Classical liberalism can enjoy meaningful triumphs

Since participation in the democratic movement has been a theme here of late, I thought I would share a perspective from Dan Hannan:

It worked. A party that was still imperialist, militarist and mildly protectionist in its outlook began to make space for what we would nowadays call libertarians. A few key individuals were convinced, including Keith Joseph, who after reading Hayek (a self-described “Old Whig”) declared that he thought he had been a Conservative all his life, but now realised he had only just become one. Keith Joseph had several disciples in the party, one of whom was the daughter of a Methodist grocer with a classic Whig-Liberal background. She, too, was convinced, and went on to become our country’s greatest ever prime minister. The revolution had happened peacefully and benignly in one generation.

Pure liberalism will always struggle to secure an electoral majority. While some of its positions are popular – tax-cuts, welfare reform, Euroscepticism – others are not. I always tell libertarian students to focus on the big issues, such as the economy and education, rather than fighting losing battles on relatively minor questions such as drugs and pornography. As part of a wider conservative alliance, as under Thatcher or Reagan, classical liberalism can enjoy meaningful triumphs. On its own, it will only ever be a fringe movement.

I’m not convinced Dan represents the centre ground of the libertarian movement, but as an elected euro-sceptic MEP his perspective deserves some attention.

Against Edward Snowden

I seem to have made a habit of annoying the editor of this site. First it was my unpopular views on intervention in Syria, and now this! Once again a piece I have written elsewhere has piqued their interest – this time over my lack of love for much vaunted martyr-in-the-making Edward Snowden. Once more, I have been given a chance to air my “unorthodox” opinions here, and do so with relish.

Essentially my point states that we must be pragmatic in pursuit of greater freedom; both at home and internationally. With regards to the travails of Mr. Snowden, we see a man who has – in a move allegedly about promoting liberty for all – shacked up with a brutal, murderous autocrat. While President Putin of Russia continues to provide the heavy weaponry which rains down on Syrian civilians at night, and continues to battle for religiously-sanctioned gay-bashing at home, Snowden hangs on to his virtual coat tails – subsisting on his hospitality, and operating with Putin’s leave.

For me, this is the stuff of dark irony: the earnest young crusader for freedom, ending up in the arms of a tyrant, in a desperate bid to harm a nation built on principles of independence and personal sovereignty. That Snowden is lionised for his actions is a deeply worrying sign of the way the movement is heading: towards hating the only nation-state which is effectively on our side.

This might seem an odd place to say it, but I am an American patriot, despite the fact that I was not born there. I see the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States as the finest point of law on the planet because (as I wrote in my article for Trending Central):

[J]ournalists and the public are granted freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. There is also the small matter of religious pluralism, and of the secular state – neither of which is too popular in Russia; see the Orthodox Church for further details.

In this respect, it is even more disappointing to me that Snowden has ended up as a de facto ally for the Putin regime. In his attacks on the US government, he is furthering their cause, and doing their bidding. For me, the bizarre attitudes of arch Snowden defender Glenn Greenwald perfectly sum up my case. He has an issue with the United States. A resident of Brazil (another repressive society, but oh well), he has promised retribution to the British government for the perfectly reasonable and legal detention of his partner, David Miranda.

Miranda was acting as an information mule, in ferrying classified documents and the like to Greenwald and his handlers at the Guardian. This action is helping, and thus conducted with the blessing of, a dictator. Notice I did not include the typical ‘foreign’ before ‘dictator’. In times such as these, with the increasing globalisation of the world’s nations, there is no such thing as a ‘foreign dictator’: all tyranny is local. For me, the ends – in this case the exposure of US spying – do not justify the means: cosying up to a truly evil individual, and requiring the support of the vile repressive government he leads.

It does not help that other organisations have been turning up ‘revelations’ such as this legally in the recent past. And, even if this had not been mentioned before, would it have actually surprised you? Genuinely, can you claim to have been entirely not expecting news such as this? I thought not. In reality, this debate has been conducted in the open for a few years now, and no act of trans-continental flight can alter that salient fact. The faux-outrage is out in force, and the story is routinely thrown back into the news cycle to remind us every so often that the US government are, like, bad. But I’m sure most of you – like me – never really cared.

This is, after all, what governments do. If this sort of thing is needed – and that is most firmly a debate for another time – then I can see no fundamental problem with the work of the PRISM programme and its sister projects. As I have suggested earlier, if you genuinely do: then you should actually do something about it.

Use websites which alter your IP address, base your snarky political gossip site in somewhere where it has some legislative protection over its head. Do something, instead of regularly moaning and then accomplishing nothing when it comes to crunch time.

Other than that, all I can do is to sit back in desperation. The lack of pragmatic sense among libertarians is simply staggering. Of course it is easy to go against the United States’ government, very easy indeed: it is a free country, after all! But to reject this intellectual and political laziness is far nobler. Rather than attacking the target closest to hand, maybe it is time to begin thinking internationally: and advocating for those in societies like Russia – who don’t have that simplistic luxury at all.

Conservative libertarian group seeks volunteers

Again, not everyone’s cup of tea maybe but a good source of experience for people wanting a serious political career of a broadly libertarian kind.

Conservatives for Liberty is an independent think tank and campaign group aimed at promoting libertarian, socially liberal and free market ideas amongst Conservatives in the UK. We believe capitalism, individualism, low taxation and minimal state interference are conducive to the greatest freedom, happiness and prosperity of mankind and seek to promote these values through the Conservative party, media and wider public.

We are looking to recruit further researchers to increase the size of our policy unit.

On account of minimum wage legislation the role offers zero pay, but is officially very flexible.

Sigh…

“The Witch” is dead

This appeared by the train tracks on the Royal Marine Commando building in Bermondsey shortly after Thatcher’s death.

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It’s an indication of much seating there is on London commuter trains that it took this long to photograph this graffiti. Trains may have improved under privatisation but there are plenty problems still. Each of those problems is good reasons to assume Thatcher messed up and are a problem for her legacy.

I do have a lot more respect for Thatcher after her death than before. The debate about her legacy really showed up what she did for personal autonomy and economic dynamism. Her Big Bang in the City, that let the Americans and the Essex Barrow Boys into the Financial markets, is something that could be usefully replicated.

A Defence of War

Much debate has gone on among people who self-identify as libertarians about the correct response to the horror in Syria. I made my position clear, and have done so for a while, that military intervention – if properly deployed and policed – would be a far better alternative than gutless international censure or inaction. Despite the defeat of the Government’s plans for intervention (as well as the Opposition’s amendment), I persist in this view.

When I criticise “Randian selfishness” in my piece for Trending Central (syndicated from my earlier column in The Libertarian), I mean the cult of personal obsession which is apparent in many on the nominal ‘Right’. This is where people appear value the contents of their wallets more than the lives of Syrian civilians. Sadly, this is often allied with petty nationalism or even casual racism – whereby Arabs killing other Arabs is seen as not warranting the cost of a single British Pound.

People like this do exist, and my use of the term does not necessarily denote the most fervent of the lady’s disciples. Instead I intend to describe the attitude of callousness over the fate of the Middle East, simply for narrow financial reasons. This apparent national attitude of not caring for the freedom of people across the world is deeply worrying to me; as I believe that we should do what we can to oppose the enemies of freedom around the world. It is clear that Bashar al-Assad is a great enemy of liberty, and so must be opposed.

I also despise the liberal use of platitudinous rhetoric by isolationists, such as the absurd suggestion that everyone who thinks it might be a good idea to remove evil, murdering despots has to fight on the front line to be given any credibility. The utterances: “armchair general” and “why don’t you go and fight it yourself?” (sometimes accompanied by an “eh?” for emphasis) are both marks of the IT literate moron.

Often, the excuse for not acting is a desire to see “proof” of Syrian government involvement in chemical weapon strikes. This is pure procrastination. Not only is there pretty conclusive proof of the matter, courtesy of the JIC’s report, this is nicely corroborated by the intercepted phone calls which US agents say ‘prove’ that Assad’s cronies perpetrated this monstrous deed.

However, even if this is not enough, we have a hell of a lot of evidence to suggest that the Assad has played a not insignificant role in killing many thousands during the actual war. To me, the chemical weapons are a side show: they only demonstrate the baseness of Assad and his cabal, and the levels to which their underlings stoop in their defence of this barbaric enemy of freedom and democracy.

