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The week libertarians started looking like lefties


10:07 am - April 17th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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By now you must have already seen the car-crash of Libertarian Party leader Chris Mounsey being interviewed by Andrew Neil on Daily Politics.

The whole incident has received a rather lot of comment from other bloggers, unsurprisingly, because Mounsey went on to nuke his blog and start afresh.

What I want to highlight here is the reaction that libertarians have when they come across the cold feeling of reality. Two examples:

A few years ago Mounsey used to be vehemently against immigration despite calling himself a libertarian. Like many other loud-mouthed libertarians across the blogosphere, free movement of peoples wasn’t high on their agenda even though they claimed to be highly principled.

That constant rage against immigration came to a rather abrupt end when Mounsey fell in love with, er, an immigrant. Guess what? They found the immigration system to be arcane, really bureaucratic and incredibly difficult to deal with it. It’s intentional see, because they want to make life difficult for people trying to enter the country.

What do you mean the immigration system was gamed to make it hard for people to move to the UK? Mounsey was predictably outraged. Eventually, Bella got through the system (yay!) and Mounsey quietly dropped his opposition to immigration (yay!) and realised the error of his ways (more yays!).

Now let me build on this point.

This week various libertarians are outraged that Mounsey was treated so shabbily on TV. Why ask about his blog and not more about the party’s policies?

Leave aside whether the blog was fair game or not, as it’s already been addressed. What really irked our online warriors was the bastard establishment media and their agenda against a people’s movement. What really annoyed them was that Neil and the media is interested in scandal and not policy!

Wait a second. They sound like lefties.

Why do lefties instinctively want to keep the BBC? It’s not because we want all media to be state-owned or ruled by the political classes. It’s because we’re quite aware that corporate controlled media usually has an agenda that is biased against the little guy, suspicious of grassroots movements and loves sensationalism.

The BBC is far from perfect but at least it is the least worst option. It shouldn’t be following sensationalism and it should try and give voice to a range of ideas and movements. Of course, it doesn’t always do that. But do libertarians think an exclusively corporate media is more likely to do that?

Do they really think that in our over-saturated media world, the industry is interested in discussions of policy and meaning rather than quick sound-bytes about scandal and gossip? Hear that sound? I’m afraid that was reality smacking libertarians in the face again.

Surely, according to their own ideology, libertarians should accept all media have their agenda and deal with it. Why complain? Why not set up your own media?

Sure, those dreams about challenging the establishment with Guido Fawkes as main cheerleader haven’t exactly seem to have worked out, now that he’s pretty much spinning for the Tories 24/7.

But at least when we complain about media bias we are on ideologically firm ground.

All this whining about how the media is biased and only interested in scandal and crap is our job as lefties. Why do you think I get submissions every day of 1000 word essays every day on policy? Because we’re boring people and we want the BBC to be the same.

If the BBC were abolished then the space for marginalised voices wouldn’t be greater it would be much narrower. They’d bring on libertarians on TV solely in the hope they’ll either murder someone live on TV or dance like a monkey.

That’s commercialism for you. That’s the language Andrew Neil, as an arch-capitalist, understands. He ain’t got time for policy and he certainly does not have time for movements that challenge the establishment. Why are they acting all surprised?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


They are each utopians, so their surprise when they meet the real world is not surprising to the rest of us.

I can think of plenty of loud-mouthed, popular blogging socialists whose contempt for immigration is barely concealed.

I’m surprised that you genuinely don’t have a word to say about “media bias” other than “they were asking for it, we weren’t”.

It was great seeing Mounsey’s entire blogging career come undone in three minutes. What a wuss. After venting all that mummy-clearly-didnt-give-me-enough-attention hatred and bile and perverse sexual fantasies, when challenged on it on national TV he falls over himself to retract and apologise for his comments.

So much for the vaunted cyberwarrior, the pathetic Chris Mounsey, humiliated and exposed as just another wannabe.

Karma is a bitch, Devil.

Also – 450 members. Down from 500 in December? The Pirate Party UK got thousands within weeks of starting. And LPUK (to give it an acronym implies it’s important, so I shouldn’t really) has been around since 2007. Sling your shambolic and inarticulate hook. Stay behind the screen from now on.

Rather a generalisation, this.

Immigration is one of those issues where I disagree with DK, but most libertarians are pro-immigration as a matter of principle. I am and have always been all in favour of free immigration, as are libertarians such as Tim Worstall. There are plenty on the left, by contrast – such as Polly Toynbee – who think it undercuts wages and so want it stopped.

Immigration may be a hot-button issue in right-wing papers like the Daily Mail, but it’s also a big concern for Labour voters in working-class areas, which is why so many of them are at risk of defecting to the BNP.

Well yes, Sunny. I made this very point:

“[The media] are a business, and like all businesses they exist to sell their product. Consumers of news media enjoy both outrage and scandal…There is nothing necessarily wrong in this”

I’m not sure, however, that it automatically follows that the BBC protects us from drowning in corporate-media sensationalism. I mean, Chris Mounsey’s disastrous, marginalising interview with ‘arch-capitalist’ Andrew Neil was on… the BBC! Hmm.

That said, you’re right on this one: there are serious problems with the establishment media. I’ll happily join the lefties in that view.

One last thing, though: why do you keep banging on about this immigration thing? I would think you’d be happy that people come round to the more humane position, whatever their reasons. Before me, I doubt Chris had the faintest idea of what non-European immigrants have to go through if they want to be here legitimately. And all I was trying to do was get a work permit! I can’t imagine how hard it is for people wanting residency or citizenship. So if he changed his mind as a result of the injustice he saw first-hand, you should be praising him, not criticising him. Sometimes people have to see things first-hand before they realise the truth.

A stark,stark warning for would-be (mainly loopily rightwing) politicians in the blogosphere.

Now, someone ought to go for Paul Staines, and his chum Iain Dale. Allowing comments on your blog which mirror the utter self-indulgent tosh Mounsey writes ought to be just as crippling to would-be politico-media careers.

“Surely, according to their own ideology, libertarians should accept all media have their agenda and deal with it. Why complain? Why not set up your own media? ”

Err, we have. The outlets are called “blogs”.

It’s a generally accepted trope that libertarians are over represented in the blogosphere as compared to meat world.

Precisely because extant media didn’t give libertarian (or classically liberal) views much air time so we all took to this new form of media.

And also because when you are allowed out of your bedrooms into the real world, you make yourselves look like the complete and utter twats you are.

“Precisely because extant media didn’t give libertarian (or classically liberal) views much air time so we all took to this new form of media.”

To paraphrase the late, great Linda Smith’s view of Lord Archer, never mind giving Libertarians the oxygen of publicity I’m not too keen on them being given the oxygen of oxygen!

It’s not directly relevant to this post, but it’s a point always worth making, that the overwhelming majority of self-professed ‘libertarians’ are in fact not libertarian at all, but bog-standard speak-ur-branes loudmouths who think the word ‘libertarian’ provides a veneer of intellectual respectability for their highly authoritarian and repressive politics.

What always perplexes me is why the few genuine libertarians don’t seem to object to this wholesale theft of their brandname. Indeed they seem quite happy to share blogspace and generally hang around with the interlopers. (And indeed campign for their political parties – hello Tim, Mr E.) Drop into almost any libertarian’s comments box, and you will find a bunch of flat-out fascists.

Which is weird, when you think about it. Still, I guess anything which bolsters to their numbers…

11. the a&e charge nurse

I am a long time visitor to ‘the kitchen’, and was disappointed to discover that another piece of blogging history had vanished into the ether (so soon after Dr Crippens self imposed exile).

Personally I much prefer to have a spectrum of commentators, many of whom offer wildly differing perspectives – ultimately ideas can be tested far more robustly with the likes of Chris Mounsey around.

Or put another way, who’s intellect, or principles are so feeble that they can be blown away by a few well chosen expletives – surely Mounsey is a far more interesting character than Murdoch’s bloated henchman?
http://mrishmael.blogspot.com/2010/01/no-forced-marriage-for-me_08.html

I’m surprised that you genuinely don’t have a word to say about “media bias” other than “they were asking for it, we weren’t”.

Edward – what is there to say? The media, increasingly BBC included, is driven by sensationalism rather than actual useful content? Could have told you that years ago. We’ve been saying that for ages here.

Mr E: I am and have always been all in favour of free immigration, as are libertarians such as Tim Worstall.

Think you may want to check with Mr Worstall on that one again. And the UKIP is certainly NOT a libertarian party is it? It’s main issue goes against libertarian principles.

But you’re right in that I’m generalising about immigration. But I do think I speak for a lot.

As for Polly Toynbee – I don’t see her banging on about how NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IMMIGRATION in the way the right does. She argues sensibly that workers rights need to be strenghtned in response. That’s my position too.

Bella:
glad you agree on the corporate media point. The BBC doesn’t do a good enough job, and we constantly attack the org for that reason here. If it were abolished however, things would not improve but they would get worse – that is my point.

