The Lib-Dim Conference has gone the way they always go with lots of speeches attacking free choice in education, cut-backs in the public sector and other suchlike socialistic statements. None of this mattered in the past - they were just a joke. They are still a joke but they are now a joke inside the government so it begins to matter somewhat when the Anti-Business Secretary makes a speech that creates the impression of wanting to kill business and, particularly, financial business in this country. (Mind you, I don't know why he bothers. The EU will do it for him, anyway.)
Markets need to be controlled and controlled tightly, the Anti-Business Secretary told the cheering crowds as they are often "irrational or rigged". Irrational by whose standards? Markets are the only method whereby production and distribution can be adjusted to the greatest benefit of the greatest number but, presumably, they do not comply with the plans devised by politicians and regulators. As to rigging them, who does it more than anyone but the state in response to political lobbying or according to a favoured ideology.
As Mark Littlewood, Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, points out in his Telegraph blog
If uncompetitive practices really are what keep him awake at night, he should focus his fire on the public sector. In health and education, state-run behemoths crowd out and crush private alternatives. Consumers have very limited rights of exit and are obliged to tolerate sub-standard, inefficient services.Well, the Lib-Dims rather like certain uncompetitive practices. They have moved a long way from classical liberalism.
Some have even interpreted his speech as a coded threat to Rupert Murdoch. But if Vince Cable wants a greater choice and variety in broadcasting, it would be good to hear his views on the outrageously privileged position – and carnivorous behaviour – of the BBC. Being forced to pay an annual licence fee – on pain of a substantial fine and even imprisonment – is a deeply uncompetitive practice. On this matter though, Dr Cable seems silent.
I must admit that I disagree with Mr Littlewood on one point. He thinks that "[t]he Coalition has made a reasonably encouraging start on tackling the deficit and ensuring public spending is got under control". The latest figures do not show this. One would not expect an immediate noticeable fall in the spending but the August hike was far bigger than anyone could predict.
Allister Heath, editor of City AM, does not mince his words and how right he is:
PLAIN awful. That is the only way to describe yesterday’s government borrowing figures, which saw the deficit jump to another record for August, dashing hopes the public finances were improving of their own accord. Revenue growth was tolerable at 6.3 per cent. What was shocking was that government current spending jumped 11 per cent year on year in August. Yes, that’s right, in the midst of a supposed period of austerity, the government has seemingly lost control of the public finances. In part, this is because of the higher costs on index-linked gilts, pushed up by our excessively high inflation; but nevertheless these figures smack of a government and civil service which are failing to get a grip.If, in the midst of all this, our government also makes it clear that this country is particularly unfriendly towards business, we really are in trouble and that is even before we start examining the EU's destructive legislation.
And just to make sure that everyone who is at all a useful member of our society gets it in the neck, the Anti-Business Secretary has also proposed that tax on property should be increased. Presumably he and his colleagues, as politicians would be able to dodge it somehow. After all, if we really want to see "spivs and gamblers", particularly the first, you need to look no further than the members of the House of Commons. Does Mr Cable realize that he and his colleagues are viewed in that light by most of this country's population?