Further to our post “does Britain need a Libertarian Party” …


David Davis

I here want to promote to post-level a thing by Ian B who commented on our previous post about this very matter. Here he is, commenting on this previous:-

The question is whether political parties initiate change, or merely reflect it. I think the evidence is that at least in our corner of human society, they are reflections. So for me the real issue for Libertarians, or anyone else with political goals, is how to engineer paradigm shifts. The Proggies are very good at this, and we are not. I think one problem we have is the myth of the grass roots movement. Consider the difference between the rapid success of Progressive aligned movements such as feminism, greenism etc compared to the failure of, say, Euroscepticism despte it having a lot of support in the genpop.

The key element is surely influence within the small ruling class. Fabians succeed because they are influential among the elite. Eurosceptics fail because they are not. The voice of “the masses” is only heard when it is in tune with an influential elite movement. “…You will be handed a banner and told where to march from and to, little person…”

So I’m not really convinced that a political party can achieve very much. I admit I did join the LPUK initially, but then as is usual for such groups it descended into farce. There is no precedent for outsider organisations developing political power. The most successful is UKIP, and it is still marginally influential with derisory levels of voter support. The only major change in the Party system in history is the eclipse of the Liberals by Labour, but that happened because the authoritarian collectivist faction in the elite decided that a properly socialist party was required compared to the tepid liberals, and there was a readymade voter base in the then new Trades Union movement. Libertarianism has neither a representative elite faction (as I understand it Chris Tame hoped to create one via the LA) nor a block voter base; not least because Libertarianism has no political programme or even agreed outcomes. One cannot creep down the road to an unspecified location.

All I can really think to say is that what worked for the Left will not work for us. They cultivate an illusion of outsiders fighting elite power, but they are not that and never have been. They are an elite faction pretending to be the grass roots, entraining a mass movement behind them.

Us? We have no Fabians. That’s the problem. How to get some… I have no idea. But that in my view is the problem we need to address somehow.

Howard Gray thinks we might as well have a LPGB as not: I thnk I more or less agree, since the costs will be nugatory as nobody has any money anyway, and the marginal costs of setting up another one will always be less than the 10-Downing-Street budget for biscuits and coffee:-

Of course there should be a libertarian party for no other reason than for other libertarians to rail against its existence. The other reason is that it just might work in promoting libertarian ideas beyond the parish pump of the few web sites that we have out there. Is libertarianism garnering a whiff of smugness and parochialism which does little to promote it? Perhaps it is also suffused with pessimism and a sense of defeatism too in some quarters. If this is so, then the optimists are needed, let them create yet another Libertarian Party of Great Britain.

Building a political party is at least optimistic and if all it does is increase the presence of libertarians out there then that is a good thing is it not? Likely as not it will fail, but do you call what all the other parties that are out there doing a success? I don’t think so.

Isn’t politics a generational game? If so then perhaps those wedded to our time don’t see over the horizon so clearly and therefore feel all is lost and rather pointless. Opposing the formation of a libertarian party is a fair thing to do so long as it is only criticism and not negative activism. The prohibition might be good for those being subjected to its scorn as it will harden them and make them all the more adamant that success is something to go for.

Active libertarianism is good for all concerned within or without a libertarian political party. The measure of the success of a libertarian political party may be beyond our lifetimes so what is the good of preventing it? For most of us the possibility of its success does not appear all that likely but are we right about that? There is a good chance that we might be wrong.

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10 responses to “Further to our post “does Britain need a Libertarian Party” …

  1. You got there first, David, in promoting Ian B’s post. I wish he could be persuaded to post directly.

    I should say that, while I think a libertarian party can only fail in this country, it will mostly be a waste of time and money for people unlikely to do anything otherwise for the libertarian cause. Since it might bring in a few people who then go on to better things – see, for example, His Grace the Devil! – I won’t absolutely condemn the idea.

    Oh, and I’ll be completely honest. I drew attention to the LPUK only so I could have a bit of a gloat. Since 2007, it seems to have had more changes of management than a failing kebab shop. Yet, though often written off by the young and dynamic, or simply by the ageing and embittered, the LA continues as our movement’s only fixed point of reference. We get on the radio – twice yesterday – and in the national and local and foreign press. We keep publishing new stuff.

