David Marquand poses interesting questions around the Liberal tradition vis-a-vis state/market

David Marquand has a great piece on Open Democracy about the implausible nature of the Liberal Democrat’s argument that these cuts are somehow unavoidable and that the free market presides, inevitably, over the state. He makes an interesting point, as he draws on how this undermines years of liberal argument: that there is a midway position between the state and the market, which is desirable and achievable. Thus, it undermines the need for a liberal party.

Marquand’s comments draw on a very contentious current issue: the role of the state. In the months leading up to the election, the LibDems clearly saw the state as being important in many regards for facilitating change. However, as over night, the LibDems quickly turned their fire against the state and now seem to be a raging free market promoters, as they cosey up with the Tories and entrust the market to somehow produce over 2 million private jobs – something that would be quite unprecedented if it was to be achieved.

The cutting back of budgets by up to 40% further illustrates the point that the state seems to be concluded as the obstacle to ‘fairness’. This is sociological erroneous, when considering the complex way that our society operates, to not have a state to provide assistance in areas where they believe the market should be given full rein to operate within, will only ensure that inequality rises to 1980s levels (or beyond, as things such as income inequality have been at a steady gap since the 1980s).

It seems that anything that isn’t associated with the state is being advocated, as shown by the promotion of the third sector. Whilst I wouldn’t advocate for pure statism, where there is nothing but state control; state provision is definitely the fairest way to provide services that should be universal – such as education, health and welfare. Privatisation in these areas only leads to the perpetuation of inequality, capital and wealth as the route to ‘success’ and an engrained post code lottery. Creativity shouldn’t be prevented from growing within the private areas of the economy – but there is the ability to be creative with state provision, as alternatives such as co-ops should be promoted as well.

Marquand’s piece can be used to stimulate many a debate around the future of the state and the market – it is also interesting to consider when discussing the viability of a LibDem future.


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