This website has always been very concerned with the UK’s lethargic attitude to its debt problems. Many voters feel that our public and external debt are not important issues, and that governments can print money to solve their problems.
Well, debt is a serious issue. Our debt interest repayments currently cost the equivalent of 40% of our health budget, or 35% of our pension pot, or 106% of our defence budget. The debt level itself, a whopping £1.28 trillion, is around 90% of the UK’s GDP. The excessive levels of debt chew into government welfare and health budgets, all because of irresponsible spending from years gone by.
Across the world citizens are seeing similar patterns, according to the CIA’s ‘The World Fact Book’ 170 out of 216 governments run budget deficits; meaning that they spend more money than they accumulate from tax revenue. Moreover, the same research found that there are only 4 countries which are not in external debt to other states.
Milton Friedman, after whom a column on this website was named, summarised this incompetence on the basis that spending other people’s money required much less care than spending your own.
There’s been one underlying basic fallacy in this whole set of social security and welfare measures, and that is the fallacy – this is at the bottom of it – the fallacy that it is feasible and possible to do good with other people’s money. That view has two flaws. If I want to do good with other people’s money, I first have to take it away from them. That means that the welfare state philosophy of doing good with other people’s money, at its very bottom, is a philosophy of violence and coercion. It’s against freedom, because I have to use force to get the money. In the second place, very few people spend other people’s money as carefully as they spend their own.
Let’s say you’re spending your boss’s money: you’re out to lunch on an expense account, but you are spending it on yourself. You are very careful that you get good things for your money, you try to have a good lunch and pick the right thing; but you’re not very much worried about whether you get the cheapest thing. Now what happens when you spend somebody else’s money on somebody else..?
In order to help balance government budgets we have to do more to raise awareness about how poorly taxpayer money is spent. Take for example, the £300,000 paid to send 14 council officials to a three day property fair in Cannes. Or the £42k allocated on shifting council staff 524ft between two council buildings because “it’s not a particularly pleasant place to walk”. Or lastly. the £12 billion(!) spent under Tony Blair to improve NHS computer systems, which was never completed.
Thankfully, more people are wearing their fiscally responsible thinking caps now – and with any luck responsible spending will become politically fashionable. The TaxPayers’ Alliance are leading the fiscal fight with their War on Waste; a 9 day road trip which will visit 30 locations around England and Wales.
The TPA’s War on Waste is a superb opportunity for those opposed to the “never ending chequebook” and “print more money” attitudes, which are endemic in British politics, to stand up and fight for the opposite corner.
By using our proven campaigning skills, our War on Waste will remind politicians at every opportunity that there is no such thing as public money, only taxpayers’ money – and take them to task when they fail to protect taxpayers’ interests. TPA: War on Waste (2014).
With any luck, politicians will listen to the messages from this campaign and act with haste on wasteful spending, and ultimately use the savings to lower taxes for you and me.