Government Funding of Public Services

Government funding of public services, instead of people selecting and paying for the services they use, is largely an ideological choice

The cost of protection services – the legal system and defence forces – depends upon policy in those aspects of power, and defence spending is discussed in the next chapter (7.4.6).  All other public services can be regarded as discretionary:

●  The decision to provide public funding for health, education, and social care, reflects people’s political ideology and moral attitudes.  They can be regarded as socio economic rights, and there is a deep disagreement between individualists and collectivists on these issues – as described above (6.7.1).

●  Both education and health also affect the productivity of the workforce and, therefore, the health of the economy (3.2.5).  Investment in training is particularly important with today’s rapid economic changes.

●  Decisions to fund discretionary public services to improve the quality of people’s lives, such as recreational facilities and support for the arts, depend upon a purely political assessment of what people want; views tend to be divided according to ideology, so some consultation and negotiation is appropriate before spending the money.

Government funding of public services makes them available to everyone and reduces inequality.  Many Western liberal democracies have chosen this approach.  People’s preferences for public funding are mainly ideological, although there are some aspects which cross party lines.  On 27 March 2017 for example, the Washington Post published an article entitled How do Americans feel about single-payer health care? It’s complicated – which showed a 41% level of Republican support for the idea, even though it is a collectivist concept.

The politicians assess what the people want, and are prepared to pay for through taxation, but the economic impact has to be taken into account (  If they try to reduce the cost of public services, by making them free for those below a certain income threshold, they benefit the wealthy at the expense of the low-paid (; such decisions are likely to be affected by the politicians’ calculations on who are their supporters.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6711a.htm.