Monday, August 09, 2010

Milton Friedman on Donahue

Yesterday I enjoyed watching these two programs, so I thought I'd share them with you, my readers. The first is from 1979, just before Friedman's TV show of Free to Choose was released; the second is from 1980, just after the book form had been published.

Amongst the things I like are Friedman's continued points that he has no interest in protecting any industry, of business in that industry: If they go broke as a result of deregulation, good! And, related to this, are his demonstrations that regulatory bodies, even if set up with good intentions, become run by the industries they are meant to regulate so as to provide such protection, against the interests of the public.

Further to this is Friedman's scuppering his conservative credentials by whole heartedly supporting the decriminalisation, not just of marijuana, but of heroin. I also liked his argument that safety regulation in car manufacturing has made cars less safe, by raising the costs, and so price of cars, meaning people keep hold of old cars longer.

The things I don't like are his intellectual sleight of hand over military spending. Donahue is quite right to say that Friedman should apply his skepticism of big government to the military, too - and Friedman, of course, is one reason why the US no longer has the draft. Friedman employs a trick to argue that military spending has gone down, whilst also showing, but not admitting, the opposite: It has gone down in relative terms; that is, it has fallen as a proportion of government spending, but since government spending across the board has risen, the fact that some bits have risen faster than military spending does not show that military spending has fallen.

The second bit I don't like is his claim that government is a kind of group through which we (US citizens) work together to get done the things we cannot get done on our own. First off, Friedman knows that the alternative to government doing something is not each individual doing things for themselves - he is, after all, a champion of the free enterprise systme, through which people specialise in the tasks in which they have a comparative advantage, in the expectation that others else will be specialising in the things the first want done, and trade the surpluses, usually by means of a medium of exchange. Friedman himself has said that the free enterprise [i]is[/i] a means by which people mutually co-operate to satisfy their respective needs.

Secondly, Friedman seems to be contradicting himself: Since he has a wider notion of "doing things ourselves" than each individual working for himself, but instead includes voluntary trade, and voluntary co-operation in this, it seems odd to suggest that people form governments to do the sorts of things that they cannot do themselves. The reason is that, if this were the case, there would be no need for governments: If people couldn't dop something themselves, but could get together to form an organisation to do so, and would have an incentive to do so, then this is what they would do. Instead of relying on government to do that thing, they would do it themselves, through these organisations. But since a broader, more plausible notion of "doing things ourselves" that Friedman would likely agree with would include these organisations, Friedman would presumably say that "things we cannot do for ourselves" includes things that these organisations couldn't do. But in that case he seems to be characterising governments as being precisely the type of organisations - organisations through which we get together to do the things we cannot do by ourselves - he says we could not form!

Government is not a club that people got together to create so that they could work together and accomplish things they could not do for themselves. Government is not a club or union. This is not how governments we formed - historically, every state, everywhere and always, had its origins in conquest, in one party imposing its rule on a vanquished foe. And it is not how government have proceeded since then: they have always proceeded by one side using government as institutionalised violence to force the other to their will, usually with the intent of exploiting them economically. In fact, related to this is Friedman's annoying faith in democracy - he points out that regulatory bodies are run by and for the industries they regulate, that government is run for the corporations like Chrysler, and he is fully aware that this is because special interests, like those in big business, have more incentive to try to influence government than the general public, and that government has more incentive to resond to their pressure than that of the general public. But he still seems to characterise the government as something in which we all have as much a say as each other, and that we can, ultimately, have control over. On the contrary, it is because government is not like this that we should allow it as little influence in our lives as possible.

The case for such a position, of course, is what Friedman expertly provides in these programs.

Milton Friedman on Phil Donahue, 1979

Milton Friedman on Phil Donahue, 1980

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Equality of Opportunity

On the Liberal Youth forum I attempted to launch an interesting discussion on equality of opportunity, which I will reproduce here. It is interesting, since the more libertarian inclined liberals are wont to say that they are away of the moral strength of the idea that if person A works harder in a more valuable job than person B, then it is right that A is rewarded more than B, and so reject some crude egalitarianism. They suggest that they compromise by favouring "equality of opportunity" over "equality of outcome": Give everybody an equal opportunity, and then permit whatever inequalities arise out of people pursuing those opportunities as they choose.

A conservative poster, Snuggles, said to a Lib Dem, Sam G, that "Frankly it always comes down to equality of opportunity vs equality of outcome and you are normally on the opportunity side of the debate with us." Sam G, for his part, agreed: "Very true snuggles, and I still am. I realise that I am probably very hard to place in the political spectrum, simply because I have not quite found my spot, which I fully accept. However, if you'll accept it, I don't believe the Conservatives have any wish to promote a level playing field. We presently live in a world that isn't level at all, equal opportunities are growing but no where near anything that could actually be described as potential for all. It would take an active government to create this, one I don't see from the present, which saddens me and was the attempted message of my post. Just my thoughts on the matter, I'm sure you'd disagree."

However, I took issue with the stated aim of creating "equality of opportunity."

Does equality of opportunity make much sense, either? Asking from a philosophical perspective that is, I mean, just what does the phrase "equal opportunity" mean? When are opportunities equal? When everybody has the same opportunity to do the same things?

Beyond that, why is it desirable? Suppose that the number of opportunities I could have could be increased, but without increasing the number of opportunities available to anybody else. Doing so would clearly upset equality of opportunity, but that would mean that maintaining equality of opportunity would mean preventing me from having more opportunities than I otherwise could have.

But then again, that takes us back to just what it means for opportunities to be equal. This thought occurs to me precisely because I realised that I may not care if the number of opportunities available to me is prevented from increasing, because I might not value having those opportunities highly. Gaining the opportunity to eat gooseberry crumble, for instance, would rank pretty low for me right now, because I don't like gooseberries that much (of course, if I am starving in a desert, this opportunity may be worth more). So, when we "equalise opportunity" are we trying to ensure that everybody has the same number of opportunities? Or are we trying to ensure that everybody has equally valuable opportunities? And must they be precisely the same opportunities, so that, for instance, either if I have an opportunity to work for a pizza company, you should have an opportunity to work for the same pizza company? Or for a different pizza company - there should be a pizza company everybody has an opportunity to work for?

Equality of opportunity sounds like a nice compromise, but answering the "equality of what" problem in political philosophy does not answer the question of why egalitarianism is attractive at all.

My chum Ziggy felt he could provide and answer to my question "Asking from a philosophical perspective that is, I mean, just what does the phrase 'equal opportunity' mean?" He said "Well it means you don't bar people from taking advantage of the opportunities to better one's life provided by society etc." But when I responded, "Why is that "equality of opportunity"? Where does the equality bit come in?" he said

Being of the libertarian mindset you’re yet again being all absolutist

When people talk about equality of opportunity they’re talking about greater opportunity & striving towards a situation where all in society have an equal opportunity.

