Monday, August 11, 2008
The excitable Guido posted a few days ago on libertarianism. I think he agrees with me that the new cult of 'Nudge' is a sophisticated evasion. It doesn't sound as nasty as ordering people about nor as frightening as letting the free market rip, but, in reality, it doesn't evade either possibility. Who is nudging whom and why will remain at the centre of political discourse in a democracy. But, as ever, I am puzzled by the word 'libertarian'. Guido says 'libertarians care about family values' - but why should they? Surely they must be free not to care. Yet he has a point when he notes the absence of the word 'freedom' from British political rhetoric - in America it is everywhere. I suppose we take it for granted and that, combined with a national inclination to believe that the government ought to do something about everything, means freedom has become an easily ignorable abstraction. Guido wants the Conservatives to talk more about freedom, but that would probably lose them the next election as people don't really know what it means or, if they do, they're afraid. Perhaps the only freedom they currently desire is freedom from the depressing spectacle of Gordon Brown eking out his tenure. Libertarianism remains a puzzle for me; it's a question rather than an answer. More freedom? Possibly. But how much? That is the question not answered by the 'L' word. But I guess people like the sound of it.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 3:24 pm