Saturday 6 November 2010

Postcode lotteries

I've been reading Postcode Lotteries by G. R. Steele, an article in the current issue of Economic Affairs.

The first two sentences:

An internet search delivers over a quarter-million hits for "postcode lottery". Almost all are British.

Why British I ask myself.

Steele points out that postcode lotteries are generally to be found in the public sector, which is ineffective in distributing goods and services. Competition tends to cause the private sector to distribute more evenly although that process is constantly challenged by technological and entrepreneurial advances - to our advantage.

I believe that the reason why the concept of the postcode lottery is essentially British is a direct result of the extraordinary degree of centralisation of both the British state and the British media. When the likes of the Daily Mail reveal that Mrs Smith in Sunderland doesn't have access to the same drug as Mr Brown in Bolton, the readership and the political class respond. It's a "National" Health Service so we must all get the same deal, whether it's good or bad.

This is quite in addition to the fact that we have a separate NHS here in Scotland. The implications of differing "national" NHS systems seems to cause consternation down south. When they realise that there are different systems of course - which is not very often.

In federal countries like Germany or the US one generally reads a paper published in the local big city, not in Berlin or Washington. Similarly, government services are administered locally to a degree that would be unthinkable in Britain. It follows then that a German or an American would expect public services to vary across the country, and not be surprised by that. Furthermore, the individual German and American states are all of equal status whatever their size. How very different from the UK.

Here we have a "national" broadcaster, funded by coercion, that's quite unable to grasp the nature of the British state as we saw in the Dimblegate affair. Similarly the "national" newspapers are really English ones with just the occasional confused foray into Scotland.

This "national" media is staffed with assorted statists who are as unaware of economics as they are of the make-up of the British state. Just as "all must have prizes", so "all must have the same healthcare" (sic, or is that sick?), and "all must enjoy the same national wage scales" no matter how much they pauperise the "provinces". (How I hate that word.)

To end Britain's championship of the postcode lottery concept we need to do one of two things. Preferably we should reduce the role of government to such an extent that state-created postcode lotteries disappear naturally. Failing that, we need to decentralise government along the German or American model. Neither's going to happen of course. Scottish independence will probably be one of the outcomes. Hopefully we'll not be stupid enough to constantly compare our (hopefully small) government expenditures with those of England. Or "Britain" as Mr Dimbleby will no doubt call it.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

David Farrer
I have added your site to my news reader and look forward to learning more. 

15 November 2010, 18:35:30 GMT
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David Farrer
Given that I'm a libertarian, I'd be perfectly happy with hundreds or thousands of different (private) systems within Scotland. That would certainly be fair.  
I don't really think that people in England generally make a distinction between England and Britain, and I did live there for more than 30 years. The words are often used interchangeably. My point is that in countries of the size of Britain it is very normal to have a federal system with diverse public services. We are the exception. What have I blamed English people for other than not realising that diverse systems are the norm? As they are.

15 November 2010, 18:32:50 GMT
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Do people want different systems within Scotland?  Do they think that would be fair?  Actually if you identify yourself as being British as most English people still do you would probably expect the same as your fellow citizens.  If Scotland were independent then the postcode lottery would still exist in Scotland and the people would be equally dissastified with it.  You really could stand for the SNP as you are being to blame the English for everything.

15 November 2010, 15:05:42 GMT
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Hi scottish people! First of all, apologies for any inconvenience.  
We've just created a blog which shows that Majorca and the Balearic Islands have to be independents from Spain, either inside the Catalan Countries (Catalonia, Balearics and Valencian Country) or by themselves.  
We would like you to visit the blog, it's trilingual english-catalan-spanish because we want to spread our message and let the entire world know the critical situation we are suffering.  
We would be so glad if you could suggest us! (We really need it)  
Thanks very much!

12 November 2010, 19:51:46 GMT