International -- Editorials
An E-Revolution for the British (int'l edition)
Internet mania has finally crossed the Atlantic. With it comes an unprecedented opportunity for Britain to modernize its economy, boost productivity, and revitalize an entrepreneurial spirit that has been largely dormant since the Industrial Revolution. Although the country's nascent Net scene may be two years behind that of the U.S., Britain has a number of inherent advantages compared with the Continent. Powerful capital markets, English language, and a lead in harnessing the Net ranging from digital television to mobile telephony give Britain a fertile environment in which to grow its own New Economy. And while the rest of Europe debates how to regulate and tax electronic commerce, the British government is embracing the Net. Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown have pledged to make Britain the "best place in the world" for e-commerce by 2002.
To get there, Britain needs to move beyond political rhetoric. Cultivating Britain's budding Generation E means creating an environment conducive to risk-taking and entrepreneurship. The government's current proposal to halve the capital gains tax--currently at 40%--to bring it into line with the U.S. is a promising start. But more needs to be done to make it easier to raise capital. Tax-favored equity incentives such as stock options would also go a long way toward keeping the country's top tech talent from heading overseas. Britain has all the ingredients for its own New Economy. It just needs the will.