On immigration you say: Before me, I doubt Chris had the faintest idea of what non-European immigrants have to go through if they want to be here legitimately.

But you see this is exactly the criticism that most lefties have of libertarians – that their views are rarely grounded in reality or experience. It’s just ideology that in theory sounds great but as soon as you try annd implement bits it falls apart. Like the idea that a publicly owned media org has no part to play at all and just restrict true innovation. Or that Britain is ‘soft touch’ when it comes to immigration etc etc.

Precisely because extant media didn’t give libertarian (or classically liberal) views much air time so we all took to this new form of media.

That may be true – but there are also a hell of a lot of lefties online. We just need to get our act together (now, most of the top 10 blogs on the Wikio chart are left-wing).

I think that point applied in the early days more than now. And lastly – the people who hang around at Guido’s arent libertarians they’re just “window-lickers” – as he himself calls them.

13. the a&e charge nurse

[12] “It’s just ideology that in theory sounds great but as soon as you try annd implement bits it falls apart” – yes, a problem common to most …..’isms’, or grandiose political blue prints for a better world.

“Think you may want to check with Mr Worstall on that one again. And the UKIP is certainly NOT a libertarian party is it? It’s main issue goes against libertarian principles.”

UKIP’s main issue is to leave the EU. That’s a pretty libertarian sorta policy. Less government and all that.

I personally am for free migration, yes. Still not sure how we might solve Friedman’s point, that you can’t have both that and a generous welfare state. but other than that, all for it. Makes everyone richer.

“What always perplexes me is why the few genuine libertarians don’t seem to object to this wholesale theft of their brandname”

What, like the way collectivists stole the word ‘liberal’?

Sunny your first link brought me into a whole universe of nuttery that I had previously been unaware of

‘Anyone who does not utterly oppose the conjunction of alcohol and driving, however limited, is essentially an advocate of manslaughter – and, incidentally, a total monster for making a grieving mother cry.’

Wow.

UKIP’s main issue is to leave the EU. That’s a pretty libertarian sorta policy. Less government and all that.

You could have fooled me. And even then, that’s mainly because of the immigration.

Also, is it libertarian to demand a ban on clothes you don’t like? I think you’re desperately flailing there Tim –

I think all political brand names have been stolen and twisted wayyy beyond their original meanings. Re: Communism, Liberalism, Libertarianism (I’ve been reading an anthology of the anarchist writer William Godwin and the introduction describes him as a libertarian (published in 1985)), Socialism, communitarianism, even Conservatism was bastardised by Thatcher and Ecologism has been co-opted by everybody. I ‘spect that’s what Blair was trying to overthrow when he misguidedly came up with the Third Way (forgetting history that Italian Fascists (oh another political ideology that got it’s name pinched) originally came up with the Third Way (I think?)).

On topic: outsiders will inevitably come round to looking at the establishment in the same way. Even if they’re from the far-right or the far-left, it is part and parcel of the nature of having radical views – hence why the BNP and the SWP sound very similar when bashing the BBC, if for different reasons (although they both hate Israel..!).

Perhaps Mounsey is pissed off because after all he’s an Old Etonian, by rights he should be forming the next government with all the rest of the gang!

@ Sunny

When I saw the headline for this post, I assumed you were just going to seize the opportunity to poke libertarians with a stick- (something from which you seem to have derived pleasure from in the past) but your article is more balanced than I expected.

But you see this is exactly the criticism that most lefties have of libertarians – that their views are rarely grounded in reality or experience. It’s just ideology that in theory sounds great but as soon as you try and implement bits it falls apart.

That is a valid criticism but we will never reach utopia and the same could be said of all other such ideologies. What we should be doing is looking at furthering the bits of the practical agenda where liberals and leftists have common ground.

As I have said before, these include anti-corporatism, mutualism and localism. Chris Mounsey has some interesting ideas on Friendly Societies as a counter to centralised banking systems for example.

http://www.devilskitchen.me.uk/2010/04/new-from-old-friendly-society.html

Worth cross posting perhaps?

I am sure that Tim Worstall can speak for himself but I suspect he is subtly trying to point out that he does not agree with UKIP’s policies on immigration. You are absolutely right though, Sunny, about the ban on the burqa, which I think is pretty reprehensible.

These and other similar policies are why I think Tim is wrong to be a member of UKIP, as DK was before him: because it’s not a libertarian party, it’s a populist, Littlejohnite party, which is not the same thing. That’s also one of the many reasons why I wouldn’t ever join UKIP myself (and, contrary to what an earlier commenter implied, I’m not a member of the Tory party either, and don’t campaign for them).

I’ll not belabour the point, Sunny, but one more time: different bloggers and writers have different opinions on stuff. I have remarked before on your tendency to just conflate loads of different viewpoints on the other side and label them as “right-wingers”. But the truth is that we all disagree on stuff just as much as lefties do. Have you not read the posts on the Devil’s Kitchen insulting David Cameron, or castigating so-called libertarians like me who plan to vote Tory as the best option currently on offer? (I would link to one, but, y’know.)

DK wants to abolish the welfare state, or so he has said: I don’t. Tim might want to see tighter abortion laws, I’m not sure: but I certainly don’t. Some are keen to legalise all drugs, including the hard ones; I’m sympathetic to that in principle but concerned about how it would work in practice. There are plenty of people on the right who would secretly love to kick half the Muslims out of this country but please don’t ever associate them with me.

Perhaps our disagreements are the reason we are only writing profanity-splattered blogs rather than “organising” as the left like to do. We don’t have it in us. But it also means that you’re wrong to just assume that we all think the same, and that if one of us changes our mind, or is proved wrong, that somehow invalidates everything anyone argues. I mean, that would be like saying that when David Aaronovitch writes some load of guff, it automatically proves that you are talking shit too. I’m sure you can see how ludicrous that would be.

No harm in having fun at DK’s expense, because if the shoe was on the other foot we’d all be chortling heartily as well. But I admire Chris Mounsey for at least having the courage of his principles in getting out from behind the keyboard and arguing for what he believes in, and doing it the hard way by setting up his own political party and putting himself up in the coconut shy. I wouldn’t do it, and I suspect most of your commenters – who, like me, use pseudonyms online – wouldn’t do it either.

“You could have fooled me.”

You’re not as acute an observer of the electoral scene as you seem to think then. Why, only a few months ago everyone was deriding us as a one issue party…always banging on about Europe.

“And even then, that’s mainly because of the immigration.”

No, it simply isn’t. It’s actually about emigration: the emigration of much of our decision making power and ability to rule ourselves.

The whole party really is driven by a hatred of the European Union as a political entity.

“Also, is it libertarian to demand a ban on clothes you don’t like?”

It sure ain’t. Which is why I don’t support that specific policy even while I support the party. I very much doubt that there’s any member of any political paorty anywhere who agrees with every single policy esposed by said party.

Politics is, after all, the art of compromise.

Not all libertarians are right-wing: http://libcom.org/

23. Charlieman

@14 Tim Worstall: “I personally am for free migration, yes. Still not sure how we might solve Friedman’s point, that you can’t have both that and a generous welfare state. but other than that, all for it. Makes everyone richer.”

Sorry Tim, but I can’t square your liberal values with the illiberalism of UKIP. Here’s a quote from their policy statement on the web: “The Labour Government’s policy of mass immigration has been deliberately imposed in order to create a more ‘diverse’ and ‘multicultural’ society without consulting the British people.”

Those words could just have easily come from the English National Party or worse. Let’s analyse a little.

1. Bizarre capitalisation of the word “government” suggests that the author is accustomed to writing letters to newspapers in green ink.

2. Immigration policy is a conspiracy imposed upon the British people. The only reason, according to UKIP, that government admits migrants is to undermine society. Essential job roles and basic humanitarianism are implied to be cover stories for something else. If there are fewer “British people” on the streets, perhaps we might not notice the lizards?

3. “Diversity” and “multiculturalism” are not new. Carrots are an essential component of the British Sunday dinner, but they were brought to us by those swarthy, mongrel Romans.

4. “The British people were not consulted”. Well, they have been at every general election for decades, and all major parties have rejected outright bigotry and acknowledged the need for immigration. At the same time, I note that none of the three leaders in Thursday’s debate presented an honest policy.

You need to move on, Tim. UKIP is wrong on immigration, and there is no way that they will get their heads around citizen basic income or site value rating.

As I said above, it’s not necessary to agree with every party policy in order to be a member of a party. Indeed, I think it would be impossible for anyone to actually do so.

I’m sure there are plenty of Labour voters around here who are less than enamoured with ID Cards for example.

“no way that they will get their heads around citizen basic income or site value rating.”

I’ve had both those discussions with the party wallahs that write the benefits and tax policies (just as I had quite a bit of input into the income tax and personal allowance policies). Both ideas are well understood and are likely to surface in the future.

@ Tim 14

“UKIP’s main issue is to leave the EU. That’s a pretty libertarian sorta policy. Less government and all that.”

