Posted by: aboutalbion | May 25, 2014

Debt democracy

The budget season in the UK has come and gone.  The UK Chancellor forecast that the Government will again this year spend around £100B more than it collects, and it is planned that public spending will exceed receipts for the next four or five years.  In other words, the UK’s public debt will continue to rise above its current figure of around £1.3T.

And this evening, it is widely believed that a voting pattern in the UK for the European Parliament elections will highlight a party that wishes to withdraw from the European Union.

I find no evidence that (a) spending more than we receive, or (b) leaving the European Union will change the atmosphere and the issues in our public squares.  As a columnist in my Saturday newspaper put it: “ … our nation’s difficulties [are] a sluggish economy, housing shortages, social breakdown and unemployment”.  These difficulties are mitigated by central Government spending, but I fail to see how the European Union can be held to be responsible for them.

I can’t help noticing that the UK finds it difficult to be honest about its identity.

This came up recently when our Prime Minister said the UK should be more confident about its Christianity, and his assertion was seconded by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  ‘Not so’ said 50 public figures of distinction; Britain is largely a non-religious country.  The previous Archbishop of Canterbury suggested that the UK was now a post-Christian country.

I think it would be healthier all round to recognise that the evidence is that the UK is a debt worshipping democracy.  According to analysis by McKinsey, the total UK debt (public finance + business + household) is so large as to put the UK as one of the most indebted nations on the earth.  I have seen a forecast that total UK debt will be around £10T in 2015.

This national love affair with debt is passionate.  But is love is blind?  All the current political parties seem to believe (along with the administrative civil service) that ever-increasing debt levels will sustain civil society in its present form without a day of reckoning.

It is worth recording that the percentage of the electorate casting their vote is nowhere near enthusiastic levels.  It might be a misreading of the situation to say that the non-voting electorate are apathetic.  It might just be that they decline to worship debt.


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