Why budget maths makes me thinks of Escher

A small state is smaller than a big state, right?

But now bear with me.

Take a glance at the heated rhetoric coming from Labour ranks about how the coalition government is hell-bent on a right-wing crusade to slash the size of the state.

Then consider this. The Coalition government’s spending plans will see public spending in 2015-16 come in at a fraction under 40% of GDP.

And you know what? That’s higher than it was under Labour in 1997-98 and in all the intervening years through to, and including, 2003-04. (See the graph here from Peter Hoskin.)

So the horrible dreadful right-wing small state still ends up actually bigger than seven complete financial years of a Labour Party government. That’d be the same Labour Party that talks about how it believes in a bigger state than nasty right-wing extremist coalition government.

So smaller is bigger than big it would seem. It’s a bit like the higher point being lower than the lower point as in Escher’s famous picture.

Trust that’s all clear.

Footnote: having poked fun at Labour before for their silence over their own plans to cut public spending, it’s only fair to point out that Hopi Sen is an honourable exception as this excellent post shows.

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