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Management of detail

The UK government seems anxious to present itself as efficient in its management of detail. Whether it is or not is open to question, but most of its proposals are concerned with the implementation of policy at the micro level. It alters a threshold here and changes a rate by a percentage point there. What seems to be lacking is a broad idea, some vision of the sort of society it seeks to bring about, or some insight into what makes things the way they are, and how that might be changed.

We are seeing plenty of leaves and twigs, but no glimpse of the wood or the forest. People can endure hard times if they have hope of better ones. They can trudge through the trough of a depression if they can catch sight of the sunlit uplands beyond. Notably lacking at present is any promise of what future society might be like to make it worth striving for.

An honourable exception is in education, which needed change more than most. But the Treasury, which might be presenting a total reform and simplification of the tax code, concerns itself instead with manipulating petty details that magnify its complexity. This parliament is already halfway into its anticipated turn, leaving not much time to present a forward-looking and imaginative exposition of a future that will make the government worth re-electing.

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