Opinion: A Cooperative Coalition

The general consensus among today’s politicos is that the dye is now cast for the next General Election. Those at the helm of all “two and a half” major parties are the leaders they assume will take them into the next General Election – the only questions now are “how big will David Cameron’s majority be?” and “what will the LibDem vote share be compared to Labour’s?” And then there’s the ‘C’ word – no not that one. Not that one either…

That’s right: coalition! But with whom? New Labour? Arch-authoritarian, spendthrift, warmongering sycophants… no thanks. The Tories? A party that exists to protect the vested interests of the rich, equally authoritarian and who will most probably crack down on personal freedom like a bitch. Equally unappealing.

If the election goes to a tie break the only party the LibDems should consider forming a coalition with is the Cooperative Party.

Humour me.

I’m in fact an Old Labour hack. And by Old Labour I mean the labour movement circa the 1870s: a golden era of working class political organisation – the inception of cooperatives, mutuals and friendly societies. Free-market capitalism is the best and only moral form of economic organisation. It is the most efficient creator of the wealth that catalyzed the cooperative movement.

Indeed, the labour movement became a powerful mass movement in the nineteenth century largely as a result of it aiding the material and conditional liberation of working people in such areas as health and welfare. By attempting to keep government control and elite politics out of people’s lives, friendly societies, mutuals and co-operatives all promoted the means by which people could own, control and develop their own healthcare and welfare institutions.

The inception of the welfare state ripped the soul out of the working classes and is now used to justify a level of state intervention in our lives that no liberal should find acceptable. ID cards for benefits, for example, or the Tory proposals of giving privileged access to “public services” to people who comply with their health programmes. Despite the welfare state’s good intentions it has replaced a plethora of organic, voluntary, localised and democratic organisations with a single involuntary, centralised and bureaucratic entity enforced by a political elite, and designed to satisfy their own prejudices.

Big government has been a disaster for the poor. After 12 years of a Labour Government social mobility is worse despite the extra money thrown at state education. The quality of our healthcare has only increased slightly despite heavy investment, with the head of the Euro Health Consumer Index stating: “It seems that management of the behemoth NHS organisation is difficult to do under a centralised paradigm.” And to add insult to injury Gordon Brown raided your pensions for £75bn to pay for it all.

Although also descending from the same bright beginnings, New Labour are perversely supporters of the welfare state – the natural enemy of cooperatives and friendly societies. Which is why I find New Labour and the Cooperativists strange bedfellows.

The natural home of the cooperative movement shouldn’t be with a party that has scuppered and continues to disincentivise co-ops and friendly societies. It should be with us: the party of lower and middle-income households, the free market, small government and localism. If the LibDems were to truly embrace the cooperative movement it would send a strong signal that we are serious about cutting centralised bureaucracy and trusting individuals to plan for their own futures.

Smashing the state’s monopoly on welfare provision would mean the individuals managing welfare would no longer be faceless bureaucrats, based remotely from its beneficiaries, they would be directly democratically accountable co-owners of the organisation they serve with a vested interested in managing that organisation’s funds responsibly.

Cooperative and friendly organisations could even work alongside government welfare schemes, where universal state funding was considered necessary. For example, universal health savings accounts could involve a friendly society or co-operative bank of your choice, providing insurance for ‘catastrophic’ health set-backs and a savings account for predictable and low-cost ailments – hence maintaining a health system that would always be treat-first-settle-payment later without the risk of bankruptcy or debt, yet with more choice and less rationing.

National welfare organised this way would encourage different welfare providers to compete and deliver better service. The indignity of the dole would be a thing of the past with every adult of working age having the option of appropriate payment protection cover. Tuition fees would not be an issue with child trusts available from birth and our pensions would no longer be at the mercy of spendthrift Chancellors.

If I were Nick Clegg what I would be doing now (not after the next election, but now) would be approaching the Cooperative Party and asking them to split with the Labour Party and join a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. We set to gain 29 MPs, 12 Peers and 9 MSPs. Although one of those is Ed Balls … you can’t have your cake and eat it… Nonetheless, we would be proactively changing the political landscape rather than being at the mercy of it.

Nevertheless, if the Cooperativists cannot overcome their Stockholm syndrome then let’s embrace cooperativism, mutuals and friendly societies with gusto anyway. Let’s take the best of free-market capitalism and the best of socialism removing the evils of the state in the process. It’s moral, it’s just, it’s Liberalism.

* Sara Scarlett is a member from Surrey Heath constituency where she is the Youth Officer of Surrey Heath Liberal Democrats. She is also Secretary of Royal Holloway Liberal Youth and Director of Development for Liberal Vision. She is writing in her personal capacity.

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  • Andrew Chamberlain 11th Oct '09 - 2:52pm

    Very good. I suspect that even if the Co-operative Party did vote to split with Labour and side with us, the MPs etc. would largely stay with the Labour Party. An excellent post overall, though.

  • Entertaining, but it would be the death of the Co-operative Party as an organisation, because not a soul would follow them into the Lib Dems.

  • Duncan Borrowman 11th Oct '09 - 6:26pm

    Sara, you have written something I agree with! Time for the smelling salts..

    Though Neil is probably right.

  • Andrew Duffield 11th Oct '09 - 6:47pm

    I note that the Co-operative Party has now fully embraced LVT, which arguably makes them more Liberal than us!

  • If alun michael joined the lib dems then I would know it would be time for me to leave.

    The vast majority of co-op mps are so because of the local history within their constituencies rather than any principle as such. Ie. They need to join th co-op to get selected as labour candidates!

  • Ps. Not that I disagree with the bulk of the stuff mentioned re the founding principals of mutualism, co-operatives etc.

  • Are the Coop party and the Coop movement one and the same thing? I have tended to boycott the coop bank and shops on the basis that they finance the coop party hence the Labour party, but I may be doing them a dis-service.

  • You’re totally right. I am an investor with Britannia, have become a member of the Co-Op therebym & rave about them. I have wondered why the Co-Operative Party persist in their allegiance to the Brown Party when they long ago abandoned the values of Hardie & them. But is there any real hope- have they moved? Could they get elected without being on Labour’s coat-tails, have they got the popularity?

    The good thing about mutualism is that it forces us, the people, to work. I am a rock-soild Democrat in US terms. But too many Obama voters just expect the government to hold their hands & think hope & change will fall from a tree. Whereas in reality, right-wing lobbyists are hard at work every day & them as want progressive policies have to fight for them.


    It should also be borne in mind that the Tories have made gestures in this direction. Dismiss them all you will, but the Conservative voters in the comment threads & ordinary members are fairly warm.

    Cannot really be bothered to look up- there were a good thread on ConHome a while back.

    It is for us to do to join mutuals.

