David Hodgson writes that social breakdown and inequality are the result of â€œneo liberal social and economic policiesâ€. They are the result of re-creating ourâ€ social and economics institutions in the image of America, having turned our backs on Europe.â€
Arguing that Breakdown Britain, or the poverty and drug-taking in some US cities, is the result of economic liberalism is as likely as arguing these phenomena are the result of living in a Christian culture in the UK and the US, a proposition I know David would reject. It is true that there is some poverty and unemployment in the USA, but less of the latter than in the EU. Relative US poverty is in relation to a much higher standard of living in the USA than in Europe. Both the US and the UK are Christian countries, so how can we be sure that the features of society we do not like result from the alleged economic policies rather than from a Christian framework marked by tolerance of other ways of life? I do not see causal connection in either case, but could make a better argument for the latter than for the former. You could argue that the lack of an agreed moral framework, and the lack of moral authority by the Christian Churches over many people in the society are, in part, the reason for different social mores and the presence of more anti-social behaviour than in say, Islamic societies where the moral grip of religion is greater. We value freedom more, and the Churches give a hesitant message if any on how we should live.
The UK, far from turning its back on Europe in the last couple of hundred years, has remained engaged so much that it has fought great wars to try to keep Europe free, and in recent decades has accepted practically every law code and power shift recommended by the EU. Over the last decade the government has taken public spending and borrowing up to EU levels, and has equated NHS spending to health spending levels on the continent. At the same time, France, deeply embedded in European politics and values has seen her suburbs disfigured by high unemployment, racial tensions, poverty and drug taking on a worrying scale. How on earth can you believe that if we were more â€œEuropeanâ€ we would have fewer social problems?
There is a great misunderstanding by many on the left of the nature of free enterprise capitalism. It is not wholly individualistic, and it does not rely on competition to the exclusion of co-operation and community. I believe in free enterprise as part of my wider belief in a free society. I am against big government, but that does not make me a critic or opponent of collective actions, community values, or team work. I prefer team games to individual effort sports, where the individual has to co-operate with others and work for the benefit of all team members. I like enterprise capitalism, because like minded and like motivated people discover they are stronger working together than apart, and are able to serve their fellow human beings better by co-operating through companies.
I dislike big government, because it is so often clumsy and insensitive, damaging civil liberties in the name of security, and damaging free enterprise in the name of equality. It makes us collectively poorer. Taken to the extremes of communism it makes the society so much poorer that the poor are poorer as well as the rich are poorer than people in freer societies. Big governments under communism always favoured more spending on weapons than on improving the lifestyles of their publics.
Free enterprise societies have higher average incomes than other states organised along different lines. They enjoy more personal freedom than socialist states where government may command where you work, determine your income, decide your housing and control your thoughts. The freer the state the better the economy â€“ the European model of limited free enterprise has been consistently outperformed by the freer USA, which has kept its unemployment lower and its growth rate higher than the EU.
A free enterprise society gets the best out of the individual and the family by allowing them to co-operate and work with others as they choose, by allowing thousands of flowers to bloom in the meadow of our plenty. It honours charities, welcomes Churches, encourages diversity in tackling social problems as well as in producing more and better goods. The main developments that have made life so much easier â€“ the phone and mobile phone, the TV, the washing machine and the car have all been developed in free enterprise societies. Free enterprise works because it creates that natural balance between competition and collaboration, between team effort and individual initiative. Other societies are not so good at that, so they either have to copy the free enterprise ones and allow in their companies to do it for them, or accept lower living standards and greater poverty.