My understanding of British legal and political systems is notably weak. My general sense  – however – is that if David Cameron woke up tomorrow convinced of the virtues of economic stimulus he could apply enough pressure to push through the following:

  • A suspension/rebate of both the VAT and the National Insurance Contribution.
  • A change in the mandate of the Bank of England to maintain the real international price of British labor at rates consistent with its marginal product, to be “unofficially” interpreted as buying German Bunds until the Pound fell .8 Euros.
  • A temporary subsidy on energy that cut the price of petrol, heating oil, electricity etc in half.

Such a program would cause an immediate and hard reversal of the following trend

FRED Graph

Given that Britain is currently suffering through an economic crisis that is now worse than the Great Depression, its hard to imagine that Cameron would not be hailed as a folk hero.

Statues would be erected in his honor. Choirs would sing hymnals about him. Kindergartners would memorize the details of his childhood. The conservative party would win reelection in a landslide. He could implement whatever neoliberal reforms he wanted and launch a torrid, all-too-public love affair with Pippa Middleton without the man in the street speaking ill of him.

Supposing that this analysis of the situation is correct, there is to my eye no theory of gridlock, limited attention, vested interest, special interest, or mendacity that explains the behavior of David Cameron.

The behavior of David Cameron as far as see can only be explained by suggesting that he disagrees with my interpretation of the facts.

This is part and parcel of a larger theory that in practice virtually all of our major policy disagreements are disagreements over facts. There are potential moral and aesthetic dilemmas, which by my lights folks don’t take seriously enough.

Yet, these are not what divide policy makers. What divides them are beliefs about the facts of the world.

This makes the spread of the type epistemic closure that Justin Fox reports on all the more confusing. Its easy to see why this would occur among political observers. They have little to gain and essentially nothing to lose from being wrong. Not so, with policy makers. Especially in times like this they have everything to gain from being right.

Yet, they seem unwilling to give up on tribal beliefs. What accounts for this? I have a few theories but none of them too serious. My favorite is that pragmatic people tend to be social misfits and this makes it hard for them to get elected.