  • It might just be my un-educated eyes, but I can see at least 10 of those MPs are going to lose their seats. (Halifax, Brighton Pavilion, Bristol North West…)

    It’s a good post – not many of us can find much to disagree with, though I’d never describe markets as anything other than amoral – but any future for us lies not with them but with nationalists. They’d be welcome to remove their affiliation as well but the gains for both of us would be a bit pointless. What we are crying out for is a more coherent policy towards co-operatives.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Oct '09 - 9:17am

    It’s a good post – not many of us can find much to disagree with

    It’s a simplistic post, typical of the market-mania posing as liberal-left stuff we get from the likes of David Cameron.

    Big government is blamed for everything, big commerce is let off the hook, although I feel that big commerce and its domination of our culture through the advertising and entertainment industry is really more to blame for the effects that Scarlett/Cameron/the-rest-of-the-right-wing-smart-set blame on the state.

    Thee people will never criticise big commerce, however, because they are millionaires or friends of millionaires or people who have been taken in by the propaganda of millionaires.

    They have found a way they can put out propaganda posing as the friends of the poor, while really all they want to do is say “don’t touch us and our profits”.

    I have no problem with the co-operative ideal, but the rest of the language used here supposedly to support that ideal says it all. A true supporter of the co-operative ideal would be able to give a more balanced account.

  • Excellent Post.

    It would be useful if someone who understood these things could set out the various relationships in the Co-operative movement and how one could go about changing things. I’m a co-operative member; does that give me any say in the Co-operative Party (for example)?

  • Jock – its sad that the party feels obliged to support Labour, who seem to contradict its principles of self-reliance.

    There is more room for us to explore support for mutualism, I feel.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Oct '09 - 12:41pm


    Matthew, you really do have a one-track (or should that be single-threaded) mind about this. It is demeaning to you IMO.

    It was Ronald Reagan who said “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help'”.

    This has been the dominant ideology throughout my adult life – the idea that government is basically bad, so politics should be about reducing it, reducing taxation, reducing the services provided by government. And I have seen its consequences which are the opposite of what was promised. You may say “Oh no, we’re completely different, we have this blah-de-bla-de-blah”, you know what my response to that is. You don’t like it and you say it is an unfair analogy, but I think your problem is you haven’t even grasped why I make it.

    Of course I’m going to question the dominant ideology of my time, instead of being a conformist who accepts it and thinks himself oh-so-clever because he has some variation of it which he thinks means it won’t fail in the way it has. I shall in particular be critical of those whose only answer to why it didn’t work out is that it wasn’t done in an extreme enough fashion. Your point is like saying to someone who grew up in the Soviet bloc and is wary about socialist ideology and questions it when it is thrown around that they have a one-track mind and it demeans them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Oct '09 - 12:46pm


    Heavy government interventions (of the kind you often endorse)

    Perhaps you could point out some comments of mine which endorse heavy government intervention.

    Being pro-market does not mean pro-big-corporations; in fact it’s frequently quite the opposite.

    And under Communism, the state was withering away.

  • Sean Brawley 12th Oct '09 - 3:49pm

    The political aspects of the Co-op movement are quite possibly even more firmly controlled by the Labour Party than many unions. The system of committees sending people to other committees sending people to other committees is an excellent and succesful way of ensuring a permanent majority for the leading group. So the article is quite pie in the sky, especially as all co-op members are Labour first and foremost.

    Really, a debate on the merits of mutual economic systems would be interesting, but when its just the wrapping for a silly dream of labour collapse its hard to take an interest.

  • OK, weve wasted enough time on this twaddle. There is no Co-operative party & hasnt been for the best part of a century, its just a Labour front. If the idea is to campaign in the Co-operative movement for an end to giving money to the Labour party, fine if we we have the resources, otherwise we have an election to fight.

  • the only party the LibDems should consider forming a coalition with is the Cooperative Party.

    So the 60-90 Lib Dems form a coalition with the 20-30 “Co-operative Party” MPs. Where do we get the other 200+ seats needed to form a majority from?

  • I don’t know why they are called Liberal Visions when they haven’t even a Liberal memory. The rose tinted spectacles view of the co-operative movement is just so bizarre.

    I’d really like to suggest Sara, that you go and spend a year or two in Afghanistan or any other third world country. You’ll find that they are great places. The state doesn’t oppress people by providing monolithic health care, or forcing children to go to school on pain of imprisonment, in fact the state doesn’t insist on a minimum wage, so workers negotiate directly with their employees and are all fabulously wealthy as a result. There’s no state monopoly on welfare provision – so welfare provision is wonderful. (or perhaps the rela world isn’t as simple as 19th Century dogma would have us believe)

    The reason the Liberal Party introduced the rudimentary welfare state is because the co-operative mutual model was so full of whole. For example local boards deciding benefits would not given to people of the wrong religion or the wrong denomination – great stuff.

    The whole point of co-operatives, friendly societies and mutuals was to undermine freemarket capitalism because free market capitalism is a bit crap when your working class and or don’t have any capital.

    Far from trying to keep Government out of people’s lives, the working class movements were trying to get the vote, and trying to use local and national government to address the issue of the conditions of the working classes.
    ignore the history stick with the ideology.

    So investment in education hasn’t improve social mobility – so who but an eternal optimist would think it would ?
    Gosh, there seems to be more of link between having rich parents or going to a private school and doing well.
    Once again the theory, education = social mobility fails, but stick with the model.

    If you want to promote co-operatives and mutuals etc. great, but don’t confuse it with the free market.
    If you want to promote Liberalism, great but don’t confuse it with opposition to Government.

  • simon mcgrath 12th Oct '09 - 9:58pm

    Its so simplistic one doesnt know whether to laugh or cry. They are socialists – not liberals. It just a handy way of getting a bit of extra support to become the labour candidate.
    Not liberals at all.

  • Co-operator Ben 12th Oct '09 - 10:08pm

    I am a member of the Co-operative Party, and I found this thread interesting but hugely confused about Co-operative history. Our party wasn’t formed until 1917, as a result of the appalling way that the co-operative retail movement was treated during the First World war by the Liberal government, with many co-op societies and stores unable to obtain food supplies for sale due to being excluded from local food comittees that controlled supply. It was felt that direct political representation was the only way to create a strong voice for the movement and allow the co-operative sector to flourish.

    We have had an electoral agreement with the Labour Party since the 1920’s. It is rubbish to say that Labour and Co-operative candidates are selected because of an historic constituency link – the process of becoming a Co-op candidate is rigorous and demanding and is based on the individual and not a constituency or ward. Where there is no Labour candidate (in council by-elections in non-Labour areas, for instance) we also sometimes stand Co-operative candidates.

