Dominic Carman writes… Why I want to be the Liberal Democrat London mayoral candidate for 2012

The Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor faces enormous challenges: an uphill task on many fronts. It will be very tough. But I’m used to tough fights, having contested the Barking seat at the general election last year and the Barnsley Central by-election earlier this month. To borrow a phrase, London needs someone with muscular liberalism.

I believe I have the right combination of political commitment, intellectual vigour, business acumen and international experience, which would serve the party and the city well. Some may see me as a usurper, an upstart, an underdog, but I recognise the obvious requirements for a high calibre mayoral candidate: someone with gravitas and credibility; someone who will effectively promote Liberal Democrat values; someone who will forcefully challenge Boris and Ken; someone with new ideas who can do an outstanding job for London and for Londoners, both at home and abroad. This makes me determined to fight to win the Lib Dem nomination.

Who am I and what will I do?

Educated at Manchester Grammar School and Durham University, I have lived all my adult life in London, apart from three years working in Hong Kong. I am 49. Married for nineteen years, we live in West Norwood. The only two cheeky girls in my life are my wife, Rachel and my daughter, Isobel. Like many Londoners, I work hard as a family man to provide for my children – 11, 15 and 17 – who attend local schools.

As a start, I want to create new initiatives for Londoners: free travel on buses and tubes on a Sunday, a programme of work placements for teenagers in London’s schools and a London Mayor awards programme, recognising the contributions of individual Londoners to their local area.

Three initiatives as Mayor:

  1. Free travel on buses and tubes on Sunday in London. At present, Sunday buses and tubes are largely empty on many routes. Free travel will provide a boost for shops, for markets, for tourist attractions and provide an opportunity for Londoners to enjoy more of their city at leisure – whether it is shopping, watching or playing sport or music, visiting parks, museums, galleries, the cinema or just travelling to see friends and family in different parts of the city.
    To finance this, a feasibility study will examine the shortfall in revenue to be financed either by a small increase of £1 in the daily congestion charge from Monday to Friday, or alternatively, a weekend congestion charge of £5 per day for Saturday and Sunday. Many Londoners do not have or cannot afford cars, nor can they afford leisure visits into the centre of town. This policy will give something back to all Londoners – a free day out.
  2. Drive an initiative for internships for 16-18 year olds from London’s state schools. The 200 largest companies in London will be approached to sign up to a formal programme of 1-2 weeks’ work placement opportunities for 16-18 year olds across the capital, with an average of 100 internships per company each year. Teenagers in state schools are at a disadvantage compared to those in private schools, where many use parental connections to gain high level work experience. This initiative will provide a formal work placement programme for 20,000+ teenagers in London every year.
  3. London Mayor awards. An annual awards programme for those who have made a significant contribution to the life of London – in public services, charity work, schools, hospitals, sports and in business. To be managed by the Mayor’s office, this would recognise the contributions of many Londoners to the life of London, which might otherwise go unnoticed.

What is my relevant experience?

For ten years, I managed a variety of international publishing and conference businesses in London, Europe and Hong Kong. At the world’s largest conference company, I was Head of Conferences Europe, simultaneously managing offices in Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, Milan, Amsterdam, Brussels and Vienna, while based in London. I also spent three years in Hong Kong running a substantial publishing company.

Accordingly, I have significant experience of managing businesses in London and other international cities. I also started and launched my own magazine, London Business Review. Credibility in business comes from having done it yourself: I can talk to businesses in London, small or large, and engage them in language that they understand.

I now write for the national press and contribute to various television and radio programmes. Since 2005, I have actively campaigned against the BNP, supported by my research as Nick Griffin’s unofficial biographer. I stood as a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate at the General Election in 2010, taking the fight to Griffin in the Labour stronghold of Barking. In this capacity, Griffin acknowledged that I did real electoral harm both to him and to the BNP.

Recently, I fought the Barnsley Central by-election in very difficult circumstances, where the Lib Dem vote collapsed and the party finished sixth, although only 980 votes separated third from sixth place. In taking on these two challenging, very safe Labour seats, I have learned a great deal about tough campaigning, fighting my corner and that of the party, in adversity. I recently wrote for the Guardian about the lessons to be learned.

It has made me stronger, wiser, and more determined to use my experience in taking the Liberal Democrat argument forward at the mayoral candidate level, given the opportunity. In presenting Londoners with a serious, positive alternative to the Boris and Ken show, I will then listen to Londoners and deliver on their behalf.

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This entry was posted in London and Op-eds.


  • Certainly better than Lembit…

  • “Some may see me as a usurper, an upstart, an underdog …”

    You look more like a masochist from where I’m standing.

  • i would vote for you 🙂

    London is far away from Barnsley though, so cant even come help you campaign or i would do that too 🙂

  • paul barker 23rd Mar '11 - 4:36pm

    I am sure you would make a good Mayor but the problem is that no-one has heard of you & The Media wont be interested. Ken, Boris & Lembit already have a profile & the Media know they can generate stories.
    You will almost certainly win the Nomination & then come a bad 3rd.

  • David from Ealing 23rd Mar '11 - 4:45pm

    And Lembit would come better than a bad third???

  • You’d have a bit more credibility if you hadn’t used your Daily Mail article to brand everyone in Barnsley as racist, homophobic and bigoted.

  • leviticus18_23 23rd Mar '11 - 5:10pm

    3rd…? Won’t there be a Green or UKIP candidate..?

    Free Sunday Travel –
    It’d be nice to get on a train in the morning that isn’t rammed. A train that runs on time. A service that doesn’t break down (signal failures) once a week. And that doesn’t cost a fortune. The last thing that anyone is going to want is an increase in Ken’s Tax by £1 or extending it to Saturday. Do you think the central London traders will like Saturday congestion charges? Probably as much as anyone wanted the western extension… Really, you want to look at fixing what we’ve got before you start giving away free travel.

    Internships –
    The largest companies probably already do internships – for the children of the senior management team.

    More awards –
    Great. But, there are plenty around already. Sponsor and existing scheme.

    What people want is an improved public transport system and more actual police on the streets. But that’s what Ken and Boris always say they are working on and doing.

    We have a Conservative mayor. At the moment, I don’t think he’s got anything to worry about.

  • What AndrewR says

  • Just a point on the transport question. Much of SW London isn’t covered by the tube – there isn’t a tube station in the London Borough of Sutton, for example – and therefore the options are limited. Consideration should be given, I think, to extending this to trains (at least where there isn’t a tube station) and also to the Croydon Trams too?

  • “You will almost certainly win the Nomination & then come a bad 3rd.”

    Considering Brian Paddick polled less than 10% in 2008 when the Lib Dems were at 17-18% in the national polls, I should think hanging on to third place will be the main aim of the campaign.

  • It is good to see some interest from an activist. I particularly like where Dominic states

    On everything from social justice to education, taxation to health, defence to welfare, Lib Dems must dare to be different from the Conservatives.

    The basic thrust of Dominics argument is that the Lib Dems need to be different from our coalition partners.

    I have a serious issue therefore with the core policy of ‘muscular liberalism’ which is articulated in the first paragraph and defined in the following paragraphs since it is a Conservative policy,

    given muted support by Nick Clegg, which seeks to blur the difference between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.

    As Dominic states

    The Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor faces enormous challenges: an uphill task on many fronts. It will be very tough. But I’m used to tough fights, having contested the Barking seat at the general election last year and the Barnsley Central by-election earlier this month. To borrow a phrase, London needs someone with muscular liberalism.

    Could we have a confirmation that this campaign is not going to be about ‘muscular liberalism’ ?

    Lembits left wing and libertarian campaign is a clear example of ‘daring to be different’, unfortunately ‘muscular liberalism’ is ‘daring to be the same’, and I can’t see Dominic sticking with it so it would be good to find out what the actual campaign slogan will be.

    Ed Joyce

  • Dominic Carman 23rd Mar '11 - 9:29pm


    I purposefully used the phrase ‘muscular liberalism’ – rightly reclaiming it from David Cameron for the Lib Dems – not as an endorsement of his sentiments towards multiculturalism, but to reflect the combative, robust style in which the mayoral campaign needs to be fought. It was used with a sense of intentional irony.

    The serious message is that we have a fight on our hands.



  • Dave Warren 23rd Mar '11 - 9:37pm

    I think that the problem for Dominic is he will take a while to shake off the
    candidate who came 6th in Barnsley tag.

    The media would not stop talking about it and i think for that reason i would
    reluctantly suggest he doesn’t stand.

    My view is that one of the candidates from our assembly list should double
    up as a Mayoral candidate.

  • George Kendall 23rd Mar '11 - 9:56pm

    We shouldn’t be looking for a celebrity for the Lib Dem candidate for the Mayor of London. It’s a serious job, and Londoners will want us to put forward a serious candidate with the experience necessary to run an important organisation.

    Dominic is an excellent communicator, highly intelligent, principled and honest. He worked incredibly hard in Barnsley with almost no support. I think he’d make a good candidate.

  • Dominic,

    I don’t believe that the sense of irony was clear, but am happy to hear the clarification. Am I right in assuming that you will be supporting freedom of speech and opposing the banning of ‘hate preachers’ from speaking (that’s what muscular liberalism is – it is banning illiberal people from speaking hence the requirement for muscle). John Stuart Mill argues that having ‘manic street preachers’ shows up this hate for the nonesense that it is. In my view we should try to avoid ‘muscular’ liberalism ‘liberal’ conservatism and other similar ideas that distort the classical liberal views that are the foundation of our party. We should support freedom of speech unless it is completely unfeasible for a good reason such as direct incitement to a mob. We should be trying to avoid restrictions to freedom of speech not making up new justifications for it.

    The party has a right to know whether you follow a left libertarian viewpoint. That could give us a distinct identity. If not what is proposed that gives us a genuine distinct identity in the way that left libertianism would ? I don’t see anything other than a mish mash of ideas coming from other proposed candidates

    Policies ultimately come from the party, what makes a difference is the type of liberalism that candidates back. I have been supporting Lembit because he has been recognised as the most libertarian of the leading figures in the party and that is a word that clearly identifies the likely policy approach an indivdidual will adopt. If not it requires a menu of ideas that will be hard to articulate.