    We may have less chance of bringing about change in this country than I have of winning the lottery I haven’t bothered playing since last April. But we are the main line through which a future and possibly more successful movement will trace its pedigree.

    Er, I’ve had my gloat.

  2. I agree with Ian B’s point about so called grass movements being in reality new thinking among the elite. They also sang a merry tune to the masses; jam instead of dripping e.t.c. A hard act to follow. To follow with the message that all the state paraphernalia which brought the jam would leave us better off if taken away is only ever going to fall on deaf ears. But why try to fight a whole war?. Libertarianism has to be about more than freeing up the economy. There are many battles out there that could be won if libertarians got organised around pertinent single issues. I heard very few so called Liberals fighting against the introduction of say, no jury trials, double jeopardy rules and so on.There may be many definitions of libertarianism which some would say prevents the formation of a party in the traditional sense. But when did that ever stop the socialists.Libertarianism; autonomy and self-determination of the individual. All laws stem from this root. This needs to be on the agenda. I have it in mind to write to any one who wants my vote asking where he/she stands on this. Libertarians can re-plant some acorns.

  3. Peter W Watson

    A Libertarian Party would not work for the same reason the movement just split. I will support Ron Paul here in the US but he is running as a Republican not as a Libertarian or under such a party’s name. The British and more to the point, the English, are screwed for one reason; the civil war happened 200 years too soon. No, I do not have the answer. I left. Perhaps that makes me a quitter but I wasted years and a lot of money on UKIP only to see it led by jackasses and yes present leadership included. So I may be a coward but at least I can be an armed one here.

  4. I’d love Ian to write for us directly too. I wish we could even offer him money…but we can’t for we have none: totally unlike what the LeftoNazis think about the “massive funding for right wing blogs from big oil (or whatever big thing they hate this week…

    Anyway, Ian doesn’t write what he does for the money, for he’s like us. If we and he all had a penny for each word we’ve all written in defence of classical liberalism, we’d all be millionaires.

    Is our problem perhaps the name we’ve given ourselves? Has “libertarian” possibly been successfully lynched by the LeftoNazis as a word, just like “capitalism”, “profit”, “wealth”, “national”, “patriotism”, “independence”, “England”, “classical-Liberal”, and the like, and all the other words that on can’t now say without people trying to find an excuse to get up from the dinner table “to relieve the babysitter”…?

  5. There’s nothing wrong with the word libertarian, but it’s a political-science word, and thus not really suitable for generalised realpolitik. It’s fine for an ideological grouping like the LA. But parties need room to manouever. That’s why we have a “Labour” party, not a “Socialist” party. By calling themselves “Labour” they were free to adopt whatever policies might appeal to labourers and their symapthisers. You call yourself “Libertarian” you just end up with 100 nerds in a room arguing about precise libertarian doctrine and throwing buns at each other. That’s back office stuff, not front office stuff. The result is that any attempt to supply the compromise policies needed for political success will have every hardcore libertarian denouncing the party as a sellout.

    Anyway, let’s be blunt. The key to political success is support among middle class [used here as the popular euphemism for “ruling class”] women. The political scene in the Anglosphere is utterly dominated by the wives of the men who enact policy. Which is why Paul Dacre is the most powerful man in these Isles. The enemy of liberty is never anywhere near as much Marx as Mumsnet.

  6. Just to add that I think Daisy’s comment above makes some extremely good points.

  7. Oh God, I just love that last but one comment of yours Ian. Why can’t I think and write like that? Wish I could, really I do.

    But that of course begs the question: how did the Anglosphere ruling class get like that? Not blaming the women – I just want to understand how we got to this pass.

  8. I think it comes about when people come up with ideas, or visions of a better life, but which are , or become totally divorced from the human state. That is,they end up trying to change human nature rather than working with it. It’s happening now with another re-creation of the human model. Of course we have evolved and have adapted and changed over the lifetime of our existence. However, what we have from the ‘ideas’ people is some kind of model person which doesn’t really exist. They don’t know this because they think about ideas and not people. It’s like someone built a road without understanding of either how a car works or the interaction between car and driver, two factors whose basic make up can never change. So there is a never ending attempt at trying to make the car fit the road.
    Of course that only explains the what, we also have the how. That comes from too much politics, and too much state. We have slowly been hoodwinked into the ‘Contract Social’ . We are being forced to be free.

