Interview with one of the UK’s leading libertarians, who is a believing Latter-day Saint

This is an interview with Dan Liddicott, who is LDS and the former Chairman of the Libertarian Party UK.

  1. Could you describe how you joined the Church and talk about your testimony?  Are you married in the temple and do you go to the temple in England?  If you are married, how many children?  What do you do for a living?  

I’m what is usually called a life-long member of the Church and grew up with family and friends both in and out of the Church. 

In the UK, where I was born, it’s normal to be very much in the minority regarding Church membership. Being a religious minority gives one a perspective all of its own. Growing up with and attending school with others of different faiths and none endowed me with a broad multicultural and multi-faith perspective that I am grateful for. I feel kinship to all people of goodwill, I feel no prejudice or resentment towards any by virtue of their race, nationality, colour or creed. I believe my upbringing, and gospel teachings that I grew up with are a huge influence on this perspective I have.

I’ve remained an active member my whole life, I graduated Seminary, served honourably in the Ireland Dublin Mission, and eventually married my wonderful wife in the Preston England Temple. We have two sons.

  1. Please describe your political conversion to libertarianism and what role you have in the libertarian movement in the UK.  

I began to awaken to politics in my first years as a College student in the 90s. During this time I would probably be best described as leaning towards Christian conservative – with a small ‘c’, since I never signed up to the Conservative Party over here. 

I spent probably too much time in message groups arguing for conservative values, which agreed with my religious principles, when I should have been studying. At this young age I’d not yet fully understood that authoritarianism isn’t good just because it agrees with you. I was learning. It was as a student that I began to formulate my fledgling view of the relationship between left and right, and the various political parties in the UK. I also learned a great deal about the dual standards of so-called liberalism, calling for free speech to promote their views but quickly pulling up the ladder after them, attempting to deny voice to their opponents. Little has changed in that regard in 30 years other than greater polarisation and more extreme measures being taken in seeking to silence others. 

I opposed ID cards when they were mooted in the UK in the early 2000s, and my interest in the effect politics had on everyday life continued to grow. A good friend of mine pointed me to the writings of Ezra Taft Benson, but I still made no political commitment to any party.

My political dormancy remained for many years, but I began to more fully awaken when the Brexit question became a real possibility for a referendum in the UK. 

I am not someone who wants to draw a wall around my spiritual life separating it from the rest of my life. As Brexit became more and more prominent, I began to study to know where my allegiances should be, and my question was this: “what form of Government would God want us to have on this earth?” I sought to approach the question as completely openly as I could, rejecting any preconceptions as best as I could.

My study for the answer to my question, about what form of government God would have for us, took me to the scriptures, to conference talks and to other historical sources. I began to archive what I read on my blog (ldsawake.com). There I saved my sources without personal commentary, so I could easily refer back to them, and so anyone else finding it would not be swayed by my perceptions but draw their own conclusions. 

Sources of particular influence on me were Ezra Taft Benson’s address “The Proper Role of Government” and Bastiat’s “The Law.” The messages rang true with me. Along with other sources I eventually concluded that the overwhelming message pointed towards a smaller and more accountable government, and I knew this wasn’t what was on offer in the EU. So I committed to Brexit and became a campaigner to leave the EU, joining others from all parties and backgrounds to support the Vote Leave campaign. 

I should point out that this was my experience, other Latter-day Saints may have taken a different view. As President Oaks recently stated:

“There are many political issues, and no party, platform, or individual candidate can satisfy all personal preferences. Each citizen must therefore decide which issues are most important to him or her at any particular time. Then members should seek inspiration on how to exercise their influence according to their individual priorities. This process will not be easy. It may require changing party support or candidate choices, even from election to election.

