Saturday, October 01, 2011

The subscription model of tax and benefits

I've posted a fair bit here and elsewhere over the last few years developing my own views on Labour, the left and deniable outriders - looking at how the network changes the sociology of politics, if that's not too grand a way of saying it.

I don't mind saying that Clifford Singer's thinking on all of this is a lot more developed than mine, and with projects like The Other Taxpayers Alliance, MyDavidCameron, False Economy under his belt, the experience and reading around this subject is nicely squeezed into this excellent post that everyone interested in this subject should read.

The one key related area that I think also needs more developed thinking on is on what Labour (and other non-darkside) politicians and formal structures need to do while the outriders are working their magic - adapting the notion of leadership closer to curation or convening and emphasising that individual representatives need to be the sum of their networks (I've picked Tom Watson as the obvious pin up on this one) and not the brand of reflexive budding demagogues that a lot of Labour's top-table seems to prefer.

However, another thing that occurs to me in Clifford's post is the way that writers like Lakoff and Westen look at the framing of the things that people care about.

New Labour ducked a lot of fights - perhaps understandably - but we could argue that they sometimes ducked the wrong ones. There was a common argument that public services had to be closely adapted to meet higher-earners expectations so that they would continue to see them as legitimate recipients of public funding.

As far as I can see, the Tories are moving ever-closer to a subscription model of the state - one where a higher-rate taxpayer expects a higher level of service, and where a freemium model of public service is advanced. You can almost see all politics as a tug-of-war in which active citizens game the tax and benefits system (I fleshed this out more here a few weeks ago).

To my poor mind, this isn't an argument or fight that can be ducked. Nor is it one on which we can't land heavy blows. Watching the way both the US and the EU are floundering at the moment, tracing the lack of historical vitality - governments that don't believe that they have the legitimacy to act - this isn't a trivial issue either.

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