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Tackling poverty: free our markets

By Alex Chatham
June 23rd, 2017 at 8:46 am | No Comments | Posted in Economics, Free trade, freedom

Pundits have had a field-day speculating as to why Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party increased its hare of votes and seats at the General Election. It could simply be that at this stage of the electoral cycle, voters were feeling fed up with the incumbent. But the narrative developing is that the public are looking for solutions and the Conservative party is failing to offer them. It is true, that the policies proposed to help those ‘just about managing’ didn’t hit the mark. Ask someone if they would like to see a worker on a board of directors or more money for the NHS and the answer is obvious.

Both main parties talked up State intervention and talked down the power of the free market. It appeared that the Conservatives were ashamed of capitalism and decided to put it in the attic so no one would notice it. Since the election, Allister Heath of the Telegraph and others have called for a new or existing think tank to make the case for the market.

That case is very strong. Apart from anything else, markets work. In a free market people voluntarily engage with each other, find jobs, goods and services that they want. The market allows people to collectivley send messages to producers about what they want and what they can afford. The producers respond. Of course, not everyone can get what they want but as a collectivist endeavour, the market beats command and control every time. Perhaps more importantly than that free markets lift people out of poverty because a functioning market creates wealth and successful businesses. Those businesses employ people. It is astonishing that the Left, claiming to care so much about the poor, dismiss markets and want to shackle them, which in turn causes poverty.

As well as making the case for free markets, and free trade as the only fair trade is free trade, there needs to be a campaign to ensure that markets are as free as possible. That means removing regulation and reducing government interference.

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Homeless liberals

By Alex Chatham
June 19th, 2017 at 1:10 pm | No Comments | Posted in Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Liberal Philosophy, Libertarians

For some, Tim Farron’s resignation as leader of the Liberal Democrats demostrated the failure of the party to live up to the first part of its name. It is more likely that the equivalnt of Lib Dem ‘men in gray suits’ wanted Farron out because he failed to secure many more MPs at the General Election. Of course, the party has long been associated with nannyism and a desire to interfere in people’s lives: none of which is very liberal. It is certainly nothing like its previous incarnation. The old Liberal Party might have had its quirks but the liberal tradition of John Locke, Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill coursed through its DNA.

If the Lib Dems are’t liberal, who is? Conservatives for Liberty are doing their best to stake out liberal ground within the Tory party. The problem is that Conservatism is a broad church and some of that church, as we have seen recently, doesn’t much like liberalism. Even the Tories who argue for low taxes and a small state don’t talk about limiting government, a key component of classical liberalism. Of course, you can keep making the case and right now the Conservatives are about the best you will get if you want economic liberalism.

The other options are to support a liberally-inclinded think tank or individual electoral candidates. At some point, we might get a liberal party committed to the rule of law, limited government, tolerance, liberty, plurality, peace  and free markets. In the meantime, homeless liberals have to work out how best to maximise freedom in a climate rather unsympathetic to the liberal creed.

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A vision for the Liberal Democrats

By Alex Chatham
June 16th, 2017 at 1:28 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in Civil Liberties, EU, EU Politics, Free trade, freedom, Labour, Tim Farron

The Liberal Democrats are looking for a new leader. Tim Farron has stood down after leading the party through a General Election campaign and increasing the amount of MPs the party had in parliament. The party’s pitch during the campaign was to offer voters an alternative to Brexit. The party’s heart isn’t in leaving the European Union but instead of promising to reverse the process, they suggested a second referendum with an option to remain.

The voters took no notice.

This has led commentators and politicians to claim that two-party politics are back and third parties have had it. Perhaps. But we have heard this sort of thing before. We have also read about the death of the Labour party and demise of the Conservative party. Support for parties ebb and flow. The Lib Dems could yet again capture the popular imagination or at least influence debate and public policy.

To do that, the party needs a vision. There are many ways to go but it will come as no surprise that a post from this site suggests embracing free markets and free trade. That means a change of direction on Brexit.

The Labour party’s position on Brexit appears to be ‘we will do it, reluctantly’. The Conservatives are still arguing among themselves with a few voices offering a clear path to the exit doors. Could the Lib Dems pivot away from a slavish love of the EU and truly embrace internationalism?

Free trade creates prosperity. That is real free trade not  regulated trade or negotiated trade. With Britain out of the EU, its government can opt for trade deals with other countries which impose regulations or tarrifs or it could go for real free trade. No tarrifs, just let companies trade with each other. What a difference that would make to the economies of Africa. Right now, those African countries are penalised by the EU because EU countries protect their farmers. Ironic isn’t it that for all the criticism of Trump and his ‘America First’ mantra, the EU has been putting EU countries first for a long time. The Lib Dems could set out a vision for a free trading nation, managing migration to allow people with the talent and skills from all over the world to come and work in Britain, not just the EU, reform of its own markets to stop ‘crony capitalism’ which ensured open, free markets. Coupled with the party’s commitment to civil liberties and personal freedom, this new addition would make a distinctive offering to voters.

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While we’ve been away

By Alex Chatham
June 16th, 2017 at 1:08 pm | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Liberal Vision has been quiet for a while, in fact it has been almost a year since any of its contributors have written anything for the site. At least nothing momentus has happened over the last 12 months…

So, while we have been away what has been happening?

Alex Massie at CapX has been talking about liberalism and why the Lib Dems can’t capture the imagination of the public.

The Foundation for Economic Freedom has been making the case for liberalism.

Conservatives for Liberty have fallen out of love with their leader and learned the hard way that being in the Tory party is difficult for a liberal.

Oh yes and then there was a General Election…

UK Democrats?

By Guest
July 11th, 2016 at 10:56 am | Comments Off on UK Democrats? | Posted in EU Politics, UK Politics

The New Party for Brit… sorry Europe… was raised again over the weekend. This time in reference to Labour and Conservative moderates uniting to create something vaguely SDP-like, or perhaps a new Alliance with the rump Liberal Democrats.

I commented previously on the unwisdom of the golden hoard running a 48% strategy. Or at least banging on about Europe like some kind of EUKIP, when most of the time EU relations are not even in the top ten of issues that voters care about.

I’m not sure there’s much difference with the broader proposal. Bar it adds in a whole new level of problems given that the last thing most Conservatives and Labour supporters would accept would be playing second fiddle to either each other, let alone the leadership of Tim Farron. EUKIP isn’t the right strategy.

That is not to say realignment is wrong in itself. Evidently there is a space in politics for a UK Democrats Party. A split in Labour between socialists and social democrats now looks quite likely. With the majority of Parliamentary support sitting with the latter. Such a party could attract the kind of talent the Liberal Democrats need to survive, prompting a similar albeit more gradual split there.

Some Conservative modernisers might also be attracted to that pitch. But not in large numbers. Very disgruntled Remainers possibly. Losers from the next round of Cabinet promotions. Michael Gove… possibly not.

A deeper Conservative split is less likely. Largely as it’s happened already. UKIP already exists. There is little evidence of a split in the grassroots of anything like the depth of poison evident in Labour.

Whatever is being said on Twitter about the two current Tory leadership candidates. Differences between them in substance are slight. Style and experience, tone and focus, seem more the dividing lines than policy and promises. Both would attempt to build unity Cabinets. Both would try and make Brexit work. Both would do things that enrage self-appointed guardians of the status quo.

Either could be beaten by a well organised, well led progressive alternative. The only snag being that such a Party is unlikely to come oven-ready as the consequence of the collapse of Labour.

It just isn’t obvious who the Leader would be. Eagle is no Merkel, Owen Smith isn’t even Eagle. Umuna flounced his first outing. Jarvis failed to excite anyone with his testing of the waters last year. Starmer is hiding in London. Reeves looks more plausible as Chancellor than Leader. And so the list of ‘not quite rights’ on the right goes on.

The left of the Liberal Democrats would never let Tim Farron do a Paddy ‘project’ on them. Often they are more comfortable with Corbyn than his critics. The right of the party could wander off, but might feel no more comfortable with the pro-ID cards faction of Labour than they do with the pro-Palestine faction of Liberal Democracy.

The Greens would still be there, and still be hopeless.

Meanwhile UKIP is intent of scything a slice of working class votes from both Labour and the Conservatives, with a new populist front. The UK Democrats then could end up as a metropolitan party, alongside continuity LDs and Greens. That pool of votes isn’t large enough to win power.

So it’s a pickle. The project is possible. It’s just not obviously going to succeed any more than the SDP did. Difficult choices await, particularly if Corbyn gets on the ballot and wins.