Jeremy Browne’s liberal regime to get Britain fit for the global race

Jeremy Browne bookAs we reported last month, Jeremy Browne has been using his time since he left government last October productively, writing a book on what he sees as the challenges facing Britain over the decades ahead, and the liberal approach that her believes is necessary in response to them. The book, Race Plan: An authentic liberal plan to get Britain fit for The Global Race, is published today by the think tank Reform.

The conundrum facing Britain is outlined neatly in the book’s first few chapters and can be summarised thus: world power and economic strength is shifting, from the Western powers that dominated the last century, primarily east, to Asia, but also south, to South America and Africa. On a whole range of indicators — productivity, educational attainment, global influence — Britain is losing out or is danger of doing so to these ambitious, focussed countries.

How do we respond? Do we accept relative decline as an inevitable consequence of globalisation? Or do we rethink our approach and seek to maintain the competitive advantage and influence on the world stage that we have grown used to? Browne’s answer is emphatically the latter, and he is clear on what form that response should take: it should be distinctly, “authentically” liberal.

When it comes to education, infrastructure, economics, international relations and the delivery of public services, the route to competitiveness, says Browne, will come from adopting the liberal stance, and from being ambitious in our aims and open-minded about the means of achieving them. There are proposals that will no doubt prove controversial in the party — school vouchers and free schools, a lower top rate of income tax, a smaller state, a new hub airport for London — but also ones to which most in the party will be sympathetic: a reformed House of Lords, a commitment to our membership of the European Union, investment in renewable energy and house-building.

You can catch Jeremy talking about his book on today’s Daily Politics on BBC Two at midday, and you can buy it for yourself here.

UPDATE: Here is the video Jeremy made for today’s Daily Politics:

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87 Comments

  • I hardly call taxed to hilt for wind farms an paying £50Million day to Europe getting us fit

  • @ Robin Wilde – The same Reform that Vince Cable proposed a major package of spending reductions with in 2009, yes. http://www.reform.co.uk/content/4648/media/economy/vince_cable_proposes_cuts_worth_14bn

  • Oh dear, I think Jeremy Browne has drunk a bit too much of the Orange Book Kool-Aid, passed out and woken up as a fully-fledged Tory.

    “school vouchers and free schools, a lower top rate of income tax, a smaller state,”

    Which bit of that is “authentically liberal”. It sounds entirely neo-liberal to me. Imposing the “cure” of competition and shrinking the state is just prescribing more of the same, failed dogma. Has he never heard of the idea that if something fails, you stop doing it?

    He has totally failed to look at societies that actually work, i.e. Scandinavia and the rest of Northern Europe when he says we need to shrink the state. What matters about the state is what we do with it, not how large it is.

  • Adam Corlett 8th Apr '14 - 10:15am

    To use this awful rhetoric, we should be aiming to set a fast pace in the global race, but it would be just wrong to hope that Asia, South America and Africa never catch up. It’s great news that economic power is shifting and that we are in ‘relative decline’, as this is part of an incredible increase in living standards across the world, and hopefully a reduction in global inequality.

  • Bill le Breton 8th Apr '14 - 10:16am

    If we want to be really a radical force for Liberalism we will find more substantial ideas in 500 words written yesterday by Joe Bourke https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-the-generation-gap-39109.html than in50,000 word written by Jeremy Browne.

    He has however, one thing right, we should have used and be using our opportunity in Coalition to put own foot on the accelerator and not be using it on the brake. It is just that he has far less imagination than Joe!!!!!

  • Bill le Breton 8th Apr '14 - 10:17am

    Or Adam.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Apr '14 - 10:28am

    I’m not sure what I think about this. I don’t like the cover, I don’t really care if power is shifting to other parts of the globe and I don’t even like competition. As one of the most right wing commenters on LDV it would surprise people that I don’t like competition, but I still love private enterprise and especially self-employment. For me it is about freedom and efficiency, not competition.

    At the same time, I don’t want to split hairs, my instincts are still economically liberal, but perhaps for different reasons and I often quickly revert to the centre-ground, because I don’t like big cuts or divisiveness.

    So I’m unsure what I think, but one thing I know is that the party and Jeremy Browne need to make up. No more of these stunts should be tolerated, although I don’t think it is too bad this time, because I think it was wrong to sack him in the first place.

  • Richard Harris 8th Apr '14 - 11:27am

    This just confirms in my mind that the LDs did a great “wolf in sheep’s clothing” act at the last election. I voted for a party that showed it was fresh thinking and left of Labour on many points. It’s failed on both.

  • I suspect the people moaning haven;t read it yet (a fair assumption given its release date!). Just as the people who slate the Orange book by and large haven’t read it.

  • Nick Collins 8th Apr '14 - 11:44am

    This “radical new approach” sounds remarkably like”more of the same”: a continuation of the policies of Thatcher, Blair and the current shower.

  • Nick Collins 8th Apr '14 - 11:56am

    @ Ryan. There are libraries and bookshops full of books I have not read and new books are published daily: faster than my ability to read existing books which I should like to. One has to be selective. Nothing in the reviews or in Jeremy Browne’s past utterances makes me consider that my precious time would well spent in reading his book.

  • Stephen Howse 8th Apr '14 - 11:56am

    “I suspect the people moaning haven;t read it yet (a fair assumption given its release date!). Just as the people who slate the Orange book by and large haven’t read it.”

    I suspect you’re right. ‘Orange Booker’ has become lazy shorthand to apply to anyone who says anything that might vaguely be construed as pro-business or pro-market. It’s become code for ‘right-wing’, and therefore ‘not liberal’.

    Having actually read the Orange Book, it is an inventive and thoughtful collection of essays which use market-led proposals to achieve ends we can all agree on, like cutting carbon emissions and reducing recidivism rates – it does not deserve to be used as a pejorative. (You will of course note that the so-called ‘Orange Bookers’ have no such pejorative equivalent to use to dismiss those whose views are different to their own!)

