Sunday, 4 July 2010

The best way forward to a libertarian society

I, along with Bella Gerens and John Demetriou, have a challenge to blog about whether it's better to get a Libertarian society through democracy or through revolution.

Both of these strategies have advantages and disadvantages. However, I'd be inclined to discount the strategy of a a revolution, because libertarians are disinclined to use force which may harm other people. Although bloodless revolutions are not unheard of, I can't see any way in which a sufficiently large number of libertarian-inclined people would rise up and depose a government.

Co-opting the military into such an exercise is complete anathema to a libertarian, so maintaining "bloodlessness" would be extremely unlikely, as the state would have the weapons and would have a huge motivation to use them.

On the other hand, it would be quicker, whether bloodless or not. But I'm not sure that such a revolution would be permanent. People are generally of a statist mindset and they need to not only be educated about the benefits of liberty, but they actually have to see them and live them.

So I guess we do need a kind of revolution, but it's a revolution in our political class: we need to infiltrate libertarian ideals into the bigger parties, to make them debate whether the default answer to every question is "the state". Once people start to question that, and vote accordingly, we can use democracy to achieve a smaller and smaller level of state interference.

The downside of this approach is that it's going to take a long, long time, and the current "direction of travel" is not in our favour.

However, I've found (anecdotally, I haven't exactly done a scientific survey or anything!) that most people who "aren't interested in politics" are actually quite receptive to the ideas of libertarian politics. These are people who generally have little interaction with the state and have little "skin in the political game". These are often people who don't vote or vote by flipping a coin. They don't question the state's interventions because they don't think about politics much. But they often have grumbles about government incompetence and the cost of taxation.

Most normal people, in fact.

The most general group who have an active support for the state are those who call themselves "political", people whose parties require a state: Labour, Lib Dem, Tory, Green, BNP, UKIP, etc. Political animals who support parties that require a state will inevitably argue that the state is a necessary and benevolent thing.

But I believe that if we can acquire a critical mass to turn the behemoth of state provision around and start on the road of reducing the state's involvement in everything, with every regained freedom, every newly unfettered industry and business, people will gradually acquiesce to the new model and over time demand that the government continues to strive to do less and less until it becomes demonstrably unnecessary.

So, in summary, a revolution would be quick and easy but I really can't see how it would be achieved in a libertarian ethos and I also don't think it would "take." Democracy will be extremely difficult and take a long time, but if it can be achieved in this way, it would definitely last right up until the point where people felt they didn't even need democracy any more.

Update: Rather inevitably, my effort is much more prosaic than, although more or less in line with, Bella's. Demetriou, as usual, has not fucking bothered yet.

Update 2: Guthrum over at the LPUK blog has his say. Still no fucking sign of Demetriou.

The useless cunt.


John Demetriou said...

As I said on Bella's, I'm running late and haven't had the chance thus far, but I will get my piece up tonight.

Good article here btw, also Bella's was very good. Allow me more time.


Anonymous said...

Obo wrote:
People are generally of a statist mindset ... we need to infiltrate libertarian ideals into the bigger parties, to make them debate whether the default answer to every question is "the state". Once people start to question that, and vote accordingly, we can use democracy to achieve a smaller and smaller level of state interference.

This appears to be a sensible way forward. In fact, even I would argue that it is likely to meet with some small success.

However, it is likely to be only small success...

Libertarians all too frequently (esp. those on 'the right') treat human beings as totally rational economic machines, and presume that we merely need to cogently make the economic case for our cause and the masses will adopt our point of view.

This isn't true, and if we are to understand why -- and why so many hold a statist mindset -- we need to move beyond mechanistic economics and consider the psychological reasons for this apparent need by many to grasp the safety blanket of external authority.

Here's some suggested reading for you, Obo. It's 60 years old, but more than stands up to scrutiny today. Note that it's quite possible (nay, sensible and essential) to accept the author's thesis on the origins of such lust for authority figures without agreeing with him on how to remake society for the better. The latter is, of course, the responsibility of all of us as free men and women ;-)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, good question, should we shoot people.. or should we shoot people. Allow me to bang my head against a wall for the next 5 minutes...

... Every thought we could continue educating people, stop collectively absuing our children into violent hierachy loving drones and give up violence instead of deciding the best kind of violence to use?

