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It is still spending, even if politicians call it “investment.”


Gordon Brown seems to have been widely regarded as a bully and a thug as well as an incompetent Prime Minister.  Stories which have emerged since he was removed from office tell of furious rants and even of objects thrown at subordinates.  To these charges might be added the violence he did to honesty and language.  Deceit came naturally to him, and he pioneered the “small print” budget, in which the Chancellor announces any good news and is applauded in the chamber, only for experts to discover the bad news buried in the printed version.  He assumed he was better at spending people’s money than they could be themselves, and was thus committed to a tax-and-spend approach to government, and when he ran up against the limits of taxation, to a “borrow-and-spend” approach.

Because spending has negative connotations, he called it “investing.”  He “invested” in health and education much like ordinary people “invest” in a bar of chocolate.  The point is that if words mean anything, then investment means forgoing some present consumption in order to achieve increased returns later.  Health and education might be very worthwhile things to spend money on, but they do not bring significantly greater returns to those spending the money on them, but to the recipients of those services.  To someone who thinks that people are the property of the state, those gains could be said to accrue to the state, and it is quite possible that Gordon Brown’s years at the Treasury equipped him with that mindset.  To the rest of us public services are things that money is spent on rather than invested in, and like all spending, it should take sensible account of the means available.


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