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The bankrupt Queen of the Third Way Rachel Reeves' moral economy will take no prisoners

'Reevesism will speak to the vulgar anti-politics that has always been central to the British Third Way.' (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

'Reevesism will speak to the vulgar anti-politics that has always been central to the British Third Way.' (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)


June 12, 2024   8 mins

Five summers ago, 11 Labour and Conservative MPs quit their parties to form a breakaway faction in parliament. To the then Independent Group, then Change UK and latterly the Independent Group for Change, the real issues were Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and Brexit. But an electorate would expect them to take a position on other things — such as the British economy. They really would have to say something. Its mind elsewhere, the Group declared for a “social market economy” — that is to say: a market economy, though social.

Little complacencies like these are part of a long tradition. People have dreamt of some scheme to reconcile capitalism and socialism, or at least to skirt the conflict between them, for as long as the two have existed. It’s an idea that’s hard to disagree with. Wouldn’t it be better if we could have class collaboration rather than the class war? Why can’t labour and capital simply stop disagreeing with one another and work together? Why can’t we, as is so often said, have both “a strong market and an active state”?

There has been no lack of Third Ways. Many were called into existence for a definite purpose: part of the economy walled off from market competition to accomplish something specific. For a long line of romantics, aristocratic dreamers, and clericalists, the Red Peril was to be defeated by refashioning society as a rigmarole of guilds. For Bismarck, this could be carried with old age pensions and accident insurance. The Third Reich promised German industry a great army — and the permanent demand that this implied — in exchange for its practical independence. Postwar Japan wanted to move up the “value chain” in exports, and this meant tight control of capital markets by the state to direct cheap loans to star performers.

In all these cases there was a plan, or something like one. There was, furthermore, a reasonably clear set of boundaries: an idea of where the writ of the state planners should run, and where it should end — usually at the factory door.

New Labour, of course, had its own Third Way. It was disarmingly simple. In 1997, Britain was, by some stretch, the most laissez-faire major economy in Europe. The British Third Way, then, simply meant creaming off its surplus to pay for new and expanded public services. This was hardly sophisticated. It was no MITI. But it had a tight logic: the fortunes of the City of London, bound up with the fortunes of the NHS.

But it was not to last. Britain’s Third Way meant a free market, with exceptions. This equilibrium did not hold, and the exceptions soon began to consume the host. For this there were three reasons.

“This equilibrium did not hold, and the exceptions soon began to consume the host.”

For one, post-1997 Britain never evolved a defence of inequality. It was a market economy, but it could never come up with an answer as to why some prospered under it while others did not. This had much to do with the cultural forces uncorked by New Labour, which were levelling in the extreme. Ideas of the natural inequality of man, or the inequality of deserts, did not survive the long rattling decades of Red Nose Day, Britain’s Got Talent, and compulsory football sweepstakes.

Nor did it ever evolve an explanation for failure. Third Way Britain in its decline was not so much a market economy, but something much cruder: “UK plc.” This meant that every corporate bankruptcy was held up as an indictment of the managers. Even in the high summer of Osbornomics in 2015, “Business Secretary” Sajid Javid was expected to appear at the insolvent Redcar steel works and own up — but for what exactly few could quite say.

To this, add the cultural monopoly of the state broadcaster, a strange anachronism unique to Britain. The result was, as far as the economy was concerned, a permanent state of alarm, condemnation, recrimination and moral outrage. An economy directed by the personal whims of Piers Morgan. It had a dull hostility to wealth and enterprise. But being entirely anti-intellectual, it was just as suspicious of the state’s ability to direct this enterprise.

Mistrustful of politics and politicians, it was instinctually opposed to any change from above. Nigel Lawson’s monetarist reforms, or the decision to abandon the Corn Laws, would not have run. Indeed, the refrain from the breakfast shows was that economic issues were being treated as “political footballs” and should be handed over to a quango. A quango, of course, being exactly the kind of unprincipled melange of public and private that everything was now tending towards.

This was no longer a market economy. It certainly wasn’t a planned one. It was instead what E.P. Thompson called the pre-modern “moral economy”, run on crude ideas of communal obligation, just deserts, and forced generosity. It has no theory of state intervention, but will only suffer just as much private enterprise as is necessary to fund public services. Even the various centre-right governments after 2010 could only really justify free markets on such grounds.

The moral economy has no worked-out idea of what belongs to the market, and what belongs to the state. The only imperative here is community consensus, an idea of fairness. The result was an escalating series of erratic and unprincipled interventions to enforce this consensus.

Cheap moralism is its stock in trade. The government should step in to stop people being overcharged for theatre tickets. The football Super League must be broken up, and there must indeed be a “right to football”. Thomas Cook must be bailed out by the taxpayer, lest its customers be stranded abroad. An industry has profited from war, but instead of any system of regulation, there must instead be an abrupt one-time confiscation of its guilty riches. It, at the same time, meant the sham pragmatism of “value for money” (in civilised countries, this is referred to as “an audit”), which led to a public sector so mired in procedure that nothing can be procured at all.

It has a faith in the mystical power of iconvestment, or “Government working with Business”. This is not meant to yield any kind of return. These are investments made to restore some idea of inter-regional or communal fairness. The potential of certain places or groups is untapped, it is said — largely because of the ill will of the private sector. Investment, then, is the way to restore this balance within a system that is increasingly seen as zero-sum.

At the same time, post-1997 Britain has never accepted that public investment, which is not conducted on an open capital market, always lends itself to special favours and contracts for pals. Real corporatist economies like China bow to this fact. But not Britain, which clamoured for investment, but then immediately despaired of its results, accused the bursars of corruption, and called for them to be hauled in front of tribunals.

There is a low-level din of constant pointless mobilisation. Your time is never quite your own. Always lurking just outside the corner of the collective eye is the idea of conscripting the young — conscription for its own sake. Get them down the farm, or dragoon them to clean up after your nan, or, as prime minister Rishi Sunak recently put it, to learn cyber and leadership (in a rare act of grace, the two were not combined to form “Cyber Leadership”).

