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Fair comment Tim and absolutely right to.

There is a role for charities in helping the needy. I think we should give them a far greater role than they have.
I think charities should be able to bid to run local social services or provide care for the dying. I think they could also have a place in the provision of housing for the disabled etc.
There are all sort of innovative ways we can use charities more but I think that it is wrong to suggest that the state should be the last port of call.
The state will always be the greatest provider of compassion and care for those in need and I don`t think it helps the conservative cause to suggest otherwise.

I entirely agree. That Cameron quote is one I've never heard before, but one I greatly approve of.

Yes Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet had no truck at all with those calling for the legalisation of drugs etc. She also was not as laissez-faire economically as some commentators would have people now believe.
I thought Osborne yesterday was merely setting out his stall.Some libertarians it seems find it difficult to believe that not everyone in the Conservative Party shares their views.

Good post Tim.


"Some libertarians it seems find it difficult to believe that not everyone in the Conservative Party shares their views."

Quite right, Malcolm. Some of them are mighty authoritarian for libertarians!

"nation of the second chance"

Not a quote I remember but it is a great one!

I now understand why Boris wants an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Unfortunatley if you help someone to help themselves so that they no longer have to ask for help, as opposed to throwing money at them then you are seen as uncaring.

Not sure why - I think it's something to do with socialists/authoritarian types wanting to stay in power and keep the proles downtrodden

As I said yesterday Osborne's language choice may not have been the best but he was well intentioned and not saying anything adversarial to Tory principles.

Freedom is at the heart of everything Conservatism stands for but encouraging individual freedom does not mean embracing its abuse. That was what Osborne was getting at, albeit he could've expressed it better, and Tim is right to draw attention to it and implications of that understanding.

i suport this post i just wish ppl would stop trying to put conservatives and libertarians in the same basket there 2 different ideas

The real debate here needs to be shifted away from do we care or not, of course we all do, and onto the much more necessary arguments surrounding how we help those who are hurting. The longstanding left wing model is that the state just throws cash at people without trying to provide any kind of chance for them to actually improve their lives and life chances.

If, by talking about second chances Cameron is indicating a shift towards giving people opportunities and help to lift themselves from poverty or hardship then that is something much to be welcomed.

The current statist model, which is essentially an economy destroying redistribution of wealth which does nothing to end the dependency culture or the perpetuation of an undercalss, is wholly unsustainable, particularly in a viscious recession, and must change for the betterment of society as a whole as well as those who do least well from it.

Excellent post Tim and a much needed one if I may say so. Expresses so much of the reasons why I find the Cameron direction so refreshing and appealing - and most of all, right.

Tim, as you would expect, and despite the mischaracterizations from certain quarters, I see nothing here for a sensible libertarian to disagree with. One of the reasons why big government is so harmful is that it replaces efficient charity with inefficient bureaucracy, and, indeed, restricts those charities it does not replace. Now is a time to remember Article XXXVIII...

This is a very important issue for us to get right. It is going to take years and cost a huge amount of money to recover from the Blair/Brown mess, exacerbated by the American sub prime mortgage fiasco, but it does present us with an almost unique opportunity to build a much fairer and better society for the future.

* bonuses should only be discretionary, not contractual
* a fixed relationship should be established between top and bottom earners in all organisations
* public sector terms and conditions of employment should be brought more into line with private ones (as the taxpayer largely pays for the public sector, it should not be as generous as it now is)
* no one should have to pay tax on the first £12,000 of earned income (does anyone know what the initial threshold would now be had Brown not ceased index linking them?)
* tax regime to be vastly simplified
* benefits should be payable from a single source
* primary education should aim to significantly reduce the number of pupils unable to read, write or count to an acceptable standard by age 11
* persistently disruptive pupils to be removed from mainstream schools and transferred to special schools to inculcate self-disciplne, while continuing to receive a proper education in the 3 Rs and also given the opportunity for plenty of sport and hobbies.

