Matt Ridley and “The Anglosphere’s long shadow”

Having brought about the ruin of the Northern Rock Bank[1], Matt Ridley has reinvented himself as a prolific writer of articles supporting a neolibertarian perspective on science and other issues.  I cannot compete with the many critiques of his science writing[1] but the other day I came across this article (click on title link):

The Anglosphere’s long shadow [2] by Matt Ridley
Published on Thursday, January 02, 2014, updated Thursday, January 02, 2014
Daniel Hannan argues that bottom-up liberty has deep roots

This week, in another article, Matt Ridley criticised scientists for cherry-picking their evidence but here we see Ridley raise the art of cherry-picking to Olympic standards.

His first assertion, that Anglo Saxon economics is really doing rather well and that Britain is on course to remain the sixth or seventh biggest economy until 2028 is based on just one economic forecast by the Centre for Economics and Business Research.  However he ignores a few inconvenient facts:

  • Anglo Saxon economics and bankers like Matt Ridley were directly responsible for the worst financial melt down in living history.
  • The banking system has not been reformed and most of the individual culprits are still in post (or just shuffled around a little).
  • The UKs current recovery is almost entirely dependent on increasing levels of private debt plus £1.5B of cash reluctantly issued by the Banks in repayment for PPI misspelling.
  •  If our current debt fuelled, house price bubble bursts the results will be unpredictable and potentially catastrophic.
  • Any increase in UK interest rates for whatever reason will result in large numbers of families defaulting on their debts with unpredictable but probably dire consequences.
  • UK productivity has gone from poor to worse since 2008. Output/hour 29% below USA, 24% lower than Germany & France.
  • The level of criminality in our financial services has been astounding and a number of legal cases are coming to fruition in the near future which are likely to see bankers actually going to jail.
  • The LIBOR rate was not the only rate fix – it seems that just about any rate that was capable of being fixed was fixed.

I could go on but don’t want to be ‘too pessimistic’ – the point is that Ridley’s glowing report on Anglo Saxon economics and the UK’s in particular just does not stack up.

Ridley rambles on about Dan Hannon’s book and the virtues of our common law system. He gives the overall impression that throughout most of British history the spoils of progress have been shared out pretty equitably and that we have avoided the excesses of ‘top down authority’.  Well this may well be true if, like Ridley, you are a member of the aristocracy, but for 99% of the population it has been somewhat of an up hill struggle throughout  history to win a meagre and now reducing share of the national wealth.  True we were lucky to escape the excesses of a Tsarist Russia or the violence of the French revolution and our system of common law may well be superior to the alternatives but ordinary people had to fight sometimes to the death in an attempt to get their fair share.  Ridley is talking as an aristocrat about the experiences of the 1%. He lives in an alternative reality where you make up your own narrative.

Throughout his article Ridley implies that it is too much government that is the problem, completely ignoring the fact that it is only through democratic governments that we have any semblance of fairness and justice. He makes no mention of any malign influence of big business or wealthy landowners like himself. Their misuse of ‘top down authority’ is wiped from the record.

Finally he espouses the benefits of free-trade agreements between nations again neglecting to mention that these agreements transfer power away from the civilising influence of our democratic institutions and pass them to large international corporations that will be able to run rough shod over the wishes of democratic governments and their citizens.  There will be no “bottom-up traditions” in an international free for all.  It will be “top down authority” from companies more powerful than individual nation states. 

The UK in the EU is part of a trading block that has the power (if it used it wisely) to negotiate free-trade deals from a position of strength.  (One is being negotiated right now). The UK on its own would be forced to negotiate free-trade deals from a position of weakness and without friends – we would be mince meat, particularly if Scotland follows the logic espoused by Ridley and leaves the UK.

In conclusion, Ridley’s article is shot through with holes from beginning to end and I would be more than happy to debate, based on facts, evidence and reasoned argument, any aspect of my response. I am happy to admit any errors in my logic, reasoning or sources of evidence.

As I find time I will provide links to sources of support for my assertions – something that is conspicuously absent from Ridley’s article.

 

 Sources:

[1] Matt Ridley – failed banker and rightwing neolibertarian: http://www.reasonandreality.org/?p=1468

[2] The Anglosphere’s long shadow Published on Thursday, January 02, 2014, updated Thursday, January 02, 2014: http://www.mattridley.co.uk/blog/the-anglosphere’s-long-shadow.aspx

UK productivity has gone from poor to worse since 2008. Output/hour 29% below USA, 24% lower than Germany & France.  http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/sep/18/productivity-gap-uk-g7-output  Guardian Sept 2013

Mortgage rise will plunge a million homeowners into ‘perilous debt’:
http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/dec/28/mortgage-rise-homeowners-perilous-debt

Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/20/conservative-groups-1bn-against-climate-change

Plans to create an EU-US single market will allow corporations to sue governments using secretive panels, bypassing courts and parliaments: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/02/transatlantic-free-trade-deal-regulation-by-lawyers-eu-us

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