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January 22, 2017


Igor Belanov

"In fact, they shouldn’t appeal to any more people than those who buy books on history, philosophy and social science – which is at best a few tens of thousands. Yes, people should engage in politics – but after thinking, which is dull. I suspect the left would, in the long-run, be in better shape if people spent less time demonstrating and more time reading (say) Sam Bowles or John Roemer."

I do loads of thinking and reading but all this has practically no effect on the shape of the left or, indeed, the wider world. I have thought and read so much that I have become very cynical or even scornful about many other peoples efforts to change things for the better.

The problem is that I have nothing better to offer. I can at least acknowledge this, rather than trying to pretend that I am more virtuous and more clever sitting here on my arse typing comments onto social media.

Can you please tell me how all this thinking and reading is going to change anything?

Matthew Moore


This assumes that the role of government can be technocratically determined, independent of values.

But most disputes are about what objectives to pursue, not about the relative trade-offs.

That is, not about advancing or determining the feasibility policy space, but rather about where the indifference curves are.

Of course, there are no indifference curves for a population, which is why the public debate is interminable.


What is interesting about the Money Week report is: how is it wrong (I know the answer).

How can the clash of value systems and policies that impact peoples lives be boring.

Ideas are exciting, they lead to enlightenment.
The light bulb moment of the innovators dilemma's, catch 22.

Politics devoid of ideas is boring, and when run by the incompetent is boring.

Real competence is exciting, things happen, progress is made. Real competence is implementing change for the better. But competence can not make up for having the wrong plan or value system. The Basic Income is easy to implement.

Re: Trump - employment has been rising for months, (more than one?); there is a reason they call it the rust belt... it has been in decline for decades.

The Governments implements massive cuts, and the reverses direction and then says they have increased spending when it is still below it's initial value, spin is about obscuring as much as enlightening.

Boris' charisma may obscure incompetence, but as you acknowledge, so call dullness.

Remember facts are not enough: as they embed value judgments, leaving the value judgments to the dull, just let's them make the decisions by framing the debate.

Dullness is a lack of engagement.

Nothing is more exciting than a new (to you) idea ... unless it challenges your values.

Liam Byrne thinks you can find a new economic consensus. Not if you have different value systems. Of course if you lack a value system any value system will do.

Remember the TV program Shark:
"Truth is relative, pick one that works!"

gastro george

I doubt that Liam Byrne could find his backbone although I don't think that he has the slightest interest in finding it.


In Germany, my understanding is that charisma is a taboo. When I first read about this I really laughed - at the thought of having to dutifully follow due procedure to be dull. But the more I thought about it the more it made sense, that appealing to the emotions - the interesting bit - is actually a problem in politics and not just in Germany with its relatively recent history of this.

My only concern is that suppression of emotion is in and of itself dangerous. And when I say this I think of all those cruel Englishmen hiding tumultuous emotions behind a stiff upper lip - and letting it leak out in all myriad unpleasant ways (Brexit) or the many cultures in which micro-conflict is taboo but which have in living memory seen genocide (Eg Cambodia)


Sorry for clarification sake: charisma *in politics* is taboo.


Just NB: Tim was citing Esther Duflo's lecture from a couple weeks back at ASSA. Credit where credit's due.

Gerald Scorse

"...hardly anybody bothered to point out the dull fact that his [Trump's] talk about crime and lob loss was inconsistent with the facts that crime has been falling and employment rising for months."

Um, no. Paul Krugman has said this repeatedly, the New York Times said it, various TV talking heads said it. There really wasn't any hesitancy to point out these "dull facts".

Dave Timoney

I fear you're setting up a false dichotomy between boring facts and frivolous politics, which will only encourage the epistocrats and democracy-haters. The role of gobshites like Young is the result not just of TV execs' lust for ratings but an ideological division of politics into public drama and private competence.

The vast majority of actual politics is already dull: think of employer/union negotiations, local council deliberations or the entire third sector. Most "important stuff" doesn't actually make the news. The problem is, as you say in your final sentence, one of "appearance".



IMHO, the more you read, the more effective you are. But you're also more aware of how little you are in the big picture. Perhaps we also need the occasional idiot to rally round. Problem is, they can go either way. And in the narcissistic age, everyone wants to be that guy.


New ideas aren't exciting. They're bloody hard work. If they work.

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