Now its unlikely there will ever be a society where all have equal opportunity but its no bad thing to strive towards all having a greater opportunity.

On the claim that I was being, in some way, "absolutist" I wasn't at all sure what he meant, and told him so.

When Ziggy said "When people talk about equality of opportunity they’re talking about greater opportunity & striving towards a situation where all in society have an equal opportunity," I responded

Are these the same things? They sound like they might even, in some cases, be mutually exclusive. You haven't actually addressed a single part of my original post, which asked what "equality of opportunity" means, and also why it is desirable that opportunities be equal.

To Ziggy's claim that "its unlikely there will ever be a society where all have equal opportunity but its no bad thing to strive towards all having a greater opportunity" I responded

But why? Why not just ensure that people have, say, a minimal amount of opportunities, and then let anybody have as many or as few opportunities as they can obtain after that point?

Striving for "all having a greater opportunity"? What does that mean? "A" greater opportunity implies just one big opportunity, but I doubt you mean that. I suspect you mean more opportunities. But which opportunities? Why would each person what as great a number of opportunities as they can get? Why not a small number of valuable opportunities?

Moreover, striving for "greater opportunity for all" in the sense of increasing the number, or even increasing the number of valuable opportunities, or increasing the number opportunities to gain what is valuable is not the same as increasing equality of opportunity. Indeed, inequality of opportunity could increase whilst "greater opportunity for all" is achieved: By increasing opportunity for some at a much faster rate than it is increased for others. If opportunities should, in some sense, be "equal," then presumably such disparate rates of increase should be prohibited, even if that means not letting anybody and everybody's opportunities increase.

It actually seems to me that Ziggy was not in favour of equality of opportunity at all, or that he had any good reason to be.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Only Caring about Money.

In late spring my parents returned from Central America and told me that one decision they had come to both in the few months they were there, and in the longer time they were in South America, was that they were now both opposed to capitalism.

Naturally, I took this as a challenge!

When pushed further, they explained that what they were opposed to was "caring only about money." The trouble is that opposing people "only caring about money" is neither necessary nor sufficient to be a good reason to oppose capitalism.

First off, nobody, except coin collectors maybe, "only cares about money." If the opposite were the case, then nobody would buy anything, because nobody would want to get rid of the money they had obtained. People don't only care about money; they try to get money in order to get the things they [i]do[/i] care about. If all people cared about was money, then trade would cease, capitalism would collapse!

So the notion the under capitalism people "only care about money" obviously needs to be cleared up. Beyond this, is it only under capitalism that people "only care about money"? The more "capitalist" a country becomes, does it become less and less the case that people care about other things than money, or that the more and more capitalist a country, the more and more greedy people become? That doesn't seem true. I doubt we could say that the teacher in Cuba who quits his job to become a taxi driver for tourists because it pays more is not "caring about money" in a similar sense to most people in more economically free countries like the US or Britain. This guy seems to care about getting money to me!

So, since people care about getting money in economies that have less free markets, plainly opposing people caring about getting money is not sufficient to oppose having free markets. However, as I have already said, people don't "just care about money" - they care about getting money so that they can buy, shortly, or sometime in the future, the things that they do care about. Or so that the can buy what they need to support them getting what they care about. The majority of people working for money in Great Britain right now do so to deliver their families a livelihood that is amongst the highest in the world. They sell labour services, or work as part of a company that itself sells goods that people like and value enough to spend money on, so that other people they love and care about can live well. Not just live, but live well. Of course, this doesn't just occur under capitalism - the teacher that quits and becomes a taxi driver in Cuba probably does so because he can better support his family that way, too. But this sheds further light on the nonsense that people "only care about money."

The odd thing about this "only care about money" criticism, though, is that it condems capitalism, not because of [i]what[/i] people do, but because of [i]why[/i] they do it. Despite being hampered by one of the strictest regulatory regimens in the world, the US pharmaceutical industry still makes a large portion of the world's medicines. The objection is not that they do this, but that they do so for the wrong reason. They should do so because they want to give people medicines, I suppose, not because those that want the medicines will give the pharmaceutical companies, and those that work in them, money for doing so.

But this just means that people should have one fewer reasons for doing things. Why is that a good thing?

In light of the fact that "doing things for money" is not something restricted to capitalism, I am reminded of this film, with Milton Friedman interviewed by Phil Donahue:

However, these two films, acting a part of Ayn Rand's [i]Atlas Shrugged[/i] are interesting, too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


We are all used to hearing, both, that the average person needs, for instance, the NHS, or needs the state to fund schooling, and should tax the rich to pay for this. We are also used to hearing that libertarians are nuts because the state should at least provide people with a "safety net." It is not clear what is meant by the analogy of a safety net, despite its being trotted out so regularly. One gets the idea that those that use it like to think that people should work to support themselves by their own efforts, make provisions for themselves "just in case," but, as a last resort, something exists between them and starvation/death if these efforts should fail. I think this is a fair summation. Indeed, Churchill described the concept of a guaranteed minimum income as being a floor beneath which none may fall, though they could still climb ladders to earn an even greater income. I suppose, in political philosophy terms, philosophers would refer to it as a "sufficiency theory" of distributive justice: Above a certain level, it doesn't matter how much more some have than others.

The trouble is, though, I cannot see how this idea of a welfare state as a safety net, even if it was a good idea (it might be appealing, I'll grant, but complaints could be made that it still involves some coerced transfers, or that absence of a safety net creates more incentives to develop ways to ensure one never falls, or that the cost of the safety net may itself impose height limits on Churchill's ladders, so preventing others from being as successful as they could be), justifies anywhere like the existing welfare system. The principle reason is that our welfare state, by which I mean not just the various benefit arrangements that fall under "social security," but also the NHS, the state education system, the national pension, etc., quite simply is not a "last resort."

Just take, for example, health. The NHS is considered the crowning glory of the post Second World War attempts to increase the degree of social democracy in the UK, and make this country a fabian socialist society. Touching it is political death, even now. But in 1939, even though nineteen million people were covered by compulsory national health insurance, that being two fifths of the population, another 27.5 million people still obtained GP's services through either direct payment, friendly societies, dispensaries, etc. Little of this seems to be the case now. The first port of call for most people is the NHS, and only a fifth of the population in 1990 were covered by private health insurance.

I suggest, in contrast, that the average person even in today's society, is quite capable of doing without all this, or much less of it. I would, of course, as market anarchist, suggest that the state should do nothing at all. But, I would like to show that the average person, even in today's society where prices are held up by state granted monopoly privileges, where the value of money is reduced by inflation through the state banking system, and where people are taxed on the goods they buy, the income they earn, and the property they live in, the average person does not need the state to pay for his or her child's education, needs it far less to pay for their healthcare, and needs it far less to pay for police patrols.

