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Last week’s Treasury report from Sir Charlie Bean on the methods by which national economic statistics are collected confirms that there has been relatively little change since the ONS began measuring GDP 75 years ago in wartime Britain. Yet our data needs - and our ability to collect them through digital sources - has changed considerably.
The reputation of economics and economists, never high, has been a victim of the crash of 2008. The Queen was hardly alone in asking why no one had predicted it. An even more serious criticism is that the economic policy debate that followed seems only to replay the similar debate after 1929. The issue is budgetary austerity versus fiscal stimulus, and the positions of the protagonists are entirely predictable from their previous political allegiances.
The SNP’s victory in the 5th May elections, which delivered an overall majority of 69 out of the 129 seats, means that the party can now fulfil its commitment to push for a referendum on independence. But independence, if achieved, would bring complications—both political and economic.
Government spin is especially debilitating because government is a monopoly supplier of much of the information that an informed democracy requires.
The most effective control is other parties’ diligence in assessing the businesses with which they deal.