Monday, April 2, 2012

Advice from politicians : regulate or ignore?

The Cameron and Maude show's advice to fill up tanks/cans with fuel may or may not have been good, but should they have been giving advice at all and should we listen?

As a pension trustee of the Sun Microsystems Pension scheme (nearly wound up now) I could not give advice as I noted here. There are good reasons for this and I feel many of the reasons also extend to politicians, certainly in the public context. Useful advice is nearly always situation and individual dependent, unless it is common sense and there is good reason why a politician, who may or may not have more common sense than the average voter, will suffer from politics and the media conspiring to corrupt the message.

We get the politicians we deserve, the recent fuel fun suggests they are badly placed to offer advice. What they may be well placed to do is to provide information, though will party political objectives and fear of the media corrupting the intent and detail then determine the information they choose to make available and we the public are then making decisions on very partial information.

There is a good case for M.P.'s and A.M.'s to give advice in a 1 to 1 surgery settings. I hear good thing from people who have visited Mark or Elin and the advice they got from both of them. I expect the same may go for local councilors, but my experience suggests the gene pool is somewhat more diverse.

Like the spawn of satan, the Independent Financial Adviser, it is very hard for us to know the quality of advice until it is tested by the passing years and a performance review, but then it is too late. Years of layering additional regulation (a natural selection) have rendered the IFA industry and its gene pool near useless when it comes macro planning of an investment portfolio, but is geared up to advise you on which fund to buy with 5k you have spare. There are exceptions, but it is an industry that needs top to bottom reform.

A subset of the population seems to want politicians to replace a God figure in terms of showing them the way to lead particular aspects  their lives. They really are looking in the wrong place for life guidance if they think Carmeron, Milband, Osborune, Clegg and Balls can guide them through any aspect of their life. Most people would agree, but then why queue at the pumps when you don't need fuel? Politicians should be decision makers, not life coaches.

So making politicians libel for the consequences of advice they give would be a good thing, no matter if the are a P.M. a minister, opposition or in government. Better would be self regulation, meaning ignore what they say, and we have only ourselves to blame if we take advice from a politician in a general context.

Disclosure 1 : I did queue at the pumps last week, but only because there was a queue. The tank of the car was near empty, so will claim my behavior did not change.

Disclosure 2 : I do keep 5 gallons of diesel in the shed. I live a good 80 miles from the nearest 24 hour fuel station and for work or family illness may need to travel at short notice outside opening hours. I have done this for the well over the last 10 years incase the car fuel tank was empty and I had an urgent need to travel. More allowing for my behavior and situation than anything else.

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