The Obscurer

Category: Economics


So, a great result for England on Sunday, no? Another fine victory over our greatest historic tribal foe. Makes one proud to be English, doesn’t it.
Sarcasm? Me? Oh no, sorry, you misunderstand. Were you still thinking about the football, and Germany? Oh well, I’ve already moved on; to cricket, and yet another one-day international victory over the hapless Australians*. But I can understand your confusion. An easy mistake to make.

As for the football, what can I add to the obvious, and that England simply aren’t good enough to justify the hopes that some people place in them? On the game itself, I do think it a tragic irony that the one time a Lampard speculative, edge-of-the-area pop actually gets into the goal, the officials manage to miss it. Fortunately, such was the extent of Germany’s victory that any dwelling on that “goal” as an example of us being robbed has been kept to a minimum. On the other hand, it has reignited the old issue of whether technology should be used to prevent such mistakes again. I seem to be in a minority here in harbouring serious doubts over technology’s use. Perhaps, if you could guarantee that such technology was limited only to judging if a ball has crossed the line, then fine; but can you? Later that evening, when Argentina scored a goal that was clearly offside, technology was mentioned again; when Eire failed to qualify for the World Cup finals thanks to an Henry handball, again the benefits of technology were mooted. Where will it end? Before you know it, perhaps every goal will have to be analysed before it is given: to see if there was perhaps an illegal tug on a defender at some time during the long, labourious build up to it being scored; to wait for the committee to decide if, on balance, the award of the free kick that led to the goal was down to the attacker diving; or perhaps we’ll have to scrutinise each free kick, corner and throw in before it is taken just in case it results in a goal, eventually. And so the game as we know it will be buggered, all to prevent the sort of decision on Sunday which is extremely rare, and which was also so blatant that technology itself shouldn’t even be required for it in the first place. No, I’m really not sure it is a road we should be going down.

But a few words on the England team. I usually get pretty hacked off when pundits say stuff like “he would have scored that in the premiership”, or “why do England players look so poor here, when they look so good in the league?” It’s bollocks, mainly. Hansen and his ilk spend each weekend bemoaning terrible misses and poor defending, as players’ form fluctuates during the course of the season; but come the World Cup, all that is strangely forgotten, and they all seem to expect the players to be as good as they appear on the “Best of…” end of season review DVDs. But, as I said, I usually get hacked off by such nonsense…but when was the last time you saw a premiership back four defend as badly as England did against Germany (Burnley excepted)? With the possible exception of Ashley Cole, did they have a clue about their roles or where they were meant to be playing? It is easy to blame the manager – and if he has lost the confidence of the players then that may be fair enough – but what is any manager meant to do when his centre-backs take it upon themselves to wander about the field aimlessly, and with no regard to positioning or formation?

Capello has also got some stick for his attacking options: why didn’t Joe Cole play a bigger part?; everyone know we should play “Gerrard-in-the-hole!” Enough, already. Was playing Heskey really the reason that Rooney had apparently forgotten how to control a football? I doubt it. There is always some simplistic solution to England’s woes; four years ago it was the failure to select Defoe, before that it used to be the manager’s refusal to play a Waddle, or a Le Tissier. I’m sure that if Capello had listened to the media and played Gerrard where they wanted him they would just have found something else to whine about. Because there’s always something, and there always will be. Because, as I said before, we’re just not good enough.

The British media collectively announced another European victory over Blighty and common sense the other day, this time regarding contentious EU labelling legislation. You’ll remember the old Metric Martyrs story, years ago? The injustice that it was made illegal to buy a pound of bananas? I was pretty shocked at the story myself; shocked that the media expected me to buy bananas by the pound anyway. Does anybody? Don’t they buy them by the bunch, or by number? Isn’t the weight irrelevant to most people, be it in pounds or kilograms? Anyway, the whole story was a pile of crap regardless, since it was and is permissible to buy groceries by the pound, as long as the shopkeeper has a metric scale.

But having told us we should be buying items such as bananas by weight, the media has now changed its mind, at least with regards eggs. New EU regulation, apparently, will mean that items will have to be labelled with their weight. By a massive leap of anti-logic, some people have decided that if a box of eggs has to be labelled by weight, it can’t also be labelled to include the number of items in the packet. “It’s an end to buying eggs by the dozen”, apparently, despite the fact that eggs almost universally come in boxes of six. It takes a special kind of stupid to think that packaging will actually be prevented from mentioning the number of contents on the inside, and no mention whatsoever is made of this in the legislation. But we are talking here about our pathetically tribal, anti-EU British press here, so I guess anything goes. And it is my perhaps debatable allegation of tribalism here which means I can just about squeeze this brief observation into my post on the theme of “tribes”.

