Skip to main content

Peace, Retrenchment, Reform

Much discussion in the blogosphere about political identities. In particular much discussion about party political identities. In a world where politicians become followers of opinion, rather than opinion formers, it becomes inevitable that there is much pressure to conform and thus create identikit policies. The problem with this Uberpragmatism is that it effectively undermines ideological coherence. As for the origins of this huge social change- we can point to the increasingly individual way that people are choosing to live their lives. The group ethos of the industrial society has been undermined by our increasing ability to use technology to create tailored solutions for individual choices. As we create ever greater choice in television, diet or leisure, then we should expect to see ever greater individuality in politics too. Certainly the first casualty of the end of the industrial society was the intellectual death of Socialism. The fall of the Soviet system- that non plus ultra of group society- reminded us that "class" could no longer be used as a meaningful signifier. Fukayama's "End of History", could equally have been titled: "The end of Class struggle".

So in hindsight we can look back at the1970s, which seemed to prefigure the triumph of Communism- with the Soviets gaining in South East Asia Africa and the Middle east- as the point where the Soviet system reached Paul Kennedy's "imperial overstretch". The West, faced with the economic meltdown of the twin oil shocks, was forced to reinvent itself- smaller companies, more rapid product cycles and above all, a more individual response to customers. Thus, the emergence of a post industrial "service sector". As information technology has evolved, the ability to process information about customers has grown exponentially. The result has been that political parties in common with the rest of society, knowing far more about their potential supporters, are trying to offer tailored solutions.

It won't work though. It looks false, because it is false.

The increasing individuality of personal choices makes politics far more complicated, yet political leaders have been afraid to engage in debate on key issues, because there are few clear messages that can be given. The mass ideologies at least had the advantage of clarity.

Yet I remain an ideologue. Liberalism is not a universal ideology as Socialism was.Neither is Liberalism a prescriptive ideology, as Conservatism remains- and yes, Social Conservatives do believe in quite strong limits to freedoms. In particular Liberalism recognizes the limits to the freedom of action of political leaders- these are both practical, because the state is now too complicated to master, and moral, since it is to be desired that personal freedom should not be abridged.

As a result, it proposes to reduce the activity of the state to a manageable level. This was what the nineteenth century Liberal Party used to call "Retrenchment". The 2005 manifesto of the Liberal Democrats contained more proposals to abolish laws and regulations than any other political party. Now we propose to restrict the state by reducing its call upon taxation. We continue to be socially Liberal: No ID cards and reducing discrimination against groups. We continue to believe that War was the worst option in Iraq. We remain political Liberals: changing the structure of administration and government to bring greater accountability. This is what the Liberals used to call "Reform".

Peace, Retrenchment, Reform- and always with the rights of individuals at the heart of our ideas. These key principles are what make modern Liberalism such a potent force. I believe that they will only grow, as the directionless Conservatives and the intellectually pointless Labour party fails to understand the nature of our post modern society.

As I write this from the post-Soviet City of Tallinn, I feel more confident than ever that the ideas of Liberalism have much practical validity- as I have said before, Estonia is the poster child of a modern Liberal Society. Liberalism Works .

Uberpragmatism has already failed under Blair- and would fail under Cameron.

Comments

Bernie Hughes said…
It's refreshing to see an openly ideological approach to politics, and one where a sense of pride in liberalism shines through. The analysis is sound too. But I'd suggest that we have to find a way to say the same thing in simpler words!

Popular posts from this blog

Cicero ReDux

By Special Request of Baroness Scott and Mark Valladares... Cicero's Songs returns: bigger, longer and uncut.
October 1st marked the half way point of the Estonian Presidency of the European Union.  Perhaps for many people such an anniversary is of passing interest at best.  Yet the conduct of the Estonian Presidency is reinforcing just how forward looking and innovative the most northerly of the Baltic States has become.
Estonia is a country that wants to live in the future, and with its openness and innovation, that future seems a lot closer than almost anywhere else in Europe
It is not that Estonia does not “do” the past: the picturesque cobbled streets of old Tallinn have tourist crowds a-plenty enjoying the mediaeval architecture in an Indian summer of sunshine and blue skies.  The real point is that Estonia refuses to be a prisoner of its past. Lennart Meri, Estonia’s President in the 1990s- who spent years of his childhood in Siberia- once told me that the country had to conc…

The American National nightmare becomes a global nightmare

It is a basic contention of this blog that Donald J Trump is not fit for office.

A crooked real estate developer with a dubious past and highly questionable finances. he has systematically lied his way into financial or other advantage. His personal qualities include vulgarity, sexual assault allegations and fraudulent statements on almost every subject. 

He lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes.

He has, of course, been under criminal investigation practically since before he took the oath of office. The indictment of some of closest advisers is just the beginning. His track record suggests that in due course there is no action he will not take, whether illegal or unconstitutional in order to derail his own inevitable impeachment and the indictments that must surely follow the successful investigation of Robert Mueller into his connections with Russia.

However, all of that is a matter for the American people. 

It is also a matter for the American people that Trump is cheating…

In praise of off-shore tax havens

The last few years has seen a spate of "scandals" about the use of off-shore tax havens. The hacking and subsequent leaking of data about who does and does not hold assets in off-shore jurisdictions has become an old perennial in the British press, rather like the "COLD weather happens in winter and QUITE HOT weather happens in summer", whose alarmist capital letter laced headlines are such a lazy part of contemporary "journalism". 

The increasing sophistication of the hackers, whether Russian-inspired or not, has resulted in a steady trickle of information becoming a torrent. After the relatively filleted release of data in the so-called "Panama Papers", the data release of the "Paradise Papers" is even larger.  Of course, just natural curiosity dictates that the off-shore ownership, or even just "ownership", of assets is of general public interest.  Celebrities, from the Royal family to the cast of Mrs Brown's Boys, are …