Tuesday 2 November 2010

A 'Left Libertarian' Writes

With this afternoon's 'teaching of stuff which our taxpayer-funded education system should have already covered' completed, I'm off out soon for my weekly stint of sporting voluntary work, so no time for any recreational writing tonight.

Instead, nod your head along with this rather good comment below today's CiF article on the libertarian blogosphere. Nestled, as it was, amongst the usual (deliberate?) misdefinitions of the concept - and the ubiquitous lazy and unimaginative Somalia references, natch - it came as a pleasant surprise.

OK, there are definitely bits I'd disagree with, and I'm really not sure libertarianism can properly square itself with traditional right and left labelling, but there's still a lot to like about his viewpoint.

2 November 2010 4:13PM

Of all the different pigeon holes, I'm definitely a left-wing Libertarian. There should be just enough state to protect people, because we are social creatures, but no more.

The problem now is that we have too much state, and none of it is protecting our interests. The banks get bailed out with my money, whilst I lose my job. The MPs and the Lords get to trough away hundreds of thousands of pounds of my money, whilst I struggle to make ends meet. The police get to shoot people dead and then make jokes about it during testimony in the inquest, and nothing happens to them.

Extortion is what it is, nothing more, nothing less. I was given a choice: pay £16,000 to RBS or go to prison. Hand over your money to the Export Credit Guarantee Department, and to the thieving MPs, and to the bloody traffic wardens, or go to prison for a very long time. So was each and every one of you. How is that acceptable in any way, shape or form?

And then think of all the new criminal laws brought in under New Labour. It's illegal for me to do the wiring in my kitchen and bathroom. It's illegal for me to change my own windows in my house. It's illegal for me to have large quantities of cash on my person. It's illegal for me to watch TV without paying the TV Tax. It's illegal for me to look after a friend's child without a looking-after-children licence from a bureaucrat in Darlington. Why are you lot not angry about this too?

The Libertarian blogs have been angry about all that, very very angry indeed. And quite right too. I don't agree with the economic views they hold, but anyone who demands a small a state as possible is worth reading. I won't miss the bloggers like Old Holborn, who focused too much on the economic, but people like Constantly Furious I will miss. Someone needs to be questioning the need for such a massive state, and the only regret is that they're being quieter now the Tories are in. The Tories aren't cutting the state back at all, they're just massaging it so that more money goes from my pocket into the pocket of their fat cat banker friends. Nothing at all has changed, and the need for Libertarian anger has not changed either.


The Grim Reaper said...

Puts it far better than I ever could.

Libertarians are needed more than ever.

Scrumper said...

O.K. Dick, what points do you disagree with?

Trooper Thompson said...

Sounds like he's getting there. We need to reach out to these left libertarians and engage them in the economic arguments.

Anonymous said...

I'm a left- Libertarian. I think there may be more of us than expected. I've always thought Frank Davis as one as well.


P.T. Barnum said...

I'm another in the 'left libertarian' camp and, as TGR says, kermit puts it better than I could. Enough protection for the weaker and less able, and the smallest state possible to allow all individuals to achieve (equality of opportunity, not outcome). I do believe that, given a couple of generations to move on from the authoritarian statist dependency culture, we could see a reflowering of the self-help, bottom-up culture which marked the beginning of the labour movement in this country.

What I don't see is the inevitable endpoint of believing in 'right libertarian' economics, Trooper Thompson. I do believe in 'tax' as a method of raising funds for the state's necessary functions (defence, criminal justice and a safety net for the old, disabled and sick), and I do not believe that market economics would provide the version of a small state to perform these functions.

Reverse Dutch Steamboat said...

The 'left' part of this is wrong. Whom shall we protect? Old, penniless widows. Okay. Young, penniless widows? Young, penniless widowers? Young, penniless wives?

It is in the interest of people working in these areas to accumulate as many 'cases' as they can. Would they voluntarily turn away work? It's not their money, and the busier they are, the more colleagues they'll get. The more colleagues they get, the better their chances for promotion or seniority.

The safety net should be a last resort, not a way of life. It should be accepted with gratitude, not a feeling of entitlement.

