do we like, and what are we willing to pay for? Until that question is answered, we cannot continue to say leave me alone to decide for myself, but I want to keep eating that cake as well.