In the United Kingdom when I went to university – not so long ago – my local county council paid my tuition fees and allowances for four years of study. It was perfectly possible to survive, as long as one moderated one’s partying. That has all changed.
In the UK, the USA, and Canada voices are being vociferously raised against cutting back the cost of higher education, especially the arts. The recent furore in London (with its glorious photo of a rattled Heir Apparent and Significant Other) only underlines the steady erosion of civil liberties. In case anyone has forgotten, these include freedom of conscience and freedom of expression, neither of which is conceivable without a reasonable standard of education.
In the UK the policy now is to make students (or their parents) pay for higher education and – by fair means or foul – to increase the cost exponentially. The policy is to undermine the humanities and the arts and then bemoan the nation’s moral and cultural bankruptcy.
In addition to education, there has been a massive decline in funding for health-care, social security, and housing, and a massive increase in military expenditure. In 2008 the military budget of the UK was in third place behind the USA ($607 billion) and China ($61 billion). Today, according to the Ministry of Defence:
“The Defence Budget is set to increase from a baseline of £32.6Bn in 2007/08 to £36.9Bn in 2010/11 in Total Departmental Expenditure Limit. In real terms (i.e. after inflation) it represents average annual growth of 1.5%. By 2010/11 the Budget will be some 11% higher in real terms than in 1997, and represents the longest period of sustained growth since the 1980s.”
So that’s it then: £36.9Bn of guns instead of roses, or, in this case, two aircraft carriers for the Navy, more armoured vehicles for the Army, and a Boing C-17 Globemaster III for the RAF (bought from the USA). Our armed forces will need gigantic Christmas stockings.
It may only be possible to please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. But government cannot go far wrong when it focuses on getting health, education, and social security right. Time for a revolution methinks.