Libertarianism and inequality


by Rumbold
29th December, 2009 at 1:50 pm    

The recent debate between Sunny and Devil’s Kitchen has once again raised the question of how to reconcile libertarianism with deep-rooted inequality. Libertarians tend to be very individualistic. That is not to say that libertarians don’t like people or groups, merely that libertarians like being treated as individuals and not stereotyped. Thus libertarians will tend to lay great stress on treating people as individuals and not as a member of a group, and tend to be uncomfortable with policies designed to favour group x, or hinder group y, as such policies are felt to contribute to people being defined not as individuals, but as members of groups, which encourages divisions.

This attitude has come in for plenty of criticism from people who argue that by calling for everyone to be treated equally, libertarians are failing to take into account that not everyone starts off from the same point, so some people have an inbuilt advantage (or ‘privilege’, to use the jargon). The two approaches can be compared to a running race. For libertarians, the race is fair if everyone starts from the same point and at the same time. For critics, the race isn’t fair, since some of the runners have had a great deal more help and training than others, and this advantage will help them throughout the race. But are the two approaches fundamentally contradictory? No.

I’m a libertarian and was attracted to Pickled Politics precisely because it preached (and continues to preach) a message of individualism: that a person doesn’t have to be defined by their religion or race; that ‘minority communities’ shouldn’t have spokesmen for their views, as there are so many different views; that attitudes which stereotype minorities do untold damage, whether it’s the BNP attacking non-whites or someone claiming that ‘honour’-based violence is excusable because it is part of a culture. Now I write for the site, and I try to continue its central message.

Both ‘sides’ need one another. Critics of libertarianism need to recognise that libertarians want what they want, which is a society where people aren’t held back or pushed forward by things like gender, race or religion, but rather on their own merit. And more libertarians need to recognise that in order to have a society where people are treated as individuals and are free to be what they want, everyone needs to continue to undermine sexist and racist attitudes so that people are not held back by an inherent inequality.


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  1. pickles

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    Reading: Libertarianism and inequality: The recent debate between Sunny and Devil’s Kitchen has once ag.. http://bit.ly/7ZzPZz


  4. Leon Green

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  1. MikeSC — on 29th December, 2009 at 2:13 pm  

    Modern libertarianism is a sham. Oscar Wilde knew the score- http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/hist_texts/wilde_soul.html

  2. Guido Fawkes — on 29th December, 2009 at 2:13 pm  

    Mate, this is Pickled Politics, where all libertarians are deemed to be racist crypto-Tories until proven otherwise. Individualism? How is that compatible with a class war strategy / or “identity politics”?

    If you can’t prove malice on the part of a particular libertarian personally, just point out that whatever freedom libertarians are advocating will have racist outcomes. You know:- tax cuts favour rich white people, that kind of stuff. Get with the Pickled Politics programme.

  3. douglas clark — on 29th December, 2009 at 2:21 pm  

    Rumbold,

    Shouldn’t the last word be inequality, or have I completely misunderstood your arguement?

  4. FlyingRodent — on 29th December, 2009 at 2:35 pm  

    That all sounds very nice Rumbold, and I’m generally in agreement with libertarians on quite a few issues. I’m a fan of what works rather than what fits through an ideological hole, and I believe that government should only legislate if there are strong reasons for believing that government action will be beneficial.

    OTOH, I have two major problems with libertarianism, especially in its hysteric internet form. Mainly that’s because, historically, libertarians almost always side with the interests of “the individual” – by which they mean “the wealthy” rather than everyone. Look at their attitude to charities, if you want an example – they claim to only despise “fake charities,” but clearly hate the entire concept of charity itself.

    It would be entirely fair to reduce the blogging libertarian’s philosophy to a mortal dread that somebody, somewhere is nibbling on a hunk of government cheese at their expense. This does not bode well for anyone with an interest in equality.

    Secondly, the whole idea is a total electoral non-starter and an ideological car crash. Once you accept that government action can be for the general good – let’s use armies and police as an example – the idea that any further government action is like, totally totalitarian, man, is completely fucked. If taxing the public for basic healthcare coverage for the poorest is fine, why would say, workplace gender equality legislation and enforcement, be bad?

    What we have here is a tiny political sect that decrees its own idea of good governance wise and true, and decries all deviation as evil and like, TEH SOVIET UNIONS DUDE. The systems they hate include the very one that the vast majority of the electorate has voted for at every single election for the past sixty years. Attempting to overturn the basis of the British political system isn’t a fight against the political class or the evil Marxoid BBC – that’s a fight against reality.

    It’s a hopelessly muddled, unelectable movement that exists solely so that well-to-do white guys can shout EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE at each other on the internet. That’s not a political ideology – that’s playschool.

  5. Wibble — on 29th December, 2009 at 2:53 pm  

    What FlyRodent said.

    They’re basically the Alan B’stard party.

  6. MaidMarian — on 29th December, 2009 at 3:15 pm  

    I have said on here previously that one must distinguish between politics and government – it is this exact distinction that libertarians fail so spectacularly to understand.

    Not a good example perhaps, but George W Bush became president on a stance that has much in common with libertarian thinking. On leaving office he bequeathed the bailout state, a larger federal government than he inherited and military action all over the world. His politics were overtaken by government’s demands.

    It is fine to talk about, ‘a message of individualism: that a person doesn’t have to be defined by their religion or race; that ‘minority communities’ shouldn’t have spokesmen for their view.’ However that seems to assume that identity politics is primus inter pares. It may well be on the internet, but out in the real world government has to be about far more than such reductivism.

    What would a libertarian do about, say global warming? If a hurricane hit a major US city, what would a libertarian president do? What would a libertarian government do if a banking crisis threatened mortgages and businesses and savings? What would a libertarian government do about people possibly walking onto planes with explosives?

    I suspect that people in general terms may well talk a libertarian game but still demand that, ‘something must be done.’ Issues (with a capital I) do have politics and publics do have interests in Issues. Being a libertarian government does not soak those demands out of the real world.

    Libertarianism is nothing other than an ideology that wants the world to act as if it were as libertarians want, rather than as it actually is.

  7. Kulvinder — on 29th December, 2009 at 3:19 pm  

    If you can’t prove malice on the part of a particular libertarian personally, just point out that whatever freedom libertarians are advocating will have racist outcomes.

    I’m not a libertarian as such, come the revolution all your countries will dissolve away and anarchy shall rule, but still theres an overlap and as such i don’t mind commenting.

    The issue of malice aside*; Its perfectly possible infact highly probable that the freedom to employ who you wish without having to consider race or gender discrimination would result in a more segregated society and the impact of that policy would be percieved as a ‘more racist outcome’. Nepotism is already a factor in any business and it doesn’t take much imagination to think of a sikh business owner say refusing to employ ‘white people’ (for lack of a better term).