    Best regards

  • Dominic Carman 23rd Mar '11 - 11:09pm


    It might be interesting for you if I outlined my thoughts on John Stuart Mill, ‘the struggle between Liberty and Authority’ , the development of liberal thought over time, and the semantic difference between ‘muscular liberalism’ as conceived by David Cameron, and the more direct interpretation, which I put upon the words in my opening paragraph – used, as I have explained, with ironic intent. But I fear it would extremely tedious for other readers of this blog!

    I am not ducking the questions you raise, merely suggesting that this may not be the forum in which to engage in such a dialogue. Perhaps if there are some hustings at some point, you can fire some questions at me to see who is more libertarian – Lembit or me – and then make up your own mind.



  • “But I fear it would extremely tedious for other readers of this blog!”

    It’s not likely that people would find it tedious if a politician gave a straight answer to a question – God knows it happens rarely enough!

    And it’s more than a little odd to see the suggestion that “this may not be the forum in which to engage in such a dialogue” from the person who started the dialogue here in the first place …

  • Dominic,
    Your comments have been useful and I hope that the dialogue is of interest to other LDV readers. I was not wishing to accuse you of ducking the issue on freedom of speech and muscular liberalism. I accept that there are legitimate reasons for not stating whether you would oppose Cameroonian muscular liberalism’s interpretation of freedom of speech in favour of a literal interpretation of that offered by John Stuart Mill at the moment. I hope, however, that you do come out against this aspect of ‘muscular liberalism’. Making a stand against muscular liberalism as you indicate you might but do not explicitly state that you will would certainly differentiate us from the Conservatives. Also it might give them a bit more understanding of the true meaning of the word liberal which they repeatedly try to add words to inadvertantly creating oxymorons.
    Ed Joyce

  • Let’s see if he passes the test.

    1) Is he a Lib Dem? Yes.
    2) Has he ever been to London? Yes.
    3) Is he Lembit Opik? No.

    Hmm, sounds a little overqualified, really.

  • So rather than further transport-related taxation going towards a more comfortable, reliable service (y’know, rather than being jammed in like sardines on a system that look straight out of 1984), Londoners will feel the amazing benefit of boosting sales for shops and markets on Sundays. Liberalism, indeed.

  • Simon McGrath 24th Mar '11 - 5:47am


  • Grammar Police 24th Mar '11 - 8:04am

    @ Richy – agree! Straight-talking and not afraid of a fight – that’s what we need in a Mayoral Candidate!

  • Dominic Carman 24th Mar '11 - 8:18am

    Ed/Red Orange,

    Some straight answers to simple questions:

    1) Would I describe myself as a libertarian? Yes
    2) Do I have strong reservations about Cameron’s ideology of muscular liberalism? Yes

    My philosophy is best summed up, not by Mill, but by the words – often incorrectly ascribed to Voltaire – I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.. The obvious caveat here is anything which breaks the law.

    I hope that helps.



  • Lester Holloway 24th Mar '11 - 8:37am

    Nothing about London’s diversity in Carman’s article. Is he aiming for sixth place again?

  • Dominic Carman 24th Mar '11 - 8:57am


    I would hope that my years spent fighting the BNP speak to my commitment in every respect towards diversity. The results of the 2011 census, when published, may well show that the majority of Londoners are now themselves immigrants, or the descendants of recent immigrants. London is built on immigration and it will continue to be so. That is a key part of the strength of the city and should be celebrated and championed at every opportunity.

    A key part of the Mayor’s job is to sell London overseas. The diversity of the capital’s population, and tolerance of its people, is a crucial element where London competes with other major business cities. It is a message which I will broadcast as widely as possible in my campaign.



  • I find your initiatives quite disappointing. As others have pointed out, the transport system needs other improvements made before we could consider free travel on Sundays which would be extremely expensive. I’m not sure which buses you use but the buses I use on Sundays certainly aren’t empty. Why not campaign on Caroline Pidgeon’s excellent One Hour Bus Ticket instead which would encourage greater use of buses.

    20,000 internships a year is a nice idea but 1-2 week placements aren’t going to improve the chances for a lot of teenagers, particularly those who may be put going to college due to the scrapping of the EMA. Surely apprenticeships would be better?

    London Mayor Awards? Seems kind of unnecessary when you consider that the Mayor and Assembly already hold a number of receptions for the sorts of groups you mention. What disappoints me most is that you haven’t mentioned the fact that some London boroughs have the highest levels of deprivation in the UK (Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets) and some of the worst housing and overcrowding. Or that London has some of the worst air quality in Europe. And you don’t seem to have mentioned crime either despite it being something that falls within the Mayor’s remit and is a concern to an awful lot of people.

    I’d be interested in hearing your policies on these issues.

  • Dominic,

    It is really good to hear you describe yourself as a libertarian. I also appreciate your use of Voltaire which I think also will resonate with the party. If we are to carve out our own identity the way to do this under the banner of libertarianism. This will differentiate us from the Conservative Party.

    I personally believe that the further left we are on the scale the more that we differentiate ourselves from the Conservatives, however the key is pursuing libertarian ideals. I don’t know if you are from the left or right, however there are many good libertarians on the right of the party and this allows a broad coalition to be built. Boris states that he is ‘basically a libertarian’ but he is not in my opinion and I think he feels vulnerable as he has engaged in wasteful spending and has done little to extend liberty. Banning drinking on the tube is an example of a more authoritarian approach. Also little has been done to resolve the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 demo.

    Personally I back Lembit as he has been an active party member for two decades and has been shown to be a genuine libertarian. Also he has the high profile that we need to avoid the party being drowned out and has shown an enthusiasm for this for nearly a year. The policy issues too are important however and I welcome the libertarian stance you have adopted.

    Ed Joyce

  • Dominic Carman 24th Mar '11 - 9:36am


    I fully recognise the levels of deprivation in Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets, where poor housing and overcrowding are commonplace: I have seen some of that at first hand. Similarly, London’s air quality needs significant improvement, and of course, crime and fear of crime, is a major issue for many people in the capital.

    Rather than give instant, glib, one line solutions to these complex problems, I will, in due course, be producing a mini- manifesto which will properly address these and other areas of policy. I hope that makes sense.



  • I think it would be very unwise for the Liberal Democrats to accept you as their Mayoral Candidate. Support for the Lib Dems is only at 9% throughout the country. If you lost the London Mayoral Election and then blamed the electorate that could wipe out the entire Lib Dem support in the country at a stroke!

  • “A key part of the Mayor’s job is to sell London overseas. The diversity of the capital’s population, and tolerance of its people, is a crucial element where London competes with other major business cities. It is a message which I will broadcast as widely as possible in my campaign.”

    Unless they don’t vote for you in which case they’ll suddenly change to being a bunch of narrow-minded bigots.

  • Dominic Carman 24th Mar '11 - 11:34am


    Most Barnsley people are not against foreigners. But the strong anti-foreigner sentiment I heard from a significant minority does no more than reflect the same story as told by three different journalists in three different national newspapers less than two years ago –

    the Times,
    the Guardian
    and the Sun

    The vitriolic comment I received on the street was partly because I am known to have campaigned vigourously over several years against Griffin and the BNP. If people attack you for doing and saying the right thing, then you know that your message is working.



  • Dominic Carman and Ed Joyce,

    This libertarian proclamation that many on here throw about; could one of you explain what you mean by it? It seems that many think of it as no more than a word to express a higher commitment to liberalism. It isn’t

    The main proponent of such a doctrine that I know of would be Robert Nozick who claimed that personal identity was defined by a property relationship of ownership of the self (similar to the Marxist doctrine of self-ownership and the right to to the full product of ones labour). The libertarian view of Nozick argues that this self-ownership extends to an individual’s property (which inevitably leads to the conclusion that the individual should value his tea-pot equally as much a part of themself as their arm) and thereby concludes that all taxation is enforced slavery. Thus he concludes that societies which tax for any redistributive motive are immoral slave states. This means in practice that there should be no state funding of education, no health care funding, no legal aid, no green taxes, no public services of any kind unless you count Nozick’s fudged argument that would allow for policing and military. Is this what you mean by it? Or, are you one its proponents that reach the opposite conclusion; that self-ownership leads logically to socialism?

    I think you should let the electorate know whether you are a socialist, a free-market radical against all taxation for anything other than funding the army and police, or whether it’s just another buzz-word.

  • Dominic Carman 24th Mar '11 - 11:58am

    I am no theoretician, but I favour the Boaz view:

    1) Libertarianism: each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others.

    2) Libertarians defend each person’s right to life, liberty, and property—rights that people have naturally, before governments are created.

    Hope that make sense.


  • Thanks for the reply Dominic.

    “Most Barnsley people are not against foreigners. But the strong anti-foreigner sentiment I heard from a significant minority does no more than reflect the same story as told by three different journalists in three different national newspapers less than two years ago”

    The problem is that in your article for the Mail you made sweeping generalisations* about the entire population of the constituency. I’ve had a quick read of the stories you linked to – people’s reasons for voting BNP seem to revolve around being under-cut by immigrant workers, the parliamentary expenses scandal, unemployment, a perception that the mainstream parties do not represent their concerns and are condescending towards them, etc (although admittedly it’s unlikely that anyone will admit to wanting to vote BNP because of their racism). These are all legitimate issues and it is, above all else, the perception that mainstream politicians do not care about the electorate’s concerns that reinforces the vote for extremist parties. Your article in the Mail provides the confirmation of their bias.

    “The vitriolic comment I received on the street was partly because I am known to have campaigned vigourously over several years against Griffin and the BNP. If people attack you for doing and saying the right thing, then you know that your message is working. ”

    You came 6th; I’m not sure I would describe that as working. Have you had a look at the most popular comments at the end of your Mail article?: Your message doesn’t seem to have convinced the readers.

    *”The message resonates. Barnsley is 98 per cent white. Diversity and difference are not welcome here. Local sentiment is summarised by one man who tells me: ‘No one is gay in Barnsley. If they are, they leave.’ “

  • It makes sense but it still could imply a lot that would not attract those who would describe themselves as liberal rather than libertarian.

    1) So not Mill’s view, that exercising one’s rights should not harm another? Or, is it only possible to do harm to another by disrespecting their equality of rights?

    2) Begs a lot of questions. For example, if the right to life implies the right to the means by which to live then absolute property rights are impossible? If the right to the means by which to live is not implied then can the right to life have any meaning if property is already attached in its entirety? Before governments are created was property common, equally distributed or was it simply up for grabs?