The highest statement of the moral economy is found in the stakeholders: the idea that politics, and the economy, should be run according to the needs of designated interests and Communities. But even this understates things. Post-1997 Britain was pathologically averse to “either-or”; it insisted in every case on both-and, and it was so continuously shocked and angered when this failed to do the trick. A market economy, though Social.

It had all the miseries of wage labour, but few of the individual freedoms that normally mitigate it. It made much of the idea of entrepreneurship, but could not even get over the trope of Dodgy Developers, and so never built any housing, or railways, or reservoirs. In practical terms, it seemed at every turn to have been chiefly set up to maintain the value of the great pension funds.

Such an evacuated system was left very vulnerable to challengers. So it proved. One of Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier phrases was: “A society where everyone takes care of everyone else.” This was simple enough. But having dealt in these kinds of empty chestnuts for the past 25 years, it was a phrase to which the British Third Way no longer had an answer. It escaped Mr Corbyn, but only just.

The shrieking climax of the moral economy came with lockdown. Again, this had nothing to do with any supposed British tradition of statism; Japan and Sweden, two much more avowedly statist economies, did not follow such a course. Rather, lockdown in Britain was a true media-driven frenzy, very much following the pattern of the previous quarter century. Its opening act was to hurriedly throw out the standing plan for herd immunity, which had been developed by disease control experts.

Lockdown was a parody of all the ways in which the British economy had been developing since 1997. It also meant their final consolidation. The government was made completely responsible for the operation of the free market — including for its results. Wage labour carried on, but in a dull levelling atmosphere of righteous outrage, and forced solidarity. The howl of cronyism again went up, even though lockdown, which meant certain businesses closing and others remaining open by executive fiat, meant cronyism and special favours almost by definition.

Over the previous 25 years, the residual elements of laissez-faire had always been there to cover the costs of these kinds of pogroms. But with lockdown this finally snapped. £300 billion had been borrowed. There was no chance of any return on this spending; for all practical purposes the money had simply been incinerated. Ten years of fiscal retrenchment had been undone on a whim. Fiscal bean counting, “Treasury Brain”, had long been the only effective break on the moral economy. Lockdown has destroyed this tradition as well, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak being its final spokesman. In March 2020, it was now outre radicalism to ask how the total nationalisation of all wages was to be paid for.

Thus, the classic British Third Way only lasted for 10 years, from 1997 to 2007. What followed was a series of ever more wild and careening expedients until the system crashed in 2020.

This is the great context of Rachel Reeves’s rise to the Chancellorship. Lockdown debt constrains her utterly. She cannot invest; she cannot cut taxes. She cannot make economies elsewhere: that way is barred. Surveying the ruins, her only course is to fire up the moral economy anew, driving it on in a hunt for wreckers and assorted populists. This is the real meaning of “Securonomics”: a return to moral order after self-inflicted calamity.

Like the pre-Covid moral economy, it will be a policy of caprice, prosecution, and zero-sum. But this time there will be far less money to smooth everything over. Pension tax exemptions for NHS employees, and a hunt for lockdown profiteers. A Race Equality Act that will tender government contracts to favoured groups. The declaration that “globalisation is dead” because it has left communities behind and made Britain vulnerable to global shocks, along with a concomitant policy of onshoring. When combined with the promise to re-align with EEA rules, this will mean all of the remoteness of globalisation, though without even the cheap imports. It will be less a policy of “both-and” than “neither-nor”.

Government and business will continue to collapse into an indeterminate slurry. This is, of course, something that was already largely achieved with furlough. The state will not direct enterprise, but nor will it leave it alone; it will be held responsible for all its failures, and called to intervene when it succeeds too much. There will be the fake savvy of “engagement” with business, which will in practice mean the downsides of collusion but none of the pleasures of outright corruption. Shadow Business Secretary, Simon Reynolds, assures CEOs that he will personally “make the pitch” to their investors if their books should ever fail to balance.

Reevesism will speak to the vulgar anti-politics that has always been central to the British Third Way. The economy is so important that no blundering politician can be trusted to run it — either in a liberal direction or in a statist one. The only solution is to take it out of elected hands and submit all future budgets to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), a quango. This will be the final stroke against Corbynomics — but also against Trussonomics.

As a result, no one will ever speak of Reeves as a rival to No. 10, as Gordon Brown and Rishi Sunak really were. Under Reeves, the old imperial treasury is finally to be broken up; and with it will go any real civilian control over economic policy. With this, economics in Britain will boil down to that basic impulse of Blairite society: the relentless hunt for social enemies.


Travis Aaroe is a freelance writer


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Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
1 month ago

The article underscores a glaring deficiency in leadership within the UK’s economic policy.

Politicians, lacking the audacity and imagination required for real change, resorted to a bland centrism marked by relentless state intervention.

This approach, devoid of long-term vision, pampered and infantilised the public with welfare handouts and low inflation, breeding unrealistic expectations and a culture of dependency.

As a result, the populace remains woefully unprepared for the harsh economic realities and necessary reforms ahead.

What we need now are leaders with the courage to articulate a clear, sustainable vision, balancing market efficiency with judicious support, engaging in candid public discourse, and driving innovative policies to tackle our economic malaise head on.

But to be honest – there’s more chance of a three headed flying pig going by than that happening.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

I’ve been banging a similar drum for a while now. Rather than acknowledge it’s 2024 and that the world has become a more dangerous place and that our country is approaching a precipice, people would prefer to delude themselves into thinking it’s 2004. Naturally, they will vote accordingly.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
1 month ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

Or 1984

Pedro the Exile
Pedro the Exile
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

As a result, the populace remains woefully unprepared for the harsh economic realities and necessary reforms ahead.
Does it ever!!!Every day brings further evidence of the inexorable grind of mathematically inevitable decline based on existing and deteriorating Debt/Gdp-Balance of Payments-deficit spending-zero growth-flatlining/declining productivity-ever expanding Public Sector employment-ever increasing numbers of “economically inactive” citizens-frozen personal allownaces that will inexorably increase the tax take and reduce condumption-nihilistic nut zero policies that will guarantee increased energy costs for both consumers and industry-increasedregulation slowly killing the City….
I’m struggling to identify the sunny uplands!!!!.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
1 month ago

I like ” nihilistic nut zero policies”! Nutty, indeed.

