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Devika on a new Indian anti-corruption party and Aiden Gregg on the psychology of libertarianism

About a week ago, “Devika” posted a very interesting piece at Libertarian Home, about a man called Arvind Kejriwal, an Indian anti-poltician who is in the process of becoming an Indian politician.

I don’t have much to say about this piece, other than that any British libertarians who think that there is much to be learned from the success of Kejriwal’s Anti Corruption Party in India to the problems faced by libertarians in Britain in getting that noticed politically would probably be making a mistake. Although I am sure that Indians disagree a lot about what causes it and whose fault it is, almost everyone in India detests the corruption that is rampant in India and in Indian politics, probably even a great many of those who practise corruption. Perhaps some of them most of all, because they feel forced to do terrible things. None of the regular political parties can convincingly argue against such corruption, because, as Devika explains and as everyone in India knows, they are all part of it. So, a new anti-corruption party, run by people with very public track records of honest and persuasive campaigning against corruption, was always liable to be a runaway success, unless and until it too succumbs to the same corrupting pressures that corrupted all the other parties. Here’s hoping that does not happen any time soon.

Libertarianism is Britain is in a very different position to the anti-corruption tendency in India. Almost everyone in India is anti-corruption, divided only in whether they think anything can be done about it. Almost nobody in Britain is a libertarian. A British libertarian party will accordingly only pick up a tiny number of votes and cause a tiny little stir, no matter how capably lead and well publicised.

Devika notes how the Indian anti-corruption party did very well by asking its members to guide its direction and policies. This works well, because all concerned are united against corruption. The only argument is about how to diminish it, which corrupt processes to attack first, and so on. A British libertarian party that allowed anyone who joined to influence its policies would very quickly cease to be libertarian.

I want to be clear that at no point in her piece does Devika herself make an explicit connection between what Kejriwal and his anti-corruption party are doing and what British libertarians should do. I do not know if she thinks any of the things I have just been criticising. But I do sense this implication, a bit. More to the point, whatever Devika thinks about such things, some of Libertarian Home’s readers may draw just the sort of conclusions from her piece that I am criticising. Certainly, discussions at the Rose and Crown about libertarianism and libertarian politics are now saturated with the frustration of wanting to bring libertarianism to the attention of a wider public, but of not knowing how to contrive this.

There is another such discussion taking place this evening. This will be lead by Aiden Gregg, who is both a libertarian and an academic psychologist. Gregg will be talking about the psychological dispositions of libertarians in particular and of politically active people generally. I think this is a fascinating subject, full of lessons for libertarians to learn about how to be more effective libertarians. So, I will definitely be there.

In my opinion, one thing that libertarians can definitely now do (as opposed to trying to copy too directly the activities of Arvind Kejriwal) is to tell people like Aiden Gregg how important and valuable they are to the libertarian cause, and to encourage them to stick at it. We need our people everywhere, especially in the universities, and especially in faculties which are not economics faculties.

17 comments to Devika on a new Indian anti-corruption party and Aiden Gregg on the psychology of libertarianism

  • Paul Marks

    Judging by the interviews I have seen on NDTV (Indian English language news) the “anti corruption” party control the capital because of a deal they have done with the Congress party – a deal they said they would not do (so much for honesty). And people voted for them partly because they said they would not do deal with the old parties (a lie) and party because they promised free water (to a certain amount of water) and half price electricity – buying votes (just like the Congress Party does with its welfare schemes).

    Not impressed.

  • Paul Marks

    On the Western universities.

    When I was young (fighting off the Sabre Toothed Tigers and so on) it used to be the practice that there would be a token free market academic at each university (sometimes just one). This unofficial policy appears to have been dropped now – there are many British (and American) universities with no free market academics at all.

    Also beware of the word “libertarian” these days – in America it may mean a supporter of John Rawls (that lunatic who thought that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity justified the socialism – and that all income and wealth were rightfully the property of the collective and that “justice” was some “distribution” of this income and wealth), who believes that the government should give an automatic income to everyone in return for no work.

    A far better guide than the question “are you a libertarian?” is “do you support or oppose the principle of Social Justice?” – that way you are more likely to find out WHICH SIDE someone is on.

  • The article expresses five strategic ideas employed by AAP, and the purpose of the article was to share those ideas. It is grist for the mill, not a finished loaf.

    The first idea was, of course: find a gap in the market, which is sort of what you are saying. Perhaps what you are really saying is “find something everyone likes” and be the party (or campaign group, or provider) of that thing.

    If so, we should crack on and do that before all the popular problems get fixed in a half-baked manner, like Gay Marriage was fixed, without changing the fashion for political centralised solutions. A few good, highly visible, problems firmly solved by non-political means and clearly identified as such will prove the method. I favour a problem the state claims to be solving already, which can be solved so thoroughly that it embarrasses the state.

    Simon

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I don’t have much to say about this piece, other than that any British libertarians who think that there is much to be learned from the success of Kejriwal’s Anti Corruption Party in India to the problems faced by libertarians in Britain in getting that noticed politically would probably be making a mistake.

