Tom Switzer

About

The Centre for Independent Studies promotes free choice and individual liberty, and defends cultural freedom and the open exchange of ideas.

Research and Activities

Since 1976, the CIS has produced valuable research that has shaped and influenced public policy. Our overall research agenda is set by our Executive Director, in consultation with the research staff, and the CIS Academic Advisory Council.

The CIS runs an extensive range of events including lectures, forums and conferences. We seek to engage with the general public, business, media, academics, policymakers and politicians across the political spectrum. As an independent think tank, we do not undertake any research on request.


A word from our Executive Director

One of the purposes of history is to use the time following events to reflect on what those events really meant. It is still too early to draw serious conclusions about the consequences of the Covid pandemic. However, a few aspects seem already clear — and painfully so —for those of us who believe true liberty and prosperity can only be achieved with a small state that defends free speech and national sovereignty.

The first is that the excessive increases in public spending most governments in the developed world chose to make in response to the Covid crisis show alarming signs of becoming permanent. And the inflationary consequences of the massive rise in borrowing and the additional money pumped into the economy, taken together with the Covid-inspired supply shocks, is likely to mean higher interest rates.

As CIS’s Economics team make clear, it is little short of insanity for governments to pursue this form of extreme Keynesianism, and not to start reducing the size of the state now the pandemic is waning. Cushioning the blow of lockdowns is one thing; financing an alternative form of socialism (for many of the governments responsible, from Australia to Germany via the United Kingdom) is quite another.

However, as normality returns, so should the spirit of liberty and opportunity. CIS supports a market-oriented reform agenda to help the Australian economy rebound and invest for tomorrow’s prosperity. A growth agenda that is not provided by politicians throwing money at favoured interest groups, but by the private sector being freed to invest by being taxed and regulated less. A reform agenda that would improve the incentives to work, lift productivity, spur a revival in business confidence and competitiveness, and strengthen long-term growth and living standards.

The second aspect of the pandemic has been the expansion, or rather inflammation, of ‘cancel culture’. This is the phenomenon by which anyone in public life, the media or academia who refuses to subscribe to the extreme leftist orthodoxies of a militant and vocal minority are ‘cancelled’. The ‘cancellation’ entails not just the denial of public platforms to those who refuse to conform, but also using social media to seek to remove such people from society and the public consciousness.

No rational person can dispute the destructive effects of prejudice on individuals and on society. But cancel culture activists look for prejudice and racism often where there is none. Many of their targets are simply guilty of expressing an inoffensive, but unquestionably different — point of view.

It should be stressed that, at this stage, the cancel culture of the so-called woke left is predominantly confined to the US and UK. But as the CIS Culture program warns, Australia is hardly immune to these illiberal trends. If the cancellers strangle debate, they will suppress ideas and seek to standardise opinion.

In universities across the US and Britain (and starting to appear in Australia), outrages against freedom of speech — particularly in disciplines such as politics, languages and history — are being perpetrated almost daily. And those universities are now routinely producing a generation of students who regard free speech as dispensable and liberal values as inherently bad. That, more than anything, is why responsible leaders should act to stop this manipulation of our values and the vilification of those whose only offence is to not agree with the stifling orthodoxy.

Because if they don’t, our liberal society — and all the good it has created — will soon be a thing of the past, and we may not even be allowed to study or debate its history.

Finally, China: the Covid crisis has coincided with not just the dramatic centralisation of Xi Jinping’s power, but also the expansion of China’s global footprint. In recent years, CIS papers and events have stressed the importance not only of pushing back against so-called ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’ — where Beijing uses its growing economic heft to coerce or harm smaller states that pursue policies not to the CCP’s liking — but also deepening ties with other countries in our region anxious about China’s rise.

CIS remains heavily engaged in all three aspects of the post-Covid era. In addition, we are fully focused on Indigenous and education policy affairs. Our commitment to liberalism remains undiminished: governments can’t create optimism, wealth and jobs; only the private sector can do it. Innovation and progress spring not from bureaucracy but from the brilliance of individuals. And our civil society should be vibrant enough to tolerate all people of whatever ethnic, gender or religious persuasion.

With your support, CIS will continue to try to make Australia a freer, better and more prosperous place in 2022 and beyond — and one that we can bequeath to our children and grandchildren with great pride and confidence.

To help back this ongoing work, click here.

Watch my video on the challenges we face ahead, and how CIS will focus on policy to help Australia emerge from this crisis in a stronger and freer position.

Tom Switzer
Executive Director
Centre for Independent Studies