Liz Truss and Libertarianism
The title of a Wall Street Journal story of two days ago was unambiguous: “Liz Truss Brought Libertarians to Power in the U.K. and Quickly Out Again.” Even if I found Ms. Truss more interesting than any recent British prime minister (including of course the previous one), which is not difficult, the WSJ ‘s claim and its implications seemed very doubtful.
The establishment’s contentment with the departure of the new prime minister could not dissipate these doubts as they usually struggle to distinguish libertarianism from a wheelbarrow. The WSJ reports:
“That libertarian view is unlikely to return to the U.K. for some time,” predicted Charlie Bean, former deputy governor of the Bank of England. “That vision has been pretty comprehensively blown out of the water by the events of the last few weeks.”
A general presumption for individual liberty is probably what defines libertarians better. If you include classical liberals, their tent is not a small tent. But it seems clear that nobody in the tent would want anything to do with government price controls (either floors or caps). Even Leviathan could deal with an emergency situation with less destructive means. Ms. Truss’s government had announced price caps on gas and electricity, which should be enough to deny her the libertarian label. But some people don’t seem to understand that.
Since my knowledge of British politics is limited, I wanted to doublecheck my intuitions. I asked Mark Brady, a long-term libertarian who teaches economics at San Jose State University and a careful student of his former country’s affairs:
Do you agree that her demission is a setback for libertarian ideas? Was she a libertarian? How could we square this with her plan to control gas and electricity prices?
Mark replied concisely to my three questions:
In brief, no and no. Easily, since she’s not a libertarian.
Re the WSJ article, no, she didn’t bring libertarianism to power in the U.K.