More of Will Hutton's whatabouttery


What joy, apparently we're to be treated to another volume of whatabouttery from Will Hutton. Containing such gems as this:

Five million wait to be housed – yet over the last generation, five million council flats have been sold and not replaced.

So? Does Hutton think that council houses are destroyed when they are sold? Or perhaps people actually buy them to live in? Meaning that the existence of one ex-council house means one household that does not require a council house? Well, quite, it's the latter, obviously.

The other of his suggestions that caught our eye was this:

The cornerstone of a new approach to ownership should be a Companies Act for the 21st century. Unlike the existing act, passed in 2006, this would set out unambiguously what society expects from companies in exchange for the privileges they are afforded. The aim is to create purposeful companies with a more just relationship between themselves and the wider society, capable of fostering the trust relationships that are at the heart of high-innovation and high-performance workplaces. Companies would be required to declare their business purpose on incorporation: they should incorporate to deliver particular goods and services that serve a societal or economic need and will need particular capabilities and skills. It is through delivery of their purpose that they should seek to make profits. Most great companies have this purpose at their heart already, even if informally. Unilever famously exists to make the best everyday things for everyday folk – Boeing to build planes that fly furthest safest. This should become the rule, not the exception.

Oh great. We can never remember whether it was Nokia or Ericsson that used to make rubber boots but then switched to mobile phones but this would ban that idea. And Apple moving from computers to smartphones would also be illegal. And this is quite separate from the basic fact that whatever you set up a company to do usually isn't what the company ends up doing. Simply because no business plan ever survives contact with the market.

Hutton's deliberately insisting that we should hobble the flexibility and adaptability of the market system. Said adaptability and flexibility being one of the great points about having a market system in the first place. It fits with his own ideas about how the economy works, this is true. That some small number of the Great and the Good (naturally including one W. Hutton) sit around and plan how the rest of us do everything. But that his actual suggestions are also insane is why we should pay him no heed.

Just to rub the point in, one of the examples of a great company that he uses is Rolls Royce. Which started out to make cars and only later moved into jet engines. A declaration that they only existed to make great cars would have been a bit of a problem for that later development, would it not?