Political Promise

My Day at the Liberty Lectures

In Charlie Edwards on August 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm

By Charlie Edwards

For many, Adam Smith is the founder of economic liberalism, and key principles such as supply and demand

The Adam Smith Institute is always a good host. The regular and length refreshment breaks included vegetable crisps. My favourite. It was a day of lectures on liberty: our political and economic freedoms we enjoy or long for. It was for students from across the country and afar (I did meet one fellow from Nairobi) and is part of a whole raft of student-centric events the ASI delivers.

The lecture programme featured ASI stalwarts Tim Evans and Eamonn Butler, as well as young up-and-coming academics – the think-tank has a reputation for developing new talent – who explored a variety of topics based around a free-market ideology. The former speakers had rather contrasting styles; Tim shrugged his shoulders at the prospect of a Nevada man who can’t find a job, whereas Eamonn drew laughs from his colourful (and regular) anecdotes. He also came up with the line of the day, talking about the skills available to a Chinese seamstress he came across: “She knows more about sewing than me, and I probably know a little bit more economics.”

Richard Wellings provoked strong debate with an attack on socialism, using the old arguments (state influence is inefficient, individual liberty is supreme, private enterprise drives innovation, political processes are captured by special interests) but he also used the borderline-cliche attack on socialism I strongly recommend he reconsiders using in the future, unless tongue-in-cheek. He took the Fox News line of attack, “Look at every country that has had socialist states… USSR! China! North Korea! The Naaaaazzziis!” Not all socialists are blood-shedding tyrants who beleive ‘power lies in the barrel of a gun’. Don’t be a Glenn Beck. It is not a strong argument, I think the economic theory behind attacking socialism is strong enough.

Anthony J Evans, an associate professor at the ESCP Europe Business School, likened the economic cycle to a night out. The inflationary ‘boom’ is the good part of the night, drinks are flowing, perhaps more than you can handle. When it does become too much to handle, you chunder. The chunder of the economic cycle is the credit crunch; the short, sharp shock to the economy. The recession is the hangover, and the recovery is the return to sobreity. At six o’clock in the morning in a random flat, or in the case of the British economy, at a budget deficit at 60% of GDP and unemployment, the last thing to do is to grab another beer. Having unexpectedly stumbled upon Square Mile magazine’s “festival for bankers” in Devonshire Square, I don’t think many have heeded that warning.

For the sixty or so students who signed up for the event it was on the whole an enjoyable experience, even for those who enjoy plain old potato crisps.

TO GET INVOLVED WITH THE ADAM SMITH INSTITUTE, VISIT http://www.adamsmith.org/events for more details.

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