Monday, 5 March 2012

Libertarianism and when the Lefties' masks slip.

My good friend @NorthBriton45, who blogs at Radical Blues turned his irony klaxon off this morning. He's a socialist, one who's twitter handle takes as its inspiration (supposedly) John Wilkes' organ 'The North Briton', whose issue #45 led to a load of court cases as a parody of a King's speech was libellous. Wilkes himself got locked up in the tower.

The Earl of Sandwich once said to Wilkes, (a notorious libertine, and member of the Hellfire club)

"you will either die of the pox or on the Gallows",
to which he replied
"that depends on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress".
Given what I know to be NorthBriton45's rather abstemious (by the standards of journalists) and admirable lifestyle - he's happily married and not as far as I know, a renowned libertine, I feel I would be better an inheritor of Wilkes' erstwhile organ. After all, read his blog, then mine. Who's more likely to go to the Tower for libelling someone in power?

Anyway. Back to the Irony Klaxon being turned off. I defined Socialism thus:
The imposition by force of your economic preferences on everyone else.
To which NorthBriton45 replied
libertarianism: the desire to impose your own freedom on other at the expense of others.
Cue Gales of laughter from the libertarianish twittersphere. The mask slipped. Just as it did with Dr Eoin Clarke's ludicrous assertion about Starbucks coffee and the tyranny of choice, (a post now laughably removed). Just because he trusts in an all-knowing state (run by people like him) to make important decisions, everyone should have no choice. Lefties really, really believe that choice is wasteful, that competition instead of driving up standards and down costs, is wasteful duplication.

So. How can it be more efficient to have competing BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and Volkswagen when you can have a trabant, and wait 6 months for it. Starbucks, or the kind of rusty piss-water that used to pass for coffee in the UK? Have you tried to get a phone installed recently? Now talk to your parents about getting one installed in the 1970s.

But it's not about the agony of choice in consumer, or even utility services. It's about a misrepresentation of libertarianism. Later he says
you constantly want to avoid responsibility. Individual and isolationist
as if there is nothing between the individual and the state, nothing between the individual and the law. Libertarianism is about the individual taking responsibility back from the Government. It's about rejecting safety nets, excessive legislation protecting us from ourselves. It's about saying "do what you will, but don't come crying to me if it goes wrong". Most people are scared by this responsibility, because most people are ignorant children, scared of the Big Bad World. The government likes it that way: scared people can be easily coerced into handing over 40-50% of their income to be spent by the state.

But free people don't live in anarchy. The old gag: you can't leave Anglo-Saxons alone for too long or they will start to form clubs. People generally co-operate for mutual benefit without the state telling them to do so. The state of course has a role in enforcing laws of contract, and enforcing those against harm to others. Most libertarians are comfortable with some form of safety net for those less fortunate. Most see some form of Citizen's basic income in this role, taking a rhetorical position of "the state/society has discharged it's responsibilities to you with this payment, what you do with it is your business". Try to deny that this is less of a tyranny than the current welfare slavery which traps the least fortunate in society at the bottom of the heap, begging weekly for money from bureaucrats. The fact that the bureaucracy often makes terrible decisions about people's lives doesn't seem to faze libertarianism's detractors. The casual brutality of the state micro-managing people's personal relationships is just accepted. The tyranny of the benefit office or laws preventing people getting on the job ladder at all is lauded as "for their protection". From what? Quis custodiet ipsos custoides?

Libertarians are not hermits or survivalists, often quite the opposite. Nor are we atomistic about human relationships. Most work co-operativly for private companies. Nor are we anarchist: libertarianism requires a strong and competent state, albeit one doing very much less than at present. Libertarians are not selfish, but the philosophy is that of harnessing selfishness to the greater good. Just like free-market capitalism, but with the same insights which led to the greatest explosion of wealth and creativity the world has ever seen applied to the social and personal spheres as well as the economic.

Most economic liberals are social authoritarians. Most economic authoritarians are social liberals (a position which includes most of the British left). Socialists (proper ones) are economically and socially authoritarian, as are fascists. Libertarians are the only people who believe people should be free and actually apply this to people who are not like them. Nowhere has a bureaucracy made a better decision than a properly functioning market. That's not to say markets are perfect, but like democracy, they tend to improve over time and be better than any alternative.

So as I said earlier, in the statement which kicked off the whole damn discussion.
Libertarianism: the only mature political response to the observation that your preferences are not everyone Else's
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