Thursday, March 07, 2013

 

The Liberal Democrat What Do We Stand For Challenge 2013.3 – Eight Answers (so far) #LibDemValues


Ready for Liberal Democrat Conference this weekend? To challenge and inspire you, here are eight more people’s rallying cries on What the Lib Dems Stand For to add to mine. How are they all for you? Can you do better, if you want to contribute to the meme too? They’re not all the same, and several of them offer greater insight as they discuss our philosophy on their own blogs – though a recurring theme is that the Liberal Democrats stand for Freedom, and many start with the Preamble to the Lib Dem Constitution. Read, think, and please join in. And, if you like them, try them in your local party or on the doorstep or your leaflets and speeches!


Alex Wilcock – “Freedom From Poverty, Ignorance And Conformity”

I’ve been working on my versions of What the Lib Dems Stand For for a while, with the aim of something that feels like a consensus across the party. On Sunday, I explained why I started it, and how it’s developed over the years. On Monday, I challenged other people to come up with their own, and offered my latest – hopefully, a synthesis of the Preamble, the party’s achievements in government and the party leadership’s latest messaging. Plus a bit of me, of course. Here it is:
The Liberal Democrats stand for freedom for every individual – freedom from poverty, ignorance and conformity.

To make that freedom real needs both fairness and economic responsibility: an economy that works, that encourages enterprise, and where everyone pays their fair share.

So freedom from poverty requires responsible spending, not debt, built on fairer taxes where lower earners pay less tax and the wealthiest pay more, and building green jobs for the future.

Freedom from ignorance needs better education and training, so people have the opportunity to realise their potential.

And freedom from conformity, supported by freedom from poverty and ignorance, means everyone should have the liberty to live their lives as they choose – without harming others; with equality before the law; with a better say, because no government always knows best.

That’s why Liberal Democrats are working for a stronger, greener economy in a fairer society, enabling every person to get on in life.
One day I’ll challenge myself to be less on-message and consensual, and just do what several contributors have done – say what their Liberalism is by instinct, speaking straight from the head and heart. I’d still be interested to hear any critiques of how well I’ve synthesised the party’s three key sources of ideas!


Millennium Dome, Elephant and Richard Flowers – “The Freedom To Live Your Life”

Between them, Richard Flowers and The Very Fluffy Diary of Millennium Dome, Elephant have come up with a short form and a (preferred) long form, both reacting to and critiquing my own:
The Liberal Democrats stand for the freedom to live your life enjoying the rewards for your own endeavour, governed by your own choices – with equality before the law; without harming others.
Millennium explains in detail on his blog the thinking behind each version (including how changing two words to synonyms turns ‘obvious’ Marxism into ‘obvious’ conservatism), and I’d advise you to read through it – on ever-expanding circles starting with the individual, moving through time as well as space, and looking back both to the Preamble and to William Beveridge. Here’s their full statement of beliefs:
The Liberal Democrats stand for freedom.

Freedom from poverty, ignorance and conformity.

Freedom for every individual, family, group, community, society or nation.

Freedom from inheriting the financial and environmental mistakes of earlier generations.

Freedom to live your life enjoying the rewards for your own endeavour, governed by your own choices – with equality before the law; without harming others.

To make that freedom real needs both fairness and practicality; opportunity and compassion: an economy that works, but where everyone also pays their fair share.

The Liberal Democrats believe in a better future. That’s why Liberal Democrats are working to build a fairer, greener society and a stronger economy, enabling every person to live the life they want.

On Government:
Liberal Democrats believe that government should act to protect these freedoms, but cannot be a blanket solution to solve all problems. We also accept that government itself can be a threat to freedom, that no government always knows best, so everyone must have a better say in decisions.

On Taxes:
We accept that governments need to raise taxes – in order to relieve poverty, to supply education, to provide a safe and supportive society, to nurture and sustain the environment, and to encourage personal growth and freedom of expression – so we say these should be raised as fairly and as simply as possible, with a tax system that is progressive, understandable and works to release locked up wealth to work for the nation.

On Welfare:
We believe that everyone should be treated with dignity, protected when circumstances mean that they are unemployed, supported when they are unable to work, through age or disability, healed when they are sick. The Welfare State should free people to live lives free from the tyranny of dependence on their employer, making the labour market work for the individual while protecting from any failures of the free market, and enabling society to flourish by not wasting the potential of any individual.

Caron Lindsay – “We Aim To Break Down The Three Major Barriers Which Hold People Back”

Caron’s Musings hurried to get this ready and would have preferred to take time to make it shorter. I explained why I’d chosen to self-impose a limit of around 150 words for my own piece, but I’ve also published much shorter and much, much longer statements of my values, so don’t worry, Caron, it wasn’t a rule for anyone else. And I feel guilt that I imposed such a strict deadline (when usually I hear them whooshing past) in order to post this before Conference. Caron, if you want to have another go – or if anyone else wants to join in – I’m sure I can do another round-up in a week or so if there are more to quote.

