It seems that with a General Election rapidly coming across on the horizon the argument about the state of the U.K. Economy has not only raised its head but has along with it brought once again to the fore the veracity of experts.
And not only the ‘polling’ experts – who lets face it have an unenviable record in accurately forecasting the outcome of recent elections – but those who no-one appears to understand – namely those experts known as economists.
As the European Union referendum debate highlighted only to well experts are increasingly being not only side-lined but totally ignored.
Remember the refrain from such as Michael Gove and Boris Johnson that “ignore the experts, they cannot be trusted”.
The reality is that when it doesn’t suit their own narrow narrative, or ‘alternative facts’ our politicians openly ridicule experts and in spite of the evidence to the contrary the public would rather trust politicians and completely ignore experts advice when voting.
Nevertheless experts are still experts.
Why do people trust their doctor?
Is it perhaps because they trust their expertise?
The majority of people trust scientist (experts) who are warning us of the dangers posed by climate change and global warming rather than those such as Donald Trump who say it’s all a myth.
Perhaps it is because we see doctors and scientists engaged in every day life.
So what is it about financial experts and in particular economists that somehow make them open to ridicule?
The main problem I find is that to start with they have their own language with so many anachronisms and specialist technical words – that only another economist has any chance of understanding – which leaves me completely baffled about what they are actually saying.
Not only that but economists talk constantly about “forecasting” models of what may or may not happen.
All very theoretical whereas for the vast majority of the population economics are very simple.
You take three empty biscuit tins, in one you place all of your bills, in another you place all of your money and then as you pay the bills you transfer those paid to the third tin with the hope that there is some money left once all of the bills have been paid.
Not so for the true expert economist whose perspective and specialist language almost it seems by design excludes us from understanding the issues.
This in turn makes it easy for economists to be side-lined from political debate as demonstrated recently when even the Prime Minister ridiculed her own Government Treasury forecast about what will happen post – Brexit.
Apparently the Treasury economists are wrong in their predictions that the ageing population is likely because of rising pensions to put a strain on the economy due to the increased cost of providing healthcare to keep them alive.
Apparently they are also wrong that the tax revenue going into the exchequer is not what it should be
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong said the Prime Minister whilst at the same time changing her Government policies on pensions to account for what she says isn’t a sound forecast from her own experts.
So what was it the treasury experts actually forecast would happen?
Well to start with they pointed out that there were fewer young workers earning a high enough wage and therefore not paying enough in taxes.
So much for zero hours contracts.
In simple terms the treasury has said that if the policies don’t change the falling tax revenues will not be enough to pay to keep the ageing population.
OK they talked about the rising cost of healthcare, superannuation and falling revenues etc, etc and how the outcome would bankrupt the country, but once you cut through the specialist language the nub of the argument is you can live to be old just providing you don’t get ill
The problem is it makes sense except of course the Government cannot admit it or at least won’t admit it because they know the only way to fund the healthcare in the future is through using taxation either new taxation specifically for the NHS or by directing current revenues to it.
Which is why they absolutely will not allow the Treasury officials who are public servants, not of the Government but of the people to openly argue their case preferring instead to publicly ridicule them in the knowledge that they cannot defend themselves.
The most honest party it appears when talking about NHS funding is the Liberal Democrats who at least have come out and said they will increase Income Tax by 1p to raise £6billion that will be ring fenced for the NHS.
But what do financial experts know ?- well according to the Conservative Government absolutely nothing
During the European Union referendum financial and economist experts were almost universal in stating that it would be bad for the UK economy.
“Rubbish said Boris Johnson”
The economist experts signed open letters and argued their case in media
“Nonsense said Michael Gove”
Even the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney and let’s face it he is someone we would hope knows what he is talking about warned of the cost to the economy of Brexit.
“Ridiculous said David Davis
What we are now seeing in the falling value of the pound and the position being adopted by the remaining 27 countries of the European Union is that the ridiculed experts were actually right.
Even more amusing – if that is the right word – is that Johnson, Davis and Fox along with May are now employing financial and economist experts to help with the Brexit negotiations.
And even more experts are being employed in an attempt to establish trade deals across the world post Brexit.
Now even I as a non- expert realises and understands that economics isn’t and can never be an exact and precise science because of the amount of variables that it involves.
But it would help if those who are experts didn’t only publish their forecasts and the evidence on which it is based in magazines that only other experts read and instead at least attempt to simplify the technical and specialised language they use and print them in magazines non experts read
Banks of course have their own economists who are experts but it seems they are only focused on monetary financial economic trends which in itself excludes the variables of social, cultural and political influences on the wider economic impact
In turn this means that they fail in their forecasting to take into account what the majority live in – namely the real world.
It isn’t as if it is something new, as far back as 1931 Keynes was talking about the need to take account of and factor in growth, inequality and unemployment into any economic forecast and that to ignore them may well lead to internal social tensions that would spill over into nationalism, fascism and communism.
As it turns out he was correct and the world paid the price of nationalism and isolationism.
My hope – and even as I wrote this I know it isn’t going to happen – is that politicians during this General Election campaign will stop ridiculing the experts and start to listening to them.
AndThat the experts get openly involved and make it clear to the public what the impact of political policies are going to have on the people and challenge the politicians to debate it with them.
The problem of course is to do that the economist experts and the politicians would have to engage with society and be honest which heaven forbid in itself would be an achievement.