Thursday, 4 July 2013

Government, meet real business

The logo of my company, Creativity Unleashed.
How about it, government? Unleash a bit of creativity...
Every now and then I get really irritated with the government. I know this is not exactly news, nor uncommon. I can never remember a time when everyone was saying 'Isn't this government wonderful, aren't we lucky to have these excellent people in charge?' I think the time we've come closest in the UK in recent years was in the honeymoon period of the Blair government, and even then there were some whinges (not to mention, no doubt, moans from the likes of my friend Henry Gee, who believes that the world will one day recognize that Boris Johnson is the greatest statesman who has ever lived). But the thing of which I am complaining today is not a feature of any particular government. They all do it.

I think I have moaned about this before, but it requires regular revisiting. I just get absolutely furious when the government tells us that the only way to get more people in employment is for companies to create more jobs - and tries to use the tax system and other blunt instruments to encourage this.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with companies creating jobs, I'm all for it. But what gets me angry is that there is no recognition of the millions of people who aren't a burden on the taxpayer, in fact contribute to taxes, and yet don't have an employer. Yes, I'm talking about the army of the forgotten, the self-employed. For me this is by far the best way to work and many more people should do it. Admittedly it's not for everyone, I accept that. Some need the psychological and financial safety net of a 'real job' - though many have found over the years that this 'safety net' is anything but secure. However, I do wish that the government would stop ignoring what a significant part of the economy we self employed are.

I don't employ anyone - and I don't want to employ anyone. Ever. If I need extra resources I will subcontract the work to someone, but in all my experience (and at BA I managed some big teams), having employees is a nightmare, both in terms of red tape and in all the responsibilities you take on by employing someone. But all the incentives the government keeps pumping out to get us to employ people seem to miss out on the fact that we should be encouraging and helping people to start up for themselves. Because then everyone benefits. I have not had an employer since I left BA in 1994, but I have contributed to the economy in plenty of ways, as do most of the self-employed.

Everything the government does seems to be focussed on big business and against self-employment. Even their statistics are biassed this way. A lot of what I do - probably about half of my income - is a kind of export. But because I'm not shipping boxes of widgits through customs, I suspect it never shows up on the government statistics. Because I'm a nonentity in their eyes.

Come on governments. Get wise to the hidden sector of the economy. Instead of more and more incentives to employ people, how about making it more beneficial to be self-employed? I pay you taxes - I even collect taxes for you in the form of VAT. Now give a little back. You know it makes sense.

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