A Call to Arms

Daniel Pryor appeals for the politically committed to get involved.
‘In essence, what I say is this: campaign for your ideology, fight for it, put in the research, convince people, but with no libertarianlowe involvement within political parties, it becomes that little bit harder.’ – Richard Lowe (Former UKIP PPC, removed due to support for equal marriage)

RARE is the individual that wholeheartedly supports their party’s entire manifesto. Rarer still is the individual that considers total agreement with said manifesto to be essential when considering whether to join that party.

This author is neither of the above. The real impact of politics is only felt by real progress towards a conceptual goal. This is the essence of pragmatism. Whilst personal position upon the political spectrum is significant, much more important is the direction in which you face. In the case of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, this direction is towards an ever more leviathan state. Minor disagreements about minor details mask what is truly fundamental; the most effective way of advancing libertarian ideas is to actually implement them through the apparatus of government. That is only possible by ensuring that Westminster is dominated by like-minded individuals. If you class yourself as libertarian, conservative or even vaguely right-wing but aren’t yet a member of a comparable political party, then I have one simple question – why not?

Rather than bickering about trivial differences like the left-wing parties of Weimar Germany, is it perhaps time to stop rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and commit to catalysing tangible change? As the dominant party in government, the majority of the Conservative Party’s actions have been unashamedly right-wing. What were these actions? To name a few: significantly reducing corporation and income tax, cutting the budget deficit by a quarter, capping benefits at £26,000 per year, decentralising education through academies legislation, and saving billions in unnecessary bureaucracy by introducing the Red Tape Challenge.

Some elements of the Tory’s policy platform may not chime well with the average conservative or libertarian, but is it rational to reject any party on this basis? Among other things, I find myself at odds with the party’s commitment to increasing NHS spending and our continued involvement in Afghanistan. Yet the Tory approach to these issues is not a sufficient basis with which to dismiss them (in fact, you may well agree with their position). Though vehemently opposed to so-called ‘liberal interventionism’ and socialised medicine, this author accepts that there are issues such as the economy, taxation and welfare that sit markedly higher on the list of achievable legislation.

A strong radical undercurrent exists among both the party membership and Conservative MPs. Active libertarian voices within the party are pushing for various free-market reforms, most recently with Education Secretary Michael Gove announcing plans to allow private companies to run state schools. An In/Out EU referendum in the next parliament is now looking inevitable. Wasting a vote or refusing to join a party on the basis of disagreement with one policy in a hundred may feel more ‘philosophically sound’, but it was Margaret Thatcher, not Milton Friedman, who slashed income tax in the 1980s.

The interests of those who believe in economic and personal freedom are best served by the party that most strongly and successfully advances them. The Conservative Party ought to unite those who believe in free markets, free people and a smaller state. The Thatcherite, classical liberal, and anarcho-capitalist can all find agreement with the aims of the majority of Conservative policies.

Your partyHowever, you may disagree entirely with the assertion that the Conservative Party is a home for pragmatic right-wingers, instead placing false hope in the future electoral successes of UKIP. If so, it may be wise to consider the possibility of forging right-wing consensus by fighting for an electoral pact with the Conservatives. It will take courage from members of both parties to avoid splitting the right-wing vote at the next General Election. Murray Rothbard neatly surmised the importance of consensus when referring to the concept of the ‘freedom train’; the destination is freedom and the choice of when to get off is entirely your own.

The message of the importance of joining a party also resonates with those on the other side of politics. Those of all persuasions ought to be able to agree that increasing involvement with the political process is a desirable outcome. Lively ideological debate within and between parties is the best way of discovering the right way forward. The most effective way of advancing any ideology is to actually implement it. That is only possible by ensuring that Westminster is dominated by like-minded individuals. If you class yourself as a left-libertarian, a social democrat or even a communist but aren’t yet a member of a comparable political party, then I ask you the same simple question – why not?

Follow Daniel on Twitter: @DanielPryorr

4 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you all for taking the time to comment!