I also - probably for the first time - agree with Jack Stone:

"There is a role for charities in helping the needy. I think we should give them a far greater role than they have".

Voluntary organisations have people on the ground and a conservative government could make much greater progress in reducing poverty and homelessness by harnessing their efforts in a properly organised programme. This is perhaps an initiative that should involve various faiths, especially the etsablished church.

O dear.Here we go again.This is typical double speak Toryism.It is mixed economist mood music.It follows a tried and well trodden pattern.First a speech is made praising Capitalism albeit with faint praise.Then close on its heels is followed up with a serving of compassionate good samaritan Tory bromides.The party of all things to all people.The result? The first speech is cancelled out by the second and we are back where we started from not knowing what the hell Conservatism stands for - other than just about anything. This represents complete and abject contempt for ideas and principles and plumbs the depths of cynicism.Every Tory should have a sign on his wall reading: 'Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.'

I am very pleased to see that the tory party support welfare for the needy.

They need only ensure that their members make sufficient voluntary donations to cover the extent of their largess.

Party wants = party pays.

Or are they suggesting that having worked to pay for their own families needs, all workers will be obliged to work further for the parties own projects (that's slavery isn't it?).

I never knowingly earn more than I need - My intention is to work precisely as much as I need and to spend the rest of my time as I please.

If I feel that I 'need' to give money away, then I will work to cover that cost, if I don't then I won't.

Are conservatives saying they are proud that they will pay for the poor, or are they saying that they are proud that they will force others to work to pay for the poor?

Like PP I am very glad the party realises the moral, social and political need to support the needy. I think niconoclast's comment utterly misses the point. Your "principles" will NEVER be accepted by everybody, but as a party that wishes to govern the whole nation you must have at the very least an understanding and appreciation of all those sectors of society.

If caring for the "needy" is some sort of cop out from what some may regard as "true" conservatism, then the party has no moral fibre and is doomed to failure. That is not to say you apply to the socialist model of thinking, nor to say you simply throw money at the problem. There are many innovative ways to give all equal oppourtunity which will only make for a stronger society as many here have pointed out and very well may I add.

The Conservative party is and always has been, a broad church. Libitarians have a long tradition in the party and long may it continue. Before you all ask I am myself on the right of the party. The point is there is room for all sorts of opinions in the party.

It should be remembered that, as Margaret Thatcher said, the Good Samaritan could not have helped the victim if he hadn't had any money. The encouragement of enterprise and success enables the other welfare policies to be achieved.

"The compassionate carers of first resort should be families and charities and friendly societies (at which most libertarians would vigorously nod) but the state where necessary (less nodding)"

The presumption here is that people don't care about their fellow man. Since they don't care, and can't be made to care, govt. must force them to hand over their money so that the caring govt. can redistribute it.

At the risk of getting all 'big picture' about this, the attitude that Tim is writing about here does show some clear water between Conservatives and Libertarians, and is indicative of the truism that the CoE is the Tory Party at prayer. Conservatives do tend to believe in man as fallen, which necessarily informs their ideology. Libertarians, on the whole, don't take theological arguments as the basis for policy decisions, and we don't view man as irredeemably fallen.

If man were fallen, of course it might seem to make sense for the priesthood -- both the clergy of the Church, and Dave, Gid et al. (the political equivalent) -- to have to step into the breach to save us from ourselves. But there are two problems with this view. Firstly, what if man really isn't fallen, and that enough of us do care to look out for our fellow man without coercion? Secondly, and if mankind really is irretrievably fallen, then why do we suppose that those in Westminster are are any more capable of making good decisions about the welfare of others than your man on street?

As somebody involved with the Libertarian movement, I can assure Tim that a great many of us do care passionately about other people. Where the movement as a whole tends to let itself down on the welfare issue is in it's tendency to solely focus on the economics of want, and to not talk about other pertinent issues like the psychology of caring. Sadly, we allow ourselves to get painted as cold and heartless, when the truth is that it is actually the conservative (small 'c') view of man as fallen that is cold and heartless.

