Thursday, 29 December 2005

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas.

Another example of the need for greater freedom of association..

The Equal Opportunities Commission has called for sex discrimination laws to be updated. They've also called upon private industry to promote equality and diversity within their organisations.

So, since anti-discrimination laws aren't working, it's time to introduce a new law? Isn't this a sign that anti-discrimination legislation is flawed?

Like the smoking example I posted, employers shouldn't be forced to associate with groups they disapprove of. They should be free to associate with anyone they choose and on any basis. I feel that any business that chooses to openly discriminate against women would be shunned by the public, since sexism isn't considered moral or acceptable in contemporary society. As always, the market will sort out any "injustice" that may arise.

Women may find this unfair, nonetheless the solution would be to compete, if you feel you're discriminated against.

Friday, 23 December 2005

Freedom of association?

A smoker from Somerset was sacked from her job, simply for being a smoker. Dataflow Communications (the firm who sacked the smoker) stated that they don't employ smokers, because they want healthy employees.

This is simply a good instance of freedom of association. If Dataflow don't want to employ smokers, then it's their right. People should be free to associate with anyone they choose and on any basis.

If anything, the market will sort any "injustice" out as a consequence of freedom of association. In a libertarian society, there will be fewer regulations on business, so starting a rival business would be easier than it is now. Also, companies that choose to discriminate probably wouldn't be very popular. Therefore they would lose out to competitors. The point here is to compete, if anyone is "treated badly" like Ms. Blinham.

Wednesday, 21 December 2005

The "snow penis"

There was some controversy on Free Talk Live (see links) yesterday regarding the creation of a "snow penis" in an American neighbourhood.

The story was that someone had erected (no pun intended) a phallic-shaped snow figure in their garden. The debate surrounded whether people had a right to destroy "offensive" objects on other people's property.

Clearly this is an issue of property rights. In a libertarian society, people should be able to do what they please with their property and own anything, provided they don't initiate force or fraud on the person or property of another. Now, in this sense, a snow penis is not initiating force against someone. No one will suffer physical harm or damage as a result of its existence. The physical integrity of one's property will not be undermined by its existence. Granted, property values may deprieciate due to its presence. So what? One can always move to another neighbourhood if the presence of a snow penis is too offensive for ones tastes.

Besides, who is to state what constitutes an "offensive" piece of property? Offence is a rather subjective thing in itself. Does someone have the right to destroy anything they find offensive, no matter how innocuous or mundane?

As a libertarian, I feel a person possesses the right to protect his property from damage. This right should supercede any "right" not to be offended.

However, the level of force must meet the initial force enacted. If someone trespasses on your property, I don't believe you have a right to kill them. Trespassing in itself doesn't have to lead to an attack against the person. In this instance, I believe a warning should suffice. If successive warnings aren't noted, then physical force should be used. If someone is entering property with the intent to rob, steal or cause physical harm, then yes physical force should be used against that person.

In the case of this "snow penis", I feel that force could be used to protect one's property. A person seeking to destroy this object should accept any consequence of their actions. This means potentially being physically attacked, if needs be.

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Postal privatisation

A House of Commons select committee has stated that "universal service" may not be met if a market exists in letter and parcel delivery.

Universal service refers to the Royal Mail delivering letters to all addresses, no matter how remote. MP's believe such a thing would be undermined if a market existed in posting letters.

These MP's should learn that if a demand exists, someone will meet it in a free market. Maybe someone will come up with a method to deliver letters and parcels to "remote" areas in a free market. A market certainly would lead to better services and lower prices for sending things. If the Royal Mail's stamps were at a higher price than their competitors, would people be as inclined to buy them?

Another thing these MP's should learn is that with all the taxes, regulations and other things companies have to endure, people may be deterred from starting a company that delivers to remote areas. If I were one of these MP's, I would be questioning the level of regulation that New Labour has on business.

MP's against smoke ban

A select committee from the House of Commons has called a partial ban on smoking in public places "unworkable". The committee was reviewing the government's Health Bill, which will outlaw smoking in bars and clubs.

My position on this would hardly be surprising. Nevertheless, without being unsympathetic, I think workers who work in smoke-filled establishments would have a choice as to work in such a place. No one really is forcing them to make a living in such an environment.

Of course, the market should sort this out. I'd think that people would demand to drink in a smoke free environment. I certainly would, since I don't smoke. In a free market, if there is a demand for something, others would seek to meet it. On the other hand, if people wanted to smoke in a bar, this demand will also be met.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Libertarians in Australia.

