You may never have noticed, but Switzerland doesn't have a President. Or a Chancellor. In fact, the Swiss Head of State is, collectively, the seven-person Federal Council. It's worked this way since 1848, and the seven between them run just about everything a central State should run. The Swiss people make sure the central State doesn't get too ambitious by limiting the amount of tax-take they can spend - about 30%. The other 70% is determined and managed locally.
You see, there's no causative link between a nation's level of taxation and the size and power of the central State, a fact that bypasses Polly Toynbee completely. Shocked by the damage that Snowden's revelations may do to the image of the benign and all-powerful central State, Lady Toynbee leaps to the defence of the Megastate. "Labour needs to hymn the good the state does and the civilising value of
what taxes buy – health, education, safety, proud public spaces. All
the things that people value most." Toynbee pompously proclaims, blind to the reality that the Swiss enjoy better health, education, safety and higher quality public spaces than we do, with a much much smaller central State and highly constrained taxation.
People have a perfect right to grant their governments the power to snoop on their emails, browsers and tweets - but this must be a choice openly made, with the power always to withdraw or reverse the consent. Such consent has been noticeably absent in this case.