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How the cancer that is government grows

The British Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown, is going to promise nursing at home for all cancer patients who desire this. Such nursing is already provided by the Macmillan charity (hence “Macmillan cancer nurses”), but people will soon forget that. If the plan goes ahead and (a rather wild assumption) the British government manages to stagger on for a few more years without bankruptcy from its endless schemes, people will soon be saying “if it was not for the government people with cancer who wanted to stay at home could not do so – unless they were RICH” (the word “rich” being said with hatred).

This is how the expansion of government happens. The government takes over something (and civil society retreats) and soon people do not even know that it was ever done voluntarily. And, too often, the people who used to undertake the activity welcome the advance of government – “now we will not have to go begging for money” they tell themselves, not understanding that where there is government finance there is also government control.

It may even be that, a few years down the track, some future government decides to abolish home nursing of cancer sufferers (“it would be more efficient to do this in hospital”). Take over and then some time later close (or mutilate) has been a common thing in such things as health… for example the cottage hospitals that local communities had financed for centuries… or education (no more need to go “begging” for funds to finance talented poor children going to the local grammar school, for the government would fund the grammar schools – accept that the government closed them after a couple of decades).

The education “system” (the schools and the universities – with the exception of the University of Buckingham) teaches none of the above – one would not expect it to, after all even the private schools are dominated by such things as they need to pass examinations set by government approved people. However, even the privately owned media is useless – at least in Britain.

For example, today “Classic FM” (one of the largest non-government radio stations in the United Kingdom) just covered the matter in its news broadcasts by saying how Mr Brown was making this nice offer – and had a person on saying how the whole scheme might even pay for itself by helping people back into work and… basically flying pigs nonsense.

As for the Conservative party – there was no opposition in principle (no defence of civil society), just a question of what was going to be cut to pay for the noble scheme.

Lastly where Mr Brown is going to make his promise is worthy of note – he is going to make a speech at the “King’s Fund”. This was once a charity set up to give poor people health care and it was given vast sums of money (by rich people – but also by a lot of people who were not rich at all) which was invested to provide an income. Then the organization changed its function (to offering advice conducting, non medical, “research” and so on) – but it never gave any of the money back… It is controlled by ex BBC people, and other such, these days. Actually the King’s Fund is, therefore, a perfect venue for a speech that will (in reality) announce the death of another piece of civil society – but I doubt that anyone present for the speech will understand this.

13 comments to How the cancer that is government grows

  • Sam Duncan

    soon people do not even know that it was ever done voluntarily

    And even if they do, they usually assume it was done less well – otherwise why would the government “have to” take it over?

  • Very sad, very true. Your examples demonstrating the tendency for the government rug to be pulled out from under you are particularly well chosen.

    I made similar points in this post. I would also like to add now, as I did then, the point that there are reasons to do with the way politics work that make it likely that the end of the government “service” is likely to be sudden and chaotic.

    Is there nothing legal anyone can do about the theft of the King’s Fund – or am I being naive? Probably, yes, I am.

  • Laird

    I’ve made this comment before, but this is yet another illustration of the “social” corollary of Say’s Law: bad charity*drives out good. We’ve witnessed this phenomenon over again in education, social services, retirement assistance, etc.

    It’s the Anti-Midas Touch: Whatever government touches turns to dross.

    * Of course, I don’t consider it true “charity” to give away someone else’s money.

  • Michael Taylor

    Excellent post.

  • Sam

    I dispute your claim that the British media – being predominantly right-leaning, especially the print media -is “useless” insofar as its opposition to the role of government is concerned. Murdoch is far from impotent and has been peddling his populist xenophobia for decades, and to great effect. Just because no educated person takes the right-wing media seriously does not mean that it is non-existent.

  • “I dispute your claim that the British media…is “useless” insofar as its opposition to the role of government is concerned.”

    Perhaps you misapprehend the standard against which the British media is judged as useless. That standard is the freedom of the individual from coercion; the primary, overwhelming source of which is the EU/UK state. The British media has done exceedingly little (if not quite absolutely zero) to reverse the growth of either branch of state. Murdoch is irrelevant.

  • Paul Marks

    I did not mention the newspapers Sam.

    True most of them do not support the Labour government – this is because (historically) people have chosen to buy newspapers that do not support Labour.

    The Daily Mirror, Guardian, Independent and Financial Times (oh yes the F.T. is on the left – and has been for decades) are on every newsstand – if people wanted to buy them (and the Marxist newspapers that used to be about before most of them went bankrupt) they could do so.

