Friday, 21 June 2002

The seen and the unseen

This row is getting very interesting. It has now become the conventional (and correct) wisdom that Scotland's future is better served by having a lot more locally based and owned businesses than by spending taxpayers' money on luring inward investment. Many, many of these tax-funded incomers have packed up and gone.

Murdo Fraser, the Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, has now called for the abolition of Scottish Enterprise, the government's business funding body. On their website, I read the following:

As a result of our activities during 1999-2000, we estimate we will help add approximately £900 million a year to the output of the Scottish economy over the next three years, creating or securing around 25,000 jobs.
In the nineteenth century, Frederic Bastiat explained that we should always look at both what is seen and what is unseen when looking at economic matters. Or, as accountants would put it: look at the debits as well as the credits.

I therefore challenge Scottish Enterprise to answer the following: how many jobs would have been "created or secured" if the money spent by this quango had been left in taxpayers' pockets and freely invested in enterprises approved by the marketplace rather than by government bureaucrats?