Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Saturday October 18 2008

Here’s what I learned about democracy from the whole 1970s 1980s switch.  Democracy tolerates economic mediocrity, but it won’t tolerate economic catastrophe for any length of time without demanding radical corrective action to restore mediocrity.  The only way you can utterly ruin a democratic country is to abolish the democracy bit.  So, leftists now exulting that they have finally contrived the ruin of the British economy in the form of a dose of nationalisation so serious as to ruin the British economy are due for some serious disappointment.  If financial services no longer enable the nation’s books to be balanced, something else will have to be found.  To make this kind of uncorrected ruin stick, they will have to stop having general elections, and place themselves in permanent command.

Which is not going to happen.  Once the seriousness of the current British economic predicament becomes clear to Britain’s voters, the electorate is going to demand public spending cuts, tax cuts, the whole libertarian economic shebang.  It worked last time we were in this kind of mess, and it will work again.  (See this earlier posting, and this SQOTD.)

Until mediocrity is restored.  Which is when it becomes the turn of us libertarians to be disappointed.  We will want the policy momentum towards true economic excellence to be maintained.  But the voters will be satisfied with mediocrity, again.  And then the voters will get bored with mere mediocrity, without wanting anything done to improve on it, and they’ll vote for another dose of ruin.  And so on, for ever and ever and ever.

Actually I don’t think that all this will happen, because history doesn’t ever quite repeat itself.  As soon as you have yourself a plausible pendulum theory of perpetual see-saw, something happens to smash the see-saw.  But which bit of this see-saw theory is wrong?  Is there now no ruin?  Will general elections be abolished?  Will the voters, this time around, settle for ruin?  Will the voters not want ruin, but will no political party be willing to offer what it takes to avoid ruin?  Will the voters demand, this time around, something better than mediocrity?  Will they demand it, but not get it, because no political party in Britain will be willing to offer it?  If they do get back to mediocrity, will they never vote to mess it up again with further ruin, ever?

Interesting times.

By the way, all this Laffer talk is a reason to be really sorry for Americans.  They are still on this side, the good side, of the Laffer Curve.  There is no more ruin for the lefties to play with in Britain.  In American, there’s plenty more, God help them.

Brian, have you received your Notice of Nationalisation yet? If not, I would expect it to arrive soon.

Piff, “voters”, indeed. So long as the Lords can keep their estates, England will prevail.

Posted by Mike Gogulski on 19 October 2008

Aren’t there time lags to consider?  There was a lot of ruin (to use your expression) in Keynesianism, which stretched from the 1940s (if not earlier) up until 1979.  And a big gap between people starting to notice (I’m Alright Jack, 1959) and them actually doing anything about it.

Oh hang about.  Scrub that.  The catastrophe didn’t hit until 1973 and the 3-day week.  And pretty soon after that people did start to sort themselves out.

So, big change for Britain in about 2014, then.

Posted by Patrick Crozier on 19 October 2008

> Once the seriousness of the current
> British economic predicament becomes
> clear to Britain’s voters, the electorate
> is going to demand public spending cuts,
> tax cuts, the whole libertarian
> economic shebang.

I am not so optimistic. I think that too many people in the UK tend towards socialism and think that higher taxation and state spending is the way out of this! Ok, perhaps they’re insane but that’s how they seem to be.

Posted by MarkR on 20 October 2008
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