    The rationale for advocating such policies isn’t that people aren’t racist, after all equal opportunities legislation was explictly meant to make a more level playing field (ie it exists because people are racist), but that a state ordained and dictated policy doesn’t result in an actual reduction in racism rather its swept under the carpet.

    The fact I don’t discriminate against black people, muslims, women or the disabled because its illegal to do so doesn’t mean i think any more highly of them – it hasn’t affected my racism and revoking that legislation would result in a ‘racist outcome’ ie i wouldn’t employ them.

    My anarchist point of view isn’t so blind as to ignore the fact bigotry does exist and would result in more discrimination, but the reason i advocate it is because i don’t believe the government substantially affects those types of opinions and its preferable to confront bigotry in argument and leave the state out of it than have the state impose ‘equality’

    *Its only really an issue if you’re advocating small states, no welfare etc for broadly ‘social darwinist’ reasons

  8. Appealing of Ealing — on 29th December, 2009 at 3:32 pm  

    “I’m a libertarian and was attracted to Pickled Politics precisely because it preached”

    Yes, I noticed that too.

  9. Sunny — on 29th December, 2009 at 3:36 pm  

    Mate, this is Pickled Politics, where all libertarians are deemed to be racist crypto-Tories until proven otherwise

    When they’ve got people like yourself, DK and Old Holborn to represent them…

  10. Sunny — on 29th December, 2009 at 3:39 pm  

    Secondly, the whole idea is a total electoral non-starter and an ideological car crash. Once you accept that government action can be for the general good – let’s use armies and police as an example – the idea that any further government action is like, totally totalitarian, man, is completely fucked.

    This is exactly right and fundamental to the stupidity that the likes of Dan Hannan proposes.

    He claims even minimal interference by the govt (for example in providing a public option) means we’ll end up with socialism. Does he then suggest we should privatise national defence, police forces and all public works? Because even minor govt is dangerous right?

    I would really love to see these people take over the Tory party. They’ll kill it.

  11. MikeSC — on 29th December, 2009 at 4:14 pm  

    Libertarians aren’t even intellectually honest enough to actually believe that state interference is wrong, or else they wouldn’t be capitalists. The modern state is wrong to tax wealth, but the old theocracy was right to distribute natural resources among its cronies at the tip of a sword in the first place? Stupid people.

  12. MiriamBinder — on 29th December, 2009 at 7:13 pm  

    As a general frame of reference there is nothing wrong with the concept of Libertarianism nor do I see it as necessarily falling foul of communal living – in the sense that we all necessarily share services and facilities.

    I do think that it is possible to view the provision of anti-discrimination laws (whether race, gender or life style based) as actually promoting Libertarianism; it can be said that levelling the playing field by the provision of the afore mentioned or similar regulation/s will enable more individuals to become ‘individuals’.

    On the other hand, there is much to be said for a minimalist as opposed to an interventionist government; the latter being very much the type of government that we have had increasingly so since the onset of the two world wars certainly. Mainly because the more interventionist a government is, the more interventionist a government needs to become.

    I don’t think of myself as a Libertarian … I tend to hold that any society should be judged by the provision and care it has for its most vulnerable members. I think the main problem is that over the years our definition of who is ‘vulnerable’ has become rather meaningless in action.

  13. Trooper Thompson — on 29th December, 2009 at 7:24 pm  

    I was going to try and make a constructive comment, but reading through the comment thread, it hardly seems worth the effort, but what the hell…

    I will not write in defence of libertarians, but from my own libertarian point of view and counter some of the many attacks above.

    I am not against the state’s existence, but in favour of limited government. There are certain functions that are best performed by the state, and the state’s power should be limited to these things, and it should be written down in law so it’s clear. Otherwise the state keeps on growing.

    I do not like group identity politics because they are divisive, whereas individual liberty applies to everyone.

    I don’t hate charities. I give to a particular charity of my choosing, which I’m happy to do so, and consider it a personal duty. I do indeed hate fake charities, because they are funded by tax-payers who don’t have a choice in the matter. They often lobby the government for action in specific areas, and the relationship between the fake charities and their pay-masters is not transparent or particularly honest.

    George W Bush, like Reagan, got elected espousing small government conservative views, and then did the opposite. If you want an example of an American Republican libertarian, see Ron Paul. I am happy to stick up for him, but not a big-government fake conservative like Bush, who tripled government spending and violated the Constitution in many ways.

    As for libertarianism being an electoral non-starter, so is everything in this country that isn’t labour or conservative. That may change, who knows? The main parties have never been less popular. The coming election is likely to have a record low turn-out. Libertarians may be a small minority. So are labour party members. The Man Utd supporters club is probably bigger than the party membership of lib/lab/con.

    In any case, there is more to politics than the parties, and political action is not limited to elections. As for libertarianism being an ‘ideological car crash’, I don’t know what this means. A perfect ideology doesn’t exist. Even if a perfect system were put in place, it would surely go wrong, if not watched and maintained.

    Finally I believe part of the reason the left attacks libertarianism is because of its guilty conscience. I remember the ’80s, and how I used to think the tories were authoritarians. Labour have been far, far worse. One example; if the tories under Thatcher had tried to bring in an ID card, the left would have (rightly) attacked it, and called it every name under the sun. But now under labour, it’s a whole different story.

  14. Clay Barham — on 29th December, 2009 at 8:16 pm  

    SELF INTEREST OR SELF-CENTERED
    This is directed at those who admire and criticize Ayn Rand’s beliefs about people who stand on their own feet and live their inequalities. Most who criticize Rand say she promoted selfishness, thereby greed, which is self-centered and anti-individual creativity, therefore, anti-Rand. Rand admired the creative individual, such as James Jerome Hill, on whom she was reputed to have based her character Dabney Taggart in Atlas Shrugged. If we look at Howard Roark’s summation to the jury, from Fountainhead, we do not see a self-centered individual destroying his work. Were he greedy, he would have simply accepted his payment. We see a self-interested, other- and outer-centered individual in love with his own dreams and creations, as one would love a spouse, child or family and refuse to allow them to be assaulted. Though love for anything spiritual may be missing, a great idea or vision also measures up to that which is spiritual, and that view is not inconsistent with Christianity. Claysamerica.com.

  15. Rumbold — on 29th December, 2009 at 8:47 pm  

    Douglas – oops. Thanks for the correction.

    Guido:

    Mate, this is Pickled Politics, where all libertarians are deemed to be racist crypto-Tories until proven otherwise. Individualism? How is that compatible with a class war strategy / or “identity politics”?

    No they are not. I disagree with the class war strategy. However, the ‘identity politics’ post was different. Sunny wasn’t saying that people should be defined by one thing, merely that people have multiple identities which links them to various groups, and they will often use these links when deciding how to vote.

    Flying Rodent:

    OTOH, I have two major problems with libertarianism, especially in its hysteric internet form. Mainly that’s because, historically, libertarians almost always side with the interests of “the individual” – by which they mean “the wealthy” rather than everyone. Look at their attitude to charities, if you want an example – they claim to only despise “fake charities,” but clearly hate the entire concept of charity itself.

