Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I don't care about consumers of books

Must be true. After all...

"Providing healthcare shouldn't be about making a profit; it should be about caring for people."

I help provide books to readers for a profit. So presumably I don't care for readers of books. Or...

Can you say "false dichotomy?"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

More On Guns

In response to my last post on guns Matt Wardman made an interesting response:

It seems to me that you have the wrong end of the statistical stick, and your argument is specious.

The original proposition you question:

However the connection between liberal gun laws and a high gun crime rate is very questionable.

The final conclusion you draw:

There is, therefore, little evidence from the US supporting a correlation between high rates of gun ownership and high murder rates.

You have refuted a different proposition from the one you claim to countering. You have switched from "gun murder rates" to "overall murder rates" at some point. No one asserted that there was a correlation between liberal gun laws and high OVERALL crime rates.

Looking at your stats, and using the rates for GUN crime - not overall crime - as these are the ones you set out to address, your argument proves the original assertion you set out to question.

I actually suspect Matt's criticisms are on target: The stats I used did switch from gun crime and gun murder rates to murder in general. However, I suspect his conclusion is false. The stats I was able to find from a quick google search suggested that the percentage of murders that are committed with a gun is lower in heavily armed states than in states where the populace is less well armed.

The percentage of the population who own guns in the least heavily armed states are Hawaii 8.7%, New Jersey 12.3%, Massachusetts 12.6%, Rhode Island 12.8%.

The percentage of murders by gun in Hawaii is 43.5 %. In New Jersey it is 61 %. In Massachusets its 47.4%. In Rhode Island its 63.4%.

The four most heavily armed states the ones where the perecentage of population owning guns is highest, is Wyoming, at 59.7%, Alaska, at 57.8%, Montana 57.7%, South Dakota 56.6%.

The percentage of murders committed with a gun in Wyoming is 40%. In Alaska it is 52.9%, in Montana it is 50%, in South Dakota its 33%.

The average rate of gun ownership in four least heavily armed states is 11.6% The average murder rate in the four least heavily armed states is 3.025 people in 100,000. The average percent of the murders that is committed by gun in these least heavily armed states is 53.825%

The average rate of gun ownership in the most heavily armed states is 57.95%. The average murder rate in the most heavily armed states is 3.325 people in 100,000. The average percentage of these murders that is committed by gun is 43.975%.

So you are only very slightly more likely to be murdered in one of the states where gun ownership is most widespread than you are in one of the states where it is least widespread, but you are much less likely to be killed with a gun in states where gun ownership is most widespread than you are in states where gun ownership is least widespread.

Moreover, the figures I have used have been percentage of homicides committed by gun, not percentage of murders. Homicides can include lawful killings. This would make the actual percentage of murders committed by guns even lower. On top of this, I only had figures on gun-caused homicides for the states, not districts. I have no doubt that stats for DC would tip things even further in favour of gun ownership.

Source, in addition to my article source.

As cream for the pudding, here's this story, with the accompanying video:

A guy with a gun caught career burglar in his house. Being armed, he was able to detain the criminal until the police arrived. had he not been armed, the criminals could have got away... or worse. What is the lesson?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Drew Carey Solving LA's Traffic Problems





Monday, October 15, 2007

State Capitalism and Burma

Amongst opponents of free market economies, some of the most under handed are those who pretend to be the exemplars of capitalist economies: The large corporations. When people speak of laissez faire, it is usual that opponents will point to the actions of various large corporations to "prove" that laissez faire cannot work. Likewise, "vulgar libertarians" that should know better correctly use economic theory against their critics to refute claims that the free market wouldn't work, but then seem to be persuaded by their critics that "actual existing capitalism" is laissez faire.

The reality is, of course, very different: Both the "vulgar libertarians" and the "vulgar authoritarians" are incorrect - the status quo is not libertarian, is not free market, and is not capitalst. Some countries more closely approximate free markets than others, and do so in some respects and not others, but none does so very much, and many does so barely at all.

It is often in third world countries that both the vulgar authoritarianism and vulgar libertarianism come into play. Socialists point out the plight of workers in sweatshops as "proof" that markets can't help workers, and laissez faire only grants employers the power to exploit workers, and that, instead, international effort is justified to force governments to intervene in economies to enforce minimum working standards and wages. Vulgar libertarians then respond that, in a free market workers earn according to their marginal productivity, and so attempts to raise their incomes above the price the market will pay will result in pricing them out of the market, into even worse black market conditions, or starvation... therefore the low wages experienced in the thirld world are justified, and a necessary stage in the development of the industrialised countries.