Caron sees the essence of Liberalism as a deep respect for the uniqueness of every individual, and thinks you can’t get a better form of words than the opening to the Preamble, explaining why she doesn’t turn the words round in the way I do…
The Liberal Democrats are about freedom for every individual to live as they wish so long as their choices don't harm others. We aim to break down the three major barriers which hold people back: poverty, ignorance and conformity.

We believe in carefully managing the resources we have, mindful that generations to come deserve the same freedoms as we have. That means that safeguarding our environment and making sure that we don't over-spend, amassing huge debts for the future, are essential.

The cost of running an effective, liberal state must be met in a fair and sustainable way with those who earn the most contributing the most and those who have least being protected as much as possible That is why we have ensured tax cuts for the lowest paid, taking many people out of tax completely while increasing taxes for those who can afford it.

We believe that education, knowledge and a curious, enquiring mind are essential to get on in life. A person's ability should determine their progress in life, not their background. That is why we are giving extra money to help disadvantaged children learn both at home and abroad.

We believe that quality of life and wellbeing are also vital to ensuring that people are truly free. That is why we gave given mental health equal status in the NHS mandate and put extra money into providing the most effective therapies for half a million people.

We recognise that people have individual needs. That means that public services should as far as possible be flexible enough to meet the needs of the people who use them. We believe that the criteria for having your relationship recognised by the state should be that you love each other which is why we are giving same sex couples the right to marry and have a long record of fighting for LGBT equality.

We believe in working with others to meet our aims. That can be to provide a Liberal Democrat influence in a local or national government but we are also a proudly internationalist party. We believe in the principles of international co-operation, whether that be within the EU or further afield. A world where 1 in 3 women experience violence, abuse or rape is not acceptable to us and only by working on a global level can we eradicate this and give women and girls the freedom they are entitled to.

We believe that the purpose of the state is to serve the people, not the other way around. That is why we will not tolerate unnecessary restriction of people's freedom. The state should not hold DNA or fingerprints of innocent people unless there is a very good reason, nor should it restrict movement or protest. Freedom of expression, the right to effectively challenge authority are essential parts of a liberal society. The state has no business intruding into your lawful activities.

Commercial organisations should be forced by effective national and international action to behave responsibly both to the environment and their customers so that they can not abuse the power and influence that they have.

We believe in decisions being taken at the lowest practical level. Communities should be able to influence the services available to them.

We do not believe in quick fixes. We believe in looking carefully at the challenges our society faces and providing sustainable solutions.

Mark Valladares – “The Freedom of The Individual Against an Overmighty State”

Liberal Bureaucrat The Lady Mark quite rightly didn’t wait to be tagged – I did invite everyone, and I’m delighted he leapt in (your turn!).
A liberal bureaucracy should bolster the freedom of the individual against the danger of an overmighty state.

It should respond, not react, to the established needs of the individual, enabling them to make informed decisions in their lives, participate in their society to the extent desired and take advantage of the full range of opportunities available to our society.

It should enable, rather than proscribe, protect, rather than abuse, and encourage, rather than place obstacles in the way of, innovation and diversity.

It should encourage imagination in problem solving rather than impose blunt conformity by its methodology, and should be prepared to justify the decision reached.

It should seek efficiencies such as to enable elected officials the widest possible range of options in making public policy, and be aware of the burden of compliance when designing processes, seeking to minimise it where possible.

Neil Monnery – “The Same Opportunities In Life To Pursue Their Dreams”

The Rambles of Neil Monnery also found the challenge interesting and implores “all Lib Dems to sit down for a few minutes and think about their values and how they mesh with the party”.
The Liberal Democrats stand for ensuring that every single person has the same opportunities in life to pursue their dreams without the fear of being treated unfairly or unlawfully.
That’s Neil’s key belief, in bold. However, I’d urge you to look at his full post if you read any of them, because just picking out his conclusion doesn’t do it justice. He, too, has a lot to say about his instinctive values and how they come out of his own life before putting them into a set of party principles (and I should challenge myself to do that sometime, too). From his starting point that everybody should be treated as an equal, through education and opportunity burning a fire in his belly, to people paying their fair share, he takes us on a tour of what inspires him and how it should affect politics.


Linda Jack – “Everyone Should Have the Opportunity To Thrive and Make The Most Of Their Lives”

Lindylooz Muze constantly quotes the Preamble to our constitution, and offers a degree of critique to the party’s new ‘core message’. I agree with her up to a point, but I’d argue that ‘Could anyone disagree with it?’ is a useful test, but not the only one – it’s also about what you choose as your priority. That message prioritises being a centre party, which has its own problems, but that’s another story… Linda is very firm that our beliefs must define us and determine our priorities:
We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to thrive and make the most of their lives, free to do as they choose so long as it doesn’t harm others, free from those obstacles that prevent them from enjoying their lives such as poor health, discrimination, injustice, living in poverty or fear. We believe that the state’s role in this is three-fold. Firstly to be a safety net, protecting us by providing public services such as the health, fire and police services, the welfare state, adequate regulation to protect us as consumers, employees and employers, access to justice whoever you are. Secondly to provide a ladder – through education and other opportunities to develop our full potential. Thirdly by ensuring the right infrastructure is in place, through for example road and transport networks, housing, or the right environment for business to develop. That is why as Liberal Democrats we are committed to policies that achieve those ends, that ensure those with the most contribute more, recognising that a fairer, more equal society is good for all of us.