But, and regardless of the circumstances, it's good to see the whole welfare debate being raised again. Anybody with an interest in such matters really should read James Bartholomew's "The Welfare State We're In", and in particular the part about the history of welfare provision in our nation. I would challenge anyone to do so and then argue that the centralised state is the answer to welfare issues.

Great piece Patrick but obviously you could be an atheist and still a conservative.

As someone who comes from the libertarian side of the conservative spectrum, I've got no problems at all about 'giving people a second chance'. . The issue comes when they expect a third, fourth, fifth, chance, a lifetime of chances - all at the expense of the rest of us.

That just doesn't work for me. My conservatism is focused on self-reliance: you get on by your own efforts. I don't expect society to bail me out if I screw up, and - to be honest - don't see why society should be expected to bail out life's serial screwer-uppers either. It's a matter of self-respect.

"if it harms no-one, live your life how you want to - don't expect society to pay for it" -

Sadly, we allow ourselves to get painted as cold and heartless, when the truth is that it is actually the conservative (small 'c') view of man as fallen that is cold and heartless.

This may be because it happens so much that many natural libertarians who are instictively caring for their fellow man actually think they are uncaring, or appear that way to others - but don't care what others think of them.

If you get them to analyse it then they do realise that they are just implementing their caring ways and that it's others who are incorrectly labelling them - this can be hard to handle if they had got used to the bad boy image etc.

"Not sure why - I think it's something to do with socialists/authoritarian types wanting to stay in power and keep the proles downtrodden"

I read this as an argument that those who believe in the Welfare State only do so cynically, as some sort of bromide to keep the "proles" quiet.

Is that really what libertarians think? It is a bit shocking through its historical ignorance. Read something like "The Road to Wigan Pier" and one will see why social democrats, even if one disagrees, believe in statist intervention - to avoid that sort of grinding poverty.

I think the "welfare trap" is a very unhappy by-product of post-war developments: it certainly doesn't invalidate action by the state against poverty and it certainly isn't deliberate.

It is a lot better than the alternative: the poor supposedly "helping themselves" - no-one else will because "it's just throwing money at 'them'" [very two nations!] We know what the reality turns out to be from the cities of Britain and this has happened under governments of both parties in the last 30 years.

Tanuki I think the issue arises where for example people are worse off through no fault of their own. So say for example a child is brought up by loveless parents in a sink estate, if that child knows no better you just say well get on with it. And deny all the future potential. It is issues of "bad luck" or needyness through no fault of your own where i think it becomes more blurrerd. Obviously if peopleare in a position to make worthwhile coices and decisions and screw up, you can't expect others to constantly bail them out over and over again.

"Margaret Thatcher also took great care to distance her policies from the more extreme laissez-faire ideas."

Quite right, and I have commented a number of times on the very real improvements in the care of disabled people, that was the great humanitarian achievement of the Thatcher / Major years. The move from institutions to care in the community was both good for the disabled and their families and the state. Proving time and time again to be a fantastic boon to those disabled who were in a position to benefit from the allotment of care givers. This one act has saved the nation an absolute fortune in long care beds. If ever there had been a libertarian solution this was it. The sick person now had the right of care, and could look to family for the most agreeable caregiver.
Labour have not built on this great start and have under paid the carers systematically. Even deliberately reducing the real value of benefit to this group in line with their “Starve them back to work” attack on the long-term unemployed. I will acknowledge that this year’s settlement was improved and we are grateful for small mercies. However Labour came in with good intention even paying a first disability guarantee a whopping £28.00 boost. Sadly the policy was then discontinued. Rather than trusting their own political dogma ,that monies paid into the bottom of the heap trickle up, they decided to waste their money on a massive new bureaucratic muddle. The Conservative party can deliver improved conditions for those of us who man the front line in community care, and we will continuer the tradition of aiding those who really deserve to be aided. The Conservative party is not its self a libertarian party, but it is the natural home of the greater number of libertarians. Of course the centre will maintain a strong grip in keeping with its democratic mandate, but we can expect many of the most imaginative answers to come from our Libertarian wing. In the lead up to the next general election, those of us we hold often incendiary views must learn to bide our time and bite our tongues. This is why George Osborne’s comment is absolutely right and proper. The Conservative party is about more than libertarian views alone, and is firmly committed to stable wise if often pedestrian governance.

