EDITOR'S LETTERMerryn Somerset Webb
The silly season
Most of us believe in a few odd things. But reading New Scientist last week, I was stunned to find just how many very odd things we believe in.
A 2011 study showed that around 90% of the UK population hold at least one “delusional belief” to some extent. They believe, for example, that they are “an exceptionally gifted person that others do not recognise” (40.5%); that their thoughts are “not fully under their control” (33.6%); that they are not “in control of some of their actions” (44%); and that “certain places are duplicated, ie, are in two different locations at the same time” (38.7%).
Until this election I would, I think, have dismissed this as nonsense. People, I would have said, just aren’t that silly. Now I’m not so sure. Through my door today came a leaflet from the SNP. It lays out how the party thinks. The SNP, you see, has “a plan to invest in public services to end the need for austerity cuts”.
You will immediately see the problems here. You don’t “invest” in public services. You spend on public services. And spending on public services doesn’t exactly end the need for UK public spending to fall: it just makes the need for it to fall more later larger.
The only way rises in public spending would make it unnecessary to cut public spending would be if the rises somehow drove stunningly fast economic growth. Some people believe this. But given that the state already spends some 45% of GDP in the UK, that the national debt has soared under this government, and that we have still barely grown for years, it seems to us to be remarkably unlikely.
So who would vote for a party that rests its nation’s entire future on the idea?
• Read the full editor’s letter here: The silly season