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State-funded intolerance

Unity at Ministry of Truth is upset about government funding of Catholic charities - charities which then discriminate against homosexuals when it comes to delivering their services. Not what I thought Chrisitianity was about, I must say, but I'm no expert.

Now I might take a slightly different approach to discrimination, seeing it as part of being free, but there's no question that the State shouldn't be funding organisations that do so. The Ggovernment is elected to look after everyone's interests, after all. If ever there was a quid pro quo for having to go along with the wishes of the majority, it is surely that the government doesn't actually encourage discrimination against you.

It's increasingly clear though that Labour is adopting a different approach. Evidence is growing quickly that they are governing for only for those who elected them, or those who can buy them off. So while Tony Blair is, at least publicly, not a Catholic, he clearly sees the Catholic Church as part of his constituency. So state-funded discrimination will become a feature of British life, in order to buy off a group of potential Labour voters. It's big state democracy in all its glory.

Now, as a small government kind of guy, I can sit back and say "I told you so". The problem for Unity and socialists in general is that they have no such get out. They believe that government can fund anything and anyone they like, provided the elections expressed the will of the people.

I say, if you give money to crooks, don't be surprised if they steal it.

(Updated to correct inadvertent capitalisation of Government. Lesson one of blogging - never write about grammar, spelling or editorial stylePsychotic.)


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Reader Comments (9)

That's why intellectuals are mostly lefties. Squaring Circles appeals to them.
Jan 23, 2007 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterSerf
Consistency is the bugbear of small minds and so on, but don't forget that they're insufficiently deserving of the respect afforded by capitalization...
Jan 23, 2007 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterMelmet
Ha! Hoist on my own petard!

Thanks Melmet, I've fixed it.
Jan 23, 2007 at 3:54 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
If the Catholic Church can be exempted from certain legislation that it disapproves off, could the BNP ask to be exempted from anti-racism legislation that it didn't approve of either!?!
Jan 23, 2007 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnafu
Or me from tax legislation that I don't approve of. I'm sure Mr Blair is amenable to offers.
Jan 23, 2007 at 7:42 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
>>> The problem for Unity and socialists in general is that they have no such get out. They believe that government can fund anything and anyone they like, provided the elections expressed the will of the people.

You're making two presuppositions there, BH.

1. That socialism = state socialism - ain't necessarily so (see JS Mill, the Co-operative movement, etc.)

2. That I buy wholesale into state socialism - also not necessarily so, but that's a long discussion.

On adoption services, state funding can be justified on a social case (kids in families is better that kids in kids homes) and on a business case (over the medium-long term, adoption cost considerably less that children's homes,etc.) - what I object to is funding sectarian and/or dicriminatory organisations.

I've no problem with the state doing 'productive' things but that doesn't necessarily mean a large state - a much smaller state than we have can still do productive things provided we substantially reduce bureaucracy, much of which stems from pseudo-marketisation of public services in which what passes for a market is sustained only by bureaucracy.

Markets work best from some things, state provision for others - half-baked hybrids don't work, for example before all the tinkering with the NHS started, management & admin costs ran to about 5-6% of the annual budget, now its around 12-13%, much of which is pure bureaucracy of targets and contract management.

Jan 25, 2007 at 12:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterUnity
I'm intrigued by your answer, Unity, having been of the (apparently mistaken) belief that all on the left were wedded to the idea of big government. The idea of co-operatives supplying services is one that I support - I've long advocated friendly societies as the answer to the problems of the welfare state.

Have you blogged about ideas like this - co-operatives, small state socialism? I don't remember seeing anything on your blog about it although I've only been reading it for a year or so.
Jan 25, 2007 at 9:26 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Never really got into it in detail but for the occassional rant about unnecessary bureacracy, as much for being unsure as to whether I could anywhere close the quality of Chris Dillow's material as anything else.

It's a theme I want to expand on, as much because of the obvious lack of intellectual rigour on my own side of political fence as anything else - we need some fresh ideas and exploring non-statist models of socialism is one possible source and offers a much better 'fit' and balance with the market ideas we acquired under Blair.

My overall take is one in which the way forward is to look at a mixed economy in which we use the right 'tools' for the right job, which may mean markets, cooperatives or even, in some cases, the state - for example I can make a sound business and political case for taking water back into public ownership, not least because privatisation didn't create a market it just replace a big state-owned national monopoly with a number of smaller privately-owned local monopolies.

But that case wouldn't be based on old style state ownership with direct political intervention in the running of the business but on an arms-length business relationship in which the state acts as a shareholder-in-litem on behalf of the British people.

In terms of general economics my feeling is that all big theoretical ideas have been tried and found to have things that work and their own flaws - even right-wing economists accept that Marx's work on structural instabilities in Capitalism hold valid, so nothing is a complete write-off - and that the next moves will be more about how we pull together the working elements from different theories into something that covers all the necessary bases.

That's what Giddens tried, unsuccessfully, with 'The Third Way', the basic premise of which has some merits, but which led him to the wrong formula.

This os rather like that discussion we had a long while back about Colorado's citizen's bill of rights - conceptually that's not so far removed from the kind of democratic centralism in use by socialists in Puerto Allegre, Brazil and the two ideas could, theoretically. converge into a framework that suits both left and right.

I suspect we may see similar thing emerging in economics as things progress.
Jan 25, 2007 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterUnity
You should make this a full posting on your site.
Jan 25, 2007 at 8:50 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

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