A commenter on a previous post suggested I compile a list of "10 lazy assumptions that are part of the mainstream political consensus." Although the point of being an amateur blogger is that I don't have to do requests, it's a fair question. Here goes. (What follows is in part a summary of recent posts).
1. Managerialism. The dominant ideology in politics is that problems are soluable from the top-down, and the answer to organizational failure in the public services is better management. This overlooks the possibilities that: management competence is limited, in part because - as Hayek said - knowledge cannot be centralized; that hierarchy has a demotivating effect upon workers; and that faith in management is an ideological front for rent-seeking.
2. Devaluing professional autonomy and ethics. The counterpart of the elevation of management is - in schools, universities and hospitals - a denigration of traditional professional standards and ethics. This denigration extends to politics. Politicians presume that they should be like businessmen, and ignore the possibility that - as Oakeshott said (pdf) - politics is itself a "specific and limited activity".
3. The myth of perfectibility. Politicians don't believe there is a great deal of ruin in a nation. Instead, their attitude to failure - be it riots, the murder of babies or cost over-runs in government IT projects - is that not that such things are inevitable in a fallen world, but that lessons must be learnt. (Of course, they never are.)
5. Ignorance of deadweight costs. Immigration controls, anti-drug laws and complicated welfare states all impose deadweight costs. Politicians underplay these.
7. The fetish of public opinion. Politicians take voters' preferences for granted, and fail to see that they might be warped by cognitive biases or adaptation to injustice. As a result, some otherwise reasonable policies - open borders, basic income, worker control - are off the agenda.
8. A partial use of cognitive biases. Cameron's "nudge unit" tells us how politicians see cognitive biases - as a lever for improving the behaviour of others. What they don't see is that their own ideas, and those of voters, might also be disotrted by cognitive biases.
9. A consensus on the size of the state. The main parties agree that government should account for around two-fifths of the economy. The possibility of either greatly expanding the role of the state through public ownership or the role of markets through macro markets or demand-revealing referenda are alike excluded. When politicians talk of bringing markets into public services, it's usually a cloak for increasing the profits of client companies.
10. A belief in government as Santa. Politicians agree that their clients - married couples or the hard-working low-paid - deserve favours whilst others (scroungers) deserve punishment. The possibility that such distinctions are very narrow and costly to make is downplayed.
I don't say all this to mean these assumptions are necessarily wrong. I do so just to point out that politcal debate is much narrower than you might think. What's more, these assumptions are shared not just by politicians but by much of the media too.