You’re becoming a nay-sayer. This is the second voucher type scheme that you’ve argued against and you are still pro-conscription on student unionism.
– Sinclair Davidson, 23 July 2009
A constantly negative person isn’t much fun to be around. But being a policy nay-sayer is, for a classical liberal activist, part of the job description. There are endless suggestions for more government spending and regulation, and so there must also be endless criticisms of those proposals.
Most classical liberals join in the nay-saying. But perhaps where I differ from the others is that, as I argued in my big government conservatism article a few years ago, I believe that pressures for big government come from within centre-right politics, as well as the usual suspects of left-wing ideas, interest group rent-seeking, and politicians’ vote-buying.
I’d at least like to see Julie and Sinclair work through in more detail the tensions in their overall position. Sinclair has published several papers on lower tax with the CIS. Since she joined the IPA, Julie has published regularly on the need to contain government spending and reduce taxes. I agree entirely with those goals – but I am not at all clear on how a plan to spend another $5-10 billion fits with them.
There are perhaps arguments or proposals that would reconcile the two centre-right goals of school choice and lower taxes – perhaps by taking the necessary money out of other forms of family welfare or showing how the returns from the voucher proposal would deliver equivalent benefits. But to date these arguments haven’t been made.
Similarly, Sinclair’s view that universities should be forced to unbundle academic and non-academic services is in tension with views he otherwise holds. Just a couple of weeks ago he dismissed a proposal to regulate petrol retailing, saying:
Incredible – whatever happened to the notion that firms offer goods and services for sale and consumers decide what it is they want to buy and from whom they want to buy it?
That’s pretty much my reaction to Liberal plans to regulate what services universities can bundle.
I think all classical liberals are nay-sayers, but some of them say no when their friends, as well as their opponents, suggest big government initiatives.