miss_s_b: (Politics: Goth Lib Dems)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
So, apparently, there are well over seven thousand of you guys now. Welcome! In order to help you acclimatise to the culture of the party there's a couple of things you ought to be reading.
  1. The back of your membership card* is the first and most important thing for you to read as a new Lib Dem. The front will have some sort of pretty picture on it, and your name, and your membership number. The back will say on it:
    The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.
    which is an extract from our Constitution and is something that is graven on most of our hearts. Regardless of the fact that I have recently called for a constitutional convention, and I genuinely think that we should rebuild from the ground up (hopefully with your help), the idea that the words "no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance, or conformity" won't be a part of that is unconscionable.

  2. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. You can read this online, but my favourite version** is this 1912 edition which also contains two more of Mill's essays - on running the government and on feminism - and an Introduction by Millicent Garrett Fawcett. You might be a bit put off the idea of reading a dry work of Victorian philosophy, but I promise you, it's worth it.***

  3. The Liberator Songbook. You can buy a copy here and there are some extracts online here, for example, or here. You don't have to attend Glee Club at conference - and indeed, many Lib Dems look upon it with total embarrassment - but a read of the songbook will give you an idea of the culture of the party. We like to extract the urine. We extract the urine out of ourselves, each other, other political parties, the political system, and ourselves all over again.

  4. The Electoral Reform Society's Guide to Voting Systems. The one thing everybody knows about the Lib Dems is that we are in favour of "PR". Most people don't know what PR is. Most people think we had a referendum on PR in the last parliament. We didn't, we had a referendum on AV, which is not a proportional system. You, as a new Lib Dem, are going to get asked about "PR" a lot. Familiarising yourself with the various voting systems is probably a plan. The favoured system of the Electoral Reform Society, The Liberal Democrats, and myself is Single Transferrable Vote, which is known everywhere else in the world as The British Proportional System, because we invented it. We like it because it gives the most power to voters. We use STV for all internal elections, and it's in use in various parts of the UK, but not yet for general elections. If you are pushing for proportional representation, please specify that we want STV, not nebulous "PR".

There are lots and lots of other things you can read as a Lib Dem. An Intelligent Person's Guide to Liberalism by Conrad Russell is one I would fully recommend, I am very fond of The Journal of Liberal History, many people would recommend the free back issues of Liberator magazine, and I'm sure the people in the comments will have many many more recommendations; but I would say the four listed above are the absolute essentials.

* when it arrives, which will probably take a while because there are a lot to produce and the new ones are actually quite fancy
** I like this edition so much that I keep giving it to people as a present ;)
*** The bit most often cited by Lib Dems is The Harm Principle: "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant." - we often discuss the implications and applications of it, but few of us don't think it is a guiding principle.

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 08:25 am (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Speaking as a non-LibDem, I can highly recommend both On Liberty and the Liberator Songbook.

I read On Liberty for my philosophy A-Level and loved it - apart from anything else, it's really short and really easy to read - but the content is great too. It articulates stuff that seems obvious but is important to articulate.

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 09:00 am (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
:-) Yes! Very similar experience for me to reading Quaker Faith and Practice the first time.

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 08:40 am (UTC)
hollymath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hollymath
The anarchist friend I was staying with for Brighton ldconf was totally won over by the Glee Club songbook. I think it's a fantastic introduction to our history, our preoccupations, and our sense of humor. It's no surprise to me that it has provided so much consolation, at everything from funerals to (I've adopted Mortimer's splendid phrase for this) Cockroach Thursday.

Only thing I can think to add to your list is maybe Theory and Practice of Community Politics.

Things not to read

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 08:51 am (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
The Orange Book (I have a copy, but don't; really, just don't bother).

Locke: Two Treatises of Government might be a founding text of Liberalism, but it's damned hard going; Mill/Taylor is far better written, as well as not being preoccupied with the aftermath of the English Civil War.

Any party manifesto, or policy document. Unless you're struggling to sleep.

Re: Things not to read

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 08:59 am (UTC)
hollymath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hollymath
Almost anything written about the Lib Dems in mainstream media (or in their comments sections) because they fundamentally do not understand that we aren't a centralized, personality-led party and they say the most idiotic things about the Lib Dems.

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 09:11 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] robparsons
Brilliant post. Thumbs up. Five stars.

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 09:23 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thamesynne
Any word on how many people are new new members, and how many are rejoining now the Coalition is done?

The most popular author with liberal parliamentarians in 1906...

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 10:32 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
…and still needed more than ever today.

Henry George, start with Progress and Poverty, his treatise about land taxes. But also see why “free trade” was the cause of the left until the late thirties and not the Tories. MacDonald’s Chancellor, Philip Snowden, even wrote the introduction to one edition of George’s “Protection or Free Trade” in the thirties.

