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Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Quote of the Day

"One reason (although certainly not the only one) why Conservatives cannot ignore [civic and cultural issues], even if we wanted to stick to our tried and trusted economic arguments, is that these cultural changes have an economic impact. One thing we know about family breakdown, for example, is that it costs a lot of money and taxpayers end up having to help single parents with the costs of raising their children. Vandalism and crime impose high costs, particularly in our inner cities, and drive businesses elsewhere. Even such narrow economic arguments show the significance of these social changes.

A few years ago it was fashionable for Conservatives to say that they were 'dry in economic policy but wet on social issues'. It became such a cliche that one was almost desperate to find a brave soul who would claim to be wet in economics but dry in social policy - perhaps a believer in prices and incomes policies enforced by corporal punishment. But what we are now discovering is that a tough approach to fiscal policy rests on crucial assumptions about self-control, prudence, indeed behaviour generally. These are the issues which economics solves by assumptions about economic agents but which politicians cannot assume away. Ultimately, fiscal Conservatism depends on the character of the people." - David Willetts

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