It’s always surprised me that anyone who isn’t already a fully paid up, carpet biting, blimpish “disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” sort could take UKIP in the least seriously. As an essentially “one-issue” party it is a prime example of no-hoperism…. and of course if you actually take any time to look into the views and detailed biographies of some of the leadership, it’s easy to see they are honestly just the Monster Raving Looney party in a sensible (if rather fusty) suit.

26. Charlieman

I am pleased for Chris Mounsey that he has had a brush with reality.

But deletion of the old Devil’s Kitchen blog was an unnecessary drama queen moment. I hope that he has a backup and restores it. DK delivered a lot of tosh mixed in with rightful indignation and sweary words, but it wasn’t all rubbish.

Tolerance is a great attribute, but it has to be used in conjunction with judgement. Those of us who believe that the state can provide good services to citizens need to be nudged when we tolerate lousy services. That, and rants against bossy government, are good arguments for the old DK.

27. Charlieman

@24 Tim Worstall: “As I said above, it’s not necessary to agree with every party policy in order to be a member of a party. Indeed, I think it would be impossible for anyone to actually do so.”

The immigration policy itself is pretty nasty, as are the policies of the three main parties. But the UKIP policy is written in green ink.

I am pleased that UKIP is willing to listen to you about citizen basic income and site value rating. Those are two ideas that should be in the mainstream of debate.

Not all libertarians are right-wing: http://libcom.org/

Indeed not.

Sunny

You could have fooled me. And even then, that’s mainly because of the immigration.

Also, is it libertarian to demand a ban on clothes you don’t like? I think you’re desperately flailing there Tim

Support for any party will demand teeth-grinding compromises. You like Obama, for example, but aren’t on-board with all he’s done. Still, as an independent, I can safely say that you’re all ipocrites, the lot o’ ya, yeeeah!

Sunny –

Fair dues about the BBC. Yes, the quality of the media would probably get worse if the BBC didn’t exist. And actually I have little personal problem with the licence fee. What bothers me about the BBC is that, whatever people may say, ultimately it does have to please the government in order to keep its funding. We’re all lucky in that it has not yet become overtly partial, which is more than can be said for state broadcasters in other parts of the world. But that doesn’t mean it’s wholly impartial; and I think improvements can certainly be made there.

“But you see this is exactly the criticism that most lefties have of libertarians – that their views are rarely grounded in reality or experience.”

As A&E and Pagar pointed out above, this is true of everyone whose politics would impact on other people. I doubt you, for example, have first-hand experience of single motherhood, being CEO of a bank, nursing, teaching, and a great many other things besides. Yet you are happy to advocate policies that impact heavily on such people. This is the way of politics, I’m afraid, and people all over will continue to support positions without grounding in experience.

Reality, however, is another matter. The reality of the situation is that libertarian policies are rarely enacted, so we have as much reason to believe they’ll work as you have reason to believe they won’t.

30. Golden Gordon

I have always been interested in the free market libertarian view on states role in the judicial system, defence and policing.
Lawyers, Mercenaries and security guards ?

“I have always been interested in the free market libertarian view on states role in the judicial system, defence and policing.
Lawyers, Mercenaries and security guards ?”

No, that would be anarchy (or what we actually called it, feudalism, when we had it).

Libertarians do indeed agree that “some” state is necessary. There really are things that both must be done and which can only be done with the enforced collectivism and monopoly over violence that the state has.

Defence and a criminal justice system are usually taken to be the two basic minimums. Classical liberals like myself will add more things to that list.

Others will add even more….until eventually we get to the absurdity that people insist that people must be taxed at gunpoint (for that is what taxation comes down to in the end, pay or get prosecuted, try to escape and they’ll try to shoot you) to pay for outreach diversity advisors.

The argument isn’t over the desirability of “The State”. It’s over the extent of it.

That is a valid criticism but we will never reach utopia and the same could be said of all other such ideologies.

An entirely reasonable point to make. Though I’d like to think I’m evidence based on issues rather than dogmatic for its own sake. I don’t think communism or socialism stands up in reality either. And I see libertarianism in the same mold – ideology that isn’t grounded in reality. Just pointing that out. We can have a discussion can’t we 😉

I personally am for free migration, yes. Still not sure how we might solve Friedman’s point, that you can’t have both that and a generous welfare state

Easy. You just make it so that migrants pay into a pot that is transferable, in and out of the country. For example, I’d want personal pots that people accumulate – private pensions and health insurance also very easily transferable. So a migrant comes in and they should have to buy medical insurance for an amount of time unless and until they become citizens. Asylum seekers would of course be treated differently. Problem solved.

But that doesn’t square up with the fact that UKIP’s main policies are decidedly NOT liberal or libertarian. I’m glad Mr E agrees with me, Just wanted to confirm that point.

I’m a pragmatic leftie – I’m not a paid up member of the Labour party. And I would certainly refuse to join until this current shower of idiots who led us into Iraq left office. I don’t think I’m being hypocritical – if you’re a signed up member of a party then their main principles should at least tally with what you espouse.

Mr E: but one more time: different bloggers and writers have different opinions on stuff.

ok ok, point taken. But I do think there is a surprisingly high percentage of “libertarians” who stay completely silent or are actively anti-immigration… and I wrote this article in response to the outpouring of media outrage over at libertarian blogs at Mounsey’s treatment.

I’m glad some libertarians are waking up to a left-wing reality world 🙂

I mean, that would be like saying that when David Aaronovitch writes some load of guff, it automatically proves that you are talking shit too. I’m sure you can see how ludicrous that would be.

Agreed, though I don’t know what he calls himself these days. I will say however there is a remarkable tendency with libertarians to conflate lefties with Labourites, and also assume all lefties are communists etc.

But I admire Chris Mounsey for at least having the courage of his principles in getting out from behind the keyboard and arguing for what he believes in

Don’t get me wrong – I admire people who put themselves in the firing line and get up and do something. There’s far too many people who sit around just complaining on blogs. But that’s not what I’m attacking here…. other than of course the ludicrous idea that you can head up a party while writing out murder scenarios on your blog.

Also – I’ve never said all libertarians are left-wing! In fact not all socialists are pro-state either! I’ve known anarchist greenies who intensely dislike the state. Hell – I came into politica via the green movement and I’m not entirely enamoured with state responses to everything either.

Bella:
Fair dues about the BBC. Yes, the quality of the media would probably get worse if the BBC didn’t exist

Thanks. glad we’re agreed on that.

bothers me about the BBC is that, whatever people may say, ultimately it does have to please the government in order to keep its funding.

I agree and I think we have to point this out. We should all try and ensure when political parties try and warn the BBC by threatening its license fee. Though, I think I’m on fairly safe ground when I say its mostly Tories who do that – with Thatcher and now the current crop constantly trying to undermine it deliberately.

The reality of the situation is that libertarian policies are rarely enacted, so we have as much reason to believe they’ll work as you have reason to believe they won’t.

Sure – but I think the examples I give above say that even ideologically your stances are not consistent. It’s amusing to read Charlotte Gore and yourself complain about media bias against the little guy when that’s a constant feature on left blogs.

Mr E,

I’m not a member of the Tory party either, and don’t campaign for them

My mistake, sorry.

@ Sunny

I think you are being a litle unfair on UKIP.

There origins were as a Colonel Blimp party but Farage has worked hard to transform it and has generally succeeded. However, despite Tim Worstalls best efforts to convince us otherwise, they are not, in any sense, a free thinking libertarian party. They areessentially a right wing populist party. LPUK is full of ex UKIP members who came to this realisation and I suspect Tim will also find he is in the wrong place.

When they adopt CBI as a policy I might change my mind!!!!

So a migrant comes in and they should have to buy medical insurance for an amount of time unless and until they become citizens.

Extend that to having a qualifying period before the right to other welfare benefits is earned by the immigrant and, you’re right, that solves the immigration/welfare state conundrum. We really could have open borders with all the benefits that would bring.

The above idea is very……….er……..progressive for a leftie and this surely demonstrates that long term exposure to libertarian blogs can make you think some very peculiar thoughts.

Chis Mounsey really ought to have defended the rights of mad people in their underpants in their bedrooms, to have violent fantasies and swear a lot, a bit better than he did.

It is, probably, a fundamental human right to be completely off your trolley.

37. Golden Gordon

Tim W
Didn’t they have no police force, just private organisations like the Bow street runners and no standing state armed forces in the 18th C. most regiments were mainly an aristo private miltia’s and the royal navy was just a collection of privateers dependent on capturing foreign ships to survive. Judicial system was open to the highest bidder, Surely that was the golden age of free market liberalism

“Surely that was the golden age of free market liberalism”

No…for precisely the reasons you mention. For I’m saying that theese things do have to be provided by the state.

I’d go a lot further too. A large scale capitalist economy just isn’t possible without limited liability….which didn’t really arrive until the 19th century. The public goods of innovation and creation will be underprovided without copyright and patents….again, really 19th cent not 18th.

