The Inland Revenue fiasco will go down in the history books as one of the most unbelievable acts of incompetence by a British government. It does, though, give us a prime example to use in our campaigns on the merits of low taxes and smaller, better government.
Firstly, small government is necessary. To those who think that government knows best, show them the level of incompetence it took to lose 25,000,000 private records full of sensitive information. Now transfer this to public service delivery. Can, or should, the government be the sole provider of services given that it is so prone to managerial mistakes and human error? As the sole provider of a service, when the state fails, we suffer and a great majority live without the option of transferring our custom to another provider in health and education. Therefore we can add the Inland Revenue failure to our list of reasons to support public service reform and liberalisation of state services.
Secondly, the government shouldn’t have so much information on us. As George Osborne and others were quick to point out yesterday, this is a key reason why the ID Cards system should be scrapped before yet more sensitive information is handed over to the government and potentially lost in the post.
Finally, this also gives us added impetus to call for reform of the benefits system. In having to hand over our personal information in exchange for benefits, we run the risk of falling victim to benefit fraud. Rather if the government raised the personal tax threshold and cut taxes on the individual, the worst off would be taken out of tax and therefore not have to apply for benefits or hand over their personal, private information.
Over the past ten years government has got bigger and sought to do more. Usually we highlight instances and minor examples of waste when contrasted with the big picture. The Inland Revenue debacle, however, allows us once again to make the big picture arguments, that small government is necessary; a government that works best because it does less.