Because biscuits aren't scary.


So Gordon Brown's now a libertarian?

Can this really be true? Is it possible that the man who has spent the last 9 years micro-managing every department of state and even the lives of the poor (via means testing), is suddenly in favour or delegating power?

I think not. His talk of 'double delegation', devolving power to local government and then again to 'even more local government' is logically inconsistent. If you are truly in favour of delegation, you can only delegate to the layer below you. It's then up to that layer to decide how it's going to do the delegated job and whether to delegate further. By contrast, Gordon Brown's trailed ideas just sound like more control freakery.

He will strip councils of even their remaining powers and giving them to his nominees in the 'local community'. Rules for the operation of these mini-quangoes will no-doubt be very tight and we can expect more centralising regulations such as those Brown supported for the 'approval' of elected local councillors by an appointed committee in Whitehall.

If we are to expect more delegation on the model of Bank of England 'independence', as trumpeted by Ed Balls, then advocates of freedom are likely to be disappointed. Many people think that giving the Bank of England has resulted in great economic stability for this country. However, that is difficult to justify when economic stability has been a feature of all the Western economies for the last 12 years. All Mr Brown actually did was give the bank a very tight mandate to the bank to turn the handle on a set of economic rules developed by Thatcher and Howe 20 years earlier and since copied across the world to form the new economic othodoxy. If the bank hadn't been made independent it is hard to imagine that there would have been any difference in interest rates in the last 9 years. So all Brown really did was delegate something that had ceased to be of controversy. A true libertarian would have delegated important decisions too.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Brown's delegation turns out to be similar to the privatisation of the railways. Ostensibly, this was a delegation to the private sector. In practice, the Treasury tied the private companies up in so much red tape that they actually had less freedom of action than the old managers of nationalised British Rail. Rail privatisation actually failed because the Treasury refused to cede power and used the incompetence of John Major as cover for centralising its power still further. Despite all the deaths and commuter misery that followed, the Treasury was so pleased with this model that it has used it again for the London Underground and numerous PFI projects under Brown.

As we've come to expect from Blair and Brown, they'll be lots of spin but actions will fail to match expectations.

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