If a British Libertarian Party was to exist, and it won an election, what ought it to do? (Part 1)


David Davis 

If a minimal state had functions, what would they be? Has to be – protection of the Life, the Liberty and the ability to trade, give and dispose of Property, without Let or Hinderance.

If I was to assume such a victory, we can envisage with it the disappearance of the UK Political Class (what Sean Gabb broadly dubs the Enemy Class) which would of course have practically no useful function any more under a Libertarian administration.

Then the remaining primary functions of any importance can only be in the areas of foreign policy towards other existing states, and defence; since war is the diplomacy-method of a state when carried on by open means. We have to assume that these other states are still presumably non-libertarian and therefore potentially hostile, given the prevailing desire of Enemy Classes to replicate themselves, since all power is delightful, and absolute power is absolutely delightful. It would be interesting to analyse exactly how a Libertarian state, if that is not an oxymoron, would go to war if it needed to, except in self-defence. However there are precedents which ought to be considered, such as the entry into WW1 and WW2 by the British Empire.

A Libertarian administration with a good Parliamentary majority ought therefore to increase defence spending very much. Since “allies” will be hard to find, there ought to be no pretence of “creating jobs” by selling good weapons technology to “customers round the world”. Israel is an embattled case in point, which makes good technology for itself, and does not even sell it to the Jordanians, who are as good neighbours as it seems possible to be to poor Israel in the current circumstamces. (I am not saying Israel is libertarian, far from it.)

No statist nation on the planet ought to be able to sleep 100% easy in its political class’s beds at night, on the basis that that any UN-jumpingupanddown-gangster-cheerleadered assaults on a Libertarian UK would bring instant and terrible anihilation to the jumperupanddowners, the flagburners and the AK47dischargersintotheair. (Would we even need, or want, a flag? For the enemy to burn? Who cares? This is 2007 and our “ships”, whatever they might be, could see each other across the word on-screen in the dark…) The economic benefits of Libertarian “economic policy” (also an oxymoron!)  would signal like a lighthouse to the oppressed peoples of the UN-nations (I assume we would leave the UN straight away and stop our payments?) why their current situation is hideous and inhuman, why it’s the fault of “their” own Enemy Classes, and also what can and ought to be achieved instead for them and by themselves if they had the power and the will.

A Free People would be much better at war than a state. Look on the works of the English for 14 centuries, you statists, and despair. (Now.) I’m not trying to be proud of what poor old nice misguided socialist Dennis Healey called “glorying in slaughter” but winning seems to be the general prerogative of the side that allows the most creativity to its people.

This role was supposed to be America’s, the “City On A Hill”. She was our First Child, and not just the oldest republic in the world, and it was a grand and noble try, and it nearly worked. But the Enemy Class rumbled us while we were either bust, or asleep.  So, given the deep and possibly irrevocably unremediable Gramsco-Marxian corruption of both its major parties by “intellectuals”, we can count out for now a statist America. Politically, Libertarians would be Alone In The World. (Er, most of us probably don’t mind anyway.) (Some people have even said that (some of us) are autistic!)

As to general foreign policy, what ought that to mean? Only that we consider events in the light of what action would be in our own people’s best interest – as represented to @their@ gubmint (I suppose that would have to be us…..What a blasted bummer…) This raises all sorts of problems even in the Libertarian Alliance – not a good sign. I have never failed to support our involvement, with our allies the Americans, the Australians, the Poles, the Spanish (for a bit?)  etc,  in the Iraq war for example, whereas Sean Gabb has always bravely opposed it and has always stated that it would end in disaster if conducted in the present way.

All right. This puts up for discussion the problem of what a Libertarian society does with regard to conflict with other (non-Libertarian) societies. How ought it to be resolved? Comments please! Someone must be reading this stuff……

There are of course minor proximal matters, such as the EU. I expect we’d all agree that the UK , if intact, ought to leave immediately. if it’s not intact, than England ought to. Comments please!

