See below for what I’m not saying here!
This post is in response to people who justify the number of public sector workers by using the argument:
“public sector workers pay their taxes which contribute to the public purse”.
No – public sector workers do not contribute to the public purse (consolidated fund)!
What is the difference between the following payment methods for a public sector worker for a given number of hours?
- Salary £1000, income tax £200.
- Salary £900, income tax £100.
- Salary £800, income tax £0.
Essentially, no difference. They all draw £800 from the public purse. The taxes paid by public sector workers (and this applies to VAT and others too) aren’t a net contribution, but instead are a reduction in their net withdrawal from the purse.
Yes, these workers feel the pain when taxes rise, and have more to spend when taxes fall. But that is because those taxes change the amount they withdraw from the purse. They are still getting paid from a combination of the taxes on the private sector and government borrowing. I support the actions of the coalition to get these under control, and sometimes wonder whether they need to move faster than they are doing.
A way of thinking about the public sector
I’m influenced here by an astonishing book currently on my Kindle:
- The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes, by Steven Pinker
(I can’t do justice to this book here. Read it, and prepare to be amazed, especially by the horrors of life across the whole world throughout all of human history before the last few decades).
To summarise a tiny part of this large book, the UK (as part of Western Europe) in the 21st Century is by far one of the safest places and times to be in the entire history of the human race. There are many influences, but they include a well-organised democracy, with a “neutral” police force that largely gives the state a monopoly of the legitimate use of force. To this is added a range of enlightenment benefits, such as human rights and access by virtually everyone, rather than just the rich, to true health and safety services such as medical care, fire protection, etc.
In effect, this is largely achieved by the public sector. There are civil servants who enable government actually to work, police and the military who (among other things) keep us safe without having to take things into our own hands, health and safety services, and education oriented towards enlightenment perspectives and values.
If a public sector worker can look me in the eyes and assure me that they are contributing directly to the above, there is a good chance I will support them. If they can’t, there is a good chance I won’t.
I’m not sure where I got this image from:
I’m not saying that the public sector is redundant!