Monday, 30 May 2005

French EU referendum result

Well the French eventually voted no.

I'm glad that was the outcome, as such an eventuality would make this 'constitution' revert to the drawing board. As I stated in a previous post, the constitution was far overly supranational for my tastes and interventionist for my tastes (which is strange because the French voted no based on contrary views).

I'd personally prefer an EU of sovereign countries that can trade and co-operate freely. I wouldn't like to see a European super-state.

Saturday, 28 May 2005

French EU constitution referendum

A referendum on whether the French parliament should ratify the EU constitution is being held tomorrow.

President Chirac and Prime Minister Raffarin are campaigning for a 'yes' vote. However some opinion polls project a no vote. This is because the French electorate view the constitution as being too 'Anglo-Saxon', in that it may seek to undermine France's social policies and convert it into an economy like the United Kingdom or the United States.

I hope France does vote no, since I oppose this new constitution. Apart from it being too supranational and making member states cede more sovereignty to the EU, I'm against it because it is too interventionist a constitution. I feel it would place a greater amount of regulation on our country, when ideally we should be lessening the amount of regulation within our economy.

Tony Blair and the 'compensation culture'

Earlier this week, the PM called for an end to the 'compensation culture' within the United Kingdom. Blair called the attitude towards compensation as 'disproportionate'.

Blair sounds rather libertarian in his rebuke. Of course it is difficult (if not impossible) to eliminate risk from life in general. I recall hearing a case from the USA in which a person sued a restaurant because the coffee was too hot and they were burnt! It's silly instances such as these that the PM is probably referring to.

I'm not a legal expert, but from my perspective foolhardy lawsuits only consume time for lawyers and judges. Such time could be better spent by advocating for and awarding damages to people whose rights to person and property were violated.

Wednesday, 25 May 2005

Should the laws on murder be altered?

A piece in the Guardian today seemed intriguing. There have been calls from some barristers and solictors to alter the laws pertaining to murder.

Currently, the definition of murder in England & Wales is the killing of a human being or intention to commit Grevious Bodily Harm under the Queen's Peace. The actus reus (,i.e. the 'guilty act') for murder is homicide whilst the mens rea (,i.e. the guilty mind) is malice aforethought express or implied. The contention is that the existing legislation doesn't account for certain kinds of homicide, such as mercy killings and the 'battered wives syndrome'. An instance of mercy killing would still be charged as murder, whilst battered wives could use the defence of provocation (there are four defences one can use against a murder charge. These are provocation, suicide pact, diminished responsiblity and infanticide. Pleading one of these defences would lead to a charge of voluntary manslaughter).

Some lawyers are advocating that degrees of murder should be instituted (as used in the United States), which would account for the anomalies of the differing kinds of homicide.

Of course, I'd argue that it's the state's role to protect rights to the person (and property). I'm no expert in law, but I feel the current system would be acceptable in a libertarian society. If there is no genuine or conscious intent to kill, then the charge should be dropped to manslaughter either voluntary or involuntary.
Brown and European Union 'aid'

Gordon Brown has praised an EU initiative toa provide greater aid to Third World countries. The extra aid will be created after 2010.

Mr Brown said: "The EU have decided that they will double aid. We are raising an extra $40bn by doing that, and if all the richest countries that are meeting in Gleneagles in a few weeks' time can agree on a package, that will mean debt relief, aid, trade justice. I praise the European countries, all 25 of them, which deserve support from the rest of the world."

I didn't know all 25 members could have financially afforded to concur with such a move. The countries that joined in 2004 aren't that rich in the grand scheme (their GDP per capita's are significantly below the earlier 15 members).

This may be a noble goal, but governments shouldn't provide foreign aid. This should be left to private citizens and the private sector to provide. If anything, permitting the Third World to trade freely with the abolition of tariffs and non-tariff barriers would help poorer countries to combat poverty.

Monday, 23 May 2005

Government and voting reform

The new Leader of the House of Commons, Geoff Hoon has suggested that the government must take reform of the electoral system seriously.

"Writing in the House Magazine, which circulates to fellow MPs, Mr Hoon warned the reason people do not turn to vote at elections is not that they are lazy but because they do not think it makes any difference."

I'd concur with this. It may be wrong to state that choice doesn't exist between the parties, nevertheless people do perceive a lack of any apparent change, irrespective of whom they vote for.

I've stated before that I favour an alteration to the electoral system we use in general elections at present. FPTP is too disproportionate; few governments under the system acheive an absolute majority of the popular vote.
Smokers and public buildings

The government, in their new legislative programme, plan to propose a law which shall outlaw smoking in public places. An interesting piece in The Independent details such a move.

