Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The case for argument

I must admit I'm not particularly au fait with all the different strands of political philosophies that exist these days. Liberalism, neoliberalism, progressivism, collectivism, conservatism, neoconservatism etc. etc. - there seems to be a proliferation of political philosophies in this day and age. The latest fad - at least amongst the conservative bloggers I visit - seems to be libertarianism (by the way, if anyone from that party is reading this - can someone please tell me how you plan to prevent libertarianism descending into libertinism? Don't tell me that the "rule of law" will do that because it hasn't managed it in our current society and nothing I've read from the UK Libertarian Party explains how this will change).

Personally I don't really subscribe to any one particular political philosophy. I think I am like most people who aren't actively engaged in politics in that we incorporate different aspects of a variety of philosophies into our political leanings dependent upon our personal situation and real world experience. Most people are either predominantly left wing or right wing, but even then there is a substantial crossover in each person's actual political view. Many Labour supporters are social conservatives and many Tory voters support cultural socialism.

So what we ultimately end up doing is supporting the party whose political philosophy was nearest to our own. This actually used to be fairly straightforward as the choice was clear - the socialism of Labour or the conservatism of the Tories. This is because both parties incorporated a broad spectrum of political thought from either wing.

In recent years, however, this spectrum has narrowed considerably in both parties - principally due to both parties making great efforts to eradicate dissent within their ranks. The consequence of this is that the parties represent the narrow political views of the leadership of each party rather than the broader political opinions of the membership.

Some might argue that this was always the case - and to a degree they would be correct - but I'm firmly of the opinion that it is more so now than it has ever been and this is due, in part if not entirely, to the greater scrutiny that political parties are under from the media. I don't mean scrutiny of policy - if only there was! - I mean scrutiny of internal dissent. There is nothing the political media love more than an internal power struggle (even if it doesn't actually exist).

With both main parties now only representing a narrow spectrum of politics more and more people have been finding that those parties no longer represent their political views. Membership has declined along with the voter base. More and more people are not bothering to vote at all while others are turning to smaller parties such as the BNP (Labour) and UKIP (Tory).

A proper democracy needs open debate - within parliament and within the parties themselves. Stifling that debate within the parties is why so many people no longer find that they are represented by those parties and this has damaged our political scene and our democracy.


Rational Anarchist said...

"can someone please tell me how you plan to prevent libertarianism descending into libertinism?"

Now, I'm not a card holding member of the libertarian party but I do find myself agreeing with most of their views.

You presume that by not forbidding a thing, everyone will immediately jump in and start doing it. Tell me, if use of Heroin were legal, would you do it? I wouldn't... Smoking is legal (although becoming less so) and I don't do that, neither do I drink excessively (I might have a couple of pints once a month with friends, but no more).

No doubt some people will indulge such things, but if it causes no harm to others, then why not? And if it does cause harm, then it will fall foul of the law.

It's interesting to note articles like this. The reclassification of Cannabis from Class B to Class C in 2004 actually seems to have helped decrease the number of people using it (despite lower penalties for posession and dealing).

I suspect that a lot of people do things that are forbidden simply because they are forbidden. They become addicted to the thrill of the forbidden, in addition to any high they get from what they're doing - and if you legalise it you can take away a lot of the reason they have for doing these things...

Stan said...

Thanks for trying to reply to that. However .....

"You presume that by not forbidding a thing, everyone will immediately jump in and start doing it."

No I don't. I don't presume that everyone will, but I do know that more people will. What is more, as more people indulge in - let's say "risky" behaviour - they will encourage others to do so. Those of us that don't are constrained by our moral values, but as more and more people abandon those values then what?

This is the problem we have today - even when certain things are still illegal (like drugs). I won't go into details on drugs but I have seen the very real damage they do to very real people - and they ALWAYS start with cannabis. Even if you legalise drugs, users will still have to pay for them and they will still rob or prostitute themselves to find the cash.

I've looked at the UK Libertarian policies and, like you I find myself in agreement with much of what they say, but I still can not find an answer to the question I posed.

It's a simple question, but I fear there is no simple answer. You can not assume that the rule of law will do it because the rule of law has failed to prevent that happening in current society which, although far from libertarian has become very hedonistic.

So I ask again - how do you stop libertarianism descending into libertinism?

JuliaM said...

"Personally I don't really subscribe to any one particular political philosophy."

Me neither. Pick and mix - no-one, but no-one, has all the answers...

"Tell me, if use of Heroin were legal, would you do it? I wouldn't... "

Increasingly though, the people that DO do these things are protected from the consequences of their own behaviour, paid for by everyone else. See Stan's post on the 'flip flops for drunken tarts' (not his title ;)...) for a classic example.

This does have the potential to harm society in the long run.