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UK politics

We British have become addicted to bailouts

Land of the free? Getty

The conventional wisdom about Britain, says Robert Colvile in The Sunday Times, is that, unlike our liberty-mad American cousins, “we don’t care about freedom at all”. The dominant values in our society are said to be “fairness and security”, and, for Labour voters, “equality”. But that isn’t quite true. Recent polling found that 86% of us say freedom is “very important” in our lives, and 73% think “more freedom” is better for us than “more government”. Yet crucially, unlike the Americans, “we don’t view government as the enemy of freedom”. In fact, two thirds believe the state’s broad role is to “protect most people against most risks”.

Once you start viewing politics through this framework, “it starts to explain a huge amount about how we are governed”. For all that Tory politicians might “rail against the relentless expansion of the state”, the fact is that it’s an expansion that a “huge number of their voters are pretty comfortable with”. Especially since the boom in government spending during Covid, a “firm conviction” has taken hold that “it really is the state’s job to look after us from cradle to grave”. And even though those previous bailouts left us with bigger debts and soaring inflation, we are already hearing pleas for yet another rescue package, this time for mortgage holders. No matter that this is “unfair, unjust and unaffordable” – and is sure to make inflation worse – “the calls for intervention keep coming”. The madness has to end somewhere. As wiser heads know: “nothing ever comes free. Especially not when it’s provided by the state.”