“Such independent actions will sometimes require voters to support candidates or political parties or platforms whose other positions they cannot approve. That is one reason we encourage our members to refrain from judging one another in political matters. We should never assert that a faithful Latter-day Saint cannot belong to a particular party or vote for a particular candidate. We teach correct principles and leave our members to choose how to prioritize and apply those principles on the issues presented from time to time.”
(Defending Our Divinely Inspired Constitution, President Dallin H. Oaks, Conference Report, April 2021)

I had made my effort to learn the correct principles on which to base my political priorities, and sought my own inspiration on the matter. I felt that what I had learned, and what that meant for me was right. At that time, for me to have moved in another direction would have been to act opposite to principles I felt in my core were true.

The most surprising thing to come out of my study was my arrival at libertarianism. Libertarianism is not something I had heard of. A friend mentioned that the UK had a Libertarian Party and so I took time to find out what they stood for. I was satisfied with their message and in March 2016, and for the first time in my life, I actually joined a political party as a member. Among the conservative, socialist and other campaigners who I worked alongside for Brexit, I openly identified as a libertarian. 

As a member of the Libertarian Party UK I offered my time to help grow the movement. I served on the National Coordinating Committee (NCC) as the Regional Coordinator for the Midlands, I stood for election twice, once as a Town Council Candidate, and once as a Parliamentary Candidate, and in October 2019 became the party Chairman. I was an all-in libertarian and Libertarian Party campaigner.

However, in August 2020, I resigned the Chairmanship and my membership in the party (https://libertaridan.com/ex-ncc-joint-statement-response-to-libertarian-party-press-release/). 


I’d long been influenced by Robert Greenleaf’s servant leadership advocacy, when he said: 

“A new moral principle is emerging which holds that the only authority deserving one’s allegiance is that which is freely and knowingly granted by the led to the leader in response to, and in proportion to, the clearly evident servant stature of the leader. Those who choose to follow this principle will not casually accept the authority of existing institutions. Rather, they will freely respond only to individuals who are chosen as leaders because they are proven and trusted as servants. To the extent that this principle prevails in the future, the only truly viable institutions will be those that are predominantly servant led.” (Robert K. Greenleaf, “The Servant as Leader,” Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness, 25th anniversary ed. (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2002), pp. 23–24.) 

With that in mind I determined that I would take a different path than party politics.

Following my resignation, with the flaws of the top-down Party system fresh in my mind, I founded Independent Libertarians, later rebranded Independents for Liberty (https://independentsforliberty.uk), as a decentralised voluntary association of pro-liberty individuals, aiming to restore liberty and rebuild a free country, by making the case for freedom, promoting political activism and growing sustainable pro-liberty economies. Here I continued my advocacy for libertarian principles, and lent my support towards the election of independent libertarian candidates.

  1. In the US, there are two broad groups of libertarians.  One group, which I will call left libertarians, concentrates on legalizing drugs, abortion rights and other social issues.  This group generally favors liberty but also sees a role for state power in promoting these social issues.  So for example these libertarians do not really speak out very much against the lockdowns and mandates because they think these things are necessary for the good of society as a whole.  The second group of libertarians, which for simplicity’s sake I will call right libertarians, are uncompromising on liberty issues and speak out forcefully against lockdowns and mandates.  These libertarians tend to concentrate on economic issues such as ending the Federal Reserve and ending the role of the state in our lives in all ways.  Is this similar in the UK, and if so which group do you sympathize with?  Please feel free to describe these groups in your own words if I have not summarized them well.   

In the UK libertarianism is a very broad church. It might be described as having classical liberals at one end, and Ancaps at the other end, with everything in between. (Note: Ancaps are Anarcho-capitalists in the Murray Rothbard tradition). I count myself as an ideological Ancap but a pragmatic minarchist. I am sympathetic towards Classical Liberalism as a necessary transition stage towards a much smaller state. I believe there is a role for Government, and I won’t ignore that “We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society” (D&C 134). But I also believe that most governments, including here in the UK, vastly overreach any legitimate role, and frequently go against their proper purpose in all the ways described by Benson and Bastiat. After all, we also believe “…that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life” (Ibid.).

