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.


“The Witch” is dead

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


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.