Apparently in a survey in the 1906 parliament (when all of our nearly 400 liberal MPs petitioned for land taxes) George was more widely read than Mill or Shakespeare.

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 01:07 pm (UTC)
haggis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] haggis
Thank you, these recommendations are very useful. I have a copy of "An Intelligent Person's Guide to Liberalism" that I was given for my birthday, I should get on and read that (after Mill).

From Andrew (DW's openID still borked)

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 02:29 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Not that hard -- it's out of print, but can often be picked up second-hand on Amazon for under a tenner. That's how I got mine, a couple of years back.

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 03:33 pm (UTC)
haggis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] haggis
Yes, so she told me ;-)

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 03:07 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'm currently two-thirds of the way through this (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jeremy-Thorpe-Michael-Bloch/dp/0316856851/) and finding it fascinating (and occasionally utterly gobsmacking) & it might be a useful guide to the last time the party could fit all its MPs in two taxis.

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 07:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pwaring.wordpress.com
'You, as a new Lib Dem, are going to get asked about "PR" a lot'

That I think is a problem - being quizzed on the intricacies of voting systems is probably not a good welcoming strategy for new members.

But if we're recommending books I would say the Orange Book (so you know who the 'Orange Bookers' refers to, though all but Clegg have gone from the Commons), and Chris Cook's A Short History of the Liberal Party (good guide to the history of the Liberals since the 1800s).

Date: Monday, May 11th, 2015 07:36 pm (UTC)
doccy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] doccy
I... I may be a Bad Lib Dem. I just tried reading On Liberty and... may have slightly gone cross-eyed, after being firmly smacked by the Teal Deer.

On the plus side, I'm now happily rummaging through the Spark Notes, so... Celebrate the success? *looks hopeful, is ready to be covered in The Jam Of Shame and forced to give back his shiny new membership card once it arrives*

Date: Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 09:33 am (UTC)
nickbarlow: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nickbarlow
On Liberty is great, but I can see why some modern readers will bounce off the 19th century style of it, and it can be tricky for people who've not had any exposure to that sort of text before. And I'm pretty sure most political theorists steer well clear of the First Treatise of Government (subject: why various people are wrong, explored in ridiculous depth).

I may have borrowed the Uni library's copy of An Intelligent Person's Guide To Liberalism, and I may have a scanner to which it will be introduced in the next couple of weeks.

I do think we suffer somewhat as a party in that we don't have many people willing to write at length about principles and ideas, but instead assume that everyone agrees with them and go on at great length about the intricacies of policy instead. Sadly, those that have tried to do it have been spectacularly bad at it, and I'd heartily recommend adding 'anything by Jeremy Browne' to the Do Not Read list.

Date: Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 10:25 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I particularly endorse Conrad’s book – if you can find it – and can I recommend for your reading list: Liberal Democrats Believe (http://libdemsbelieve.tumblr.com/)?

It’s a Tumblr I’ve been running for a couple of months which is, basically, a Lib Dem reading list. So far it’s published fifty different quotes and longer pieces, daily through the election.

There will be more, and (because so far I’ve had to come up with all but one of them myself) it would be a great help if anyone else would like to recommend any inspiring Liberal quotes or longer passages for Liberal Democrats Believe – contact me at freedomfairnessfutureNOSPAM@hotmail.co.uk (removing the appropriate six letters).

Alex Wilcock

Date: Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 09:33 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Jennie's already mentioned the Journal of Liberal History, but the Liberal Democrat History Group also publishes a range of reference books, including 'Peace, Reform and Liberation: A History of Liberal Politics in Britain 1679-2011' - the best single-volume history of the party available (much better than Chris Cook's, mentioned above).

For those looking for a shorter read, we also publish four booklets - two on Liberal Leaders, one on Liberal women ('Mothers of Liberty') and one on Liberal Thinkers. All available, for very reasonable prices, from http://www.liberalhistory.org.uk/product-category/books/.

We also have a short reading list, for people interested in a more detailed read of Liberal history. Our website's being reconstructed at the moment, so it's not up - I will try and rectify this ASAP, but if anyone wants one, feel free to email me at journal@liberalhistory.org.uk.

Duncan Brack (Editor, Journal of Liberal History)

Date: Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 08:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unity-mot.pip.verisignlabs.com
At Jennie's request (after a brief conversation on Twitter) I'm going to throw a clear recommendation into the pot, particularly for anyone that hasn't yet read Mill's "On Liberty".

If you are going to tackle Mill, don't (if possible) read it on its own. To get the most from his work, particularly in a contemporary context, the book needs to be read in conjunction with Isaiah Berlin's "Four Essays on Liberty" of which there's a 2002 collected edition (with a fifth essay and other related writing) published under the title "Liberty" that's a bit pricey (around £25) but well worth the investment.

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