How strange to find myself reminding the Telegraph of this, but, here goes: tax money belongs to the people. That means that spending it must be rigorously judged and prioritised against the national interest, it means that public institutions must not squander money and it means that taxation should be kept to the lowest possible level.
The Telegraph is usually anti-dirigist to fault. And yet yesterday we find it supporting the case for state intervention up and down the shires of England.
Over the years several things have happened to undermine the viability of village post offices. The government, banks, the BBC and others have moved to electronic payments and deductions. To reverse that would be to create an additional cost that would be passed on to tax-payers and customers. The other is that people are voted with their Volvos and headed away from the village store and into the hypermarket for their stamps and their milk. Now the taxpayer is being asked to cough up to fill the gap.
Given that we have moved away from state subsidy for shipbuilding, mining and the rest of industry, it seems strange to make solitary exception for village shops. What next, the pubs?
The government is already subsidising the network to the tune of some £150m a year, according to Alistair Darling on the Today programme. Stop! I can’t believe I am saying this, but stop with the government subsidies!
It is wrong to subsides the unsustainable. Propping up the unproppable leads to an ever-growing bill, followed by an even greater wrench for those involved when, inevitably, reality catches up. I’d urge the government to spend the same money, and more if necessary, on helping rural small businesses gauge the niche markets of the future and transform to reach them.