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