The Daily Telegraph ran an obituary yesterday for a man who seems to have been almost the archetype of the corporatist economist.
I must stress that I never met Sir Donald and I am certainly not claiming that he did not love his children, or was not kind to small animals. It is just that he seems to have fit a certain patten of economist.
When Rab Butler (British finance minister at the time) produced a plan in 1952 (“ROBOT”) to stop trying to rig the value of sterling on the exchange markets, who leaked the private plan he had been trusted with? Lord Charwell (Sir Donald’s boss) and who worked to rubbish the plan (Sir Donald himself).
I have no great affection for fiat money. But if one has such a thing one should not try and rig its value in terms of other currencies – such efforts just lead to crises after crises.
Not that Sir Donald even had any real affection for maintaining the “strong Pound” in terms of the American Dollar. Sir Donald supported devaluation in the 1960s – it was allowing the market (i.e. buyers and sellers – there being no such thing as metaphysical ‘market forces’ separate from the choices of actual buyers and sellers) to determine the value of the currency (in terms of other currencies) that he seems to have objected to.
Sir Donald got many of the honours and jobs one would expect to come to a man of his type (head of the National Economic Development Council and so on), and the change of government did not harm him.
No, Sir Donald just went to work for the Labour economics minister (George Brown) working on a “national plan” to “plan the economy”.
Later Sir Donald went to work for the Confederation of British Industry, which (like the old Federation of British Industry) can normally be expected to support ‘moderation’ (i.e. statism).
With economists like this, who can blame the public for the lack of knowledge?
It would appear that a careful study of the works of the favoured economists of their time would just leave the public more misguided in their opinions than they already are.
I would be happy to be corrected in my opinion of Sir Donald’s working life – but I suspect that I have not been misled by the obituary.