Tribalism, of course, is a feature of our party politics, so I’m on safer ground in this third part of my post; but elements of that tribalism still surprise me. I’ve felt close to the Liberal Democrats for many a year now, being something of a student activist and a member for a time. I veered away a bit during the useless Menzies Campbell’s era, and then smug Nick Clegg’s. I stopped understanding what they really stood for – I’m not sure they themselves know – but they still got my vote at the election. Following the formation of the coalition government I was surprised by some Labourite sniping at the Lib Dems, accusing them of betrayal and the like. As an outsider who saw the Labour party as my natural allies, such tribal anti-Lib Dem sentiments took me aback somewhat. It was a reminder of one of the things I so dislike about party politics.

And now? Well, while I still wouldn’t call the Lib Dems traitors, I am getting more distressed at the way their leadership seems to have so gleefully signed up to the Conservative’s agenda; for while I may like to think of myself a something of a pluralist politically, I still, pathetically, simply cannot abide the Tories. Now, I am sure that the Lib Dems will have exerted some sort of positive influence on the recent budget, but not enough for me to be happy. On such crucial issues such as how quickly the budget deficit should be reduced, how it should be reduced, and when to start, the Lib Dems were always more-or-less in step with Labour. Now they have performed a volte-face and say they are backing the Tory’s ideas, based on a post-election worsening of the UK economic position that hasn’t actually happened. When Obama wrote a letter to the G20 leaders saying we should be careful not to instigate cuts too soon, the coalition’s reply was that each government should act depending on its individual circumstances, apparently oblivious to the irony that they keep justifying the actions they are taking in Britain by referring us to what is happening in Greece. But at least the Conservatives can state that they went into the election saying they would start the cuts now, although my fear has always been that they haven’t so much dismissed the idea that cuts now can harm the recovery – a reasonable and arguable position – as failed to understand the economics of the theory in the first place. But the Lib Dems cannot claim such ignorance.

Now, I can see why Liberal Democrat MPs may be backing the Tory policies; they are in government, in the cabinet, and governed by collective responsibility. They may be supporting things they personally have misgivings about but feel they have to go along with, to toe the party line, in the same way the Labour leadership candidates are now fighting over each other to disown some of their former policies that they went along with at the time.

More surprising to me is the attitude of so many Lib Dem bloggers and commenters on sites such as Liberal Conspiracy, where they seem to have so seamlessly adopted some typical Tory rhetoric in an effort to defend the Lib Dems and their coalition policies, the sort of rhetoric they would surely have shunned just a few months previously. But I guess the question is did they actually shun such rhetoric previously? That is to say, perhaps I simply haven’t been paying attention, and that many Lib Dem bloggers have been saying these sorts of things for ages. In which case, perhaps I’ve been part of the wrong tribe, and voted for the wrong party, all along.

One of the coalition’s recent acts was to move to speed up a change in the age at which one can draw the state pension, an action that has been openly welcomed by some Lib Dem commentators. Perhaps that shows the gap between myself and some other Lib Dems; demographic changes may mean that a later retirement age could be considered necessary for the public finances, but how it can be actively welcomed is a mystery to me. In a few short years my expected retirement age of 65 has moved to a likely 70, and I doubt that will be the end of the matter. It’s demoralising, to say the least, to see the date at which you could retire move away from you faster than the years themselves are passing by.

Changing the state retirement age has been described by some as a wake up call for people to get their personal pensions in order. Well I thought I’d done that in signing up to my occupational pension scheme, but as public sector pensions are the next item in the firing line, I don’t know how that will fare. I assume that, at the very least, my contributions will have to rise again, just a couple of years after the last review meant an increase in my contributions. But I don’t mind that, as long as such changes are based on the financing and affordability of the pension scheme itself, and not just an attempt to make public sector workers pay more to redress the unfair way many private sector employers have chosen to abandon decent pension schemes for their workers.

