Some of you may be aware of my efforts to create a new libertarian political party. My aims for this party are simple. 1) Get registered with the Electoral Commission; 2) Get members; 3) Get activists; 4) Get libertarians elected to councils across England, Wales and Scotland.
The structure and indeed the name of the party will become more public in the not-too-distant future, but the fact that I want to see libertarians active in the community and elected to office is no secret.
There are plenty of freedom think tanks, forums and societies in existence in this country, and they play an important part in allowing for the discussion of the ideas of liberty and libertarianism. However, in spite of this valid role, it is my view that such organisations aren’t really reaching outside of their respective bubbles. Rather than engaging with the public, they by and large instead attempt to influence so-called professionals or the already converted.
This is where the idea of a new libertarian political party comes into play. It is my desire to see active libertarians out in the community – working to promote the ideas of liberty to the masses as a challenge to the Statist indoctrination they are fed on a daily basis. It is then from this foundation of strong, community activism that I want to see libertarians standing for election to their local authorities to a) further the brand recognition of libertarianism and liberty; b) train libertarians in how to become effective campaigners by them actually doing it; and c) get libertarians elected to office.
It is my view that for the libertarian movement to become a valid option for others within our communities, libertarians themselves must become active in the real world of everyday life; the world in which our family, friends and neighbours live. This real world is full of that inescapable thing called politics, and with it comes democracy.
Unfortunately, there are some libertarians who claim it is somehow unlibertarian for anyone to participate in the electoral process; that standing for election is an endorsement of the system and ‘power’. Though I can see the validity in this argument, it is, in my opinion, a tiresome assertion as it actually ignores real life.
Even those who reject the so-called democratic system we have in this country in reality participates within it on a daily basis, whether it’s accessing state-provided healthcare or education, or applying for a passport or driver’s license to travel. Life is one set of compromises, so surely compromising a little to promote liberty to the masses isn’t such a bad thing?
It is my opinion that to do nothing is not an option, and I don’t see too many publicised alternatives taking place either, for example, libertarians taking part in or encouraging public acts of civil disobedience; nor a flourish of agorist activity to demonstrate voluntary market alternatives. Therefore, the only other option to further the cause of liberty is to participate in the political sphere.
It is has always been my view – even when I was an active Liberal Democrat member – that political activism should start at the community level. If we’re serious about influencing change, we need to present a trusted, local face to the ideas we’re advocating.
At first, many libertarian ideas can sound overwhelming to people who haven’t encountered them before. They fear for the vulnerable in society, or hold the belief they will lose all the services important to them. After a while however, and in particular if we present a real human face to the ideas, people start to realise there are alternatives to the current way of doing things. They may not agree with everything that libertarianism is offering, certainly not in the early days, but the drip-drip of ideas soon starts to have an effect, particularly if those ideas can be related to local, more tangible issues. This is where having a local activist base, and in particular libertarian elected representatives, helps.
The benefits of having elected libertarians
I believe libertarians elected to local office can play an important part in a) holding the establishment to account; b) challenging existing ideas and practices; c) acting as advocates for others; d) promoting the ideas of liberty to a wider, and potentially more attentive audience.
As a Liberal Democrat, a Liberal Democrat (Libertarian) and then Libertarian Party councillor on both Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council, I’ve stood up and argued for many things that are considered unorthodox, but which have received media coverage and more importantly, recognition and respect from colleagues and constituents, who still might not even agree with you on all or some of what you might be advocating.
- I’ve opposed the introduction of Alcohol Restriction Zones, instead calling for improved local policing rather than blanket criminalisation;
- I’ve called for a review to introduce a prostitution tolerance zone in Stoke-on-Trent to help improve safety for the workers;
- I’ve refused to apply for a Criminal Record Bureau check at the request of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, on the basis that my constituents are my employer, not the City Council;
- I’ve been an advocate for local businesses and free enterprise by encouraging, eventually, self-financing business groups; and supporting individual business owners against undue pressure and persecution by the authorities; and attempting to remove council policies that hinder the free market;
- I’ve introduced people to the ideas of asset release with a view to transferring currently public-owned assets to community or private control, like commercial and residential property, bowling greens, allotments and neighbourhoods themselves;
- I’ve argued for the reduction of the number of principle authority councillors, the abolition of Special Responsibility Allowances and for all-out elections; together with the introduction of local community councils, in order to bring more responsibility and power down to the individual;
- I’ve promoted alternatives to government provision of leisure facilities, schools and residential care for the elderly at times when government sees fit to close such facilities, in order to highlight that the government can’t always be trusted to provide the services individuals want;
- I’ve stood up against populist and hypocritical nonsense by, for example, refusing to sign the National Holocaust Memorial Book on the grounds that our own government sends troops overseas to kill innocent people;
- I’ve supported private property rights by actively promoting the abolition of the Conservation Area section of the City Council, whilst arguing for the introduction of voluntary conservation associations;
- I’ve called for greater financial accountability by calling for all the City Council’s accounts to be published in (as far as is possible) layman’s terms so they can be viewed at any time by the taxpayer; and pushed for the accounts to be audited by third parties like the Taxpayers’ Alliance;
- I’ve consistently said that I wish to return as much power as possible to individuals in order to make myself and other politicians redundant.
Now, with all this and more, I’ve seen both success and failure; experienced satisfaction and frustration. It would be great to win every battle, but honestly, life isn’t like that.
However, regardless of whether or not I succeeded in overturning a council policy or improved accountability, the one consistent is that I was able to get media coverage as a liberty-leaning/libertarian councillor far easier than a non-elected resident would. If elected, libertarians can help local residents and business owners whilst at the same benefitting from increased media exposure. To me, this is a win-win.
Increased coverage, both in your council ward or division as the elected representative, and through the media means increased chances of getting new liberty-minded individuals on board. More people means more donations, more helpers, more activity and potentially more libertarians elected to councils. And remember, once libertarians hold fifty-one percent of the council seats, they control the council. When this is the case, there is greater freedom to implement, inform and educate.
So, to do nothing or to do active, grassroots libertarian politics? Which will you choose to see greater liberty in your lifetime?