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Does Britain need a Macron?

By Alex Chatham
June 27th, 2017 at 10:14 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in Liberal Philosophy

Walter Ellis is an accomplished writer but his columns for the excellent news website Reaction are depressing. He believes that Brexit is a huge mistake and frequently reveals his contempt for the public. His latest piece is no exception.

His interpretation of the vote to leave the EU, like so many on the Left and even some on the Right, is about a long standing dislike of foreigners: whether it is dressed up as getting back sovereignty or to stop migration. Even classical liberals who argued for taking back control see the debate in terms of being in charge of policy. It seems not to have occurred to anyone that the Brexit vote, by a slim majority true, is a liberal call to arms. People want to control their lives and feel they don’t. Leaving the EU might be the beginning of that.

But the most depressing bit of Ellis’s article is hie belief that the new French President can solve everyone’s problems. Ellis is also unhappy that there isn’t a British Macron. The belief that one individual can transform a country and make it better is a myth that keeps on getting revised despite the disappointment of voters every time they vote for such an individual. Ah they say later, we made a mistake about that one but the next one will be better. The truth is, it isn’t the individual. The way real change happens is when it evolves and is created by people. They don’t need one person to lead them to a promised land. For many reasons, that can’t be done: society is too complex, one person doesn’t have all the knowledge to make the right decisions and so on.

If Ellis and others would trust people, trust spontaneous order, he would see the sort of change he wants.


A liberal approach to public services

By Alex Chatham
June 27th, 2017 at 9:42 am | Comments Off on A liberal approach to public services | Posted in education, health, Uncategorized

Perhaps the one thing that politicians of all ideological persuasions can agree on is that running, and funding, public services is a challenge. They tend to disagree about how much funding should be given and how our schools and hospitals should be managed. This argument has been going on for decades. The post-Thatcher consensus appeared to be that British public services should receive a high level of funding while reforms took place to organisational structures and the way the services were delivered.

Reforming public services isn’t easy. People don’t like change and worry that the services will worsen. So what we get is tinkering and slowly declining services. Part of the problem is that hospitals and to some extent schools are run on a ‘command and control’ basis. Liberal reform would see far greater autonomy for both organisations and funding in the hands of parents and patients. This doesn’t mean ‘privatisation’ although privately run and public funded institutations could work.  The key though is autonomy for the organisation and individuals deciding where to spend the money. After that the Government should step back and let things evolve. The temptation to tamper would be great but far better, and liberal, to let people find ways to respond to the needs of the patients/parents. Trust people and we will end up with a far better system.

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Tackling poverty: free our markets

By Alex Chatham
June 23rd, 2017 at 8:46 am | Comments Off on Tackling poverty: free our markets | 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.


Homeless liberals

By Alex Chatham
June 19th, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Comments Off on Homeless liberals | 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.


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.