State owned banking

Lots of people calling for state owned banks these days. Picking winners, directing industry:

Nationalisation of coal, gas, electricity, steel and the railways by Labour heralded deeper political intervention. Harold Wilson went further after moving to Downing Street in 1964, talking ambitiously about a technological revolution and the creation of groups with a global reach to match the US giants.

He set up the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation (IRC), the equivalent of a state-owned merchant bank, to fulfill the \’mission.’ The \’Young Turks’ in the IRC presided over the biggest ever shake-up in manufacturing. The motor industry was restructured around Donald Stokes and British Leyland. Arnold Weinstock was given carte blanche to ride roughshod through the electrical engineering industry. The exercise was repeated in machine tools, aerospace, mechanical engineering and other sectors.

British Leyland started life with more than 40pc of the British car market but lurched from crisis to crisis before disappearing. Lord Weinstock kept GEC intact but disappointed the politicians by being too cautious with his considerable cash pile. The successor body, the National Enterprise Board, did little better in its efforts to pick winners and in between industry was suffocated by \’Neddy’ – the National Economic Development Council and \’Little Neddy’ offshoots.

Which part of this is it that everyone wants to repeat?

3 thoughts on “State owned banking”

  1. Lord Weinstock kept GEC intact but disappointed the politicians by being too cautious with his considerable cash pile.

    Aye, and when his successor – Lord Simpson – pleased the politicians by using that cash to buy American telecoms outfits and turned the company into a sexy, modern venture it collapsed spectacularly a year or two later. Perhaps Weinstock knew what he was doing, eh?

  2. The Last Ginslinger

    I remember “Nationalisation”, when the Government took over a going concern and within six months it was bankrupt. When it is your money you are investing you look very close at an investment. When it is the government, who cares? Plenty more tax where that came from.

  3. Somewhat OT but I’m reminded that, quite some years ago, the Japanese gov’t. undertook a study of the results of gov’t. support (subsidy, protection, research, export subsidy, lending, etc.) in 21 areas.

    Their conclusion was that, except for two, all had been failures. And one of the two was that of Optics, where Japan had already been hugely successful without the targeted support.

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