As a libertarian living in the UK, I note a striking lack of a cohesive community of libertarians in this country. Why is this?
For example, why hasn’t any prominent British libertarian written and published an introductory book into libertarianism? Wouldn’t this be an effective tool to market libertarian values to the wider population?
Why is there no British Lew Rockwell.com or Strike-The-Root.com? Shouldn’t there be some kind of hub in which British libertarians can air and share ideas?
Why aren’t there any attempts to reach out to young people? And no, it isn’t true to state that young people are universally leftist. There must be some younger people who are open to libertarian ideals in the UK. Why not arrange libertarian groups at UK universities? And no, it doesn’t have to be at top or prestigious ones such as Oxbridge, UCL, Durham, Imperial College, etc. Why not hold stalls at events such as Glastonbury or Reading Festival, which can disseminate libertarian beliefs to the younger generation?
And aren’t we at risk of losing potential libertarians? Across the World Wide Web, I have conversed with many British people who ask about the nature of the British libertarian movement. They state that there is no evident or apparent British libertarian organisation to look up to, or at least any body that is actively seeking to reach out to others. If one pictures a “newbie” libertarian in the UK, then what does s/he have in order to propel his or her interest? There is no introductory guide to libertarian principles in the UK at present. OK yes, s/he could go to a bookshop or library and read von Mises, Rothbard, Nozick, David Friedman, Hazlitt, Hayek, or any other principal libertarian thinker.
But surely reading books is not enough. People need some kind of social contact with others, since they could feel isolated otherwise. Few people in the UK after all are libertarian. But there are no libertarian groups which hold events designed to engage individuals. After scouring the Web and other places to search for such people and groups, then our hypothetical “newbie” libertarian might lose interest and even cease being a libertarian, since they would have little incentive to retain their views if they could find others like him or her. Is such a state of affairs fair on those waking up from the statist slumber?
I suppose one salient point can be stated as thus – what is the most prudent means of spreading libertarianism? Is a political party the right means? I personally do not think it is, and it seems the LA concur. I feel that libertarian party politics is futile and ineffectual since libertarian tenets are not in the mainstream. Thus, the masses would not vote for a viewpoint which was considered “fringe” or not consistent with the political culture of the country. If a political party has to educate others in order to succeed, then why is a political party even needed? Gradual education (in the form of directly speaking to people about libertarian values, publishing books, etc.) would be just as effective. Furthermore, isn’t running for office as a libertarian hypocritical? If (from a deontological standpoint) government involves coercion, coercion undermines individual sovereignty, and all human interaction should be voluntary and non-coercive, then why use coercion to further one’s own ends? If one were an atheist, would s/he appear consistent if they attempted to spread atheism by applying to be a Reverend in the Anglican Church?
Moreover, if accounting the points raised in the previous paragraph, then I do not see how appealing to the ruling class to implement liberty is prudent either. Politicians run for office because they enjoy possessing and wielding power. There is no genuine “desire” to “help” their citizens. Gordon Brown, David Milliband, Jacqui Brown, etc. all wish for power, since this is the reason people enter politics. Because politicians are only power hungry, then why should they listen to appeals to institute libertarian tenets? Governments persistently grow because politicians crave power and dominion over others. Thus, this means that politicians seek to impose their authority on all areas of society. In essence, a politician’s will for control is akin to a weed in a garden. It spreads unabated until it consumes everything. Any concept or idea of “limited government” then would be anathema to politicians.
I'm a libertarian since the age of 16 (I'm now 17) and this all happened in a British school (albeit in Belgium), and next year I'm going to a University in the UK. We do exist, but uhm, so far I haven't found anyone else in my school. It does seem that most people are inherently leftist, simply because leftist arguments are emotionally appealing on a shallow level, but to investigate further requires patience - something most teenagers don't have.
Just the other day I was talking to someone who first called themselves a liberal, then said that property was theft, and then advocated marxian type of communal ownership. So I don't have to look far to see confused people.
How did I become libertarian? I blame Ron Paul. I've been interested in US politics for a while now, so that's where I noticed him. It's watching speech after speech by Ron Paul that led to my further exploration of the topic. Luckily, it all linked in very well with the fact that I'll be doing economics at Uni. So while I see no organisation or group for libertarians, the internet provides ample information for me. If I manage to scrap up some money, maybe sometime I'll go to the US to a few of these Mises and Rothbard lectures.