  • Dominic Carman 24th Mar '11 - 12:34pm


    My article is no more than a summary of my personal experiences as the by-election candidate in Barnsley: a significant minority of voters expressed strong anti-foreigner/anti-immigrant sentiment towards me, without prompting. Simply pretending otherwise is not acceptable. It is an uncomfortable truth, but the truth nonetheless – and not one which should remain unspoken or swept under the carpet – even if I receive hostile comment for holding a mirror up to what voters were telling me.

    Of course, Barnsley has an annual Diversity Festival and Gay Pride, but for the last two years it has also had a large BNP stand, actively managed in the centre of town every Saturday afternoon – and no-one complains. It is a stain on the town’s reputation, but no-one says so, or at least not very loudly. I do, and I am prepared to take the criticism for doing so. As you will appreciate, in London, Birmingham, Liverpool or Leeds, such a stand would not last five minutes.



  • Old Codger Chris 24th Mar '11 - 5:05pm

    Very refreshing that Dominic hasn’t just blogged and left it at that, he has engaged in a grown-up manner with those who have posted their comments.

    Some posts have suggested that the party needs someone more high profile to stand for mayor. Boris and Ken are certainly that, and being a bit eccentric helps them get publicity. But there’s eccentricity and there’s Lembit. Being Mayor of London is a big job and it’s vital that the candidate can be taken seriously by at least some of the electorate.

  • Those criticising Dominic for his article remind me of many of the No to AV campaign arguments. Yes Doninic’s article might appear slightly Ill-judged in hindsight, but rejecting one candidate because of a slightly dubious media appearance hardly translates into a reason to support the other.

    Put another way, in the kingdom of the clumsy public appearance the man who is not Lembit Öpik is king!

    I think Dominic would probably do well to talk about policy and campaign ideas to the London exec, the GLA group and campaigners out in the boroughs – where he would be welcomed with open arms. To my knowledge no other interested party has approached these groups to work with them.

    One of the complaints around about Brian’s candidacy is his tendency to make up and announce policy on the hoof and we don’t want that again!

    On the whole, though, Dominic strikes me as someone who is willing to be part of the wider campaign and who will not shy away from the difficult areas – such as those in East London where extremist parties have supplanted us as the main opposition to Labour and must be challenged.

    Good luck to him.

  • Dominic Carman 24th Mar '11 - 6:11pm

    Thank you, Benjamin. Sound advice.



  • Norfolk Boy 24th Mar '11 - 6:35pm

    Also what Andrew R said. After Barnsley, I’m amazed you have the brassneck.

  • JRC,

    There are strands of libertarian, and they exist in almost every political party. Many, however, cite Mill as the best proponent of libertarianism. Mill is an improtant thinker because he is one of the founders of the Liberal party. His book ‘On Liberty’ is the book of office of the party president. For that reason we should as a party, look to Mill to create a common view of libertarianism and not to Nozick. Mills core belief is ‘over his own body a man is sovereign’. This rules out almost all restrictions on freedom of speech and is not easily compatible with muscular liberalism. Libertarianism is not simply about personal freedom, it is also about the smaller state. This has a bearing on the level of taxation that should be levied. Mill is not perfect but the principles that he articulates in On Liberty are those which the libertarians that I work with tend towards.

    Personally I am a geolibertarian. Geolibertarianism is a fusion of Georgism and libertarianism. Georgism states that tax should be moved away from labour and onto land. That would mean a larger council tax and lower income tax. It should be possible to remove income tax for average earners using Georgist policies. Georgists are often thought to be on the left of the party, which I would personally agree with. Georgism significantly influenced the party policy at the last election. Unfortunately the Conservatives are vehemently opposed to Georgism so the mansion tax was lost, although the raising of the tax threshold is taking place. Georgism could represent a major point of differentiation for the party in it’s desire to carve an identity separate from the Conservatives.

    Although Nozick raises very important arguments I would caution against using him as a starting point for Liberal Democrat libertarianism. This is because Nozick was largely a response to Rawls, and Rawls is also a liberal thinker, supported I would assume by many social liberals in the party.

    One other point that might not be obvious to non political theorists is that JRC shows a high level of knowledge of libertarianism. Nozick is a well known theorist but less well known than Mill. In this debate Mill would have been the obvious choce but JRC chose the example of Nozick who advocates a version of libertarianism that is more compatible with the right wing views of the philosophy. Arguments between different types of libertarians may surface here but my guess is that JRC is a supporter of Rawls. I hope that he will enlighten us as to whether this is the case. If so then the true debate can commence which is between Rawls and Mill rather than Rawls and Nozick.

    Finally for those who don’t know Boaz, he is closely connected to the Cato Institute, a US libertarian think tank. This implies a type of libertarianism linked to Hayek, i.e. of the right. This leads me to see Dominic’s philosophy as on the right of the party. Despite this what unites libertarians, especially in the party, is more than what divides them so people should not assume hostility across the left right divide.

    I am not a socialist and do believe in free markets. I have not been accused of using libertarianism as a ‘buzz word’ in the past, that would be a subjective judgement of others.

    Ed Joyce

  • Alex Macfie 24th Mar '11 - 8:27pm

    I agree with @Anna on the one hour bus ticket, but I think it should be extended to cover transfer between bus and train/Tube. For example, a bus journey taken immediately after a Tube or train journey would be free, while a rail journey immediately following a bus journey would involve paying the difference (so either way, the total cost is that of the more expensive leg). This sort of arrangement is common in city-wide integrated transport systems. It would be particularly useful in outer London, where bus+rail is often the quickest way of getting from A to B, due perhaps to the radial nature of London’s rail links, and the often poor interchange between lines that do cross in the outer boroughs (rail lines in Ruislip and Acton being particular examples). Improving these rail interchanges is also something that should be given serious consideration.

  • Dominic Carman 24th Mar '11 - 8:31pm


    Yes, Boaz is a VP at Cato. But please don’t read too much into that: it’s his clear definitions of libertarianism I like, not his entire school of thought. If you want to know where my Lib Dem politics are, I would suggest the centre – we’re not all polarised into left or right. What matters, especially now, is that we look forward as Lib Dems rather than sideways, surely.

    best regards


  • Alex Macfie 24th Mar '11 - 8:49pm

    @KL: I agree that any free travel scheme involving the Tube would also have to involve National Rail, or it would cause a repeat of the trouble Red Ken had over “Fare’s fair” (and I do write as one of those people who live in SW London with only National Rail and no Tube). If this is not possible, then politically it would be much safer to restrict free Sunday travel to buses (it would also be cheaper).

  • Alex Macfie 24th Mar '11 - 8:51pm

    There seems to be a lot of discussion about ideology in this thread. But surely running a metropolitan authority should be largely about practical issues (like transport links) and less about ideology.

  • Dominic Carman 24th Mar '11 - 9:17pm


    Your points are entirely valid. I am answering all blog questions, practical and philosophical, but of course the day to day job of of Mayor is a hands on, pragmatic, business management role.

    In terms of the free bus/tube proposal, the first step would be a feasibility study, which would examine all aspects of costs, logistics and consequences. I interviewed Lord Alexander QC shortly before his death ( he advised Ken on Fare’s Fair up to the House of Lords’ Appeal) and am very conscious of the practical/legal issues.



  • Dominic, I have a question, actually two questions. Twice you have stood for Parliamentary Election, once in Barking and then in Barnsley Central, and twice you have finished behind the BNP. I recognise these were both very tough fights, but for someone who has stood on a staunchly anti-fascist platform. Do you not consider this a failure?

    If selected as the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London. What will you do differently to ensure you don’t finish behind the BNP and more importantly actually win?

  • toryboysnevergrowup 24th Mar '11 - 10:18pm

    Why should any Londoner who wishes to see a Mayor who is prepared to stand up for London when it has different interests from the Coalition Government support a candidate who has noticeably failed to strike any note of dissent from that Government’s policies in his recent byelection campaign or in the posting above?

    In the extremely unlikley event of you becoming Mayor (quite frankly Lembit has more chance and he would be a more entertaining candidate) where do you think it would be appropraite to push the Government for changes in its polices towards London?

  • Dominic Carman 24th Mar '11 - 10:34pm


    Good question. I chose to stand in two seats where the BNP has had its highest national vote.

    Barking is one of the safest Labour seats in England. But in 2005, the BNP had scored their highest vote in the country in Barking (16.7%); the Lib Dems were some way behind in fourth. In 2006, the BNP won 12 seats on the council from Labour – there were no Lib Dems, Tories or independent councillors – winning more than 20% of the vote .

    In 2010, the BNP committed significant money and manpower to the seat to back up Nick Griffin’s challenge – more than 100 BNP activists were on the ground and at least 8 BNP leaflets/brochures were delivered across the constituency during the campaign plus a special 16 page newspaper.

    I stood in Barking in 2010 against Griffin because of my background campaigning against the BNP as a journalist. I ran a largely one man campaign with no money and no local party to speak of. No Lib Dem election address was delivered. The total budget for my campaign was £750. My mandate was to damage Griffin and the BNP via the media, which I did relentlessly for two months, as well as campaign by myself door to door. Although I came fourth – as the Lib Dem candidate did in 2005 – Griffin lost ground despite a huge BNP effort plus all twelve BNP councillors lost their council seats. So yes, a victory for democracy, if not directly for the Lib Dems. The Barking result had much wider ramifications: it helped to put the BNP into serious decline as an electoral force.

    Barnsley Central had the highest BNP vote of any town in England at the 2009 European elections. It is one of the reasons I applied to be the candidate.
    the Times,
    the Guardian
    and the Sun

    The reasons for the Lib Dem result in Barnsley have been fully discussed elsewhere so I will not repeat them.

    In truth, no objective observer would say that the Lib Dems ever stood any real chance of doing well in Barking or Barnsley Central. The fact that they were the two highest performing seats in the country for the BNP – at the national and European elections – and that the BNP vote went down when I stood in Barking and went down when I stood in Barnsley is some comfort.

    If, in very unpromising Lib Dem territory, I have helped damage the BNP brand and dissuaded people from voting BNP while wearing a Lib Dem badge, that has been a worthwhile endeavour. Of course, BNP voters don’t often switch to the Lib Dems: in Barnsley the UKIP vote went uo from 5% to 12%, and they came second. But to see Griffin and the BNP in severe decline is something which should please every Lib Dem.

    London is not Barnsley, nor is it represented by Barking. We have seven Lib Dem MP’s, GLA members and numerous councillors. So I do not think your question about the BNP in London in 2012 is relevant. Furthermore, from what I have learned recently, events may well prove before then, that the BNP is an almost entirely spent force, electorally and financially.

    As for winning in 2012 – that is what this campaign is all about. Please lend me your support!

    Hope that helps.

    best regards,


  • Firstly credit Dominic, – coming on here, and actively taking part in this discussion but, Sorry Dominic, but why on earth should the people of London trust you?

    The comments you made about Barnsley were out of order – you lost an election and made them out to be racist, your comments say that, no lie – you’ve made it hard for the Local Lib Dems, the ones left to pieces – after those comments you made because you lost the election. – Nobody’s endorsed what some folk said to you (as you insist that it’s a minority) – but to (put honestly) mislead the country about Barnsley is wrong,

    see some sense and apologise for that, then you might be considered a credible candidate

  • James Graham 24th Mar '11 - 11:39pm

    On the grounds that Lembit would be a suicidal choice, Dominic will do. But I’m afraid to say I’m deeply disappointed that none of the GLA candidates want to stand.

    We aren’t going to win. It isn’t a revelation to say that, just reality. Therefore the main point in us fielding a candidate is to promote our policies, our record and our priorities for the next four years. Only a GLA member is qualified to do that.

    Regarding Dominic’s policies, the first one is fine as far as it goes but doesn’t really excite me. The second one, I fear, misunderstands the problem with internships. If only the problem was that not ENOUGH Londoners got to do them, as opposed to people from the rest of the country. The real issue is what happens at a graduate level, not during 16-18 education. That isn’t an internship – that’s work experience. The third one is, well, meh.

    I’m also concerned that Dominic’s comments post-Barnsley will come back to haunt us. His Mail on Sunday article wasn’t so bad, but his performance on the Politics Show was.

    We could of course not field anyone. Why not?

  • Dominic, indeed it does help, I admire you for picking such tough fights, but damaging the BNP is not enough. As well as reducing their support (something you may well have achieved in Barking) you also need to increase Lib Dem support, something you haven’t actually managed to achieve in either election as our share of the vote dropped in both cases. (if compared to the previous parliamentary result – you may beg to differ based on European Election results, but I’d prefer not to confuse Euroscepticism with London Mayoral elections.)

    Granted Barking and Barnsley are not representative of London as a whole, and if you ran for London Mayor you would undoubtedly be far better resourced than you were in either parliamentary election. But what I’m really interested in how you will modify your campaign strategy to ensure a better outcome. Do you really think its just a matter of having proper funding and more serious backing from a local party? Listening to some local party members in Barnsley they were certainly surprised to read your comments following the defeat and didn’t entirely share your assessment of Barnsley as the “town political correctness forgot”, they also appeared to question your strategy of centring the campaigning in the town centre rather than the suburbs.

    Personally whilst I admire your guts for a tough fight, I think you need to do a lot more to convince people that you can get Lib Dem supporters out and beat Boris Johnson or Ken Livingstone in London.

  • @James: Not fielding anyone would make it look like we were doing a deal with the Tories, because of the national Coalition. Even without this, it would also damage our standing as one of the major parties in UK politics.

  • Dominic.

    As a Londoner now living in Scotland just want to say good luck. Its going to a long and difficult fight (as we are finding out up here with Scottish Parliament elections rapidly approaching in six weeks time) but you’re the right kind of candidate to be out there, showing the public that, despite what other parties claim, the Lib Dems are still a progressive force in British politics, with the policies and vision to match. Admired your performance in both Barking and Barnsley. If anyone deserves it, you do and you’ve got my vote, at least. (which I still have in London, thanks to being a student!)

  • Old Codger Chris 25th Mar '11 - 1:50am

    I’m amazed to learn from Dominic that in Barking “I ran a largely one man campaign with no money and no local party to speak of. No Lib Dem election address was delivered”.

    Not even an election address?! Obviously he was never going to win, but even the poorly financed Lib Dems should have ensured there was enough money for an election address, and some folk (in Cowley Street if necessary) to stuff the envelopes.

    Whoever is selected for Mayoral candidate deserves a bit of backing from the party – otherwise why bother? To those who ask why bother anyway, there are many seats in parliament and on councils which eventually fell to Liberals who started off as also-rans. I’m old enough to remember when the post-war New Towns around London were deserts for the Tories – their MPs and Councils are now in the blue corner I believe.

  • Anything but Lembit……I think he would be a positively Öwful choice.

  • Dominic Carman 25th Mar '11 - 6:16am


    re: Mayoral awards.

    The cost could be sponsored by the private sector, but the nominations evaluated and the winners selected by a panel including representatives from the Mayor’s office.



  • Dominic Carman 25th Mar '11 - 8:46am

    To P Bird

    As an endorsement of my argument – from Michael White writing in the Guardian, published 24 hours before the Barnsley Central by-election:

    ‘The BNP and Ukip are increasingly forces to be reckoned with as vehicles for protest votes in ex-mining communities such as Barnsley. The BNP doubled its share of the vote to 8.9% on 6 May last year, but Ukip, whose posters are plentiful in pubs, hopes to overtake it this time.

    Despite Barnsley’s close-knit, brass-band parochialism (that foreigners begin at Leeds and Sheffield is no joke), none of the party candidates is local, though Ukip’s Collins (“Yorkshire born and bred”) is a miner’s daughter from nearby Penistone, who is trying to broaden the party’s appeal to disaffected Labour voters as well as Tories.’

    The UKIP and BNP vote on March 3rd in Barnsley was nearly 50 % more than the combined vote for the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.



  • @Dominic Carman

    “The vitriolic comment I received on the street was partly because I am known to have campaigned vigourously over several years against Griffin and the BNP. If people attack you for doing and saying the right thing, then you know that your message is working.”

    Griffin and the BNP are loathesome. But Labour have consistently campaigned vigorously against the BNP and have had significant victories against them in their strongholds (c.f. Barking and East London) Labour have also been characterised by your coalition partners as the party that allowed hundreds of thousands of foreigners into the country. Yet, in Barnsley Labour won handsomely and it was UKIP, a party that is anti-european but not rascist that came second. So, how do you explain that? My wife comes from the Barnsley area. I know it well. The one thing that most people there are united in is a hatred of the Tories for what Thatcher did to them during the eighties. You and your party were perceived by the people of Barnsley to be no different from the Tories.
    That’s why you lost. If a Lib Dem candidate appears on my doorstep at the Local Elections they will be told by me that I do not vote for Tories whether they be amber or turqouise. They will know what I mean

  • Dominic Carman 25th Mar '11 - 9:13am


    Of course, damaging the BNP is not enough; the London Mayoral contest will be completely different in every way.

    At present, I have just put my hat in the ring, no more.

    Other mayoral candidates, in addition to Lembit Opik, will inevitably follow to ensure a proper contest. As for a detailed campaign strategy, I think it is too early to outline the detail: beyond his Citizen Lem video, Lembit has stated that he will be announcing details of his campaign in May, for example. Ultimately, the decision of who is chosen as the Lib Dem Mayoral candidate will be reached once the party selection process has been completed. That is the time for full details of the winning candidate’s policies and campaign strategy to be made public.



  • Ed Joyce,

    Deary me, you make ‘supporter of Rawls’ almost sound like an euphemism.

    I would not describe myself as a ‘supporter’ of any philosopher. Rawls offers much, as does Mill. I chose to mention Nozick because he is the most widely known proponent of modern libertarianism, most would describe Mill as a Liberal. In fact I heard somewhere that he was the founder of the liberal party.

    Describing oneself as a libertarian is making a distinction between liberalism and libertarianism. As most vaguely understand Mill to have been the founder of liberalism, such a distinction must be understood to be differentiating oneself against Mill, it would therefore have been wrong to have chosen Mill for the purposes of my enquiry. It was this distinction, between liberal and libertarian that I sought to elucidate from Dominic Carman above. It would seem relevant to know whether a candidate for election was of the opinion that taxation represents a restriction of liberty in and of itself. Or that the state should be reduced to nothing more than maintaining order and protecting property rights. This would be at odds with large sections of Liberal Democratic policy. Also, while it would not necessarily be at odds with his actions in government, it would be at odds with Nick Clegg’s proclaimed support for Sen’s equality of capabilities (or maybe I’m just being naive and he only really said that because at the time of the election he was trying to appeal to the left).

    Whilst it is true Mill stated that each has sovereignty over themselves there is quite a leap to be made to infer that this impacts on the legitimate size of the state. I am not a student of Mill and maybe there is more to it than I yet understand but I do understand that Mill distinguished between the personal and the social and that his caution that individual sovereignty over oneself was absolute, referred only to the conduct of what was strictly personal in an individual’s behaviour i.e. that the state could only legitimately interfere with an individual’s liberty for self protection and not for the good of the individual themselves. That which is social was held to the standard that it must not harm others or impact upon their liberty. There is a wide range of discussion that could be had about what constitutes harm or an impact on another’s liberty that could lead one to agree with Rawls. I am less convinced that it could lead to libertarianism. To be led to the libertarian view that personal sovereignty implies smaller government (let alone a government that is no more than a nightwatchman as many libertarians would describe it) and also that taxation infringes liberty one would have to infer that personal property and free trade in it, is not a social function but a personal one.

    However, thank you for your response to my question, although you veered into the ad hominem slightly with your innuendo about Rawls it is unusual to receive a response on these boards that does not seek to ‘win’ through technique rather than strength of argument. I would also like to congratulate Dominic Carman for his openness in engaging in debate. It is refreshing in a prospective candidate.

    Oh, and by the way, I wasn’t accusing you of using libertarianism as a buzz-word. I asked you specifically because you appeared from your post to be using the word purposefully. Most appearances of it are usually followed by something that it is completely at odds with.

