What does national liberalism mean and what does it mean to be a national liberal?
National Liberalism is a variant of liberalism and was the first manifestation of the latter in the 19th century. At the time Liberals viewed the Continent’s Empires as the biggest obstacle to introducing democratic reforms and equally viewed nation-states, being products of the people, the best guarantee of those reforms.
After successfully replacing Empires with nation’s liberals, for various reasons, began to see nation states themselves as threats to liberal society and shifted support to regional and global bodies.
We believe this to be an historical mistake. Nations are part of the building blocks of society (as well as family and community). A liberal society can only exist if citizens wish it and the task of liberals is to convince them to do so. Attempting to straightjacket the people’s will by creating new, artificial loyalties (to the EU or a New World Order) is doomed to fail but will expend a lot of wasted energy doing so.
A belief in a nation and liberalism is not contradictory, for both sentiments appeal to the human condition see http://nationalliberal.org/national-liberalism/head-heart. A national liberal aims to find the right balance between the two.
What makes the National Liberal party different to all the other parties?
Presently we are very much in our ‘discovery’ phrase. Most people will be unaware of what we represent and will not readily join us without a fuller understanding. Thus it will take time for that to occur but we are finding that there are many that are actually national liberals, without even knowing it!
Since we put great store in active communities we campaign on issues that protect or nurture them. For example, one of our latest is our call to ‘Shop Local’ since the small local store is the backbone of the high street, which in turn is vital to a local community. This is one way we reach out to the public.
What would you say where the high and low parts of the movement?
The low parts are the general lack of knowledge of the rich history of national liberalism. We even had a practical one in the UK in the Liberal National Party (1931-47) which, unlike the Liberal party from whom they split, were prepared to suspend their belief in ‘free trade’ and introduce tariffs to combat mass unemployment. That is why we publish articles are on history to show that we are not a new invention but old and noble tradition whose time has come again.
The high parts are the number of people overseas who upon finding us experience a ‘Eureka’ movement and recognise that national liberalism is as much a temperament as ideology i.e. they are liberal minded but, unlike most such liberal parties, feel patriotic or alternatively are patriotic but reject the authoritarian impulses of self-proclaimed ‘nationalist’ parties. This is not confined to Europe but is global. One group particularly attracted to national liberalism are ‘self-determinists’ e.g. those struggling for national recognition, if not independence, for their nation.
What would you say is the best a national liberal has ever done?
This is a hard one! It could be Giuseppe Mazzini for the inspiration he gave to other national liberals (or simple nationalists such as Garibaldi), throughout 19th century Europe. Perhaps, the UK’s own Earnest Brown who, as a Liberal National Minister of Health, commissioned the Beveridge report that ultimately led to the NHS or even Gustav Stresemann whose foreign policy delayed the second world war and could have blocked the rise of Hitler with his mixture of patriotism and social reform if he had not died prematurely in 1929. Another, in-exhaustive list can be viewed here http://nationalliberal.org/national-liberalism/history/historical-figures.
What’s a typical National Liberal policy?
If I may exercise poetic licence, here are two:
Referendums – The National Liberal Party feels that it is not right that Governmental decisions are taken without regard to the wishes of the people. The only way of course, to test those wishes would be via a public vote, a referendum(s). In Switzerland, arguably one of the most successful democracies in the world, referenda is regularly used, which proves beyond all doubt, consulting the people, and not ignoring them, can definitely work.
We have recently launched a petition entitled ‘Consult the People’ http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/consult-the-people.html which specifically calls for referendums, on such as the EU, or a federal UK etc. to be used to ascertain the people’s view. This is, in our view, the basis of any genuine democracy.
Civil Liberties – For National Liberals the defence of personal liberty is a core policy. Governments struggle, at best, to resist the lure of power and often seek to centralise authority into their hands. This will inevitably impact upon individual freedoms. In times of heightened threats to national or personal security, Authority will seek to restrict their citizens’ movements and expression. What are and are not acceptable restrictions are of supreme importance to many. Outside of power/influence, National Liberals must be part of societies ‘civic conscience’. With power/influence, they must ensure the ‘correct balance’ is struck between personal freedom and collective security and responsibility. To assist in this, we call for a specific Civil Liberty watchdog, with some executive blocking powers, to ensure our civil liberties are maintained in the face of private or public threats.
Why is national liberalism essential to everyday life?
Because it draws upon the human condition e.g. the dynamic tension between the individual vs. collective sacrifice, or liberty and security, and tries to find the ‘right’ balance between them (with a preference towards the individual and liberty). It is not trying to create a new man but make the best of the existing one!
It is early days for our movement but I am quite convinced that we shall become an important factor in politics in the future. We don’t believe our influence will be simply via our own efforts but more likely in combination with other ‘centrists’ of left or right who appeal to slightly different sections of the population but, given an overlap of views/policies will in cooperation represent a broad church of society.
If your readers believe that our personal freedoms are under threat and need to be protected, that our democracy is too reliant upon professional politicians and should be ‘devolved’ to the people and that our nation-state should be maintained and protected from the excesses of globalisation or the designs of supra-national bodies such as the EU, then they can promote these principles via the NLP. They can join or investigate further by checking out our website on www.nationalliberal.org.