Reform the Reformers. Part four CONCLUSION Key themes in reforming ourselves

The Liberal Democrats are the UK’s real reformers, with a heritage that goes way back beyond the formation of the Whigs, Liberals and Lib Dems. 

The long quest for liberal democracy has passed such milestones as the Magna Carta, abolition of serfdom, elections to a parliament, repeal of the Corn Laws, votes for women, and eventual universal suffrage and equality before the law. This fight against impunity, monopoly & mercantilism has been our fight;  checking the power of the elites and doggedly pursuing the public interest and tackling poverty, in the wake of stiff resistance.

Somehow these traditions have been diluted in the minds of the public; whittled away by unseen Marxist assumptions, and by the theft of economic liberalism in the service of wealthy corporations, whilst losing the drive against monopoly power along the way. We suffer from these dilutions, especially in the ideological schisms in left & right wings. We must address this to survive.

One wing’s is too permissive of an overbearing and inefficient state, the other too permissive of monopoly and destructive finance; but liberal democracy opposes both. 

Both wings regrettably gloss over the quality of regulation, taxation and spending, in a poorly-defined spat over quantity. Both wings of the party are relatively ‘soft on monopoly’, which thus runs against a central raison d’être of liberal democracy.

Unity is key for survival, and this is why; the public ask ‘what are the LibDems for ?’  The bare truth of it is that there are two main rival approaches to reform, LibDems & Labour, and one status quo party, the Conservatives. Few perceive it thus. We exacerbate the problem by unknowingly adopting Marxist assumptions, for example with the frequent debates about choices between more liberty and less equality or vice versa, when through the ages liberal democracy has been about equality through liberty. (Ask a former slave).

Such problems are reflected in LibDem policymaking. The system is well known in theory but undefined in practice. There is no guiding overlay of the public’s priority problems as a guide for our emphases and focus of effort. 

LibDems are obsessive about the public’s priorities locally but quite the reverse nationally. What’s more the whole policymaking culture avoids stating clearly the specific problems we are addressing, but problem-solving is why people join the party … and the public expect a ‘problem-solving service’. 

Liberal democracy faces an existential crisis. If the UK wants to remain open, liberal-democratic, and global in the wake of China’s and India’s rise, and still improve welfare, then our system of opaque, centralised, inefficient, cronyist, target-obsessed government will have to go, and we are the ones to do it.

Our cartelised private sector system, supported by labyrinthine but ineffective regulation, will have to go too. 

Much of the UK is a black hole when it comes to availability of higher skills education, to the extend that skill shortages dog almost every sector and hold back the UK. Skills in the professions are sadly cartelised.

What’s more, the UK is about to discover that the EU has not been holding back the UK, it has been propping it up. 

Finally, we have to recognise that our own culture is based on too narrow a weltanschauung. It is not only a problem of a lack of ethnic diversity, it is a problem of needing to attract people as candidates and officers with a wider outlook.

It’s a tall order but the reformers must reform themselves, for our country’s sake.

* Paul Reynolds works with multilateral organisations as an independent adviser on international relations, economics, and senior governance. He is an elected member of FIRC and an Executive member of Liberal International (British Group).

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37 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Aug '18 - 2:42pm

    Every point a very sensible and thoughtful contribution.

    The local priorities vs national, a point to sarcastically or directly make often.

    The libertarian tendency of left and right dominates too much debate in our party, on immigration, crime,economics,defence…

    The whole anti so called Centrism, thing too, drives me potty, we are in the centre for goodness sake, literally, whether mainly centre left in policy even if a little centre right on liberty!

    We are the radical moderates in an era of extremists.

  • Brilliant. One of those articles that I really, really wish I had written. Just one tiny thing, Paul. You suggest there is no trade of between greater equality and Liberty (the one reason I have never been happy about AWS). Perhaps you could explain this point, I’m afraid it isn’t self evident to a simple soul like me.
    Loved the comment about skills in the professions being cartelised. It’s just so…..true. And I learnt a new word today, wetlandschauung . Just off to look it up.