(As an aside – and as a final, transparent attempt to crowbar this last section of the post into my tenuous overarching theme of “tribes” – it’s funny that when I left the private sector I assumed I was just changing jobs; I had no idea at the time that, as far as some are concerned, not least many denizens of blogs and newspaper comment sections, I was also changing tribes. Despite doing a very similar job, and working at least as hard and with the same abilities as I had before, little did I realise that to some private sector workers I was now a lazy, inefficient, incompetent and overpaid public sector worker, all pampered and bloated. Now, fortunately I am lazy, inefficient, incompetent and overpaid, slightly pampered and certainly bloated; but my many hard-working colleagues must be furious at such an unjust guilt-by-association, especially since I had never been the target of such daft generalisations when in the private sector because such contempt does not appear to be reciprocal. Nowhere I think seems to show this tribalism better than the matter of pensions, where too often the financial affordability of public sector pensions plays second fiddle to the argument that it’s not fair that some people have better pensions than others. Perhaps I had been naive in my private sector days, but my move to the public sector revealed to me that tribalism can appear in the most unlikely of places, and when you least expect it.)

But how else should I personally react to this supposed financial wake up call? Voluntarily increase my pension contributions still further? For a while I had been considering taking out some AVCs to supplement my pension, and I guess that is what some would still advise, but now I’m beginning to think: for what? To add to a pension that, with each revised retirement age, I am increasingly unlikely to ever see a payout from? I used to see things through the eyes of my parent’s generation, fed on Saga adverts of suntanned old folk enjoying their long, slow, golden retirement. Now it seem far more reasonable to assume that retirement will never happen and we will have to adjust to that reality and live for the day. Rather than work harder to pay more into a pension I will never see, perhaps I should just take it easy and take life as it comes: with an expectation that I will have to work till I drop, I’m not going to slog my guts out now for no reward later.

If the change in the state pension age was intended to make us all plan more for the future, then I think it will have failed to have had the desired effect on me. When combined with the events of last year – my father, after all, passed away aged just 68 – my response is more a “fuck it…this is my life now, and I think I’ll live for the moment, thanks very much.”



Run Letter

By now you’ll know that twenty esteemed economists wrote a letter to the Sunday Times yesterday, calling on the government to start the tricky business of cutting the budget deficit earlier than some have advocated. You may be wondering why they didn’t instead write to the Chancellor-of-the-exchequer, since News International’s power over the government’s budget is minimal? Well, today The Obscurer can exclusively reveal that the eminent score indeed did contact HM Treasury direct, emailing the contents of their letter on Saturday evening. Furthermore, and inexplicably, The Obscurer was copied into the Treasury’s reply! So here, exclusively, is the government’s considered response to that Sunday Times bombshell.

to: #Group:Emminent_Economists
cc: The Obscurer

re: UK economy cries out for credible rescue plan

Dear All,

Thank you for your latest letter concerning how to deal with the UK budget deficit. As many of you will know this is indeed a priority for the Treasury at the moment, and we are taking a large number of soundings and looking at all the options available to us regarding exactly how and when we should deal with the current situation, and we do indeed value your input. Thank you for spending the time on coming up with your own considered solutions.

Sadly, you appear to have omitted the attachment in which you detail how exactly you would go about cutting the structural deficit in the timeline you propose, and all we have received is the covering preamble which, while of interest, merely makes some bland and somewhat meaningless pronouncements. Still, they do whet the appetite for the meaty specifics to follow and we eagerly anticipate seeing your full proposals, so please forward them with some haste.

In particular, we note that you say that

  • “In the absence of a credible plan, there is a risk that a loss of confidence in the UK’s economic policy framework will contribute to higher long-term interest rates and/or currency instability, which could undermine the recovery.” We agree, but admit that we are having some difficulty in drawing together our various strands of thought into one credible plan. As such we are excited to learn that you must have completed your own plan on how to deal with this matter. We look forward to receiving it so we can see how it moves us forward.
  • “The exact timing of measures should be sensitive to developments in the economy … and there is a compelling case, all else being equal, for the first measures beginning to take effect in the 2010-11 fiscal year.” We are, however, (and also ceterus parabus!), struggling to pin down that exact time, as we are uncertain when the economy will have recovered sufficiently. You appear to have less uncertainly than ourselves and so we would welcome you own precise proposals regarding timing (something that, being a small detail, we are surprised you omitted from the email we received, but which we look forward to seeing once we have your complete correspondence in front of us).
  • “The bulk of this fiscal consolidation should be borne by reductions in government spending, but that process should be mindful of its impact on society’s more vulnerable groups.” Aye, there’s the rub. The problem here is that while it is a commonly held view that the public sector is stuffed full of non-workers fulfilling non-jobs, according to a recent report by Reform – a think-tank you would expect to be sympathetic to that view of the public sector – any cuts to the government’s workforce would soon “hit bone” and affect frontline services. Cuts will have to be made and we are working on them right now, but we have found that it is far easier to propose cuts in government spending than it is to define where these cuts will be made; therefore it is gratifying that you have done the heavy lifting here and we look forward to your own specific plans on which departments to close and who should be made redundant.

