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Clegg continues march to classical liberalism

August 28th, 2009 Posted in Economics, UK Politics by

nick-clegg-photoNick Clegg’s (woefully under-reported) initiative in seeking to save taxpayers’ money is yet further evidence that the LibDem leader is taking the party in the right direction.

Thousands of party members will have received a plea for advice from public sector workers on how savings can be made from bloated, excessive and increasingly unaffordable departmental budgets. Nick is honest and up front – money is going to be tight for years, if not decades. Without dramatic cuts in some areas, other services will falter and/or taxes will rise yet further.

But I wish that the consultation had also been directed at the private citizens who use public services, not just the staff who work in them. Customers and consumers are often a better guide to where products and services are going wrong than employees, who obviously have an interest in emphasising their own vital role in whatever-it-is-they-do.

We also need to ensure we don’t buy the “waste myth”. Yes, there is monumental waste in the public sector, but there’s not much reason to believe a government of a different political colour will be successful at weeding it out. Only limited savings can be made by finding cheaper wholesale suppliers of paperclips.

What we need to do is admit that we’ll completely eliminate whole swathes of low priority projects.

I have no doubt that many public sector workers will bemoan the huge amounts of money frittered away on failed IT systems – especially if they are asked to withstand a wage freeze. Fair enough.

But how many public sector workers are going to say “The whole project I’m working on is just not worth the candle. We chew up large amounts of taxpayers’ cash for very limited output.  To be honest, you should sack the lot of us and close the whole thing down. Don’t trim us, don’t audit us, don’t set new targets for us. Just kill us off.”

Not many, I’d guess.

16 Responses to “Clegg continues march to classical liberalism”

  1. Ziggy Encaoua Says:

    ‘Clegg continues march to classical liberalism’

    He might but I don’t think the party will


  2. Claudius Says:

    “Nick Clegg’s (woefully under-reported)”

    There’s a reason for that.


  3. Linda Jack Says:

    Re users of services. What you forget Mark, and sadly governments of all recent shades of blue, is that public sector workers are also users of services and remarkably form a substantial percentage of the electorate too! The fact is that service users can comment on the quality of the service they are or are not receiving – and we have loads of data about that, but unless they work in the service they are unlikely to have any idea where the waste is. Believe me, as someone who has spent most of her life working in public service, it is the chalkface workers who have the best idea of where savings can be made, but they are rarely listened to. The vested interests lie elsewhere. I have already had a call about this today from someone working in education who immediately identified where millions could be saved.

    So yes, let’s combine what we know about the quality of services with what service providers know about where the waste is – then we may have something useful to say about maintaining and improving that quality whilst helping to deal with the deficit at the same time.


  4. Chris Says:

    This is so foolish. Labour is the weak party.

    I dislike the equidistance in so much of Lib Dem policy, but the only thing worse than equidistance is moving off in the wrong direction!

    How well did the decapitation strategy work, huh? That was against Blair – an electoral genius. This time, we’re against Brown, the most unappealing Prime Minister in decades!

    We don’t need blinkered Orange Book loony libertarianism, we can leave that to the likes of Dan Hannan! No, we need the SDP wing to dominate in policy.

    We can win so many Labour seats if we really focus our efforts on massive bloc of working class northern votes Brown has alienated, instead of chasing the tiny number of libertarian centrists who probably don’t mind the Tories anyway.

    I like the participatory nature of this but that’s about it. The direction Clegg is taking us in is completely misguided.

    If only Huhne had won.


  5. Mark Littlewood Says:

    @Chris.

    Yeah, you’re right. The decapatation straegy vs. Blair didn’t work.

    Partly, perhaps, because it was aimed at Michael Howard and the Tories.

    Nevertheless….moving swiftly on…

    I am sorry that you against things that are “blinkered Orange Book lonny libertrainism”. Is unblinkered, ok?

    Oh.

    I’ve just realised.

    Your whole post was a paradoy.

    Clever.


  6. Mark Littlewood Says:

    @Linda

    Some very fair points. And obviously, public sector workers use public services (the NHS, the Royal Mail, the comprehensive schooling system etc). They’d be hard-pressed not to, frankly.

    I also don’t want to give the impression (because it isn’t my view) that people who work in the public sector are all idiots or self-obsessed or motivated by their own advancement.

    I have never worked for the NHS. But I am a consumer of its services.

    I do, however, as a patient, have a good plan to save money. My plan is that Ventolin and Seretide inhalers should be made freely available at any retail outlet, at whetever price they are willing to sell them for to anyone who is willing to purchase them.

    At present, I am prohibited from purchasing these drugs (which – in the case of Seretide – I am dependent on to continue to live a functioning life) without a GP’s prescription and a fee of £5.80 and a pharamicist.

    Over the next few days, my GP and pharmacist are both closed. I can’t even dream of securing a new Seretide inhaler until Tuesday. And even then I’d have to check into A&E – at massive taxpayer expense – to get one.

    My GP has made it very clear. I must always and forever give 2 working days notice in writing to collect this repeat prescription – and then present it to a state sanctioned pharamacist to collect the goods (and between 9 and 5, Monday to Friday, basically).