  • One point rather underminds this article. The Tories are not the party of the status quo, they are the party of back too the future. They are not really Conservatives they are Reactionaries and wish to return to a previous Golden Age, free of the EU with a grateful Empire and a population that knew it’s place. The same charge can be laid at the door of the left wing of the Labour party who are trying to steer us back to a Golden Age all be it a few decades later than the Golden Age the Tories seek. Both struggle to face the future and seek solace in the past.

  • Philip Knowles 4th Aug '18 - 8:19am

    The problem with a Golden Age is that it’s only a Golden Age for some.
    And thereby hangs the LibDem problem. For us, being in the EU is a Golden Age. For some it’s not. Rightly or wrongly they blame the EU for immigration, unemployment or over-regulation.
    Our solace of the past is staying in the EU. That’s not good enough. We all say that the EU isn’t perfect – well this is the opportunity to change things – and, to be honest, if the EU doesn’t start to change it will destroy itself. Anti-EU (populist) sentiment has increased across the EU (mainly because, when things are tough, governments blame somebody else and the EU is an easy target). The last two years were a wasted opportunity for Merkel, Macron and May to bang a few heads together and to address real (or imaginary) fears across Europe.
    What happens if we get our way and we’re back in an unchanged EU? The fight will go on from Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

  • William Fowler 4th Aug '18 - 8:29am

    One of the problems with reforming is that the political class usually like to reform in a way that expands the size of the political class whilst normal people would much prefer a political class that is much smaller, almost to the point of invisibility. The key to that is to take as much power away from the political class as possible.

    The sad thing about leaving the EU is that power is not being returned to the people it is being returned to the politicians, both sides heading toward extremism – we will either end up like a poor man’s Singapore or a Socialist State where everyone is dependent on the political class.

  • Peter Hirst 4th Aug '18 - 11:07am

    We are actually in an ideal situation; able to benefit from the strengths of the other Parties without suffering from their weaknesses. As long as we keep free from pure ideology and use pragmatism to harness other’s values when appropriate we can build a vision of our utopia. This is where people come first but are part of communities, dedicated to improve everyone’s lot. All boats rise on the tide.

  • David Evans 4th Aug '18 - 1:14pm

    Paul is right “The reformers have to reform themselves.” Indeed that is exactly what I and others have been saying for about seven years, but instead most of us just carry on as we always have. The mindset of many in the party nationally is still focused around “We have the solution. All we have to do is tell people and they will vote for us.” And it doesn’t work. Too many times on LDV you hear in various guises ‘They are wrong.’ and the writer still expects ‘Them’ to vote for us.

    You have to start with “You have told us, this is your problem.” Only then you can move on to “Here is a solution, and it includes a bit more Liberalism.” Pretending you just have to prove to people they are wrong is doomed to fail, simply because, to them, they have proved the Lib Dems wrong – in local elections, in national elections and in referenda. With that track record we have to start with “What are we doing wrong?”

    We went for broke in coalition with things like “The biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy,” and immediately crashed with the Referendum on AV. but we didn’t start with the people and tie it into their wants and needs by solving their problems.

    That is why the bland platitudes of “A week is a long time in politics” – implying things can just turn around for us in a very short time; “History will be kind” – well maybe the history where the hero fights bravely on but ultimately fails or now (sorry Peter) “All boats rise on the tide.” Not a boat that has been holed below the waterline and the captain hasn’t repaired it yet.

    Paul is right. *We* have to change.

    Or we will never build and safeguard that free, open and fair society we all want.

  • Neil Sandison 4th Aug '18 - 1:39pm

    Thank you ,thank you ,thank you Paul at last a clear and concise picture of what makes our party different not socialist not capitalist but reformist the bird of liberty can start to soar again .But i do have some sympathies with Phillip Knowles point however staying in the EU that continues to have corporatist tendencies is not good enough it is in need organisational re-alignment and democratic reform .Just supporting a return to the status quo would not be in the reformist tradition.

