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What the database state costs

That invaluable organisation, the Taxpayer’s Alliance, has worked out that the total cost of the various surveillance and data-gathering services favoured by the UK government is just under £20 billion, or about £800 per household. The figure is a total, not an annual sum. £20 billion is a huge figure, even in these times of inflated financial sums.

Now the question arises whether, if we really do face serious security threats – and I think we do – what else could that £20 billion have purchased that might actually have made us safer?

Of course, £20 billion could also enable quite a few tax cuts, but that is obviously hark heresy these days (sarcasm alert).

12 comments to What the database state costs

  • guy herbert

    While I’m pleased the TA is getting headlines for this, I think it is worth pointing out this guestimate (largely based on the LSE’s old guestimate for the ID system) is almost certainly massively wrong and massively too low.

    Just begining to map the boundaries of the database state is a couple of man-years for a competent research team.

    If anyone out there can conduct or pay for some serious costs and economic research, then I’d love to meet them. A serious study would have to look at all the various command and control projects under and allied to the Transformational Government, and take a view on compliance burdens and opportunity costs as well.

  • 800 quid would go quite a long way to buying every household an assault rifle. Problem solved?

    I’m guessing here. I have no idea what one costs.

  • Oli

    I want a gun!

    Maybe if I could find a climate change angle, it might get added to the list of approved crime prevention measures available to households?

  • Nick: I don’t know either, but I am sure it can get you a very decent handgun.

  • Julian Taylor

    Is it not rather odd that with all those cameras all around London that there are so many more stabbings, more murders, more rapes and violent crime than ever before? Perhaps we need a new NVQ qualification in Surveillance Monitoring (perhaps, corporately sponsored by Nikon or maybe Sony) to get a higher quality of camera observers to help deal with the situation.

  • guy herbert

    Is it not rather odd that with all those cameras all around London that there are so many more stabbings, more murders, more rapes and violent crime than ever before?

    There almost certainly aren’t. But the cameras are irrelevant. Not least because criminals are less susceptible to social controls, self-restraint, and forethought than the general public. It is largely what makes them criminals.

  • Guy is right. I caught a Prof at Cardiff Uni on C4 News claiming the Mirror or some such tabloid was essentially hyping the “epidemic” of knife crime. Their statistic were for all injuries treated by the NHS involving sharp objects. They included kitchen knives slipping, industrial accidents and gardening mishaps.

    Anybody have any more details? I only half-saw, half of it.

  • guy herbert

    Nick M,

    Mick Hume has some sense, and some statistics with an indication of sources, here.

  • Sunfish

    Nick and Alisa: 800 pounds is about $1500 or so US, right? That would go a very long way indeed.

    As for cameras…A few cities in the US (like the one run by the Daley Crime Family) have tried to adopt widespread CCTV in public places. What they’ve found are that the sorts of minor ‘quality of life’ and ‘public order’ crimes that are so often followed by more-serious crime have actually flourished around the camera locations.

  • Sunfish, I was thinking $800…$1500 would go a very long way indeed.

  • Paul Marks

    I wonder how much of the tax money goes to politically connected business enterprises.

  • Sunfish

    Even $800 isn’t chump change. If that’s your entire “I’m going to spend this for home defense” budget, your choices are a little limited but you still have room to work.

    Not to hijack the thread, anyway. I don’t actually believe the government’s cost estimate in this case. If they say $800/household, I’d be willing to believe somewhere north of two grand. And I personally can think of better things to spend two grand per household on than some government database lacking in non-nefarious purposes.