We Don’t Need Populism, Conservative or Left-wing

Fox News presenter Steve Hilton is known for discussing the merits of populism. He has even written a whole book on it, titled Positive Populism. Hilton, who used to work for David Cameron’s Conservative British government, broke with Cameron in supporting Brexit. He thinks that the triumph of Brexit and Donald Trump shows that there is now a chance for a populist movement to correct many wrongs, including a globalism that has left workers behind, the problem of automation, and the dominance of technocratic governance.

While I sympathetic to quite a few of Hilton’s concerns, as a Moral Libertarian, I just cannot support his call for populism. You see, historically, populism has generally led to either a tyranny of the majority, or even worse, a tyranny of the elite that is supported by irrational emotional sentiment from the majority. Either of these scenarios is incompatible with the central Moral Libertarian demands of giving each individual equal liberty and equal moral agency, having a truly functional free market of ideas, and even basic needs like free speech. On the other hand, I believe that avoiding populism per se, and sticking to the Moral Libertarian principles, will resolve Hilton’s concerns in a much better way. I will explain later.

What is Populism? Why Don’t I Support it?

But firstly, we need to explore what populism is. Populism is simply appealing to majority sentiment, and creating a political movement out of it. This would generally be an unprincipled thing. On the other hand, we could build a political movement that is grounded in universally appealing principles, that will naturally attract a groundswell of support over time. I believe the Moral Libertarian principles have this potential. But this would not be populism, as we generally understand it. Populism is simply appealing to the masses.

The Moral Libertarian Alternative to Populist Fixes

In fact, a lot of the problems Hilton raised could be fixed within a Moral Libertarian framework. For example, the need to fix our free market capitalism so that workers can benefit from it. I believe the failure of Ron Paul and the rise of Donald Trump showed that many workers feel like classical libertarianism doesn’t have a satisfying answer for that. On the other hand, moral libertarianism, with its focus on equal moral agency, can certainly be used to develop a policy framework to address this.

Likewise, the promotion of family values is best served in a free market of ideas, where the anti-tradition bias is removed. We can achieve this through encouraging people to truly listen and think independently, which is another important part of the moral libertarian agenda.

Finally, I’m glad that Hilton brought up the issue of automation. Automation is against the agency of not just workers, but also citizens in their interactions with their governments, and customers in their interactions with corporates. I think there is a really strong moral libertarian case for an anti-automation policy at every level of government, firmly rooted in our commitment to the equality of moral agency for every individual.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back with more moral libertarian commentary tomorrow. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it.

Originally published at taraellastylia.blogspot.com on September 11, 2018.

TaraElla is a singer-songwriter, independent journalist and author, who is passionate about free speech, liberty and equality. She is the author of the Moral Libertarian Horizon books, which focus on developing a moral case for freedom-based politics in the 21st century.




Doing sociology and philosophy in real time. A project to renew the values and principles of liberalism for the 21st century West.

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Author and singer-songwriter. Doing sociology and philosophy by looking at Western politics and culture. Moral Libertarian. https://www.taraella.com

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