Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Posted by Jean Adams

In my experience, there are two possible plans of action in that moment between drinks and dinner when everyone hovers around the table wondering if there is a seating plan.

Plan A is to actively manoeuvre to ensure that you sit next to the most interesting people.  Plan B is to hang back and grab the last seat.  Obviously Plan B is the introverts preferred method.  But there is a real risk that everyone else is following Plan A.  Meaning that Plan B’ers find themselves, by default, left sitting next to the very least interesting people. 

The other evening I found myself at a work related dinner where I hardly knew anyone.  I knew the people I probably didn’t want to sit next to.  So I manoeuvred away from them.  But I took my chances with the rest.

I was rather taken aback when, around 20 minutes into the dinner, the man on my right said in a rather loud voice: “Well, I used to be on the monetary policy committee, you know.  I disagreed with Mervyn King about almost everything.” 
Mervyn King
You what?  How did I, a university lecturer in public health, find myself sitting next to an economist who used to be on the MPC?  I am still not quite sure what the answer to this question is.  But it seemed unlikely that it would happen again.  So I decided to find out what I could.

I guess we are all victims of surrounding ourselves with opinions that agree with our own.  I feel quite privileged to work in a professional arena where my political opinions are mainstream, and are almost part and parcel of the job.  It’s nice to work somewhere where you feel your colleagues so strongly agree with your worldview.

So it was a bit of a shock to be at a work dinner with an economist who turned out to be just a little bit to the right of me.  It turned out he lives in New Hampshire – a beautiful part of the world, where the state motto is “Live free or die”.  They don’t have sales tax or state income tax in New Hampshire.  This means there are limited public services.  But it’s okay – because “there’s a market”.  You need your garbage collected – “there’s a market”, you need the snow swept from your drive – “there’s a market”, you need some health care – “there’s a market”.

“So what do the people in New Hampshire who can’t afford those things do?”  I asked.

“They live in Vermont.”

Apparently a new liberal era has washed in and the students are trying to get “Live free or die” replaced with the much more politically correct “Live free or move”.

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