Because Clacton Tory MP Douglas Carswell has defected to UKIP, a by-election has been triggered. Carswell is now standing as a UKIP candidate, and polling shows he has a good chance of winning. This blogpost is not just an appeal to the voters of Clacton, but to the UK generally, to reject Douglas Carswell, UKIP, and the political world-view that they subscribe to.
Douglas Carswell is a libertarian. Historically, being a libertarian in the Enlightenment Era meant you fought for the people’s right to decide their own fate, to think for themselves, and to be free from tyrannical institutions like the Catholic Church. Enlightenment figures were desperate to discuss knowledge, science, literature and politics without fear of being persecuted by those in power. Libertarianism, as a conceptual set of ideas, was the natural response to such overbearing authorities. It prized freedom over oppression, it prized knowledge over ignorance, and crucially, it prized an individual’s right to decide for themselves.
Modern day libertarianism, when compared to Enlightenment-era libertarianism, is absolutely unrecognizable. It has changed from a set of soulful ideas about a human’s right to freedom, to a fully-formed political world-view that includes economics, social issues and foreign policy. And it’s a disaster.
Because of the rise of freedom and democracy in our country, Enlightenment-era libertarianism has largely become irrelevant. There is no tyrannical Church or King watching every move we make and crushing any free thought. We are, by and large, allowed to think for ourselves. So in order to remain relevant, libertarianism has had to evolve and present itself as a worthwhile alternative to mainstream political thought.
Crucially, this evolution has come to include a love of free market economics. Neo-libertarians, or modern-day libertarians, believe, like some of their right-wing conservative neighbours, that anything the state can do, the private sector can do better. This is something that Enlightenment-era libertarianism didn’t concern itself with. But like their Enlightenment-era counterparts believe, they think that the government has too much power and interferes too much. Where the Enlightenment-era libertarians fought for the basic right of self-determination and free expression, their modern day descendants fight for the rights of private companies to do business without the state holding them back. The game of libertarianism has changed.
You might say that that’s okay and you might say businesses need protecting too. If business is booming, we all benefit. That’s a fine statement to make by itself, but the problem with libertarianism now is that it only protects the rights of the people running the businesses, not the ones working at the businesses. Libertarians want less state protection for workers, less regulation on basic health and safety laws, and fewer union protections. They don’t believe in increased powers of the workforce, they believe in increased powers for the ownership. Libertarianism, when it incorporates free market economics, is essentially corporatism gone wild.
Do you see the shift? Libertarianism has gone from defending the rights of the individual, to defending the rights of businesses.
But make no mistake – modern-day libertarians don’t completely ignore the rights of the individual. They believe that the state interferes too much where each person is concerned too. That’s why they fight against gun regulation laws in the United States. That’s why they fight against the welfare state which ‘prevents’ people from getting a job in the United States. Libertarianism in the U.S. has come dangerously close to undoing the decades of hard work of union workers, African-Americans, and gay rights activists.
Libertarianism nowadays is based on the premise that you should be free to do what you want to do without the state interfering. While that means fewer restrictions, it also means fewer protections. Tackling climate change might mean people have to change their habits? Bad! Gun controls would mean people can’t “protect” themselves? Bad! A ban on same-sex marriage would limit people’s pursuit of happiness? Oh well, never mind…
Wait, what? I thought libertarianism was all about ensuring that people had the right to individual freedom? So why did Douglas Carswell vote against the UK same-sex marriage law twice, miss three more votes on it, and vote against same-sex marriage for overseas military personnel?
The answer is simple: Modern-day libertarianism is all about securing the rights and freedoms for the dominant majority. Right-wing libertarianism of the kind Carswell subscribes to is only interested in ensuring that those already in power are free to do whatever the hell they want without the state holding them back. Minorities like LGBT people are not in power, so libertarianism simply ignores them. It only fights for those who do not need fighting for.
Ask yourself who has all the power in this country. I think most of us think corporations, banks and the government as being the ruling financial class. They have all the money, so they have all the power. If Carswell’s libertarianism was interested in securing the freedoms for all people, it would make sure these huge financial institutions didn’t infringe on the rights of everybody else, right? Wrong. He voted against a banker’s bonus tax. He voted to reduce the rate of corporation tax. He voted to cut taxes on those earning over £150,000. He voted for the bedroom tax. He voted against the mansion tax.
So he’s a sure-fire defender of the rich and powerful. But he can support the rich and poor at the same time right? If he’s a libertarian, he wants to promote the autonomy of all people, no matter what their income, right? Wrong. He voted for raising the UK tuition fees amount to £9,000. He voted to reduce funding for 16-19 year olds in training and further education. He voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices. He voted against giving more money to the disabled or those unable to work due to illness. He voted to reduce the amount of support councils give to people to pay their council tax. He voted against a measure which would have guaranteed jobs for long-term unemployed young people.
Collectively, he has voted for a reduction in welfare spending over 40 times.
Douglas Carswell’s libertarianism is only interested in securing your right to hurt people. The right to smoke in other people’s faces. The right to destroy the environment to make a profit. The right to stash away all your money in tax havens. The right to pay employees poverty wages. But all of these rights only apply to you if you’re rich. He wants more rights for the rich so they can do whatever the hell they want to the rest of us.
And these are not fantastical examples or scare tactics friends. We have a textbook example of libertarianism at work in the United States right now, which gives us all the proof we need. Over there, father-son duo Ron and Rand Paul are two of the most mainstream libertarian politicians in the world. Their voting record really speaks for itself. It always pushes for less powers for the government, and more powers for the private sector, to the detriment of the poorest and most vulnerable.
Libertarianism used to want limits on government powers because the government was tyrannical and stamped on people’s rights. Nowadays, libertarianism wants to limit the state’s powers because the state doesn’t allow powerful individuals and corporations to steal as much power and wealth as they want. Douglas Carswell is the quintessential modern day libertarian, and he has absolutely nothing to offer you.
The difference between the Tories and UKIP is that one wants big government that doesn’t help people and the other wants small government that doesn’t help people. Carswell subscribes to a political philosophy so sound that no country in the history of the Earth has adopted it. Not one. Libertarianism is so dangerous that even David Cameron (aka Thatcher resurgent) thinks it’s too extreme. If it’s too hardcore for David Cameron, that really speaks volumes.
I understand how many disenchanted voters there are in this country. The two main political parties may have done some great things, but they’ve also perpetuated a system that favours the ruling class and spits on the poorest among us. They seem more interested in winning elections than actually making a difference to the average person’s life. I get it, I really do. All I’m saying is that libertarian candidates like Douglas Carswell, and libertarian parties like UKIP, will not make things better for you. They will make things worse.
So on October 9th when the polling stations open their doors, remember Carswell’s voting record. Remember what libertarianism thinks of people who can’t work, who can’t pay their bills, who can’t own a home. Remember that this once proud philosophy has been hijacked by right-wing corporate extremists who want nothing more than to secure a bigger share of the pie for themselves. Are you willing to vote for a smaller share of the pie?
To see Douglas Carswell’s voting record, go here.