Sunday, 11 April 2021

We know all this but…

Linking ideas can be a rum game. Certain links can be interesting but discouraged by social and/or political convention. An interesting example is the link between democracy, the welfare state and the subsequent loss of democracy.

Over time, democracy in the UK has steered us towards a bigger and wider welfare state. Politicians promise it and voters vote for it - this gives us our feedback loop. More welfare leads to more government involvement in daily life and new political opportunities for ever more welfare promises. It doesn’t stop because there is no mechanism to stop it apart from economic limitations.

We know all this but don’t do anything about it. Personal responsibility has become a political step backwards even though we are well past the stage when democratically it would be a step forwards.

Eventually we reach a level of government overreach where democratic options have disappeared and we are effectively left with a totalitarian government. It may be slowed down by a carefully designed constitution, but the feedback loop of political promise and voter acceptance is too easy. Eventually democracies undermine themselves.

The process is so obvious and so well-known that we might suppose it would become a prominent public debate, but it never does. Political classes won’t tell voters that their promises are ultimately destructive, that governments can’t do everything. It doesn’t matter to them that this is the case. It doesn’t matter to them that our democracy is fading away. It only matters to us. But not enough apparently.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Agreed. Which is why a flat rate Citizen's Income for all is the least-bad kind of welfare - it has no impact on personal incentives.

Sam Vega said...

There might be a corrective process at work which prevents or at least delays the demise of democracy. That is, the demise of government. In the early days of the welfare state, what people got was a real benefit compared to what went before. A well-built council house, free hospital treatment, sick pay, etc. But now, the promises are undeliverable. We no longer have an NHS, and everyone knows that Labour offering more services is a con. I think more people are realising this.

DiscoveredJoys said...

I'm not a republican nor a very strong monarchist, however the recent article about Prince Philip at speaks about democracy and government... the argument being that constitutional monarchy is one way of limiting the excesses of political overreach. It avoids the risk of political Presidents, at least.

Scrobs. said...

I guess that with so much information available to so many people these days, apathy in any 'new' laws or even news, will set in and most of this will be ignored.

I think the police forces have already succumbed to most of the pressures of such a grinding down ethic, and there's a lot more dog-eat-dog around now, so any elected person is pretty well side-lined from the start, and if such a person is a typical in-it-for-money politician, he or she could care less...

James Higham said...

“ that governments can’t do everything”

That anything they touch turns to disaster.

djc said...

There is a cognitive dissonance between the big picture— people can see the politians promises as worthless, and the personal— I am entitled to my benefits, it's not me that should give anything up.

A K Haart said...

Mark - yes, in general weeding out complexity would allow us to face up to what is really happening.

Sam - you may be right, the demise of government seems to be a possibility. In spite of what we have been through recently, life goes on as it would with far less intrusion.

DJ - thanks, I've bookmarked the link. Fortunately we have people such as Tony Blair to highlight the risk of political Presidents.

Scrobs - I find my apathy in any 'new' laws or even news has set in already. It doesn't feel as relevant as it did not so long ago, yet from what we see people are still pretty conformist about the coronavirus game.

James - and attracts people who either don't care or can't tell the difference.

djc - yes, I only know one person who would possibly give up something significant for the big picture.