First off, who is the average person. Since we are talking about what the average person can afford, we need to know what the average person earns. One form of "average" is called "the mean." This is worked out by adding all incomes together and then dividing the sum by the number of incomes there are. The trouble with this figure is that if by far most people earn a small income, but a minority earn a very large income, the mean income will actually be a good deal higher than the income most people actually earn.

A better way to work out what most people earn is to find out the median income is. That is determined by putting all incomes in a line, and finding out which income is in the middle. This way the number of people earning different levels of income is taken into consideration.

Median monthly income is £2072.

A rented two-to-three bedroom house costs £550 pcm.

Food for two for a month would cost £200

Income Tax on a median income would cost £314
Council tax on a monthly basis would cost £87

National Insurance on a median income costs £178

Gas, electric, and phone/broadband/set top £130

That comes to a total monthly expenditure of £1459. Median monthly income minus monthly expenditure leaves £613.

The mean cost of a private prep-schooling per month for one child is £487 (£14,000 plus £25,000, divided by two for the mean, divided by twelve months).
Health Insurance for one adult and a child would cost £60.46.

Those come to £547.46. Taken from £613, that leaves inly 65.54 a month. That would mean no savings, and nothing set aside "just in case," or money for entertainment and clothes, etc.

Nope, a household with two earners would probably be needed to pay for all this.
If another person in the house got a part time, twenty-four hours a week on minimum wage, that would bring £554.45 a month. Income tax on that would be £10.31 a month, and National Insurance would come to £10.94. That leaves net pay of £533.20 a month. Added to the leftovers, that means £598.74 more to have for entertainment, clothes, and "just-in-case" things. Of get a private schooling for another child, and add that child, and partner, to the health insurance.

The average family income is £32,779 before tax. That is £2731.58, which is an extra £105.58 a month beyond the combined pre-deduction income of the hypothetical couple I imagined above. That means that the average family could afford what I have suggested.

So, the average family (the average number of children is 1.8) does not need state funded education and could pay for private schooling, and could afford to pay for most medical costs through private insurance.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Police concerns over private security patrols.

Apparently the socialist police are afraid of competition:

Note the stupid desperation of the objections:

1: At 2:13 Simon Reed, Vice Chairman of the Police Federation, asks "who are they accountable to?"

Answer: How do you mean? As a business, they are accountable to their customers. If customers are not happy with the quality of service they are getting for the price being charged, then they can stop paying and either go to a competitor or go without.

Or do you mean "accountable" in terms of "who are they accountable to if they commit crimes?" In which case the answer is, "you, you idiot!" If private security personel do illegal things, the police can investigate, and prosecute. The public police have not been abolished, you know!

In the mean time, to whom are you accountable, MR. Simon Reed? If the people who are forced to pay you are not happy with their service, they can't stop paying and go to a competitor, because then they will be arrested for non-payment of taxes. So what incentive do you have to do what those you claim to protect want? And how much more is that incentive than your incentive to do what the politicians and bureacrats that decide police budgets?

To whom are you accountable should you commit a crime, Mr. Simon Reed? When we get arrangements such as "sovereign immunity," and when royal honours are given to police that oversee operations that lead to innocent Brazilians getting shot 16 times in the head because they ran to catch a train, I suspect that the answer is "No-one."

2: At 2:49 Sir Ian Blair, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, declares that he doesn't see community safety as a commodity to be bought and sold. Well, people are buying it and others are selling it, so it plainly is, Sir Ian. Either you have blinkers on, or you really mean you don't think it ought to be a commodity to be bought and sold. Well, in that case, Sir Ian, don't buy or sell it. If you think it should be free to those who need it, give it away for free. Ah, wait, I see... what you really mean is that you don't think that those willing to use their property to buy it from those people willing to use their property to sell it, should be allowed to. Well, in that case, mind your own business: What people do with their person and property should be up to them, not up to you. Your job is to keep that person and property safe, not to force people to do with it what you want.

And that is the crux of the issue: In the end, you don't think community safety should be a commodity to be bought and sold... you think it should be something that people should be made to pay for, whether they want to pay or not, whether they think that what they are paying for is worth it or not, or else get thrown in prison. "Buy our protection, and nobody else's, or we are gonna come and get ya, and you won't like it" is what you really support, Sir Ian. They make films about that: Gangster flicks, about protection racketeering!

At 3:03 Sir Ian Blair worries that "this will end up" with policing going to the rich, and the poor going without... this is in a clip plainly filmed on what looks to be a fairly poor estate in Dalington, Durham, where private security is being supplied for £3.50 a week, less than a packet of fags (and most smokers don't buy just one pack a week)! Moreover, Sir Ian, like Simon Reed above, seems to think that if people are paying for the police protection they want from the supplier they want, then this means that the state police have ceased to exist, rather than merely having been supplemented. They haven't been. So if people cannot afford to pay £3-4 a week, they can simply call people like you, Sir Ian, and get policing! What the hell are you worried about!

In the mean time, of course, is the quality of protection that people in, say, South London estates recieve from the public police as good as that supplied to people who live, well, in places such as where Sir Ian lives? I seriously doubt it. I strongly suspect that the state supplies better policing to the non-poor than it does to the poor, just as it supplies the non-poor with better schools and healthcare.

Frankly, increased use of private security is a great thing, a move towards voluntary, peaceful provision of essential services, rather than the coercive compulsion of statism. Three cheers for it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Professionals Exceding their Remits?

What are doctors for?

Over New Years many of us decided to celebrate by loosening inhibitions. We imbibed large amounts of alcohol, probably to a point of technically poisoning ourselves, because we like the sensation of being drunk in good company and consider it worth the price and health risks.

How did the BBC celebrate? Well, five minutes into the new year they celebrated by publishing this article.

Rising alcohol addiction costs 'could cripple the NHS'

The cost of treating the growing number of people drinking heavily threatens to cripple NHS hospitals, warn experts.

If the trend continues the burden will be unsustainable, the Royal College of Physicians and NHS Confederation say.

With a quarter of England's population consuming hazardous amounts, alcohol addiction already costs the NHS more than £2.7 billion a year, they say.

Note "Royal College of Physicians" and "NHS Confederation." The article is citing one Professor Ian Gilmore. This chap has form on this sort of thing. He is one of those behind creating anti-drinking areas in towns and cities:

DRINKING blackspots will be subjected to prohibition-style laws under a radical proposal by the country’s top liver doctor.

The aim is to block alcohol sales in parts of the country where people’s health is being put at risk by drink.

