This advice is still pertinent. Both Labour and Conservative politicians seem trapped by the prevailing wisdom that dictates that there needs to be more regulation and increased government spending and control of the economy. Few politicians are putting forward policies that suggest they believe that freedom and free markets really matter for prosperity and the quality of life.
It appears that politicians, civil society leaders and teachers are trapped in what philosopher Stephen Pinker described as the “psychology of moralisation” whereby people pretend that things are much worse than they are because it makes them look morally virtuous. On the other hand, to trumpet how global capitalism has begun to transform the world for the better makes people look morally disengaged and apathetic about the problems that remain.
It is this outlook which helps dictates the climate of opinion and thus, in turn, determines how politicians behave. Those who believe in a free and prosperous society should make the case for economic freedom, but they face an uphill battle.
And what is this case? For many in the world, the extension of globalisation has literally been a matter of life and death. In 35 years, the proportion of the world’s population that is living in extreme poverty has fallen from 44 per cent to 10 per cent. The global middle class is growing rapidly.
Good policy depends on a well-informed population. The contribution of business to the formation of the intellectual climate is important. Businesses have a social responsibility to ensure that they do not promote policies that lead to increased regulatory protectionism to reduce competition and, it can be argued, to ensure that the population in general – and opinion formers in particular – understand the importance of a free economy.
To that end, the IEA is sending our educational text, ‘An Introduction to Capitalism’ to all FTSE 350 CEO’s today, to help encourage them to make the moral and intellectual case for free-markets. After all, it is the process of globalisation and the development of something closer to a market economy that has promoted global prosperity. It is inhibitions on the operation of the market economy at home that means that income growth is stalling. Those who really care about the wellbeing of the people should be making that case.
This article first appeared in CapX.