Anti business bashing – reflecting back

I fear that the continuing wave of bashing business is harming our economy, our way of life and our future. Is this what we want?

Bankers are not yet out of the dock, but it seems they have been joined by much of the rest of Big Business, and, even more worryingly, the free market in general.

As long as the squeeze on living standards persists, market failure is bound to be blamed. It is convenient to do so. We forget that boom and bust is normal even if Gordon Brown thought differently.

I fear our government is not always helping. There is an obvious contradiction between Osborne’s decision to cap pay-day loan rates, and his opposition – on grounds of economic principle – to a freeze on energy prices. You either support price controls or you let the market decide; there is no middle road in this.

Miliband wants to take us back in time. To a world most have forgotten. A world of grossly inefficient nationalised utilities, underinvestment and taxpayer subsidy, a world in which waiting three months for the installation of a landline, or wasting tens of billions of pounds on uneconomic nuclear power capacity, was thought the natural way of things.

Let us remind ourselves of a world dominated by central government control. Who can remember the pre Thatcher days?

Power cuts, the three day week, flying pickets, mass riots, inflation over 20%, mortgage rates over 16%, restrictions on foreign exchange killing off businesses and restricting freedom of movement, restrictions on lending preventing growing families from moving into decent houses, wage freezes preventing people from getting paid what they were worth, a phone company that thought it was God, insisting on renting you their phone at exorbitant cost, with no choice of equipment, no incentive to innovate. British Rail trains in the 1980’s still using Southern Rail rolling stock from pre WW2 on the commute to London. The list is endless and it wasn’t much fun.

People look back nostalgically to a world of benign public ownership, collective responsibility and apparently common social purpose that never truly existed. Yet they fondly imagine that return to the pre-Thatcher era rampant government intervention would work better than the free market economy they supposedly inhabit.

We have our own view on the EU but remember when our industries were nationalised and striking was a daily event the EU laughed at us.

The energy companies were privatised on the assumption that the demands of rate of return commerce would deliver the best possible deal at the best possible price to consumers.

And that’s how it might have been but for the fact that the state could never entirely let go. Instead, the energy companies became conduits for whatever the government’s energy strategy happened to be.

Energy companies are public enemy number one not because of any hard evidence of profiteering, but largely because of the impact of the green obligations the government has placed on them.

Topping it all was the decision to use gas and electricity charges as a kind of redistributive mechanism to pay for the home insulation and energy saving boilers of poor people.

This is not what proper businesses do; the market is there to deliver the greatest amount of innovation at the least possible cost, not to deliver government social and environmental targets.

Free market economics work, in most circumstances, if allowed to work without inappropriate government

My fear is that our government is being blown off course by a resurgent socialism aided by the coalition Lib Dems. Be careful of what you wish for.

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