39. Golden Gordon

Tim W
Many free market liberals they take an opposite view, that was the age of limited state control. In fact it was vitually non existent.
Also I remember a TV programme about libertarians in which they longed back to the 18th C.
The last scene was their leader dreaming of space exploration run by a version of a cosmic east indian company

Dunno about that you know. Given that most free market liberals take as their starting point Adam Smith….who didn’t publish on matters economic until 1776, and what he did publish was what’s wrong and not free market liberal about the Britain of the time…..I think it doubtful that any free market liberals look to hte 18th century as some sort of golden age.

pagar: The above idea is very……….er……..progressive for a leftie and this surely demonstrates that long term exposure to libertarian blogs can make you think some very peculiar thoughts.

Err, no actually that idea was proposed by a left-wing uni professor who was quite pro-immigration and was annoyed with the tabloids. I forget his name, but it was an RSA organised debate. I can’t remember the last time I learnt anything or took anything useful from the libertarian blogs.

@ Sunny 41

” I can’t remember the last time I learnt anything or took anything useful from the libertarian blogs.”

Expecting to get something positive from such a source is rather like thinking well of Fascism for making the trains run on time. Even lunatics can come up with some convincing statements in their lucid moments – it hardly means we should adopt their lifestyle.

As I have always said there are very few real libertarians. And they are insane. Most of the so called libertarians are all just pretend libertarians.

They just want the govt to stop doing stuff for OTHER people.

The American tea baggers are the latest bunch of muppets to come onto the political map as they rail against govt health care while saying they want to keep Medicare.

“They just want the govt to stop doing stuff for OTHER people.”

Well actually no, libertarianism is about stopping the government doing stuff *to* other people. That’s a big difference. For instance, on welfare-

Left wing: give it more funding, and kind treatment of recipients.
Right wing: give it less funding, and harsh treatment of recipients.
Libertarian: stop the government destroying jobs so they aren’t forced onto welfare in the first place.

or, on drugs’n’drink-

Left wing: More temperance laws and harsher penalties and more funding.
Right wing: More temperance laws and harsher penalties.
Libertarian: Temperance laws are a demonstrable disaster driven by irrational moralist fervour. Stop this madness.

and so on.

Although it’s tempting to use the “libertarianism is just anarchy for rich people” line, it IS worth knowing your enemy rather better than simply dismissing them as crackpots.

Most libertarians accept the need for some form of government, but like all political lables, “libertarian” covers a multitude of sins, from the looniest backwoods survivalist in the forests of Oregon, to persuasive metropolitan operators on the right of the conservative movement.

Many Americans in particular self-identify as libertarian because they have a visceral hatred of “big government”, of anything that smacks of socialism/state intervention, and basically want to pay the minimum possible in taxes in a “nightwatchman” kind of nation.

It’s not a model that most in Europe find palateable, even those on the right. My basic problem with most libertarians when you actually debate in detail what they believe in, and how they would deal with “real” societal problems, is that they lack a social conscience, and don’t seem to comprehend that we don’t all live in the backwoods of the US mid west.

They often sincerely believe that “minimal state” and the lowest possible taxes for everyone will obviate the need for any social security safety net. Cloud cuckoo land to most of us, of course.

Perhaps themost worrying thing is the influence that such thinking has had on the neo-cons on the conservative right, whether Thatcher and her goons in the 70’s and 80’s, or Reagan and both Bush Snr and Jnr. I remember being at University in the 80’s where some truly scary Libertarians ran the Conservative Student group. One of them had a “Hang Nelson Mandela and all ANC Terrorists” bumper sticker on his car.

Libertarianism needs to be seen for what it is: a fundamentally anti-democratic, elitist ideology aimed at legitimating privilege, and undermining what they see as the limitations on the free exercise of their power by democratic government.

“They often sincerely believe that “minimal state” and the lowest possible taxes for everyone will obviate the need for any social security safety net. Cloud cuckoo land to most of us, of course.”

And there are those of us a tad more sophisticated. For example, entirely accepting the need for a safety net but pondering how to provide one at the least distortion to the rest of society.

One of the major reasons I myself support a citizen’s basic income. It wipes out the horrendous marginal tax and benefit withdrawal rates faced by the working poor. A good thing.

47. John Meredith

” I can’t remember the last time I learnt anything or took anything useful from the libertarian blogs.”

I recommend you check out Chris Dillow at Stumbling and Mumbling (surely you read that blog since he is a LC contributor? He has just done a blog celebrating ‘Libertarianism in action’), Will Wilkinson of the Cato Institute and Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution:

http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/

http://www.willwilkinson.net/flybottle/

http://www.marginalrevolution.com/

All very different thinkers and writers, but all worth reading if you really want to learn something from libertarians. Of course, if you just want to confirm your biases, you are best sticking with what you know.

48. John Meredith

“One of the major reasons I myself support a citizen’s basic income. It wipes out the horrendous marginal tax and benefit withdrawal rates faced by the working poor. A good thing.”

Me too, although I can’t see how it works with open immigration policies.Of course, it would also obliterate a powerful constituency of bureaucrats who earn their living administering the welfare state which may explain why it has so little traction on the traditional left.

“Me too, although I can’t see how it works with open immigration policies.”

The key is in the word “citizens”….although we can’t do that while in the EU which is another reason to leave.

50. John Meredith

“The key is in the word “citizens”….although we can’t do that while in the EU which is another reason to leave.”

That just postpones the problem, though, doesn’t it? You would quickly end up with a two-tier society of citizens and non-citizens with radically different opportunities and outcomes for each group. The citizens would appear somewhat drone like to the non-citizens working alongside them and the division would often appear to be along skin colour lines.

How stable could that be? And from a more ideological point of view, how right can it be that someone is entitled to this subsidy simply by accident of birth while another, who may have all sorts of qualities including the drive and determination to emigrate to the UK, should be deprived of it through accident?

Me too, although I can’t see how it works with open immigration policies.

I refer you to Sunny.

So a migrant comes in and they should have to buy medical insurance for an amount of time unless and until they become citizens

And so with CBI.

The reason I congratulated Sunny on propounding this is that, in doing so, he acknowledges the fact that the money that goes to fund the Health Service (and by extension the welfare system, the quangos, the fake charities and everything else) is not magic money that falls out of the sky and is effectively limitless, but is money that someone, somewhere, has earned..

Once that fact has been acknowledged by a leftist, many other truths can follow.

Of course, we never quite got round to discussing what was to happen when a non-citizen migrant pedestrian was knocked down by a car. Presumably Sunny would not yet agree with the libertarian view that he be left to die on the street, but it’s a start.

@51 pagar

“The reason I congratulated Sunny on propounding this is that, in doing so, he acknowledges the fact that the money that goes to fund the Health Service (and by extension the welfare system, the quangos, the fake charities and everything else) is not magic money that falls out of the sky and is effectively limitless, but is money that someone, somewhere, has earned.. ”

I don’t think any reasonable person in the mainstream would contend that money for health, or any other area of spending for that matter, is limitless. The issue is how to apportion the total amount available between all the various demands on the exchequer in the fairest (or least unfair?) way.

That never has, and never will be easy. You can’t please all the people, all the time..but you can try and build up a form of “quasi-consent” whereby most of the people are happy, most of the time – even where some spending goes on things they personally disaprove of..or where they thing the apportionment is wrong.

The kind of situation envisaged above with “non-citizen” migrants, or two tier systems doesn’t really work. Such systems are inherently unstable – whether you look at non-citizen metics in Classical Athens, gastarbeiter in Germany in recent times, or the migrants inhabiting places like the UAE now.

53. Planeshift

“.I think it doubtful that any free market liberals look to hte 18th century as some sort of golden age.”

Well on crooked timber last week there were a series of posts dealing with Bryan Caplan’s hillarious claims that women were more free in the 1880s USA. More seriously, as libertarians dismiss the philosophical idea of positive freedom, then logically they have to hold the position that countries without welfare states, health and education services are more free than countries with them.

“(on CBI) Me too, although I can’t see how it works with open immigration policies.”

Simple, it is a citizens basic income, therefore only available to citizens. Allowing an open immigration policy is not the same as an open citizenship policy.

Why do so many people seem to think open immigration policies are incompatable with welfare systems? – all you have to do is restrict who is eligible for benefits – in fact exactly as the UK has done with the worker registration scheme.

“The kind of situation envisaged above with “non-citizen” migrants, or two tier systems doesn’t really work.”

Rubbish. As long as there is a clear and simple manner of moving from one group (non citizen) to the other (citizen) it can work just fine.

Slaves couldn’t become citizens in Athens. Gastarbeiter couldn’t become Germans (in fact, German cistizenship was so restricted to “blood lines” that Volga Germans could, having been out of the country for five generations, while the German born and educated children of gasdtarbieter could not) and no one not UAE born can become a UAE citizen….and not even then, both parents must be UAE citizens.

Come here, work three or four years without access to hte cbi and you can become a citizen. What’s wrong with that?

55. Planeshift

Sorry John, didn’t see your reply.

“You would quickly end up with a two-tier society of citizens and non-citizens with radically different opportunities and outcomes for each group. The citizens would appear somewhat drone like to the non-citizens working alongside them and the division would often appear to be along skin colour lines.”

Like the UAE for example. However this is where you need to have a citizenship policy that gives people the opportunity to earn it. Plus you need to be transparent, many of the problems in the UAE come from employment agencies acting fraudelently and migrants then find the reality is different. They then have to work off debts, live in tied accommodation and are effectively slaves. But the solution here isn’t to restrict immigration, it is to take on the criminals responsible.

Aside from this, I’d also argue that citizenship should be earned not given to people as a birthright, and thus CBI should only be given to those who had earned it (such as via a period of voluntary work etc). Exceptions made for those born in the country who cannot earn it (people with severe disabilities for example). This isn’t actually that radical – there are already many benefits that are only available to people with sufficent nat insurance contributions.

56. John Meredith

But Tim and Planeshift, the benefit of a CBI is permanent oncfe afforded, that is the point. If you afforded citizenship to anyone who came to the UK for X years and earned and paid taxes in that period, you would be offering a massive incentive to people from poor countries to come here, earn citizenship, and then bleed off the benefits for the next 50 years or however long they live without earning or contributing. A CBI would have to be a border-line liveable wage to be of any real value, say £150 a week, so I think this would be a real challenge. Or would we have to change what we mean by UK citizen so that the status can be withdrawn if, say, you choose to live abroad? That brings its own problems, doesn’t it?

you would be offering a massive incentive to people from poor countries to come here, earn citizenship, and then bleed off the benefits for the next 50 years or however long they live without earning or contributing

As opposed to the people who are born here and are entitled to receive benefits all of their lives without having contributed at all?

You are absolutely correct that CBI would have to be set at an affordable level- your £150 a week is about right in my view. But remember that the market has a role in dictating the level of both immigration and citizenship.

There would be no incentive whatever for the immigrant to come here without a job. The qualification requirements for citizenship allow a degree of control for government as does the rate at which CBI is set but if the numbers of citizens rose dramatically, so would demand for all sorts of goods and services. Prices would rise making the relative value of the CBI lower and citizenship less attractive for the potential immigrant.

Libertarianism is fundamentally doomed as long as we have universal suffrage – at least until we start genetically engineering ourselves

http://idlepenpusher.blogspot.com/2009/07/we-want-to-be-spanked.html

@ 54 Tim

“Slaves couldn’t become citizens in Athens. Gastarbeiter couldn’t become Germans (in fact, German cistizenship was so restricted to “blood lines” that Volga Germans could, having been out of the country for five generations, while the German born and educated children of gasdtarbieter could not) and no one not UAE born can become a UAE citizen….and not even then, both parents must be UAE citizens.”

Sounds like you’re kind of making my point for me. Metics in Athens could become citizens, but it was highly unusual – in the meantime as “resident aliens”, they had few of the benefits of Athenian democracy, but were expected to shoulder many of the burdens. Hardly a great example. Similarly with gastarbeiter in Germany.. it hardly resulted in an outcome I’d admire or want to emulate.

As for the UAE, time will tell whether their model works or not in the long term. It might be interesting to see in future decades what happens when the non-UAE citizens start demanding some rights: what are they going to do then, commit economic suicide and ship them all home?

You’ve missed my next point though. If there’s a simple path from non-citizen resident to citizen then this creation of an underclass doesn’t happen.

US stylee perhaps….you do a few years as a legal resident and only then do they allow you to become a citizen.

61. John Meredith

“US stylee perhaps….you do a few years as a legal resident and only then do they allow you to become a citizen.”

But Tim, this is contentious enough as it is in the US. Imagine if citizenship brought with it a guaranteed lifetime payment of (say) $250 a week. And what if some of those citizens decided they no longer wished to work in the US but to wander back to Mexico while still claiming the wage. What to do? Withdraw citizenship from people who live abroad? And what do you imagine the political fallout would be?

62. Planeshift

“What to do? Withdraw citizenship from people who live abroad?”

Yes, that would be logical. Perhaps it would be easier to sell if the thing was renamed (perhaps something boring and technocratic like the domestic resident’s welfare payment entitlement) so people didn’t associate the payment with the wider concept of citizenship and national identity.

Ex-pats can maintain their British citizenship but CBI would only be payable to UK citizens domiciled in the UK.

Just as anyone domiciled outwith the UK does not pay UK tax or receive UK benefits.

64. Golden Gordon

IPP
So your against universal suffrage.
Perhaps bringing back slavery ?

“IPP
So your (sic) against universal suffrage.”

Yes.

“Perhaps bringing back slavery ?”

Is this a variation of Godwin’s Law?

Actually, no. I am against universal suffrage, but not because it guarantees an unfree society as the “So” in your question implies.

“You would quickly end up with a two-tier society of citizens and non-citizens with radically different opportunities and outcomes for each group… And from a more ideological point of view, how right can it be that someone is entitled to this subsidy simply by accident of birth while another, who may have all sorts of qualities including the drive and determination to emigrate to the UK, should be deprived of it through accident?”

Wake up, dude. This is already the situation.

And for those of you arguing that immigrants should have to buy health insurance in the UK until they obtain citizenship – this is absurd. If I, as a working immigrant, am liable for tax and NICs in this country, then I should also be entitled to the healthcare it pays for.

Especially since healthcare is all a working migrant gets in return for those NICs. We non-EU types are debarred from receiving any kind of benefit – not that I want to, mind – and so are our spouses if they happen to be British.

You want to be really socially unjust, go ahead and demand tax and NI contributions from immigrants and then make them purchase privately the very things those taxes and NICs are supposed to pay for. Talk about creating a two-tier society!

Oh, and while you’re at it, why don’t you intern us all according to regional economic need for migrant labour, then transport us around the country as the economic situation shifts and swings.

What with Sunny’s Migrant Health Insurance and Nick Clegg’s Regional Migrant Internment, you’ve got a perfect recipe for deterring any non-EU immigration to this country at all. Maybe that’s what some of you want, who knows. But it’s not a particularly ‘liberal’ attitude.

I don’t agree with Clegg’s absurd policy on migration by the way Bella.

But you said: And for those of you arguing that immigrants should have to buy health insurance in the UK until they obtain citizenship – this is absurd. If I, as a working immigrant, am liable for tax and NICs in this country, then I should also be entitled to the healthcare it pays for.

Basically, what I’d do is say that you pay minimum taxes for stuff like roads, defence and other public goods, while paying other taxes into a pot that is health insurance. Citizens would pay that to the govt, you pay into your own pot.

I actually think its unfair to demand that immigrants not only pay full taxes but then also pay on top for services. They should in fact be allowed to pay some taxes into a pot that they can then take back with them if they’re temporary economic migrants.

This is an interesting discussion in terms of framing, or the discourse, or whatever. I think the interesting thing, speaking as some kind of libertarian, is that immigration tends to get framed as an economic issue. But it seems to me that the economic arguments- which are used by all sides, both pro- and anti- immigration, to various degrees, are a kind of way of avoiding the issue.

It’s not really an economic issue. There are economic aspects to it, of course, but in the end both sides- those who are ideologically pro and those who are ideologically anti- are really interested in cultural effects. The antis are worried that British culture will be swamped, and replaced/destroyed. The pro side want that to happen, as part of the plan to remake the world in a progressive stylee.

So it seems to me that the two sides are both being dishonest by framing a cultural debate in economic terms; only open-borders libertarians (mostly) are being honest, if generally deluded, in that they naively believe it really *is* an economic issue, due to the libertarian canon having been predominantly written by economists, and it thus treats everything as an economic issue (Rome fell because of inflation, the American Civil War was about tarriffs, ad nauseam).

It isn’t an economic issue. If nobody wanted to immigrate to Britain, we’d get by on the workforce we have (even if our political masters would have a few less nannies and gardeners). Indeed, since Say we’ve known that there can’t be a general glut, so if we’re short of nannies, gardeners, doctors or nurses, something is wrong economically somewhere else in the economy- probably, the wages on offer are two low or (doctors and nurses here) there’s a cartel in operation. Etc. Sorry, I’m a libertarian too, so I’ll just talk for the next hour about the Gold Standard. Please pay attention.)

There needs to be an honest cultural debate. Something that made me start thinking much harder about this stuff was two events that happened very close to one another. Firstly, my newsagent, an “indian” of some kind from Birmingham, having a sudden rant about the government having lost control of immigration, and all the f***ing muslims flooding in. Then coincidentally, the girl in my local petrol station, who is black, having a similar rant about the place being full of drunken Poles every night and not knowing what f***iing country she’s in when she goes shopping, there are so many foreign languages in the high street. Then us both clamming up because two coppers walked in to buy a Twix, and it’s illegal to be racist these days, you know.

