New Year’s resolutions are often made to be broken. They may be said to satisfy a friend, or indulged in to make us feel better about ourselves. Later in January the New Year does not seem that different to the old. It can seem like too much effort to follow the good intentions of the bank holiday. There can be the same bills, the same problems at work, the same constraints on life, the same job, the same family rows.
Will power can overcome this if you really want things to change for the better. I often talk to young people about their life prospects. There is too much fatalism. There are too many adults willing to write off large numbers of young people. They come from the wrong home backgrounds we are told. They go to the wrong schools. They come from families on low incomes. How can they expect to succeed? The answer is the same as for the sons and daughters of the rich and famous. They can succeed if they really really want to. Being born the son of a celebrity does not automatically make you either happy or capable. Success in most walks of life is 90% perspiration. I get luckier at what I do , the more I practise it. You can start your training to be a great cricketer in back yard. You can practise the main skills to be a good footballer on any old field. You can aspire to an elite university by reading books from any free local library or by tapping into the world of the web.
It is important we are not fatalistic about our chances or careless about our resolutions as we work out how we play this new decade as a country. We do need some New Year’s resolutions that are going to stick. We need change desperately.We will first have to vote for that change in a General Election. We will then need to hold our new government to the task, keeping its feet to the flames of change if our country is to be rescued and to have a good future.
Our first resolution has to be to borrow less. The world does not owe us a living, and it does not have to lend us as much as we want to spend. One day it will tell us so, if we do not wake up soon.
Our second resolution must be to make and supply more. We should be ashamed as well as astounded to see just how many of the goods that make up our consumer good life now come from China.
We have just enjoyed several days off for Christmas. Everything from the crackers to the clothes we wore, from the toys to the mechanical items we gave as presents likely came with “Made in China” on them. This year Christmas came in boxes from China. They were made by people working for a fraction of our incomes in conditions we would not accept. To pay the bills, we have to make things and supply services on a bigger scale, paying ourselves appropriately, and earning our better standard and style of living.
One day China will decide our credit has run out. They may decide they do not have to package up our preferred lifestyle and send it by container vessel, whilst listening to our lectures on how they are using too much oil and coal in the process.
Our third resolution must be to value enterprise and success more, and government less. If we are to pay our way and maintain our lifestyle, we need more entrepreneurs and more businesses. Instead of monstering business people and regulating businesses to death, we need to encourage and stimulate them by having a competitive business tax and regulatory climate.
Our fourth resolution should be to strengthen and improve our main public services. To do so requires reform. The benign forces of choice and greater managerial freedom in the surgery, in the school and in the hospital need to be unleashed. We need to preserve the right of everyone to free treatment and free education where needed, but to extend more of the quality and choice of the private sector throughout public service at the same time.
Our fifth resolution must be to make substantial savings in wasteful, inefficient and undesirable public spending. This website has often set out proposals for how and where this can be done. Cutting 10% from public budgets seems large if handled in the conventional way, but is a modest goal if achieved as the private manufacturing sector has achieved it without cutting what they do or lowering quality. It is made easier by the long list of things many do not want, including regional government, some quangos and ID cards.
Our sixth resolution should be to trust people more and government less. We need to roll back much of the surveillance society created in the last few years. Britain is best when we are a bastion of liberty. Our forbears who pioneered our evolving constitution and battled for our liberties before the law and through Parliament, must be turning in their graves at what now passes for democracy here.
Our seventh resolution should be to demand – or help create – a Parliament which works again. We need a proud Parliament which can hold government to account, a Parliament which can insists on value for money in spending, a Parliament which defends our liberties.