No, not that geeky one on the TV, this one:
David Frost, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, has found himself in hot water with women’s business groups at the launch of Small Business Week.
Speaking at the release of a report on the growing popularity of homeworking and what the Government could do in response, Mr Frost questioned the merit of encouraging what he called “lifestyle” businesses at all. “What are we trying to achieve at the end of the day?” he asked. “Do we want 50 million self-employed businesses or do we want some growth businesses.” It seemed a valid question, even if he already knew his preferred answer.
I’m not sure I’d agree with everything said in response but there’s truth in it:
Maxine Benson, co-founder of women’s network Everywoman, blasted back that “lifestyle business” was a derogatory term and anyone, including women, choosing to set up a business that allowed them to balance their desire for stimulating and financially rewarding work with their family responsibilities should be praised and supported and not criticised.
What Frost has missed is that we don’t actually care all that much about "growth" is such if growth is to be measured purely in financial or monetary terms like turnover, GDP and the like. What we care about is growth in utility, in that grab bag mix of the satisfaction of individual human desires. This is one part where the Greens are indeed right, we shouldn’t objectify GDP growth above all other things (although there are any number of entirely valid reasons to reject their actual proposals, the largest being that what they propose might increase their utility in a sort of millenarian rural socialism, but that’s what most of humanity has been trying to escape for the last 8,000 years), we should indeed look to the wider scene.
Another way of putting this is that "growth" isn’t the desired end. Growth in utility is and "stimulating and financially rewarding work with their family responsibilities" certainly meets that goal. Growth in GDP, the growing of small businesses to large, "growth businesses" are means to that end, certainly, but they are not the end itself.
But then by concentrating the argument upon utility I am of course betraying my classically liberal mindset. As the determinants of each individual’s utility are known only to that individual we have to bugger off and let them do as they wish, subject only to preventing them impinging on the rights of others to pursue that goal. Which is the real reason that Frost is an idiot: "we" are not trying to achieve any goal that he can either help us with nor, from his comments, even recognise.