Politicians made this mess
Ought we not judge those who rule over us by what they get right, rather than how much less inept they are than those in less happy lands?
We ought to be jolly grateful for the political class we have, suggests Janan Ganesh writing in the Financial Times. Britain has, he argues, been far more wisely and sensibly governed than many other Western nations.
Our government might have presided over the growth of an unaffordable state bureaucracy, runs his argument, but take a look at what politicians have managed to do to other countries. And there is some truth in that. France has not balanced its budget since 1976. The United States government borrows more in one month than our Treasury manages in a year.
But is that really the comparison we should be making? Ought we not judge those who rule over us by what they get right, rather than how much less inept they are than those in less happy lands?
On many of the big picture issues of the day, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the political class has a habit of getting things hideously, routinely wrong.
Take the Westminster elite's consensual approach to monetary policy. For a generation or so, they have agreed that low interest rates are desirable, and help produce prosperity. Janan's newspaper seems to regard this as orthodoxy.
But on this, one of the most important macro questions of the day, has the political class got it right? If cheap credit engineers prosperity, why are we in such a debt-addicted mess? Why has yet more cheap money not produced the recovery that they all seemed to expect? Might years of low interest rates help explain many of the imbalances in the economy that those in Westminster now tell us they want to sort out?
Could it be that our wise, munificent elite have got things back to front, and that low interest rates are not a cause of economic success, but a consequence of it?
A similar sort of Westminster group-think has lumbered us with a disastrous energy policy. Those in SW1 all knew that wind and renewable targets were the future. None of them spotted shale gas.
And what about the political class’s disastrous dalliance with Europeanism? Or tax policy? Or immigration policy? One could go on.... and on.
Perhaps it is because they are drawn from similar backgrounds. Maybe it is because the Westminster system encourages it. But for whatever reason, the political class that Janan says we should be grateful for seems to be prone to an extraordinary, inhibiting form of group-think. The auto-correct mechanism that good governance requires seems to be broken.
No, Janan. Like you, some of my best friends are politicians. But the political class has not governed this country as well as we should expect.
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