Thursday 25 September 2014

Bagehot gets it wrong on support for state intervention

The Economist's British politics blog, Bagehot, features a new article about the Labour leader Ed Miliband. One of the points advanced in the article is that Mr Miliband's social democratic agenda is at odds with British public opinion:
He anticipated rising demand for a bigger state role in the economy, in the form of regulation, public ownership and a thousand other of the social-democratic interventions he had always hankered after. Yet most Britons, even members of the hard-working “squeezed middle” whose problems he aptly describes, are suspicious of an agenda that appears hostile to free enterprise and personal responsibility
Personally, I am not aware of any evidence that "most Britons" are "suspicious of an agenda that appears hostile to free enterprise". For example, YouGov polls indicate that a majority of British people favour: public ownership of the NHS, public ownership of energy companies, public ownership of Royal Mail, public ownership of the railways, price controls in the transportation sector, price controls in the energy sector, and raising the top rate of income tax to 50%.

Though no doubt enthused by these figures, readers of a progressive disposition will be unhappy to learn that a majority of British people apparently also favour: cutting welfare benefits, reintroducing the death penalty for certain offences, trimming foreign aid, banning the burqa, and reducing net migration to zero. Overall, it would appear that the British public has a rather statist-authoritarian streak.

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