18 April 2023

My Extremely European DNA

Recently, out of pure curiosity, I decided to order a DNA testing kit from Ancestry. It is not one of my proudest purchases – it costs quite a bit and the results can be underwhelming (depending on what you are expecting to see). Nevertheless, curiosity got the better of me and I received the kit, spat into a tube, sent it off, and now I’ve received the results! In doing so, I have been able to confirm what I already knew: I am extremely European. For anyone who, strangely, happens to take interest in my genetic origins, my results are shown below.

13 April 2023

My View on Liberal Socialism in Modern Britain

A considerable part of my (admittedly brief) life has been invested in politics, and I have become an individual with firm and, what I believe to be, well-contemplated views about politics. I would describe my views as somewhat intricate and complex (though I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone thought that about their own political views), and so I have attempted to cover the foundational qualities of my politics here. It is plainly obvious that the sharing of one’s political views can muster some sordid emotions in others who disagree. As a result, I would highly encourage readers to recognise this as an elaboration on my political views so that my way of thinking can be better understood, rather than something more offensive. Additionally, as I’m British and live in the United Kingdom, it is worthy of note that my political views, resulting, have come to reflect UK politics.

If I were to give a general name to my political views, it would be this: liberal socialism. It is not a new political philosophy, and it is not a relatively unknown one, but it is one I wish to establish here as the principal pillar of my own political philosophy.

In terms of economic reasoning, I would describe liberal socialism as pragmatic, particularly when considering where the boundary sits between the public sector and the private sector. To put it simply, liberal socialism is the philosophy of a largely pragmatically mixed economy, not a mainly ideological one, and is comfortable with both private ownership and public ownership. This would be in contrast with some other political ideologies that sit on the centre and centre-left of British politics, like democratic socialism which generally favours public ownership and social democracy which generally favours private ownership (within reason). The aim of liberal socialism is not really to have an ideologically defined preference, and instead, a preference that is determined by logic where it is possible to have one. The determination of this boundary, I would say, can be generally found via the understanding of the potential for private competition in the relevant matter. Therefore, to conclude whether a service or industry should be publicly owned or be left to the private sector, one should ask the question: does this service or industry have the potential for competition? If the answer to that question is yes, then it could be considered that the relevant service or industry should be left to the private sector, otherwise, the public sector should perhaps take ownership.

The advantages of competition are obvious – good competition can improve service or industry quality, improve supply, and reduce costs. In parts of the private sector where competition is lacking, problems can begin to occur. In these cases, private monopolies can begin to form and grow, which brings with it the inherent dangers of burgeoning inefficiency, poorer services, and greater costs. Resultingly, the government must consider whether the relevant service or industry can be made to be more competitive with intervention, such as by breaking monopolies up into smaller parts, or whether it would be advantageous to bring the monopolies into public ownership. Generally speaking, state-owned monopolies tend to be more efficient than private monopolies, as there is (if handled correctly) less opportunity for fragmentation, better nationwide centralisation, and a closer relationship between the service or industry and the relevant regulators. Regulators play an important role in making sure that services or industries work in a way that is most advantageous to those using those services or industries, and making sure those services are as close to regulators as possible is important. Closely-knit services and regulators are much better able to cooperate and function optimally together, and is, therefore, better for everyone. As a result, state ownership should be seriously considered in cases where the private sector fails to provide a competitive alternative.

It should be reiterated, however, that where competition is viable within the private sector, the relevant services and industry should remain within the domain of the private sector. Whether a monopoly is privately owned or state-owned, there can be the encouragement of waste and greater bureaucracy, the disadvantages of which are plain. Nevertheless, the private sector still needs to be regulated. To suggest that the private sector can wholly regulate itself is fanciful and not relevant to the real world. Where it is possible to do so, private organisations and companies will cut corners and make decisions that are more widely disadvantageous in order to improve profits and organisational performance. As a result, the government must take steps to encourage better and more widely advantageous behaviour within the private sector.