I’m pro-life, which makes me rare in libertarian circles over here, but by no means alone. I see no conflict with libertarianism and the loss of that particular ‘woman’s right to choose’. Because I believe one of the few legitimate roles of the state is defence of individual rights, that defense includes the unborn individual. It makes no sense to me that which side of the abdominal wall an individual resides on affects whether they have the right to not be killed. Of course, pro-choice libertarians base their argument on exactly the same understanding of the role of government, the difference between us is they don’t count the unborn as an individual with rights, while I do. It will not easily be resolved, but most libertarians can agree on this one point – government should not be funding abortion. It’s a start, but also a pretty low bar.

By and large libertarians in the UK agree with the direction of travel, if not the speed, the sequence of events, the strategy, (or who is a ‘real libertarian’). Consequently there is a lot of disagreement and the movement is fractured. However, the main themes such as drug decriminalisation, R2A, return to the Gold Standard (or at least currency competition), getting the state out of education/healthcare/welfare, are all on the table. Sadly our work is cut out for us – given how statist the rest of the population is, most libertarians would be grateful in the short term for some cuts to government spending and a balanced budget. That’s how far away the UK is from libertarian principles. 

I’m somewhat envious of the USA still retaining many rights which we lost or began to lose over 100 years ago. I long to have a constitution in the UK that follows the pattern of that available in the USA “…for the rights and protection of all flesh…” (D&C 101:77). Were I to be a US citizen, I’d likely be voting for the Constitution Party – which constitution is vitally more important than many diversionary issues libertarians can sometimes get wrapped up in. 

What few realise is that, in spite of being the home of Magna Carta, and the English Bill of Rights, the UK is one of only three countries without a codified constitution. The courts recently ruled that ‘Parliament is sovereign’ here, not the people. Whatever Parliament ratifies, the Government may do – we have de facto unlimited government. It’s not a great place to be in that regard – as politicians seek short term support for their re-election over true statesmanship – our ‘democratic’ unlimited government is quite willing to sacrifice the rights of some to purchase the votes of others. In the UK we also have an unelected second house, the House of Lords, which gets packed with ‘life peers’ put forward for their expected voting loyalty by whichever party happens to be in government that year. It’s a farce.

For all of the above reasons and more, a codified constitution on the US model would be the next key political issue for me. The success of all other libertarian principles will flow out of the successful establishment of a US style constitution here. However, for the same reason the constitution is under attack in the US, such an instrument here will be fought tooth and nail, if not simply ignored. There is nothing in that form of government, freshly established and properly understood, to entice any of the establishment.

  1. Can you describe how it has been to live under all of the mandates in the UK during the pandemic and what your feeling is about the mandates? 

In 2020 Parliament granted dangerous sweeping emergency powers to the Government, ostensibly to deal with Covid-19. It met little resistance from Parliament beyond some murmuring from the majority Conservative Party ‘backbenchers’ and a few minor Party representatives, but rhetoric wasn’t matched by sufficient opposing votes. The powers were also renewed with little push back (https://libertaridan.com/gutless-rebellion/). As for opposition from other parties, there is virtually none. If anything, the only criticism the Government receives from the large opposition parties is that they could bring in more restrictions, and lock us all down, with even greater haste and enthusiasm. Very few speak up for the liberties of the people. We still live under emergency powers which give the Government the right to impose restrictions of virtually any kind, at any time. Freedom to work, to travel, to worship, to assemble, to protest, even bodily autonomy, are all at the whim of the Government. 

Unlike the USA we don’t have proper devolution of the individual states, but there is some limited independence for Wales and Scotland. Set up to appease the independence movements in both regions, the arrangement is an appalling sticking plaster which creates an imbalance of power and inequality for England in the Parliamentary process. Both Scotland and Wales have their own assembly of MPs and have powers to make their own Covid-19 regulations in their regions. Both have used them at various times to impose even greater restrictions than existed in England. Wales and Scotland might be described as the socialist authoritarian experimental test beds in the UK – they are our California.