    Richard, whilst I admit that the Tories aren’t going to legalise heroin tomorrow, there are encouraging signs of a move towards more socially liberal policies. The majority of Conservative MPs are set to support gay marriage proposals. Around a fifth of Conservative Party members support treating hard drugs in the same way as alcohol, with nearly 40% taking the same view for soft drugs (ConservativeHome Poll Dec. 2011). A couple of examples that I feel demonstrate that there is a sizeable minority of libertarian thinking in the party. I would argue that there are other MPs and MEPs in Carswell’s guise: Steve Baker, Alan Duncan, Daniel Hannan to name a few. The fact that there is a libertarian strain within the party should be cause to hope for some political capital in lobbying for more libertarian policies.

    Christina, let’s say that the Conservatives were increasing the size of the state and assume that’s correct. There’s the obvious “the other parties would be worse” argument but more than that, isn’t it more effective to try and influence the party from the inside and steer it in a more libertarian direction? They are the only party with sufficient political capital and ideological potential to downsize the state in the United Kingdom.

    Onto government spending…I don’t dispute the accuracy of ASI’s graph, I came across it myself earlier this month. But wouldn’t a more accurate measure be public spending as a %GDP? I see this as measuring the size of the state as a proportion of the whole.
    http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/spending_chart_2000_2013UKp_12c1li0181280_874cs_F0t

    Institutions like the Library of Economics and Liberty and ASI (http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/politics-government/the-crisis-of-government) use government spending as a share of GDP to measure the size of government. By this measure, since 2010 the size of government has fallen. I’d argue that the most obvious explanation for the increase in overall government spending is the increasing levels government debt (and consequent interest). Sorting out the deficit has to come first, because although in Libertopia I might like a total repudiation of our entire national debt right now, realistically it’s not going to happen.

    As for advancing libertarianism through government, I agree that there has never been anything approaching minarchism or anarcho-capitalism in the modern age. That, by itself, means nothing. You could easily twist that fact by saying that the absence of minarchism/anarchism in the modern age is because most libertarians are too reluctant to unify, embrace common-purpose pragmatism and concentrate their efforts on progress through the machinery of the state.

    You were in the Conservative Party? That is interesting, I never knew. The difference is that I wouldn’t campaign on the basis of being specifically anarcho-capitalist. I’d campaign on the basis of being a broadly libertarian candidate. That’s what Rothbard’s freedom train example is all about. Do you have an alternative strategy for achieving tangible progress towards a smaller state (e.g. agorism)? If so, please explain – I’ve personally never been convinced by agorist arguments.

    Leon, I hope that my above comments have illumined the reasons why I would beg to differ. I’d stand by the statement that “the interests of those who believe in economic and personal freedom are best served by the party that most strongly and successfully advances them”.

    Again, really appreciate you the comments.

  2. If you believe in a small state, low taxes and increased civil liberties etc. then the Conservatives are not the party for you. This is the reason I left. UKIP isn’t necessarily the *current* party for you either mind.

  3. “[The] anarcho-capitalist can find agreement with the aims of the majority of Conservative policies.”

    This is completely… I don’t even… The Conservatives are increasing the size of the state, not decreasing it. Even Thatcher increased the size of the state!

    http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/tax-spending/dont-believe-the-austerity-hype

    “The most effective way of advancing libertarian ideas is to actually implement them through the apparatus of government.”

    When has this ever been proven? There has never been anything even approaching minarchism in the modern age, let alone anarchism.

    Despite all this, I’ve tried being members of a political party, back when my beliefs were less consistent. Even when I was a minarchist, CCHQ told me off for being “too libertarian.” Try being an open anarcho-capitalist and standing for election in the Conservative Party. I assure you, you’ll get Olly Neville’d right out of there.

  4. Daniel,

    Nice article, but I disagree with the tone towards the Conservatives; you mention a few good policies – yes, absolutely, however there’s no desire to push for socially liberal policies. The economics are slightly right-wing, absolutely, but the problem is they don’t seem to believe in anything. It’s ‘managerial politics’, trying to appease to everyone and anyone; scared of offending anyone bar their historical base. If there was a high proportion of MPs that were in Carswell’s guise, I’d never have left.

    Richard

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