Free enterprise offers us the hope of a better tomorrow. Conservatives like me want more people to succeed, more people to enjoy rising living standards, more people to own homes and shares and other items of value. My opponents’ caricature that Conservatives promote low pay for the many and greater inequality for the few is the opposite of the truth. Conservatives want greater prosperity for all, but accept there will continue to be inequalities in a free society.
Many socialists, in contrast, want to make us more equal by taxing those who are successful more heavily. They wish to regulate the private sector more, take more of its profits away, and punish those who work hard and pioneer new ways of doing and making things. The price of greater equality is far less freedom. They think this a price worth paying. When taken to extremes you end up in a world like communist eastern Europe prior to 1990. Even in such egalitarian societies the powerul political elite make sure they escape the privations of the many, with a privileged lifestyle that money could not buy.
I am not a natural legislator. I think we have too many laws, not too few. I am happier repealing laws than inventing new ones. MPs have in boxes full of lobby inspired campaigns to tax people and companies more, to stop them doing things, or to make them do things they are reluctant to do. The friendly socialist responds to these pressures by offering more tax breaks, subsidies and public spending programmes to move the world in the direction they want. The unfriendly socialist prefers to do it by criminalising more conduct and taxing more revenue.
One of the most pleasant surprises I have had doing the job of an MP is to discover that jealousy is not such a popular or universal emotion as many socialists seem to believe. Voters did not queue up to abolish by ballot the remaining grammar schools, even though most of them knewtheir children would not benefit. Many voters accept that a good entrepreneur who has worked hard and taken risks to make his or her money should be able to enjoy a decent proportion of the fruits of their labours. Most voters want to be able to pass some money on to the next generation, rather than wishing to make each generation start again with the state pocketing the gains of the dying. Most people want to own their own home and are pleased if it goes up in value. There is no desire for more people to be tenants of the state.
It is true that jealousy can come into some popular views, allied sometimes to a sense of fairness. Many share my view that state employees, whether in a subsidised bank or a great quango, should not be rewarded as if they were in the private sector on a performance bonus taking big risks with private money and subject to sudden loss of job if they get it wrong. Others dislike high pay however it is earned and whoever pays for it. Some dislike high pay selectively, condemning it for bankers but accepting it for footballers or the Governor of the Bank of England.
As a believer in free enterprise I am an optimist. During my life so far I have seen many people and whole societies become much richer and better served by the power of innovation and by the energy of the marketplace. We have been liberated from washday by the washing machine, from long walks to work and play by the car, from loneliness and boredom by the tv and the internet. Many more people now have better paid jobs, and no longer have the back breaking physical work of their grandparents.