PANDA (Pandemics – Data & Analytics) award ceremony, 23 June 2021
Opening remarks by FMF Executive Committee member, Martin van Staden
You can read our media release HERE.
You can read Prof Robert Vivian’s motivation for the award HERE.
You can watch the award event and Nick Hudson’s presentation HERE.
For interviews with Martin van Staden, Nick Hudson or Prof Robert Vivian, contact Gail Day firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome everyone. I am Martin van Staden, a member of the Executive Committee here at the Free Market Foundation. Thank you to everyone who has made the time to be here with us tonight and to everyone watching at home, live or in the future. If you are joining us on YouTube please be sure to ‘like’ the video and share it with your friends.
Let’s hope this particular YouTube video stays up for longer than a few days before the thought police pounces on it.
Our speaker tonight hardly needs an introduction. In many ways, Nick Hudson is the man of the hour. To those following developments around the COVID-19 pandemic and government’s response to it, Nick is either a genocidal maniac who wants everyone to die, or he is at the forefront of advocacy for a calm and collected response to a treatable condition. There isn’t much in the middle.
Nick Hudson, Chairman of PANDA, is an actuary with international experience in finance. He is now a private equity investor. His interests include canonical literature, classical music, and ornithology -- he’s a birder. Nick has been invited to speak on various topics including epistemology, corporate governance, investment management, and more recently and relevantly, the pandemic.
Before I hand over to Nick, however, I must make a short preface.
The Free Market Foundation is not a medical research institute. This is a public policy think tank. Just like we, not being medical experts, will never presume to tell real medical experts how to deal with medical questions, we at some level expect medical experts, not being public policy experts, not to presume to tell us or government anything about public policy. The rules of medicine cannot neatly be transplanted onto public policy, and certainly not in the uniform way global public health institutions have wanted it to be. Lockdown has been bad everywhere, but elsewhere economies are recovering, and people are getting back to work. In South Africa, this is not the case. Our economy was never healthy enough for something like lockdown to even be contemplated. We could have told government this in March of last year, yet government imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. Now we have a tax base disappearing with a vengeance and unemployment at disaster levels.
That we still have medical professionals telling government to lock down further or to ban alcohol or what have you, is deeply, deeply problematic. Leave public policy to public policy professionals, and leave questions of medicine to medical professionals. Otherwise, we are preparing the ground for the end of freedom and the end of wealth.
Now, I am personally quite concerned about COVID-19. My family has lost three friends and acquaintances in the space of several weeks, if not from COVID-19 itself, then certainly from complications arising from it. The Free Market Foundation has also very recently experienced a great COVID-related loss in the form of Perry Feldman, our Khaya Lam project manager. I think there is reason to be concerned, but certainly not to panic. Above all, however, no matter how serious this virus is, tyranny cannot be the answer. Condemning millions to poverty, which I remind you has serious implications for one’s physical health, is not how you safeguard public health. It cannot be. And I am sure Nick will have some insights about this to share with us tonight.
But tonight is not only a speaking engagement.
I am proud to announce that tonight is also the launch event of the Free Market Foundation Award, which we have decided to bestow upon the team at PANDA. The FMF believes there are many unsung heroes out there who do great things for freedom, not only as a matter of economic theory, but in practice. There are inventors who make government less relevant in our daily lives, there are advocates who effectively push back against encroaching authoritarianism, and there are intellectuals who make fresh cases for liberty; but they rarely receive recognition for their efforts. We, at the FMF, hope to put this lack of recognition to an end.
The reason for choosing PANDA, and the text that appears upon the certificate, is that PANDA has made a credible case for freedom as an alternative to lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. And freedom, as a matter of public policy, is what the FMF is all about. As Professor Robert Vivian, Deputy Chairperson of the FMF Executive Committee explains, “The West has lost a great deal of freedom and that freedom will only be regained if people have the courage to stand against bigotry [that is, intolerance for dissenting or opposing viewpoints], which is what PANDA has done.”
A long-time FMF supporter contacted us very recently to congratulate us on the courage it took to make this decision. With all the hounding PANDA has been getting in the media for apparently being COVID denialists, we couldn’t be prouder to stand on principle, particularly in light of PANDA’s outstanding defence of liberty and human dignity. Many in our small movement would always say optics must take precedence, but someone I respect immensely recently also mentioned how you lose your principles when everything you do is a strategic or optical decision. As classical liberals, our greatest asset is our principles, and that must always outweigh and inform our strategy and tactics, as it did with this award. And to that FMF supporter, I can tell you to rest assured that for as long as I am around, at least, there will be many more awards and decisions of this nature, based on principle.
Without further ado, Nick Hudson.