These are thin times for those of us who consider ourselves to be in in the classical liberal tradition that the Tory party inherited from the Whigs and which informed so much of Mrs Thatcher’s outlook.
Who believe that, on the whole, governments don’t do things well, and the less we require them to do for us, the better governed we shall be. Who believe that governments should be smaller and our taxes commensurately lower. Who believe that social and economic progress is driven by private enterprise, initiative and effort. Who believe that individuals are the best judge of what is best for them and their families, not the officials in Whitehall.
Alas, our times are out of joint: government has taken on more and more responsibility for ordering our lives and, as a consequence, placed us under the highest tax burden we’ve endured in peacetime, in order to pay for all that it is doing on our behalf.
The herculean struggle under the coalition delivered the smallest civil service for a generation, but now it has ballooned and is larger than ever.
Government even took on previously unheard of powers to order us into the confinement of our homes; defined in detail the circumstances in which we might leave them; permit whom we may meet; where we may go and even what we must wear. I do not dispute that all this was done with the best possible motive, even though I believed it was quite misguided. Just how misguided we discover almost daily as the long-term damage that it did to economy and society emerges.
The Prime Minister tells us that the Government wrapped it’s arms around us to bring us through the greatest health emergency for a generation and that now it is wrapping its arms around us once again to bring us through the current ‘cost of living crisis’.
We should be in no doubt however, that the hundreds of billions of pounds spent on confining so many people to their homes and paying them to do nothing, and the further hundreds of billions now being distributed to help us with our bills, will be paid for by us either honestly through higher taxation for years to come, or dishonestly through prolonged inflation by the debasement of our currency.
Government has no money of its own. The more it takes from us to pay for what it does, the less productive we will become – if it carries on, we’re all going to be a lot poorer.