Monthly Archives: December 2006

Public Sector Rich List


The Tax Payers’ Alliance  recently released this excellent analysis of the UK public sector rich.

I have no problem with people in the private sector earning large sums of money as result of their commercial exploits. However, this does not apply to the public sector. As all taxation is theft  these people are the real fat cat parasites of our society.

Something Tory for Christmas?


A few weeks back I bought the book Unzipped and could not put it down. It is well written, very funny and contains many liberal meems.

Unzipped is the story of a senior Tory’s political life in London and also the story of an unusual marriage. For the anonymous author’s wife declared to him at a political dinner that if he was so inclined, she would give her blessing to him having sex with other women. It would cost him, but she would allow him to seek sex elsewhere, as she was no longer interested in this side of their marriage. This led to an avalanche of sexual experiences and a journey leading the politician to love two women – his wife and his prostitute.

Over the years we have all read about political extramarital affairs but in this book we learn in detail about a world of prostitutes and sex parties. For Unzipped exposes a truth behind party conferences, lobbying, and many members of all political parties – high and low.  As compulsively readable as the Alan Clark Diaries, Unzipped is the perfect book for anyone who’s wondered what really happens behind the façade of Westminster and is looking to give a hilarious gift to a friend this Christmas.

The Private Supply of Public Goods


I recently talked to a Conservative councillor from North London who complained about a seeming lack of free market literature specifically aimed at people in local government. While this complaint might be justified, two excellent publications – one a pamphlet and the other a book – come to mind. 

Today, it is popularly believed that the unrestricted operation of market forces in the nineteenth century meant that many so called public goods such as public order and sanitation had to be delivered by the state. Yet this perspective is debunked by Dr. Stephen Davies in his excellent LA paper: The Private Supply of Public Goods in Nineteenth Century Britain, Libertarian Alliance. 

Again, the Independent Institute book The Voluntary City  provides an insightful history and analysis of private, locally based provision of social services, infrastructure, and community governance. Covering the private provision of education, transport, housing, health care and crime control this must read book reveals:

“How the process of providing local public goods through the dynamism of freely competitive, market-based entrepreneurship is unmatched in renewing communities and strengthening the bonds of civil society.”

Capitalist hitchhicking


From LifeHacker, one of my favorite blogs come this suggestion for finding people to share car trips with. The passenger agrees a fare which is effectively held on escrow by Ridester, providing security on both sides.

Subsidies? Nil. Government involvement? Nil. Security? Pretty good, like eBay, you get to read testimonies from previous travel sharers and give ratings.

Two consequences I like: 1) this will tend to reduce pressure for public transport subsidies in remote parts of the USA and provides an ethical alternative to regulated car sharing schemes; and 2) it encourages people to behave responsibly (assholes will be reported as such and lose future opportunities, whether they drive or are passengers).

Consent


If asked to choose one word to sum up what libertarianism is all about, many libertarians would, not very surprisingly, choose: liberty. Of those who didn’t choose liberty many others would instead say: freedom. Most English speaking people, including most libertarians, seem to use these two words pretty much interchangeably. For me, if obliged to choose just one word to say what libertarianism means, that one word would probably be: consent.

Lots of ideologues now believe in liberty, or freedom, or say that they do. But, we all have different views about how to get it, protect it and preserve it, and about what its proper limits are. Libertarians, for instance, do not believe that people should be at liberty (free) to launch unprovoked and violent attacks against the persons or properties of others. Many would say that this means that we believe in restricting freedom. We do. One of the major purposes of property is to enable the property owner to limit freedom, on or in using his property. (We believe that restricting freedom in this particular way nevertheless maximises it.)

Consent is also a slippery concept – a bone upon which flesh must also be put if it is to be clear what is being said – but I think that consent, more exactly than mere liberty, communicates what libertarianism is all about.

Two scraps of descriptive flesh, then.

First, consent is, in particular, a better way to summarise libertarianism than another very popular mantra, involving the idea of harm. That you should be allowed to do what you like so long as you do no harm to others, as a short summary of libertarianism, or of mere governmental wisdom in general, is just plain wrong, and opens the door to all manner of governmental and other interferences into what ought to be perfectly legal activities.

Every professional sportsman who ever gets stuck into an opponent is trying to boost his own career at the expense of the career of his opponent, in short, to harm the other guy. The point is not that a sportsman is not harmed when he loses an important and economically portentous contest; the point is that he consented to the fixture, and to any harm that losing it, or for that matter winning it, might bring to him. He knew when he entered the contest that he might lose, perhaps humiliatingly. His entire career, even the rest of his life, might then be badly deranged. Too bad. Those were the rules he consented to. This definitely includes the physical dangers involved in consenting to a physically violent sport, such as boxing, or to dangerous body contact sports like rugby or American football.

