The present Cost of Living Crisis isn’t only a tragedy for many, it is the rallying cry of the left who use it to re-label long-standing concerns about “inequality” and to demand unearned legislated pay rises.
Ownership of this issue is an electoral battleground. Labour have taken the territory first, UKIP have expressed an intention to make it the focus of their manifesto, the coalition have done very little to improve it. Who will occupy this territory come the election?
I believe market liberals (i.e. classical liberals, libertarians, “uncaring” Objectivists, parts of the Conservative Party) deserve a chunk of this territory. Free-market proponents are tolerant of inequality in a way that the left cannot understand, but we each have common ground when we observe that the prices of various things, energy, housing, food, and a variety of things we all enjoy, are bizarrely high and do not ever seem to become cheaper.
I am not an economist, but it seems strange to me that large sections of a market must sustain prices they say are intolerable without the market reacting with new cheaper products. Post credit crunch, ALDI and LIDL have ameliorated some of this problem with respect to food prices by making cheap food acceptable, but energy, and housing prices are rising and salaries are not keeping pace. As somebody who proselytize free-markets on moral grounds this seems unnatural, and it is a threat to the success of my activism.
The short answer to this is, I believe, that there are not free markets in the things that are the most expensive. For longer and more detailed answers I propose we listen to the free-market thinkers doing the best research into these problems, and – as a check that we are hearing the truth – to invite experts from the other side also. In short, I propose that now is the time to debate these issues thoroughly.
Bigger better and brighter
I am not the only one. The TUC is organising a well-publicised march in London on October 18th. Meanwhile, George Osborne is likely to be cooking up his “solutions” to be announced alongside the Autumn Statement and the OBR’s latest data in late November or early December. So, I have organised a bigger better and brighter Libertarian Home event for October 23rd.
We will hear from Kristian Niemietz, Yaron Brook, Christopher Snowdon, Chris Mounsey and Duncan Stott, to start with. I hope to add more speakers as we get closer to the big day. This week, I have been busy pinging emails to experts on equality and Keynesian economics. I’m confident of putting together a rigorous and sporting debate on this issue and that it will be a showcase of the latest thinking from both sides. If there is someone you want to hear from on this issue, tell me, and if you really want them to come tell them as well.
This will be a 90 minute event on the evening of October 23rd, hosted in the Drama Studio of the Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, near Russell Square.