People are getting worried about rapid, deliberately imposed cultural change. The question regarding immigration is, “do we want the British culture and the indigenous British to become just one more minority in Britain during this century?” which demographic trending shows will happen if current policies continue. People should honestly state a position, because that is what is due to happen, is it not? So, is that a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? GDP and doctors for the NHS and strain on resources and whether to withhold welfare and all the other euphemistic arguments are an irrelevance.

(My answer is No, by the way. I’d put a moratorium on immigration from anywhere in the world, even nice American ladies, for my first parliamentary term, just to put a lid on things).

@ Ian 69

It’s a long post..so I might make a few points in shorter responses:

“The antis are worried that British culture will be swamped, and replaced/destroyed. The pro side want that to happen, as part of the plan to remake the world in a progressive stylee.”

A pretty broad brush simplification, and given the sensitivities of this issue, one that needs a rather more nuanced approach I think. Nailing my colours to the mast from the get go, I think immigration IS a good thing: economically, culturally, politically..the whole nine yards. I realise that lots of people disagree of course, but I’d take issue with two fairly breath taking assumptions in your quote:

1) People who are “pro” immigration (or at least against a lot of the generally right wing plans to halt or cap it) actively want to “replace/destroy” British culture, (whatever that is?!); and

2)This desire is part of a plan to “remake” the world in a progressive image.

Taking the first point, not many people would actually recognise that as an “aim”. Is “our” culture so fragile that it will crumble in the face of immigration, whether from the EU or outside? I rather think not. However, even if you accept that it is such a delicate bloom, would it actually be worth saving?

As for the second point, it all sounds rather like the fevered nightmare of the “little Englander”, Daily Mail reading classes. It’s as though they actually beleive there is some liberal / progressive “Fourth International” planning to extinguish individual cultures.

I do actually agree with you in as much as immigration isn’t primarily an economic issue.

How we respond to the questions raised by immigration, and the policies we enact as a result, say a lot about the kind of society we are and want to be in the future. I know that the kind of society I want to live in isn’t one which institutes immigration bans, makes it ridiculously difficult for people to come here, and/or makes them feel like second class citizens once they get here.

@ Ian 69

Para 5 of your post:

“Then us both clamming up because two coppers walked in to buy a Twix, and it’s illegal to be racist these days, you know.”

Well, yeah..it IS illegal to be racist. The very fact that you saw fit to reign in the “anti-immigrant” discourse suggests that you at least had SOME qualms that what was being said was at least ignorant, if not actually actionable. Of course, you may actually think it’s OK for Poles in general to be tarred with the brush of the drunken minority who impinge on the garage workers day. Similarly with the religious bigotry of shop keeper you mention.

It’s a sad indictment of both the individuals concerned, that they feel the need to discriminate against “other” minorities. Of course, it does happen… oftentimes the recent immigrants are the ones who are keenest to “pull the ladder up” behind them. Perhaps they just need to discover some compassion, or be a bit better educated, or to realise that there are plenty of sober Poles, Muslims who aren’t a threat to their religion.

The atavistic “fear of the other”, whether because they speak a different language, have different customs, dare to speak different languages in your High Street is too easily translated into the dark fantasy that we live in a politically correct police state, where we have to be frightened of coppers in search of a Twix arresting us for racial abuse.

The very idea simply gives comfort to the nastier elements of the far right, whether Tory Libertarians, UKIP or the BNP. They love to constantly remind us that we are in iminent danger from the tsunami of black / coffee coloured / Muslim / Catholic / godless [delete hobby horse of choice] immigrants, assisted of course by a fifth column of domestic pinko liberals of course.

If it wasn’t so scary a world-view it would be laughable.

@ Sunny

Basically, what I’d do is say that you pay minimum taxes for stuff like roads, defence and other public goods, while paying other taxes into a pot that is health insurance. Citizens would pay that to the govt, you pay into your own pot.

You sound like Dan Hannan.

@ Bella

We non-EU types are debarred from receiving any kind of benefit

I didn’t know that.

Then why the preponderance of people from Somalia in social housing in Bristol?

Presumably they are receiving Housing Benefit?

“Then why the preponderance of people from Somalia in social housing in Bristol?”

Asylum seekers operate under completely different rules than economic migrants.

As is entirely right and proper they should.

“The very fact that you saw fit to reign in the “anti-immigrant” discourse suggests that you at least had SOME qualms that what was being said was at least ignorant”

I read this more as a sign that they were frightened of big brother and being caught committing crimethink.

“It’s a sad indictment of both the individuals concerned, that they feel the need to discriminate against “other” minorities. ”

Not nearly so sad as as the indictment of the rest of the population who voted for the governments which have erected this apparatus.

“If it wasn’t so scary a world-view it would be laughable.”

Imagine the situation were reversed. Imagine if you had to shut up about something you agree with when the authorities were around, for example praising immigration rather than complaining about it. Suppose instead of racism thought crmes there were ones against, say, ‘national pride’ which caused you to be extremely wary of being ‘caught’ praising immigration publicly. That would make you change your mind, though I’m not sure whether it’d be regarding the scariness of the situation or if you’d just find it easier to get with the programme and ditch the newly off message beliefs about immigration. Certainly one of the two.

@74

“I read this more as a sign that they were frightened of big brother and being caught committing crimethink.”

The sub-text that we live in some Orwellian police state is frankly risible. Those involved perhaps had a grain of decency within them to know that their views (depending on how they expressed them) might be viewed as offensive and possibly racist. Raising the spectre of “crimethink” sounds more like a bigot’s defence that they have an absolute right to spout their bile, and are somehow being denied free speech.

As for your final paragraph, the contrived scenario you come up wouldn’t make me change my mind at all. Unlike the examples quoted in the earlier post (which were reprehensible), I wouldn’t have any problem defending my beliefs. My principles happen to be a tad stronger than the fear of being “off message”…. but hey, maybe that’s because unlike those in the earlier example, I have a moral compass huh?

“Raising the spectre of “crimethink” sounds more like a bigot’s defence that they have an absolute right to spout their bile, and are somehow being denied free speech.”

Ha! Wow. What a contradiction, and all in the same sentence, too. Yes, free speech is precisely about the right to ‘spout’ what someone else may think of as ‘bile’. Free speech isn’t about the right of others to say what you agree with. It’s about you supporting their right to say the very things you find most disgusting, reprehenisble and bilious without fear of state action.

@76

It’s understandable to most people that there should be limits. Having the right to say things that people find reprehensible or wrong, or that you just plain disagree with is one thing…but doesn’t it rather depend on the nature of what is said? Stirring up racial or religious hatred isn’t something that should be tolerated just because libertarians think no state action is permissable to restrict freedom of speech under ANY circumstances.

“It’s understandable to most people that there should be limits.”

As it is that there should be a death penalty, that there is a God or ill-defined “greater force” and plenty of other things. I’m afraid the understandability of a notion to most people does not equate to it being correct.

“but doesn’t it rather depend on the nature of what is said?”

No. You either believe in free speech or you don’t.

“Stirring up racial or religious hatred isn’t something that should be tolerated”

By society and taboo and social shame? Or by the state’s threat of violence? Presumably you mean the latter. The state should enforce censorship of expression which its agents deem likely to lead to the wrong opinions, right? No, I find that idea horrific. And yes it does constitute some degree of a police state.

Stirring up racial or religious hatred isn’t something that should be tolerated just because libertarians think no state action is permissable to restrict freedom of speech under ANY circumstances.

We’re talking about two people talking together in a filling station afraid to freely express their opinions in case they are overheard. They were not trying to incite racial hatred and, although I don’t agree with them, I don’t think it is only libertarians who would find the fact of their freedom of speech being curtailed to be intolerable.

Moreover, I don’t, in any case, believe the expression of racist views should be proscribed by law. If such discussion is driven underground, how can their flawed (in my view) arguments be countered?

Then us both clamming up because two coppers walked in to buy a Twix, and it’s illegal to be racist these days, you know.

Your paranoia is not actually evidence of the existence of a police state, it merely indicates that you retain some vestigial sense of shame.

“We non-EU types are debarred from receiving any kind of benefit

I didn’t know that. ”

It might be an idea to spend a couple of hours using google to find out what entitlements different kinds of migrants have. Then you’ll be in a better position to understand whether stories in the tabloids have any basis in reality – in particular you may wish to google “No recourse to public funds”.

@ pagar 79

“I don’t think it is only libertarians who would find the fact of their freedom of speech being curtailed to be intolerable”

Agreed, but as Dunc rightly notes @80 their freedom of speech wasn’t being curtailed, their paranoia was being used as a fig leaf for their casual bigotry.

“I don’t, in any case, believe the expression of racist views should be proscribed by law. If such discussion is driven underground, how can their flawed (in my view) arguments be countered?”

It comes down to whether you take a fairly hard-line ibertarian view that absolutely anything a racist (or homophobe, or religious zealot etc, etc….) may say is acceptable, or that some opinions are just so “out there” that they have to be proscribed.

