Watermelon Square

Free the market and end the guff about the ‘wellbeing economy’

Scots are rejecting the SNP-Green coalition’s ‘wellbeing economy’ as quickly as disavowing the ‘net zero’ policies. But the Scottish Government refuses to listen. It’s time for Scots to rediscover our free market, entrepreneurial heritage and dispense with this eco-socialism.

MÀIRI McALLAN is taking to her new role as ‘Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Net Zero and Energy’ about as well as a fish trying to ride a bicycle. In neither case is it going to end well and there’s almost certainly going to be a mess involved.

The SNP-Green Government’s insistence on this ‘wellbeing economy’ routine is as baffling as it is revealing.

‘Wellbeing’ is one of those nouns that public relations and marketing types adore. ‘The state of doing well’, synonyms including ‘welfare’ and ‘happiness’; what better way to sell an economic gibberish “bold new agenda” than to slap the ‘wellbeing’ label onto it?

Problems arise however when those of us with a postgraduate degree in economics actually probe this fuzzy sounding concept for details. What we quickly discover is that the leading political advocates for “wellbeing economy” really don’t understand… economics. And they reveal their ignorance with about much grace as a newborn giraffe suddenly discovering gravity for the first time.

When Maggie Chapmen MSP (Green) said “We must move away from the artificial and archaic framework of GDP if we are to deliver the effective, revolutionary, transformative economy that is fundamentally human”, it really got me thinking.

Firstly, I’d be willing to bet that if you sat her down in a room with no access to the internet or ChatGPT and asked her to define GDP and explain the difference between nominal and real GDP she’d flounder like a drunken elephant doing the salsa.

It is beyond me why anyone who would claim to know about economics would dismiss GDP as “archaic”. Gross domestic product (GDP) is, putting it so simply that even Ms Chapman might understand it, is the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period.

This is actually quite useful, relevant and far from “archaic”, not least since it’s a broad measure of the overall domestic production of a national economy. It functions as a comprehensive scorecard any country’s economic health.

Why is it ‘archaic’ for us to have an economic snapshot of a country? How is it fundamentally unhuman for us to be able to estimate the growth rate of our economy and know the market value of the goods and services it’s producing? Ms Chapman needs to explain to this MSc in Development Studies how GDP is ‘artificial’ (implying fake, unreal) when we can calculate it in various differing ways to ensure accuracy. But then, I’m willing to bet Ms Chapman, the Scottish Greens and the SNP Cabinet Secretary responsible for peddling this guff don’t know what they’re talking about.

GDP can be calculated in three ways, using expenditures, production, or incomes and it can be adjusted for inflation and population to provide deeper insights. Oh, and for those who don’t know, real GDP accounts for the effects of inflation while nominal GDP does not.

Sure, there are limits to GDP, but as a tool for strategy makers, policy makers and businesses it’s a fundamentally essential core consideration. You and I deserve a Scottish Government that understands this. Alas, no.

Instead, we have a series of ‘green’ policies which are unpopular with the public, detrimental to the economy and predicated on a wild misunderstanding of human nature.

By way of example, when Patrick Harvie’s Scottish ‘Greens’ said “The pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of an economy built on the pursuit of endless growth and hoarding of private wealth”, it shows that the peddlers of ‘wellbeing economy’ don’t understand human nature.

Ms Chapman talks about a new “wellbeing” economy as being “fundamentally human” as if its inhuman for an economy built on the pursuit of growth and private wealth.

But someone who did understand human nature was Adam Smith and the understanding of free markets he bore into the world.

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages” – Adam Smith, ‘An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’ (Vol 1)

Humans operate out of self-interest as much as we do other-regarding sympathy. And free markets, like morality, requires us to be other-regarding. To get what we want, we must anticipate what others want. We cannot simply expect dinner to be provided to us – unless you’re an SNP or Scottish Green politician peddling a ‘living wage’ alongside ‘wellbeing economy’. The truth is, we meet each other, analyse and evaluate what each other may need to make a transaction happen. Yes, it’s other-regarding, but it’s also fundamentally self-interested and ultimately transactional based on pursuit of our own ‘gain’.

In Mr Smith’s example, if we lived in a barter-economy the customer would need to consider what the butcher would want for his product (maybe we’d need to weave him a nice woolly jumper). But likewise, the Butcher considers what the customers want (he already did so, going into business as a butcher knowing he’s got a product others want and need).

