Jeremy Corbyn: A libertarian view

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With staunchly left-wing candidate, Jeremy Corbyn increasing his lead in the polls, it looks likely that he will become the next leader of the Labour party. Not many would have predicted Corbyn’s rise to the top of the Labour party; just over a month ago bookmakers had Corbyn at 100-1 to win the leadership election, however he is now the strong favourite to take the role. The initial reaction of a typical libertarian is to face-palm and cry out “Socialism does NOT work!” However, upon further analysis, he does share some similarities with libertarians. and a Jeremy Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party may not actually be a bad thing.

Firstly, unlike the vast majority of politicians, he seems to be a decent and honest man who has a strong set of principles.  Regardless of whether you agree with his principles or not, it is refreshing to see a politician with a strong set of beliefs that he passionately believes in, and who speaks like a human being, not like a politician that has a strict team of campaign advisors rehearsing every sentence. Unlike most politicians, Corbyn does not shape his policies by toeing the party line, or by wetting his finger to see which way the wind of public opinion is blowing. He believes in his ideology, and the establishment hate him for it. The powers that be within the Labour party are desperate for Corbyn to not become leader. According to Tony Blair, the Labour party faces “annihilation” if Corbyn wins leadership; similarly Alastair Campbell has called upon voters to choose “anyone but Corbyn.” There is a resistance to Corbyn by the status quo, which libertarians can emphasise with.

Secondly, putting aside Corbyn’s disastrous economic policy, there is some common ground with libertarians. Corbyn follows a relatively non-interventionist foreign policy – he was passionately opposed to the Iraq war, and is against the idea of Britain doing whatever the U.S. asks it to. However, Corbyn does seem a little bit too friendly towards Hamas, unlike Libertarians who remain neutral towards both sides. Corbyn is also a Eurosceptic and has refused to rule out campaigning to take the UK out of the EU. Most libertarians see the EU as corporatist and undemocratic, and the left are finally beginning to agree. Corbyn has also pledged to cut taxes for small businesses, and has rallied against corporatism – the unity between the state and corporations.

Lastly, one of the most exciting prospects of a Corbyn Labour leadership, in my opinion, is the potential of a mainstream public debate over Socialism vs. Capitalism. Rather than the blandness of ‘he said, she said’ party politics that we usually see today, we would have an actual philosophical debate over the flaws and merits of both systems. See for example this Oxford university debate between Corbyn and Daniel Hannan about whether or not Socialism works:

Why People Don’t Vote

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The General election is fast approaching, which means that it’s time for people to decide who to vote for. It is generally accepted that voting is an important part of a functioning democracy, nevertheless there are many people who don’t partake in voting – just 65% turned out to vote in 2010. Why is this the case? There are many different reasons, one is simply because people are badly informed – they can’t name candidates that are running, they are unaware of the massive effects that government policy has on their lives, and they are generally apathetic towards politics.

Barack Obama recently proposed the idea of compulsory voting in order to fix this problem, however not only does this violate freedom of speech (freedom of speech includes the freedom to not speak), but also the idea that you can create a well-informed public by simply forcing them to vote is absurd. Surely it should be the job of politicians to rouse people from their apathy by giving them something to vote for, by having strong set of principles and by addressing the major issues that people are going to agree with. Forcing people to vote sounds like something that would occur in North Korea (which it actually does) or the Soviet Union, not in the ‘free world’.

So, why do people care so little about politics? Well, it could be argued that it is completely rational to be ignorant of politics. The fact is, it takes a lot of time to become well-informed. You have to spend time following the news either by reading a newspaper, reading online or watching the news, or ideally all of these things. The time spent following politics could be spent doing other thing that are more productive, joyful and important to your own personal life, such as family and career. That is not to say that becoming politically aware is a bad thing, however some people simply have more important things to worry about. They see politics as an annoying hindrance rather than something that is beneficial. Fundamentally there is an incentive problem with voting. The chance that your vote will change the outcome of an election is practically zero, and the political process has done little more than leave people frustrated.

But it’s not just badly informed people who don’t vote. There are many well-informed people who choose not to vote. They recognise that government performance has simply not improved by voting in different parties. Whether it has been the Labour party or the Conservative party in power, the problems are still the same. The warfare-welfare state continues to grow and our civil liberties are being eroded. Politicians remain untrustworthy, with a consistently bad record of lying, false promises and manipulation. Nick Clegg lied about tuition fees. The Labour party initiated NHS privatisation and expanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Public spending increased in both Margaret Thatcher’s and David Cameron’s Conservative governments. What we constantly see is a pattern of the opposite outcomes of what each were elected to do.

So there are many valid and rational reasons why people don’t vote. That is not to say voting is completely useless. If you see a candidate that you genuinely agree with, vote for them. However don’t be surprised when they change their policies if they come to power. Though, it’s not all bad; at the moment UK politics is becoming a multi-party system, rather than a two-party system. This could potentially be good for democracy, with more options of who to vote for, maybe we will see an increase in voter turnout in this year’s election.