Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Why the Liberal Democrats are now the only home for libertarians

The Liberal Democrats are now the only home for libertarians interested in making a real difference in British politics. A lot of people will laugh upon hearing this and they're right that we're certainly not a party that can claim to be majority libertarian. We are a respectful party though, both of the democratic process and freedom of expression.

Here are some quick points to ponder:
  • We don't all wear sandals. We have an image as a centre-left party and it's fair to say we do have a fair amount of lefties, what party doesn't? We do though have a lot more centrist and centre-righters than you'd think. The vast bulk of the party support free markets as the best means to freeing individuals but a lot rightly have concerns about the unfair power exercised by vested interests. In this way the party as a whole shares one of the main libertarian stances, they simply word it differently.
  • We believe in fairness, even when it hurts the party politically. We don't cancel elections because the wrong person wins, we don't fire people for being "hideously off-message". Most of our party spends 80% of the time being off message.
  • We understand we have factions; it actually strengthens us. We were created as an alliance, we can't pretend we all have the same views, we often radically disagree. Other parties try their hardest to hide their factions and divisions, we're proud of our individuality. Our groups such as Social Liberal Forum and Liberal Reform even put forward their own policies to conference. We disagree and squabble and occasionally throw our toys out of the pram but we largely remain respectful to each other and accept that we all have the same aims but simply differ over how to achieve them.
  • We actively welcome differing views. A lot of people, myself included, are suggesting some UKIPpers moving on might want to consider the Lib Dems. Most of us don't say this for political point-scoring, so we can parade around the newest defectors from the other side, we say it because we genuinely want smart, passionate people who hold strong beliefs such as Olly, et al to contribute to our party. Yes, he'd cause chaos and controversy and yes a lot of people would disagree with him but that doesn't scare us, unlike the other authoritarian parties who constantly have to be in control of their message even to the detriment of their members.
  • We know how to compromise and do deals. Under first past the post there will never be a significant libertarian party in the UK. Therefore a libertarian holding party membership will always be finding the most suitable compromise. Many have thought over the past eighteen months that UKIP might be the best option due to various noises they've made to appeal to libertarians; we've all seen tonight that they cannot be trusted in this regard.
  • People's economic views are more malleable than their social views. As people get older they tend to mature and increasingly reject the state from interfering in the economy. Unfortunately, they also seem to become more authoritarian. Do you think you can really convince a bigot to become a liberal? On the other hand socialists become staunch capitalists every day. A lot of Lib Dems will happily acknowledge economics isn't their bag; they're social liberals through and through and simply pragmatic about how to best achieve results.
  • We're open minded. Bring the evidence and we'll listen. Share your ideas; you might be surprised at the response. Most Lib Dems don't understand libertarianism, they've often never heard a good explanation from an genuine supporter. A lot of us have seen how University politics teaching is heavily biased towards the lecturer's (often left-wing) views. Come and make the case and help us change for the better.
  • We represent our members. Bring 50,000 libertarians to the Lib Dems and we'll become libertarian overnight. Realistically that isn't going to happen but our party works from the bottom-up. If the members come and stay they will have a say and be able to influence the party's direction.
  • David Laws is in charge of our 2015 manifesto. This is a guy who wants to lop another 7+% off of the state. Yes, UKIP say they want the state even smaller but we actually have to make policies we might one day implement in coalition.
  • We're the only party making real tax reductions. We all know the 50% policy is a headline, not a real tax policy. It is our policy that is actually cutting tax for ordinary people and yes we want to go further and take all minimum wage workers out of all direct taxation.
So, why not give it a go? I know a lot of you are former Tories and will consider returning but do you really want to jump from one bunch of control freaks to another on the vague hope that they'll actually reduce the state at some unspecified stage in the future?