Friday, January 29, 2010

George Osborne: sinister little bastard

George Osborne: looks like rats have nibbled the edge of his nostrils.

In a few months, there will be a general election—and the Tories will probably win. Whilst I agree with Jackart that the blue bastards will almost certainly not be quite as bad as the red bastards, there is plenty to fear.

For it seems that, in exchanging NuLabour for the Conservatives, we shall merely be substituting the iron fist for the velvet glove.

Whilst I am aware both that the article-writers are not responsible for headlines and that the Grauniad is not exactly sympathetic to the Tories, surely allowing the Shadow Chancellor's by-line to appear beneath an article entitled We will make you behave is hardly a good idea.

Still less good is the article's rampant inaccuracy and arrogance.

Let us take this little gem.
But perhaps most significantly, the crisis has finally put to rest the assumption, which underpinned Labour's entire system of financial regulation, that individual behaviour is always entirely rational and that market prices always reflect intrinsic values.

First, whatever the value of a product is to another person is its intrinsic value. And since markets are where humans exchange goods, then markets do show intrinsic value.

I would say, Georgie-boy, that you need to look to Uncle Milt's "four ways of spending money" to find a rather more prosaic, and accurate, cause of the problems within the financial markets—you might want to pay particular attention to the bit about using other people's money to buy stuff for other people.

The second point—about people not always acting rationally—is actually quite accurate. This is especially true over longer time periods and is known as "projection bias"—a problem which Chris Dillow wrote about (again) recently.

However, the way in which Osborne chooses to illustrate it is just barking.
However, it wasn't just financial regulation that was wrongly based on the assumption that people are always rational – public policy has also come to be based on this flawed premise.

A classic example is the way that Gordon Brown's tax credits system was initially designed. Obviously, we are in favour of tax credits, but when the system was first introduced it was assumed that people would promptly inform HM Revenue and Customs of any change in their income. That must have seemed so plausible on a spreadsheet on the then chancellor of the exchequer's desk. But of course, as it turned out, people don't quite behave like figures on a Treasury spreadsheet, and as a result billions of pounds were lost on overpayments.

Um... I think that it could be argued that people acted, in this case, entirely rationally. Those who deliberately omitted to update their earnings did so on the assumption that the government would not try to claw the money back and in the majority cases, they were quite right.

In doing so, these people were acting entirely rationally and according to the well-documented adage of self-interest. To use tax credits as irrational behaviour is lazy, idiotic and wrong.

And this man is meant to be one of our saviours. We're fucked.

Next, Osborne decides to delight us with some interesting speculation.
Evidence from behavioural economics and social psychology can't only help us meet our goals more effectively, it can also help us to achieve them more cheaply, and without intrusive and burdensome regulations. This is therefore a fundamentally conservative approach, which can help us to reduce government spending and get the deficit down, while at the same time building a more responsible society where people are in control.

I'm sorry, Georgie, but, when you say that these methods can "help us meet our goals more effectively", whose goals are you talking about, precisely? Because I bet that my goals are not the same as yours, you know.

Mind you, Georgie's next idea is not entirely dissimilar to one that I was mulling over the other day.
A Conservative government will require all public bodies that want to launch marketing campaigns to state precisely what behaviour change the advertising is designed to bring about, and an element of the advertising agency fee will be made contingent on achieving the desired outcome.

Really? Good. Can we go further...?

I think that every government that wants to make any law should pass a similar test: the government must detail what behaviour their law aims to change, what unintended consequences they foresee and how they intend to measure the success (or otherwise) of said law.

No government may pass any law until the effects from their last one is known, assessed and proved to have been worthwhile. And if the government makes three fucked-up laws, an automatic general election is triggered.

That ought to concentrate minds, as well as quelling the amount of bullshit legislation emanating from the House of Cunts quite effectively...

UPDATE: Timmy also tears into Osborne's stupidity and comes to the inevitable conclusion.
Jebus, if this is how the Shadow Cabinet thinks then we’re fucked, aren’t we?

