A Doctrine of Social Maternalism

‘We can’t assume the State knows best’ writes Professor Sir Paul Collier. He teaches Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government.

Professor Collier believes there is a need for “social maternalism”. This is a set of pragmatic policies when economic theories don’t help.

Pragmatic Social Maternalism

The State should be active in both economy and society. In the past, technology progressed or leaders got lucky. People are not seeing the proceeds of growth anymore. Leaders should be fiercely pragmatic.

People are rising up against elites, especially those seen as part of the Global Elite. But some forms of nationalism can bind people together again. The State should actively support the national interest.

Way before the snap election, Professor Collier predicted “Theresa May’s Government will be tested”. She would have to find a middle way between the calls of the City of London and UKIP’s nationalism.

Nationalism does not have to be one group claiming characteristics which exclude others. It can be inclusive nationalism. Nationalism is about putting the national interest first with a common good.

Such pragmatism is not the enemy in disguise as the opposition say. Political opposition from the left is retreating into “pantomime Marxism”.

Socially maternalistic immigration policy

People feel “morally superior” by identifying with the Left. Or as part of diverse communities stirring resentment.“Southern and Coastal elites” have embraced a global identity. They claim moral superiority to everyone else.

But there is “no moral basis” for a right to migrate. We need to regulate the flow of labour again.

British Society is divided. There is no shared identity. Collier singles out “liberal circles” where diversity has replaced a shared national identity.

Diversity appears to be acceptable when it excludes people not in “liberal circles”. But what about people like readers of the Daily Mail?

Many now expect their children’s lives to be worse than their own. They are angry at the elite. The less educated are rebelling against the more educated. The struggling “just about managing” rebel against the feckless.

Toiling “ill-educated” provincials are the new working class revolutionaries Reducing future immigration can address their fears. Global citizens represent unchecked individualism.

Migrants become affluent but there may be no gain to the economy, only social change. They mingle and marry and prosperous areas become more ethnically and sexually diverse. But the rest are left behind. Immigration has acted as a disruptive force in the same way as technology.

Socially maternalistic taxation

After a certain point, Multiculturalism undermines generosity to the poor. Tax policy should not be redistributing gains to fund public services. It should address economic distortions.

Corporate taxation should be redesigned.. Some sectors are growing at the expense of other productive sectors. Those are the sectors where the “powerful” are appropriating rents. Taxes on disruptive companies like Uber and Airbnb could help finance training and adult education.

Taxation should not focus on how much income people have. It should consider how they have made this income. Some people have become rich simply by owning scarce land in London.

Exceptional taxation may be justified in some areas like London. Commerce in London grows due to institutions which all taxpayers in the country pay for.

Socially maternalistic Families Policy

“Dysfunctional childrearing” has huge financial costs for society. The responsible “just about managing” are angry about single mothers on benefits. They are right to be angry as along as its not angry with them.

Unstable relationships have consequences for parenting. The State should not assume the role of parent. It should sustain families that are stressed. Young parents need intensive and sustained mentoring.

This Article is based on “ How to save capitalism from itself” by Professor Sir Paul Collier, Times Literary Supplement, January 25th 2017 — all errors are mine