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Blaming the government for everything is unfair


By Aaron the Humanist


Blaming the current government for everything going wrong seems to be a national sport. Is it time for us to reflect upon ourselves and our own unrealistic expectations? Can all governments everywhere all be getting it wrong, or is it our lack of understanding about the difficult constraints and trade-offs involved in managing a national economy that’s to blame? Is Aaron on to something here? Why not tell us what you think in the comments section.


Over and over again, news media shape the overall narrative of the political news into one of blame: “It’s all their fault”. This is clearly the case in Britain today, but you could probably pick any time in history, and the narrative would be the same – “It’s all their fault”. Who are “they” you might ask? “They” are the scapegoat of the moment, the point of attack, the place to direct your anger and frustration. Right now, “they” are Rishi Sunak and his government in the UK. Of course, in Russia, “they” are Putin and his cabinet, and in the US “they” are Biden and his cabinet.


The average consumer of news only sees the visible targets paraded by the media, and so poor Rishi Sunak and his immediate predecessors get blamed for mismanaging everything including Brexit, Covid, the energy crisis, taxes, hospitals, unemployment, and so on. Of course the buck stops with heads of government, but every government on the planet is having a tough time of it at the moment, mostly for similar and overlapping reasons. So is it fair to blame Sunak, Biden, Macron et al for everything that goes wrong? Every country deals with problems and crises in their own way. For example, Sweden bucked the trend and didn’t do lockdowns, but Sweden, like many countries, faces a range of social, economic, and political challenges. If the similar problems exist across the globe, it stands to reason that blaming your own government for everything is likely to be an oversimplification of highly complex problems. So what’s going on here?


Maybe it's a case of rising expectations and short attention spans. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that we have humanity's stock of knowledge available at our fingertips, we seem to be less inclined to make the effort to reach for accurate knowledge, to fact-check news stories, and to look more deeply into what’s being said. Instead, our brain uses short-cuts and thus arrives at what are probably the wrong answers on a whole range of complex issues.


Do governments make mistakes? Of course they do. Are there other options that could be taken? For sure, but governments have to choose in real time – not with the benefit of hindsight. (Rishi Sunak's nickname for Labour leader Keir Starmer is “Captain Hindsight”). Our reserves of patience are extremely depleted – we want everything right now. Remember when opening the internet took five minutes? And downloading a five-minute video could take half an hour? Today, if we don’t get it instantly, we throw a tantrum. We want instant universal healthcare, affordable public transport which always arrives on time, higher wages for public sector workers, and so – but we don’t want to pay higher taxes to cover the escalating costs.


“I have come to the firm conclusion that we, the people, with our sky-high expectations, are in the wrong.”

The UK looks likely to elect a new government in 2024, but I predict that the public will be very disappointed when Labour steps into power. Very few people seem to have any enthusiasm for Keir Starmer as the next prime minister. Conservative voters don’t want him (obviously), and many core Labour voters don’t seem to want him either. But after fourteen years of Conservative and coalition government, there's a mood in the country in favour of change. Somebody, ANYBODY, must be better.


But given the economic constraints that exist, wide-ranging change may be beyond any real possibility. The National Health Service always wants more money, but if you doubled its income, it would spend it and still want more. In my estimation, the UK defence budget needs to treble, but is there any realistic hope that defence departments can take money from other spending priorities? Prisons need changing, and the way that we rehabilitate people needs changing, but to do that would require billions of pounds worth of change and there is no money for that. The energy sector is in crisis, in terms of household affordability, and how we develop energy needs a massive fix. There's talk of building new gas-fired power stations. In my opinion that would be a vast backward step, but with nuclear being so expensive and slow to come on-grid, what is to be done to alleviate current pressures? The economy of the future needs investment in infrastructure, but the current government cancelled the high-speed rail link HS2 – albeit with a promise to divert savings to other transport priorities. We all want clean air, clean rivers, and to safeguard the natural environment – but this all comes at a cost as well.


Power stations were shut down during Labour’s tenure, the defence sector declined further on their watch, immigration went up, and debt grew. New schools and hospitals were built, but on 30-year payment plans, most of which are still being paid off. Labour had the global financial crisis to deal with, in addition to the Iraq war. Since the coalition and Conservatives came to power, we've had many global crises to deal with including the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine. The next government will, of course, have its own unexpected bumps in the road to tackle. There will never be a five-year parliament where it's all plain sailing and where we find ourselves with £30 billion of spare cash. Thirty billion could make a real difference if spent in one sector. But it never can be. Every department wants a cut, and thus it's watered down, and slivers of programmes are rolled out here, there, and everywhere which make so little difference.


The UK government budget for the fiscal year 2023/24 is expected to be approximately £1.2 trillion. We probably need more like £3 trillion a year to really catch up with our housing, defence, education, infrastructure, energy, and other needs. We can’t borrow that shortfall, and our trade and income aren't going to magically rise to that level. So how do we tackle it?


I’m 53 years old and I suspect I will die before we arrive at the solutions. If I went on a housing waiting list today, I know that I would not get one in the 30 years of useful life I might have left. The sad thing is, an 18-year-old leaving college tomorrow has the same truth facing them. Something truly massive and radical needs to take place, such as the abandonment of money and moving towards a resource-based economy as advocated by the Venus project. But I can’t see that happening either. So where does that leave us? It leaves us paying off the debt from last year, and next year paying off last year's debt and so on. Each year the debt gets bigger, and each year the usable piece of the government's fiscal pie chart shrinks. We can’t keep borrowing from the future in order to plug our spending gaps today. And that's the collective “we”. It's a global problem with every country facing very similar problems.



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