Wednesday, 28 June 2017

In praise of choice

Phillip Hammond recently said of the Brexit vote; ‘People didn’t vote to be poorer’. Well, of course not because that wasn’t what the referendum was about. I thought we, narrowly, voted to leave the EU for richer or for poorer and to take our chances in the wider world. It should be cause for excitement and opportunity. Instead, those wanting to remain are still rending their garments and pointing at poverty indicators, both real and imaginary.

But what is poor, anyway? There seems scant evidence that – despite all the politicised weaponising of foodbanks – people are actually starving, save through the neglect of those directly charged with their care. For the price of a packet of cigarettes you can feed a family; choose. Through choice people continue to thrive despite all attempts by governments of all hues to ‘improve their lives’. The best thing a government can do is provide basic infrastructure and then keep out of the way.

The second coming at Glastonbury demonstrated the friable nature of popularity; for months JC was derided as unelectable then suddenly, as if by command from on high, they chose to worship him. And lo, he came among them and foretold that all would be well, that one day we will all be given good jobs and good pay and we shalt live off the fat of the land. The people’s choice, for a few hours at least, was to bask in the glow of his glory and imagine he spake true.

But the entire economy – economics itself – is driven by choices.  In the allocation of scarce resources it is the daily decisions we make that determines how the pie is divided. A vote for socialism is to take much of this choice off the menu. In the planned economy, in state provision of every essential need, it is the state that decides what we buy, what we pay for it, what we eat, where and how we live and what work we do. And this always leads to rationing and shortages because the government cannot possibly make those decisions in a timely enough fashion to satisfy your needs.

Choosing to take away choice leads to a lack of competition which leads to a reduction in productivity - the real engine of wealth. And what about the coming of the robots? If many low-end jobs are automated, which they will be to counter the lost productivity of human labour, how and on whom will taxes be levied to pay for the expanded welfare bill? Or would the government then have to actually seize everything just to make ends meet? Some left-field thinkers even believe we should abolish money and let the state decide who needs what and when.

Here’s the thing; people are fallible. In fact, we’re known for it. If anything, we are possibly more fallible in a group than when we act alone, in our own self-interest. Crowd-sourced group-think can cause people to actually act against instincts and urges evolved over millennia to keep us alive. In the echo chamber it is discordant to sing against the choir. Some speak of fear of letting anybody know they voted for the Tories, or for Brexit and students, who live in a world of peer-group conformity, are particularly driven to compliance. Rebellion, they cry... in perfect harmony... in perfect irony.

Meet the new boss!

Today Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour are dangling carrots they can’t afford to pay for as the Queen’s Speech is challenged. Seriously, who do you think most capable of protecting you, feeding you, educating you and seeing Brexit through: the overgrown hippy with a gleam in his eye and an adherence to a kindly-sounding doctrine which has failed over and over again, or the rheumy–eyed ancients who promise you nothing except to steer this ship as many before through the stormy seas ahead? Your choice.

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