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16 responses to “If a British Libertarian Party was to exist, and it won an election, what ought it to do? (Part 1)

  1. How about beginning with a Bill of Rights, Libertarian in its formula.

    The Bill of Rights 2007

    1. Preamble

    2. Self-ownership

    Each individual owns themself and the product of their labour. No unreasonable seizures of property are permitted without just compensation.

    3. Freedom of speech and of the media

    No law or regulation is permitted that restricts the right to freedom of speech or limits the freedom of the media.

    4. Freedom of association and of assembly

    No law or regulation is permitted that restricts the right of the people to free association or restricts the right to peaceful assembly and protest.

    5. Freedom of religion

    No law or regulation is permitted that restricts the freedom of religious belief and practice.

    6. Right to a fair trial

    Assumption of innocence
    Jury
    Confront accusers
    Challenge evidence
    Right of appeal
    Legal counsel
    Double jeopardy
    Due process

    7. Imprisonment and Habeus Corpus

    The Habeus Corpus Acts shall be considered to form a part of this bill.

    8. Searches

    No officer of the state may enter an individual’s private property or otherwise intrude upon their privacy without their permission or a warrant authorised by a judge on the presentation of persuasive evidence.

    9. The right to self-defence

    No law is permitted which infringes the right to self-defence.

    10. Retrospective legislation

    No law is permitted which has retrospective effect.

    11. Freedom of information

    Except for such restrictions as are necessary for security or privacy purposes, all information created or held by the government will be freely available to the people.

    12. Other rights not specifically enumerated

    All rights not specifically enumerated shall be considered as forming part of this bill.

    13. Bill of Rights 1689

    Nothing in this Bill should be construed as amending or repealing any part of the Bill of Rights 1689.

  2. Regarding the main point in the posting; this would be a major fracture line for libertarians, I think. The majority view ISTM in liberterianism is isolationist; e.g. so far as I can tell american libertarians are against the Iraq war, and generally see warmaking as not libertarian; it’s what Big Governments do to one another.

    Me, I’m more of a pragmatist and while I can dream of a worldwide libertarianism and war a thing of the past, in a practical sense as you point out the reality would be that some bugger somewhere would be a threat. As such, I’m sort of swung to the idea that the libertarian ideals only apply within the libertarian state (UK, England, whatever) and you’d have to conduct foreign policy much as any other state does; based on self interest, diplomacy and, indeed, blowing the buggers to bits if it comes to that. I’ve no desire for my grandaughters to wear burkas in the name of standing up for pacifist principles, neither do I see how Nazism could have been dealt with without what was, effectively, a preemptive war.

    IanP (first commenter): A constitution, bill of rights and so forth would I think be indeed essential. But the lesson IMV from the USA is not the contents of them, so much as how they would be maintained. What has brought America from a nigh-libertarian founding to a statist present day is that there was nothing, as it turned out, strong enough to defend the Rights as declared.

    The Supreme Court was, presumably, supposed to do that, but that only works so long as libertarian judges are on that court. A few canny appointments later and the sad Rights are reinterpreted into meaninglessness. For instance, there is the matter of “protected speech” and “unprotected speech”. Try as I might, I can’t see any such distinction in the US Bill of Rights. But once it was decided some speech shouldn’t be covered by it (e.g. “obscene” speech) that was that, a precedent was set, and that provision was rendered meaningless.

    A typical test of this would be your clause (3). Does this mean no censorship? Then that includes ch1ld pr0n and most people won’t be very happy about that. But if you declare exceptions and caveats (as with all the useless “rights” in the EU constitution, I mean treaty) then those become a way to render the right meaningless. And that’s how Bills Of Rights fall apart, IMHO.

    You end up with, “Freedom of speech, but this does not prevent the guvmint proscribing some speech in the national interest” and that’s that.

    Tricky stuff.

  3. Just another thing, I may as well say, I do personally believe that however unlikely it may be that we’ll ever be a libertarian state (indeed I’m immensely pessimistic about the future), if one country did manage to get there, it would be so obviously a success to the rest of the world that many more would follow.

