Heists, Government, and the Law of Unintended Consequences

January 19, 2009 10:22 AM

Day after day we awake to yet another government “initiative” to help one interest group or another through the “credit crisis” (of its own making), or to promote another idea for a crazy social engineering agenda, or just more nannying.


The list of heists from taxpayers for “chosen ones” such as banks, car manufacturers, other “needy” businesses, middle-class mortgage payments (up to £400,000 per mortgage) the unemployed (“golden hellos”), graduate “internships”, gets longer by the day if not the hour. There’s even something for savers affected by crazily low interest rates (the very policy that caused the boom and bust) despite The Times’s Anatole Kaletsky’s fervent wish to see savers “punished”.


All or nearly all of these “initiatives” will become expensive fiascos, like the abolition of the 10p tax-rate and tax-credits have already done.


The Times may deserve a cheer for warning government to stop providing “sticking plasters for bankrupt business” but then tells it to “encourage replacement industries”, where “Britain should have a tremendous edge on both earth sciences and life sciences”.  Yet all history shows that government picks losers when it tries to pick winners. (How long before the media industry, including newspapers, is subject to such selection?)


If government is serious about reducing unemployment, the dole queue could be slashed immediately by tearing up the raft of barriers to hiring and firing, of which the minimum wage is only one.


Instead, it presses ahead with new ideas for future fiascos.  The Daily Telegraph’s heart may be in the right place but its chiefs must surely know that a campaign to help “pensioners” will (if “successful”) end up as a fiasco as surely as did that of tax credits (including the pension variety) – alongside those of Datagate, school SATs, (an ongoing saga, despite the outsourcing process having been dubbed “a case study to share best practice”), “Modernising Medical Careers”, and scores of others.


New entries to watch include more on “healthy eating” and legislation against “class inequality”. These ninnies, (many of whom are also corrupt) really do live in a parallel universe – one which I describe in my book as “One Rule for Them”.  How else can one describe them when MPs vote to exempt themselves from disclosing their expenses?

Day after day we awake to yet another government “initiative” to help one interest group or another through the “credit crisis” (of its own making), or to promote another idea for a crazy social engineering agenda, or just more nannying.


The list of heists from taxpayers for “chosen ones” such as banks, car manufacturers, other “needy” businesses, middle-class mortgage payments (up to £400,000 per mortgage) the unemployed (“golden hellos”), graduate “internships”, gets longer by the day if not the hour. There’s even something for savers affected by crazily low interest rates (the very policy that caused the boom and bust) despite The Times’s Anatole Kaletsky’s fervent wish to see savers “punished”.


All or nearly all of these “initiatives” will become expensive fiascos, like the abolition of the 10p tax-rate and tax-credits have already done.


The Times may deserve a cheer for warning government to stop providing “sticking plasters for bankrupt business” but then tells it to “encourage replacement industries”, where “Britain should have a tremendous edge on both earth sciences and life sciences”.  Yet all history shows that government picks losers when it tries to pick winners. (How long before the media industry, including newspapers, is subject to such selection?)


If government is serious about reducing unemployment, the dole queue could be slashed immediately by tearing up the raft of barriers to hiring and firing, of which the minimum wage is only one.


Instead, it presses ahead with new ideas for future fiascos.  The Daily Telegraph’s heart may be in the right place but its chiefs must surely know that a campaign to help “pensioners” will (if “successful”) end up as a fiasco as surely as did that of tax credits (including the pension variety) – alongside those of Datagate, school SATs, (an ongoing saga, despite the outsourcing process having been dubbed “a case study to share best practice”), “Modernising Medical Careers”, and scores of others.


New entries to watch include more on “healthy eating” and legislation against “class inequality”. These ninnies, (many of whom are also corrupt) really do live in a parallel universe – one which I describe in my book as “One Rule for Them”.  How else can one describe them when MPs vote to exempt themselves from disclosing their expenses?

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