The trouble with the libertarian response is that, whilst correct in many places, it is not universally true, and it is untrue precisely because the libertarian response assumes that the socialist critic is correct and that what is happening in the world is the result of free markets. Often, however, it is definitely not. And the vulgar authoritarian is wrong to assume that corporations favour laissez faire when the reality is that they all to often favour state intervention when it serves their purposes.

The most pertinent example in today's news is Burma. Burma, or Myanmar, has been in the news recently where mass protests have been shaking the streets of the capital Rangoon.

About 20,000 protesters led by Buddhist monks and nuns on Sunday mounted the largest anti-government protest in Myanmar since a failed 1988 democratic uprising, shouting support for detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At one point a small crowd of about 400 -- about half of them monks -- split off from the main demonstration and tried unsuccessfully to approach the home where Suu Kyi is under house arrest. The monks carried a large yellow banner that read: "Love and kindness must win over everything.

The support of the monks was key in the protests.

In our country the monks are the highest moral authority. When the monks take the leading role, the people will follow," said Soe Aung, a spokesman for the National Council of the Union of Burma, a coalition of opposition groups based in neighboring Thailand.

So what does this have to do with state capitalism? The answer is here: "The protests began on Aug. 19 as a movement against economic hardship, after the government sharply raised fuel prices, increasing the overall cost of living."

So, again, "what has this got to do with state capitalism"? Why aren't these just more socialists calling for state intervention to provide for people when the market fails? Because it is the rising fuel prices that was the trigger for the protests, and it is in the fuel prices that the hand of the corporate state is most evident:

Fueling the military junta that has ruled for decades are Burma's natural-gas reserves, controlled by the Burmese regime in partnership with the U.S. multinational oil giant Chevron, the French oil company Total and a Thai oil firm. Offshore natural-gas facilities deliver their extracted gas to Thailand through Burma's Yadana pipeline. The pipeline was built with slave labor, forced into servitude by the Burmese military.

The original pipeline partner, Unocal, was sued by EarthRights International for the use of slave labor. As soon as the suit was settled out of court, Chevron bought Unocal.

Chevron's role in propping up the brutal regime in Burma is clear. According to Marco Simons, U.S. legal director at EarthRights International: "Sanctions haven't worked because gas is the lifeline of the regime. Before Yadana went online, Burma's regime was facing severe shortages of currency. It's really Yadana and gas projects that kept the military regime afloat to buy arms and ammunition and pay its soldiers."

The U.S. government has had sanctions in place against Burma since 1997. A loophole exists, though, for companies grandfathered in. Unocal's exemption from the Burmese sanctions has been passed on to its new owner, Chevron.

Rice served on the Chevron board of directors for a decade. She even had a Chevron oil tanker named after her. While she served on the board, Chevron was sued for involvement in the killing of non-violent protesters in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. As in Burma, Nigerians suffer political repression and pollution where oil and gas are extracted, and live in dire poverty. The protests in Burma were actually triggered by a government-imposed increase in fuel prices.

In addition to oil and fuel, however. 16 percent of all of Burma's exports go to the US. Most of these are apparel, clothing etc. exports of which greatly increased during the 1990s, growing 272 percent since 1995. 80 percent of all exported apparel from Burma goes to the US, bought by companies such as Adidas, Kohl’s, Warner Bros., Bugle Boy, Jordache, and Nautica, a consortium of low-cost-clothing providers.

Note, however, in the above quote, the mention of forced labour. This reminded me of an interesting article in Journal of Libertarian Studies a while ago. Ellennita Meutze Hellmer restated the typical free market economic argument against critics of sweatshop labour, against those that demand that companies improve working conditions and wages in poorer parts of the world (an excellent summary of the argument, in fact, well worth reading). However, she then says

Given these points, many observers —especially libertarians— tend to view the actions of such student organizations as USAS as actions arising from an ignorance of basic economics (e.g., Block 2000). However, it is not necessarily correct to entirely dismiss the sense of injustice felt by these groups. Although these organizations may be misguided in only attacking the wages paid by corporations, the claims of injustice are not always fictitious, not by a long shot. In some countries, such as Burma/Myanmar, workers are forced by the state to work in miserable manufacturing jobs for powerful multinational corporations (The Economist 2000; Amnesty International 2004).