I’m very much opposed to state imposed lockdowns, mask mandates, and compulsory vaccination.These are not things the Government ought to be deciding, particularly if all options carry risks. Even so, as a libertarian, I do respect private property, and if private property owners require masks then they have the right to impose them as conditions of entry. Individuals may choose not to enter. What I do object to is the criminalising of business owners who refuse to require them, or refuse to close for business – as has been the case over here in various cases. My stance for most of this period has been based on:

“…teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves”(Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2011), 281–91)

And:

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts…” (Abraham Lincoln). 

My stance was and is to give correct information, and allow people the freedom to make the right decisions for themselves and their families. One size never fits all. Unfortunately it has been very difficult to get at the real facts with so much obfuscation going on. While Tom Woods and others have done great work debunking much of the nonsense in the US and in the UK, the reach of their work isn’t enough to penetrate the wall-to-wall 24-7 official line. It’s hard to trust the boy that cried wolf, most people will struggle to know what is true by now. Consequently most people are content to do whatever the Government tells them. I don’t trust the Government much, but I do trust in God.

  1. As a believing Latter-day Saint and a follower of the prophets, how do you feel about the Church’s support of mask wearing and vaccinations? 

As a believing Christian I’m a minority among UK libertarians, the Christian following of libertarianism in the USA is much stronger and the faith basis for their liberty much more openly spoken than it is here. Secularism is having much of its way in the UK on all fronts. Having said that I believe the number of Christians in the libertarian movement in the UK is disproportionately large, the message of freedom that flows out of Christianity is evident even here. While I’m a minority libertarian as a Christian in the UK, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I am, of course, a minority among believing libertarian Christians. But neither of these facts put me off recognising the faith basis out of which my libertarianism grows. Were I to let go of my faith, I would also let go of much of the reason for being a libertarian, which cannot be replaced by the circular arguments in favour of liberty without considering our relationship to God, as I see them. I believe in liberty for myself and others equally precisely because it is a gift to each of us from God, as Ezra Taft Benson explained:

“Rights are either God-given as part of the divine plan or they are granted by government as part of the political plan. Reason, necessity, tradition, and religious convictions all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights. If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government.” (Conference Report, October 1968, pp. 17-22)

And, as Elder Quentin L. Cook said today in the Sunday Morning session of General Conference:

“Peace and agency are intertwined as essential elements of the plan of salvation…”

I believe Latter-day Saints cannot ignore the case for liberty without missing the point of much of their faith.

Some would take all that to believe that the Church ought to be speaking out more now on issues with political implications. I believe it does so more than many would like it to. But I also believe that the Church has a unique and specific mission to achieve and that its priorities must therefore be focussed on achieving those. This may mean not fighting battles now which would hinder its main mission now and later. We can’t treat the Church as we might the Government, or its leaders as we might politicians. The Church is very different both in purpose and in leadership.

My non-Christian libertarian friends know I am a man of faith, yet I think some would be puzzled by my priorities at times. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote:

“We must not, however, expect the world to understand or to value our discipleship; they will not. In a way, they may admire us from afar, but they will be puzzled about the priorities resulting from our devotion.” (Becoming A Disciple, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, June 1996)

The Covid vaccination could be one of those times of puzzlement. I’ve been an advocate for individual choice regarding vaccination this whole time. I remain opposed to mandatory vaccination. However, I also believe that President Nelson has unique insight into what is required now and while that may not fit with the information each of us has before us, I have no doubt there were some very dry days while Noah built his ark, so to speak. We see with hindsight the wisdom of the Home Centred Church Supported approach that was prepared well in advance of the lockdowns which none of us could have known about. Having spent years studying to know God’s view of earthly government and that leading me to liberty, and being content to accept what the prophets over the ages and years wrote on those topics, I could hardly start to cherry pick now. After all, what’s the point of having a watchman on the tower if you only listen to them when they agree with you? 

