One of my already broken new year’s resolutions was to stop worrying about the economy. This is on the grounds that I’m occupied pretty full-time worrying about things in my own life that I can at least hope to change, without putting in extra hours fretting about things that are beyond my control.
It’s quite hard not to worry about UKPlc’s GDP, though, especially if you’re woken every morning by the massed doom-mongers of the Today programme (I loved Chris Addison’s description of Today this weekend as: “Grumpy Old Men without jokes. If Today had a face it would look like Walter Matthau sucking a lemon”, and so it would)
So, when I am overwhelmed by the looming disasters and scary predictions about interest rates being peddled by Humphrys et al, I will try to remember this:
The future performance of the economy, the passage from good times to recession or depression and back, cannot be foretold. There are more than ample predictions but no firm knowledge. All contend with a diverse combination of uncertain government action, unknown corporate and individual behaviour and, in the larger world, with peace or war. Also with unforeseen technological and other innovations and consumer and investment responses. There is the variable effect of exports, imports, capital movements and corporate, public and government reaction thereto. Thus the all too evident fact: the combined result of the unknown cannot be known.
That’s JK Galbraith , who knew what he was talking about, on economists. He seems to agree with my friend Philomene – although in rather more thoughtful language. “Economics a science?” she once screeched at me in disbelief. “Witchcraft is more scientific!”