Everyone here at HM Treasury is tremendously excited that you must have already managed to produce just the credible plan that you require of us, and which is currently eluding us; we are only disappointed by the regrettable delay that has been caused in your oversight in not including this plan in your email. However, we are sure that this can be speedily remedied, and together we can crack on with the vital work of restoring the nation’s finances to balance.

Yours faithfully etc.

That was two days ago, and sadly I have not been copied into the economists’ reply. I can only assume that someone noticed the error, and when forwarding their detailed plan for economic recovery they also ensured that I was removed from the cc. field. Well, I assume that is the case, and I assume that these foremost economists have produced and forwarded on their own detailed plan. Haven’t they? That can’t be it, surely? I can’t imagine that such an illustrious band of experts-in-their-field would make such a wishy-washy list of statements and requests from others without something of their own to back it up, would they? Why, because if they would then that would make their letter to the Sunday Times appear to be just an empty gesture, a substance-free waste of time? It would suggest that writing the letter was a mere vanity-stunt and a exercise in self-importance, with about as much value as some bloke on Grumpy Old Men – Richard Madeley, say – sounding off about something he doesn’t really understand and which he has no solution for?

No. That can’t be it at all.

The Bankers’ Arms

Yesterday’s Newsnight was predictably devoted to the Pre-Budget Report – or Autumn Statement, as I sometimes inaccurately refer to it – wherein Paul Mason reported that he had spoken to some bankers in the City of London and they were livid about the announced plan to tax any discretionary bonus of theirs worth over £25,000 to the tune of 50%; some, apparently, were even considering legal action. Could you be bothered? I’d have thought that their time would be better spent picking over the cornucopia of avoidance measures that will be springing up and agonising over which one to plump for. I’m similarly puzzled at the angry claim that this will hurt our competitiveness and drive bankers abroad; not by the claim, just by the anger. Why get yourself worked up, huffing and puffing about the injustices of the world, if you can simply hop on a flight to a more friendly environ?

The thing is that, unless you are a bingo-playing pensioner who receives child benefit, there is something for everyone to grouse about from the PBR, and the bankers shouldn’t think themselves anything special. As a public sector worker I’m hardly overjoyed about the forthcoming 1% cap on pay, or the reduction in employer’s pensions contributions; but you know what? Despite the fact that my area of government can hardly be blamed for the more-than-doubling of the national debt that we are going to see, we are where we are and we all need to do our bit to get that debt down, eventually. Others have suffered far worse in this recession. “We’re all in this together,” as someone once said.

The banking sector, I would humbly suggest, bears a somewhat larger responsibility for that ballooning national debt, whether you agree that it was the cause of the crisis, or merely the meek recipient of astonishing sums of public money to prop up its ailing industry, or a bit of both. They have more of an obligation to do their bit, you could argue? And yet what are those City bankers supposed to be moaning about? Will their pay rises be capped at 1%? I doubt it. Have their pension plans just been thrown into doubt? Shouldn’t have. No, they’re apparently complaining that if their bonus – and it is just a bonus, mind, not their salary; and not even their contractual bonus, but rather any discretionary bonus they may receive on top – is greater than the median annual wage in the UK, then their employers will have to stump up a bit more tax. Well my heart bleeds.

