Thought for the day
The point of a representative democracy is to have informed representatives make considered, reasoned, and fair decisions on our behalf, in the interests of us as individuals and as a nation.
Our representatives should not be slaves to the whims of their constituents or the electorate at large – although of course they should take our thoughts into account. In a sense the electorate can’t be trusted with certain decisions – we have neither the competence nor the time nor the information to make the best decisions, so we delegate them to our representatives.
Since Gordon Brown attacked David Cameron for his lack of experience, I’ve been thinking about the experience and responsibilities of politicians, particularly Cabinet Ministers – even more so since Brown’s Cabinet reshuffle (ongoing at the time of writing). What are their responsibilities, what qualifications are needed / desired, and so on?
In the sense of, what makes a former lecturer and current affairs editor a suitable candidate for the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer?
What makes a former head of economics and GNVQ coordinator a suitable candidate for the post of Home Secretary?
What makes someone who left school at 15, eventually becoming a union official and then MP, a suitable candidate for the posts of Minister at the Department of Trade and Industry, Minister for Higher Education, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Secretary of State for Productivity, Energy and Industry, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, or Secretary of State for Health?
Perhaps it doesn’t matter that they don’t seem to have the relevant qualifications and experience for the fields in which they end up. Perhaps all that matters is their ability to effectively lead any department that they are made responsible for and that they have a sufficient number of competent advisors to help them make the best decisions.
Healey’s implication that individual savers are not intelligent or well-informed is, therefore, not based in the evidence.
It is, however, based in the ideology that underpins not just New Labour, but our entire political and boss class – the presumption that ordinary individuals are hapless saps who need rules and orders from well-informed experts to protect them from their own folly.
But one lesson of the financial crisis is that this is plain false. What ordinary individuals need protecting from is not their own folly, but the reckless stupidity of spurious experts, be it in town halls or bank boardrooms.