Interesting article here. I thought he was non-partisan? It seems not, if this potted history is anything to go by.
Hat tip to the other Guido
for this one.....
Free Life No.37, September 2000 8
My parents sold the former family home recently and asked me,
not unreasonably, to clear out my books from their attic. I found
my copy of Karl Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies,
from Plato to Marx, inside the cover my name was scrawled
together with the date 1980. I date my conversion to Libertarian-
ism from the day I put down that book.
I joined the Young Conservatives because they were the only
people around who were anti-Socialist or at least anti-Soviet.
This was the era of CND and I saw the key battle in terms of the
West versus Soviet expansionism. Simon Salzedo was chairman
of the local YCs and a Maggie-loving-Wet-hating typical young
Tory. He was bemused by this zealous anti-Communist in his
midst paraphrasing Popper and Hayek at cheese and wine
evenings – it would be a few years before he would lead the
charge at Oxford to dry out OUCA on a principled Libertarian
platform. He was elitist and it rubbed off on me, by the time I
got to sixth form I had revived the double barreled family name
that my father had let wither as a sixties Young Fabian. My
Anglo-Indian father obviously despaired of me hanging out with
Tory crypto-racists whom he loathed (although later he would
vote with his wallet for tax cuts and privatization giveaways).
By the time I was an undergraduate in the mid-eighties, having
joined the Federation of Conservative Students, and somehow
affecting to wear fake bow-ties and cheap suits (whilst endlessly
debating the merits of Anarcho-Capitalism versus Minimal
Statism), I had at last found a small number of like minded
souls. Marc Henri Glendenning the then national chairman of
FCS spoke a language I could understand - Thatcher on drugs.
Still it was right-wing anti-Communist, anti-Wet and mainly
reactionary. Battling in Student Unions to rename the “Mandela
Bar” the “Bruce Forsyth Bar”, arguing with CND feminists and
generally opposing the left wing campus establishment whilst in
the real world the Conservatives won elections by landslides and
the war of ideas. Only on campus were we a radical minority
and intentionally antagonistic, in fact so obnoxious that the
Conservative Party decided to close down its youth wings.
That antagonistic, sod you attitude continued after I failed to get
a degree (I was thrown out for being a right-wing pain in the
butt who was more interested in student politics than essays)
when I went to work in the various right-wing pressure groups
and think tanks that proliferated in the late eighties. The
deliberately provocative attitude still maintained – I never wore
a “Hang Mandela” badge but I hung out with people who did.
Why? What did we gain from doing so? Did we make ourselves
more popular by calling for the death of a man who was fighting
injustice by the only means available to him? Did this “shift the
parameters of debate” in our direction?
Did the over the top aggressiveness of the ultra-sound cadres
put people off the broader ideas and positive agenda of Libertar-
ianism? Clearly it galvanised our enemies against us in much the
same way that the crude jingoism of many Little Englanders puts
people off supporting a more liberal European ideal.
I am the first to admit that in the past when challenged on issues
I have been provocative – “What will Libertarianism do for the
homeless?” “Nothing”. Not a way to win friends and influence
people. I think its time for a more effective, kinder, gentler kind
of Libertarianism. Principled, but pragmatic. Selling out – no,
but better salesmanship certainly. A lot of us who came to
Libertarianism via FCS and student unions as well as battling in
the Conservative Party factions, have a take-no-prisoners
attitude that does not play out well to wider audiences. We are
unsympathetic and uncompromising, we are “Sound” but little
heard. What profiteth an idealogue if his ideology is ignored? Or
even if it is just rendered unpalatable.
Now there is a role for martyrs, who will brook no compromise.
Our editor is foremost amongst them, his voice can be heard in
the wind and on Radio 4, Radio 5, Talk Radio, Local Radio,
Daytime TV and innumerable late night discussion programmes
as well as Panorama, not counting a gross of websites, a million
e-mails and this journal. All power to his ‘puter.
Nevertheless Sean would never claim to be a politician or a
pragmatist – he is a prophet, a prophet of doom. The British live
in one of the richest and most free nations on earth, the way
Sean tells it we are about to be marked with the number of the
beast before Big Brother Blair carts us off to a New Education
Facility for a Better Britain. Sean believes that if we give them
a millimeter they will give us the kilometer.
I prefer to listen to Prodigy whilst Sean listens to Elgar but we
do both march to the same drumbeat. I prefer to focus on the
future and our successes. For instance the internet was devel-
oped by avowed Libertarians and brought to you by free
enterprise, the EU by statists and bureaucrats. We believe in
lower taxes, our opponents want your money, free enterprise
brought you the Lotus sports car, bureaucrats brought you
London Underground. What do you want?
Mere spin? It’s optimism versus pessimism. If pessimism
prevailed than we would still be sat shivering round a fire in a
cave, but an optimist went out and slaughtered a wooly mam-
moth. People want prosperity, we offer a path to prosperity,
whereas our opponents offer only reduced equality (“Ug I think
we are running out of wood”). Californian Libertarians offer an
optimistic manifesto of capitalist success for all, some British
Libertarians preach a fire and brimstone hell for all those who
don’t repent .
The glass is half full, so with liberty in our hearts let’s focus on
pragmatic politics and progress. Don’t whinge, win.
A Kinder, Gentler, Kind of Libertarianism:
Reflections on Two Decades of Libertarianism
Paul D. Staines
link for it is here: http://www.libertarian.co.uk/freelife/fl037.pdf
The esmteemed journal also has an amusing piece on Jack Straw. Enjoy!
Update: It seems this story has been picked up elsewhere.....