Mark Carney, the new Governor of the Bank of England, has announced that it’s about time a woman had his job. I think I know just what he means. These are difficult economic times and it makes sense for businesses to cut costs where they can. Imagine if, for the first time in more than 300 years the Bank of England was finally run by someone skilled not only in finance but also in stuff like emptying the dishwasher, making sure the rooms are all nice with lots of flowers in them and stopping the cleaning staff from taking the piss. I reckon the savings generated by a fully, multi-task-friendly Governess of the Bank of England could be enormous.
But maybe that isn’t what Carney meant. Because he didn’t explain himself, it’s not exactly clear. Is it that he thinks women are so superior to men in almost every way that anyone with a pair of X chromosomes will automatically do a better job than any of us losers burdened with penises, ear hair and pesky Y chromosomes? Or is it, au contraire, that he thinks women are so exactly the same as men that it is a total outrage that they are not treated in the same way under all circumstances ever and that therefore all important public jobs should be handed out on a gender-quota basis? One or other, I suppose, it must be. Otherwise, whyever would he choose his first major press conference to make such a curious statement?
Actually, there is one other possible explanation. Mark Carney is Canadian. Not just any Canadian either, but a throwback Canadian of the kind that we might have hoped had had a stake driven through its vampire heart by the righteous Van-Helsing-like combo of Mark Steyn, the tar sands, and the Western world’s only seriously conservative administration, Stephen Harper’s. A Canadian, in fact, who is not only a throwback to days of Pierre Trudeau when Canada was synonymous with draft-dodging, gag-inducingly right-on, panty-waist liberalism, but who is married to someone very possibly more nauseatingly PC still: an eco-warrior named Diana.
Diana – the Marlborough-educated daughter of a wealthy pig farmer – has views. And lots of them. Among her pet hates are bottled water: “I abhor the out-of-control use of bottled water and particularly the global traffic in water, when so many have completely inadequate access to drinking water.” And tea bags: “Yes they can be pretty and convenient but do we really need an extra 40 cm2 of bleached and printed paper with every cup of tea?”
Oh reason not the need, Diana. It must be hard to comprehend when your Daddy’s rich and your husband is on a salary of £624,000 and you have an annual housing allowance of £250,000. But there are some people out there – let us call them, for the sake of argument, the lumpenproletariat – who make their tea out of tea bags rather than, say, Whittard’s finest single estate loose leaf Darjeeling because, basically, it’s cheaper.
So there’s yet another possibility for Carney’s announcement: maybe his wife put him up to it. Maybe, even, she’s eyeing the big job herself, Hillary Clinton style.
Whatever the reason, it doesn’t much matter. When the current Governor of the Bank of England announces that he thinks the appointment of future Governors of the Bank of England should be decided on anything other than pure merit we should all be very worried, for what does it tell us about his attitudes generally?
What it tells us, for one thing, is that Mark Carney sees his remit as being much broader than merely turning on the printing presses and setting us up nicely, one day, for a period of lively Weimar-style hyperinflation. He actually wants to change society. His comments elsewhere on the proper role of banks in society would seem to confirm this. Carney is, essentially, a communitarian. He believes that free markets, independent institutions, meritocracy and self-interest are not enough to create a just society. Apparently – so his remarks would suggest – we need a nudge from enlightened authority figures like himself (and his wife too, presumably) in order for us to do the right thing. Perhaps even, I think he’s hinting, we need some form of positive discrimination in order to counter our system’s in-built sexism.
Now if these were the views of the new chief Guide or the head of Unison, one could safely discount them because it’s the sort of hackneyed rubbish they would say, obviously. But when it’s the man with more influence over our economy than anyone save the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister it’s a rather different matter. You think: “Hang on, a second. When this guy makes his decisions, is he going to be doing so because it’s the best one economically? Or because it’s the one that best advances his progressive social agenda? And if it’s the latter, why didn’t just give the job to Harriet Harman instead? I’ll be she’d have done it for a lot less than £624,000 a year – and we could have saved ourselves the £250,000 housing allowance.”
Even supposing, though, that it doesn’t affect Carney’s economic decisions, I still think it was very thoughtless and wrongheaded thing for him to say. It was thoughtless because we’re not living in the bra-burning Trudeau era any more. Times have changed. The hand looms are gathering dust. As Fraser Nelson has noted in this excellent article based, you know, on actual facts and metrics rather than on some bien-pensant crap he heard some fellow liberals say at some bag-free Toronto tea party – the balance of power has very much reversed these days. In the West it’s very much a girl’s world, not a boy’s.
And it was wrongheaded because allocating jobs on the basis not of merit and suitability but in the name of sexual (or racial or religious) equality is always unfairly discriminatory. It rules against the better candidate in favour of the weaker one, which is an offence against talent and even bigger offence against all those people out there – us – who are going to be affected by the weaker candidate’s potentially poorer decisions.
Should a woman ever be given the job of Governor of the Bank of England? Of course, no question, if she’s the best person for the job. But definitely not otherwise. And I say this as father who, like every father I’ve met, loves and respects his daughter at least as much as his boy and sometimes (girls being so much more communicative and so much better at manipulating their Daddies) ever so slightly more.
When I peer into my daughter’s future, I rejoice at the myriad opportunities open to her. Whether she chooses to become a rock star or a house wife or an astrophysicist really doesn’t bother me that much, just so long as whatever she chooses makes her happy.
What doesn’t keep me awake at night – really not – is the thought that thanks to society’s innate sexism, she may never get to be a full member of Muirfield golf club or be in charge of interest rates (and dishwasher unloading, and flower arrangements and ticking off cleaning ladies for not pulling their weight, obviously) at the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.
“What kind of dork would you have to be to care about such things?” I’m sure she’d say were I to ask for her opinion on such sublime irrelevances.
What indeed, Mark “Moneyprinter” Carney. What indeed.