That’s very nice. Prospect magazine have given my humble pamphlet, ‘A balancing act‘, the award of Publication of the Year at their Think tank of the year awards. Congratulations to the Centre for Social Justice and the IFS for their richly deserved joint award of the main prize.
I won’t give a blow-by-blow account of the gestation of this piece because a. it was 6 months ago and b. it would be boring. But it should not go unmentioned that:
- my colleagues at CentreForum, Alasdair and Julian, gave me a fantastic long leash, showing considerable confidence that had not been earned by my previous work;
- several writers, in particular Martin Wolf, Sam Brittan and Will Hutton (see side links) did me a huge favour by giving very generous reviews;
- also Aditya Chakraborrty of the Guardian made a big difference with his advocacy of one or two of its views;
- the piece might have been remembered for entirely the wrong reason had my lovely and eagle-eyed wife had not noticed the references to pubic spending* targets in a late draft
And, finally, a word of explanation. The paper was popular, I think, for its Keynesian views: supporting the way the government has stood against the chaotic deleveraging that might have turned a nasty recession in the vicious wipe-out of a great chunk of this country’s productive future. I obviously stand by this – half the posts here are about it. (yes, very repetitive).
But I don’t want people to think that I am some sort of 1970s Keynesian headbanger. In the majority of circumstances I am very nervous about the idea of the government being the reason we are growing, year by year. It goes against my conception of liberalism, which sees individual choice and daring at the heart of our economic story. When people propose grand schemes of investment in things like Green Roads I am normally sceptical. I was very influenced by John Kay’s The Truth about Markets, and even Hayek’s notion of a catallaxy. I like to bore people with the view that if investment in 1993 had been all in the government’s hands, it would have been sunk into HOTOL or superconductors.
So yeah, it’s Keynesian, but Keynes was a genius for distinguishing the conditions of the moment, not applying the same dogma to all positions. As people point out, he would have changed his mind, and ended up not being Keyensian if he had lived to 90. Too bright for that.
The other thing that people liked was an emphasis on property tax. Thanks to ALTER I am now convinced that this is still a good idea, but a fullblown land-tax is better. I like the Mansion Tax idea, and wish it well. I hope it is a first step to fairer taxation.
And on that pious note, good night.
*I have yet to develop my views on this