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Saturday, 12 March 2016

Mental Illness Etc

No, this is not about Donald Trump or even about Ben Carson’s endorsement of him. It’s not about Cameron’s attempt to infect us with paranoia. These issues should concern us; but there is something more insidious going on among the chattering classes: an unhealthy obsession with inequality, which amounts to a phobia.

Milton Friedman, a great, though not the greatest, economist of the twentieth century, famously observed that a society which puts equality before liberty will end with neither. And it will be poorer than a society with these aspirations reversed. Let us pause to reflect that poverty is a very great evil and that the only cure is wealth (ie greater production). Let us also remember that the last half century has witnessed an increase in wealth, unprecedented in the history of our species. It has come about as a result of increased economic liberty in many countries. Life expectancy has shot up. Infant mortality has plummeted. Diet has improved in quantity and quality. Liberty, specialisation, trade and globalisation have done this. And yet…

And yet, Wilson and Picket took it into their heads to ignore History and to write a dismal book, The Spirit Level, which purported to show that more equality leads to greater happiness. It is a book filled with statistical howlers, well documented by Christopher Snowdon and others. My purpose is not to deplore bad maths but wilful blindness. At the very moment Marx was inveighing against Capitalism and predicting the simultaneous growth of monopolies and shrinking wages, the people of this country were seeing the growth of wages and competition lowering prices. The Devil is a Liar and the Father of lies.

And then there is Thomas Piketty, well debunked, in my not-very-humble opinion.
For something over two hundred years, parallel experiments have been going on in this global laboratory. One group uses force to distribute scarce resources. The other group advocates the protection of private property and the rule of law with a view to increasing production (ie wealth). The results are in and unarguable. The ultimate no brainer. The science really is settled, to coin a phrase.

I am revisiting this tired subject because I have just watched this video:

The island thought experiment, briefly: Imagine an island where people subsist on fish, which they catch with their hands, and on the fruit which they can gather. Two sets of ideas emerge about how to improve the situation. Some islanders build boats, fashion nets and hooks. Some set about clearing spaces on the island and cultivate edible plants. The rest go to the chief and demand that all available food should be shared out ‘fairly’. No brainer!

David Cameron’s Future

He was eventually forced to promise a referendum on our continued membership of the EU. Nigel Farage can take a lot of the credit for making this happen. Cameron is now campaigning against Brexit although many Eurosceptics are now emerging into the light. What will happen if we vote to leave, if Cameron loses? Methinks he will have to resign. If he had not revealed himself to be so spineless, he might have been more credible in re-negotiating our membership. It’s too late to change sides now. If Boris becomes PM, will he give Nigel a cabinet post?

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