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Apr '14 - 12:22pm

    We see here “The Voice” using the word “liberal” as if it means what we used to call “Thatcherite economics”. If “The Voice” is intended to be a neutral commentator it should not use this word in this biased way, it is a usage that has been determinedly pushed by a group of well-funded (mainly by big business which has a vested interest in this sort of thing) people who have a determined agenda which is very different from the bulk of the Liberal Democrat party. This usage of “liberal” was unheard of in our party until just a few years ago. Back when the Liberal Party and the SDP merged to form our party, the word “liberal” was generally taken to mean the sort of bearded and sandalled people who wanted everything to be run by collectives that the SDP though needed to be sidelined, which is why they tried to get the party called first “Democrats” and then “Social and Liberal Democrats” in order to de-emphasise the liberal part. Those of us who carried on calling ourselves “Liberal” then were treated with suspicion, and we were mostly people who didn’t like the SDP because we thought it too right-wing.

    Stephen Howse complains about “Orange Booker” being used to describe people who want us to adopt Thatcherite economics. Very well, I accept his point that the Orange Book was a mixture of essays, it made some interesting points, it had things with being discussed, it made the liberal case for making some use of free market principles as a time when many people who called themselves “liberal” in this country would have been quite antipathetic to using the free market to achieve their social aims. I’ve no problem with people of that opinion making their point and linking it to the liberal tradition, just as I’ve no problem with people who are very critical of the free market making their attacks on it on the name of liberalism. We need this sort of discussion. What we do NOT need is one side attempting to take the word “liberal” by stealth and make it mean exclusively them. So people like me who disagree with the idea that liberalism is primarily about free market economics use the word “Orange booker” to mean those who disagree with us on that in the absence of any other agreed term, since we most certainly do not want to go along with them on accepting their theft of the word “liberal” to exclude us. If you don’t like it, please supply us with another term which both sides will be happy to use and accept as a neutral one to describe their set of beliefs. I’ve used the term “Thatcherite”, which of course is not neutral, but it’s no more biased than “The Voice”‘s acceptance of the theft of the word “liberal” to mean what I call “Thatcherite”. Back in the 1980s, the party would have been almost united in calling this sort of thing “Thatcherite”.

  • Richard Shaw 8th Apr '14 - 12:28pm

    Liberals should not be afraid of ideas and debate. As such we should always welcome publications such as this, as we should also The Green Book, Re-inventing the State, The Orange Book and all those going back to the 1920s and beyond.
    Those who accuse Jeremy Browne of being a Tory for daring to disagree with them are the real (small c) conservatives. Play the ball, not the person.

  • Given this, I’m beginning to think the current liberal Democrats would be a better fit for Cameron, Osborne, Gove, etc than the Tories.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Apr '14 - 1:04pm

    Richard Shaw

    Those who accuse Jeremy Browne of being a Tory for daring to disagree with them are the real (small c) conservatives. Play the ball, not the person.

    What nonsense. The point I was making is that Jeremy Browne is pushing policies that when I joined the party were not supported by any significant element in the party, and were seen as part of what the the Conservative Party stood for. I’ve no problem with discussing these policies, or even whether our party should shift to supporting them, but I do have a problem with the shifty way they have begun to be labelled “liberal” without an acceptance from those doing so that this means a big shift from what the word used to mean in this country, and without the stated agreement of those who maintained the term “liberal” for themselves when it was not a fashionable political term in this country.

    As for “daring to disagree”, well how “daring” is it to come out with views that are shared by most of our national newspapers, almost all big companies and their leaders, and the biggest and wealthiest political party in this country? It’s a bit like calling someone “daring” in the days of Soviet-style communism for living in the USSR and singing the praises of Marxism-Leninism.

  • Well I for one am grateful that we have people like Browne in our Party questioning the cosy consensus on what ‘liberal’ means; despite the growls from the pub regulars who feel they have a monopoly on language, approach and ideas by dint of having occupied the same chair in the corner for 25 years. I would argue that their approach to many issues – education and health provision for instance and certainly their community-politics-driven attraction to anything local simply because of its localism (“Save the X!” “Resist the Y!” is firmly in both a Luddite and conservative rather than liberal tradition. Strangers ‘baint be welcome round ‘ere…..

  • Well I’ve read the Orange Book, quite recently in fact, and I was not impressed, I have to say. Calling for market-led solutions to public sector problems is old hat and where tried has mostly failed miserably. It is merely offering a retread of ideas put forward for decades by the right – witness the disaster that has unfolded under rail privatisation.

    Sadly, Jeremy Brown doesn’t seem to have registered this and is calling for more of the same. He is not representative of the party at large, merely one rather small current of thought within it. Long may that remain the case.

  • Richard Shaw:
    “Those who accuse Jeremy Browne of being a Tory for daring to disagree with them are the real (small c) conservatives. Play the ball, not the person.”
    David:
    “Well I for one am grateful that we have people like Browne in our Party questioning the cosy consensus on what ‘liberal’ means”

    I don’t follow Lib Dem politics as much as I use to, but wasn’t Brown one of the ministers involved in the “Go Home” deportation vans? If I’m right I’m surprised Lib Dems think so highly of him- even Nigel Farage said it was a disgusting stunt.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Apr '14 - 1:50pm

    Richard Shaw 8th Apr ’14 – 12:28pm
    “Those who accuse Jeremy Browne of being a Tory for daring to disagree with them are the real (small c) conservatives. Play the ball, not the person.”

    Exactly, this.

    Saying Browne should join the Tories is about as idiotic a statement as saying those who want a “left of Labour” party should join the Greens, IMO.

    My copy of the book hasn’t turned up yet, but from the interviews Browne has given, I think that he has a fair point; we’ve too often chosen the “split the difference” between the other two parties rather than go full-bore for our own, brave & bold Liberalism.

    As for those who are complaining that Reform was founded by some Tories, well… I can only give you the words of one Jo Grimond;

    “There are no more miserable spectres in our political life than the numerous varieties of National Liberals absorbed in the Tory Party. They have done that party no good. They have done politics in this country little good, and advanced the cause of Liberalism not one title. That makes us all the more welcoming to the converts who are coming back.”

    I don’t want Jeremy Browne to join the Tories; I want the Liberal Wing of the Tory Party to defect to us!

  • Bill le Breton 8th Apr '14 - 2:10pm

    @RC is so right when he writes, “Well I’ve read the Orange Book, quite recently in fact, and I was not impressed, I have to say. Calling for market-led solutions to public sector problems is old hat and where tried has mostly failed miserably. It is merely offering a retread of ideas put forward for decades by the right …”

    Imagine, you have been in Government. You are moved out. You have time, resources, access and your are comissioned to write a book … and then you come up with something so stale, so unimaginative , so unthought through.

