Sunday, February 12, 2006

What is Liberalism?

I've been having a long discussion with Chris Palmer in the comments box on my Dunfermline by-election post. Most of the discussion is mulling over the usual '101 criticisms of the Lib Dems' , some fair, some not, but he asks:

Let me ask you something. You seem to be an intelligent enough person, though you make the odd factual mistake (I don’t profess to know everything myself, and I don’t profess to be correct all the time,) but why do you not support the Conservative party? What do the Conservative party say that means that you would not support them or vote for them?

Simple answer to Chris P's question is 'liberalism is an ideology distinct from conservatism. I'm a liberal and the Lib Dems are, in my opinion, the standard bearer of the liberal tradition in British politics today. I wouldn't be able to promote the Britain I wanted supporting or voting for either of the two main parties'. But then I'd have to explain liberalism, so this seemed a good opportunity to upload LibertyCat's screed on 'What is Liberalism?' which originated in Young, Free and Liberal. It's an exceptionally good essay in my utterly unbiased [whistles innocently] opinion.

SHAMELESS BOOK PLUG --> If this wets your appetite then you can bother the LDYS office for the fully-illustrated, 32-page book(let). It may or may not be in full-colour on glossy paper. It's also advertised in the sidebar of the blog.<-- SHAMELESS BOOK PLUG [NB: 15:17 on Sunday - download link now (hopefully) working]
[NB: 15:26 on Sunday - link no longer to a download but to a backdated blog post]

11 Comments:

  • At 2:25 pm , Blogger Chris Palmer said...

    The link doesn't work.

     
  • At 2:31 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I think that it is very strange from Chris Palmer to ask that if you are intelligent, why don't you support the Conservative Party? You could just as well ask him, if he's an intelligent person, why doesn't he support the Liberal Democrats?

    He seems to think, that people support Liberal Democrats just because they oppose the Conservative Party. But as an intelligent person he should understand, that people might have positive reasons to support the Liberal Democrats.

    Of course there isn't a party that would fully represent the views of a single person, or else it has only one member.

    It is all about priorities. If you support both economic and personal liberalism, think that free markets are best for the whole society, but also think, that the state shouldn't have a say to what consenting adults may do in the bedroom,then you have to choose which is the most important to you.

    As an intelligent person Chris Palmer should realise, that if somebody makes a different choice than he does, that doesn't make that person less intelligent.

    (It is true that David Cameron is trying to modify the image of the Conservative Party more liberal conserning the issues of personal liberty, though the initiative of three or four months of obligatory community service for the school leavers didn't help much, but at the same time he is also ditching his party's formerly more liberal economic policies, such as more choice in the health care, so in the end the Conservative Party still isn't more appealing for an economic and social liberal than the Lib Dems.)

    As for the differenece of conservative and liberal theories, I warmly recommend F. A. Hayek's essay Why I Am Not a Conservative for Chris Palmer.

     
  • At 4:01 pm , Anonymous Raw Carrot said...

    I'm a liberal and the Lib Dems are, in my opinion, the standard bearer of the liberal tradition in British politics today.

    I have to take issue with this. The Lib Dems today are totally at odds with the (in my opinion reaal) liberalism of Britain in the good old days of the mid-19th cent. The Lib Dems are perhaps now more statist in outlook than even (New) Labour...

     
  • At 4:08 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Raw Carrot, interventionism has never been part of liberal foreign policy, not even in the golden era of Gladstone in 19th century. Lib Dems have opposed the Iraq war as the only one of the three big parties.

    Lib Dems have also consitently opposed ID-cards, whereas the Conservatives jumped in the ship later. Initially Michael Howard et all supported Labour's proposals on ID-cards. etc. Lib Dems are hardly a statist party.

     
  • At 2:10 pm , Anonymous Raw Carrot said...

    Anonymous: I can't be arsed to go into the whole Iraq thing. But your claim that:

    "Lib Dems are hardly a statist party."

    is totally and utterly absurd! Since when have the Lib Dems started talking about tax cuts? about rolling back the state? The answer: they haven't. Judging from their manifesto and performances on Question Time, it seems clear to me that under a Lib Dem govt the proportion of GDP accounted for by Govt would only be going in one direction: UP.

    If that's not a statist agenda, I don't know what is! Furthermore, I've not heard the Lib Dems call for the NHS to be axed and replaced by an effective and equitable health system. Nor have I heard the Lib Dems demand the abolition of the National Curriculum, or the QCA.

    Until I hear these things the Lib Dems will always be a party for loopy nanny-staters who believe, even more vehemently than New Labour, that stealing money from people is the best way to perpetuate the impoverishment of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

     
  • At 4:13 pm , Blogger Femme de Resistance said...

    Since when have the Lib Dems started talking about tax cuts? about rolling back the state?

    e.g's
    here
    and
    here

     
  • At 11:12 pm , Blogger Chris Palmer said...

    I think that it is very strange from Chris Palmer to ask that if you are intelligent, why don't you support the Conservative Party? You could just as well ask him, if he's an intelligent person, why doesn't he support the Liberal Democrats?”

    Strange in what sense exactly? As strange, for example, as someone who posts anonymously?