Santiago Excilio
Santiago Excilio
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

9.4m economically inactive, 6.2m employed by the state, 12.6m collecting state pensions. Working population of 32m. Ratio of carried to carriers nearly 1:1.

It’s hard to see anyway back from this.

Chris J
Chris J
1 month ago

Perhaps they will move to enforced breeding, the current demoting of women as a distinct group being the start.

Josie Bowen
Josie Bowen
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris J

Or ban abortion.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

Confiscate the wealth of those without children? 🙂

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jobs

Bari Weiss recently interview Milei (chainsaw man from Argentina) and, what was refreshing is that he didn’t shy away from the reality that there would be a period of growing poverty and that life would be tough.
Of course, he added that this is temporary and that Argentina could return to its prosperous past. Moreover, he believes that the poverty Argentinians would suffer without his measures would be far worse.
I think he’s right but whether you agree or not, he seems to be unusual in being so upfront about the short term hardship his ideas require.
We could put things right in Britain and there would be some suffering but let’s do it now before we become Argentina.
Oh, I just remembered, Labour will get in and the Tories would do anything anyway.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

She asked which leaders he most admired. Margaret Thatcher was on his very short list. Along with Reagan.
The fundamentals for Argentina right now are probably better than for the UK (the country has everything it needs). I hope Milei can fix things in a lasting way. But Argentina has a way of always falling back into bad habits.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

125 years ago, Argentina was richer than Australia. Their descent is all down to bad governance, the left wing populist “free stuff for everybody” dream beloved of Piketty fanboys.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

he didn’t shy away from the reality that there would be a period of growing poverty and that life would be tough.

Sounds like homeopathy. If you feel better it means it’s working. If you feel worse it means it’s going to work.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago

As a manager of a small branch of an independent engineering company, I recognise every sentence in this article. They could all be the beginnings of other articles.
Well done, Travis.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago

On procurement, an anecdote from the other end of the telescope:
When my wife was a (primary) teacher, she was preparing some colour sheets for printing.
The school printer was out of ink.
There was a Staples within short walking distance.
But school Fair Trade rules meant they could only buy ink from an approved source, at 5x the Staples price and a waiting time of days.
So she did what countless teachers must have done, and printed them at home.

Is that an example of the “Moral Economy”?

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
1 month ago

Reminds me of that story a while ago about how the NHS pays £15 per loaf bread or some similarly ridiculous price. It’d be cheaper for every hospital to employ a part time staff member on £25k at every hospital to go to Sainsbury’s once a day at those prices.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 month ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Yes, Sainsbury’s £3.50 Meal Deal: a sandwich, a snack and a drink. Used by a charity where I volunteered to make grants go further. They have made a year’s programme last 2 years purely by cutting the catering cost.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

Add to that pencils, scissors, glue, sellotape, never enough ‘procured’, teachers buy their own.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Some American public schools have gone the obvious route — each teacher gets a sum of money at the start of the year to buy such essentials on their own.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

Good article. Britain was in the EU so long it has unfortunately become “European”.

David L
David L
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

It’s far worse than that!

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Well I think that the article qualifies this idea: Britain hasn’t become “European” in that sense, it tried and failed to do so, by importing some ideas but not enough to make the experiment “work”. I recall talking a few years back to a rather clever Frenchman at a party in London who observed that Britain had never reconciled itself to the same idea expressed in the article above:

“At the same time, post-1997 Britain has never accepted that public investment, which is not conducted on an open capital market, always lends itself to special favours and contracts for pals.”

He said that in France, everyone accepts this reality, both business and government work on a tacit agreement that the problem cannot be avoided, and they make it “work”, in the sense that although there’s no hope of getting value for money, at least public spending gets the results that voters and taxpayers expect. In Britain this doesn’t happen, and we get the worst of both worlds: all the expense and none of the efficiency.

I am not defending the idea that a bunch of corporatists should get rich by overcharging the taxpayer for no better reason than they have government contacts, all I’m saying is that Britain has just spent 25 years proving it can’t make the supposed alternative work: the government is incapable of imposing market discipline upon the private sector, it only possesses the ability to interfere with the private sector and reduce its efficiency.

Liam F
Liam F
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Good observation.
I suppose the question no one has the answer to : What is the type of Govt the British people are broadly willing to sign up to?
My fear is , with so many on the public purse, I don’t know which economic model the majority will support. (willingly)

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

the government is incapable of imposing market discipline upon the private sector

They were pretty good at buying ineffective and useless PPE from people they just happened to know though.

David L
David L
1 month ago

Excellent article. We suffer under the tyranny of the sanctomonious.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
1 month ago

The race equality act depresses me most. The awarding of government contracts to favoured groups will just be cronyism all over again. Only this time different set of cronies will be benefiting.

Is that really better?

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
1 month ago

It’ll be like Patrice Cullors and the BLM dosh.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago

But that would be a breach of the Human Rights Act. Lets see how the Courts jump

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 month ago

I wonder a little an idea encapsulated at the start of the welfare state support, by the state, from cradle to grave.

Clearly, there are some, no least those with severe disabilities, for whom such support is reasonable and almost all are content to contribute towards.

Likewise, any of us can come unstuck whether through our own hands or misfortune. I imagine that few of us begrudge state assistance to those.

Yet, this become more difficult. How long should we support and how much? What about those who do little to help themselves? What about shrill demand for more aid?

I don’t know these answers to these questions but suspect that “cradle to grave” concept is making this dilemma more difficult. How about “oi, sort yourself out (but if you really come a cropper, we’ll give you a few quid to tide you over)”.