Banning smoking in 'public' places is a misnomer. So-called public places are in many instances private establishments. They are not created or administered by the state. In such areas, it should be the property owner who determines whether people possess the right to smoke or not.

The article states that St. Barts hospital has banned smoking. Well it is the government's right, since the hospital is their property.

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

Blair and 'respect' (not the political party)

In the debate after yesterday's Queen's Speech, the PM emphasised creating greater 'respect' in society, with the Bills to be presented before Parliament in the new session.

Sorry, but I always thought respect was earned and not bestowed. What aspects of 'respect' is Blair referring to exactly?

He probably means that criminals should demonstrate greater 'respect', especially to their victims. Well if such people initiate force or fraud against the person and property of another, then sue or prosecute them. But New Labour's legislative programme also includes a Bill for the implementation of ID cards.

I don't see how such a law would denote 'respect', certainly not for one's personal liberties. I see no reason why I should carry a piece of plastic with me, simply because the state says I should. Who is the government to keep tabs of its citizens? Of course, Blair and co. believe that such a scheme would aid immigration curbing efforts and deter terrorists. Well, Mr. Blair, IMO, should realise that immigration in itself is not a negative thing. And that the true reason behind any 'threat' to the UK from Islamist terrorists has never been truly substantiated. Heck, I doubt the Americans even know the true reason behind 9/11 and the World Trade Center destruction.

It's nice to see the Lib Dems opposing this though, notwithstanding my views on the ideology of 'new liberalism'. If Kennedy at al could be committed to reducing the size of government and reducing governmental force from society and peoples' lives then they may be a party I'd consider supporting.

Saturday, 14 May 2005

Dr. Sean Gabb's VI Form libertarian talk

Dr. Sean Gabb is a prominent member of the libertarian community in the United Kingdom and is a member of the Libertarian Alliance (see links on the right). He is also a co-poster with me on the Libertarian Alliance Yahoo group.

He speaks regularly on the radio regarding current affairs from a libertarian perspective and is a keen debater. On the yahoo group I noticed a talk Dr. Gabb made to some VI Form students, about the basics of libertarianism. In general, I agreed with his description of the libertarian philosophy. But the questions the students asked were from a typical (IMO) leftist viewpoint. Are all young people so left-of-centre?

I think it was Winston Churchill who once stated that 'a conservative under 30 has no heart, a socialist over 30 has no brain'. I wonder if there is any truth in such a statement?
Bluewater and 'banning youths with hoods'

Bluewater shopping centre in Kent was in the news a few days ago for supposedly banning entry to youths who are wearing hoods. This is because such people could intimidate other shoppers.

Such a move has created great furore, but why should it be of any consequence? The management of Bluewater are simply exercising their property rights. Since they own the shopping centre and are responsible for its upkeep and administration, they should be able to refuse entry to any group or individual.

Property rights should only be curbed if rights to person and property are violated whilst owning or using property.

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Business taxes and regulations

At my workplace the other day, I noticed a CD from the Inland Revenue containing information for businesses on how to complete tax forms. My boss must have left it lying around by mistake.

I was amazed to see how complex the tax system is! So many forms need to be completed by businesses, simply to be compliant with government regulations. Why is there any need for this?

People who start businesses do so to make a profit, not to fill in forms for the state. It's not just that businessowners spend more time filling in forms than creating or selling their good or service. Surely the government must realise that excessive taxation on business would be detrimental to businessowners. It would also deter people from starting businesses, if the burden of taxation is too high. Also, small business pressure groups for many years have been making complaints to the government in regards to the level of regulations. Sadly, such complaints have fell on deaf ears.

Under a libertarian government, there would be little need for business taxation. Government would be small enough to go without such a thing. With no business taxes, companies (from sole traders right through to multinationals like HSBC) could be free to spend greater time selling their good or service. The funds saved in taxation would allow more money to be spent on reinvestment, hence creating more jobs and producing a stronger economy.

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

The Conservative party

Suffering from a third successive election defeat, the Tories are attempting to ascertain why they are unelectable, or at least aren't appealing to the electorate. A piece in the Guardian by Tim Yeo (a former Shadow Cabinet Minister) today seemed intriguing.

"Belief in individual liberty, the merits of the market and a firm line on defence and law and order, and in the need to keep the state small, should remain the bedrock of our approach."

Heh, I fail to see how a 'belief in indvidual liberty' has manifested itself in either current Tory policy or during the govenments of Thatcher or Major. The Conservatives, prior to last Thursday's election, wished to reclassify cannabis as a class B narcotic! I fail to see how such a move increases individual liberty.

It's natural that the Conservatives are 'soul-searching' after the 5th May election. Personally I would like to see a more libertarian Tory party. One that was committed to truly enhancing personal liberties. However I don't believe such a move is wholly likely. Since Duncan-Smith was leader, the Conservatives have attempted to place greater emphasis on the enhancement of public services. Since this is arguably the primary concern of the electorate, adhering to such policies seems logical (OK I don't believe in public services, but that's another argument for another day).

