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Sunday, 24 January 2010

How to destroy enterprise – a little tale from Rome about how good intentions have evil consequences

“That government is best which governs the least,” said Thoreau.

Forget the Bliar’s greed and mendacity and the low machinations of the Bullying Toad: that is the chief reason why I hate the current and last British administrations, which have spewed out an infinitely greater amount of legislation in a shorter time than all previous ones – and left the country in utter chaos and confusion.

They have followed the European model of telling people what to do, and given a chance they would go further. The same applies to Cameron by the look of it, who seems like a sort of sub-Blair. But no matter how good your intentions, this doesn’t work.

A friend who runs a business in Rome finds her job a nightmare because of laws that make it all but impossible for you to fire people – and thus very unwilling to hire anyone in the first place. Not conducive to building a business, right?

Not long ago she reluctantly did hire someone who looked good but who after a few weeks started idling on the job. Why not? She thought she was safe. To get rid of her my friend had to devote countless hours when she should have been running the business to monitoring how long this woman spent in the toilet, how many minutes she was late, how long she took for lunch. All trivial and demeaning wasted time.

Another friend in Bari has been offered jobs – but with no security, or “off the books” - because employers just don’t want to be tied up by these well-intentioned but self-defeating laws.

Adam Smith said "It is the highest impertinence and presumption in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense... They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expense, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will.”

Libertarians claim we should not interfere with capitalist rapacity. Smith did not agree. He thought decisions should not be left to “merchants and manufacturers” and such as bankers and their clients, especially where this “might endanger the security of the whole society.”

Which it certainly has, though Barack Obama’s proposals ignore what actually caused the trouble - and may well do again.

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