Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Not "social"; not "economic"; just liberal

As so often, Tristan has written a post that has elicited an answer to lengthy not to add to my blog. This time, he is discussing “the difference between what people call Social and Economic Liberalism”.

I have often thought that the divide between economic and social liberals is a false one, whipped up by the media and swallowed by a few too many within our own party.

In my view there is only one form of liberal: one that believes that individuals should be free to do whatever they want as long as it does not impinge on the freedom of others. In that fine libertarian dictum, that means "freedom in the bedroom and in the boardroom".

Those who wish to constrain economic freedom in the pursuit of social aims may be deeply moral people, and may be fired by rational beliefs, but they are not liberals. Conversely, those who champion corporate freedom but take a prurient approach to private behaviour are not liberals, either.

However, I think this issue goes further than how much faith one has in the state. I think it boils down to the faith one has in rationality: in this case, whether one believes that a few right-minded, well-intentioned, rational people, with the moral authority of the majority, is able to create and manage a better society than would occur if decision-making were devolved to the lowest possible level (which is usually the individual).

Sadly, history is littered with the corpses of those who did not conform to their allotted role in the planned society, while wealth beyond imagination has been squandered or foregone as a result of the errors of state planners, both mistaken and venal.

I do not believe that platonic guardians exist, or that anyone is better placed to decide what is in a sane and mature person’s interests than they are themselves. On the contrary, I believe that those who seek to do so are either deluded or self-interested. Others may think that this puts me in the “Economic” wing of my party. I think it just makes me a liberal.

Spot the difference



Hello. I'm not sure that you seem aware of the rich irony to be found in this paragraph of yours:

"In my view there is only one form of liberal: one that believes that individuals should be free to do whatever they want as long as it does not impinge on the freedom of others...."

A touch illiberal of you, surely? Unless you are prepared to concede, I suppose, that you are wrong, and that there are, in fact, many types of liberals and that they need no definition of what they choose to call themselves from you - just as long as they don't hurt you in the process, of course, and impinge on your freedom to talk gibberish.

Apart from that, we're sweet.

Good post.

Kind regards etc

(Oh come on, smile. ONE form of liberal? Really? Take a breather, son, you sound almost authoritarian in your desire to box us into neat categories. Sheesh. Let freedom reign and all that, no?)

Tom Papworth said...

What an odd comment!

I do not see how it is illiberal to define liberalism as I have, especially as it is in the long tradition of Locke, Burke, Mill etc.

Were I to prevent you from defining it differently, or calling yourself a liberal, that would be authoritarian. This is merely a comment. Clearly, it has upset you. Perhaps you need to develop a thicker skin.


Holy stramash, Batman, it's a bloodbath to be sure.

Whilst it is undoubtedly true that I have a thin skin - although not in these matters to hand - I am also just a bit of a dick, as it happens.

But please hold your fire, spikey Liberal, I merely forgot to pack my exclamation marks on my last visit. If it helps, look again at my first response and imagine it littered with smileys and various other ghastly signposts to levity. Especially after the word "gibberish". Loads of them, please.

Carnage, and no two ways about it. And all of it my fault - no two ways about that, either. Sorry, as I read it again I can see how it must look and how I must sound - not a pretty sight.

No malice intended, no insults being hurled. Rest easy, it was just a joke gone disastrously - sensationally - wrong. If you'll have me back, I'll mind how I go in the future.

And it WAS a good post. Phew.

Kind regards etc....

Tom Papworth said...

A lesson to all in the delicate art of writing emails, texts and blog comments.

I was writing, after all, about my hope that there could be one, undivided liberal movement. I would hate to think that my post had in itself driven a wedge between people.