Libertarianism in the UK

Socialism is often referred to as the opposite of capitalism – a statement which is false. Socialism is an ideology, and capitalism is a political system. It’s like saying possession tactics are the opposite of the sport of tennis.

Socialism has an antithesis: an ideology that is the direct opposite. This is known as libertarianism. Whilst it is the fundamental ideology of many western political beliefs, it is not so well-known here in the UK.

This is because UK is an inherently left-leaning nation. Social Democratic systems such as the welfare state and the National Health Service exist to provide a social justice framework within a capitalist regime.

At the other end of the spectrum, libertarianism promotes principles of freedom and responsibility, in full support of a capitalist system. It’s found at the core of American politics, with the constitution owing many of its tenets to the ideology.

Akin to socialism there are many branching schools of thought. Whilst anarcho-capitalists believe private ownership is a fundamental element of liberty, libertarian socialists will describe it as a barrier to true freedom. However all libertarians share a common scepticism of authority and state power.

In the US the Libertarian Party is the third largest in what seems to be a two-party system. They’re far from putting a member into the Oval Office, however they did manage to secure almost 4.5 million votes in the 2016 Presidential Election.

In comparison, LP gained around the same vote share percentage as the UK’s Green Party, a party which the country has invited to debates, and is recognised as one of the major political players. So where’s the UK’s alternative?

Gaining 524 votes in the 2017 snap-Election, the Libertarian Party are representative of libertarian beliefs in the UK.

Timothy Marshall is a Regional Coordinator of LPUK.

“The British people have been led to rely on the state to look after them from cradle to grave, and none of the other parties have the political will to challenge this confidence trick”.

Founded in 2008 the party aims to provide a realistic libertarian approach, with proposed policies including the cutting of taxation, the promotion of free markets and the reduction of rules and regulations.

However many of the party’s core beliefs would be hard for the general public to swallow. A British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey found that 89% of adults in Great Britain support a national health system; a target of LPUK cuts.

Fundamentally, the system is adversary to libertarian beliefs. However the party recognise that it is held within high regard in British society, and can not be completely abolished.

But they do believe the “sacred cow” that is the NHS is “in danger of eventual financial collapse” if action is not taken.

Meanwhile libertarianism can also be accurately described as one of the most socially-left leaning doctrines, which may be one of it’s most attractive elements.

Sean Gabb is the Vice Chairman of Mises UK, formerly the “absolute master” of the country’s leading libertarian think tank.

“We do not believe there should be any laws regarding the private arrangements of consenting adults”.

“There was a time when we were aligned, very loosely, with the gay movement because we just didn’t believe that two men should be arrested, charged and sent to prison for having sex in a hotel bedroom”.

“We also believe that adults should not be preventing from buying or using whatever recreational substance takes their fancy”.

Personal freedoms are paramount to Sean, and form the basis of the ideology.

“When we talk about drug legalisation, we are not simply talking about the right to get ‘stoned’ in the manner of your choice. We’re talking about the right to take responsibility for your own life”.

For these reasons it’s surprising that the ideology is not more popular with at least the left-leaning youth of the UK, of whom 48% support cannabis legalisation, according to a YouGov study.

So will there be a warming to libertarian ideals?

LPUK believe that “the perpetual deficit and growing national debt are symptomatic of a state that is spending far more than it can afford”.

As taxation increases, the party believe that there will be a “reckoning” which will make them more popular.

Meanwhile Sean Gabb believes that creating political parties is “putting the cart before the horse”.

“When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels set up the Communist International in the 1840, they didn’t suggest forming a political party”.

Rather, controversial literature was spread around society, and brought about a “change in consciousness”.

“If you set up a libertarian political party in a culture which itself is non-libertarian then you’ll get nowhere”.

With the NHS, our country’s welfare system and other nationalised systems ‘supported’ by all of the major political parties, it’s a clear reflection of what the public values.

Socialism and left-leaning ideologies are to be received well in the UK, due to our long withstanding history of social democratic systems, and our inherent patriotism.

It will be virtually impossible for libertarianism to become popular overnight, especially when considering that 67% of British adults disapproved of the privatisation of the Royal Mail in 2013, which then took place in 2015.

However with all of the change that Brexit is bringing, and concerns it’s raising regarding democracy, personal freedoms and constitutional matters, conversations may start and change may come.

But for the moment, libertarians or those in support of libertarian ideals will have to consider which main political party stands closest to their beliefs. That’s unless they are in one of the four constituencies where LPUK candidates stood.

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