Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Something amuses me about the Libertarin Party of the UK, and this is how organisers in it repeatedly insist that it is a minarchist party. For instance, see this recent news release, which says, in the notes for the editor, "The Libertarian Party UK is a minarchist party." Likewise, party leader Ian Parker-Joseph insists that this minarchism is an official party position here:

The Libertarian Party places itself firmly in the centre ground, it is neither left nor right, despite what our detractors may attempt to tell you. Nor is it in extreme so Laissez faire that it sees no role for Government.

LPUK is a Minarchist party, it does see that Government must in some areas be there for the well-being of the nation, but that does not mean constant interference or continual control of people and events, it means reducing interference or coercion and de-coupling Government from big business.

Here is Ian Parker-Joseph again, insisting on the minarchist position:

The Libertarian Party is not anarchist in nature, it is Minarchist. We will propose policies that are both prudent and acceptable to the public whilst giving Liberty to the people away from state control wherever possible in the shortest time frame.

I mention these things, though, because the Libertarian Party UK business cards you get sent when you join the party do not suggest a minarchist position. These business cards seem to present the LPUK credo, taken from the second paragraph of this introductory piece:

Libertarians believe in individual liberty, personal responsibility, and freedom from government—on all issues at all times. We don't say government is too big in one area, but then in another area push for a law to force people to do what we want. We believe in individual liberty, personal responsibility, and freedom from government—on all issues at all times.

Now, this is not a minarchist position. It seems plainly to be anarchist, allowing no role for government whatsoever!

But there is no reason as to why the LPUK should pretend to only be a party for minarchists, and not for libertarians who are anarchists. There is a weird paranoiac presumption amongst officers that if libertarian is an anarchist then they will reject any policy to role back any amount of government unless it roles back all governmnet immediately right now. This is plainly a strawman position: Anarchism is prefectly comprehensible as a view on where we ought to end up. Logically, less government is a step on the way to no government, so why would any anarchist oppose moves towards less government?

If the UKPL wanted a more clearly minarchist motto, but still one that did not exclude anarchists, they could copy the Free State Project, who's members pledge to agree to the statement "that government exists at most to protect people's rights, and should neither provide for people nor punish them for activities that interfere with no one else." An anarchist could say that this is the most a government shoul exist to do, and preferably it should do much, much less, namely not exist. And yet it allows for minarchists who want government to have this job.

Meanwhile, on anarchism, here is a great discussion that actually aired on PBS, US public broadcasting:

It has prompted discussion over on the mises.org blogs to which my contribution was

Mike C says that he believes that "that society needs a final arbiter in certain area," and for this reason he rejects anarchism in favour of minarchism. I'm not sure where the argument is, though. What is this thing called "society," who is in it, and who is not, and why? Why does society need a final arbiter, rather than disputing parties need it? Why should everybody in a society have the same final arbiter? And if there is no reason why they should not, then how have you established a case for minarchy? If you and I have a final arbiter of our disputes, and you and your neighbour a different one, you a) have a final arbiter for disputes, and b) lack a monopoly over final decision making in society, and so a government.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Who's this handsome chap

I am a movie star! BTW, I am wearing a black T-shirt in the film, which means that when my arms are down by my sides it appears I have very broad shoulders. I am a large chap, but not as large as the film makes me seem! (The camera adds 10lbs, as we all know!)

My points on road ownership were vague, so I will briefly explain them: in residential areas most road users are residents, or guests of residents; in retail areas most road users are business owners, staff, or customers; in industrial areas most road users are business owners or staff. If a private company owned the roads through residential, retail or industrial areas, people are unlikely to want to buy or rent a house on that road if they think they may be trapped in their house by a road company willing to enforce trespass laws, or if they will be charged an enormous price whenever they drive to leave their drive ways. For this reason road owners, who want people to live along their roads so that they have business, will be likely to grant access rights, discount prices, or even free access. But in that case most users of roads in residential areas will have a discount or free access, most road users in retail areas will have a discount or free access, etc. This reduces the availability for profits that firms could earn for providing roads in these areas may not be great, and so their incentive to provide and maintain such roads might be harmed.

One possibility, though, is that instead resident groups own and maintain roads in their areas. One way this could be arranged is that these resident groups persuade or pay people in the neighbourhood to include in the deeds of sale of their homes an agreement to join or contribute to the association for the purposes of maintaining the roads. That way anybody who moves into the community voluntarily agrees to pay for the upkeep of the roads and other public goods. In that case roads, and so much of the land in the neighbourhood, will be collectively owned by the people who live there... much like in an anarchist communist commune. So anarchist-communist-like-arrangements will likely to occur to some extent in an "anarcho-capitalist" framework.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Hypocritical War on Some Drugs

Originally witten for publication in the letter pages of my local rag, Nottingham's Evening Post. Needless to say they never published it! So, I posted it at The Bastard where I am also blogging under a psuedonym. Points for anybody who knows who Henry Seymour was without checking on wikipedia!

I read with amusement your report (Evening Post Sept 17th, p6) of three arrests after drugs were found... in a pub! A pub is, of course, a place where sale and consumption of drugs is normal practice - the only difference being that alcohol and tobacco and caffeine are legal drugs. Nothing else could the hypocrisy of the state's "war on drugs" better than arresting people for having illegal drugs in a place where legal drugs are regularly sold and consumed! Or should that be the "war on some drugs"?