    I realise I am repeating myself – but Joe Bourke gave five ideas yesterday that would really challenge the way things have been in this country for so long.

    In the end the acid test of policies have to be their effect on the ability of people to take and use power in all the communities and relationships in which they work, live, relate and express themselves.

  • @ Richard Flowers In the nineteenth century Liberals didn’t support free trade or the free market because they saw it as liberal. They supported it because it was a way of removing power from the land owners and ruling class and giving it to the people. It produced cheap food and so more people were better off and so had more liberty. Today we should accept that while the free market perfect model may appear liberal it quickly because illiberal with power being in the hands a few major suppliers and not the people. Any discussion of whether something is liberal should look at where the power is and giving it to the people is liberal and giving it to something that the people do not control is illiberal.

  • With Alisdair on this one. Always pleasing when the words of Grimmond have an apt use.

  • I’ll wait to read the book to give a full judgement, but his interviews do sound as if they could have been given by Blair or even Major let alone Cameron / Osbourne with remarkably few changes…

    One point that strikes me is we are often being told how draining the life of an MP is and yet in just a few months he has carried this role out and written a book. Add in the fact that he represents a Somerset constituency with all the problems that County has faced in the same period and it does raise questions for me…

  • Jenny Barnes 8th Apr '14 - 2:50pm

    “the people who slate the Orange book by and large haven’t read it.” I have. It’s as bad as it’s painted, It’s like the last 30 years all over again.

  • @SteveWay

    From working in publishing, it is highly unlikely that the book would have been completed any later than December last year.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Apr '14 - 3:43pm

    Richard Flowers

    @Matthew Huntbach

    “What we do NOT need is one side attempting to take the word “liberal” by stealth and make it mean exclusively them.”

    And yet you spend 500 words doing exactly that

    In what way? I am simply defending using the word with the meaning it had when I joined the Liberal Party. I am not trying to take it and get it to mean something else. What I have written accepts that there is a liberal case for free market economics, so I am not being exclusive about the term and saying it should only apply to people who are opposed to extensive use of market techniques. However, “The Voice” and Jeremy Browne in using “liberal” to mean “use of free market economics” ARE being exclusive because that is a usage which excludes people like me who once called themselves “liberals” and were accepted as that.

  • Simon McGrath 8th Apr '14 - 3:48pm

    @Jenny barnes
    ““the people who slate the Orange book by and large haven’t read it.” I have. It’s as bad as it’s painted, It’s like the last 30 years all over again.”
    You mean a period over which living standards rose significantly for virtually everyone ?
    http://www.sussex.ac.uk/britishlivingstandards/othersurveys/1870-2010

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Apr '14 - 3:59pm

    David

    Well I for one am grateful that we have people like Browne in our Party questioning the cosy consensus on what ‘liberal’ means

    What “cosy consensus”? Here we are again, the rich and powerful using that old right-wing game of pretending they are the small and weak rebels against some imagined all-powerful left-wing dominance. The word “liberal” has been stolen and is now regularly used by well-funded think-tanks, top right-wing politicians, leading right-wing publications to mean “extreme free market economics”, and yet these forces are all challenging some “cosy consensus” which consists of a few old-timers like me who have been around long enough to remember what the word used to mean, as if we old-timers are the forces of power and those right-wingers are not.

    despite the growls from the pub regulars who feel they have a monopoly on language, approach and ideas by dint of having occupied the same chair in the corner for 25 years.

    in sarcastic font
    Oh gosh, put everything out to market forces, what a new idea, what an idea no-one has thought of before, what a brave and innovative thing to mention
    close sarcastic font
    What utter rot you write. YOURS, David, is the overwhelming consensus view now, the view taken for granted by the rich and powerful, the view big-money is pushing, yet you pretend that you are new and radical, and you resent those few of us left who challenge you and point out your Orwellian language-changing trickery.

    I have no problem with debate. I have no problem with Jeremy Browne putting forward his view and arguing for it, though as I’ve said it’s tedious and boring no as it’s been the dominant idea in politics since the 1990s. It was fresh and interesting then, it is stale and its short-comings very apparent now. You are like someone arguing the case for soviet-style socialism in the last days of the USSR, and still using the language of revolution and pretending you are the rebels fighting some imaginary powers you actually long ago deposed.

    I would argue that their approach to many issues – education and health provision for instance and certainly their community-politics-driven attraction to anything local simply because of its localism (“Save the X!” “Resist the Y!” is firmly in both a Luddite and conservative rather than liberal tradition. Strangers ‘baint be welcome round ‘ere…..

    This is not a line I am using. I am simply suggesting that liberalism means more than just free market economics, and so using it to mean just “moving towards a more market-oriented way of doing things” is wrong.

  • Tony Greaves 8th Apr '14 - 4:15pm

    Browne is not a liberal or a Liberal. He is a “neoliberal” rightwinger whose idea of the Liberal Democrats would be a dogmatic free-market party floating to the right of the Conservative Party. It is very odd that he was ever a LD minister.

    Tony

  • I totally agree Tony.

    One of the big reasons I am a member of the Lib Dems is that we are (I believe) a party that believes in a mixture of the free market and the state, with neither being seen as innately more virtuous than the other. Rather they both have their good and bad points, with different jobs to do under different circumstances. We are not supposed to be a “hate the state” party, yet Jeremy Browne puts himself firmly in that camp.

    This is outside mainstream Lib Dem thinking and rather than making me uncomfortable, I just find it tiresome and disappointing. It merely reminds me what we are up against in trying to destroy some of the lazy, distorted and frankly dangerously ideological economic certainties of the last 20 years.

    This book, as far as I can see from the suggestions summarised here, is going in totally the wrong direction.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Apr '14 - 4:54pm

    I’m sick of hearing this nonsense about Jeremy Browne being an avid right-winger – moderates support imperialist immigration controls and in the past have been “timid” in opposing racist and homophobic policies, so who is on the right!?

    Lazy debate makes this place boring – if you are calling Jeremy Browne a right winger then you are calling a lot of other people right wingers too.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Apr '14 - 4:58pm

    Let’s have an immigration debate between RC and Jeremy and see who is more liberal. Self-righteousness where it is not deserved.