  • Surely the mere acceptance of the idea of “a political class” is illiberal and antidemocratic. That sounds very reminiscent of critiques of systems as diverse as the USSR and former Latin American authoritarian regimes? Surely we should, ideally, be trying to select all our candidates for elected office from as wide a social base as possible?

    If there IS such a thing as “the political class” in this country (and I think it is reasonable to argue that that has held back diversity especially in Parliamentary candidates), it surely contains such people as Farage and Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson, all products of the public school system and/or Oxbridge. And if that is how William Fowler and others are identifying it, I think we can say with some certainty that this party suffers from it as much as other parties (check with the British Election Studies over the years!)
    As a former parliamentary candidate (state school educated and non-Oxbridge ) I can confirm that there were always a much higher number of such people among colleague PPCs, and also that the “deference culture” to such people has been alive and well among Lib Dems and selectorates. We are often (rightly) accused of a lack of ethnic diversity, and (wrongly) of a lack of gender diversity, but our social lack of diversity is worst of the lot!

    So, extending Fowler’s argument a bit further “.. people would prefer a political class that is smaller”, surely it is the case that it implies that that class do not share backgrounds, and by implication, life chances and assumptions. Doesn’t this lead to a need to change the nature of politics, so it is not seen as a “class” at all, just groups of people and individuals and parties trying to do their representational job? Maybe even needing more participation, not less.

  • Neil Sandison
    If “the EU has corporatist tendencies” – and it probably does, how does that make it any different from the British Govt, or for that matter, many Govts? If you are saying society needs to rebalance to give trade unions / worker reps more power in the situation, then that needs to happen, and will by extension be mirrored in our governmental and supranational structures and functions. It’s no good allowing the EU to take the blame for that! Most of the anti-EU lobbyists are trying to deal it a blow in order to reduce or eliminate its power over corporate structures. Surely we should be fighting on that side?

  • @tim13. The existance of a political class is indeed illiberal and anti democratic. Our aim should be to maximise the number of people who have some role, or some say , in the running of their community/town, not as their master status but just as part of who they are and what they do and we need to shape our political institutions with this aim in mind. That is why I am against people holding multiple councillor posts.

  • Chris Cory
    I agree with you on “multi-hatters” (hypocritically speaking as a dual Town and District Councillor!) but the issue of persuading more people to take part now heaves into view!

  • @tim13. I think this could be a bit if a chicken and egg situation. I think many people, especially those not used to the hurly burly of local politics, are put off by the existance of local elites who dominate the political landscape. Many parish and small town councils are full of people who were co-opted because they were neighbours/friends/relatives of existing members and they don’t have the ego to burst in and demand a chance.
    Answer is no multi hatters, no co-option, and half of all councillors elected every second year on a rolling basis. Make it clear that this is an open process. Change the culture and people will come. They will come.

  • Sue Sutherland 4th Aug '18 - 5:30pm

    Tim13 I think you’re right about the deference culture and that we too are subject to it. We regard our MPs and members of the House of Lords as special people, and indeed many of them are, but they are the powerful in our party and as Lib Dems we should be questioning them rather than allowing them to make decisions on our behalf because, as Lib Dems , we must always be wary of power not idolise those who wield it.
    The structure of our party needs to include ways of involving members in the decision making process, not just as members of a working group. Instead, we saw recently that a paper referred back from conference has just been nodded through with the Chair of the working group responding to criticism by saying she ‘didn’t see it like that’. The implication was that her opinion counted for more than that of Conference. I can’t even remember which motion it was because that wasn’t important to me. What is important is that our constitution allows a committee to override the will of Conference quite easily.
    The Canadian Liberals gave priority to thinking outside of the box when they sought to reform their party. One way of enabling that to happen is to recognise that if many members are unhappy with a suggestion, then that suggestion may be flawed or unacceptable to the wider population who live outside the Westminster box.
    We failed to do this in Coalition and allowed our leaders to wander off into the false glory of Government leading many people to think that we were Tory lite. This was not because of what we were doing but because of the way our leaders were behaving. They needed members’ input but batted away criticism because criticism wasn’t seen as relevant.
    We can’t carry on like this if we want to be successful so we need to put hearing criticism as constructive, consultation as creative and members opinions as a valuable resource not a nuisance as part of our culture and build that attitude into our constitution. Maybe as a first step we could make sure that relevant member interest groups should be consulted as a first step in policy making not as an afterthought when they start to complain.

