Monday, January 16, 2012

Nick Clegg's speech on responsible capitalism and the John Lewis economy

The Liberal Democrat website has the full text of the speech on responsible capitalism that Nick Clegg gave at the Mansion House today. It is worth reading the whole thing:
Our problem is what Jesse Norman has called crony capitalism. It’s easy to throw rhetorical rocks at directors, bankers and businesses. But, if we are honest, this is as much a failure of politicians and regulators, the authorities too often cowed by corporate power. Whether that is political parties of all stripes in hock to vested interests or regulators struggling to stop supermarkets from putting the squeeze on small suppliers, whether it’s politicians kow-towing to media barons, the problem is endemic. 
There’s nothing new about it. Kings have always bestowed privileges on their favourite merchants. Corporations will naturally seek a dominant market position. It’s one of the reasons liberals from John Bright to the present day have been such fierce advocates of free trade. The agricultural landlords of the 19th century and early 20th century were happy for working people to pay more for their food because of protective tariffs. What Lloyd George in 1906 memorably called ‘stomach taxes’. So long as their own profits were protected. 
This has always been capitalism’s greatest danger: a tendency for the rule makers and the money makers to get too close. And we saw the consequences of that closeness play out in the most dramatic fashion right here, in the City, just three years ago. It was a political failure; a regulatory failure; and a market failure too.
As I discussed with his kinswoman Deirdre Razzall earlier today, another Liberal pioneer in this field he could have mentioned is Theodore Cook Taylor.

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