  • Just a feeling, based on the thumbnail summary above, I suspect his book has nothing to say on the environment, climate change, fossil fuels, food supply, resource demand etc. etc. ….

  • My thanks go to
    — Helen Tedcastle, RC, Bill le Breton, Nick Collins, Matthew Huntbach, Amalric, Steve Way, Jenny Barnes, Tony Greaves.
    They have Put the sensible arguments well.
    I notice that those defending Browne’s ‘ Orange Thatcherite Bookism’ do not actually have any sustainable arguments in favour of the content or conclusions of Browne’s book. They defend on tribal assumptions. Perhaps even they do not really agree with what he has written but feel an obligation to rally round to defend their neo-Thatcherite hero.

    What sort of colour do you get if you mix Browne and Orange ?

  • @Joe Otten
    Things like NAFTA have damaged the US. People often promote free trade as something wonderful but if the evidence is otherwise, one can only conclude that they do so for ideological reasons

  • @ Joe

    The private sector is a jolly good thing. In its own place. Its own place, however, is not in delivering public goods and services, except under very strictly limited and controlled circumstances.

    The state and public ownership, on the other hand, also has a role to play under other circumstances. These are where goods and services are required by society that have significant “externalities” i.e. aspects that can’t be captured within the mechanisms of the market. For example, giving everyone access to high standard free education is good for society as a whole, not just for the individual. Or having good public transport, for instance, has spin off benefits for congestion, the environment etc. Introducing the private sector into these services brings in motivations that are not aligned with the goals of a public service and which can often work against them, most notably the private profit motive, which usually wins out at the expense of staff wages, service standards etc.

    Yet this is what the neo-liberals and fellow “thinkers” like Jeremy Browne, despite all the accumulating weight of evidence from years of experience, seem determined to deny.

  • Chris Manners 8th Apr '14 - 5:56pm

    “The point at issue here seems to be whether on the one hand private enterprise is a necessary evil that at least sometimes pays its taxes, or on the other hand is a force for good that occasionally goes wrong.”

    No it isn’t. Nobody’s suggesting nationalising Apple or JCB.

    What Browne’s suggesting is extending the private sector into areas where most people don’t think it should go.

  • The article, in summarising Mr. Browne’s book, defines a key international trend – the shift of world power and economic strength from the West to Asia, South America and Africa.

    These regions of the world have long comprised the mass of world population – they now comprise, by far, the great mass of the world’s working age population engaged in some form of productive activity.

    The individual proposals cited in the article may have more or less merit – either way they do not appear to go to the heart of the issues the UK faces with respect to world competitiveness .

    The challenge for the UK is to effectively plot a course that will harness our domestic resources of talent and enterprise so that we are able to pay our way in the world. That means not tolerating persistent high levels of unemployment, a determined and consistent approach to core educational and skills development; and re-shoring of manufacturing as wage costs increase in China and elsewhere. In short – a much greater joined-up approach between government and industry – the much derided Industrial strategy.

    Vince Cable in his January economic speech emphasised four policy areas for priority action – boosting the disposable income of low and middle earners; stimulating business investment (with the help of public investment); taking action, including through the industrial strategy, to tackle bottlenecks in skills, business finance, exports and UK supply chains; and building lots of new homes.

    Cable is advocating a direct approach to tackle the problem head-on. What matters is what works for the benefit of the great majority of the population. We know, or should know by now, that we cannot rely on either overly-planned economies or unregulated free markets that drive income and wealth into a small oligolopic group of corporate interests to deliver the outcomes desired – hence the issue of a slightly smaller or bigger state is largely irrelevant to competitiveness.

    Our priority should be a refocus on ‘political economy’. Creating the environment in which individual effort, in whatever sphere of activity or employment, is commensurately rewarded – a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work- and one in which the country’s natural resources, infrastructure and the energies of its population are applied to this end.

  • Chris Manners 8th Apr '14 - 6:05pm

    “. The “hate the state” position is the view that improved living standards are achieved by industrial unrest – because that unrest weakens the state directly , if the state is the employer, or indirectly if it is a part of the private sector economy that pays taxes. And in any case, clearly, it can’t raise living standards overall, just for one group at the expense of others”

    Dear oh lord. Utter dogma.

    Better conditions can make important jobs more attractive. If teachers were able to win eg reduction in bureaucratic tasks, why does that come “at the expense of others”?

    People working in privatised schools can go on strike too. See privatised rail companies.

  • Chris Manners 8th Apr '14 - 6:06pm

    “Vince Cable in his January economic speech emphasised four policy areas for priority action – boosting the disposable income of low and middle earners; stimulating business investment (with the help of public investment); taking action, including through the industrial strategy, to tackle bottlenecks in skills, business finance, exports and UK supply chains; and building lots of new homes.”

    Old Vince, musing interestingly on capitalism.

    Not good enough for a Secretary of State.

  • Joe Otten – “private enterprise is … a force for good that occasionally goes wrong.”

    I certainly agree that it can be a force for good. Over a big part of economic life there is no better way of harnessing individual enterprise and creativity. However, at the risk of nitpicking, I would NOT say that “it occasionally goes wrong”. Rather I would say that it habitually goes wrong unless subject to clear rules of behaviour that are rigorously enforced.

    This is true from large companies that conspire to fix prices and to engage in deceitful marketing as their basic business plan to rogue traders and cowboy builders. It is a central deceit of neoliberals that markets somehow, magically make everything perfect. They don’t. Yes, it can be that markets work as we would wish but if they do it’s usually only because there is someone with a social conscience calling the shots in that particular firm. Sadly, that is not the general rule.

    This explains the attraction of ‘free markets’ for neoliberals; it means ones in which there are no or few rules of behaviour so providing increased opportunities to make money through socially-destructive methods even when it becomes distinctly pathological.

    Simon McGrath – “You mean a period over which living standards rose significantly for virtually everyone ?

    Try telling that to a 30 year old still living with his parents at an age when they, in a statistically far poorer country, had already bought their first house.

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOJ93tAbPP0?feature=player_embedded&w=640&h=360%5D

  • Stephen Howse 8th Apr '14 - 6:54pm

    “One of the big reasons I am a member of the Lib Dems is that we are (I believe) a party that believes in a mixture of the free market and the state, with neither being seen as innately more virtuous than the other. Rather they both have their good and bad points, with different jobs to do under different circumstances.”

