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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“We live in a broadly capitalistic society…if Briitish Airways gets into trouble and cannot be sustained as a profitable business, then the government should not step in and bail it out.”

Richard Branson, talking about the economic woes of British Airways. I have no idea whether sincerely believes in untramelled laissez faire (one has doubts) or is just dissing the competition, but it was refreshing to hear such comments on the BBC Breakfast TV show this morning. Take note, Messrs Obama, Brown, and the rest of them.

15 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Ray

    According to theadvocates.org he is a libertarian:


  • MarkE

    Refreshing to here it said but from what I have read* and heard generally about Mr Branson, he is a great believer in his freedom to compete, but less so in the freedom of others, especially when it is him facing the competition. In any conflict between Branson and BA I have to regret that they can’t both lose.

    *I recomend Tom Bower’s biography of Branson here(Link) for those interested in such books. Branson, apparently, hated the book, but didn’t sue, which seems unlike him.

  • MarkE


    That should of course be “hear it said”.

  • Kevin B

    It appears he does profess libertarian views, but on the other hand there’s his charity work.

    The AGW activism is bad enough, but ‘The Elders’ business is positively creepy.

    In 2007, Branson formed The Elders – a small, dedicated group of leaders, working objectively and without any vested personal interest to solve difficult global conflicts – with Peter Gabriel, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, and Jimmy Carter.

    How many self-respecting libertarians would hang around with that bunch of thieving statists.

  • John K

    I don’t suppose he’ll be turning down the subsidies for Virgin’s rail operations will he? He’s a businessman, if he can screw money out of the taxpayer, he will.

  • Andrew Duffin

    All part of Branson’s decades-long war with BA, I am afraid.

    He is saying the right thing but for quite the wrong reasons.

    If Virgin’s airline were in trouble, you can be sure he would pop up on the Beeb with six completely plausible reasons why a government bail-out would be entirely justified in that particular case – probably involving “unfair” competition from BA.

  • I think Andrew may well be correct. I’ve need Branson shaking the hands of too many politicos to not think this particular white man speaks with forked tongue.

  • Rob

    Could this possibly be the same Richard Branson who’s Virgin Rail receives hundreds of millions of pounds in annual subsidy from the UK government? I think it could!

  • Rob

    Oops, ‘whose’ not ‘who’s’. Peasant.

  • Peter Gabriel, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, and Jimmy Carter

    Truly the jury of the damned. All he’d need is that Oirish twat Bono and he’d have the full set.

    Oh, and what Andrew said. Dicky hates BA with a visceral passion.

  • I have respect for Branson for having built his airline to what it is from scratch despite the existence of a state favoured incumbent. He has built a major long-haul airline from scratch over the last 30 years or so, and nobody else in Europe or the US has done that. People have built short-haul airlines (Ryanair or JetBlue for example, although they have generally succeeded precisely because they figured out that short and long haul are different businesses). New Long haul airlines have been built in Asia and the Middle East with various amounts of state assistance (Singapore, Emirates). However, nobody else has done quite what Branson has done, and credit to him for that. Also I think he is quite serious about building a private space business, and I certainly wish him well with that.

    On the downside, most of his other businesses are basically him franchising his brand and publicity machine to other people. Nothing wrong with that, but less interesting or impressive. And he does have an incredible reluctance to opening up his accounts, which does make you wonder what is in them.

  • Maz

    I hear the criticism of Branson, but in practical terms it is (I would have thought) quite difficult to be a libertarian businessman in the UK or the US these days. Business itself has no political end – it’s goal is to make money, full stop. (NB I contrast business itself, with the directors of businesses, who may chose to put their businesses to political ends).

    In a statist environment where there are pots of government money around for private business to dip into, shareholders should demand (in their capacity as shareholders) that their directors pick this low-hanging fruit. If I was a Virgin shareholder and Branson turned down government subsidies because he didn’t believe in them in his personal political views, I wouldn’t be too happy. I say this as an investor in a small UK company that has a lot of contracts with local authorities. How you square this business approach with a libertarian outlook as a private individual is a difficult question (for me, anyway).

  • Paul Marks

    At least Mr Branson did not say that we had “ultra capitlism” or “free market fundementalism” or the rest of the lies that come from the mainstream media (such as the BBC) and from academia.

    However, a society where more than 40% (indeed now at least 50%) of the economy is government spending (and where the rest of the economy is controlled by endless regulations – and by the government controlled credit money financial system, via the Bank of Enland, the Federal Reserve and so on) can not be described as even “broadly” capitalist – if the word “capitalist” is to have any real meaning.

    The lie that the “last 30 years” have seen “deregulation” (in Britain or the United States) or some sort of “roll back of the size of government spending” must be nailed.

  • Kevin B

    Just looking at the list of tyrants that Branson selected for his world peace forum, I thought it might be fun to send him an alternative list he might like to consult with.

    I’ve made a stab at it, though it’s heavy on economists, only has one man with experience of governing a country and I can’t for the life of me think of a single ageing rocker I’d like to see on it, my list does, however, correct one or two glaring omissions from Sir Dick’s list; it has an Islamic woman.

    Anyway here it is, and anyone bored with LVT is welcome to put their oar in:

    Vaclav Klaus
    Hernando de Soto Polar
    Amartya Sen
    Thomas Sowell
    Ayaan Hirsi Ali

  • Paul Marks

    I think the the first two and the fourth are good choices – I do not know enough about the third and the fifth to comment about them.