Hence it is wrong for both vulgar authoritarians to point to the plight of Burma's sweatshop workers as proof that laissez faire free's employers to exploit workers, and it is wrong for vulgar libertarians to try to use free market economic theory to defend the low incomes and poor working conditions of those workers. As Hellmer went on,

a number of other grassroots organizations, including the Free Burma Coalition, Global Exchange, and the Campaign for Labor Rights, have campaigned in the past to use the force of the state to end the importation of apparel made in Burma. Generally, reasons for concern cited are the usual anti-sweatshop rhetoric, most notably contempt for corporate profits. For example, a study by the National Labor Committee (NLC) concerning the source of NBA hooded sweatshirts manufactured in Burma reports that garment workers’ wages are as low as 7 cents per hour, and that the workers in Burma are paid just 4 cents for each NBA hooded sweatshirt they
sew; their wages add up to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the NBA’s $60 retail price for the garment.

Sadly, however, the NLC and most other organizations miss the linchpin in an attack on the Burmese system of manufacturing. Mentioned (very briefly) in this report is the fact that merely questioning factory conditions can result in imprisonment. This last fact is reasonably well-documented but tragically far from the ony individual
liberties violation that is a way of life in Burma. However, it is brushed over by an organization that claims to care for international labor rights. The truth is that the military regime of Burma abducts its own citizens and forces them to work in factories owned by multinational corporations. Often, the laborers are political dissidents or petty thieves, but the criminality requirement is a mere formality.
Many innocent people, as well, are forced to work in the factories as well, bringing the number of slaves to a total of 800,000 (The Economist 2000). These forced laborers toil all day in dangerous and disease-ridden conditions under the gaze of armed guards. Often, they are chained together for months at a time. Those who refuse to work are beaten; thousands are raped or killed (Amnesty International 2004). The U.S. and the international community have imposed sanctions on Burma, but the regime and the state-dominated economy continue to thrive.

In this case, it is clear that many of the economic objections made by free-market defenders do not apply. The condition of slavery prevents many of the workers from pursuing better jobs, even when manufacturers move to the country to take advantage of the cheap labor. According to capitalist theory, the high profits made by corporations that manufacture their clothes in less-economically developed nations attract more entrepreneurs who want to further increase their profits, and these new entrants into the Burmese manufacturing market then have to bid up wages in order to entice workers to work for them. However, this logic only applies when workers are free to choose which jobs to work and receive the benefit of their productivity in the form of wages, which is not always the case in Burma. Here, the government is often paid by the multinational firms in order to utilize the labor of the prisoners. In such a situation the bidding up of the price of labor does not affect the incentives of the prisoner-workers. Rather, correct economic reasoning suggests that the politicians would respond to the increased demand for their cheap workers by raising the price that they (the government) charge for the labor. The upward movement in prices in turn provides the ruling classes with an incentive to enslave even more workers, ceteris paribus. As long as this upward movement in the price of labor allows corporations to maximize profit, they will continue to locate manufacturing in this nation, and this will lead, in a truly vicious circle, to still more enslavement of the population and little increase in
the standard of living for the impoverished worker.

In the light of this, government responses to the protests can be seen to be benefiting the corporate allies of the Burmese state. And those responses have been harsh:

In the pre-dawn hours Wednesday, military vehicles were patrolling the streets using loudspeakers to blast the warning: "We have photographs. We are going to make arrests!"

Shari Villarosa, the acting U.S. ambassador in Burma, told The Associated Press that military police were pulling people from their homes in the middle of the night and citizens of Burma's largest city were terrified.

"From what we understand, military police ... are travelling around the city in the middle of the night, going into homes and picking up people," she said.

CTV's Paul Workman, reporting from neighbouring Thailand since journalists are now banned from entering the country, said several young monks had made the escape across the border, telling horrific stories of the violent crackdown.

"They witnessed of course people being beaten up and arrested and had come across the border for safety, although they say they do want to go back," Workman told CTV Newsnet.

"But they had certainly come because they wanted to get out of Burma for at least a period of time and were being given some refuge in that part of Thailand."


