Much as Compass has broadly given us “How To Live In The 21st Century”, the Lib Dems (and beyond – or, at least, that’s what they’re saying) get the Social Liberal Forum’s “Ideas Factory” (thanks to Tom Miller via Facebook for drawing my attention to the second site).
Both initiatives, as processes worth repeating, are worthy of our interest and perhaps duplication.
In the meantime, I stumbled across another post on the latter site about classical versus social liberalism. These two paragraphs caught my attention in particular:
One should not, however, exaggerate the differences between classical and social liberalism. Both begin, and end, with the view that a state that fails to secure political freedom is not legitimate. Both reject the conservative view, for which the main advocate in Britain is the Labour Party of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, that security is always more important than liberty. That view attributes to the state a wildly exaggerated capacity to provide security – not only because of the all-too-apparent limitations of the competence of state officials to keep us safe but also because, as the arbitrary power of the state increases, the more the state itself becomes a source of insecurity. The citizens of the Soviet Union were not more secure because of the immense arbitrary power of the Soviet state – they were less secure. The politics of fear, as practised in Britain by Labour, is ultimately self-defeating. It will destroy both the very freedoms it is the state’s task to preserve and security itself.
That is not to say that liberalism denies any significance to security. It is just that it values security only in so far as it contributes to freedom. Tony Blair’s view, in contrast, seemed to be that the only right that matters is the right to life. He would have sacrificed any political freedom if he thought that by doing so he would save a single life. One wonders what our forebears who sacrificed their lives for political freedom, from the seventeenth century to the twentieth, would make of the view that political freedom is not worth a single life. One wonders what the Blair doctrine would have implied in 1940, when we could have avoided a great many deaths in exchange for sacrificing the political freedom of the whole of Europe. For Labour, however, political freedoms are only ‘traditional’, as if they were a form of folk dance, and as such are merely romantic indulgences be sacrificed on the altar of the ‘modern’. In contrast, for liberals of all kinds, unless the state guarantees political freedom, it has no moral claim on us at all.
More on this subject here.
I do think that, in a melodramatically self-interested kind of way, the writer of the above wishes to exaggerate and caricature the extent to which Labour does sacrifice its blessed freedoms – but the idea that some freedoms can be interpreted as having the relevance of folk dances should perhaps gain some traction.
If nothing more than to emphasise the importance of supporting, maintaining and conserving our folk traditions. Those who summarily dispatch such traditions with scorn are clearly happily prepared to do away with the wider legacies of ordinary people in the face of globalisation and corporate sameness.
I would prefer a party which not only defined its political freedoms in terms of folk traditions but also was able to take the next step of valuing – above all – its own folks’ traditions over the interests of its powerful sponsors.
That, indeed, would be a socialism worth pursuing further.