Now, I’ve a pretty easy-come-easy-go attitude towards bonuses myself; perhaps it’s because I’ve never come to expect one, the most I ever received amounted to a little more than a couple of a hundred quid, and even then I never felt I especially deserved it. I guess I could see things differently if I relied on my bonus to enable be to buy a Maserati outright, with a discount for cash. But as it is I actually feel somewhat ambivalent on the whole subject of City bonuses. Others, however, are more forthright, and make what do seem to me to be valid criticisms; Chris states that City bonuses are a form of legal extortion, while Duncan claims that in fact the performance of RBS bankers, for example, has in fact been far from stellar. Me, I guess that if bonuses are a problem – and being manifestly unfair may not the same thing as being a problem – then regulation is a better way to deal with them than to impose a quirky, one-off novelty tax to coincide with an impending General Election, and which can probably be easily flirted in any case. In the meantime, though, my searing analysis of the situation is that if that “talent” in the City really is up in arms about something as ephemeral as their bonuses being taxed while others have lost jobs, had their hours reduced or received pay cuts, then those brightest-of-the-bright must be a bunch of utter twonks.

Not In My Name

In these tough economic times, of plummeting GDP and ballooning public debt, it is only right that all organisations, in both the public and private sector, look to cut costs wherever possible. Actually identifying such elusive efficiency savings is a notoriously tricky business; but if there is one place that can easily trim some unnecessary fat it must surely be the TaxPayers’ Alliance. For whenever a request is made for someone to spout some nonsense to a journalist from a moron-sheet, the TPA always seems able to find some spare part at a loose end just hanging around, killing time, busy doing nothing; or at least nothing so productive that they can’t drop everything and break off to chuck out a paragraph or two of blather for free.

A case in point is this article from yesterday’s Sunday Express entitled “Brown’s £1,200 Tax Bombshell”, which warns that “families face a £1,200-a-year tax bombshell after the next election if Labour win to meet Gordon Brown’s pledge to maintain lavish public spending levels”. The story is based upon figures calculated by the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies. One response, from Matthew Elliott of the (somewhat less respected) TaxPayers’ Alliance, reads

The Government must accept the urgent need for spending cuts.

People are heavily overtaxed already, and there is no way that anyone could afford tax rises equivalent to a whole new council tax every year. It is absolutely clear that massive savings could be made by ditching misguided policies, trimming bloated quangos and bringing the efficiency of the public sector up to the standard of the private sector.

The Government’s spending binge is totally unsustainable and must be killed off. The country cannot afford tax rises on this scale.

I’m certainly not going to argue with the idea that we should try to improve the efficiency of the public sector, and to trim any quango that is indeed bloated. But is it really true that “there is no way that anyone could afford tax rises equivalent to a whole new council tax every year”? What, not anyone? Not John Terry? Not Fred Goodwin? Not even Gordon Brown? Even closer to home, I’m far from flush but I reckon I could find an extra £100 a month if I absolutely had to. Of course, whether I should have to, or whether it is a good idea that I do, is another matter entirely. It is also something that the TaxPayers’ Alliance itself makes no real effort to answer, having decided long ago that any tax rise, ever, is just wrong.

But the problem with discounting fiscal measures on the basis that anyone could struggle to afford the consequences is that it leaves us pretty hamstrung when looking for ways to pay down our national debt. The TaxPayers’ Alliance thinks we should make public spending cuts; but what kind of cuts? If no one can afford a tax rise, can anyone in the public sector afford a pay cut, or even a pay freeze? Is there anyone in the public sector who can afford to be made redundant, even if they are only a Diversity, 5-a-day and LGBT Outreach Executive employed by OfTosh? If we are unable to countenance any action on the basis that it could make anyone worse off then it really does cut down the number of things that we can do.

Now, you may feel that all I am doing here is unfairly picking up on the clumsy use of the word “anyone” in the TPA’s statement. And perhaps I am. But the TaxPayers’ Alliance is not made up of stupid people, despite often giving that impression. For one thing, they gleefully reprinted the Express article in full on their website without correction or clarification. For another, when a recent report of theirs criticised the amounts of money that Local Authorities pay into their employees’ pension schemes on the grounds that the overall figure is equivalent to 21% of Council Tax receipts, they didn’t do so out if ignorance, unaware that Council Tax forms but a part of any council’s income; no, they did so in order to knowingly twist the facts, to make it seem as if councils are spending a fifth of their revenue on staff pensions, when they in fact pay in a far more modest sum. So, I can well believe that Matthew Elliott’s use of the word “anyone”, rather than being a slip of the tongue of an idiot, was a deliberate act to give his statement a more dramatic impact, and in preference to saying something more accurate, coherent, truthful; such as, for example, saying that he “feels” that it “appears” to him that “many” or at least “some” people “may” be unable to afford such a tax rise (you know, the sort of woolly back-covering that I often pepper my posts with). In deciding to go with the more striking – but bollocks – use of “anyone”, the TaxPayers’ Alliance has again shown itself up to be a lobby group of ideological zealots trying to make a political point, rather than a genuine pressure group working to look out for the taxpayer and to ensure we enjoy efficient public services.

