I was going to write a post about the Socratic forum, but Sam Clifford has done it. Here’s his summary of my piece.
John Quiggin illustrated the States-Canberra issue with the analogy of a dysfunctional household in which dad earns the money and mum spends it (this is the GST). Dad is in charge of things like keeping the house safe whereas mum is responsible for raising the kids and cooking the food that dad provides. While I don’t agree with this traditionalist view of the home (c. 1950s) it’s plain to see that it’s an adequate representation of the situation. Dad gets in mum’s way from time to time, telling the kids that they can have ice-cream (or an amalgamation plebiscite) after mum’s said no. What is needed, Quiggin argues, is a clearer division of tasks and the allocation of funding based on who needs to do what. If mum needs some money to buy new shoes for the kids, dad shouldn’t be whining about the fact that his tie’s not ironed.
That was a bit lighthearted, but Charles Sampford gave a more serious presentation of the underlying viewpoint. It’s based on the principle of subsidiarity, that is that responsibility for government functions should be at a level as close as possible to the people it serves, consistent with effective provision of the service concerned. See also Mark at LP, who takes a similar view.