Let us opt out of state services


David Cameron will today announce the introduction of a right to choose for individuals who receive state services. Its effect might be similar to parents’ existing rights that force councils to provide a choice of schools. But why not go further and allow individuals to opt out of state services altogether?

Outside organisations will be allowed to ‘bid’ for the provision of public services such as health, child care, and education. Those outside bidders could include mutual companies formed by public sector employees are based on the John Lewis Partnership which is owned by its staff. Outside bodies would be paid by results, giving them a financial incentive to deliver.

These plans are certainly a massive step in the right direction. They will however not include the right for individuals to decide which services they wish to receive, and which ones they want to skip altogether. Local, regional, or national authorities will still decide which services are provided to you - even if you don’t want them. The change will be in the choice of providers.

Why not go further and truly liberate the masses from state control? Why do I have to pay and receive services which somebody else decided I needed? It shouldn’t be too difficult to provide an annual council order form, on which you can tick the boxes of services you want to receive. You would than pay council tax accordingly.

Paying the council for the chosen services for the whole year would essentially be a subscription. Non-subscribers who suddenly decide they need the public service after all could still purchase it with a one-off payment (they could privately insure against that risk) – or they could purchase it elsewhere. Paying for the services you need already exists, for example parking charges, or "pay as you throw" systems. It makes perfect sense to extend this logic to many more state services.