Jock Coats is a self described geo-mutualist who operates within the Liberal Democrats to try convince members to become thoroughly rigorous liberals. The Liberal Democrats do have a strong liberal tradition and the Lib Dem ALTER movement is supportive of introducing a Land Value Tax. Could someone do the same within the Labour party?
This makes the Liberal Democrat an ideal party for Georgist and Mutualists to reside. The Liberal Democrats are a pro market party, it is in the constitution of the party to be so. This will suit both Georgists and Mutualists who both indicate that the market is a tool that can empower people and challenging the vested interests in society. It is the challenging of vested interests in society that, philosophically, differentiates the pro market Lib Dems from the pro market Tories.
The socially democratic Labour party, on the other hand, isn’t strongly linked to the liberal ideology. However, there does exist the Labour Land Campaign which is Labour’s equivalent to ALTER. The Labour party are also affiliated with the Cooperative Party, which has been the main promoter of mutual solutions to existing problems in society and the economy in parliament.
At first glance, the Labour party would seem an ideal home to establish a Georgist Mutualist movement in British politics. Labour is willing to show the same concern about land injustice that is core to the Georgist movement. They are also closely linked to the cooperative movement, which ought to satisfy Mutualists. Since the New Labour takeover of the party, there has been attempts to establish a New Mutualism, which is essentially a cooperative form of social democracy.
What is a cooperative social democracy? It is the support of a mixed economy in which the state takes an active part in regulating the market, but an emphasis is placed on cooperatives to help provide services within the economy itself.
Here lurks the trouble with the Labour party being home to a Georgist-Mutualist movement. It’s a statist party ultimately. The Labour party is the most paternalistic of all the major parties. The Labour party is also reasonably conservative in its approach. Barring the early Thatcher’s years and the beginning of the post War consensus, Labour has never been a radical socialist party.
This is a damning indictment of Labour’s potential to home a movement based on Georgist and Mutualist principles. Mutualists wants to radically overall both the moral and economic landscape in order that individuals may live in a freer and more equal society. Morally, it will necessary for individuals to be prepared to aid others rather than simply rely on the state to do it. Economically, the whole monetary system will be overhauled due to the implementation of the Land Value Tax. The structure of businesses would change as well, with a gradual change towards cooperatives rather than limited liability corporations and businesses were the few own the capital of the company.
Labour is rooted within the Fabian socialist tradition in which public ownership of key national industries is the primary aim the party wishes to accomplish. It is Fabianism, which ideologically, is core to the left wing of the Labour party. This has little to do with the Georgist movement. The Georgist movement is sceptical, overall, about the role the state plays in allowing certain market participants to extract rent from others. Nationalising industries does not seem an effective way of tackling the problem of rent seeking. Nationalising industries involves nationalising the productive side of the economy, rather than the rent seeking part.
The right of the Labour party may be pro market, but they are also corporatists. Corporatists believe that a strong relationship between businesses and the state must exist for the economy to run effectively. Corporatism is almost the antithesis of market radicalism. The right wing of Labour are capitalist enthusiasts who will have little sympathy to the Georgist and Mutualist cause.
Yet, there is hope for Labour to become a political party which advocates pro market economic systems based on Georgist and Mutualist principles with the potential to unify both the left and right of the Labour party. The left will be pleased about the willingness to decentralise power to the many, especially workers. The concerns of land justice will also have an attraction to some on the left. The right of the party will see that the concerns of the left can be unified with the belief that the market economy is the best economic model we have available.
To accomplish this though involves giving a good account for why left libertarianism, rather than social democracy, is the future for Britain. The Mutualists would need to show why small state socialism is the future. By being a pro market form of socialism, the vision required need not be so radical that it will disturb the party en masse. Mutualism and Georgism can help Labour become a pro entrepreneur party while also being a radical left at the same time.
The rise of Blue Labour’s influence has put the issue of decentralisation on the policy tables near the top of the Labour party. Blue Labour is an admirable, but at times detestable, attempt a new idea in the Labour party. That people should control their own destinies. Admirable for everyone should feel at home with the idea of letting people be free to live the life they want. Detestable because it tries incorporating a social conservative world view that contradicts the notion of liberty. Detestable for the fact it allows paternalists the opportunity to be espousers of liberty.
Abandoning Blue Labour’s social conservatism for the more progressive and liberal social values traditionally espoused by Labour while logically expanding on why more decentralisation across the board is necessary may be the best route to convince the Labour party core support on the need for a new left wing politics to emerge. A politics for the twenty first century, not the twentieth.
Slowly but surely, Labour may learn that libertarianism as it was originally espoused is the key to allowing a prosperous British nation which is thoroughly left wing in its politics. Libertarianism need not be a synonymous with free market capitalism, but with small state socialism instead. Perhaps a day may arise in which Liberty, originally a part of the Labour logo, may find a place for itself within Labour again.
The Labour party though has become one of the established parties now. Once this becomes the case, it will be very difficult for Labour to restore the necessary radicalism to become a home to a Georgist and Mutualist movement worthy of the name. The top of the party have little chance of becoming part of the movement. The grass-roots, particularly younger Labour member’s may be open to a different formulation of left wing politics compared to the formulation espoused by conventional wisdom.
** I’ve amended this article to remove the geomutual and rigorous liberalism labels so as to not cause confusion with the geomutualism of Jock Coats. If any references are still in the text please inform me so I can make the appropriate changes.