by Peter Franklin
Monday, 10
October 2022
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12:05

Liz Truss is a liberalist, not a liberal

We have a new word to add to the political lexicon
by Peter Franklin
Liz Truss speaking at the Conservative Party conference

Former minister Johnny Mercer was interviewed by Andrew Neil for Channel 4 last night, and it’s fair to say he isn’t exactly on good terms with the current government. When he described Liz Truss and her colleagues as “liberalists” it wasn’t meant as a compliment. 

But what is a ‘liberalist’? Perhaps Mercer misspoke, meaning to say ‘neo-liberal’ or ‘libertarian’. On the other hand, he may have contributed a useful new word to the political lexicon.

Though I’m a conservative, I’m not so blinkered that I can’t recognise liberalism as a massively important — and deeply sophisticated — school of political thought. That’s why it so useful to have ‘liberalist’ as a way of describing the shallow, inconsistent, ersatz liberalism that’s made its way into Downing Street. 

What then is the difference between a true liberal and a liberalist?

Well, let’s start with the liberalist idea that the state shouldn’t try to second guess the market. But if that’s the case, then on what basis did Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng pick which taxes to cut to unleash all that promised growth? The overall package overwhelmingly benefited the rich — presumably on the assumption that the wealthy are the wealth creators. But that required a top-down judgement on the part of the government. 

Similarly, when the Bank of England staged its emergency response to the chaos that followed the mini-budget, that was a massive, market-shaping intervention by a state institution. Of course, a truly liberal government would recognise that the state and the market are deeply intertwined and would develop its ideas around that fact. The liberalist mantra, however, is “state bad, market good” — the moral of Truss’s simplistic speech to party conference. 

There was more liberalist thinking on show when the government pulled a £15 million energy saving campaign. Did ministers object to telling people how to live their lives? Or did they confuse energy efficiency with energy rationing — which would be at odds with the Trussite priorities of “growth, growth and growth.” However, this is to miss the essential context here: the energy price cap, which is costed at £150 billion. If a public information campaign were to achieve nothing more than a 0.1% reduction in energy use, it would save £150 million. There is, of course, nothing illiberal about governments making investments to reduce the future need for government, but for liberalists that’s too counter-intuitive a concept. 

So is the idea that it’s not just the state that exercises top-down power over individuals. For an example, I’d recommend a fascinating Church Times interview with Steve Baker. The influential Tory MP describes himself as “Christian libertarian” and a “classical liberal”. Drawing upon Biblical inspiration he describes (Earthly) power as a “disgusting, awful thing.” But when asked about the power of privatised companies to pump sewage into the environment he appeared wrong-footed. 

A thought-out liberal position would recognise that we live among competing systems of power — and that sometimes the state is all that protects the individual from forces beyond our control. However, such nuances are lost on the liberalists. 

Baker is a backbencher, but there’s no doubt that this is a liberalist government and thus insensible to the complexities and ironies of the market system. Grown-up liberals — including the classical variety — would be ill-advised to regard Liz Truss as their champion. Indeed, her political project is already doomed: holed beneath the water-line by, of all things, a market reaction.

Clarification: Steve Baker was a backbencher at the time of the interview, he is currently Minister of State for Northern Ireland

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Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 month ago

I’m unimpressed by this gobbledegook, I think the wets are back inventing another form of newspeak to defend endless state intervention

Mr Veen
Mr Veen
1 month ago

No, she’s a classical liberal, but not a progressive liberal or social liberal. We already have terms to describe these positions, neither of which are conservative or historically Tory (although the classical liberals in the Tory party will try to convince you otherwise, pretending that Toryism is all about free markets and limited government, when that has not been the case for most of the Party’s history).