Thankfully we don’t need to go weaving woolly jumpers to get our dinner, since we have money exchange. GDP can be likened to the results of a grand orchestra playing the symphony of a nation’s economic activity. Each note represents a transaction, a purchase, a sale – a constant exchange of money flowing through the economy. Just as the melody reflects the harmony and rhythm of the music, GDP reflects the pace and scale of financial exchanges within a country, offering a snapshot of its economic vitality and the dynamics of its monetary circulation.

Its about as far from ‘archaic’ or inhuman as its possible to get. It’s not merely beautiful, it’s the ultimate embodiment of human nature in an economic system. Free markets work, GDP is relevant and current and espousing a  ‘wellbeing economy’ is the peddling of guff.

And the public realise full well that the SNP-‘Green’ ‘wellbeing economy’ agenda is merely an extension of their ‘net zero’ extremism. Survation’s August 23rd 2023 polling reveals 74% believed the UK should aim to meet its demand for oil and gas from domestic production and 54% of Scots backed the UK Government’s granting of new North Sea oil and gas licenses to achieve this.

Support for the Westminster government’s granting of new North Sea oil and gas licenses increased and is now (Survation Jan 24th 2024) sitting at 58% support.

At the same time, a plurality of Scots are not in favour of this Holyrood regime’s Draft Energy Strategy presumption against new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea. That Survation 2024 poll revealed only 32% either strongly or somewhat back the SNP-Green war on Scottish oil and gas. A further 35% opposes their presumption against new exploration (the rest neither for nor against)

Looking across the board at the whole panoply of SNP-Green ‘wellbeing economy’ ‘net zero’ policies, the gapping absence in popular support is obvious.

A mere 28% of Scots think the FM is “enacting the right policies on energy to achieve his ambition to make Scotland ‘the net zero capital of the world’” (Survation 2024). When 42% of Scots think you have exactly the wrong policies and a plurality aren’t prepared to back the ‘wellbeing’ ‘net zero’ agenda, suffice to say the party in power has a crisis on its hands.

Although Humza ‘Mr Continuity’ Yousaf talks a good game on the ‘wellbeing economy’, voters are able to see the reality. If I’m being generous I could concede that this Scottish Government’s driving force behind a ‘wellbeing economy’ is to create a system which prioritises public health, education and tackling inequality alongside delivering growth. But it’s incredibly obvious that its failing to achieve any of these things.

For one thing, it’s advocates rhetoric is predicated on a fundamental rejection of basic economic realities (dismissing GDP as ‘archaic’), denouncing private property (“hoarding of private wealth”) and a profound ignorance of human nature.

After all, if we listen to what the Scottish public thinks, we quickly discover that it has little patience for a war on energy companies. Polling tells us (Survation 2023) that 56% of Scots either somewhat or very positively think well of the companies operating in the North Sea.

The same cannot be said for Mr Continuity and Màiri McAllan’s government. Only 28% either strongly or somewhat support the SNP-Green powersharing at Holyrood. 40% outright oppose it and a further 20% couldn’t care less if it lived or died.

If this ideological push for ‘net zero’, ‘wellbeing economy’ demands we downplay wealth creation, ignore business needs and demonise market-based solutions then we’re on a road to perdition as a country. Not least since this cacophony of policy ideas are being imposed on a Scottish population which simply doesn’t support them.

58% of Scots when asked (Survation 2023) said that the Energy Profits Levy (‘windfall tax’) was not very or not at all effective in getting energy companies to transition away from fossil fuels. At the same time, 58% also think the 75% ‘windfall’ tax rate on profits of oil and gas companies operating in the North Sea was not effective at lowering energy costs for consumers. (Now Labour wants to make it 78%.)

And little Mary McGlinchie down the barras in Glasgow was right and the great pronoun obsessed Edinburgh-based Scottish political class wildly wrong. Just ask Scottish businesses and they’ll tell you exactly what 58% of ordinary Scots did.

The Scottish Economic Bulletin (October 2023) exposed that chief among Scottish businesses main fears and concerns included energy prices (21.7%) and inflation of goods and services prices (16.5%). Fast-forward to the February 2024 Scottish Economic Bulletinand we discover business concerns focusing on energy prices continuing to be a main factor of concern alongside falling demand for good and services as inflation continues to ripple across the economy.

Do you know what doesn’t help Scottish businesses deal with their fears for energy prices? Do you know what doesn’t help Scottish households deal with energy prices? It’s when a Holyrood government exists, populated by folk who think ‘inflation’ is just an excuse for not fitting into their favourite pair of jeans anymore. And worrying about market value of finished products and services is really just an indicator of being an evil capitalist.

