Social enterprises and the failures of Friedmanism | Letters

It’s brilliant to read about the fantastic impact that social enterprises are having on Plymouth (Aditya Chakrabortty: A city that grows good companies, 11 April), allowing the city to grow and develop on its own terms. What is happening in Plymouth is inspiring, but it is important to note that, far from being contained to one city, social enterprises are part of a global movement. In the UK alone, there are tens of thousands of social enterprises – each one dedicated to putting people and communities ahead of private profit. Plymouth is one of 25 officially accredited Social Enterprise Places using social enterprise as a tool to create fairer, accountable and more sustainable economies.

Far from being a new idea, social enterprises have proud origins. The Rochdale Pioneers used the principles of social enterprise to tackle the inequities of the Industrial Revolution and these same principles of fairness, equality and community benefit inform social enterprises today.

If we are to truly create an alternative to our failed economic model, we need to embrace the potential of social enterprise. It represents and must become the future of business and of our economy.

Peter Holbrook

Chief executive, Social Enterprise UK

• Larry Elliott (People want basic things, and a politics to provide them, 12 April) rightly comments that in the new post-cold-war politics, parties that once believed their job was to make capitalism work for voters now believed their task was to make voters fit for capitalism. However, the convoluted thinking of the capitalists now in power is achieving the exact opposite. Their euphemism for “fit for capitalism” is “fit for work”.

A two-child limit is put on the payment of unemployment benefits. The exclusions are listed as those born as a result of multiple birth, adopted children in parental caring arrangements and those born as a result of non-consensual sex. They forget that all children are equally valuable and leave the remaining children, above two per impoverished family, at risk of debilitating lifetime poverty.

It ought not be too difficult for a government to work out that if you cut housing benefit while rents go up and freeze the increases of other benefit incomes needed for food, fuel and other necessities, or even stop them while prices rise, then more and more families will not be able to pay the rent, eat food or keep warm; therefore more and more will be homeless, fall ill and die young. The prevention of ill health is worth every penny of our money that a government spends on an adequate and fair benefit system. Of course unemployed people should look for work but a policy of enforced deprivation means our valuable fellow citizens are not fit for work and the British economy is unfit for the world.

Rev Paul Nicolson

Taxpayers Against Poverty

• Larry Elliott has revisited what George Orwell wrote 70 years ago. But could I suggest that the Guardian stops using the term socialism (For the many – what Bernie taught Jeremy, G2, 12 April). This term is now used pejoratively by the right to try to discredit anything to the left of Thatcherism. It’s social democracy and it was largely successful in redistributing wealth in this country in the three decades after the war and is still successful elsewhere, notably in the Scandinavian countries. Milton Friedman and his friends launched just as fierce attacks on social democracy as on outright communism because they knew that communism was already seen to be failing whereas social democracy was demonstrably working. How sad that it’s taken nearly four decades for the British people to wake up to the failures of Friedmanism. That was another facet of our national character that Orwell commented on.

David Redshaw

Gravesend, Kent

• Political discussion in the UK should henceforward stick to the propositions advanced by Larry Elliott. “Liberalising markets did not lead to economic nirvana; instead the orgy of speculation led to the financial crisis of 2008 … The record shows that the managed capitalism of the cold war delivered better results than the unmanaged capitalism since.”

So Managed capitalism should therefore include a land value tax to control property price inflation which got out of control in the liberalised markets immediately prior to 2008, although LVT was the stabilising element in the laissez-faire system proposed by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations in 1776. People will eventually rumble that increasing the money supply only makes matters worse if it just inflates land values and, by taking undue rents and mortgage payments, diminishes demand for goods and services that people produce.

DBC Reed


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