This War on Drugs is a war that has provided the government with an ever greater pretext for invading the liberty of the British people, and yet seems to be a war with very few victories. If the goal of the War on Drugs is to reduce drug use then it has been an abject failure. In 1955 The Times reported that there were only 317 addicts to "manufactured" drugs in the whole of Britain, and that only 15% were dependent on heroin. That is a national total of just 47.5 heroin addicts! Yet after more than 50 and billions of taxpayers' pounds, this year the Serious Organised Crime Agency reported that there are 74,000 "problem drug users" in London - one person in every 100 people has a drug problem in the capital - and an estimated million users of cocaine alone in the whole country. The War on Drugs has not reduced drug usage, and therefore not reduced drug dealing, then. On the contrary, these things occur more than ever, So criminalisation has been a total failure.

As a Libertarian I believe that adults should be at liberty to do as they choose with their persons and property, or that of consenting others - the only legitimate role that the government has, if any at all, is to protect this liberty by enforcing laws against force, fraud and theft. It is not the government's job to prosecute people for crimes in which the only victim is the criminal himself, so the Libertarian Party would decriminalise drugs so they can be provided on the same basis as alcohol now is. Before labelling this policy ridiculous, let me leave you with a thought on Nottingham's recent history: This year, over the May bank holiday weekend, a father of two was shot dead in an Alley in the Lace Market. The victim was identified (Evening Post 26th of May) as Bernard Langton, 27. According to Hoods author Carl Fellstrom, criminal gangs seem to think of pubs and clubs in the Lace Market almost as their own offices. Bernard Langton, Fellstrom tells us in Nottingham Magazine LeftLion, was originally from Liverpool, but moved to Nottingham "some years ago where he had become involved in the highly profitable distribution of drugs across the city." Sometime in the first couple of hours of the 26th of May he entered a club. A fight broke out. Gunshots rang out. The gun men pursued him down the Lace market streets, and shot him in the back.

The relevance of this? Well, just ask yourselves, would Gangs be using Lace Market pubs and clubs as offices, would Bernard Langton have been lying, dying in an alley at two in the morning, would his children be orphans, if becoming "involved in the highly profitable distribution of drugs across the city" meant getting a job on the counters at Boots, a company that was selling heroin legally in the early years of the last century?

Minarchy Considered

I have a peer reviewed academic publication in Libertarian Papers available online now. The editor, Stephan Kinsella, has called my piece "a thorough and withering analysis of defects of minarchist theories" and it was passed to Kinsella and Libertarian Papers with a recommendation after I sent a draft of it to none less than Walter Block. Here is the abstract:

Abstract: Whilst some defenders of the minimal, limited state or government hold that the state is "a necessary evil," others would consider that this claim that the state is evil concedes too much ground to anarchists. In this article I intend to discuss the views of some who believe that government is a good thing, and their arguments for supporting this position. My main conclusions will be that, in each case, the proponents of a minimal state, or "minarchy," fail to justify as much as what they call government, and so fail to oppose anarchism, or absences of what they call government.

One of the people discussed in the paper is Objectivist writer Harry Binswanger, a follower of Ayn Rand. I first came across his arguments against anarchism a few years ago on the Libertarian Alliance Forum. I wrote a fairly long (for a forum post) and detail response. The then director of the LA, Chris R. Tame, responded to my response suggesting I expand it into an article, saying that such "epistemic defenses of anarchism" were essential. Being chronically lazy, I did not get around to it, and then Chris died. Well, now I suppose I could say I have developed those points against Binswanger, much much more widely, and I wish I had dedicated the article to Chris' memory.

Migrant Blunder

Here is a letter published in my local paper, Nottingham's Evening Post

I was saddened to read (Evening Post, August 6th) of the Pakistani worker deported by immigration authorities on July 27. In this country we are rightly concerned about immigrants who come here to get a free ride or abuse our welfare state.

However, in this case, we have a person who has come here and made an effort, not to go on welfare, but to support himself by benefiting others through his work – after all, somebody must have thought his work was worth paying for, voluntarily, with their own property.

Immigrants who come here to join our work force benefit us, and this aggressive clamp own on peaceful economic migrants makes us poorer.

RICHARD GARNER Libertarian Party (East Midlands), Sneinton

The letter is reproduced on the paper's website, and if you follow the link, you'll see I got some responses. They generally all seem to be of the type expressed by "William, WB," who wrote

More immigrant workers =

more competition for jobs and wage cuts for British workers if they want to keep their jobs. Great for big business! This is fact and is why the mainstream media are always telling us that immigration is such a good thing. Talk to workers in construction and many other industries and you'll find out what's really happening. And the Labour traitors promote this policy and say there'll be no end to immigration! The left-wing union leaders are no better.

That's why the mass media and Labour are so hostile to the BNP. They know the BNP are the only party who will put an end to mass immigration and cut off the endless supply of cheap labour that holds down the wages of British workers. That's if they are left with jobs at all.

My own response to these comments was

There is a nutty fallacy around that there is only a fixed amount of work, so that if one person gets a job, that means that there are fewer jobs left for everybody else. This is competely false. Competition for jobs will increase, sure, perhaps reducing wages again, so sure again. And these reduced wages will entice new employers, driving competition for work up again. Meanwhile money that employers save by hiring cheaper workers is money that they must either spend on products of others, increasing demand for those products, and so for demand for workers to supply them; or that they must invest in their own business, thereby increasing output relative to demand, so causing prices to fall, and also increasing employment oppottunities in that business; or they must invest it in somebody else's business, with the same results there. Meanwhile, the increased immigrants mean increased demand for goods and services, and so increased demand for workers to provide them. Just as obliging British workers to compete with cheap machines hasn't caused mass unemployment or falling wages for British workers, neither does obliging them to compete with cheap foreign workers.

Sure, this person was here illegally... But he harmed nobody, violated the rights of nobody, his immigration had no victims, and he benefitted others. Actions that do not violate rights or harm others should not be illegal, and people should not be arrested or punished for them.

Debate ended there, so I must have won!