Energy costs – according to the SCC Quarterly Economic Indicator – was a key source of pressure for Scottish businesses. 57% cited energy costs, 45% raw materials, 37% fuel costs and 60% labour costs.

But the SNP-Greens are blocking future oil and gas exploration. They oppose new nuclear and push for ‘windfall Tax’ raids on companies operating in the North Sea. All actions which will make these energy and fuel costs worse, all policies Scots do not support.

Across Europe we’re witnessing policy makers insist on pushing ‘net zero’ policies alongside an increasingly disconnected political class which holds free market solutions and market economics in contempt and insists you declare your pronouns.

Farmers protest across Europe are out protesting and politicians akin to our SNP-Greens are treating farmers with contempt and voters as lowly peasants who are to be ignored since they insist on clinging onto their backward attitudes. It all reminds me of the great English Peasants Revolt.

Back then, a series of unpopular policies were being imposed on the country by a ruling class no longer even bothering to care about public support. 30 May, 1381, royal official John Bampton attempted to collect poll taxes in Brentwood, Essex. What followed was the Peasant’s Revolt.

A wide spectrum of rural society rose up in protest, burning court documents. They were furious with leaders who insisted that they were morally and intellectually superior.

By June 14th King Richard II rode out pledging before the populace to abolish poll taxes and end serfdom. As he did this, Kentish rebels famously sacked the Tower of London, forcing its surrender. One of the rare times it was ever breached.

Such was the ferocity of the uprising, King Richard II was unable to save his chancellor of England, Archbishop Simon of Sudbury, or his treasurer, Sir Robert Hales, (held responsible for the poll tax). Both were beheaded.

Never mess with the people. England learnt this lesson, but Scotland and Europe more broadly seem not to have.

King Richard II, a mere child, was forced to quell the anger of an alienated honest society. Contemporary governments would do well to remember this salutary lesson from history as they insist on ‘net zero’ policies which fly in the face of public attitudes.

While we’re unlikely to see Scots storming Bute House as if it were the Bastille anytime soon, we are going to be having an election sooner rather than later. Perhaps when the SNP lose most of their MPs they will get back to the day job of growing Scottish GDP, making the country wealthier by supporting as opposed to demonising companies, businesses and the market economy.  Goodness only knows, if you wish to reduce poverty you first need a thriving economy where wealth (GDP) is growing. You must have something to redistribute.

I for one feel disgusted by this ‘wellbeing economy’, it’s a cheap and tawdry thing when compared to the free market.

The free market is akin to a vast, bustling marketplace, where ideas, goods, and services dance in an elegant choreography of supply and demand. It’s a canvas upon which innovation blooms, where entrepreneurs sow the seeds of creativity and reap the rewards of their ingenuity. Like a symphony conducted by the invisible hand of competition, the free market harmonizes diverse interests and preferences, orchestrating an ever-evolving melody of prosperity and progress.

In this wondrous landscape, individuals are empowered to pursue their dreams, guided not by the heavy hand of regulation, but by the dawning light of opportunity. It’s a realm where merit reigns supreme, where success is earned through hard work, talent, and perseverance. Here, the forces of supply and demand converge to allocate resources efficiently, ensuring that goods and services flow to where they are most valued.

But perhaps most beautiful of all is the free market’s ability to uplift entire societies, lifting millions out of poverty and fostering a culture of abundance and choice. It’s a beacon of freedom, offering individuals the autonomy to chart their own destinies and the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.

Indeed, the free market is not just a mechanism for economic exchange; it’s a reflection of human ingenuity, cooperation, and aspiration. It’s a testament to the boundless potential of individuals and the transformative power of voluntary exchange. In its beauty lies the promise of a brighter tomorrow, where the entrepreneurial spirit continues to flourish and the fruits of prosperity are shared by all.

Maggie Chapman, Màiri McAllan, Humza Yousaf and Patrick Harvie can all keep their ‘wellbeing economy’, it’s nothing but ignorant and empty rhetoric compared to the free market garden’s ability to nourish not just our material needs, but also our human spirit. It fosters a sense of autonomy and self-reliance, empowering individuals to take control of their destinies and pursue their dreams. It’s a place where creativity flourishes, where the impossible becomes possible, and where the pursuit of happiness is not just a right but a reality.

In the end, the free-market garden is not just a source of wealth and prosperity; it’s a reflection of our shared humanity, a testament to our capacity for innovation, cooperation, and progress. It’s a reminder that when left to flourish, human ingenuity knows no bounds, and the possibilities are endless.

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Photo of Watermelons by sonyakamoz  from Adobe Stock


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