    On Georgism, I don’t entirely agree with your idea of moving from income taxes to land taxes. It ignores the role of vested interests and power relationships that are engendered by a wholly free market. The value of labour is always determined by the individual’s power in the market place. The value of ideas, resources, capital and technology has taken on a far greater role in the distribution of resources than the possession of land. If Tim Berners Lee had patented the internet would it be taxable as ‘land’ for example. One anomaly thrown up by your council tax proposal would be the poorly paid individual who fortuitously purchased a property in an area that later became gentrified. The raising of council taxes and lowering of labour taxes could force them to move simply because the land they were living on became more valuable but that they could not access any return on other than by selling and leaving. Another reason I disagree is that the lifting of sectors of the community out of taxation is likely to lead to disenfranchisement of that sector of society. For this reason I worry that the good intentions of the raising of the tax threshold will have a deleterious effect on social cohesion.

  • Jeremy O'Dwyer 25th Mar '11 - 12:06pm

    Having spent some time canvassing with Dominic in Barking for the General Election last year I witnessed his deep sense of commitment, his willingness to listen to the electorate, his ability to digest and interpret information and most importantly his desire to make positive change and make London a better place to live in. He has my vote!

  • Dominic, I think it’s great you’ve thrown your hat into the ring and like your ideas but would like to have seen more about the skills mismatch between young unemployed people in London and what employers want – it seems to me a key part of getting people into jobs. The work experience/intern would be a step in the right direction but would need serious follow-up. I believe the Princes Trust is very good at this – I wonder what we could learn from them?

    The party needs people like you with successful business experience. But… I think you have to go somewhere and be a “winner” again first (and no, not I’m a celebrity winner, but a proper serious winner). Then you’ll change the narrative, from sixth to a winner would play really well in a few years time.

    And if Ed Joyce is reading too, I have to say that Lembit has picked up one really important point I haven’t heard elsewhere and that is the importance of the Eastern European vote. Personally, I don’t think Lembit should stand either because he is a “loser” too.

    I’d like to see Dominic stand next time having won something in the meantime. I’m probably the only optimist left in the party, but I think 5 or 6 years from now we’ll be in a very good position with very good serious candidates like Dominic, credible government experience and an economy that is picking up.

  • Alex MacFie,
    I stand corrected. Thank you.

  • Dominic, I think you’ll be an excellent candidate and I would probably vote for you based on much you have recently said.

    One tip, run as an independent – being tied to the party will be another losing campaign.

  • Old Codger Chris 25th Mar '11 - 5:44pm

    Geolibertarianism? Georgism? Nozack? Boaz? I thought this thread was about the choice of candidate for London Mayor!

    All a bit too intellectual for my tired brain.

  • Dominic Carman 25th Mar '11 - 6:37pm

    Andy Mayer,

    ‘Point 3, The Evening Standard or Captial radio, alongside dozens of other local media run various awards on this sort of theme. The government should not be doing their own, and it would very swiftly be attacked as a publicity stunt for the Mayor using public money, whatever the good intentions behind it.’

    re: Mayoral awards.

    The cost could be sponsored by the private sector, with the nominations evaluated and the winners selected by a panel including representatives from the Mayor’s office. Awards from the Mayor should carry significant weight.



  • Graham Pankhurst 25th Mar '11 - 7:04pm

    In the run-up to the last election I was pleased to join Dominic Carman during his campaign in Barking as a Liberal Democrat candidate. He demonstrated to me a detailed knowledge and understanding of the local difficulties and showed the potential for his ability to give a huge commitment to that community. Above all he showed an extradinary warmth and empathy to the people he met.

    Now as London Mayoral candidate, clearly, Dominic Carman has a passion, intellectual ability and an innovative approach that this role demands. Dominic is well travelled and he has an understanding and empathy for the cultural diversity of London. He has all the qualities to provide London with a dynamic, pragmatic and passionate leader. As a Londoner, I wish him every success and I urge anyone to seriously consider him for Mayor and give him your vote.

  • Dominic Carman 25th Mar '11 - 7:50pm

    Andy Mayer.

    In response to:

    ‘Point 2 is fine if you’re talking about a nudge, i.e. your leadership and support, less so a spending programme. Such things are already done by charities, paid for by businesses as part of their CSR agendas, and properly so. Government is a very inefficient provider of grass-roots services. Have you discussed it with Business in the Community?’

    Andy, the rationale for my internship/work placement idea is reinforced here by a critique from Andrew Neil, certainly not a Lib Dem, but his cogent argument needs to be met by an imaginative political response.

    Some responsibility should therefore fall on the Mayor of London to do something about giving direction to business in assisting teenagers from London’s state school as outlined in my blog above.

    Text of Andrew Neil’s blog 13th February 2011:

    ‘In my recent BBC2 documentary, Posh & Posher, I explained how networking and contacts played a crucial role in giving those with the right connections an early leg up in their careers.

    Internships and work experience are proving increasingly crucial to opening doors and opportunities in later life. Many have expressed the view that the best intern and work experience opportunities in fields like politics, finance and the media are going disproportionately to those who are already privileged and well-connected. From what I’ve seen myself in recent years I suspect that to be true.

    The Mail on Sunday gives a classic example (and a potentially embarrassing one for the Tories) of how it can work. At the Conservative Black & White Party (they don’t call it a ball anymore) last week they had an auction to raise party funds. Fair enough. All parties do that.

    But a number of the lots for auction included internships and work experience at some of the country’s top financial institutions. The well-heeled Tory faithful bid around £3,000 each for their offspring to spend a couple of weeks at various prestigious hedge funds, City PR companies, trading houses and finance houses.

    The experience and contacts made there will no doubt be invaluable to the youngsters lucky enough to have parents who won the bidding. But note how those from already privileged backgrounds — attending the party cost a minimum of £400 per head — are able to skew matters to their further advantage, not just in terms of the schools they can afford or the top universities they can get into but in something so basic as work experience.

    In today’s incredibly competitive labour markets work experience matters more than ever when it comes to securing that first rung on the ladder. Companies might like to think how they make their internships open to as wide a selection of the talented from all backgrounds as they can. I suggest that internships granted on the basis of parents who can afford £400 a head for dinner then £3,000 per internship cannot be regarded as entirely fair or meritocratic.’

  • JRC,

    I would like to respond to the following sentence from your recent post

    “Describing oneself as a libertarian is making a distinction between liberalism and libertarianism. As most vaguely understand Mill to have been the founder of liberalism, such a distinction must be understood to be differentiating oneself against Mill, it would therefore have been wrong to have chosen Mill for the purposes of my enquiry.”

    What you appear to be suggesting is that since Mill was a liberal then to call oneself a libertarian would be to differentiate oneself from Mill. I would like to point out why this is not correct in my opinion.

    You are absolutely right that I make a distinction between liberalism and libertarianism. The word libertarianism to describe a set of political positions did not occur until 1857. On Liberty was conceived as a short essay in 1854. Mill did not use the word libertarianism he used the word liberal. Unfortunately other politicians have added word like social or muscular to liberal. This has forced some orthodox Mill supporters to preface their type of liberalism as classical liberalism where they reject these additions.

    This ‘classical’ liberalism is simply another way of saying libertarianism in its 19th century form.

    In my experience the term ‘classical liberal’ is used by libertarians on the right of the Liberal Democrat party to avoid the harsh image that Austrian school and forms of right wing libertarianism have. I don’t, however, ever recall meeting a classical liberal (and I probably know more than most) who used the word classical liberal and were not a libertarian. Therefore libertarians do not necessarily differentiate themselves from Mill, particularly left libertarians.

    Mill is criticised by both social liberals such as Grayson

    “A philosophy which seldom goes beyond Mill is firmly stuck in the 1850s, as if more than a century of social liberalism never happened.”

    and from the Austrian School (right libertarian) website

    “Here in John Stuart Mill, we have the left-libertarian’s preoccupation against tradition and norms (“tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling”), against organized religion, against “bossism” (“antipathy towards authority in any of its forms”)”

    This clearly shows that Mill represents a distinctive identity which was very much at the heart of our party when it was formed. This is the identity which I hold to and which I believe is the best option for a distinct one for our party. It is incompatible with Cameroonian muscular liberalism and I hope that we reject this idea as an acceptable approach for our party.

    In answer to another of your points I do believe that income tax of those below the median income “represents a restriction of liberty in and of itself”. This is why I campaigned hard for the party on raising the level at which tax is raised to £10,000 which represented a significant change at the general election. The change in this area is arguably the most significant win for libertarianism from the coalition.

    In answer to the point concerning “whether the state should be reduced to nothing more than maintaining order and protecting property rights” I obviously believe that the role of the state goes beyond that limited definition, as it is related to the issue that you raised about the rights to resources in the state of nature (ie are they commonly owned or taken by the first person to mix their labour with it – I take the first view). I am not advocating the ideas of Amartya Sen as he tends towards a concept of positive liberty. What is needed is Georgism and negative liberty. This is an identity that will separate us from the Conservatives.

    On Georgism I wholly reject your criticism. For example where you say

    “One anomaly thrown up by your council tax proposal would be the poorly paid individual who fortuitously purchased a property in an area that later became gentrified.”

    Is this sentence really referring to gentrification or simply large relative increase in property prices ? If gentrification occurred in an area which subsequently became the site for a sewage works which exactly balanced out the increase from gentrification, but not the general increase in property prices would it be argued that an increase in council tax was unfair. I would argue that you are not talking about gentrification but windfall profits in excess of those of other properties. The question is how the costs and benefits of this should be allocated between workers and non workers, property owners and non property owners. Due to the lack of revaluation at the moment the workers pay and the owner occupier receives the benefit of land value increases tax free. Thus in the case where a property owner lives off the rent of a lodger the worker works and is taxed. The ‘poorly paid’ owner recieves the benefit and is able to raise the rent. This is not an abstract example but the day to day reality of a vast number of young Londoners. This is justified in the terms of the argument presented by JRC but I believe it is unfair. That is one reason reason why Lembit’s support for the three l’s, libertarianism, localism and labour appeals to me. A distinctive liberal identitity will come through rebalancing the rights of workers and tenants versus landowners and landlords.The mansion tax was an example of this, but was lost in the coalition agreement because the Conservatives are viscerally opposed to it. The question is “should should people who receive windfall profits through the work of others always pay tax on them or should being a non worker be grounds for an exemption” Your argument entrenches the position of the idle rich. Those excluded from the property market paying tax on labour to fund infrastructure improvements require higher levels of taxation as a result. Nobody would be forced to move house if this change was adopted, a charge would be placed on the property and the tax paid when the owner sells or die. I cannot see any argument why that is not the fairest approach

    On the final sentance you don’t state that you are against raising the tax threshold. You appear to be in favour of raising the tax threshold despite the possible effect on social cohesion. Those who I have spoken to say that they were very grateful for the change that was driven through by the Lib Dems and concerned that someone might use your arguments to overturn them. I am sure that you will come out in favour of retaining the changes made to the tax threshold on reading of this concern.

    No offence taken on the ‘non accusation’ of my use of libertarianism as a buzz word. I hope that you also have not taken offence at my earlier suggestion that you might be a supporter of Rawls.

    Ed Joyce

    PS Andy Meyer is spot on with his comments. The only thing I am anxious about is the implied support for the nudge politics of Richard Thaler aka liberal paternalism. I always think of Andy fondly as a diehard supporter of smoking, gambling and drinking, and a man after my own heart. All these writers creating oxymorons out of liberalism, muscular liberalism, liberal conservatism, liberal paternalism when will it end. Fortunately we have so far avoided the extremes of confusion of the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party to date but we tread a fine line …..

  • With his business experience Dominic is certainly the man for the job when it comes to stimulating industry in London which is, after all, the engine of the city. I also think we do need someone who comes up with the kind of lateral initiatives that Dominic mentions above. However, I’m not sure this will be a fair fight based on talent or promise as it should be. The problem for anyone standing against Boris or Ken is that their egos dominate minds and media coverage. We can but live in hope though because there is no doubt that this shouldn’t be a celebrity contest.

  • dominic carman 26th Mar '11 - 11:32pm

    To: Maria M

    re: ‘The party needs people like you with successful business experience. But… I think you have to go somewhere and be a “winner” again first (and no, not I’m a celebrity winner, but a proper serious winner). Then you’ll change the narrative, from sixth to a winner would play really well in a few years time.

    I’d like to see Dominic stand next time having won something in the meantime. I’m probably the only optimist left in the party, but I think 5 or 6 years from now we’ll be in a very good position with very good serious candidates like Dominic, credible government experience and an economy that is picking up.’

    Maria, an anecdote for you. In May 1982, a Labour candidate stood in a by-election. The Labour Party was then in opposition, not in government. The candidate saw his vote collapse and he lost his deposit. But the party believed in him and his abilities. A year later, he was given a safe Labour seat, which he won comfortably at the 1983 general election. I knew the candidate, and talked with him about the campaign, before and after his by-election defeat. It taught me never to be deterred by defeat, but to use the experience to advantage – to fight on and win. .

    The candidate’s name? Tony Blair.

    best Dominic

  • dominic carman 27th Mar '11 - 12:58am

    It may be of interest to Lib Dems to read my Guardian blog of March 9th which calls for a Lib Dem rebranding

    and then to read the Telegraph of today

    Full text of both articles given below:

    Dominic Carman – Guardian Comment 9th March 2011

    What is the point of the Liberal Democrats? As the candidate who came sixth in last week’s Barnsley Central byelection, it is a subject close to my heart. I frequently addressed the theme during the campaign, though the question was never put directly. From the disastrous result a familiar lesson emerged: when the traditional party of protest becomes a party of government, the game changes. Profoundly.

    There was a heavy price to pay in Barnsley. In a very safe Labour seat, where most voters have a visceral dislike of Conservative politics and long memories of the bitter miners’ strike of 1984-5, the Lib Dems were characterised as having sold their soul for power by doing a deal with the Tories, and were heavily punished.

    “You’re just bloody Tories with a yellow badge on”, or “You’re worse than the bloody Tories”, were common complaints. “How could you form a coalition with those evil Conservative bastards?” a typical question on the doorstep. Many voters took one look at the yellow rosette on my lapel only to slam the door in my face without a word.

    But the most powerful invective was inevitably reserved for our leader Nick Clegg, who was variously described as a coward, a traitor, a turncoat, and Cameron’s poodle – usually prefaced by a range of expletives. “He wants shooting” and “he should be hung from the top of the town hall” were among the less helpful suggestions from some Barnsley shoppers.

    For the minority of the town’s voters (12.4%) who supported the coalition, the Tories took the credit and the Lib Dems took the flak. It is a result our party must avoid in future.

    The reality of forming a government last May was dictated by electoral maths. There was no effective choice but to join forces with the Conservatives. Although not overtly stated the coalition in reality is a government of national economic emergency, where both parties have one primary duty – to restore the nation’s financial health and deal with the deficit.

    In Barnsley, a town heavily dependent on public sector jobs, reneging on the tuition fees pledge attracted most specific criticism, alongside the effects of the cuts. “How can you say one thing then do another – you’re absolute liars. I will never, ever vote Lib Dem again,” was a typical response.

    But despite the rhetoric, if Labour were in power they would also be cutting public services, only more slowly, prolonging the pain.

    Yet the question remains: what is the point of the Lib Dems? In part, the answer lies in moving well beyond being seen as enablers and facilitators of a Tory government. We are different. A yellow rosette must always invoke a different emotional and logical response from a blue one. Above all, the Lib Dems must be positive, and not constantly on the defensive over tuition fees and cuts. As much about style as substance, a more proactive, upbeat approach is essential.

    Yes, the Lib Dems must demonstrate their real achievements in government more forcefully and more eloquently. Yes, the Lib Dems must champion AV as a fairer electoral system. And yes, the Lib Dems must be seen to be standing up to the Tories publicly, beyond the door of the cabinet room, where victories and concessions, however valuable and hard-fought, are intangible and invisible to the wider public.

    As important as the coming battle for AV is, it remains a process, not a policy. Beyond governing successfully, the heart of the Lib Dem mission in competent government should not just be to preserve our separate identity, but to define it more clearly, more acutely, more progressively. The values of the Lib Dem brand need to be enhanced, andto be readily identifiable.Lib Dem policies that are tangible to the electorate and which chime with their aspirations. On everything from social justice to education, taxation to health, defence to welfare, Lib Dems must dare to be different from the Conservatives.

    The process should start now, not weeks before the next general election. Lib Dems need to re-engage with voters and start a wide consultation process on future policy. This is not the time for introverted contemplation or talking only to the party faithful. The electorate need to know what makes the Lib Dems different from the Conservatives. They need to know it unambiguously, and they need to know it soon, before the identity of the two parties becomes any more blurred, with blue being the predominant colour.

    Daily Telegraph 26th March 2011
    Nick Clegg orders rebrand amid rumours of leadership challenge
    Nick Clegg has ordered a rebranding of the Liberal Democrats amid signs that he could face a challenge to his leadership if his party continues to slump in the polls.

    The Deputy Prime Minister has commissioned a complete rethink of Lib Dem strategy amid rumblings about his stewardship at the highest level. Insiders say senior party figures including Chris Huhne, a former leadership contender, have been jockeying for position behind the scenes.
    Rumours about Mr Clegg’s leadership have emerged after mounting discontent among party members in the country who are furious at the direction the party has been taking in government.Rank and file activists, who are more left wing than Mr Clegg, reject many of the more right wing policies adopted by their leader since he entered into coalition with the Tories.
    The rise in university tuition fees and the speed and depth of cuts to public spending are particular bones of contention. Mr Huhne, who ran Mr Clegg close in the last Lib Dem leadership election, has told colleagues privately that he would be interested in leading his party in the future.His comments have raised eyebrows among fellow ministers and added to the heat on Mr Clegg, who is already considering radical measures to address his worsening ratings.
    The rebranding exercise due to get under way next month will involve a total rethink of the party’s direction and could even include changing the name and logo, insiders said. Some party strategists believe the name should change to include the word “social”, in order to reassure members and voters that it is more left wing.
    The image of a bird in flight could go in favour of a new logo emphasising fairness and social justice, such as a scale.
    Mr Clegg is particularly worried about his own personal ratings and has asked for ideas about good news initiatives he could be associated with. The Lib Dems are stuck at an almost record low of 10 per cent in the opinion polls with Mr Clegg’s personal ratings plummeting since last May.Before the election the Lib Dems peaked at 33 per cent and Mr Clegg enjoyed sky high personal ratings during the televised leader debates.
    Aides of Mr Clegg are said to be desperate to know how they can turn the situation around.
    Many MPs in the party, meanwhile, are keen to reposition in the hope of doing a deal at the next election with Labour.
    “We are playing a long game,” said one backbencher. “If the Coalition burns out we will want to regroup and would hope to go into coalition with Labour. That is where the heart of the party is.”
    The worsening position of Mr Clegg has led to panic in Downing Street among aides of the Prime Minister.
    David Cameron is said to be increasingly concerned that Mr Clegg will be fatally weakened if there is a “no” vote in the referendum on voting reform on May 5.
    His deputy will be particularly vulnerable to a challenge if the Liberal Democrats suffer heavy losses in local elections on the same day.
    Labour are so convinced that the referendum could trigger a meltdown of the coalition that officials have been put on alert to ensure the party is ready in the event of an emergency general election as early as this year.
    Andy Burnham, the party’s election coordinator, and Ray Collins, general secretary, have drawn up contingency plans.
    In a further sign of the febrile atmosphere, the main broadcasters, including the BBC, have contacted the political parties to ask about their views on holding another televised leader debate. Although Mr Cameron is campaigning for a “no” vote, he is understood to be deeply worried by the effect this will have on Mr Clegg, who has staked much of his reputation on securing a “yes” victory. A referendum on the Alternative Vote system was the price Mr Clegg put on entering into partnership with the Conservatives.
    Many Liberal Democrat MPs and grassroots members have only been prepared to swallow the major concessions made to the Tories since because they want to secure AV.
    Without voting reform, the Lib Dem grass roots might decide to try to trigger an end to the coalition.
    It is also feared the Lib Dems could lose up to 500 council seats in the local elections, further destabilising Mr Clegg.
    The Lib Dem leadership rules state that a leader can be removed by a vote of no confidence passed by a majority of MPs or by a statement calling on him to go submitted by 75 local constituency parties.
    One senior Conservative strategist said: “If it’s a ‘no’ we are going to need to shore Clegg up a bit. If it’s ‘no’ and heavy Lib Dem council losses, we are going to have to shore him up a lot.
    “We might need to throw him quite a lot of concessions to keep this going.”
    Mr Cameron recently put Mr Clegg in charge of drawing up a House of Lords reform package in a bid to strengthen his position.

