Heads we lose, tails we lose


Earlier this year we had Paul Ormerod speak at ISOS. Given his reputation, we were certainly pleased he was there to talk to the 200 young people gathered about the ability of governments to implement successful policies. This was no theoretical trek or rhetorical rant, but a simple look at the statistical case of Britain. Although statistics have come in for some stick of late, when not in the hands of self-serving politicians, but a consummate economist, there can be little doubt that most government policies have failed.
Much of Ormerod's speech was taken from chapter 3 his excellent work Why Most Things Fail. There isn't space or time to cover all that the book has to offer, but for our purposes chapter 3 offers a devastating attack upon public policy as practised since the end of the WWII.
When chewing the fat with statist friends, they nearly always accept the failure of government policies, but still have faith in the ability of it to be turned around if only government had more of our money or was directed in a slightly different way. When pushed and prodded they mostly fall into arguing that even with the ubiquitous failure evidenced, the state should continue as is. This is a quasi-religious deontological approach to public policy. In truth a rational consequentialist approach is much better suited to the task.
So where does a consequentialist approach lead us? Well here we move away from the failure brought out in Ormerod's excellent book and go back to the genius of Milton Friedman. If you have an hour to spare it is worth sitting at the feet of the Mahatma of Markets. So what is the consequence of most government policies? More harm than good.