It has been said that the welfare state must collapse because it is too expensive; that government-funded healthcare must collapse because it is too expensive; that infrastructure built by government is too expensive; that government-funded pension schemes must collapse because they are too expensive. However all this misses the point. Life is not becoming more expensive, in fact as technology progresses everything is becoming cheaper. What is happening is that there is now more to choose from. Life is only too expensive if you want to have it all.

In ancient times, the Roman mob could be satisfied with a grain dole. It was not cheap, but it was simple. A socialist government today could not contemplate feeding the people because of the complexity of the logistics required to manufacture and deliver the millions of brands of food now on offer. The thought of government successfully taking over the role of Walmart or Costco is laughable.

The same applies to healthcare. Previously, funding public healthcare was simple. You hired legions of doctors and nurses and threw in tons of penicillin—that was it. People died of natural causes but had the comfort of being fussed over by doctors and nurses. Today, science has uncovered a galaxy of rare diseases and has developed even more ways to fight them. No one dies of old age anymore; instead the elderly are diagnosed as suffering from a disease that modern medicine is determined to cure. The result is that as the complexity of modern healthcare increases, the government’s ability to determine priorities slips away.

The only way the increased complexity of life can be fairly and non-ruinously dealt with is by allowing individuals to make their own choices. This means reducing the amount of money spent by government and instead allowing individuals to make their own decisions based on their own priorities.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove