According to the Economist this week, there is a Strange Rebirth of Liberal England among Britain’s youth. This news complements the youth-lead Ron Paul revolution in America of recent years and the spread of Students for Liberty activities across the globe (including 15 SFL Charter Team members in India).
What better gift to offer Adam Smith today for his 290th birthday than a generation of young people interested in achieving his vision for the “system of natural liberty”? If the Economist is right, young people are intuitively groking Smith’s ideas more now than they have at any time since the 1800’s.
Adam Smith demonstrated how government privileges to some at the expense of others—such as restrictions on entering a profession or to trading internationally—are not only unjust, but also cause less prosperity all around because they impede the natural flow of human energies into more creative and efficient patterns.
As Smith wrote in the Wealth of Nations:
All systems either of preference or of restraint, therefore, being thus completely taken away, the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord. Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, or order of men.
Smith was pessimistic about the future of his vision. He believed that conservatism and vested interests would never let it emerge. But contrary to his fears, popular consent to this idea in the 19th Century led to the most dynamic and progressive era in history. Imitation of Britain’s success as the “workshop of the world” led to global integration, unprecedented wealth creation, and the longest period of peace Europe had ever known.
The Economist’s report that there is a new sympathy towards these ideas among Britain’s youth is great news. What we need now is for more people to understand the principles of liberty to sure up their liberal predilections. More young people need to read Smith, Bastiat, Mises, Friedman, Rand, and Hayek.
Give Adam Smith a gift today. Pick up a book or article of one of the these authors, discuss it with a friend, and contribute to the future of liberty.
The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.