Darling's tax announcement yesterday has been widely praised, even by me. But the Bubble asks a good question: how come Darling's good idea is a panic measure?
It's not the first time a good policy has been introduced in a panic after a carefully-considered one was found to be a disaster. When the UK was forced out of the ERM in 1992, monetary policy was in disarray. And out of the panic came a very good idea - inflation targeting - that's worked fine (until recently?) for years. So there's a precedent for quickly-thought out policies to succeed.
There are two reasons for this. First, snap policies are likely to be simple ones. And simplicity is a virtue in itself.
The second is that rationality and research are weaker foundations for policy than generally realized. Countless cognitive biases means that politicians can't think rationally even if they are freed from short-term headline-grabbing motives; rationality is an ambiguous notion; and evidence is often absent or distorted - as John Kay says, evidence-based policymaking often leads to policy-based evidence.
The upshot is that in dispensing with research and thinking, we lose less than we think. This is why Blink! works, and why panicky policies are no bad thing.
Which brings me to Dave's question. He asks: "isn’t anybody willing to stand up for honest-to-goodness barking mad reactionaries these days?"
Yes. Me. The problem with "progressives" is that they believe they know enough to devise policies that will deliver progress. Reactionaries - or at least conservatives such as Michael Oakeshott - know that knowledge and rationality can be false friends.