Bill Carmichael: Big state takes welcome break

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IMAGINE for a moment that the Government announced it was shutting down the Yorkshire Dales National Park and was setting up police road blocks to turn visitors away.

Ridiculous? Perhaps, but that is pretty much what is happening in the United States where Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks have been closed because of a partial government shutdown.

President Barack Obama and Congress are at loggerheads over the budget – the Republicans want the government to spend more whereas the Democrats want the government to spend a hell of a lot more – and the result is the closure of many state-run institutions such as national parks.

Do we really need a man with a clipboard to run the countryside? I think I can just about manage a tramp across the moors without a chap from the Ministry holding my hand.

Over recent years, governments across the West have grown like Topsy, appropriating more and more functions that could better carried out by private businesses or in some cases not at all.

And it is a one-way ratchet. Whenever hard-pressed taxpayers suggest even modest curbs in the out of control growth in public spending we are assailed with hysterical scaremongering over the “savage cuts”.

Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, recently declared that the “cupboard was bare” and there was absolutely no room for even the tiniest cut in the four trillion dollars spent each year by the US government.

This was promptly proved false this week when President Obama laid off 800,000 “non-essential” government workers. If these people are non-essential then why hire them in the first place?

The closure of many open air attractions is just a way for the government to punish taxpayers for daring to question ever-increasing spending.

Take for example the Obama administration’s vindictive threat to arrest elderly World War ll veterans for visiting the “closed” national war memorial in Washington DC. This is an open air site that is not even manned 24-hours a day. There is no entrance fee or turnstiles.

But government officials “closed” the memorial and erected barriers to keep the public out. In fact there are more government employees imposing the shutdown than are on the site normally.

Luckily the veterans were having none of it. Elderly men, some of them in wheelchairs, simply pushed aside the barriers and barged through to pay their respects to their fallen comrades.

Good on them! I suppose if you’ve faced German machine guns at Omaha Beach, then staring down a few officials with clipboards is a cinch.

The intention of President Obama is clear; he wants to demonstrate the value 
of big government.

But wouldn’t be marvellous if instead the American public realised that many of these “essential” government services aren’t necessary at all, and that the path to prosperity lies in smaller government, lower public spending and lower taxes?

Duty to punish

Well said magistrate Alan Bissell, who argued that punishment “hardly features” in the work of the courts any more and instead all the emphasis is on rehabilitation.

Mr Bissell, who is stepping down after 25 years’ service on the bench, also said thousands of cases, some involving serious crimes, never reach the courts at all and are dealt with by way of police cautions.

Mr Bissell is right to be concerned. Rehabilitation has a place in the criminal justice system, but the courts should 
never forget that punishment and the protection of the public are vitally important too.

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