Last edited 1 month ago by Graeme Caldwell
Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Veen

Toryism is like all the ‘Uniparty’ in all the world – it is about Globalism. It is about all wealth being driven to the controll of the top 5 Industrial corporations, 3 top Finance/Hedge Funds/Brokerage, 3 top Bio-Pharma, 3 top <military Industrial Complex, 3 top Social Media/Tech, 5 top food producers – and then all $ and all Power are in these rings of Power, and then one ring to rule over them all –

Tories are just Globalists getting their corrupt payoff later – like all but the very few. They are servants of the WEF, and the Great Reset. Same as Labour, Democrats. Republicans – all but Trump – MAGA, it is the last chance before the Iron Curtain descends over all the world.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Veen

Not sure. Is there one socially conservative thing Truss has said, let alone actually done? That makes her a social liberal. Economically, she will tax and spend as much as Johnson or Starmer would. I don’t see any coherent philosophy that explains how markets bring prosperity and what government can or should do to regulate market and society.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago

Let’s just accept the fact that none of these people, well-meaning though they may be, have the faintest idea what they are doing. Accept that and you won’t be disappointed. I think it is the case that we evolved to live in small tribal groups where we all knew each other. When confronted by a tribe that is numbered in the millions we have to invent elaborate political constructs to make sense of ourselves. These constructs don’t work, although they make some people wonderfully rich. These rich chaps aren’t noticable happy, they are merely, as my grandfather said “Miserable in comfort”.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 month ago

I’m not sure they know what they think. They pick labels to appear clever but won’t change anything. Tinkering with the tax rate here or there won’t fix the economic and structural problems of a country that cannot afford to meet its expectations.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago

Tax cut with no corresponding spending cut = Inflationary + Debt

£150,000,000,000 money created and fiscally dumped from debt on the global economy = extreme inflationary + Debt

Treasury raising Interest = anti Inflationary – weird debt effects

Tightening instead of QE = anti inflationary, reduce Debt.

Take these 4 elements of ‘Matter’ and ‘Anti Matter’, call it the new Mini-Budget – *Pow* the financial markets are dismayed – WTF they say…..What are they doing?

So everyone wondered in this world where ‘Tightening’ is being leaned towards, everyone wondered who would crack first and return to QE – and now we know it is UK, with the drunk Truss at the helm. What she did may be the right thing – but How she did it – madness.

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
1 month ago

It’s fine to wonder at the terminology one might use in regards to the current regime, seeing as how Truss and co. appear to have no solid ideological principles at the moment. I feel very sorry for our British cousins as their government slides back toward Labour policies in name as well as in practice.

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 month ago

Liberalist, to this American, sounds like a malaprop for leftist. Otherwise, it might be a meta-liberal, one who stands outside the ideology while examining it from a loving stance. Here in the US, Dan Rather would be a liberalist — someone who subverts decency while in the hot pursuit of what he knows is only truthy.

0 0
0 0
1 month ago

Funny watching the Lebanese finance minister on BBC news hardtalk in a rather aggressive and superior , almost racist *, manner, whilst the headlines about the pound tanking below , billions of pounds being wasted by the bank of England to prop it up.
* If he were African/ Caribbean/ non white/female. it would be. Because he’s middle Eastern and male ( man to man) it almost seems ok but it isn’t.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

I would have thought that ” Tedious, inarticulate over promoted clerk cum line manager” would be a more accurate description.

M. M.
M. M.
1 month ago

Peter Franklin wrote, “Indeed, [Liz Truss’] political project is already doomed: holed beneath the water-line by, of all things, a market reaction.”

Liz Truss has been prime minster for only about a month. That is not sufficient time to determine whether she will fail at her job.

She has 2 tasks of highest priority. They are enforcing the borders and distancing the United Kingdom (UK) from the United States.

Enforcing the borders means her fulfilling her promise to expand the Rwanda policy, by which the British government deports illegal aliens to Rwanda.

Distancing the UK from the United States means exiting the America security architecture, which includes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The justification for the second task is that the UK will remain a Western country after the United States ceases to be one.

By 2040, the United States will cease being a Western nation, due to open borders. Most Americans will reject Western culture, and Hispanic culture will dominate. Currently, in California, 40% of the residents are Hispanic. Most residents of the state already reject Western culture, and Hispanic culture dominates.

Get more info about this issue.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 month ago
Reply to  M. M.

Quite mad. “Most residents of the state already reject Western culture.” In what way is Hispanic culture opposed to Western culture?

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 month ago
Reply to  M. M.

Spain is part of Western Civilization as much as Italy. Western culture is driven by how it is being practiced at any given moment. Some may influence it beyond their numbers, but those who reject it do so with the same oikophobia as those religions sustained and enabled by the scientific method until it brushes up against the superstitions of Bronze Age nomads. Then science must be dumped overboard. But they still use technology.