Who Dares Wins. The motto of our country’s Special Forces, paraphrased and made famous as one of Del Boy’s catch phrases in the excellent Only Fools and Horses. It could well be a contender for a national motto if we had such a thing.
Everywhere we look these days we are told to be afraid. To fear risk. To fear uncertainty. To fear the future. But since when were these things to fear? Life will always be full of risk and uncertainty, it’s what makes life worth living. Every time we get in a car or on a bike we take a risk. Should we stay safely confined at home for fear that we may meet an untimely end in an accident? When we seek a job, ask someone out or travel the world we take risks all the time. It might not work out. The employer may turn you down, she may say no or you may get ill. But you might also just find your life immeasurably improved. The only thing of which you can be certain is that if you do nothing, your life will not get any better.
It has been this willingness to take risks, to grasp at the chance of improving our lives that has been the central force propelling humanity forward to ever great heights and ever greater standards of living. It’s no surprise that our economy is built on risk. No not the largess of giant banks who gamble other people’s money, there is no risk for them when they don’t have to foot the bill for their actions. The risks inventers, entrepreneurs and small business owners make when they set up a business or invent a new product form the backbone of our economic system. It is people like them, those brave enough to be willing to take a punt on their ideas, convictions and talents that propel us forward as a nation. Now for the first time our leaders are telling us to supress that very human instinct, the drive to improve our lot. To accept our lot in life, settle for what we have and not dare to dream of something better.
Uncertainty, that other great bogeyman of our age. How many of you know for certain what your life will be like in 10 years’ time? Or what you’ll be doing in 5 years’ time? How about next week? Hell, can anyone say with certainty that tomorrow will hold no surprises? How boring life would be if we knew every minutiae of our futures. No surprises, our lives set in stone, mapped out in a straight path from which we cannot deviate. Uncertainty is the necessary price of free will. This too is unsurprisingly embedded right at the heart of our society. Democracy is inherently uncertain. Every time we have an election or replace a government we create untold uncertainty for the economy. But who among us would trade the freedom of uncertainty for the certainty of dictatorship?
Our economy too depends on this uncertainty to thrive. A dynamic economy requires uncertainty; that is how innovative new business replace the stale old ones. This is what allows once-upon-a-time small upstarts like Apple and Facebook to overthrow established giants like IBM. They too will in turn, one day, be replaced by younger, newer businesses. The only ones who should fear uncertainty are the established giants, the huge multinationals and corporate fat cats too lazy and inefficient to innovate and who would rather just rig the game. It’s only big business that benefits from certainty. Certainty is the friend of power, the old establishment. It’s uncertainty that allows the underdog, the common man and woman to, like Leicester City, rise and up and reach for the stars and upset the stale old guard.
All the technology we take for granted today that would have been almost unimaginable a generation ago. Who 10 years ago could have predicted, for better or worse, what the world would look like today? No one can predict the future, and anyone who tries is inevitably revealed a fool. Just ask all the experts who mere months ago mocked the idea of lowly Leicester being crowned Premier League champions at 5000-1 odds. Or you could ask those experts who failed to notice the financial crash, or those that predicted apocalyptic doom if we failed to join the Euro. Or maybe ask the experts who said a Conservative majority was impossible, almost as impossible as Trump being a nominee for President. The impossible seems to be happening a lot these days. Once people turned to mystic oracles on top of ancient mountains for visions of the future. Today they turn to self-styled experts. The jury is still out on who is more inaccurate. The point is that we know not what the future holds.
The world can be an uncertain and dangerous place. But we are defined not by our desperate attempts to avoid these things in vain, for they cannot truly be avoided, but by the courage with which we embrace and overcome the challenges and pitfalls that life throws at us. Both as individuals and together; as families, communities and a nation.
We stand now at a crossroads. We have a historic, once in a lifetime choice to decide the future course of the nation. To one side we have the ever changing European Union as it hurls towards greater integration and the fulfilment of the much vaunted great European Project. On the other side we have life as an independent country; masters of our own destiny as we plot our own course through the world, trading and cooperating with the world as we see fit. Two futures. Both fraught with risk and uncertainty. My appeal is simply this, whichever way you intend to vote don’t vote out of fear. Ignore the apocalyptic warnings of doom-mongers on both sides. Instead embrace the buccaneering, swash-buckling sprit that made us great and embrace the future you desire. For as FDR said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.
Liam Taylor has a Master’s degree in Economics and Experimental Economics from the University of Exeter. He was also a former Student Development Officer for The Freedom Association.