I’ve never been convinced by the view that fear of driving such views underground means we should accept the diffusion of even the most extreme views as the cost of freedom of speech.

@78 idle

“I’m afraid the understandability of a notion to most people does not equate to it being correct”

That argument just won’t wash, sorry. Obviously just because most people understand a notion doesn’t ipso fact make it right. The point under discussion here is whether it is right to have some limits on how far people can go. You obviously don’t believe there is, and in this case I’d say your view represents the minority, as well as being (yes, in my view) incorrect. I’m not saying that the number of people who believe something has any bearing on it’s objective “truth”.

“No. You either believe in free speech or you don’t.”

It’s not a zero-sum point. I do believe in free speech, but I also believe there are circumstances where it is right to limit it. You really think we should allow a totally free rein, absolutely no limits to what extreme measures people can call for?

“No, I find that idea horrific. And yes it does constitute some degree of a police state.”

It’s less horrific than having people out in the streets calling for the beheading of unbelievers, or shipping anyone vaguely coffee-coloured back home. There are ways of protecting yourself from a police state. Trying to equate measures taken in democratic societies to combat odious views to introducing a police state is simple paranoia. Societal taboo and social shame.. by all means: but let’s not pretend that the threat of legal action, and in extremis the use of force, isn’t necessary.

I’ve never been convinced by the view that fear of driving such views underground means we should accept the diffusion of even the most extreme views as the cost of freedom of speech.

Who decides what is an extreme view?

Galen 10?

The government?

The only rational reason for prohibiting someone else from expressing their view would be if you could, somehow, be absolutely certain that your own view is right and theirs is, therefore, wrong.

It seems to me it takes a particular type of personality type to assert that their own concept of the truth, which will have been formed by their subjective whole life experience as well as through study and rational thought process, is intellectually or morally superior to that of someone else.

In fact, it takes the absolute arrogance of a fundamentalist.

That argument just won’t wash, sorry. Obviously just because most people understand a notion doesn’t ipso fact make it right. The point under discussion here is whether it is right to have some limits on how far people can go. You obviously don’t believe there is, and in this case I’d say your view represents the minority, as well as being (yes, in my view) incorrect. I’m not saying that the number of people who believe something has any bearing on it’s objective “truth”.

Make your mind up. Either my argument is right and it’s irrelevant what is “understandable to most people” or it “just won’t wash”. It cannot be both. Saying “that just won’t wash” to stand your ground then accepting my point that what you said was nonsense.. how can I put this?.. just won’t wash.

Moving onto the separate issue of whether we should threaten state violence against people for expressing certain political beliefs (I presume it’s only expressing their political beliefs rather than thinking them that you think should be a crime?) then you’re right: I don’t believe in this, even for opinions I disagree with. Even those I really disagree with. I’m not sure whether I am in the minority or not, it probably depends on how well disguised/obfuscated the question is. If you asked “Should people be imprisoned or fined for expressing politcal opinions which the government has designated as an illegal opinion?” I’d say most people would shy away from it. If, however, you asked “Should extremists be banned from inciting hatred?” then I probably would be in the minority.

It’s a bit like saying “understandable to most people”. It means nothing and one doesn’t believe it when it’s spelt out, but that doesn’t stop it helping an argument as long as no one really thinks properly about what it means.

“It’s not a zero-sum point.”

It really is. “Free speech” only for opinions you find palatable is worthless.

“You really think we should allow a totally free rein, absolutely no limits to what extreme measures people can call for? “

What are you so frightened of what people might say if you take your gag off their mouths? Are you frightened they might say something beastly that you simply on’t want to hear? Or that what they say will persuade other people because your counter arguments are too feeble to defeat them? Which of your beliefs dont you think could stand up to the scrutiny of free speech and has to be protected against other people’s words by threat of force?

“let’s not pretend that the threat of legal action, and in extremis the use of force, isn’t necessary.”

What was it you were saying about believing in free speech? Chilling.

@85 idle

Ah, the old: ” “Free speech” only for opinions you find palatable is worthless.” chestnut. As you noted above, you probably are in the minority in not believing that extremists should be banned from inciting hatred. Your “all or nothing at all” dichotomy is false. There is nothing chilling about banning the expression of such views.

If, however, you asked “Should extremists be banned from inciting hatred?” then I probably would be in the minority.

Given that the current legal definition of “inciting (racial) hatred” is that it must involve a credible threat of immediate violence, I don’t particularly see a problem there. We’re not talking about innocuous statements like “those niggers want to rape our women”, we’re talking about stuff like “we should string this nigger up right now.” It’s also worth bearing in mind that all this must be interpreted within the context of the HRA and ECHR…

It’s a racially or religiously aggravated form of threatening behaviour. Do you believe that the right to free speech protects the “right” to make credible threats of criminal violence against specific individuals?

Galen10 #70

I stated the, er, liberal conspiracy because it is IMV clearly true. Every political bloc conspires to achieve some particular society. Libertarians are conspiring to produce a libertarian polity, conservatives a conservative polity, feminists a feminist polity and so on. Politics is conspiracy. We’re all trying to remake the world. It’s dishonest to claim otherwise. It is simply the case that multiculturalists want society remodelled on a multicultural model. That’s their job (in political terms) just as it’s my political job to remodel society on a libertarian model. If you claimed that I want to dismantle the socialist culture, I would have to admit that that is true.

Is “our” culture so fragile that it will crumble in the face of immigration, whether from the EU or outside?

Any culture will “crumble”, or rather be reduced or displaced, if the area fills up with people of a different culture, because culture is people and requires people for sustenance. If you filled Paris entirely with Englishmen, it would no longer be culturally French, it would become culturally English.

I rather think not. However, even if you accept that it is such a delicate bloom, would it actually be worth saving?

That depends on whether you like that culture or not, of course. Most people like at least some aspects of their home culture. I wouldn’t ásk a Chinaman or a Ghanaian to defend their right to their cultural values on some scale of worth, if that is how they prefer to live.

Regarding those two conversations, to me, is that in both cases they were initatied by “ethnic minorities”, so the first point is that if they were racist then they at least show that racism isn’t exclusively the white man’s disease, as it is currently defined by the intellectual elites who decide these things. I don’t think they were about “race” at all. Rather, my two acquaintances (and I) both considered us all to be part of the same culture group. In the case of the petrol station, it started as a moan about how every night it fills up with drunk, aggressive Poles angrily demanding (she did a funny impression here) “WODKA!” (I can vouch for this; I often go in late because I work funny hours at home) so it was her practical impression regarding her work conditions. The point about the Plod is that I don’t believe either of us consider ourselves “racists”, but the police and courts might because it’s entirely off the rails in this regard at the moment.

It’s also difficult to argue that an ethnic Asian complaining about ethnic Asians is a racist. Again, what he’s worried about is culture, not race. I can only speak for myself, but I don’t believe any of the three of us believes any of the nonsense about racial superiority etc that characterises racism. And I think both my friends consider themselves British and are worried about large scale immigration (certainly, the newsagent) changing what Britain is.

The primary problem is that the moden racism discourse, multiculturalism as a policy, etc, are an American narrative constructed to address the specifics of the Civil Rights issue and the fundamental problems in America (a “native” black population who many whites wished to permanently suppress), and it is a bad fit for other situations; an obvious example being the tortured redefinition of “Islamic” as a race. There are certainly racists in our country and the world. But there are far more “culturalists”; because everybody recognises (or should) that people carry culture with them and, merely by their presence, will change the culture around them. Human beings are cultural units. A simple example would be; if you were to live in a town with a nice, secular, leftish population, and there is no homophobia or misogyny, and for some reason a horde of American Bible Belt fundamentalists start arriving and changing the population mix. Once they reach significant numbers, by immigration and their Old Mother Hubbard family sizes, they’re likely to influence the culture significantly, and get on the town council and try to close the gay venues and withdraw funding from womens’ groups and teach Creationism in your schools. So then you find yourself in a culture war and between yourselves you’re going to say “damned fundies, what can we do to stop them?”

You’re not being “racist” (even if they are a different “race” to you). You’re trying to preserve your culture. Different things. Culture isn’t quite a zero-sum game, but it is a numbers game, and there is a point when enrichment becomes displacement. Small numbers tend to have to integrate; very large numbers tend to displace local culture. I think my newsagent friend, who is culturally from Birmingham, doesn’t want to live in an islamised culture, just as I don’t, and the reality is that every woman shrouded in a black sack is a step closer to that unpleasant idea.

I appreciate in these comments that much of what I have said is defined by progressives as “racist”. That doesn’t bother me, since you don’t like me politically anyway for other reasons, and I’m just trying to state what I perceive to be the real situation. And, should I ever face Andrew Neil, I can look him in the eye and say, “yes, I stand by that”. We need a pragmatic discussion about culture and immigration, that isn’t artifically constrained by an dogmatic narrative of “race” that arose to address quite different issues in, ironically, a foreign land.

