Britain Yearly Meeting has published a further document in the New Economy Series, this one being entitled The Role of Markets in the New Economy. In my opinion it has three shortcomings:
Bias against the present.
The paper itself says the UK has well funded and organised public services, raising the question why entirely new economic principles are needed at all. The UK is a mixed economy in which private enterprise and public services are in a dynamic balance. This balance is, by the paper’s own implicit admission, not fundamentally awry. No doubt adjustments, by political or administrative means or through market mechanisms, are needed from time to time, but this is not a matter for the Religious Society of Friends nor one on which the Society has any expertise. It also needs to be remembered that it is the job of governments to make difficult decisions and that there is no magic money tree.
Bias against corporations
There is a bias is against corporations and in favour of the anti-corporatist lobby. This is manifest in dark talk about for-profit organisations and double-talk about increasing democratic participation in the economy. Private corporations need to make a profit in order to pay their investors, and they make an immeasurable contribution to modern life. Where would we be without Google and Amazon? Of course, some behave badly and don’t pay their taxes, but that is true of other people too.
Double talk about democracy
As for democracy, there is a lot of it about – too much some would say, in the wake of the EU Referendum. The pamphlet relies on the campaign group We Own It, which consists of left-wing academics with no experience of government or business, and trade-unionists. Their call for greater democratic and community involvement in the economy is largely double-talk for trade union power. Even the apparently innocuous word 'community' can be a cover for self-serving parochialism if not outright xenophobia. Trade unions' proper concern is their members’ interests and they do not speak for citizens, consumers or the electorate. Community leaders admittedly have their place but it is below that of elected representatives such as local councillors.
The New Economy Project
I continue to believe it is wrong of BYM to have embarked on the left-wing New Economy Project. Quaker socialists already have their own special interest group within the Society, as well as being free to act in secular organisations such as the Labour Party or Green Party. Too often BYM seems a univocal organisation in which the liberal political tradition of Quakers goes unrecognised.