|>>|| No. 93692
>Most of the money went into large companies suffering financial difficulties in an attempt to save jobs, rather than going into new companies that might create new jobs.
I will go to my grave quite angry that I can't remember the source of a wonderful quote to the extent of "The National Enterprise Board was imagined as a socialist maternity unit, unfortunately it was quickly turned into a capitalist nursing ward" which perfectly summed up how it was messed up: If I remember correctly the vast bulk of their budget went to British Leyland.
Which makes me wonder if the NEB can really be given the blame, except perhaps for failing at what it set out to do by blowing all its money on boring not-all-that-high-tech companies. If you instead imagine that the government just bailed out Rolls Royce and British Leyland as before while leaving the tech sector to the free market without any interference from the NEB or MinTech or any of that, is it really likely Britain would be in a much more impressive place today?
Japan and the US both had much larger domestic markets than Britain, and even then a British company created the ARM architecture that powers most smartphones nowadays, though we don't seem to make much a fuss about that.
But I'm thinking aloud there instead than making a direct argument in defense of the NEB - I'm not familiar with the specifics of its involvement in technology, and while I know that ARM is ultimately derived from Acorn of BBC Micro fame (leaving open some kind of "We coddled them, now they're soft" case for why they seem quite overlooked.) I can't say I'm familiar enough with their corporate history to comment either. It's just that it seems quite possible that the big problem with the NEB (as with the Wilson-Callaghan government as a whole in my view) is not that it was "too left wing" or too willing to interfere in the market, but that it was too orthodox, too small-c conservative, too "common sense", and that we'd have gotten better results if it had been throwing money around more freely, with less conditions and oversight while leaving failing old names to fend for themselves. Something that would sit ill at ease with both Callaghan (who couldn't bare to be so irresponsible) and with Thatcher (who'd quite like the state to get the hell out of the way of the market, thank you very much.), and which would still be a controversial proposal today.