I wouldn't mind seeing a left-wing TaxPayers Alliance. Something that focused on genuine waste and inefficiency at taxpayers' expense, without being refracted through a right-libertarian ideology and suggesting that anything done by the public sector is inherently shit.
He’s right. It makes obvious political sense for right-wingers who see the state – even in a democracy – as an illegitimate, alien imposition that shackles the economy and stifles society to want to sneer at its every (debatable) failure, inefficiency and overreach.
But left-wingers who think there’s real need for what the state does ought to be keen to cut down on waste and inefficiency. If we think the public sector is so vital, then we should view the taxpayers’ money that funds it as sacrosanct. (Tom might be interested in The Other TaxPayer’s Alliance, although they seem to be mostly about critiquing the original TPA.)
Despite the right-wing caricatures, we don’t – not even Gordon Brown, not even Polly Toynbee – believe in taxing for its own sake. We believe in what can be achieved with the money raised in tax, and so we should want the maximum bang for the public’s buck. This is very different from being generically anti-state and highlighting waste as ground for reducing the scope of the public sector. It’s about maximising effectiveness in terms of good outcomes rather than merely minimising inefficiency.
The only worry (at least, for Labour) is political: in taking up the cause of making ‘cost savings’ – as the government intermittently does – would we help to legitimate the small-state brigade or cut the ground from under their feet? A lot depends on language. Phrases like ‘trimming the fat from the wasteful state’ have very different overtones from ‘making our public services more effective’.
Then again, I’m a bit of a verbose pseud and probably not the best person to be devising slogans…