The Coalition takes a strong step AWAY from libertarianism
December 13, 2010
Localism was one of the reasons I got into politics; the obsession that the Labour Government (and before that, the Thatcher Government) had with emasculating local decision-making bodies was deeply opposed to some of my core beliefs. It was one of the reasons I joined the Liberal Democrats, and one of the reasons I wasn’t too upset about the Coalition, despite despising Tories. The Coalition Agreement contained a strong commitment to a Localism Bill, early details of which have been released today.
For me, localism is about human-sized decision-making; choices made a level where the individual can have most influence. There is therefore much to welcome about the Localism Bill, including the general power of competence, the Community Right to Challenge and additional pay transparency. However, the more interesting features of it are the reforms to planning and local referenda, which in themselves represent an interesting move away from the sort of strong libertarianism espoused by the Hannans of this world.
Put simply, the new Neighbourhood Plans mean that your neighbours will now have a strong say over how you dispose of your property. You will find it difficult to do many things to your house or your land unless you can win the approval of your neighbours. Businesses, in particular development businesses such as those who constitute the membership of my workplace, will have to spend vast sums campaigning to convince people that they should be allowed to build in their local area. It’s a wholesale push of the responsibility to secure public support for development onto business and away from the Government.
Giving other people such a hold over your property is anathema to libertarians, and it’ll be interesting to see what Conservative examples of the type make of it. Hannan appears to be in favour, his libertarianism seemingly in favour of state intervention as long as it’s at the local level. It’s difficult to see how you can make a principled case out of that.