If it’s one thing that the Right loves to do, it’s to lecture the Left and anyone who’ll listen on the nature of freedom. They’ll wrap their semi-feudal ideas in economic jargonese and present them as unassailable truths, telling anyone who dares to disagree with them and their muddle-headed views that they “hate” freedom. They would deny that they are superstitious but their unquestioning belief in The Invisible Hand of the Market is naive at best and dangerous at worst. It’s another way of saying “We’ll just let the Lord decide this one, shall we”?
I only came across the Liberty League fairly recently and as is always the case with groups that use the word “liberty” or “freedom” in their name, they work to deny others of their freedoms. As it turns out, the Liberty League is not the name of one particular organization but an umbrella name for a network of, some would say, the usual suspects but with one or two names added. At first glance it would appear that they have taken their name from the American Liberty League, an anti-New Deal group of businessmen who were involved in the alleged Business Plot of the 1930s, but they haven’t.
Have a look at this list, you’ll see some familiar names and some not-so-familiar names. One such name is the Legatum Institute, whose parent company is Legatum. I can tell you that Legatum is based in Dubai, that free-market paradise in which migrant workers from places like India and Pakistan are treated appallingly. Legatum is an international investment company that was founded in 2006 by New Zealander, Christopher Chandler, who was president of Sovereign Asset Management. It has also created The Legatum Center at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Techonology or MIT.
The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship was founded on the belief that economic progress and good governance in low-income countries emerge from entrepreneurship and innovations that empower ordinary citizens.
The Center was founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2007 through a multi-million dollar gift from Legatum, a global investment firm.
The Legatum Institute has something that it calls its “Prosperity Index”, which it says
is a unique and robust assessment of global wealth and wellbeing, which benchmarks 142 countries around the world in eight distinct categories: Economy; Education; Entrepreneurship & Opportunity; Governance; Health; Personal Freedom; Safety & Security; and Social Capital.
I had a look at the first video and was led to this site, which gives details of how they measure “prosperity”. It also ranks countries in order of their relative “prosperity”. Some countries don’t figure because of “insufficient data”, these are countries like North Korea and Somalia. The colour green indicates “high prosperity”. Guess which countries are listed? You guessed it. The UK, USA and all the Northern European countries plus Australia, New Zealand, Japan the UAE and some others.
While this all sounds rather reasonable and indeed plausible, the fact that Legatum is part of this Liberty League says more than their charts or their methodologies could ever say. Rest assured that when it comes to prosperity, it is clear that they’ve ignored certain factors in order to advance a thesis of ‘liberty’ through laissez-faire capitalism. The UK, for example, is by all accounts, not as socially mobile as Legatum would have us believe. Social capital plays a large part in how power is exercised politically. Those who possess the social capital inherited from aristocratic, landed families and the rest of the old establishment is not considered in the analysis. Money in Britain stays with the same group of people. Prosperity exists for some and not for all.
Freedom, contrary to the claims of the Right, cannot be measured by a set of indicators or benchmarks. Freedom is much more personal and is arguably a more a state of mind than a word or a set of principles that have been decided upon by the high priests of this economic cult or that. No matter how many times they’d like to tell us, capitalism is not congruent with freedom.
The President and CEO of the Legatum Institute is Jeffrey Gedmin, a former president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the international charm arm of the US Congress (it was funded by the CIA until 1972) that once beamed music and messages of “liberty” to the so-called Iron Curtain countries has now turned its signal towards Iran, Central Asia and the Middle East. Gedmin was also a resident “scholar” with the American Enterprise Institute, a neoconservative think-tank that boasts the talents of Richard Perle, who was one of the principal architects of the Iraq Invasion. The use of the word “scholar” to describe these people is flattering to say the least.
Democracy Lab covers the political and economic challenges facing countries trying to make the transition from authoritarianism to democracy.
Why do I get the feeling this has nothing at all to do with democracy? Since the collapse of the Berlin Wall over 20 years ago, neoliberals have have rushed into the former Eastern Bloc countries in their droves. The economic vacuum that was created in the wake of the collapse of European Stalinism was the ideal opportunity for groups like CATO and others to reshape these nations into model free market economies. They have done this through a network of economic think-tanks and pressure groups that share the common goal of free market capitalism. The new leaders of these countries, were the antithesis of their predecessors and threw themselves lovingly into the arms of neoliberalism’s carpetbagger-priests.
Back to the Liberty League. They have six staff, all of whom look at though they’ve just walked out of university. Interestingly, two of them have degrees in War Studies. The University of Bath Tobacco Control Research Group has a site called “Tobacco Tactics” that “aims to provide up-to-date information on the Tobacco Industry, its allies or those promoting a pro-tobacco agenda”. It lists the Liberty League as one of those groups that acts as front for the tobacco industry.
The site says that three of its staff, Will Hamilton, Anton Howes and James Lawson, are members of the Adam Smith Institute’s (ASI) “Next Generation Project”. But the link is dead. However I have discovered Pete Spence, Operations Manager for the League is one of the project’s “key people”.
Pete Spence is Programmes Officer at the Adam Smith Institute, responsible for overseeing the ASI’s events and student programmes. He holds a BSc in Economics from the University of York.
Pete’s policy interests include agricultural policy, opposition of corporate welfare and internet freedom.
Away from work, Pete enjoys weight training, live music and volunteering as Operations Manager for the Liberty League.
Ah, so he’s only a part-timer at the League? This straddling of two or more groups is quite common. We should remember that Dan the Han is involved with Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF) and TFA. The YBF is, for all intents and purposes, the continuity Federation of Conservative Students.
The Liberty League has invited the Institute of Ideas (IoI), who are part of the LM network to join. Liberty, the civil liberties pressure group, has also been invited. The IoI produces propaganda in the form of ‘scholarly’ research for global pharmaceutical companies and agri-business companies like Monsanto. The IoI has shared a platform with the League at their “Freedom Forum” events, which were also attended by The Institute of Economic Affairs, Spiked, TFA, Big Brother Watch and Liberal Vision. The latter is formed of Orange Book Lib Demmers.
This is liberty, dear readers. It’s the liberty of corporations and feral capitalists to exploit others for profit. It’s the liberty that holds most of humanity in bondage to the markets. In other words, it’s an Orwellian idea of liberty.