The plan was put forward by Professor Ian Gilmore and it could see many inner city areas being turned into drink-free zones.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Express, Prof Gilmore said: “Much of the focus of drink has been on its link with antisocial behaviour, crime and disorder but our concern is about the damaging consequences of drink to health.

“When I became a liver specialist 30 years ago, alcoholic liver disease was something we only saw in middle-aged and older people. Now we’re seeing people in their twenties with end-stage liver disease.

“We need to use all the tools we’ve got to try to tackle this problem.”

Prof Gilmore wants the law changed so councils could refuse a drink licence on health grounds.

Gilmore, of course, is not willing to leave things at imposing larger local government. He has also advocated increasing the powers of global government:

"We need an international framework convention for alcohol control, similar to that on tobacco, as soon as possible, to put into practice the evidence-based measures needed to reduce alcohol-related harm.

"These include increasing the price of alcohol, reducing its availability and banning advertising, and the action needs to start now."

He has also supported legislation imposing a minimum price of alcohol, too:

Prof Gilmore, the president of the Royal College of Physicians, said the move could reduce the numbers admitted for alcohol problems by around 100,000...

It is not apparent where he snatched this "100,000" figure from. Especially since "Writing in The Lancet, however, Prof Gilmore says that the price hike would cost the average person only 23p more per week." Given that his proposal is targetted at discounted drinks in supermarkets, which apparently cost less than 20p for a can of some piss weak lager, then this price hike is plainly tiny, and yet is supposed to save 100,000 lives!

In the referred to edition of the Lancet, it is reported that

One in 25 deaths across the world are linked to alcohol consumption, Canadian experts have suggested.

One in twenty-five deaths around the world? A world that has disease, starvation, and war, and yet one in twenty-five deaths is caused by alcohol?! Sound implausible much? Scaremongering much? Wait 'til you see the figures for Europe:

Europe had the highest proportion of deaths related to alcohol, with 1 in 10 deaths directly attributable.

Ten percent of all deaths directly attributable to alcohol?! This figure is soundly questioned over at Devil's Kitchen

10% of all deaths? Let's do a quick bag-of-an-envelope calculation, shall we?

According to the ONS, there were 509,090 deaths in England and Wales in 2008 and there were 6,541 deaths related to alcohol in England. That last figure doesn't include Wales so let's be generous and add a further 500 deaths for the sheep-worriers.

Which gives us a total number of about 7,000, or 1.38% of all deaths.

Of course, that doesn't give us the percentage for the whole of Europe, but seeing as we're supposedly some of the worst drinkers in Europe (another fucking lie), that should be considered a conservative estimate. Still nowhere near 10% though, is it? It's not even close to the 1 in 25—or 4%—claimed for the whole world, and for that global total you need to factor in a billion muslims who don't drink at all, plus God knows how many people who haven't got a pot to piss in, let alone a pub to get pissed in.

Gimore's most recent scare story is also ably refuted at Devil's Kitchen, along with all the most basic myths underscoring the neo-prohibitionist propaganda. That these are myths is not what I am concerned with here. What I am concerned with is the fact that doctors are proposing new legislation. Undoubtably they even write the new bills before offering them to civil servants to offer to MPs, too.

It is not your fucking job!

Likewise, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are not just interested in shaping new legislation, but preserving old legislation:

The BMA has written to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) saying it is "deeply concerned" by proposals to allow the changes, which broadcasters say will bring up to £140m a year in extra revenue.

Ministers are facing fierce opposition from medical groups, teaching unions and children's charities over plans to relax the current Ofcom rules that prevent giving certain items or brand names high visibility.

"The BMA is deeply concerned about the decision to allow any form of product placement in relation to alcohol, gambling and foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) as this will reduce the protection of young people from harmful marketing influences and adversely impact on public health," says the organisation's submission.

"By its nature product placement allows marketing to be integrated into programmes, blurring the distinction between advertising and editorial, and is not always recognisable. Studies show that children are particularly susceptible to embedded brand messages and these operate at a subconscious level."

Ben Bradshaw, the culture secretary, announced plans last year to relax the rules in order to help commercial broadcasters weather the downturn in advertising.

This is, of course, the tip of the iceberg. We are familiar with other stories, too of course

Experts from the BMA's board of science branded controls on alcohol promotion “completely inadequate” and called for a ban on drink advertising and the introduction of minimum price levels.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, said society was awash with pro-alcohol messaging targeted at young people: “Over the centuries alcohol has become established as the country's favourite drug.

“Young people are drinking more because the whole population is drinking more.

“In treating this we need to look beyond young people and at society as a whole.”

All this begs the question of what a doctor's remit is. What are doctors for? I shall submit this: Doctors are mechanics. Their job, and their only job, is to put people back together again when they fall apart or stop working, and possibly to offer some advice as to how they can avoid this, just as a mechanic's job is to put our car back together when it falls apart, and just as a mechanic may advise us as to how to avoid such problems in the future.

It is not my mechanic's job to decide how I should be allowed to drive my car. If I choose to drive it in a way that causes wear and tear on it, that damages it, that is my choice, because it is my car. If I choose to "drive" my body in a way that causes wear and tear on it, that is my choice, because it is my body. My mechanic can complain to me. He can continue offering advice. But, in the end, his job is simply to put my car back together when it breaks. This is precisely the same for doctors.

It is not your business how much I drink, Ian Gilmore. It is your job to fix my liver when my drinking breaks it. Stick to that.

Of course, I am forced to pay Gilmore to exceed his remit any way, as Devil's Kitchen writes:

Professor Ian Gilmore is, of course, not just "president of the Royal College of Physicians", oh no. He is also the Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance which is, of course, a fake charity of some magnitude.

Now, a quick search of for "Alcohol Health Alliance" throws up such definitely fake charities as Sustain, the Institute for Alcohol Studies and the Alliance House Foundation (formerly the UK Alliance for the Suppression of the Traffic in All Intoxicating Liquors); all of these organisations are heavily funded by the state which means, of course, that the Alcohol Health Alliance is also heavily funded by the state.

As such, Professor Ian Gilmore is a mouthpiece for the government...

It is worth pointing out that nowhere in the Telegraph article is this information pointed out.

Now me—I'd say that taking the word of a man who is the Chair of an organisation, the members of which include the formerly-named "UK Alliance for the Suppression of the Traffic in All Intoxicating Liquors", without mentioning this little nugget of information—or massive fucking conflict of interest—is the act of a deeply stupid, tit-head, biased cub reporter.

So, perhaps Gilmore is not exceding his remit... if we consider that his job is not a doctor or surgeon. Instead, his job is to continue to get money, taken from tax payers under threat of punishment, to feather the nests of members of his groups, and the legislators and civil servants that implement the policies he and his dream up. He is perfectly within his remit if his job title is "government shill."

Drug Decriminalisation is Working in Portugal: Opponents and the UN admit it!

In light of the fact that Nigel Meek and the Society for Individual Freedom are planning to publish my most recent blog post on drugs in their journal The Individual, perhaps this could be considered a follow up.

In this country if the number of deaths and cases of HIV linked to drug abuse rose, health workers in the ruling class, politicians, and all sorts of legal types would clamour for a tightening up of the laws, inevitably taking the form of greater penalties for possession (since it is easier to get arrest figures that way). And the public would lap it up.

Not in Portugal. Following an increase in drug related deaths and HIV contractions, the Portuguese government decided that the appropriate response was decriminalisation.

In the face of a growing number of deaths and cases of HIV linked to drug abuse, the Portuguese government in 2001 tried a new tack to get a handle on the problem—it decriminalized the use and possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD and other illicit street drugs. The theory: focusing on treatment and prevention instead of jailing users would decrease the number of deaths and infections.

Note, decriminalisation, not legalisation, of course:

"Now instead of being put into prison, addicts are going to treatment centers and they're learning how to control their drug usage or getting off drugs entirely," report author Glenn Greenwald, a former New York State constitutional litigator, said during a press briefing at Cato last week.

Under the Portuguese plan, penalties for people caught dealing and trafficking drugs are unchanged; dealers are still jailed and subjected to fines depending on the crime. But people caught using or possessing small amounts—defined as the amount needed for 10 days of personal use—are brought before what's known as a "Dissuasion Commission," an administrative body created by the 2001 law.

Each three-person commission includes at least one lawyer or judge and one health care or social services worker. The panel has the option of recommending treatment, a small fine, or no sanction...

Drug legalization removes all criminal penalties for producing, selling and using drugs; no country has tried it. In contrast, decriminalization, as practiced in Portugal, eliminates jail time for drug users but maintains criminal penalties for dealers.

Of course, something closer to legalisation is what my previous blog post called for, since it was principally about getting the provision of drugs out of the hands of gangs by letting normal businesses sell it legally. However, the results in Portugal are still heartening.

Five years later, the number of deaths from street drug overdoses dropped from around 400 to 290 annually, and the number of new HIV cases caused by using dirty needles to inject heroin, cocaine and other illegal substances plummeted from nearly 1,400 in 2000 to about 400 in 2006, according to a report released recently by the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C, libertarian think tank.

Of course, libertarians are bound to want to say that decriminalisation has had positive results, so maybe a reader would suspect the authors of this report of bias. However, even skeptics seem positive about what has happened, or not happened, in Portugal:

Peter Reuter, a criminologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, says he's skeptical decriminalization was the sole reason drug use slid in Portugal, noting that another factor, especially among teens, was a global decline in marijuana use. By the same token, he notes that critics were wrong in their warnings that decriminalizing drugs would make Lisbon a drug mecca.

"Drug decriminalization did reach its primary goal in Portugal," of reducing the health consequences of drug use, he says, "and did not lead to Lisbon becoming a drug tourist destination."

Of course, while "Spain and Italy have also decriminalized personal use of drugs and Mexico's president has proposed doing the same," some people remain unable to learn lessons:

Walter Kemp, a spokesperson for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, says decriminalization in Portugal "appears to be working." He adds that his office is putting more emphasis on improving health outcomes, such as reducing needle-borne infections, but that it does not explicitly support decriminalization, "because it smacks of legalization." ...

A spokesperson for the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy declined to comment, citing the pending Senate confirmation of the office's new director, former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs also declined to comment on the report.

Failing to explicitly support decriminalisation does not mean that many in that UN Office may support it anyway, of course, but the lack of any comment at all from the relevant US bodies (and, apparently, those in the UK) seems like somebody burying their head in the sand, in a determined effort to ignore anything that may harm their own mindset.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Some Informative Films on US Healthcare and Statist Versus Free Market Alternatives

Misdiagnosing the problems, and the myths of America's Uninsured

Would Obamacare Kill Medical Innovation?

As health care reform inches closer to reality, a massively important question becomes even more pressing: Will ObamaCare kill the sorts of medical innovation that makes the United States the leader in bringing new treatments, technology, and procedures to market?

"America is the only industrialized nation that doesn't have a national health plan," says Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.), and countless others who want the United States government to guarantee health coverage to all.

Protesters at a recent rally in downtown Los Angeles demanded universal coverage. They told that America is a cruel land where profits come before people.

"It's disgusting!" said one woman. "There should be no profits in health care!" What about those who argue that profits drive medical innovation? "I think that's kind of sick," declared another protester, who wants the U.S. to be more like Canada, where government policy keeps drug prices, and drug company profits, lower than in America.

Many regard the profit motive as cruel, but might it actually produce compassionate results? After all, America has generated vastly more medical innovations than other nations. Included in the long list is the innovation that saved the life of Dave Christensen, construction supervisor, husband, and father. After being diagnosed with cancer, Christensen was lucky enough to be given a then-experimental drug that probably wouldn't have been developed or brought to market in any other country in the world.

If America follows the lead of the rest of the world and clamps down on profits in health care, who will make tomorrow's wonder drugs?

"Drug companies that take big risks may make big profits," says's Nick Gillespie, who hosts the video. "But I say, Good for them. If they're saving lives, I hope they make a killing."

Uninsured in America

Uninsured in America examines the conventional wisdom that 45 million Americans cannot get health insurance and consequently do not have access to health care.

How To Fix America's Health Insurance Crisis: get Some!’s Nick Gillespie isn’t making a run for the White House, but he knows how to get coverage to at least half of the 45 million Americans who need it. And while Barack Obama and John McCain argue about who’s got the best health care plan, each ignores the simplest solution. Call it the Gillespie Plan: If you want health insurance, get some.

“Of people currently classified as uninsured, a conservative estimate says about 45 percent of them would be able to get health insurance right now if they wanted it,” says economist Glen Whitman. That estimate comes from a study headed by a Johns Hopkins University researcher, which separates those who could get insurance into one of two categories: Those who earn enough money to buy it, and those who qualify for existing government programs.

So how about some real straight talk for a change? If we separate those who can’t get coverage from those who can, we can focus more on helping the needy. “So if you can get coverage,” says Gillespie, “don’t wait for Washington. Go on out and get some.”

Statist Alternatives in Other Countries


The Lemon

The Lemon demonstrates how single-payer health care systems have a lot in common with the failed economic systems of Soviet-era eastern Europe.

A Short Course in Brain Surgery

A Short Course in Brain Surgery highlights the plight of an Ontario man with a cancerous brain tumor who crossed the border to the U.S. to get the medical care that is rationed in his home country.