    I’m entirely pessimistic about libertarianism because it has no proper means to recruit. Mass recruiting ultimately means being underhand, sneaky, downright selfishly conspiratorial, and, basically, practicing entryism into key places; the education system in particular, but also having enough highly motivated “believers” in your cause that they’ll just go off and promote, promote, promote. Young student believers who’ll go on demos and browbeat each other into a greater fervour, older believers who’ll get themselves voted onto school boards (America, Christian Rightists are the example here). That’s why statism’s so big. The left have the education system, and can indoctrinate youngsters who then go on to be influential; politicians, journalists, etc. That’s why only America has the counterbalancing (and equally odious) conservative statists; they have their own network of churches, christian colleges, pressure groups and so on.

    Libertarians just aren’t ruthless or motivated enough. We complain like hell, but since we’re interested in self-determination, we’re just not interested enough in stamping our jackboots on everybody else, so we don’t, so freedom dwindles away.

    I can’t see any way a grand libertarian movement can ever get off the ground because, at heart, libertarians are people who just want to be left alone to get on with our lives, instead of spending decades building a network to subvert democracy. Like everybody else does.

    Sorry for waffling on, I’ll shut up now.

  4. Hello again :)

    Also, wondering what right a libertarian government has to tell British Imperial Guns, Bombs And Grenades that they can’t sell on the international market. Aren’t we free traders?

  5. Yes we are. But, in the event that there is only one “Libertarian” “State”, and you are in it, would you sell a potential enemy, a statist state for example, such as Belgium or Russia (as currently tyrannized by the latest incarnation of its unhappy rulers) weapons technology with which it could wound you?

  6. As an American Libertarian, I can assure you that we opposed and continue to oppose the Iraq war. The though of anybody “wearing burkas” due to America failing to attack a country that not only had not attacked us, but was utterly and pathetically incapable of attacking us, and without any economic or industrial base to sustain any sort of war (even against equally pathetic Iran) is absurd to the point to delusion.

    Come on … America and England are going to be invaded and conquered by third world nations full of screaming illiterates? Sure …

    That said, Libertarians are not pacifists. We believe that if and when attacked, a nation should respond with OVERWHELMING force. It should then withdraw, and leave the enemy broken and bleeding … not hang around to tidy up, build schools, and get shot.

    There would, however, be little reason to war with a Libertarian nation, since we are willing, in return for being left alone, to leave other nations to tend to their own knitting … that means not overthrowing their governments (even if we don’t like them), not propagandizing them, and basically letting them go to hell in their own way. If a Libertarian nation was a “world leader”, it would lead only by example.

  7. This is an encouraging post, and perhaps the days of a Libertarian Party are not too far away, as the real area of political debate is turning to Authoritarian v Libertarian

  8. For a Libertarian State to be not at war, we need to have energy independence, water independence and potentially food independence, or at least sound arrangements from others.

    Our Navy has a purpose in protecting our shipping. This is why it is important. I suspect that role will be needed again.

    Thankfully, I believe the next protector of civilisation, India, will have nothing of the EU’s bullying. I do think they will be able to talk agreement to the Statists while happily trading with us!

    The Commonwealth should not be forgotten.

  9. I think that a navy is needed in war time, of course, but one of the things that has led to war frequently in the past is having military outside of our borders … the Maine, the Gulf of Tonken [sp?], what have you.

    I would suggest that we should expect the merchant marine to protect itself. This has three advantages:
    1) Prevents accidents / provocations
    2) Leaves us (probably) with an armed Merchant Marine which could serve as a naval militia.
    3) Internalizes the cost of shipping security, so it is reflected in the cost of products shipped.

    Of course, we would want to patrol our coastal waters, as they would be part of our nation, and in time of war we would have to protect shipping by whatever means required, including naval escorts of goods like food, oil, and weapons.

  10. I think the Libertarian Party of Canada has a future if it focuses on opposition to interventionism and opposition to attacks on civil liberties. Many of us are inspired by U.S. presidential candidate Ron Paul’s message of peace and freedom.

