Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Ownership for All

I was writing a posting before it became necessary to go and deliver Focus in Hillside Rd. I was looking at two Liberal  pamphlets that have a claim to be the two most  influential of the last century. New readers should start here for the posting on 'We can Conquer Unemployment'

The second pamphlet is the 1938 'Ownership for All being the report of a committee appointed by the Executive of the Liberal Party Organisation into the Distribution of Property'

The committee was chaired by Elliot Dodds and included  Liberal MP Harcourt Johnsone, Lucy Masterman, Milner Gray and Miss Jean Henderson.

The pamphlet has a Foreword by Lord Meston (of whom I know nothing -except that he had a room named after him at the National Liberal Club) It is stirring stuff:

..............."Ownership for All" is to be attained by the abolition of privilege and the equalising of opportunities. It is not a task speedy or easy of accomplishment. "It involves" says the report "profound and far-reaching changes in the existing social structure-changes much more profound than those called for by the Socialist programme"

The Introduction concludes by quoting the great Liberal distributionist
Mr Belloc -better known for his Cautionary Tales- of whom David Boyle has written in the Journal of Liberal History:

The influence of Belloc on Grimond Liberalism was almost unacknowledged - though Grimond later described the Belloc tradition as one "to be studied and fostered".[12] Yet the Distributist themes were very prominent in the Liberal Revival years: industrial common ownership, resistance to bureaucracy and the whole idea of a non-socialist radical alternative.

The pamphlet strongly attacks the maldistribution of wealth and income. It calls for more effective Inheritance Taxes, land taxes,a war on monopolies and enhanced workers' rights with co ownership in industry.

Many of these ideas were not new. J S Mill argued for most of the same principles; advocating worker ownership, inheritance taxes and fearing the abuse of monopoly power. Dodds achievement was to make these ideas relevant in his time. They still present a challenge to us today and if we were to consider what would  put in a Liberal budget today if we had a majority it would not be a bad place to begin.


  1. Thanks, Iain. We need ideas like this today if Liberal Democrats don't want to descend into the footnotes of history. Trumpeting our marginal successes in government will never compensate for the profound economic mistakes which may well accentuate the divide between rich and poor.

  2. Thanks David, I got to pondering what we would do in government if we were not of necessity in coalition with Cameron. It does seem to me that the programme lacks a message of hope. Even if we accept the arguments that the risks associated with sovereign debt were so great that deficit reduction was a national necessity (and Vince's NS article the other week is the best stab so far at putting that case) there are still big things we can do on income redistribution and spreading wealth and ownership. These would impact on people's well being as well as increase their security. The whole Liberal case rest on folk having enough resources to exercise control over their own lives. I hope(Focus delivery permitting)to try and suggest ways these could be made relevant now.......


I am happy to address most contributions, even the drunken ones if they are coherent, but I am not going to engage with negative sniping from those who do not have the guts to add their names or a consistent on-line identity to their comments. Such postings will not be published.

Anonymous comments with a constructive contribution to make to the discussion, even if it is critical will continue to be posted. Libellous comments or remarks I think may be libellous will not be published.

I will also not tolerate personation so please do not add comments in the name of real people unless you are that person. If you do not like these rules then start your own blog.

Oh, and if you persist in repeating yourself despite the fact I have addressed your point I may get bored and reject your comment.

The views expressed in comments are those of the poster, not me.