After browsing through
Wikipedia, I noticed that a new libertarian political party has formed in Australia. I don't know how many members this party has, buy they claim to have started in 2005.

Australia already has a more moderate libertarian party called the Liberal Democratic Party. They haven't received much electoral success yet, nevertheless they don't post candidates in all elections in Australia. I think they haven't had any candidates for federal elections.

You can accuse me of thinking the "grass is greener over there", nonetheless it's pleasing and also frustrating to see proactive libertarian movements elsewhere. I've already stated that the British libertarian movement can learn things from libertarians overseas.

I think libertarianism in Europe is in a poor state, especially in comparison with other parts of the world. The UK, to my knowledge, is the only country in Europe with a recognised libertarian pressure group or hub. I've never heard of an equivalent in France or Germany.

I just think more could be done to spread the message of liberty in the UK. Some UK libertarians believe hope for a more socially and economically liberal Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. I believe such a hope is misguided. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have nothing to gain at present by becoming more "liberal". Would Cameron risk losing the "centre ground", by advocating the end of the welfare state? Besides, there is one point that these libertarians fail to realise.

Libertarianism is a LOT deeper than simply believing in social and economic liberty. To be a libertarian means you oppose the initiation of force against the person and property of another. It's from this position that libertarians arrive at socially and economically liberal viewpoints. I find it unlikely that the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats would readily accept such a belief and deal with the logical conclusions from holding such a belief.
CIA planes

I was watching PMQ's yesterday. Charles Kennedy asked Blair a question in regards to CIA planes being allowed through UK airspace. These planes supposedly were carrying terror suspects, who were going to be tortured for information.

Blair stated that the UK government opposes torture in any fashion and is a signatory to a UN treaty on torture. However, he scoffed at a suggestion from Kennedy, when asked if UK authorities should search American planes that enter UK airspace.

My position on this "war on terror" has been stated over and over here. IMO, it's wrong to state they "hate our freedom", since this hasn't really been substantiated to any great degree. I feel if the UK didn't support US interventionism, then the likelihood of terrorism would fall.

For once though, I agree with Blair. No British government should support torture, in any shape or form. This evidently constitutes the initiation of force on the person, which should be the duty of government to protect. By committing torture, the government could not possibly claim to uphold it's people's rights.

Sunday, 11 December 2005

A "goddamned piece of paper"?

OK, not a British issue, but US President Bush has allegedly referred to the US Constitution as a "goddamned piece of paper", when questioned by Republican parties members in reference to the Patriot Act.

Supposedly, some members of the Republican party visited the White House to raise some concerns regarding the renewal of the Patriot Act. It's then that supposedly Bush made this remark.

If this is true, then I genuinely feel sorry for Americans. It denotes that their President isn't interested in upholding individual freedoms. The Founding Fathers (yes Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, et al) must be spinning in their graves, considering they designed the Constitution to limit the powers of politicians and government.

I suppose, yes, a constitution is ultimately just a "piece of paper". Nonetheless, it should not only act as a framework as to how a government operates. It should be a document which places curbs and restraints on politicians' power and clearly denotes the rights of the people.

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

Cameron wins

David Cameron has been elected as the new Tory leader.

The media aren't really surprised, since they thought the result was a foregone conclusion.

To be frank, I'm not really that excited about this. Even if Cameron becomes PM one day, he would still endorse big government. Naturally, that's not something I look forward too.

People often say Cameron is "charismatic". IMO, why does this matter? We may live in a "media age", but to me this detracts from the policies the politicians possess. Since the electorate perceive little apparent difference between the major parties, then all there is to go on is "charisma".

Some also believe that Cameron is reminiscent of Blair, when he first became leader of the Labour party. I fail to see a complete comparison. Yes, Tony Blair is "charismatic". Nevertheless, in 1994 (when Blair became leader) the Major Conservative government wasn't very popular at all. Granted, the economy was in sound shape, but issues of sleaze, splits over Europe, the ERM fiasco, etc. all contributed to the unpopularity of then Tory government. Also, the Labour party under Blair had successfully modernised since the time of Kinnock. The New Labour ethos presented the electorate with a viable alternative to the bad Conservative government.

At present the Tories aren't considered a viable alternative. I feel that Labour aren't universally liked in the country, nonetheless they are "tolerated". People recognise that the economy is in relatively healthy shape and that there is an effort by the government to improve public services. Of course, it's Cameron's duty to ensure the Conservatives are viable. Tories should remember that both IDS and Howard focused on enhancing public services and got nowhere.

