Social justice has been at the heart of the leadership debate over the last 48 hours. Amazing! On the two days that ballot papers are dropping through the letter boxes of Tory voters the two contenders aren't talking about Europe or immigration; they're brandishing their compassionate credentials. Yesterday David Davis appealed to the 'wristband generation' and today he's unveiled a video which has his 'good for me, good for my neighbour' message at its heart. Today David Cameron has said that the elimination of poverty must be one of the Tory Party's top two priorities. The hope is that the winner of this contest will still be talking about these issues during the real election campaign - in three or four years' time.
Mr Cameron's speech is very substantial. Here are some of its key themes:
- “The creation of wealth and the elimination of poverty are the central objectives of Conservative economic strategy… Our twin aims as a Party in advancing these propositions over the next four years should be to restore our reputation for economic competence, and to demonstrate that we are in this for everybody, not just the rich.”
- The problems of very poor areas like Lozells in Birmingham are not reflections of race or religion, but economics.
- But the very poorest people in Britain need “human-scale help” as well as economic incentivisation: “The tragic deficiency in Labour’s bureaucratic approach is the lack of human-scale help for those who are in need, not just of money, but of human support. Sometimes it’s simple things like the confidence to buy a suit, or knowing the importance of turning up on time to an interview. A stable family environment, free of drug or alcohol dependency, are the first steps on the ladder to self-sufficiency. These are not things that a bureaucracy can provide. Labour’s big bureaucracies terrify. And they do not reach out a helping hand to those whom they terrify.”
- Five great barriers inhibit wealth creation in Britain: Labour’s fiscal irresponsibility, cultural hostility to capitalism (including the profit motive); European regulation and anti-third world protectionism; inadequate road, rail and modern communications infrastructure; a lack of rigour in education alongside inadequate vocational education.
- On international development Mr Cameron emphasises the need to tackle “killer disease”: “This is an area where a relatively small amount of money, effectively spent, can achieve disproportionate results. Smallpox was eradicated in 1978 after a worldwide campaign costing just a few million dollars. Our priority today should be malaria.”
- One of the best sections comes with regard to property rights in the developing world:
“Anyone who has worked in the developing world will have been struck by the ingenuity, energy and dynamism that is there. Travelling salesmen who walk for a whole day to market. Small-scale family businesses being run with 24-hour a day commitment. Shopkeepers buying and selling on a margin of just a few pence. But despite all this entrepreneurial energy and hard work, these people remain poor. Why? It’s not that they don’t own assets.
Despite their poverty, it’s been estimated that poor people around the world own assets worth some $9.3 trillion. But these assets are not formally recognised as legal property. So they can’t be used as capital. The barriers to formal property rights in the developing world are formidable. According to research carried out by Hernando de Soto’s Institute for Liberty and Democracy, it would take someone almost a year, working full-time, to complete the paperwork to set up a legal one-man sewing business in Peru…and the legal costs would be 31 times the monthly minimum wage. It would take five years of bureaucratic wrangling, including 77 administrative steps in 31 government offices, to get legal authorisation to build a house in Egypt.
So it is no wonder, for example, that only one per cent of the land in sub-Saharan Africa has been officially registered. A lack of formal property rights means that poor people can’t use their assets to create wealth… to trade assets outside local circles where people know and trust one another…or to use their assets as collateral for a loan to start a new business and invest for the future.
Without formal property rights, the basic machinery of wealth creation comes grinding to a halt. Entrepreneurship and risk-taking is stifled; wealth is not created; people stay poor. We can do something about this. We could investigate the establishment of a Property Rights Fund, which would encourage the development and formalisation of property rights in poor countries. Hernando de Soto’s Institute has developed an effective methodology to do this, but his capacity is limited. A Property Rights Fund could pay for the manpower needed to enable the documentation and codification of property rights in multiple locations simultaneously.”
You can read the full speech by downloading a pdf here.