    We would never form an alliance with the Liberal Democrats partly because our historic purpose was to oppose the anti co-operative stance of the last Liberal government, but also because we are about promoting co-operative values and ideals rather than the crude pursuit of power in the way that this thread suggests.

  • “Where there is no Labour candidate (in council by-elections in non-Labour areas, for instance) we also sometimes stand Co-operative candidates.”

    When did that last happen? The only description the Electoral Commission registration gives is “The Labour and Co-operative Party Candidate” as a joint registration with the Labour party. That doesn’t suggest a party that has stood candidates in its own right recently.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Oct '09 - 11:11pm


    It is really tiresome of you continually to trot this rubbish out. It proves only that either you are so blinkered and closed minded that you are not prepared to listen to other people telling you otherwise, or that you do listen and have the arrogance to say it ain’t so depsite the evidence of at least two centiuries of left radical thinkers

    If you think what I say is rubbish, perhaps you could counter what I am saying in simple words which a simple person like me could understand. Sorry, I am a busy working man, I don’t have time to read the tomes you recommend. If your politics are so complicated that one needs a PhD to understand them, which is what you som times seem to be suggesting, isn’t that a bit of a problem seeing as most people don’t have PhDs?

    So, all I can see is people like you and Ms Scarlett using much the same words as Reagan and Thatcher about how bad the state is, and how we should cut taxes and state services and that would make people much more self-reliant. Now, I know what that really meant with Reagan and Thatcher – the rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and they didn’t even really manage long-term cuts in state spending because the knock-on effect of some of their short-term cuts was longer term expense (ex-council houses being rented out at three times the rent of an identical council house next door – profit to the private landowner paid by housing benefit is a good idea of how well-meaning policies can go wrong).

    Ms Scarlett moans about social mobility being less after 12 years of Labour, so why doesn’t she also note it declined in the 18 years of Conservative government before that? Because she wants to pretend that Blair was soem sort of socialist rather than a continuation of the Thatcherism whose language was so similar to her own.

    If you were so different, you would at least be able to explain in simple words for simple little me just how so. You might at least just give me the confidence you understand what went wrong with Thatcher and Reagan and why your politics wouldn’t go down the same way.

    Now what I can actually see in my experience of life is the great dependency which has built up due to big commerce. I remember how people used to make their own things and be so much more self-reliant in the past. Now they sit watching the goggle box and have everything provided by the supermarket. Why do the likes of you and Ms Scarlett not see this as just as much “ripping the soul out of the working class” as the evils of tax-subsidised libraries and education and all those other things you so much despise as “big state”?

    Why are you so selective about the powers you attack? Why do the powers you choose to attack always happen to be those the rich and powerful choose to attack? Why is it never the domination of big business? Why is it instead what is left of the power of the ballot box over the power of money? Why does the language you use always sound so much like and say much the same thing as the publications of the right wing, the Telegraph, the Spectator et al? Oh, you dress it up with a few allusions to 19th century lefties. But you give me no confidence that this is any more than dressing designed to fool the real aim – power to the rich, cut their taxes and make them even richer, stuff the poor, make them beg to the rich for everything they need to survive.

    Ms Scarlett says liberalism means a healthy skepticism of the state. Why leave it at the state? Why not a healthy skepticism of the dominant ideology of the past 30 years that has been so supported by propaganda pumped out by the right-wing press, and by think-tanks and the like funded by wealthy businessmen? This artificial divide int one brach of power, the one controlled by the ballot box as the evil state, and the other branch of power, the one controlled by money as fine and dandy because not the state is ridiculous, and not the way our 19th century forebears thought. They knew it was established power of all sorts they needed to attack.

  • @Sara
    “Liberalism means a healthy skepticism of the state.”

    Not sure if this analyses out for the Lib Dems as the state is mentioned several times in the preamble to the constitution and always in positive terms:

    “We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.”

    “We want to see democracy, participation and the co-operative principle in industry and commerce within a competitive environment in which the state allows the market to operate freely where possible but intervenes where necessary.”

    “These are the conditions of liberty and social justice which it is the responsibility of each citizen and the duty of the state to protect and enlarge.”

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '09 - 10:24am

    Jock, I have made my point clear enough.

    You, Sara Scarlett and Ronald Reagan would all agree that the foundation of your politics is:

    “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’”

    I am asking you to say in simple words what makes you different from Ronald Reagan.

    This is hardly unfair. If I were to call myself a “Socialist” (which I do not), and if I were to use the same sort of language which people liked Lenin used, you, quite rightly, would say “But in practice people who used this sort of language gave us a horrible oppressive form of government which was not at all like what they promised, so I need to understand you really are sure what went wrong with them and that you have cast-iron mechanisms to make sure the same things wouldn’t happen if you got your policies implemented”.

    You may be sincere, I hope you are, but the language you use has been picked up and used by wealthy people to support them paying less tax and government services like health and education being cut back. It is the language that has always been used by the Conservative Party here, and the Republican Party in the US. We saw Cameron using it recently. We saw the US far right using it recently to howl down the introduction of a stronger safety net to ensure no-one dies because they cannot afford health care. When challenged in this, your answer is to waffle and tell me I am stupid and tell me I should read some books you recommend. I believe that if you were really concerned to separate yourself from the likes of Ronald Reagan, you would understand my concerns and you would have very clear and understandable answers to them.

    I’ve challenged what you are saying in very simple terms, so why can’t you answer back in equally simple terms? My simple terms are that people who own nothing are placed at the mercy of people who own a lot, and this is a very severe restriction on their liberty. Modern society is complex, involving the use of large scale infrastructure. This introduces greater comforts and freedoms in some way, at the expense of greater dependence in others. Ownership of the infrastructure places a great deal of power in the hands of those who exercise it over the rest of us. The call for the state to be reduced means placing more power into their hands, letting them take more profit from us who must use it, denying us the means by which we can develop an independent life. I say the state can be used to rebalance power, but you say no, that is a bad thing to do.

    I note that Julian, having claimed that I “often endorse heavy government intervention”, has not been able to come back with a single example. I am interested in rebalancing wealth and power, I am not interested in and strongly oppose the idea of the government laying down detailed rules on how state services should be provided. I believe such services should be provided because I believe, for example, no-one should die because they can’t afford to see a doctor and get basic prescription drugs.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '09 - 10:43am


    I have to laugh at the notion that we are all in hock to some think tanks funded by the rich and powerful

    You use “we” to mean people who support your “government is evil, so cut tax and cut welfare” ideal. The article which heads this discussion is by one such person, Sara Scarlett. She is associated with a group called “Liberal Vision”. I do not know how this group is funded, but it is one of a number of groups with this sort of ideology which seems to have plenty of funds to push its ideas forward, and which seems to find it very easy to get openings in the mainstream media, and which gets a great deal of support and encouragement from publications which generally support the Conservative Party and the interests of big business.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '09 - 10:49am

    Sara, the need to pay health care bills is one of the biggest causes of bankruptcy in the US. So why do you say what you say about me when I express concern that you seem to wish to push us down a path where people could become bankrupt here for similar reasons?

