Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Suits you, sir!" A libertarian pictures the future

"I'm free!"
I recently quoted a neat skewering of a certain sort of socialist written by the great cricket and music journalist Neville Cardus:
I lost sympathy with Socialists the more I met them. Their creed or system was obviously not to be a means to an end but an end in itself; I could not discover what manner of rich, imaginative life they were planning for the world after poverty had been abolished. More and more Socialism, apparently.
Much the same holds true of modern libertarians. It is hard to discover what manner of rich, imaginative life they envisage for themselves after the state has got out of their way. We know they will enjoy smoking in public places, but beyond that it's a bit of a mystery.

So we should be grateful to Tom Papworth, who rather grandly styles himself "Director of Policy" for the blog Liberal Vision, for giving is an insight into libertarian thinking on Liberal Democrat Voice:
Monday night’s Channel 4′s coverage of the Liberal Democrat conference ended with Michael Crick interviewing Ann Treneman and Michael White about the general feel amongst Lib Dems. 
Among the usual sniping from a reactionary sketch-writer and the doyen of the urban intellectual elite came a lament that the Liberal Democrat conference did not feel like a Liberal Democrat conference. People were too on message, they moaned; there was not enough rebellion; nor enough eccentricity. Michael White in particular bemoaned the absence of beards and sandals. Lib Dem conference, they felt, had become boring. 
Too right. 
We are not in the 1970s, when you could fit the parliamentary party in a black cab and conference delegates looked like they’d drifted in from a Prog Rock festival. Nor are we so marginal that we need policy motions on goldfish and the potential dangers of asteroid attack. 
Over the last 20 years the Liberal Democrats have seriously professionalised as a party. And it shows. As we have acquired suits and ties we have acquired 25 seats.
For a libertarian, he sounds remarkably conformist. If the state does get out of everyone's way, it seems it will be only to allow the ethos of big business to complete its takeover of the world.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine someone wearing a suit - forever.


Anonymous said...

I am very glad that I'm not the only person who thinks this way about libertarians. They are very inconsistent in their beliefs (on the whole, some exceptions) and they do seem to see a small state with unregulated markets as an end, rather than a means to something more fundamental.

Anonymous said...

It's rather unfair to declare that suit-wearers are ideological conformists: dress is a standard of behaviour, like manners, which indicates social standing between strangers. A level of formality is required as a symbol of trust: a small sartorial concession to the wider public's view of what constitutes a creditable party can only be good for a party which has only recently come to light as an alternative party of government. Besides, most of the sandal-wearers have either got on board or defected to the Greens on account of the party having taken the oppertunity to make a difference in a thousand tiny ways: it's not like anyone at the conference is conforming against their will.

Libertarianism allows for conformity by consent: it is not conformity by statute. I imagine he keeps the sandals for the beach.

dreamingspire said...

Was there room in the black cab for Norman's dog (it was the West Somerset Free Press wot told us about the dog)?

Tristan said...

It is funny how many libertarians are the besuited type who appear to want big business to run the world.

As someone who came to libertarianism from a belief in individuality and freedom it puzzles me. One of the things which would benefit us if the state (and other forms of authority) got out of the way would be less besuited politicians telling us what we can and can't do.

I do reject any vision of an end result of my vision of a libertarian society, I don't presume to have that much knowledge.
What I really want is people to be able to find their own future, peacefully in their communities.
Hopefully people will reject wearing suits forever.

(yes, it may involve some smoking in public, but really its not that big an issue - I just hope that others will agree with me and opt to have smoke free areas still).

dreamingspire said...

Thinking about those who, amongst the people I have met in the last few years, are doing most in the libertarian direction, I find a creative mix of suits and informal. Informal includes the My Society people and Google people, formal includes Cabinet Office civil servants(pushing release of massive datasets) and heavyweight charity bosses. Encountering a not-for-profit boss wearing an expensive suit frightens me. Personally, I try to unsettle the wrong sort of suits by turning up informal and asking awkward questions.