Well, here’s your problem

Biden’s first budget aims to herald a new era of big government

That’s it, right there. Channelling the lives of 330 million people through Wash DC works about as well as channelling the vaccines for 450 million through Brussels does.

There are places that have more government, entirely true. But Sweden, Denmark and such places channel it through the smallest political unit – respectively the county or commune – rather than the largest. Which is, because of Bjorn’s Beer, why they work. This essential concept being rather simple. If Bjorn is the guy who collects and spends the tax money, you’re in small enough polity that you know where Bjorn has his Friday night beer, then the tax collected is going to be spent on things that the taxpayers don’t mob Bjorn’s Beer over.

It’s entirely possible to have more government, it’s even – possibly and maybe – possible that this will lead to a better world. But it has to be more small government, not more big.

10 thoughts on “Well, here’s your problem”

  1. Alderman Jabez Foodbotham — “the 25-stone, iron-watch-chained, crag-visaged, grim-booted” Lord Mayor of Bradford and “perpetual chairman of the Bradford City Tramways and Fine Arts Committee.”

    He could hardly be worse than Toni bloody Blair, could he?

  2. All those places with populations under 100k seem to do all right for themselves. Gib, IoM, Ber, Mon, Lie, Jer etc.
    Possibly a selection effect as if a microstate effed it up then it would have been swallowed by a neighbour so no longer exist. And there’s likely a population density and technology consideration before working out the optimal level of local accountability.
    But I’d rather take my chances on the Bjorn’s Beer theory holding up. Devolve the NPPF to local authorities, I say. And the laws on whether brothels, minimum wages, cannabis cafes, landowner handouts and much else.

  3. The Centenal cycle books deals with a future political system where every state is approx. 100k people each so large cities have different laws in different parts.
    Infomocracy is the first one, interesting read with some good ideas

  4. That used to be the case. Govt spent lots of money on defence, a bit on public health (sewers, etc). Welfare was the responsibility of local charity boards, even parishes. Doctors charged according to ability to pay, on the understanding that the rich got a visit without delay, even out of hours.
    Oh happy days in the Workhouse, I’m welling up with nostalgia.

  5. There’s a theory that technological development was so fast in post-medeval Europe because it was lots of small states, so creating a huge amount of competetive innovation driven by the requirement to stay in existing, coupled with if you don’t like the local oppressive ruler, you can just walk down the road to the next place; compared to huge states like China that stagnated for a millennia.

  6. Bjorn is a business man in your example. What if he is a member of the permanent political/bureaucratic class that has never experienced life except as an unaccountable functionary in the Leviathan?

  7. Ljh,

    “Bjorn is a business man in your example. What if he is a member of the permanent political/bureaucratic class that has never experienced life except as an unaccountable functionary in the Leviathan?”

    Local government doesn’t tend to attract people like that. Mostly because there isn’t the power for Big Ambitious Projects That Will Change the World (but don’t work).

    I’ve worked on lots of IT projects and the only part of government that works reasonably well is local government. It’s still slower and more relaxed than the private sector, but most of what I worked on got delivered.

    I think Bjorn’s Beer has a lot to be said for it, and also, scale. The further people in an organisation are from the customer, the more the incentives get messed up, like a game of Chinese Whispers. Also, things become more opaque for the person paying for it all. That applies to both private and public organisations.

  8. BoM4: I am happy to hear that somewhere accountable local government exists. My experience on three continents has left me discouraged.

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