    On the point about charity, many don’t like is the idea of state-run charities. There are far too many libertarians (including DK) who would do away with state support and rely on private charity. While some, like DK, do so on the basis of hope (as opposed to cheapness), I don’t think it is practical.

    It would be entirely fair to reduce the blogging libertarian’s philosophy to a mortal dread that somebody, somewhere is nibbling on a hunk of government cheese at their expense. This does not bode well for anyone with an interest in equality.

    For negative libertarians, certainly, as they are libertarians because they don’t want to help anyone and don’t want anyone to bother them (see Old Holborn, etc.). For positive libertarians (like myself and DK), our dislike of the over-mighty state isn’t because it is spending our money (though that is a concern too), but that state interference in certain walks of life harms people, as it removes their incentives and freedoms. Again, there is plenty of debate about what this constitutes, but not all libertarians are anti the over mighty state for the same reasons.

  16. Rumbold — on 29th December, 2009 at 8:56 pm  

    MaidMarian:

    I suspect that people in general terms may well talk a libertarian game but still demand that, ’something must be done.’ Issues (with a capital I) do have politics and publics do have interests in Issues. Being a libertarian government does not soak those demands out of the real world.

    Libertarianism is nothing other than an ideology that wants the world to act as if it were as libertarians want, rather than as it actually is.

    I think libertarians can come across as a bit ideologically pure, but that’s only because of the way in which many see themselves. The Libertarian Party is both a political party and a pressure group- it hopes that other parties will steal its policies. Libertarians are political insurgents, in the sense their views are not espoused by any of the major parties, so they can afford to be this way.
    How would a libertarian government react to things like natural disasters? I don’t know. A libertarian government led by me would be concerned in general with helping the weakest in society, and leaving other people alone (for the most part). A different libertarian would have a different approach. I don’t know if the question could be answered when applied to any party/philosophy (for example, both the Democrats and Republicans were hopeless at dealing with the aftermath).

    MiriamBinder:

    On the other hand, there is much to be said for a minimalist as opposed to an interventionist government; the latter being very much the type of government that we have had increasingly so since the onset of the two world wars certainly. Mainly because the more interventionist a government is, the more interventionist a government needs to become.

    I don’t think of myself as a Libertarian … I tend to hold that any society should be judged by the provision and care it has for its most vulnerable members. I think the main problem is that over the years our definition of who is ‘vulnerable’ has become rather meaningless in action.

    That sums up my philosophy completely. I couldn’t have put it better myself (apart from the bit about not being a libertarian). Thank you. If it helps, you might try calling yourself a classical liberal. It’s much the same thing, but it seems to enrage people less.

  17. MiriamBinder — on 29th December, 2009 at 9:15 pm  

    Thanks … I in fact do tend to see myself mostly as a classical liberal.

  18. FlyingRodent — on 29th December, 2009 at 9:25 pm  

    @Rumbold: …many don’t like is the idea of state-run charities.

    Practically all of them seem to hate charity itself. See DK’s Randroid ramblings on the infantilising effects of altruism on its recipients; see Ol’ Holborn on aid to Africa. The former is ideologically committed to an unworkable ideal – the latter just plain hates everyone, especially do-gooders and poverty-stricken foreigners. If either’s fantasy politics were ever to carry the day worldwide, it’d be a cataclysm at the species level. It’s misanthropy raised to an artform, not a practical programme for the UK.

    @ Clay: Rand’s status as high priestess to right wing libertarians is a far more damning indictment of their wackadoodle politics than I could ever concoct.

    The hero of The Fountainhead destroys his life’s work in an epic hissy fit, because he can’t have everything his own way and the reader is supposed to sympathise with him; the story has to be jam-packed with envious, grasping socialist untermenschen to justify the Superman protagonist’s toddler temper tantrum. A perfect marriage of paranoid victim-whingeing and slighted entitlement; a masterwork of shitty prose, preachy dialogue and lunatic politics.

    If it were rewritten today, it’d be called The Fuckhead and Howard Roark would spend the novel bitching like a hungover drag queen about parking regulations. Utter, utter shite.

  19. Rumbold — on 29th December, 2009 at 9:32 pm  

    FlyingRodent:

    Old Holborn is a deeply unpleasant blogger. DK on the other hand is a great fan of charity, he just doesn’t think it should be state run. He and I had a debate here:

    http://www.devilskitchen.me.uk/2009/11/new-from-old-friendly-society.html

  20. MaidMarian — on 29th December, 2009 at 9:43 pm  

    Rumbold – ‘The Libertarian Party is both a political party and a pressure group- it hopes that other parties will steal its policies. Libertarians are political insurgents, in the sense their views are not espoused by any of the major parties, so they can afford to be this way.’

    Well, yes, but like the BNP they can do that because they will never be in the position of actually having to implement it and confront people with exactly what ‘minimal’ means. It is the difference between government and politics again.

    There are indeed some things that I would happily support. I, for example (and I think you disagree) believe that the government should not provide post offices but that is just not popular.

    I do agree with others that some ‘small staters’ have turned out to be anything but. Thatcher for instance was a great nationaliser in that she nationalised the hospitals, the unions, the councils, the universities and so on.

    But the point remains where the pressure group stops and the political party starts. It is easy to be the former, far harder to be the latter.

  21. Rumbold — on 29th December, 2009 at 9:51 pm  

    MaidMarian:

    But the point remains where the pressure group stops and the political party starts. It is easy to be the former, far harder to be the latter.

    I agree. Hopefully that bridge will one day be crossed. Take UKIP for example. They now have MEPs and stand in general elections, and their presence influences other parties, especially the Conservatives.

  22. MaidMarian — on 29th December, 2009 at 10:42 pm  

    Rumbold – Intersting exchange!

    My view has for a long time been that there are actually four main parties. There is an ‘old Labour’ a Blair/Brown Party, a Hesseltine/One Nation Party and a Thatcher/Neo-Con Party. UKIP is effectively the latter.

    Respect, if they had not slit their own wrists by aligning themselves with political islam could have been the ‘old labour’ party.

    The two main parties are unholy alliances formed by the FPTP electoral system’s demands. Now I am no fan of PR. In Germany we have parties that are separate but are aligned blocks – not realy an honest way of doing it.

    UKIP are interesting in that they are the closest I can think of to a group that acknowledges that politics is one thing but government is another and acts like it. I may think that they are vicious scum, but I respect them for their honesty.

  23. douglas clark — on 30th December, 2009 at 12:13 am  

    MaidMarian, @ 22

    You take an interesting, although, if I may say so, traditional view of British Politics. (Personally I’d see UKIP as the English Nationalist Party with SNP policies from around 1960 or so. Though they will not like that characterisation.)

    You do not seem to me to place the Greens, or the Nationalists onto your map. Where do you think they fit?

    Respect is an interesting example of a party that is trying to be all things to all people and spectacularly failing, I think.

  24. douglas clark — on 30th December, 2009 at 12:59 am  

    My, somewhat cynical, view of LPUK is that they are trying their very best to alienate everyone and spectacularly succeeding. The greater their success, the greater their failure. Indeed, if you even read an LPUK members blog they get quite irritated. I won’t make that mistake again. They will presumeably grow their numbers through mind control or summat. Internet osmosis, fuck knows.

    And that is exactly what we need from the new kid on the block, yet another band of masons, with secret handshakes and strange semi vertebrate hand signs. And the somewhat ridiculous idea – shared unfortunately by Zulus apparently – that the bullet will not hit if you just believe.

    This is a cult. I expect any minute now for someone to stand in my space and stare at me and challenge me. That is what cults do. And LPUK is a cult. Much like the brain dead morons that subscribe to scientology.

    No, exactly like them.

    There is a completely reasonable discussion to be had on the reach of the state. I subscribe to the classic liberal – thanks Rumbold – that a minimalist state is a good option.

    But that definition, in libertarian terms, always excludes any understanding of the third element – the elephant in the room. Which is the likely outcome of Libertarian bullshit.

    If we, you and I, give up the collective resposibility to write law, then we concede it to the very rich and the very corporate. For, let us not be mistaken here, there will be people that want to control us, and they will use whatever means necessary. Some of these people might have already usurped LPUK.

    That is a different world from the one DK predicates. But it is just as likely an outcome as the pathetically inept land of milk and honey he claims he would create.

    DK has a lot of explaining to do. I don’t think he has an idea worth the mentioning in his head.

    But there you go.

    I hope that wasn’t too rude for LPUK zombies.

  25. Shatterface — on 30th December, 2009 at 1:08 am  

    Libertarianism is not opposed to collective action, it supports the VOLUNTARY association of FREE individuals. It opposes a powerful State because such a state is coersive and because defines ‘individuality’ in terms of ‘individuation’: we are treated as individuals only in the bureaucratic sense that we are monitored and controlled by the aparatus of the State. It’s a hangover from theocratic rule where all ‘good’ was attributed to God, representing the State, yet we were individually responsible for our own sins.

    I’m sure there ARE libertarians on the right who see libertarianism as a flag of convenience for an ideology based entirely on a desire for tax cuts but there are an equal number of liberal or left-wing libertarians who define ‘individuality’ in terms of the freedom to fully develop their unique talents and to satisfy their unique needs rather than the ‘rugged individualism’ which sets one person against another.

  26. douglas clark — on 30th December, 2009 at 1:12 am  

    More to the point perhaps.

    Fucking hellski.

    is not likely to get you elected.

  27. douglas clark — on 30th December, 2009 at 1:31 am  

    Shatterface,

    I respect your knowledge of Libertarianism. I used to see myself as a fucking anarchist, and that makes Libertarians look like Liberals.

    My point, should you care to consider it, is that what you had to say:

    It’s a hangover from theocratic rule where all ‘good’ was attributed to God, representing the State, yet we were individually responsible for our own sins.

    is probably right.

    It is not what our legal system ought to be about, and indeed not what it is about. We have, AFAIK, reasonable rules about homosexuals, women and minorities. These are not views that the religious share. Well, fuck them, we are not a religious society.

    It is by no means perfect, I completely detest the idea that I am supposed to pretend that there isn’t a war going on, between the godly and the rest of us. But it is a difference I’d prefer to heal rather than alienate.

    This post has probably achieved nothing in that direction.

  28. FlyingRodent — on 30th December, 2009 at 1:45 am  

    Libertarianism is not opposed to collective action, it supports the VOLUNTARY association of FREE individuals.

    This is all well and good, but the simple truth is that British democracy in its current form has decades of qualified success that it can point to for validation: roads you can drive on, a relatively honest police force, hospitals that provide a decent standard of care to the entire population, bins that get emptied, a fire brigade that will cut you out of your car if you crashh, fairly clean streets free from gangs of AK-47 weilding nutters etc.

    Libertarianism has a lot of unelectable bloggers shouting about how education tokens and voluntary collectivism will shit free gold.

    The only reason we wind up having this endless and fairly pointless discussion is that there are a few thousand – at best – internet jokers who think that their politics are just super, plus a whole lot more angry torn-faced Tories with fuck-all to do on their lunchbreaks but read some blogs. That’s your libertarian movement in a nutshell – a few thousand comedians jamming a Pret a Manger chicken wrap down their necks while sitting at their desks.

    Now, I’ve heard the dogma in about a hundred different stripes, but it still amounts to Hey buddy, wanna buy a bridge? Come back when you can stand a candidate who can keep his deposit, and we’ll chat.

  29. Philip Hunt — on 30th December, 2009 at 5:03 am  

    @24: My, somewhat cynical, view of LPUK is that they are trying their very best to alienate everyone and spectacularly succeeding. [...] This is a cult.

    I have been described as a libertarian by others. I am more libertarian than at least 80% of the UK population, and probably more than 90%. Yet when I comment on an LPUK member’s blog, unless its to agree with everything they say, I generally get abuse.

    If they repel people like me, who are somewhat sympathetic to their ideological background, they have zero chance of succeeding.

  30. halima — on 30th December, 2009 at 8:50 am  

    I remember being at college and reading John Rawls, classic liberal you might say. But he has this example of a great basketball player who had the greatest inherent and natural talent for basketball. He wants to use his talent and win and make money. Life favoured him with talent. But then there are many people who haven’t been favoured by talent, and who, to all extent and purposes, if left to the laws of the jungle or the market, would struggle and not survive.

    Why should the basketball player subsidise earnings from his natural talent to support others?

    Isn’t that the crux of your political perspective?

    Libertarianism to me favours the status quo, even though it’s standing point is to vehemently and passionately defend the individual. We’ve never going to have a level playing field, and if we’re not, we may as well work from an imperfect world and try and improve it. Liberalism for me is one such way. By leaving everything at the mercy of the jungle and the market, we actually reinforce inequalities and inequity, which ultimately undermines individual freedom, I would’ve thought.

    I don’t see how you’ve managed to jump from libertarianism to ‘race’, identity and Pickled Politics. All the reasons you cite for writing on Pickled Politics are what Guardian readers would subscribe to, nothing new or different there. I quite agree with all of it, but I wouldn’t call me a libertarian.

    I had friends at college who liked the idea of being libertarian, because it somehow appealed to their rugged, unashamedly individual sense of being, much like some friends who were quite left wing and joined the socialist workers party who liked to flirt with inequality and the working-classes. But most of these friends have long gone and found jobs in banks or government circles – the places they used to ridicule.

