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The bland leading the blind

I detect a distinct air of despondency in the ranks of the libertarian camp in ever seeing any point in voting for, or co-opting with, right-of-centre parties such as the Conservatives in Britain (see David Carr’s remarks) or the Republican Party in the U.S. (see Jim Henley in similar vein).

I see no reason for being surprised. Even if you support Bush on the war, as I do, albeit while detesting the Patriot act and the Dept. of Homeland Security, what is there to like? The vast increase in the budget deficit is a real worry – and I say that as a supply sider, not as a ‘deficit hawk’ – we have had the steel tariffs, the Farm bill, etc. Okay, the first tax cut was better than nothing, but not as good as a cut to marginal tax rates across the board. Oh, Dubya did at least stiff the Kyoto Treaty. But while he is probably a tad better than the likely alternatives, his GOP makes an unlikely suitor for libertarians.

As for the Tories, I despair utterly of them being in a fit state for any outreach to us. With the sole and erratic exception of shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin, there is not a single top-ranking Tory MP I come across who seems to have a thorough grasp of the extent to which our civil as well as economic liberties have been crushed.

Which leaves us with the usual cul-de-sac of a possible new party. And I cannot see how that is going to work.

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16 comments to The bland leading the blind

  • Arjuna

    Most of the GOP policies are just re-election stunts. I expect them to do some crazy cutting of social programs to make up for the deficit. As for the patriot act, its worrisome, but as long as the sunset clause is included, I am sure it will go the way of the Dodo sooner rather than later, terrorists or no. Most importantly, I think the economy will improve, which will give Bush some room to do important things, like kill the UN, drive a stake in the heart of the welfare state, etc.

  • Andy Duncan

    Hi Jonathan,

    I think your last line is the key one, on the near impossibility of a new party. We are where we are in the UK, through many accidents of history, not where we would like to start from. I want to get to John Galt’s valley in Colorado; but it never existed.

    And if we give up, it never will.

    We mustn’t despair here in Britain. We must keep fighting on, in whatever capacity we each can. We shouldn’t give up just because we can’t have all of what we want, immediately, from a party that won’t get elected if, tomorrow morning, it adopted a libertarian program.

    How many libertarians are there? I would guess in the UK roughly 5% of people would like to live in a far freer society. And from the psychological principle that we tend to overestimate the prevalence of our own views, let’s drop that to 2%.

    So if we do go for the “fight” option, we can’t do this as the “UK Libertarian Party”, because we are too few. So that, alas, leaves us with only one real path to get the changes in society we’re looking for.

    The current state of the Tory party is a precious opportunity. I went to a South Oxfordshire post-election meeting, where around 500 people turned up. Ninety-five per cent of them, or so it seemed, were past retirement age. There were about ten of us, who were anywhere near being under 50, and that included the MP and his wife! 🙂

    The Tory party has almost literally got one foot in the grave across great swathes of the country. I went to another meeting in Blackburn. Same story. Ninety per cent in pipe and slippers land.

    We don’t need to form a new party. With our dynamic 2% we just need to take over an old one. Get involved, get close to your MP or candidate, become your own next MP or candidate, if you’ve got the talent for it! 🙂

    Keep whispering in the MP’s ear, keep writing to them, keep up the pressure on them. Keep making them think the right thoughts, make them afraid if they upset you, you’ll deselect them.

    There are so few real activists in any Tory constituency, that any of us becoming one will magnify the libertarian effect enormously.

    By ourselves alone we could never convince, overnight, the population of the UK to give up their threadbare statist security blanket.

    But Iain Duncan Smith, or Oliver Letwin when he takes over, has to persuade at least 42% of these state-weaned voters to give up just a little bit of it. IDS’s heart’s in the right place on the Euro, the Euro constitution, and most other aspects of a Free Britain.

    But he’s not going to win over 42% of voters by berating them, sacking the five million of them suckling taxes via government non-jobs, or by removing all of the welfare cheques from the 30+ million of us able to claim them, from those who can’t. We’re too far gone, in this country, and haven’t preserved the ideas of liberty even a tenth as well as the Americans.

    Most people out there in bedsit land really do think government money grows on trees (or at best, in the evil bank accounts of even more evil rightists, who deserve a good financial mauling anyway for “exploiting” the people.)

    So why are so many of us so stupid? Because the left’s first move in any country is to take over its education system, and then to ruin it. Give me a seven year old child, and enough copies of the Guardian, and I will deliver you a Cambridge University car-wrecking tongue-studded marxoid moron.

    So if the key is to free up the education system, we need to work on a vouchers policy, on an endowment policy for the Universities, and a privatisation policy for the BBC. We then need to get a government elected that will fulfill these policies.

    Then we’ll gradually free the minds of the people, who’ll eventually come to see just how threadbare that state blanket has become.

    All of the above policies are under serious consideration by the Tory party, and as they become a more credible opposition over the next 18 months, even if feebly statist in their projected outlook probably designed for them by clever Republican image builders, we must ensure that these ideas become real policies in a real government, behind all of the “Compassionate Conservative” flim-flam.

    We need to get the state out from running our schools and universities, even if it continues to fund them indirectly via Milton Friedman’s vouchers; this, I believe, is the absolute key to freeing everything else. Free the mind, and the body will follow.

