Last Thursday night I had dinner with a trio of gentlemen from the excellent American think tank The Heritage Foundation, along with a small congregation of young eurosceptic activists. One of the Americans was an economist, and after dinner he asked the congregated Brits whether we thought the British Economy would be in a better or worse state in twenty years time. Did we think our children would have a measurably better standard of living than we did, as has been the case for the last two hundred and fifty years, or were we of the pessimistic opinion that our children will be worse off?
We eurosceptics were evenly split on the issue. I personally am an eternal optimist, and indicated so in my voting.
It’s easy to see why so many of the group were pessimistic. A cursory look at our news output delivers stories of a cost of living crisis, an energy crisis, warnings of a new housing bubble pumped up in response to a housing affordability crisis, and on the Continent, much of Europe is in crisis.
Certainly if we stay within the EU, it’s difficult to see how Britain will continue to prosper as it has done in the past. It’s beyond question that we must win the In/Out referendum, whenever it comes. Yet an ‘Out’ vote is by no means guaranteed. Only 44% of the public want to see us exit the EU – 19% “Don’t Know”. And the ‘In’ campaign will be well funded and have the advantage of the backing of both our media and our establishment. To many people, renegotiation will seem like a safe option, so renegotiation must first be shown to be futile before any referendum takes place. This website will be looking at how the eurosceptic movement can work together over the coming months and years to ensure the ‘Out’ campaign is victorious.
But I believe we have two reasons to be optimistic. Firstly, young people in Britain are broadly classically liberal in their opinions. Reviewing the Social Attitudes Survey earlier this year, The Economist found that
More than two-thirds of people born before 1939 consider the welfare state “one of Britain’s proudest achievements”. Less than one-third of those born after 1979 say the same. According to the BSA, members of Generation Y are not just half as likely as older people to consider it the state’s responsibility to cover the costs of residential care in old age. They are also more likely to take such a hard-hearted view than were members of the famously jaded Generation X (born between 1966 and 1979) at the same stage of life.”
The internet has given rise to the age of the entrepreneur – a population of classical liberal entrepreneurs bodes well for Britain’s economic outlook in the medium to longer term. Our current youth won’t wait for government to provide prosperity (an impossibility), they’ll simply go out to find it for themselves. Providing we’re not hampered by the EU, that spells economic success.
The second reason I’m optimistic is because I believe we in Britain tend to overplay our problems and underestimate our strengths. I’ve recently been reading “The Next 100 Years: A Forcast for the 21st Century” by George Friedman. He records a similar pessimism in America:
“American culture is the manic combination of exultant hubris and profound gloom. the net result is a sense of confidence constantly undermined by the fear that we may be drowned by melting ice caps caused by global warming or smitten dead by a wrathful God for gay marriage, both outcomes being our personal responsibility. …
“Let’s consider some illuminating figures. Americans constitute about 4 percent of the worlds population… In 2007, US gross domestic product was about $14trillion, compared to the world’s GDP of $54trillion – about 26 percent of the world’s economic activity takes place in the United States. The American economy is so huge that it is larger than the economies of the next four countries combined: Japan, Germany, China and the United Kingdom.
“Many people point at the declining auto and steel industries, which a generation ago were the mainstays of the American economy, as examples of a current deindustrialization of the United States. Certainly, a lot of industry has moved overseas. that has left the United States with industrial production of only $2.8trillion (in 2006): the largest in the world, more than twice the size of the next largest industrial power, Japan, and larger than Japan’s and China’s industries combined.
“There is talk of oil shortages… U.S. oil production is 85 percent that of Saudi Arabia. The United States produces more oil than Iran, Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates.”
A similar phenomenon to the American gloom exists in this country. London still tops the Global Financial Centres Index, despite Brussels’ best efforts to the contrary. The next European country represented is Switzerland (Zurich, #6); the next EU country is Germany (Frankfurt) at #9. Although we have slipped four places since 2010, we are still ranked 9th for manufacturing output. With the right policies in place, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t reverse our slide down the ranking tables before we drop out of the top ten. And if the British Geological Survey is correct, we could have enough shale gas under the north of England to serve all Britain’s gas needs for the next 40 years – and that’s if just 10% of the gas reservoir is accessed.
There are difficulties ahead for Britain, with no doubt. Our young people live in a more precarious and competitive world than that their parents enjoyed. And prosperity depends upon the right policies being implemented, cessation from the EU being the foremost. But only by remaining optimistic about Great Britain and her assets will we see these policies enacted.