  31. Rumbold — on 30th December, 2009 at 9:37 am  

    MaidMarian:

    Funnily enough, I was talking to Sunny a few months ago about the four party thesis, and I think that there is a real chance we could see a four party split in the next few years: old Labour (Labour and a few BNP), a soft left liberal alliance (Lib Dems, Greens and a bit of Labour), soft Conservatives (some Conservatives and Lib Dems) and UKIP/Conservatives (UKIP and the more socially conservative Tories).

    Douglas:

    My, somewhat cynical, view of LPUK is that they are trying their very best to alienate everyone and spectacularly succeeding.

    I don’t think that many libertarians have the ‘compromise and build coalitions’ mindset. That gives them the air of some sort of uncompromising group, but it really is just a sign of party political immaturity. As yet there is no incentive to compromise.

    If we, you and I, give up the collective resposibility to write law, then we concede it to the very rich and the very corporate. For, let us not be mistaken here, there will be people that want to control us, and they will use whatever means necessary. Some of these people might have already usurped LPUK.

    Libertarians don’t want to turn over law to the rich and powerful. We just want less of it. And a libertarian government would reduce the power of the big corporations, as the government wouldn’t be so corporatist.

  32. Rumbold — on 30th December, 2009 at 9:44 am  

    Halima:

    Why should the basketball player subsidise earnings from his natural talent to support others?

    Isn’t that the crux of your political perspective?

    No. I believe in progressive taxation and having a safety net for the weakest in society. What I don’t like the government doing is interfering in areas where it isn’t needed, and trying to micromanage my life. Take smoking for example. In the last year, I have been accosted several times by taxpayer-funded anti-smoking workers. Now I don’t smoke, but it really is none of their business. Government should concentrate on providing the essentials, and helping the weakest in society. I don;t want to turn on the TV to be lectured about healthy eating (at the cost of £500,000). I want rape victims to have access to support. I don’t want the government to fund propaganda dsiplays/festivals. I want the disabled to have decent lives. That’s what makes me a libertarian.

    I don’t see how you’ve managed to jump from libertarianism to ‘race’, identity and Pickled Politics. All the reasons you cite for writing on Pickled Politics are what Guardian readers would subscribe to, nothing new or different there. I quite agree with all of it, but I wouldn’t call me a libertarian.

    Because Pickled Politics eposuses a very individualist message (though obviously people other than libertarians can support it), which fits in with my philosophy.

  33. halima — on 30th December, 2009 at 10:15 am  

    Rumbold

    I still don’t see how your position is that different from lots of Guardian readers?

    Smoking is interesting one, though, causes lots of health problems in the longer-term and all citizens I believe can benefit from minimum healthcare. So I am guessing the state can have some reason to tell me to stop smoking in certain public spaces especially if children use this space etc etc etc. I am sure you’ve heard all the arguments about smoking.

    I don’t think your position is that different from many liberals actually – and really I am trying to get at the crux of the problem that is libertarianism and not you, of course. Liberals also want to see the state playing an enabling role where appropriate (access to justice system, access to essential services for groups that cannot otherwise access them etc).

    On festivals, I disagree, that’s a conservative line and they’ve been pushing to get rid of anti-racist festivals and Black History Month and what have you. There’s lots of reasons why you might celebrate diversity of arts – and one of them is to do with inclusiveness. Die-hard arts people would argue, there’s no politics in arts, but to me that’s a very high-brow view of arts, the arts I like is the one that breaks, disrupts, dis-joints our view of society, in other words, art should always be ahead of the game and contemporary sensibility. I am really enjoying Desperate Romantics btw in case it’s still showing in the UK.

    If you really want to sell libertarianism you have to answer that question about the talented basketball player? If you’re a true libertarian, you’d argue, Will (let’s call him Will) doesn’t have to really care what happens to other less talented basketball players. He was born with talent so why should he not do everything possible to benefit from this talent?

    Rawls would argue Will can do anything he likes, provided that a minimum level of benefits are available for the rest of Will’s basketball team, but there isn’t a limit to Will’s ability to make profits from his good fortune. Someone like JS Mill might also add, Will can do whatever he likes as long as he causes no harm to others.

    I like Pickled Politics, too, but perhaps it’s a board church and that’s why you, me and others feel comfortable with it.

  34. halima — on 30th December, 2009 at 10:18 am  

    “reducing the power of big corporations’

    Couldn’t agree more.

  35. MiriamBinder — on 30th December, 2009 at 10:45 am  

    Seems to me that the primary difference between Libertarianism and Liberalism is the placement of the demarcation between the public and the private sphere?

  36. douglas clark — on 30th December, 2009 at 12:06 pm  

    Rumbold,

    I do understand that Libertarians wish to reduce the stifling bureaucracy of the state. But it is very hard to see quite what kind of society we might actually build on this bonfire. The idea that mankind is perfectable has huge appeal but bears no relation to reality.

    Here is an interesting case study of the sort of society we might expect to see:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/dec/12/barclay-brothers-sark-democratic-election

    Applying a Libertarian philosophy to that, have the Barclay Brothers actually broken any of your precepts? I’d have thought not. Indeed, breaking down a feudal state could be seen as quite heroic.

    But it leaves rather a bad taste in the mouth does it not? Be careful what you wish for.

  37. Gareth — on 30th December, 2009 at 12:42 pm  

    Flying Rodent said: “This is all well and good, but the simple truth is that British democracy in its current form has decades of qualified success that it can point to for validation: roads you can drive on, a relatively honest police force, hospitals that provide a decent standard of care to the entire population, bins that get emptied, a fire brigade that will cut you out of your car if you crashh, fairly clean streets free from gangs of AK-47 weilding nutters etc.”

    We had those things before 1945 as well.

    I find your dislike of libertarians puzzling. It amounts to reading between the lines things that simply are not there.

    What would be wrong with people buying their healthcare from BUPA and contributing less to the NHS in return?(Fair’s fair, they would no longer be a burden on the NHS) Or buying education from a co-operative rather than the state?

    What would be wrong with local councils being co-operatives with a proper mechanism to opt-out from services? If I can find a company to empty my bins cheaper than the council should I pay twice for that privilege? If I find the council service dissatisfactory I cannot take my contribution elsewhere and they have no pressure to improve. This has been made far, far worse as councils have become increasingly reliant and compliant towards Westminster.

    The State abuses it’s monopoly. Competition in the provision of those kinds of services would drive prices down *for everyone* and would push investment towards more cost-effective solutions.

  38. MaidMarian — on 30th December, 2009 at 2:13 pm  

    douglas clark/Rumbold – Thank you for your replies.

    Douglas – My instinct (and that’s all it is) is that a ‘left of Labour’ party would probably pick off a few Greens and Nats. There would, of course, always be people outside of the ‘main’ parties and I should have been more explicit on that. The point is though that the unwieldy two coalitions we have seem to be making insurgency politics easier – look at the rise of minor parties since 1997.

    I had not thought of UKIP as the English Nationalists. UKIP are essentially neo-Thatcherites with a sop to identity politics so I do not think that the comparison is exact but I take the point.

