"Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln. Roosevelt believed in reform, competition, animal spirits and national greatness. He wasn't afraid to take on vested interests, whether they were the trusts, cartels or the coalitions of the comfortable. He recognised also that it was the concentration of power that was holding back American growth, that these interests were blocking the growth of small businesses. This comes back to one of the things that I dislike about the European Union, and indeed the CBI. The EU creates regulations that are adopted by large companies, on the basis that they have large compliance arms that can implement them to create barriers of entry to smaller firms."
The first Roosevelt is an interesting choice. It is curious that his name is mentioned so infrequently in the current climate. Teddy Roosevelt was the great trust-buster who took on the monopolistic giants of American business such as JP Morgan and Standard Oil in the name of aiding consumers and restraining arbitrary power.
There is a strain of thinking there that Gove should develop and pass on to a confused Treasury which cannot make up its mind what to do. One moment it wants to join in the popular wave of banker-bashing, which dangerously has spread beyond abuse of bad bankers such as Fred Goodwin into other areas of the economy. The next minute Osborne tries to extol the virtues of enterprise.
The Cameroons did very little thinking about economics, essentially because they thought it a settled subject until the crash took them by surprise. An updated Rooseveltian analysis could make sense of much of Britain's current discontent. Punishing monopolistic behaviour while unleashing more competition to liberate the consumer is a way of popularising the revolutionary idea that markets, when they are allowed to work, serve the many and not the few.
Gove cites the example of competition in airlines: "When I was explaining to Steve Hilton that I was going off to the States, he said: ‘What are you flying? Don't fly British Airways, they are the fat cats. Fly Branson, he is the upstart. We are on the side of the upstarts.' So I'll be flying Virgin."
Keen Gove-watchers will know that a lifelong fear of flying has been thought a block on his ambitions. An inability to get on a plane ruled him out of many of the top jobs in government, but — rather in the manner of the future George VI in The King's Speech — he has now conquered his fear. Who knows? Perhaps at some point he will also be able to overcome his fear of standing for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Those who care about the future of this country should hope so: the Tories need their Iron Laddie and so do we.
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