Forget austerity – what we need is a stronger state and more taxation | Will Hutton

The income tax system needs reshaping. This is not easy. But nor is reducing the state to its smallest level for 80 years

If the Conservative party forms the next government, by 2020 the state will probably be the smallest it has been – in relation to GDP – for 80 years. So declared the Office for Budget Responsibility last Wednesday, in the wake of the autumn statement. By 2020, spending per head of population will have fallen by around a third in 10 years. In some areas – in our cities and our criminal justice system – the reductions will be even more draconian. This is the most dramatic change in state capability that any British government has ever engineered.

The chancellor may complain about the “hyperbolic” tone of some BBC reporting. But surely only in a one-party state would this dramatic plan not be discussed in appropriately dramatic terms. Britain is to become the site of a massive experiment in economic and social libertarianism whose authors have never fessed up to the sheer audacity and scale of what they are doing. They have just dumbly insisted there is no alternative. The autumn statement was the moment the implications became clear.

Continue reading…