We need to Restate the Case for freedom

John O’Connell, our chief executive, outlines the Restate the Case series

Last year, the TaxPayers’ Alliance ran our Stand Against Socialism campaign. In a series of blogs, research papers and graphics, we outlined the core principles and arguments in favour of free-market capitalism over disastrous, controlling socialism. Our Little Red Book explained how socialism destroys freedom and prosperity, and reminded us all that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. 

Socialism has failed whenever it has been tried, but unfortunately that reality is not knowledge for much of the current generation. In many ways, socialism is stronger in Britain than it has been for many decades. Many of society’s great influencers - celebrities, the media and most of all academics - are unabashed statists. There’s a worrying degree to which that has filtered down to the nation’s future decision makers - today’s young voters and teenagers. 

To win them, it’s no good just talking about the present situation in Venezuela, as the most recent in an enormous list of 20th century disasters beginning in Russia in 1917. We need to restate the case for freedom itself, right here and now. Last year, our Freedom Factbook laid the groundwork for this battle. Many of our supporters want and need new resources to explain how economic freedom remains the best answer to the problems of today . - our new  ‘Restate the Case’ series of policy papers will provide them with exactly that. 

The soft creep of bad policies that reduce freedom and raise taxes is a big part of what the TaxPayers’ Alliance exists to fight. This is especially important at this moment, when the country is having to respond to the threat of the coronavirus with extraordinary interventionist measures. Yes, such measures are needed in the short-term, but we will not hesitate to demand they are ended as soon as practically possible and fight any attempt to use the measures as a means to more permanent state control. The TaxPayers’ Alliance vision is for a pro-enterprise country with lower, simpler taxes funding better public services through innovation, automation and eradicating waste. That vision applies to normal times, but also for the future of the country once we have moved past this crisis. Moving towards that vision will take time but remains the right course for the UK.

When launching last year’s Stand Against Socialism campaign, I described the threat of creeping socialism and why it needs to be confronted: 

It's a truth, unfortunately not universally acknowledged, that not all countries have started on the path to socialist ruin with hardline socialist governments. The march to statism doesn't only happen with the guys in army uniforms, though they usually pop up when everything starts going wrong. It is sometimes more of a slow creep. Since the post-war consensus, socialist policies have popped up across the political spectrum. Conservatives - both small and big c - opt for more state intervention too. And state interventions mean taxpayers are hit in the pocket. We don't want the UK to become a socialist country by stealth.” 

What, practically, does that look like? It means making the best policy arguments, explaining exactly why it is that the socialist case for policies which might appeal to many - for rent controls, or higher taxes, or nationalisation - is nonsensical both theoretically and most crucially, practically. Socialised trains don't run faster or cost less, the poor pay more for housing when rent controls are introduced. But when nobody makes these arguments, it becomes almost universally accepted that socialist policies must be better. 

We can’t let people forget that freedom is always preferable to centralised control; be it the power of politicians or bureaucrats. The magic of the free-market is in the name. It is free. Where socialism seeks to tell people what they need and act on “the people’s” behalf, the free market allows them to act for themselves. That’s why we’re restating the case on: 

  • Capital controls 
  • Privatisation, including airline, rail and water privatisation. 
  • Rent controls
  • Food liberalisation 
  • Fiscal drag 

These papers will be part of our constant battle for freedom. On a TPA blog post the day after December’s election, we noted that “to win the fight not just against socialism, but in favour of freedom, liberty-lovers must make the case for lower, simpler taxes, better public services and more accountability over how money is being spent.” This is exactly why we need to Restate The Case. 


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