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December 16, 2008



There is also the fact that Labour has a record number of unpaid ministers eager to be seen as doing something and therefore get on the ministerial payroll.


Luis Enrique

3. made me wonder about the relationship between drinking and income. I found something from the British household survey - says until they adjusted for wine, there was no noticable difference between drinking between income groups (or at least between employment classifications). Looks like trend has been downward recently too.

Long url


On the subject of single mothers and James Purnell's "shake-up", in the meantime, David Cameron remains the left's best hope. Can you believe it? Today he accused Purnell and Brown of being "Macho" and "sick". It shows how right-wing Labour have become!

This is what I wrote on the matter at Hagley Road to Ladywood:


"Better to dwell in freedom's hall,
With a cold damp floor and mouldering wall,
Than bow the head and bend the knee
In the proudest palace of slaverie. "

Sir Thomas Moore

Does "freedom's hall" have to be unpleasant to retain its freedoms?


I think you may be right in some respects. But I think generally it has more to do with socialists desire to create a 'perfect' society.


I think you're on to something there. Maybe 1 the most important? There's simply less time to tell us to eat our greens. Perhaps it's a function of economic activism - not just during a recession? When governments reckoned they could control the 'commanding heights of the economy', they were less inclined to tell us to do press-ups. And Thatcher was too busy dismantling the postwar consensus for much of that too. It was Major who was much more of the social moralist with all that 'Back to Basics' crap.


government had weightier things on its plate like mass unemployment, double-digit inflation, class war and the possible collapse of capitalism.

Got it in one, Chris.


Tyler Cowen had a remarkably similar theory about government growth in general in times of prosperity: http://www.cato-unbound.org/2007/03/11/tyler-cowen/the-paradox-of-libertarianism/

I think there could be a lot to it, which may imply that the occasional recession might be the time to take out some of the 'bad blood' that grows along with the state during times of prosperity. Otherwise we are heading inevitably towards a materially prosperous totalitarianism.

john cramer

why would paternalism be part of a boom state?
More likely feminism - in that is suddenly gives the state a lot more tax income.
And provides lots of female nannies for the nanny state. All of whom want to control the dwindling supply of children.

Will Davies

Surely there is a further macroeconomic aspect to what you identify. Since the early 1990s, Britain has been propelled by what some have called 'consumer keynesianism', as the government has run a conservative fiscal policy. With a cautious, austere government, you need an incautious, decadent populace to make up the demand short-fall. The engine of the economy has been the psychology that "I can have it all!!"

The government is perfectly happy with this infantile irrationality when it's exercised by adults with credit cards in shopping centres. They then, entirely hypocritically, step in to regulate, once teenagers adopt the identical mentality with regard to food, booze and street culture.

The question is: at what point does a recession become so bad that you actually want the teenagers to start buying harmful things, no matter what?


"Could it be that New Labour’s nanny statism is, in part, a product of an economic boom?"

There's also the odd reverse effect that occured to me the other day after the Manchester congestion charge vote.

When you perceive you have less control over your future (as in a recession), you have less toleration for other people trying to control your life, whether by restricting driving or controlling drinking or examining your parenting skills). When you have more control - secure job, rising salary, bonuses - it matters less.

In this sense, the population tolerate being treated like grownups in good times (grownups understand that decisions have consequences, for instance, and things like recycling, healthy eating, cutting back on driving etc. can be pushed through), but want to be treated like children ('I wanna do what *I* want!','Wanna drive car','Wanna eat crisps') in bad times.


I think there's a lot of truth in this.
However, something else to consider is that in the 1970s large parts of industry were nationalised, as were services like telephony and the utilities, there were state-controlled prices for many essential items and there were fewer areas of policy that had been handed over to the EU. So the government had plenty to be getting on with, in good times as well as bad, without resorting to too much nannying. Although measures such as compulsory crash-helmets and seatbelts date to that time.

I think when the Thatcher government disassembled the machinery of nationalisation it left a big whole in the psychology of the "permanent government" that has been filled by "lifestyle legislation". Even with an economic crisis, the bureaucratic apparatus that used to exist for controlling the economy is unlikely to be rebuilt.

Also, the Nanny State has now gone very far indeed. I listened to that interview about teenagers drinking, and the expert Evan Davies was talking to seemed very reluctant to give an opinion before the official government advice had been published. People forget that "official" advice is no more or less reliable than any other expert opinion - less so in many cases.

David Heigham

Capitalism seems to need occasional crises to force recognition that some assets are over-valued and/or some claims are uncollectable. Government and public sector non-market activity in general clearly need occasional bouts of being forced to recognise useless, nonsense and/or unproductive activity for what it is. Equally clearly, the worst time in the market cycle for forcing government to recognise reality is the moment when the market is coming reluctantly to its senses.

I would argue that the ideal (economic) timing for a democratic general election which forces the government machine to at least partly rethink what it is doing should recognise the desirability of counterbalancing the two cycles. Acknowledging that two to four quarters lags in reshaping government activity are inevitable, we should zero in on holding general elections at times when market recessions have really begun to bite. The cut-backs in silly governemnt are then likely to occur as the market begins to find its feet again.

From that viewpoint, the November US election with a new administration coming in at the begiinning of February is not bad timing. A British general election in the second quarter of 2009 might be nearly as good - provided New Labour do not win an overall majority.


It's the same thinking that has led me to the opinion that X Factor Big Brother etc. is a luxury good.

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