Here’s another one from 2010. Although can we really say that five years on the Conservative-led UK coalition government really sent out any of the right messages? There has been an oddly half-hearted, pessimistic tone throughout.
Jeremy Jacobs thinks that I am being too harsh in saying that it is ‘good’ if a football club goes bust now and again:
There’s nothing “good” about a football club going bust. When the previous incarnation of Accrington Stanley went to the wall in 1962, something in that Lancashire town died…
For many ordinary people up and down the country the local football team is so important to them and their communities. In fact, it’s more than that, football and in particular grassroots football, needs proper central and local government support.
Let me refine my point.
It is miserable when any enterprise goes bust. Even a misconceived or mismanaged business will have absorbed hard work, loyalty and resources, plus pain and stress for owners, employees and supporters as the End loomed.
Plus, yes, football clubs do bring local people together in a unique way, expressing and creating alike local pride and togetherness.
That accepted, the idea that the state has to give football (‘and in particular grassroots football’) proper ‘support’ is another firm step down a long, windy road that leads to ruin.
Think what it means.
Musty bureaucrats in polyester shirts and blouses far away who know nothing about football are deciding which activities ‘deserve’ support or not. Money is being taken by force from taxpayers to make it happen.
What if I want to support my local grassroots football or cricket or chess club (or maybe my local cancer ward, or my local hi-tech engineering firm which needs new investment to take on more people), but instead am told that the few spare pennies I have are being seized by Whitehall to subsidise Accrington Stanley instead?
Oh, and it just so happens that there is a by-election looming in Accrington and the local MP wants to show what s/he can ‘deliver’.
This sort of ad hoc enforced collectivist transfer is little more than looting and mooching.
We are stuck in a paradigm which emerged thousands of years ago, as an answer to a primitive information deficit problem: how to organise collective action? The answer emerged: strong central power (king, emperor, tsar, warlord, church) using force to extract resources from the masses. If they don’t pay up, whip them! This latterly takes the form of paternalistic (and maternalistic) liberal fascism. The collective is the state. The state is the collective. Whatever. The state Knows Best.
Classic recent example: leftist intellectual Tony Judt in the New York Review of Books analysing the sickness in our ‘materialist society’ (my emphasis):
… whereas many liberals might see such taxation or public provision as a necessary evil, a social democratic vision of the good society entails from the outset a greater role for the state and the public sector.
… All change is disruptive. We have seen that the specter of terrorism is enough to cast stable democracies into turmoil. Climate change will have even more dramatic consequences.
Men and women will be thrown back upon the resources of the state. They will look to their political leaders and representatives to protect them: open societies will once again be urged to close in upon themselves, sacrificing freedom for “security.” The choice will no longer be between the state and the market, but between two sorts of state…
Under Judtism there are two sorts of citizens, as Ayn Rand identified. Those who sullenly allow themselves to be whipped. And those who gratefully bring the whip to their master before their whipping begins.
Tony! Things have moved on since the days of Nero and Ivan the Terrible and Stalin!
Technology allows new private ways of pooling ideas and effecting collective mass action, based on free people making free decisions. Back in 1962 the worthy football supporters of Accrington had few options. Now they can mobilise supporters all round the planet in the twinkling of an eye, to raise funds and identify creative ways forward. That allows all of us to decide where to slip some money – to Accrington Stanley or Faringdon United or Goosey Tennis Club. Or a new roof, giving work to local roofers.
Another way is to use money from lottery or other funds to create a pool for this sort of subsidy. People then both decide the degree to which they take part, and (if the allocation mechanisms are set up respectably) take part in deciding which ‘good causes’ deserve massed support.
This is the way forward. Everything else skews resources, and inexorably creates compounding distortions on a catastrophic scale. See the Eurozone: Rule detached from Reality.
A must-read is this superb (NB long and adult) analysis by Russell Roberts: Gambling with Other People’s Money:
Milton Friedman liked to point out that capitalism is a profit and loss system. The profits encourage risk-taking. The losses encourage prudence. Government policies have made too many markets one-sided. Because of implicit government guarantees, the gains were private and the losses were public.
Rescuing people from the consequences of their decisions is bad for capitalism. It means that a distorted calculus of risk and reward allocates trillions of dollars of capital…
Milton Friedman once observed that people mistakenly believe that electing the right people is the key to better public policy. “It’s nice to elect the right people,” he said, “but that isn’t the way you solve things. The way you solve things is to make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right things.”
To do that, we, the people, have to favor a different philosophy for the relationship between Washington and Wall Street than the one we have now. We have to favor a relationship where there is both profit and loss.
This is why the Conservative Party’s ideas for (a) relooking at government and (b) stressing the role of business in recovery are the only serious option this time round…