Since we've crossed the rubicon and declared that not all public spending is good spending.. perhaps we should consider a real, permanent change to the bloated bureaucracy of our country? We might even regain our freedom and self-respect at the same time.
As the BBC reports, the Government is under pressure over it's latest disastrous big brother computer system. When the system comes - it will be a disaster for the taxpayer. It will cost more, do less good and more damage than even the most cynical supporter thought possible. And it will be a further, massive step towards an Orwellian state (if you don't believe me, read 1984 again - I did and it was truly spine chilling).
Why does this happen? It happens because, whilst Government is no better at designing computer systems than the private sector, it is head over heels in love with the concept of creating them. Computer systems always appeal to Governments because they increase the amount of information at hand and to politicians, elected or otherwise, that represents job security.
Unlike the private sector, restrained by the profit motive, there is no limit to the chaotic lengths to which a public body can go armed with an enthusiastic management consultant and a few programmers. New Labours enthusiasm for IT projects has created the most bureaucratic civil service since the days of the Raj (and ironically a lot of employment for it's successors)
If we want to make a real difference to the bloated public services, why don’t we challenge the assumption that Government has an implicit right to store our personal information? It is our information after all – and for the public sector our information is a liability - costly to acquire, accident prone, and - for every moment they hold it - a new excuse to spend our money playing with it, more often than not creating more sinister powers which enslave the electorate who are supposed to be their paymasters.
My proposal is this – that from now on the presumption is that your information belongs to you – the public sector can ask for it (electronically) when they need it, but they must keep it only long enough to use it. On no account should they be allowed to share it with each other, no good can come of it. This presumption should be enshrined in law, and enforced by our independent judiciary.
In return, the people could (1) agree to accept ID cards which prove who they are and no more (surely the proper purpose after all) and (2) agree to provide the limited personal information required by the government for proper purposes, on request, without delay. Once they are done with it the Government must dispose of it. The request for data can be made electronically (ever heard of the semantic web?) with personal information held by the provider of the citizen’s choice, who won’t dare lose it.
With the mother of all recessions upon us wouldn't this be an excellent way to totally rethink the application of wasteful public funds - divert resources to the excellent UK IT industry, cut taxes for ever, and give us back the freedom and liberty for which Britain has been a beacon through the centuries?