When I read the email from the First Presidency encouraging vaccination it contradicted everything I suspected about the vaccine. That evening, after reading the email, we read the scriptures together as a family as we often do. The verse I read seemed perfectly arranged, and gave me the answer that softened my heart. Christians will know what I mean when I say God spoke to my heart. It was time to decide not what I believe – because I know what I believe – but what I, me, not anyone else, will actually do about vaccination. Without changing a single thing about what I believed in all I have written above – but determined to find out what I should do – I allowed room in my heart for the possibility that I might accept a vaccine. And in taking that leap of faith I learned that in my specific situation taking a vaccine was the right thing to do. I considered the vaccine options, discussed with trusted family and friends, and in my situation determined that the AstraZeneca was the one I should have. This may not be the same for others. When I went to be vaccinated, it occured to me that for the first time in my life following a prophet might have come with real personal risk to myself. But I actually felt God’s peace with my decision in my heart, I was “calm as a summer’s morning” if I may. I still feel at peace with my decision. But it was my decision. I didn’t blindly follow the government propaganda which I still do not trust. I applied James 1:5 – I knew I lacked wisdom, and I asked of God.

I realise that non-Latter-day Saint libertarians will find this puzzling, but they can feel safe and respected knowing that they are looking at a man who will never seek to impose by force any of his views on them. And really, that’s the whole point of libertarianism.

  1. Have chapels and temples been open in the UK during the pandemic, and are people wearing masks when going to church, and are there other restrictions?

For a long time the Temples and Chapels in the UK were closed. In a sweep of the hand various Governments had ended freedom to worship as we had, and so the Church took a decision which we followed locally in how we went forward. In my family we held what we called ‘home Church’, and we had some wonderful uplifting experiences during those weeks holding Sacrament Meetings in our own home. Our Ward also began running Sunday School, Priesthood and Relief Society classes via Zoom pretty early on. They also ran weekly Youth meetups online via Zoom too. When restrictions permitted we got Covid-19 protocols in place so that those who wanted to could return to Church for a shortened Sacrament meeting consisting of pre-recorded hymns (singing of hymns was against regulations), the ordinance of the Sacrament, and one speaker. Some pretty significant planning had to be done to ensure the needs of members were met as much as possible, while hygiene was enhanced, while not putting off the more cautious, and while staying on the right side of the regulations. I take my hat off to my local Bishopric who I must say did a solid job of balancing all of that.

Just a few weeks ago, as restrictions lifted and perceptions changed, we returned to fully meeting in person for Sacrament services, and then later for classes as well on the two hour schedule. Many Covid-19 protocols remain in place and we of course observe the call to mask when distancing isn’t possible. It’s been difficult for many people, but we enjoy being back together and are getting used to it, but I’ve one eye on the news as it could be only a matter of time before we’re all locked down again.

When the Temples reopened it was on a more restricted basis. You must pre-book, masking is a requirement, and I understand there is quite a waiting list as capacity is much reduced. But it’s a wonderful start.

It really resonated with me when Elder Bednar, at the 2020 BYU Law School Conference, said:

“While believers and their religious organizations must be good citizens in a time of crisis, never again can we allow government officials to treat the exercise of religion as simply nonessential. Never again must the fundamental right to worship God be trivialized below the ability to buy gasoline.” 

I can’t help wondering what may happen if lockdowns are tried again, and if the authoritarianism we are experiencing continues to expand. As one who seeks meaning in scripture, I and other Christians cannot read Revelation, Daniel and Matthew 24, and expect to return permanently to normality. Whether now, or at some imminent future date, the things written of, we expect to happen. I honestly wonder if the recent direction from the First Presidency is because the ‘new normal’ really is inevitable. If so, to maintain the mission of the Church for as long as possible would require us to comply, giving the powers of this earth minimal reason to disrupt our work. Official declaration One perhaps gives us a huge clue:

“The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for … any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice. Now, the question is, whether it should be stopped in this manner, or in the way the Lord has manifested to us, and leave our Prophets and Apostles and fathers free men, and the temples in the hands of the people, so that the dead may be redeemed.” (Published with OD1, Wilford Woodruff, Excerpt from Cache Stake Conference, Logan, Utah, Sunday, November 1, 1891. Reported in Deseret Weekly, November 14, 1891.)

