A FEW years ago, Britain was ridiculously complacent, blind to everything that was going wrong in the economy, determined not to notice the irrational exuberance, the monetary pump-priming, the fiscal profligacy, the epidemic of stupid decisions and the deliberate malfeasance. We were a nation in the grip of an insane bubble yet anaesthetised by cheap and easy money. Many thought the City, which was delivering jobs and tax receipts, couldn’t get anything wrong. Today, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, with hatred, envy, class war and extreme suspicion of all businesses and the corporate world reaching corrosive and dangerous proportions. Now most people think the City can never get anything right, that most folk who work in finance are crooks, cowboys or don’t pay taxes. Needless to say, that is nonsense.
The trouble in Britain is that we are never able to strike the right balance. We either love or we hate. Yet one can like and support business and the City, as this newspaper does, while keeping one’s eyes open, remaining realistic about the limitations of human nature and deeply disapproving of certain kinds of behaviour. The case for capitalism is not based on the assumption that human beings are perfect. And while certain aspects of business need to be reformed, we focus too much in today’s Britain on scandals and all that is wrong with business – and not enough on what is right, on the success stories and the job creation. We also forget about all that is wrong with government, and how counter-productive politically-motivated official action often is – for example, deranged capital standards that artificially promoted risk-taking during the bubble, laws that encouraged sub-prime lending in the US (and new ones that may do so again in the UK) or monetary policies that fuelled housing bubbles (and will doubtless do so again).
We should be discussing the good as well as the bad about business. One example of the former is how the City remains a powerful force for meritocracy and social mobility: a survey of 1,655 City workers by Astbury Marsden shows that the workforce in London finance is now extraordinarily diverse, with minorities and immigrants employed and empowered to a much greater degree than in other sectors. In this case, the market is doing more to help outsiders than any government programme. We must remember that capitalism is a powerful force for good.
CITY A.M. NEEDS YOU
Dear readers, City A.M. needs your help. As a quality newspaper provided for free to a record number of readers, we would very much like to find out a little more about you – what you like most about your paper, where you get hold of your copy, which industry you work for and a few other straightforward questions that will help us better cater to your needs.
I know that many of you will be keen to help us – so please go to www.cityamsurvey.com and you will be guided through a simple questionnaire. We would be delighted to hear the thoughts and ideas of as many of you as possible. To thank you for taking the time to help us, everybody who fills in the survey will be entered into a draw for an all-inclusive trip for two to one of Sandals’ luxury resorts in Antigua, a package which includes flights (see full terms and conditions on page 7). We will also be entering survey participants into a daily draw to win a bottle of champagne.
Thanks again to all of you for reading our newspaper and for your exceptional loyalty and trust, for which we are extremely grateful.
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