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The power of the collectivist free market

By Alex Chatham
July 13th, 2017 at 9:03 am | Comments Off on The power of the collectivist free market | Posted in Libertarians

In his 2017 Keith Jospeh Memorial Lecture for the Centre for Policy Studies, Nick Ridley has set out why free markets lift people out of poverty, act as a collectivist force and should be seen as Left Wing, in contrast to the Statist command and control policies of socialism. Ridley is also critical of crony capitalism and any whiff of imperialism.

How many of his fellow Conservative party colleagues agree with this unequivical liberalism is another matter.

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Lib Dems – last chance saloon

By Angela Harbutt
May 20th, 2015 at 7:11 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Liberal Democrats

If Ms Jones vision for the Lib Dems was a bit too fruity for you, then here is an alternative item that may be of interest.

Julian Astle’s piece, which appeared in the Independent last week, is all together less humorous, but he makes some excellent points.

First he neatly encapsulates the entire problem with the disastrous 2015 General Election campaign…

“The proximate cause of the Liberal Democrats’ identity crisis was the decision to fight the election as centrists rather than liberals – a decision that the party leadership knew, deep down, risked leaving them with a functional and lifeless message, devoid of the sense of moral purpose and historic mission that made Clegg’s resignation speech his best of the campaign….

…In so far as this gave the party a reason to exist, it was to moderate the worst excesses of whichever party it might end up working with in government – a dismal offering. Not only did this tell voters nothing about the party’s own vision for the country, it actively undermined its claims to have one. If the Tories want to travel 10 miles to the right, and Labour 10 miles to the left, the logic of the Lib Dem position was that they were prepared to travel in either direction, but only for five miles.”

He also goes on to clinically dissect the reason for this ill-fated strategy

“…the underlying cause – and the one the party leadership candidates will try hard not to discuss in the coming weeks – is the unresolved battle between the party’s Right-leaning economic liberals and the Left-leaning social liberals about the true meaning of liberalism.”

But what of the future? Well, Julian argues that the “anti-austerity Left” has now become “the most crowded part of the political landscape” and, he argues, the Lib Dems have already burned their bridges back to that land…

“A party that has spent five years attacking the deficit with the Conservatives cannot credibly spend the next five denouncing “Tory cuts”.

So where next? It’s so simple. There is a large group of younger voters crying out for a party that represents them…

“rather than identifying either with the Left or the Right as the pre- and post- war generations did, and do, today’s young combine the social liberal views of the Left (secular, internationalist, concerned about the environment, relaxed about lifestyle choices and family structures) and the classical liberal views of the Right (in favour of balanced budgets, low taxation, conditional welfare, personal responsibility, individual choice and entrepreneurship) without seeing any contradiction between the two.

This increasingly educated, empowered, technologically savvy cohort is left cold by the conservatism of the Tory party and the collectivism of the Labour party. They are instinctive liberals. They just need a liberal party to vote for. “

Though I cannot, in any sense of the word be described as a young voter, that is where I am pretty much planted. It is one where many of my friends and occasional drinking-fellows (Lib Dem, UKIP and Conservative voters) to a smaller, or larger extent, are also at – economically free market, socially liberal (whatever that means these days).

Surely this is the best, the only, route for a sane Lib Dem party to take? And if they don’t act soon UKIP, the Conservatives (or some party yet to emerge) will move into this vacuum and the Lib Dems truly will be left defending the rights of the likes of Sebastien, Flounder, Flotsam and Jetsam and co, and little else.

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A liberal narrative: small and local

By Simon Goldie
November 14th, 2011 at 11:00 am | Comments Off on A liberal narrative: small and local | Posted in Liberal Philosophy

Angela Harbutt’s recent post on the direction of the Lib Dems suggested that the party should focus on the small and local.

Before the merger of the Liberal party and the SDP, the former was very much about local decision-making and championed ‘small is beautiful’. As other parties adopted the language, and policies, of decentralisation the Liberal Democrats searched for other ways to differentiate the party.

But there is no reason why the party cannot take these two areas and turn them into a compelling narrative. To do this it would need to review its policies. What was suitable for the 1970s may no longer be appropriate. If liberalism is about people controlling their lives, and if the party is liberal, then it needs policies that make it more likely that people have a say over what happens to them. How this happens may vary depending on the circumstances. It would mean the party would have to commit unequivocally to plurality and diversity. Different areas of the country will want different things. If people are able to ensure services and policies that they want in their area then this is less a postcode lottery and more about reflecting the fact that people are different and depending on their situation make different choices.

