Matt Gillow (pictured) and Jack Powell are the co-founders of 1828 and two of the co-editors of the Neoliberal Manifesto.
We are living through extraordinary times. Our fundamental liberties have been put on hold while a virus that many would have struggled to identify a month ago dominates practically every inch of our lives.
In Hungary, we’re seeing the virus used as a cover for authoritarian strongmen to seize new powers, with no promise of relinquishing them. Even in socially liberal countries, like Denmark, emergency measures have a suspiciously late “use-by” date.
In New Zealand, the darling of liberals the world over, Jacinda Ardern, has implemented some of the toughest lockdown measures yet. And the Chinese Communist Party is still, in the midst of it all, blocking Taiwan from essential forums such as the World Health Organisation.
Bans on gatherings and wider societal crackdowns will be to the detriment of movements for liberty. In Hong Kong, Taiwan, Catalonia and more, initiatives that were gathering momentum for real change will be put on ice.
As governments across the world turn inwards and bandwidth is taken up with protecting jobs and the economy, important progressive policies will fall by the wayside.
The point being, when we’re in the post-Coronavirus world, our freedoms will need championing more than ever. Enter 1828.
Last week, we launched our board of advisers and parliamentary supporters, with barnstorming names ranging from Liz Truss, Crispin Blunt and Lee Rowley to Eamonn Butler, Douglas Carswell and Sam Bowman. Our purpose is clear: championing freedom.
Why is 1828 needed? Because anything in the world that’s perceived as remotely negative is blamed on our side of the argument, even though it is our side that has a proven track record of slashing poverty and ushering in prosperity.
In fact, despite popular opinion (within the confines of Twitter) that the Government’s various crisis packages have ‘proven Jeremy Corbyn’ right, the reality is that many people are overtly uncomfortable with the authoritarianism that millions are being exposed to.
However, acknowledging that it’s absolutely right for the Government to step in and protect livelihoods in the current climate isn’t an acceptance that the market economy is defunct outside of pandemics. Far from it.
Rather, once we have got through this battle as a global community, we must push for liberalisation and a return to the policies which make us freer and more prosperous.
Trade must be one such area of focus. Because, for too long, international trade has been focused on regulatory harmonisation, which captures corporate interests and undermines competition and innovation.
Indeed, as 1828 and the Adam Smith Institute’s The Neoliberal Manifesto suggested, it should be made legally incumbent on any British Government that they do not increase tariffs on any country within the OECD outside of WTO parameters on dumping and retaliation.
Housing is another area which needs a complete revolution. The UK’s planning system stifles the housing market and prevents us from building more homes. It’s as simple as that. Ministers parade around the country claiming that they’re goal is to increase housebuilding, but their own policies mean that they will always fail.
A key area that needs tackling is the so-called ‘green belt’, which a lot of the time isn’t green or pleasant land. Indeed, ASI research shows that if just 3.7 per cent of London’s green belt was released, one million homes could be built within walking distance of railway stations.
Another topic which needs to be tackled – but will be much more difficult – is healthcare. We’re seeing heroic scenes at the moment with brave doctors, nurses, carers, porters and more going into work to treat those with a highly contagious, dangerous illness. We all owe them a debt of gratitude and thanks.
That does not mean, however, that the system in which they work is fit for purpose. Simply put, Britons are well served by hospital workers, but let down by the bureaucratic structure of the organisation.
Study after study has found that when compared to countries such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway, the UK ranks at the bottom of the table for bowel, lung, stomach, pancreatic and rectal cancer, second-worst for oesophageal disease and third worst for ovarian cancer.
Even the Guardian ended up concluding that, in one particular study, “The only serious black mark against the NHS was its poor record on keeping people alive.”
We believe that the UK should emulate the social health insurance systems as exist in countries such as Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Israel, among others.
What distinguishes social insurance from conventional private insurance is that under the former, insurers cannot vary premiums in accordance with individual health risks; they cannot reject applicants based on their medical history; they cannot accept only the healthiest in society, and they cannot rule out coverage for pre-existing conditions.
We recognise that Britons have a strong emotional attachment to the NHS’s noble principle: that healthcare should be available to all, regardless of one’s ability to pay. But socialised insurance offers the best of both worlds: it combines the principle of universal healthcare while also incorporating crucial market mechanisms which drive up standards: competition, individual choice and the freedom to innovate.
These are just some of the policies that need championing post-coronavirus. Because, far from being over – as some Conservatives would have you believe – the battle of ideas has only begun, and it is far too important for proponents of economic and social freedom to sit it out.
Centre-right parties will soon face a simple choice: make the case for economic and social liberalism and win, or hold on to statism along with social conservatism and simply wither away.
So our purpose at 1828 is to make the case for ideas and ideology. And since our inception, we have seen more than half a million people read 350 influential articles from cabinet ministers, MEPs and policy experts on a range of issues from healthcare, free trade and housing to immigration, drug reform and LGBTQ+ rights.
We believe that now is the time to usher in a new generation of freedom fighters, and with our new advisory board and parliamentary supporters, you can rest assured that 1828 will be on the frontline in the months and years ahead.