Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Two dubious truths, and one whopper

The Sunday Times treated us to an essay by David Cameron this week.  There’s much in it with which I’d disagree (so what’s new?), and I won’t attempt to go through the detail.  There was one passage though which particularly struck me as a classic example of the way in which a politician can select ‘truths’ which suit him, and by an apparently logical process arrive at a wholly unsubstantiated conclusion.
Talking of Ed Miliband’s wish to follow the example of the French president on economic policy, Cameron said, “Unemployment over the Channel is almost twice what it is in the UK.  Our economy is growing seven times faster than France’s.  Imagine if Miliband had been free to pursue his French dream: the fallout would be felt in catastrophic job losses, falling living standards, eye-watering debt, and fast-diminishing hope in our future”.
Now the first two statements of that passage are ‘true’, up to a point.  They depend on a snapshot comparison at a point in time, of course.  And whether that comparison is valid depends on a range of factors.  What we can say, with rather more certainty and validity, is that, over the long term, the growth trajectory of both economies bares a remarkable similarity.  However, I’m prepared to accept that, in the very limited short term context of a snap shot view at a point in time, both statements are true.
Whilst the third sentence appears to follow on from the other two, it simply doesn’t by any process of logic or rational argument.  It’s like an answer to a maths problem in an exam; without showing the workings, it’s impossible to see where exactly he went wrong.  There are though at least three unstated and almost certainly invalid assumptions being made, namely:
·         that the differences between France and the UK are the result of government policies,
·         that Miliband’s economic policies are more similar to those of the French president than to those of Cameron himself (especially bearing in mind Balls’ statement that there is nothing in the budget that he would change), and
·         that the consequences listed would have been replicated in the different circumstances of the UK had the same policies been followed.
Still, who needs truth or logic?

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