    I certainly agree on Respect.

    Rumbold – Yes, but I don’t think that Labour’s left would in reality have more than a few Greens. Greens tend not to be big on old industry which would be the heart of a left of labour party.

    The interesting thing about your post is that it just shows how artificial the Lib Dems are. A four party model would probably seen them reduced to nothing as there would be less of a place for a party to exist as a repository for protest votes.

    While I am not at all a big fan of PR (it gives way too much power to small parties) the current two parties are ever more unwieldy artificial constructs that try to please all and satisfy none. FPTP is the reason we have this situation.

  39. halima — on 30th December, 2009 at 2:31 pm  

    Miriam Binder

    Others might have a better answer to your question.

    But I guess this distinction between private and public sphere is at the heart of western liberal philosophy. Maintaining this distinction seems to get us out of lots of intractable differences. You do what you do in your own home, but where public funds are concerned, it shall be for the greater good of the people…

    It’s also a big problem for political perspectives that don’t recognize a divide between private and public space.

    No, I think the real difference between liberals and libertarians is to do with the size of the welfare state – not the state itself.

  40. Rumbold — on 30th December, 2009 at 4:38 pm  

    Halima:

    Smoking is interesting one, though, causes lots of health problems in the longer-term and all citizens I believe can benefit from minimum healthcare. So I am guessing the state can have some reason to tell me to stop smoking in certain public spaces especially if children use this space etc etc etc. I am sure you’ve heard all the arguments about smoking.

    If adults want to so things to their bodies it is their own business. I have no problem banning smoking in places like schools, transportation and hospitals. When it comes to bars, pubs and the like though, it is my choice whether I go there or not, so if people want to smoke it should be up to the owners.

    I don’t think your position is that different from many liberals actually – and really I am trying to get at the crux of the problem that is libertarianism and not you, of course. Liberals also want to see the state playing an enabling role where appropriate (access to justice system, access to essential services for groups that cannot otherwise access them etc).

    Well I consider myself to be a liberal as well (the term in Britain hasn’t attracted the abuse/division that it has in America). And I don’t think that you are trying to have a go at me.

    On festivals, I disagree, that’s a conservative line and they’ve been pushing to get rid of anti-racist festivals and Black History Month and what have you. There’s lots of reasons why you might celebrate diversity of arts – and one of them is to do with inclusiveness. Die-hard arts people would argue, there’s no politics in arts, but to me that’s a very high-brow view of arts, the arts I like is the one that breaks, disrupts, dis-joints our view of society.

    I have nothing against any of the festivals or art mentioned. I just object to paying for them. If people wish to patronise art/festivals, then great. But in my view there isn’t a role for the state. If artists want to be cutting edge, then great. But again, why should I work to support their lifestyles?

    If you’re a true libertarian, you’d argue, Will (let’s call him Will) doesn’t have to really care what happens to other less talented basketball players. He was born with talent so why should he not do everything possible to benefit from this talent?

    Well, perhaps then I am not a pure/true libertarian. My views on using taxpayers’ money to help the weakest in society aren’t always widely shared. I would still broadly describe myself as a libertarian though: I support free markets, small governments, low taxes and help for the weakest in society.

  41. Rumbold — on 30th December, 2009 at 4:47 pm  

    Douglas:

    The idea that mankind is perfectable has huge appeal but bears no relation to reality.

    I don’t see them as perfectible. But I want to see a society where the ordinary citizen of average intelligence can understand and discuss the law and how it affects them. That is how to give people a stake in society.

    As for the Barclay brothers, what they did was morally wrong, but I am not sure how that situation would be different in a libertarian system. You can ban companies from sacking workers, and that’s about it, and the effect that will have to is to stop any multinational from ever employing anyone in Britain ever again.

    MaidMarian:

    I don’t think that Labour’s left would in reality have more than a few Greens. Greens tend not to be big on old industry which would be the heart of a left of labour party.

    Agreed. That’s why I think that they would be in the soft-left party. The Lib Dems are artificial, because the Liberals aren’t big enough a party to command significant support, so they need the socialist elements too. Labour will split, and we will have at least three parties in the next few years (with UKIP holding their noses for now).

  42. KJB — on 31st December, 2009 at 1:45 am  

    And more libertarians need to recognise that in order to have a society where people are treated as individuals and are free to be what they want, everyone needs to continue to undermine sexist and racist attitudes so that people are not held back by an inherent inequality.

    And their own, all-too-usual, role in perpetuating sexism and racism. Like, y’know, the reason that sometimes quotas come into existence is not because women/ethnic minorities are lazy bastards, but because it’s bloody hard to break through in some sectors, and that if these lead to less-capable-but-quota-filling people occupying positions, that this does not invalidate the reason for those quotas coming into existence in the first place (a reason which, in proper catch-22 style, is often not even considered!).

    I also agree with MM at #20 and can’t help wondering if it is precisely the ‘thing’ of being extremely ideologically different to other parties that stops libertarians really doing anything that might make them electable. I wonder how many of them would really be suited to being in power, given that many of the bloggertarians in particular seem to be slightly more intelligent versions of the sort of armchairists who type ‘ZanuLiebore’ and so forth… Though I do not by any means class all libs that way.

  43. Don — on 31st December, 2009 at 1:59 am  

    You can ban companies from sacking workers, and that’s about it, and the effect that will have to is to stop any multinational from ever employing anyone in Britain ever again.

    Really? I think that you can enact legislation that protects workers from arbitrary or punitive sacking without banning companies from managing their workforce. Well, I think you ought to try, but they find ways round it.

    You are over-stating your case, Rumbold.

  44. Sunny — on 31st December, 2009 at 2:24 am  

    FlyingRodent:

    Libertarianism has a lot of unelectable bloggers shouting about how education tokens and voluntary collectivism will shit free gold.

    The only reason we wind up having this endless and fairly pointless discussion is that there are a few thousand – at best – internet jokers who think that their politics are just super, plus a whole lot more angry torn-faced Tories with fuck-all to do on their lunchbreaks but read some blogs. That’s your libertarian movement in a nutshell – a few thousand comedians jamming a Pret a Manger chicken wrap down their necks while sitting at their desks.

    hahah! I’m going to print this out and hang it on my wall. Brilliant.

    In fact you know who this reminds me of? Bloody Chris Mounsey and Charlotte Gore.

  45. douglas clark — on 31st December, 2009 at 9:28 am  

    Rumbold,

    I was, perhaps, not stating my case clearly enough. Unless the gross inequalities of wealth are addressed then no-one can be truly free. (The Sark case is just an extreme example).

    For, otherwise, we can all be bought and sold and democracy itself is undermined. I doubt that that idea finds much traction in a Libertarian philosophy.

