Monday, April 04, 2005

Economics (but please read it anyway)

As a social sciences graduate myself, married to an arts graduate, with two clever daughters at school disinclined to do science degrees, I confess to worrying that Britain's academic snobbery against science is at the root of our problems. We have a nation run largely by "airy-fairy" intellectuals brought up to think the arts and social sciences (which are not sciences at all) are superior to any kind of "hard" knowledge.

The economic illiteracy of our population may account for the two past generations having lived their socialist dreams by the simple expedient of dumping their debts on us. Our parents and grandparents took out of the national kitty by way of "free" benefits more than they deposited. They were "free" to them, that's true - but they remain to be paid for. And did they really assume that the population of our small islands would keep growing so that the workers of the future would pay for the workers of the past? I doubt they even thought about it.

What has that to do with liberty? Spoon-feeding by the "generous" State has taught only us the shape of the spoon - and a spurious affection for the "Nanny" who has been feeding us. There is nothing in history to suggest that an over-mighty State can ever be trusted. But we Brits trust ours to a dangerous extent. An understanding of economics (and other boring subjects) might put the State's "generosity" in context and help the scales to fall from our eyes.

Here's a link to a nice example of why our mathematical ignorance makes apparent paradox out of logic.

EconLog, How Everyone Can Get Richer as Per-Capita Income Falls, Bryan Caplan: Library of Economics and Liberty

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