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Welcome to the Liberty League

When we launched The Free Society in 2008 the plan was to show how the war on tobacco is just one example of excessive interference by Big Government in people's daily lives.

With smoking banned in all public places in the UK, we were concerned that non-smokers might lose interest in the subject and we would lose support, even from the ranks of tolerant non-smokers some of whom, let's be honest, quite like smoke free pubs and bars.

We had to demonstrate that tobacco is one of many lifestyle issues under attack and that, ultimately, the argument goes far beyond smoking. It's about individual freedom, personal responsibility, mutual consideration and much more.

We wanted to link to other liberal or libertarian-minded groups and create a loose coalition that might recreate the "swarm effect" that Deborah Arnott, director of ASH, wrote about in her infamous Guardian article Smoke and mirrors.

That same year, in partnership with The Freedom Association, we launched The Freedom Zone at the Conservative party conference, co-hosting events with the likes of the Manifesto Club and Progressive Vision, and last year we launched a series of debates in London, Voices of Freedom: The Battle Against Big Government.

Each debate was organised and co-hosted by The Free Society in association with one of the following groups: Institute of Economic Affairs, Adam Smith Institute, Big Brother Watch, Manifesto Club and Liberal Vision.

The concept appears to have taken off. The Freedom Zone has become a fixture at the Conservative conference, the 2011 Voices of Freedom debates will be announced shortly, and I am delighted to report that the pro-liberty movement has a new ally.

Co-founder Anton Howes, a student at King’s College London and a member of the ASI's Next Generation Group, writes:

The Liberty League is a network for libertarian and classical liberal groups. It acts as a one-stop-shop for anyone wanting to get involved in the movement, helping to train and expand libertarian societies, maintaining a comprehensive list of all pro-freedom events in the UK, and channelling support to activists from campaigns and think-tanks.

It has opened applications for its inaugural Freedom Forum conference on April 1-3 at the Birmingham and Midland Institute.

For £20 (and a £10 deposit to be refunded on registration) accommodation, meals, free books and videos will all be provided. This is the perfect chance to meet other young pro-liberty activists from all over the UK, as well as taking part in seminars, meeting the libertarian movement's best speakers, and learning from activist training workshops.

Speakers from the Adam Smith Institute, Institute of Economic Affairs, Institute of Ideas, The Freedom Association, Big Brother Watch, some MPs and of course The Free Society's very own Simon Clark are confirmed.

Make sure you apply straight away, as space is limited and places are disappearing quickly.

I will be taking part in a panel discussion on 'Tobacco, Alcohol and Other Drugs'. I can report too that The Free Society has joined the Liberty League network.

To put this development in perspective, until a few years ago Forest fought a fairly lonely battle when it came to defending the sale and consumption of tobacco. Now a significant number of groups and individuals (including Clare Fox and David Bowden at the Institute of Ideas) are prepared to take a stand on the issue, and the wider implications.

In addition to Forest and The Free Society, they include the Institute of Economic Affairs, Adam Smith Institute, The Freedom Association, TaxPayers' Alliance, Big Brother Watch, Manifesto Club, Democracy Institute, Progressive Vision, Liberal Vision, Nurses for Reform, Economic Policy Centre and the Centre for Policy Studies.

Not a bad coalition, if you ask me. And it's getting larger all the time.

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Reader Comments (9)

This sounds like a coherent grouping of like minded people working hard for those like me that enjoy tobacco products, but would like to do so once more amongst dear friends. I wish you well with your Freedom Forum Conference. Without the hard work done by yourself and Forest, smokers and free thinking people would not have a voice anywhere or anytime.

I know you will give us a full report, and it seems our tool-box is getting bigger by the day.

