I wish I understood economics. When I was a schoolboy I wanted to do A level economic history but my school couldn’t make the timetable fit for anyone doing English, History and Economic History so I did music instead.
An apparently wise man, an economist, told me once that no one really understands the economy as it is in the end all about luck or bad luck. Well he seemed wise to me who knew nothing.
During the British General election campaign, that now seems such a long time ago, I listened to the debates believing, in my naivety, that after the worst economic crisis in living memory, the nation, wisened by its often-vaunted long democratic traditions, would look at the economic policies of the rival political parties and attempt to elect the most economically convincing manifesto.
Again, I repeat, I do not really understand economics but I had been impressed by Gordon Brown, the incumbent Prime Minister’s handling of the financial crisis and I, apparently in a minority, thought that his argument that the nation should not start major financial cuts until the economy began to grow again with Government led money supply help from the Bank of England – a policy that was showing signs of working. Mr Brown had been an impressive figure at world economic summits and his ideas were very much in line with the then new President of the United States, Barrack Obama.
The Conservative Party, led by David Cameron with George Osborne as his Chancellor of the Exchequer-in-waiting, disagreed and for once in British politics, the electorate was given a clear choice between opposites. Either take the gradual approach to economic recovery or start immediately with major financial cuts. The Conservatives, propped up by the Liberals, scraped into office and those cuts began.
Meanwhile, in America, President Obama, often much maligned, persisted with the policy advocated by Gordon Brown.
Last week, Britain announced its shockingly bad trade figures with the first signs that the economy was shrinking. Figures were not entirely convincingly explained away when mr Osborne blamed a heavy fall of snow. I wondered if Gordon Brown might be proven right after all. He warned that the Conservative’s reckless and unproven policy of rapid and draconian cuts would run the risk of a double-dip recession – a return to the bad old days of 2009 before we gave the nation a chance of recovery.
Also last week, the United States issued its financial figures and showed a healthy growth in its economy with increased exports and recovery in domestic consumption. It couldn’t be, could it, that Britain put its money on the wrong horse at the last election?
I so wish I had taken that economics A level but I would be even happier if I thought that our government ministers knew what they were doing.