    I wholeheartedly agree with that. There’s nothing inherently virtuous or moral about markets – they are tools created by society to facilitate the production and dispersal of desirable goods and services, not abstract masters of society off floating somewhere in the ether. I would argue that markets don’t work where there are natural monopolies, e.g. in water provision and rail services, so an alternative way of providing these things needs to be found.

    Thinking that, I feel, doesn’t make me a dangerous neo-Stalinist any more than believing markets can be useful in other scenarios makes me some sort of deranged turbo-Friedmanite.

    “I notice that those defending Browne’s ‘ Orange Thatcherite Bookism’ do not actually have any sustainable arguments in favour of the content or conclusions of Browne’s book.”

    I haven’t read his book yet so can’t pass much comment on its content, I can only go off what the man himself has said in promoting it. However, I think he is to be commended – regardless of which ‘wing’ of this party you feel you belong to – for at least sparking off a debate. For so long there seemed to be a great gaping hole in Liberal Democrat policy debate where the economy was concerned, and I am glad we have someone like Jeremy to challenge received wisdom and orthodoxy and put forward some alternative ideas.

    If nothing else it will help those who disagree with him to reaffirm their own beliefs – when people don’t question and challenge their own beliefs, they become lazy and reactionary.

  • Chris Manners 8th Apr '14 - 7:43pm

    ” The point is simply that this is not a viable strategy for raising standards of living in general.”

    I agree with that. Though with things like regional public sector pay, it gets more money into poorer areas which is a good thing.

  • Chris Manners 8th Apr '14 - 7:52pm

    Joe,

    Thanks for being civil after my uncivil post.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Apr '14 - 8:50pm

    Tim Oliver

    Amazing. Someone puts their toe in the water and has the temerity to suggest that liberalism might include more than just the sort of socialism-with-civil-liberties-bolted-on of certain members of this party, and they’re labelled a TORY ZOMG.

    No, it’s not just “might include”. He and “Liberal Voice” do not just suggest this is a possible aspect of liberalism, they describe it as “liberal” without qualification, and indeed “authentically liberal”. So it’s not “might include” it’s “only includes”, that is, it wants to throw the rest of us out and deny us the word we have used proudly to describe ourselves for decades.

    As for “toes in the water” and “temerity”, as I said in my reply to “David” these are strange words to use for adopting the same ideology that is supported without question by almost all the real powers in this country i.e. big business leader, the country’s biggest political party, and most of its newspapers.

    To me it is very obvious that the movement of the country on these line which has been continuous since the days of the Thatcher government has NOT brought most people true liberty. I hear from most people I know that life has become more stressful than ever, they feel more under pressure, less under control of their lives than ever.It has brought true freedom only to a tiny super-rich minority. Those who are really politically brave and have some original thought to contribute now are those able to stand up an question all this and think through why what has become political orthodoxy just hasn’t worked as its supporters claim it does.

  • I’ed agree that the article picks out bits that sound like a list of public policy issues rather than one focused on UK competitiveness. The Free Schools / School Vouchers has an important part to play in ensuring people have the basic skills to get on in life but there is no mention of the social change needed to raise the status of training the attitude to retraining or how we smooth people moving as circumstances change.

    @ Helen Tedcastle

    “that great liberal Tony Blair”

    Blair claimed to be almost everything at some point in time so using him in any example does your argument no favours.

    “the sooner he joins the Tories – where he belongs – the better in my view”

    ‘They should join the Tories,’ ‘they should join Labour,’ ‘they should join the greens…’ ‘UKIP…’ ‘the monster raving loony’s.’ Grow up, if all you find yourself doing is attacking the person rather than the argument it says more about you then it does about them.

    @ Richard Shaw

    “Liberals should not be afraid of ideas and debate. As such we should always welcome publications such as this, as we should also The Green Book, Re-inventing the State, The Orange Book and all those going back to the 1920s and beyond.

    Those who accuse Jeremy Browne of being a Tory for daring to disagree with them are the real (small c) conservatives. Play the ball, not the person.”

    Well said

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    “I do have a problem with the shifty way they have begun to be labelled “liberal” without an acceptance from those doing so that this means a big shift from what the word used to mean in this country, and without the stated agreement of those who maintained the term “liberal” for themselves when it was not a fashionable political term in this country.”

    What I find most worrying is that you assume there is some form of “ownership” of the work liberal. Also you seem to suggest that liberal means being policies that the Liberal Party/LibDem Party previously advocated or at least didn’t oppose.

    Perhaps you should think about the general values that the policy is trying to achieve, and how likely it is to do so.

    @ SteveWay

    “he represents a Somerset constituency with all the problems that County has faced in the same period and it does raise questions for me…”

    Errr, he represents a constituency in Somerset not the whole of Somerset. If you are suggesting that the flooding is the problem how much of his constituency was under water. Also what is it you believe he should have done that you believe he did not?

    @ Helen Tadcastle

    “The policies Browne is pushing as ‘liberal’ never mind ‘Liberal,’ are the very policies and mindset the Party fought in the 1980s and 1990s. Let’s call it Thatcherism”

    This reminds me of Paddy’s comments when Thatcher died. He pointed out that he spent the 80’s and 90’s opposing Thatcher’s reforms but when put in charge of Bosnia and needed policies to create economic growth he copied her.
    Perhaps a few more people need to accept that there have been some positive effects along with negative effects. As we are not living in the 1980’s anymore perhaps people need to look at what policies would address the negatives and amplify the positives.

    Some old policies still have values (LVT) some don’t (state ownership of industry). I find it worrying (particularly in a party that describes itself as pro-European) that when discussions of health provision so many people refer to the US as a comparison rather than looking to what can be learnt from out nearer neighbours.

  • @Psi
    My point, and I think you already know this, is that if the job of an MP is as taxing as we are told, how did he have time to write a book such as this in the time available??? Every MP I hear interviewed intimates they do not have time to do the work required of them, this simply can’t be true if they manage to write a book in this timescale.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Apr '14 - 1:36am

    Psi

    What I find most worrying is that you assume there is some form of “ownership” of the word liberal.

    It is “Liberal Voice” and Jeremy Browne here who are claiming ownership of the word “liberal” and claiming it means their sort of policy.

    Also you seem to suggest that liberal means being policies that the Liberal Party/LibDem Party previously advocated or at least didn’t oppose.

