by Nick O’Connor
Dan Denning, former editor of this very letter and the man who (with the odd bit of help from me) founded Southbank Investment Research, is in London next week. If you’re free next Wednesday evening (9 May) and you can come to London, Dan is speaking at an event celebrating free markets. He’d like to see you there.
“Speaking at an event” actually does what Dan’s been doing a disservice. He’s been travelling around Europe with the Free Market Road Show, effectively a travelling conference designed to explain and celebrate why free markets lead to greater wealth and prosperity for everyone.
We talk about that often enough here at Southbank Investment Research*. *It’s part of what we stand for (the other things, if I had to define them, would be sound money, personal liberty, small government and low taxes).
I tend to get a lot of criticism from certain readers when I talk about this. Most of the accusation is of “neo-liberalism”. I’ll admit I don’t really know what that is. So far as I can see it’s an ideology invented by the left, to be hated by the left.
Dan’s been writing a diary from the road, parts of which I want to share with you today. But before I do, I’ll remind you of the fundamental reason Dan and I write about and defend free markets so often. It’s not the market part that matters – it’s the* free* part.
That’s all it is. Giving people the freedom to choose how they spend, save and invest their money is better than forcibly telling them what to do. Letting a business charge what it wants – and leaving consumers free to purchase or walk away – it’s a part of the same idea. People’s free, open and honest choices tells you something. It helps you figure out what stuff is worth. It helps you decide how to invest your time and money. And it all only makes sense if people are free to do what they want.
And yes! Left to their own devices people – all people – will pursue their self interest. But they’ll freely decide what that interest is. For most people, it’s stability, a full belly, warmth and wealth. For others “self” interest means saving the planet from global warming. Great. It’s no one else’s business what your self interest actually is. It’s yours. Free markets are really just a celebration of that freedom to choose.
But perhaps we’re on the losing side. Or at least, the forces of state control and central planning grow stronger every day. As Dan writes from Greece:
*People work in Greece. They just try to do it so it’s out of the reach of the taxman. Income taxes are high. The value added tax is at 24% (not the highest in Europe, but close). And Greece has only just recently lifted the cap on daily withdrawals from ATMS (capital controls are slowly being lifted as well but you can only take about 2,300 euros per month out of the country legally). *
*I can’t imagine why anyone would even try to run a small business in Greece. At the Athens Road Show, I learned there are 17 separate EU and
Greek regulations telling small businesses (defined as a firm of 10 employees or more) what non-business goals they must pursue or comply with and file paperwork on (sustainability, work-place happiness, climate change etc). Not one of these goals included making a profit. *
*If you want to be a profit-making enterprise in a country like that, you have to Go Dark! That is, you have to do business in cash, off the books, out of the prying eyes and away from the greedy hands of the State. *
*There’s a whole story about how Greece came to find itself at the hands of bureaucrats from Brussels. But the short answer is debt: when it joined the euro (under false pretences), it enjoyed much lower interest rates than its economy would have otherwise required. A credit boom ensued, in which much money was borrowed and invested poorly (or stolen). *
*Today, Greece is without a currency, an interest rate to control, and hence the ability to devalue and export its way out of debt. Maybe the
asset sales will transfer capital from unproductive hands to productive hands. Or maybe Greece will be a slave of the EU, with her assets owned by the Germans and Chinese.*
Centralisation leads to even more centralisation. And the idea that everyone is better off if we’re free to choose how and where we spend,
save, invest and live is under attack.
Which leads me back to the Free Market Road Show. A travelling band of free market enthusiasts fighting the good fight, defending individual liberty and free markets at a time we need it most. The event in London on 9 May starts at 5.30pm and lasts until 8pm. It’s at the The Travellers Club on Pall Mall. You can register here: freemarket-rs.com/event/fmrs-london.
For what it’s worth, there’s no commercial arrangement between the Free Market Road Show and Southbank Investment Research. I invite you along because I think it could be worth your time… and of course, because Dan will be there speaking, which is absolutely always worth your time.
Nick O’Connor, Publisher, Southbank Investment Research