Sunday, 8 May 2005

Electoral reform

New Labour may have won the May 5th election, but only secured 35% of the popular vote. The Tories gained 32% yet have half as many Commons seats as Labour. Not surprisingly, there have been calls to alter the electoral system from FPTP or a PR based system. I'd generally concur with such a move.

As I stated in a previous entry, I used to be quite a strong advocate of FPTP. Recently though, I've started to believe that FPTP is an unjust system. It simply produces disproportionate results. Also, no British government in many decades has secured an absolute majority (,i.e. 50%+) of the popular vote. There is the possibility that 'extreme' parties (such as the BNP) could attain representation. Nonetheless, we are a liberal democracy and naturally we should tolerate differing political views.

I'd personally favour the implementation of AV+ or perhaps Additional Member System (or AMS). If I were Tony Blair, I'd hold a referendum concerning the alteration of the current electoral system.

As a libertarian, I feel PR could be beneficial in spreading the libertarian message in this country. Since New Labour are increasing public expenditure and broadening regulation, our country needs a voice that will advocate smaller government, less regulation, removing force from governmental and personal actions and getting the government out of the lives of the people.

Friday, 6 May 2005

Labour win

So it is a third term for New Labour then. I don't think the result (at the time of writing a Commons majority of 60-70 seats) surprised anyone. Labour probably lost some votes in regards to anger over the war in Iraq. Nonetheless, the Conservatives under Howard probably weren't a viable alternative to Blair and New Labour.

One thing that intrigued me regarding election night included Oona King losing her seat at Bethnal Green & Bow to George Galloway and Respect. Most commentators believed it was the 'Muslim vote' which lost Ms. King and Labour this constituency and I'd concur with such an analysis. It's understandable that many UK Muslims were opposed to the Iraq war.

I also hear that Michael Howard is planning to resign. I don't really believe he should, since the Tories have made some gains in this election, even if their share of the vote has not drastically inproved. There is the factor of Howard's age. In a 2009/10 election, he would be almost seventy (albeit the late James Callaghan became PM in his sixties as was Churchill during WWII).

From the libertarian perspective though, it simply means that with the victory of New Labour, we are in store for four/five more years of big government. Public expenditure shall rise to fund 'public services'. Taxes on business and the individual will probably be increased too and such rises may jeopardise the UK's currently strong economic position. Government expenditure as a proportion of GDP is already approaching the levels of France and Germany.

I've stated this before, but I'd like to see some reform of the electoral system. If I were a Tory, I'd be upset that New Labour can attain under 40% of the popular vote yet still possess a relatively healthy majority in the House of Commons.

Thursday, 5 May 2005

Election today!

Well today is polling day. In the early hours of Friday morning, we'll know if Blair continues to be PM or whether Michael Howard can become the new Prime Minister. Personally, I believe Labour will win, but with a reduced majority in the House of Commons. I voted for the Conservatives, largely because I'm upset with Blair taking the country to war against Iraq.

One thing that intrigues me will be the level of the turnout. In 2001, it was the lowest for several decades. I don't really think it will improve this time, as the electorate are still fairly apathetic.

I also reckon that the electoral system should be altered in future general elections. I used to be a strong fan of first-past-the-post, but recently I've started to believe there should be some room for reform. Yes, PR nor first-past-the-post are perfect systems. Nevertheless, I'd favour the implementation of AV+, which shares characteristics of both systems.

Wednesday, 4 May 2005

Blair 'wrong on cannabis downgrade'

Tony Blair has stated that the government may have been 'wrong' to reclassify cannabis as a Class C narcotic. Worried parents were questioning his government's decision to do so and Blair himself stated that cannabis may not be as safe as people think.

The confirmation of the rethink on cannabis came as Mr Blair, leading a final push in the battleground marginal constituencies, sought to portray the Liberal Democrats as "soft on drugs", claiming they proposed that no one caught with hard drugs would be jailed.

If the Lib Dems are 'soft on drugs', they have to be commended for that IMO (though I believe the essence of modern or 'new' liberalism is a nonsense). Even still, such a statement by Blair only reinforces New Labour's tendency to be overtly illiberal.

First, they planned to abolish trial by jury in certain criminal cases, then they attempted to introduce ID cards. Granted, they've instituted the 1998 Human Rights Act and the Freedom of Information Act. Nonetheless, in recent times, New Labour has been steadily eroding our liberties and freedoms.

I'm reiterating previous posts when I state this, but all narcotics should be legal. The consumption of narcotics is not, in itself, an act against the person or property.