    Why would it be called the “Liberal” Party if there were not some sort of connection?

    Perhaps you should think about the general values that the policy is trying to achieve, and how likely it is to do so.

    That is what I am doing in particular in the last paragraph of my comment of 8.50pm yesterday.

  • Passing through 9th Apr '14 - 2:00am

    “school vouchers and free schools, a lower top rate of income tax, a smaller state, a new hub airport for London”

    Let’s be honest if you had no idea who Jeremy Browne was and you were told this list were his answers to Britain’s problems, and then you were told he was a Conservative, I reckon you would simply accept that without even a blink of surprise. You’d struggle to point at anything in that list that you could see the likes of Boris, Gove or Cameron disagreeing in the slightest with, or for that matter Fox, Hague or Tebbit.

    Perhaps that list does represent “authentically liberal” policies but I don’t think many on here would like where that line of thought then logically takes you.

  • “Race to the bottom plan”.

  • The global race argument is daft. As others have pointed out, other countries doing well benefits us too.

    Beyond that, let’s debate his ideas to make Britain better on their merits rather than just all this dreary “he’s a Tory” stuff.

    Why so many people on here are so keen to denounce others as not liberal (code for ‘left’) enough is pretty tiresome.

  • Ian Hurdley 9th Apr '14 - 7:53am

    I think Jeremy Browne (and indeed, many others) would do well to read the writings of the Skidelsky s and then spend some time reflecting on whether infinite growth is even desirable, let alone possible. For living creatures, growth beyond a particular point represents a pathological condition; the same is true of economies. Economic and political dominance has always shifted from one part of the globe to another – think pharaonic Egypt, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Austro-Hungary.
    It would be a greater service to the party and to the country to look for alternative objectives as economic influence moves away from the West.

  • George Turner 9th Apr '14 - 8:36am

    This is one of the scariest videos I have seen since night of the living dead.

    Where on earth does Jeremy think the new infrastructure and improved schools are going to come from if he wants to cut the top rate of tax. I notice that Jeremy was also against increasing the tax threshold further than 10,000. I am absolutely disgusted that anyone in our party would advocate for a redistribution of wealth to the rich.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Apr '14 - 8:43am

    As an outsider, I think that this will be an important book because, as already evident, it will act as a catalyst for Liberal Democrats to decide exactly what it means to be a Liberal Democrat.

    I find the discussions on here very interesting but it would take a better brain than mine to work it out, or to understand what makes the Liberal Democrats a distinctive party.

    I started voting Liberal Democat in the days of the ‘disreputable ‘ YL’s and just kept up the habit. Vietnam, Apartheid, the start of community based politics. Those were the days. Some contributors on here seem to remember them. For some who ask why John Tilley doesn’t join the Labour Party clearly don’t. Peter Hain joined the Labour Party ( great man) but I wonder whether he came to regret it. It is good to see contributions from Tony Greaves too.

    The Liberal Democrat stance against the war in Iraq gave me a very good reason to continue voting Liberal Democrat, but I think that the Liberal Democrats need a big argument as to what is the ‘heart and soul’ of the party. Until you work that out for yourselves, and reading Lib Dem Voice suggests me that you haven’t, I don’t think that you are going to convince many people that you have something distinctive and special to offer.

    Old people like myself might look like elderly reactionaries, but not all old people are reactionaries. Jeremy Browne’s book and the Liberal Democrats experience of time in office seems like a good time to decide on the fundamentals of a party that must face the challenges of a new century.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Apr '14 - 10:21am

    I work in education, I teach computer programming at university, the skill which is identified by employers as having the biggest shortage and most difficult to find those who really have it. I teach this at a university in London and I also teach it at a university in Beijing.

    Jeremy Browne is talking about the need for better education and the need to be competitive with China. My personal experience above helps inform me that what he is talking is tripe. He’s just using this as an excuse for politics which pay rich people large amounts of money for not doing very much. There’s a lot I could do on improving educational standards, but Jeremy Browne’s ideas on this just demonstrate his cluelessness. I also note that the state control and rather illiberal social attitudes in China seem to contradict what he is saying.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    You appear to confuse the direction of causality. A liberal policy is liberal as it furthers liberal aims. A Liberal party tries to be liberal by attempting to achieve liberal aims, hopefully by enacting liberal policies.

    A policy can be “Liberal” in that it was proposed by a “Liberal” party but that does not automatically make it liberal that comes from achieving liberal aims.

  • Jayne Mansfield probably speaks for a large percentage of people who voted Liberal Democrat in the General Elections. B

  • @ Steve Way

    Firstly, to clarify, has Browne made the claim you refer to? I’m not saying he hasn’t but I don’t know if he has. If not I would just point out that you are judging him by others standards.

    Secondly, is proposing an approach to public policy not the job of an MP? There is the pointing at pot holes, or discussing why the council has dragged its feet about new parking arrangements aspect of their job but there is also that rather important part of holding the Government to account, suggesting approaches for making the lives better in the long term. That will inevitably include some MPs proposing ideas that are right and some that are wrong and hopefully the better ones will win out and be put in practice.

  • Jayne Mansfield probably speaks for a large percentage of people who voted Liberal Democrat in the General Elections up to and including 2010. When she says –
    “I started voting Liberal Democat in the days of the ‘disreputable ‘ YL’s and just kept up the habit. Vietnam, Apartheid, the start of community based politics. Those were the days. Some contributors on here seem to remember them. ”

    But that pattern of thinking and voting is entirely in line with the thread of Liberal and Radical thought on the left of English politics going back to the Putney Debates of the 1640s.

    The sort of aberration that is represented today by Jeremy Browne, Joe Otten, Nick Thornsby et al is also nothing new but has always been at the edge of Liberal thinking and usually results in the individuals who hold those views going off to a political home which is more natural for people of their beliefs. I am too young to remember much about Oliver Smedley and the Free Trade obsessives of the early 1960s but it strikes me that they would have offered a welcoming hand to the NeoThatcherite Jeremy Browne .

    Those people who persist in suggesting that to say such a thing is attacking the man and not the ball, they are talking balls. It is perfectly possible to be polite and sincere to suggest to people that their views are out of step with mainstream Liberaism and that they would be happier elsewhere. Jeremy Browne and Norman Tebbit seem to have a lot in common when it comes to economic policies – it is not an ad hominem attack to point this out.