    And the Tories remain our single best hope of achieving this objective in Britain. It ain’t pretty. But there it is. I don’t like it either, but I can see no other road ahead short of quitting this country altogether, and trying to squeeze into the US with an unwilling wife, when their economy lifts off again. No doubt to Colorado, if I can manage it! 🙂

  • Andy Duncan

    Hi (again) Jonathan,

    …Keep making them think the right thoughts…

    Whoops! It’s the old socialist in me making a bid for freedom again. Gotta keep him chained down better.

    Should of course be:

    “keep convincing them of the superiority of the ideals of freedom”

    My apologies 😉

  • Della

    I feel that to try and promote libertarianism without a libertarian party is wishfull thinking. The Nazis (BNP) have a party, the communists (SSP) have a party, why can’t libertarians have a party? Is libertarianism really less popular than national socialism?

    I realise a libertarian party would not win power, but that’s not the point, the point would be to act as a sort of pressure group and distribute political ideas. If any of these ideas were popular with the public as indicated in elections these ideas would be then be stolen by unprincipled members of larger parties. This is all a big part of how socialism became so influencial, socialism has become so influencial that people have stopped recognising that a lot of socialist ideas are socialist, and just regard them as the way things have got to be. Hell, even the BNP has had quite a bit of influence with its tiny election gains.

  • cydonia

    Andy Duncan:

    How right you are.

    You only have flick through the pages of any children’s history book to see the implicit assumption that all good things in the last two centuries have happened because of Government. It’s insidious and ubiquitous.

    As long as kids are raised on this stuff, libertarians will never be more than a tiny minority and libertarian ideals will never be held by more than a tiny minority.

  • G Cooper

    An excellent analysis of the situation there, by Andy Duncan.

    Whether it is possible sufficiently to infiltrate the Conservative Party to achieve what many of us here would like, is hard to say – we could end up as the Militant Tendency of the other side. But I don’t believe we have a hope in hell of starting a successful Libertarian Party and, sadly, the UKIP can only ever be perceived as a single issue outfit.

    Quiet what the blue rinse brigade will make of it, I can’t imagine…

  • Della

    “Is libertarianism really less popular than national socialism?”

    I am afraid the answer to that is, yes.

  • Matt W.

    Yikes, the more I hear about the political and social conditions in Britain, the more I think that Blair’s support of the war to be the last horrah before you guys decend into Atlas Shrugged. Heres hoping we’re all wrong!

  • jk

    I wish U.S. Libertarians would join the GOP. Not only for the votes and support but for their ideas. Much of the left-tacking done by Republicans is for political viability. With a stronger base to support reduced government, it would be easier for the Rs to stand up for good ideas, with libertarians in the party, more members with good ideas would be nominated.

    The “Weekly Standard” has suggested at least three Senatorial races that probably went Democratic because of a big-L candidate. I know that’s hard t prove, but I think libertarian ideas would be better served with three more GOP Senators than the excitement of a big-L getting 2% of the popular vote.

    For some reasons, this line of thinking seems to upset some of my Libertarian friends…

  • Ted Schuerzinger


    Slade Gorton wasn’t going to give America anything resembling libertarian ideals — and I know his loss to Maria Cantwell is one of the races generally considered to have been decided by the presence of a Libertarian candidate. I don’t think Marc Neumann in Wisconsin would have either, although we probably wouldn’t have ended up with the perfidious McCain-Feingold campaign finance deform that we’ve got. (And I can’t remember whether there was a Libertarian in that race, anyhow.)

  • jk

    Fair enough. But Slade Gordon (The Senator from Microsoft, they used to call him) would have likely backed a bigger tax cut than the current “compromise.” I claim that that would have served freedom’s cause in removing a couple hundred million dollars from the clutches of those who will use it to enlarge government.

    I would also say that another R would have prevented the Daschle majority all together. The McCain-Feingold renunciation of the First Amendment would have never come up for a vote…ah, what a glorious counterfactual utopia.

  • If we are going do “what if” and remove the Libertarian alternative to Republicans, perhaps we ought to remove the third-party alternative to the Democrats. Without Mr Nader in Florida …

  • Peter Sykes

    Well, I think there’s enough of us sharing simular libertarian beliefs that a party is not a completely unrealistic option. Its about time I can use my recently acquired voting rights on a party that has common sense at its core. I’ve always had to opt for the tories because of my hatred of socialism, but i totally disagree with so many of their policies. Someone start a party, it’d get my vote, no matter how unpopular it may be at first.

  • Naif Mabat


    Politics is the art of the possible. Those who cry for the moon wind up without any supper.

  • jk


    I would give the same advice to the Greens. Most of them would have been better served to vote for VP Gore (even though he was not as dedicated to the cessation of American industrial output).. And, their continued presence in the Primaries would probably pull the Party closer to their views.

    And, even though I brought it up, I am certainly dubious about this brand of electoral math. I know a lot of people who vote for 3rd parties as a “none of the above” vote, feeling safe that the candidate they’re voting for does not have a chance.

    I will continue to call for Libertarians to join the GOP and understand Dems who call for the Greens to join them.

  • ditariel

    All right, it would help to understand this:

    I understand having a stake in the political winds of the U.S., but I find it downright maddening that Europeans think they should have a say! (How to Make an Otherwise Peaceful American Angry 101)

    That said, looking back from September, we see the “Donkeys” fall off the proverbial “Left cliff”. It seems that GOP is now your best choice (in just about every way).