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30 percent more government doesn’t do it, does it?

Summary:
The IFS tells us that the Scottish Government spends rather more per person than the British - or, if you prefer, the English.Nicola Sturgeon's spending on Scottish public services is 30 per cent greater than the equivalent funding in England thanks to the Barnett formula, according to a study published on Wednesday. The impartial Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found a growing cross-Border spending gap, with the SNP administration in Edinburgh having more than £1.30 per person to spend on public services for every £1 in England.Almost all of this difference - 28.9p out of 30.6p - comes from the Scottish Government's block grant from the UK Treasury, which is calculated using the controversial Barnett formula.Leave aside the grand proof here we have of Milton Friedman’s contention, that

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The IFS tells us that the Scottish Government spends rather more per person than the British - or, if you prefer, the English.

Nicola Sturgeon's spending on Scottish public services is 30 per cent greater than the equivalent funding in England thanks to the Barnett formula, according to a study published on Wednesday.

The impartial Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found a growing cross-Border spending gap, with the SNP administration in Edinburgh having more than £1.30 per person to spend on public services for every £1 in England.

Almost all of this difference - 28.9p out of 30.6p - comes from the Scottish Government's block grant from the UK Treasury, which is calculated using the controversial Barnett formula.

Leave aside the grand proof here we have of Milton Friedman’s contention, that there’s nothing so permanent as a temporary government programme - this was, after all, a late 1970s political fix expected to last for a couple of years.

Think, instead, of what this tells us of the continual calls for just that little bit more of government that we are constantly assailed with. If that little bit more on this and that and t’other were to produce a better society for us all then Scotland would be that better society to which we should all be aspiring.

Is it?

There’s no actual evidence from any real numbers that it is. Lifespans, addiction rates, educational achievements, any other such measure we care to look at, do not skew Scotland’s way in the manner that such hugely greater spending suggests they should. Or, even, as those who insist England should be spending greater such sums insist would be the result of such taxpayer penury.

Which is the correct manner of looking at these numbers. We have just conducted an experiment, a real world one. That greater public spending does not create the nirvana that is claimed. Therefore our solutions to making the world a better place are going to have to come from a different set of actions.

As we’ve been saying for decades now, it’s how the money is spent, not the amount of it, that makes the difference. Thus it is the structure of public spending that needs the reform, not the amount.

No, really - which of Scotland’s socioeconomic achievements is it possible to point to which justifies a 30% expansion of the State? None? Then the putative expansion is not justified, is it?

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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.

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