A SENIOR Burmese intelligence official claims thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle.

After defecting from the military junta and fleeing to the Thai border, Hla Win told a reporter from London's Daily Mail: "Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand."

The horrific details emerged as Burma's top general continued to snub the UN's peace envoy, who is in Rangoon on a mission to convey the world's outrage to the junta.

With protests quashed and many monasteries empty, fears are growing for those who have disappeared into Burma's grim jails.

Observers say many detainees have been taken to the city's notorious Insein prison, the Government Technological Institute, the police battalion number seven compound, the Kyaikkasan racetrack and possibly elsewhere...

A Swedish diplomat told the Daily Mail of more reports that monks had been tortured and killed in large numbers.

"We were informed from one of the largest embassies in Burma that 40 monks in the Insein prison were beaten to death today and subsequently burned," the diplomat said.

At least there will be more cheap slaves for multinational corporations then!

The proper libertarian position on this sort of thing is plain, and it is not the vulgar libertarian apologetics for the exploitation of the Burmese. As Brad Spangler has put it:

What you might not be aware of is that oil companies Chevron and Total are business partners with the Burmese state. These enterprises are complicit in propping up a tyrannical regime. Agorists recognize that, like most of the corporate dominated “white market” economy, the source of their wealth is not really production and exchange but subsidies, sweetheart deals and generally cozy relationships with the bandit gangs more commonly referred to as “governments”...

Chevron and Total are complicit in the atrocities in Burma via their relationship with the Burmese government. This constitutes an active disregard for the rights of the Burmese, rather than the merely apathetic passive disregard of the average person who feels to overwhelmed with the challenges of day to day life to pay attention to such things and is not directly involved in the first place. Chevron and Total, by means of their business partnership with the Burmese government ARE involved.

It is my opinion that this active disregard rises to a level sufficient to nullify corporate property claims, at the very least until such time as Chevron and Total sever all ties with the Burmese government.

Brad concludes from this that "If I were on a jury, as a matter of moral conscience I could not vote to convict anyone of a property crime involving purported property of Chevron or Total — from petty shoplifting through multi-billion dollar embezzlement and including destruction of property where no egregious risk to others was created by the destructive act." I'm personally not certain that this would be appropriate: The petty theif and shoplifter stealing from Chevron or Total is not a victim of them. Rather, I suggest it would be much more appropriate for the workers, the slaves that the Burmese state forced, in exchange for bribes, to work for these companies and others, to rise up and seize those companies for themselves. They built them, after all.

In the meantime, we might be able to use our purchasing power, or, rather, non-purchasing power to punish those companies supporting the Burmese military Junta with a boycott.

Friday, October 12, 2007

More on Anarchism and selling out: Hayek on the role of libertarian anarchism:

Whilst constructing my previous entry I was reminded of a quote from Hayek. Hayek's point, I think, was that libertarianism (he, and Friedman, said liberalism), in order to become successful they should learn from the socialists. Socialism has been all too successful (don't believe me, look at Marx's 10 "short term goals" in the Communist Manifesto, scroll down, and see how many are in place, or check out the appendix in Friedman's Free to Choose where he shows how much a 1930's platform for the Communist Party is already in place by 1980). Hayek suggests that a reason for this is that whilst, via the Fabians and the like, socialists have accepted pragmatic and gradual reform, socialists have also been able to hold up a vision of utopia, a reason to get excited about the project, a future socialist-communist society. Inspired by this, Hayek wrote

We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a programme which seems neither a mere defence of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions), which is not too severely practical and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible… Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our livliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. But if we can regain that belief in power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.
(Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, p194)

It could be the case that anarcho-capitalism serves this purpose.

Does Britain Need a Libertarian Party?

I’m going to be controversial. Controversial for a British libertarian, that is. Whilst the generally accepted view, insofar as there is a generally accepted view, in the Libertarian Alliance, is that Britain does not need a Libertarian Party, I will answer the above question in the affirmative. As I see it, there are a number of problems that generally cause British libertarians to be sceptical of the merits of a Libertarian Party of Britain. These include, but are not limited to, the disaster of the Libertarian Party of the United States, the acceptability of voting for radical libertarianism, and then the concerns that libertarianism is too radical to stand a chance at winning support, or that libertarians will have to “sell out” in order to win support.

