Even after 17 years of Conservative government, the fundamental problem of public expenditure-its tendency to spiral out of control-has yet to be tackled.
The challenge of public expenditure control is often presented as analogous to that confronting every household or company in the land. A family must live within its available resources. Furthermore, it must balance competing demands: for rent, food, fuel, clothes, toys, cars, books, CDs, beer, holidays and so on. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is likened to a frugal and prudent housewife.
But the analogy is bogus in two respects. First, most households have some control over…
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