It's been a long year, longer for some than others. As we draw to the end of it and hopefully in a goodwill spirit often so lacking when this question is raised, I will re-visit an article recently posted by John that received quite a lot of interest. By the end it was, frankly, wholly depressing and made me seriously question what the whole point of libertarianism is. Hence why I haven't been about.
Libertarianism is fundamentally about liberty, that is why it has those first five letters. It is about the liberty of the individual for self-determination in this big bad world and for the removal of state control from our lives. If you call yourself a libertarian and you disagree with this, please leave the room.
The only people who are against the right of self-determination, I'm afraid, have repeatedly proven to be Boateng and Demetriou, who have forcefully argued against property rights on two grounds: first, if it is foolish enough to interfere with the rights of Boateng and Demetriou to say whatever they want, whenever they want to say it; second, by insisting that it is perfectly libertarian to accept some legalised theft by the government in order to provide services which Boateng and Demetriou feel the government should provide.
You cannot begin to exercise your right to self-determination when you cannot exercise whatever rights over your own property that you wish to exercise. In other words, if I buy a car, but I'm not allowed to drive it because it offends Boateng & Demetriou and their say-so is what I need to be able to drive, then I cannot exercise my own rights over my own property. This is clearly a ludicrous infringement of my property rights.
Yet, somehow, if it's not a car but rather a shopping mall, then different rules apply. Somehow, if I deem it appropriate to allow people to enter my private property, it is no longer private property. Somehow, the fact that I permit you to walk across my private property removes all my property rights. This is an insane assertion: I not only allow the cleaning lady in, but I pay her to do so. Does that mean that I now confer upon her the right to "exercise her civil liberties" in my house? Does it, fuck!
You also cannot begin to exercise any kind of self-determination as long as there is any third party that has the legal right to help themselves to your property without you being able to stop them.
Many people who are libertarians subsequently diverge over how this is to be achieved. This is both healthy and desired. There are those on the left that want a state to remain, but for the individual to be socially free, there are those on the right that want no state at all and for the individual to be totally socially and economically free. There are those in the middle, like us, that see the merits of both and take a pragmatic approach. As far as anyone on the let is concerned, the right are extremists. As far as the right is concerned, everyone else is a social-democrat.
Oh, this is piffle, Mr B. You and Mr D have repeatedly argued that there is no merit to complete economic freedom while espousing complete social freedom. You have repeatedly rebuffed my assertion that social and economic freedom cannot be separated. You claim this is a "pragmatic" approach, but in reality you are no different from the current idiom of an American liberal: you want all social liberties but are quite happy to have the government (and, by implication, the taxpayer) pick up the costs of all the things which you think a government should provide.
One of the central methods for creating this freedom are through the individuals right to property. Property is bricks and mortar, but it is also money and stocks and shares. Therefore, a liberty to do with as as you will within your built property as well as your money.
Along with any other "thing" that you acquire with your money.
A huge caveat is inserted within libertarianism that is totally ignored, especially by the right: non-aggression.
We don't ignore it, we assume it. You and Demetriou are the only people arguing that property rights will turn people into monsters. I don't see any symptoms of this, apart from mewling lefties who seem to view property as theft. Unless it's their property, of course.
But the fact of the matter is, apart from Boateng and Demetriou, I don't know anybody professing to be a libertarian who frets about this. Libertarians don't, in general, believe that people are inherently megalomaniac. I mean, I'm not, and I don't know anybody who is. I've met a lot of rich people (who are a mixed bunch), I've met a lot of people in the "property game" and, if anything, they're even more agreeable than the average person. They're relaxed, friendly, gregarious and quite generous. I've never met anyone anywhere ever who is remotely like the property owner portrayed by B&D who is going to make you dress funny and goosestep around singing songs from the Wizard of Oz.
Non-aggression. Usually this is used by libertarians in our views against war - the removal of a states liberty by force. However, it is also intended as the removal of liberty by any entity at any level.
If you say so. What you may consider to be a "removal of liberty" may actually be no such thing.
Libertarianism is about liberty.
