Smaller Government?

There is a rumour going around, apparently first articulated in the media by Harriet Harperson in a column for the Standard, that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) might be shut after the end of the Olympics.

It probably isn’t true but on the off chance that it is, I for one would welcome it as but a small step on the road to smaller government.

Being a minimalist libertarian, I obviously don’t think that this goes far enough.

My ideal, for starters, would be the closure of every national governmental department with the exception of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The rest can all be devolved down to nothing higher than county or city level. Once their powers have been pushed down that far then the local populations can decide what they want to keep, what to scrap and what can be done independently of government (much of it I believe). This should encourage trade and healthy competition between the regions to the benefit of all.

Why though spare the FCO and the MoD? Because so long as the concept of the Nation State still exists, they have a role which I’m not sure can be dealt with at a lower level*. I’d like to see the end of the Nation State – and thus the elimination of the need to have the FCO and the MoD – but until such time as this happens I’ll put up with them. The income for this rump of national government can be paid by the counties/cities on a fixed amount per head basis with the Prime Minister/Foreign Secretary directly elected with mandate to do no more than protect our interests internationally**. If s/he wished to change this, it must be put to a vote – as must their annual budget before any money is handed over.

The only other possible exception – i.e. I’m undecided about it – is some form of trans-county/city crime agency but its powers would have to be limited least we end up with an FBI/Homeland type agency.

Updated: to add the acronyms at first use and another footnote.

* No doubt there will be an anarcho-capitalist (Obo?) along to tell me I’m wrong about this. :)

** And not launching wars of aggression, obviously.


  1. Demelza says:

    What would be extent to which statute law would apply? Would we need both regional and national (federal) law?

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      Given that the rump of national government would solely be concerned with international matters, there would be little scope for national laws which apply to those resident in this country.

      Off of the top of my head the most I can come up with is those concerned with keeping the Foreign Secretary in check and the enshrining in statute of the Non-aggression Principle.

      Everything else can be left up to local populations.

  2. WitteringsfromWitney says:

    Interesting pos, MG, as it is not that far from what some of us envisage with a system of direct democracy and referism, the latter indeed calling for budget approval, not just nationally but also locally.

    I believe that if you consider carefully, you will come to the opinion that those matters for which national politicians should be answerable will require to be widened slightly, beyond just foreign relations and defence.

    Of course the idea of referism incorporates the ability of the people to call a referendum on any announced government policy, again be that national or local, which could not be enacted until the result of said referendum was known. A further ability of direct democracy is the peoples initiative whereby, through referenda, politicians can be forced to introduce laws for which they may not wish.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      I’d be interested to read what else you think that national government need concern itself with but if you are planning on holding your cards close to your chest until after the Old Swan meeting then I understand.

      As regards direct democracy, I think we are on similar wavelengths as regards the need for government to clear everything with the electorate first. The immediate downside is that if there are too many referenda, the voter might well get sick of them but this can be alleviated by a radical reduction in what the State is responsible for.

      • WitteringsfromWitney says:

        No hidden cards, MG. I am a great advocate of direct democracy at both national and local level, right down to parish councils. On the point about too many referenda, as I have pointed out earlier in my blog once politicians learn the lesson that any proposal of theirs can be halted, or amended, by the electorate they will also learn that proper consultation with the electorate – and not just with their partners – and proper drafting of Bills will mean that referenda will no doubt become less and less. One only has to look at Switzerland to see this happening where referenda are not that frequent at national level.

        On the subject of what other matters government should manage – and do note the word manage – would, I suggest, be finance (interest rates) and immigration, to name just two. Obviously there are some matters that need to be dealt with on an international level and national government is the natural body to do that, however I repeat anything they wish to do would be subject to the agreement of the people.

        If you google WfW and Constitution you will find I did a series of 5 posts on direct democracy,the second being number (2) and so on.

        • Misanthrope Girl says:

          The need, whilst the concept of the Nation State still exists, for a national government I won’t argue with. As I indicated in my piece, I believe foreign policy and defence are best handled there.

          It is the need for it to manage other areas which I doubt we agree on. To take the two you mentioned…

          a) Immigration – my personal view is that open borders are a good idea. However they must go hand-in-hand with an attitude of you’ve chosen to come here, you have to support yourself. The benefits of this should be obvious. And before anyone yells racism or any other -isms, I believe that the idea of supporting yourself should be applied to the natives as well. This should lead to improving the standard of education – it will be demanded if the natives can’t get the jobs – and a return to localism in the benefits system as people look after their neighbours, helping those who need help and those who could work do the tasks which need doing (cutting the grass, picking up litter etc).

          b) Financial policy – whilst I am no expert on fiscal matters and fiat currency, it seems logical to me, given the inherent weaknesses we can observe in current currency unions (EUR, GBP, USD) that they do not work without massive money transfers between regions. By devolving fiscal policy, regions are free to set up their own completing currencies, adjust interest rates accordingly and set tax polices to suit themselves with the rebalancing done on the FX markets.

          With regards to referenda, I agree that if we chuck enough things back in their faces they should all eventually learn. However a far bigger break on the number would be to remove government (of any level) from as much of life as possible.