Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Good Cop, Bad Cop Economics: Bad Cop

For some of you this will sting a bit, but it has needed saying for a while now. It is you, the left, that stand accused as being the principal cause of most of the economic problems in your home country. You are largely to blame for the state of the NHS, for the problems with social care, for the high unemployment levels in the under 25s, for the fact that too many people are doing university degrees, for the housing shortage, for much of the decline of UK industry, even for the rise in inequality in this country. Moreover, you are also largely to blame for Donald Trump, for Brexit, and for the rise of far right groups in the UK and across Europe.

Here is why you are to blame: your combination of wilful naiveté and yet strong opinions about the things mentioned above helps encourage the people that govern us to adopt all manner of foolishness on the basis that they think you will throw them out of office if they don't acquiesce. For decades you have been complicit in creating a political climate based on nonsensical arguments, shoddy counterfactuals and lazy myopia - fervently endorsing ideas and policies that are either based on factual misinformation, poor reasoning or idly choosing to ignore or overlook large swathes of the population that feel the costs of your decisions.

Take the most obvious case in point - the NHS. You have for years treated it like a sacred religion, and forced politicians to live with the lie that it can be sustained in the same way it was for the first four decades of its existence. Your belligerent demands for it to be safeguarded from proper market-based resource allocation has pressured politicians to ignore the supply and demand crisis, the costing crisis, and the fact that our living longer, our increased aging population, the increasing number of diagnoses and the increasing technological scope for medical advancement means it is no longer operating under the same framework under which it operated a few decades ago.

You have created this problem, by making politicians so terrified to respond to these realities that instead all they can do is resort to pathetic party political tit-for-tat squabbling about who puts more money in to the NHS and under whose leadership it would be less worse off. You have left them feeling like they have no option but to behave this way.

There are plenty of other cases where you have done something similar. For decades you have applied social duress on our politicians and made them believe that the only chance they have of carving out a political career is if they publically endorse a whole menu of economic foolishness that satisfies your beliefs. Where there is inequality, and people struggling to make ends meet, people struggling to find work, people in developing countries struggling to enter the competitive global marketplace, and people struggling to pay their rent or being able to afford to live in big cities - you must take a lot of responsibility for these things, because the truth is, the government you have been complicit in fattening up is responsible for pretty much all of these problems (and that is no exaggeration).

You have demanded that the political institutions that put up barriers to free trade become ever-bigger and more powerful; you have pressurised politicians to perpetuate facile price floors like the minimum wage; you have made more and more voracious demands on the earnings of the nation's most prodigious innovators and job creators; you have intransigently peddled the long-standing fairytale that the answer to most of the nation's problems are to be solved with higher taxation and more public sector involvement in our industries; and you have repeatedly promoted the economically toxic policy of domestic subsidies and the bailing out of financially deteriorating businesses and industries.

In short, you have pressurised the politicians of all parties into normalising bad policies - policies that increase unemployment and make it harder for the unemployed to obtain work; policies that stunt job creation; policies that make the cost of living higher for ordinary working people; policies that stifle growth and dissuade outside investors; policies that keeps regions in industrial atrophy; and policies that makes vital public services like health far more vulnerable to financial crises than they need to be.

For decades you have insisted on injudicious political ideas, and then demanded that the only people fit for governance are people who will enforce these ideas. And an equally bad (arguably worse) knock-on effect of this is that most of you let politicians get away with not having to proficiently justify their policies at a level beyond the superficially inane. You will almost never see a politician under even the slightest bit of pressure to admit the costs of a policy as well as the benefits, nor even acknowledge that most policies profit a small proportion of the population at the expense of a larger (unconsidered) group.

How preposterous it is that enshrined in our cultural climate is the habitual dismissal of majority groups affected by a policy, and the normalisation of anaemic economic arguments. And how sad that the politicians that govern us have to survive on spin, on popularity-mongering and by forever being afraid to admit their mistakes, or of having a public change of mind, or of introducing a prudent policy if it's unpopular.

You have played a big part in creating this monster and the concomitant lefty social commentators and politicians that feed on its body lice. And this needs to be at the forefront of your mind every time you open a paper or turn on the TV and see what you think is an injustice, or a group of people struggling to find work or live as comfortably as they could be. Most of the things you complain about and strive to fight against are creations of your own making. You are like Geppetto smashing up Pinocchio with a hammer, or like Victor Frankenstein taking an axe to the monster you've spent decades creating.

Fear not, though - the next Blog post that will be following this Bad Cop offering will be the Good Cop approach to remedying all that's wrong as per the above criticisms. I will offer a solution to how all this can be put right with a pretty radical but effective overhaul of our current framework.