Saturday, January 5, 2013

Albert Hirschman, Ceredigion Politics and Surrey

The Schumpeter column in The Economist has a very relevant article about Albert Hirshman. Not being an economist myself, I had not heard of the now late Mr. Hirshman before, but reading the article coincided with what I call a Surrey Day.

When Clive has a Surrey Day, he wonders why the **** do I live in Ceredigion, suffer the long and unreliable journeys to get anywhere, sleeping in a car so I can both make a 9am meeting in London and read to the kids when they go to bed the night before. Broadband coverage that is worse than most of the less developed developing world countries, police who are institutionally lazy and arrogant [moving to Surrey would not fix that, I accept], roads which are not gritted and the majority of local politicians who regard anyone who tries to get something fixed or questions a policy as a dangerous irritant who should shut up. All [ yes, I do mean all ] then people I went to school with who went on to University, not one has come back to Aberystwyth and area to live as far as I am aware. Time to stop being the odd one out and making live hard for yourself. Sell up, move to Camberly, live on a nice estate, wash your car on a Saturday morning, play golf and join The Masons.

I do quite quickly remember that I would be miserable as sin living in Surrey. Ceredigion is my home and a place I really care about. I have lots of friends, I like the coast and hills, Myra's job is here, kids go to a good school and its a great place for them to grow up. I can serve the area by being someone who points out issues and possible solutions, if politicians listen and enguage or explain what part of the picture I have missed, they desirve respect. Those [Treferiug Community Council are masters at it] who dismiss and degrade so you go away and don't interfere their their self importance.

and here is where Albert Hirshman comes in.

Mr Hirschman’s most famous book, “Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organisations and States”, remains as suggestive today as it was when it first appeared in 1970, for managers and policymakers as well as intellectuals. Mr Hirschman argued that people have two different ways of responding to disappointment. They can vote with their feet (exit) or stay put and complain (voice).

Voting with you feet in a political sense may mean disengaging from the political process, not voting, not raising issues with an community council, Local Councilor,  M.P. or A.M., and not being persistent in following up when the desired outcome does not occur 1st time. Its a failure of politics, not the individual.

The Economist claims to engage in a “severe contest” with “an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress”. Mr Hirschman was an eloquent ally. In “The Rhetoric of Reaction” he wrote that purveyors of “timid ignorance” rely on three types of argument: jeopardy (reforms will cost a lot and endanger previous gains); perversity (reforms will harm the people they are intended to help); and futility (problems are so huge that nothing can be done about them). That certainly describes the current debates about global warming, illegal drugs and countless other topics. With luck, Mr Hirschman’s exit will not silence his voice.
In memory of Albert Hirschman I vow to continue to be a constructivly critical pain in the arse where appropriate.

There are many elements in the overall antidote to the disease of timid ignorance(sometimes not so timid) by our politicians and one small, but significant part of the larger picture to improve in this area are blogs like this from the Ceredigion Counciler Alun Williams.

No comments:

Post a Comment