I often get the impression – and that is all that it is – that much of the world of government is concerned with achieving stability of various kinds. But there are “good” forms of stability – such as safe and secure property rights, honest money, and laws to protect the person from violence – and “bad” kinds, such as the stagnation of a flat-lining economy (as in 1990s Japan). Consider, we used to hear Gordon Brown drone on, in that manner of his, about “economic stability” (he spectacularly failed to attain it); we used to hear critics of George W. Bush’s foreign policy claiming that he was undermining the supposedly marvellous “stability” of the Middle East; and of course when it comes to issues such as governments’ monetary and fiscal policy, “stability” and the smoothing of all that naughty market activity is taken as a public good.
Sure, the last few years have been frightening in some ways on the economics front, but the gains to living standards across the planet, by and large, have not been thrown away. And in a recent book by Deepak Lal, in “Reviving the Invisible Hand”, he notes that some, “unstable” economies such as Thailand have managed to chalk up much greater growth in wealth overall than those which have grown at a more sedate, less volatile way.
Of course, it might even be argued that it is difficult to distinguish total stability from death. A straight line on a graph, remember, resembles the line of one of those gizmos that tells a doctor that the patient has pegged out.