When Labour peer Maurice Glasman recently went on BBC Radio 4 with TCC’s Detlev Schlichter I was disappointed and a little taken aback to learn of his Lordship’s ignorance when it came to the Austrian School of Economics. While towards the end of the interview he accepted the need for honest – backed – money, he went on to demonstrate his ignorance when he implied that free marketeers have a prescriptive attitude to ownership philosophies and organisational models. I was really saddened by this not least because like so many other Austro-libertarians I have spent years pointing out that genuine markets would encourage more open and diverse forms of ownership including mutuals.
When I was fifteen I avidly watched this excellent BBC documentary on the Mondragon Experiment which sparked a life long interest in mutuals, friendly societies and co-operatives. Later, as a university student I went on to study a wide range of radical dissenters including a wide range of anti-statists. Indeed, it is with this history in mind that I find it ironic that away from the naïveté of Lord Glasman, it is Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron who is planning to introduce a Parliamentary bill promoting co-operative forms of ownership and doing so in key areas such as education and healthcare.
Thirty-two years on from the BBC’s film on the Mondragon Experiment, maybe opinion formers are finally rediscovering the libertarian tradition of collective forms of organisation and self-help without the state. As much a part of a market as any other form of non-coerced organisation or ownership philosophy, I do hope Lord Glasman and his Purple Book friends take note.