    Our histories are so deluged in propaganda and war that it is hard for many Americans, Brits, and Canadians to imagine neutrality and non-intervention, but it’s also hard to imagine a future without total disaster if we follow along with the status quo.

  11. Ian B has fallen into a Statist trap, that the opposite of expansionism-by-war is isolationism. In fact the true opposition is between coercive relations with foreigners (ie wars), and cooperative ones (ie free trade). A Libertarian government would be strong on defence, but that may not require an increase in expenditure, if foreign wars and the hardware to fight them are foresworn. Note that the Swiss maintained both neutrality and independence through the 20th century through their male population being personally well-armed, well trained, and ready o defend themselves.

  12. That is, to me, one of the most important aspects of the defense of a Libertarian society.

    A crab has a hard shell, but once you break through that shell, the meat is undefended, sweet, and delicious.

    I prefer a defense plan which not only provides a hard shell, but which includes an armed population, ready and able to defend themselves. Returning to the crab analogy, who will break the shell, when the meat is indigestible poison.

  13. Steve Roberts, I don’t think I’ve fallen into any statist trap, and I think there are more alternatives than isolationism and expansionism. If we’re imagining a libertarian state in a statist world, it will have to take practical measures to preserve itself. It’s alright to say “we will retaliate if attacked”, but the lessons of history suggest that’s often too late. If you know somebody else has warlike intentions against you, do you do nothing until they’ve armed themselves such that they can beat you easily? Or is preemptive action acceptable? In the current world situation; if Iran starts a nuclear weapons programme (let us presume for the moment it does, rather than arguing about whether it will), do you wait until it’s nuclear armed? That’s could be suicide.

    An armed population is all very well, but yeoman soldiers with rifles manning the walls of your town is useless against an enemy who can fly overhead and drop a MOAB, or a nuke.

    Rich Paul said-

    “There would, however, be little reason to war with a Libertarian nation, since we are willing, in return for being left alone, to leave other nations to tend to their own knitting.”

    That makes a presumption that your potential enemy is rational, by western standards. If it’s a religous cult driven by hatred, prepared to sacrifice any number of its subjects for an imaginary big friend in the sky, or for some other ideology, you can’t rely on that.

    It seems to me that there are many libertarians who fall into the leftist mindset trap of blaming all the world’s problems on western imperialism. The idea that they’re only in a bad mood because we won’t leave them alone. Neither Poland, Czechoslovakia or Russia were committing Imperialism against Germany, but Hitler invaded them anyway, just because he wanted their stuff. Spain wasn’t interfering with the middle east in the middle ages, but Islam invaded them anyway. And so on.

    You can’t just sit around pretending that if you leave other people alone, they’ll like you and leave you alone. If they want your land, if they hate you for tribal reasons, if some God has told them that it’s their duty to spread their religion by force, you’re going to need a more proactive defense policy.

  14. Regarding the question of a Libertarian Party (Guthrum), I think it’s rather a question of carts and horses. I was thinking about this after reading this blog post and commenting, and it seems to me that it’s no use forming any kind of party until the philosophy it represents has mass support. A Libertarian candidate standing in Stoke Poges against Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, might get a few 10s of votes and lose her deposit. The existence of a party doesn’t, I think, tend to create supporters of that party and its philosophy. The party is the cart. The horse exists when a large percentage of the population actually self-identify as “libertarian”. I’m Bill, I’m a libertarian, pleased to meet you. Bill now looks for a party to vote for, and the Libertarian Party fulfills that need; so for them he votes.

    Many people here in Broon’s Britain have some level of libertarian belief, though it’s unfocussed and generally a frustration with bureaucracy, loony EU laws, “they’ve banned groats and bakers’ dozens!” kind of stuff. But they don’t identify themselves as libertarian. They don’t even know what it means.