  • dominic carman 28th Mar '11 - 6:14am

    Given other commitments, I have reached the conclusion that I cannot financially afford to run an effective campaign as the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor. Regrettably, I will therefore not be putting my name forward when the selection procedure formally restarts in May. Having spoken to Mike Tuffrey and others yesterday, I am convinced that he will make an excellent candidate and I will be giving him my support in whatever way I can, should he decide to run, which I sincerely hope he does.

    Thank you for your support


  • dominic carman 28th Mar '11 - 2:03pm

    Once the full extent of the personal financial commitment to the campaign was explained, combined with the total loss of income for a year, it became clear that running a Mayoral campaign was not sustainable, given my financial circumstances and family commitments.

  • Ed Joyce,

    The classification of ‘classical’ liberal may have much in common with libertarianism they are different though in that classical liberalism makes clear that the reference point is the kind of liberalism espoused by early liberals. Proclaiming oneself to be libertarian rather than liberal has a modern context that requires explanation from one seeking public office. To claim that the most prominent modern proponent of libertarianism and its opposition to Rawlsian justice theory would naturally be Mill rather than Nozick seems a stretch. However, you ignore that I originally raised Nozick as a query to you and Dominic Carman in order to find out what you mean by your libertarianism, not to engage in a debate about who has the legitimate right to appropriate Mill in their cause, although I don’t wish to object to the debate, it has been very informative. The reason that I asked the question is that the Liberal Democratic party stood at the general election as the party of egalitarian left leaning liberalism and attracted a lot of ‘progressive’ (whatever that means) votes. Since the election it has become clear that in government they intend to be far more classical in their liberalism or as you would have it, libertarianism. This is as you have demonstrated very much at odds with the mandate the liberal democrats fought for. It is therefore of interest to the electorate whether a candidate is a supporter of libertarianism of Nozick’s hue, or Boaz or as you would have it strictly along the lines of Mill. Libertarians may or may not differentiate themselves from Mill, it is irrelevant whether they do in the context of my original enquiry, the question was; what kind of political position is being referred to by those who designate themselves as libertarian? I think that the electorate should be told whether they are voting for an egalitarian who believes in the state’s responsibility to ensure positive and negative liberties or a libertarian that would object to the notion of positive liberty and dismantle the state. The general election stance of the Liberal Democrats was of the former whilst their beliefs and subsequent policy decisions have appeared to have been of the latter.

    If you believe that ‘tax represents an infringement of liberty in and of itself’ then this cannot be justified by depending on other conditions i.e. the earning of a below median income. For taxation of income to represent an infringement of liberty in and of itself then the simple possession of money would have to be construed as a liberty, not the liberty that money can buy. If liberty is taken to be the ability to use money to buy those liberties that require financial transaction then the spending power of those who are below median income is the liberty that we are dealing with not the simple freedom to possess money.

    If we then consider the effect of taxation on liberty to be measured by the uses to which money can be put and not simply its possession, then the restrictions of liberty through taxation require deeper analysis. For taxation to represent an infringement of liberty in these circumstances it must be demonstrated that an equivalent occupation in a low tax regime produces a higher possession of the liberties that are purchased than in a high tax regime. Or in other words that low taxes result in increased spending power. So for example does a bus driver in low tax USA enjoy a higher standard of living than a bus driver in highly taxed France? This then requires a measure of whether the high tax regime is accompanied by collectively purchased welfare, health, education and other public services. Or does the restriction of collectively purchased goods such as health care and welfare benefits in USA render the standard of living lower for them. So further analysis would add the condition that if we factor in the cost of purchasing equivalent public services, health insurance for equally comprehensive cover, unemployment insurance of an equivalent level and take that from the low taxed wage in a society such as the USA and then compare the residual spending power of the equivalently occupied individual in high taxed but more comprehensively serviced France then, is there a lower standard of living and spending power enjoyed in the French example than the American. Only then could taxation be said to restrict liberty. If the french individual enjoys a greater spending power over and above that to which their taxes have been spent than the american individual then the french person has a greater access to those aspects of liberty to which the possession of spendable money pertains. The only liberty that the american individual gains is the liberty not to spend their money on health or welfare benefits until they are required.

    Furthermore, even in high taxed systems a reduction in taxation usually only provides a short term benefit for the low paid. A combination of rising living expenses and low pay rises usually results in purchasing power levelling out but along with it is the loss of the dignity of being a contributor to society and the loss of many services that can no longer be afforded because of the reduction of overall collective contributions. There is a cost to raising the threshold for those at the bottom of the pay structure. One of those costs is that those who are lifted out of tax are automatically re-designated from contributors to drains on society. You are right that I don’t state explicitly that I am against raising the threshold, that is because I am willing to be convinced that I am wrong. That there are many who are happy about it is not surprising, a tax bribe always goes down well. A tax threshold reduction would be politically impossible but the effects that I worry about are nonetheless justified and I, following your technique of taking a non-statement to imply a positive, assume you share the concern that I might be right otherwise you would have offered an opposing argument rather than resorted to politicking. I do not support the measure despite my concerns, I oppose the measure because of my concerns but accept that my concerns may be flawed.

    You argue that I am wrong in my description of an anomaly in the raising of council taxes by referring to things other than that anomaly. The anomaly I describe is applicable to the argument for raising council taxes, which are an on going charge on the notional value of a home, whereas you disagree with it on the basis of profits that are actually accrued in one off transactions i.e. windfall profits realised at the point of sale. Windfall profits only accrue when the asset of the home is cashed in, not when the residence is used as a continuous dwelling, which remains the case for most home owners. Most people do not earn from the immoveable asset of their home. Your re-statement of my analogy with the land value subsequently decreasing reinforces its meaning. If used as a continuous dwelling with no income accrued from it the relative swings in land value will result in rises and falls in council tax value with concomitant effects on the freedom of the resident to stay within the home as the payment for such a tax will come from otherwise earned income. This also applies if overall property prices are taken as the measure. In times of high land value the income of the individual may not cover the costs of council tax increases and in times of low land value an otherwise wealthy individual will benefit more greatly than the lower income household. If the assets of a home are retained there is no increase or decrease in benefit accrued through land value fluctuations, this requires other use of the land or dwelling yet your argument is that taxing those other activities is an infringement of freedom. If the assets are not realised then there is no windfall profit. Would the taxes charged against the high value period in your analogy be reimbursed during the sewage works years? Having said that, I agree with your argument that something like a ground rent could justly apply to property especially given that land should be held as common property. It is a misnomer to call such a council tax arrangement a land tax though as for most cases the tax is withdrawn from income, only its value is set by land prices. It is similar to the rebranding of inheritance taxes as death taxes, dead people don’t pay tax just as for the bulk of the time the land your home sits upon doesn’t make any money. As you state it, my position could indeed be taken as an entrenchment of the status quo for the idle rich if it were not for the fact that you refer to the detached phenomenon of property price fluctuations as representing actual windfall profits. Or in other words, if your restatement of my position were not actually the opposite of my stated opinion, your criticism of me would be correct. My example talks of an individual who receives no windfall profits and sees no actual gain at all from their continued residence in a dwelling that has through no action of their own, fluctuated in value. Windfall profits only accrue on sale or other profitable transactional use of the land so your argument only justifies a tax on those profits at the point of sale of the land or the product from it, not a tax on income as if those profits were realised on a continuous basis. I agree with you that a charge against such assets to be re-payed on death or sale is supported by your argument (and that this argument is correct) but not your view that it also justifies council tax rises to replace income taxes. Your justification for what I have described as a ground rent, rather than council taxes, follows not from these notional windfall profits but that land should be held as being common property.

    Following on from this point, why is your arrangement only applicable to immoveable assets? What is the difference between the possession of land that I have erected a home upon and the possession of minerals I have made a bracelet from? Why should these not be considered common property, liable to windfall taxes? For that matter why should the means of production, distribution and exchange not also be considered commonly held? Is the product of a fertile mind a natural asset or an individual property? Why should common ownership only apply to that which existed, in the condition that it existed, in the state of nature?

    Land is not the only factor in causing inequities in distribution of liberty, why single it out? Why should the value of holding a powerful position within the market not be treated the same way as holding a fertile and valuable plot of land? The earnings associated with labour are determined by the fluctuations in the value of skills and the scarcity of skills. An individual who can do a task that few others can do will be able to secure an income well beyond the value of the time and effort expended upon the task. The rewards can be such that this individual can hold funds that go well beyond the needs of their individual liberty. Holding this money in stasis impacts upon the liberty of others in many ways. The money that can be demanded within the market is dependent upon the power one holds to negotiate within the market. If we take it that money represents the ability to purchase goods and its possession is not a liberty in itself, then it must be the case that the possession of money within a market system gives an individual power over the distribution of the goods to which the market applies. The holder of excess money has an impact on the liberty of others with less money to receive a fair distribution of those goods. Thus the power of an individual in the market place gives them a relative hold over distribution. If the market concentrates money flow in this way then it must be the case that the goods represented by money, flow disproportionately to those with the greatest market power. This being the case then the possession of money represents the same inequity as the possession of land. As possession of money is skewed by the method of determining income by market power, then why should this income not be taxed? Is there a difference between this and the possession of land and if not why should it not be taken as a justification of income taxes.

  • It was very interesting to read this piece, particularly the fifth paragraph

    Re the following

    The classification of ‘classical’ liberal may have much in common with libertarianism they are different though in that classical liberalism makes clear that the reference point is the kind of liberalism espoused by early liberals. Proclaiming oneself to be libertarian rather than liberal has a modern context that requires explanation from one seeking public office.

    I do already do this. I have described myself many times as a Liberal Democrat libertarian. Since the book of office of the party is On Lberty not Anarchy, The State, and Utopia I don’t see that it is likely that I would use Nozick as a starting point. I use our party’s own text as the starting point. If necessary I can be described as a Liberal Democrat/John Stuart Mill school libertarian, to differentiate from the Liberal Democrat/Nozick school libertarians, though I would point out that he gets about four mentions a year on this site whereas Mill gets dozens.

    Re land tax, the argument revolved around the proposal that a land tax should be charged. The response given was

    One anomaly thrown up by your council tax proposal would be the poorly paid individual who fortuitously purchased a property in an area that later became gentrified. The raising of council taxes and lowering of labour taxes could force them to move simply because the land they were living on became more valuable but that they could not access any return on other than by selling and leaving.

    It was not immediately clear that the author actually supported land taxes on this property wishing to delay them until the death or move of the owner as I do also.

