There’s a base problem with any form of government planning of the economy. Which is that the economy is a large and complex place. So, any attempt to do anything detailed is going to get lost in that welter of complexities. This is just what happens.
Think on the Jaffa Cake. Is it a cake or a biscuit? Without governemt planning this doesn’t matter because it’s a Jaffa Cake. Those who desire Jaffaness with their tea may buy and partake, those who don’t need not, job done and problem sorted.
Now add planning – we have VAT on purchases and not upon some types. One such dividing line is between food and luxury food. Which requires a definition of what is luxury food of course. As it happens we have one. Choccie biccies are luxury foods, non-choccie are just food and pay no VAT. However, chocolate covered cake is not a luxury but is a food and carries no VAT.
So, is a Jaffa cake a biscuit or a cake? If a biscuit then it carries VAT given the choccie and if it’s a cake it doesn’t.
This took a decade to work out through the courts. Details, in a complex economy, are difficult.
In a year not short on surprises, Wednesday saw Home Secretary Priti Patel launch a scathing attack on social media influencers, actively “showing off in sunny parts of the world”.
As the Government announced tighter restrictions on international journeys, now illegal for leisure purposes, Patel singled out this privileged and blinkered class of traveller for poor examples of Covid compliancy while the NHS is stretched to breaking point and the UK has just passed the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths.
Of course, the backlash against reality TV stars and social media influencers who have shamelessly exploited the loophole permitting “essential work travel” during lockdowns in order to escape to Dubai or the Maldives had already begun.
But being an influencer is work. Folks get paid for it, HMRC is most definitely going to want its cut and there will be demands for national insurance as well. So, obviously influencers can travel for work because they’re working.
Ah, but, the response comes, that’s not real work therefore they…..
And that’s our problem, isn’t it? Once we decide to have detailed divisions between what is work and what is not work we’ve got a certain problem. Which is that very complexity of the economy with people doing all sorts of stuff to make a living. Government simply cannot plan down to that level of detail. Which is what makes the Gosplan idea such a stillborn misfit. It’s just not possible.