Not a fruitful use of money

15 June 2010
In yesterday’s Evening Standard columnist Sam Leith took a look at the handsome weekly fruit allowance for a health minister in the last government: £40. “Thirteen years ago someone, somewhere, thought that this seemed a reasonable expenditure,” he says. Leith describes this expense – more than £100,000 for five ministers over 13 years – as “an elegant demonstration of the gloomy truth of one of the economist Milton Friedman's apothegms”. Namely, there are four ways to spend money: spending your own money on yourself; spending your own money on someone else; spending someone else's money on yourself; and spending someone else's money on someone else. Friedman said the last of these four is the least efficient by far because you don't much care what you get and you don't much care how much you spend on it. “And that is the paradigm of all government spending. Here it is in action,” writes Leith.
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