    JRC posts

    I agree with you that a charge against such assets to be re-payed on death or sale is supported by your argument (and that this argument is correct) but not your view that it also justifies council tax rises to replace income taxes. Your justification for what I have described as a ground rent, rather than council taxes, follows not from these notional windfall profits but that land should be held as being common property.

    If this is the case i.e. that land is held as common property then the tax should be levied on the increase in land value then there is a fundamental agreement here. This is good grounds for a distinctive Lib Dem identity. The Labour Party does have a land tax organisation but it is completely marginalised and does not even list any MPs on their website. From my experince Dave Wetzel bravely ploughs a lonely furrow on this issue. In contrast ALTER has three named supporters in the cabinet.

    The argument then moves on to mineral extraction. This is something that Georgists have thought through. The clearest example is North Sea Oil. We need to decide if it is owned proprtionately or by the government. In Alaska oil revenues are rebated to individuals as a citizens income. This is a good idea which I would like to see replicated. Again we see JRC make the point opposing this without actually stating that this is the case, so I am not absolutely clear that this is being opposed. The following point is covered by the arguments over tax which is an infringement of liberty in and of itself’ below the median income in my view.

    I have argued against the imposition of income tax below the median income. JRC argues for the imposition of income tax because of the impact on liberty but does not make it clear whether this is for those below the median level of income. As so many times in this thread I have to speculate that since the argument is made so strongly that the goal is equalising access to resources that would follow that whilst JRC likes the principle that all should feel that they are taking part in the system that in practice this should be limited to those above the median income. Maybe clarification will follow.

    Finally I would like to register my dissent to the following

    A tax threshold reduction would be politically impossible but the effects that I worry about are nonetheless justified and I, following your technique of taking a non-statement to imply a positive, assume you share the concern that I might be right otherwise you would have offered an opposing argument rather than resorted to politicking.

    is not a correct interpretation of my view. I stated explicitly ‘tax represents an infringement of liberty in and of itself’ below the median income and would clearly oppose a reduction. In response to the question of the concern of a reduction in the tax threshold encouraging low rate tax payers to feel part of society any low income individual could pay money to the exchequer on a voluntary basis. I don’t feel this argument has been thought through properly (or maybe I misunderstood it). Low income tax payers want the threshold raised and already feel that they are doing enough by paying VAT and duty, in my experience (that is in 100% of cases not mostly).

    As a general point it seems there is a lot of common ground with JRC. The more that we argue this out the more it sems to be the case that taxing the profits of land to ease the tax burden on those below the median income could be common ground. This is the distinct Lib Dem policy currently that I argue for and which we are working towards practically, although in a massively convoluted way. If this was our explict view I believe that it would be coherent and popular. This is where our identity can come from.

    Ed Joyce

  • Ed Joyce,

    Yes you do and have distinguished your own position from the predominant liberalism of the Liberal Democratic party as has Dominic Carman. This was the motivation for my question. A prospective candidate for the Liberal Democrats should explain that they are not in agreement with the egalitarian redistributive philosophy of the wider party.

    To describe adherence to the philosophy Mill as a school of libertarianism is sophistry. The most one can say is that ‘I am a libertarian and I think that this particular truth spoken by Mill justifies that’. What you are saying is that ‘even though most understand Mill to have been liberal, I and others believe him to have been libertarian; therefore, if you wish to discern the core truth of libertarianism you should discard all of those who have offered a deep discourse on libertarianism and only offer comparisons to Mill as Mill was categorically not a liberal he was in fact a libertarian, he just didn’t know the word for it yet.’ The modern discourse on libertarianism is fundamentally centred on philosophers such as Nozick, with Nozick, or opposition to Rawls, as the reference point. It would be false to say that differences or agreements with Nozick or other right wing, nightwatchman state libertarians, is obscure simply because some of those debates go back as far as Mill to seek justification. My original question was to query the nature of the society both you and Dominic Carman envisage as being a just one given that you both describe yourselves as libertarian. I wished to find out how this position stood with reference to Nozick. Your authoritarian approach to debate, i.e. that I should refer to an obscure interpretation of Mill only, would seem at odds with your libertarianism.

    Your argument that land taxes should be levied on the increase in land value is not supported by either your arguments or mine. If land is held to be common property then the commonwealth is entitled to decide upon the level or existence of a charge on it for a ground rent. Your proposal states that if an asset increases in value then an increased charge should be put upon it. If this were true then it would have to apply equally as a justification for moveable assets. So gold should also be taxed dependent upon its current value. Does that mean that a persons wedding ring should be liable to continuous and variable taxation dependent upon gold prices? The justification for land taxes upon death relies upon the ownership of land. The ground rent, or council tax that you argue for is dependent upon land being ‘common’. Both of these property relationships do not co-exist therefore one of the justifications for taxation must be false if the other is true.

    You do not have to speculate upon my position, it will not bear upon the validity of your position and all I have offered up until now is queries about the position you hold. I have no agenda. There is no ‘ad hominem’ to be had here.

    Your Alaskan oil example gives a position you then declare that I have offered an opposition to; I simply asked whether your justification of land taxes should apply equally to moveable assets and whether this should then also apply to intangibles such as the means of production, distribution and exchange.

    I have not argued for the imposition of tax below the median income because of its impact on liberty. I argued that its absence may have a deleterious effect on social cohesion.

    Again I will make the point that if you consider tax to be an infringement of liberty ‘in and of itself’ then that cannot be co-dependent on another condition i.e. the earning of below a median income. If it is an infringement in and of itself then it must be so independent of income, so those earning extremely high wages would be equally infringed in their liberty as those on meagre incomes. This is patently untrue so therefore the statement ‘in and of itself’ is false. Further to this I have already expanded upon the situation that would be necessary to declare categorically that the liberty of those on below median income would have their liberty infringed by taxation. The position that this would be true is predicated on falsehoods that imply all else would be equal without taxation as it is with. This requires proof that is not even considered let alone offered. The positive liberty of those in high taxed economies with comprehensive welfare, health, education and public service provision is greater than in low taxed economies. If these positive liberties are to be discounted then some justification should be forthcoming. If it is considered that the negative liberty of ‘not having one’s income interfered with’ is of greater value that being able to rely upon the public services that would be withdrawn then again some justification is required.

    You characterise my point as being that ‘I like the idea that all should feel like they are taking part’. I regard disenfranchisement differently. It is not the positive benefit that accrues to the individual that concerns me it is the negative attitude of the rest. Once one individual feels that they are carrying another they confer rights upon themselves that they should not have. So for example, a single teenage mother who is in receipt of benefits is treated as though we have a right to judge and reform their lives. The ‘lifting’ of the low paid out of taxation will not only result in negative feelings for the self it will also encourage those who pay taxes to feel that they have the right to decide the entitlement to liberty of the low paid. We see this already in the proposal to remove security of tenure for tenants in social housing.

    I still fail to see why you think that the justification for taxes should only apply to land and in some case mineral wealth, why not the market and its various iniquities? And if money is only understood in terms of what it can buy then as money represents control over the natural resources of the world as much as ownership of land does, why not income? I also do not understand the purposes you would apply this taxation to. Would taxation stop once the costs of the police and armed forces are covered for example? If you consider the redistribution of wealth through social services as being the provision of positive liberties at the expense of negative liberty then why would there be a need for taxation to continue beyond this point?

  • JRC,
    The Liberal Democrat party is a broad church, we all have to sign up to the party policies. Those we disagree with we try to change. The libertarian strand within the party is a minority but an important strand and one of the largest distinct views. Many within the party are not that ideological. Since I believe in an equal citizens income based on land tax plus Alaskan oil style rebates I am not clear that I am completely detached from an “egalitarian redistributive philosophy”. I am not keen on taxes on labour however.
    I am prepared to say ‘I am a libertarian and I think that this particular truth spoken by Mill justifies that’. I would even be happy to be described as a liberal if I was not to be mistaken with muscular liberals, neoliberals, liberal conservatives or other odd derivations of liberal. I find it mildly irritating to have to preface my liberalism and am comfortable with liberatarian to mean classical liberal. I have read Nozick but he appeared to be a counter to Rawls. He has some interesting arguments but I personally prefer to use Mill. I would prefer to abandon Nozick as I have not cited himn if you can accept that.
    The land tax I seek is one on the unimproved land value not on increases in property. I think that might have been missed in the discussion – I am a Georgist, the arguments put froward are debating points not pure ideology. As a Georgist I don’t say that the increase in the value of an asset should lead to an increase in it’s price, it depends if labour has been used. If it is because a house is built I would not with to levey a charge on the house only the land. In my view the gold in a wedding ring should be taxed at the point of extraction. I believe that is the policy of all governments. Where I differ is in saying that this money should be distributed equally to all in the population. If an individual wishes to invest that money an recieve interest that is possible. The tax would not need to be levied on an ongoing basis. I am still speculating on whether you support Alskan style rebates. It would enlighten the debate greatly if you were to clarify this.
    I wanted to provide an answer to the question on tax above the median income. In order to deal with this we need to first look at the issue of corporation tax. If we end income tax we will then have a very significant impact on corporation tax. Corporation tax is levied in part because corporations are transnational.We already have problems collecting corporation tax. We have a separate issue with non doms. I do wish to levy taxes on non doms and overseas corporations. If we do not have high level income tax we will need to find a way to prevent avoidance of taxes on the profits of foreign corporations.
    On the non dom issue people escape from illiberal regimes and come to the UK on a vast scale. I see this flow as a national asset. I do not wish to see them share in the citizens income, and I do want to tax them. I hope that goes some way to clarifying the issue. The point that you are pressing on is what is my position regarding a high earning worker, for example one earning £500,000 per annum. I would not wish to tax the income of that person to enrich myself. For example, if I was in receipt of child benefit I would not wish to get this from another worker if there was a land tax. The same would apply to a pension. I have deliberately personalised this to extract an understanding of your view on the morality of taxing another to enrich yourself. This would allow the debate to move forward. I choose the median income because below that the argument is simplified. It does not mean that I have not considered in detail the issue of high earners.
    I have enjoyed the discussion on this issue with you. It is complicated to pick back throught this thread, however. If you wish to respond it would help greatly if you would email edwardtjoycenew at yahoo dot co dot uk. I might be able to set up a chat on the phone and save us both a lot of time.
    Ed Joyce

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