Can I call Tristram Hunt a Twat?

Or should I use the more obvious word?

It is a tradition of redistribution, intervention and socialism equally as compelling as Adam Smith\’s \”invisible hand\” (which, one should remember, was a satirical attack on laissez-faire morality, drawn from Shakespeare\’s Macbeth).

It\’s got bugger all to do with laissez faire morality. It\’s about how the merchant (read, capitalist, for the word had not been invented in Smith\’s time) will, despite the greater profits of the foreign trade, find himself still likely to invest at home.

The most important modern result of which is that even if we have perfect theoretical capital mobility it still isn\’t true that labour bears all of the incidence of corporate taxation.

8 comments on “Can I call Tristram Hunt a Twat?

  1. Nonetheless, the basic thrust of the article is broadly correct. It’s hard to find a real British tradition of free markets; the form of Capitalism we developed is more of a paternalist ideal, in which a Calvinist-style Elect provide “employment” to the untermensch, while using their wealth for Good Works (the latter thus demostrating their Elect status). That was certainly the predominant ideal by the later nineteenth century, and is largely why our “capitalism” fizzled by the 20th.

    Which is why, to quote a great man, “I am not a conservative”. I’m too keen on free markets for that.

    Cameron’s “moral capitalism” mitherings are perfect examples of that ideal in my first para, IMHO.

  2. Ian B – “It’s hard to find a real British tradition of free markets; the form of Capitalism we developed is more of a paternalist ideal, in which a Calvinist-style Elect provide “employment” to the untermensch,”

    All economic development, more or less by definition, is the work of a small elite. That is especially true of innovation which is almost always the work of a single mind or a small group. Great companies are invariably built up by a single charismatic leader.

    So not only does this sound about right, normal even, you have simply produce a non-sequitur. What you claim has nothing to do with free markets at all. A free market does not mean someone like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or Henry Ford cannot exist.

    “while using their wealth for Good Works (the latter thus demostrating their Elect status).”

    And a damn good job they did too. We got more out of their charity than we have from the welfare state.

    “That was certainly the predominant ideal by the later nineteenth century, and is largely why our “capitalism” fizzled by the 20th.”

    I disagree. It was because we turned from that model. We rejected it. We insisted that great leaders be pulled down and hobbled. Jante’s law in fact.

  3. Ah.

    The problem is, the “capitalism” of the kind I describe has little room for a young Bill Gates writing Altair BASIC in a motel room in Albuquerqe(sp?). It is a capitalism of scelerotic industries led by politically influential “captains” who seek not innovation, but stability, and thus ossification. America was of course badly affected too (the ghastly Carnegies, Rockerfellers, Morgan, etc) but also left the door open for the Gates’s to some extent. It’s a capitalism that despises free markets and competition, because that produces instability, and opposes the “social” model of the company as the benign provider to the little people who work there.

    Indeed, it was the capitalism that never understood what to do with an empire that spanned a quarter of the globe, and shipped cotton from India to factories in England to woven. Because if you let the Indians build their own factories, they might be so ungrateful as to undercut your prices and destabilise everything.

    Actually, just think about that. At the start of the 20th century, we had the largest empire the world had ever seen, and we couldn’t win a war with Germany. A clearer indication that we had failed at the production game is hard to imagine.

    The consequences have been pretty catastrophic. The problem with Elect Capitalism is this; you divide th population into a small number fit to lead, and a much greater number who wait to be led. When the Great Industry is elminated by the market (e.g. shipbuilding, or steel, or something like that), the worker class just stand around waiting for somebody to give them a job, and the government promises to find somebody to give them a job, but can’t find anyone so ends up giving them a job itself. It’s interesting to note how the small capitalist is popularly derided as Essex Man- he being in fact the descendent of the Victorian costermongers who were forced further and further out of London as the stultifying Victorian dispensation was put in place. What image do we have of the small capitalist? Del Boy- a borderline villain, a fool, a rogue, puffed up in his pompously daring to dream of success. “Creme De La Menthe” ha ha ha, thanks BBC.

    Srsly, the only thing the British know to do with a market is build a Municipal Something on it. We haven’t got a clue, really we haven’t.

  4. I always thought the “invisible hand” part of Smith’s philosophy belongs more in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, where it gets a big chunk, rather than The Wealth of Nations, where it occurs once, almost in passing. In either case, it’s hard to see how Smith meant it to be satirical. Perhaps Tristam Hunt misread it as “the invisible cand”.

  5. Ian B – “The problem is, the “capitalism” of the kind I describe has little room for a young Bill Gates writing Altair BASIC in a motel room in Albuquerqe(sp?).”

    Well Britain (and more so the rest of Europe) does have a problem with cronyism. That is true, but that is not capitalism as such is it?

    “It is a capitalism of scelerotic industries led by politically influential “captains” who seek not innovation, but stability, and thus ossification. America was of course badly affected too (the ghastly Carnegies, Rockerfellers, Morgan, etc) but also left the door open for the Gates’s to some extent.”

    How on Earth can you say that about Carnegie or Rockefeller? Serious innovators in their time. People who made their wealth from nothing by providing services and products people wanted. Innovators.

    “Indeed, it was the capitalism that never understood what to do with an empire that spanned a quarter of the globe, and shipped cotton from India to factories in England to woven. Because if you let the Indians build their own factories, they might be so ungrateful as to undercut your prices and destabilise everything.”

    And yet Britain did help India develop. The British Indian administration provided the support – including protective tariffs – that allowed Tata to thrive for instance. British India was on its way to being a major producer when the British left.

    But you do have a point about the Empire.

    “The problem with Elect Capitalism is this; you divide th population into a small number fit to lead, and a much greater number who wait to be led.”

    Well that is simply a statement of fact. The problem with the sort of crony capitalism you describe is when the people in power decide who should lead and who should follow, not the market, and hence not related to their actual abilities. That is a different problem.

    “It’s interesting to note how the small capitalist is popularly derided as Essex Man…. What image do we have of the small capitalist? Del Boy- a borderline villain, a fool, a rogue, puffed up in his pompously daring to dream of success.”

    It is, it is. The last bastion of the class system. But Del Boy is tragic for that reason – he came too early. He wanted to break out of that class system. He almost, but not quite could. A few years later and Thatcher would have allowed him to become a billionaire.

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