I think Sean Gabb and others with the British Libertarian Alliance have made a start on this already. Sean Gabb is a really intelligent communicator in my opinion. They have a good blog http://libertarianalliance.wordpress.com/, and their main site has different resources.
I think there just aren't that many people familiar with libertarianism and it has probably grown very slowly until now. But now we have the Internet, the Mises Institute, Lew Rockwell, Mary Ruwart and others who are spreading the word. And there are more people expecting change, and expecting to find others who agree with them.
Otherwise, the answer to all these questions about libertarianism in the U.K. is the same as what I discovered here in Canada, and that is you have to put in the time and effort yourself to spreading the word about libertarianism. Do it yourself. I can't match expectations with my efforts as one person, but I'm working in the Libertarian Party of Canada with others who have the same concerns to try to build a movement that is active and spreading the word.
Libertarianism shouldn't just be for academics, but we all need the academic side however - www.mises.org - to draw on in order to be more helpful to others in getting the message right. I think that is where political parties can come in - they can help people address specific concerns about government policies and try to change attitudes and turn society around. I am hoping that in the near future we will be able to build up our political movement in Canada, and get more people involved who are willing to communicate libertarian ideas to Canadians. As Ron Paul has been doing. I think that libertarians don't have to agree on everything - we need an open approach to debating each other about our differences - but we tend to be motivated by a strong desire to try to change things or to reverse the destructive trends we see.
Alan Mercer, Libertarian Party of Canada
One 23 yr old libertarian from GB right here. I was initially attracted by the ideas and values of Ron Paul via sites such as digg.com and from there on it grew I suppose. As mentioned the Libertarian Alliance has a range of excellent literature and Sean Gabb is something of an literary hero (imho).
Base model cars of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but quarter-mile races.
Make that the whole of Europe, as some other readers rightly pointed out.
I've talked to some Italian libertarians during a cultural event (they had a stall selling some interesting books) and when I started talking about Rothbard's For a New Liberty or Bastiat's Sofismes Economiques they just stared back at me. They proclaimed their admiration and knowledge of both authors but also stated that, since very few books from both have been translated in Italian, they could not read anything.
British readers at least are spared the language barrier, since most libertarian-themed texts are readily available in English, often at very competitive prices.
And another thing. Don't forget the image disaster self-proclaimed libertarian politicians have wrought in all of Europe (British Isles included). These persons often openly boast being "libertarians" (or whatever the local equivalent is), "right-wingers" and "pro-free-market", yet they invariantly act like the worst socialists.
To paraphrase the title of a famous music LP: freedom sells, but who's buying?
Maybe libertarians living in the UK just don't last very long before they pack up and move. I know I would. As it is the US is becoming to socialist to bear, I can't imagine living in Europe.
I am puzzled why there is so little Libertarian voice in the UK too. It shows how much has changed in 200 years.
There is the Libertarian Alliance as has been mentioned with a lot of good artilces but it is not a very dynamic site, http://www.libertarian.co.uk/. There used to be something called the "Putney Debates" held once a month but have now been stopped. I am told that a new location is being found and these will run again soon. The person organizing this is Dr Tim Evans (firstname.lastname@example.org). I asked Dr Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance about starting up a UK version of Lewrockwell.com but he said there was no money to do so.
There is also the http://www.propertyandfreedom.org/ set up by Hans Herman Hoppe, arguably Rothbard's spiritual successor, but membership of this organization is by invitation only!! As if there are not few enough of us already!
It is particularly disappointing that there appears to be no Libertarian movement in the Universities. Perhaps this is not surprising in that almost all the universities in the UK are state funded, and that most of those attending will have had at least 13 years of state education beforehand. Students do not go to university in the UK to broaden their minds, but simply to reinforce the brainwashing they have already received. (I am told that the former financier, James Goldsmith, told his children that they would not inherit his fortune if the did attend university!)
The UK seems to be completely indoctrinated in the idea that the state is good. In fact, other than my wife, I have never met a Libertarian face to face in the UK.
I hope to meet some of you sometime.
With kind regards