Pretty snappy actually. I could have got a job writing advertising slogans.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
1 month ago

Add to this the therapeutisation (!?) of society and the ever-expanding definitions of needs, illnesses and syndromes which require state help and the whole system grows like a cancer til it kills off the host.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
1 month ago

‘From cradle to the grave’ discourages any thought for preparing for the future. If there’s going to be a state safety net, with the inevitable mission creep, who needs to plan, make contingencies, or even reconsider the direction of travel. It even extends to recent graduates still not knowing what sort of career they are hoping to start.

Luxury Beliefs, promised by other taxpayers. 🙂

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 month ago

Excellent piece, thank you.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago

What a superb, though terrifying, article. There’s one tangential observation I’ll make that goes further than the above argument:

“A Race Equality Act that will tender government contracts to favoured groups.”

This, of course, will be reparations by the back door. The concept of reparations is repugnant and infuriating to the majority of decent Britons (as it should be), so getting it past the electorate can only be done by harnessing markets to the cause instead of the state doing it directly, with the brilliant consequence – to politicians, at least – that any political backlash, if it occurs, can be handily blamed on capitalism, not their own idiotic, corrupt and venal politics.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Race-based procurement has underpinned the looting and destruction of utilities in South Africa. It’s worth looking there to see what awaits us. They’re ahead for now but we’re catching up at an increasing rate.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Indeed. South Africa. Scotland. New Zealand. Germany. All the many lessons about our impending fate in the final spasm of the Progressive State can be seen and learnt from there.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Is this Starmer derangement syndrome?

David Giles
David Giles
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

No, it isn’t.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

There’s not much difference between Starmer and Sunak. Hence the sense of stagnation and despair.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

I know. It’s depressing. Still, better the devil you don’t know than the devil you do!

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Ah yes. The rise of the “tenderpreneurs”.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

In Amerika Reagan broke both the welfare system and the unions for good. Creating a visceral dislike for hard labor and the disadvantaged.
Laying the groundwork for Clinton’s shipping jobs overseas in return for cheap products from cheap labor 
Guess it was Thatcher in the UK

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

Sadly, he didn’t break all the US unions. There are still plenty of them left, grifting away fleecing consumers. Like the longshoremen.
I went to a trade show in Anaheim (south LA) about 15 years ago. I asked how much it would cost to get our booth vaccuumed every evening. I was told something around $200 a night. Could have bought a vacuum cleaner for less than half that and done it myself. Only I couldn’t. The whole event venue was run by a union closed shop.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

Thanks for providing a timely example of the kind of tortured logic I was referring to.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

Creating a visceral dislike for hard labor and the disadvantaged.

That’s an interesting take. It’s fair to say that during the Thatcher era – though also in the period before – working class men went from salt of the earth to enemy within responsible for destroying the country. The miners in particular.

Wasn’t just Thatcher and the right though. It was working class men who got demonised as Wolf whistling sexists too. Aspects of working class language (calling people “love” for example) got the treatment as well. And they got abandoned by the left in favour of identity groups.

The idea of working class pride now seems simply odd to most people.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

Managerialism is largely responsible for that. Working class expertise has been replaced by corporatism and the tyranny of cost effectiveness.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

that basic impulse of Blairite society: the relentless hunt for social enemies

Sounds more like Corbyn than Blair.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

Well we stopped intervening in the housing market (by capping the size of mortgage according to earnings), sold off council houses, left house building to the private sector, and gave the private sector plenty of scope in the rental market – and it’s all going swimmingly.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

In a true market supply would increase…it is constrained by planning regulations…

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

This is just a “not real (fill in the blank)” argument – see my comment.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Lots of good things happen in true markets. It’s almost as good as true socialism. Somehow it just never comes true.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Exactly. They have destroyed or incapicated every key ‘market’ in our economy via over regulation and 295 Quango intervention.True markets have been shattered in energy, water, property, transport City investment and savings and labour. Ergo – everything.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

You mean like the banks were?

Most regulations are unnecessary until you get rid of them. A bit like the tigers cage.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

No, we did not stop intervening in the housing market. We did all the things you mention, but then maintained the state-controlled grip on supply that is the planning system. The housing market’s dysfunction is solely the consequence of the planning system, and nothing else.

Nice try, but this is about the worst possible example to use if you’re trying to sling mud at private enterprise.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Look I’m not unsympathetic to your view. But everyone is against planning regulations until they start building in your own back yard. Just as everyone is in favour of affordable housing so long as the value of your own house doesn’t fall.

Personally I would like to see a bit more ruthlessness when faced with this kind of nimbyism. But it’s still a fact of life.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

What you say here is broadly correct, but in no way supports the line of argument taken in your first comment.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Remind me, was it Gordon Brown the bankers convinced that regulation wasn’t really necessary – and that if the regulations were relaxed things would run much better? What happened again?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

The existing council houses in 1979 were hardly the family jewels. They needed massive investment and the country was broke and deep in debt. Restructuring was necessary for survival and eventual return to prosperity.
I note that developers where I live are obliged to build a percentage of “social housing”, “affordable housing” and student housing.
I presume “social housing” is something like council houses, I’m told that “affordable housing” is only to be sold to people on less than £30,000 a year or something, and I presume student housing is what it say on the tin. As a result, much housing coming on the market just as jobs were lost, house prices have dropped rapidly since 2014. There are still rough sleepers, but as social workers tell me, they often have issues unrelated to housing availability.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

The existing council houses in 1979 were hardly the family jewels.

I lived in one until 1977. Both larger and better built than the houses people now pay a fortune for. The ones up the road were even better.

It was pure opportunism. Thatcher thought that people who owned shares and their own houses would vote Tory. And probably not wrong – for a while at least.

Ken Bowman
Ken Bowman
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

The housing situation is so dire I would favour, at least for a period, a state led, council housing construction programme as of old. However if continued over a long period it would lead to the same result as before. One in which the government minister pointed out that simply giving this vast housing stock away free to the occupants would have been financially beneficial to the state. When such a large proportion of the populace depends on the state for its housing and the politicians depend on them for their vote democracy is very badly corrupted.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Ken Bowman

Prepared to agree with you on that.

And then don’t let the housing market get out of control again!

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

My wife was living in one when I met her in 1979 and her parents were there until they died. The environment around them was getting steadily worse. A large amount of privatisation was not selling the family jewels but offloading problems.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

Every time the Bank of England sets the interest rate without taking into account housing costs (Gordon Brown’s innovation) the state is intervening in the housing market. That’s why you get richer every year despite the country overall and those who don’t own houses getting steadily poorer.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Can you point me to more on this. Link if you can. Thanks.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

A sure sign that any political party is sunk is people coming out with “didn’t go far enough” arguments. Applies on the left and the right. Not real socialism/conservatism – otherwise it would have worked.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

I take the view that we must have criteria which sit outside the economic system (whatever it might be) which allow us to judge its success or failure. Are people better housed in more affordable housing, for example. Are they better off? Are their children better educated? Ultimately, I suppose, are they happier? I don’t believe markets simply deliver this automatically.

Does that make me guilty of “moral economy” thinking.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

Markets do indeed deliver those things automatically. The main reason they fail to is that governments interfere in the supply/demand mechanism. In the UK the nominally private sector housing market is actually throttled by the planning system, and health and education are both provided as state monopolies (to all intents and purposes given that the private sector only offers super-premium services and therefore doesn’t compete with the State).

And ever more people, now that fiscal drag is bringing the tax thresholds down the income scale, now find that tax is the single largest cost they are faced with, so even the question of “better off” is a problem that is substantially the fault of the State, not markets.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

Could have stopped the article here:
“For one, post-1997 Britain never evolved a defence of inequality.”
This is the critical point. Free and prosperous countries have inequality. It is a result of wealth and not the cause of poverty.
The current, mindless pursuit of “equality”, “equalities” and “equity” is always wealth destroying and self-defeating.
I’m currently re-reading “Property and Freedom” by Richard Pipes which was the first time I’d seen the link between the primacy of private property and freedom so clearly made.
I fear we are in for several years of Gordon Brown style tinkering where those in power think that they can somehow improve things by micro-managed interventions and ever greater tax system complexity. History says otherwise.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

Don’t buy this thesis. Too much political bias seeping from it’s pores and v limited proper economic reflection.
Authors sets his year zero as 1997 immediately showing his hand. Missing the drive for Neo-liberalism and the undercurrent of moral assumptions started with Thatcher and Reagan almost 20yrs earlier. Where New Labour can be criticised is it didn’t do enough to move us away from Neo-Liberalism. The Right though must take the lions share of the blame.
He skirts round the theory of ‘Securonomics’. Reeves is not the first to outline what this looks like. There is actually much in it many on the Right might support, although perhaps not all. A serious Article would have dug into this more.
Interestingly though Author did state ‘… it seemed at every turn to have been chiefly set up to maintain the value of the great pension funds’. Indeed but it seems Author may be less conversant with Piketty’s Capital and the basic R>G. Herein lies the problem that eventually even the Right has to grasp. The Rich will take an increasing share of the total wealth, spiralling ‘ratcheted in’ inequality with all the problems that creates unless we do something different.
Reeves and many know this. They also know how sensitive the ‘markets’ are to measures that seek to tackle this. Reeves has to play a long game here. The fundamentals cannot be changed overnight, but where the Author is correct is changing this is a moral imperative.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

Great post. The Piketty question is still to answered. Perhaps worrying about that is “moral economy” thinking.

I’m also curious about the authors views on labour mobility. Open borders? Free movement? Or is any attempt to limit this in the interests of local culture, cohesion or standard of life and living just more unnecessary moral thinking?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

The Piketty question: what is he smoking?

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

Have you read Piketty?

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

It really is quite simple Mr Watson, we must slay the dragon that is ‘welfarism’ that has destroyed our economy and our values.
Socialism is what has created ‘the rich’ through corporate lobbying, high taxation and driving asset values through the roof as a result of it’s interference in the market.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

Totally wrong. Socialism, or elements of it, are what has saved capitalism from imploding into anarchy and massive social unrest. I wouldn’t favour total socialism either but to underplay the amelioration capitalism needs to survive v naive.
You are either part of the v rich who wants to distract attention from itself, or you’ve been hoodwinked. Ask yourself – why have the v rich got even richer last two decades whilst vast majority stagnated?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

There you go again with the ‘v. rich’ deflection. Why do you keep peddling this stuff? You know it’s nonsense.

The problem in Britain is the parasitism of the middle class, particularly boomers who, having hoovered up all the wealth to horde in their houses, whilst refusing to allow it to be taxed, continue to insist that the state should lavish care and attention on them out of all proportion to any contribution they’ve made.

Starmer has already made it clear that he will do nothing at all about this accumulation of unearned wealth, instead penalising productive people so that the parasite class can go on sucking the life out of the country.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

The two of you talk relatively good sense. Why do you keep battling it out instead of trying to find some common ground.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

JW, who is clearly an otherwise reasonable and intelligent man, suffers from the basic middle class lack of self-awareness that is the root cause of this country’s central problem: ie that we cannot all go on living off the state. Someone has to create the wealth that we all consume so freely.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

It’s not really deflection HB, it’s the core of the issue that the Article prompts yet misses. And a fact that should provoke some thoughts – how does that happen when so many more are struggling? We have 170+ Billionaires, our highest ever. The wealth of the top 10 has quadrupled in recent years. Strange isn’t it. Wasn’t there supposed to be trickle down effect?
As regards middle classes and their asset wealth, largely in their homes which have benefitted from property price rises, it’s true that this is unfair and ratchets in inequality, and even more – removes other investment incentive in the UK economy – we are too wedded to bricks and mortar investment which doesn’t create sufficient jobs and shared wealth. But it’s not easy to tax is it if it’s someone’s Home until they no longer need it.
As regards Starmer’s promises – listen carefully. He’s referred explicitly to taxes on ‘working’ people – income tax, NI and VAT. He hasn’t been as explicit on unearned wealth tax, Capital gains or Council tax. That appears to be a principle you and I both support.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

Look at the numbers. If you took everything from these evil rich people you go on and on about and left them with only their underwear it would make little or no difference to the difficulties this country faces. The problem is measured in trillions, not billions, and it’s caused by the simple fact that most people in this country are net recipients of government benefits even when they possess substantial wealth of their own, most of it unearned.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

You can even argue this from free market theory. Perfect markets favour consumers, but squeeze producers – who then squeeze their workforce. Unless you have pretty unique skills life will be tough. Socialist style measures ease that. As does collective action through unions – maintaining wages against downward market pressure.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

Yes. It is interesting that growth rates in UK were higher when Unions were stronger, even in the 70s (not that there wasn’t alot else wrong mind). It may only be a correlation and not causation but there is an argument that less wage inequality created more evenly spread purchasing power and a healthier economy.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

Apparently Stalins last words on the Soviet Union disaster were “what do you expect in a country run by capitalists”.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
1 month ago

Spot on here Travis Aaroe … woe are we !
It will take possibly 3 general elections, probably over the next 5 years, to give us any chance of returning to the small state and low taxes.
But first we must destroy the dragon that is destroying our economy and our values .. ‘Welfarism.’

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
1 month ago

It’s not such a bad argument to put the BBC’s (monopoly) kneejerk left-liberalism and its bureaucratic equivalent in the NHS at the centre of British political culture.
Then there are the two eccentric fringes: kneejerk Euroscepticism on the one, and the Trotskyism of English revolutionary socialist groups at the other (latterly dragging in the Islamist faction now almost as important as defining modern Britain).
As I keep posting this week, all that the above seems to add up to are incredible levels of bad faith about Britain’s failing provision of public services. There Nigel Farage is doing the best because people would rather blame immigration than look at ‘foreign’ funding models for providing (no longer cheap) healthcare.

Point of Information
Point of Information
1 month ago

The article, and the BTL comments agreeing with it, all take a view on the economy that stems from a moral viewpoint.

Aaroe has “The only imperative here is community consensus, an idea of fairness. The result was an escalating series of erratic and unprincipled interventions to enforce this consensus”, so he accuses the enforcement of fairness of being “unprincipled” in itself.

For commenter Steve Jobs, “state intervention” is a symptom of a lack of moral courage.

To commenter John Riordan, reparitions are “repugnant”.

These are all moral evaluations of economic policy. I’m not convinced it’s possible to take morality (various flavours are available) out of politics, nor have I yet read a published writer or philosopher who has, from Plato to Rand or Stiglitz.

As often with such arguments, the description of symptoms (of our current mess) is accurate but the diagnosis is flawed in itself, even before subjecting it to a counter-argument.

Nevertheless, as noted, the description of problems is spot on, so I would be grateful if someone on UnHerd’s staff could point Aris Roussinos to this article next time he worries about Britain being invaded – seriously, it would cost any invader far far more than it could benefit them.

Point of Information
Point of Information
1 month ago

For a piece making the same point (“Rachel Reeves will be skint”) with fewer logical gymnastics, but the same level of adolescent anger, I recommend this by the 77 year old Martin Wolf in the FT:

https://www.ft.com/content/da0dc6e2-8333-42d8-ac46-59301a8a9580

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago

A genuinely moral approach to economics would be to ensure that the rewards people get reflect the contribution they make. That would also have the happy consequence of making the whole society wealthier. By contrast, a situation in which the most reliable way to become rich is to work for the government and get a mortgage is good neither for the individual or for the society.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago

Race-based reparation measures are a political, not economic, concept.

There is no reasonable economic argument for such an idea: it is simply one more form of redistribution involving pointless misallocation of resources, with the added characteristic that it would be guaranteed to reverse the gradual, beneficial and desirable eradication of racism over the past few generations.

Pip G
Pip G
1 month ago

This article is, to my limited knowledge, original in its critical approach.
I suggest the 3 influences are (1) that private sector capitalism is the way to create wealth, while (2) Taxation and the Law can work towards fair distribution, and (3) basic morality means we must have measures to help the poor.
Measures to constrain capitalism, and (separate matter) make best use of the wealth created, should be as limited, understandable and simple as can be.
We need an independent review by knowledgeable people, representative of all groups. It need not be a 5 year expensive bureaucracy, but could be a series of discussion papers by ‘think tanks’ in dialogue with business, Trade Unions, etc.
The forthcoming Labour government will be severely constrained by high Debt & Deficit. It needs to ‘think big’ and be bold. The country will back this if it is communicated well.

T Doyle
T Doyle
1 month ago

Brilliant article.

T Doyle
T Doyle
1 month ago

Great article

Duane M
Duane M
1 month ago

What a load of sentences! Assembled into paragraphs with no apparent order or flow of logic. Does this writer get paid by the word?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  Duane M

I wonder why you even pay your subscription.

Gordon Hughes
Gordon Hughes
1 month ago

I am saddened though not surprised that authors and commentators appear to have minimal knowledge of the UK’s economic history – and indeed Europe’s – prior to 25 years ago. The Third Way did not spring to life without parents – it was largely a reincarnation of the aristocratic Fabian thinking that goes back to the beginning of the 20th century and in different forms to the middle of the 19th century.
Many of the complaints in the article are similar to the essence of the arguments that Correlli Barnett made about the failures of the British elite from the mid-1850s onwards. These included an aristocratic – and now academic – disdain for disruptive entrepreneurs. The mechanisms of social control over business have changed from aristocratic mediocrity to quangocrat self-indulgence but the core goals remain – cutting down anyone who is too successful or unwilling to comply with whatever social norms happen to be in favour.
For anyone there at the time what we are seeing is a rerun of the 1970s in different clothes with a complete bankruptcy of the incumbent elite. And lest anyone think that it was Margaret Thatcher who changed all that, she was at best the willing beneficiary of more fundamental shifts. Two sequential pieces of huge good luck were what changed the UK economy and underpinned the Third Way. The first was North Sea Oil, which with huge and enduring bitterness swept away the remaining parts of the old industrial economy, and the second the worldwide expansion of the financial sector with London as one of the prime centres for the new economy.
There is no sign that anything similar is about to save the UK. All of the codswallop about the “green economy” is just hot air – replacing existing capital with much more expensive and less productive alternatives. As for the rest, an economy and society run by incompetent bureaucrats and hidebound lawyers is bound to go the route of ancien regime France & Russia or Tokugawa Japan.
To see any of this you need to look from outside at the way others see us. Put aside the polite waffle and ask what the Chinese elite (not just the CP) says about Europe. It isn’t polite!

Liam F
Liam F
1 month ago
Reply to  Gordon Hughes

i don’t know that North Sea oil and Financial Services happened just through “good luck” – they both had to be worked at diligently to succeed and the Govt mostly kept out of the way. (eg there was no law that prohibited Frankfurt from eclipsing London).

Perhaps it’s just that capitalism works best when governments manage the two human emotions of Fear and Greed. While greed does drive innovation we need a certain amount of fear in order to stick to the rules and not get too greedy. Capitalism in the 21st century has effectively removed fear as a constraint.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  Liam F

Quite right. North sea oil might have been there, but you still need a competent government to ensure it’s got out of the ground. Compare this with the opportunity that is fracking in the UK, to see how easily bad government can f*** up a good idea.

As for the claim by the OP about the City of London being something that fell in Thatcher’s lap, that’s almost complete nonsense: Thatcher could see where the economic opportunities lay and did everything she could to drive the City to global preeminence, mostly by getting out of the way of private enterprise (and how easy does that seem nowadays to most governments?) but also with obvious measures such as the LDDC enterprise zone.

Liakoura
Liakoura
1 month ago
Reply to  Gordon Hughes

“To see any of this you need to look from outside at the way others see us. Put aside the polite waffle and ask what the Chinese elite (not just the CP) says about Europe.”
And what is it they say?

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 month ago

Everyone wants to be responsible in hindsight for success and to blame others in hindsight for failure. Such a situation creates little of the former but much more of the latter and the media leads the chase.

Utter
Utter
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

They also tend to believe that they have the answers, that their prescriptions would remedy the World’s problems, and that it’s all rather obvious really. The correlates of such a position are that the World/people/politics are actually fairly simple, predictable, manageable, and that the failures so far must be born of the other side, who are either malicious, or thoroughly incompetent, or both. It seems that such a stance tends to beposed by journos – mostly they don’t really beleive it, they are just selling something – and actually believed at the fringes of young & old, right and left.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

People have dreamt of some scheme to reconcile capitalism and socialism, or at least to skirt the conflict between them, for as long as the two have existed.
For as long as this has gone on, one might think that bright minds might eventually understand that those two isms are violently at odds and not reconcilable. Some politicians in the US love to talk of “social democracy” without a clue of what they’re saying. They point to the Scandinavian countries without a clue of how those places operate or how their culture differs wildly from America’s. They also fail to understand that culture matters at all.
No system is perfect. The best human beings have done to date is market-based capitalism, which has more recently become crony-based capitalism that benefits from govt interventions like the lockdowns that shuttered small businesses while declaring the big ones essential. Of course, that mentality also shut down parks and churches while leaving liquor stores and weed dispensaries untouched.

Santiago Excilio
Santiago Excilio
1 month ago

One of Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier phrases was: “A society where everyone takes care of everyone else.”
And one of Nietzsches was “Sympathy for all would be a tyranny for thee, my good neighbour.”
Which is where the UK will end up under Reeves, except there will be no money, just a merry go round of State sponsored 15 minutes of hate for whichever revisionist element of society has been singled out for flagellatory self-criticism.
Joy.
I’m so glad that I’ve left.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 month ago

Excellent. We have to call out the total collapse of what should be more accurately be described as the Economic strategy of the UK’s hijacked EU Progressive State, 1992/7 to the present day. Its failure was preordained by two anti growth credos being bashed into our laws, the new Blairite architecture of governance and popular culture; an equality mania which has rendered wealth creation a hostile and discriminatory act and the elevation of an already creaking Big NHS State and public sector to a position of rainbow devotion and primacy. The EU Empire’s insistence upon the emasculation of the power of all rival individual nation state saw the destruction of national labour markets via open borders, the emasculation of the power of the national Executive via the creation of the permanent Technocracy/295 Quangos, and then the suffocation and crippling of the private sector and the City by said Hyper Regulatory Degrowth Blob. All the freedoms won by Thatcher have been lost. The combination of the Banking Disaster of 2008 & the QE & zero interest Experiments (which ended the Blair/Brown Third Way) and the multiple catastrophes of the Progressive States 11m welfarism addiction, Lockdown and Net Zero hysterias have reducedour magic money indebted State to ruin and an impoverished taxed out people to energy blackouts and per capita degrowth . The lala election playing out now with no Conservative Party in play is just the death rattle of this shortlived failed Revolution of our being an EU Province then Legacy State, subject to extreme neo socialist progressive ideologies which have sucked out all the air from our lungs.

Jo Jo
Jo Jo
1 month ago

I can never get past how wooden Reeves is when speaking, alternately squinting at the teleprompter and grinning at nothing.

Tharmananthar Shankaradhas
Tharmananthar Shankaradhas
1 month ago

It is easy to blame politicians for our wistfulness to have our cake and it. The current stodge could last a very long time before many wake up to consequences of society and an economy built on unrealistic ideas about humanity.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

With this, economics in Britain will boil down to that basic impulse of Blairite society: the relentless hunt for social enemies.

And to those of an envious or spiteful mind there will always be social enemies, whether they exist or not. Indeed if there is a social enemy shortage (it would be a socialist government after all) new social enemies will be denounced, even if they are socialists too. And thus socialism eats itself – until the next time (when memories have faded).

Liakoura
Liakoura
1 month ago

“At the same time, post-1997 Britain has never accepted that public investment, which is not conducted on an open capital market, always lends itself to special favours and contracts for pals. Real corporatist economies like China bow to this fact.”
Do they?
From the free Caixin news service, considered to be one of the more reliable ones, October 19, 2022 :
In the decade since President Xi Jinping launched his flagship anti-corruption drive, China’s graft busters have investigated more than 4.6 million people, including 553 officials at the vice-ministerial level and above, according to the country’s top discipline watchdog.
And from September 24, 2022:
China’s former Vice Public Security Minister Sun Lijun was given a suspended death sentence for taking bribes worth 646 million yuan ($91 million), following the sentencing of five other former top security officials linked to his case this week.
Between those two dates there were 5 other reports of high level corruption convictions.
And from the Caixin news service May 30, 2024:
On Tuesday, a former general manager of China Huarong International Holdings Ltd. was found guilty of accepting 1.1 billion yuan ($152 million) in bribes and sentenced to death.
Bai Tianhui is one of a handful of corrupt Chinese officials and executives who have been given death sentences without reprieve since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China that put Xi Jinping at the party’s helm in 2012.
https://www.caixinglobal.com/2024-05-30/caixin-explains-the-extreme-graft-cases-dealt-a-death-sentence-without-reprieve-102201617.html
Over the past few years, China has stepped up the hunt for fugitives accused of corruption. From 2014 to the end of 2019, 7,242 fugitives were repatriated to China from more than 120 countries and regions, with 18.6 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) in illicit money being recovered, according to another CCDI statement.

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
1 month ago

The issue for decades has been, and continues to be, low productivity growth. Mark Carney on UK productivity in 2015:
“It has been worse than we had expected and worse than we had expected for the last several years. We have been successively disappointed.”
“It matters for us because it’s our core responsibility to deliver low, stable, predictable inflation of 2%, it matters for the speed rate of the economy and it matters for living standards. It is the key determinant of wages and living standards.”
“We need to deliver price stability with inflation around our 2% target, and stability from a financial system that that functions and isn’t prone to big shocks. We are delivering on those two aspects but they are just building blocks. Foundations don’t deliver higher productivity.”
Boosting productivity can take decades of upskilling and investment, along with a migration system biased towards skilled workers. That doesn’t align neatly with a short-term political cycle addicted to populist tokenism.
That might be addressed by a party willing to lay out a coherent vision for the future that is honest about difficult choices that will have to be made. There is so much that is still great about Britain. The country of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the cradle of the industrial revolution, still has talent in abundance. But fraying social cohesion makes it impossible to slaughter sacred cows.
The free-at-the-point-of-use health service has not been fit for purpose for decades. Do not have a critical illness in the traditional granny-dumping Christmas season, because relatively healthy elderly people who have been released from care homes to the bosom of their families are unceremoniously thrown in hospital by people who can’t be bothered to look after them. Anuerin Bevan did not build the NHS for this. I find the callousness towards kith and kin horrifying. A small co-payment for care, common in many European countries, might stamp out a lot of abuse, but no politician wants to be considered brave.
I also find it incomprehensible that Britain has been capping child benefit payments, essentially penalizing larger families when birth rates are falling off a demographic cliff, making it impossible to support an ageing population without substantial immigration. By contrast in the Republic of Ireland, which has a much more progressive system of income tax, the group that benefits most from redistribution is lower income working families, whose children are much more likely to get a third level education than their peers in the UK.
Every nation has its problems, including nimbyism and sclerotic planning systems that send the cost of housing soaring, but I find it astonishing that in the UK, Labour is committing itself to maintaining the independence of the Office of Budget Responsibility as well as the BofE, essentially saying that elected representatives can’t be trusted to govern effectively and coherently. It reflects the lack of seriousness of modern British politics.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 month ago
Reply to  Eamonn Toland

Well said, until the part where you suggest that the OBR shouldn’t be independent.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Deb Grant

Agreed, but it is an odd situation. A bit like saying we’d actually be better off with technocrats really. The OBR is like a teacher marking the politicians work.

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley

Sadly, I think you both might be right.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 month ago

Hugely cynical, but horribly believable in parts. Reeves is depressingly empty and without business acumen. Reynolds is delusional and peddles lies to people who know they’re lies. None of them have a clue how to achieve economic growth.

Western societies need to wake up to the fact that Capitalism is purely barter – and is the only real way of adding value to human endeavour. Competition drives innovation, lower costs and generally makes humans raise their game.

That is why Socialism/Communism has never worked. Humans need incentives to achieve their full potential. Equality is an illusion. Levelling means dropping to the lowest common denominator, ie levelling down. That would make sluggish Westernised societies more and more uncompetitive with developing countries.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Deb Grant

That is why Socialism/Communism has never worked. Humans need incentives to achieve their full potential.

This is true, it’s called incentive alignment. But there is a good case that many in our societies are over incentivised – that is, the reward is far greater than is needed to incentivise the effort that is put in.

Others are probably under incentivised. Doing the minimum gets them just as much (or little) as working hard. Either they lack innate talent, or opportunities are closed to them.

Stuart Morgan
Stuart Morgan
1 month ago

Superb article. Moral purists are always destroyers, never creators.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

This article assumes all the readers know that Rachel Reeves is the new Prime Minister of the UK, but I had to figure that out from a foreign country. I did like the general critique of dirigisme, though.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

Last May, I watched an episode of Doctor Martin, displaying the staff’s view of life to an audience made more vulnerable by suspending disbelief so they could enjoy the show. Every character with a paid job works for the government. The cop functions to harass a veterinarian who is trying to provide public service free on a streetside, but not to deter any crime. When someone had an emergency, the cop was less shrewd than a 9-year-old boy. The show spreads a mental virus.