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This is not the dawn of a new progressive age

Summary:
We around here insist that we’re progressives. We’re also liberals and radical. However, where we differ from those who more usually call themselves radical, progressive, liberals is that while we agree that the power of the state is hugely important in being both liberal and radical we do have this niggling insistence that often enough it is less state which creates the radical liberalism. For example, unilateral free trade would be both radical and liberal yet it’s not exactly an extension of the activities or powers of the government now, is it?However, put that aside and use progressive in its more usual meaning, someone who is insistent that we need more government to solve whatever ails society. Because there isn’t any money left to extend that power of government: Spectre of

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We around here insist that we’re progressives. We’re also liberals and radical. However, where we differ from those who more usually call themselves radical, progressive, liberals is that while we agree that the power of the state is hugely important in being both liberal and radical we do have this niggling insistence that often enough it is less state which creates the radical liberalism. For example, unilateral free trade would be both radical and liberal yet it’s not exactly an extension of the activities or powers of the government now, is it?

However, put that aside and use progressive in its more usual meaning, someone who is insistent that we need more government to solve whatever ails society. Because there isn’t any money left to extend that power of government:

Spectre of soaring debt will haunt governments for years to come

Nations are borrowing hand over fist to battle the economic fallout of coronavirus, putting severe strain on their balance sheets

In general we don’t agree that every problem can be solved by throwing more tax money at it. But, as is obvious, that’s what is being done right now. And that means that there simply isn’t the fiscal room to be doing any more of that for the next few years, decades - generations if that’s how long it takes to pay off the spree - and therefore there is no room left for politics to be that conventionally progressive.

In which, of course, there is more than a glimmer of hope. We entirely agree that we should have a more radically liberal society and we’ve that antipathy to government being the vehicle for it. Antipathy based upon both preference and the logical objection that more government doesn’t actually work. The inability to finance more state intrusion will mean that all radical liberals are going to have to use other methods - markets, liberty perhaps, possibly even a culling of current state power - to gain that better world.

We really are where Liam Byrne said we were. The money has run out. Which is, actually, excellent, for now we’re constrained to solutions that actually work.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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