    I’m afraid my recommendation to Nick’s consultation would be to liberalise how we dispense pharmaceuticals. To make Ventolin and Seretide inhalers easily available. To allow different companies to compete on price, quality and delivery.

    There is no one presently working in the NHS who would obviously benefit from this policy change. In fact, large tranches of people could be made redundant if such changes were brought in.

    I have no doubt that there are some public sector workers who would still argue for such changes. But it wouldn’t be in their own narrow self interest to do so.

    All told, I’d rather trust my own arguments than the benevolence of public sector workers.


  7. Matthew Huntbach Says:

    I’d rather get my drugs from someone I know is certified by the state to have the knowledge required to dispense them properly – and not to prescribe them if s/he thinks I don’t need them, no matter how much money I might pay to get them. Poor old Michael Jackson illustrates what happens with the free-for-all you envisage.

    I think it rather obvious that you pay over-cost for your drugs in order to subsidise those requiring more expensive drugs. This pooling of costs does not strike me as overall a bad thing.


  8. Ziggy Encaoua Says:

    ‘I’d rather get my drugs from someone I know is certified by the state to have the knowledge required to dispense them properly’

    Would prefer to only get your news from an outlet certified by the state?

    Where as the free market operates on supply & demand as well as the cliche that the consumer is king, the state only has motives of control & the corporatist interest. The drugs that government certifies aren’t necessarily the best drugs or the most appropriate drugs.


  9. Quaequam Blog! » Are only classical liberals interested in saving money? Says:

    [...] I was intrigued to see Mark Littlewood’s suggestion that Nick Clegg’s latest “In The Know” initiative is evidence of his innate classical liberalism. [...]


  10. Matthew Huntbach Says:

    “Would prefer to only get your news from an outlet certified by the state?”

    Badly dispensed news cannot kill in the way badly dispensed drugs can.

    “Where as the free market operates on supply & demand as well as the cliche that the consumer is king, the state only has motives of control & the corporatist interest.”

    Someone selling me drugs operates on the motives of making a profit from persuading me they are good for me, when they might not be. I’d rather be served by a professional who doesn’t profit in this way, but who I have some guarantee does know about medicine.

    “The drugs that government certifies aren’t necessarily the best drugs or the most appropriate drugs.”

    I have seen people’s lives ruined by quacks conning them into taking unnecessary “complementary therapy”. This idea of yours that somehow private entrepeneurs who stand to make a profit from selling drugs are all angels who do so in my best interest, oh so much more so than people with proved scientific training, is really very silly, and just shows up the silliness of all you “libertarian” types.


  11. Ziggy Encaoua Says:

    ‘Badly dispensed news cannot kill in the way badly dispensed drugs can’

    Cars can kill but we don’t have the state dispensing them

    ‘I have seen people’s lives ruined by quacks conning them into taking unnecessary “complementary therapy”.’

    Yes & I’ve seen people’s lives made miserable by doctors being restricted by the government

    Plus nobody is forced to take drugs proscribed by a private doctor but there are people who are forced to under the threat of imprisonment by state doctors.

    ‘Someone selling me drugs operates on the motives of making a profit’

    Oh yeah that’s right The pharmaceutical industry jusy gives the NHS tons all the drugs they produce for free

    In fact if there wasn’t a government monopoly on drugs & healthcare both would alot cheaper but I’d not expect a ‘statist’ type such as you to understand free market economics 1:01


  12. Are only classical liberals interested in saving money?  Says:

    [...] I was intrigued to see Mark Littlewood’s suggestion that Nick Clegg’s latest “In The Know” initiative is evidence of his innate classical liberalism. [...]


  13. Mark Littlewood Says:

    A pretty silly argument from Matthew, all told.

    If you like, the drugs could still be dispensed by a registered pharmacist. This doesn’t alter my initial proposition.

    The suggestion that asthmatics should subsidise other people’s prescriptions – but that the fit and healthy needn’t do so, also bears very little scrutiny.


  14. Ziggy Encaoua Says:

    I wonder if Matthew would have tighter regulations upon what McDonalds sell even thoughnobody is actually forced to eat the shit they sell

    http://www.the-bastard.com/index.php?section=40&page=1064


  15. Charlie Says:

    Chris . Perhaps the largest form of employmentis that of self employment and those working in businesses of less than 10 people. At present there is no party which is trying to obtain the votes of the aspirational hardworking self -employed;L Labour is the party of the state employee and the Conservatives the party of international finance. Many self employed people look at the salaries, 25 days holiday, index linked pension,flexi-time and extensive overmanning in the white collar jobs of the state sector as a luxury the UK cannot afford.

    The Liberal party arose in protest to the power and privileges exercised by the State and was largely a supported by the hard working skilled self employed non-conformist craftsmen who gave the World the Industrial Revolution. Perhaps it is time the Liberal Democratic Party re -created the drive, initiative, technical and entrepreneurial skill of our predecessors?


  16. Liberal Vision » Blog Archive » Has Nick got it right on paying our squaddies more? Says:

    [...] on the heels of his call to cut waste in the public sector, Nick Clegg reckons he can find the cash for a £6,000 pay hike for junior [...]


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