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Student activism at UCL

A few months ago a student called Oli Cooper wrote to me to say that he was setting up a Libertarian Society at University College London. I took him for lunch and he explained his plans and I explained how such groups had worked elsewhere. The society does not officially launch until September but there is already a website and a feisty blog called The Torch.

I learn from the blog that since 1997, there’s been the equivalent of one new criminal offence a day. He beats up the UK government’s plans for extending punishment without trial. In one post he agrees with the hard-right Tory clique the Cornerstone Group but explains, lest readers get the wrong impression, that normally the Group “represents just about everything that’s wrong with the Conservative Party. They’re Kinder, Küche, Kirche sort of authoritarians, keen on protecting the privileges of the elite.” Ouch.

I suspect we will be hearing a lot more from the UCL over the next couple of years.

5 comments to Student activism at UCL

  • Tanuki

    Ah yes, Cornerstone. I do battle with their religion-centered dogma on a regular basis. It’s almost as if in their world the Enlightenment – and the last three centuries of scientific progress – was something that happened to other people.

    What price Rationalism and Reason? You’ll not find it in Cornerstone circles.

  • guy herbert

    He wrote to me, too. I’ll be speaking at UCL on ID cards and the database state in the autumn.

  • Paul Marks

    The enlightenment was not opposed to home and family (or to cultural tradition) – at least if we are talking about the Scottish Enlightenment.

    F.A. Hayek wrote about such matters rather a lot.

    As for people who want to reduce civil society to isolated indivduals under the total control of a “rational planning progressive authority” I have no use for their version of the “entlightenment” – with children brainwashed in “day care” establishments and mothers and fathers hard at work in their government (or “community activist”) jobs – at least till the “rational, scientific economy” collapses.

    By the way, this “scientific” stuff is nothing to do with real science and never has been (Francis Bacon was no more filled with an honest interest in science than the man whose dead body sits in the hall of University College London).

    As for defence of home and family being “all that is wrong with the Conservative party” – I would say that the hostility of the leading circles of it to home and family is at the base of what is wrong with it.

    On religion:

    Some conservatives are religious and some (such as Simon Heffer) are athiests.

    The point is not about religion – the point is that most of the leadership of the Conservative party is not conservative.

    “Do not judge people you do not know Paul”.

    Well I know the leadership of the Conservative party (I have had the misfortune to have met them), but it is true that I do not know these young students so I will reserve judgement.

    I would ask them two questions:

    Are you in favour of the ending of all government overseas aid?


    Are you in favour of the repeal of all antidiscrimination regulations?

    If the reply to both these questions is “yes” then they are interesting.

    If not, then one does not have to wonder about if they will sell out when they get older – as they have sold out already.

  • Thanks for the kind words/plug, Alex. If we can achieve half as much as the likes of the Hayek societies and, of course, the St Andrews Liberty Club, we’ll be proud of our accomplishments.

    I would like to clarify on what Paul has inferred from my post. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the Conservative Party as a whole. I am personally a very active member myself, and consider it the best vehicle for libertarian policies, as do the few authentic libertarians that are active in British politics (Douglas Carswell, Syed Kamall, etc).

    What is wrong with the Tories is that it seems to be a eclectic alliance between three virtually triametrically-opposed groups, members of only one of which recognise the great divide in political theory: between those that think the people the problem and the state the solution, and those that think that the state is the problem and the people the solution. That libertarian (‘sound’) faction is that to which I belong, and the faction that I hope will form the core of the party in years to come. That is, if either Cornerstone and Cameron don’t ruin that prospect first.

    Paul is correct to state that the Enlightenment did not oppose home or family. The family is (pardon the pun) cornerstone of the liberal society, allowing independence and subsidiary on an otherwise impossible level. Despite this, enlightenment values grate with the dictatorial enforcement of the family and promotion by the state that Cornerstone makes its hallmark. It’s all very good and well supporting families (who doesn’t?), but to support them by method of coercion, and that is the hard currency of the state, runs counter to the very principles upon which the family is based. The family is not the domain of the state any more than the individual is.

    I can’t speak for other libertarians are UCL, but, personally, I can say that ‘yes’ is most certainly the answer to both of those questions, although I may contest just how interesting I am as a consequence.

  • Paul Marks

    Oli Cooper:

    I did not read your article – I was only talking about the quotation.

    As for “Cornerstone” – I know little of them.

    However, you have replied to the questions that I asked.

    Quite so:

    Lord Peter Bauer explained many years ago that “economic aid” from governments does not make the conditions in poor countries better (rather the reverse).

    As for “discrimination” – to discriminate is to CHOOSE.

    If I do not want to emply or trade with people with blue eyes, I may be a very silly person indeed – but that is my choice (and nothing to do with the state).

    However, I rather doubt that you will get much support for responding to the questions this way from the leading circles of the Conservative party.

    That you regard the Conservative party as a good way of putting libertarian principles into practice is astonishing. However, I may have been involved too long (since the election of 1979) and may have become too cynical.