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Liberal Vision interviews Tim Farron

By Andy Mayer
October 14th, 2010 at 4:52 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Along with other top Liberal Democrat blogs, Liberal Vision will be interviewing both candidates for Party President, after which we will make an endorsement. This week Tim Farron.

Some of the highlights from this interview include:

  • How we can be distinctive, spikey, and achievement-centred to avoid being the Oxford United of British politics
  • What Liberal Democrat ministers are doing behind the scenes
  • Compulsory insurance for social care to replace the free personal care for the elderly?
  • What Paddy Ashdown got wrong on Labour and Menzies Campbell on the Michael Brown money
  • Why Chris Fox is like Kenny Dalgish and Tim’s experience of sacking well-paid people
  • Tim embraces evidence-based medicine over homoeopathy
  • Employment rights for gays in churches, a “relatively minor issue” compared to homophobic bullying by “thick macho blokes”
  • Tim’s leadership ambitions versus being the heir to Simon Hughes

One of the first things that grabs you about Tim, apart from his infectious enthusiasm, is the sheer physicality of the way he communicates; something like the Karate Kid meets Alexandar the Meerkat. As his passion for a topic rises, so do his arms, whilst his head and eyes dart around the room, perhaps looking for eagles. At one point, both arms outstretched,  head hung down, I assume hunting for scorpions, he almost achieved the perfect craneMore »

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BOOK REVIEW – Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty: An Account of its Argument

By Barry Stocker
October 14th, 2010 at 10:15 am | Comments Off on BOOK REVIEW – Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty: An Account of its Argument | Posted in Book Review, Liberal Philosophy, Political theory
  • hayekHayek’s The Constitution of Liberty: An Account of its Argument, by Eugene F. Miller
  • Institute of Economic Affairs (www.iea.org.uk), 2010
  • Get your copy HERE.

Eugene Miller, who sadly died earlier this year, wrote a summary and commentary on Hayek’s book of 1960 where he explained a modern version of classical liberalism in relation to political theory, public policy, law, and history, as well as economic principles.

Together with Law, Legislation and Liberty (1979), The Constitution of Liberty is Hayekʼs fullest presentation of his
version of classical liberalism. It is probably more widely read than the later text, and is one of the key texts in Twentieth Century liberal thought.

It is not a very difficult book to read, but it is long and it does integrate a very wide range of material, so there are strong reasons for publishing an introductory version, with guidance for the reader. Hayekʼs book of over 400 pages is condensed into a summary, together with comments, into less than 200 pages. Miller puts passages into the context of other works by Hayek, and sometimes the history of liberal thought. The reader gets a good idea of the issues in The Constitution of Liberty and the flow of arguments, along with a few ideas about how to interpret and contextualise.

Miller points out that the proposed policies in The Constitution of Liberty will not satisfy the most radical libertarians, though though Hayek’s analysis can be used for more radical ends. Hayek himself did not use the word “libertarian”, because he considered it an artificial substitute for the word liberal; and he did not support the idea of a radical lurch in society of the kind that “libertarianism” might suggest. Hayek regards the state as having a legitimate role, not only in the night watchman functions of law and order, and national security, but also with regard to maintaining the incomes of the poorest, and providing core public services. Hayek emphasised the improved efficiency of government as well as reducing the size of government. The two go tother to some degree, as over-extended government becomes inefficient, but Hayek did not think that smaller meant better in every circumstance. He suggests that the tendency for government to do to much went back to the 1870s, when classical liberalism started giving away to a “progressivist” statism, trying to find, and impose, state solutions for everything.

The reasons that large government is inefficient, and threatens liberty, were explored by Hayek in earlier books and papers on economics, most famously in The Road to Serfdom (1944). What Hayek adds in The Constitution of Liberty in particular is more detail about dysfunctional planning, and an overview of the development of law. As Hayek had already argued, any planning agency has limited information about the economy it is trying to plan, and the consequences of intervention. This problem cannot be solved by more information, as the agency will never match the constantly changing totality of information, that individuals in aggregate have through the price mechanism. Since this mechanism conveys dynamic information about the constantly changing preferences of many individuals, no plan can capture it. Even by 1960, Hayek suggests, state socialism in the sense of the state owning everything in the economy, was an exhausted ideology. However, statism was still growing, and has since, through attempts to improve society from above.

What makes this book most distinct in relation to Hayek’s earlier work, is the emphasis on law. Hayek obtained a doctorate in law before his fame as an economist and political thinker, and here he puts an interest in the history and theory of law to great use. Hayek had developed a strong belief in the benefits of evolutionary law, or law as a discovery procedure, that is law that evolves through judgements in particular cases. Hayek opposed an evolutionary understanding of law, in terms of legal theory, to the major schools of positivism and natural law. According to positivism, law is the system of legal commands issued by the sovereign power; according to natural law, law is the commands deduced from basic natural rights.

Hayek thinks that we know what ‘law’ is from the activity of judges as opposed to the commands of any sovereign body, or any notion of what is right by nature. This gives Hayek a basis for criticism of legislation, which goes beyond what emerges from the independent judicial process. The evolutionary understanding of law led him to highly value the British common law tradition, of law from precedent; and German administrative law before it became absorbed into a centralised state system in the late Nineteenth century. Administrative law comes from the continental European tradition of courts, which evaluate acts of the state machinery, and which clarify, and refine, the principles that underly them. Miller is particularly helpful in providing contextual information on Hayek’s attitude to law, referring to lectures Hayek gave in Cairo in the 1950s; and he explains how Hayek used the trip to Cairo to follow the European travels of John Stuart Mill, a great hero of Hayek’s, particularly in his earlier years.

Through this kind of analysis, historical information, Miller succeeded in providing an ideal introduction to the reading of The Constitution of Liberty, and interpretation of it. Those new to Hayek will find this the perfect introduction to his thought, along with The Road to Serfdom, and The Use of Knowledge in Society (1945). Those already familiar with Hayek will also find it very useful as a thought provoking overview.

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Is there really a Utopia that satisfies you AND your parents?

By Tom Papworth
October 14th, 2010 at 7:45 am | Comments Off on Is there really a Utopia that satisfies you AND your parents? | Posted in Uncategorized

robertnozick1Wittgenstein, Elizabeth Taylor, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Merton, Yogi Berra, Allen Ginsberg, Harry Wolfson, Thoreau, Casey Stengel, The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Picasso, Moses, Einstein, Hugh Hefner, Socrates, Henry Ford, Lenny Bruce, Baba Ram Dass, Gandhi, Sir Edmund Hillary, Raymond Lubitz, Buddha, Frank Sinatra, Columbus, Freud, Norman Mailer, Ayn Rand, Baron Rothschild, Ted Williams, Thomas Edison, H.L. Mencken, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Ellison, Bobby Fischer, Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, you, and your parents. Is there really one kind of life which is best for each of these people?

The idea that there is one best composite… one best society for everyone to live in, seems to me to be an incredible one…

The conclusion to draw is that there will not be one kind of community existing and one kind of life led in utopia. Utopia will consist of utopias, of many different and divergent communities in which people lead different kinds of lives under different institutions….Utopia is a framework for utopias, a place where people are at liberty to join together voluntarily to pursue and attempt to realize their own vision of the good life in the ideal community but where no one can impose his own utopian vision on others. The utopian society is the society of utopianism… Half of the truth I wish to put forth is that utopia is meta-utopia: the environment in which utopian experiments may be tried out; the environment in which people are free to do their own thing; the environment which must, to a great extreme, be realized first if more particular utopian visions are to be realized stably.

– Robert Nozick: Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974/2008, p310-312)

Cool video…..

By Angela Harbutt
October 13th, 2010 at 11:59 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in freedom, Personal Freedom

Here is a really cool video I came across on my travels.  It highlights, as powerfully as anything I have seen anywhere, the issues surrounding the growing illicit trade in tobacco. MP’s (especially those of you who did not support yesterday’s Bill for an amendment to the smoking ban) take note…. To everyone else – please spread the word, email the Youtube link to friends, put it up on your sites…you know the drill.

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Smoking ban amendment – where were the Lib Dems?

By Angela Harbutt
October 13th, 2010 at 10:53 pm | 14 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats, Personal Freedom

As has been noted widely elsewhere David Nuttall’s attempt to introduce a Bill to amend the smoking ban has fallen by a majority of 55  (86 in favour of an amendment, 141 against). I agree with Guido’s view that the actual votes cast suggest a growing popularity for such an idea (that was reported as “dead and buried” just a few short months ago). 

So, I can take some comfort from the fact that perhaps, just perhaps, there are some signs that a more sensible approach to personal freedom in this country maybe seeping back into politics in this country. 86 MPs voting FOR an amendment to the smoking ban IS a result.

 It has to be said that the early signs are that IF this is true – it is going to be driven by the blues  rather than the yellows… It is with regret that we note 

ONLY A HANDFUL OF LIBERAL MPs VOTED FOR THIS BILL

A big round of applause to John Thurso, Greg Mulholland and Adrian Sanders who stood tall.. ( John Hemming appears to have voted both for it and against it ?). 3 DUP and 4 Labour MP’s are also on the “ayes” list of those supporting this bill leaving the VAST MAJORITY of those supporting this bill were CONSERVATIVES and a lot of those being the new kids from the class of 2010.

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