How to help enlighten Scotland’s entitled

How to help enlighten Scotland’s entitled

by Eben Wilson
article from Monday 12, December, 2016

IN THE SPRING of 2016, TaxpayerScotland was invited to host a meeting of economists from around the world, jointly hosting a meeting in Edinburgh with the Vienna-based Austrian Economics Center.

We took this on because it was a privilege; it’s not often that eminent thinkers land on our shores and make their ideas available. We had high hopes that we might fill a large room with worthy minds from around Scotland – eager to hear some objectivism from liberally-minded scholars. Liberalism has a Scottish pedigree after all.

The result of this invitation, however, was a complete eye-opener for us. The Austrians had suggested that we hold three sessions. The first was to be about Corporation Tax and proposed new EU harmonisation rules about base shifting – a target of leftist agitation, think Google or Starbucks. The second was about entrepreneurship in a globalised world, how to multiply opportunity for growth and jobs in the new digital age. The third was our choice, and we decided that a proper debate about the meaning of “fairness and equality” would be popular; we essentially pre-empted Mr Carney’s recent thoughts about low growth, low wage economic realities.

We wrote up our sales pitch and put three experienced people onto a recruitment drive for speakers; polling academics, professionals, business and finance people, think tanks and the commentariat. What about politicians? Well, the way these things are done is that if you can get the bigwig thought-leaders on board, politicians will cluster around, taking the kudos of eminent brains as implicit support for their own insight.

After about three weeks of phoning, emailing and cajoling our results were terrible. Scottish academics do not answer either the phone or their emails; business people think any public presence remotely connected with political economy is to be avoided at all costs, we found the large professional offices had their specialist expertise in London, and the financial district thought all regulatory discussion irrelevant to their money-making focus.

The academics and think-tankers were particularly obtuse; we re-learned that most of Scotland’s academics, while buried in their ivory towers, are not only leftist but blinkered.  Institutes who consider themselves thought-leading are, frankly, often prejudiced; they will talk to their own kind, but the idea of mixing with classical liberal minded scholars is anathema. They appear only to talk to their own.

Our efforts came to a halt when we re-contacted an organisation devoted to the development of entrepreneurialism in Scotland about whether they could offer a speaker and were offered a response through a junior young assistant, (their Director seemed to be on Mars), asking if we had thought about speaking to Scottish Enterprise. 

I say that efforts came to a halt because it took us nearly five minutes to pick ourselves up off the floor where we had fallen in howls of laughter. Can it really be that an organisation purporting to promote entrepreneurialism in Scotland offers a corporatist state-funded entity as a beacon for entrepreneurialism; an entity that we and the Taxpayers’ Alliance, and others, have repeatedly said should be shut down, because of its dire effects on the entrepreneurial focus of Scottish business?

Yes, it can, it did, and tears were streaming down our faces at the thought.  

We decided it was time for some education.

We forgot all notions of inviting older minds locked in the ice of their circumstances and adopted Friedrich Hayek’s maxim that it is only the young who have the flexibility of thought to understand new ideas.  We ripped up the meeting agenda and hired a film crew.

 Our idea was that it is young Scotland that is inheriting the entitlement to design the future of its nationhood, and that to offer those young ones some enlightenment through our scholars about how a better world might be created by them would offer value.  Especially so if we could then send the results to some of those frozen minds who were clearly more interested in protecting the entitlement of their own positions than offering any enlightenment to a poverty-stricken and non-entrepreneurial Scotland.  We were delighted when our incoming scholars were thrilled at the prospect.  As they said, and we agreed, it made a big change from addressing crowds of dark suits.

We then scoured the news reports from the past three years for the key ideas in Scotland’s national conversation. We all know them; fairness and equality, jobs and growth; helping the poor, taxing the rich, getting a job … we laid these up into a structure for debate and hired four young actors to put them to our scholars. Let’s see how they cope with the passions of young Scotland we thought.

As an aside, hiring the young actors was interesting. We started in Edinburgh, where tax-funded theatre groups abound. They were cautious, hesitant about the topics, keen on the money, and hopeless at the practicalities of organisation. After two days we got fed up of their havering, went to Glasgow and sorted it out in ten minutes.  Glasgow really is miles better; it understands how to do business. Reekie is simply replete with politicised activity.

You can see the outcome on YouTube, courtesy of our Austrian colleagues or go to the TaxpayerScotland web site. You will find six short and we hope inspiring chunks:

1. Equality and Poverty

2. Choices in spending and taxes

3. Markets, competition and jobs

4. Innovation, growth and equality

5. Central planning

6. Progress, aspiration and liberty

We are sending the links to these videos to every sixth form college and university teacher we can find in Scotland.  You can do something for us. If you know a young Scot, send them the link to this article or these videos. 

They are entitled to a decent future for the nation they inherit. 

They also have a choice, to adopt the hopeless left-of-centre socialist consensus that has captured our nation, or choose the equally Scottish heritage of liberalism and the opportunities it offers.

I know which one I would choose for my children.


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