This is quite mind garglingly good actually.
The post war consensus was built on the basis of positive liberties. I am a positive libertarian on that basis, and proud to be so. Neo-liberalism and its vision of libertarianism is negative by this definition.
And what we’re seeing is the state – the agency that should enforce positive libertarian rights – being used to reinforce the negative libertarian rights of few.
That’s the core of this issue.
That’s the core of Blue Labour too by the way – as I see it. The collective is positive.
The imposition of the individual over the collective – and the denial that the collective exists – as Thatcher suggested – is what is threatening our society, destroying trust, undermining democracy, increasing fear and seeking to destroy the well being of the majority in the interests of a minority.
That’s what Polly is saying we need to rebel against. And she’s right.
And let’s not forget – it’s a libertarian act to rebel for our collective rights. Positively libertarian. In itself a word the left need to reclaim – with precisely the connotation I put on it.
If I\’m able to take words and strip them of their usual meaning then I too can prove anything.
For the word \”libertarian\” is usually taken to mean those concerned with negative liberties, not positive ones. To argue that one is a positive libertarian is an oxymoron, you know, like military intelligence, capitalist socialist or intelligent retired accountant from Wandsworth.
To add a little from the philosophy page that Ritchie quotes from, you know, the bit he skimmed over:
As Berlin showed, negative and positive liberty are not merely two distinct kinds of liberty; they can be seen as rival, incompatible interpretations of a single political ideal. Since few people claim to be against liberty, the way this term is interpreted and defined can have important political implications. Political liberalism tends to presuppose a negative definition of liberty: liberals generally claim that if one favors individual liberty one should place strong limitations on the activities of the state. Critics of liberalism often contest this implication by contesting the negative definition of liberty: they argue that the pursuit of liberty understood as self-realization or as self-determination (whether of the individual or of the collectivity) can require state intervention of a kind not normally allowed by liberals.
Ritchie is arguing that those rights and freedoms of the individual must be subsumed into those rights and freedoms of the collective to impose itself upon the individual.
Which means that I\’ll allow him his little conceit of describing himself as a positive libertarian. As long as I\’m allowed my own, which is to point out that in doing so he is being profoundly, gargantually, illiberal.