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After the Welfare State

By Sara Scarlett
September 19th, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Comments Off on After the Welfare State | Posted in Economics, Government, Opinion, Welfare State

Social democracy has failed. The fiscal excesses of Welfare States all over Europe have come home to haunt them. My generation has to pay for those excesses and face poorer services than our parents enjoyed. Cradle-to-grave welfare has been an unsuccessful experiment and very few have been brave enough to articulate an alternative vision. One of these brave men is Tom Palmer and his new book, a collaboration with Students for Liberty, entitled ‘After the Welfare State’ is a must read – your future depends on it.

In ‘After the Welfare State,’ Palmer provides a compelling case for a return to mutual aid.  Destroyed in the social upheaval of the two World Wars, mutual aid organisations, also known as friendly societies, thrived in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The narrative some would like you to believe is that the poor were helpless and bereft of the means to better their lot before the advent of the Welfare State. This is one of the most damaging historical falsehoods ever told. Indeed, the story of America would not be the same were it not for mutual aid. It’s demise was engineered by motivations that were sometimes rascist deliberately seeking to inhibit the self-sufficiency of immigrant and ethnic groups.

These remarkable organisations were vital to communities and provided many different products such as sickness benefit, health care coverage and pensions. Far from being powerless, friendly societies were an efficient, localised and voluntary solution to the everyday challenges facing the working class without interference from a higher class or power seeking to control or engineer outcomes.

Localised solutions beat top-down solutions every time. Despite the best of intentions, modern politicians still fail to do right by the body public because they do not really know ‘what’s best’ and they exist in a system that makes poor short-term decisions the most attractive option. Politicians borrow money to provide services (not to mention bailouts and subsidies); they literally buy the votes of one generation with money that their children pay back with interest. They have a caricatured idea of what it is like to live on a council estate or claim job-seekers allowance because so few of them have lived that life themselves. Despite this detachment they still feel qualified to dictate what is wrong with our personal habits or tastes and wag their finger in judgement.

Some say that people should be forced to help others and some say that individuals should only help themselves. Both have got it wrong. Human beings are simultaneously selfish and altruistic and individuals are happiest when they are helping themselves and others at the same time. This is why trade works so well and is so conducive to the wellbeing of mankind. By trading with someone you help yourself and him or her. The same is true of mutual aid. They are structured in a way that provides a massive incentive for the organisation to make sound long-term decisions and to self-police.

To my generation, I say this – government is neither the cause of nor the solution to all our problems. Not only will government not help you; it can’t help you – but we can help each other.

If you want to learn more about the mutual aid you can download a free copy of ‘After the Welfare State’ here.



Liberal Vision votes in LDV’s “Liberal Voice of the Year poll”

By Editor


Much has been said on the subject of  LDV’s “Liberal Voice of Year Poll”. Having read a good number of thoughts, on a range of blogs and posts, about who people think should (or shouldn’t) get the vote… we thought we might lob our two-penneth in.

It probably won’t surprise you to discover that we think it should be Mark Littlewood, founder of and former contributor to this very blog.

Why? Curiously NOT because he has easily been the most effective “free market freedom fighter” of the past year. That should perhaps count… but we think there are other reasons…

First off, as many of you know (and some may have forgotten) Mark is a true liberal. Not only has he done his turn working for Liberty, Mark co-founded, and was chief spokesman for, NO2ID for quite a stint. It is easy to forget that without the simply brilliant and relentless work of NO2ID (hats off here to Phil Booth and Guy Herbert as well) we would almost certainly have seen ID cards being rolled out by now. That alone should earn him some form of recognition.

And whilst on the subject of noble causes let us not forget his stint as chief spin doctor for the party. Not many people will know the extent to which he totally modernised the Lib Dem press office – recruiting and promoting some of the brightest and the best in the business (several of whom are still doing their bit for the party in government today), changing structures and practices that made party’s press operation one the best in the business.

But perhaps the real reason why we here at Liberal Vision think that he deserves to win is that he has, almost single-handedly, championed the cause of personal freedom. He has taken on ministers over regressive plans to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol; tackled lobbyists over the crippling smoking ban; called for the legalisation of drugs. He has demanded time and time again that adults should be treated as adults and not patronised; not spoken down to; not dismissed by those in power. He has been THE VOICE for all those people out there who believe that Government meddling, nannying or nudging is insane, frequently counter-productive and too often unfair – but have no opportunity to say so. He speaks for millions.

Of course we should not overlook his credentials as the “free market freedom fighter” – a term that truly reflects both the passion he has for the subject and the sheer amount of work he does (when is he NOT on the media somewhere or other?). He was without any shadow of any doubt THE free market Voice of 2011. We understand that not everyone shares his views. But what people can not deny is his willingness to engage in the intellectual argument surrounding economic liberalism.

Whilst here at LV, Mark was always insistent that whenever we ran into people who disagreed with our views, the only way to tackle it was to engage and discuss. Those of you that follow him on twitter today will know that he pursues that philosophy to this day. Liberal Democrats have always valued discussion and debate more than any other party. It is one of the things that distinguishes us from the other parties. And Mark must be one of the exemplary figures in doing just that. Yet another damn fine reason why he deserves the title of Liberal Voice of the Year.

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Rent seekers seek rent

By Andy Mayer
March 26th, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Comments Off on Rent seekers seek rent | Posted in Opinion

A number of trade union activists appeared in London today to hear a speech by the Leader of their Labour party franchise.