Second, consent, as understood by libertarians, applies to all the individuals who participate in an event, rather than to a mere majority of them, or to a substantial minority of them. The phrase “consent of the governed” to a libertarian, is decidedly contradictory. Which do you want? Consent? Or a whole lot of people who have not actually consented to anything being “governed”?

Every individual involved in a rugby international consented to take part, indeed was probably frantically eager to do so and thrilled to be selected, despite all the dangers of getting quite badly hurt or being made a very public fool of. But if even one individual involved in such an event were to be kidnapped and forced against his will to take part, that would be wrong, say we libertarians. And says almost everyone else. That a mere majority consented to the event would be no excuse for such a kidnapping.

Most would agree about applying the consent axiom to rugby matches, at least when it comes to adults. What distinguishes us libertarians from the rest is that we apply this kind of thinking to as many other arrangements as we possibly can.

One of the major purposes of this blog is to draw attention to the mostly rather less chatty, but more earnestly and thoughtfully ccomposed, publications of the Libertarian Alliance, both recent and not so recent.

So, in connection with the consent principle, or the “consent axiom”, as he calls it, let me draw your attention to Leon Louw’s Legal Notes No. 10, entitled Libertarianism and the Lessons of the Common Law. “Consent” being of the subheadings in this piece, towards the end of page two.

Under which Louw writes:

Libertarianism argues that one may not initiate aggression, or fraud, or theft. The absence of force or fraud is, in my view, not enough to distinguish permissible from non-permissible acts. This is why I prefer to speak of the “consent axiom”. For example, if I leave my car with the key in it and somebody sees it and drives off in it – have they aggressed? Have they defrauded me? It seems to me not. It seems to me that the much better litmus test is whether they have used me or my property without my consent. That is surely a much more universally applicable and useful test.

And, as I say, we don’t just apply the consent axiom to relatively uncontroversial applications, like car theft and sports contests. We apply it, or we try to, to everything.

Libertarian ideas on free market defence and security


In the week that the Iraq Study Group delivered its recommendations to the US leadership and friends in the bloggosphere suggest that increased tax spending on our nationalised military might be a good way forward, I am mindful of a burgeoning libertarian literature on defence and security. In recent years many good pieces have been published on this complex topic and much of it is now thankfully available on-line. Here is an introductory list of just a fraction:

Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe, The Private Production of Defense, Ludwig von Mises Institute:

Professor Murray Rothbard, Defence Services on the Free Market:

Professor Larry Sechrest, Privateering and National Defense: Naval Warfare for Private Profit, Independent Institute:

Garry M. Anderson and Adam Gifford, Order Out of Anarchy – The International Law of War, CATO Journal:Garry M. Anderson and Adam Gifford, Privateering and the Private Production of Naval Power Finally, here are three excellent books well worth purchasing:

Peter. W. Singer, Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry:

Robert Higgs, Arms, Politics and the Economy: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, Independent Institute:

Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe, The Myth of National Defense, Ludwig von Mises Institute:

Gordon Brown spends, spends, spends on doomed state education


Today, the
UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, has pledged in his pre-Budget statement  to the House of Commons, even more tax payers’ money for the vortex of doom that is state education.
 Unlike politicians, libertarians have no faith in state funded, centrally planned and compulsory education. Instead, they believe in a genuine market for learning and a world of real choice. Forget Eaton and Harrow, for while they might have a place in the market, libertarians envisage a world of home education, the University of Life, private schools for profit, private schools for charity, schools belonging to high street brands, private universities, schools belonging to churches and a thousand other options. This would be a market with low barriers of entry – not driven by regulation but reputation. Ultimately, it would be a market driven by real consumers. One of the best libertarian writers on education was of course E. G. West who now has an excellent research and policy unit  named after him at Newcastle University – directed by Professor James Tooley. The E. G. West Centre provides a great reading list.If you are interested in the history and political economy of British education then also have a look at the eleven Libertarian Alliance Educational Notes (numbers 15-25) written by David Botsford and linked to below. They make for excellent reading and should be downloaded by anyone who wants to know the tragic history that has become modern British state education:

Compulsion Versus
Liberty in Education, I: The Calvinist Roots

Compulsion Versus
Liberty in Education, II: The British Road From Freedom to Despotism

Compulsion Versus
Liberty in Education, III: Against Planned Education, III: Against Planned Education

Compulsion Versus
Liberty in Education, IV: The Montessori Movement and Its Enemies, IV: The Montessori Movement and Its Enemies

Compulsion Versus
Liberty in Education, V: The Psychology of Repression

Compulsion Versus
Liberty in Education, VI: The False Freedom of the British Public Schools

Compulsion Versus
Liberty in Education, VII: Violence in Schools

Compulsion Versus
Liberty in Education, VIII: The Third Wave

Compulsion Versus Liberty in Education, IX: TheSchool of
Barbiana

Compulsion Versus Liberty in Education, X: Home Education in
Britain

Compulsion Versus
Liberty in Education, XI: Stirner Versus Calvin