The Conservative manifesto, the Communist Party manifesto and the Popular Capitalist manifesto.

Sometimes it is back to the future. This week brought a strange coincidence to my life. There on the same desk was the Conservative manifesto seeking much wider participation and ownership for all in the life of our country, and there was a request from a Cambridge researcher to expalin the intellectual origins of the books I wrote and the policies I promoted under the last Conservative government which I called “Popular capitalism” at the time.

The idea behind both sets of policies is the same. The passage of time changes the language and some of the details, but not the underlying vision. What I have always sought is to help create a country where many more people have a stake in the wealth of the economy. Wider ownership means more home owners, more people with pensions savings, more owners of small businesses, more employees owning shares under an employee share scheme, more people owning shares in other people’s companies as part of their ISAs or other savings.

Why do I want this? Because I see the long march of everyman and woman to enfranchisement, to having a role and a position in a democratic soceity, as the British story. The nineteenth century brought the working man the vote. The early twentieth century brought votes for women.The second half of the twentieth century brought majority home ownership and some progress with pensions and share investments. The twenty first century should be about spreading ownership ever more widely, so almost all come to have a stake in our society.

My answer to the researcher as to the origins of my ideas of Popular Captialism was not one an intellectual historian wanted. There was no book I read or pamphlet I picked up which inspired me. It was years of practical experience in business,and years of talking to people on doorsteps that persuaded me that wider ownership would make for a fairer, happier and more prosperous society. This was a view which visits to communist countries reinforced, when I saw how freedom and good living standards had been extinguished with the eclipse of most private property.

As I struggled to explain this pragmatic origin of Popular capitalism, I then recalled that there was an important intellectual influence on it all in my mind. The main influence was Karl Marx. I read Marx as a young man and was so repelled by what I read – and by the pale distillation of his class warfare and state power thought in some of my teachers and their books – that I did in the end set about writing the antidote. I took the Communist Party Manifesto and its ten points and wrote “The Popular Capitalist Manifesto” with a very different ten points. Whilst it has not been such a good seller as Marx’s original, the ideas of the Popular Capitalist Manifesto are now much more common around the world in modern governments than Marxist ideas. I will reproduce the ten points tomorrow – a successful recipe for economic progress and democratic success.

Promoted by Christine Hill on behalf of John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU

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20 Comments

  1. no one
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    my parents saved all their lives, bought a house and spent a lot of money on it

    dad is currently dying a most unpleasant death courtesy of the shambles that is the NHS, i dont think they paid taxes every day of their adult lives for such poor quality of care

    and the social services are systematically raiding their savings to pay for their "care" ie getting them up in the morning, fed and washed

    and of course when Dad dies and Mam ends up in a home the state will sell their home to pay for her home fees

    what exactly was the point of the property owning democracy when they have NO BENEFIT AT ALL for the money they managed to save, and they are in practical terms getting exactly the same life style in old age as if they had saved no money at all

    the rational decision in this country is not to save, is to spend the money while you can enjoy it, and leave the state to pick up the tab when things go wrong

    there has got to be some material benefit to having money in the bank in this country or people will continue not to bother

    • Adrian Peirson
      Posted April 18, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      My sincere condolences and there is no easy way of saying this but I believe your situation can be summed up very brutally but i believe accurately.
      We have in place at the moment a system that asset strips our eldery and then gets rid of them as quickly as possible.
      The State today is quite literaaly a cancer feeding off we the people, once we are no longer of any use as tax payers, it wants us asset stripped and out of the way.
      In this way, the wealth of the nation and indeed the world flows upwards.
      We are quite literally being economically farmed.

  2. The Great Ignored
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    "Why do I want this? Because I see the long march of everyman and woman to enfranchisement, to having a role and a position in a democratic soceity"

    Better start by getting out of the EU then.

  3. Michael Read
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    The one thing you lack as a politician is the smile of modest self-deprecation. In other words, you take yourself too seriously.

    I'm not a natural Conservative but I tell some of my Conservative friends that I agree with everything John Redwood says on his blog.

    They react negatively to even the mention of your name.

    Allan Clarke says almost exactly what you say but never gets that reaction.

    Indeed, Clarkey is such a natural bloke that he seems to win arguments by just clearing his throat (which has become in itself a distinctive theatrical event expressing disdain, longeurs and forebearance of the sheer stupidity of the other interviewee).

