Willy Hutton is really just extraordinary

So he goes off to Palo Alto, sees Silicon Valley, and thinks yes, we should have that there.

He notes that there’s no public sector driving SV. But he then assumes that we should have the public sector driving the UK equivalent.


This is not a state-driven ecosystem, in European terms, but is governed by a sense of “publicness”.

How remarkable, eh? People manage to cooperate with each other without the State doing it for them. This market idea….

There is also an understanding that one person alone, given all the technical complexity and potential to make colossal mistakes, is unlikely to crack whatever problem presents itself. You have to collaborate, open up, build fluid teams and work together.

Yup, see? These markets and companies things, they’re methods of cooperation. That don’t need the State to get going.

Change is afoot in Britain. Last week, the CBI and government held a conference at Warwick University celebrating their new joint belief in industrial strategy, opened by a video clip of David Cameron giving his wholehearted backing. But while a repudiation of simple Thatcherism, this is not industrial strategy 1960s style. It is more an attempt to create an investment and innovation structure across eight technologies and 11 key sectors: the Palo Alto effect in British terms. It is hesitant and intellectually hazy, but there is no doubting the direction of travel. Public institutions and public money have to catalyse innovation together. It is the beginning of something potentially important.

There you go. Evidence that this is all possible without the State (possibly even, evidence that it is necessary that the State is excluded) is evidence that the State must be included.

It’s just bizarre.

But essential ingredients are missing. As a country, we don’t get the importance of computer code or the scale of the revolution unleashed by digitisation. There is no process or institution that will not be transformed. One important reason why there is no British Twitter or Facebook is because too much British business culture – operating in one of the least supportive environments in the world – has little nobility of intent or purpose, and thus ducks engaging with such immense challenges. Intellectual effort is instead expended on avoiding tax, stripping workers of rights or selling out. Instead of obsessing about leaving the EU, Britain should be exercising every sinew to enlarge the EU single market.

What a fucking dingbat. Has he never heard of ARM for example? Autonomy?

11 thoughts on “Willy Hutton is really just extraordinary”

  1. The more obvious reasons why America has been the creator of Twitter & Facebook isn’t “nobility of intent” but a large educated web-linked population, lots of venture capital funding and an accomodative legal & financial system.

    And is he also not aware that many of these innovative high tech US firms also seem to be quite keen on avoiding tax (by his definition) – Google, Apple, Amazon etc etc.

  2. Britain has “one of the world’s least supporting business cultures”? Eh??!!

    One week it’s a neo-liberal hell for workers, run by evil capitalists, the next it’s an incredibly hostile environment for business.

    Fuck’s sake, get a grip.

  3. What the UK software industry needs, obviously, are “strong and responsible unions” running the show, just like in Silicon Valley.

  4. He also seems to think that the entrepreneurs who take the risk to establish the multitude of SV start-ups are driven by some kind of noble cause. They’re not, they’re doing it to make money, usually driven by some new idea for code or hardware that they’ve had. Ascribing some kind of altruistic ideals to them is the worst kind of sixth-form psychological transference and wishful thinking.

  5. Have actually now read Hutton’s article and he does mention that the likes of Google do tax avoid.

    Which just makes his article even more confused. He seems to be saying that innovative tax planning can go hand in hand with an innovative business.

  6. “One important reason why there is no British Twitter or Facebook is because too much British business culture blah blah blah”

    Interesting silly Willy says Twitter or Facebook, not Google, MS, or some such. The implication is that it’s not the size but the nature of the businesses he’s complaining about. That, in turn, implies that Willy’s woken up to something called ‘consumer surplus’, and believes there’s more of it with Facebook/Twitter than with Google.

    He really is a total cretin.

  7. Shinsei,

    It’s a lot about the network of backers, entrepreneurs and skills. You get a sort of network effect. If you want to hire developers, that’s where they all congregate. And they congregate there, because that’s where the entrepreneurs are.

    And what none of these people seem to grasp is that an entrepreneur from this country will just get on a plane and go there with barely a second thought of Blighty.

  8. Welcome to the 1970s and the wonderful world of the NEB, NRDC and BTG. Supposedly set up to boost British industry it ended up mostly bailing out and nationalising a lot of duffers.

  9. Any minute now someone will mention MITI. Actually….

    Legendary for getting every single investment decision wrong.

    One way to get the Guardian types to explode is to propose a British DARPA….

  10. “Intellectual effort is instead expended on avoiding tax, stripping workers of rights or selling out [and] obsessing about leaving the EU”.

    So on Willy’s own diagnosis, the (supposed) failure of British companies to create inspiring businesses is because the Government is wasting their time and energy by getting in the way and making things hard for them.

  11. To be fair, journalists / bureaucrats / academics etc have been going to Silicon Valley for decades now to examine what is going one. “This is great. We must get our government to build one of these at home” has been a common reaction. Attempts by governments to do so never seem to work, oddly enough.

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