Passport to Pimlico is a great film. A community weary of post-war austerity opts out of British bureaucracy. Choice in food, nylons and clothes suddenly becomes available. They erect barriers and issue passports to stop officialdom crushing the joy.
Fifty years ago everyone knew how grey life was under the socialist experiment. It was to defeat the Butskellite consensus of the 1950s that the Institute of Economic Affairs was created in 1955. We have won some splendid victories but there's no shortage of other dragons to be slain.
Some are even resurrected. The state identity card was abolished as pettifogging tyranny. Now the idea is reborn but with far more technical sophistication.
An early study, by Basil Yamey, urged the abolition of Retail Price Maintenance. The texture of everyone's life has been transformed by the result. We forget that supermarkets were effectively illegal under the old price-rigging but there is no thanks in politics. Who now recalls the 1979 election scrapping of exchange controls? We had to get authorisation to take even small sums abroad.
The core assumption the IEA contested since 1955 is that "the commanding heights" of the economy have to be in state ownership. Then we urged that every nationalised industry be sold. Today, only the BBC, the Post Office and the Forestry Commission remain in government ownership. Britain has taught the world privatisation, and the IEA claims paternity.
To celebrate our 50th anniversary, IEA authors have sketched out a future in the publication Towards a Liberal Utopia?* Will people in 2055 believe our taxation system was so convoluted even professionals were bamboozled? Will they think it comical we tried to tax "unearned income" when everyone can see savings are wholly benevolent?
Within a generation there will be one simple flat rate tax: 20pc. Nobody will bother evading. The Government has duties to perform but it need not take half our income and do what it does so badly. Some taxes do not invite tinkering. Inheritance tax will have gone. Tax Freedom Day will have moved from June to late February. And tax returns will be the size of postcards.
The notion that most children have to be coerced into council-run schools will have evaporated by 2055. We will regard the compulsion of parents and pupils as counter-productive and the equivalent of the old Navy press gangs. Private teaching institutions may emerge from China and India, the two dynamic capitalist nations of the 21st century.
The morale a