    Politics is about character.

    Reply: Unfortunately Alan Clarke is dead, so I am a little lost by your comparison. Ken Clarke does not say the same as me , if that is who you meant.
    My lack of a sense of humour is legendary, as readers of this blog will vouch.

    • no one
      Posted April 13, 2010 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      governments and political parties are like a rock band

      you need the showy extrovert to be lead singer

      you need the pretty one always chased by girls on drums

      you need the precise scientific type on guitar, often stirring things up

      you need the real muso on keys

      you need the solid reliable one who looks and sounds like he makes no decisions on bass while the rest of the band always defer to him at the end of an argument, and often writes the best songs

      i like john redwood and im glad he is somewhere in the rock band that is british politics, i do get frustrated that the press spend too much time on the lead singers and far too little on the bass players

      and the bass players without obvious humour are often the funniest of all when you look a little deeper

      am i rambling too much here? ha ha

  4. Max Van Horn
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Your world view is spot on.Ayn Rand was absolutetly convinced that the ivory-tower intellectuals were the root of the whole problem and have been undermining the youth of the country since the fifties.We now have a generation that is 'entitled', with lots of 'needs', none of which have to be earned..other peoples money can be used.Well, I think we are so far down the road to disaster that the John Galt philosophy is the only game in town.

    • Kevin Peat
      Posted April 13, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      I dunno. I think most youth don't hold a hope of ever owning their own homes or getting into their chosen career.

      We need to be giving them the tools to do this – not undermining their prospects with a flood of cheap and often unofficial labour.

      • Lola
        Posted April 14, 2010 at 8:43 am | Permalink

        Careful with the 'owning your own home' bit. It is still – just – eminently possible to build a business in the UK (not of course of Brown gets back in) and if you do that you'll have neough income to rent whatever house you like. A lot of the very rich buy leases on city centre property. A lease is not a freehold. Encourage children to 'make a living' not 'get a job' and set them on the way to a much wider sense of property ownership than merely 'owning' a house.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted April 13, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      I agree, however it's pretty much the only game they still refuse to consider

  5. Martin
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I just looked at the air transport section part of the Consevative manifesto.

    "Stop the third runway at Heathrow" "Block plans for second runways at Stansted and Gatwick"

    What right does the state have to interfere in airport runways or is just that Karl Marx is alive and well in the Conservative Transport section?

    Will the Conservatives free up Airport slots so that say Ryanair can fly from Heathrow?

  6. Frugal Dougal
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    When I was a student psychiatric nurse, an Enrolled Nurse told me that she'd been a commujnist until she'd visited Bulgaria in the 1970s and seen a psychiatric hospital there – she had been put off various times, until she was effectively smuggled in by a campaigner for better mental-health care. What disgusted her most were hospitalisations for what seemd to be political reasons.

    What a pity Friedrich Engels left the writing of most of Das Kapital to Marx, while he went around living his dream of shootin' huntin' and fishin' being – rightly – available to all. The 20th Century might have been a happier place had Friedrich had a firmer hand on the tiller.

  7. Acorn
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    The trouble with manifestos is they have to appeal to the common man. Even though the common man is the last person who will attempt to read it.

    The trouble with being a retired managing engineer is, you would not present a project plan in the same manner as a party manifesto. Parliament needs more engineers; people who know how to build systems, I say. The trouble is, no one would elect them because they would not sound like politicians are supposed to sound.

    I have just read the Conservative manifesto; to be truthful, I do a key word search of the document. I use words like tax and local as in local government. Having done this, you rapidly come to the conclusion that all these manifestos are "popular issues" based, not integrated systems based.

    Perhaps that is the way it has to be in a vote-for-me type democracy. I can't expect it to be managed like Tesco or any of our top companies, even though I know it would be much better if it were.

    Take for one instance among many, I quote; "consulting on moving towards a territorial corporate tax system that only taxes profits
    generated in the UK"(page 19). So a multinational corporate would make sure it moves its costs to high tax UK and its profits to a low tax area; Hello China; the jobs will follow later.

    The reality is that if you want these corporates to stay on our patch of the planet, you need a corporation tax rate of around 12%. No party manifesto will tell you that, even though they all know that corporation tax – £42 billion this year, was 47 in 06 – is pretty much a voluntary tax to a multinational corporation.