And yes... democracy, even when "used" to limit the state is still absolutely riddled with violence; not to mention how there wouldn't be a democracy if it was possible to limit the government with it, that would defeat the point of the Statists setting up a system which looks like the people have a say.

All you have to do is blog honestly, talk honestly, not abuse children and be consistent (don't say you're an anarchist one day and talk about supporting violence the next) and live freedom. Yeah, it's not going to make a bit of different in our lives, but damn if it isn't better than trying to create peace with violence.

RantinRab said...

JD, you were 'late' the last time as I recall...

Obnoxio The Clown said...

Anonymous, I entirely agree that the idea of using democracy to overthrow the state is a curious one.

However, in terms of winning people over to the idea that they don't need a government, the thrust of my argument is that it's better to subvert the method which is already designated as "blessed".

But like the man once said: if you're trying to get there, I wouldn't start from here. :o)

Quent said...

One problem with infiltrating the Establishment is that you don't have years and years to do this. The clock has nearly run out. Also, the current political class is all about power, money and privilege, and nothing else. Why would they care in the least about libertarian principles?

Additionally, there is the problem of Libertarianism as yet another theory of social engineering. The U.K., IMO, needs far less social engineering and far less government, period.

Furthermore, there is the matter of the survival of the English themselves and the restoration of their homeland. That may not be important to Libertarians, but it will be a powerful motivator for many, as will be the desire for revenge and the settling of accounts.

For these reasons and others, the developing revolutionary dynamic will likely leave Libertarianism in the dust.

Kingbingo said...

"we need to infiltrate libertarian ideals into the bigger parties, to make them debate whether the default answer to every question is "the state". Once people start to question that, and vote accordingly, we can use democracy to achieve a smaller and smaller level of state interference."

Ah! Yes.

Glad to see I finally talked you round. Well done that clown. :)

Obnoxio The Clown said...

Not really.

You're claiming that the Tories are the best hope for Libertarianism.

I'm saying that all three parties need to be infiltrated.

Scary Biscuits said...

Obo, infiltrating libertarians into the current system won't work because even those that started off with good intentions, and that's not everyone, end up getting corrupted by the system.

To get real, enduring reform we need to look at the universal franchise. This is a 20th century innovation, a bolt-on to democracy that has a disastrous record. If you give people the opportunity to vote for a free lunch, then generally that is what they will do. However, it is morally wrong to give people a vote on how to spend other peoples' money.

A large state is incompatible with democracy because, once you have too many people on the payroll, you are past the point of no return: there is no way Greece, for example, can democratically exit its current troubles. Resolution will either be imposed by the EU or come from violence on the street.

Taxation without consent is theft. Property rights, including of money, are therefore at the heart libertarianism. Property rights only benefit the weak and the poor as the strong will always be able to look after themselves.

The Taxpayers' Alliance, therefore, shouldn't be a pressure group: it is the whole point of the House of Commons.

The property/tax-paying qualification for voting needs to be re-established. Until then, the system will continue to reward politicians who waste other people's money and take away their freedom.

To get real change (not Obama or Cameron merely using the word), we need to ditch our own sibboleths. That means campaigning against the universal franchise and restoring the link between voting and property.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

Is that really the way forward?

How about only taxpayers can vote? And then when the state is so small that no-one needs to pay tax, the state will finally die.

Kingbingo said...

"I'm saying that all three parties need to be infiltrated."

Fine, but your have a lot more success with the Tories, and maybe Liberals. If you can get those two competing to be the 'most libertarian' in the same way you used to have Tories and Labour competing to see who could be most 'business friendly' then that's progress. Maybe even Labour might join in, although I doubt it.

So keep making your case, try and be funny and angry to keep people reading and keep exposing the lunacy of the statist mindset (like your article on drugs; v.good).

I just wish you would drop the anti-Tory hate fest you've got going on. They are far from perfect but they are the least worse option out of any of the parties that can actually win, by a mile!

Anonymous said...

@Scary Biscuits
The property/tax-paying qualification for voting needs to be re-established

I've seen others (e.g. DD at the LA) propose this before. However, would you care to clarify what you mean by 'property owning'?

I ask as a genuine property owner: I have no mortgage. Is that your definition too, or do you want to include all of the debt-slave mortgage holders in your franchise?

