Thursday 16 October 2003

Who? Whom?

There is a very good article in today's Times. (Registration may be required outside the UK).

Camilla Cavendish points out that 1 in 5 of us now work in the public sector - an increase of 354,000 since 1998.

But it doesn't end there:

Companies are forced to recruit all sorts of people — tax specialists, training managers, health and safety executives, employment lawyers — to keep on top of government initiatives.
Employment of these corporate bureaucrats has a disproportionate impact:
The companies that are most damaged by taxes and regulations are the small and medium-size enterprises that drive economic growth.
Ms Cavendish has an explanation:
Part of the reason small businesses suffer is that this Government, like its predecessors, finds it easier to talk to big business. Yet FTSE 100 companies can swallow costs that drive smaller ones into the ground. Large personnel departments can administer fashionable training, “diversity” and “people” programmes. The big guys tend to grin and bear it, reluctant to mar an evening at Chequers with unseemly complaints, and conscious of the opportunities that may come from being “on side”. The small firms are left to stagger on.
I wonder though if there's more to this than meets the eye. Instead of "grinning and bearing it", is it not possible that some large companies actually welcome taxes and regulations? The destruction of small and medium-sized competitors, not to mention the discouragement of potential entrepreneurs, is good news for established firms and may well outweigh the state's burdens on themselves. I don't doubt that this explains the extraordinary closeness between many large companies and an overweening government.