The London Libertarian

The London Libertarian

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The Libertarian Alliance

LibertyPosted by David McDonagh Fri, December 06, 2013 17:26:45

The Libertarian Alliance is an alliance between classical liberals and anarcho-liberals.

Many statists feel that the anarcho-liberals propagandists are not serious. It was one of the first things that Robert Skidelsky said to me when we met in the first weeks of his new professorship in 1979 in the refectory of the University of Warwick for breakfast.

He most likely felt that if I was honest then I would admit that I wanted the state to counter this or that, in order to render trade freer. The common reaction to anarcho-liberal propagandists is that they do really want a state but that they merely want it to do different things to what it has been doing lately. The idea is that for some reason the anarcho-liberals do not realise that fact about themselves but anyway they do not realise that there is no such complete free market option. So what they maybe are serious about is that they want merely freer trade thus they will, in reality, favour state policies that favour such freer trade. What is not easy to credit for many people is that anyone would think that the state, as such, is anti-social.

However, it is true that liberalism is a matter of degree in the short run, if not for a rather longish long run too. Pristine liberals, or libertarians, may well favour any political measures that get nearer to the avowed idea of the free market, such as real tax cuts, and many of them, maybe even most of them, will never be anarchists at all but rather will favour a night watchman state that they take to be vital instead. That is the classical liberal outlook. But the anarchists feel that it is viable to go all the way to get rid of the state completely.

Any liberal might look at any state policy on its merits but his bias on merits will be whether the state thereby does less, such that society is that bit more freer as a result. The minimal state classical liberal might agree with most people today that completely free markets are not quite possible but he will hardly be clear if he then calls the freer market a free market or mere freer trade complete free trade.

The classical liberal will hardly agree with the anarcho-liberal that the state is immoral, as he holds that it is vital for some things like policing or public highways. They will not be a uniform lot. Most will favour as much social liberty [i.e. liberty for one and all] as possible. He might even hold that a complete free market would be immoral or he may just think it is so unrealistic that it is merely idealistically futile. In any case, he will hold that the state has a vital role in society, as do most people today. The Libertarian Alliance is an alliance between anarcho-liberals and minimal state classical liberals.

So the anarchists hold that state is immoral thus it is not wanted to regulate anything but classical liberals might well hold that it is more reasonable to look at each case of regulation on its merits. However, the basic liberal insight is that politics is always a wasteful negative sum game that always has no merit at all. The classical liberal holds that this insight is correct in most cases but not in the cases where he holds that the state is vital. So the anarchists hold that politics is bad and trade as good is always the case both morally and economically but classical liberals will hold that a strictly limited state can be a good thing. The state is intrinsically wasteful as well as being an unmitigated evil as far as the anarchists can see but the classical liberals will not quite agree with that for they hold that the state is not immoral or even wasteful in every case as it is both moral and efficient in its vital domain. Liberalism is thus a broad church.

However, the statist liberals that changed the main aims of the Liberal Party in Britain in the 1880s did leave pristine liberalism with its aim of free trade for the basic one nation Tory outlook of the welfare state that was the first neo-liberalism. They were so distinct that many abandoned the label liberalism for the longer label of libertarianism.

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