The state is to blame, Mr Blair
For we may born and we may die but we will be ruled by corrupt politicians, we elected, forever.…..The state is to blame, Mr Blair
Yesterday saw an unusual event: the Prime Minister admitting that he was wrong.
Tony Blair's recognition that a central plank of his social policies was "misguided" is welcome, as is his admission that the causes of crime and anti-social behaviour cannot be tackled simply by channelling more benefits to the offenders.
Unfortunately, Mr Blair's recognition of his mistake has come only when he is about to hand over power to a man who shows no signs whatever of sharing his insight into the impossibility of diminishing anti-social or criminal behaviour simply by transferring more taxpayers' money to those responsible for it. Gordon Brown believes passionately in the power of an active and interventionist state to solve social problems.
In the unlikely event that Mr Brown were to adopt Mr Blair's analysis, the result would be to compound Labour's policy errors rather than eliminate them. That is because Mr Blair's "solution" to criminal or anti-social children and their parents is still to send for the state: this time in the form of nationally-organised "parenting classes" and other types of state-sponsored instruction.
What Mr Blair lacks is a recognition that the state plays a large part in the causes of anti-social behaviour. Poverty, as Mr Blair has recognised, but Mr Brown has not, is not the root cause: most poor people are not criminals, and nor do they behave in an anti-social way. There is a much firmer association between a selfish, anti-social disregard for others and the assumption, inevitably generated by the automatic receipt of tax-funded welfare, that "someone else will pay".
David Cameron, the Conservative leader, at least recognises that there are many social problems that not only cannot be solved by government intervention, but are actually exacerbated by it. He rightly insisted last week that, just as we need to stop expecting the state to sort everything out, so politicians should stop promising that they can put everything right.
As we report today, the new batch of Tory candidates have a strong awareness of the limits of what can be expected from state action. They, like David Cameron, want to try to replace central government programmes with local initiatives organised by ordinary citizens. It is an inspiring vision. But while central and local government bureaucracies continue to dominate the social landscape, it is hard to see how it can be realised.
Nothing so discourages ordinary people from getting involved in local projects of any kind than the dead and stultifying hand of state bureaucracy. While the state and its thousands of officials are there to provide "solutions", and to frustrate attempts to generate alternatives, few private citizens can be bothered to initiate their own.
If Mr Cameron wants to realise his vision, he will have to cut back the tentacles of the state first, for it is they that strangle so many would-be "social entrepreneurs" before they even get started.
Editorial: Sunday Telegraph
Sunday, 29 April 2007