    Jayne Mansfield goes on to say –
    “…. some who ask why John Tilley doesn’t join the Labour Party …”
    To be fair I think there are only a couple of people who have suggested such a thing. Although others may have thought it. The simple answer to why John Tilley does not join the Labour Party is that the Labour Party would not have me. I hold views on the monarchy, NATO, renewable energy sources, electoral reform, participatory democracy and redistribution of wealth which are compatible with mainstream Liberalism but are at odds with Labour Party thought and manifestos.

    Some of the attacks on Labour and the Left in LDV seemed to be based on complete ignorance. For example, Joe Otten’s aggressive rants against trade unions seem to ignore the fact that whilst trade union membership is currently at a low for the last fifty years there are still millions of trade union members, far more than belong to our party or indeed than vote Liberal Democrat even in good times. Are they all crazy people set on undermining the economy ? Do they fit the stereotype Thatcherte description that Joe Otten seems to believe in? Or are they shop workers, train drivers, nurses, teachers, boilermakers, lathe operators, call centre workers, just ordinary people who work day in day out and mostly never go on strike ? These are the trade unionists I see when I go to hospital or catch a bus, or,walk past the local factory — I do not see Joe Otten’s ‘reds under the bed’ or his ‘enemy within’. As far as I can make out most ordinary trade unionists are not plotting to undermine civilisation as we know it, they are just doing their job and feeding their children.

  • Steve Griffiths 9th Apr '14 - 12:46pm

    Jeremy Browne’s book is the sort of nonsense that Keith Joseph’s ‘Centre for Policy Studies’ was producing in the 1970s-1980s (and still does for all I know), only updated for this century. The Liberals condemned it then and the Lib Dems should shun it now.

    I had almost stopped contributing to LDV as it seemed to be filled with neoliberal contributors. Thank goodness for Helen Tedcastle, RC, Bill le Breton, Nick Collins, Matthew Huntbach, Amalric, Steve Way, Jenny Barnes, Tony Greaves.John Tilley et al, to show me that there are still a few radical liberals out there of the sort that were mainstream in the party not too many years ago.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Apr '14 - 2:24pm

    Psi

    You appear to confuse the direction of causality. A liberal policy is liberal as it furthers liberal aims.

    Yes, that’s why I do not believe the policies suggested by Jeremy Browne here are “liberal”. You have put my case well.

  • Nick Collins 9th Apr '14 - 2:32pm

    @ Steve Griffiths. Sorry to disappoint you, but I left the party, two years ago because it is no longer recognisable as the party which I joined. I am , however, flattered to have my name bracketed with the others on your list.

  • Matther Huntbach

    At last 76 comments in and we are getting to a discussion of the actual policies rather than “he’s a Tory / Labour, neh neh, nee, neh neh”

    As you accept that something previously being a policy / not being a policy of a “Liberal” party is not grounds for considering it liberal or otherwise perhaps you could express your specific concerns?

    I note that you mention that you have noticed that you make reference to most of the people you know considering life to be more stressful than ever and less in control of their lives.

    I know it is often people think of the past as a better time but there will almost certainly be many real factors driving this. Perhaps you could pick out what they actually are, as that would probably be more informative than most of the comments so far.

    I’ll offer a suggestion to one factor:
    – vast house prices causing people to worry about their/their children’s ability to afford their accommodation?

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Apr '14 - 9:45pm

    Psi

    I note that you mention that you have noticed that you make reference to most of the people you know considering life to be more stressful than ever and less in control of their lives.

    Try reading what I wrote
    here for a start.

    Almost universally people I know who work in public services and have done so for long ago to remember how it used to me tell me how quality has deteriorated following introduction of a more market-oriented approach. Morale has crashed, the service mentality the idea that this was a noble vocation has been destroyed. Again and again and again I am told by people that once they loved their jobs and would work so hard and so dedicated at them, but now they hate them and just hide their head and do a poor job because of the pressure of this “competition”, and the back-stabbing and bullying that it encourages, and the pointless tasks that it gets people to do to push up places on league tables, and the days and days of productivity lost due to the stress of it all. I have heard this from top doctors and professors, not just those working lower down the scale, though I hear plenty of it from there too. Ask anyone who actually works in this sort of job, and they will tell you just why these fancy market-oriented theories just don’t work in practice.

  • Paul Reynolds 10th Apr '14 - 12:22pm

    Ha ha. I just persuaded a political activist friend of mine (not in Europe) to read the above exchanges, and his interesting conclusion was ‘ah like Zhirinovsky in Russia – a liberal democratic party that dislikes liberals and distrusts democracy’

    Amusing.

  • Matthew Huntbach
    There are a number of reasons why an like what you write here in LDV. In particular I like the fact that you provide context from the real world to support your views. It immediately strikes a chord with me ( and no doubt many others ) when you write —
    “…Ask anyone who actually works in this sort of job, and they will tell you just why these fancy market-oriented theories just don’t work in practice.”
    What you correctly describe as “fancy market-oriented theories” have been tried and been found wanting. As you say, they just do not work in practice. People who know about the NHS, who have worked in the NHS, know that Browne’s snake oil of “choice” is so much Thatcherite clap-trap. When I go into hospital my “choice”is to be treated kindly and to come out alive. Any other “choices” and “private sector solutions” can be left to the poor souls who live in those states of the USA where your credit rating is more important to the hospital than your heart rate. As it happen, both my parents died in Musgrove Park hospital in Taunton. Before their deaths would they or I have been happier if on admission they had been offered choice or asked to get out their cheque books? Would the nurses, doctors and all the other equally important staff have been more efficient and kinder if they had been working for some profit driven multi-national ? I doubt that Jeremy Browne spends much time listening to such people.

