Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Conservative manifesto - less worse than Labour but where is the freedom?

Given the electoral system in the UK, the big choice for most voters is whether to support the incumbent Labour Party, and its "we'll look after you, give us your money and promise us your kids' money too" approach or the Conservatives.

Labour, naturally, wants to portray the Conservatives as the "nasty party" proclaiming that it would make "brutal" cuts like Margaret Thatcher did, and claim that the radicalism of that government is where the Tories REALLY have their hearts and minds.

A little odd given the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted on the BBC that LABOUR would have to make cuts worse better than Thatcher.

Nevertheless, on the face of it, given how the Tories have abandoned the closeted xenophobia, anti-homosexual, social intolerance of the past, is there really hope that the Tories are now socially liberal AND the great inheritors of Thatcher's culling of the state?

After all, I would LOVE to be able to give the Conservatives my moral authority to earn my vote. Britain needs to consign the pseudo-Keynesian spendthrift promise breaker Gordon Brown and his tribe of envy peddling control freaks to history. So is there something to hope for in the Opposition? A belief in capitalism, individual freedom, commitment to addressing real crimes and to a state that weans the public from dependency on it for pensions, healthcare and their kids' education?

Not if you read the Conservative Manifesto. No. In fact, the Conservative Party continues to be suspicious of capitalism, embraces wholeheartedly the religion of unquestioned environmentalism. Moreover, you'll be spending a lot of time searching for the freedom in it, because it largely isn't there.

Its first policy is called "Big Society". Remember when Margaret Thatcher correctly said (and was subsequently quoted only in part) that there is "no such thing as society"? She meant that when people say "society" thinks this, or is to "blame" for that, that it is a nonsense as there is no collective brain. Society is simply a group of individuals who interact with their own consciousness, own opinions and diverse views, lives and attitudes.

The "Big Society" policy says "We have set out an ambitious agenda to build a Big Society based around social responsibility and community action." In capital letters? Quite simply, fuck that.

Allister Heath in City AM put it so very well:

their “big society” agenda, which looks suspiciously like a rebranded big state. “Our ambition is for every adult in the country to be a member of an active neighbourhood group.” Really? What about those so busy trying to make ends meet that they have taken on two jobs, or who are too ill or too old or who have to care for young children or elderly relatives? And what about the barmy proposal for vast numbers of state-funded community organisers? It’s nonsense – slightly sinister nonsense, even, with authoritarian undertones and entirely unaffordable in an age of drastic austerity. One can’t chide the state for its bossiness and all-controlling bureaucratic officialdom – and simultaneously try and make volunteering compulsory. There is such a thing as freedom and being allowed to do whatever one wants with one’s life, rather than being bossed about by do-gooders. It is worrying how, for all their empowering rhetoric (and in some cases proposed actions, such as on civil liberties) the Tories have forgotten about this.

He's right you know. It is the classic conservative agenda, not of letting free individuals live as they want as long as they don't hurt others, but putting obligations on your life to "participate" in ways the government approves of. Most people much of the time help and contribute to the lives of others, like parents, family, friends, colleagues. They don't need Uncle David Cameron telling them to volunteer on top of that.

The Tories have made a big deal of not increasing national insurance tax like Labour will, but they will STILL increase it for those earning over £35,000.

Frankly the most positive policy is on education, by allowing anyone to set up a school in competition with the state and have state funding follow students to that school. A form of semi-deregulation of the compulsory education sector.

Beyond that there are some positives:
- Reducing corporation tax and an agenda to reduce regulation on business;
- Resolving the West Lothian question, by requiring issues that only involve England or England and Wales need to be passed by a majority of MPs from those constituent countries;
- Allowing council tax payers to veto increases in council tax by petition;
- Retain and replace Britain's nuclear deterrent;
- Ensure that UK has final sovereignty over its laws (which wont happen as it means leaving the EU in effect);
- Reduce (but not eliminate) powers to enter homes by councils;
- Scrap compulsory ID cards;
- Allow DNA from innocent people to removed from databases;
- Remove consensual gay sex convictions from criminal records;
- Freeze council tax for two years.

Then some negatives:
- Giving other people's money to households to pay for energy efficiency measures;
- Stop the privately owned and funded third runway at Heathrow on spurious environmental grounds, and no more runways at Gatwick or Stansted either;
- Interfering in energy markets because of climate change;
- Introduce voluntary "National Service";
- Create a new bureaucracy to look to prop up food prices for farmers;
- Destroy remaining property rights of BT and other telcos by forcing them to sell broadband capacity to others;
- Force everyone to pay for universal broadband access below cost in rural areas;
- Increase state health spending and foreign aid spending in real terms whilst the country is in fiscal crisis;
- Refusing to abolish the 50p top tax rate while public sector pay is frozen;
- Put a FLOOR under landfill tax;
- Retaining the ridiculous and distortionary "free at point of use" policy of the NHS;
- Encourage councils to build more council housing;
- Limit non-EU immigration;
- Maintain most of Labour's expanded welfare state.

No, it doesn't inspire. It doesn't promise to not increase other taxes, like fuel duty and VAT. Welfare dependency remains, as do victimless crimes and the nanny statism over children that Labour introduced. It is at best devoid of ambition, with the only positive sign the education policy (even that is the ACT policy of 2008). The rest is denial of the need to confront socialised medicine, a complete disregard for private property rights and being hijacked by the inane environmentalist lobby to strangle growth in aviation.

Gordon Brown it is not, New Labour it is not, but does this deserve moral endorsement from me as a libertarian?

Sadly, no. I can't endorse the environmentalism, the confiscation of property rights, the weasel words around the deficit and tax, and the embracing of the NHS.

The question is whether the Tories are that bad that it wouldn't matter if Labour won or the Conservatives won. The problem I have is that if I vote Conservative I hardly have a right to object if they do what they say, since I would have had a hand in saying YES GOVERN ME.

I don't think I want to do that.

3 comments:

FAIRFACTS MEDIA said...

I was appalled last week to hear of them using the principles of Obama's marxist mentor Saul Alinsky in creating 5000 community organisers.
Hasn't one community organiser done enough damage already?
I did a vote matching test on the Daily Telegrapgh website this week and was surprised to see I had a 72% match with the BNP, 68% with UKIP and just 49% with the Tories.
I might have got a little more anti-EU and anti-immigration over the years, but it does seem my old party has left me.
If I was voting in britain, i would probably still vote Tory, tough I feel closer to UKIP now, but onlky because I feel the best way of defeating Gordon Brown is through the Conservatives.
I read much about dreams for a realignment of the right through a destruction of the LibLabCon alliance but it still seems a fanciful dream to me, thanks to the FPP electoral system.
Anyway, if Cameron fails to get a majority on election night, he has to go.

Sean Fitzpatrick said...

What is your take on the fact the LibDems polled so high as best performers on the leaders debate, Scotty?

libertyscott said...

Fairfax: I'm wondering about UKIP, but I haven't made up my mind yet.

Sean: I didn't see the debate, as I am in the US at the moment, but I think there is a strong majority that want Brown out, but DON'T trust Cameron. Clegg becomes the "safe" protest vote. I think it will hurt Labour the most, but the LibDems don't get serious scrutiny.

I have a forthcoming blog post about the LibDems in the weekend.