Alex Massie

The Trust Factor

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The other day, writing in the New York Times, Tyler Cowen suggested:

The received wisdom in the United States is that deep spending cuts are politically impossible. But a number of economically advanced countries, including Sweden, Finland, Canada and, most recently, Ireland, have cut their government budgets when needed.

Most relevant, perhaps, is Canada, which cut federal government spending by about 20 percent from 1992 to 1997.

[...] To be sure, the spending cuts meant fewer government services, most of all for health care, and big cuts in agricultural subsidies. But Canada remained a highly humane society, and American liberals continue to cite it as a beacon of progressive values.

Counterintuitively, the relatively strong Canadian trust in government may have paved the way for government spending cuts, a pattern that also appears in Scandinavia. Citizens were told by their government leadership that such cuts were necessary and, to some extent, they trusted the messenger.

Emphasis added. Obviously Tyler's writing about the US but all this could all be applied to Britain too given our own fiscal troubles. But if cuts become easier once there's a certain level of trust and engagement between government and public then, clearly, we're doomed aren't we?

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We don't trust the pols and they don't trust us because we don't trust them and anyway they don't think we can handle the truth and they're probably right but we hate them anyway for not giving us more substantive reasons for hating them and so they hate us in return and really in the end we all just end up hating ourselves too.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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