Are we living in an echo of that time?

Ultimately, the Churches and Temples are private property, the owner decides the rules. When it comes down to it libertarian Latter-day Saints ought to have nothing else to say on the matter.

  1. Some of us see the scriptures and modern-day prophets as supporting libertarianism in many ways.  In both the Bible and the Book of Mormon the people want a king but are warned that a king will decrease personal freedom.  The Book of Mormon clearly endorses defensive, not offensive, wars.  The Book of Mormon speaks out against tyrants who levy large taxes on their people.  There has never been an LDS prophet who has spoken out in favor of government welfare.  How do you feel about libertarianism and the Gospel?  

From a Latter-day Saint perspective liberty is fundamental to the gospel plan. It was the basis of the war in heaven which resulted in Michael casting out Lucifer and his followers, a war that continues today here. There is much in the Gospel that resonates with many libertarian principles. Throughout scripture, in the Book of Mormon particularly, and in the writings of modern prophets, it is very clear and we should expect liberty to be under threat in our day. Written and compiled for us now, the descriptions of the dangers of absolute rulers, and secret societies that seek to overthrow Government and the freedoms of the people, ought to peirce us to the centre. We ought to, as Moroni warned, “awaken to our awful situation” (Ether 8:24). Sadly most seem unaware.

As Ezra Taft Benson wrote:

‘This most correct book on earth states that the downfall of two great American civilizations came as a result of secret conspiracies whose desire was to overthrow the freedom of the people. “And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking,” says Moroni, “and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.” (Ether 8:21.)

‘Now undoubtedly Moroni could have pointed out many factors that led to the destruction of the people, but notice how he singled out the secret combinations, just as the Church today could point out many threats to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God’s work, but it has singled out the greatest threat as the godless conspiracy. There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon —it is a conspiracy fact.’ (Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints, Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1972)

Even so, it’s with some dejection that I find many associates are either unaware of the pertinence of those writings to our day, or reject their significance. Perhaps, given the recent announcement, things have already moved on. There was a time when Church leaders were very clearly outspoken in rejecting communism. We remain aware of these facts, but it may now be impossible to stop it. It’s a serious point to ponder given what has been foretold of the last days. Can these lost liberties and persecutions to come be avoided? I don’t think so. It’s been written that they will happen. It’s not a reason to embrace authoritarianism and throw our lot in with the beast, but we ought to be realistic about the short to medium term future ahead of ultimate victory. As Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:

“But the vision of the future is not all sweetness and light and peace. All that is yet to be shall go forward in the midst of greater evils and perils and desolations than have been known on earth at any time.

“But amid it all, the work of the Lord rolls on. The gospel is preached and the witness is born. The elect of God forsake the traditions of their fathers and the ways of the world. The kingdom grows and prospers, for the Lord is with his people.

“Amid it all, there are revelations and visions and prophecies. There are gifts and signs and miracles. There is a rich outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God.

“If we, as a people, keep the commandments of God; if we take the side of the Church on all issues, both religious and political; if we take the Holy Spirit for our guide; if we give heed to the words of the apostles and prophets who minister among us—then, from an eternal standpoint, all things will work together for our good.

“Our view of the future shall be undimmed, and, whether in life or in death, we shall see our blessed Lord return to reign on earth…”
(“The Coming Tests and Trials and Glory”, Bruce R. McConkie, Conference Report, April 1980)

Perhaps we should not be surprised, therefore, at the direction of Church leaders as we get closer to the end. We’ve a job to do, and we need to be able to do it for as long as possible.