Quite. Plus—and I admit that this might not be tremendously rational—there is something about Osborne that makes me think that he is a prime example of the very worst kind of sneaky, skanky, arrogant, unpleasant, dishonest little shit.

I think it's his face.

UPDATE 2: the wife is also unamused.
What the f*ck is wrong with you British people? Seriously, is every single one of you on crack?


I can’t believe that, in this once-great nation, the populace has created for itself the choice between authoritarian control-freaks and authoritarian control-freaks. Is this really what you want? People in absolute charge of you who all think they know better than you? People who think you need a cooling-off period, like a child on the naughty step, before you can make a decision about what to do with your own damn money? People who think you need to be told by public agencies how to use your own brains to make rational decisions? Do you really find life such a complicated hardship that you want a government to hold your hand from cradle to grave?

What the hell could possibly make you think George Osbourne knows better than you how you should live your life? Why on earth should people whose only skill is kissing your ass have this kind of responsibility? What set of facts makes you believe that the people who run your country are immune to irrational action?


Well, not all of us do put up with this crap. Unfortunately, those of us who would like to run our own lives are prevented from doing so by the fact that the great majority of the British people keep voting for these cunts.

Those of us who demand nothing from the state, or from society, are oppressed by those who demand that we play their game or none: this is the tyranny of the majority—this is democracy in a land of social democrats.

This is wrong.


Nit picker. said...

If unintended consequences can be foreseen but the policy is pursued anyway then can the consequences be said to be unforeseen?

Now, more seriously: good post.Thank you.

Roue le Jour said...

In which the Conservative shadow chancellor explains to the socialists that they have nothing to fear as the Conservatives have fully embraced the doomed philosophy of socialism. There's only one word for that: contemptible.

I dispute that people behave irrationally, though. Sometimes people are trying to optimise something other than money, e.g. happiness, or none of us would ever get married and have children.

There is another theory in play besides projection bias. There is also discounted future. This argues in effect that the shorter you think your life will be, the less value you place on anything in the future. Banks work with a minimally discounted future, in that they fully expect to be around to benefit from just a few percent over a year, whereas the drug dealer is working with a steeply discounted future and finds a hundred percent over a few days unattractive.

In a state of nature, humans naturally discount the future fairly heavily, but one of the aims of civilising young people is to reduce their future discounting, so that hard work now for a qualification and a better job seem worthwhile.

John East said...

Give the guy a break, DK.

He only has to get one thing right to out perform the current bunch of evil, useless, tossers.

Blair was given over ten years before the world gave up on him. Obama was abandonned much more quickly as he only needed one year to demonstrate his fuckwittery.

Let's give Boy George at least a few months in office to prove he's a complete tosser rather than judging him now.

chris said...

Isn't it strange how enthusiasts for behavioural economics seem to think that ordinary people are irrational whilst governments are rational?
And yet there's nothing in behavioural economics - and even less in the evidence - to warrant this belief.

Letters From A Tory said...

"whatever the value of a product is to another person is its intrinsic value."

I think Osborne is talking about 'value' in a societal sense, whereas you are talking about it in an individual transactional sense.

Umbongo said...

This is an exercise - as Roue le Jour notes - aimed at socialists, trying to convince them that the legacy of 13 years of Blair/Brown crapola is safe with the Conservatives. Indeed it will be. Therefore, given that there'll be no change, why would a Guardian reader vote Conservative when s/he's in nirvana already? It's safer - and, more to the point, rational - to stay with the present set of shysters rather than risk letting in another set who might - unlikely, but might - upset the applecart.

All Osborne succeeds in doing here (and elsewhere) is to alienate further much of his core vote. What that alienation will result in at the ballot box is anybody's guess but a succession of disappointing poll results (compared with what should be a consistent 20+ per cent Conservative lead at this point in the election cycle) doesn't indicate with any certainty that Osborne will be Chancellor come June this year.

Mr Rob said...

"whatever the value of a product is to another person is its intrinsic value"

Surely that is the extrinsic value?

Shug Niggurath said...

Tax Credits:

Give us a third of everything up front and we'll send you 10% of it back while you agree to keep us in charge.

The whole idea of tax credits is disgusting.