“What is offered for free is dangerous—it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit.” – Robert Green, The 48 Laws of Power
Bribing the public with “free stuff” in exchange for votes is the oldest trick in the book. The Labour party in recent years has turned this into an art form. In the run up to the local elections in London, in what can only be deemed the most cynical of cynical ploys, Labour have offered “free” bus travel for all under 25 years old. This, adding to the long list of freebies that make up current Labour party policy. Anyone with any knowledge of economics or of life for that matter should be able to see through the con.
The first and most important point, one that we would all do very well to remember, is that the government has nothing except that which it takes through taxation in the first instance. When labour offer to ramp up public spending they are also offering to take more of our hard earned money through increased taxation. Perversely disincentivising wealth creation.
The policy of raising taxes for bus fares is particularly perverse. Such a policy means rural working class communities which will tend not to use buses end up subsidising wealthy middle class families in London. i.e. in this case, Labour takes from the pockets of its political opponents and puts into the pockets of its political supporters. And of course it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if you price a good or service at zero you rapidly boost demand for said good or service, while doing nothing about supply. In this case expect such a policy if ever enacted to lead to shortages of available transportation.
Next let us consider the issue of tuition fees. The problem you have when you have it funded through taxation is that you have lots of cross subsidies happening in combination with a wasteful allocation of educational resources. The fifty percent of the population who do not go to university end up subsidising those who do. A particularly poor policy when you consider that graduates are likely to earn higher salaries than those who leave school after completion of their A levels or GCSE’s. It is also worth noting here that the current system which in effect funds university via a graduate tax is far from ideal and has led to excess numbers of graduates, often majoring in courses which have no value to society or to the individual.
Hospital parking charges are often seen as unjust yet without them you would have to allocate parking spaces at hospitals in another way. As anyone who has ever visited a mosque for Friday prayer can attest, having a free parking system is a total catastrophe. You end up with a shortage of spaces as the early bird gets the worm. By having a charge you incentivise the use of public transport while at the same time rationing the parking spots available.
Offering sweets to the public isn’t going to go out of fashion anytime soon. The last century is littered with demagogues who have done this in order to gain power. We in Britain thankfully have always rejected the hard left when it does this, let us hope this continues to be the case.