23 Oct 2006 - Bruno Prior
Picking Losers was established in 2006 to draw attention to the unintended consequences and perverse incentives from political choices. The name highlights the reality of the government practice of "picking winners".
It was from the start primarily the hobby-horse of Bruno Prior. In a fit of unrealistic ambition, his family company (Summerleaze Ltd) originally funded support resources from a Public Affairs agency to provide frequent additional content. If you look back at historic posts, they are the many entries posted by authors other than Bruno.
The intention was to stimulate debate on forums on the site, to encourage contributions from visitors, and to gain profile through the level of activity. This was not highly effective. After a while, we stopped the editorial support, so it became almost exclusively Bruno's outlet. Some time later, it fell into disuse as work and parenthood starved it of time and focus.
Since then, Bruno has been dabbling with twitter. There are times when a tweet is not long enough, and a tweetstorm is a clunky way of expressing longer thoughts. So he is resurrecting Picking Losers as his personal blog for recording thoughts that require more than 280 characters.
The content will be about whatever grabs his attention, but the focus is likely to remain on bad policy. Over 30 years of dealing with energy and environment policy has seen no improvement in quality or reduction in interventionism. It remains one of the largest and most negative factors in Bruno's work and in the state of the nation and world.
"Picking winners" describes one of the most damaging fallacies that all governments suffer: that they can improve the workings of our economy and society through "targeted" interventions. In reality, most targeted government actions do more harm than good.
The traditional approach has largely been discarded: create an institutional framework that "internalises" social costs within market prices and then allow market players to discover the most competitive ways to supply the products that customers want, allowing for these costs. We want to see this approach re-adopted.
Whenever economic or social problems emerge, governments are expected to intervene and save the day. It takes a brave politician to argue that the government cure can be worse than the disease. We want to encourage a climate in which governments - and more importantly the people who elect them - recognise the limits of their powers and do less not more. We do not intend this to be a personal attack on individuals, but on policies and the way they are implemented.