And property rights. Rothbard (you probably haven't heard of him) says that all liberties derive from property rights.
The row here is simple. You have the right to your property, in this case land and bricks, and you have the right of self-determination with that space. Fine. And it is fine, it is central. What we have been arguing, however, is that this right does not give you the right for the removal of other's liberty.
Quite so. But requesting that you adhere to a dress code while on my property is not a removal of your free speech rights. Requesting that you do not hold a mass rally for a cause that is none of my business on my property does also not remove your free speech. Getting some goons to go round and threaten your family with violence if you have a mass rally in a public place or on someone else's property, well, that's definitely encroaching on your liberty.
I see this as being remarkably simple.
It is remarkably simple. You are making it complicated by trying to find reasons why your free speech is more important than my property. You've already said that you wouldn't try to hold a rally in my back garden, presumably out of courtesy. Or do you accept that I have the right to deny you permission to hold a rally in my back garden?
But for some reason, because I let you enter my shopping centre from eight in the morning till six in the evening, you feel that this confers upon you all the rights that you have in your own home.
Here the argument usually gets totally bogged down in the most depressing fashion with the definition of public space. This can literally go on for eternity, but to make this fairly clear, by public I am not talking about publicly owned, i.e. state owned.
Anyone has the right to life, liberty and property provided that it does not remove the life, liberty and property of anyone else. This too I see as being incredibly simple to grasp. Apparently not.
It is simple to grasp, but it's wrong. Me telling you not to do something on my property does not impact your liberties. Me telling not to do something on your property or on public land does impact your liberties.
Me causing you harm is a crime, irrespective of where it happened (subject to self-defence, yadda yadda.)
Libertarians, in my view, strive to create a better world. One where people are in control of their own destiny through their own lives and exist in peaceful harmony with others.
And you wonder why I call you a social democrat.
Libertarians do not strive to make the world a better place. Libertarians want to get on with their own lives and let others get on with their lives without interference.
That is the balance we are seeking in place of the state. Why do we have a state? We have it as a protector. I'm talking proper back in time why even created states here. The state is given certain powers by us in order that they protect us.
The only reason I see for a state is a) to provide the very small set of things that cannot be provided effectively by private industry and b) to protect the individual from egregious predation (like B&D's putative megalomaniac - however, just because I believe that does not mean I endorse B&D's point of view that the majority of property owners are like that! I am more worried about criminals and general "unethical" behaviour.)
We then have a contract between us that means we don't attack each other and the state, if you do we go to prison for instance, and the state doesn't attack us, we rebel etc. The whole raison d'etre of libertarianism is to re-balance that contract.
I don't believe that the state is necessary for the average, reasonable person not to attack another average, reasonable person. How many people have you beaten up today, Mr Boateng? You class yourself as very different from the average, and I class you as supremely unreasonable. Yet, I'd be surprised if you've beaten anybody up this whole year or even committed a (real) crime. (Speeding doesn't count!)
For those that want the state to be limited to a tiny role, the basic requirement therefore is to have that contract between the people themselves. It relies on people trusting and participating. History tells us that this doesn't happen and that is why I am not of this sphere of libertarianism.
I'm curious what evidence you have for this bland assertion, Mr B. Perhaps it's a function of where you work, or who you're married to, but I find that in general, most people are quite happy to trust and participate. People who have a default position of mistrust are usually fairly psychotic or are politicians (possibly the same thing!)
But that contract is required to various degrees based on your view. I won't remove your life, liberty or property and you will do the same.
That seems perfectly reasonable.
This is where we hit the problem. The hard right of libertarianism, who claim to be the mainstream, state that it is in fact property that is the central line here, not liberty. All that matters is that the individual has the right to do whatever they want within their property, no matter what that property is.
Well, as long as it doesn't involve killing people or stealing their money or whatever. I mean, Fritzl did everything on his own property and I don't know a single libertarian who doesn't think he shouldn't be impaled on a stake, burned and his ashes scattered over the four corners of the earth*.
In fact, it goes so far that it ends up with the owner of the property may totally and utterly remove all liberty from those that are within it. No matter the size of this property.