    Of course having reached his mid-forties without ever having had a job outside of lobbyist or full-time politics, Jeremy Browne’s accumulated wisdom probably does not take in the experience and views of real people. I doubt very much when compiling material for his book that Jeremy Browne spent much time talking to real people in the small red brick council estates in Taunton (maybe they are sold off now to a social landlord?) or even in the newer estates built for sale in the last 30 years. I doubt that he consulted the people who work in the offices of Somerset County Council in his constituency. In his race to the right, the real world and the practical experience of real people probably would not impress his new friends in the Tax Payers Alliance or the Institute for Economic Tobacco Affairs.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Apr '14 - 2:33pm

    Paul Reynolds

    I just persuaded a political activist friend of mine (not in Europe) to read the above exchanges, and his interesting conclusion was ‘ah like Zhirinovsky in Russia – a liberal democratic party that dislikes liberals and distrusts democracy’

    But what is he referring to? We have some very contrasting opinions here, from members of the same party. So how can your friend make this judgment about the party which seems to be made on the basis that all of us think alike? For myself, the most critical liberal aspect of a party is that it does NOT have a top-down centralist way of thinking and action, so that it is NOT all about the leader and NOT all about sticking to the party line, and does NOT have a mentality where members are treated as if they are unthinking salespersons for the party rather than active participants in its development working as colleagues in co-operative network.

    This is a big reason why I am not a “socialist”, and despite people like Jeremy Browne in effect telling me I am not welcome in the Liberal Democrats as I am not an “authentic liberal” in his words, I have no intention of joining the Labour Party. I despise that top-down socialist model of political party, and all the moral blackmail about party loyalty and there being just one authentic party of the “working class” that goes along with it. I’m saddened that even when many other aspects of socialism have dwindled, their model of political party seems to have taken root to the point where now all parties are supposed to work like that, and many people seem unable even to conceive of a party which operates in a different and what I would call “liberal” way.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Apr '14 - 2:43pm

    John Tilley

    There are a number of reasons why an like what you write here in LDV. In particular I like the fact that you provide context from the real world to support your views. It immediately strikes a chord with me ( and no doubt many others ) when you write —

    Thanks, but I’m SO TIRED of having to keep doing this, and feeling I’m part of a dwindling number of people who remember how the Liberal Party used to be. Every time I look at Liberal Democrat Voice I find these silly fantasy free-market theory types spouting out their old tired stale arguments, and I feel “well, someone has to speak out against this, someone has to be true to history, someone has to say what they remember as fact, and fight against these people’s Orwellian re-writing of the truth”. There was a time when much of what I am saying wouldn’t need to be said as it would be pretty much standard as what most party members understood.

    I was brought up to believe that people have a duty to be active in democratic politics, not just passively consuming it. But now I have nowhere to go. There is no party I have any sympathy with. I wish I could have back the party I once was such a proud and active member of, but I fear it’s too far gone. This year will be the first time since the early 1980s I’m not standing as a Liberal or Liberal Democrat candidate in the local elections, and given the push away from all I believe coming from the top of the party, I shan’t even be delivering its literature this year.

  • Simon Banks 10th Apr '14 - 6:19pm

    First, to remind us of the major shift in world power towards Asia is worthy. Much of Africa and Latin America may speak with stronger voices before long too.

    This is not, though, particularly a threat. We already trade extensively with countries like China, South Korea and India and have certain advantages because of the English language, especially in India and Africa. By analogy, the rise of the USA to be the world’s foremost economic and military power meant a RELATIVE reduction in Britain’s power and influence, but if anything contributed to British prosperity. Of course some operations will continue to be undercut by countries with lower labour costs, but that’s been happening for a hundred years and on a big scale for fifty, and there is a market in Asia for British quality products.

    I think we do need to improve British education, but not by copying China, but by restoring a lively understanding of the importance of ingenuity and innovation, of thinking for oneself, and of learning to co-operate in small teams . That is made even more important by the electronic revolution, which has huge potential to reduce the power of big organisations and set procedures.

    The shift in economic power to East and South Asia is one of the major trends a strategic thinker should consider, but a minor issue beside climate change. Does Jeremy Browne take full account of that, or is his mindset too short-term-business-oriented to take it seriously?

    Jeremy Browne’s perception of what it is to be Liberal seems so narrow, you’d need a microscope to spot it. In particular, he shows little understanding of the extent to which corporate power (not democratically accountable and largely secret) threatens liberty, focusing instead on the state; and in his world of state, individual and market there is small space for community and the power of free association. That is fundamental to British Liberalism and my impression from question-and-answer is that he just doesn’t get it.

  • Maybe it would help if we explored how to bring classical micro economic theory to the supply of education. Everyone in the perfect market model has to have perfect information. Maybe we should look at each course being available in the market place free to the parents and paid for by the state. Each child can therefore study any course at any school. Let us assume there are ten schools and only 60 children in each year group in the village who wish to be educated where our perfect market exists. Therefore before each school year the parents visit the ten schools, read the reports of the current pupils and parents and previous pupils and parents and any exam results of the pupils taken on the course. There is no national curriculum so teachers are free to teach what they like, how they like. All parents and pupils have to complete a report on the course and this is compulsory. Employers have to give paid leave to parents to allow them the time to study the evidence so they can make an informed choice on which course their child should take. The parents and children have more freedom in the choice of course, the teachers are free from government interference but employers have to comply with the law about giving their employees paid leave, parents and pupils are forced to write reports on the course. One of the assumptions is that a teacher can only offer a limited number of courses and I have assumed two courses per year group, however it might be three or four, but it is limited. If another teacher provides the same course it would need to be assessed individually because the outcome may vary. Is this a liberal solution? Will children study the best courses? Will children be better educated? Unless those courses that have no pupils are funded over time the number of schools will likely be reduced because of economic forces and an oligopoly will come about where the parents no longer have more freedom in the choice of course. Perhaps economic liberals would like to see this solution that would increase the role of government and government expenditure.

  • Matthew Huntbach

    I recognise the symptoms you mention (here and in the link), but I disagree with the cause.

    The bullying and back stabbing is not a factor of trying to impose “competition” it affects public sector in both areas where there has been artificial competition imposed and where it has not.

    I would see the major drivers are the blame culture in the public sector which intern originates in the politicians motivations and has been amplified by the increasing data and transparency (which is inevitable), combined with generally poor management skills existing generally. These problems are not something that can be fixed by “keeping out competition” but will require differing solutions in different areas.

    I would not consider league tables a characteristic of competition. League tables are something centralised tightly controlled governments will use as well. The government imposed attempts to create competition often do not really create a true comparison. Real competitive markets don’t always create a dog eat dog environment often they create lots of differentiation where similar products are supplied but with differences that cater for different needs. Most of the time in competitive markets there is far more cooperation than most politicians understand.

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