    Not very sophisticated philosophically I know, but that’s how I see it. And why not blame women just as much as men. They were part of the vanguard of all this social democracy. One thing I would love proponents of this movement to explain, which they never can is , what is the difference between democracy and Social democracy.

  9. But that of course begs the question: how did the Anglosphere ruling class get like that? Not blaming the women – I just want to understand how we got to this pass.

    Well, I think it comes down to the Victorian Dispensation and the doctrine of separate spheres (for men and women). The rise of the industrial revolution was accompanied by the intense Protestant religious revival I’m always banging on about. It seems to be historically uncontroversial to observe that this revival was heavily female dominated. As an example, in The Death Of Christian Britain, the historian Callum Brown explains the collapse of worship in recent times by saying that women stopped going to church, and men basically went because their women had expected them to. So when women stopped, men stopped. And why did women stop? Well, my own answer there is that the State had replaced the Church as a social services provider.

    So anyway, let’s go back to the pre-Victorians. There was a very powerful Puritan (Non-Conformist) element in the rise of Industrialism. Interestingly enough, we might care to blame this on Charles II. He had deliberately excluded the Puritans from Parliament, the Clergy and the Universities, to prevent them gaining power again after their hellish Republic. Excluded minorities react in one of two ways; either they collapse into failure, or they prosper by a certain bunker mentalility and networking effect; which we can see among the Jews for instance. The Non-Conformists were the same. Being excluded from the State, ironically, strengthened them as a community by forcing them to do something useful instead. Their religion held them together, and the networking effect was crucial in their success in commerce.

    So as the industrial revolution rises up, you’ve got this new class of industrialists, and they’re strongly religious- far more strongly than the old ruling class. Remember, these were the days when William Wilberforce thought he ought to leave parliament when he had his conversion experience (to post-Puritanism) since being very religious wasn’t the done thing in the ruling class. You were supposed to be a rake who played cards, drank a lot and staggered from brothel to brothel, not a holy roller.

    So anyway, the old aristocracy had justified their power by inheritance and blue blood. The new guys as they gained wealth saw their justification for leadership in moral terms. It’s the Calvinist concept of the Elect, born to rule their fellow men by being more Godly. So that came to characterise the Victorian New Class. And once they’d got all that money and increasing influence, they started pushing back into actual power such as Parliament, particularly after the Great Reform Act.

    But look at the womens’ role. If the men were running mills and factories, and increasingly the political sphere, what were their wives to do? The New Class wife had nothing to do, except order servants about. She didn’t cook or clean. She was even dressed by servants. And, she had access to lots of wealth earned by her husband. So they adopted the role of moral leadership, indulging themselves in missionary work to save the lower orders, etc. They clambered onto a moral pedestal that rose ever higher and higher. It was something to do, to avoid being “idle rich”. Just as the men wanted to justify their hegemony “I’ve worked hard for my money”, so did their wives. The women could say, “Yes, I’m wealthy, but look at all this hard moral work I do with that.” So that became, and remains, the ideal for the Ruling Class woman. And ruling class women are emulated by lower class women, so women in general assumed that role as moral enforcer under the Victorian Dispensation.

    And, they’re still doing it. Women expect to rule the moral sphere, and men are expected to comply with that.

  10. Ian, I agree with everything you say but it only takes us so far. The order you describe was still patriarchal, though not rigidly inflexible or enforced. It was concerned with maintaining the traditional family at a time of great social change brought by the Industrial Revolution. It even influenced the foundation of the welfare state with the many social security schemes being aimed at the man as head of the family. The movement which came to pre-eminence during the 50’s and 60’s was aimed at destroying any semblance of the old order seeing it as the cause of all evils.They propounded a new morality;one which as I see it, is still being developed. I don’t fully understand it or where it will take us. I’m not sure its proponents do either. Ostensibly it is about the individual and his rights. But what we find is the individual has to be re-made. Into what seems to depend on what’s in fashion. I can argue the merits or not of a religion or the communist manifesto because I can read and understand the philosophy on which they are based. Not so with the current evolving order.