This blog is a political blog from a left-of-centre perspective. This is not specifically a party political blog, but does have a Lib Dem orientation. Constructive enagement with radical liberals, social democrats / democratic socialists and greens is particularly welcomed.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Clegg - a Social Democrat ?

Nick Clegg it is suggested on Jock Coates' blog is guilty of slandering libertarians. Certainly his response to a question about the differences between liberalism and libertarianism is less than enlightening. However, Andrew Withers of the LPUK loftily dismisses Nick as a social democrat. As if !

This seems the preferred insult of libertarian minded Lib Dems. In Tristan Mills' eyes I'm a social democrat. Charlotte Gore has implied that I feel that the Lib Dems aren't 'socialist' enough. Let's be clear, whilst the dominant philosophy that guides the Lib Dems is liberalism, the party was formed through amalgamation with a social democratic party, the SDP. It is not a 'pure' Liberal party. It certainly isn't a classical liberal, let alone libertarian, party. Why not accept this ? Is it not politically more honest to form or join a party that fits the latter philosophical bases, if that's what you believe ? Why be in a party whose modern day outlook and direction is not one you share ? Why bang your head continually against a political brick wall ? sometimes I have a sore head politically, but the other political brands would leave me with headaches too, so I carry on within the Lib Dem fold for now, at least.

It comes as a surprise to me that I allegedly have so much in common with Clegg, whom I not the greatest fan of by any means. How is Clegg not a liberal ?

Finally, surely the reason 'thickies' like me fail to understand libertarianism in any accessible way is because it seems to meen widely differing things to differing people within the libertarian family. Anyone care to explain in a digestable form what they feel libertarianisn is - and isn't. Seriously I am prepared to engage with this !


Blogger Tristan said...

I think us libertarians do accept the party is not even classically liberal. I rarely hear us complaining of it - except to point out where we disagree with others (which is to be expected).

As for you being a social democrat - in my understanding of the term you fit it.

As for libertarianism - like liberal there are many who claim the term for differing things (why don't you explain what you mean by liberal ;) )

Personally, I take two approaches:
Firstly there's the non-aggression principle (or zero-aggression principle) which is the basis of the libertarian theory of justice.
This holds that it is always wrong to initiate the use of force against another and the only legitimate use of force is in response to a direct use for force against you.

The other, is a broader, and probably more historical view - a libertarian is someone who wishes radical redistribution of power from the ruling classes (the state and plutocracy) to the masses.
That actually includes classical liberals and many modern ones, as well as anti-authoritarian socialists.
The unifying principle however is anti-authoritarianism and concern with equality of authority.

Unfortunately, there are those who use libertarian to mean a broadly pro-business attitude and others who are militaristic, social conservative nationalists. Whilst they are sometimes allies (they tend to be opposed to things like ID cards), but they also come across as massive jerks and Tory party shills :(

As for a libertarian society - there's differing views on how that would work, the biggest divides being between the anarchists and minarchists and between the (loosely defined) socialists and capitalists (or perhaps individualists and collectivists).

Personally, I think all libertarianism is necessarily individualist, but it should acknowledge that some people (perhaps even a majority) will seek a collective society voluntarily and respect that. The collision comes when people seek to force any societal arrangement upon others.

A last note: libertarianism is not atomistic. We view individuals as distinct entities with their own rights and desires and ability to act. We don't however reject society. Instead society is of the utmost importance, but it has no existence of its own, but is the arrangements which individuals make with each other.

There's lots more...
One day I may write my introduction to libertarianism (as I see it anyway ;) )

10:51 am GMT

Blogger Tristan said...

Oh yes.
I wouldn't call Clegg a social democrat...
He's on the liberal spectrum, although like most LibDem politicians he's a politician so has an interest in maintaining state power...

10:52 am GMT

Anonymous Jeremy Hargreaves said...

Roy Jenkins said that he was a social democrat because he was a libertarian. Not sure if that helps!

11:57 am GMT

Anonymous Andrew Withers (LPUK) said...

loftily dismisses - Cool

Not as loftily as both Cameron and Clegg conflating Libertarian with Libertine

10:40 am GMT

Blogger Barrie Wood said...

Hi Andrew,

Care to help me in understanding the difference betweeen libertine and libertarian ?



7:09 pm GMT


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