Tanuki, you may be one of life's lucky people who never will screw up and so can sit there and say somewhat nebulous concepts of self-reliance and self-respect trump giving our fellow men decent standards of living.

If you ever did screw up - or more likely be put in the wrong place through little fault of your own - would you accept you might change your tune?

ad wrote: "...you could be an atheist and still a conservative"

Of course. I was merely talking about the basis of ideology.

The way that that ideology expresses itself really shows the open ground between conservatives and libertarians (both lower case), though. At heart, conservatives don't trust people to do the right thing, either for themselves or others (actually, that's inaccurate as well -- conservatives don't trust 'ordinary' people to do the right thing; somehow those at the top of the pile have a special dispensation to be able to do so!). Conservatism is about paternalism, whether that is blatantly expressed, or more subtly so (e.g. all of this Sunstein and Thaler 'nudge' nonsense). By contrast, libertarians do trust people -- even 'ordinary' ones -- to do what's right for themselves and others.

The fundamental difference in outlook is that one ideology treats us forever as children, whilst the other acknowledges that we are actually adults.

If the Conservatives will not walk by on the other side why did they not back the Lib Dems in removing Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration Claiments Bill/Act which, by withdrawing all benefits, forces failed Asylum Seekers into total destitution ?

I have very little time for unmitigated Laissez Faire Capitalism or free-booting Market Forces without some protection for those who. by no fault of their own. can be hurt by such policies. I am a Social Tory and believe that Order and Discipline are necessary in any regularly organised Society (and yes I DO believe in the concept of "Society"). I could never be a Libertarian.

To me it is a question of how far The State should be allowed to control the actions of the Individual. I would probably wish for more control than most Libertarians would accept but not the Micro-Management that the current Labour Government has inflicted on us since May 1997.

I accept that the weak should have protection under Law from the strong, for example the good Tenant or Employee should have rights enshrined in Law against the activities of the bad Landlord or Employer, but equally the bad Tenant who trashes the property or will not pay their rent or the lazy or abusive Employee should also be liable to Legal Sanctions. I for example support responsible Trade Unionism and Collective Bargaining and do not believe that "The Market" can be left alone to resolve everything, and can see merit in a Mixed Economy. I am also a staunch supporter of the NHS - free at point of need to all, though if someone is a member of a recognised Private Medical system such as BUPA or PPP they should be able to pay a reduced NI Contribution which would allow them Emergency NHS Cover only if they wish, or remain paying the full NI and be eligible for all NHS services,Elective as well as Emergency.

In contrast to many Libertarians I am well to the Traditionalist Right on most Social Issues such as Law and Order, Defence, Education, Immigration and Race Relations, and have no time for "Political Correctness". On Europe, I am sceptical but take the pragmatic line that the UK is not likely ever to leave the EU, unless it collapses from becoming too large and diverse, so we may as well stay within and fight our corner, hopefully winning rebates and concessions as Margaret Thatcher did.

So I am delighted to call myself a Conservative, but no way ever a "Libertarian"

"If the Conservatives will not walk by on the other side why did they not back the Lib Dems in removing Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration Claiments Bill/Act which, by withdrawing all benefits, forces failed Asylum Seekers into total destitution ?"

Posted by: Anon R

When Osborne talks about 'not walking by' he's talking about defending the people who read the tabloids, not about the the people who the tabloids vilify.