As a libertarian, I would favour a more socially and economically liberal Conservative party. I doubt such a thing would come to pass under Cameron though. To me, it seems like he's a "One Nation" Tory, in the mould of, say, Harold MacMillan or Edward Heath. Because of this, he would most likely emphasise extra welfare or support for the underpriviledged, which naturally I wouldn't concur with. I do have some sympathy for One Nation conservatism though, since I agree that economic inequality should be limited, if it isn't eradicated.

Brown Budget Report

Gordon Brown made his pre-Budget report yesterday, emphasising that GDP growth would not be as high as previously predicted.

Gross Domestic Product growth for the UK would reach 1.75%, according to Brown, in 2005. This is significantly below the 3-3.5.% figure outlined in the March 2005 Budget. Brown cites this slowdown to the rise in global oil prices.

The Conservatives believe the slowdown can be attributed to increasing amounts of regulation by the Blair government.

Whoever is true, it is a concern that GDP growth would not be as high this year (as it was in 2004). Granted, inflation and unemployment remain low, so the economy is still relatively healthy.

The Conservatives do have a point though. Too much regulation would hurt the economy. I've often stated how the CBI and other business pressure groups cry out for reductions in business regulations and red tape. With less regulations, businesses would have more money to reinvest, hence expanding their operations and employing more people. This would lead to more people having purchasing power which enables greater economic activity and demand for goods and services.

From the libertarian perspective, all regulations on business would be scrapped, except those which protect rights to the person and property. In a libertarian society, government wouldn't even need a monetary policy, central bank or state-owned fiat currency. I'm not an expert in economics, but monetary policy can lead to an artificial raising of the money supply. It's better to leave the business cycle as it is, rather than tamper with it.

Gay civil partnerships

Gay civil partnerships are now legal in the UK. Gay couples can now possess legal rights similar to married heterosexual couples.

I suppose this is a positive step forward for gay rights. Still, government should get out of the marriage business.

Let's ask, what is marriage? In contemporary Western society, marriage is generally an agreement between two lovers who wish to spend the rest of their lives together. Why is government needed to enforce such an agreement? In essence, this is simply a contract between two people, which could be enforced by private bodies.

A private organisation could be free to accept gay civil partnerships or marriages, set the grounds for seperation/divorce, the division of property in a divorce/seperation, etc. Private arbitration could be used to settle this also, since it's already used in divorces in the UK.

A libertarian government in the UK should repeal the 1949 and 1994 Marriage Acts plus the 1973 Matrimonial Causes Act. Marriage should be a private and not a state affair.

Sunday, 4 December 2005

MP's pay rise?

MP's are supposedly seeking a pay rise of 22%. These reports have been denied by Ann Clywd, a backbench Labour MP.

Do they deserve this pay rise? IMO, no. The average wage in the United Kingdom is about £23/24,000. A backbench MP earns about £60,000. Since they already earn more than the average Joe, I see no reason to complain. One argument in favour of increasing MP's salary is that legislature members in Europe get paid higher. So what? Being an MP isn't like other vocations. In other industries, companies may be competitive in paying staff, since they want the best employees. An MP in the House of Commons isn't competing for his/her job with a member of the Bundestag in Germany.

Also, in a libertarian Britain, government would be a lot smaller than it is today. Fewer laws would be passed, so Parliament wouldn't need to sit for as many weeks. MP's in such a system would probably have another job, whilst being an MP. In that sense, pay wouldn't be as relevant, as it appears now.

Increasing the smoking age

MP's want to increase the age at which one can legally buy tobacco in England & Wales. Currently this is set at sixteen. MP's want to raise it to eighteen.

I think legislation like this is arbitrarily set. I don't believe all teenagers would necessarily acquire the mental capabilties to handle tobacco smoking at 18. Some may at 15 or 17 or any other age. Personally I think issues such as these should be attributed to parental responsibility.

In this instance, I think the law should remain as it is. Of course tobacco is harmful. But it's not the state's role to determine who puts what into their body. I'd imagine most teens who reach 16 can ascertain what's healthy or not and make reasoned choices as to whether they smoke tobacco.

Thursday, 1 December 2005

New Hampshire

Free Talk Live's (see links) radio presenters are members of the Free State Project, in which 20,000 people liberty-minded people will move to New Hampshire to create a libertarian society.