@87 dunc
to adapt your example of incitement to racial hatred,
“manz should shank dis cracker”
should not be enough to be a crime as it’s not a threat, merely an exhortation to others.
The racially or religiously aggrevated part is meaningless. The crime is the threat or the act. The motive is not the crime.
I believe any threat to another person to do something which would itself be illegal should also be illegal, which goes further than your ‘criminal violence’ defintion. Although I’m not 100% sure of the “any” in that statement. I can’t think of an exception though.

@89 idle

“the racially or religiously aggrevated part is meaningless.”

Is it? I’m no lawyer, but I thought that the courts actually DID consider that a racial or religious motive would be an aggravating factor?

@90 Galen10

Sorry, I was obviously unclear. I meant it is morally/ethically meaningless in terms of how a state should operate. That it shouldn’t have any legal basis. I am all too aware that it does though and that courts do consider that.

The crime is the threat or the act. The motive is not the crime.

So you don’t recognise any distinction between culpable homicide, manslaughter and murder then?

There is nothing chilling about banning the expression of such views.

As Dunc points out, we have not actually done that though I’m not quite sure why “string that nigger up” would not have been covered by “behavior likely to cause a breach of the peace” amongst other potential offences.

Clearly though you want to go further, Gallen10?

I’m afraid that makes you an authoritarian fascist (if i may say that).

@88 Ian B

“Any culture will “crumble”, or rather be reduced or displaced, if the area fills up with people of a different culture, because culture is people and requires people for sustenance. If you filled Paris entirely with Englishmen, it would no longer be culturally French, it would become culturally English.”

I think this issue was flogged to death in another posting, but again it’s the constant paranoia about the tsunami of “others” swamping our pure, WASP culture that I find hard to accept. We haven’t been swamped by past waves of immigrants, and aren’t about to be now. It’s a fantasy, used as bogey man to scare those who really ought to know better to vote to keep Johnny Foreigner out.

@ 93 pagar

You may say it, but it doesn’t make it true, and only makes you look rather odd.

There is nothing authoritarian or fascistic about maintianing that a democratic society should take measures to protect itself, and if necessary prosecute or jail people who incite hatred against minorities.

As Dunc points out, we have not actually done that though I’m not quite sure why “string that nigger up” would not have been covered by “behavior likely to cause a breach of the peace” amongst other potential offences.

Well, it would be, but it’s hardly controversial to suggest that certain actions which are already criminal under existing statutes should receive additional penalties under other statutes. The 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Act does not actually criminalise anything that couldn’t be prosecuted under other laws, it merely formalises the penalties for a particular subset of criminal actions.

This is hardly radical stuff. We do it all the time in other areas and nobody gets upset. To take it to an extreme example, arson in the service of extortion could be prosecuted as criminal damage, yet nobody seems to mind having specific laws against both arson and extortion. Rape is a subset of indecent assault, which is itself a subset of assault. Do we therefore not need specific laws against rape?

@84 pagar

“The only rational reason for prohibiting someone else from expressing their view would be if you could, somehow, be absolutely certain that your own view is right and theirs is, therefore, wrong.”

So let me get this straight, you don’t think we, (as in society as a whole), should prohibit the incitement of racial or religious hatred, or perhaps homophobic attacks, on the grounds that we can’t be absolutely certain “our” views are right, and theirs are therefore wrong?

…and meanwhile, back in the real world…..

@92 Dunc

Ha! Clever. I accept I said what I meant incorrectly. Though it’s not really comparing the same thing, is it? The difference between them an act committed with malice compared to negligence is not comparable to that committed with malice due to different reasons. A murder victim is no less dead because he was killed by the perpetrator’s contempt for shy, submissive people who appear weak than one killed because the perpetrator had contempt for white people, for example. There should be no difference in the sentence due to that.

I agree with Galen. Free speech is based on the inviolability of the rights of man and the utmost respect for his liberty, not because we’re not quite sure he’s wrong about something.

A murder victim is no less dead because he was killed by the perpetrator’s contempt for shy, submissive people who appear weak than one killed because the perpetrator had contempt for white people, for example.

Ah, but the key distinction with “bias crimes” is that they act as an explicit threat of further violence against all other members of the target group. A lynching is not just a murder, it is also an act of intimidation against an entire community. A swastika daubed on a synagogue is not just graffiti.

@ 99 idle

You agree with me?!

…..I feel dirty now 🙁

#94 Galen10

We haven’t been swamped by past waves of immigrants, and aren’t about to be now. It’s a fantasy, used as bogey man to scare those who really ought to know better to vote to keep Johnny Foreigner out.

This is a very curious argument. It is quite apparent that the demographic mix of the UK is vastly different to what it was in, say, 1950. Here’s what the BBC (hardly a bastion of BNP thought) had to say in 2004 (picked at random off web, probably better sources could be found)-

Right now more than one in three Londoners is from an ethnic minority group (that includes white minorities such as Irish, Cypriots and Turks). It is estimated that every year the capital’s ethnic minority population will increase by 2%. By 2016 the Greater London Authority (GLA) expects the non-British white population to be 45%. A decade or so after that, white British people will become a minority group in the city

(my emphasis)

There is undoubtedly a massive and unprecedented demographic change occurring, and the same is occurring across Europe. That’s why I said people need to discuss whether they want that or not from a cultural perspective, rather than mithering about taxes and benefits and stuff. Denying that it is happening doesn’t seem very helpful.

So let me get this straight, you don’t think we, (as in society as a whole), should prohibit the incitement of racial or religious hatred, or perhaps homophobic attacks, on the grounds that we can’t be absolutely certain “our” views are right, and theirs are therefore wrong?

Of course we should prohibit violence or incitement to violence but I don’t think we should prohibit the expression of racist views.

This all started with you saying

Well, yeah..it IS illegal to be racist. which, as has been pointed out, is not entirely accurate.

My suspicion is that you would like it to be?

@102 Ian

I’m sure all of us can trawl cyberia to come up with quotes and statistics to “prove” that either this isn’t a problem, or that it is. I don’t dispute that there’s been a huge demographic change, or that it’s something that shouldn’t be debated.

Even if the figures from yuor quote are true however… so what? Looking a generation or two ahead is never easy. I’d be willing to bet lots of the non-white British immigrants will be pretty well integrated, supporting Chelsea (God help them) and complaining about the latest wave of immigrants from…. where next.. Central Asia perhaps?

A lot of the anti-immigaration sentiment today is just a re-hash of the Powellite “rivers of blood” speech. It wasn’t right then, it isn’t right now.

105. Golden Gordon

IPP
Who will be disfranchised ?
The poor, unemployed or those without property
Is this the main stream view of British conservative libertarians
Ian
Right now more than one in three Londoners is from an ethnic minority group (that includes white minorities such as Irish, Cypriots and Turks). It is estimated that every year the capital’s ethnic minority population will increase by 2%. By 2016 the Greater London Authority (GLA) expects the non-British white population to be 45%

So what
Most londoners are from immigrant stock. As a the capital of a massive empire, London became a magnet for immigrants from the colonies and poorer parts of Europe. A large Irish population settled in the city during the Victorian period, with many of the newcomers refugees from the Great Famine (1845-1849). At one point, Irish immigrants made up about 20% of London’s population. London also became home to a sizable Jewish community, and small communities of Chinese and South Asians settled in the city.

A lynching is not just a murder, it is also an act of intimidation against an entire community.

So? All murders are intimidatory somehow.

@101 You agree with me?! …..I feel dirty now
Me too. Let’s pretend this never happened.

107. Golden Gordon

IPP
Could you please answer the questions.

@ 103 pagar

“Of course we should prohibit violence or incitement to violence but I don’t think we should prohibit the expression of racist views.”

The devil as always is in the detail, as it would surely depend on the views? The view expressed by some above is that a person should be free to express ANY possible view, although I note your qualification about actual violence or incitement to violence. I would go further and say that there are some views that should be prohibited even if the are short of incitement to violence.

Anyone who gets an income from the state, Golden Gordon.

110. Golden Gordon

Including David Cameron and members of the armed forces and their families.

111. Golden Gordon

Mrs Thatcher
The Police

Baroness Thatcher is disenfrachised already.

Why on earth would you imagine the Leader of HM Loyal Opposition might not count as “Anyone who gets an income from the state”? Ditto police and army.

113. Golden Gordon

So IPP those have just fought a war defending their country would not have the right to vote because of the state pension given to them.
Doesn’t Maggie get a healthy state pension.
IPP, I admire your consistency but is this the view of the diners at the libertarian right come dine with me. The love that must not be named Eh.

If they had a properly constituted pension, ie one that was privately provided and not subject to state interference for its value once acquired (ie, defined contribution), I’d say they could vote as they wouldn’t be at risk of conflicts of interest. But as long as they’re taking a salary, no.
All ex MPs get a healthy state pension. I imagine ex ministers get more still, esp PMs.

Golden Gordon @105, please credit your source for your last paragraph.

116. Golden Gordon

No
It’s not a GCSE report, look it up yourself


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