14 June 2005


In the UK, where policy seems to be determined by anything other than outcomes and the state is enlarging its role by default. There is a serious effort to extend school opening hours to 0800-1800 so that both parents can more easily go out to work. Part of the motivation for this is doubtless the resulting increase in income tax revenues. In Spain, a controversial new law, will force men to do their share of housework. The legislation will oblige men to "share domestic responsibilities". Recalcitrant husbands will face the wrath of the courts in divorce proceedings.

Here in old Europe the first impulse of anybody facing any sort of problem is to blame the government and then to look to the government for a solution. Government doesn't mind intervening too much, because that is its raison d'etre, but the result is an enfeebled population, yet more dependence on governnment, and government enthusiastically going way beyond its competence.

A Social Policy Bond regime would clarify what government is about. Poverty and planet-threatening environmental problems would probably be given higher priority than the shortfall in baby-sitting services for double-income families. The state would probably not intervene when it comes to who does the vaccum-cleaning. I say 'probably' because the government's priorities would be determined by people, and they would choose outcomes that are meaningful to them. There may be many who think the government should run mass childcare establishments as an end in itself, but I suspect the state drifts into these activities through inertia rather than a as rational attempt to address the concerns of its citizens.

No comments: