In a speech made last Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May claimed that free market capitalism is the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created” and the only model that has “led societies out of darkness and stagnation, and into the light of the modern age.”
The speech was made just a day after Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition and Labour Party leader, stated that capitalism faces a “crisis of legitimacy” and that it is Labour’s mission to replace the “failed model of capitalism.” Corbyn critiqued Conservative Party policies, stating the party focuses on “delivering profits for a few, and debt to many.”
Despite Corbyn’s claims, May continued, “When countries make the transition from closed, restricted, centrally-planned economies to open, free-market policies, the same things happen: Life expectancy increases, infant mortality falls, absolute poverty shrinks, and disposable income grows. Access to education is widened, and rates of illiteracy plummet.”
May also noted, “It is in open free-market economies that personal freedoms and liberties find their surest protection.”
May’s speech was most likely a deliberate attempt to counteract Corbyn’s anti-capitalist message and mounting criticism concerning her supposed lack of an appealing vision for the United Kingdom. It also coincided with the launch of Member of European Parliament Daniel Hannan’s new Institute for Free Trade. The launch was attended by three of her ministers: Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox.
May went on to say, the free market economy "is unquestionably the best, and indeed the only sustainable, means of increasing the living standards of everyone in a country." She continued, “It is in open, free-market economies that technological breakthroughs are made, which transform, improve, and save lives.”
As EU negotiations enter a critical phase, let’s hope May follows her own advice: “We should never forget the immense value and potential of an open, innovative and free-market economy.” In order to ensure a prosperous and booming post-Brexit Britain, this sentiment is needed now more than ever.
Alexander C. R. Hammond is a researcher at a Washington D.C. think tank.
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