Most people want their government to collect sensible amounts of tax and to provide decent services for the money. They wish the government to uphold the law against criminals. They think most our problems are ones coming from too much law, not too little, or from imperfect enforcement of laws we do have against criminal activity.
Modern bureaucratic government seems to think most of the problems come from the actions of the people.
Health officials want people to be less fat, to eat a better diet, drink less alcohol, take more exercise. They may be right that this would make people healthier, and delay their time with doctors and hospitals to older age. Meanwhile the public wants the NHS to be there for them whatever they do. Some resent the taxes and regulations used to try to change our lifestyles.
More resent the work of the green police. The latest idea that if you want to apply for a home improvement, the Council can make you undertake various energy improvement works at the same time is going down badly in some quarters. People feel that if they worked hard and manage to have a little money left over after all the Income Tax, National Insurance and VAT they should be allowed to spend it on a home improvement of their choice, not on improvements of the government’s choice.
Motorists are often on the wrong end of the official view of how we should behave. There is endless expensive fiddling with the road network to try to change motorists behaviour in many places.
Tax policy has become a Clapham Junction of differing signals. Higher taxes to stop binge drinking, smoking, travelling abroad, travelling by car or plane, using roads in Central London, making good profits, earning a good income and employing people. Tax breaks to promote going by bus (fuel duty), going by train (subsidy), saving for retirement, saving generally, lending to the government, and giving money to charity.
Now the government sees the need to define aggressive tax avoidance, a legal but morallyrepugnant activity. The best way to stop morally repugnant tax avoidance is to define it and make it illegal.
Many members of the public want the government to concentrate on what it spends, and get better value for the money, instead of telling us what to spend. The more governments think it is about the way people behave, the more voters will it turn it back on the government and complain about the way they behave. Let the one without sin hurl the first legislative stone.