There is no such thing as society – Discuss


Mrs Thatcher is loved and vilified in equal proportion. She famously said “there is no such thing as society”, except she did not, what she actually said in 1987 was…

” I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!’ ‘I am homeless, the Government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.”

As we sit here in 2024, an election year, who will have the courage to stand up and say to us that we all need to be responsible for ourselves, our families, our businesses, and communities? Over the last 50 years we appear to have gone round in a full circle, to the point where the state is bigger than it has ever been, taxes are at record amounts and yet we are the most unhappy. In part, this is due to the heavy cost of the banking crisis and of course COVID corporate bailouts. When Joe Public sees “big business” clamouring like chicks for food it is no wonder they expect government to sort their problems.

For sure, social media has an impact, but it strikes me that we are most unhappy and frustrated when we rely on outside agencies such as government to solve our troubles. The opposite is true when we succeed at something, see how a child feels the sense of freedom when they earn their first cash for doing a chore and rush off to the sweet shop, or a student who receives their first pay cheque and starts to save for their rental deposit. They feel in control, the sweet smell of success keeps them working hard.

I do not see that the job of government is to micromanage the incomes and lives of the general population (however much we have asked it to). It is for individuals to manage their own affairs. It is for government to put in place the environment for us, our businesses and communities to flourish. As Ella blogs, flourishing communities are great places to live. They are places where we support each other and we feel fulfilled.

Would it not be great if business owners, funders, and advisors become the standard bearers and take ownership of the issues we as a nation face and we invest in products, services, and people. We have and can grow world class businesses that will attract international investment (nearly all our deals last year were cross border) and make our teams proud. This way commerce will show the leadership that Joe Public needs and maybe those who feel left behind will start to buy into making discretionary effort into their work, rather than doing as little as possible – thinking business owners are just trying to get as much as they can for as little as they can.

Mrs Thatcher concluded her interview with Women’s Own with…

“It is, I think, one of the tragedies in which many of the benefits we give, which were meant to reassure people that if they were sick or ill there was a safety net and there was help, that many of the benefits which were meant to help people who were unfortunate…that was the objective, but somehow there are some people who have been manipulating the system…when people come and say: ‘But what is the point of working? I can get as much on the dole!”

Indulge me in this dream – the sooner society stops expecting “someone else” to resolve its problems and we all do the best we can rather than doing the minimum that meets some threshold, the sooner productivity will improve, taxes can fall, and economic prosperity can build. Let us be an ambitious nation where we take personal responsibility and success is cheered on and not knocked, then we will be more fulfilled and happier. What better place to do this than in our own lives and encouraging this in our business, maybe through gamification? to nudge us in the right direction.

So, what have we been doing in Polestar, beyond deals? Firstly, we submitted our B Corp application, thank you to Anusheh for leading on this before her maternity leave. Secondly, I am delighted that Conor Barrett has been promoted to Manager. Finally, we have waved a sad goodbye to Oli who had been with us for 5 years since finishing uni, we wish him all the best for his future.

Enjoy Ella’s blogs below on how gamification is transforming her engagement with change, and why local prosperity is important to us. I have revisited my bugbear of folk conflating, ESG, sustainability and net-zero carbon. You may also find our various sector reviews of interest.

By Charles Whelan on 16/04/2024