Over the last 24 hours or so, in a state of mildly delirious sleep-deprivation, I've been mulling over the implications of a potential conservative government. It has not been enjoyable.
I find myself in a position of being fairly desperate to help create something akin to the Tories' "Big Society" vision. Not because of all the wonderful incentives they might introduce, but because I'm pretty sure if we don't do everything ourselves, their rolling back of the State in our time of greatest need could quickly lead to a dystopian nightmare if we don't pull our sleeves up and get stuck in. Sadly, they would likely try to take the credit for this community co-operation. Maybe it was always their intention to utilise the fear of disaster that is rising in compassionate, liberal minds in bringing about the "Big Society". Why else would George Osbourne still be in line to be Chancellor after all?
I'm also reminded somewhat of the Prisoner's Dilemma psychological experiment:
Robert Kilroy-Silk's interpretation of the famous Prisoner's Dilemma psychological experiment http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shafted.
If we consider the application of the Prisoner's Dilemma to a post-aTorylyptic political environment with a small state and low taxes there are three scenarios that might arise.
The first scenario is that everybody shares. Everybody suddenly becomes voluntary enthusiastic participators in their community and the community benefits enormously.
In the second scenario everybody shafts. Essentially society sits back and expects someone else to do the work. This scenario would go tits-up pretty quickly.
It is the third scenario that is the most interesting however, and it is by far the more likely of the three to become a reality. In this scenario the more compassionate, caring, selfless, generous individuals donate their time and money to causes and services where they feel they can contribute. The other members of society (the lazy, greedy, mean-spirited types) choose not to contribute their time and money, and yet they enjoy all the services the generous citizens help provide, and accumulate greater wealth as a result of the lower taxation.
Low tax, low spend "Big Societies" have inherent within them a financial incentive to be a greedy parasite upon society. If national insurance contributions are a "Jobs Tax" then the Big Society is a tax on generosity, compassion and general goodness. It is grossly unfair.
I wish we could find a way to make the mean-spirited, greedy people pay more, but the more that public services are funded by taxpayers and not charitable individuals, the more we can at least say they are paying their fair share.