Two Women

Two Women serves as a cautionary lesson about a politicized health care system where politicians and bureaucrats determine medical priorities.

A True Tale of Canadian Health Care: Why some canadians need to go to the U.S. for sugery

Many advocates of health-care reform are admirers of Canada's state-run, no-opt-out, single-payer system. Indeed, in 2003, President Barack Obama voiced enthusiasm for such a health-care program.

Proponents of Canadian-style health care should meet Cheryl Baxter, a Canadian citizen who waited years for hip-replacement surgery, only to be told that her operation would not happen any time soon. Instead of waiting, Baxter did what an increasing number of Canadians are doing: She flew to a clinic in the United States, paid out of pocket, and had a life-altering surgery in a matter of weeks rather than years.

Baxter's experience doesn't just throw damning light on Canadian health care. The sort of clinic she went to in Oklahoma suggests a different way of delivering health care in the United States, too: A simple fee-for-service model in which providers openly advertise their prices, service, and reputation. Rather than a frustrating, complicated mess of intermediaries such as employers and insurance companies, U.S. health-care reformers should think about bringing medicine into line with the same dynamics that help deliver great service at great prices throughout most other parts of the economy.

While Canadian health care is certainly cheaper than its U.S. counterpart (health care spending in Canada is about 10 percent of GDP versus 16 percent in the United States), it is not necessarily better or more equitable. As a recent National Bureau of Economic Research comparison concluded, "Americans are more likely to report that they are fully satisfied with the health services they have received and to rank the quality of care as excellent." Not only do Americans have far greater access to basic diagnostic tools ranging from mammograms to CT scans, the researchers found "the health-income gradient is actually more prominent in Canada than in the U.S." That is, wealthy Canadians receive far better care compared to low-income Canadians than rich Americans versus poor Americans.

"A True Tale of Canadian Health Care" was produced by Dan Hayes and Peter Suderman. Interviews were filmed by Alex Manning and the segment is hosted and scripted by Nick Gillespie. Approximately 5.11 minutes.

The United Kingdom

Operation Health Freedom - Daniel Hannan


A Red-Ink Train Wreck: The real cost of government-run health care

This CF&P Foundation video explains why healthcare proposals in Washington will result in bloated government and higher deficits. This mini-documentary exposes the pervasive inaccuracy of congressional forecasts and succinctly lists 12 reasons why Obamacare will be a budget buster. For more information:


How American healthcare killed my Father

American health care kills. And it's because markets for health care services are grossly distorted. That's the assessment of businessman David Goldhill, whose father died of a hospital acquired infection. Goldhill wrote up what he discovered subsequently in an article for the Atlantic Monthly entitled, "How American Health Care Killed My Father. One of the key problems in American health care, he says, is that the consumer of health care services or products is rarely paying directly.

Don't Copy Europe's Mistakes: Less Government Is the Right Way to Fix Healthcare

In this CF&P Foundation video, Eline van den Broek explains that government interference is driving up healthcare costs in America and warns that European style health "reform" will make the situation even worse. Based on what has happened in Europe, she explains that universal health coverage is not the same as universal healthcare, that insurance mandates mean more government control, and that price controls simply do not work. More Information:

Operation Health Freedom - Judge Napolitano

How To Fix Health Care: Lasik surgery for the medical debate

Make no mistake about it. Health care reform is coming. But what's the best way to fix our health care system, which is an inefficient, complicated mess of private actors, third-party payers, public subsidies, and innumerable state and federal regulations? Should we place our faith in the government or in the free market?

ObamaCare supporters argue that the answer lies in more government—more subsidies, more regulations, a law mandating individuals buy health-insurance coverage and, of course, more taxes to pay for it all.

The alternative is to base reforms on what works in the other five-sixths of the U.S. economy, where choice and competition increase quality and drive down prices over time.

Can a market-based health care system work? We can begin to answer this question by looking at Lasik, a medical procedure that's not covered by health insurance. And has gotten better—and cheaper—over time.

"How to Fix Health Care" proposes three simple reforms that will put us on a path to a health-care system that's better, more affordable, and more accessible. And get this—these market-based reforms can be implemented without creating new government programs or raising taxes.

John Mackey's Concious Capitalism

When he started his first organic food store in Austin, Texas in 1978, Whole Foods Market CEO and co-founder John Mackey had no idea that he would eventually usher in not just a revolution in how we shop but what we buy. If you dig being able to buy dozens of types of once-exotic apples, or cheese, or wine, or soaps, or countless other items, you can thank Mackey in part for helping to create cathedrals of commerce that have vastly enriched our day-to-day lives and vastly expanded our palates. (Full disclosure: Mackey has contributed to Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website.)

In August, Mackey became one of the most controversial businessmen in America when he penned an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal outlining his company's free-market-oriented health care system and offering eight concrete reforms that would reduce costs and improve access. Noting that health care is not "a right" as that term is properly understood, Mackey forcefully argued that increasing government intervention into health care is precisely the wrong thing to do: "The last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment."

The response from the left to Mackey's op-ed was swift: Advocates of single-payer health care, union activists, and others called for protests at and boycotts of Whole Foods, despite the fact that the company provides affordable and well-regarded coverage to its employees.

As a cutting-edge entrepreneur who is comfortable quoting astrological signs and Ludwig von Mises, who practices veganism and sells some of the best meat in America, and who chases profits and is an outspoken advocate of charitable giving, Mackey confounds conventional political categories. As an advocate of what he calls "conscious capitalism," Mackey is that rarest of businessman: an articulate and passionate defender of free enterprise and free individuals.

In late September, Mackey sat down with Reason's Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie to talk about health care reform, corporate social responsibility (on which Mackey has written for Reason), why government interventions rarely achieve their goals, and how Mackey came to his unstinting belief in free markets.

Natural Food Fight: Whole Foods and Health Care

In August, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey argued in the pages of the Wall Street Journal that the solution to America's health care crisis was to be found in "less government control and more individual empowerment." His own company's unique health care plan, Mackey wrote, covers 90 percent of employees, costs less than health insurance plans, aned provides a "very high degree of worker satisfaction." But for the sin of not supporting a government take over of health care, labor unions and left-wing activists called for a boycott of Whole Foods, claiming that Mackey's solutions were unworkable and his employees were unhappy. talked to protesters, Mackey, and employees about "the Whole Foods alternative to ObamaCare."

Saving The Health of The Nation: An introduction to health savings accounts

From the Stockholm Network

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Free Talk Live’s (FTL) principle hosts, Ian Freeman and Mark Edge, both reject the label “anarchist.” I think they are wrong to do so. Now, other listeners will probably agree with me that perhaps Ian could be called an anarchist, but would be surprised that I would call Mark one. However, recent events would lead me to suspect the label is appropriate.

