Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Right Policies, Wrong Associations

Roger Helmer MEP Honorary Chairman of the Freedom Association (here)

This year, Adam Smith would have been 285 years old, if he’d lived. Yet many of us still don’t quite believe in his invisible hand. In our heads we know that free markets are the best and most efficient way to allocate resources, and to drive innovation and quality, but our hearts haven’t quite come to terms with it yet. For many in the soft centre of British politics (including some Conservatives) vouchers are a step too far. We are so accustomed to the state’s social security comfort blanket, to the Beveridge dispensation that has been in place for most of our lives, that we are reluctant to abandon it even when it has failed consistently for decades. Education vouchers? Patient passports? Surely these are wild-eyed neo-con ideas espoused by free market ideologues, not the nostrums of practical men?”

I agree with the policy proposals of Roger Helmer because they would be a better arrangement for vast areas of public expenditure which directly affect users of such services (health, education, non-competing public services in Scotland, such as water and sewage, care of the elderly, housing associations and what is re-appearing as ‘affordable housing’, otherwise known as council managed housing, the main cause of sink estates).

With that in mind, ‘tis a pity that Roger Hemer links Adam Smith to ‘belief’ in ‘his’ invisible hand, an over-extended metaphor that had nothing to with markets.

We only need to know about the benefits of free and competitive markets without having to believe that there is anything mysterious, magical and mythical about them, including belief in disembodied body parts akin to invisible pagan gods, which was added to Adam Smith’s name in the 20th century to bless theories of the economy (Homo economicus, etc.,) that have little to do with Adam Smith's political economy.


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