June 06, 2006

the state starts to wither away

Public Sector workers are paid better than workers that create wealth:
the Office for National Statistics calculated that the average public sector worker earns 20 per cent more than his or her private sector counterpart. The ONS’s Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings shows that public sector workers are not underpaid and exploited. Median hourly pay, excluding overtime, for a public sector worker is £10.50, compared to only £8.71 in the private sector.
Public Sector workers also have better pensions than private sector workers, and while we are working longer and longer to pay for them. And yet the services that the public services provide degrades, public servants pull more sickies than private sector workers and far more strikes. And us the tax payers that have our money extorted to pay for it all? Well they do provide something, if you are willing to wait long enough and aren't going to die from say a brain tumor that is not willing to wait for the NHS to finish it's collective Sudoku puzzling. However if you really need something done, like you have a brain tumor that will kill you in two weeks, then private charity and the private sector will get it treated.

Marx said that in a socialism the state would eventually wither away. But I don't think that he really meant that it would wither away because it became so inefficient that what is supposedly offered would get bypassed more and more, until it was simply a tax consuming parasite waiting to be cut down to the size as if the socialist experiment ever happened.


Blogger tomdg said...

I've pointed out before that the statistic about median income is meaningless, so I won't bother reiterating that argument.

I heard some interesting stats about the sickness statistic. Rates of short-term sickness are actually lower in the public sector; long-term sickness rates are higher, and that's what drives the overall figure. One commentator suggested that this was because the public sector tended to allow you more time off with long-term illness before sacking you.

I've heard a couple of things which explain the strike thing. Firstly, again, you're less likely to be sacked for going on strike in the public sector, hence it's a more viable option. Secondly, strikes are very damaging to the employer. In the private sector, pragmatic bosses take this into account and avoid a strike. In the public sector, macho politicians trigger strikes to make a point, wasting public money in the progress. I heard this argument back in 1996 when I worked for the DOT, and I don't suppose much has changed (except that the right-wing government has a different name).

You're right about pensions though. The combination of better pensions and better job security are the main reasons why some skilled workers choose to get jobs in the public sector when the fact is that they could get more money for doing the same job in the private sector. No doubt at some point the final salary scheme for public sector workers will be closed to new entrants, removing one of the last key differences. Inevitably this will push up salaries as how else do you get the staff? It's a market, remember.

Mind you - given how much difference good and bad government can make, there's a good argument for paying more to top civil servants if it means getting the best people for the job. They earn far less than private sector employees with similar responsabilities.

It annoys me when people make out that the public sector is such a cushy place to work. It's not. You have to live with constant job cuts, and yet the workload never goes down. No-one values the work you do, only the cost of employing you. If you've ever worked in a large private company in decline, it's pretty much the same. Very depressing. I moved to the private sector ten years ago, so now I get far better pay a much happier work environment.

8:10 am  
Blogger chris said...

arghh, blogger playing up again ... but anyway.

When pensions decrease, as they will, wages will have to increase. This is to be expected, but my fundamental point is I want less people drawing these wages.

With less government bad government does not matter so much. They can do less so they can do less damage. Good governance is things like:
not being corrupt, if they can do less then there will be less people interested in corrupting them;
letting people live freely, with less power to interfere government would have to let people live freer as it would not have enough power to stop them;
sound economic management, which is best achieved with a light touch to regulation maintaining the markets and not much else.

A strong all consuming state might be useful in certain situations, such as a world war and it's immediate aftermath. But these are very rare, and going to be even rarer in future due to the existence of nuclear weapons. Someone would have pushed the button way before it got to the 'we will fight them on the beaches' stage. Or with the current incumbent of the White House he might have hit it by mistake while trying to order room service.

The state is a bad thing to pay for, as you get much less out for your money than you would had you been supplied by the private or voluntary sectors. However I understand that the state is also a bad thing to work for and you can have a much more enjoyable life working in other situations. I want less people working for it in and more people working in the more enjoyable private or voluntary sectors. The states current monopoly lock on certain services means that people with certain skills can only use them by working for it. They cannot shop around for a better employer than the state as it has seen to it that there are none.

9:57 pm  

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