Ian Freeman is plainly an anarchist. Here is an account as to why I think he is wrong to reject the term:

Definitions of Anarchism

Here is a definition of anarchism from one of its more famous originators:

This brings us to Anarchism, which may be described as the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations, and that the State should be abolished.

Benjamin Tucker

This seem to match exactly what Ian believes, so he is an anarchist according to this definition.


noun belief in the abolition of all government and the organization of society on a cooperative basis.

— DERIVATIVES anarchist noun & adjective anarchistic adjective.

Oxford English dictionary.

Again, this seems to be what Ian believes.

From Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry:an•ar•chist
Pronunciation:\ˈa-nər-kist, -ˌnär-\
1: a person who rebels against any authority, established order, or ruling power
2: a person who believes in, advocates, or promotes anarchism or anarchy ; especially : one who uses violent means to overthrow the established order
— anarchist or an•ar•chis•tic \ˌa-nər-ˈkis-tik, -(ˌ)när-\ adjective

Ian meets definition 1, since rebelling doesn't necessarily entail using force. On definition 2, it might be argued that he doesn’t meet the definition of anarchist, since he doesn't advocate the use of violence to overthrow a regime. However, the definition says "especially," meaning that it does not exclude those who do not advocate force to overthrow a regime: Even those who do not use force to overthrow a regime can meet the definition of “anarchist” that Merriam-Webster provides.

Merriam-Webster’s definition turns, not on whether or a person is using violence to overthrow a regime, but whether such a person is someone who believes in, advocates, or promotes anarchism. Anarchism, Merriam-Webster defines as:

Main Entry:an•ar•chism
Pronunciation:\ˈa-nər-ˌki-zəm, -ˌnär-\
1 : a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups
2 : the advocacy or practice of anarchistic principles

Again, Ian meets this definition.

Anarchism and Negative Connotations

Ian also rejects the title "anarchist" because it has negative connotations. But that's no reason not to think of oneself as an anarchist, it is just a good reason not to tell certain people that you are. There are plenty of other words out there, like “radical libertarian,” or words that Ian uses, like “Voluntaryist.” Usage of these words rather than “anarchist” need not mean that one is denying that one is an anarchist. It only means that one is not claiming to be to certain people.

Ian says that "anarchist" means "terrorist" to most people. That may be correct. However, someone who is not and anarchist, David Miller, wrote,

The association of anarchism with heinous acts of violence has, as I have already observed, become well established in the popular mind. From a historian's point of view this may appear quite unwarranted. Only a small proportion of anarchists have advocated terrorist methods - and only an even smaller proportion have tried to practise them - and moreover anarchist terrorism has been largely confined to two decades, the 1890s and the 1970s. Looking at the picture in another way, acts of terror have been performed by republicans, by nationalists, by revolutionary socialists, and by fascists, and if one tried to quantify the anarchist contribution to this catalogue of horror, it would turn out to be relatively small.

People have even used terrorism under dictatorships or monarchy's in order to try and bring about democracy. So some terrorists have been terrorists. When one thinks of the worst acts of terrorism, actions by the IRA, for instance, or Al Qaeda, these have been actions of rebublican democrats, or theocratic republicans, not advocates of anarchism. Historically, most terrorist acts have been performed by people not advocating anarchism, and so not by anarchists, than they have been by anarchists.

Further, it makes as much sense to say that because some terrorists have been anarchists, anarchists are terrorists, as to say that because some republicans have been terrorists, republicans are terrorists. Or, because some cats have been black and white, all cats are black and white. It is, frankly, illogical. Of course, Ian may agree with this, because he is not saying that the general public are correct to think of anarchists as terrorists, only that because they do, he won't call himself one. But he could just point out what I have said above, and try to persuade them that they are wrong on that. He is, after all, out there trying to persuade people to drop their erroneous beliefs that statism is good, and get them to embrace the ideas of peace and freedom instead, so he must think that in some cases it is better not to run away from people with erroneous views, but to try to persuade them to reject those views.

On anarchism and violent overthrow of regimes, it is plain that not everybody advocating the violent overthrow of one regime is an anarchist. Right now the US government likes to go round the world violently overthrowing particular regimes, but Bush was not an anarchist! No, it is not sufficient to be an anarchist that you advocate the violent overthrow of a regime - you need also to advocate some form of anarchism, as opposed to a new statist regime.

But is it even necessary to be an advocate of violent overthrow of regimes in order to be an anarchist? Can't one be an anarchist without advocating violence to overthrow a regime? Violent upheveal is a means, anarchism in an end. Is violent upheaval even the only means? Perhaps. Perhaps not? All I am saying is that Ian is confusing advocates of the end with advocates of a particular means to that end. One can still advocate anarchism whilst saying that the state should be abolished by people withdrawing their consent from it, refusing to co-operate with it, and by building their own voluntary alternatives (the agorist method), for instance. You would not be advocating violent overthrow of a regime then, but you would still be an anarchist.

In the end, on violent overthrow, though, Ian has provided no pricipled argument against it. He thinks it would not work, and quite accurately points out that people such as Carl Drega have not drawn many people into the liberty movement through their actions. But this is just an argument as to why violence is prudentially wrong, not why it is wrong in principle. States are little more than big gangs of robbers, and it is certainly not wrong, in principle, to violently resist bands of robbers. It just might be pointless or even harmful to do so sometimes.

Anarchism and Rules

One of the Grounds on which Ian claims that he is not an anarchist is because he believes that, by definition, anarchists oppose the existence of rules, and that since he favours voluntary rules, and owners laws on their own property, he therefore cannot be anarchist.

However, here Ian is making a grammatical error. The word “Anarchy” might be translated in an etymological manner, quite accurately, as “absence of rule.” However, it is also translatable as “absence of ruler.” The “archy” part comes from the Greek “archon” which means “ruler” or “system of rule,” just like in “oligarchy” (rule by a group) and “monarchy” (rule by one). When the suffix “an-“ means “absence of” or “negation of,” so “anarchon” means “absence of ruler.”

Ian’s grammatical error hereby becomes evident: When he says he is happy to have rules, he is using the word “rule” as a noun. When anarchists say they want no rule, they are using the word “rule” as a verb. A ruler is somebody who undertakes the activity of ruling, somebody who rules. Viewed like this, “rule” as a noun is not even the same word as “rule” as a verb, any more than the word “right” when used to mean “the opposite of left” is not even the same word as “right” when the person using it wants to say “correct.” “The opposite of left” is not a synonym of “correct.”