    Please rewrite this horrible sentence.

  • @Paul yes yes he’s a statist and a lefty – he was a tax collector according to the Guardian – but then the left are in charge everywhere. Perhaps they are worth imitating, tactically.

  • Regional

    Two former Labor Prime Ministers retired as multi-millionaires and nobody blinked.

  • Alex

    Regarding the frustration of wanting to bring libertarianism to the attention of a wider public, I think it is particularly difficult because libertarianism is so very far from the starting position of the vast majority of the modern British public. My experience is that a great deal of people are simply uninterested in politics and that those who are interested become interested because are attracted by the idea of using political force to effect the change they want. The number of people who are both interested in politics and interested in reducing the state, or reducing political power in general, must be vanishingly small.

  • Runcie Balspune

    The problem with partisan politics is that it should be an anathema to libertarians that does nothing but create cronyism and a monopoly on thinking.

    Libertarianism should be a movement not a party and should appeal to anyone in a democratic representational institution. I’d use the Co-operative Party as a guide with it being open to any political supporter.

    A separatist party works well in India because there are lots of them and they are usually depended upon by the larger parties to form a majority, whereas the polarisation of British politics would make another political party almost impossible.

  • discussions at the Rose and Crown about libertarianism and libertarian politics are now saturated with the frustration of wanting to bring libertarianism to the attention of a wider public

    When I were a lad, and I first became aware of libertarian thought, no one, let alone any people down the pub, had heard the word. These days, people and politicians all over the shop either claim to support it or abuse it.

    Now, this has not happened over night, but it has happened. Whatever we are doing, we are already doing something right.

  • Simon Gibbs says: find something everyone likes.

    It seems that everyone likes “being better off” and “helping poor people”, both of which libertarianism are good at. We just don’t say so all that often. I tried to say that here, a while back. For now, people like the unconditional basic income people seem to be getting all the attention of people who want those things.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Socialists like to hoard power, and promise to share the wealth with everyone.
    The Libertarian message should be ‘Share Power!’ It’s the only antidote to centralism.

  • Runcie Balspune

    “Socialists like to hoard power, and promise to share the wealth with everyone.”

    The problem is that not only “socialists” that aspire to this way of thinking, there are a lot of do-gooders who are willing to agree to a blanket ban on anything that might have a slim chance of leading to disruptive or unsocial behaviour (in their eyes) or laws that force behaviour on everyone to achieve a “common good”, and they’ll heartily endorse any legislation that goes in that direction regardless of its effect.

    Socialists are just a bit more political, but a lot of people just plain fail to see the illiberal side of any political strategy, mainly because they don’t relish liberty until it is taken away from them (but by then it’s too late).

    What libertarians need to do is continue to highlight the potential illiberal and unjust results of many political tactics on the individual, many of which are just collective punishment for the bad behaviour of a tiny minority. Societies are individuals, and anything that has a bad effect on individuals will never be “good for society”, it is simple logic that continually needs pointing out.

  • Kevin B

    Pick a cause everyone agrees with.

    O.K. Anti bureaucracy. Everone is against bureaucracy except bureaucrats and politicians.

    At the up-coming euro elections spend a lot of money pushing the message “kick them all out”. “We’re fed up with the Brussels bureaucrats running our lives. We can’t vote them out so we’re voting the MEPs out”.

    Don’t stand candidates. The simple message is vote for a minority candidate, (non lib/lab/con). Try and get a European wide movement going.

    If you can get a bit of buzz and a bit of synergy with UKIP and who knows, you might kick a few of them out. And every poster and web ad points to a pro-libertarian web site where libertarian ideas are discussed and there’s lots of pro-libertatrian social media sites about to feed it all.

    Repeat the message at the next general election.

  • Paul Marks

    Simon I suspect (strongly suspect) that leftist tactics only help with leftist objectives.

    I would suggest the opposite approach.

    Honesty – rather than lies.

    Preparing people for the hard times to come – for a time when “Adam’s Curse” (work) is the only answer. Both for themselves and so they can help others.

    Yes I know that such an approach will only work when the hard times become obvious – and only if people know, in advance, the truth about why the hard times have come.

  • CaptDMO

    Paul Marks:

    (butchered)”Also beware of the word “libertarian” these days –

    A far better guide than the question “are you a libertarian?” is “do you support or oppose the principle of Social Justice?” – that way you are more likely to find out WHICH SIDE someone is on.”

    Hmmm…perhaps. I prefer “What did the SCOTUS mean by Affirmative Action?”

  • CaptDMO

    Paul Marks:

    (butchered)”Also beware of the word “libertarian” these days –

    A far better guide than the question “are you a libertarian?” is “do you support or oppose the principle of Social Justice?” – that way you are more likely to find out WHICH SIDE someone is on.”

    Hmmm…perhaps. I prefer “What did the SCOTUS mean by Affirmative Action?”

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