She’s not coming back till at least 2020, I’m afraid…
If Britain is ever to recover from this economic mess it needs a compelling ideological vision. That’s the message of a brilliant new report produced for the Centre for Policy Studies (the think-tank that launched the Thatcher revolution) by economist Tim Morgan (of the excellent Tullett Prebon)
Here’s the potted version, as written for Spectator blogs. First, his analysis of the problem:
Back in 1945, everyone knew that Attlee’s Labour administration stood for the welfare state and Keynesian economics. In 1979, with Britain nearly broke, everyone knew that Thatcher stood for de-regulating the economy and breaking the power of the union barons.
Everyone knew what those governments stood for. Can anyone really say the same of the current government?
Let’s be clear that we do not need another synthetic ideology. After thirteen years of New Labour’s vacuous blend of free market economics and social interventionism, voters are preternaturally attuned to spin.
The electorate, and, in particular, working people in the “squeezed middle”, are discontented. Median wages are falling ever further adrift of the cost of living, prices for essentials continue to soar and taxes have risen. There may have been little state austerity thus far, but enormous hardship is being felt by working people. Unless we can sort the economy out, this can only get worse.
And here is an outline of Morgan’s proposed solution:
What, then, should the Government stand for? I contend that it needs to stand for two things.
The first of these is reforming our capitalist system so that it serves everyone, not just a privileged minority. Capitalism should reward success, not failure. It should benefit shareholders (which means most people), not just executives. Contracts should be entered into freely by parties bargaining from roughly equal positions. This does not describe the current system, which is a bastardised version of capitalism
The aim of reform should be to bring ‘capitalism-in-practice’ back into line with ‘capitalism-in-principle’. Rewards for failure need to be stamped out. Executives must not prosper when shareholders suffer. Bonuses should be held in rolling accounts so that deductions can be made if performance deteriorates.
The second aim should be to roll back the incursions both of the state and of big business into the freedom of the individual. A new Equity Court should have the power to overturn companies’ “terms and conditions” when these are unfair to customers. Local authorities’ surveillance powers should be scrapped, as should officials’ ability to circumvent the judicial process by inflicting on-the-spot fines, or to demand admission to inspect people’s pot-plants or hedges.
Reforming capitalism so that it serves the majority, and strengthening the individual against the collectivist and the corporate, are inspiring visions. This is where government should be taking Britain.
Easier said than done, of course – as I was reminded yesterday when I Tweeted it under the headline “How to rescue capitalism….” only to have some Twentysomething smartarse Tweet back “Rescue it? Bury it!”
This is the kind of fifth-form, sub-Banksy political analysis which passes for conventional wisdom these days. It’s the dominant strain of thinking at the Guardian, at the BBC, among the studio audience at Channel 4’s apocalyptically lame 10 O’Clock Live, on Twitter, in the right-on brains of groovester opinion-formers all the way from Ben Goldacre to Graham Linehan to Polly Toynbee – and, of course, across the world in the entire Occupy movement. Capitalism, they all maintain, has failed.
No, capitalism has not recently been tried: that’s the real problem. And what I particularly like about Morgan’s report – well worth reading in full – is that it addresses this extremely important point. What we’re experiencing around the world at the moment is not laissez-faire, self-correcting, authentic, free-market capitalism but an excedingly corrupt and bastardised form thereof.
What we’re seeing is a grotesque stitch up between the banking class, the corporate class and the political class – at the expense of the rest of us.
One day, I like to hope, those of us on the libertarian right will find common cause with (at least some of) the Occupy crowd and unite against our real enemy.
Could such a thing happen? Well not under this administration, clearly. Cameron’s Coalition is so obviously toast you could spread it with butter and eat it with kippers. But as happened with the Thatcher revolution, so it must be with any future one. Before the political battle takes place first the intellectual groundwork must be laid.
Tim Morgan’s report is an excellent starting point, a flag around which those of us who believe in small governments, free markets and true liberty can rally. We’re a long way from 1979, unfortunately. We’re currently in the middle of the Heath administration. My bet is that it won’t be before 2020 that we finally see the government with the ideological mettle to do the right thing. Till that happy day, I’m afraid, the prospects for UK Plc are looking distinctly bearish….