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Policy Suggestions Across Party Lines

 10 min read / 

From a perspective of all-round, freedom-loving, liberty-embracing liberalism, it is worth making policy suggestions for each of the major political parties.

Conservatives

Of course, Cameron need not necessarily have the Conservatives be presented in a way that makes it seem as if it’s a party that supports and entrenches pre-existing privilege and he would do well to make clear the sort of conservatism that Conservatives stand for.

Now, one might suppose that conservatism is necessarily discordant with social liberalism, classical liberal and/or libertarian values (those values that uphold liberty to be of primary importance); however, Cameron has been bold by legalising gay marriage (for example) and though this is just a start and there are far more areas in which liberal policy can be adopted, it shows that the modern Conservative party has the potential to champion, to some extent, both economic and social liberalism.

A form of conservatism that is completely compatible with this worldview believes in an ‘organic’ conception of society – what follows from this, social change is best brought about naturally and it is easy to see why legal liberalisations enables society to naturally progress and benefit.

In this way, the Conservative party can be a vehicle for change rather than more of the same; if Cameron can successfully redefine and pioneer what it fundamentally means to be a Conservative then the party can still garner mass-appeal – otherwise, it risks losing the support of an increasingly disillusioned and broadly sophisticated electorate.

One fundamental policy suggestion to do this would be a liberalisation of Agricultural Land Rights. This would entail farmers being able to do more with their land such as build upon it, use it for tourism purposes and also, thereby, to increase the incomes generated by rural and semi-rural communities. It would also go some way in resolving the dire housing shortage that the country is facing. This simple liberalisation would augment the use-value of agricultural land and increase its overall value – thereby improving farmers’ wealth.

Also, providing farmers with alternative sources of income and increased wealth means that we can be weaned off the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy subsidies (like what many farmers in Wales and Scotland receive, for example) and this would, in turn, enable an improved standing through which one can renegotiate and indeed gain a more favourable arrangement within the EU.

Of course, the argument is that this threatens Britain’s food security; however, are we really planning to go to war anytime soon? In any case, being within the EU means that we have access to plenty of agricultural produce from the continent.

The Greens

The Greens are in a particularly interesting position in that their party, along with UKIP, are increasingly seen as a means of expressing ‘protest’ within the narrow confines of modern democracy. However, they would do well to realise that some of their policy suggestions are harmful to those same objectives they’d like to accomplish; theoretically, for example, subsidising green technology inhibits that very same innovation we’d like to see encouraged.

Instead, the Greens could seek to abolish patent laws and intellectual property rights because they entrench and fortify the privilege of certain corporations at the expense of inhibiting the proliferation of technologies by artificially imposing costs and discouraging subsequent innovation.

The Greens’ seeking to tackle Nationalism is a noble and admirable objective in our increasingly cosmopolitan world and, to this end, I would urge them to strongly consider adopting the policy resolution of abolishing the nationality and residency requirements to run for election as that could prove to be immensely beneficial for both domestic and international politics.

This particular objective of the Greens’ is refreshing and most welcome in that it enables formal political elimination of Nationalism – that paradoxically problematic force of simultaneous unification and separatism that makes international wars possible.

Labour

Firstly, the proposed increase in the National Minimum Wage may, at the onset, seem reasonable. However, the principle that is violated here is that poorer, unskilled and often unemployed workers will now have less freedom to offer their time and labour at the price they choose to. People tend, rather, to focus on the purported benefits of the flip side; that this will force some employers to pay more to their workers. There is also an active, controversial and advanced debate in the Labour Economics literature regarding whether increases in the Minimum Wage increase unemployment or not.

It may be preferable for the Leader of the Opposition to err on the side of caution here, where an already fragile recovery may be especially sensitive to such legislative amendments. The Minimum Wage increase could, instead, be applied purely to large corporations who can actually afford to pay them and he could spare SMEs the increased costs – many small and microenterprises may not, after all, be able to effectively withstand a hike in the Minimum Wage.

The proposed reduction in the voting age to 16 is strongly welcome due to the phenomenon of poorer households being naturally disproportionately represented in parliament despite their having more members (many of whom are below the voting age) due to the limits on voting age.

However, the major problem here is that, by this logic, Labour hasn’t really gone the full way; instead, he should be more bold with this same policy and seek to end the democratic discrimination once and for all – in this way, he clearly signals his openness to being radical if it is for a good cause. In fact, if Labour is going to talk about child rights, he should really be talking about the imposing, inimical system of compulsory education that children currently live under.

