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18 April 2013

The lost tribes of British politics – day 4: the high liberals and the libertarians

7. The high liberals

Having looked at the left yesterday, let’s head back towards the right; but not too far right, if you please – we’re now in the refined company of the high liberals. This is a term coined for the purposes of this guide, because these guys don’t really have a name for themselves, as that would look factional and therefore vulgar.

Few in number, but great in influence, they’re best known for two publications you may have heard of – the Financial Times and the Economist.

Non-socialist and non-conservative you’d think they’d be happy in the Liberal Democrats. However, Lib Dem rank-and-file are a little too leftwing for high liberal tastes – not that this is the main problem: You see, what the high liberals really believe in being rational – and there’s just too much that’s irrational about joining a third party.

What the high liberals would really like is a Conservative Party without any conservatives in it – a sort of German-style Free Democrat Party, only bigger. No doubt, some of you might think that’s exactly what the Cameroons are giving them. But you’d be wrong. To a high liberal, euroscepticism of any kind is infra dig – as is anything that smacks of faith, flag and family.

The leftier high liberals even have their doubts about public service reform. It’s fine in theory, they say, but do we really have to have all that messy choice and competition – let alone the ‘big society’? Couldn’t we just leave it to suitably-qualified professionals operating within an evidence-based framework?

Of course, shifting politics in a more rational direction wouldn’t be a bad thing. Just think of the utterly deranged policy judgements of recent years. For instance, the way in which many on the right excused the excesses of casino capitalism, while many on the left enthused for the single currency.

Not the high liberals though: they went mad for both!

Score card:

Intellectual inheritance: 4/5

Past glories: 1/5

Online presence: 5/5

Future prospects: 1/5


8. The libertarians

If you leave the high liberals behind and keep going due right (i.e. without any conservative turns) you’ll end-up in libertarian territory. This is, in terms of practical politics, an undiscovered country. There isn’t a single significant, properly libertarian party anywhere in the world. America comes closest, where characters like Ron Paul have upset an apple cart or two. But, even in America, we won’t be seeing a libertarian government any time soon. And no, the so-called Tea Party is not libertarian – just ask them about their social entitlements like Medicare.

As for Britain, there are those in the Conservative Party – and, for that matter, UKIP – who profess libertarianism, but it’s not of any sort that Murray Rothbard or Ayn Rand would recognise. For all the hysterical posturing of the Labour Party, the idea of a politically-serious attempt to dismantle the welfare state is pure fantasy.

As pioneers of the UK blogosphere, libertarians like Guido Fawkes and the folks at Samizdata are well-represented on the internet. In the real world, not so much.

Score card:

Intellectual inheritance: 4/5

Past glories: 0/5

Online presence: 4/5

Future prospects: 1/5


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