One response to a number of objections would be to explore what a Libertarian party would be for, what purpose it would serve. Critics of the suggestion worry that, like the US LP, it would stand no chance of electoral success without drastically watering down policy recommendations. On the concern of watering down policy recommendations, I shall return to this later, but on the lack of electoral success, that issue maybe misjudges what a Libertarian Party should be for. In my opinion, the primary end that would be served by establishing a UK LP and campaigning in elections is not electoral success, but publicity. Campaigning and running in elections allows Libertarians to gain publicity, and allows libertarian critiques of existing government publicity to reach a wider forum. So, in the end, it doesn’t matter that the LP will not be winning seats in local or central government. What matters is that libertarianism, and the libertarian outlook will be reaching a wider audience.

Brian Doherty, in his recent history of the movement, observes, only from an American context, that British libertarian pessimism is justified, as “What the government takes, what it presumes it can regulate, has been getting larger, not smaller.” Couple this with the developing hegemony of personal helplessness and irresponsibility, reflected in an increasing acceptance of a nanny state that controls our health and choice “for own good” because it is increasingly accepted that we can’t do it ourselves. I am reminded of John Hurt’s words towards the end of the film V for Vendetta, as his dictator character faces an impending anarchist uprising. Hurt’s character says,

What we need now is a clear message to the people of this country. This message must be read in every newspaper, heard on every radio, seen on every television…. I want this country to realise that we stand on the edge of oblivion; I want every man, woman and child to understand how close we are to chaos; I want everyone to remember WHY THEY NEED US!

The word’s of Hurt’s character are the words of a dictator who realises that his last chance of retaining power lies in inculcating and building the fears of the public and then convincing them that salvation lies in the arms of the state. The scenario is frighteningly close to home, as our own government is feeding off a “State of fear,” with obesity crises coupled with “size zero” anorexia pandemics, coupled with passive smoking, global warming and environmental destruction, terror over fatty foods, even willingness to accept alcohol prohibition. The message is “read in every newspaper, heard on every radio, seen on every television,” that in every aspect of our lives there is a looming crisis that can only be solved by our benevolent rulers.

A pessimistic outlook indeed. Given the level of ruling class propaganda, especially distributed at the hands of the openly biased state propaganda engine that is the BBC, any efforts that libertarians can take to publicise our views should be seized, but beyond this, being able to put convictions into practice is needed. One thing is plain: We cannot rely on the Cameroon party now masquerading as modern Conservatism. This is a guy who refused to even consider a fairly reasonable program of tax cuts, advocates green taxes, flip flops on fighting the growing EU “evil empire” and thinks crime should be fought by “hugging hoodies”! There is absolutely no hope for libertarianism from the Tories who want to continue Blair’s terrible legacy. Of course, there is always UKIP, but what why would libertarians who complain about a Libertarian Party lack of electoral success then turn to UKIP?

I suggest that people seeking alternatives to the politics of the status quo are disenfranchised by mainstream politics. There is an entire position that goes entirely unrepresented, a more or less libertarian position that I suspect is held by some people out there, and this unrepresented position provides us with a target we can aim at to market libertarianism, to market the idea that life isn’t a perpetual crisis that can only be solved by an ever growing government. Doherty asks us to picture a person. This person has a rough, vague idea that people ought to be free to do as they choose so long as they don’t harm others, embraces a tolerant, live-and-let live world view. This is also a person that grew up after the fall of the Berlin wall, and so knows that central economic planning leads to “an ugly situation, a poor decrepit mess that people are willing to risk being shot to escape,” and so to an appreciation for the market economy. Such an economic position may endear him to the Republicans in a US context, or Conservatives in the UK.

However, our person is a young adult, and doesn’t want to push people around in affairs he believes are their business, and none of his. He doesn’t want to lock people up for what they smoke, or see people treated differently under the law because they are gay. On top of this, he may also he may also oppose Republicans for their bellicose foreign policy.