  • Paul Reynolds 4th Aug '18 - 9:59pm

    Thanks for the constructive and courteous comments thus far.

    ‘Frankie’ commented … ‘The Tories are not the party of the status quo, they are the party of back too the future.’

    Yes I agree with this. Dear Rees Mogg MP had a nickname in the Tory Party ‘Minister for the 18th Centrury’. In the Reform the Reformers Part One article I said ‘People join the party because they wish to improve things and solve problems. By contrast some people join political parties to preserve the status quo, or a prior status quo’. So ‘Frankie’ was rightly referring to the attachment of many Tories to a ‘prior status quo’.

  • Paul Reynolds 4th Aug '18 - 10:00pm

    I referred to the UK’s response to the rise of China and the economic and poltical implications; economic because we have to respond to a relatively low wage economy with scant welfare system and something of a cavalier approach to international norms but still have an open economy, and political because China’s relative success has severely dented the political assumption that liberal democracy is the most ‘successful’ system. However, look closer at the Chinese system and like most economies it suffers from pretty dramatic flaws and vulnerabilities, which when they surface publicly tend to result in a retreat to authoritarianism.

  • Paul Reynolds 4th Aug '18 - 10:01pm

    The question raised about liberty versus equality. I have claimed that Lib Dems are sometimes held back in their distinctiveness by unseen Marxist assumptions, such as seeing freedom and equality and choices; more of one implying less of another. I wrote ‘ask an ex-slave’, by which is meant you can ask a slave whether they want more equality OR more freedom, and they will answer that to achieve greater equality they need greater freedom. It is a cebntral tenent of liberal democratic ideas that freedom is the route to equality. The Marxist trick is to equate freedom with anarchy, and anarchy with inequality. But freedom is a game with rules. Where the rules that create or maintain freedom are defective the result is usually mafia-isation, rule by violence, or state-sponsored oligarchy. That’s why in liberal democracy we value the rule of law, constitutionality and independent courts. Lots of unfree and unequal societies have freedom and equality in their constitutions, but none in practice due to the absence of an independent legal system enforcing individual rights. I do shudder when I read Lib Dems implying that freedom and equality are trade-offs.

  • @Paul Reynolds

    It is a nice point well-made about the ex-slave.

    But surely we do deny certain greater freedoms in the name of greater equality? For the example the ability to the freedom to keep a substantial portion of the money you earn through your own investment in your skills, time and hard work to handing it over in tax to be redistributed and for more equality for others.

    The preamble to the Lib Dem constitution talks about “balancing” liberty and equality – suggesting the drafters thought there were trade-offs to be made.

    Sometimes freedoms for different people come into conflict. My freedom to play loud music to the early hours against my neighbours’ freedom to enjoy a quiet night’s sleep.

  • The Economist has a Leader on Liberal Philosophy and longer article on John Stuart Mil this week. They write “Today’s Liberals like to think that they are grappling with uniquely difficult issues. The should consider their forerunners. Mill and Tocqueville had to make sense of revolution and war. Keynes, Berlin, Karl Popper and the Austrians confronted the seductive evils of totalitarianism. Today’s challenges are real. But far from shrinking from the task, the liberal thinkers of yesteryear https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/08/02/the-literature-of-liberalism
    would have rolled up their sleeves and got down to making the world a better place.
    In that spirit, the paper covers the Libdem effort to reach out to disaffected centrist voters in the way that Justin Trudeu was able to do in Canada and put together a coalition of anti-brexit campaigners. Additionally, the Sunday Times reports on alleged talks between a Tony Blair ally and Vince Cable on an unofficial anti-brexit Lib-Lab Pact.