And what about 'tax paying'? Every bugger pays taxes like VAT and Council Tax already. Or do you mean income tax? If so, why? I don't pay that as I choose not to work (or claim benefits, before you ask). If you are limiting your franchise to income tax payers, then, again, you are attempting social engineering: applying a judgement that paid employ makes one a valuable citizen.

Just asking...

Kingbingo said...

No. The solution is to break the UK up into roughly a dozen regions. Each sets 100% of its tax and spend locally.

If people in a certain area want to have socialism let them. As long as they are willing to bear all the cost.

People must be free to leave their region, and let those regions compete or 'race to the bottom' by trying to attract the best people by setting lower and lower taxes.

The independence of Scotland, Wales, NI and Cornwall will be a good start, but England should break up as well.

Competition between state is as health for states as it is between businesses.

Kingbingo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Obnoxio The Clown said...

Kingbingo, that's like saying breast cancer is the least worst cancer you can have.

Despite the Tory party having people like Hannan and Carswell who are probably the closest to anything like libertarian thinking, they are regarded as nutters.

And whatever iDave might say about libertarian ideas like cutting the state, or stopping pointless and invasive government databases, or "localism", look at what he does:

* The state is still growing explosively and will still exceed £1.5 trillion by 2015.
* A quiet u-turn on the NHS Spine.
* Further centralisation of power to the central government.

The fact of the matter is that you cannot tell iDave's policies apart from Labour's, because as we've seen, Labour were quite able to nick his policies, slap a bit of redwash on them and run them as "socialist" policies.

In some policy areas, it's widely recognised that Labour is actually to the right of Tory policy.

On what possible grounds could I support such a party? And why am I wrong to hate a party that is remotely "conservative"?

Guthrum said...

My Take here

Scary Biscuits said...

Morlock, the principle has to be that the people paying the tax have to have the right to say how it is spent. It's their money after all.

When England was a rural economy, owning property was an easy way of approximating income. Today, a less indirect measure, i.e. taxed income over a threshold is probably more appropriate. This should be net income, that is income minus payments from the government, so Civil Servants would be disenfranchised. That is fair, as you can only be on one side of the fence or the other: paying into the system or benefiting from it.

It doesn't matter that everybody pays taxes such as VAT. Only income tax qualifies. In the short term this would be unfair to people disenfranchised but their interests would still be represented by people paying even more tax by them, so the system would still work.

Long term, the plus for people disenfrachised is that there would be no moral justification for VAT and other double taxes. How is it fair that people are taxed several times? People would only be taxed once: income tax would be the only one. If you qualify for the tax you also qualify to vote. If you don't qualify you don't pay tax. Obviously, this could not be achieved in one step, but merely to establish the idea that democracy and a universal franchise are not necessarily the same thing, would be major progress.

The English have had three insurrections over the principle of no taxation without representation (the battles leading to Magna Carta, the Civil War and the American War of Independence). The precedents for re-establishing this right (and its corollary, no representation without taxation) without bloodshed are therefore not good. The vested interests, the banks and the political class have too much to lose from a fair political system, just as they did in the past. At the very least, we would need a campaign of civil disobedience, a taxpayers' strike, for example, or a blockade of major motorways. The political class will never surrender the liberties it has taken with and from the people otherwise.

Anonymous said...

@Scary Biscuits
The vested interests, the banks and the political class have too much to lose from a fair political system, just as they did in the past

You are somewhat right -- but so, so, horribly wrong at the same time.

The vested interests may lose some influence through the implementation of a 'fair political system'. However, it would only be some influence.

What would really worry them -- and destroy their power base -- is people living outside of the confines of the system; a system that exists for their benefit.

I'm sorry, but your basic premise is that those who happily accept the system (work, pay taxes etc.) are the only ones who should be enfranchised and able to (politically) modify that system. Does that sound as if it would be a great concern to those very same vested interests for whom the system is set-up to benefit...?

If politics is the answer, it's a bloody stupid question. The same (returning to the OP) goes to talk of revolutions; that simply isn't going to happen whilst you've got a fat, comfortable population. Besides which, revolutionaries invariably turn into that which they originally started out opposing -- authority figures/dictators.

