Examples of changing your mind

Understanding the process of how and why someone changes their mind seems vital to me. As I’ve noted before, understanding this is of fundamental importance to the process of public sector change.

Here’s a nice article on whether economics can change people’s minds (via Marginal Revolution), including examples of where it has done exactly that.

Altogether, there are many examples of economists who change their minds, even when doing so involves repudiating their own previous research and policy positions. Maybe these economists are special and possess an inhuman lack of bias. But I doubt that.

Feel free to share examples of where you’ve changed your own mind, particularly when it comes to public service reform.


Less knowledge is better politics

Note: This is an old post I forgot to publish, but I think its main point still holds and so am posting it now.

I was delighted to see Alan Johnson appointed as Shadow Chancellor because (a) it was a good choice, and (b) it proved me right.

Considering the oddity that was Vince Cable’s popularity, partly because he apparently knew what he was talking about when it came to economics, I blogged that

It’s not the role of a Chancellor to know the most about economics. It’s the role of a Chancellor to listen to and understand the advice they get and to make decisions based on both that advice and the other circumstances and context within which the decision needs to be made.

And Alan Johnson agrees:

You don’t need to be a professor of economics to be a Treasury minister.

And it’s not just Alan Johnson: both Oliver Kamm and Chris Dillow agree.

When I first posted this idea, many people in the comments disagreed. I’ve set out the argument and lined up some supporters with me, so do you worse in the comments below!

An economist as Chancellor: Kamm’s opinion

Not for the first time, Oliver Kamm has made me feel much better. For in this post he states:

It’s not necessary – far from it – to have an economic and financial background in order to be an effective Treasury minister.

This makes me feel much better because I argued much the same point in a recent post about, amongst others, the hallowed St Vince of Cable.

Fortunately, Kamm also backs up the statement with some intellectual and informed supporting case studies, which was much more than I did, but much to the same effect:

Nigel Lawson was, on paper, superbly qualified to be Chancellor, yet he engineered the destructive Lawson boom. Denis Healey and his Treasury team were not overburdened by economic training (Edmund Dell was a historian; Joel Barnett was an accountant), but they had the political and intellectual weight to force through necessary cuts in public spending after the sterling crisis of the mid-1970s.