Which brings us back to the start of this post, and the efficiency savings that all parts of the economy must look to make. Yes, let’s trim those bloated quangos, let’s; but while we’re at it, why not include wasteful think tanks in on the cull? Because speaking as a taxpayer myself, I don’t think that we’re getting value for money from the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Sure, it isn’t publicly funded, and one could reasonably argue that it is solely a matter for its paymasters to decide whether or not it is fulfilling its remit in a cost-effective manner. But the TPA does at least claim to speak for me, and while I may not directly contribute to its upkeep its funding still has to come from somewhere, and each pound that is blown on a staff member who could easily be replaced by a random quote generator represents an opportunity cost; a pound that could be more effectively invested somewhere – anywhere – else. And I don’t see how anyone genuinely interested in economic efficiency could possibly fail to agree.

Nitty Gritty

The more it
The more it
The more it

“Tiddely what?” you may well ask, and were you to do so you then would be joining a long and illustrious list consisting of Piglet, Dorothy Parker and myself among others. But this week’s snow has drawn a predictable response from our brainless media whining and opining about how unfair it is that the world isn’t perfect, or at least our rain sodden scrap of it. The Daily Mail, for example, reported that the authorities inability to prepare for the snowfall had cost the UK economy £1.2 billion on Monday, and their article contained some interviews with angry business leaders bemoaning the situation.

I don’t know how accurate these figures are – we are talking about the Daily Mail here after all – but I’m interested in that paper’s take on the issue, for in an editorial at the weekend (that I can’t appear to find online) the Mail discussed the current economic pressures on the private sector, and in doing so it fell into the common practice of pointedly referring to the private sector as the “productive, wealth-creating” part of the economy as if they are in some way synonymous, and presumably as opposed to the public sector which neither creates wealth nor is productive but which instead imposes only costs and creates a burden.

It’s a popular enough use of language but one that has long puzzled me; for in the planned economy of the Soviet Union didn’t those state-controlled industries produce things – albeit mainly tractors – and create wealth, even if they did so relatively inefficiently and in a manner I don’t wish to replicate? And if we take just one means of creating wealth – the manufacture of steel – and consider the method of taking worthless iron ore stuck in the ground and, by a process of digging, smelting, galvanising and whatever-else-it-is-you-do-to-it ending up with valuable steel, then this was a process that in the UK was at one time done by British Steel, a part of the public sector. Is it plausible to argue that UK steel manufacturing only became part of the wealth creating part of the economy once it was privatised? But fair enough; British Steel was privatised, the work of its successor, Corus, is now the preserve of the private sector, and so if we are talking about the British economy now and handing out prizes then the private sector should get the credit for that particular method of creating wealth.

But let’s return to the snow and the economic consequences of inadequately preparing for it, something that the Mail claims cost the economy £1.2 billion in a day. This is perhaps a further damning indictment on the failing public sector and the costs it imposes on business. But hold on; if failing to grit the roads can be said to have cost the economy £1.2 billion, couldn’t it also be said that when successfully gritting the roads – something that happens most of the time – the local authorities and the Highways Agency actually contribute £1.2 billion to the economy? After all, unless you consider salted and snow-free roads to be the natural order of things with which only the clumsy interventions of the state can interfere with, then whenever the snow falls and the gritters and snow-ploughs successfully swing into action the public sector is actively participating in the creation of that wealth.

And what of those roads in the first place, that are built and maintained by the public sector, whatever the weather; don’t they help to create wealth? And what about universal access to education, and health care, and the rule of law? Surely the public provision of these goods is not merely a burden but a contribution to the economy as a whole, and to the wealth creation that both the private and public sectors participate in? And while it could be argued that the private sector could make a better fist of providing these services, such work is currently the preserve of the public sector, and so if we are talking about the British economy now and handing out prizes then the public sector should get the credit for these particular methods of creating wealth.

To refer to the private sector as the wealth-creating sector is misleading at best, and there is much more to be said about the very simplistic way the term “wealth creation” is misused and bandied about; but that can wait for another day. Come on now, this is only my third post in the past two-and-a-half months, and this will do for the time being.