Do not believe them


We can all see the campaigns starting up. The Guardian is already carrying the pieces. If the Arts budget is cut then the creative ambitions of generations will be thwarted. If GPs hold the budgets then how can anything be planned? Abolish a quango about the countryside and the countryside will disappear. Do not, whatever you do, believe these stories for, as James Buchanan pointed out, politicians and bureaucracies do what is good for politicians and bureaucracies, not what is good for the rest of us. As this appalling story confirms.

Washington DC has a schools voucher programme, a small one, a test one. It was also a terribly successful one. Parents loved it, children's school grades went up and, in the topsy turvey world of US public education, it is cheaper to send a child to a private school than a public one. So, of course it was cancelled.

For when given a choice, and the financial freedom to exercise that choice, children overwhelmingly went to schools that were not tied into the teachers' unions and as the teachers' unions are the most powerful force in Democratic Party politics then....well, yes, of course, Democrats pulled the plug on the scheme.

This is obviously most relevant to Gove's plans for free schools: it's quite obvious that most of them won't have much time for the local education authority and thus most of the screaming will come from those very LEAs. Which is exactly why we shouldn't bother listening to such screaming, corral the kiddies into failing institutions in order to save my job is not a call that should be listened to.

There is also, of course, that wider application too: remember, the various interest groups will say damn near anything to make sure that our money continues to be spent on them. Whether the service, the country, the society, will be better off with or without money being spent upon them is, for the purposes of their arguments, entirely immaterial.