After all, the mob must have its pantomime, and every pantomime needs its villains. And what better villains than failed asylum seekers ?

They are so wonderfully powerless.

Of course the state should intervene, but only insomuch as to allow the people to help themselves. Don't give them money, give them jobs (unless injured in some way). Roosevelt did it well enough after Hoover's 'rugged individualism' debacle.

There is a real problem with the term "libertarianism", as there is with most terms for political/economic philosophies. Their meaning is clear when introduced, but then expanded and appropriated by those who either want to associate their ideas with the original term's approval, or to attack the term by distorting its meaning. "Liberal", of course, is the classic bastardization.

So George is probably right not to describe conservatives as libertarian, but probably wrong to contrast his philosophy with it. "Libertarian" could mean anything from classical-liberal (limited but potent government) to anarcho-capitalist (almost everything privatised). He probably wants to contrast himself with the latter, but many people who view themselves as libertarians probably understand it as the former, and are therefore horrified that he appears to be distinguishing his views with a philosophy with which he probably agrees.

Mises and Hayek, of course, believed that classical liberals should try to reclaim the term "liberal", rather like homosexuals and Afro-Caribbeans have reclaimed "gay" and "nigger". I think it's hopeless, and the only way to avoid confusion is to coin a new term.

I suggest "nanarchism" ("minarchism" being a hybrid and already corrupted), and for the avoidance of doubt, it means what I say it means. ;-) Small government but not no government, strong, well-funded and well-organized in those areas in which government should properly be involved - protection of person, property and nation against coercion, fraud and physical harm, provision of a social safety-net as efficiently and with as little disincentive to work as possible, and provision and enforcement of mechanisms to internalize physical externalities equitably and rationally - and non-existent in all other aspects of life.

Oops. Forgot protecting competition, and providing for a very limited number of other public goods (e.g. roads).

Good post Bruno. I think you have hit the nail on its head with.

"So George is probably right not to describe conservatives as libertarian, but probably wrong to contrast his philosophy with it. "Libertarian" could mean anything from classical-liberal (limited but potent government) to anarcho-capitalist (almost everything privatised). He probably wants to contrast himself with the latter"

Spot on.

Roads and pavements could and absolutely should be run privately.The concept of 'public' is wooly and leads to irreconciliable conflicts between various parties because 'public' belongs to everybody and nobody.Water and food are not nationalised -or we would all be dead by now! So if such essential things as those are not nationalised why should our roads and pavements be?

I am surprised that there has been no response to Francis' accusation that Tories do walk by on the otherside in the instances of the destitution of failed Asylum seekers.

I remember well in March 2008 the Labour government's decision to deport failed Asylum Seeker Mehedi Kasemi to Iran, where as a gay man, whose partner had already been hanged, he too faced execution. Tory peers were instructed not to sign the Lib Dem led appeal to the Home Secretary(succesful). The Tory party lost the respect of many humanitarians - it was worse than walking by on the other side. They would have seen a teenager hanged !


"Public goods" has a special meaning in economic terms, which has little to do with whether they are essential or provided by the public sector. They are goods that are non-rivaled and non-excludable.

I agree there is a debate to be had about paying for roads. In my opinion, the transaction costs and civil-liberties implications exceed the questionable benefit of paying for roads through government-mandated tracking rather than through the petrol pump.

This is a classic example of the differences that exist between people who broadly believe in smaller government, but differ on the degree or implementation of the shrinkage. I claim the word "nanarchist" as the term to describe the philosophical position that supports the balance between private and public that I espouse. You may want to set out how you think the balance should be struck, and give it a name, or (if you think they match your philosophy sufficiently closely) associate your views with an existing term, like minarchism, or libertarianism, or anarcho-capitalism. Semantic clarity is unhelpful to politicians but helpful to reasoned debate.

Not a single Tory voice to defend their record on Asylum Seekers !! A Lib-Dem - Tory government ? You must be joking.

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