Do we need a Cabinet Secretary for Uneconomy?

Do we need a Cabinet Secretary for Uneconomy?

by Eben Wilson
article from Friday 20, May, 2016

ON SUNDAY, Nicola Sturgeon wrote about her “vision for the first 100 days of my new government”. The usual presidential distemper brush was deployed, but modern government and its media management inevitably offer pap on steroids as it “works harder than ever to deliver”. 

Of course, economic liberals would suggest that this is precisely what government should not do; rather it should migrate to a firm stance of declining to deliver and work harder instead to undo its interferences. The promise of a “laser like focus on the economy and the need to generate revenue to invest in our future” tells the real story; our government sees the state as the driver of growth while growth is needed to allow it to tax us and then spend our money. 

Assuredly, the proposed new Cabinet Secretary for the economy will be handed this challenge, while the Finance Secretary will be freed to cackle like Scrooge and count our cash while thinking up new ways of expropriating our wealth and incomes.

There is a flaw in this. Nearly all economists (there are still a few Marxists around) will tell you that central planning destroys wealth (see Ivor Tiefenbrun's article above - Ed.). Any new Minister for Doing More Stuff, which is what growing the economy involves, can only offer anything by declaring him or herself to be the Minister for Decentralisation, Deregulation, Competition and Free Markets. If they don’t, they inevitably become the Minister for Central Planning, Wealth Destruction and State Corporatism – the Cabinet Secretary for Uneconomic Scotland.

There’s something that business across Scotland can do in response to Ms Sturgeon’s promise in her vision to “engage intensively with business” and that’s only to engage while emphatically declining any subsidy, any sector specific support or other pecuniary relief that binds their business to a political policy. Of course, business can supply services to government, even at times help to design them if service design is its business – but it must not seek favours. 

The moment it does it obtains privilege over other taxpayers and becomes subject to the imperative of politicians to design their beneficence for maximum voter appeal – the opposite of the rational operational decisions that business people always seek. Too often, they are then baffled and distressed when their ideas are adjusted and wrecked by interfering politicians and bureaucrats. But, to misquote President Clinton – it’s the politics, stupid. 

Crucially, in this process, business loses all political influence over the one thing that it needs – the freedom to innovate to create more stuff more efficiently and produce more wealth. The paradox of course is that it is that growth in wealth Ms Sturgeon desperately needs. By declining to work ever harder with her, business too can help achieve her achieve her goal.


Keith Brown MSP (pictured) has since been announced as the new Cabinet secretary for the Economy

Eben Wilson is director of Taxpayer Scotland and blogs at

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