A Momentous Month
I will have been in my new flat for three weeks tomorrow. With nearly every day it becomes more like a home. In a couple of weeks I will have a sofa-bed. Within three weeks I will have new blinds. I still have a few storage problems because, in spite of strenuous efforts, I failed to dispossess myself of enough clutter before I left my terraced house. Today, my handyman and friend, Tony, fitted a couple of ‘grab-rails’, which make getting in and out of the shower a much less alarming process. He drove me to Tesco and I bought a new TV, by far the most sophisticated I have ever watched. Tony then connected it for me. Also today my friend Lesley has helped me to get to grips with the washer-drier. She is so practical!
I am very lucky to be able to call on the assistance of such folks. I am now learning to shop on line from Tesco – what a great business, greater by far than the NHS.
I am a very fortunate man.
Here’s what I would like to do (if you were lucky enough that I were in charge) with the NHS. I would sell it hospital by hospital, GP practice by GP practice, ambulance service by ambulance service to businesses like Tesco, Asda and Bupa (or anybody who believed they could make (sacred word) a profit. I would distribute the proceeds equally to every man, woman and child in the UK. Then I would slash the taxes needed to run this behemoth. Almost everybody would be much better off. They would be able to buy healthcare or health insurance to suit themselves AND they would be able to contribute to charities for the indigent.
Then I’d move on to state schools. There are so many of these ghastly institutions that it would probably take longer. I imagine that Eton College Plc, Malborough College Ltd (plus Tesco) would find it easy to raise the finance to buy them and make them work. Abolishing the Dept for Education and Science would save a fortune. Rich and poor alike would have more money (after more taxes were slashed) to buy the schooling for their children that they actually wanted. The cost of education would necessarily fall. Education charities would spring up – our richer population would have the cash and the incentive to ensure the children of the poorest were not illiterate and innumerate.
Well, under my scheme (please note that I want nothing to do with specific policies in specific schools or hospitals), each individual would be so much richer that they would be casting about for ways to invest their surplus income. Employment would soar. The need for benefits would plummet.
Would I reprieve a few ‘safety net’ services? I think not. Bureaucracies have no incentive to limit themselves. Would there be casualties? Probably. Would they exceed the casualties suffered under our current system? I think not.
It would take more years than I expect to have left to implement other necessary reforms (sound money being one of the most important). Sound money, as opposed the fiat system now in operation, would prevent government from looting us by inflation – in addition to the lawful looting which is taxation.
Of course, by some people’s lights this would be described as free markets gone mad. Is it possible to deny that what we have now is a welfare state gone mad? No.
I would be for these changes for two reasons: efficiency and morality. It is patently obvious that free enterprise runs things better than governments. Yes, they take a profit for what they do. Making a profit by undertaking risk, investing creativity and hard work – who could reasonably object? Rationality is in short supply these days – alas! When governments run things, they do not look to make a profit. Instead, they ‘administer’ each and every gruesome programme. This is fabulously expensive. Average return on capital for a free market enterprise is a few percentage points. The cost in admin for each programme is a hefty proportion of what is actually doled out.
Capitalism is far more moral than the alternative. Real virtues are rewarded: thrift, hard work etc. Failure is punished – sometimes in sad circumstances. When a state school fails, money is shovelled in to ‘remedy’ the situation. When a supermarket fails, it fails and other entrepreneurs have a chance to buy the assets and have a go. In the third world there are many examples of poor people choosing to spend money on private education, rather than send their children to ‘free’ state schools.
Capitalism is free exchange. Every exchange is based on the fact that each party takes part in the expectation of being better off. This is a fallen world. Sometimes we regret an exchange – we learn, it is to be hoped. Capitalism is about learning – about information. No government department has a fraction of the information required to run public services. They have a pitifully poor record of learning from mistakes. The opportunities for corruption are rife. A particular favourite of mine is pensions for state employees – paid for by taxpayers. A headmaster, who may have done an OK job, gets an inflation proof pension paid for by many people who get no such benefit – this is corrupt.
Well, good night. I am not asking for your vote. I wouldn’t have the chutzpah to fight the vested interests.