Tuesday, April 08, 2014

"The Global Race": Bad politics, bad economics

Jeremy Browne, reports Liberal Democrat Voice, has published his book. Race Plan: An authentic liberal plan to get Britain fit for 'The Global Race'. It has been issued by the free-market think thank Reform.

I am pleased to see a prominent Lib Dem producing a book - there should be more of them - and the party's ideology is so nebulous that it is hard to accuse any of us of heresy.

But there are two things that make we worry.

The first is the publisher. I did subscribe to Reform's e-bulletin for a while, but did not get on with it. Its answer to every question was the same: cut taxes, cut spending, privatise.

It was not so much that the bulletin was wrong: it was that it was not interesting.

Still, Jeremy's book may be an exception to Reform's usual output.

But I am not hopeful. "The Global Race"?

I wrote a post back in September of last year quoting a couple of commentators who thought the concept was pretty worthless.

In particular, I quoted Philip Booth from the equally free-market Institute of Economic Affairs and the more left-leaning American economist Robert Reich, via a Guardian article by Andy Beckett:
"Economists don't think of trade as a race in any way," says Booth. "The world economy is not a zero-sum game. Countries get richer together. If China carries on reforming and growing, there will be more opportunities there for Britain." Reich agrees: "The race needn't [mean that] every country's citizens lose ground, but some lose more than others … or [that] some can gain only at the expense of others … We can all grow, and at the same time spread prosperity to more people."
Nor is "The Global Race" a novel concept. Back in February 2013 Isabel Hardman told us:
The Cabinet met this morning to discuss the content of the next Queen’s Speech. The ministers present were told that legislation for the next session would focus on supporting the government’s priorities of ‘economic competitiveness’ and Britain’s position in the ‘global race’ (there we go), and ‘aspirations and fairness’. 
CCHQ staffers have already told me they’re sick of the phrase, which probably means it’s only just percolated as far as Portcullis House, so expect to hear it coming out too far and too fast from ministers’ mouths over the next few months.
The problem is not even that "The Global Race" is a Conservative concept. It is redolent of the sort of reborn public-school values that have dominated British public life since Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party 20 years ago.

I shall buy Race Plan - I may even read it - but I do not expect to be inspired by it. Still, I may have a pleasant surprise.

No comments: