Friday, February 24, 2006

Poll shows Labour back in the lead | the Daily Mail

Is this really so surprising? From a principled point of view. there is no point in electing a Conservative Government which promises to be just as statist, tyrannical and determined to squander the nation's wealth as Labour. Dave Cameron has yet to provide the Conservatives with a "unique selling point" to catch the electorate's imagination. Until he does, the best he can hope for is that the rising tide of corruption will damage New Labour's image.

We now have a situation where our political divisions are not betweeen Left and Right, but are essentially regional. If you live in Scotland, Wales or the North of England, then it makes sense to vote Labour. They will subsidise your Council Tax and ensure that you get the maximum benefit from public spending. Of course much of that spending is merely "fiscal churn" (your own money being taken in tax and then given back minus "expenses") but you can expect it to be topped up with tax taken from Conservative voters elsewhere.

In Germany every "Land" (region) has a city which is economically self-sustaining. In Britain, there is only one - London. All the others benefit from net transfers of public expenditure. If you live in London or its "hinterland" of the South, East and Midlands, then you are in the productive parts of our islands. You had best vote Tory. Of course you can't hope for a government that will encourage 9 million unproductive fellow-countrymen into work. Most of them have forgotten how to do it. Perhaps you CAN hope, however, that dapper Dave will be as ruthless and cynical as tinsel Tony in stealing from his opponents' voters and giving to his own.

Of course such regionalism is bound to lead to even greater cynicsm and political division, but it's hard to see how else to proceed. Now that so many depend on the State for their income, no principled stand for a smaller State is likely to win hearts and minds. No doubt the transfer of human resources from productive to unproductive unemployment will all come to grief years from now, but voters worry about how to make this year's mortgage payments, not those years into the future.

Labour has succeeded in making more people dependent on the State than even yesterday's statistics would suggest. In the private sector, many of our employees are "government-facing" not "customer-facing". They are paid by their employers, for example, to collect VAT and personal income tax. In practice, they work for the government and their self-interest is not aligned with their employer. He only cares about serving customers. They care about serving the government. Many can be relied upon to snitch if they think the employer is doing the State down. In former-Communist countries I have worked in, the Government has imposed a criminal liability on accounts staff who fail to report suspicions of tax avoidance by their employer. How long before Gordon does that?

Many "Human Resources" people are working to ensure compliance with employment laws and the government's view of best practice. They do nothing for their employers or their employers' customers and often have no real concept of what the company does. In firms regulated by the FSA (banks, financial advisers, consultants) there are staff dedicated to compliance with money laundering regulations. They decide case by case whether to "shop" customers to the police by reporting suspicions as to the source of their funds. They add no value to their employers or their customers and are effectively out-sourced secret policemen.

Finally, there are those services the private sector provides for Government. I don't name my own firm here because - amongst other reasons - my partners would be unhappy to jeopardise public sector assignments by offending the government. I think that's one reason why the legal profession in Britain, organised into large law firms doing lots of government work, has been so craven in the face of attacks on civil liberties and their professional independence. The small law firms of France and Belgium have been much braver in opposing requirements secretly to shop clients to the police on suspicion of money laundering, for example.

A substantial proportion of private sector employees function as de facto agents of the State; the cost of their employment representing in reality additional tax. Those people know who their real bosses are and are likely to vote accordingly. Even those who are really customer focussed must remain silent when one of their major customers is the State.

Poll shows Labour back in the lead | the Daily Mail

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