Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Why is this so hard to understand?

Boaty is banging on again about how his free speech rights are more important than my property rights:

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.

We continue:

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.

See above.

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.


subrosa said...

You're certainly on form with this Obo and I can't disagree with a word you utter.

Quiet_Man said...

A very very good rebuttal, though it really shouldn't have been neccesary, after all libertarianism is mostly the application of common sense which usually doean't go to extremes.

microdave said...

I wonder what they would have to say about the Australian government approach to stealing peoples property:


Anonymous said...

Big thumbs up from this Libertarian party member for your opinion here, which I think is spot on.

Now all you have to look forward to is the smiting which will no doubt be handed out B&D as the self appointed guardians who are in charge of Libertarianism in this country. Seems to me to disagree with them is to somehow be ex-communicated.

It's an authoritarian anarchy - do what you like, as long as I say it is ok. That's Libertarianism B&D style.

Ed P said...

(At the risk of more invective from B&D)
I'm sure I warned you: they're a couple of ideas short of a post!

J Demetriou said...

I think Obo's argument has been extremely well presented on ours and here. He's a very clever bloke, and it's a pleasure to argue and debate with him.

I will respond to this properly this evening, but I thank him for taking the time to fight this topic head on.

Mr B and I plainly disagree with him, and our views sharply differ. But Mr B and I do not believe or pretend that our views are the only ones and that we are the living embodiment of libertarianism.

I am somewhat saddened that so many LPUK members have taken against us in quite such a critical and malevolent way. This isn't (I hope) representative of most LPUK members: I have met some of them and they are friendly and civilised people.

Good post, Obo, though you won't be surprised to learn that I disagree with much of it.

Until later.

Tomrat said...

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.

Theodore Dalrymple gave this another term
entirely which I think more apt: Moral Libertinism. Social
Democratism at least has to consider where the resources come from.

As for self-defence I believe this is covered by the minarchist government we are striving for; the important thing to remember is that in any possible scenario contrived as an assault on one anothers liberties the gray area of justice becomes involved; this is where lines are blurred and, sadly, injustice can inhabit; the reality is that this would be less of a problem if all agents, to borrow from the late Rev. Opitz, of legalised violence had at least some direct democratic oversight, I.e. elected sheriffs, distict attorneys, mayors, MPs etc.

This can never be ideal, but it has to better than the alternative offered now.

Tomrat said...

That said, Obo, how does this square with LVT?

Vladimir said...

This is a very interesting discussion and I am pleased to be able to follow it. This matter is one that has always bothered me about some forms of libertarianism. It's also the "plutocracy" objection that lefties typically come up with when challenged to come up with an actual sensible argument against libertarianism. So it's good to see how intelligent writers approach the issue.

It's also very pleasing to find that "the science isn't settled" and disagreement, debate and discussion is still very important to libertarians, even about fundamental principles like property ownership.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

I'm not an expert, Mark Wadsworth is the LVT proponent.

However, if there is a need to tax people, then it seems like a "least-worst" tax, and I fully endorse the idea of a "least-worst" tax model over the "tax everything including the fucking air we breathe" tax model we have now.

Kevin Boatang said...

Fair enough.

Nice to try and bait me though witht he comment about my wife, I won't lower myself.

You have stated waht you think here in far more clarity than you have done it on ours, maybe if you had started this way we would have more of an agreement.

However, a couple of things. Such you stating that the owner of a shopping centre is well within rights to totally remove the liberty of all that are within it.

And maybe that choice quote from you that democracy is tyranny.

Hmmm, nice.

Most of what you have done though is grossly mis-represent what I have said. You are well aware of the examples of the current removal of liberty from private property in this country and others. Something you have stated you agree with.

You then come out and say that you assume non-aggression. Interesting. History doesn't quite pan out like that though does it?

What you have openly stated on ours is a system that is in effect feudal Europe. The property owner is the sovereign and the decider of what liberty occurs, you say this won't happen because you trust it won't. The example would be...feudal Europe.