Where I currently stand politically, as a libertarian, is not where I have always stood. Arriving here is a journey, one that I undertook under the direction of what I learned from scripture and inspired Church leaders. Given how I got here, I can’t pretend I might not continue to travel and find myself somewhere else. What I am certain of is that this somewhere else won’t be coercion, won’t be socialism, won’t be communism, or anything like that. The celestial law is, after all, somewhere outside of the political machinations of this world. I think if our studies aren’t taking us towards that, then what are we studying for? Justifying our present flawed position isn’t a good basis for study, and I try to make sure it’s not mine. Libertarianism should take us towards God, towards loving our fellow man. It is part of the truth, it is a mode of travel perhaps, but it is not the destination. The destination is for each to choose, for myself:

“[I] claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of [my] own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may” (Joseph Smith, Eleventh Article of Faith).

With that in mind I find myself simply travelling towards God’s laws more fully. The libertarian principles I’ve learned are still true – coercion is wrong, persuasion and not force ought to be our approach – but I have found that libertarianism alone is not enough and without morality and pure knowledge is as unsustainable as any other political ideology. 

Mark Twain famously wrote that “every civilization carries the seeds of its own destruction”. The coercion inherent in most political ideologies undermines itself by making an oppressor of everyone against their own neighbour via state machinery. This ultimately provides within state machinery a lever of unlimited power which becomes the coveted goal of the most corrupt and most ambitious, those most willing to use force against their fellows, those most hungry for power and gain, becoming a centralised corruption in which a few can dominate the many. The history of the 20th century, indeed all modern history, has proven this to not be a caricature but a clear and present danger of how things currently work. In libertarian philosophy, however, the risks are opposite. Rather than a centralised oppressive corruption, the risk is a widespread failure of each individual to accept both sides of the golden rule – not merely to refrain from harm, but to positively do good – and thereby to make its own caricature true. Libertarianism can only succeed if Individuals actually take personal responsibility for their lives, seeking to become self-reliant and interdependent, and assisting others in becoming so voluntarily. If not, others will eventually call for more State to force people to do the ‘good’ they did not do voluntarily. With such a coercive ‘remedy’ any good turns to evil and we end up where we are now.

The authoritarian’s answer to lack of morality is coercion. The libertarian’s answer is voluntaryism, but since lack of morality is inherent in the failure to voluntarily act right, it simply goes nowhere. I fear that most libertarians do not grasp this, and it is evident in the failure of liberty to really gain traction. This is why authoritarianism moves more quickly and is so seductive – ‘you can have it all now’, if you use force, and are willing to sacrifice the individual.

With all that in mind libertarianism becomes for me a more desirable way of life that is compatible with living the Christian life as I understand it through Latter-day Saint teachings. I have no desire to coerce others, or to force others to live according to my ideals. I wish others felt the same towards me, of course. Libertarianism allows me to share what I believe with others, and invite them to accept it, but also to respect their decision to go another way. It is a peaceful way to live. In motivations I seek war with no one, I seek to control no one, I respect the equal rights of everyone, I seek to have love for my fellow travellers. 

In the end the faith based roots for my libertarianism are an advantage to my fellow libertarians. I actually believe in them. This is not a fly-by-night policy for personal advantage, nor is it a trick or ploy that can be easily cast aside. These are principles I seek to live by, and they are principles that protect myself as a person of faith, and others of all faiths and none. 

In the end I believe it is the principles of liberty and their moral application which ultimately forms the basis of the only truly sustainable society – a clue, I believe, to how Heaven works and what makes it Heavenly. 

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

5 thoughts on “Interview with one of the UK’s leading libertarians, who is a believing Latter-day Saint

  1. That’s so great to have someone with such a similar experience to yours! I’m so glad you both are able to continue your important work.

  2. Hi Lucinda, thank you for your nice thoughts. Just for the record, I don’t call myself a libertarian, even though I share many libertarian beliefs. I am more of a liberty conservative or constitutionalist than anything else. Most U.S. libertarians are what I call above in question 3 “left libertarians,” and I don’t have much in common with them. In any case, libertarians of any stripe are extremely rare in Europe, and an LDS European libertarian may be the rarest unicorn of all, so I found this interview very interesting. Dan is extremely articulate and also seems to be a very nice guy.

