Err, yes Dan, this is how politics works

Dan Hodges looks at how Cameron is dealing with the EU:

But whatever you think of the issue of Europe, is this really the way Britain should be dealing with one of its leading strategic geopolitical partnerships?

But this is how politics deals with everything. It\’s why it\’s such a shit way of dealing with things: sometimes entirely necessary but exactly why we want politics to have as little do with things as is possible.

Every decision is weighed as to the political benefits that it brings the decision maker. And that\’s it: we don\’t get carefully considered mulling over what is the right thing to do.

Consider the (possibly apocryphal, but it\’s illustrative of the problem all the same) decisions over steel works under Callaghan. Yes, everyone accepted that steel works needed to be very large indeed in order to be efficient enough to survive. Big integrated works. So along went the decision: British Steel would have a girt big integrated works.

But where to put it, Scotland or Wales? For political reasons it was halved in size (and therefore neither half was large enough to be efficient) and one half in each Labour dependency.

As I say, that\’s how almost all decisions are [email protected] what\’s good politics, not what is good by any rational standard.

Whether we should be in the EU or not is something that can and should be debated (as everyone knows, I\’m hugely biased on this point). But that\’s not what is actually happening, is it? Instead we\’ve got the usual mess of short term political manouvering.

Politics just isn\’t a very good way of dealing with things.

10 thoughts on “Err, yes Dan, this is how politics works”

  1. It can’t, because we’re people.

    If you look at the fall of any mighty empire through history you will find all the participants preoccupied with internal divisions rather than look outwards towards their common enemy.

    Thus the narrative is all about the Conservatives, their divisions and how this impacts on the Prime Minister’s authority. Meanwhile Labour watches opinion poles, desparately attempts to present an image of unity andsimply ignores the greatest constitutional and economic question of our age. I think this is something Dan Hodges is hinting at.

  2. As a Blairite, I wonder what he thought of the fact that we didn’t join the Euro, because Gordon Brown wanted it to be his decision not Tony Blair’s.

    The result was good this time, but the fact that such fundamental issues are decided on by egos is worrying.

  3. “The fact that such fundamental issues are decided on by egos is worrying.”

    Same with the financial transaction tax..its sickening, I tell you what I used to watch priministers questions, In the full knowledge that they were for the most part useless it could be funny here and there.

    These days it turns my stomach to watch, so I dont. A certain party sat there laughing at bad news, they are unbelievable incompetent yet accepted as main stream. No knowledge no experince just Ego…

  4. For his next trick, Tim will explain how this hopelessly flawed decision making system is able to set the right level for a Pigou Tax.

  5. Actually, British Steel was inefficient because it was colossally overmanned. You could have one big plant or two, doesn’t matter – it would still have been colossally overmanned.

    For political reasons, of course.

  6. Offshore Observer

    Is this another example of misaligned incentives. We want the “government” to maximise economic growth in the long term, but, the political incentive is to maximise votes (or remain in power if you are not a democracy)

    How do you align the incentives to that the maximisation of votes (or remaining in power) means the maximisation of economic growth.

    I doubt very much that divorcing politicians and letting “professional” economists/civil servants make all the decisions is going to give you a better result. That is the EU model which is pretty well buggered anyway.

  7. The government can’t maximise economic growth. The government has no power to create economic growth. I would have thought the past five years of up-buggery was a pretty indisputable demonstration of that.

    All it can do is reduce economic growth by interfering. It can reduce it by expanding the money supply, or it can reduce it by contracting the money supply. That’s all the power that it has, because that is the only actual lever that it has. The only policy for “maximising” economic growth is for the government to get out of the way.

    It can maximise other things. It can maximise, in theory at least, provision to the poor, for instance. Or national defence. It can only do so at the cost of economic growth. That’s a trade-off on which people have different subjective moral opinions. But the government has no power to create a single groat’s worth of growth. It’s just not something that government has the capability to do.

  8. So Much For Subtlety

    Ian B – ” The government has no power to create economic growth. I would have thought the past five years of up-buggery was a pretty indisputable demonstration of that.”

    I am with you in theory, but in practice I am not so sure it is that obvious. The government can build roads and railways. It can build ports. It would be a very interesting argument to claim that America-s Trans Continental railway did not cause massive economic growth in the countryside through which it passed. They can build primary schools and educate people.

    The fact that our tossers are incompetent does not mean it cannot be done.

    Although admittedly I hold firm to the general idea that in the main part, jobs are provided by people who get off their backsides and do something of economic value. It is not for the government to hand out or to grant. There is no fixed supply of them. If you have a motivated hard working population, some of them will be entrepreneurial and will create jobs. Some will not. If you do not, then all the government spending in the world will not help. See Jamaica.

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