Friday 26 April 2019 9:00 am

Wanted: Your free-market ideas to give everyone a shot at improving their lives

Kate Andrews is associate director at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Life isn’t fair. It never will be.

In fact, so much of what we experience day-to-day, year-to-year, is a result of things we can’t control – the country we’re born in, the robustness of our immune system, the bumps on our nose (well, mine anyway) are pre-determined facts of life.

Progress means embracing or overcoming difficult realities of life. Some unicorn ideologies suggest that you can skip over the hard work, promising to magically morph reality. Socialist ideals, for example, pretend that it is possible to secure equality of outcome – and a sky-high outcome at that – for everyone. Total fairness and peak prosperity – what could go wrong?

Thanks to the history books, we know what goes wrong, and how many millions of lives are sacrificed in the name of reaching the intangible promised land. Time and time again, different variations of authoritarian, top-down approaches to the world (the latest iteration being “luxury automated communism”) are proposed, eventually tried, and crumble spectacularly.

Of course, there is one economic system that actually has the power to change people’s lives for the better. Its record stands out as the best vehicle to increase their wealth and prosperity – and that is free-market capitalism.

Respect for the individual, combined with the celebration of free trade and free enterprise, has broken down countless barriers faced by people at the bottom of the economic ladder, eager to climb their way to the top – raising over one billion people out of absolute poverty in the past 30 years alone.

Countries like the UK and the US, rooted in markets and liberty, have made it possible for migrants to move and work where their skills are most desired; have led to the miraculous innovations that allow for longer and healthier lives; and have come to celebrate the uniqueness and personal preferences of individuals, that whatever makes you different (nose-bump and all) is source of pride, not embarrassment.

But while these principles are grand, our politicians have been woeful in recent years at ensuring that public policy prioritises opportunities for the individual.

People of all ages have been cut off from the housing market, which prices the hardest-working person out of the market.

The burden of red tape in areas like occupational licensing has made it unnecessarily harder for people on low incomes to move into better-paying roles.

Women in particular face lower lifetime earnings, because of expensive, distortive, and inefficient childcare policy.

That is why this year’s IEA Richard Koch Breakthrough Prize is offering £50,00 for the best free-market policy idea policy to give everyone in society a real opportunity to succeed on their own merit.

From low-tax Hong Kong and Singapore to high-tax Denmark and Norway, these capitalist countries offer plenty of lessons for the UK when it comes to implementing new policies to give people a shot at achieving their goals.

And I’m sure there are brilliant new ideas waiting to be discovered, to encourage an entrepreneurial and ambitious mindset across the whole of society.

Either way, a boost to meritocracy is long overdue. Your ideas can take us one step closer to that goal.

Visit for details on how to enter the competition.

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