First published here in a longer version on October 14, 2008.
I’ve long been an adherent of what I call, Up-To-A-Pointism.
If something works, it only works up to a point. Thereafter it yields diminishing returns, followed by negative consequences.
Government intervention is like that, as are free markets. Both have a limited bandwidth within which they operate optimally. People too only work well when conditions are neither too good, nor too bad. Outside those limits they become like automata, pulled hither and thither by external forces beyond their control.
Politicians are largely unaware of this iron rule of nature. They should be. Our future rests on it. It is vital that attempts are made to determine the limits that constrain every policy decision.
The Alan Greenspan era, which finally collapsed in upon itself on August 9, 2007, was the last hurrah of the Ayn Rand illusion: scant regulation allied to machine-like market economics, especially in financial markets.
It passed its point of usefulness around the turn of the century when some Asian countries were shipwrecked by massive money flows in and out of their economies. By then, the essential principles had become inflexible dogma, crowding out necessary evolution of the system.
The Left always brings settled dogma into government. Its methods are already written down by past socialist heroes, so they must be true, mustn’t they? That’s why the Left invariably fails in office.
Blair and Brown knew that in 1997. New Labour presented itself as the champion of free financial markets, just as the notion was beginning to shapeshift into corrosive insanity.
In the U.S., George W. Bush, thanks to Dick “deficits don’t matter” Cheney, was trapped by this dogma and its sorcerer’s apprentice, Alan Greenspan. A little Up-To-A-Pointism would have gone a long way at that time.
The same can be said for globalisation. Up-To-A-Pointism should have been applied long ago to the idea that “the world is one and the same.” In political and economic terms, it isn’t. It never was, and it never will be.
Remind me, what happened to the Bretton Woods agreement on global fixed exchange rates? I seem to recall it foundered irretrievably in 1971.
New dogma is replaced by the old stuff. Democracy is ditched for governance by foreign leaders and crazy financiers, unelected by us, and unaccountable.
On a global scale, and at regional level — the EU in Britain’s case — we are ordered about by layers of ersatz oligarchy, lacking knowledge of who we are, and uninterested in our wishes and cultural preferences.
More than anything now, the world needs Up-To-A-Pointism to refresh its grasp of reality and to grapple back our basic freedoms from the hobgoblins who would rule over us.