    I have no problem with a greater diversity of suppliers, and a freedom from obtrusive government management. I have, indeed, very strongly supported just that in the education field.

  • @Jock

    I find it hard to construe this:
    “the duty of the state to protect and enlarge….” as envisaging a nightwatchman state. It clearly suggests an ongoing and proactive role for the state.

    @Sara – do you (or anyone) have a copy of the pre-merger liberal constitution. I can’t find one online. The continuing Liberal party has a constitution couched in similar terms (and I’m guessing they based theirs on their predecessor)

  • Matthew Huntbach: “the rich got richer, the poor got poorer,”

    Well, there’s no doubt that the rich got richer. But did the poor really get poorer, or did they get richer at a rate less than that of those more wealthy?

    Its important to understand the difference, because your political oponents will always throw back at you that how can the poor be poorer when they now have TVs, computers, fags, booze , fitted bathrooms, phones, etc etc which 30/40 years ago they wouldn’t have had?

    Which gets us into a whole different argument about relative wealth and whether it is a priori a Bad Thing, and if so why, and how you moderate changes in relative wealth.

  • Matthew, much as I hate to appear to be siding with someone from Liberal Vision, the argument that everyone else is making is that there is a middle ground between full-on statism and complete laissez-faire capitalism, and that mutualism may have a role to play. One of the best examples of mutualism in the current economic climate has been the rise of local credit unions, providing small loans and financing for people who might otherwise have been passed by in the straitened circumstances following the credit crunch. They represent an alternate model of providing finance to the poor, thus lessening the economic grip of the major banks – not to mention loan sharks. In this context, mutualism acts as a redistributor of power, permitting those less well-off to secure their livelihoods in the face of uncaring corporations.

    However, where I feel Sara (and others) go wrong is in claiming that co-operatives should have a major role in the provision of welfare or healthcare. While there’s nothing wrong with co-operatives being healthcare providers as contracted to do so by the state, they must not be the sole provider of healthcare for any given area – there must always be a public option. This is because of the experience of the United States with Christian healthcare co-operatives, who in the small towns of the Midwest may be the sole provider. Many of these co-operatives refuse to supply treatment for illnesses they judge to be the result of immoral activity – STDs, drug-related illnesses and so on.

    I don’t think Sara’s “Liberalism means a healthy skepticism of the state” goes quite far enough. As a Liberal, I am skeptical of anyone who might concievably limit my choices, which includes co-operatives, corporations, and quite frankly anyone who’s a bit bossy. Inasmuch as co-operatives provide a useful tool for enhancing the power of the poor, they are to be welcomed. But where they could limit access to welfare, they are to be shunned. Only the state, into which in a democratic society everyone has an equal say(theoretically, of course), can be a provider of welfare, as only the state’s interests are influenced by everyone in society.

  • Damn, that last sentence shouldn’t have read ‘provider’, as that has connotations other than what I intended. ‘Determine who has access to welfare’ is better.

  • Gosh, 57 comments already! All to deal with a meaningless piece of fantasy politics from a Liberal Vision director purporting to be “an Old Labour hack”. Haven’t we got better things to do?

  • Sammy the snake 13th Oct '09 - 12:56pm

    There is a bit of the emperor’s new clothes going on here. While the author’s intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm clearly comes across in the piece, it is based on some rather poor and false assertions, namely that:

    1. What ever the state provides must be bad
    2. That organisations that are run for profit are bad
    3. That ‘the inception of the welfare state ripped the soul out of the working classes’
    4. That the inception of the welfare state welfare ‘… is now used to justify a level of state intervention in our lives that no liberal should find acceptable’
    5. That the welfare state is designed to satisfy the prejudices of the political elite
    6. That the co-op movement is opposed to and threatened by welfarist policies
    7. That most readers know what universal health savings accounts and are. What are they? Is this about the provision of health services on the basis of wealth, not need?
    8. Why does the author talk about health insurance? Most people would only need health insurance if the NHS was abolished. Are we to assume that the author is advancing a neo-Liberal small state agenda.
    9. ‘Tuition fees would not be an issue with child trusts available from birth and our pensions would no longer be at the mercy of spendthrift Chancellors.’ How the fcuk do poor families save enough for their child’s university education? This sounds like some kind of US nightmare, where only the rich send their adult children to private universities.
    10. That the co-op party is a meaningful entity with its own distinct consciousness, which arguably it is not.
    11. That there is any chance that it would break away from the Labour Party. Many Labour members are also Co-op members, such as Gordon Brown.
    12. Since when have the Lib Dems not been warmly disposed towards cooperativism, mutuals and friendly societies?

    This article is infact really poor.

  • Mark Wright 13th Oct '09 - 3:43pm

    I think the real mistake here is to assume that those Labour politicians who badge themselves as “Co-operative” are in any way different to those Labour MPs who dont. In my experience, they arent. They arent any more mutualist of sympathetic to liberal ideas than other Labour politicians. In fact, I’m suspicious of them generally, because I wonder why they’ve gone for the co-op title, and am always suspicious that it’s more to do with winning selection contests.

    As someone who banks with the Co-op, I certainly wish they would disaffiliate.

  • I’d add crypto-Socialist to neo-Malthusian.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '09 - 10:41pm


    Matthew! For the love of God / Baal / Jehovah. First you’re a “busy working man”, too hassled by the day’s chores to read a book – even though you’re able to devote almost every hour of every day to 700 word rants on this blog.

    Oh, I write that sort of stuff in a 5 minutes coffee break. It would be really nice to be able to write in a more carefully considered form, but since I’m not saying things big business likes, I can’t get people to pay me to write unlike all these well-funded right-wing think tanks.

    Meanwhile, because I haven’t searched “Matthew Huntbach” on here and dug out quotations relating to something or other, I’m “unable” to do so.

    Your claim was that I “often endorse heavy government intervention”. If it is something I often do, it ought not to be hard to remember a few examples, never mind look some up.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '09 - 11:00pm


    Matthew, much as I hate to appear to be siding with someone from Liberal Vision, the argument that everyone else is making is that there is a middle ground between full-on statism and complete laissez-faire capitalism, and that mutualism may have a role to play. One of the best examples of mutualism in the current economic climate has been the rise of local credit unions,

    Yes, I have no problem at all with that. I am myself a member of a credit union, and was of a building society small enough to be identfiably mutual (though recently swallowed up by a bigger one).

