‘The good that government can do’ was the repeated refrain of Theresa May’s closing speech at the Conservative Party conference on Wednesday.
It is certainly true that the State can do good by maintaining law and order, administering justice, and defending the country from attack. However, Mrs May’s speech did not focus on these things; instead she asserted that the government needs to fix ‘broken markets’.
Mrs May pointed out that energy and housing are becoming increasingly unaffordable and that the poorest in society are suffering as a result. She is absolutely right. However, she is wrong to blame free markets and to view the State as the solution.
It is precisely because of State intervention and the absence of a free market that housing is in such a mess. The government needs to abolish the many pointless building regulations and allow developers to start building on the Green Belts. This would provide the country with the affordable homes that it so desperately needs. The government is the cause of the problem, and so should not be seen as the solution.
In speeches that were obviously intended to appeal to Labour and UKIP voters, both the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary placed the blame at the door of business executives and immigrants. Take for example Amber Rudd’s absurd plan to force businesses to publish how many foreign workers they employ – as though Gordon Gecko and Johnny Foreigner are in cahoots to destroy the livelihoods of the average British worker. The Prime Minister also wants to place even greater burdens on businesses by making them have workers on boards.
The UK economy is facing uncertainty in light of the Brexit vote. Instead of blaming businesses and immigrants we need to welcome them and recognise the huge benefits which they bring to our economy.
Instead of the government trying to fix the economy through State intervention, it needs to stop interfering. The government needs to liberalise energy and housing to make them more affordable for everyone. Furthermore, it should cut corporation tax and not impose more regulations on businesses. This will make the UK economy more competitive and attractive. Theresa May wants the government to do more. It should be doing less.