Professor David Howarth, formerly LibDem MP for Cambridge, contributes to the new SLF book with a powerful, closely argued essay on Liberal economics. This an extract:
Here is a puzzle: if JS Mill, JM Keynes and James Meade were all Liberals and economists, what is a ‘neo-liberal’ economist? One might have thought that it would be someone who updated their thought to consider new facts and new problems.
In a highly successful example of propaganda and disinformation, ‘neoliberal’ has come to mean the doctrines of Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman. But those doctrines are anything but ‘neo’. They hark back to the era before Mill. We need to rectify names. Instead of ‘neo-liberals’ the followers of Hayek and Friedman might be called ‘paleo-partial liberals’.
The next step is to reclaim the Liberal tradition. That was the avowed aim of the editors of the Orange Book, but what some of them seemed to mean was not updating Mill, Keynes and Meade but abandoning them in favour of paleo-partial liberalism. Admittedly the diagnosis was not entirely wrong. The Liberal Democrats, as a political party, had wandered a long way from the Liberal tradition and had succumbed to various forms of conventional wisdom.Read more
SLF announces the publication of Four Go in Search of Big Ideas in time for the Lib Dem Southport Conference
The Social Liberal Forum is pleased to announce the publication of Four Go In Search of Big Ideas as an important contribution to a Progressive Alliance of Ideas, People and Campaigns. Contributors include leading Liberal Democrats and people from other political backgrounds and some from outside formal parties. But social liberalism provides the common thread which weaves its way through the entire book. In amongst strong analysis of what is wrong with the country now and why we need radical change, are bold and radical ideas for change that the SLF hopes will gain wide attention.
The book is edited by Chair of the SLF, Helen Flynn, the first time a liberal publishing venture of this type has been led by a woman. The eponymous ‘Four’ of the title are: Helen Flynn, Iain Brodie Browne, Gordon Lishman and Ekta Prakash. They believe that the revival of progressive politics in the UK must be based on winning the battle of ideas. All four come from the North of England and their approach reflects their anger about the state of UK politics and particularly its effect on our country outside the South East.Read more
A new chapter of the continuing Brexit negotiations nightmare has kicked off, courtesy of Boris Johnson saying that the row over the border in Northern Ireland is being used to frustrate Brexit. It is therefore extremely timely that Nigel Lindsay, SLF Council member, has shared his insights and ideas on “The EU and the UK: The Liberal Case for Territorial Differentiation” in our most recent long-read publication.
Nigel spells out the issues surrounding the vexed Ireland-Northern Ireland border conundrum, and describes scenarios where a possible border between Northern Ireland and Scotland, and even a possible border between Scotland and England, could arise if voters’ wishes are actually to be taken into consideration.Read more
‘Take back control’ and the demand to transfer power back to the people were apparently central demands of the Leave campaign during the EU referendum in 2016. These aims were regularly put forward as the main reason for walking away from the European Union. Who can deny these aspirations? The need to share power and reduce the influence of the executive has been a long-standing challenge in British politics. In fact these aspirations have been at the heart of progressive thinking for a number of years, so how was this agenda taken over by groups on the right and how can these principles be re-energised by Liberal Democrats?Read more
Britain is deeply divided. The harsh economic realities of Brexit are beginning to be known. Years of austerity have weakened the public sector. Personal debt levels are out of control, while the financial sector appears to have failed to learn the lessons of the 2008 crisis. Even workers at McDonald's are going on strike. There is growing inequality across the country.Read more
What follows is a pamphlet I wrote in March this year in support of the Progressive Alliance campaign. It was originally published by Compass (the cross-party think tank that runs the Progressive Alliance), who are very happy for the Social Liberal Forum to republish it. It formed one of a series of papers from people in different political parties, about why their fellow party members should back the Progressive Alliance (PA).
The aim was to galvanise support from those who already backed — or were curious about — the PA concept, as part of wider efforts at the next general election. We were quickly overtaken by events when the snap general election was called in early April. Despite not having sufficient time to do much of the necessary groundwork, the PA still managed to play an active part in the election, and helped to prove the concept.
Universal basic income (UBI) is often presented as a way of supporting an increase in the fraction of population not in full time employment. Here, I wish to outline an alternative vision based upon using UBI to simplify the tax and benefit system and enhance work incentives. Rather than funding an increase in the number of people without jobs, my proposed system is designed to produce higher levels of employment. By replacing many existing benefits with a UBI, families will no longer need to worry about their benefits being withdrawn as they start earning more, giving them stronger incentives to work, and pulling thousands out of the poverty trap created by the existing benefits system. Furthermore, while the poorest will obtain the largest direct benefit from the proposed system, its wider benefits will be shared by people of all incomes due to reduced economic distortions.Read more
Conventional wisdom tells us if we don't know our history we're doomed to repeat it. But in politics the risk of fighting yesterday's battles means we should treat historical lessons with caution - and remember that the “will of the people” can change quickly.Read more
First delivered at the Social Liberal Forum Conference on 15 July 2017
Dani Rodrik, one of my favourite economists – a Turk teaching at Harvard – wrote some five years ago that we may be discovering that democracy is not compatible with unconditional globalization; and that if we have to choose, we must prefer democracy and open society to globalization. I take that as my text, and will explore its implications for Liberals, who believe in open societies and international cooperation but also in individual freedom within settled communities. I have a second text, which is President Macron’s declaration that France must support a market economy, but not a market society’ – which is a good phrase for us to adopt in Britain, when Corbynistas are close to rejecting the market as such and the Conservative right sees the market as governing social provision.Read more
Having had something of a break over the General Election period, the SLF is back with its nose to the grindstone, publishing new content to stir the interests of liberals – in particular social liberals – everywhere.Read more