Who will speak for the merchants?

I would like to have taken more interest in the disasters befalling the Confederation of British Industry, but it has long been an irrelevance. It exists because of a general feeling that something should exist and no more. It no more speaks for business than I might, or a random passer-by.

As a bosses’ trade union, it has had no purpose since the workers’ trade unions ceased to dictate to the nation. As a body from which the BBC can invite talking heads, it might fulfill a narrow need of the shallowness of journalism; but even in that role, any spokesman the CBI puts up can only speak for himself and infuriate those actually industriously labouring.

The latest calamities would be unworthy of comment but that it brings the  existence of the CBI into question. The charge sheet against the Director-General reads like no more than a desperate attempt to pin something on the man to force him out for reasons of office politics or ambition. That is the way the world works these days: make an accusation, bear false witness against him and exaggerate, and the victim is expected to resign, even if innocent. Whatever the tittle-tattle, it tells us more about the rot in the heart of the organisation than about the man accused. Unsurprisingly then, that rot that was hidden has begun to be exposed.  Those who live in glass  houses are throwing stones from the inside.

It seems a noble idea to represent business as a whole. It is just that in practice it cannot.

The concept of ‘business’ is vast and varied, and ever changing as entrepreneurs innovate. Its interests cannot truly be represented.  Some general principles may be universal; lowering the tax burden, free trade and so forth, but much beyond that and there is no consensus. You might think  that all business wants less burdensome regulation, but the large, semi-monopolies actually encourage it – they nurture regulatory system, growing them as if nurturing some vast fungus, in order to squeeze out smaller rivals. It is those large companies which dominate bodies like the CBI.

The collective voice of business is wrong and self-harming, constantly. Adam Smith noted the way that business interests lobbied Parliament in his time to secure protectionists measures, but he analysed the result and the merchants who had sought those measures suffered from them badly. They would not be convinced though. The same still goes on in Europe, from which we are mercifully extracted, and most of all in America.

As to the conversation of business with business:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

How much more so for all industry?  If it were effective, that is.

Those established in business are already out of date. Innovation and improvement for customers comes from the upcoming entrepreneurs. It should be unsurprising then to find that every intervention from the Confederation of British Industry over the years has been catastrophically wrong? In the 1930s, the Federation of British Industries was urging appeasement and settling confortable private arrangements with the Reichsgruppe-industrie. The CBI that it spawned did the same with murderous Communist Russia and opposed Margaret Thatcher, the most pro-business Prime Minister  since the Victorians, and the one who allowed enterprise to fly. It is unsurprising that the CBI was virulently against liberating business from Brussels bureaucracy.

The things is – those who have settled into  just getting on with life day by day will not want changes that bring uncertainty to their settled world, but prosperity demands change and innovation. Those who reach high postions in  trade organisation, especially such a one as the CBI, will be those who want that settled life. Furthermore, they must of necessity be the older, established bosses, because the innovators, those bringing uncomfortable disruptive change, are too busy working. And there in an office, claiming to represent the entrepreneurs, is a man who resents them bitterly.

Furthermore, the idea that the organisation of such size can represent members is a fantasy – indeed an impossibility. It is not an organisation of businessmen: it may be funded by businesses, but practically every function is carried out by hired staff who have never run a business in their lives. Is it any surprise if those staff, with the ear of government, giving power free of responsibility, should run fight each other in power games and run riot with impunity?

Look at the entrepreneur who is finding new ways to get paid for serving the public (not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we  expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest) – she may be opening a shop, or a high-tech consultancy, or he may be a builder with new techniques, or a professional launching a novel practice – what do they get from a distant monolith run by staff with no understanding and whose dominating steer is from giant industries who want to squash young, upcoming rivals?

Yet Whitehall listens to the CBI and similar bodies, as if they really do speak from industry, and so they misunderstand and harm actual enterprises. That is a danger for us all.

If there is a need for industry to have a ‘voice’ to remind politicians of what a shopkeeper needs, we may take inspiration from the established principle that competition is needed and monopolies must be stopped:  many voices, in whose very disagreement we will hear more truth.


Easter hymns

A week on from Easter and the hymns are still singing in the ears. Charles Wesley played as a full volume rock anthem? It works at Easter.

If the wings of the Church of England divide the year, Easter is when the Evangelicals hold the field. Cast out those awful, mawkish things on the hymn-sheet at Christmastide: at Easter we can belt out the best of them, in hymns of joy.

The clergy of the Church of England follow a strict calendar, even if the congregation do not, but we occasionally notice when the style of the hymns change a little from the general middle-of-the-book ones chosen at the whim of the choirmaster. The major seasons though, Easter and Christmas, have their own set of hymns and songs.

At Christmas, the Anglo-Catholics have sewn the season up, filling it with doubtful, theologically unsound and just plain blasphemous songs.  The Victorians must be to blame – trying to find some of the romantic beauty of the Middle Ages they dragged from ancient books a series of carols designed to awe unreformed congregations into superstitious sentimentality .and then wrote their own int he same vein. There must be a way to save Christmas from the mediaevalists, but for now it may mean going Baptist over the season.

Easter though – Easter is unambiguous. The hymns are ful of verve and praise. There is always Charles Wesley, and more recent hymn-writers, not just Graham Kendrick, and that Dutch ‘Easter carol’ that fits in a Reformed theological argument with a leaping tune. They give us things to belt out at the top of our voices with broad smiles (my reservation being that if my faulty voice were at full volume it would ruin it for those around me, so I am quieter).

What I can tell is that I stood in a cathedral full of diverse characters  who one might assume were from all over the field of theological preference, and they were singing like the wildest evangelicals, with faces alight like they have never been all year. There were among us some Christians from a far land where the faith is persecuted: when I meet these whose faith is fresh and pure, tempered  by the fire, I usually worry at how they will react to the degraded, timid expression of the Western church, but at Easter, with all the vigour of the church unleashed as when it was newborn, I had no cause for concern.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed – Hallelujah!

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Khan attacks opposition to ‘Firstborn’ plan

Sadiq Khan has hit out at growing opposition to his plan to slay the firstborn of London. He has vowed to press ahead, insisting that slaying all first-born children and adults is vital to protect the environment, and ensure a safe future.

‘Those who oppose this plan are lining up with far-right extremists,’ he told journalists ‘and we must not let the voices of hate nor climate-change denial stop up from delivering a solution to what all younger brothers know to be the cause of that holds them back in like, namely their big brother.’

The plan, set out by the Mayor in a 91 page policy document ‘Tackling the climate emergency and reducing the big brother problem’, which he flew to the Summit for Climate Action Missions to announce, would be the most ambitious programme of its type in the world, involving identifying major polluters and eldest children across the capital, not just in the  inner boroughs, and eliminating them.

The Mayor said that he is frustrated that medical staff have refused to take part in the prototokothanasia programme, which he put down to dissatisfaction over inadequate levels of pay in the NHS. Instead he is looking to recruit an army of volunteers across London.

Addressing initial doubts about the efficacy of the First-Born Plan, Sadiq Khan repeated the importance of the steps he intends to take. He reminded the audience that climate change is an immediate threat to the welfare of everyone in the world, and maybe even everyone in London, impacting the quality of life and electoral prospects of all levels of society. ‘Something must be done urgently: this is something; therefore it must be done.’

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