Cameron is a Scottish name, but the present Prime Minister does not seem to be particularly Scottish. The last time the Scots had a real Prime Minister from the Conservative party was Sir Alec Douglas Hume in the 1960s, who is a very good chap in an aristocratic sort of way, but an absolutely appalling Prime Minister.
More recently, the Scots had a Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. He was a disaster too. People who know him say that he wasn’t quite as unpleasant as he seemed to be on the media, and that may well be true.
Anyway, the Scottish Nationalists, who used to be regarded as nutters, looks set to make this present election a complete disaster. They look like they are going to oust the Labour Party throughout Scotland. Present indicators, for what they are worth, suggest this will lead to another general election in the UK this year. Neither of the major parties are prepared to do any deals, they say, with the Scottish Elf Queen, Nicola Sturgeon.
A lot of this, I reckon, has got to do with Braveheart. It was a load of tripe, as a matter of historicity. But it seems clear that, by and large, most people use the logical side of their brain to justify the whims of the emotional side of their brain. And so all sorts of concepts which people find attractive achieve political traction, albeit that the evidence is dead against them. For example
- Ed Miliband says that he’s going to introduce rent controls. All around the world the evidence has been the same: rent controls do not work and actually harshen the lot of people who want to rent property. With rent controls, nice sensible people simply will not let out their property at all, and instead, the only available rental properties on the market are those controlled by people like Rachman. Shits in other words.
- You cannot spend your way out of the recession. There is no example of history of that Keynesian theory ever having worked, anywhere in the world. It’s an attractive idea, and particularly appealing to people who want to borrow a lot of money in order to spend on social services, or anything for that matter. There’s an element of empire building in all of this: politicians want big budgets to spend. Of course it is a truism that if the government borrows a hunk of money, then the amount of money going through the system goes up, and that looks like growth. Which sounds lovely. To us. Not so lovely for our children, or grandchildren, who are going to have it pay back.
- People who have not done so well in life love the idea of massive taxes on the wealthy. Sounds great. But again, the evidence around the world is that excessive taxation stuffs the economy, which means that the country gets poor, and cannot afford to support the people who need help. London is an interesting example. For better or for worse, it is attracted a huge number of extremely wealthy people over the last decade or so. They spend a lot of money in the city, and pay a fair bit of tax (you might think they ought to pay a bit more). But if they were not there, London would be a lot poorer as a city. And there would be less money to help people who need help.
- Trade unions sound great if you think you are one of the oppressed. But where they wield real political power, like France, the effect that they have is really quite simple: many of the young talented French men and women move to England, where the unions presently have less power, and accordingly, the young people have much more chance of getting a job, because employers are much less afraid of the claims that will be made if they turn out to be not very good at what they are supposed to be doing.
This past Conservative government is far from perfect, but they are massive improvement on the cynical Labour government of the past. If Ed Miliband does get into power, the practical reality is that the Elf Queen will wield her anti-austerity stick, which means that the country will borrow more and more, and that our children, and our children’s children, will face a massive burden of economic weakness coupled with huge debt.
Do thoughts like this make any difference at all? Almost certainly not. The cinema goers loved Braveheart. No amount of telling them that it was all crap would put them off. That doesn’t matter very much. It was only a movie. But exactly the same mechanism is at work in politics all around the world. What appeals to the voters is not the reality of what is good government, and what is bad government, but what appeals to their hearts. And nothing appeals to the average voter’s heart more strongly than resentment that someone else is doing better than them in life. Especially in Scotland. And it looks like Scotland is going to hold the balance of power.
Not a good look.We may well be headed back to the days of Sunny Jim Callaghan, the Labour Prime Minister who did reduce the country to penury in thre4 1970s. In the end, even he realised that the drugs do not work, saying:
We used to think you could spend your way out of recession and increase employment by boosting government spending. I tell you, in all candour, that that option no longer exists. And in so far as it ever did exist, it only worked on each occasion… by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step…
This is, of course, precisely what the Elf Queen wants to extracts as a price for any vote in the House of Commons.