Up to a Copperian Point Weldon is correct that is. It is entirely true that if the British State is to carry on spending in the manner of that nautical shore leave then taxes must rise to match:
Back in the 1960s and 1970s tax receipts averaged around 38% of national income, but after a large drop in the 1980s they have bounced around the 34% to 36% mark ever since.
Despite all the rhetoric on the pressing need for deficit reduction, since 2010 the burden has fallen mainly on the spending side of the ledger. Current tax receipts stood at 36.4% of the economy in 2010-11 and by 2015-16 had fallen to 36.2%. Meanwhile, government spending as a proportion of the economy was cut from 44.9% to 40%.
Quite so. And there is a political choice to be made here. We can have the low tax low redistribution near laissez faire of Hong Kong, we can have the high tax and redistribution heavy social democracy of the Nordics and we can also have this middle way, the Anglo-Saxon muddle through the middle which characterises the US and UK. It's pretty clear which of those we ourselves would prefer but it is also equally obvious that this is a choice, it's a vision of the good society and it's perfectly valid to aim for any of the three.
But here's the thing. This is Britain and thus which of the three we aim for will depend upon the wishes and desires of Britons en masse. And we can very easily get the inhabitants of these sceptre'd isles to tell us that they'd just love more government services and more hand outs and that Nordic welfare state. But when push comes to shove we come up against revealed, rather than expressed, preferences:
Not since 1992 has one of the major political parties felt able to commit itself openly at an election to raising one of the major taxes – the basic and higher rate of income tax, NICs or VAT.
In the past few decades only Gordon Brown’s increase in NICs in the early 2000s – a pledge explicitly linked to the NHS – has received broad public support.
We Brits will happily contemplate getting more from government but we're not willing to pay government to have them. That is, we're not being serious, we don't in fact want these things at all.
To have that Nordic state would mean paying (much) more in tax. We won't pay much more in tax - thus we're not only not going to have the Nordic state we don't want it either.
Ho hum, looks as if we're stuck with that Anglo Saxon through the middle thing then, much as we ourselves would prefer the Hong Kong option.