Nowhere is the intellectual confusion more apparent than in Cameron’s source of economic ideas. A few months ago the buzzword was “nudge”, a reference to a book co-authored by the economist Richard Thaler, which argued that with help from government and private organisations, individuals could be persuaded to make better lifestyle choices. Cameron’s championing of Thaler was meant to show that there was a softer alternative to Labour’s big state approach to every problem.
That was then. Now the phrase du jour is Black Swan, the title of a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Cameron shared a platform with Taleb earlier in the week and said the book “confirmed his own prejudices”. We can only speculate on which prejudices these might be, since they have a distinct pick’n’mix quality. Taleb is an interesting thinker, but he has an entirely different view of the world to Thaler and would not last five minutes in the new, soft-focus, all things to all people Conservative party.
Let me tell you about the dream I had the other night. I was in a public toilet, standing at the urinal, and I looked down to see the image of a small black swan about six inches north west of the drain. I was very worried about the consequences of hitting the black swan, so I ended up making an embarrassing mess.