Another View – “The Right of Every Person To Do Whatever They Wish, So Long As They Cause No Harm”

I’ve also been sent another view from a Lib Dem who’s read my piece but was wary of proclaiming it among their peers…
Liberal Democrats should stand for the right of every person to do whatever they wish, so long as they cause no harm to others.
Liberal Democrats should stand for open and transparent decision-making, both in government and dispute resolution.
Liberal Democrats should stand for the right of those harmed by others to get a fair hearing, and for the accused to get a fair hearing too. Nobody is too important to face justice, and nobody is so unimportant that they don't deserve justice when wronged, whether that wrong is done by an individual, a corporation, or a state body.
Liberal Democrats should stand for freedom. For the right of every person to be free from poverty, ignorance, and conformity.
They also supplied a second section contrasting this with the Lib Dem Parliamentary Party; if I write a post on secret courts I may add it there. It’s not part of this article, which is a round-up of what the Lib Dems positively stand for.


Allen Hurst – “Freedom Of Every Kind: Social, Economic And Personal”

Allen Hurst left his version in a comment on my Challenge post, finding my negative freedom less inspiring than positive freedom and the party’s message grey and unexciting…
Liberal Democrats place the highest value on freedom of every kind: social, economic and personal.

Social freedom means that your potential is not defined by the circumstances of your birth. It means that education, healthcare and public safety are available to all people, no matter where or how they live.

Economic freedom means a country that can afford its own standard of living and that the public good requires us all to pay our fair share. Economic freedom means that the country will not fall under the power of a narrow interest group or industry.

Personal freedom rests on the simple proposition that the government should not intrude or regulate the private lives of citizens. Political systems should ensure that the people’s voice is heard.

That is why Liberal Democrats are working for a fairer society built on a stronger economy, enabling everyone to be the best they can be.

Joe Jordan – “Safety And Prosperity”

And @geekofhearts Joe Jordan tweeted a shorter ideal:
Government should ensure safety & prosperity, deliver real meritocracy, & align the law with the Harm Principle.

Alex Marsh – “More Important Than Ever”

Alex’s Archives hasn’t actually had a go of his own yet, but contributes to two debates – the one started by Julian Huppert on the Preamble, and mine, agreeing that we need medium-length slogans to explain ourselves to people in everyday use. Though, Alex, if you get round to your own version, you might take another look at my name…
“Today Alex Wilcox at Love and Liberty has attempted to shape a new statement of What the Lib Dems stand for in 2013. He’s also started a meme, inviting the Lib Dem blogosphere to offer their own versions. One of the first to respond, perhaps not surprisingly, was the mighty trunked one.
“I’m not sure I’ve got the gumption to come up with my own version over the next day or so. I will if I can make the brainspace to think about it. But, even if I can’t, I think it is both welcome and of profound importance that people are talking seriously about values. The party is going to have to renew itself, whatever the outcome of the 2015 General Election. Having a clear sense that its values are relevant – and speak to the pressing issue of the day – is going to be essential in that task. Without that there is little chance that people will rally to the cause.
“The aspiration to building a fair, free and open society in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance, or conformity is more important than ever.”


That’s the start – as I’ve said, if I receive more, I will happily post another round-up. I know that Chris Richards, Charlotte Henry and Liberal Youth Co-Chairs Kavya Kaushik and Sam Fisk are all interested, but didn’t have the time to respond straight away (though Liberal Youth has an interesting related project: Why I’m Still A Liberal Democrat).

I’d like to say a very big thank you to everyone who’s taken part. Thank you very much, and I hope you encourage and inspire many others not just to read but to think and come up with their own versions of What the Lib Dems Stand For in turn. I’d also like to say a particular thank you to Anders Hanson, whose comment on my first piece cheered me up and made it seem worthwhile.


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Comments:
Many apologies for the typo ... Now corrected.
 
Deadlines? I laugh at deadlines - Linda Jack tagged me in this a week or so ago, and here's my take on it: http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=2751
 
What do Liberal Democrats stand for (in 174 words)
Liberal Democrats seek to build a society where values of individual liberty, social justice, and equality before the law are harnessed to ensure that no one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.
We believe sovereignty rests with people in open and effective systems of governance where individuals can come together as communities at home and work to be involved within those communities with decisions affecting their lives and services
We believe in the inviolable human rights of individuals to freedom of conscience, expression, and privacy; rights to dignity, diversity, and the well-being necessary to allow development of personal talents; and that all forms of prejudice, entrenched privilege, unaccountable power and inequality are rejected.
We believe it necessary to safeguard and managing the environment and its resources to achieve a sustainable balance between the demands of energy, food and the operation of a free wealth creating economy with state intervention only to safeguard the benefits to all.
Free individuals, living in a fair society, supported by a strong green economy is our triune aspiration

 
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