• The interest is accruing into a dangerously large problem
  • If governments can fix roads, can they fix Ukraine or the climate?
  • Who would fix the potholes if the government doesn’t?

It’s time for me to finalise the latest issue of The Fleet Street Letter today. Nigel Farage, Eoin Treacy and I are making our wildest predictions for 2024. If you’d like to make sure you receive the issue, sign up now.

While I focus on predicting the strangest piece of news you’ll read this year, I’d like to hand you over to a reader who captures the country’s state of mind rather well. But don’t forget to check out my response below – a true story from many years ago.

For now, on to J.M.

Hello Nick,

Happy New Year and all that – to get to the meat and two veg: 

As for funding the interest on a colossal deficit – my constant mantra is not what money is being SPENT, but what VALUE is being delivered?

I have a frequent tete-a-tete with my local Council leader Mr. T.

The discussion revolves mostly around the shocking state of the roads in my part of Buckinghamshire. He always responds in the same way: “We are spending more money than ever before on the roads!”. My response is always the same: “I am not interested in how much you are spending, I am interested in why there is never any overall improvement”. 

My guess is some firm has a nice fat contract from the council, they then hire minimum wage contractors to “fill holes”. I cannot prove it, but they are probably encouraged to “not do a brilliant job of it either” because, give it 3 months, 6 at the most, the holes are back and as bad as ever. Bazillions are being spent, but nothing improves. Except the firm’s profit margin, and their contributions to the Conservative Party. 

This is an allegory for big Government and where they find themselves – they SPEND SPEND SPEND like it’s someone else’s money. Well, it is someone else’s money but you know what I mean. 

There is no oversight except maybe the OBR, which castigates the Government of the day on things they can get away with, but mostly it seems to be nitpicking, except where anything involving a Truss is concerned. 

Back to my local council, they claim 70% of their money goes on children and pensioners, or something. Very worthy, I am sure, but all I see is moonscapes where the roads should be. You know, the bit that is used by almost everyone.

I know I may be coming across as “Bah Humbug,” but that I think is the crux of the matter with where we are. And there’s a silent nine-foot-tall bouncer at the back of the Cabinet Office with the badge “Interest” on his lapel.

People feel powerless to effect any change at all. And all they hear from those in power at any level is “we are spending fortunes (of your yet to be earned money) and it’s jam tomorrow (with interest on top), but gravel today.”

For me it is the council, for the council it is the government, for the government it is the soon to be removed Conservative party and for the Conservative party is it as you say – paying the piper for wasted spend. Spelled I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T.

When I used to work for IBM and I would be given “responsibility” for something, my next question would be, “Do I have authority for what I am responsible for?” And if the answer was no, then I would not take on the responsibility. The reason for this is simple, if I was RESPONSIBLE for something I would need AUTHORITY to act in respect of what I was responsible for. 

What I have seen certainly over the last 14 years and possibly longer is people who are eager to be responsible for something, but don’t want the burden of authority to act (the unpopular bit). Liz Truss in this respect was a bit of an outlier. She assumed the Authority, but wasn’t keen on the Responsibility. You just can’t have one without the other. 

The only people who have, and should act with authority, are the ones who are responsible. When we can’t foist this on the government of the day, the powerless, helpless hand wringing works its way up and down the line. Resulting eventually in crushing byelection defeats and everyone wonders why….

Constituents will vote for a pile of toenail clippings over the Conservatives just to get rid of them. They really don’t care if the new incumbent is better or worse – for spite as much as anything else. 

Print what you like.

Kind Regards


Great comments.

But I politely disagree with some of it…

A few years ago, I went to an economics seminar by a leader of the anarcho-capitalist school of thought. The same ideology Argentina’s new president has. The one who just generated a budget surplus for the fiscally insane country by shutting down a slew of government departments.

One of the topics at the seminar was, “Who would build the roads?” The idea being to theorise about who would build roads in a society where the government does not.

The fellow sitting next to me was clearly a sceptic. He kept on guffawing about the speaker’s claims. After the speech, I asked him about it. And he explained that he was, in fact, in the business of building private roads. The sort of thing which politicians and civil servants claim doesn’t exist. After all, only the government would build roads, right?

But, in large parts of Australia, the government doesn’t build or maintain roads properly. And so anyone who needs the roads has to get them built right by a private company. Often, the laws that govern road building simply don’t work in the local environment because of heat or flooding. And so the road must be built differently, in ways the government won’t do. Or, sometimes, a road needs fixing and the government just doesn’t do it in time.

In all these situations, my friend Buddy’s company serves the customer regardless of the government’s shenanigans. And it works quite well. Just not in the ways the academic theorist had been saying in his speech.

My point is that J.M. should be busy trying to fix the problem rather than expecting his vote, his politician, his local civil servant, his letters, or anyone else to solve it for him. If he put together a group of people equally annoyed about the potholes, and they paid a private company to fix the problem, it would’ve been done.

Alternatively, small businesses could do what Domino’s Pizza did in the US. They could pay for pothole repair and turn it into a marketing stunt for the company.

Heck, some homeless people around the world have figured out they can collect money for fixing potholes.

But in the UK, the only thing that does not pop into people’s mind about fixing potholes is… actually fixing potholes. It’s all about voting and elections and letters and complaints and even lawsuits.

In my opinion, if all the time, effort and contributions that go into politics, voting and letter writing went into fixing problems like potholes instead, we wouldn’t have those problems in the first place. And then, more importantly, we’d realise that we don’t need the politicians and civil servants in the first place either. That’s what Argentina’s president is busy trying to do, however slowly. He’s just getting rid of government.

When I see the long list of electoral issues in the news each day as the next election draws near, I can’t help wondering how many of them could be solved by coming up with solutions that ignore the government, rather than voting back and forth. Rather than debate whether we are getting good value for money from the government’s decision-making, make good-value-for-money decisions without the government.

Then we wouldn’t have the problem of I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T either.

Until next time,

Nick Hubble
Editor, Fortune & Freedom