The whole focus on “bankers greed” is a side show in many regards. As Janet Daly observes here making excessive pay criminal is a step to tyranny, and it won’t work. That. of course, does not stop many of our politicians who see it as a popular diversion from reality!
“Responsible capitalism”, “crony capitalism”, “popular capitalism” – they’re all at it now. Every political leader in town has affixed a qualifying adjective to the name of that system which is, by universal agreement, the only economic game left on the planet. And that fact – that no mainstream party is prepared to countenance any alternative to free markets – is the most important political lesson of the past week. So the contest now, the one remaining area of contention, is how this system, which is the undisputed winner of the global ideological war, is to be managed. The main question that arose from last week’s eruption of rhetoric was not about the outcome to be desired. There was much vague agreement on that point: more “fairness”, less greed, etc, etc.
Fairness, of course, is a child-like concept for grown ups to pursue but it informs most debate here in the UK.
In the meantime, we need political leaders who will ask the most important question about capitalism: can a free-market economy support an ever-expanding welfare state of the kind that Europeans expect as of right, and even Americans are beginning to contemplate? Somehow I think it’s unlikely that we’ll get a rush of speeches on that theme.
Of course not because that would involve politicians actually grappling with reality. That’s never a preferred option in my experience.