Sometimes an ad hominem attack just seems right. Such is the case with George Monbiot’s latest piece on Matt Ridley, the Dawkinsite pop-science author. I’ve been aware of Ridley in his journalistic capacity for years, but I had no idea that he also had a parallel career in banking. Monbiot on Ridley’s The Rational Optimist :
In the book, Ridley attacks the “parasitic bureaucracy”, which stifles free enterprise and excoriates governments for, among other sins, bailing out big corporations. If only the market is left to its own devices, he insists, and not stymied by regulations, the outcome will be wonderful for everybody. What Ridley glosses over is that before he wrote this book he had an opportunity to put his theories into practice. As chairman of Northern Rock, he was responsible, according to parliament’s Treasury select committee, for a “high-risk, reckless business strategy”. Northern Rock was able to pursue this strategy as a result of a “substantial failure of regulation” by the state. The wonderful outcome of this experiment was the first run on a British bank since 1878, and a £27bn government bail-out. But it’s not just Ridley who doesn’t mention the inconvenient disjunction between theory and practice: hardly anyone does. His book has now been reviewed dozens of times, and almost all the reviewers have either been unaware of his demonstration of what happens when his philosophy is applied or too polite to mention it.
Definitely worth a short post at CT, then, to make this connection more widely known.