The Public Prodigals
Michael Costa in his ALR essay pointed to the core challenge of government that nobody wants to face : public demand for the public sector to do more, public resistance to paying for it.
Not even Margaret Thatcher was able to cut the size of government as a proportion of the UK economy and the record of US Republicans is profligacy. John Howard lavished un-means- tested middle class welfare. Under my story about Carmel Tebutt below I (proudly) recount how I was persuaded to give her 900 extra child protection workers. It goes on…and I note the Victorian Libs won with a promise to put officers on every rail station after dark to enhance public safety.
This syndrome is, as Costa notes, a challenge to Labor’s social democratic rhetoric (“0ur eternal values of compassion,equality etc etc”) but to conservatives as well, adherents of Ayn Rand who lack the courage to say to voters, “No! It costs too much! Can’t have!”
Greece has the problem in an acute sense but no western system of political economy is immune. Bring back John Stone and Peter Walsh (just keep their hands off climate policy).