Sophie Sandor and Nick Partington are joining the ASI as gap-year employees for six months. We asked them to write this post to introduce themselves to our readers.
As I almost enter my third week with the Adam Smith Institute, I welcome myself as one of two new gap year students evolving in a world-leading think tank. And how thrilling it is to be here; immersed in the works of my favourite thinkers and a family of ambitious, intelligent minds. It really is the dream.
Crafting ideas that have changed our world before and will change it again. And if you love a challenge - even greater is the fun for the views we advocate are not the most popular or acceptable. Like our relationship with what we consume: we are not always attracted to the healthiest options. We are a consistent rebellion against common thought.
In my time so far I've witnessed eager 6th form students gather for our annual Independent Seminar on the Open Society, celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall with former European leaders and met and worked with a plethora of inspiring, hard-working individuals. I could not be more excited for my imminent future here and look forward to writing more about my educational and economy ideas.
Having finished my A Levels in History, Politics, and Economics, not excited by the prospect of ‘finding myself’ while pretending to help build an orphanage in Mongolia, I decided to eschew ‘gap yah’ clichés and apply for the Adam Smith Institute’s gap year internship programme. Few places are as keen to engage with pre-undergraduate students as the ASI, and I am delighted to have been selected.
Being sceptical of what Jeremy Bentham called the “rhetorical nonsense” of natural rights theory, I admire places like the ASI which provide compelling justifications for a wide-ranging liberal programme quite apart from the vague philosophical assertions so often invoked by others. More than anything, I admire the ASI for so often saying the unpopular thing and holding the counterintuitive line against public opinion on so many issues. There are few institutions with the status of the ASI which approach consensus with such irreverence.
At the same time, the ASI makes prominent what I see as another powerful justification for free markets and the minimal state. For me, that classically liberal social and economic policy benefits those worst off in society is extremely important, and too rarely emphasised in circles on the liberal right (with one notable exception being Matt Zwolinski and the other Bleeding Heart Libertarians). Framed in this way, proposals such as freedom of movement across borders, sometimes dismissed by those otherwise passionate about reducing the coercion of the state, become powerful tools for ameliorating suffering in the most deprived areas of the world.
Working with and learning from the ASI's employees, all of whom do fascinating work on policy, is a rare opportunity. Added to that are the various things which come about from working in Westminster and being able to live in London for the duration of the position. I am looking forward to taking advantage of these while I am here because, perhaps unsurprisingly, there aren’t many Institute for Economic Affairs events on the flat tax in rural Northumberland.
Also, during my time at the ASI, I am hoping to write further about how and when ideas of meritocracy, debates in libertarian political philosophy, and utilitarianism can (and should) affect politics and policy research.