Once these policy details are worked out, the party would have a clear and consistent story to tell. Told properly it could have significant electoral appeal. After all, whatever side of the political divide you are on, everyone wants to be in charge of their own destiny.


A liberal manifesto for 2015

By Simon Goldie
November 3rd, 2011 at 11:00 am | Comments Off on A liberal manifesto for 2015 | Posted in Liberal Democrats, Policy

As Liberal Vision has of late focused on the here and now, perhaps it is time to turn to the vision.

The Liberal Democrats have much to think about between now and the general election. One important element, that can easily get subsumed by being in government, is to develop a manifesto that tells voters what liberalism looks like in the 21st century. Of course, one can argue about what liberalism means. Assuming that the reader broadly accepts the aims of this site, (individual liberty, limited government and a free market) what sort of policies would maximise these?

The party has talked a lot about deregulation. Vince Cable, Secretary of State at BIS, has argued for the abolition of what was the DTI and committed the coalition government to a one in, one out rule for regulation. Deregulation is only part of the story. The party needs to think about lowering barriers to entry for new businesses and ensuring markets are as open as possible.

On limiting government it has policies in place that would bring in checks and balances through constitutional reform. It might want to review these policies given that some have already been introduced. Does it need to make revisions to what has been done or develop a new approach?

Finally, but by no means least, we come to Individual liberty. Policies that put the individual in control of the public services they receive, policies that remove obstacles to plurality in public services and generally increase diversity in how we run things can only add to individual liberty.

No doubt there will be a lot of debate about how you achieve all this but the first step towards producing a liberal manifesto in 2015 is to make clear that it is liberalism that is the lode star.


A Liberal Tolerant Nation?

By Guest
October 20th, 2011 at 10:58 am | 5 Comments | Posted in freedom, Personal Freedom

For much of my life I have had frequent cause to feel proud to be part of a nation with a liberal tradition, famed for its ability to compromise and with a long history of standing against tyranny and oppression. The 2006 Health Act has helped to shatter my illusions. Not because I feel that it is wrong to protect people from breathing unwanted smoke but because the legislation goes far beyond what might reasonably be considered necessary and in effect turns millions of people into second class citizens.

If we temporarily ignore the debate over the health impact of passive smoking and accept that even if that case is not proven it is still reasonable in a civilised society for the majority who don’t smoke not to be subjected to detrimental effect from the minority who do, then it is possible to justify legislation and perhaps, by using the broadest definition of “harm”, to claim that such legislation is consistent with liberal values.

However, in a civilised society that claims to value liberty and democracy, legislation to protect the majority might also be reasonably expected to do so without unnecessary detrimental impact on the minority, especially when the minority is otherwise behaving within the law.

Travelling around Europe, I have noticed the ingenious solutions that many countries have adopted in order to provide smoke free environments for the majority whilst accommodating the sizeable minority who choose to smoke. This is especially noticeable in public spaces such as airports where technology has provided one answer. Indoor smoking facilities are provided at many European airports and as a non-smoker I can attest to their effectiveness. Only those who preach the anti-science doctrine of “no safe minimum exposure” could possibly argue against this approach on health grounds.

The contrast with the UK is striking. Most airports do not offer any smoking facilities airside and when facilities do exist, they take the form of a draughty open air cage.

I believe that the solutions arrived at by our more enlightened and more liberal neighbours are aligned with the majority viewpoint and are compatible with the British traditions of tolerance and fairness. They are not possible in the UK however because the 2006 Health Act intentionally goes beyond what is reasonably necessary to protect non-smokers. Apologists for this illiberal piece of legislation effectively penned by pressure groups and enacted at the expense of a broken manifesto pledge, refuse to consider provision for those who smoke even when this can evidently be achieved without significant impact on those who prefer not to be exposed to second hand smoke. This is hardly surprising as they also appear to advocate state bullying, intimidation and coercion on the basis that, in the case of public health statistics, “the end justifies the means”.

We might expect the social engineers of the far left or right to make that argument, but parliamentarians who support this legislation in its current form while claiming to espouse liberal values should hang their heads in shame. I just feel shame for my country.

Written by Chris Oakely. All photographs are the authors own.


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