As close to a political philosophy as you'll get from me ...

I ain't left-wing, I ain't right wing.
I got two wings baby
An' I can fly outta any box
You lot try and put me in.

If I were to try to label my political philosophy the closest set of ideas I can find that appeal would be described as "Libertarianism". There's a reason you've not heard that word too much when it comes to mainstream debate in this country. It's a philosophy which involves the politicians of this country saying things like: "We need less power, less of your taxes and frankly we're going to let you make more of your own decsisions". The career politicians of today are as likely to subscribe to that as turkeys would vote for Christmas.

I'm not a fully paid up card carrying libertarian, I just think there's a lot to be said for the idea that Governments need less, as opposed to more, power and money. As a result of this sympathy for these ideas I occasionally attract callers who ARE deeply into it. They don't hesitate to drop names such as, Ayn Rand, into conversation and I've even had one caller explain "The Nolan Chart" once.

This means I get fantastic emails like the one printed below that I feel deserve a wider audience:


Joan of Potters Bar

Good evening Nick. I can't phone because I have a very bad cold but I want to say that we had a 'libertarian' government in this country when Charles Dickens was alive and it was the result of that system of economics, then known as laissez faire ('let it be'), which brought about the horrific conditions which he describes in his novels and which we frequently see enacted upon our screens.

It was these conditions, arising from the successful Victorian economy, which caused reformers like him to campaign for more fairness towards the poor and disadvantaged by a more equitable redistribution of our national wealth through taxation and other government means. Personal charity abounded during the Victorian era, business people were extremely philanthropic but that did not prevent libertarian economics creating extreme poverty amongst the many for the benefit of the few. It was this situation which made reformers call for government intervention and regulation.

We have only to look to countries like India to see what life can still be like for the many in a largely unregulated society. People like yourself and your 23 year old caller, are ignoring the past and are in danger of propelling the people of our country into a neo-Victorian era with no protection for the poor and weak. We cannot look after every old and sick person ourselves, we cannot all be self-employed entrepeneurs, we need government help to stop the extreme exploitation which has previously happened without it. That is not 'socialism', it is a cry for the 'liberte, egalite, fraternite' of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment which curbed the excesses of the Industrial Revolution and brought us the freer, more equal (fairer), more caring society of today.

When preaching neo-libertarianism, as you so frequently do, beware of throwing these babies out with your bathwater!


I don't usually reply to emails as we get too many but this one was so good here is my response:

Hi Joan,

I'm undecided about Libertarianism (laissez faire Government) and think perhaps its appeal for me stems from the fact I've grown up in an era when state power has frequently appeared to be out of the control of normal people such as you and I.

The war against Iraq was a real catalyst for some huge shifts in my opinions. It became apparent to me back then that no matter how many people opposed the Government, if the issue was part of their agenda, there was nothing you could do about it. Since then a number of things appear to be unchangeable when it comes to the world of politics. The EU is a good example. No matter who you turn to in the world of serious politics there appears to be no one who opposes it. Another is the distressing rise of the authoritarian "big brother" state during New Labour. None of that power over people will ever be given back.

The appeal of Libertarianism is it seems to be a political philosophy which argues that politicians should have less power instead of more. It puts focus upon these people who say they rule us and asks them to justify each power they claim over us.


The Nolan Chart
Ayn Rand



Alex from Upminster said…
"The appeal of Libertarianism is it seems to be a political philosophy which argues that politicians should have less power instead of more."

I agree there's been too much state involvement in our lives. And as Joan says, throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn't the best option. It would be tempting to swing in completely the opposite direction to how things have gone recently, but we need balance.

I'm certainly not a Labour supporter. I suppose I adhere to your "two-wing" philosophy. But in principle, I prefer the idea of a reliable system to help ordinary people as opposed to the whims of a kind, rich philanthropist. My answer is (very broadly) we need a water-tight and fair state system which allows the space for ordinary people - charities, philanthropists - to help out too.

I suppose it's the balance most politicians pay lip service too, but I wouldn't hold your breath on realising this dream any time soon.
Anonymous said…
Don't know if you saw the recent Adam Curtis documentary about Ayd Rand.

It was a bit weak but her ideas just don't seem to work in practice. I'm about to start studying politics this year and think you're wrong when it comes to this stuff sometimes. In a nutshell people NEED Governments, Nick!

Good shows by the way. My favourite on LBC at the moment.

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