An opportunity to reinvent government.

The posturing, positioning and indignant defiance over impending reduction in government expenditure is rife. But it is not just David Cameron who thinks Northern Ireland has a command economy that matches anything once boasted by the Soviet bloc.

In the rent-seeking economy of Northern Ireland, it is deemed politic to blame others for the withdrawal of funding across the economy.  It is also an indictment of both the poverty of aspiration and lack of imagination among the political class.

Much of  Northern Ireland government spending is decided in Whitehall, for example social security spend, or Europe, the bulk of DARD’s money pot. Much of the discussion will be placed on efficiency of Departmental administration of those funds.  The range and scope of much of health expenditure is also directed from Whitehall, though there is a great deal of scope to review how that money is managed and spent.  Similarly, education could be reviewed in the context of building and deepening academic excellence at all levels rather than political polemic. More importantly, as the political class seems increasing remote for the electorate, perhaps it is time to think how government could be devolved back to the individual. Northern Ireland government requires a total rethink.

The thinking has to start somewhere. thedissenter asked Eamonn Butler, Director of the Adam Smith Institute for some basic pointers our politicians might take on board when considering ‘cuts’ in a wider dimension. Five questions in almost as many minutes. Eamonn is keynote speaker at the Agenda NI seminar Rethinking Government on 26th October at the Grosvenor House Conference Centre, Belfast. It will be interesting to hear how the politicians, social sector and business community respond to his thinking.

It is not time to cut government in Northern Ireland: it is time to take the opportunity to reinvent government in Northern Ireland.

Eamonn Bulter is Director and co-founder of Britain’s leading free-market policy think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, and a leading author and broadcaster on economics and social issues. Westminster insiders look forward each week to his wry online commentary on politics and politicians.

Along with his colleague Dr Madsen Pirie, Eamonn is the winner of the 2010 National Free Enterprise Award, for the greatest contribution to furthering the market economy. In February 2010, Total Politics magazine ranked Dr Butler at 30th on a list of key unelected figures whose work and views exert measurable political influence today. He is Vice-President of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international association of distinguished economists and entrepreneurs, founded in 1947 by the Nobel Prize winner F A Hayek.

Eamonn is author of books on a wide range of subjects, from economics through psychology to politics. These include easy-read introductions to the economists Milton Friedman, F A Hayek and Adam Smith, and a short explanation of how markets work, called (modestly) The Best Book on the Market, which he wrote to be “so simple that even politicians can understand it.”

The ADAM SMITH INSTITUTE is one of the world’s leading think tanks. Through its research, education programmes and media appearances, it promotes free markets, limited government, and an open society. It also has a regular blog.

Today, these timeless ideas are more important than ever. Government spending is near 50 percent of GDP, the budget deficit has reached historic levels, and the state intrudes into almost every area of our lives. Businesses are tied up in red tape, and families struggle under a growing tax burden.

The Adam Smith Institute does not aim to think about policy for its own sake, but to change events. It works with politicians from all sides, and engineers policies which are not just economically sound, but calibrated to be politically deliverable too.

The Institute has an enviable record of success. Throughout its history, it has been at the forefront of moves to reduce taxes, inject choice and competition into public services, and create a more free and prosperous society.

But the Institute’s work is about more than simply affecting policy; it also aims to educate young people. With its easy-to-read beginners’ guides, its student conferences and seminars, and its school and university visits, the Institute aims to reach and inspire the next generation.

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