    But people are free to use these things – friendly societies, co-operatives etc exist. If people don’t choose them it’s because they choose not to. With the building societies, people preferred to get a small payment to sign off their rights as members. Is Sara suggesting that people should be forced to use them rather than the big banks etc which they actually do use in preference? If not, what is the point she is making? People have voted with their wallets and they have voted, mostly, not to use mutualist organisations.

    It’s the supporting statements I was looking at in Sara’s stuff. All this stuff about the evils of big government, but strangely nothing at all about the evils of big private companies. Plenty of stuff about the evils of the welfare statement and the wonders of the free market. In fact, just the sort of stuff one hears from very rich people and the political parties they run and the newspapers that print their propaganda about how the rich should be taxed less and live lives of even more luxury, and the poor should be left to suffer by having state services cut. One rather supposes the stuff about the mutualist organisations was just to try and paint the right-wing “make life nicer for the rich and nastier for the poor” ideology with a sort of left-wing dressing to fool the ignorant.

    If this were not the case, we would be hearing so very much more from the likes of Sara Scarlett about how the big private companies seek to dominate and exert control over all of us to raise lives of unbelievable luxury for those at their top, while squeezing down on ordinary workers who will never get into that smart set. But we never hear any of that – she and her sort have very selective vision when it comes to the way the powerful abuse and dominate everyone else.

  • “Because this is a piece about Welfare provision which the state currently has the monopoly over.”

    You can buy illness insurance, income replacment insurance, redundancy insurance and have all your health care and personal care privately if you desire/can afford it (if you take a broader definition of health care) so isn’t it incorrect to say that the state has a monopoly over this area?

  • Neil Stockley – 11th October 2009 at 3:36 pm
    “At the very least, Lib Dems should be allowed to join the Co-operative Party and Lib Dem MPs to become Co-op MPs as well.”

    You can be a member of the Co-op society. Bob Rusell is.

    As such he is a Lib Dem/Co-op MP. However, I’m not sure I’d like Ed Balls anywhere near my party…

  • You can’t be a Lib Dem member and a member of the Co-op Party. The party constitution explicity prevents membership of another political party in Great Britain.

  • @ Sara
    “The state is the biggest cause of injustice in our society today.”

    How can holding such a view be consistent with the view of the state set out in the aims and objectives of the party, in particular:
    “These are the conditions of liberty and social justice which it is the responsibility of each citizen and the duty of the state to protect and enlarge.”

  • Tom Papworth 14th Oct '09 - 12:27pm

    My Council colleague, Cllr Martin Curry, has argued for years that we’d have been better off if, instead of the SDP splitting from Labour and eventually merging with us, it has been the Cooperative Party that split (even if it was with many of the same people).

    The Liberal and Cooperative Party has a certain ring to it (and it doesn’t make us sound like American socialists!).

  • @Hywel

    That was my point. By all means join the Co–op society, but as a parliamentary party, only the Labour Party would be so philosophically unclear as to allow a dual membership status.

    The co-operative party is not in coalition with Labour. Until it redfines itself, it is simply a pressure group within Labour.

    The co-operative society on the otherhand is wholly different.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Oct '09 - 9:49am

    If Tesco were able to force you to pay them whether or not you shopped in their stores they’d have an extraordinarily protected position.

    Indeed, and if Tesco were forced to provide everyone who needed it with decent food at no direct cost, many people would be better fed and would not spend so much time worrying about how they will pay the bills for essentials. This would make their lives more free. I am not saying this should be done, as there are obvious balancing arguments on the grounds of other freedoms and other things against this.

    By any realistic definition the state has a monopoly. People with several thousand pounds to throw away on someone else’s healthcare are able to opt out to other providers.

    Well, yes, and if enough people did this, the tax payments necessary to support those who did not could be reduced. The limit could be reached when most people paid for their healthcare, only the poor who did not earn enough to would not. Then the rest could say “Why should we pay for the healthcare of those poor people? They are poor, so useless, society does not need them. Let them die”.

    And this, Jock, is what you call “freedom”.

  • Jock, the problem with your argument is that a system like that which you’re discussing already exists in the United States, and doesn’t work. It turns out that people are quite happy to not to pay for other peoples’ healthcare, as long as they’re sufficiently far away. And so, in the US, you do have disposable people. As you did in the UK before the advent of the National Health Service. I’m not convinced that human nature has changed in the last century, or by crossing the Atlantic.

    But let’s say you’re proposing some form of government contribution towards the healthcare costs of the poorest in society, minimising the amount that other taxpayers have to contribute. How do you ensure access to this healthcare if local associations & co-operatives are the providers of it? Certainly, they’ll get government funding to treat your illness, but if, say, you’re a person they disapprove of (e.g. gay in a strongly religious community) are you going to get the state to require your treatment? Given that some associations will simply shut up shop rather than have to deal with those they consider to be immoral – witness the furore over gay adoption and Catholic adoption agencies – you’re going to be unable to access healthcare regardless.

    Now say you go for a minimal public sector operation everywhere in the country, to deal with the poor and those who can’t access local healthcare associations for whatever reason. Healthcare provision at any level is extremely expensive, and for the sorts of numbers you’re talking about would be vastly inefficient – imagine the cost of a free clinic in Kensington, for example, which is only used by the few elderly residents of the area. It’s actually much more effective (and overall costs less) to expand provision to include more than just the very poor on such a model.

    Your argument about voting is incorrect, because voting is easy. Helping other people, especially providing them with healthcare, is hard. Certainly, people willing volunteer in care homes, respite centres and hospices, but they are not the majority, and never will be. In order for your proposal to work, you have to find an example of where something similar works on a scale beyond the local. I don’t think you can.

    There’s nothing wrong with co-operatives being healthcare providers, but they have to contracted to do so by the state to cover a particular area in order to ensure equality of access. They can’t be independent of it, because we’ve seen where that leads.

  • It does, however, remain the closest to what he’s proposing of the healthcare systems that currently exist. What he has to do is demonstrate why his proposal will avoid the pitfalls of the US system, without recourse to the sort of state intervention he’s objecting to.

  • Jock, the problem is that your phrase ‘That’s the trouble with this sort of debate – everyone *thinks* they know an example, and there really isn’t one.’, could equally by used by marxists of any stripe, and has been. You haven’t engaged with my point about the realities of the choices people have made on the ground pointing away from the sorts of choices you think they’d make under a different system. Instead, you’re advocating review-led revolution, which will involve telling every public sector worker in the country that there’s a chance they might lose their jobs. That will inspire revolution, but of a different sort.

