The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Monday, October 03, 2005
Meeting the challenge: Prosperity comes first.
by Peter

The Lib Dem policy review is based upon the Meeting the Challenge document - a document that is rarely sublime and rarely ridiculous, but does seem to veer worryingly between the two.

It has little to say about the economy, although this is of fundamental importance. It does not engage seriously with the problems facing the next government (government spending pushed up from 37 to 45% of GDP, and GDP stagnating as Brwon´s debt bubble bursts).

Simplifying, people interact in three ways to meet each others needs:
free mutual exchange (through markets);
altruism and social exchange;
taxation and law.

Liberals privilege the first two, resorting to the third option only when it is clear that the first two cannot deliver. Intervention through the state ought – for Liberals – to aim at helping individuals, markets and society to deliver social goods, rather than delivering directly. But overall Meeting the Challenge is too Statist (even if this is concealed by pushing for intervention at a more local level).

Liberal Democrats are not the most materialistic of people (and long may this remain the case). But we would do well to remember Clinton’s advice to himself. Not just because the future of our economy is the issue that most worries voters, but because nothing that we wish to do in government will be achieved if the economy is not performing. Inflation, stagnation and unemployment put the State under pressure: Tax revenue goes to pay unemployment benefits rather than on investment; crime becomes a more acute problem.

And a performing economy delivers many of the social goods we wish to see provided: employment; a sense of social worth; opportunity; self-development; and prosperity.

So the key to a successful policy review will be to put the economy at the centre of the analysis, not (as at present) on the fringes.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 3:04 pm  
  • At 03 October, 2005 19:57, Blogger Bishop Hill said…

    "Liberals privilege the first two, resorting to the third option only when it is clear that the first two cannot deliver"

    Deliver what? What the elite decide is desirable?

  • At 04 October, 2005 12:22, Blogger Chris Black said…

    To deliver what democratically elected politicans believe is desirable. That's what we have elections for.

    And they should have put this in their manifesto, and so have a mandate - in fact possibly an obligation - to deliver.

  • At 04 October, 2005 18:03, Blogger Apollo Project said…


    Markets aren´t very good at delivering unemployment benefits (although they can be good at delivering employment). Support from families works to some extent in some societies - but I don´t think it would solve everything for us. So the dole is going to come from the State, I think.
    I prefer people to have a job. But I think we can have the dole without laying in bed worrying about whether this is being imposed by an elite.


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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.


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