From borrowed money to borrowed time

Dave ‘David’ Cameron has discovered that reducing our public debt is harder than he ‘envisaged’. Actually, as I ‘envisaged’ in my book The Crisis Behind Our Crisis, it isn’t hard at all. It’s either easy or impossible. It is, or rather would be, easy if we were governed by statesmen. It’s impossible because we aren’t.

A statesman would have the brains to knows what needs doing, the will to do it and the moral sense to put the country’s interests before his own. The first requirement is rarely met among our politicians. The second and third, hardly ever. All three together haven’t been seen since Margaret Thatcher, misguided though I think she was in many ways.

What has created our runaway debt isn’t mismanagement of the existing system but its congenital defect. Capitalist wealth creation can’t accommodate socialist wealth distribution. It’s as simple as that. Since abandoning what’s left of our capitalist economy (about 50% of it is already socialist) will lead to the kind of tyranny England has never seen, it’s socialist distribution that needs to be abandoned. Does this begin to make logical sense?

A series of ironclad laws need to be passed, a) limiting the state’s take to 25% of GDP, b) obligating the state to run budget surpluses until the debt has been reduced to below 10% of GDP, and balanced budgets thereafter, c) introducing a flat 20% income tax rate, while reducing corporate taxes, eliminating inheritance tax and severing most regulatory tethers on the economy (except for those that protect consumers against, say, cartels). Jobs and growth, so dear to Nick Clegg’s heart in word and so alien to it in deed, will follow with the certainty of night following day. And the debt will melt away faster than you can say ‘fiscal responsibility’.

I’m talking about first the rollback and then elimination of the welfare state. I’m also talking about developments that any politician will find so politically impossible as to be insane. As much as mention anything like this in Westminster, never mind Whitehall, and you’re out of a job. Off to Brussels you go, with an outstretched hand, begging ‘giza job’. (Actually, EU folk being less sensitive to the political imperatives of demotic English, our job seekers could even resume their posh accents. Why, Dave could even revert to David. Wouldn’t that be nice?)

So let’s make this more politically feasible, shall we? Taking a cue from the American revolution would help. That revolt was triggered by Britain trying to extract from the thirteen colonies a tax in the overall amount of £78,000. To put this in perspective, Britain’s national debt at the time was about £130 million, and it cost the country more than £200,000 a year to maintain her troops in North America after the French and Indian wars. So the amount was hardly exorbitant. Still, the colonists objected to taxation without representation on principle. (In due course they were to discover that they hated taxation even with representation, but this a different matter.) Their objection, which I suggest we echo, established a useful equation: taxation equals representation. Now if A equals B, then B equals A. Applying this proven logic to our situation, we obtain a different equation: representation equals taxation. Consequently, only taxpayers should have the vote.

If we began to regard voting as a privilege to be earned, rather than an automatic entitlement, then sanity could return to our politics. No longer able to buy their votes with our money, politicians would  have to focus on earning them. Then they wouldn’t pretend, usually by lying through their teeth, that they are doing something about reducing our suicidal debt. Phoney ‘austerity’ simply wouldn’t be on. All those measures so far have amounted to (possibly) slowing down the growth of the debt, not reducing it. It takes an inveterate cynic to carry on so. It takes a slave to nod his assent.

There’s no doubt that the steps I propose would create civil unrest. If even HMG’s pathetic pretence at ‘austerity’ brought tents to St Paul’s, real decisiveness may well bring barricades to Whitehall. But that would give the state a golden opportunity to vindicate its existence by fulfilling the very role for which it was instituted in the first place: public protection from external enemies and internal trouble-makers. The police would have to abandon the role thrust upon them, that of social workers, and disperse the riots, using whatever means it takes to do so. If army units have to be brought in to help, then that too would have to be done. And if a state of emergency has to follow, we’ll have to accept it as a necessary evil. ‘The desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy,’ as Guy Fawkes is supposed to have said.

Our disease is indeed desperate, one requiring chemotherapy, not aspirin. Chemotherapy hurts. But without it, the patient dies.

I know all this sounds unpleasantly extreme. If someone could suggest a nice, gentlemanly way out of our troubles, I’d be more than willing to sit up and listen. So far no one has. Our ‘leaders’ never will. That’s why our government will continue to live on borrowed money. And our society, on borrowed time.


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