The Future of Liberalism: Thoughts From Across the Pond

Over in Great Britain, the Conservative Party has recently retaken power after 13 years of being in opposition. Prime Minister David Cameron's "Big Society" program is making waves among Tories who see it as a way to build a more pluralistic party while avoiding the economic callousness of Margaret Thatcher or the culture wars of American social conservatives.

So with the Conservatives back in the saddle and no sign of this nonsense ending anytime soon, where does the Labour Party go? Our friends at the British think tank Demos have put together a fascinating pamphlet titled Labour's Future, in which a number of thinkers set out their ideas for the future of the British center-left. The essayists come from different backgrounds (some are Parliament members and others are activists and professors), but in different ways, they all seem to have coalesced around the idea that Labour needs to rebuild from the bottom up.

The main theme I'm sensing in these essays is that the Labour Party under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown became too reliant on the centralized state and a top-down approach to government, too cozy with private industry and not protective enough of everyday citizens, and too tethered to the assumption that the economy would just keep growing and growing. Whether they're calling for a greater emphasis on local services, a renewed commitment to the Labour Party's principles of class solidarity, or a more equitable relationship between markets and people, the writers all seem committed to seriously reimagining the role of the political center-left.

The debates in Labour's Future mirror the debates NDN has been trying to encourage among American liberals: Questions of economic policy, individual responsibility, and grassroots political involvement all come up often. Simon has done work with Demos and has spoken very highly of them, and after reading these essays, I'm inclined to agree that there's a really healthy discussion going on. Check out the pamphlet, linked above, or visit Demos' general website at Nothing this exciting has happened in England since the invention of chicken tikka masala.