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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Desperate & Systemic

Things are going to get worse before they get better. Only when we have adults in power, individuals perhaps yet unborn, will we see an economic, political and moral renaissance. Believe me, please, the three are tightly related!

I watched about three minutes of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement before switching off. He is a smart kid; he knows a lot of stuff – about politics; and that is the problem. He is not a grown-up  nor is his boss, nor are most of his Cabinet colleagues.

A Digression.
I once had a conversation with a Manchester couple about the subject of HIV/AIDS. She was a nurse. He said, “Chris, you should listen to my missus; she has been on courses about HIV/AIDS!” When I burst into tears they were both baffled. If you have been indoctrinated by Camp Gallo (aka “the Bob Club”), you will be the last person I will trust on the subject, unless you come up with something better than, “Everybody knows that HIV is the ‘Virus that causes AIDS’!”

I hope that I have not wasted your time with the digression, that you understand why I think it is relevant.

I know that lots of you are smart. Some of you have doctorates. Being smart is not enough. You do not have to be smart to understand the fundamentals.

·         Politicians are in the business of winning elections, not telling the truth.
·         All Politics involves Economics.
·         Economic policy decisions are usually (and regrettably) driven by political motivation.
·         Economics should be non-normative. Your Economics should be based on Logic and Experience – not on your conscience, not on your desire to be seen as a “caring” person.
·         Political decisions are only “good” when made in good conscience and in the light of Economic truth. Piety, eg pity for the disadvantaged, is contemptible when it leads to predictable unintended consequences.

Not many of you (actually none) are so smart that you have emailed me with thanks for an introduction to Arthur Brooks. He points out that free market economic theory has triumphed intellectually. There is no question but that where it has prevailed the disadvantaged have been helped (more than that, have been enabled to create their own “earned success”). The intellectual battle is over. Marxism and Keynesianism are in tatters. He further points out that he and other free-marketeers are left open-mouthed and floundering when confronted with one example of where in a so-called free market one person is not immediately benefited by, for example, benefit reform.

Free markets work. They increase well-being and prosperity. They encourage the traditional virtues of thrift, hard work and honesty – do you want to discourage these virtues? No other system rewards them. The intellectual and pragmatic argument is over. The Moral argument remains: Do you care about the disadvantaged and the poor at all? If you do, you should be a free marketeer.

The political system in western democracies is mired in professional politics: I’ll prove to you what a “caring” person I am by instituting more and more in the way of entitlements for the disadvantaged, whether or not they are feckless (and I don’t care whether the entitlements make them more feckless – that’s how caring I am).

Our politicians appeal to the self-interest of selected groups. They also appeal to the understandable desire of electors to feel good about themselves – perhaps a more pernicious appeal.

Self – Indulgence (on my part).
What Osborne has not done, and what good sense dictates that he should do, is to dismantle the gross disparity in the UK between the privileged and cushioned public sector and workers (including entrepreneurs) in the private sector. A huge proportion of Gordon Brown’s client state should be disbanded. Being a politician, with little interest in Economics or Morality, Osborne won’t. This is our desperate and systemic problem.

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