  • The Economist asks which Liberal leader they have left off their list. Two that strike me – although coming after their end of their list and may be to the left for the Economist are Keynes (although he is mentioned in the text referred to) and Beveridge – both Liberal Party peers.

    For those LDV readers who haven’t clicked through to the Economist website and like political discussion and to hear political speakers they are holding an “Open Future” event all day on Friday September 15th in London, the cost is £39 for those that don’t subscribe to the Economist – details at https://events.economist.com/events-conferences/emea/open-future-festival-london/

  • Sorry that should be “liberal thinkers” they have left off…

  • Nonconformistradical 5th Aug '18 - 9:50am

    @Michael 1
    “Sometimes freedoms for different people come into conflict. My freedom to play loud music to the early hours against my neighbours’ freedom to enjoy a quiet night’s sleep.”

    From J S Mill – On Liberty
    “That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

    I reckon your right to play loud music when your neighbours are trying to sleep comes way second to your neighbours’ right to undisturbed sleep!

    You could always soundproof a room in your dwelling and play your loud music within it… You may still do harm to yourself i.e. your hearing – but if you then expect to get a hearing aid on the NHS might you still be doing harm to others by possibly taking resources from more urgent health issues?

  • Carol Weaver 5th Aug '18 - 2:15pm

    An interesting piece and thoughtful comments. I wonder if some responders are struggling for the word progressive’?

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Aug '18 - 3:02pm

    To this very worthwhile debate I would like to add only two short comments. The first is that freedom divorced from equality as an aim seems to me too dangerous to pursue – easily espoused by right-wingers, and backing up neo-liberal economics. My second point relates to Sue Sutherland’s comment. Consultation should indeed be considered constructive, Sue, and the more the better to extend our party’s democracy, but I am wary of encouraging too much criticism, as it tends easily to be more destructive than constructive.

  • David Evans 5th Aug '18 - 6:48pm

    Sue Sutherland, I totally agree regarding the levels of deference, verging on hero worship, so many Lib Dems hold party figures; be they leaders, local MPs or just in positions of influence. To me it is incredible, particularly considering we are a party that values equality and the individual, irrespective of position or authority.

    Hence, although we have many democratic structures that give an image of participation and devolved power, when problems arise, they don’t work. Whether in policy making, where bureaucracy suffocates belief and passion, or debate where leaders have so many opportunities to get their own way, we are a shell of what we should be – open democratic and participative. No wonder we are going nowhere.

    You are right to point out senior figures’ failures in coalition, but it isn’t just the development of policy that is the problem. Even worse is the implementation of policy.

    In government those elected make the decisions on what to do through their control of the entire process. Thus our leaders set a ridiculously short timescale for coalition negotiations and our parliamentarians agreed it. However, when the result of those negotiations came out, the whole thing was bounced through the party, from the top down.

    So, although it was clear that the negotiating team (plus Nick and any advisers involved) had come back with a total pup, and dropped us all well and truly in the sticky stuff, the momentum just took it through.

    First it was agreed at the top with David Cameron. Then a Special Conference was called, but David Cameron had been to Buck Pal several days before and asked to form a government by the queen, on the basis that Nick had already agreed. So no chance of any real discussion, just take it or leaveit.

    Indeed the fact that all levels of the party had agreed was exploited by the Conservatives (who hadn’t gone through any process). So Cameron could say to Nick “I’m sorry old chap but my backbenchers just won’t accept Lords reform,” (or whatever), but we were told on LDV that we had all voted for coalition, with the implication that whatever the latest disaster was, it had to be. And the party collapsed around us, and no one senior did a thing.

    Even when the party had votes in conference against Secret Courts, Nick and most MPs just voted with the Tories. So Cabinet Collective responsibility to a Conservative led government and the party whip overrode internal democracy.