  46. halima — on 31st December, 2009 at 9:58 am  

    Rumbold

    Thanks for taking the time to reply :)

  47. Rumbold — on 31st December, 2009 at 11:38 am  

    KJB:

    I’ve always found quotas very problematic, because how do you define and where do you stop? Do you base it on race, religion, gender, income, class, etc? If you decide what you base it on, what statistics do you use? Do you insist, for example, that London firms have around 8% non-whites, despite the high proportion of non-whites in the capital? What about a firm that is based in a very white southern county? What I would like to see is more emphasis on education pre-university, especially for girls.

    Don:

    Yes, Perhaps I didn’t explain myself too well. WHat I menat was that companies (and governments) are always going to be able to sack workers, under any system.

    Douglas:

    Wealth inequality isn’t bad in itself. If Bill Gates moved to Britain you and I wouldn’t lose out, especially as some of his money would be subject to British tax. MOst libertarians get angry about the corporatist state, so while a libertarian government wouldn’t reduce the income of large companies, it would limit the access they enjoyed to polticians and the law.

    Halima:

    My pleausure.

  48. douglas clark — on 31st December, 2009 at 12:14 pm  

    Rumbold,

    This is interesting.

    You say:

    Wealth inequality isn’t bad in itself.

    Well, taking Bill Gates (or indeed Warren Buffet) as exemplars certainly boosts your case. For both are in the process of giving most of their wealth away.

    Is there any evidence that Kings and Queens gave away their wealth? If there is, I am unaware of it.

    We tend to remember the millionaires and billionaires that have been charitable, and so we should. They are, however the exceptions rather than the rule.

    There is absolutely no guarantee, or even expectation that the super rich will act in anything other than their own self interest, and there are lots of examples of cases when they do exactly that. The Highland Clearances come to mind and right up to the present day with the Board of Directors of Trafigura.

    The slave trade was also a commercial rather than a governmental enterprise. One mans’ profit is another mans tragedy.

    Manummission was achieved, not through individual conscience but by government action.

  49. Rumbold — on 31st December, 2009 at 4:07 pm  

    Douglas:

    There is absolutely no guarantee, or even expectation that the super rich will act in anything other than their own self interest, and there are lots of examples of cases when they do exactly that.

    But once again, that’s not bad for society per se. Say a billionare opens a new factory in Hull because he has spotted an opportunity to sell a new product. That is pure greed, but he is also employing hundreds of people, which we would regard as a good thing.

    What we need are laws and the enforcement of said laws to stop things like Trafigura and the slave trade happening. Nothing more.

  50. douglas clark — on 31st December, 2009 at 4:22 pm  

    Och, Rumbold, we are at opposite ends of a point of view here.

    I am saying that, if your billionaire came to Hull and opened a factory, all well and good. If he then tried to buy the MP, perhaps because everyone in Hull worked for him, not so good.

    What we need are laws and the enforcement of said laws to stop things like Trafigura and the slave trade happening.

    And that is what you cannot get with wealth inequality.

    “It’s the rich what get the pleasure, it’s the poor what get the blame, it’s the same the whole world over, isn’t it a fucking shame.”

    If it were a level playing field, well it wouldn’t be so much of an issue, but it ain’t. and you’d really have to incorporate rules that made it verbotten.

    Anyway, away over to the hootenany that is Sunnys’ thread about the evil triplets. The father Staines, the son Dale and the holy ghost. Whoever he is…

    And a Happy New Year to you and yours!

    P.S. Sorry about the delay in sending you that book. After the PO’s re-open it will be winging it’s way to you.

  51. Shahzad Alikhan — on 31st December, 2009 at 4:24 pm  

    What’s the “libertarian” take on healthcare? From what I’ve read it sounds totally shitty and an absolute dog’s dinner of a nightmare of a joke, dreamed up by deluded idiots.

  52. Rumbold — on 31st December, 2009 at 4:36 pm  

    Douglas:

    If he then tried to buy the MP, perhaps because everyone in Hull worked for him, not so good.

    Of course. I don’t think any libertarian would endorse that (not that Prescott’s decisions would be any worse if he was bribed). That’s why libertarians would support laws that prohibit bribery.

    And that is what you cannot get with wealth inequality.

    Yes, you can.

    And a Happy New Year to you and yours!

    P.S. Sorry about the delay in sending you that book. After the PO’s re-open it will be winging it’s way to you.

    And happy hogmanny to you too Douglas. I look forawrd to receiving the book.

    Shahzad Alikhan:

    I can’t speak for other libertarians, as there are a range of opnions, but I like the idea of an NHS.

  53. douglas clark — on 31st December, 2009 at 4:41 pm  

    Dr Shahzad Alikhan @ 51,

    Good point. It seems to me to be the worst of an ignorant belief in ‘freedom’ being a tad more important that ‘life’.

    But there you go…..

  54. douglas clark — on 31st December, 2009 at 5:14 pm  

    Rumbold,

    You know where this is going to end up, don’t you?

    We are not going to agree.

    Which is cool.

    So, let us continue, if you wish.

    ————————————————

    What is libertarianism about? Is it allegedly about an almost “do what you wilt, but do no harm to others” philosophy, and I use that word advisedly.

    I’d have thought that that describes pretty neatly modern Liberalism.

    But no constraints are imposed, are they?

    So.

    How about “do what you wilt, and that is all of the law”?

    Now that is nearer the core of libertarianism.

    Seriously, how does that address inequality?

    “I am an immigrant and I have a gun, or a disease, fuck off and die”

    The USA 1492 ’till now.

    You cannot, in fact you do not, reject the state completely. But you are all living in a US sit-com from the 1950′s, that you sitting there pretending that your comfort wasn’t built on an invasion, a personal biological war.

    ————————————————

    Me: “And that is what you cannot get with wealth inequality.”

    You: “Yes, you can.”

    Well sir, explain how.

    It seems to me at least that your lot are willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Frankly, I don’t really see you as a Libertarian Rumbold.

    I’d, quite bravely, or as my older self said, stupidly, argue that anarchy was the way to go. It has it’s own internal consistency, but it does not match to the planet we inhabit. And neither does Libertarianism.

    But, there is a light that shines out of you that contradicts any political disagreement.

    And that I admire about you more than our political haverings.

  55. Rumbold — on 31st December, 2009 at 5:48 pm  

    Douglas:

    What is libertarianism about? Is it allegedly about an almost “do what you wilt, but do no harm to others” philosophy, and I use that word advisedly.

    I’d have thought that that describes pretty neatly modern Liberalism.

    But no constraints are imposed, are they?

    Well yes, that does sum up libertarianism quite well. The focus is on the freedom of the individual, subject to the provision that said freedom is not used to infringe another’s.

    You cannot, in fact you do not, reject the state completely. But you are all living in a US sit-com from the 1950’s, that you sitting there pretending that your comfort wasn’t built on an invasion, a personal biological war.

    I’m not sure I follow you…

    It seems to me at least that your lot are willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Frankly, I don’t really see you as a Libertarian Rumbold.