"Libertarians do not strive to make the world a better place"

So you're happy for the world to become a nightmare as long as you can do what you want to do?

You then attack me for not wanting economic liberty. Bollocks. You know this is bollocks, yet you insist on repeating it.

You, Obo, want a voucher based education system, law and order, an army, orads amongst other things. This takes tax. It requires public servants, it requires red tape. This is not total economic liberty. The only other things I would want on top of this are a basic form of safety net for those that need it in times of hardship and for those that cannot help themselves, such as the disabled and mentally ill.

You think this makes me a social democrat. When I pointed out that Hayek also agreed with this, you told me that he wasn't a classical liberal.

I have not said that this is about the majority of property owners are like this and you know damn fucking well that is the case.

"I'm curious what evidence you have for this bland assertion"

Anyone who has ever studied or read about 'community' at any level will understand the point I have made.

Obo, you simple believe that upon the creation of your strange anarchist land with state provided roads, schools, security, law, order, prisons etc, no one would ever abuse anyone elses liberty. Total faith. Because that works so well doesn't in the real world.

Yet you have repeatedly stated that you beleive it is the absolute right of the property owner, no matter the size, to completely remove the liberty of those within it. Which blows your non-aggression bullshit out the water doesn't it.

And Rothbard, please stop pretending you have read the guy. You have only mentioned him once, here in this piece, and only then since someone on ours referred to him. If he was so central to your argument you would have cited him months ago.

Oh, and by the way to people here. Libertarianism, news flash, IS A FUCKING PHILOSOPHY. It is not a ideology, there is left, centre and right, Obo is on the hard right (please see graph on the right hand side at the bottom) and so automatically everyone else is a social-democrat.

I'm oh so fucking sorry for having a different perspective within that spectrum. And Obo, strange that you cite Rothbard the hard american libertarian who took property rights to the extreme, but you never talk about Boaz.

Kevin Boatang said...

Vladimir, Well said.

Steve Tierney said...

From an external perspective it seems to me that you are all fighting because of a desperate need to cling to an ideology, rather than accepting that most ideologies have different strains.

After all, if you push Libertarianism far enough it becomes anarchy. If you pull it hard enough it moves into a brand of conservatism. It's no more cut-and-dried than any other political philosophy (as you're finding out.)

Interesting debate, though. Obnoxio makes a good case, but I can also see the logic of the other side. A wide enough area of "property" could become an illiberal mini-fiefdom if you allow that the property owner can constrain liberties within.

What if somebody is wealthy enough to just buy up *everything*? Does this (unlikely) scenario allow for a Libertarian-approved dictatorship?

Obnoxio The Clown said...

@KB: I wasn't baiting you about your wife, it was more of a reflection on mine. ;o)

Could you please remind me of these removals of rights from private property within this country then?

History doesn't pan out like that because it's not defined on libertarian principles. People who want power over other people get to effectively generate our history. If Adolf Hitler had lived in Libertarian Germany, he would have been tolerated, but not followed. History is full of non-libertarian people who "led" their "country" to war and then you're amazed that history shows us that people are not libertarian.

I argue that the very structure of a state makes it cost-effective to justify attacking a country if you fancy their stuff. If you had to conquer 60 million individuals who wouldn't listen to you when you took over, it wouldn't be quite so appealing.

"You, Obo, want a voucher based education system, law and order, an army, orads amongst other things. This takes tax."

Actually, I would see a voucher based system as an interim step only. What I would really like is fully privatised, competitive education. There is a case for the other things, but as I said, these would just be conveniences. And yes, if these conveniences were provided, then some means of funding them would be required.

However, it would not require the state employment of millions of people to provide us with the management of roads, courts, police and an army. Even local roads could be outsourced, and only the funding thereof would require any administration.

It's irrelevant to my far-rightness, however, because while I believe that a totally libertarian society is possible, I certainly don't believe it is likely.