The Right will always have an uphill battle. The objective is to make people prosperous, so they'll join in. That's hard. Prosperity is difficult to accomplish.

The job of the Left is simple. If someone is not well off, you take some from someone who is - and despise him along with it. You despise him, but his money's good enough to take.

University was full of Left libertarians, getting stoned, ducking lectures, pretty much doing what Right libertarians did. When spat out into the real world, they wondered why others had more than they. Well, it's a bit of a comedown to have no job, so let's invent one. Social worker. Equalities officer. Service delivery manager.

So then the Right Libertarians get done twice over - paying people who don't make widgets to give your money to other people who don't make widgets.

If you force me to give you money for something I don't reasonably want or need, you're no libertarian in my book.

Trooper Thompson said...

PT Barnum,

"...we could see a reflowering of the self-help, bottom-up culture which marked the beginning of the labour movement in this country."

What I would like to convince you of, is the above is not contrary to what you call 'market economics' but rather an example of it.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Boy! I didn't expect this kind of debate but overjoyed that it's happening. Perhaps I should retract the left and right not being a libertarian thing bit. Personally, I don't see libertarianism as either, but well-argued responses illustrate that I'm obviously wrong so perhaps I should state where I stand in light of that. Not tonight though, as I'm comfortably numb IYSWIM. ;)

BUT ... I can answer Scrumper's question as I read it on my shite phone a couple of hours ago.

Firstly, I think banks are unduly demonised in the present circumstances. It's easy to forget that our country's wealth has always benefitted from 'intangible' trade. It's part of why we are a small island punching well above its weight. They fucked up, yes, but this is only a recent thing. Our standing as a small country has relied very heavily on financial profits for a long time without most people being aware of it.

Of course, when pension and savings funds are generous, everyone is happy. When things go tits up, everyone moans. I'm not an economist, but I'll wager lots of money that banks have given a shed load more to the country than was ever taken by the recent bail outs.

Having said that, when they fucked it up, I reckon at least one should have been allowed to fail. It was their lookout and their business. If they relied on their losses being insured at no cost by the government, there's nothing libertarian about that. It's statist corporatism.

Secondly, I would miss ALL libertarian leaning blogs if they stopped. Most blog on completely different subjects than me but I don't find it in any way libertarian to say they are unnecessary. That's just a personal opinion and not in keeping with what I understand libertarianism to be.

Lastly, I reckon the police reference is valid but the example not so. OK, I may have only read it in the Mail but it sounds tendentious to me. The song titles were apparently as obviously planted as ...

He spoke about how, since the operation, he has reflected upon it during "Quiet Moments" – the title of a Chris de Burgh song. Describing the moment he decided to open fire on Mr Saunders – who had been waving the weapon around for five hours before he was killed – AZ8 says he decided "Enough is Enough", which is the title of a Donna Summer hit, and that he had reached the "Point of No Return" – a song from Phantom of the Opera. At one point he talked about being in the "Line of Fire", the name of a track by Journey.

Yep, that Donna Summer-Chris DeBurgh-Journey (who?)-Phantom of the Opera fan had pulled all these quotes which don't at all look out of place, into a court scenario. None of which resemble something a firearms officer might say, eh?

It's only a quibble, but I've seen far better examples of police ineptitude, to be honest. And this one isn't even proven as yet.

P.T. Barnum said...

@Trooper Thompson

Ok, I'm all eyes now. What should I read to understand the lack of contradiction between my position and yours?

A lot of what I read under the banner of 'libertarian' could be deemed 'of the right' and I profoundly disagree with a lot of the analysis and solutions offered there. But still we seem to share a fundamental belief in the right to autonomy and the necessity of being self-responsible, although many libertarians seem to regard these things as the antithesis of any kind of state whatsoever.

Scrumper said...

Dick:- thank you for your reply.

Reverse Dutch Steamboat: So who stands up for the poor, the sick, the disadvantaged - those who have no voice or value in the system in which we live? Do you not recognise our common humanity? Do you not understand the value of compassion?

If libertarianism is all about selfishness and greed (and that's what your post implies then I'm not a left-wing libertarian. Perhaps I should call myself a left-wing anti-authoritarian.

Dick the Prick said...

Good boy.

Trooper Thompson said...

PT Barnum,

let me say firstly, that I don't consider myself right-wing or left-wing, merely a libertarian.

As to the association of libertarianism with the Right, here's a speech on that very subject by Sean Gabb, who explains a little about why that came about historically (the Cold War era and the ideological struggle between Left and Right)and why it could be time to move on from that.


It's not one of his best, he says, and a bit amateurish in production values, but I found it interesting.

What I think is important is to try to bring together all libertarians. It is not necessary, nor is it possible for such a collection of people to agree on everything, but as long as there is a core of shared values and beliefs, we can argue about the rest. At the moment, I think 'left libertarians' are not engaging as much as I'd like with the rest of us. Some of the differences between these camps come down to a poor grasp of economics, of which I think the left side suffers more than the right. Such issues must be hammered out on the anvil of reason, as essentially scientific matters rather than ideological. It is also true that some on the right side are happy to leave alone some issues which highlight the fissures between conservative thought and libertarianism, and also, as is said by Sean Gabb in that speech, to give big business an easy ride.

This is why I'm happy that more attention is being paid to the monetary and banking system and the unhealthy relationship between government and corporations.

I've gone on a while, and not really scratched the surface...

P.T. Barnum said...

Trooper Thompson, thank you - I shall watch and ponder more.

I too think the left/right libertarian business is misleading, but I find myself most strongly at odds with those who firmly declare they are 'right wing libertarians' (while denying the existence of any other kind) when they seem to be either pseudo-anarchists with a hunger to kick people or disaffected Tories with a desire to own everything and sell it back to people.

Trooper Thompson said...

Forgive me, Dick for the extended quote, but it's good stuff!

PT, here's an interesting article from Rothbard, very relevant to this discussion


"Having broken emotionally with the right wing, our tiny group of libertarians began to rethink many of our old, unexamined premises. First, we restudied the origins of the Cold War, we read our D.F. Fleming and we concluded, to our considerable surprise, that the United States was solely at fault in the Cold War, and that Russia was the aggrieved party. And this meant that the great danger to the peace and freedom of the world came not from Moscow or "international communism," but from the U.S. and its Empire stretching across and dominating the world.

And then we studied the foul European conservatism that had taken over the right wing; here we had statism in a virulent form, and yet no one could possibly think these conservatives to be "leftist." But this meant that our simple "left/total government – right/no government" continuum was altogether wrong and that our whole identification of ourselves as "extreme rightists" must contain a basic flaw. Plunging back into history, we again concentrated on the reality that in the 19th century, laissez-faire liberals and radicals were on the extreme left and our ancient foes, the conservatives, on the right. My old friend and libertarian colleague Leonard Liggio then came up with the following analysis of the historical process.

First there was the old order, the ancien régime, the regime of caste and frozen status, of exploitation by a despotic ruling class, using the church to dupe the masses into accepting its rule. This was pure statism; this was the right wing. Then, in 17th and 18th century western Europe, a liberal and radical opposition movement arose, our heroes, who championed a popular revolutionary movement on behalf of rationalism, individual liberty, minimal government, free markets, international peace and separation of church and state, in opposition to throne and altar, to monarchy, the ruling class, theocracy and war. These – "our people" – were the left, and the purer their vision the more "extreme" they were.

So far so good; but what of socialism, which we had always considered the extreme left? Where did that fit in? Liggio analyzed socialism as a confused middle-of-the-road movement, influenced historically by both the libertarian left and the conservative right. From the individualist left the socialists took the goals of freedom: the withering away of the state, the replacement of the governing of men by the administration of things, opposition to the ruling class and a search for its overthrow, the desire to establish international peace, an advanced industrial economy and a high standard of living for the mass of the people. From the right the socialists adopted the means to achieve these goals – collectivism, state planning, community control of the individual. This put socialism in the middle of the ideological spectrum. It also meant that socialism was an unstable, self-contradictory doctrine bound to fly apart in the inner contradiction between its means and ends."