So here we have a liberal, tolerant person, opposed, at least loosely, to an interventionist foreign policy, and in favour, at least loosely, of free markets. So where do we place him? It is reasonable to place him amongst libertarians, at least insofar as they are summarised by the slogan, “socially liberal, fiscally conservative.” Doherty continues

So what are you? You may start thinking of yourself as a libertarian. Even in right-wing circles, libertarianism has maintained a mostly admirable cred that pivots between edgy and geeky. Libertarians do enjoy their badboy reputation, especially among conservative ranks, for taking this personal liberty thing as far as it can go. As an old movement joke goes, “you libertarians are the types that would allow fornication in public parks!” “What do you mean, public parks?”

But this hypothetical young libertarian may think that certain regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and the Justice Department’s antitrust division, ought to exist, even if they are overly active and not always overly smart. Just as those who remained true to liberal principles of the nineteenth century had to change their name to adjust to changing fashions in the meaning of the term “liberal,” so might libertarians of the Rothbard variety have to reconstitute themselves as “classical libertarians” in the twentieth century.

Excuse the lengthy quotation, but this hypothetical young libertarian is our target audience, and yes these people exist, even in the UK. This is not a libertarian who will be persuaded immediately (though eventually, I hope) of the virtues of anarcho-capitalism. Launching into immediate accounts of how all taxes should be abolished and how police, courts, and laws can be provided, like any other service, better by the free market will simply put them off. These anarchist views are views you and I may hold, but will just turn our target off. This is not a fellow who may be turned on to libertarianism when given a copy of Rothbard’s For a New Liberty, but may be inspired by watching or reading Rose and Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose. And, of course, a proposal to enact Free to Choose may not turn you and I on as much as a proposal to enact For a New Liberty… but Free to Choose stands a far better chance of being enacted, and would it really be that bad? (ii)

But does this constitute selling out? No, it does not. I am a Rothbardian, and would like to see the complete abolition of the state, in all its forms. But Rothbard himself advised (iii) against letting the perfect become the enemy of the good. He differentiated between two positions that would harm the cause of liberty - left wing deviancy, and right wing deviancy. The right wing deviants are those that hold to an extreme gradualism. They have their program for destatisation, and want it accomplished in that order. In clinging to that particular order - first abolish X, then Y, then Z, the right wing deviant ends up becoming an apologist for Y and Z until after X has been abolished - a statist, as it were. In the end, they also, in trying to play the pragmatist, in actual fact fail to be the realist. Pessimism for libertarians in today’s climate is realistic - chances at reducing the size of government will be few and far between. Therefore any chance should be seized at reducing government. Frankly someone who rejects any of these few and far between chances at reducing government simply because abolishing that program or department doesn’t fit with his preferred schedule is, frankly, a traitor to the cause.

But, on the other hand, we have the left wing deviants. These are the guys that reject a five percent tax cut because it is not a one hundred percent tax cut. They are the guys that let the better become the enemy of the good. Rothbard suggested that there is a better strategy for us: Remind everybody that what we want is the total abolition of the state, complete security for person and property, and that any reduction offered us just doesn’t go far enough, damnit… but accept the reduction anyway. Never turn down a tax cut, but never let people think that it is enough. Anarcho-capitalism serves a purpose. A Canadian individualist anarchist, Larry Gambone, once suggested that we could look at the issue using the analogy of a labour dispute. You are a union rep, going to the bosses. You want a ten percent pay rise. So you demand a twenty percent pay rise. You then, appearing to struggle, let the bosses bargain you down to the rise that you were perfectly happy accepting in the first place. This doesn’t mean that you would not have preferred a twenty percent rise, but acknowledges that you are happy with a ten percent rise. Likewise, demand anarchy, and we can let the statists bargain us down to a night-watchmen state - and we have won a victory.

Radicalism still has its place, then. But talk of anarcho-capitalism will turn our libertarian looking for a home away. No state is better than less state, but less state is better than what we have now - so radicals would be betraying the cause if they turn down less state.

So, in conclusion, I think that there is a case for saying that Britain needs a Libertarian Party. Having a Libertarian Party would provide publicity for libertarian ideas. It would bring to wider attention libertarian critiques of the status quo, and libertarian alternatives. The argument that libertarians don’t stand a chance of electoral success falls flat, because the primary purpose of such a party would be to use the electoral process to promote libertarianism, not to win power. The complaint that libertarianism is too radical to be a realistic alternative fails because, and the argument that libertarians must abandon radicalism if they hope to win power, both fail, because a radical vision can be sustained whilst moderate achievements are called for and achieved. And there is hope for a Libertarian Party because there is a disenfranchised constituency for moderate attempts to reduce state power.


