March 25th, 2012
|11:53 am - What are they thinking?|
I do wonder what George Osborne thinks he is doing with economic strategy. It's possible, I suppose, that he thinks what he is doing at the moment will bring prosperity before the next General Election. He's not a particularly intelligent person, and he's not been well advised, so it's possible he thinks economic indicators are about to soar, and he'll be the hero of the country.
Another possibility is that he just wants to extract assets from the state, to the financial benefit of his interest group, and forget re-election. I think this is a bit more likely. 'Asset stripping' is a real life business activity and it may be that he seeks to asset strip the UK and then piss off and leave someone else to sort out the mess. It seems almost brutally nefarious, but it's possible I suppose.
The difference between the two will be revealed by his body language. If it is the former, he will be starting to get worried. If it is the latter then everything is going according to plan. I get a stronger impression he's thinking 'so long suckers' rather than 'welcome to the sunlit uplands of prosperity', but I do find both options a bit mind-boggling.
There are other possibilities though, and because those two straightforward narratives both seem so far-fetched I am thinking it must be something else, more woolly and hard to define. For example, I think it's possible he and Cameron work on the basis of short term emotional instincts. And his emotional compass is unlike most people's because of his very unusual upbringing. In this explanation he and Cameron have done well in life through an instinctive 'feel' for people, floating like a light ship without ballast. And if a strategy has worked well all your life, by the time you are in your forties that's more or less it. So half-baked economic and political bluster has got them both a long, long way, and that may be all they have got in the cupboard.
And because they haven't really developed abstract conceptual tools or deep principles, they may not really know what is happening around them. They may not be able to see more than a few weeks into the future. I find this possibility probably the most likely. And, like with George Bush, you think will they ever know what they have done?
There's a third possibility; that he runs purely on a short term electoral calculus. The Governor of the Bank of England has suggested as much. So, he doesn't understand economic policy well enough to have a clue whether what he is doing is good or bad for the country but as long as the polling data isn't too bad he thinks he's doing OK.
Yes I think the third option is a muddle of short term tactics. The polling data isn't that good but they may think that with the boundary changes it will be enough.
I suppose I feel it must be option three, because it's the only way I can make sense of policy decisions made with zero evidence basis. Navigating by feel, and responding to criticism not with any real insight but by telling people they are feeling the wrong things.
because I am guilty of navigating by feel quite a lot in life I recognise it in them. I think it needs more grounding and I learned that through life experiences that they have not had.
(just to add...to be fair, the above is a very human way of behaving - we all do it. It works well until you meet something big and unintuitive.)
Yes, that's it. I think if we try to model them in the most human way possible, trying to empathise, that is the most likely truth. It's still disastrous for the country of course.
As you know SC knew Osborne at school. I asked him what he thought was behind Osborne's behaviours. He thinks that whatever Osborne was like as a teenager (and he wasn't the worst of them), he's so surrounded by mendacious, evil, crooked bastards (his words, not mine) that he's now part of them and the not-too-bad bloke 15 year old is now irretrivably lost...
It's a dysfunctional milieu. It reminds me a little of the Saudi upper classes: access to unearned privilege has allowed strange cultural tics to flourish without the restraints imposed by having to deal with consequences
There's also the (alleged) masochism issue, which kind of shamefacedly interests me on a prurient or gossipy level but is probably irrelevant.
I can tell you what happened here. The Liberals followed their ideological agenda even though they were warned that it would not work and would cost the country a fortune. When it did not work and cost the country a fortune, they expressed complete surprise, and then said that it "was all a mistake but too late now", although in cases where it was possible they demanded that the new government spend another fortune to put things back the way they were. They were most upset because the people who were enriched the most turned out to be those speculating on it not working and costing the country a fortune, which included the Labor Party.
That makes me wonder how many people on the Tory side are betting their money on a sudden economic improvement, and how many on further recession. I bet none of them have their own money resting on Osborne's strategy.
|Date:||November 10th, 2012 03:25 pm (UTC)|| |
Wandering through on friends of friends...
I think you are forgetting the government is a coalition.
Judging from Osborne's speeches when in opposition, he has a fairly standard small-government, flat tax style of right wing liberal economics as his underlying ideological position. But given the unusual circumstances of a severe recession combined with a coalition, he couldn't adopt his ideological position so has had to fall back on his conservative (small c) instincts.
So he adopted a policy that was basically the existing economic status-quo inherited from his predecessor with only a few tiny changes around the edges. This was acceptable to the Lib Dems and felt 'safe' to the country at the time since it followed a middle path between those who wanted to cut less and those who wanted to cut more. If you recall the polls at the time, when asked about the government's economic strategy they were pretty much split evenly three ways between 'less and slower', 'more and faster' and 'about right'.
The trouble is he is still trapped in that middle position. The number who believe the middle course is 'about right' has dwindled, but as the shouting from both left and right gets louder, he still can't move. He can't move to the right because of the Lib Dems and can't move to the left because of his ideology. It is a classic example of a compromise being something that satisfies nobody.
As for your wondering in comments how the elite are responding to his decisions - the answer is depressingly simple. Those who hadn't already done so are getting their assets out of the country. This is starting to work down society so it is no longer just the super rich but also people who would only consider themselves comfortable. This includes many professionals - doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs etc. - who are now seeking to make their careers abroad. Cutting the top rate of tax cost Osborne a huge political hit, but he gambled it would be worth it for the economic advantage. Sadly it looks as if it was too little, too late.
So I'm not sure he is either lacking in ideology or intelligence, but he is trapped in a Gordian knot.