When did bad become good?

There's been a lot of coverage given to the latest proposal from "public health expert" and Chairman of Health England Professor Julian Le Grand, namely that the smoking ban has not gone far enough and smokers should have to buy a licence to purchase tobacco in future.


Even if we ignore the unparalleled idiocy questionable logic of calling one's philosophy "libertarian paternalism" (presumably drawn from the fine intellectual tradition of free market Communism and tolerant racism), the idea is unpleasant even in its implementation.


Smokers have to pay £10 on top of the existing tobacco duty, but that would only be one thrust of the deterrent. He actually intends to put the awkwardness and incompetence of public sector bureaucracy to use deliberately - the licence service will be unco-operative and hard to use on purpose:

He said it was the inconvenience of getting a permit - as much as the cost - that would deter people from persisting with the smoking habit.

"You've got to get a form, a complex form - the government's good at complex forms; you have got to get a photograph." (BBC News Online)

Since when did the thorny tangle of government forms become a good thing? We should be moving away from complex, difficult bureaucracy, not deliberately expanding it.


Whilst he's utterly wrong on almost all counts, it is at least notable that an NHS agency has just admitted on record that the public sector has an appalling habit of setting up impenetrable forms that put people off using services.


Presumably the message was approved by the other members of Health Britain, on whose behalf Prof Le Grand speaks, in which case the Chief Executive of NICE, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, the Department of Health's Chief Economist, Chief Knowledge Officer and Director General of Social Care and 13 other leading civil servants and experts have also just diagnosed the real problem with healthcare in this country - bureaucracy. Whilst it's a refreshingly open diagnosis, it is somewhat depressing that they have decided to encourage the disease rather than cure it.

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