This is not an observation we’re making for the first time but then the truth does bear repetition. We cannot afford the welfare state that we’ve already promised ourselves. Or more accurately perhaps, we’ve at least so far been unwilling to pay for that welfare that we have been promising ourselves. This is something that Polly Toynbee complains about near endlessly, that we want Scandinavian coddling but we’re unwilling to pay for it through taxation.
We rather differ as to the conclusion from this but then that’s because we understand the proper definition of “want.
”The middle-aged and over 65s may soon be taxed to cover the cost of their later life care if proposals are given the go ahead.
Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Care Secretary, said he was 'attracted to' a crossparty plan for a compulsory premium deducted from the earnings of over 40s and over 65s.
It has been proposed by two Commons committees, the chair of one has said the premium must be compulsory otherwise 'it wouldn't be done'.
We all have desires of course, we even express preferences about them. We’d like free care in our old age for example. But we can only really be said to want them when we’re also willing to pay for them - revealed preferences that is. Which is where our disagreement with Polly comes in. The British are indeed remarkably unwilling to offer a further 10% of GDP, a further 10% of everything, to government in order to gain that social democratic nirvana.
It’s the not being willing to pay that is the important part too, that’s the revealed as opposed to the expressed. That is, we might well say we’d like to have the most embracing welfare state it’s just that when the embrace comes for our wallets, as with new taxation to pay for social care, it turns out we don’t.
Or as we’ve been known to point out, we aren’t willing to pay for the welfare state we’ve already promised ourselves, let alone anything more or new.