I had been mulling over the reiteration, last week, of our dear leader’s approach to political parties. It occurs to me that while Perry’s prescription – don’t vote and have nothing to do with political parties – is tempting, it is ultimately flawed. It is possible to affect a weary disdain for politics if you are fortunate to live in a country where some liberties remain. It is, however, dangerous to assume that this situation is static.
In any election – and for the purposes of argument I refer to a two party system such as the US or the UK – one is inevitably offered what appears to be Hobson’s choice: Two sets of control freaks who share the same basic statist assumptions. That this is barely palatable to the libertarian doesn’t alter the fact that there are bound to be differing outcomes depending on whom is elected and that one of those outcomes would be worse than the other. Thus while it is true to say that one’s individual vote will not make any difference to the outcome, the libertarian should have an interest in that outcome.
There remains the question, if one chooses to engage in mainstream politics, of how to improve the choice offered to the voter. There is no prospect, under the UK’s first past the post system, of a government being formed by any party other than Labour or the Tories. It may seem, at first, like a daunting task to convert either party towards any kind of libertarianism. How does one persuade an entire party of committed statists away from statism? Surely by the time everybody was on board, the “libertarianism” would be watered down so much so as to be unrecognisable? One possible answer to this conundrum was suggested to me while reading the Observer Food Monthly.
Heston Blumenthal, chef-proprietor of the 3-Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant, takes a uniquely scientific approach to cooking. One of the concepts which informs his thinking is Flavour Encapsulation. This describes the strength of flavour imparted when elements of contrasting flavour remain whole and unblended. Blumenthal explains it thus:
Make a cup of coffee with one ground coffee bean – it will taste horribly insipid. Now take the cup and fill it with hot water; just before you drink it, pop a coffee bean into your mouth, crunch it and then drink the water. This time, the coffee flavour will be far stronger and last in the mouth a lot longer. The experiment shows that a coffee bean delivers a far greater flavour eaten whole than when ground up in a cup of hot water. Effectively, the flavour is encapsulated in the whole bean but dispersed in the water.
This is the culinary principle behind such things as marmalade, fruit cakes, spaghetti carbonara, even something as naff as sun-dried tomato ciabatta and explains why significantly more flavour is required for ‘smooth’ food such as a souffle or pureed soup than ‘chunky’ food. If your objective is to create a nutty chocolate bar there is an efficient method and an inefficient method. The reason why smooth textured praline is more expensive than a chunky ‘choc and nut’ bar is because far fewer nuts are required for the latter to achieve an equivalent flavour. To convert a party such as the Tories towards libertarianism it is not necessary to puree and blend with the mass, all you need is a few whole nuts.