Wirral First – Whatever Next

Simon has asked me to give you a brief update on the progress of the Wirral First movement that was introduced previously on Libertarian Home.

So here goes.

On 14th Feb an article appeared on the blog of the Adam Smith Institute endorsing the principles of Wirral First. Our website had been brought to their attention by the Liverpool Liberty League, a student group.

The same day a press release was issued to a number of local media organisations and this has led to a good deal of publicity, for example here, here and here. The publicity drive culminated in us getting onto the front page of the Liverpool Echo and Malcolm Saunders had a half hour spot on City Talk radio last Monday morning. We also have another local radio talk lined up.

We have since posted an invitation for people to get involved in the upcoming local elections however the time scale is short and it is not clear whether we will have any volunteers to be candidates. However the idea of freedom from government and independence from the state has been planted in the consciousness of the Wirral public and we need as many people as possible to get on the bandwagon and keep it rolling.

During the process so far we have learnt a few lessons that might be of interest to the wider libertarian movement.

Firstly, just as we envisaged a reformed Wirral Council to be an “enabling council” so we have developed the Wirral First movement as an “enabling movement”.

We have no formal organisation and we do not intend to arrange to put up party candidates. Instead, we expect individuals to put themselves forward on an independent platform. If the citizens of Wirral are prepared to do so, such actions will themselves demonstrate that Wirral is ready and prepared to take charge of its own affairs though, in truth, it will be no surprise if it is not.

Secondly, we have been surprised at the level of antipathy toward libertarian ideas that we have encountered in the general public. As libertarians, we understand the righteousness of our case and we tend to expect the scales to fall from the eyes of the listener when they hear our radical views. Be assured, it is not as simple as that!!!

But the journey, so far, has powerfully demonstrated the potential power of an idea. The fact that a brief thought, expressed in a casual conversation, can make its way, without great effort, onto the front page of a newspaper gives us all some hope that what we are doing can resonate more widely and can, ultimately, make us more free. And the reason that some commentators have branded the idea as bizarre is because, of course, it is.

Does anyone really think that the UK government would actually allow Wirral to secede and form a mainland tax haven, even if the majority of citizens voted for it to do so?

Does anyone really think that if the householders in my street voted unanimously to opt out of Local Authority control they would be permitted to do so and stop paying their Council tax?

The lesson to be drawn from the Wirral First movement is that the power of democracy is a mirage. Wirral First starkly illustrates the true nature of the relationship between the individual and the state- that we are all stood at the point of a gun which it is holding.





Putting theory into practice

Image via Wikipedia (cc by-sa)

Although libertarians are instinctively distrustful of any organisation seeking to make decisions that will affect their lives, it is obvious to most that all kinds of communal decisions do need to be made and the authority to make them has to be invested in someone. What is important is that decision making should happen at the lowest possible level and most of the worst decisions occur because they are made in the wrong place.

A decision at EU level as to what shape of bananas my be sold is clearly ridiculous as is a Parish Council voting to free the citizens of Gaza. But how do we determine the correct place for each type of decision?

Well, this is currently decided by the Government of each nation state. They may delegate some of these decision making powers upwards, to supra-national institutions, or downwards, to local government, but the authority as to where decisions are made ultimately rests with them. The national government has control of the means of violence within its borders.

I have argued elsewhere that we can never hope to have a UK government that is libertarian but one of the ways in which I believe libertarianism can progress is to understand that fact and work for change from below. It is much easier, for example, to influence a local council and it’s policies than it is to effect national change. And in the UK there have recently been examples of Local Authorities who have proposed the complete dismantlement of the local Council bureaucracy and the outsourcing of all services.

Highly libertarian.

Of course the impact of such on our individual freedom can only ever be limited- the real power remains with Westminster who can tax and threaten us with impunity.

Except that……

their mandate to govern is notionally based on democracy- they have the right to oppress us because we voted for them to do so.

And this apparent strength may also be their weakness. Because, when the recent SNP successes suggested the possibility that the majority of Scots might wish to govern themselves, the UK government had to agree that, if that happened, they would be allowed to do so.

So what would happen if the majority of citizens in another location demanded to be able to govern themselves? Would the stated belief in the infallibility of democracy not dictate that they should be also be allowed to do so?

But how could this ever happen? Why would people ever vote to leave the relative safety of the UK state? There are, after all, many more statists than libertarians.

There is a simple answer to the above. It could happen if the voters in a region could be shown, clearly and unequivocally, that to vote to secede from the UK was indisputably and massively in their personal economic interest.

And it would be.

The rest of the story is at wirralfirst.org