05 April 2005

More democracy blogging.  Randall McElroy asks:

Can you name a democratically-ruled country where the government and its bureaucracies, dependents, employees, contractors, and powers have been in decline for any significant amount of time?

I can’t.  Margaret Thatcher gave up power in some areas but increased it in others.  Mind you I find it difficult to think of any regime democratic or otherwise where the state has shrunk.  When people recapture their freedoms it seems to require either the collapse of a regime eg. the Soviet Union or invasion eg. Germany.

If that’s the case, the implications for us in the West are not good.

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  1. What about Victorian Britain?  Wasn’t there a decline in the size of the UK government from the end of the Napoleonic wars to about 1870?

    Posted by Andy Wood on 05 April 2005 at 12:29pm

  2. Hmm, let’s think about this.  On the positive side we have the abolition of the Corn Laws.

    On the negative side we have:

    1821 Establishment of the Royal Irish Constabulary

    1829 Establishment of the Metropolitan Police

    1820s (I think) the Speenhamland System

    1830s Limited state funding of schools

    I think most places got a police force by the 1850s.

    Compulsory purchase and a vast expansion in the number of joint stock companies (depending on whether you regard this as a good or bad thing) to aid the development of the railways.

    There may well have been a reduction in taxes in the 1830s but then again they had to pay for the Napoleonic Wars.

    Certainly, Sean Gabb tends to think it’s been all downhill since the Great Reform Act.

    I suppose there is also the question of whether you regard the Britain of the time as being a democracy.  It’s a tricky issue.

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on 06 April 2005 at 02:00am

  3. 1820s (I think) the Speenhamland System

    I’d never heard of this until now, so I went a-googling.

    According to this page, it was set up in 1795 and abolished in 1834.  This suggests that its abolition should be counted on the positive side.

    Of course, this means we should also include the Poor Law Amendment Act.  Whether the net effect is positive or negative, I have no idea.

    Posted by Andy Wood on 06 April 2005 at 03:56pm

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