25/10/2009

Failing to learn from the past

Here's a quote from a book I'm reading at the moment:

Only Lord Balogh sounded like an economist.  From what you could understand of his message, it was old and tired.  It was also probably right.  If the State spends the money where it seems most needed, justice is at least aimed at, even if not necessarily achieved.  The last Tory tax bonanza brought the country nothing but property speculation - the worst morale-killer of the lot.
Unless you happen to know who Lord Balogh was, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is a passage from a recent book about economics or politics.  It's not any of those things.  It's from one of the wisest, funniest, continuously delightful books I have in my collection, and one I come back to regularly.

The book?  "On Television": a compendium of the three books Clive James wrote, collecting his TV criticism from The Observer and written between 1972 and 1982. The three books are "Visions Before Midnight", "The Crystal Bucket" and "Glued To The Box".

The piece?  A review from 9 April 1978 of a programme discussing what should be done with the revenues coming in from North Sea oil.  Keith Joseph argued that it should be used to finance tax cuts.  Tony Benn was in favour of bolstering British industry.  Lord Balogh (a Labour peer) argued as above.  If you're more than about 25, you can work out what actually happened.

I don't feel even vaguely qualified to judge the breadth of knowledge that Clive James commands but I do know that these volumes are an excellent introduction to his writing.  If you only know him as a plump Australian who used to appear to telly and even if you weren't born when the programmes he reviews were shown, have a read of these books.  They're well worth it.

No comments:

Post a comment