Der Igel und der Fuchs in der Wirtschaftspolitik

Office of Fair Trading

Diesen ungewöhnlichen Titel (The hedgehog and the fox in economic policy) hat der Generaldirektor der britischen Wettbewerbsbehörde (Office of Fair Trading), Mr. John Vickers einem Vortrag gegeben, den er am 11. Juni 2002 in London gehalten hat (Oxford Business Alumni Lecture).

In sehr geistreicher Weise beschäftigt sich Mr. Vickers mit den Unterschieden zwischen den Finanzpolitikern (hedgehogs) und den Wettbewerbspolitikern (foxes). Wie er zu den beiden Tierarten gelangt ist, wird in der Einleitung des Vortrages erklärt:

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing

This line from Greek poetry begins The Hedgehog and the Fox, Isaiah Berlin's famous essay on Tolstoy's view of history. Berlin saw a great chasm between two kinds of intellectual and artistic personality. On one side are those  - the hedgehogs -  who relate everything to ‘a single, universal, organising principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance'. On the other side are the foxes, who pursue many ends, and whose ‘thought is scattered or diffused, moving on many levels, seizing upon the essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects for what they are in themselves'. Tolstoy himself was a fox who wanted to be a hedgehog.

From the sublime to economic policy. In economic policy there are some who do many things, and some who do one big thing. I shall take the liberty of referring to the former as foxes and to the latter as hedgehogs. Monetary policy is for hedgehogs. Competition policy is for foxes. My plan is to contrast the environments of hedgehogs and foxes  - of those in monetary and competition fields -  in economic policy.

If, fancifully, one were to admit economic policy-makers to the illustrative lists of Isaiah Berlin, then on the side of the hedgehogs would be Plato, Lucretius, Dante, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Proust and Sir Edward George. And on the side of the foxes would be Herodotus, Aristotle, Montaigne, Erasmus, Shakespeare, Molière, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, James Joyce and Mario Monti.

That members of the Monetary Policy Committee are hedgehogs has nothing to do with prickliness, nor with experience of hedge funds. It is because they have a single, universal, organising principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance. This is to achieve the inflation target.

Those in competition authorities are used to the sounds of loud and hostile barking, but that is not why they are foxes. They are foxes because of the many and varied activities and experiences, moving on different levels, to which they must be alert."

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