    He seems to think, that people support Liberal Democrats just because they oppose the Conservative Party. But as an intelligent person he should understand, that people might have positive reasons to support the Liberal Democrats.”

    The core vote, in their deluded state may have “positive reasons” to support the Lib Dems, but as I have said before, most people vote Lib Dem because they are not the Conservative party and not the Labour party. The Lib Dems are currently attempting to capitalise on the anti-political mood.

    Of course there isn't a party that would fully represent the views of a single person, or else it has only one member.”

    This is true, and that’s is why all political partys are broad churches of opinion – some being broader than others… and some being so broad that they say one thing and then completely contradict themselves with another, when attempting to be “all things to all men.” The point is, the vast majority of people who vote Lib Dem don’t actually know what they’re voting for.

    As an intelligent person Chris Palmer should realise, that if somebody makes a different choice than he does, that doesn't make that person less intelligent.”

    Well it does in some cases, as I have gone into previously.

    As for the difference of conservative and liberal theories, I warmly recommend F. A. Hayek's essay Why I Am Not a Conservative for Chris Palmer.”

    In The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1960)

    e.g’s here and here.”

    The links don’t work unless you remove the end / .

    The first example is hilarious. I quote:

    “The Lib Dems say abolishing the DTI would be the biggest single act of deregulation in history. They want to see its responsibilities transferred to other departments and say they would set up a minister for business and a small Department for Consumer Affairs.”

    So, what they’re actually saying by the sounds of it, is that they’ll abolish the DTI… but move all it’s powers and responsibilities elsewhere (so not abolishing it at all) and then, add to the bureaucracy by setting up “a minister for business” and creating another “small Department for Consumer affairs.” No doubt this small department wouldn’t remain small for long.

    In your second example, Charles Kennedy is not saying that he’ll cut taxes. He’s saying that the Lib Dems MIGHT cut taxes for the poorest but all other taxes will remain the same and the “rich” will be taxed even more. However, since Charlie isn’t even leader – and with the noises Chris Huhne has been making – even this climbdown is unlikely to happen. If Labour are a high tax party, the Lib Dems who have not said they will cut any of the current taxes, and have said that they will add an extra 50% tax, must be an even HIGHER tax party.

     
  • At 6:40 am , Blogger Femme de Resistance said...

    The point is, the vast majority of people who vote Lib Dem don’t actually know what they’re voting for.

    The implication being that the vast majority of people who vote for Labour and the Tories are absolutely sure what they're voting for... I think you'll find that's not the case either. Once perhaps, yes, but not now.

    The Lib Dems do have a clear ideology and more policy than you can shake a shredder at. However, they do have a obsessive-localising wing which LibertyCat keeps moaning about who think that national government is about responding to local grumble-sheets. They're invaluable for local campaigning and for local casework (something Libs are good at and proud of).

    They cause embarrassment at a national level by being randomly illiberal in response to local issues and the Libs operating at national level would probably really like to hide them behind furniture for this reason...

    It's rather like the Anne-Widdecombe/Norman-Tebbit faction of the Tories whom I'm sure Cameron wants to send on an all-expense paid trip to Mars right now.

    He’s saying that the Lib Dems MIGHT cut taxes for the poorest but all other taxes will remain the same and the “rich” will be taxed even more. However, since Charlie isn’t even leader – and with the noises Chris Huhne has been making – even this climbdown is unlikely to happen.

    As you will note from my QT review, Chris Huhne has said he is committed to using green taxation (I prefer green trading mechanisms to green taxes - green taxes commit the government to keeping the same levels of pollution to maintain revenue) to take the poorest out of tax entirely whilst not increasing the overally tax burden. Unlike Simon Hughes.

    You can believe that abolishing the DTI means creating more bureaucracy or that the Lib Dems just want to tax endlessly. That's up to you. However, you're showing your prejudices ;)

     
  • At 10:41 am , Blogger Chris Palmer said...

    “It's rather like the Anne-Widdecombe/Norman-Tebbit faction of the Tories whom I'm sure Cameron wants to send on an all-expense paid trip to Mars right now.”

    I don’t really think David Cameron would want to do that. With the noise that Norman Tebbit and Anne-Widdecombe have been making, it will only help David Cameron appear as though he has changed the Conservative party. I expect that he rather respects their views.

     
  • At 2:50 pm , Blogger Femme de Resistance said...

    With the noise that Norman Tebbit and Anne-Widdecombe have been making, it will only help David Cameron appear as though he has changed the Conservative party.

    Yeah but they're still there...

     
  • At 1:25 pm , Blogger Raw Carrot said...

    FdR, the examples work (when you remove the /'s as Chris Palmer points out). However, the examples do not really give any indication of a real commitment to rolling back the state - something a REAL liberal would demand.

    On the recent Question Time, for example, the only tax cuts talked about were for the poor - with the aim of it all to be "revenue neutral" - i.e. tax cuts for the poorest = tax rises for the richest.

    Even if you think the poorest should be taxed less, if you were a liberal you'd believe everyone should be taxed less. How on earth can a liberal believe it is right and just for the State to spend almost half a country's GDP???

     

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