Skip to content


Richard Murphy ?@RichardJMurphy

When an economic theory encourages policy that increases inequality then it\’s the duty of those committed to justice to say it\’s wrong

Err, no.

The economic theory could be inconvenient, an undesirable outcome of the way our universe works, many things, but it won\’t be incorrect just because it increases inequality. That would be policy based evidence making.

For example, it\’s well known that the industrial revolution massively increased global inequality. It\’s sometimes called the Great Divergence. That doesn\’t mean that the industrial revolution was wrong in either the sense of being incorrect or immoral.

At most we might say that the increased inequality was an undesirable side effect of a very desirable thing: people finally moving to three squares and a change of clothes instead of Malthusian destitution.

China\’s development in the last 30 years has massively increased inequality within that country. Should they have stayed Maoist to avoid that dreadful fate?

15 thoughts on “Murphnonsense”

  1. Those of Murph’s opinion positively eulogise the concept of Malthusian destitution – as long as it happens to other people.

  2. Economic theory is right or wrong- regardless of what it predicts. It is correct prediction that makes it right and incorrect prediction that makes it wrong.

  3. Would not have thought that the Industrial Revolution was entirely the unmixed blessing you make out.Malthus opposed the abolition of the Corn Laws (a Statist intervention) because he thought agriculture needed the encouragement to provide home-grown food. Marx thought the abolition was just a means to reduce pay levels because food would be cheaper .The result was in 1900 half of those being recruited for the Boer War were rejected for being too unfit or too small to bear arms. Meanwhile we were being dragged into wars ,which should have been none of our business, to preserve trade routes for the importation of 70% of our food.(At the moment of imminent invasion Churchill despatched a huge force of men and tanks to defend the Suez Canal which we were still fighting over in the 50’s).The CAP could be a way of growing food at home, free of the import/export trap (see Via Campesina and Food Sovereignty movement for arguments that its a trap for the food exporting countries as well),restoring some much needed balance.There, that’s ticked all the boxes to ensure continued unpopularity on this site.N.B. I have n’t mentioned Land Value Tax ,(though this would been more beneficial than abolishing the Corn Laws) . I will get my “and you can fuck off ‘n all”‘s in now to save time.

  4. @DBC, being unpopular here (unlike some other blogs) just means that you have to back up your view with argument rather than getting away with pronouncements which are accepted without thought.

    I find it useful to hear the other side of an issue as it either makes me go find out more myself or it confirms one side of the argument over the other.

  5. DBC fails to mention that birthrates and infant mortality improved during the Industrial Revolution, hence the surge in the UK population.

    I commend Matt Ridleys The Rational Optimist for how it debunks the sort of comments from DBC and other collectivists and fans of state control.

  6. “The result was in 1900 half of those being recruited for the Boer War were rejected for being too unfit or too small to bear arms.”
    This is post hoc ergo propter hoc. You could equally argue that a negative product of the industrial revolution (i.e. slums and low quality of life) was ameliorated by the repeal of the Corn Laws.

    Meanwhile the mono-causalism of insisting that wars were about food security and that alone is rather tendentious. If you want to maintain trade routes, declaring war on a country with a large supply of U-Boats is not a great plan.

  7. DBC
    I’m a bit confused. Are you saying that it was the Industrial Revolution alone that produced the expansion of Empire and the need to protect trade routes ? I think English/British military and economic history from about the mid 17th C suggests otherwise.

  8. As a farmer, I’m all for a bit of protection of food supplies of course!! Might not be so popular with the masses mind, when bread is £3/loaf, milk is £1/pint and you need a mortgage to buy a bit of meat for the Sunday roast. Oh and the shops might be a bit empty if we have another terrible summer like this years…………………….oh well they can always eat cake I suppose.

  9. I should point out that DBC is a fan of the land tax economist, Henry George. Who, by the way, was a strong advocate of free trade. A shame that the issue for which HG is best known, and about which he was wrong, overshadowed his good views on trade.

  10. Murphy’s conception of ‘Equality’ will be familiar to anyone who has read ‘Animal farm’ or indeed any sociologist who has studied a society like North Korea:

    ‘all men are equal, but some are more equal than others’

  11. Anyone who knows any chavs who realise that justice would mean that they are less equal to workers not more equal.
    I guess murphy doesn’t live in the same world as chavs – lucky him, I wish I didn’t.
    By chav I don’t mean poor people I mean people with no discipline whose attitude to breeding is the same as cats

  12. @Timmy:

    Should they have stayed Maoist to avoid that dreadful fate?

    Ritchie won’t admit it obviously, but actions speak louder than words and Ritchies clear answer to this, if he could untie his tongue to speak, would be yes

  13. Sadly, many people seem to think that economics is a matter of opinion… when you say “this is how it works” they accuse you of being a right-wing fascist nutjob. Happened to me today: I pointed out that “closing the tax gap” can’t possibly raise wages, in fact it could even reduce them. Apparently this makes me an Ayn Rand supporter. Sigh.

  14. @Thornavis .Good question. The problem is that the answer probably lies in the work of the impoverished Marxist student Eric Williams who worked up his Oxford thesis into” Capitalism and Slavery”and finally ended up Prime Minister of Trinidad.It does not do on this site to venture so far to the left.But his thesis was that the Industrial Revolution was based on accumulations of capital from the Slave Trade,so early British Industry and slavery were closely interlinked.Quite apart from any left-wing bias about where the capital to set the factories up came from,it is pretty obvious that they were using machines to process the products of slave labour on plantations: cotton ,tobacco,sugar and what labour they were using in the eighteeth century was hardly free, at least half of the hands in early mills being children who were not of an age to give consent .Indeed a lot of them were pure slaves i.e. not being paid because they were drafted in en masse from workhouses.Far from the Industrial Revolution being libertarian I would suspect that it was far too connected to slavery,with such creepy episodes as places like Manchester and Liverpool siding with the Confederacy in the American Civil War. (The Confederate Fleet surrendered in the Mersey,I believe,its last friendly waters).
    @JPAin’t you got no home to go to (Your own site?)Its nice of you to take such an interest in my views but I am not a Henry George-ite since his LVT would make people pay for the same plot of land twice: once to the previous private owner ,then to the Government.JS Mill made more sense earlier when he said LVT should not tax the present value of the land but only any increase from there on (as from, nowadays ,increases in the money supply for Keynesian demand stimulus.So new money is pumped into the economy till its bursting,then LVT (aka the Sentinel Tax)kicks in to stop it being diverted into another housing bubble.Thanks for the opportunty to explain it.(Yes I know JS Mill was even more of a Free trader than Henry George but that side of his political philosophy was given a terrific shoeing by Mike Davies’ “Late Victorian Holocausts”.By contrast Mill’s formulation of LVT ,which George plagiarised and messed up, should convert you to LVT (original form).
    Maximum respect as always but the other way, of treating Economics as an exact science with algebraic formulae etc ,has its own shortcomings.

  15. Pingback: 5 Star Blogging « Autonomous Mind

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *