Most people working in a large organisation will have seen the game of ‘Credit-stealing / Blame avoidance’ being played. When things go well, everyone wants the credit – but when they go wrong, someone else is always to blame.
There’s also a power element to the game – the higher up the tree you get, the more people there are below you from whom you can steal credit or on whom you can dump blame. It’s not unrelated to the habit of organisations which sack the workers when things go badly, and reward the managers when things go well. Or in some cases reward the managers when things go badly, even before they sack the workers. (This story about a boat race between a Californian team and a Japanese team expresses the attitude at its worst.)
Governments are not above a little bit of theft/ avoidance either. I don’t doubt that if yesterday’s figures for the past quarter’s growth had been somewhat better, it would all have been the result of the magnificent economic management of the UK Government, and would have proved that we were on track. But they weren’t, so it’s all the fault of those royals deciding to get married at a time of the year when there are two many bank holidays already.
And if there hadn’t been a royal wedding, then no doubt it would have been down to some other special factor, or, as a last resort, the overall world economic situation. No matter what the outcome, there was never any danger that government policies would have been responsible for poor performance, nor that poor performance could in any way suggest that the government was on the wrong track.
Given the way that globalisation and multinational capital have led us into an increasingly intermeshed economy, I’m not sure how much difference government policy – even at UK level – really has on the fundamentals of economic growth and overall performance. It certainly has an effect on who pays the price of failure, and alternative approaches could have shared that cost out much more fairly. But I really do doubt whether a marginally different approach to spending and taxation (which is where the political debate has centred) could ever have had a significant effect on the GVA figures.
Most of the decisions which affect the economic fundamentals are not only outside the government’s control, they are outside any democratic control at all. They have been outsourced to the markets and the money men; the speculators and the gamblers. Unless and until we assert control over capital, it will continue to control us – and government claims or denials about economic performance will continue to be mere froth.