    My views to wealth can be summed up thus: I find very wealthy people who don’t use their fortunes to help others to be immoral. But I also recognise that society benefits from the generation of wealth (though not all the time), nor would I interfere with them unless they are harming others.

    I’d, quite bravely, or as my older self said, stupidly, argue that anarchy was the way to go. It has it’s own internal consistency, but it does not match to the planet we inhabit. And neither does Libertarianism.

    I agree that you can’t just use a theory to make sure everything works well. I am actually very suspcious of theories that claim so. Libertarianism describes my borad poltiical philosophy, the idea that people benefit in general from more freedom and less interference by the state. It does not account, nor attempt to account, for all situations.

    But, there is a light that shines out of you that contradicts any political disagreement.

    And that I admire about you more than our political haverings.

    That’s very kind of you Douglas. I’m happy that I can say the same.

  56. douglas clark — on 31st December, 2009 at 6:11 pm  

    Rumblod,

    I’ll give you this, and it is interminably sad:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFCekeoSTwg

    Listen to it to the end.

    That is what we expect of our soldiers, that they should loose their legs, or worse.

    For goodness sake, you are the historian around here.

    The battles that we have fought, were for glory or our death. Or victory. We are very very keen on victory are we not?

    Or, so that it could appear in the ‘London Times’?

    We were, and are, self serving idiots.

  57. Rumbold — on 31st December, 2009 at 9:43 pm  

    Douglas:

    We were, and are, self serving idiots.

    Sadly, that is sometimes correct.

    It’s goodnight from me, and a happy new year to everyone, even Lee John ‘national liberation’ Barnes.

  58. douglas clark — on 31st December, 2009 at 10:06 pm  

    Rumbold,

    You know what my arguement is.

    You also know I have complete respect for you.

    You and I have argued exactly the same thing, pro the Iraq and Kurdish Womens Rights Organisation, pro their financing.

    You are not someone that would deny that.

    We are not daft.

    This is just silly:

    We were, and are, self serving idiots.

    Sadly, that is sometimes correct.

    For that is incorrect. You are far better than that.

  59. KB Player — on 1st January, 2010 at 3:00 pm  

    FR@8

    It’s a bit late for this comment now but I thought reading Rand was purely an American thing. She’s huge in the USA but I thought she was barely known in the UK.

  60. Don — on 1st January, 2010 at 5:40 pm  

    No, I think if one reads one is familiar with Rand, even in the UK. We just don’t take her seriously. For me, seeing Rand cited is a bit like seeing a commentor using the word ‘sheeple’. You know what you’re dealing with.

  61. KJB — on 1st January, 2010 at 7:42 pm  

    Don – Can I nominate your post on Rand for the win, please?

  62. Optimistic Cynic — on 3rd January, 2010 at 1:35 pm  

    MaidMarian,

    Not a good example perhaps, but George W Bush became president on a stance that has much in common with libertarian thinking. On leaving office he bequeathed the bailout state, a larger federal government than he inherited and military action all over the world. His politics were overtaken by government’s demands.

    Just because Bush is a Republican and supposedly “on the right” doesn’t mean he is a libertarian. His platform wasn’t particularly libertarian. The Republican party was once the party of small government but it’s mostly run by neocons who are more about preserving their elite position, racism, religion and “family values”. Bush’s tax cuts were irresponsible (there was no spending cut to go with them) and he did nothing to address what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were up to. Palin is similar.

    A libertarian response to the failure of banks would have been to have told those bankers what their rights are with regards to seeing where they could get unemployment assistance. I find it amazing that people blame the banks for getting bailed out when the fault resides with the government who acted. Blame the government, not the banks.

    The tea party protests that took place happened because people didn’t turn to the Republican party because the Republicans no longer were perceived as the party of individual responsibility.

  63. Devil's Kitchen — on 4th January, 2010 at 2:32 am  

    There is too much to address here—not least possibly the most massive strawmen that I have ever seen from Flying Rodent—but I’d just like to set the record straight on my views of charity.

    There are far too many libertarians (including DK) who would do away with state support and rely on private charity. While some, like DK, do so on the basis of hope (as opposed to cheapness), I don’t think it is practical.

    And I do think it is practical which is, in the end, only a difference of our personal opinions.

    As I have said, I believe that the majority of people could be insured against hardship through voluntary membership of a Friendly Society. In this way, the majority of people who work would have an insurance fund to see them through the occasional stutters in their careers—in other words, it will actually be an insurance fund, rather than (as National Insurance is) a colossal Ponzi scheme. (Nor would they be left to the… ah… tender mercies of the big corporates.)

    In the absence of Friendly Society membership—and historically, remember, parents often paid extra into the Society in order to ensure that their children started off covered—then private charity would have to cover.

    (Even now, charity and private insurance is vastly cheaper than government redistribution: at the median wage level, private insurance for pension, unemployment and health cover is less than half what National Insurance is.)

    For private charity to work, people have to be willing to give: further, they need to be able to understand that the charity is actually doing the work that they profess to do.

    The reason that I am against “fake charities” is because they suck in funds and revenues that, increasingly, starve the small, local charities. Further, charity is about voluntary giving: extorting money from people and then piling ten of millions into your favoured charities of the day is not exactly transparent, and there’s nothing voluntary in it.

    Moreover, it distracts charities from their original intentions: they want the funds—because, apart from anything else, high levels of taxation are squeezing the voluntary giving—but, to get those funds, the charities have to leap through government hoops to get them.

    Because of this, their motives become distorted: the reasons that the charity was set up for become skewed more and more towards what the government of the day is interested in.

    None of this is particularly complicated, really.

    DK

  64. Rumbold — on 4th January, 2010 at 11:37 am  

    Devil’s Kitchen:

    If I thought your scheme would work, I would support it. I’m not ideologically opposed to it, I just don’t think it would be practical. Those around the better off would get the necessary support, while (some of) the weakest in society would not.

  65. douglas clark — on 4th January, 2010 at 12:46 pm  

    What with the unexpected success of the Libertarian Party UK nearly a decade ago, the PM walked – it was impossible to drive – down Pall Mall. To the left and to the right were magnificent Art Galleries and Museums endowed by the great and the good. The streets themselves were however somewhat woebegone, as charity – which as we all know starts at home – did not seem to extend to streets between houses. Nor indeed to sanitation or sewerage, if the overwhelming stink was anything to go by.

    His security guards all looked somewhat nervous as shots rang out up and down the street. As bodies fell it became apparent that the right to bear arms had been, perhaps, a policy too far.

    Anyway, enough of that. With the complete breakdown of integrated telecommunications after the blogwars, only proclamation was left.

    He stood in Trafalgar Square and spoke through a megaphone:

    “And today, I declare, Year Zero!”

    —————————————

    There is a balance to be achieved between private affluence and public squalor, and without a mechanism to maintain it, who knows?

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