Posts Tagged ‘risk’

That high risk economic policy again: ours

13/04/2011, 12:00:11 PM

by Rob Marchant

Recess. Time for us all to reflect on where we’re at before the elections are upon us. And what will people be wanting to hear on the doorstep this month? That the cuts are awful, and that we’re with them. Right?


The idea that we might be taking a risk with this line seems particularly wrong-headed, as the Tories are wrong and we are right on the pure economics of the cuts. KrugmanStiglitz, and other luminaries agree (hmmm, which should we trust, two Nobel prize winners or George Osborne? Let’s think). The trouble is, we are taking a risk. As I have observed before, it is often not so much the economic policy itself, which is essentially right, but our positioning on that policy – the politics – which is risky.

Our approach is risky, perhaps as much as the Tories’, in its way, because it is predicated on the potential for economic disaster from cutting too far, too fast. And, of course, that disaster may not happen or worse, may happen, but not in a way which we can prove. It may be a little early to assume, as Liberal Conspiracy’s Sunny Hundal seems to, that we will be incontrovertibly proved right.

By allowing the two sides of the cuts narrative to dominate our thinking – the negative effect on people on the one hand, and on growth on the other – we miss the future impact. We forget that, while the first is undeniable, it will pass, and that the second may turn out be difficult to prove. And, when faced with the fait accompliof the policy, what then?

Two golden rules of politics, or any struggle for that matter: choose your battles carefully and play for the long-term, not the short.

One problem with opposition is that you campaign heavily against something, which later comes to pass. And, after a short while, it is as if things had always been that way, as the Tories found to their cost. They campaigned against everything: gay rights, an independent bank of England and devolution. Things that nowadays no sensible Tory would dream of trying to reverse, but for which dire consequences were nonetheless predicted. They were then faced with the gritted-teeth reality of looking on, impotent, as these policies were comfortably put in place. They were the perceived losers of the argument. And the dire consequences, of course, never materialised.

It’s not for the faint-hearted, opposition. (more…)

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