The Manchester Libertarian aims to promote free-market ideas in light of devolved political and economic power to the Greater Manchester region. We are consequentialists, not idealists, and thus believe that more privatisation would help all those within the city in the long haul - both financially and in maximising individual freedom.
Admist a changing political and economic landscape in the United Kingdom, Manchester is increasingly being granted governing autonomy in regard to particular administrative and managerial functions. As of late 2014, the Conservative government reached a devolution settlement with Manchester City Council resulting in varying levels of responsibility for transport, planning, housing, healthcare and business being given to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), as well as a newly elected mayor. This change is in line with the Government's aim of maximising the economic potential of the north under the 'Northern Powerhouse' project - a region significantly lagging behind the south-east on several aggregate measures of economic welfare.
The constrictions of the Local Government Act 2000 which deemed these powers as ultra vires, or beyond the scope of localities, are hence being eroded away. The GMCA now has responsibility for devolved business support budgets (including the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Export Advice), the power to re-structure the Further Education (FE) provision within Greater Manchester, the control of Apprenticeship grants for employers and also the Working Well Pilot, an initiative set-up to help 5,000 benefits claimants. Otherwise, a new directly elected Mayor of Greater Manchester shall receive the power to control a consolidated transport budget, a new £300 million Housing Investment Fund as well as regional strategic planning processes (including the right to create a statutory spatial framework for Greater Manchester). He or she shall also be pivotal in deciphering how a devolved £6 billion NHS budget will be allocated.
In one respect, such institutional changes should be welcomed. Knowledge problems, born of the incapability of bureaucrats acquiring all relevant data for rational economic planning, have spurred mismatches in the supply of skills with the needs of employers within Greater Manchester. Furthermore the business support infrastructure for the city has been controlled by a relatively uninformed Whitehall, whilst transport within the city is often slow and expensive. Perhaps most importantly however, as the number of people over 65 in the UK is expected to rise from 10 to 19 million by 2050, devolved healthcare powers could offer a solution to the financial strains of an ageing population upon the NHS. The problems associated with the 'utilization of knowledge', which is 'not given to anyone in its totality', can therefore become restricted within these contexts. Though this is not nearly radical enough. As anti-rationalist, classical liberals we take to heart everything Hayek wrote about the epistemological problems of centralising organisations, the ensuing 'knowledge problems' at whatever governance level as well as the limited benevolence and 'opportunistic' propensities of those in power. Looking to Scotland for example, we witness a 10% increase in public sector employees following devolution and the creation of another layer of government often slowing down any policy implementation. Furthermore there has been little improvement in education services following the introduction of devolved control while, in regard to environmental procedures, 82% of flowering species are still in decline due to low funding, poor implementation and vested economic interests. With this in hindsight, we don't necessarily believe devolving fiscal power to Manchester will be to the city's benefit. We welcome its occurrence due to our fear of big government and the need for government to be as near to the people as possible, but the increased polycentricity of public services is not enough. In line with the classical liberal 'Manchester School', we intend to expound within a more contemporary context how the continuation of fiscal intervention is unsustainable in the long run and takes its toll on the poorest in society. We intend to show how a smaller-state instigating lower-taxes and promoting 'individual liberty' has positive consequential outcomes on all, with 'left-wing' objectives being more realistically achieved by means of laissez-faire policy prescriptions such as widespread privatisation.
The NHS in Manchester for example, could be used as an opportunity to show that privatisation may increase the quality of health care while reducing prices paid for such (tax rates approx. 6.5% of annual income for the average earner). Furthermore, local government 'business support' budgets should be seen as an ironic barrier to entrepreneurship, while a lack of competition among schools is detrimental to student success and the monopolisation of bus services by TFGM only results in an sluggish and expensive network. These are the types of matters which shall be tackled in this blog. Within each circumstance we view Mancunian devolution negatively, but nonetheless as an opportunity for libertarian ideas to be promoted and considered following on from the insufficiency of devolved power. With 'social justice' as our core value, and the well-being of Mancunians forever prioritised, we hope to promote a more prosperous, free and sincerely happier city to the benefit of all.
For a more detailed look at the institutional changes following on from the devolution agreement see below: