David Cameron – or is it Tony Blair? – has come out in favour of something called ‘moral capitalism’ (Cameron ‘moral capitalism’ plea).
Although this is Cameron’s solution to the financial crisis, it seems to be his answer to everything. In fact, he’s gone so far as to define his New Conservatives in terms of the concept of social responsility (also known as ‘socialism lite’ or socialism for dummies).
With this ‘moral capitalism’ Cameron aims to square the circle. He wants to stand up to business… but also stand up for business. He wants to decentralise (read redistribute) economic power, but achieve this by unregulated political power. He wants to stand for the many, although it is the few who create the wealth. No wonder the BBC noted an ‘echo of New Labour rhetoric’. This is just T B only from the other side – one wants a moral capitalism, the other a free-market socialism! Both end in a pick ‘n mix , idea-free zone where spin and sound bites reign supreme. There’s nothing else left.
But enough of this specious banter. I’d like to introduce you – if you dare! – to a thinker whose views are both shocking and challenging to contemporary audiences. I refer to Milton Friedman, Nobel prize-winning economist and social commentator. He was a stanch defender of the free-market, and therefore individual freedom from state interference in all areas of life.
In 1970 Friedman wrote a blistering article for the New York Times magazine entitled The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits. Here are some juicy extracts:
“The businessmen believe that they are defending free en ≠terprise when they declaim that business is not concerned “merely” with profit but also with promoting desirable “social” ends; that business has a “social conscience” and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing em ≠ployment, eliminating discrimination, avoid ≠ing pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of re ≠formers. In fact they are or would be if they or anyone else took them seriously preach ≠ing pure and unadulterated socialism.”
“The political principle that underlies the market mechanism is unanimity. In an ideal free market resting on private property, no individual can coerce any other, all coopera ≠tion is voluntary, all parties to such coopera ≠tion benefit or they need not participate. There are no values, no “social” responsibilities in any sense other than the shared values and responsibilities of individuals.”
Or, a quote that’s particularly pertinent for now:
“The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.”
Think about it.