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.


Anonymous Martin said...

Well, we do have many anarchist members, and although I am not amongst them, I do see the need to accept them as part of the party.

I've been told this anarchist/minarchist distinction is a problem for libertarians of any kind, but I don't see it as a problem at all...

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hopefully this issue will divide and destroy the party

1:41 PM  

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