Thursday, 15 January 2009

Liberal Democrats and assets: 'green shoots' of new thinking?

I've been giving the Liberal Democrats a bit of bashing in my previous two posts for their opposition to the Child Trust Fund (CTF). In the interests of balance, I thought I should add that there have been some signs of Lib Dem rethinking, if not on the CTF, then on the broader idea of 'asset-based welfare'.

Back in March 2008, the Public Policy Unit at Oxford University organised a meeting with CentreForum, the liberal thinktank, to discuss liberalism and the agenda around asset-based welfare (or inclusive assets policy as I would call it). Rajiv Prabhakar and I gave a presentation on why we think this is naturally an agenda that liberals should support. Danny Alexander MP offered a response and a roundtable discussion followed.

As the summary of the discussion (prepared by CentreForum) shows, while the Lib Dems present did not think that they should retreat on their specific opposition to the CTF, they did acknowledge that it would be good to think about what a distinctively Lib Dem form of 'asset-based welfare' might look like. As Danny Alexander put it: 'I am enthusiastic about the possibilities of asset based welfare policies...'

Is it too much to hope, that as the Lib Dems develop their strategy to increase social mobility, they might explore this thought a little further?


Rob said...

It's worth pointing out that a substantial minority of Lib Dems are very keen on ideas such as Land Value Tax which would directly address many of the problems arising from asset inequality, in particular the fact that land owners can often make substantial gains in wealth as a result of public works funded out of the income and consumption taxes paid by those of substantially less wealth than themselves. In many cases, these gains can more than offset whatever taxes such individuals may pay.

I'm not sure if these ideas have any traction in the Labour party, but they're gaining increasingly widespread acceptance in the Lib Dems (at least amongst the opinion-forming bloggers, for whom LVT is a common debating point).

Stuart White said...

Rob, I agree that LVT is a great idea, and it is certainly part of the traditional philosophy of the Liberals, and one shared by many ethical socialists. Good luck in building support for the idea.