And arguing about my ideology is pointless - as is my arguing about yours. I, personally, will never really be happy with any government intervention, but in reality, I'd settle into a comfortable arrangement whereby the government got the fuck out of my face at every possible opportunity and focused on sorting out it's own fucking mess and left me alone.

I'd even grudgingly pay for welfare and the NHS if I felt like I was getting value for money - how "pragmatic" is that?

But I'm afraid that this debate is starting to head off into the realms of "would Luke Skywalker kick James T. Kirk's arse" - it's interesting and can be debated forever, but it's not going to get us to Mars or Alpha Centauri.

In the same way, while this is an interesting discussion (and it really is!) I don't know that it will do anything to get us closer to a real alternative to the LibLabCon hegemony. I'm happy to embrace the "impure" LPUK minarchist strategy because I feel like it's much better than anything else out there.

Above anything, I don't want a desire for a libertarian society to be splintered across a hundred different silly niches, like the Marxists do.

At the end of the day, as much as I personally enjoy the coherence and logic of the anarchist position, I am pragmatic enough to know that most people do not want to think about their lives hard enough to understand and adopt the same philosophy I do and do not want to expend the effort that is required to live in true freedom.

I know that I will probably never live in my truly libertarian utopia. Indeed, I'd be delighted to see a single Libertarian MP before I die.

So while we may snipe and bitch at each other over how many angels dance on the head of a pin, it's important that we continue to support and endorse Chris and the rest of the LPUK team as they try to turn the lumbering hulk of the UK around.

The "purity" of my position does not preclude me from supporting any liberal or libertarian initiatives.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

"What if somebody is wealthy enough to just buy up *everything*? Does this (unlikely) scenario allow for a Libertarian-approved dictatorship?"

Nobody is that wealthy, not even in the most egregious banana republic. People in those countries maintain their dominance through physical violence and threats, not through wealth.

Ray said...

In a Libertarian society, if someone is wealthy enough to buy *everything* they can only accomplish this if *everyone else* voluntarily agrees to sell everything they have.

Any one of them would be free to refuse the offer for their worldly goods and chattels.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Boaty, I can't be bothered to read your entire rant so I'll pick the nearest and summarise.

"However, a couple of things. Such you stating that the owner of a shopping centre is well within rights to totally remove the liberty of all that are within it."

Yes. It is within that owners rights.

Property rights allow the host to decide what is appropriate behaviour within their property, and ask them to leave or force them to leave if they do not comply.

Property rights do not override common law, that is to say, allow you to murder someone elses wife because you had her over for a dinner party.

This is very simple. Common law, that is to say, instinctive instructions on how to coexist with other human beings, dictates that it is wrong to carry on honking on merrily about animal rights in someones living room if they've asked you to shut up and leave because you're ruining the atmosphere.

Tl;dr, you have completely missed Obo's points and do not understand classic liberalism, common law, common sense or courtesy, shut up and re-read things before repeating your invalid points ad nauseum.

If the states moral dictations over whats appropriate behaviour can override those of the property owner, (Say, free speech on someone elses property, smoking, etc), then that's communism, see?

Barnsley Bill said...

Libertarians are just anarchists with nice teeth.
Merry xmas Obo, thanks for entertaining me all year.

Tomrat said...

Steve T and Mr. Boatang,

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.

You are both right and wrong here; whilst no doubt you would be hard pressed to find a libertarian who espoused the opposites in this statement few would agree their life is dedicated to this - a more accurate depiction of libertarian thought could be that we believe that the consequence of our collective free actions will lead to the best outcomes possible - the consequentialist world view differs in that it grudgingly accepts middle grounds as a pathway to better outcomes in the future and I believe that Chris is one such chap as am I.

However what you are arguing here (In fairness I am not entirely sure precisely what you are arguing for) is not libertarianism- libertarianism is, as Mrs DK put it so well, freedom from; fundamentally (and I do agree with much of what you and Mr JD write) your arguement is a freedom to one - this is where it diverges from an arguement for true freedom.


Regarding LVT; I concur - and there I thought I was crazy.