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July 22, 2010


Luis Enrique

awesome post.

Of course the tactic of building client groups that will support your favored policies is open to abuse. Do we have any politicians you'd trust to play that game?

Philip Walker

'Of course the tactic of building client groups that will support your favored policies is open to abuse.'

Indeed, if you listen to some on the right (e.g., Heffer), you'd think it had already happened. The allegation being that Labour created a 'client state' through expanding welfare entitlements and the public payroll. I've heard Labour people defend benefits stretching up to the middle classes on the basis that it aligns middle class interest with that of the working classes.

Equally, the Tories are talking about similar things the other way up: if you make Britain more open to business, then more people will be employed in the private sector and small businessmen are more likely to vote Tory, etc.

Truth is, both sides do it, but neither side can be terribly effective at it, because they get turfed out sooner or later.

Jimmy Hill

Is the NHS really efficient in the sense that there is no better institutional arrangment possible that will provide health care to all?


@ Luis - thanks. I'm not sure the creation of client voters is necessarily a problem. It depends upon the value of the policies used to create them. If, say, a government provides great education for low-incomes kids, this would give their parents a good reason to vote for it. But would this really be so bad?
@ Jimmy - I doubt if there's a single institution in the world which is the best possible one. I was thinking of the NHS as distinct from the US system, which is twice as expensive for no obvious better health outcomes.

Jimmy Hill

@ chris - It's certainly true that there is no perfect institution. However, I asked whether there is a better possible institutional arrangement.

I take your point on the US system, but why is the US the correct comparative system? Wouldn't the social insurance system used by many European nations be a better source of comparison, or even the personal health accounts used in Singapore (although I am aware there there has been virtually no academic assessment of the health account system)?

This all works on the assumption that if something is possible in Europe or Singapore it is possible to implement in the UK. Due to public choice concerns I'm not convinced this is the case.

Paul Sagar

"If Andy Burnham’s talk of “aspirational socialism” has any substance, it might be as an effort to redefine egalitarianism to give it more overlap with popularity and/or efficiency. "

...by watering down the actual egalitarianism!



Is it not a quadrilemma: the fourth being the party's orientation towards the ruling capitalist class? Does the potential for community organising and new social media end the need for trickle-down politics (prawn cocktail offensives, meetings with Murdoch, etc.)

Luis Enrique


no, that wouldn't be so bad. But that wouldn't be an abuse. By abuse I mean creating client groups merely to secure political support.

Dan H.

You need a fourth set to the diagram: Achievable By Labour. This set is unfortunately going to be rather small, because Labour contains mostly ambitious and political Socialists, who generally tend to share the delusion that they all know better than anyone else.

This delusion is the principal belief of most Socialists, and is the single most limiting tenet in the whole Socialist philosophy. Because they cannot really accept that a system that isn't controlled by them can out-perform one that is controlled by them, they miss out on efficient systems such as market-based solutions and self-organising Capitalistic ones, and tend instead towards systems which confiscate wealth from the better off and try to redistribute it according to their own tenets.

As Margaret Thatcher famously said, Socialists eventually run out of other peoples' money, at which point their entire system comes crashing down since the one thing Socialism is not good at is running on very little cash input.

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