There is another way forwards though: disengagement. You can't achieve total separation from the state whilst property taxes (etc.) exist, but you can get close. You don't have to prop up the financial system by constantly living in debt. You don't have to support politically connected multinationals by buying crappy consumer goods that you don't really need, or foodstuffs that you could easily grow yourself. You don't have to work in the 'real' economy. And on, and on.

Of course, some of those choices will rankle with 'right' libertarians; those who see no issue with corporate rule. That's their lookout -- they can carry on banging their heads against a brick wall trying to engineer and defend truly free markets; an impossible task when underlying power differentials between man and the state/the corporation exist.

Others, not so blinkered, might do well to remember Audre Lorde's famous expression: "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House". Violence (revolution) and politics are The Master's tools.

The only way to win this game is to choose not to play ;-)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kingbingo said...

“The fact of the matter is that you cannot tell iDave's policies apart from Labour's, because as we've seen, Labour were quite able to nick his policies, slap a bit of redwash on them and run them as "socialist" policies.”

There is so much wrong with that it’s difficult to know where to begin. I know full well Obnoxio is smart enough to be able to tell the difference, so you must be wilfully obtuse.

Just because you take a policy with the same name does not mean it’s the same thing and run the same way.

I am fully aware that the Tories policies will not go far enough, but they are constrained by what they believe the public will let them get away with. Plus their own personal preference for the size of the state, at least some state they do want.

But only a moron would think that the size of the state the Tories want and Zanulabour want are identical. I know you know that.

John Demetriou said...

Mr Rob said...

Close, Clown, close.

Don't try to educate people, influence them. The media can do this, and it is far more susceptible to infiltration than the political parties. You'll even find that political parties will start to follow trends introduced and announced as "popular" by the media.

Of course, if you have a moral objection to initially lying about your true views and aims, and manipulating people, you'd better get the semtex out :)

Oh BTW to the more theoretically-inclined libertarians...keep it simple, stupid.

Mr Rob said...


It might further your cause a little if the deputy leader of your party could write coherent English.

Love and kisses

Obnoxio The Clown said...

John Prescott is a libertarian????????

Kingbingo said...

"Don't try to educate people, influence them. The media can do this, and it is far more susceptible to infiltration than the political parties."

Yes, very true.

However, the best and the brightest on the right choose things like business and finance. We choose wealth.

The best and the brightest on the left choose things like teaching and media. They choose influence.
Thus they are powerful.

My question to you Mr Rob, is how do you get young libertarians to choose a career in media? Especially, since something obscure like libertarianism, is something you don't normally arrive at without a little life experience. Few people know what it is.

John Demetriou said...

Squawk! Has anyone seen my camel?!

I don't recall agreeing to write a piece about bringing about a libertarian society. Squawk! I do recall, however, agreeing to write a piece about how brilliant I am as a libertarian and how only my view is correct and how anyone who disagrees with me is a cunt.

I also recall asking my felching friend Boatang to write a piece on the webshite telling people we don't really want them to vote for us in the Total Politics poll, even though we actually do. We're just attention-seeking cunts really, though we don't want to admit it. Oh, and anyone who doesn't vote for us to win the poll is a cunt.


Mr Rob said...

@King Bingo

If young libertarians do not wish to influence society to become more of a reflection of their own beliefs, that would indeed be a problem. Given the nature of libertarian beliefs, I am quite wiling to concede that it could be an insurmountable one, akin to the AGM of the Apathy Society.

You mean you don't get invited to the cheese and lard soirées where such matters are discussed? And I thought you were well-informed...

Scary Biscuits said...

Morlock, it's not true that 'revolutionaries invariably turn into... dictators'. It depends on their motivation. The French, German and Russian revolutions all had a form a socialism as their objective and their leaders were motivated by personal power, which did indeed lead inexorably to less power to the people. The English revolutions I refered to above were, by contrast and despite their violence, followed by great improvements in liberty.

I agree with you that we should not play by their rules. Merely turning up meekly to vote within a system they have fixed to ensure that you get no real choice is stupid. Removing yourself from politics, as you suggest, is even more stupid. Intead we must find other ways of exerting power over the political class. More constructive proposals would be greatly appreciated!

Rob, libertarianism is not the same as pacifism. Germany is today as obnoxiously pacifist as it once was militarist. Both are extremes and both are evil. The more English attitude, of loving peace but being prepared to fight for it, is not a paradox but simply real world pragmatism.