A highly fashionable idea these days is that there should be a national investment fund. Financed by borrowing perhaps, by just printing money maybe, even that taxes should be higher so as to allow the government to direct more investment into the economy.
This does rather fail the usual economic test of efficiency - we've really no evidence at all to suggest that government is better at identifying nor investing in projects than the private sector. Other than the most obvious public goods that is - and do note what a public good is. Not goods for the public but things which, by definition, the private sector isn't going to be good at investing in. The absence of infectious disease from that combination of treated drinking water, drains and vaccines is a public good, but it's the absence which is. Clean water, sewers and injections are not themselves public goods.
We're suspicious of the likely success therefore. But we also have an interestingly different problem from Malaysia:
1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is a Malaysian strategic development company, wholly owned by the Minister of Finance (Incorporated). 1MDB was established to drive strategic initiatives for long-term economic development for the country by forging global partnerships and promoting foreign direct investment. 1MDB focuses on strategic development projects in the areas of energy, real estate, tourism and agribusiness.
Strategic investment in essential areas of the economy. Sound familiar?
The former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has appeared in court in Kuala Lumpur where he was charged with corruption-related offences over his alleged involvement in the multibillion-dollar 1MBD corruption scandal.
In a stunning fall from grace, the former prime minister was charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of corruption in a prosecution led by the attorney general, Tommy Thomas. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Some billions are said to have gone missing and into the pockets of the political class. Sure, we could say that such would never happen here but then we did have T Dan Smith and other such, didn't we?
PJ O'Rourke's point that we should never let the people with all the guns and the people with all the money be the same people comes to mind.
Or to be a little less apocalyptic about it, let's not think about outright theft. Instead, politically directed investment will go to those with the right political connections, won't it? It'll still be a slush fund for the friends of the politicians in power. Which isn't, when we come to think of it, quite the way to make the rest of us richer, is it?