    I like a lot of your ideas, and think they should be considered as potential future policies. But I also fear that by taking a grand system-wide approach risks crushing the worst off in the process of change, as it always has. You may be right that our benefits system is ultimately unaffordable, but your solution – which is tantamount to rationing of healthcare by the market – is, I fear, a lot less fair and will constrain the choices of worst off by significantly more than rationing by bureaucrat.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Oct '09 - 1:35pm


    Matthew, why do you think that if a majority of people today vote for a gun to be put to their own head in order to remind them to pay for everyone else, that they would not do so voluntarily, given twice the income they would have to spend on it.

    There is a basic issue of concurrent processing here, never mind human nature. I do not think anyone who was of this world would have difficulty answering your question. Or go and look at some multi-agent system theory, if you like.

    The vast majority of the sick and infirm are someone’s father, mother, sibling, friend, colleague, neighbour, whatever. Do you not think that given the spare money, you would not look after such if you could?

    Yes, I have done just this in recent years.

    Would *you* rather see such a person die for lack of a state to compel everyone else to help you with the bills? How extraordinary for a supposedly caring person!

    Well, funnily enough, I did not take this attitude. Nor does it at all follow from what I have said.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Oct '09 - 10:56pm

    Well, funnily enough, I did not take this attitude. Nor does it at all follow from what I have said.

    I didn’t say you did. But why do you think other people would behave differently from you, absent the state. In which you were earning nearly twice as much, without tax, and the costs of such care would be much lessened by removing the interferences of the state that maintain the high cost high profitability for their friends in the health business?

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Oct '09 - 11:06pm

    Jock (in response to my)

    “Well, funnily enough, I did not take this attitude. Nor does it at all follow from what I have said.

    I didn’t say you did. But why do you think other people would behave differently from you, absent the state.

    As Mrs Thatcher said, the thing about the Good Samaratian is that he had money. Not everyone in need has money or relatives with money and willing to pay for their support.

    In which you were earning nearly twice as much, without tax, and the costs of such care would be much lessened by removing the interferences of the state that maintain the high cost high profitability for their friends in the health business?

    You pose this as if it definitely would happen, rather than it is your optimistic view it would happen. A pessimistic view might say the overhead of markets and cadvetising and insurance agencies and all that would raise rather than reduce the costs.

    You would help people voluntarily, but since nobody else can be truested to do so we need to have all the apparatus of the coercive state to ensure they do, to your satisfaction. Is that t?

    There are many circumstances in which one’s line would be “I will do it if you will do it”. There are many circumstances in which everyone sits around grumbling but no-one does it because there isn’t any point in doing it until everyone does it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Oct '09 - 11:11pm


    Um, yeah, as always I pretty much agree with Jock and despair at the idea of Matthew ever actually reading anything an opponent has said.

    Sorry, Mat, I think what you are saying is “Me and my lot are such wonderful superior human beings, that we cannot possibly be wrong. Therefore if somone disagrees with us – or even raises questions about what we say, it must be that person has not read what we wrote. We are demi-gods – we are so write that people would fall at our feet and worship us and say ‘yes – you are the fount of all wisdom’ if only they read what we said”.

    Mat – to my mind, the mark of a liberal is that he or she has the humility to suppose that he or she may not always be right, and that therefore if others disagree with him or her, it may be the others are right.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Oct '09 - 12:02am

    Sara Scarlett

    Because this is a piece about Welfare provision which the state currently has the monopoly over.

    No, it does not. There are private hospitals, there are private care homes etc. I am not banned from providing a helping hand to my relatives or anyone else I want to, which would be the case if what you wrote above were really true.

    The state is the biggest cause of injustice in our society today. It holds us all back. It’s not a left/right question it’s an anti-state question. It is the biggest impediment to social justice in Britain today. 60 years of a welfare state and we have one of the worst social mobility rates in the developed world.

    Social mobility is less in the US, where there is less of a welfare state. It is more in other parts of Europe where there is more of a welfare state. Social mobility was high in Britain, and it declined after the election of more market-oriented governments from 1979 onwards. So I think you are really trying to fit reality to your theories, whereas a sensible person would go the other way round.

    Big private companies seek to dominate and exert control over all of us by getting in bed with big government. You seem to have the idea that “the powerful abusing and dominating everyone else” are everyone except the state. Capitalists don’t like a truly free market. They like a monopoly. They get in bed with the government in order to have government impose a monopoly.

    Yes, so why do you and your type attack only the state, and suppose these capitalists would be good people and would not indulge in what they can do because they are big and wealthy and powerful if it were not for the state? That was the point I was making.

    How can you be a real human being. You’re a plant, aren’t you? There’s not way you can actually be a real human being.

    Well now, here we have someone who put hersef forward as the epitome of liberalism, a shining Liberal Vision, and here is how she reacts to someone who dares question her. She is so unable to understand that very basis of liberalism, that different people have different viewpoints, and that free debate in which we respect each other’s views and accept we ourselves may not be right all the time is essential, that she supposes someone who doesn’t bow down and worship her superiority cannot even be human, or just cannot possibly really hold those views so must have been paid to have put them.

    And on what basis does Ms Scarlett declare me as someone who cannot be human? Have I advocated fascism, or Leninist state control, or genocide or anything really cruel and horrendous? No, I have simply stated my own view that I am cautious about people who use this “the state is bad – cuit taxes and welfare” line, because we have had such people in government here and in the US, and it hasn’t all worked out very nicely. In fact it has worked out rather nastily, and the party of which I am a member and have been since 1978 has been very critical of it. I am simply standing up for the standard Liberal Democrat, and Liberal Party before that, position, that there is a role for the state in tempering some of the inequalities and consequent loss of liberty due to poverty that comes about from an unresricted economic market.

    I think that says everything that one needs to know about “Liberal Vision” – that it has as one of directors or whatever they call themselves a woman so far removed from what the Liberal Democrats stand for that she regards someone who puts that point of view as not even human.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Oct '09 - 9:30pm

    It surprises me that you’re human not because you challenge me but because of how you challenge me, Mathew. You deliberately misconstrue practically everything I say in order to make personal attacks on myself and my colleagues. You spend an awful lot of time writing reams and reams where you essentially think that everything the state does is wonderful and big bad corporations are out to murder us in our sleep….

    If you had any ability to be self-critical, you would see that I was saying nothing of the sort.

    I have said simply this – there is a role for the state in correcting some of the inequalities that arise from an unrestricted free market and inequalities of wealth. Saying this is not the same as saying everything the state does is wonderful.

    I have said that people who own very little are very restricted in liberty compared to people who own a lot. I have said that in our modern society most of our commercial dealings are with big corporations, and so inevitably they have a lot of control over our lives. I have said that it is odd that you have never shown any concern for that power, but you are very insistent that the big power of the state is always exercised to the detriment of ordinary people. So it seems to me your views on the dangers of big organisations and their power are unbalanced. But saying this is not the same as saying big corporations always act in an evil way.

