Invisible Bums

At first I thought it must be a second April Fool. (I’d already spotted the first one: ‘Royals pick Prince Philip to lead call for UK to say in EU.’ Very amusing.) This one featured Sajid Javid, our Secretary of State for Business. The Guardian piece claimed that his favourite film is The Fountainhead, starring Gary Cooper and based on Ayn Rand’s novel of the same name. It was ‘articulating what I felt’, he explained to the House of Commons Film Club in January 2015 (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/31/nationalisation-state-save-steel-port-talbot-tata-industrial-policy). Apparently he had read parts of it to his future wife when they were courting. (I remember reading somewhere that Mrs Lenin had had to put up with much the same thing.)

Now, I must admit that I’ve not read any Ayn Rand – or, at least, not completed any of her books. (I have tried. They’re still sitting there, fat, by my bedside.) But it’s pretty well known what they’re about. They are celebrations of selfish capitalist endeavour, and so, by implication, critiques of any kind of outside meddling in the mechanisms of the market. Which could explain why, when the British Steel crisis was brewing (below), Javid did nothing to protect the industry – indeed did all he could to encourage Chinese competition; has absolutely ruled out nationalisation; and when the widely predicted storm finally broke, turned up in Australia, holidaying with his daughter. Why not? After all, there was no reason to take him back to his office in Whitehall; nothing he could or should do from there.

This Conservative government, in fact, seems to be full of people who simply don’t believe in what they’re supposed to be doing. John Whittingale, the Arts and Culture Secretary, responsible for the BBC, is against public broadcasting. His predecessor, Jeremy Hunt, a mate of Rupert Murdoch, felt the same. Now, as Minister for Health, he would clearly like to sell off the NHS. Nicky Morgan’s ‘Academies’ programme is designed, quite blatantly, as a prelude to selling our schools off to private corporations. When the East Coast Railway failed under its private owner, the government had to nationalise it for a while – otherwise the trains would have ground to a halt; but then, when that turned out to be doing far better than the old private company, promptly sold it off again. Eventually, government ministers will have nothing left to run. Everything will work like clockwork, on its own. Secretaries of State will sit in their Whitehall Offices gazing out of their windows at the wonder of it all, before retiring and exploiting their kudos, insider knowledge and connexions to pursue their private gain. They can be replaced on their Ministerial seats by nonentities: Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hands’ (or bums). The government will have achieved its ultimate aim – the same, as it happens, as Marx’s: to render government unnecessary. Murdoch will be in his Heaven, and all will be Right with the world.

Or perhaps it was an April Fool after all…

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