Libertarianism in the United Kingdom

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Libertarianism in the United Kingdom is a political movement concerned with the pursuit of propertarian libertarian ideals in the United Kingdom. While not as prominent as libertarianism in the United States, after the 1980s and the economic liberalism of the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, the libertarian movement became more prominent in British politics.[1] In the Conservative Party, there is a faction of libertarians based around Thatcherism.[2]

Political parties[edit]

Libertarian parties[edit]

The Liberal Party was formed in 1989 from those opposed to the merger between the Liberal Party and the Social Democrat Party and claims 25 councillors. The Libertarian Party UK is a political party founded on January 1, 2008, which has since split over money. As of 2012, there are attempts at early stages to form new parties.[3] The Independent Libertarian Network was founded by Gavin Webb with a "minimal party"[4] strategy and a focus on local government. The Pro Liberty Party launched in September 2012 with a focus on awareness raising.

Relationship with the Conservative Party[edit]

Jason Walsh, in an opinion piece, held that while the 1980s economic liberalism of Margaret Thatcher was "libertarianism-lite," compared to minimal state views of more modern libertarians, which were becoming more popular after ten years of New Labour's "increasingly authoritarian policies."[5] The Austrian-British libertarian and classical liberal philosopher, Friedrich Hayek, is considered by some to be one of the most important economists and political philosophers of the twentieth century.[6]

The Conservative Party libertarian advocacy group, the Conservative Way Forward, is led by Alan Duncan.

Relationship with the UKIP[edit]

The leader of the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, has since the mid-2000s sought to broaden the public perception of UKIP beyond being a party solely seeking to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union, to one of being a party broadly standing for libertarian values and reductions in government bureaucracy.[7][8] The party describes itself as a "libertarian, non-racist Eurosceptic party".[9] Whilst Farage denied in 2007 that the party's strategy was "targeting David Cameron as such",[8] political scientist Chris Robinson opines that Farage may well have been hoping that this expansion of the party platform would attract voters disenchanted with Cameron and thinking him "too Tony Blair-like".[7] In 2010, UKIP's call to ban the burkha in public places was criticised by Shami Chakrabarti as contrary to libertarianism.[10]

Libertarian think tanks[edit]

There are a number of think tanks that are explicitly libertarian or espouse libertarian views. The Libertarian Alliance is an early libertarian educational group still active today.[11] It works to promote libertarianism generally, and holds no corporate view beyond that, allying together classical liberals, minarchists, anarcho-capitalists and even social anarchists. The Society for Individual Freedom, from which the Libertarian Alliance originally split, works as a broader alliance, incorporating both libertarians less radical free-market conservatives.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is the oldest free-market think tank in the United Kingdom, and a progenitor of a large network of libertarian think tanks around the world, as well as greatly shaping the Thatcher government's economic policies. The Centre for Policy Studies was set up by Thatcher and Keith Joseph for the purpose of advancing classical liberalism. The Adam Smith Institute promotes the work of Adam Smith in explaining the working of the free market from a libertarian viewpoint.

There are a few libertarian student societies at British universities, including Loughborough University, St Andrews, Cambridge, Imperial College London, London School of Economics (the Hayek Society), Sheffield, Oxford, University College London, King's College London, York, Durham, Queen's University Belfast and Warwick.

The UK Liberty League (UK) is a network for libertarians across the nation.

Prominent libertarians[edit]

Main category: British libertarians

Prominent British libertarians have included:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Walsh, Jason (7 April 2006). "Libertarianism limited". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  2. ^ Heppell, Timothy (June 2002). "The ideological composition of the Parliamentary Conservative Party 1992–97". British Journal of Politics and International Relations 4 (2): 299–324. doi:10.1111/1467-856X.t01-1-00006. 
  3. ^ ."Libertarian revival?", Anna Raccoon.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Walsh, Jason (7 April 2006). "Libertarianism limited". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  6. ^ Edward Feser (edt), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek, Cambridge University Press (2007), ISBN 0-521-84977-2, p.13
  7. ^ a b Robinson 2010, p. 203.
  8. ^ a b Woodward 2007.
  9. ^ Ruddick 2009.
  10. ^ Chakrabarti, Shami (19 January 2010). "Freedom must apply to all faiths and none". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 21 January 2010. 
  11. ^ "About", Libertarian Alliance.
  12. ^ "Richard Branson - Libertarian". Advocates for Self Government. Archived from the original on 2 November 2007. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  13. ^ "Alan Duncan". BBC News. 16 October 2002. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  14. ^ Marr, Andrew (28 March 2007). "Britain could be in for some turbulent times". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  15. ^ "Friedrich August Hayek". Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  16. ^ Sciabarra, Chris Matthew (August 1999). "The First Libertarian". Liberty. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  17. ^ "Chris Tame". The Daily Telegraph (London). 7 April 2006. Retrieved 15 July 2008. 
  18. ^

Reference bibliography[edit]

  • Robinson, Chris (2010). Electoral Systems and Voting in United Kingdom. Politics Study Guides. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748627509.