  • Peter Martin 6th Aug '18 - 8:07am

    @Paul Reynolds,

    “I do shudder when I read Lib Dems implying that freedom and equality are trade-offs.”

    You example of a slave who naturally wants both freedom and greater equality, is a good one and shows that there doesn’t always have to be trade off between one and the other.

    But does it show that there is never a trade off? I don’t think it does. If we want a more equal society then the state does have to intervene to make it more equal. This inevitably means we’ll be depriving some in our society of resources they would like to utilise on their own behalf and benefiting others. Usually this is achieved via the taxation system. The more affluent members of our society are required to pay higher taxes.

    Inevitably they will see it as a curtailment of their freedom to spend money which they have earned in the way that they choose.

  • Paul Reynolds 6th Aug '18 - 8:17pm

    On the freedom versus equality issue. This might be seen by some as an abstract philosophical debate disconnected from day to day life in the UK or even from the reform of the Lib Dems … with a view to sustanable political success. However it is important first because it divides the Party, and we need a deeper unity to be successful (the alternative is superficiality). It is also important because it holds us back from being distinctive. Further, resolving this aspect of the Party’s political schisms helps us address the slow atrophy of liberalism and democracy in the UK, and helps us reclaim those dimensions of liberalism & freedom which have been stolen by the political right and left, and deployed in the service of statism and the interests of maajor corporations & finance..

  • Paul Reynolds 6th Aug '18 - 8:34pm

    Marxists and followers of Engels and Hegel, (easily found in Momentum these days) see society as not only flawed but dysfunctional because of monopoly capitalism and oligarchy; incapabale of reform through bourgeois democracy, since the elite control the democratic process and public perceptions, as they see it. Thus society must be changed from above. Marxists are never happy with the pace with which society is changed through socialism. Thus freedom must be curtailed to achieve the desired level of equality, using words like recidivists and reactionaries. Freedom itself must be denigrated, for example by equating it with anarchy, and the trick of asking ‘freedom to do what?’. The latter is sometimes described as the ‘freedom to murder’ argument. ‘There is no such thing as the freedom to murder’ is the phrase … implying that since freedom leads to bad behaviour the state can list unharmful things the public should be allowed to do. Liberal democrats believe that people are free to do as they wish unless it is prohobited by law. This is a different relationship with the state and leads to ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

  • Paul Reynolds 6th Aug '18 - 8:53pm

    In the UK The Freedom Association was a contributor to Thatcherism, formd in 1975. There are myriad other institutions, such as the Heritage Foundation in the USA, close to Liam Fox MP. In these organisations freedom means freedom from ‘inhibiting’ economic regulations, beneficial for global finance and large corporations. Many such bodies are silent on the restrictions on freedom created by monopolies, cartelisation, crony-capitalism, opaque finances, and media control by the very wealthy. This is very helpful to Marxists, who can more easily denigrate freedom, and attribute the concept itself to a wealthy elite. For advocates of liberal democracy through the ages politics is about power; curtailing it, making it transparent, ensuring no-one or no organisation secular or otherwise has excessive social, economic or political monopoly power. This fundamental tenet tells us where to look for the culprits when there are societal problems to solve; monopoly, cronyism, corruption, conflicts of interest, opacity, or sets of rules and regulations which inadvertantly or otherwise generate these ills.

  • Paul Reynolds 6th Aug '18 - 9:08pm

    Of course, it is self-evidently true to liberal democrats that to achieve greater equality it is not necessary to curtail freedom and vice versa, just as there are obvious cases where in pursuit of equality, freedoms may be curtailed, or vice versa. Only a true international socialist or a true national socialist would adopt an approach that there is a necessary trade off between freedom and equality. Liberal democratic approaches emphasise something that left and right do not … the achievement of equality through freedom, as well as vice versa. Why were wages and living standards in socialist countries so low ? One reason was that the state was a monopsonist (monopoly purchaser) in the labour market. If you lose your freedom to work for another employer, of if that aspect of freedom is curtailed, then you can bet your bottom dollar that your income will be low and the bosses will be rich … even maybe secretly.

