Having by these devices cleared the ground for the final assault, Horn writes: "The policy recommendations that flow from the Skidelskys are as old as they are proven recipes for disaster: ever more government influence, massive income redistribution, a basic wage, progressive consumer taxes, a slower integration of the world." Two comments can be made. The first is that most of our recommendations have not in fact been tried. A progressive consumption tax has been recommended by distinguished economists from John Stuart Mill onwards, but has never been implemented. Nor has any government except in Alaska instituted an unconditional citizens' income (imprecisely dubbed here a "basic wage"). A "slower integration of the world" is by definition not something that can already have failed. We are left with income redistribution. In the 1950s and 1960s redistributive taxation went further in the Western world than it does today, but far from being disastrous, it coincided with faster economic growth than we have experienced since it was curtailed in order to "incentivise" private enterprise.
In short, our argument is not that government has to take over. Our proposals are designed to make it easier for people to work less and reduce the pressure to consume. The change in attitudes to growth which these policies will reflect has to come from individual choices. Our book tries to persuade people that there is such a thing as a good life and that it can be known. If people are so persuaded, they will start to change the way they live their own lives and vote for policies which will modify the system within which their individual choices are made.
The Skidelskys certainly have the best of intentions as they call on us to "chain up the monster" of capitalism and to suppress the "deathly orthodoxy" of economics. They promote their vision of the "good life". But that alone doesn't make their concepts innocuous. It is one thing arguing for liberty and openness, voluntary interaction and spontaneous order; another entirely when one preaches limitation and encourages coercion, as the Skidelskys do; one thing when an idea is built on a humble recognition of human ignorance, another when based on a paternalistic pretence of knowledge; one thing to respect individuality, another to produce one model for all.
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