Will it work? Well naturally I hope so, since it would provide a viable example of libertarianism in progress. Will I move there? Heh, I don't really know at present. There's too much in my life at the moment to simply move and start afresh in the USA.

The Free State Project has to be championed, in the sense that it's an evident example of libertarians seeking to implement libertarian principles. There's a lot that the British libertarian movement can learn from libertarian movements overseas. There are several reasons why I believe this.

The Libertarian Alliance (see links) is generally the "hub" for libertarians in the UK. It's purpose is to spread libertarian ideas and influence the highest levels of government. This is fine in itself, but I don't think it goes far enough. Will government necessarily listen or be receptive to libetarian ideas? IMO, the government and the political establishment in the UK revel in the status quo and for that reason would be reluctant to give it up. Libertarians in general don't believe in a minimum wage. If the Libertarian Alliance lobbied for its abolition, would government listen? The Labour Party is, in part, funded by the unions. Would the unions welcome an abolition in the minimum wage? Heck would they! Naturally they are looking out for their members and would feel an elimination of the minimum wage would hurt their members. There are many other areas in which the government has an interest in maintaining the status quo. Press statements from the Libertarian Alliance wouldn't change this.

There is also a lack of vision within the British libertarian movement. As I stated, American libertarians should be commended for attempting to seek a libertarian society in New Hampshire. New Zealand libertarians eventually seek the creation of "New Freeland", which shall be a libertarian country with its own libertarian constitution, that will replace the current state of New Zealand. What plans do British libertarians have? None, as far as I am aware. If anything the Libertarian Alliance who should be taking a more proactive stance in seeking to implement libertarian values in the UK, especially since they are the "driving force" of libertarianism in the UK.
Also, it has to be asked, what IS a political ideology? A political ideology is a set of principles and values stating how people should be governed and how power is distributed within society. It's no use accepting the values of a political idelogy, when you possess no desire to insitute it! That is the PURPOSE of a political ideology. British libertarians should ask themselves why they became libertarians, if they don't want to create a libertarian society in the UK. Having political views means that you hold opinions of how society should be structured and governed; it means having a vision of how the world should be. I'm not stating that we should have a "Free County Project" (or some such) in the UK. However, the Libertarian Alliance should seriously re-examine its approach to the implementation of libertarianism in the United Kingdom.

The Libertarian Alliance has been in existence for virtually all of my lifetime (I'm 26). HOW has it "influenced" ideas at the highest level? Since 1979, there have been three British Prime Ministers. Neither Thatcher, Major or Tony Blair have directly sought to implement any libertarian-based principle. Thatcher wasn't inspired to free-market economics because she was a libertarian nor was she influenced by any libertarian think-tank. New Labour values have no resemblance to libertarian principles at all. Libertarianism in the United Kingdom still remains a fringe ideology. It's only the most politically aware people in this country who would have heard of libertarianism. In that sense, major political figures would not be "influenced" by libertarianism more so than they would be libertarian socialism, Marxism or fascism, which are all fringe beliefs in this country. If it takes 100 years to influence the political class, would it be worth the trouble?

Don't get me wrong, the Libertarian Alliance does some good work. But it's methods are nowhere near intensive enough. In my opinion, we DO need a libertarian political party in this country. It will
spread the message of libertarianism to the average Joe. As stated before, libertarianism remains a fringe ideology in Britain at present. People would investigate what libertarianism was, or at least hold some curiousity to our values if a libertarian political party ran.

I would also:

1) - Host political radio in Britain. The USA has numerous political talk shows on its airwaves. To state that British people are too apathetic about politics to care is not wholly relevant. I'd wager that Americans aren't very enthusiastic about politics either, yet political talk radio is quite popular in the States. If some libertarian shows could be established in the UK, it would better disperse the libertarian message.

2) - Create pressure groups which literally lobbied politicians in liberty-oriented issues. If libertarians in the UK are to "influence" the political class, then we should do so directly.

3) - Seek the creation of a libertarian nation-state to replace the United Kingdom. All British libertarians should work towards this ideal. It would also be a symbol to others that British libertarians have serious intentions.

I don't know Dr. Tame, Dr. Gabb, etc. I'm sure they are probably nice people, committed libertarians and have the best interest of the UK libertarian movement at heart. However, the current approach isn't working. The political class favour the current system because it SUITS THEM. They won't change because they gain too much from it. Energy would be better spent influencing the grass roots and people at large. I see no evidence that the current methods of persuasion are working. If they will ever work, I'm not sure.