Unproductive - (18.05.03)

One recurring feature in econo-my.com over the last year has been the absence of a leading economic movement in recent years. The same could be said, since the end of the dot com boom, for management gurus also. One example of this is the lukewarm reception given to Michael Porter's latest book, which covers the competitiveness of the UK economy.

The key debate here is more about the economic ideology rather than management philosophy. Is the UK economy superior to the rest of Europe? If so, is this because it is a more deregulated economic model? If it is structually better then what does it have to do to catch up with the US?

The general conclusion, one which Porter tends to support is that the UK does have some economic advantages from its structure compared to mainland Eurpoe. Porter suggests that the gains in the 1980's however were the easy to obtain ones and that further gains are made more difficult by this. The harder to overcome problems with the UK economy are regional differences, low R&D and poor transport and educational development.

There is nothing strikingly new here and more importantly nothing anyone is disagreeing with. The problem comes that these problems have been known about for many years and yet the UK economy is still fairly unproductive, given the opportunities that it has had for proper industrial restructuring. Some of Porter's solutions are for better management, public private partnerships, science and resarch knowledge transfer clusters. All these things have been tried, achieving some local gains.

However it is on the national scale that these gains need development and co-ordination, something that an industrial policy should cover. However the neoclassical deregulation model rejects these type of macro management of what is seen as micro issues. Better business management would be econo-my.com's first objective of an industrial policy, through linking executive pay to economic engagement of the workforce. That is a dangerously brave policy for a government to persue, especially one that prides itself on achieving business consensus, but it would be a step towards resolving this debate.