    However, I have little faith in the “Conservative” newspapers to resist the growth of government. Some people in them have done so – but most of the best writers (such as Frank Johnson) are dead, or (like Charles Moore) do not write much anymore.

    A classic example is the “Daily Mail” – the only objection its finance editor had to the tax plans of Brown and Obama was that they were not “internationally coordinated”.

    So the Daily Mail (supposedly both free market and in favour of national independence) would be happy with higher taxes on the banks and other such – as long as they were done at a World Goovernment level (????????????).

    As Christopher Booker is fond of saying – most modern journalists (regardless of whether they are officially conservative or not) are lazy types, who neither research stories (no – “research” does not mean “read the press release and then put into my own words for an article”) or even THINK.

    He blames this on a “school of journalism” mentality (as in the United States) – where journalists just approach everything with the “liberal” left attitude they were given at school and university (people like Frank Johnson in Britian or Henry Hazlitt in the United States never went to college – they had to think everything out fort themsleves).

    As for Rupert Murdoch.

    I often do not agree with the man – although at least he allows dissent (for example Neil Cavuto attacked him live-on-air over his support for TARP and Neil is still at Fox News – no one fired him and he has just carried on expressing his opinons five days a week).

    What is this “xenophobia” you speak of?

    Rupert Murdoch has many faults but bigotary is not one of them. Do you mean that not everyone at Fox News is in favour of open borders?

    How can one be in favour of open borders in a Welfare State?

    Although some people at the Wall Street Journal and G. Rivera at Fox News manage to square the circle (at least to their own satisfaction).

    “NO NO NO Paul – I mean BRITIAN, the evil Sun newspaper”.

    Ah yes the Sun – one could harldy attack Rupert M. for Sky News (bland) or the Sunday Times and daily Times (also bland – and basically liberal as well).

    So it comes down to the Sun.

    The arch evil newspaper – filled with “populist xenophobia”.

    How often do you READ this newspaper Sam?

    The last time I asked someone that question they replied by ranting on about Richard Littlejohn – who does not write for the Sun anymore (he writes for the Daily Mail) and DOES NOT BELIEVE WHAT THEY THOUGHT HE BELIEVED anyway.

    Still, back to the subject, the chances of the Sun newspaper launching a crusade against the growth of the Welfare State (and thus the decline of Civil Society) are slim indeed.

  • Paul Marks

    Can anything be done about the theft of the Kings Fund?

    I am not a lawyer – but a friend who is one tells me “no”.

  • F0ul

    Great post!

    It really is true that people quickly forget how everything that is currently done by the government used to be done ‘for free’ before hand!

    The NHS is a good example – all labour did with the NHS act of 1946 was to centralise what the local councils were doing with the local funding for their hospitals. If there was any hero of social health, it was the NI act of 1909 put in place by Lloyd George – although ironically, he also killed off the local charity system which was in place before hand to ensure that the GP was available to even the poorest people.

    Before that, the unions were the ones who looked after the benefits for unemployed workers – another task now done by government.

    Actually, go back far enough, and you end up with the poor act of 1599 which took the issue of benefits our of the hands of the monks!

    Yes, everything goes in circles – except power!

  • Alice

    “… this is yet another illustration of the “social” corollary of Say’s Law: bad charity*drives out good.”

    That was probably just a slip of the keyboard there. But is is worth mentioning, because Say’s Law is the ancient truth supplanted by Keynesianism — ‘Supply creates its own demand’.

    Say’s Law focused on the production side of the equation. An economy which is producing more will be able to give people a better life. Keynesianism focused on the consumption side — leading to Mr. Obama’s mad printing of money while destroying the capacity to make anything.

    Gresham’s Law was about bad money driving out good.

  • Laird

    You’re correct; my bad. Too little sleep.

    (But I do like both laws!)

  • Dave B

    A poster at ConHome makes the point that:

    “Wrong, I’m afraid. MacMillan cancer care provides advise. It is Marie Curie who are the hands-on nurses.”


    Marie Curie nurses


    Macmillan nurses


  • Paul Marks

    My apologies – I should have indeed have cited Marie Curie nurses.

    This might explain why the Macmillan organization was so quick to endorse government control.

    Although, sadly, I predict that some people at the Marie Curie organization will also endorse the suggestion.

    “We could do so much more good if we did not have to go begging to the public for money”.

    Will be the argument.