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19 May 2017
Theresa May and the battle for the Conservative Party’s soul - Venezuela's lesson for young socialists - Keynes would scoff at the logic of today’s anti-austerity brigade - Only the market can save our public services - How Macron can fix France’s despair
Many free-market Tories were dismayed last year when the Prime Minister equated - and rejected - "the ideological templates provided by the socialist Left and the libertarian Right". In the months since, it has become clear that May meant what she said. With the publication of the Tory manifesto days away, and a sizeable majority looking likely, how will the battle between Mayism and party orthodoxy play out?
With triple-digit inflation, widespread food shortages and rising infant mortality rates, Venezuela's economic meltdown is a political disaster and a human tragedy. But the failing South-American state serves as a useful reminder that, though socialism can seem a seductive idea, centrally-planned economies just don't work. Only free-market democracy can deliver a better life for everyone in the long run.
Anti-austerity campaigners argue that the economy needs a dose of Keynesian stimulus. Yet of all the arguments for more government expenditure, this is the most bogus. Keynesian measures were designed to jump-start economies in cardiac arrest, not to justify endless spending splurges in fairer economic weather. As Keynes himself understood, no country can borrow itself rich.
No matter how much we spend on public services, we are told that they are on the brink of meltdown. Even when budgets rise, the sense of crisis won't go away. That is because the problem isn't how much we spend, but how we spend it. The underlying explanation for this is how difficult it is to increase public sector productivity - which is something that can only be tackled with the help of the market.
It would be going too far to say that the fate of the West is in Emmanuel Macron's hands - but not by much. Yet if he is to succeed, he must first tackle the complacency that has blighted liberals in France and elsewhere in recent years. That means going back to first principles to make the case for the liberalising and equalising reforms that France - and Europe generally - so desperately needs.
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