British Official Lauds Liberal Politics

Ex-Minister Attacks 'New Conservatism'

"I came to praise Social Democracy and not to bury it," Shirley Williams, former member of British Parliament and secretary of state for Education and Science, told an audience of 200 in her first of three Godkin lectures at the Kennedy School of Government Forum last night.

Williams is the first woman to deliver the annual Godkin lectures since their establishment.

"Social Democrats and Liberals have brought the best generation the Western world has seen," Williams said. She added that the governments of Western Europe and the United States successfully reached their goals of economic growth, full employment and abolition of poverty, through government planning, intervention and deficit financing.

"The Social Democrat and the Liberal consensus had greater respect for democracy than any other ethic that preceded it or has followed it," Williams said. She said the introduction of the one-man-one-vote system in Great Britain is an example of positive steps taken by Western governments to reduce inequalities.

Williams, however, added that something went wrong with the Social Democratic ideal, and opponents blamed it for the growth of big government, tremendous increases in public expenditure, exorbitant levels of inflation, and the overall decline of Western power.


"The mood of politics has fundamentally changed and there are new actors on the scene," Williams said, adding that the greatest challenge to the old style of government comes from "the new Conservatism" and the "new Romanticism."

Citing the ecology movement in the United States as representative of the "new Romanticism," Williams said it propounds a state in which individuals are in control of the economic system instead of its subjects.

She attacked Milton Friedman and other advocates of the "new Conservatism" for oversimplifying the economic policies and not taking into account the political framework in which they operate.

Williams added that neo-conservatism had a curious affinity to Stalinism because they both imply that the individual should be subjected to the economic system and economic law.

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