Liberalism has been a notoriously elastic word – as often used as a term of abuse applied to Islington chatterati as claimed to define an acceptable form of individualism.‘Acceptable’ to whom, Madeline..?
At the centre of this re-emergent liberalism is the much used idea of a "self-authored life", in which individual autonomy is paramount to shape one's own version of the good life. The only role the state has is to ensure the individuals have the capabilities for autonomy, such as education and health. Power resides in individuals, who should be free to make their own choices in public services such as health and education. The state must leave people to run their own lives, dismantling big institutions and bureaucracies.Sounds like paradise. More to the point, sounds like affordable paradise.
Who could possibly disagree?
What it can achieve in tackling welfare dependence, broken Britain, political disengagement and other objectives for which it makes great claims, remains to be seen. Liberalism, has, at heart, a deeply idealistic view of human nature: give people power and they will know how to use it.Ah. Right. Of course.
The people who believe that we are basically children at heart, no matter how old we may be. Who believe that humanity is flawed, and they have the answers to putting things right, if only they can grasp the reins of power for long enough.
What is lost in this coalition – as Shirley Williams recognised in the Guardian – is any notion of state action to achieve equality and social justice.Perhaps that’s because it’s been tried, and tried, and tried, and it doesn’t work.
Humanity is not perfectable by government edict and, god willing, never will be…
It's a set of ideas for government that will appeal to successful, aspirant England – southern England outside London opted for it en masse in the election in a flat rejection of Labour – but it offers as much loneliness and insecurity as it does freedom.Not having the warm, soothing, expensive hands of government on your shoulders from cradle to grave is now to be prey to ‘loneliness and insecurity’, is it?
Well, bring it on!
N.B: Angry Exile finds that this attitude – that the state is mother, the state is father - has spread to the Land Down Under too…