BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - In his New Year's message, British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised "critical decisions" in 2006 which, he said, will determine his country's future for generations to come.
He might begin by dismantling the big government he and his Labour Party have built on the ashes of the British welfare state demolished by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
In a recent society section of the liberal Guardian newspaper, several pages advertised vacancies on the government payroll, some of them offering six-figure salaries. They include outreach workers, diversity coordinators, policy advisers, liaison officers and a racism awareness counselor. The average annual pay for these jobs is 10,000 pounds higher than the comparable private sector wage. These are not real jobs -- like nurses or business owners - but government positions whose reason for existence is to steal power from the individual and award it to the state.
In his New Year's address, Blair said, "Investment will continue but it must be matched by further change to meet the ever-higher expectations of the public."
Investment is code for more spending and in that one sentence Blair has at once recognized the problem and promised not to do much about it. No liberal (and too few conservatives) in Britain, or America, is about to tell people to stop asking government to look out for them and to begin looking out for themselves; not if they want to stay in power and satisfy the many who desire more of someone else's money.
Britain's post-World War II and pre-Thatcher history was of a once-great empire sinking slowly into irrelevance because its people bought into the inevitability of decline. The British mostly emerged from the war with a deep longing for stability and security. The nanny state was formed to address these concerns. Much of Britain's industry was quickly nationalized to help pay for it. Britain's economy had been the best in the world, but by 1978 it had declined to 69 percent of the American economy.
When Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979, she quickly began dismantling the welfare state, cut taxes and sold off nationalized industries to the public, transforming many of them into stockholders for the first time. Britain's economy revived and Thatcher's policies and optimism reversed the sense of decline.