Capitalist Britain will revolt under the dead hand of statism
We can now see the form of the Cabinet which, barring any misfortune, will accompany us until the next legislative elections. So where is this going? A number of people – alumni like Michael Gove and other rising stars like Kemi Badenoch – are explicitly given responsibility for the upgrade project which was, if you recall, the conservative message of the Johnson era. . But there is great concern about what the tone of his presentation implies about the Prime Minister’s interpretation of modern conservatism.
Much of this controversy stems from the fact that the “race to the top” was little more than a slogan: this New Conservatism, determined to show its concern for disadvantaged regions and economic sectors, was so vague that it could easily have been interpreted as a gimmick designed to exploit the alienation of former Labor constituencies from metropolitan leaders out of touch with their party.
Labor fatally misunderstood its grassroots voters in two ways: It turned out that they were not only less sentimental about their hereditary political affiliation than anyone had thought, but they were also more receptive to capitalist regeneration as the answer to their problems. What they wanted was more jobs and the revitalization of their local economies. They had, in other words, really learned the Thatcherite lesson. They didn’t want patronizing support in the form of addictions or donations: they wanted to make their own way either through new employment opportunities or through the opportunity to start and grow their own business.
Thus, these first suggestions concerning free ports and the establishment of new green energy industries in disadvantaged regions have been a resounding success. This is precisely what these voters wanted to hear. (And they notably didn’t want to hear about further tax hikes, as last week’s poll made clear.) What happened next? The country shut down for the duration of the Covid crisis and everyone has forgotten what he said as the most important business of the political generation.
But now, says the reshuffle, we’re back – and we’re serious. The next big discussion will therefore be how this regional regeneration should be implemented and what political principles will underpin its introduction. Already the new initiative is disputed in an old familiar language. Will it be a centralized state-run operation, cluttered with all the bureaucratic assumptions and procedures that have notoriously undermined socialist enterprises in industrial development? Or will the government pave the way for the free market to do what it does naturally: encourage entrepreneurship, eliminate weaker competitors while facilitating the growth of the strongest, and create real wealth (and a real job) in the process?
Before we immerse ourselves in this – and too depressed by what seem to be indications that Boris Johnson is heading down the doomed path of great government, we need to keep in mind that we have been through (and out of) the historical period in which this debate was at its peak.
The argument between market economy and democratic socialism dominated the political discourse of this country in the 1980s. Having (barely) survived the predations of state monopolies and the trade union domination of economic life in the 1970s, Britain underwent the most spectacular revolution of public consciousness in its post-war history. We don’t need to go over all the details of this monumental shift in popular opinion. For those of us who lived it, it was glorious: for those who are too young to remember it, it is unimaginable.
Only one point is relevant: capitalism won. To listen to supporters of statist solutions on the left, you might not guess this, but look around at the behavior of real people.
Today, most of the population – and almost all of them are under 65 – are confident, knowledgeable and savvy consumers who are accustomed to choosing their own broadband and television service providers. digital, to change mobile phones every two years and to consult price comparison sites. websites for their energy and insurance needs. They expect to be treated with great consideration by the services which must compete for their use. They do not see themselves as passive supplicants waiting in a queue for whatever a monopoly power chooses to make available. These expectations are generally not seen as political, but they have enormous political implications.
It is now simply inconceivable that the country – especially those of its parts who see their future as dependent on a revival of vitality and economic initiative – accepts the domination of state agencies whose dead hand is choking the innovation and originality.
Okay, one might say, it may be true that a true state monopoly and centralized leadership would be unacceptable, but the government’s funding mechanisms (and the inevitable controls that go with them) may amount to the same. . The idea that a ministry can “pick winners” and lead them to some sort of flourishing economic independence has proven to be a myth in the past. The result is permanent dependence – a quasi-nationalized industry – or outright failure.
Something is going to have to be done very differently if there is to be a true industrial renaissance – and not rigged. What must be central to this is the idea of the citizen-consumer as having real power over what works and what does not. And Mr. Johnson be warned: this principle also applies to health. Whatever people say about the NHS in pious generalities, they won’t long put up with inadequate, producer-dominated service – especially now that you’ve explicitly linked a whole new tax to its funding. There is no longer any doubt in the minds of voters that they are paying for health care and they will expect them to offer modern standards of flexibility and responsiveness to their needs. If they find it nearly impossible to access GP appointments – which are the gateway to all NHS treatment – you may discover the full strength of their conversion to market value free.