Author: <span class="vcard">Mark Hornshaw</span>

The myth of political merit

There is much current debate around gender quotas in politics. The popular case against quotas says that politicians should be chosen according to ‘merit’. Outside of politics this makes sense – you want the best doctors operating on you and the best lifeguards patrolling your beach etc, regardless of other superficial characteristics. But when it comes to politics, these commentators are calling for something other than the best politicians. ‘Merit’ in politics means playing the political game most effectively, as measured by whether you win. The ballot box victors are by definition the most talented individuals that society has to offer, in that particular pursuit.

In the fairly-tale version of politics, people like to imagine politicians doing things other than politics: ‘running the country’, ‘managing the economy’, ‘representing the people’ and other such inanities. Less euphemistically, we could say interfering in people’s lives, meddling in the economy and shilling for … Read the rest

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Why Stan Grant is wrong about Hayek and the ball tampering saga

Recently Stan Grant wrote to tell us that F.A. Hayek — of all people — not only founded the global order we have today, but gave us a set of ideas that lead directly to ball tampering in cricket! It was another one of those cliched “other people consider mere economics but ‘I’ consider higher ideals” articles. The bogeyman of “Neoliberalism” strikes again, we are told.

The message of Grant’s article is that economics is pretty much the science of greed. He complains of the “reduction of all human motivation to the one-dimensional rational self-interest of Homo-economicus”. The concept of homo-economicus was constructed by the early classical economists because homo-real-life didn’t fit their mathematical models. But anybody familiar with economic history would know that Hayek was from the Austrian school, which robustly rejected this approach.

The Austrian method starts with humans as they actually are – purposeful, choosing, acting beings, … Read the rest

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The Greatest Showman: celebration of capitalism, or moral failure?

When I heard that The Greatest Showman had received negative reviews in the media, I knew I had to see it and take the whole family! As expected, it was a spectacular movie in every way. The songs, the acting performances, the dialogue, the choreography and the cinematography were all first class, and it was just downright entertaining and fun. I have not found any reviews with anything bad to say about the production quality and nobody denying that it was a rip-roaring piece of entertainment. But what I loved about it on a thematic level, which is what sticks in the craw of the left wing commentators and critics, was that it was a celebration of capitalism.

Hugh Jackman portrays a nineteenth-century P.T. Barnum who is motivated by the lure of making money, and also by a desire to be respected by the upper class, so he can stick … Read the rest

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