Thursday, 3 June 2004

Article for the Individualist newsletter

Within the past week or so I have become a member of the Society for Individual Freedom. The group produces a newsletter that is distributed every few months and I have written an article that I hope can be included in a future issue. The article is based on how British government has grown since the end of WWII and essentially how British government is big government.

The article is featured below:

To be a libertarian means that you condemn the usage of force and fraud against another person. It means that you should be free to live as you choose whilst respecting others' rights to person and property. If individuals are prohibited from using force in a libertarian society, then governments' must be held accountable to the same standard and principle. For this reason, the state within a libertarian society should be as small as possible. Welfare (for example) equates with force since property is redistributed to help Paul and the expense of Peter; this property being the money that we earn from our various and respective jobs. Government is based on force and such a rule can easily be applied to the actions of British governments over the past several decades.

British government is, and for many decades has been, big government. Since the 'New Liberal' reforms of the early 20th century, the British citizen has had to sacrifice his hard earned property to the state in many forms, be it through income tax, National Insurance or other forms of state sanctioned theft. Since the end of WWII, government has grown to even greater proportions.

In the summer of 1945, the war had ceased. The Attlee government was elected with the promise of a National Health Service. It nationalised numerous industries and implemented a Keynesian economic policy. Was the establishment of a health service funded by government force truly justified? Even today there are waiting lists for various operations and such lists even exist for outpatient appointments. In a free market system, why shouldn't healthcare be affordable for all? With no state intervention, healthcare costs would fall.

Clement Attlee's administration had founded the 'post war consensus', meaning that the trend towards big government continued under the Conservative governments of Churchill, Eden, Macmillan and Sir Douglas-Hume. The consensus extended to the Labour government of Wilson, though his administration should be commended for legalising abortion and homosexuality. Certainly regarding the latter, gays warrant the same rights to self-ownership as straights. Even still, these socially liberal moves were quite distant from the libertarian ideal.

When the Conservative party led by Edward Heath were formulating their manifesto for the 1970 election, they aimed to institute a free market economic policy. Such a belief was shattered during Heath's famous 'U-turn', by nationalising a blue-chip company. In this instance government force was used to save an ailing organisation and promote larger government. The Wilson/Callaghan government of the 1970's should have been more inclined to shift to smaller government after the IMF bailout of 1976. However, that administration permitted extensive trade union activity that culminated in the 'Winter of Discontent' in 1979. In addition to various state-owned concerns, this was another era of big government.

Margaret Thatcher won the 1979 general election and soon after implemented a monetarist economic policy. She also privatised numerous state industries and permitted council house residents to buy their council houses. After decades of growing government, the state was becoming smaller. But was it really? The government still owned education and healthcare. Government may have been shrunk, but not to any extent that would satisfy the average libertarian. Both the Major government and New Labour under Blair have maintained the same economic policies as Thatcher.

But under Tony Blair, government continues to grow in size. New Labour instituted a minimum wage. Even now, public expenditure is increasing in order to enhance 'public services'. British government is now worth over £400 billion! That means a figure equivalent to 40% of the UK's GDP is devoted to government force.

As those who oppose force, we libertarians must be sceptical over the growth of British government over the past several decades. As libertarians we must also be aware of the immorality of force, whether committed by an individual or the state.[/i]