Good luck Simon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 10:39 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

Nice to see the People's Front of Judea, The Judean People's Front, The Judean Popular People's Front, The Campaign for a Free Galilee, and The Popular Front of Judea all holding hands for a while.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 10:45 | Unregistered CommenterSimon (nsc)

I don't know why, but I am convinced that simon (nsc) is Martin Dockrell of ASH.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 10:48 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

God help us, simon(nsc). You're a real loss to debate, aren't you? Wonder how you'd perform in a court. (think I know the answer)

Well done, Simon. The work that the likes of your good self and Dave Atherton put in will show it's rewards.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 10:53 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Excellent, Simon - there's a lot of us about and, as the illiberalism toward smoking increases and the template is applied to drinkers and so on, so our numbers will swell.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 11:29 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

This is indeed brilliant news !

Many of us have been feeling for some time that a coherent, but broadly-based coalition of libertarians (for want of a better word) is what is desperately needed.

We could learn much from our American cousins in this regard.

Nonetheless, congratulations to all concerned. But be prepared for the 'Extreme Right-Wing' tag to be pinned upon the various component organisations by the faux-Liberal wing of the MSM: its language is becoming as tired as its tactics, although - as the Libyan drama amply demonstrates - the willingly-fooled are still legion. We must do our best to free them from their folly – the fuel and oxygen of Tyranny everywhere.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 13:47 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Good post Simon, as Anton was in touch with me and I forgot to promote it too, sorted now. Any right minded libertarian would be sympathetic towards us.

Simon (NSC) you may scoff and in a way you were quite witty but some of these groups have had world wide influence.

The IEA was described by Andrew Marr as "undoubtedly the most influential think tank in modern British history." Baroness Thatcher was the IEA's most noted admirer, and her privatisations were cut and pasted out of the IEA via the late Sir Keith Joseph who was Maggie's intellectual guru. Via The Austrian School of Economics, her influence world wide cannot be under estimated.

The Adam Smith Institute, were extraordinarily influential in the former eastern bloc countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Where 97% of business was state run they advised the Czechslovakian government(s) on how to privatise its industries. Do you ever hear people today arguing state ownership produces more growth? We today only have 2 communist regimes, North Korea and Cuba.

The IEA and the Adam Smith Institute changed the world and helped vanquish communism, their input uncountable.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 14:25 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

A quick word (one has just returned from Prague).

Yes - it is very important that these various organisations should come together. However, it is even more important that the objective of the collaboration should be clear.

We are drifting into a situation where 'Public Health' and 'The Public's Health' are beginning to mean the same thing when they are not - they are very different things. The 'libertarian' idea must be that individuals can decide for themselves how 'healthy' they should be. This is very important.

The thing is that ASH etc want to take over the health of individuals (and especially children) without accepting the responsibility for anything else. This idea should obviously be considered to be unacceptable. If ASH want to 'look after' the health of children (and everybody), then they must look after them in toto. They cannot pick and choose.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 5:30 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Junican -

Good points !

It's so easy for many of us (including me) to assume that others are as committed to individual liberty as we - when that is plainly far from the case.

The Antis and their fellow travellers have - over the past thirty years or so - very cleverly raised the status of (bodily) 'health' in the minds of the public from that of Very Important to Most Important. All else is implicitly subservient to this one commanding objective. Even Freedom ("This is not a Freedom issue, but a Health Issue").

But notice the important cultural shift here. Not so very long ago, it was beyond axiomatic that Freedom was an ideal that was worth dying (or even killing) for - never mind risking one's health for.

The Hypocrisy of Government (sanctioning mass slaughter abroad in the name of 'humanitarianism' , for example) is scarcely anything new.

Nor is the Gulliblity of the Public. But this apparent shift in fundamental cultural values seems like a pretty recent phenomenon to me - and (arguably) the greatest obstacle in our path. Let us hope that it - one of Propaganda's greatest triumphs - has not now become an immovable one.

The race is on. And we need somewhow to get to Joe Public before Cameron's creepy Behavioural Research Unit succeeds in 're-framing' our entire society for good.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 10:51 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

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