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Monday, 4 May 2015

The UK General Election: Never Take a Leaf Out of Your Neighbour's Book

As a non-voter, I have taken only a limited interest in the UKs current General Election campaign in which politicians bribe the electorate with promises they haven't yet collected in taxes.

My information sources are limited: I don't watch TV or listen to radio but I buy The Financial Times and get the awful Guardian free in my supermarket (the alternative freebie, The Daily Mail is considerably worse). And I browse the Internet - I have Al Jazeera on my Favourites bar (I deleted the BBC News some time ago).

Anyway, it means I may be wrong, but I get the impression that British political parties and voters are completely lacking in curiosity about how other countries manage things, even  in those countries nearest us. True, we all know that the French have much better railways and the Germans better roads - but that's about it.

How do they manage refuse collection in the Netherlands? What is Accident and Emergency like in the Czech Republic? And what about these Scandinavian countries which are rumoured not to have school uniform - surely their children must be completely undisciplined?

How come Norway didn't splash out its oil wealth on electoral bribes, as did Mrs Thatcher with ours, but instead created a long-term investment fund (a sovereign wealth fund, as they are now called)? What was it about the way they do things that allowed this constructive strategy to be put in place?

Does Russia do anything well? Maybe like us and the USA, it's good at putting people in prison.

How does Belgium - pretty much a non-country, as some British politician once remarked - cope with the fact that half the country doesn't want to be joined up with the other half? (Maybe the answer, judging by the state of Belgium's roads, is: very badly). Perhaps they need a Northern Ireland Peace Process.

And Switzerland. Everyone keeps very quiet about how the Swiss do things. They are supposed to have Referenda all the time. The truth is, they do - all the time. And you really can vote Yes or No in them. And their Federal government, such as it is, is always a coalition and the Chair of it is endlessly rotated, just as if it was some kind of loser Green Party. Does this bizarre way of going on help ensure the Swiss stay rich or is it a liability?

Talking of rich, we do of course all know that the Channel Islands stay rich and without VAT or Trident missiles by syphoning off money which would otherwise go to the UK Treasury. They cover themselves by putting the Queen Mother and Royal Babies all over their postage stamps. So far, it's only the Germans who have sent in the troops; but it should be the Brits.

Well, maybe someone has written a book about Other People's Success Stories which we could try to imitate. Policies which are imaginative, effective and cost-efficient. Constitutional arrangements which facilitate long-term strategic thinking. Political cultures which allow you to get from less to more desirable states without having to wait decades. And so on. If there is such a book, I'd like to read it.

1 comment:

  1. Don't underestimate the amount of tax payer money that is spent by public servants jetting around the world ostensibly to find out how other people do things better. It's a great excuse for junketing.