    People are getting angry and frustrated with the current state of affairs, but they don’t really understand what’s wrong. They mostly think the state, the bureaucracy, is simple being run incorrectly, that it needs reform, and they’ll still follow a politician who promises them “Better Big Government!”. They still believe it’s the job of the state to reform people, solve every problem, etc. They’re not going to vote libertarian, especially, to be frank, if the libertarian candidate spends their time ranting about ending the NHS, the welfare state, and so on. They distrust any Small Government ideology because they believe (not unreasonably) that’ll they’ll lose a lot and gain nothing. And try to explain economics to them, and why the economy would work better if freed, and their eyes glaze over.

    A party IMV is no use whatsoever until it has a major constituency already there to vote for it. Without that, you’re just the guy that only gets on telly just after the election you’ve lost badly, so Jeremy Paxman can take the p*ss.

  15. Well said to Rich Paul.

    I see myself as a libertarian and find it impossible to understand how anyone who calls themself the same can support these aggressive wars in the Middle East. What’s the deal here? Life, liberty and property, unless you’re Iraqi or Iranian?

    The problem for so-called libertarians on this side of the Atlantic is that most of them seem to be old tories with a panglossian view of the British Empire.

  16. Rich Paul said-

    “There would, however, be little reason to war with a Libertarian nation, since we are willing, in return for being left alone, to leave other nations to tend to their own knitting.”

    That makes a presumption that your potential enemy is rational, by western standards. If it’s a religous cult driven by hatred, prepared to sacrifice any number of its subjects for an imaginary big friend in the sky, or for some other ideology, you can’t rely on that.

    Actually, were the statement “nobody would attack a Libertarian nation”, your response would be valid. The statement was a softer “there would be little reason to attack a Libertarian nation”, which implies that reasonable people won’t do it.

    There are indications that the “Islamic Death Cult Which Hates Us For Our Freedom” is not an accurate description of the majority of Muslims. For example, when bin Ladin wrote after 9/11, he included a pro forma suggestion that we should all convert to Islam. This was two or three lines long. He then included pages of discussion of things that we actually did (or in some cases, things that he might reasonably believe we did) which actually harmed real, live, human beings. Let us assume that bin Ladin is, indeed, an incorrigible, irrational, and perpetually grumpy kook who cannot be bargained with. He’s also just one man. In order to do anything, he requires a large group of people in his corner, willing to work, willing to donate, and in some cases willing to die to reach certain objectives. This is much easier to achieve when you have a legitimate set of grievances to go with your xenophobia.

    A good example is Hitler. Yes, Hitler hated lots of people. Hitler, however, did not attain power until the entire nation of Germany was enslaved by the treaty which ended WWI, their economy crashed, inflation was out of control, and misery was everywhere. Absent those conditions, and absent a real grievance against Western Europe and America, would he have been able to reach power? We’ll never know, but I suggest not. He might have been just as crazy as he was, I don’t know. But would he have been a lunatic with followers, or just a lunatic?

    One way or the other, being inoffensive is only the first of three points which I consider important in defending a Libertarian nation. It is important, but it is not failsafe.

    The second point is a strong military. That means the ability to, if we have to, completely annihilate an aggressive nation. We have that. We need to improve our intelligence, which can be done by reallocating people who spend their time trying to topple foreign governments into trying to prevent ours from being toppled, and watching for attack. It also includes the ability to retaliate, and we have that in spades. Even in a decade, when Iran may or may not have a nuclear weapon, they have to know that we can easily, almost effortlessly, reduce their entire nation to a lake of glass. We can do that, so no problem. They have to know that we will, which causes me to favor a foreign policy which is so simple it can be published and cited if and when we have to act. That would limit the amount of time we could spend launching foreign coups or training death squads, but I would consider that more of a feature than a bug.

    The third point is the one you hope you never have to use, an armed population. It might not matter much to a third world nation like Iran or Iraq, which never had any ability to attack us in the first place, and certainly could never have hoped in their wildest fever-dreams to occupy us. It would make a difference against a country like Russia or China, if we ever had to deal with them militarily.