Thursday, 22 November 2012

Free speech, free enterprise, free trade...


...and while I’m about it free choice and free markets.

It hurts doesn’t it! I’ve been struck by the swiftness with which people have told me that, yes, believing in free speech, free enterprise and free trade are great but that this doesn’t mean supporting free markets. Because free markets are a bad thing.

Don’t you just love the division of freedoms? We launch enthusiastically into supporting freedoms where we like them but feel unable to back those freedoms where they don’t suit our prejudices. So here’s a little game with my three freedoms.

Supporting free speech means:

  • Opposing the arresting of people for the ‘crime’ of causing offence - free speech means having the right to offend and to be offended.
  • Believing that there is no institution, religion or organisation that is above criticism or immune from satire – free speech means having the right to criticise, to question and to condemn
  • Rejecting the banning of advertising – marketing communication is speech and should be free, to suggest otherwise is to undermine free speech

Supporting free enterprise means:

  • Believing that there are almost no circumstances where “more regulation” is either right or appropriate – free enterprise can only work where markets are free
  • Rejecting the concept of ‘market failure’ – markets always and everywhere, when left to their own devices, succeed and failure is the result of intervention
  • Opposing market fixing devices such as guilds, registrations, subsidies and regulations that restrict market entry – free enterprise requires a level playing field not a protected system

Supporting free trade means:

  • Rejecting managed markets – and this includes so-called “fair trade” – since they prevent free exchange and free enterprise
  • Opposing protectionism in all its forms whether regulatory or financial – tariffs, duties, anti-dumping rules, quotas and environmental or employment regulation
  • Supporting the liberalising of international markets in finance, government services and insurance – without free trade in these areas, other trading arrangements are compromised

This is the deal with freedom – it doesn’t come in tidy little units where we can have a little free speech but not have free trade. If you want it you have to want it all. So when people try to tell me that they want a free press but not a free market in news (because of the big bad Murdoch) then they are, in truth rejecting that free speech. When people say they want free enterprise but that free markets must be controlled, I know that they don’t support free enterprise. And when people tell me they support fair trade (and suggest that this is somehow ‘ethical’), they are no friend of freedom.

All these freedoms interlock – dividing them doesn’t work and diluting one freedom compromises another. It’s hard to have free enterprise without free speech, free trade requires free enterprise and the ability to choose, interact and exchange is central to any society laying claim to being free.

Those three things – free speech, free enterprise and free trade – are the things that matter. And we know they’re working when we have free markets, free assembly and free choice.


1 comment:

Oldsoul_NotQuite said...

How do you feel about 'free' immigration?