Sunday, January 6, 2008

A modest proposal

I have been considering the condition and nature of government as it has evolved in the last hundred years or so and wish to put forward a modest proposal. Some unwitting responsibility for the extension of government into so many aspects of life must be accepted by myself and those who shared government with me . There was much reform to be achieved to create a state that was democratic and just and, as a consequence, much work to be undertaken by Parliament.

But my mind tumbles over in turmoil when I consider that Parliament has continued this work, with scarce interruption, for a period of well over a century. It seems that of laws and of the making of laws there is no end. The state has many servants, offices and supervisors of public conduct and indeed continues to consume a large portion of the national income.

Now I must fully accept that there are laws yet to be made that may be fully justified in the making. Indeed when Mr Clegg assumes the mantle of government, I would anticipate a plethora, a blizzard of laws; for this party is committed to reform and there is much reform to be done.

However I find it hard to conceive how a party of government could be in power for ten years and still have passed insufficient laws to serve its purpose. I am informed that the government believes in extending its powers by stealth rather as we extended liberty by progression rather than in a single extension. So Habeas Corpus is first extended for 28 days and when this is considered tolerable it is extended further. Or the hospital services are reorganised and then the following year they are reorganised again; for the minister in charge of this department has to show they have work to do. Or the schools are judged still to be inadequate and the state must therefore assume additional powers over local education boards and the practice of teaching - as if no powers have been taken at any point in the last ten years.

In the same way the members of parliament must be given work to do; for the socialist MPs award themselves in pay several times the average salary of the ordinary working man and therefore must pose as rulers rather than symbols of enfranchisement. Indeed, whereas once parliament met in periodic session to bring together the people's representatives it is now criticised if it presumes to take a "holiday".

My modest proposal is therefore this: that Mr Brown, the Prime Minister, declare a holiday from the making of laws for a period of one year. He will be required to bring forward and debate an annual budget and there may conceivably be other matters that require legislation. But I would speculate that Great Britain will continue to function as normal, and may even function rather better than usual, if there is some respite from the making of laws. What then shall be done with the MPs, the ministers and their civil servants during this time? The ministers and servants may be tempted to make regulations during this period and should be restrained from doing so. Indeed they can all be kept gainfully employed during this period - as it seems they must be employed by the state - in deliberating all the laws that have been passed during the last decade, what has been their effect and how they might be improved to enable the better working of commerce, the extension of liberty and the common weal.

Furthermore I would urge Mr Clegg to make this a part of his programme, declaring in what year there will be a respite from law-making and by what point the programme of Liberal reform will be near to completion. I would advise the sixth, the second year of the second term.

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