Let free trade and capitalism lift all boats

Let free trade and capitalism lift all boats

by Eben Wilson
article from Friday 22, July, 2016

AN ETERNAL DILEMMA of leadership is that merely pointing the way forward is not enough. A sense of vision and a clear exposition of a mission do wonders, but good leaders know that there has to be logical substance to match charisma and the tone of voice.

In politics this expresses itself in realpolitik, where practicality must often trump moral or ideological zeal.  However, practicality for Scottish politicians operates in a sea of confirmation bias so firmly built in that the morals and ideals of nationalist belief, nay fervour, trump all other considerations.

This is not good for “the prosperity and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities across our country”. It means that the leading drivers of decision-making are doomed to be aspirational and ideological – despite other truths.  Charisma and tone dominate substance.

The phrase in quotes in the paragraph above is the stated advantage of Nicola Sturgeon of the European Union in her keynote speech to the Resolution Foundation during the EU Referendum.

In it she links her desire to remain to a series of EU sourced contractual social rights; anti-discrimination laws, maternity and paternity leave entitlement; the right to paid holidays; the right to work for no more than 48 hours each week.

This pre-supposes that these “rights” are beneficial. Well, they are vote-buying, but they are also collective fiats of a centralist state; single solutions for a single-minded bias by those who love the false idea that a managerialist state has it in its power to create Utopia for all.  The reality is that the taxes and rules of statism always make working people more expensive; statism is driven by a desire for “sameness”; a false vision of equality that is never achieved; indeed it is usually made worse through state tinkerings because large re-distributions induce stagnation in growth, responded to by further taxing re-distributions and eventually failing in an ocean of debt.

The social democracies of the EU with its protectionist internal rules and external tariffs have been led to this outcome as the managerial statism of its Commission has seeped its anti-democratic poison of sameness across Europe.

The single-mindedness of the SNP in its nationalist zeal is, in my view, now seriously damaging Scotland’s future; the blind manipulation of the politics of EU membership for separatist gain is corrosive and dangerous; leadership by deception and without substance; pointing to a grand Utopian panorama in the distance while leading down a rocky path frequented by bandits. How many practical policies not aimed at re-distribution of property and income can you source from the actions of the Scottish Government? None.  Progressive re-distribution is their one dimension, a zeal proposed as defending the vulnerable, but in reality locking them into an eternity of dependency.

The focus on the benefits of EU membership is solely on the protection of this agenda. But does this serve all Scots? It certainly does not. The EU seen as an echo of the SNPs own uni-dimensional focus is naïve. Parts of the EU project are conveniently ignored – such as the “ever closer Union” theme, while others are pumped up – such as access to strategic funding for academic research and capital bungs for infrastructure.  Any thought that such a stance may be hollow avarice; absorbing subsidy through an unholy alliance of free riders, is ignored.

Expecting the EU to leave Scotland to be free to develop its own uniqueness is simply contrary to all prior evidence, and an extremely risky stance to adopt.  The EU is a fiscal disaster zone, with no capacity to extract itself from that, and frankly in its enfeebled state an economic and political security risk.

Contrast the alternative; Scotland as an outward-looking global tribe with a strong brand, a well-educated band of homeland talents and far-flung emigres loyal to the nation’s cultural traditions of honesty and practicality in work; a cohort skilled enough in technical abilities to create its own critical mass in trade through global supply chains that it can learn to succeed in and even dominate. 

There are risks here too, but not as a whole statist entity, only through the occasional failures of some among many – and in so doing providing precisely the commercial experience from which others who follow them can learn.   Such is real progress, change harnessed for everyone’s benefit through a discovery mechanism of success and failure; innovation and improvement carved from thousands of knowledgeable but small scale decisions rather than the clunky, confused and contradictory decisions of the inward-looking central state collective.

This is the real mission for Scotland, to obtain advantage by being better at doing things better.  It is simply lazy to assume away all the evidence of industrial history and assume an equal success can be created by being led by one leader with charisma, rather than thousands of individuals leading all their compatriots, especially the poorer among us, to a better future.  

Free trade and capitalism are tides that always lift all boats. Anything else is just handouts by subsidy and handovers through loss of power.

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