    I am simply suggesting there is a role for a democratic state, and a role for free enterprise. Neither is wholly good nor wholly bad. This is standard Liberal Democrat policy. The fact that you cannot see that, and think because I disagree with your very extreme views on these issues that I must be equally extreme in the opposite direction simply shows you up, Sara as a typical, well …, you don’t like personal attacks, so, just think through it and learn to be a liberal.

  • David Allen 19th Oct '09 - 5:58pm


    Congratulations on tolerating some appalling personal abuse on this thread ( e.g. “plant” and “not human” ) without completely losing your cool. However, there’s only so much a man can take. Gandhi has just called you a “social democrat”. Er, can you still live with yourself?

  • Wot, “Thatcherite” is worse than “not human”?

    On reflection … yes you’re right I guess!

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Oct '09 - 8:57am

    Well, it is funny to be called a “Social Democrat” when I was one of those in the Liberal Party who voted against the merger with the SDP. But that just shows the blinkered mentality of these people. I have nothing at all against the mutualist and co-operative ideal, in fact it is something I strongly support. I support the existence of a state in order to counter some of the inequalities and hence lack of liberty which a pure free market and no concern for distributist ownership leads to. I do not support the idea of the state laying down in detail how any services it provides should be provided, in fact my preference would be for it to stick largely to distributing wealth and simply existing as a last resort to ensure none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

    Jock is playing his usual game of blathering along trying to look very clever by quoting obscure 19th century Americans, but not actually giving straight answers to the very simple points I have raised here and raise continually in my discussions with him and his fellow “libertarians”. A lot has changed since the 19th century. Private enterprise was then mainly small scale, so it could be put as liberating against the power of the state – which then would be supposed to comprise not just the Crown, but also the established church and the aristocracy. In short, our ancestors recognised in a way that modern “libertarians” do not, that the division between what they call “state” and non-state is artificial. It would be better to consider the government and the big corporations as part of one thing. In the 19th century too, particularly in the USA where there was still a western frontier, one could still suppose that many resources were essentially infinite, so the problem of being squeezed out of liberty because one owned nothing was less – simply become a pioneer and go into those virgin lands. Hence too the contempt for those who did not do such things, that mentality explains very much why the economic right is so strong in the USA. I don’t know if Jock is American, but he seems to be very much influenced by American thinking, hence his writing is full of Americanisms (note, for example, his spelling of “labour”). A lot of what he says IS the sort of language used by the US extreme right, Reaganists, supporters of Sarah Palin and the like. It seems to me therefore to be hardly unfair to ask him to disambiguate himself from those.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Oct '09 - 9:16am

    Now, I don’t ****ing care about the “classical individualist anarchism of Josiah Warren, Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner”. What I do care about is that ever since I was a teenager, the dominant political ideology has been one saying “private enterprise is good, state services are bad, so cut taxation, cut state services, and we all shall prosper”. This was the message of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and it is the message of Jock and Sara Scarlett. It is not a message which is all bad, but I have also seen in my lifetime how it has led to growing inequality and real misery amongst the sort of people I was brought up with, and later represented as a councillor. One thing it has done in particular is cause the destruction of much of the self-support mechanisms that used to exist – the commercial urge pushed by big business has caused people to become stupid and reliant upon what big business provides.

    So if I could really see that this was the driving factor of people like Jock and Scarlett, I’d be with them. So far as I can see, they are using much the same sort of language as the supporters of big business arguing why they should be left free to become very, very rich, and stuff the rest of us. The recent economic collapse has shown how empty those people were – much of what they called “wealth creation” was just sitting in the right place at the right time with the right contacts, not the work of real geniuses who could not be replaced by millions of others. Their lies have been exposed, the people of this country are angry and in many cases in really miserable situations, since it is the innocent who have suffered through things such as loss of jobs. But along come these economic right-wingers like Jock and Sara, repeating the old Thatcherite/Reaganite lines that the main political issue of today is the state and its services. Can you see why I am angry that what I believe could be the chance of our party, he party I have worked for for 30 years, is being wrecked because it has to keep appeasing the economic right-wingers in it? There aren’t many of these people, but they seem to be more interested in pushing the debate their way than working to get the party elected, and they are trying hard to appear more influential than they really are, and have been working to hijack the word “liberal” to mean their sort of politics – as shown by someone using the name “Gandhi”.

  • Martin Land 20th Oct '09 - 9:40am

    Is this slightly silly article really worthy of 133 comments? Now 134?

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Oct '09 - 9:43am

    It is an old trick of the right to pick up a few leftisms and dress themselves up as leftists. I am keen on the work of William Cobbett because he seems to be one of the first people to have noted this and written about it. The establishment of his day used anti-popery, for example, to make themselves out as the defenders of liberty while rapaciously taking away the land right of the population through the Enclosure Acts. Similarly, we can see how Communists used the rhetoric of “revolution” to defined themselves keeping power and oppressing the population.

    So this is why “The classical individualist anarchism of Josiah Warren, Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner” is not an answer to “why will what you propose – cutting taxation and welfare – not lead to what it already has led to when tried in a less extreme form than you propose?”. If I can’t even see an understanding of the point I am making, it gives me little confidence that they have thought these things through. If I am just insulted for raising these points, well, I am afraid the conclusion I will draw is that these people aren’t real liberals, because to me at the heart of real liberalism is the ability to be self-critical, and to be able to look at a political position from a viewpoint other than one’s own, and to accept that free debate in which all arguments are put forward is the way to establish how we should proceed.

    My line initially with Sara is not that I oppose co-operatives, because I don’t. It was just to ask how are we going to move towards having more of them when what we had of them already has dwindled. The “private enterprise is best” ideology, which Sara and the group she is associated with push, has led to the end of institutions like Building Societies which once were co-operative – most have been converted to plcs. In the free market, which Sara and her group so value and make no criticisms of, co-operative and friendly societies are available and selling their services, but the consumer has not tended to favour them. Is it or is it not against Sara’s ideology to force the consumer to use them?

    Sara may say she is not on anyone’s payroll. Well, maybe. But she seems pretty thoroughly to have absorbed the dominant political ideology of the past 30 years in a very uncritical way. The lines she is giving about the evil state, and the lack also of balancing criticism of big business and its domination of people’s lives (which to me is as much the cause of the soul being ripped out of working class communities as anything done by the state) suggests to me she is a child of her times. She has been fooled into thinking she is a radical free-thinker, when she is just repeating tired old political orthodoxy in the manner of David Cameron. There’s a superficial liberal dressing to it, but no real understanding of how the poor or even the average live, so only the flakiest of solutions, and you feel all along it’s really just “leave it to the big businessman, he knows best”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Oct '09 - 10:22pm


    I am well aware that a party calling itself “The Liberal Party” exists. As a member of the old Liberal Party who voted against merger with the SDP, I knew well some of its founder members. I know that quite a big reason many of them didn’t join the merged party is because they disliked the gung-ho free-marketeerism that was building up in the SDP, and didn’t feel that’s what liberalism was about. Note for example, the Leader’s statement or “Dead Parrot” document, where Robert Maclennan left it to a couple of young SDP keenies, 1980s Sara Scarlett types full of the latest trendy free market ideology (then a bit more fresh than today), to write the SDP bit. Its extreme free market line, now just the sort of thing “Liberal Vision” is pushing, put a lot of Liberal Party members off joining and almost wrecked the new party. The media were always more in support of the SDP and less in support of the Liberal Party partly because the SDP was more supportive of the conventional pro-business ideology.

