We asked psychologist Dorothy Rowe to comment on her current work and ideas that have influenced her…


Which of your own ideas have you been thinking about most recently?
I have always been interested in the question of why people do what they do. Why did Gordon Brown want to stay on as PM? Why did David Cameron want to be PM? I could answer the question about Gordon Brown, but not the question about Cameron because, after five years of studying him (TV is so useful in the way it reveals the expressions on people’s faces) I knew nothing about him as a person. He seemed to be nothing more than a vacuous, conventional politician. I suspected that he was a front for the latter-day Thatcherites who were determined to impose their version of Friedman economics on the economy. I wrote about this in my blog (www.dorothyrowe.com.au/blog): Is Cameron a con? If he wins, are we in for a shock? The election results show that I am not the only person who doubts and fears David Cameron and his colleagues.

What idea of someone else has made most impact on you recently?
Central to Friedman economics is Friedman’s belief in the necessity of bringing change to a country by cutting public spending severely and all at once. This is called the shock doctrine. Thatcher applied her version of the shock doctrine to the UK when she became PM. In her book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein showed what happened in each country where this doctrine was applied.

What is the most important book/article of ideas that everyone should read and why?
We live in interesting times, and will do so for many years to come. To understand the present we need to know about the past. To understand how the new government’s decisions will affect your job, the money you earn, the taxes you will be paying, the pension you will receive, you need to read John Lanchester’s Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay.

And finally, each year we ask everyone involved – audiences as well as speakers – one question. Charles Masterman, Liberal Party politician and journalist, asked in his book The Condition of England 100 Years Ago: “What will the future make of the present?” What is your answer to this?
It depends on how far in the future we look. In 10 or 15 years time people will look back and ask “Why didn’t you deal with the global economic crisis better than you did?” In a hundred years time people will say “You drank in the Last Chance Saloon, denied the reality of climate change, and now we suffer drought, floods, fire and starvation as we crowd on to what is the remaining but rapidly diminishing fertile land. How could you have been so selfish?”