There is a moral case for capitalism that currently goes unheard, and David Cameron can make it most effectively by ensuring that the lowest paid see their pay pushed down even further. Oh, and greater numbers of people should work for highly profitable companies for absolutely nothing.
Statements like that on a leftwing website sound like a deliberate attempt to parody the arguments of the free market right. But this is exactly the position taken in an editorial on the Telegraph website today. Read it for yourself here.
Rather than limiting himself to condemnation of ‘anti-business snobbery’, the prime minister should set out a positive stall for ‘truly compassionate Conservatism’, we are told. And how can he do this? By cutting health and safety provision, curtailing the minimum wage and expanding workfare.
This line of reasoning set me thinking. The positive case for capitalism in the postwar period – made by the social democratic wing of the Labour Party and centrist Tories alike – was that capitalism grew the economic pie. Therefore it would generate ever-increasing standards of living and an ever-expanding social wage.
On the day when over a million local government workers have been told that they face a real terms cut in pay for the third year in succession, capitalism’s supporters can no longer put such claims forward with a straight face.
If this system cannot even sustain six quid an hour as a wages floor, that looks to me more like a point against it than a point in its favour.