9 September 2016

CapX and the politics of ideas


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Should Britain build more grammar schools? Or a nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point? Should we remain part of the Single Market? Should we close the deficit or invest in infrastructure? If Brexit means Brexit, what does Brexit mean?

The arrival of a new government, with new ideas and new priorities, always brings with it a sense of new possibilities. Arguments which were dead and buried under one regime – over selective education, say, or the merits of an industrial strategy – suddenly flare back into life.

But the situation in Britain today goes beyond that. Ever since 2010, there has been one question in politics: how do we best eliminate the deficit? Now, there are dozens. What do we want our agricultural system to look like? Our tax system? Our industrial strategy? How many immigrants do we want to accept, and what sort of people should they be? Suddenly, everything is up in the air: all those things there was no point discussing because of “Europe” are now open to discussion and debate.

It’s not just about Brexit – or even about Britain. There is a wider sense that the arrangements we all took for granted – the deals that were struck about how politics and government could and should work – are breaking down. The parties and values that delivered mass prosperity in the wake of the Second World War are under attack as never before: mainstream politics and liberal capitalism stand indicted by Donald Trump in America, Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Beppe Grillo in Italy, Marine Le Pen in France, Podemos in Spain and dozens of others.

Which is where CapX comes in. The site was founded two years ago by the Centre for Policy Studies to make the case for popular capitalism – to provide a daily digest of the best free-market thinking from around the world, and to trumpet those policies and ideas which delivered wealth to the many rather than the fortunate few.

Since then, that mission has only grown more important. It is widely recognized now that, while globalisation has enriched the world as a whole, it has left behind millions of people – both the very poorest in the developing world, and those in industrialised countries who have seen jobs and opportunity go to those with better degrees and better contacts. These, indeed, were the people Theresa May spoke to in her first speech at the doors of Downing Street, promising to make Britain “a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us”.

This is the challenge before us – and the opportunity. Our society and economy are being transformed ever more rapidly, not least by technology (the subject of my recent book ‘The Great Acceleration’). As CapX’s new editor, I want it to be at the heart of the debate about how to respond – to be collecting and commissioning the best thinking and best writing about our changing world and serving it up to you, our readers.

It’s an honour, and a privilege, to be stepping into the shoes of Iain Martin, my old friend and colleague – and I’d like to pay tribute to the work he and his team did in getting CapX off the ground. In the coming weeks, we’ll be laying our plans to make the site better and brighter than ever before, but we’d like to hear from our readers too: if you’d like to get involved, or have some ideas about what you’d like to see from us, please do get in touch [[email protected]].

Robert Colvile is Editor of CapX