James Bartholomew, The Welfare State We’re In, 2004, Politico’s Publishing, Great Britain

Brian Doherty, Radicals for Capitalism: A freewheeling history of the modern American libertarian movement, 2007, Public Affairs/Perseus books Group, USA

Murray N. Rothbard, For a new Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, 1996, Fox and Wilkes,
(i) Doherty, 2007 p574, and pp585-586

(ii) I even have a policy recommendation. Our moderate libertarian without a home is likely, like Friedman, not to want to end complete assistance to the poor by the state, out of tax revenue. But does that put him beyond hope? Of course not. We just face him with this question: Why have state hospitals or state health care? Ignoring the important and valid question of whether taxation is theft or not, crucial to talk of "socialised health care" is the question of nationalisation of providers, and having the state build and fund hospitals, and allow their use, free at the point of access? Why is this needed, if at all?

The most obvious answer that people would tend to come out with is "well, how could poor people afford hospital stays and treatment if the state didn't fund hospitals and allow free treatment?" However, this means that providing hospitals is a form of redistribution, taxing the rich and giving to the poor, only giving to the poor in the form of available hospital coverage if they need it. If this is the case, then, the actual redistributionist answer is no answer at all - since state provision of hospitals is not necessary for such redistribution to occur. The state could simply tax the rich and either give the poor hospital vouchers backed by the tax revenues, or divide the revenue and pass it out in cash form on the basis of how poor the recipient is. The redistribution would be accomplished without the need for state run free hospitals - they could be commercial enterprises, competing with each other, and the poor would simply back their own funds up with the vouchers or the cash given to them by the state, spending it at the hospital of their choice, or on the insurance policy by the insurance company of their choice.

So why have state hospitals?

The advantage of the above scenario is that you can have a complete free market in health care, with just about any method of provision, from for profit corporations, to consumer’s co-ops, friendly societies, even some Kropotkinist communal system, providing health care. Consumers of health care can chose the service they prefer, orthodox or holistic, whatever. There could be a functioning price system, responding to changes in supply and demand, to co-ordinate provision, and competition to keep quality up and prices down - and yet the rich are still taxed to pay for the poor. Such a policy may even be politically attractive. How many people would prefer to use some other institution than that provided by the state if they could afford to do so? An answer to that may be shown from simply looking at how many people presently pay twice for their health care and add private services to their consumption. In 1955 only 1.2 percent of the population went to the expense of buying private medical insurance. Five years later 1.9 percent did. For every five years interval, the proportion of the population 'paying twice' significantly increased until 1990, when it reached 11.6. It did not increase over the next decade may lead people to assume that a plateau had been reached, but that isn't true: There were other ways that people were resorting to private-sector health care. Company health insurance plans kept increasing the numbers covered in the 1990s. James Bartholomew writes,

Some people have more than one plan so we must be careful of double counting. But the Family Resources Survey of 1989/90 showed that the proportion of the population with insurance or a cash plan or both had reached 19 per cent. If the trend has continued to the present, one in five of the population now finds the service offered by the NHS so 'incomplete' that they feel must take out some form of private insurance.

On top of that, as insurance has become more expensive, partly due to unfavourable tax treatment, people have turned instead to direct payment - or 'self-pay' - for medical services. Between 1992 and 2002 the proportion of self-pay treatments in independent hospitals jumped from 13 percent to between 22.5 and 25%.

If that is a good indication, it means as much as 5 per cent of the population self-pay and a full quarter now use private medical care for some or all of hospital treatment.

Considering how expensive it is to 'pay twice', this is a damning indictment - by the customers themselves - of the NHS.
(Bartholomew2004, pp114-5)

We could scrap the NHS, give back half the money spent on it in tax cuts, and use the other half to hand out regular cash payments, maybe proportional to income, maybe not (concessions to egalitarians are politically attractive). The sheer number of people abandoning the NHS or supplementing it with private services proves that there are likely to be huge numbers of people out there who would prefer to go private if they could afford, it, and so giving them their taxes back to spend on health care they prefer would afford them the chance.

Moderate, realistic, and reduces government. That is how libertarian policies could be.

(iii) Rothbard, 1996 (1978, 1973), chapter 15 “A Strategy for Liberty.”