    So anyone who puts across the line now that in the merger it was the Liberal Party which was mad keen extreme free market, and the SDP was not, is either ignorant or lying.

    Regarding reading from Jock’s reading list, well. All I am asking him to do is answer some simple little questions, and all he ever does in reply is not answer them but instead blather on saying things like “read classical individualist anarchism of Josiah Warren, Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner”. Well, perhaps he ought to try canvassing a council estate and see where gets if his answer to any question is “go away and read classical individualist anarchism of Josiah Warren, Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner”. I’ve come to the conclusion that the guy’s a flake, to use an Americanism, so his sort of language.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Oct '09 - 8:43am

    I am a busy professional person who has time to read a paper travelling to and from work, and type a few quick things into blog sites like this in coffee breaks or if I’ve got a bit of spare time left at the end of the day. It’s not that I “won’t” read lengthy tomes, it’s that I have a job and have to work for my living.

    Sara Scarlett may have some “sophisticated understanding” but her article looked to me like typical right-wing rubbish dressed up as leftism. Just like David Cameron – they hit the easy targets and let big business of the hook. In David Cameron’s case it’s because he’s a clueless millionaire and his organisation is financed by big business, in Sara Scarlett’s case, well I don’t know her background and I don’t know who funds this organisation she is “Director” of.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Oct '09 - 8:59am

    Right-wing, because in avoiding mentioning how big business denies liberty by its control, she pumps out the propaganda “cut taxes, cut state services” that big business loves to hear. It’s been the dominant ideology since the Thatcher/Reagan era, and it simply hasn’t worked as those of its ideologists who claim to be liberal said it would. So I would expect anyone who keep on with that line to be very clear on why they are different, and rather than pump out the tired old stuff about how evil the state is – we all know that, the big business people have been telling us that for years, they have a lot of money to pay for people to say that sort of thing – I’d expect anyone who was sincere to concentrate on saying the sort of thing that those with the money are less keen on hearing. Which neither Sara nor Jock do. I’ve said enough times, my problem is the way the sort of things they say can be picked up and used – and have been massively in recent decades – to defend making the rich richer and making the poor poorer. I know what I mean by “right-wing” (don’t lecture me on multi-dimensional politics, I suspect I’ve been drawing up those little two-dimension political charts since before you were born) and it’s “saying the things that give comfort and support to those in power”.

    As for the article you link to, well if Jock was really so keen on this sort of stuff he wouldn’t be so keen on cozying-up to vulgar libertarianism in the way he does. He might actually think of regarding me as an ally against it, rather than an enemy who opposes him because he is in coalition with it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Oct '09 - 12:58pm

    Having looked at the Wiki page you give, I note the following quote from Proudhon:

    “The purchaser draws boundaries, fences himself in, and says, ‘This is mine; each one by himself, each one for himself.’ Here, then, is a piece of land upon which, henceforth, no one has right to step, save the proprietor and his friends; which can benefit nobody, save the proprietor and his servants. Let these multiply, and soon the people . . . will have nowhere to rest, no place of shelter, no ground to till. They will die of hunger at the proprietor’s door, on the edge of that property which was their birth-right; and the proprietor, watching them die, will exclaim, ‘So perish idlers and vagrants.'”

    which says almost what I have been saying, and for which both Jock and Sara, and others of their like such as Charlotte Gore, have accused me variously of being “odd” or “polluting” or not being really human, or other such insults, and definitely not being any kind of liberal, for saying. If people like Jock could be as forthright in their language on this issue as Proudhon was, I’d be very happy with them. But they are not. They are much more forthright when spouting out the “evil gummint” stuff that I could just as well get from Sarah Palin and other extreme right-wing Americans.

  • Malcolm Todd 23rd Oct '09 - 8:57am

    Jock — I’d be interested to know how you see non-workers (i.e. those unable, due to age, health or incapacity, to produce a decent income from fairly trading the product of their own labours) surviving in the co-operative society you seem to envisage. I’ve got the impression from earlier comments that you see them surviving on the charity (by whatever name) of family or strangers, but I may be missing something.

    (Reading the above para over, I see it could be read as a snarky, I might even say Huntbachian attack. It’s not meant that way. I’m genuinely interested to know what you think.)

  • Malcolm, I didn’t notice snarkiness! Quick post from the lunchbreak of my conference. I think you maybe need to widen your horizon as regards a future post-mutualist economy. Remember the state currently, if you are earning. At all, is taking between 40 and 60% of your income. Without the state you would keep most of this deduction leaving far more with the ability to plan ahead for periods of non-earning. Further, in the mutualist paradigm with no state protection of disproportionate returns to capital and land mean that more of the returns of production go to workers. So as well as not paying taxes you’d be getting a bigger share of your employer’s turnover. So even more to spare, save and plan ahead.

    So I think that vastly reduces the problem to those who would be much more obviously “deserving cases” -people who are penurous through no fault of their own. This is a much better. “target” for private charity.

    But there are also identifiable economic incentives to help other voluntarily. Even when they have no direct connection with you. You may feel, as a local community acting voluntarily together, to set up a little fund to pay for schooling for the poorest kids because they damage the enjoyment of your neighbourhood if they turn feral.

    I think there are lots of options that do not involve coercsion and the threat of violence.

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Recent Comments

  • Tristan Ward
    @ Andrew Hickey "Free speech. Which is not infringed in any way by the party saying that it doesn’t want members who don’t agree with its values. " Fr...
  • Phil Beesley
    Andrew Hickey: "Links to documents which purport to be leaked copies of confidential advice given the party, which, assuming they’re genuine, show that the pa...
  • Andrew Hickey
    So Tristan's arguments boil down to: 1) Free speech. Which is not infringed in any way by the party saying that it doesn't want members who don't agree with it...
  • Martin
    Mick Taylor: I am not sure what you are responding to. My point is about a distinction between isolated and non-isolated systems. This is pertinent to your ...
  • Denis Mollison
    "finding a workable solution" I think the simplest and most liberal solution would be not to attempt to have our own definitions of offences such as transpho...