A smaller number of affiliated militants attacked a shop, reducing the amount of tax they paid.

The franchise speaker failed to spell out a credible alternative to the Government plan.

A Government spokesperson reassured the BBC their plan did not mean sacking all public sector workers.

Everyone went home.

Nothing changed.

Great Britain is 303 years old and over £1 trillion in debt.

Left Foot Forward expose anti-Christian myth

By Andy Mayer
March 2nd, 2011 at 11:40 am | 1 Comment | Posted in Opinion, Personal Freedom

It is rare for this blog to praise Left Foot Forward, a thinking-person’s alternative to Labour Party commentary, given a regular Spirit-Level-like disposition to draw erroneous conclusions from dodgy data analysis.

But in this article, their guest writer Symon Hill reveals the facts behind yesterday’s misreported Christians versus anti-discrimination law case.

“In reality, the judges had refused to rule even on the suitability of the Johnses to be foster carers; their comment on the suitability of Christians to be foster parents was almost exactly opposite to the view the CLC attributed to them.”

The ‘anti-Christian’ meme has become an important campaigning mission for social Conservatives. The CLC in this case for example is the Christian Legal Centre whose statement:

“In a landmark judgment, which will have a serious impact on the future of fostering and adoption in the UK, the High Court has suggested that Christians with traditional views on sexual ethics are unsuitable as foster carers.”

prompted much of the ‘Christians banned from adopting’ coverage. Tradition in this case means literalist ‘thou shalt not’ Bible-believing kind, rather than say the more pluralist liberal, Greco-Roman, or Judeo-Christian humanist traditions that influences our culture.

This and other evidence for the meme then is fairly thin; the last example being the Christian couple required not to discriminate against homosexuals in their B&B.

If that, and this case are the summit of anti-Christian prejudice in the United Kingdom, whilst homosexuals still risk being beaten to death by thugs, some sense of perspective is required.

The classical liberal view on the preferred treatment of religion by the law, and nuances of this case, is well articulated in this article, and it is worth repeating their summary:

[T]he state should adopt an entirely neutral stance towards religion, which involves permitting any form of belief or religion, but only to the extent that each is compatible with the law of the land. Thus there should be no religious exemptions to employment contracts (unless freely agreed between the contracting parties) or school uniforms (unless the school itself decides to permit it as part of its own policy on uniforms) or taxation. If a religion is undertaking charitable activities then those activities themselves should qualify for tax exemption, not the religious aspect. Nor should religious (or, equally, anti-religious) sensitivities be permitted to override freedom of speech, as in the Rushdie affair or any number of less extreme examples.”

Or as an influential Christian thinker is reported to have put it:

“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”

Life on Mars with the Federal Executive

By Andy Mayer
January 21st, 2011 at 11:11 am | 5 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats, Opinion

It’s notable that the highest Liberal Democrat governing body, the Federal Executive,  is deemed so important by the governed, that their page on the party website has not been updated since July 2008.

To get some sense of who is on it today you might go to the internal election fan siteof Councillor Colin Rosenthiel, or find a back-issue of Lib Dem News, the equivalent of hiding the results in a locked cupboard marked ‘Beware of the Leopard’.

So effective is the Federal Executive, that the Leadership set up an appointed Chief Officers Group in 2008 to get stuff done, rather than just talk about it. This leaves the FE with a somewhat nebulous role in debating political strategy and no power to implement it.

An example of this can be seen in today’s Guardian that reports:

“Liberal Democrats to fight next election as totally independent party”

“Party executive agrees to fight next general election campaign with ‘no preference for potential future coalition partners’ and reasserts party’s left-of-centre roots”

“Conference re-asserts that the UK Liberal Democrats are based firmly in the historical and global traditions of the liberal and social democratic philosophy”

On the last point first, just how dead does the SDP parrot have to be before the FE pop the corpse in the swing bin? I’m almost surprised the sentence didn’t conclude with an attack on Thatcherism and worries about whether phone privatisation is really working.

Further the end of history implications that no relaigments mattered before the Alliance, none since, and definitively no more in future, concluding with a call for “modern liberalism” makes no sense.

On the first point, the reality of political campaign planning means that come late 2014/15, when the Party Leader, Chief Executive and hundreds of local organisers are deciding what to do and say, this statement of intent in January 2011 will have no meaning or force.

How close or not the party wishes to be seen to the Conservatives, Labour, others or none will in no small part depend on what those parties do. Are we for example really saying that if either main party split, as say happened with the formation of the SDP, we wouldn’t be interested in collaboration with the more liberal faction.

More to the point why isn’t it explicit political strategy to encourage that outcome?

We cannot move from third place by organic growth. Running incremental by-elections worked poorly in opposition and won’t work at all in Government.

The Conservatives further are quite nakedly running a “hug them close” strategy with the party mainstream in order to encourage a National Liberal realignment and antagonise the left.

Nick Clegg should reverse this discomfort. I’d like to see more statements welcoming centrist Conservatives embrace of liberal democracy, and offering a home to New Labourites abandoned by the double-Eded-disaster leading their party.

If the Federal Executive had an ounce of political guile they’d be poking a stick at the fragility of the Conservative and Labour coalitions, rather than amplifying concerns about our own

But I fear this latest statement has once again shown a group obsessed with internal positioning, persistently fighting the last war, and adding little value to the party’s growth and progress. Give them a real internal scrutiny purpose, or scrap it. Save the Cowley Street biscuit budget for something more useful.