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« Heseltine urges Clarke-led dream ticket to stop David Davis | Main | Cameron supporters rule out alliance with Ken Clarke, the Tories' new Eurosceptic »

Comments

Mark O'Brien

"But, as discussed here and here, can we agree that an initially active government is sometimes necessary to produce long-term reductions in the demand for government?"

It depends how 'active government' is done. I believe that a prime minister who seeks to reduce the size of the state should not fall into the trap of offering government money to any problem that occurs, but should rather be an activist leader, bringing together people with resources, like large companies and rich individuals, who can provide money for projects. We've reached the point where a civil society won't just make itself. That's why I advocate a fund of government money to be handed to one minister with a small staff, and that staff would receive applications for grants from small charitable ventures around the country. If the requested is accepted, then a small amount will go straight to that project, no strings attached. It's also why I believe the next Conservative leader should make a pledge, if elected, to take business leaders from around the globe on a tour of the most depressed old industrial areas in Britain, showing them what skills people have and what opportunities there are for business. It's not exactly a bold plan, and it's likely to fail, but it's the kind of activism I would like to see from political leaders who believe in a smaller state.

Take a real example: we've got to pay for the Olympics soon. Rather than starting a lottery scratchcard or making Londoners pay more tax, why not invite the fifty richest men in Britain to sit down in the Cabinet Room, and see if any of them are willing to become philanthropists, remembered for all time not just as rich men, but as great men.

However, if the Conservative Party can find a leader who is ready and willing to be quite so much of an activist when he finally makes it to government is another matter.

Selsdon Man

Mr Editor, I agree with that we need to reduce the demand for the welfare state. We also need to tackle bureaucracy too, a topic on which Mr Willetts has been silent. Where do the social conservatives stand on flat tax?

As I have posted before, I do not agree with the profligacy of the Bush administration. Non-defence spending has increased by a third since Bush was elected. He has not vetoed a single bill even though most as full of pork barrel projects.

I believe that it is the churches and other voluntary organisations to promote marraige. The state normally makes a mess of it. In the US, billions have been wasted on large federal projects - as shown in the Brazier article. It would have been better to give the poor a tax`cut.

Active government always fails. Good people are captured by the state bureaucrats when they receive taxpayers money for pet projects through active government. The people are more moral, philanthropic and neighbourly when the state leaves them alone to get on with their good work.

The state cannot run society any more than it can run the steel industry. We had active government in the 60s and 70s - were they any more moral?

Editor

I almost agree with you, Selsdon Man, but I'm far from confident that civil society will spring back to vibrancy as the frontiers of government are rolled back. I think we'll be left without proper provision for vulnerable people. It would be politically unacceptable to cut the welfare state without first nurturing the welfare society to take up its caring responsibilities (more effectively).

On specifics, I agree that it should be churches, other voluntary organisations and all kind of social entrepreneurs that should promote marriage (and undertake other compassionate work) but they might need a helping hand from government, perhaps, through matched funding (at least initially).

Editor

Today's Guardian reports the following:

"Yesterday the Times raised the spectre of yet another candidate, reporting that the Eurosceptic, socially conservative right of the party wanted to put forward its own contender to succeed Michael Howard. But members of the Cornerstone group of backbenchers played down the suggestion, and one mooted candidate, Bernard Jenkin, ruled himself out. The other, Edward Leigh, is on holiday."

Selsdon Man

Editor, I agree with your first point. There is a need for a safety net although unemployment insurance could reduce the need for the dole. It is necessary to deal with "crowding out" where the state institutions take over the role of (or inhibit) the voluntary sector.

Be wary of matched funding as the socialist bureaucrats could add conditions for qualifying for the money. It can lead to state capture of voluntary institutions. This has been a problem in the US with some of the Bush programs. Increasing tax`relief for charities who care for the vulnerable is a better option.

Selsdon Man

Could anyone from Cornerstone explain why (having been led by Hague, IDS and Howard) that the party has overdosed on liberalism? Can they give specific policy examples over the last few years? I cannot see what David Davis and Liam Fox have done or said to offend them.

Editor

Yes, matched funding mechanisms can be abused, Selsdon Man, but they are a way of reducing the potential for government control if a presumption in favour of more-or-less automatic matching is programmed into their operation. The responsibility for deciding whether taxpayers' money is likely to be well used transfers from grant-making bureaucrats (who under existing systems make their risk-averse decisions bureaucratically on the basis of application forms) and to members of a community whose 'market-based' decisions on whether or not to support a project with their own money are then endorsed by a flow of public funds. This is how I put it in the conservativehome.com definition of stakeholder-directed funding:

"Matched funding arrangements ensure that projects have to have community support in order to receive revenue. Matching doesn’t have to be exactly proportionate. Social justice might lead matching to be staggered so that, for example, prosperous communities receive 33p for every £1 they raise, whilst poorer communities receive £2 for every £1 raised. In both cases successful start-up projects will have to win the confidence of local people. Matched funding also encourages more local engagement with voluntary enterprises."

I believe that SDF mechanisms could revolutionise the voluntary sector. Increasingly dependent on government for money charities etc would have to earn the confidence of communities, users etc. in order to prosper.

Selsdon Man

Editor, I take your point and have an open mind on the issue. Perhaps I am a little too cynical at times.

You may also wish to look at Cato Institute reports that prefer tax relief or credits to vouchers.

May I suggest that you write a more detailed pamphlet on SDF and other ways of funding non-profits for the CSJ.

Editor

Funnily enough the CSJ has that project in train!

Coffee Monster

Looks like Edward Leigh may stand after all:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4248134.stm

This could be bad news for Liam Fox.

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