Article written by Dr Juan D. Anzola, Senior Research Associate at the CWS:
2020 has been a rollercoaster for all of us. Little from our personal, professional and social lives seems to have been left untouched. The Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, has confronted us with unprecedented political, social and economic challenges that not only require us to be bold in order to cope with them, but also hopeful and imaginative in the search for sustainable and fair solutions.
I joined the Centre for Welsh Studies this past autumn as a Senior Research Associate largely because I wanted to contribute meaningfully and creatively to the search of answers to many of the problems we face today. After all, Wales is currently at a crossroads; Welsh policy-makers must decide whether to carry on as usual, or to embrace new and revolutionary ideas. Undoubtedly, as a political researcher and thinker, I believe that it is my job to push policy-makers towards the latter. Both, the pandemic and the on-going Brexit negotiations have exposed the fragility and vulnerability of the Welsh economy and finances, particularly in relation to the rest of the UK. While some still stubbornly believe that increasing the size of the state (and bureaucracy!), rising taxes, and continuing our economic dependency with Whitehall make up the model to fund the “simple quiet Welsh life”, I am here to challenge that. I aim to argue for the need to promote more dynamism and experimentation in policy-making. More importantly, I will constantly emphasise that the solution to our current woes lies in the private sector, not the public, and I will do so by highlighting its expertise, innovation and ability to encourage people’s full potential as they pursue their own happiness, and in their own terms. Wealth creation is the basis of a free nation; poverty reduction and/or redistribution cannot even be considered in its absence.
The opportunity to work for the CWS spoke to my core values as an old-fashioned liberal and libertarian. I believe and defend freedom, free-markets, low taxation, justice, competition, and people’s individual freedom to build their own criteria about the world around them. For the past 10 years, I have worked in Higher Education, the charity sector and public institutions here in the UK and Latin America. Policy-wise, I am passionate about deregulation, education, migration, and the arts and culture sector. I have collaborated with a broad range of experts, students, grassroots organisations, local advice centres, activists, community leaders and policy-makers in the search for solutions to very complex problems. I strongly believe that it is precisely because of my deep engagement with all these different stakeholders and communities that I have gained a good understanding of why liberalism, capitalism, democracy and competitive free markets are causes worth fighting for. My intellectual journey, but also my experiences working alongside indigenous people in Mexico and with displaced people in Colombia, for example, have taught me to never take the political and economic freedoms we enjoy in Wales lightly. We must protect and uphold those freedoms over and over again.
Furthermore, I am confident that I am able to offer something different in the economy/production of political ideas. I’ve lived in many different places—in the UK and abroad—which I think has given me the tools to understand the world from both global and local perspectives, as well as the capacity to relate and understand the lives of different people. I also consider myself an interdisciplinary researcher and thinker. My degrees in Government, International Relations, Gender Studies and Sociology have enabled me to analyse the world around me through different lenses and on different levels, from the macro to the micro in everyday life. I am also a very curious person and I have a plethora of interests: literature, Old Hollywood films, weightlifting and exercise, music, history, to name a few! They all inform my imagination and political work.
At CWS it is my job to not only to advocate for free markets and a free society, but to also offer practical solutions and hopeful outcomes to our audience. The challenges surrounding Covid-19 can lead everyone to feel overly pessimistic about the future — particularly as we face the prospect of a possible third lockdown in Wales in the near future — but it is my duty to find opportunities in the middle of adversity. Like one of my musical heroes, Leonard Cohen, once noted in his song “Anthem”, “there is a crack… in everything; that’s how the light gets in”. Politics should always offer aspiration and hope — it’s central to the job. The hardships we faced throughout 2020 may have actually bestowed priceless knowledge and lessons on all of us too, and therefore, the opportunity for Wales to re-examine its history, its unique position within the UK and in the world, and the duty to look to the future through openness and inventiveness. I want to be part of that.