You mean like Fritzl? You're fucking mad if you think I believe it's OK for a man to repeatedly rape his own daughter and imprison her in a cave under his house.
This is terrifying. The natural result of this is that the owner of the property is now the state. The property can be your garden, or it can be the Duchy of Cornwall. It can be entire business developments, or housing estates. The owner has the right to remove all liberty within. The response is often that the market would come to the fore and it would never happen. It has happened, it is happening and history tells us that when it does people do what people have always done, they shrug and they get on with it.
Where is it happening? Where has it happened? And most important, why has it happened? Has it ever happened because of property rights, or has it perchance occurred because of something else?
You keep on going on like there's some mad conspiracy by property owners to oppress you and you pull out all the Daily Mail stops by puffing up jobsworth bollocks as though it's an organised conspiracy.
What you see as the solution to this, I see as the problem. The planning laws make it so expensive to get your hands on some retail property that only rich, aggressive companies can own it. And your solution to this is that we should have even stricter planning permission laws. If you deregulated the planning laws, retail space would become much cheaper because you'd be able to get it anywhere. Similarly, existing retail space would become a lot less valuable, so the big property owners wouldn't have all the capital they currently have. In addition, anybody who wanted to open up a shop in their front room could do so, massively increasing competition and beating up the big corporates.
So which approach do you think is going to lead to more liberty and less power for the big corporate? The crazy libertarian way, or the pragmatic, middle-of-the-road way?
The non-aggression caveat goes out the window, because it gets in the way of letting people do, basically, whatever they want to do.
I don't understand: I want you to let me do whatever I want to, as long as it doesn't harm you. You want me to let you do whatever you want to do, as long as it doesn't harm me. What have I said, argued or suggested that does not allow and encourage this?
So, as I ask in the title, what is the point? If this is a widely held view (mainly in American Libertarianism it should be noted), then all we have done is remove the power of the state over us, the individual, and handed it straight, not to the people, but to the property owning minority.
Because, as I explained above, by deregulating the planning process, you have a) "created" much more retail (or whatever) space and b) massively increased the opportunity for competition. If you maintain the planning laws as they stand, then those people will have disproportionate power.
It is that small percentage that actually own pretty much everything who are now in control. They have the right, it is argued, to remove your liberty because it is their property. In fact they have the right to remove your life as well if the comments once made about Tony Martin are anything to go by.
So, what's the point in libertarianism if the only liberty it is fighting for is the total liberty of the few? Is that really liberty? Is that really what we are arguing for?
No. It's all in your head.
What I have been arguing is that the non-aggression, non-removal of life, liberty and property caveat be observed. That we don't simply focus on the rights in our living room and look beyond that to the dangers some are embracing. Otherwise, we might as well just keep the system we already have, which would appear, on the face of it, to ensure more of us more liberty than that of the libertarian spectrum's anarchist element.
I don't know whether I should be amused or offended that someone who thinks economic liberty is irrelevant thinks that I'm trying to curtail liberty by asking for more liberty than he is.
I refuse to accept that this is what libertarianism is about and I refuse to accept that this is the world in which libertarians from across the spectrum want to see. Libertarianism is about liberty, a liberty secured by your right to determine your own destiny through your own dwelling, your own income, your own life. A liberty that does not at any point reach a stage where you remove that liberty from someone else.
You are quite correct. However, your approach of not allowing certain liberties to increase liberty is a bit like fucking for virginity.
Libertarianism is, fundamentally, about the liberty of you, me and everybody. Not the few.
It's also about complete liberty. Free speech is important to you. Dope is important to my ex-wife. Smoking cigarettes is important to Leg-Iron. Not spending half my life working for that fucking nutter with the stutter and his 645 thieving cunts is important to me. I'm happy for all the of above to occur. You're happy that the first three should get their way, but adamant that the freedom that is important to me is wrong, muddle-headed and would lead to the downfall of Western civilisation.
Tell me, Mr Boateng, which of us is truly more interested in freedom?
*Or whatever the harshest punishment it that they think should be meted out.