Saturday 16 June 2012

Blinded by ideology.

Keynes famously said that when the facts changed he changed his views.  Not so Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.  We have now had over two years of so-called Quantitative Easing (QE), an attempt to revive  the economy by printing money.  As predicted by Keynesians, it has not worked (and as observed by Keynes, what was then called "cheap money" didn't work work in the '30s either) because businesses will not borrow to invest if there is no demand. Another problem with this "loose" monetary policy is that the government has no control over what will happen to the money it allows the Bank of England to create.  In Ted Heath's day it created a boom in office prices, in the past two years it has been used to shore up the balances of the banks.

Yet Osborne refuses to learn, either from history or experience, and we are now to have a new version of  QE, conditional on the money being lent to businesses.  The condition  is an admission that "the markets" can not be relied to use this largesse productively  without regulation, but it does not solve  the problem  that businesses will not borrow if here is no demand.  So this initiative is doomed to failure too.

As a monetarist Osborne is hidebound by the mantra that markets with the minimum of regulation provide the "best" solutions  (the very ideology that got us into into the present mess in the first place) and that public sector expenditure is wasteful, inefficient and misguided - hence the privatisations of the past thirty years or so.  He is therefore blind to the solution that the British economy can and should be revived by some good old Keynesian public works -investment in infrastructure, housing on brownfield sites, green energy etc.

Instead we are offered a modified version of a policy that has as already failed  whilst we are distracted  by the "bread and circuses" of Football 2012 and the Olympics.

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