One way of performing this, as has been previously mentioned, is the use of state-owned regulators which make sure that private companies operate in line with relevant regulations and laws. This can have the obvious benefit of forcing private companies to perform in a much more desirable way. One should, however, remain mindful of over-regulation. Over-regulation can occur if the regulatory burden on parts of the private sector is so great that it prevents much of the advantages of competition from being harnessed. In these cases, the government must decide whether deregulation is possible. If deregulation is possible, then the government should undertake such steps to encourage greater competition. If deregulation is not possible (such as if extensive regulations are necessary for safety or other similar matters), then the government should consider nationalisation. Over-regulated organisations within the private sector are effectively run by the government, so it would make practical sense to simply have those organisations be owned by the government. Remember, however, not to be confused between over-regulated and extensively regulated. Some parts of the economy need to be regulated extensively but are not necessarily over-regulated and can still operate competitively, such as in the case of the banking sector.

One can also argue for the case of having state-owned companies operating within competitive areas of the economy in order to provide some state-encouraged competition. This can be useful in cases where a part of the economy has the potential to be competitive but isn’t due to various private organisations synchronising with each other to maintain growth and profits without directly challenging one another. On this basis, I would say it is wholly legitimate to have state-owned organisations operate within a competitive market.

With regard to taxation, it should be argued that tax for individuals should be kept relatively low if possible, but only if it is economically prudent to do so. Regardless, however, the tax burden should be extremely low for those on lower incomes and should be substantially higher for those on vastly high incomes. Redistribution is a core tenet of liberal socialism as it is important that wealth can be distributed throughout society in such a way as to make sure each person has a fair chance at life. In terms of the taxation of corporations, levels of tax should, ideally, remain broadly in line with other developed nations. Over-taxation may cause our economy to be less attractive to foreign investment, and under-taxation may restrict the state from receiving vital financial support for the services it provides. I would say, however, that the government should subsidise the self-employed and small businesses more than they currently are, in such a way as to effectively give them a tax cut. The ability of small businesses to succeed is especially difficult even in the best of economic times, and the provision of better state support could allow them more breathing room to find their profitable niche and become more competitive in the long term.

On a social level, societal improvement is core. Unlike the words attributed to Margaret Thatcher, there is such a thing as a society, and for our country to become a generally better place, our society must be nourished. One of the great crises that has emerged from Thatcherite Britain is the overriding feeling of toxic individualism that has corrupted society. A view instilled during the 1980s is that an individual should be concerned for themselves, their families, and no one else. This is the foundation of Thatcherism and is the antithesis of the social attitude espoused by liberal socialism. The affairs of each individual outside our four walls should matter to us. When we create a society which sees individuals more willing to respect and support others within their communities, we will observe societal growth that brings all of us closer together. Making such progress could mean we see a reduction in bigotry, violence, crime, and anti-social behaviour. Furthermore, a more inclusive and warm society is one which will impact our children too. The quality of a child’s education will determine a great deal in how the child continues to develop as a human being. Children who are brought up in deprivation today are more likely to struggle at school, and a good first step would be to build a society in which the effects of deprivation and poverty on families can be relieved. Thus, not only do we need adequate support from the government to improve the conditions in which millions of people live in our country, but we need a doctrine from the government which espouses the need for human beings to work together to reach something greater.

On a final point, and drawing on what has already been mentioned, liberal socialism champions freedom. To possess true freedom, I believe, amongst other things, you need two vital qualities: to be educated and to have rights. To have human rights means you are afforded the tangible means to be free, and to be educated means you are provided with the knowledge to think freely. As a result, an individual’s human rights and access to good quality education are core. As previously mentioned, to receive a good education, children must be allowed the opportunity to grow up in a society that allows them to be educated, regardless of background or circumstances. Furthermore, I would add that it must become a fundamental principle of liberal socialism that provisions for lifetime education are employed so that any individual at any point in their life has the ability to access educational services. Additionally, human rights are imperative in the view of liberal socialism. They are non-negotiable and must be maintained completely without compromise. This may sound absolutist and extreme to some, but the reasoning is simple: human rights must be accepted in full, or it is not accepted at all. If any part of our human rights is curtailed, then all of it is at risk of being dissolved, and that is not something that is at all in keeping with the liberal socialist philosophy. To be a liberal socialist, in my view, you must always champion human rights in all places and for all people.

I could continue writing about my views for an eternity, but I think I have managed to articulate generally what my views are and what liberal socialism is from my perspective. So, finally, I just wish to add that I hope that you’ve found my views on liberal socialism and why I’m a liberal socialist interesting. Perhaps it’s given you an opportunity for thought about whether you agree or disagree with my view?