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Big government is bad government

If we say that totalitarianism is one hundred per cent control by the state should we not say that if fifty per cent control is half totalitarianism?

We know from experience that totalitarian regimes are very poor at delivering economic progress on a consistent basis. They can have moderate success at the beginning such as Nazi Germany dealing with unemployment and Mussolini after World War One but as the famous free market economist Ludwig von Mises pointed out they, as socialist type economies, would run out of steam and eventually get into foreign ‘adventures’.

Why is this we ask but is it not obvious that bureaucrats at the centre cannot determine what the choices are by free people nor can they be innovative and risk taking. We also know that states that have less government inference are much more successful in the long term. Examples are Singapore, and Hong Kong before Chinese hegemony. Other examples are the liberation of the New Zealand economy by Roger Douglas with a bonfire of regulations and controls, and recent Viet Nam liberal moves from a command economy to a more market economy, Even China realised that to get out of the poverty brought by Mao’s command economy it had to move to less state intervention.

So is it not clear that smaller government is better?

Unfortunately the European Union and other advanced economies have gone the other way and government has got more controlling. This is by both regulation and higher taxation so that lives are dominated by the government and government ceasing to be less an instrument of a democratic people. It also means that bureaucratic civil servants operate more of the economy than is healthy, and as they are risk averse and often not skilled to direct the parts of the economy that they seek to control. The economic effect on the country and people is very much worse than if they were not involved. Of course certain types of politicians, not just those on the left even if they are worse than those on the right, like the power that large amounts of tax and the promulgation of regulation gives them. But they do not fully appreciate that they are handing huge swaths of power to non elected bureaucrats and self-serving elites, not forgetting single issue campaigners. The grey men behind politicians, and the advisors and promoters get unelected power, and sometimes juicy consulting assignments.

In the United Kingdom the shock election defeat of Churchill in 1945 and the election of a Labour government, based of peoples hopes for a new world, led to hard left socialism and excessive government interference in the economy with wholesale nationalisation of industries (Even travel shops). The people realised that this was negative and in the 1951 election the Conservative Party led by 76 year old Churchill had the slogan ‘set the people free’. The Conservatives won and were thereafter in power for 13 years. They reduced interference by the state in the economy and, despite having to continue to maintain the cost of defence in the Cold War, prosperity grew.

Surely all these examples should be a lesson to modern politicians and to those who immediately jump for new regulations and new laws that big government is not the best solution; that bureaucrats and elites do not always know better than a free people. So beware politicians who want more and more power and more and more tax because it is negative for your economic health and well being, and is creeping nearer to totalitarianism and away from a free democracy.

So lets have smaller government and less tax and regulation, and remember that the 1951 British Conservative party slogan is still the right one – ‘Set the people free’. Not just a slogan but a reality.

Keith Miles

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