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Wake Up, Business! You Could Be a Week Away from Socialist Disaster

December 5, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Wading into election campaigns is fraught with danger for business people. “We are concerned by the direction of things, but won’t raise our head just to get it blown off,” an executive of a popular multinational explained to me this week.

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When even Bill Gates, a massive philanthropist, can be media-massacred for critiquing a US presidential candidate’s wealth tax plans, no business sees itself safe from the blowback of opposing populist Left-wing policies. Customer bases comprising all political persuasions make any electoral statement from individual companies highly risky.

No such excuses, however, can be made for organisations purporting to represent business interests, who have actively chosen to remain neutered. These groups have the licence to take the heat in defending members’ long-term economic interests. Yet in this campaign, the Institute of Directors (IoD), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have been utterly supine in the face of Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist threat.

Here is a Labour Party wanting to confiscate shares in large companies, overhaul corporate governance, nationalise whole industries at prices set by politicians, impose rapid and destructive decarbonisation, reverse the Eighties’ trade union reforms and jack up all major taxes on capital.

Business groups, though, have reacted with unjustified political evenhandedness, passing up on highlighting the destructiveness of socialism to instead hang-wring about smaller policy gripes from both parties.

Consider the IoD. Last week, the organisation issued a robust defence of EU-style state aid laws. Conservative plans to change them to assist certain struggling industries and oblige public bodies to “Buy British” after Brexit were rightly savaged as a “retreat away from free and open markets … unfairly protecting and subsidising large incumbents at the expense of true competition”. Bravo! This was exactly what a defence of a competitive market economy should look like, although their head of trade’s claim that these mercantilist measures put her into “actual convulsions” seemed a tad over the top.

So what was their reaction to Labour’s more stringent calls for active industrial and regional planning, nationalisation for the purpose of cutting prices, and taking de facto government ownership stakes in large companies? Presumably, it sent them into apoplexy. Well, you wouldn’t know it from their media release, which read: “Taken as a whole, Labour’s measures on business risk being too much stick …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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