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"Business Britain"

The Future of Government

We, at least in Europe, regularly elect men and women into government. Are they no more than the "actual landlords of the state", a "grantor of concessions" and a "dispenser of accolades" or, in the words of the German ex-chancellor Helmut Schmidt, the CEO of a huge corporation? In the case of Great Britain this self-delusion has far-reaching consequences - and none of them amusing.

By Peter Strong

What can we say about this commercial zone that is situated off the coast of continental Europe? Well, for a start, we could remark that the assignment of business empire building, now taken into hand by government as the great way forward, is not exactly the same kind of work as nation building, governance, and maintenance, which was traditionally – even if only in theory – the politicians' and governments' real job. In Britain, with such developments as we have just outlined – namely, movement towards an objective of concerted business empire building on the part of its rulers and establishment – we witness, concomitantly, a significant transformation of the idea of government itself: a change effected to the extent of our now needing, more realistically, to label government which is applied to the concept of a nation as ‘old government'; in contrast to government applied to the state conceived of as an overall business enterprise, which we shall have to term ‘new government'.

And what, then, does a new government, of a British sort, take to be its role?

Its top role is as overlord of business Britain – with its domain including the ‘duchies' of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

It is the official recruiter and trainer of labour, plus the official importer of labour. New government does not need to have a unified population in order for it to pursue the activity of business empire building. All that is required is access to competitive pools of workers with an adaptable range of skills. It really doesn't matter whether those of these pools can even speak the same language, or whether they are contributing their skills from pools as far off as China, or the planet Neptune for that matter – if paring the production costs of goods is the main focus of consideration. However, the advantage of a new government possessing its own home based worker pools is that taxes are paid by these workers, and the presence of skilful worker pools are one attraction for itinerant corporations to be setting up their British bases.

New government is personnel officer (and, whenever necessary, the police officer) conspicuously enforcing correct relations between groups.

New government has assumed the position of actual landlord of the state. It looks upon land and real estate, whether public or private, in a limited and exploitative triune fashion – as amenity, as dormitory for its worker pools, and as siting for corporate fiefdoms. Attachment to land was a marked feature both of traditional cultures and of old governments of nation. In annulling this previous attitude to land new government has acted as a de-yeomanizing force, and has wreaked a havoc upon the British farming community as nothing governmental has managed to do since the Enclosure Act of the 18th century.

New government is the grantor of concessions. Business Britain as a commercial zone does not fall into the category of being a monolithic state enterprise. That is to say, the state – represented in the form of the board of generals along with its prime ministerial kinglet – does not own and operate all of the businesses. Rather, the state allows the siting upon its territories, as self-operating businesses, of both home grown companies and corporations, as well as itinerant corporations – commonly referred to these days as the multinationals. It is appropriate, in a British context, to call these large state approved of undertakings corporate fiefdoms. The state's own labour pools serf these fiefdoms, again, with the serfs' wages being taxed for the state's benefit. All in all new government has assumed the role of a neo-feudal authority administering a kingdom of labour pools and corporate fiefdoms. In this sense new government is something more reminiscent of the European system which applied prior to the onset of old government – that same old government which is now fast in process of fading.

A role of new government is as the official British dispenser of accolades. Fiefdoms, through their competitive enterprises, seek to achieve each for themselves accumulations of wealth, power, and influence. A fiefdom does not stand, at least for very long, aloof from a state's political administration, which is the place where influence often needs to be exerted, and this for a host of reasons – all of them, to be sure, being ones invariably seemly to the minds of the managers of a fiefdom. Fiefdom managers require some recognition of their power and status. Honours systems are a customary and perhaps even in themselves a necessary evil of societies: they are useful – yes, even in democracies – as mechanisms to help to establish that certain powerful persons are indeed up-front personae gratae, rather than of the sorts who are furtive, faceless, and criminally engaged in unsavoury aggrandising antics in the background. (Also, in democracies, honours systems offer something of a public protection – a decided means, if necessary, of inflicting censure: thus, powerful individuals are elevated to a position where, in the event of their disreputable behaviour, they can more easily be publicly disgraced and depotentiated.) New government titles its fief holders the Barons and Lords of big business, in a way which matches what former monarchical rulers did for the managers of the estates which were then the wellheads of an agriculturally based national wealth, their Dukes and land Barons. The British honours system has been almost entirely usurped by new government from its former monarchical owners, and remains today only negligibly a monarchical dispensation. And, of course, the dispensing of honours has to be an act of relationship which works both ways; it comes as part and parcel of a linkage, of an interface between powerful people and the administrators of a state's power. A goodly proportion of the administrators, and here meaning the politicians, are either officer members or – call it upward mobility – aspiring members of the establishment: a reciprocal form of dispensation within the gift of the corporate fiefdoms is to be able to offer politicians paid directorships to their boards. In Britain that seems, without seeking justifications, to be the way of it.

Lastly, it is the role of new government, as overlord of business Britain, to relate its affairs as advantageously as possible to those conditions which obtain in the wider world. Out there, the big game being played is the business game. And business Britain complete with its duchies and fiefdoms, constitutes only a comparatively modest enterprise in a large pond haunted by some rapaciously competitive industrial and mercantile business giants. Out there, it seems is not a good place for small fish to be picking fights for plunder on their own; but it appears a more profitable one for economic and trade alliances. In the 19th century the pond happened to be Britain's and the big business game was Britain's; however, no more. The whale whose pond it is nowadays is America, and it is a fact that all systems informing the current new government of business Britain, including its educational policies, are aligned in a subsidiary way to this fact.

(to be continued)

9. November 2001


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