  8. Kevin Peat
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Anyway. What is so good about home ownership ? They don't seem so het up about it on the Continent and look at the enviable quality of life they have.
    Home ownership places enormous pressure on people and was encouraged by the Tories to make them Conservative voters.

    Now what do we have ?

    A shortage of social housing stock. Homes used as cashpoints fuelling the credit boom/bust, both parents having to work and kids farmed out to child minders, marital breakdown, debt, property pilfered from the elderly and infirm by the Government.

    Let's not forget the capital taken out of this country by emigrating retirees having sold their homes – bear in mind that this is capital has been realised on something which has only notional value and cannot be traded abroad in reality.

  9. StevenL
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    I see the fuel duty stabaliser is back, albeit remarketed as a 'fair fuel' somethingorother, so that's my vote in the bag.

    I'm still convinced the tories nicked that idea off a comment I made here in 2007 mind.

  10. Lola
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Intriguingly the communist manifesto wants the State to own all the means of production. This is often misrepresented as the 'workers owning the means of production'. In the 'popular capitalism' that you (and I) advocate the workers will truly end up owning the means of production. Marx would be partly pleased, methinks, but not wholly so.

    'Social' democracy has always seemed to me to be self nullifying as the word 'social' is used for 'socialist', and a socialist democracy is an oxymoron. But, a 'popular capitalist democracy' is not. Capitalism is not a political philosophy, it is simply a description of the way things are. It is essentially an opportunity system. Add 'popular' and 'capitalist' expands the meaning of democracy to show how best the demos can further benefit from the choice and freedom inherent in a truly democratic society.

    Such a view has a deep impact on the basic way we organise ourselves and implies a very small state and low taxes. The obverse – Big State, High Taxesa – are an enslavement, anti democratic and entirely incompatible with democracy and freedom.

    This assurance of liberty also promotes responsibility and charity. In such a society everyone is our neighbour and we will always feel compassion for the unfortunate. Democratic capitalism sees the best in people.

    Socialists / communists do not see this at all. They see the worst in people. It is a dismal philosophy.

  11. Tony E
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    There is a problem with 'popular capitalism', and that problem unfortunately is popular democracy.

    It seems, as you have described, that we have moved from feudal power, to narrow enfrachisement in the 18th C, then to universal sufferage in the 20th C. But almost as soon as we did so, people realised that they could vote themselves more and more gifts from the public purse.

    Now, all parties tell us 'what they will do for us' and we are slowly reaching the tipping point under which democracy will have allowed the voters to vote to rob the wealth creators to the point at which there no longer exists enough resources to satisfy the demands.

    If too many people take from the system, then the system collapses. If the voter decides to milk the system, the unprincipled politician will take advantage of this to hold power until the point of collapse. This is Labour. The problem is that nobody will vote for the changes that are needed, and therefore even if Conservatives find their way to power they will have no mandate to save the country from its excesses, and the upper house will stand in the government's way at every turn.

    How do we solve that problem?
    How do we get to a public spend of 35%GDP with the debt paid off?

    • Acorn
      Posted April 14, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      At a rough guess Tony, getting back to 35% GDP, (I am assuming you are talking "market price" GDP here; 39% "factor cost" GDP; the latter allows for tax and subsidy affects); you are looking at chopping £200 billion out of this years £704 billion government sector expenditure.

      I'm ready when you are; "fire up the Quattro".

      • Tony E
        Posted April 15, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        Love to Acorn, but with the pound in the toilet I just can't aford to fill the tank!

        The 35% figure was a bit of a rough guess, but £200 Bn sounds about right but I doubt anyone would vote for it.

  12. adam
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    public private partnerships are even worse than communism.
    its communism for private profit

  13. Adrian Peirson
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Communism is really a cruel hoax, a Globalist front, show me one Communist country where the people are free.
    They espouse fairness and equality, redistribution etc but it never seems to end up like that.
    What we are beginning yo see is that Communism / Socialism is really a front for Totalitarianism.
    In that way there are really only two games in twon, right and wrong,
    Libertarianism and Totalitarianism.

    Left and Right, republicanism, democrats, black white, christian muslim, conservative, labour are fronts and largely infiltrated.

    The only choices are Freedom or Tyranny.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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