Monday , June 14 2021
Home / Tim Worstall /The old idiocies do keep coming back, don’t they?

The old idiocies do keep coming back, don’t they?

Summary:
Bad economic ideas do seem to repeat just like that dodgy kebab persuaded into late one night.Still, for all the sabre-rattling, some good can come from the dispute if it serves as a firm wake-up call for our over-reliance on foreign partners. The solution to this skirmish isn’t to simply reroute giant subsea power cable projects away from France towards the Netherlands or another country deemed to be a more reliable ally. That misses the point and simply shifts the problem elsewhere. The answer should be a comprehensive rethink of the energy system so that we can become self-sufficient.But don’t let it stop there. Post-Brexit, post-Covid Britain has a massive opportunity to reinvent itself. The pandemic has exposed the downsides of globalisation and the danger of being overly reliant on

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Bad economic ideas do seem to repeat just like that dodgy kebab persuaded into late one night.

Still, for all the sabre-rattling, some good can come from the dispute if it serves as a firm wake-up call for our over-reliance on foreign partners.

The solution to this skirmish isn’t to simply reroute giant subsea power cable projects away from France towards the Netherlands or another country deemed to be a more reliable ally. That misses the point and simply shifts the problem elsewhere. The answer should be a comprehensive rethink of the energy system so that we can become self-sufficient.

But don’t let it stop there. Post-Brexit, post-Covid Britain has a massive opportunity to reinvent itself. The pandemic has exposed the downsides of globalisation and the danger of being overly reliant on the impulses of suppliers thousands of miles away.

Self-sufficiency is also known as making ourselves grossly poorer. The entire point of trade is to gain access to those things that Johnny Foreigner does better, cheaper, faster, than we do. To become self-sufficient is to miss out on better, cheaper, faster.

Think, just for a moment, about those vaccines that we’ve just done so well at. We in Britain did the bit that we’re good at. Design and testing, financing, the high value parts of the process. We’ve even done some of the manufacturing. And yet the supply chain can be seen here, or here. One vital ingredient is, apparently, Chilean tree bark. Whether that’s bark from a tree from Chile or bark from a tree called Chilean we don’t know but we’re pretty sure we’re not about to plant a forest of them in Britain.

That is, even if we did say that we were going to have our own, local for locals, vaccine supply chain we still aren’t going to have one. Because at some point down the line, at some iteration of suppliers to suppliers, the supply chain for any product at all is the entire global economy.

Another way to make much the same point we can think of two countries that are, largely enough, self-sufficient in the sense that they import very little. The result being a distinct lack of sufficiency of anything at all in both DR Congo and North Korea.

No, there is no clever way of identifying what government should insist we are self-sufficient in and what we might allow to be traded. That calculation is already being done by all the millions upon millions of people engaging in making economic decisions - some few hundred in Westminster don’t have the knowledge to second guess all of that. The chutzpah to think they do but not the competence.

Seriously, we’ve spent tens of millennia expanding the geographic coverage of our trading networks. For good reason, the larger the network the richer we are. There is no good reason to slam that process into reverse whatever current political fashion may be.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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