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Liberal elevator pitch challenge

April 20th, 2011 Posted in Liberal Philosophy by

In a recent post, I suggested that liberals need an elevator pitch. A Twitter conversation with Sam Bowman reinforced my view, as did the comments at the end of the post.

Below is my elevator pitch. I do not claim it to be the definitive answer. It would be great to have other liberals, whether classical, libertarian or even social, to suggest what they see as essential in explaining what liberalism is all about.

For anyone who decides to post a pitch under this post, please keep it to around 100 words.

My elevator pitch: Liberals believe that people should be in control of their lives. A liberal government’s job is to remove obstacles that prevent that. In the set up that we have in the UK, a liberal government should also ensure that each person has as much control as possible over the public services they receive. We don’t have a prescription for the future or for all the problems people face. Rather we trust people to solve problems themselves and believe voluntary co-operation is far better than a central planner deciding everything.

22 Responses to “Liberal elevator pitch challenge”

  1. Jack Hughes Says:

    Here goes with my elevator pitch:

    ============================================

    Freedom

    ============================================

    Doesn’t need embellishing or qualifying.


  2. Simon Goldie Says:

    Jack

    Many thanks for that. Freedom does rather sum it up but I wonder if one needs to explain it in a little more detail for people unsure of what that means in practice.

    Simon


  3. Jack Hughes Says:

    Simples. Govt policy should be based on maximising personal freedom.

    The idea is that ordinary people can and should run their own lives.

    The sandal wing of the party don’t trust ordinary people. Instead they want people to live their lives “riding with trainer wheels” (stabilisers in the UK). Compulsory trainer wheels designed by Polly Toynbee and fitted by Ned Flanders.

    Very early in the journey you would realise that you need a written constitution. I would just copy the US document and substitute ‘England’ for ‘America’.

    I’ve thought long and hard about the right to bear arms. I would leave this bit in: it sets the scene for a sturdy and independent citizenry banding together even doing their own part of national defence. In contrast to a passive and infantilised society waiting for the council to come and mow the lawn.


  4. John Mc Cusker Says:

    @ jack the uk is made up of more than england. The problem with a written constition is that it tends to fossilise. Its virtually imposible to acheive constituional reform in the states. The last thing the uk needs is more americanisim or even europeanisim thrust on it.


  5. Christopher Says:

    Agreed – the very last thing the UK needs is a document as vague and open to interpretation as the US Constitution. We don’t have the desire for guns the Americans do – it’s just not part of our culture. National defence? Defending our nation from whom?

    Also ‘freedom’ by itself is meaningless (the freedom to do what?) and it certainly does need qualifying – as the saying goes, freedom of speech doesn’t give you the right to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. The US certainly doesn’t give its citizens total ‘freedom’.


  6. Simon Goldie Says:

    I think the point about a constitution, from a classical liberal pint of view at least, is that it is meant to limit government.


  7. Louise Shaw Says:

    Liberal’s believe you should have the right, as far as possible, to be able to do whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t obstruct the rights of others. This is the WHY.

    We also believe in equality of opportunity, and building up the power of local communities, as how, when, where, who and what we need, to do the above.


  8. Simon Goldie Says:

    Thanks for contributing Louise.


  9. Tony Jebson Says:

    Elaborating on the one-word “Freedom” reply, how about:

    Liberals believe in freedom, but without impinging on the freedom of others. And not just “freedom to” but “freedom from” and “freedom of.” So freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from oppression – also poverty, ignorance, intolerance and conformity.

    This applies to organisations and nations as much as to individuals. So free trade and free markets, with freedom of choice for consumers.

    But with these freedoms come duties: to educate, to house, to care for the sick. And that is the purpose of liberal government: eradication of barriers to freedom and the fulfilment of such duties.


  10. Jack Hughes Says:

    Louise, can you explain more about the “communities” bit.

    I’ve lived in several areas and found differing degrees of community spirit. I would define community spirit as helping your neighbours before they ask or when they ask.

    I don’t think the government or a constitution or any other political force can help with this. I don’t even think it should be attempted.

    How would this work ?


  11. Jack Hughes Says:

    A lot of people are mixing up freedom with entitlement.

    Freedom boils down to being left alone to do your own thing with the only proviso that you don’t steal or kill.

    “Freedom from xxx” is just your own opinion about what you want the gubbermint to provide.


  12. Louise Shaw Says:

    @Jack

    I’ve been reading “Restructuring the State” and Mark Pack’s chapter talks about how to give people the lobbying tools and skills in order to help them effect the change they want.


  13. Jack Hughes Says:

    @Louise – can you give us an example, please.

    For me “community” comes from individuals with some kind of bond – often because they live in the same street. They help each other in spontaneous, informal, unplanned ways.

    It’s also a leftist codeword. When I hear the word “community” I get suspicious. “Community organizer” does not sound good to me.


  14. Simon Goldie Says:

    Perhaps building up a local communities means not doing things that prevent local communities thriving instead of government actually doing things.


  15. Louise Shaw Says:

    I don’t have a problem with the word community. It’s just a word.

    An example? Certainly. If a local group wanted cheaper organic food, it would be more effective for them to lobby the likes of Tesco then to either lobby govt for a change in the law to have a max price for organic food (which would be illiberal anyway!) or only eat organic food themselves, which tho, as a lifestyle choice it has integrity is unlikely to change anything by itself.

    Mark argues that by helping people learn to lobby and providing tools (like 38 degrees do) to help them do it, for instance gaining online petition signatures and learning skills like influencing and presenting cases, we can actually put power back in the hands of the people, which as liberals we surely want?

    Do you agree with localism?


  16. Jack Hughes Says:

    Some of the scariest words in the english language:

    “I’m from the government and I’m here to help your community…”

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ronald_Reagan


  17. Jack Hughes Says:

    Hi Louise !

    No problem with people writing to Tesco – as long as they buy their own stamps.

    This is how freedom works – people can do what they like.

    I hope you don’t want the govt to tell people to do this or ‘encourage’ them to do it.


  18. Psi Says:

    Jack

    The “empowering local communities” is a bit of an odd area as both liberals and (rather ridiculously) statists claim it.

    Liberals would see it as where decisions have to be taken collectively, to take them at the lowest level possible. So for example restrictions on noise levels late at night, better the local community agree something than have a national government set rules.

    The statists how ever see it as cover for national government to establish bodies, regulations, employ agents etc to “enable local groups.”

    Perhaps the phrase is not the best, but the alternative term “subsidiarity” is not widely understood.


  19. Louise Shaw Says:

    @jack

    Psi has made my point for me, in that I don’t want to be “statist” (you’re rather fond of labels on here aren’t you ;)) but I do want to help spread information and improve the engagement and accountability at a local level

    Which is another reason I’m a Lib Dem and not a Tory or er.. statist ;)


  20. Louise Shaw Says:

    @Jack

    Loving Reagan’s quotes – maybe for different reasons than he intended

    “One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. . . ”

    Love that!!!


  21. Graeme Cowie Says:

    Liberalism values personal autonomy. Humans possess an unequalled ability to reason and to make moral judgments. In cherishing these qualities, individuals ought to show mutual respect for the decisions of others, provided they cause no external involuntary harm. People should be free to take their own risks and make their own mistakes in the pursuit of happiness. It is through making errors and assuming responsibility for the consequences that we learn. Freedom cannot be institutionalised: it is the most natural of all things. It is in substance; not form, that it thrives.


  22. Simon Goldie Says:

    Graeme

    Excellent! Many thanks for the post.

    Simon


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