The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Monday, January 23, 2006
The Mat GB challenge part one: Why should he rejoin the Liberal Democrats?
by Peter

Mat GB's first challenge was to persuade him to (re)join the lib dems. Here's my go.

Are you a Liberal?

(I used to recruit people by knocking on the doors of known supporters and asking if they would like to take their support of that nice Party led by David/Paddy/Charles one step further. Mat GB is looking for something more ideological, so let's take it back to basics.)

If you believe these three things, you are a liberal in politics

1. Power should not be concentrated.

That means both poltical and economic power. Competitive markets are good because they spread power around (also see 3 below). Absolute monarchy or dictatorship is bad because it concentrates power in one pair of hands. Separation of power is good. Decentralisation is good (but still requires checks and balances). Doctrines of sovereignty are a threat.

2. All people have equal rights.

Self-evident perhaps, but there are many peole around who, sometimes unconsciously, believe that a hierarchical arrangement of society is better. And too many people believe in some kind of discrimination or another.

3. The spontaneous interaction of free human beings is the key source of progress and well-being.

Again, this is an argument for markets, against hierarchy, and for democracy. And against ideas that government (or our traditional ruling elite) can sort everything out.

If you agree with all these propositions, you are a liberal. (You can, of course, seek to put them into practice in many differnt ways. And you can add different elements to them.)

But why should I join the Lib Dems?

Because the Loiberal Democrats represent the liberal centre of gravity in the UK, and it is time we stood together. We need to do so to argue for more localism and against centralism. We need to argue against ID cards. We need to argue for competition and for participation. And we need to protect the space in which people can make their own moral judgements.

And because we are gaining strength, perhaps too slowly, but we have behind us a fifty year rising trend in support. Too many liberals have thought that "when the time is right, I'll lend my support. I'll be active." The time is now.

Aren't there many things that divide liberals?

Not so much. There are liberals who believe that negative liberty is key and their are liberals who define freedom from poverty as part of liberty. But all liberals are against poverty and ignorance, and they should be able to agree on ways to tackle them. And if they can't, well the debate is part of the package! (See Steve Travis for another view on this).

Are all Liberal Democrats liberals?

Not all. Some are just nice people. But most are.

Is it expensive?

Not at all. The recommended amount is 42 quid, but we'll let you in for just six quid if tinmes are hard. Sign up on line here.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 5:38 am  
2 Comments:
  • At 22 January, 2006 20:35, Blogger Bishop Hill said…

    A point and a question:

    Democracy has a pretty poor record of allowing the "spontaneous interaction of free human beings". Democracy needs constraining.

    And the question

    Would it be true to say that liberals emphasize negative freedoms while the social democrats (the other wing of the party) emphasize what they call "positive freedoms".

    Isn't this post rather misleading because of this? Matt may be a liberal but presumably he would be welcome as a social democrat too?

     
  • At 22 January, 2006 22:07, Blogger Peter Pigeon said…

    Bishop

    You're probably right. Deomocracy certainly needs retraining. Arguably non-democracy needs more restraint. (James Joyve found the Austro-hungarian monarchy more conducive to freedom than Swiss democracy though)

    I had in mind "new liberals" or "social liberals". And I don't think the "split" in the party is social democrat v liberal. There is a question in my mind as to whether new liberals are not essentially social democrats. But you are probably right to say that he would be welcome as a social democrat - or indeed as someone who agrees with us on most things and sees us as the only game in town.

     
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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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