  3. While we’re putting ourselves on the record, I do call myself a Libertarian, and am the Vice Chair of my county party affiliate. I agree with Dan in every particular.

    I’ll add, though, that Geoff is only broadly correct that most US libertarians fall in the “left” camp, but only insofar as they emphasize social issues. If you can get a “left” libertarian talking about it, it doesn’t take long to find a point of agreement: simply put, “but of course the government shouldn’t have anything to do with it.” Abortion is probably the textbook example. There are good-faith arguments both pro and con abortion within libertarian circles (and Dan above is correct that the question is one of premise: is a fetus a person or not?) but nearly all self-described libertarians will ultimately agree that government funding of the practice (which means soaking money off your neighbors to pay for stuff you want) is unacceptable.

    One of the hardest things for non-libertarians to wrap their heads around is that libertarians tend to defend choices they themselves would not make, by virtue of recognizing that personal choice and accountability is the greater principle and should be recognized and respected. I’m a registered dues-paying Libertarian party officer, but I am also a temple-recommend-holding Ward Mission Leader, and there is no conflict between the two.

  4. Lattertarian, there is definitely no conflict between being a libertarian or Libertarian and being a temple-recommend-holding member, especially when you consider how much worse the Ds and Rs are by comparison. This is why the Church wisely does not align with any political party.

    It is always dangerous for somebody from the outside to criticize an organization, so I hesitate to criticize the Libertarian party, but I can tell you why I don’t join it: most of the Libertarian party members I know are absolutely obsessed with drug legalization, which is WAAAAY down on my list of priorities. I know all of the arguments in favor of legalization very, very well, but it does not change the fact that as a Colorado resident I have to smell pot smoke all the time when I go out in public with my kids, and I don’t like it. Grumble, grumble. When it comes to the pandemic, there has been a near criminal betrayal by many Libertarian parties on the state level, and the ACLU has turned into the most woke organization in the world and of course is against civil liberties in some of the most important areas (gun rights, lockdowns, mandates, etc). I find myself constantly frustrated with Reason magazine and the Cato Institute as well. But as I say, the Libertarians are more right than the horrible Ds and Rs, but not right enough for me to become an activist.

  5. As I see it, the Libertarian party in the US faces a problem of generational change. The party founders from back in the 70s were hot ideologues looking to change the world, with a pretty bold message. Unfortunately, they weren’t especially successful (for several reasons). Without success to point to, membership slowly withered. As time has gone by several camps have formed within the party:

    The old guard: the original movers of the movement, most of whom have lapsed into grumbling inactivity.

    The petty social clubbers: these are the people who keep a lot of county and state affiliates going, but they’re not as interested as they ought to be in accomplishing anything–just making sure they have meetings where they can congratulate each other about being so smart.

    The single-minded compulsives: these are the people you meet, Geoff, who are way down a single-issue rabbithole like legalizing all drugs. They can be hard to talk to because they have an almost autistic laser-focus on their one thing, which they believe to be the key to everything else.

    The new blood: this is the gold mine. These are the people who can see clearly that the duopoly is just a competition between secret combinations to see who can tyrant harder, and want no part of any of it, and are looking for a new political home. Many have gravitated into Libertarianism based on the tireless work of Ron Paul (or discovered Mises or Rothbard or Bastiat or Rand in a way we latter-day saints might identify with vis-a-vis the Book of Mormon), but few have any experience with practical politics. Some are starting to band together to effect intra-party change (things are getting pretty sporty here in my California), but they have to both wrest control of the party from the calcified hands currently holding that control *and* figure out what to do with it, in real time. It’s a challenge.

    For me, it’s a gauntlet worth picking up. The rules get made by the people who show up. Waiting for somebody else to make rules I agree with is a fantasy.

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