The libertarian threat to society

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I have been challenged since changing the comments policy on this blog to say why I think libertarians are a threat to society.

I am sure those who did so are well aware that libertarians come in many forms: many, it seems to me, cannot agree with each other what they mean by the term. I therefore got as far as noting that for these purposes I regard libertarianism to be those political philosophies that promote the maximization of individual liberty and the minimization of the state when I read Giles Fraser in this morning’s Guardian who said, when discussing Philip Blond’s new Tory think tank ResPublica;

In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher made choice the cornerstone of a political world view. Challenging the idea that the nanny state knows best, she emphasised individual choice over collective decision-making.  The individual's freedom to choose has become the supreme value – neither the state, nor society, nor the family must trespass on so sacred a territory.

It seems extraordinary that with the launch of ResPublica, and David Cameron's very public backing, the fightback against the pervasive influence of Thatcher's radical choice-centred liberalism has been mounted from deep within the Tory party. Less extraordinary when one recalls that, for all her Tory fans, Thatcher was always more of a 19th-century liberal. And here is the source of the trouble. For, with choice-centered liberalism, no moral authority is recognised other than the one which springs unbidden from an individual will. The "let me choose for myself" philosophy has eaten away at our sense that we as a country are shaped by a collection of common values. And Blond sees it as his mission to recall the Tory party to "the restoration and creation of human association, and the elevation of society and the people who form it to their proper central and sovereign station".

If this is to be the new Tory credo they will win new friends within the churches. For churches – and indeed mosques and synagogues – have a long record of standing up for strong cohesive communities and against the market-obsessed liberalism that has torn communities apart and evacuated our moral geography of any value but choice.

It’s not how I’d have written it, but it’s nicely put and expresses many of the ideas I would have done, with similar motivation, so it will do. And of course, many of those seeking to comment here express views somewhat more hostile and more extreme than those within the Conservative Party.

In which context it’s also interesting to note that Blond is keen on the work of the Tax Justice Network.