  • @Paul Reynolds 6th Aug ’18 – 9:08pm
    “Of course, it is self-evidently true to liberal democrats that to achieve greater equality it is not necessary to curtail freedom and vice versa,”

    Really? It does seem that taxation is one area central to politics and economics where there is a trade off between freedom and equality. Freedom to enjoy all the money that I earn through my hard work and time against the equality of redistribution and the provision of services such as healthcare and education irrespective of the ability to pay.

  • Katharine Pindar 7th Aug '18 - 12:04am

    To hold that Liberal Democratic thinking emphasises ‘the achievement of equality through freedom, and vice versa’ is wonderfully thought-provoking, Paul. One immediately thinks of related ideas: ‘The truth shall make you free’; and the Christian idea, that in submitting to Christ there is perfect freedom. Thank you for raising such thoughts, to consider further for oneself.

    Another of your ideas that one pauses to consider is that ‘For advocates of liberal democracy through the ages politics is all about power: curtailing it, making it transparent, ensuring that no-one or no organisation, secular or otherwise, has excessive social, economic or political monopoly power.’ That is a high ideal. Yet I was immediately struck by the thought that we Liberal Democrats are in fact aiming to attain power, as Tim Farron clearly stated, and we would not be thinking of curtailing what power we did attain, say in a Coalition government – we tend to complain that our ministers in the last Coalition did not exercise as much power as they could have done.
    So is such an ideal not applicable to a future LibDem government – or, in fairness, to any other actual government?

  • Michael 1,

    “Freedom to enjoy all the money that I earn through my hard work and time against the equality of redistribution and the provision of services such as healthcare and education irrespective of the ability to pay.”

    Income tax (Gross of tax credits) generates around 185 billion. Other taxes are either a matter of choice e.g Vat/excise taxes on consumption, or payments for services received e.g. National Insurance for health services, pensions and social security. Income tax could be replaced in full by a Land Value tax that collected the annual ground rents from community produced value for the public benefit. This provides the freedom to choose how much tax is paid based on the area and location of land occupied. If you choose to occupy land where the values are the greatest (and hence earning opportunities) you will pay the greatest amount of tax. If you prefer pay little in the way of tax you have the freedom to do so by occupying land in low value locations.

    As John Stuart Mill explained in 1871 “Land is limited in quantity while the demand for it, in a prosperous country, is constantly increasing. The rent, therefore, and the price, which depends on the rent, progressively rises, not through the exertion or expenditure of the owner, to which we should not object, but by the mere growth of wealth and population. The incomes of landowners are rising while they are sleeping, through the general prosperity produced by the labour and outlay of other people.”

    Today, a new generation of economists are revisiting LVT and asking the all-important question, is land a missing piece of the modern fiscal jigsaw puzzle? The answer is yes, except it’s never been missing so much as buried by the property-focused politics of the 20th Century, and the political influence of large landowners and mortgage providers in maintaining the LVT-free status quo.

  • Peter Martin 7th Aug '18 - 9:36pm

    @ Paul,

    Do you really mean Hegel? I’m no expert on him but from what I know there’s not much of a threat to 21st century capitalism from his writings!

    We’d have to figure out what they all meant first!

    Or maybe you’ve already deciphered something which is worrying you?

  • Neil Sandison 8th Aug '18 - 9:45pm

    Tim 13 Please dont put words in my mouth Unions can be equally unrepresentative ,as corporate bodies .Although i do support more employee ownership and social reform of the workplace .Some overarching super structures are important particularly when you have people like Trump and Putin running the show (a protectionists and an unreformed Kremlin gangster ) The reform agenda is about accountability and sanction when all else fails .

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    How can we realistically assert that we are a world leader when we have even skilled people starving, and people living and dying on our...