Room for improvement?

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In the Afterword section of his book “Money: Whence it came, where it went”, the economist JK Galbraith comments on (amongst other things) the validity of economic prognostications and the policies derived from them thus:

“COULD IT BE BETTER? The answer is yes.

“Proof begins with the people who manage money. If anything is evident from this history, it is that the task attracts a very low level of talent, one that is protected in its highly imperfect profession by the mystery that is thought to enfold the subject of economics in general and money in particular.

“Inadequacy is protected further, we have seen, by the fact that failure is almost never at cost to those responsible.

“More often it has been an interesting subject for discussion, something that has given an added dimension to personality.

“Finally, in monetary matters as in diplomacy, a nicely conformist nature, a good tailor and the ability to articulate the currently fashionable financial cliché have usually been better for personal success than an excessively enquiring mind.

“Effective action and associated thought provoke fear and criticism. It is for these and not the result that the individual is likely to be remembered.

“So, in the management of money, as in economic management generally, failure is more often a more rewarding personal strategy than success.

“There is a reluctance in our time to attribute great consequences to human inadequacy – to what, in a semantically less cautious era, was called stupidity.

“We wish to believe that deeper social forces control all human action.

“There is always something to be said for tolerance.

“But we had better be aware that inadequacy – obtuseness combined with inertness – is a problem. Nor is it inevitable. I

“In the past, economic policy has been successful. We must assume that it was successful not by happy accident but because informed and energetic people made it so.

“It will be no easier in the future than in the past for the layman or the lay politician to distinguish between the adequate individual and the others.

“But there is no difficulty whatever in distinguishing between success and failure.

“Henceforth it should be the simple rule in all economic and monetary matters that anyone who has to explain failure has failed.

“We should be kind to those whose performance has been poor. But we must never be so gracious as to keep them in office.”

JKG was writing in 1975 in light of yet another world wide economic crisis, the causes of which were being primarily blamed on OPEC oil price rises rather than repetition of past mistakes.

But given the latest panic resulting from fluctuations in the value of sterling, perhaps his observations serve to demonstrate that nothing has changed in the 40 years since he aired them?

Whatever. No doubt the Remainers camp will seek to exploit the situation to their own advantage.

Though I await with bated breath the old New Labour crowd’s attempts to pin the blame on Corbyn.

Michael Parker

Robertshaw Crescent, Deepcar, Sheffield, S36