Saturday , December 5 2020
Home / Tim Worstall /Devolution works only if it’s actually devolution

Devolution works only if it’s actually devolution

Summary:
John Harris argues for more devolution - we’re fine with the idea that decisions are taken at the appropriate level even if we do normally argue that that’s by the people, by individuals, rather than some level of government. Harris though hasn’t quite grasped the implications of what he’s demanding:Consider, for example, the southern German town of Rosenheim, which has a population of around 65,000, and was one of the virus’s early German hotspots. To quote the country’s health minister, as the authorities there got to work, “there were really no instructions from Berlin. Decisions were made locally, on the spot.” This is the very opposite of the approach taken here, a difference reflected in the fact that the UK’s death rate is around six times higher than Germany’s. But will anyone

Topics:
Tim Worstall considers the following as important:

This could be interesting, too:

Doug French writes The Rise of Mega–Gambling Facilities: A New Skyscraper Curse?

William L. Anderson writes How Walter Williams Helped Me Lose a Job

Shane J. Coules writes The Absurdity of Lockdown 2.0

Mark Thornton writes Joe Biden Wants a Huge New Tax on Gun Owners

John Harris argues for more devolution - we’re fine with the idea that decisions are taken at the appropriate level even if we do normally argue that that’s by the people, by individuals, rather than some level of government. Harris though hasn’t quite grasped the implications of what he’s demanding:

Consider, for example, the southern German town of Rosenheim, which has a population of around 65,000, and was one of the virus’s early German hotspots. To quote the country’s health minister, as the authorities there got to work, “there were really no instructions from Berlin. Decisions were made locally, on the spot.” This is the very opposite of the approach taken here, a difference reflected in the fact that the UK’s death rate is around six times higher than Germany’s. But will anyone learn?

That would be to argue for dropping the national part of the National Health Service then. Which when baldly stated is something Harris would reject in horror. The point is more general as well:

Mayors and councils need decent tax-raising and borrowing powers. A whole range of responsibilities – over health and social care, education, housing and transport – ought to be spread across regional, city and local government, not on the basis of the current model of ad hoc “deals”, but a uniform shifting of power and resources. With the benefits system and so-called welfare-to-work now colliding with rising unemployment, most of the things overseen by the Department for Work and Pensions should be pushed in the same direction. On any matters of national emergency or strategic importance, politicians at the centre should always bring in leaders from outside. And decision-makers from all sides need to embrace one key matter of consensus: that austerity will never again be visited on local councils.

Much of the “austerity” that has been so visited is actually a reversal of the subsidy that Gordon Brown designed, the subsidy from richer areas to poorer. That though can be set aside, if we like, as just being the normal politics of spending everyone’s money on my voters.

The point is larger than that and meets with Milton Friedman’s four ways to spend money. Spending other peoples’ on yet other people is the least efficient form of it. Therefore any true devolution has to, as Harris says, lead to substantial local tax raising powers to go alongside those spending ones. The corollary of that is that the varied national cross subsidies have to go.

That is, strong local politics is just fine, local spending is zippetty doo and all that. But that spending has to be from resources raised from that local area, local taxation. Being able to tax Esher to pay for Wythenshawe needs to stop. Devolution means that the local spending not be subsidised from national taxation.

A world in which Manchester elects the government it wants and then Manchester pays for the government it gets has an attraction to it. One in which Manchester has the power to spend but not the duty to pay for it is less appealing. That last would be close to harlotry, that power without responsibility thing.

Media enquiries: 07584 778207 (Call only, 24 hour)

Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *