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The Orange Book and the battle to ‘reclaim’ liberalism

By Tom Papworth
June 25th, 2012 at 1:11 pm | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

The Orange Books’ authors made it what it is. Had it not been for David Laws MP and Paul Marshall, it might have been nothing more than an obscure collection of policy articles by the rising stars ofBritain’s third party. But by including an article that called for the replacement of the National Health Service with a National Health Insurance Scheme (Laws) and proposing a title and a cover that literally painted over the Yellow of collectivist social democracy with the Orange of liberalism (Marshall), The Orange Book’s authors ensured that the Liberal Democrats would at last begin to debate the elephant that had been standing, un-discussed, in the Conference chamber and at local party meetings for far too long: the Lib Dem’s classical liberal heritage.

The June edition of Economic Affairs, which I guest edited, takes a look at the legacy of The Orange Book, eight years on, and asks “Have the Liberal Democrats ‘reclaimed liberalism’, as Laws and Marshall hoped? And what has been the impact on the party and its role in government?

To find out, you can read the rest of this article at the Institute of Economic Affairs website.

You can also download my editorial and David Laws article.

Please leave comments on the IEA blog.

 

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David Laws says what we’ve all been thinking..

By Editor
June 24th, 2012 at 11:53 am | 2 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

HT: This week the respected Institute of Economic Affairs will publish an article by David Laws  MP calling for deeper cuts to public spending and tax.

In his paper, David  argues that the great names of Liberalism – William Gladstone, David Lloyd-George, Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes – would be “shocked” that more than 40% of the economy is now accounted for by the public sector.  Yes indeed.

The Sunday Telegraph have given it front page status today and has an illuminating interview with him inside. Go get your copy or check it out on line.

 

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Just who is pulling the strings?

By Editor
June 22nd, 2012 at 8:49 am | 1 Comment | Posted in Uncategorized

One to watch : With all the talk about the Government White Paper on Civil Service Reform, and whether it has gone far enough, here is a rather timely spoof video from the Hands Off Our Packs campaign opposing the plain packaging of tobacco.

Angela Harbutt who is running the campaign said

“The video reflects the widely held view that politicians, including ministers, are increasingly puppets of taxpayer funded bodies and unelected bureaucrats in Whitehall.”

“We urge ministers to think for themselves and listen to all stakeholders, not just the tobacco control industry and civil servants in the Department of Health.”

Worth a look we think. Oh and just a reminder that Angela Harbutt is one of our very own bloggers here at Liberal Vision. But tobacco or not, this video will resonate with many groups, including civil liberties ones, that have battled against government mandarin projects.

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Tom Papworth on the Guardian housing network: Monday at noon

By Editor
June 15th, 2012 at 11:59 am | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Liberal Vision author Tom Papworth will be participating in a live online discussion on regulations in the private rented sector on Monday, 18 June between 12-2pm.

The discussion will take place on the Guardian‘s housing network and will consider various issues relating to housing and regulation including the dreaded Rent Control (the policy undead!).

Please feel free to join in the discussion on the comments section of the Guardian’s housing network from noon on Monday.

The political elite’s Trojan Horse

By Tom Papworth
June 15th, 2012 at 9:50 am | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Charity begins at home, or so we are told.

In fact, charities survive off endowments, investment income and grants as much as they do off standing orders and coins dropped in a box. But if there is one thing that surely defines a charity – and distinguishes it both from the for-profit and the state sectors – it is voluntary giving. No matter where the money immediately comes from, ultimately it can be traced back to an act of free (and altruistic) will. Right?

Not, apparently, for vast swathes of the UK charity sector. By 2010, over half of all charity income was derived from state and state-run bodies, and 27,000 charities relied on the state for more than three quarters of their income. No matter what ones view of taxation, one can hardly call it voluntary: it is a compulsory levy, and as such cannot, in any way, be considered “charitable”.

This might not be a problem if it just described charities receiving money from government to deliver services. Non-profit making private sector bodies, like their profit-making brethren, are often more efficient and more responsive to local circumstances than state and regional monopolies. Charities should be as free as any organisation to bid for government contracts, as long as this meets their charitable aims.

But what about the use of these funds to lobby government? Is it right that charities should use taxpayer money to campaign, even – perhaps – to campaign for more taxpayer funds? And what about charities that exist purely off taxpayer money, and exist primarily to lobby government?

A new report by Chris Snowdon, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, examines this recent and murky practice. Sock Puppets: How the government lobbies itself and why argues that this represents a capture of Civil Society by politicians and bureaucrats. These latter groups are too-often assumed to pursue “the public interest”, whereas a large body of research demonstrates that in reality politicians and bureaucrats – like everybody else – pursue their self-interests.  This should not always be assumed to be selfish (one point where I would fault Snowdon is his failure to acknowledge that “self-interest” can also include pursuing ones own values) but does nonetheless put them at odds with any general interest – and, indeed, democracy.

The capture of the charity sector by government is dangerous for a number of reasons. It provides small interest groups with disproportionate amounts of power and resources at the expense of taxpayers; it compels taxpayers to fund charities they do not support; it encourages the charities to focus upon the pursuit of state funding as a priority; and it mutes opposition (a concern raised by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in 2001 and which I have witnessed in practice). A further danger, that Snowdon overlooks, is that government-funded lobbying organisations crowd-out real civil society groups; he certainly acknowledges that it is only the “politically correct” views (often those with little public support) that are funded.

Why does government do this? Feathering its own nest is one reason: government often funds bodies that argue for more bureaucracy, state intervention and taxation. But it also enables government to create “astro-turf” bodies that allow politicians to present unpopular, elitist issues as “grass-roots movements”. This subverts civil society, compromises the charity sector and undermines democracy.

The report makes four recommendations. Firstly, the government should stop giving unrestricted grants to charities; second, stop political advertising by government; third, require organisations that rely mainly on statutory funds to register as a new form of non-profit body, rather than appropriating the “charity” label that implies that they rely on voluntary funding; and fourth, restore the pre-Blair position of the Charity Commission that charitable status cannot apply to a body that is primarily concerned with lobbying.

Only then we will have a charity sector dominated by strong, independent voices speaking up for the people.

Do not feed the Sock Puppets