Monday, May 5, 2008

Dirigiste Economics

I'm in France this week on holiday so the posting frequency may be a bit low (especially if the sun keeps shining like it is ;-)

As always there's value in seeing Ireland as others see us - or don't. The first thing that strikes me is how well the public sector works in France. You can actually see where your taxes are spent. It costs €1 to get the bus from Antibes into Nice, a journey of about 15 kilometres. The train is €3. Both run on time for about 20 hours a day. Not quite your Dublin Bus/Irish Rail pricing structure (or service level).

This is upsetting to my libertarian instincts, but still I do admire value for money; whether it's from the private sector or the public sector. And no, I don't want to pay French levels of tax either. Which is why the recent OECD report on Ireland's public sector is so damning. Instead of focusing on a better, more efficient public sector, our political leaders have embarked on an act of national vandalism called decentralisation - carrying home entire government departments to their constituencies like some kind of hunting trophy. I think only the Khmer Rouge went further ...

So we get the worst of both worlds: high (and hidden) taxes; poor and inefficient public services. So should we go one way or the other: dirigisme ou laissez faire? By the way, there's a notice on the OECD's web site announcing that they are closed from 8th May to 12th May for the Victory Day and Pentecost holidays. While in France ...

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