Monday 13 May 2002

Even more confusion

There is an extraordinary letter in the Glasgow Herald today from Eric Joyce, the labour MP for Falkirk West. He writes:
Diederik van Hoogstraten’s article celebrating the politics and personality of Pim Fortuyn (May 11) was a nasty racist rant which in an unintentional way illustrated one of the key causes of the present rise of explicit libertarian racism in a number of European countries. This is that many states have yet to recognise properly and publicly the implicit, indirect and institutional racism which disfigures their otherwise liberal societies. This in turn has created a political space for members of the libertarian right to mis-present themselves as liberals fighting to defend decent values under siege by alien incomers.
Why is there such confusion about the term libertarianism? I have no doubt that some of Mr. Joyce’s own ideas could legitimately be described as libertarian but that most could not. The same applied to Pim Fortuyn. As I wrote on Friday in response to Melanie Phillips – not an ideological soul mate of Eric Joyce - there is a huge libertarian literature available for anyone wanting to understand its essentially straightforward message. I suspect that those on the left and on the right who misrepresent libertarianism know full well what it means and are rather afraid of its appeal.