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Liz Truss: "Individualism is about opportunity" (Chris McAndrew CC BY 3.0)

We in Britain are embracing freedom in a way we never have before. The ability to reach across the world and communicate faster than ever. To order food and heat our homes at the touch of a button. To trade instantaneously the goods and services we have created. From technology hubs to high streets to garages, British towns and cities reflect that freedom with a cornucopia of new enterprise. The talk of the end of capital, property and enterprise couldn’t be further from the truth.

This is particularly true among younger people. Today’s under-thirties are the most independently-minded generation ever. They are taking risks, finding the courage to do things differently, and developing the technologies and companies which are challenging traditional industries, such as cryptocurrencies.

Research shows the young identify more with the values of self-reliance and accomplishment than other age groups. More than ever, people define themselves by their individual thoughts and actions, rather than by their background. That individuality doesn’t mean we’re becoming more selfish or uncaring. But we are increasingly defying the rules and hierarchies of the establishment — from big corporations to big Government. Individualism is about opportunity, diversity, mobility, the freedom to go wherever you want, do whatever you want, challenge the system and the status quo.

From Twitter to eBay to Uber, people are finding their voice, cutting out middlemen and rejecting closed, overregulated markets. They are peer-to-peer lending, leasing, trading and investing. It is said people care less about property but I think that’s untrue — we are just embracing new, more convenient forms of ownership. We still want to work and enjoy the fruits of our success — we just want more flexibility over how we do so. John Locke’s conception of property is no less true today than it was a decade or a century ago.  

So why are so many of this young, freedom-loving generation wooed by a Labour Party so utterly opposed to these things? A party which doesn’t support ownership or disruption, wants more government control, and to close down these new forms of exchange?

Take their war on Uber — where Labour have taken the side of the establishment against innovation and the people who benefit from it. Or John McDonnell’s plan to buy utilities at a price “determined by Parliament”, or their plan to force people to sell their land at discounts to the state. We know from disastrous experiments in history that this level of state intervention doesn’t work — it destabilises markets and leaves people worse-off. It will make investors think twice before putting their money in the UK — investment that’s sorely needed by start-ups and entrepreneurs. And it violates the right to make choices over our own property — not just for the owner of the land that happens to be in McDonnell’s crosshairs on any given day, but for all of us.
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