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June 13, 2006

Polly Toynbee on The State

Polly Toynbee once again: she seems never to quite grasp the points that she’s trying to make. Here she is as an unrepentant statist.

The heart of it lies in Cameron's words: "There is such a thing as society; it's just not the same thing as the state." This book fleshes out that abhorrence of the state and all its works, the true dividing line between left and right.

Something of a pity that she seems to be completely unaware of the anti-statist left.

Norman dates the beginning of society's downfall at precisely the point when the left would celebrate the foundation of the good society: Lloyd George's radical 1911 budget and the welfare state. But for him, here began the rot of "an invasive state" that "disrupts the voluntary bonds between people".

Well, yes, a read through The Welfare State We’re In will show at least that some of the points about voluntary provision of services were in fact true.

So who is going to stand up and say that government is a force for good? Who will say the blindingly obvious: there is no good society without a good strong state? Markets can only thrive with strong government regulation.

Clearly true, but it does rather depend on the type of regulation. Regulation of property rights is indeed most necessary. Regulation of the type of solder used in electronic equipment, to give a current example, might be less so. Or, to go back to an old favourite, the definition of carrots as fruit, jam for the making of, might be seen as excessive regulation perhaps?

The happiest, most socially just and economically successful are those that embrace big government: the Nordics.

OK, if Polly really does think that the Nordics are the perfect society let’s have a look at some of the things they do.

Sweden, for example, has no national minimum wage.

Sweden, for example, does not have a National Health Service. They even have private provision of health services to supplement the County Council based system:

It is also the county councils which own and run the hospitals, health centres and other health institutions, even if these institutions are supplemented by private providers which, in most cases, have contracts with the county councils to supply certain services.

That looks very like contracting out to me.

Sweden, for example, has a pure voucher system to pay for education.

Hey, bring it on!

June 13, 2006 in Idiotarians | Permalink


Right wing means you're anti-statist, she says? Sure! She's welcome to claim Mussolini if she wants him.

Posted by: P. Froward | Jun 13, 2006 2:07:37 PM

'The happiest, most socially just' countries are Nordic?

Why is suicide so popular then?


Posted by: don | Jun 13, 2006 2:18:23 PM

Is there more to Tim than his obsession with Ms Toynbee? I challenge him not to mention her for the next 30 days.


Posted by: james C | Jun 13, 2006 3:04:02 PM

WhenIwasyoung, Sweden was always quoted as the great Socialist success. All I had to do was ask why it was classed as Socialist when so few of its industries were nationalised. Plus ca change...

Posted by: dearieme | Jun 13, 2006 3:22:09 PM

Sorry for this

Posted by: becky | Jul 5, 2006 10:53:03 PM