The debate itself was curious. Despite Cameron’s watered-down motion, and the skill and care which went into his own case, he still lost. A fragile coalition behaved like a single party with a huge majority. His overconfidence in pulling the House back from the recess, and the weakness of the Prime Minister’s message – with endless caveats and considerations – did not win it for him.

For, as I had predicted, Cameron lost the vote. By a tiny number of MPs, but lose the vote he did. His more vulnerable Members, perhaps cowed by the spectacle of Ukip encroaching on the popular isolationist positions, did not vote for his motion. We just cannot expect the British people to care about the outside world anymore: that is the UKIP effect.

According to Trending Central, within minutes of the defeat, senior Tories began briefing with words to the effect of: “Ed Miliband will forever be remembered as the politician that effectively allowed Assad to continue slaughtering the Syrian people”. I happen to agree.

Politicians in general did not come out of this debate looking anything other than selfish, duplicitous and petty. Nigel Farage’s pathetic milking of the terrible result did not show him to be a statesman. It only confirmed the true decrepitude of his morality, and the childish nature of his politics.

Cameron did not come out looking good either. It is a rum state of affairs where a sitting Prime Minister can claim to care about the children of Syria, and then just back down when threatened by a forth-party joker. If this motion had passed, or Cameron had used Royal Prerogative, I’d have written here about his brave pursuit of principle and freedom over temporary popularity. Now, however, he just looks weak.

Ed Miliband had his amendment rejected too, and was by no means the victor of the debate. But a reductionist and confrontational media needed to portray his feeble actions as a success to shape their narrative the next morning. He will get much undeserved praise from those who think themselves “anti-war” over the next few weeks.

In summary, then: British Parliamentary democracy has shown itself to be self-absorbed and un-internationalist. I sincerely hope that France and the US are not affected by the terrible failings of Britain. Go it alone, I say, and bring vile monster Assad to Justice: The International Criminal Court or a bullet to the brain. I’m really not that fussed.

Conservatives for Liberty

If there is one thing the libertarian movement lacks it is strong institutions. Given our pro-prosperity and pro-market bent it is noticable that money isn’t being thrown at setting up more of them, by people who have money and feel they deserve to keep it. Perhaps the answer is that there are too few good people who not only possess the correct ideas, which is hard enough, but also the disposition, qualifications and personal circumstances to put ideas into action.

Paul Nizinskyj, a Conservative party member has decided he is such a person, has stood up, and has done something about. He joins the ranks of a very small group to have done this in a party and parliamentary context and in March of this year, in the middle of my wedding preparations, started a sub grouping of Conservatives for Liberty. Fear not though, the group – now officially endorsed by Dan Hannan, launches on October 14th – you have not missed the party.

I for one did miss Paul’s stirring words on The Libertarian in April:

myself and my colleague Joe Markham established Conservatives for Liberty last month. After watching far too many of our friends and comrades leave the Conservative party under a cloud of disillusion, no longer believing it was for people like them, we realised there was no organisation within the party advocating both economic and social liberalism in the same breath.

Hannan-conservatives-for-liberty-logo-300x200The movement has its poster boys, of course – Daniel Hannan, Douglas Carswell, Syed Kamall, Alan Duncan, JP Floru – yet no one group focuses these voices and those of ordinary party members into a klaxon reaching out to liberals and libertarians with the call ‘this party is for you!’

As it happens, all the politicians named above have joined the advisory board of Conservatives for Liberty and Daniel Hannan has kindly accepted the role of honorary president. With their guidance, myself and Joe aim to make Conservatives for Liberty a strong, active and – most importantly – loud voice for the libertarian tendency in the party.

I personally would struggle to feel comfortable in the Conservative Party – I feel I would fail to persuade many of them into objectivism – but this website is a portal and a home for all those in the UK who are driven to apply the non agression principle as consistently as they believe is possible, and who endorse social and economic liberty. You may feel that Conservatives for Liberty is for you, or you may not, but I strongly suggest keeping an eye on them and offering them our respect for getting something moving.