What is most worrying for ‘red Ed’ is his apparent appeal to UKIP supporters by taking a harder stance on immigration. The problem here is that Labour risks losing what was traditionally a socially liberal image and being associated with the xenophobic policies that UKIP advocates.

Liberal Democrats

Although one can remember the successes (its doubtful that a Tory government would have even thought of legalising gay marriage had it not been for Liberal coalition partners), many will neither forgive nor forget the reneging on the tuition fees increase. One way in which the Lib Dems could handle this is by allowing student loans to be spent abroad; this would entail many benefits, including improved choice of and access to higher education whilst simultaneously enabling cost cutting.

The other thing is that the Liberal Democrats would benefit particularly by filling the ‘gap in the market’ (to put it crudely) amongst mainstream political parties which is for a party that is liberal both socially and economically; the Conservatives are often seen as being socially conservative though economically liberal whereas Labour portrays itself as a socially liberal though economically socialist alternative.

All-round liberalism is what the Lib Dems could potentially champion and, indeed, gain a lot of support by doing so (the youth wing of UKIP – which fancies itself libertarian – is evidence of how there is a great deal of support for such ideas).

Another thing is that the Lib Dems could be championing far more innovations in Democracy – being Liberal Democrats, they should be charged with bringing Freedom back to Democracy and innovating Democracy based on the fundamental principle of liberty.

Such advocacy could include working to abolish the nationality and residency requirements required to run for elections, to introduce ‘A Regular Choice Between Voting Systems’, to allow voters to determine term-length or even to introduce a online democratic platform by which citizens can repeal laws; the possibilities are truly endless.

In terms of social liberalism, the Liberal Democrats could seek to ease up on Assisted Reproductive Technologies in order to help close the gender wage-gap as well as to seek further liberalisations of marriage law.

Plaid Cymru

Although further devolution of political power to Wales is broadly welcome in that it encourages self-government by the Welsh, the problem is that it is currently very symbolic instead of having a really profound impact.

Devolution of power is welcome in the sense that it encourages avenues for contextualised self-governance; however, perhaps it is time for this party to call for the devolution of some very important powers to the Welsh parliament – that is, financial services industry regulation and the right to print money that would circulate in parallel to the British pound.

The Financial Services Industry makes up a disproportionately high amount of Gross Domestic Product and London continues to dominate as the country’s economic, political and cultural behemoth as a direct result of this.

Instead, if financial regulation was devolved, it would open up the chance for, say, Cardiff or Swansea, to become greater, more competitive, international (in addition to being regional) financial centres.

This would have the added benefit of incentivising London to remain competitive with its regulations if there is greater direct competition from within the UK.

Furthermore, if Wales is successful in attracting more investment in the financial services sector through being able to directly influence its regulation, there is the potential for Wales to come to a situation where it contributes to an increasing share of the national domestic economy and, therefore, for it to contribute more in tax revenue (or at least as much as) it receives in government expenditures.

Additionally, there is the prospect for printing the equivalent of a ‘Welsh pound’ (wherein, of course, Her Majesty’s approval would still be sought) where Welsh communities could benefit from the use of dual-monies in that both the British pound and the Welsh pound could be used.

It would be likely that the Welsh pound would be substantially weaker than the British pound and, thus, it would work to stimulate exports, tourism and so on; whereas the British pound would ensure that a trade deficit would not develop since the Welsh could still use the British pound to pay for imports.

Additionally, the use of the Welsh pound alongside the British pound would be incentivised if it was possible to pay taxes in Welsh pounds, for the taxation bureaucracy to be adapted to this, for the legal tender laws to allow this and so on and so forth.

A Central Bank of Wales would have to be set up for this purpose and it would be refreshing, radical and desirable for Plaid Cymru to advocate such a policy.

Scottish National Party (SNP)

Although the SNP failed to persuade the Scottish electorate of the benefits of full-blown Independence, the results of that referendum do still seem to indicate an appetite for further devolution of powers.

The benefits of free banking in Scotland cannot be understated and, with this objective in mind, it would be a good idea for the SNP to seek a revival of free banking in Scotland by seeking devolution of financial regulatory powers to the Scottish Parliament.

In this way, Scotland could seek to become a financial heavyweight in its own right and whether Glasgow or Edinburgh became more prominent financial centres as a result, the overall benefit would be a richer Scotland which made a greater net contribution to the British Exchequer.

There is also the advantage of reaping the benefits associated with the network effects when capital accumulation is hastened in other regions; this means that growth across the UK would not be focused primarily in London but in other financial centres and the regions associated with those centres also.

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