Lifestyles and the death of the Metropolitan Elite

For those who are economically and politically classical liberal these are encouraging times

by David Atherton on 7 May 2013 12:44

On May 1st I was invited to the IEA’s Lifestyle Economics event at The Casino, Leicester Square, hosted by Director General Mark Littlewood and featured author and historian Chris Snowdon, who is heading up the project.

This well-attended event contained group representatives of nearly all the perennial targets of the “something must be done” brigade including alcohol, betting, electronic cigarettes and, inevitably, tobacco. 

The raison d’être of Lifestyle Economics is that, starting with tobacco, health lobbyists are now expanding into every facet of our chosen pleasures, where the state is setting prices, restricting personal freedom, and demonising consumers and business. As Snowdon has noted: “Time and time again, we see well-intentioned but ill-considered policies backfire by fuelling the black market, exacerbating poverty and encouraging more harmful consumption.”

He adds: “Ordinary consumers are often too busy to defend their lifestyles against well-organised special interest groups. Businesses often spend too much time protecting their narrow interests in the short term and fail to see the bigger picture.”

Mark Littlewood informs me that he wants to set the agenda by “moving away from ‘industry versus the health lobby’ to ‘consumer versus the health lobby.’”

And I’m sure anyone who has the temerity to eat a bacon butty, or drink a soda drink or a glass of wine, or indeed those who put £5 each way on a horse in the 3.30 at Ascot will wish this thoughtful and erudite initiative an influential and long future.

I find it no coincidence that the government has announced it will not be implementing cigarette plain packaging (read gratuitous medical pornography). The outrage of the health lobby to this decision was matched by the appreciation of those in attendance of the IEA event. In fact, two attendees at the event, Angela Harbutt of Hands Off Our Packs and Forest Director Simon Clark, should take much of the credit. Their outstanding campaign motivated 500,000 to write to the government, while the pro supporters garnered just 235,000. It seems in this case that the consumer and the industry have got the message.

And could things get better for advocates of lifestyle freedom? UKIP stormed to 147 seats in the county council elections last week; shameless smoker and drinker Nigel Farage has now established UKIP as a credible organisation.  And one of the main consequences will be the marginalisation of the ‘Metropolitan Elite’ – generally those who are the paid advocates and patricians calling for lifestyle restrictions and the nanny state.

With a pseudo liberal philosophical orthodoxy best personified by The Guardian and the BBC, this elite is at odds with the average UKIP supporter: “older, often economically struggling, blue-collar workers with low education levels. These are socially conservative voters, alienated by the liberal values of today’s university-educated middle-class elite.” Democracy is so inconvenient.

For those who are economically and politically classical liberal these are encouraging times. 

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