Up, up and...

Spending rises smoothly and inexorablyGovernment budgets are full of ponderous rhetoric about prudent choices. But leave aside the generally unjustified tone of self-congratulation for a minute and concentrate on the implicit claim that such documents reflect important choices by important people with important consequences. And now look at the accompanying graph of spending, revenue and program spending in Ontario. Recall, briefly, the apparently turbulent political and economic history of the province, the sudden changes and bold initiatives. Now dismiss it from your minds. For this graph, particularly the spending line, doesn't reflect any of it, does it?

Clearly there's something going in with respect to public expenditure that is essentially unaffected by the twists and turns of public events including the actions of policymakers. My own view is that this "something" is the unsound structural dynamics of the big social programs. But I'm prepared to discuss and debate it. I'm just saying that in order to have a sensible conversation we have to discard not merely the superficial pomposity of budget prose but the profound pomposity, not just the inevitable claims that the decisions are exceptionally wise and compassionate but the underlying assumption that they matter at all.