So, an anarchist could want there to be no rule (verb) whilst being perfectly happy with there being a rule (noun), and so still essentially hold exactly the same position as Ian holds. In that case, again, Ian would be an anarchist.

After all, anarchists like Benjamin Tucker even talked about “law” under anarchism, whilst Kropotkin has talked about the virtues of evolved customary law as opposed to centrally imposed state law. The first person to coin the phrase “anarchist,” in a positive sense, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, said he wanted to put “In place of laws, we will put contracts,” and contracts a bodies of voluntarily accepted rules.

Panarchy: Why Mark Is Also an Anarchist

Mark is often portrayed as the “voice of reason” on FTL, the sensible, moderate to Ian’s radical extremist. He is the token “minarchist,” - advocate of a constitutionally limited minimal state. When asked what he wants the government, or state, to do he says that he generally mentions “police, courts and roads,” though not because he thinks that the state would be any better at providing these things than anybody else, but because the lay person Mark is trying to persuade to adopt a more liberty oriented position may struggle to think of how these things could be provided without a state, but if Mark can persuade people that all the state should do is provide police, courts and roads, well that would be a vast improvement on how extensive and pervasive it has become now.

This position should be contrasted to that of Mark’s cohost, Ian Freeman, who has said that he wants no government or state at all: When asked how society would work in this manner, Ian has often recommended Linda and Morris Tannehill’s The Market for Liberty and has even produced an audio book version of this book. In this vision, instead of government provision of police services, people (who would have a right to bear arms and defend themselves anyway) would take advantage of a division of labour by subscribing to protection agencies, or joining protective associations, etc, so that private companies supply police protection on a competitive market economy.

Likewise, courts would also be provided on the free market, as individuals, or voluntary groupings, voluntarily chose to subscribe to, and take their disputes to, arbitration associations, or private courts, and would abide by the verdicts in order to avoid, amongst other things, the cost of any loss in reputation. So, in response to the concern that war between private protection agencies would be inevitable when police from one agency come to arrest a subscriber of a different agency, instead the different agencies, or their customers, would turn to private arbitration, supplied by private courts, and voluntary contractual rules to resolve disputes and ensure rulings are observed.

However, recent events (for instance, November the 24th, 2009) may have changed this distinction between Mark and Ian: Mark has started advocating what is called “panarchy,” or “choice in government.” I would speculate that he came across the term from Michael Rozeff at, though I could be wrong. In a debate with a listener Mark claimed that he wanted panarchy, so that people could choose the form of government they lived under: The tie between government and the land a government holds jurisdiction over would be broken, so that who your government was depended on would no longer depend on which patch of the Earth you happened to live on, or have been born on. You could be a citizen of government A and the guy in the house next to you, or even the room of your house that you let could be a citizen of another.

On practical issues, Mark has said that it would be an example of this idea if he were able, if pulled over driving down a Massachusetts highway without a seatbelt on, to say to the highway patrolman, “I am not a citizen of your government, but of the State of New Hampshire, and so your government’s laws are not my government’s laws, and so not the laws I must obey.”

Under panarchy, people would voluntarily become the citizens of whatever government they preferred, rather than whatever one happened to be operating in their geographic area. And if they no longer liked their government, they could leave and become a citizen of, or start, another. Here, then, is the ultimate expression of the secessionist idea: Not only should states be allowed to leave the Union, but counties should be able to secede from the state, towns or cities from the county, streets from cities, and individuals from streets; but if everybody in your state wants to leave the Union whilst you want to stay a member, well then that would be allowed, too, since they are free to reject any government they don’t like (in preference for an alternative), whilst you are free to become a citizen of any government you prefer, and you like the union.

In this sense, Mark can claim to still be an advocate of government, unlike Ian who doesn’t want any government, but Mark just wants choice and competition in governments: Panarchy. So, if Mark wants choice in government, how can I still claim he is an anarchist?

Well, I can do this by asking you, the reader, what actual difference there is between the Panarchy Mark advocates and what Ian advocates. Under Panarchy governments might provide police protection and courts to resolve disputes, and people voluntarily become citizens of the government, and therefore police and court service provider they prefer. Under Ian’s “voluntaryism,” on the other hand, people voluntaryily subscribe to organization that supplies courts and police protection that they prefer. It would appear to me that the only difference between what Mark advocates and what Ian advocates is that Mark calls the organizations that provide protection and court services “governments.” Plainly, since we do not, of course, call security firms that operate right now “governments,” and nor do we call arbitration firms or suppliers that operate right now “governments,” it certainly doesn’t seem correct to call something a government just because it is providing police protection and dispute resolution services.

Moreover, consider this: People often challenge market anarchists by saying “well, what if a subscriber of protection agency A thought that he had been a victim of a crime committed by subscriber of protection agency B, but the guy subscribing to B doesn’t recognize A, or thinks he is innocent of any crime, and wants his agency to provide him with protection against arrest. Won’t this result in war between the two agencies?” Market anarchists, of course, answer this question by saying, “no, the incentives in this situation are likely to be greater for agencies to agree on an arbiter rather than to fight it out.” But now, of course, we can ask Mark the similar questions: What if a citizen of government A gets in a dispute with the guy letting a room in his house, but this tenant is not a citizen of government A, but is a citizen of government B. Suppose, for instance, that the citizen of A feels that he has been assaulted, but government B doesn’t treat what the citizen of B did as assault, or even a crime? Would Government A be unable to enforce its laws against the citizen of Government B? Would Government B protect its citizen against this? Wouldn’t that lead to war between the governments?

Of course, the same answer that anarchists give would be available to Mark: Governments that went to war wit each other would have to fund these wars by raising taxes. When citizens of a government can cease to be citizens, and so taxpayers, at will, without having to move house, raising taxes becomes hard unless all the citizens agree with what the taxes are being spent on. This would mean that governments would be unable to fund unpopular wars. This would mean that governments would be have more incentive to find alternatives to war when they are cheaper than war: Arbitration between governments is a possible alternative. So, just as Ian’s protection agencies would go to an independent third party provider of dispute resolution services in this case, so too would Mark’s “government.” Mark’s whole “Panarchy” alternative seems to function in an identical way to Ian’s “voluntaryist system,” a system which I have already identified as anarchist. And this entails that Mark’s Panarchy is the Voluntaryism that Ian advocates, and, in advocating his voluntaryism, Ian advocates anarchism, so Mark’s Panarchy is an anarchism. The fact that he calls the voluntary groupings that occur in it “governments” does not make them so, and therefore does not alter the fact that he is essentially advocating what Ian advocates, and what Ian advocates is anarchy.


Ian Freeman? Mark Edge? Welcome to the fold! You are a couple of crazy anarchists just like the rest of us consistent liberty-loving-types out here!

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 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?