On the eighth day of Christmas...



My true love sent to me: eight maids a-milking. In the Christmas song, A Partridge in a Pear Tree, these may signify the eight beatitudes or blessings in the Sermon on the mount: blessings to the poor, the meek, those who mourn, the just, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, and those who suffer persecution.

Milton Friedman pointed out that when the American colonies were first settled, roughly 95% of the people worked in agriculture, sustaining a population of around three million. Today, less than 5% are in agriculture, yet American agriculture feeds not only a population of 300 million, but millions of other people around the world too. It just showed the kind of rapid technological, productive and distributive productivity growth that relatively free markets could produce, he thought.

Less than 3% of the UK population is involved in agriculture, but we seem to be able to feed ourselves, even without the wine lakes and butter mountains built by an earlier phase of EU agriculture subsidy. No, the people who do most milking these days are those in the political class. Politics and current affairs has become a major industry. The 24-hour news networks need political news, while politicians need the networks to get our their ideas and puff themselves up. Then there are think-tanks and lobby groups, (nearly) all pushing for new laws that help their particular client base. And there are journalists, whose career are made by getting exclusives.

Luckily, exclusives are just what politicians want, so they can spin the story their way before it gets into general circulation. So it's you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Write some nice pieces about us and we might leak you the unemploymenf figures (with our take on them) a little early. So what if it's public information – it's valuable stuff, and by selling it we can curry favour with a newspaper and get our own spin put out too. Utterly corrupt, of course, but thats how it works. Or has done; but I get the feeling that this too is changing. A bit.