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Tim Montgomerie: Brown's boast to have abolished boom and bust encapsulates a decade of political over-reach

By Tim Montgomerie
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The Guardian asked me to write about capitalism's crisis today and you can read the article here. I attempted to outline two big ideas within the 750 word limit and I'd like to briefly look at each of them, today and tomorrow.

My first big theme was the idea that it is politics, as much as capitalism that has got out of control in the last decade and Gordon Brown's boast to have abolished the economic cycle captured the giddy arrogance of governments at the start of the new millennium. Exhibits A, B, C and D for my case are as follows:

  • European Union leaders deciding to squeeze 17 very different economies into a one-size-fits-all interest rate zone.
  • Blair and Bush attempting to liberate two faraway and culturally alien nations with less than half the number of troops their generals recommended.
  • Obama thinking he could conquer American unemployment with a $787bn stimulus.
  • And today's attempts by politicians to turn their economies upside down in a bid not just to mitigate climate change but reverse it.

I don't dispute that there haven't been failures of crony capitalism but let's not let government off the hook for the troubles we are currently experiencing. America's Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street protests have more in common than they'd both like to admit. They are both protests against big governments and big businesses that developed hubristic patterns of behaviour. I'm not an anti-government libertarian. I'm a conservative who believes in small, focused government. I believe the roles that the democratic state performs are vital. But I'm also sceptical that big government interventions are what we need now. I don't have faith in the current crop of political leaders. As with the Obama stimulus and a second round of massive Quantitative Easing I fear politically ambitious cures may be as bad as the disease.

Tomorrow I'll look at my second idea - the alternative cure. It's my contention that the natural partner for economic liberalism isn't social liberalism but social conservatism. I suspect it will be more controversial for ConHome readers than this first one and so I'll spend a bit more time defining what I mean by social conservatism and why it's never been more needed.


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