Tuesday, March 17, 2015


The UK is going to the polls in May, and the Guardian is trumpeting that the public's "lack of financial literacy" is "a threat to democracy":

With a pre-election budget only a couple of days away, full of terms like deficit and GDP, Manchester University students have provided a useful reminder of how little voters understand of the economic terminology economists, politicians and the media throw around.

According to a poll of more than 1,500 adults, around 60% failed offer the correct definition of GDP when given five choices. A quarter said they did not know.

The survey, which was devised by the Post-Crash Economics society at Manchester University and pollsters YouGov, also found that almost half of respondents were unable to pick the right definition for the government’s budget deficit from a multiple choice question.


Zach Ward-Perkins, a researcher on the project, said ignorance among voters and especially lower socio-economic groups, means “democratic debate stagnates into discussions between small elite groups over small differences behind the backs of an increasingly disillusioned and unrepresented public.” He added: “This status quo is a grave threat to our democracy.”

But this is arse backwards. The threat to democracy here isn't "ignorant" peasants voting on matters they do not understand, but out-of-touch elites only talking about things voters don't care about. Because when it comes down to it, voters don't care about GDP or quantitative easing - they care about whether they have a job and a roof over their heads, whether their local school and hospital is falling down, whether government benefits will be enough to survive on if they get sacked or sick, and whether the government is going to spy on them if they speak out about it. Yes, economic policy is a means to achieving those ends, but that's all it is: a means. The way it dominates elite conversation, you'd get the impression that they think that it is an end in itself. And if that's the case, the UK public should vote them out, and get representatives who will actually address their concerns, rather than alien monsters who only talk to each other and regard the public as a grubby impediment to their greed.