Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn’t be


8:47 am - August 5th 2011

by Flying Rodent    


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Chris Dillow finds the internet libertarians’ campaign to bring back hanging surprising.

Guido Fawkes is confusing me. He’s campaigning for the death penalty on the grounds that the public want it… And here’s my confusion. Guido has also long claimed to be a libertarian. But libertarianism and democracy conflict, simply because public opinion is on many issues very illiberal.

Luckily, I’m on hand to clear up any doubts and set the story straight.

The libertarians – people who, remember, want to see the state massively disempowered – are campaigning to hand the state the power of life and death because they are hacks and because their “libertarianism” is 100% rubbish.

Consider the following possibilities: either a) A bunch of self-declared anti-statists have somehow forgotten the core tenets of their own political philosophy or b) A bunch of twats who don’t want to pay any tax will support literally anything that moves political debate in an infinitely stupider direction.

Recall the Swiss minaret ban, if you can.

You’d think a measure that selectively cracks down on the property rights of individuals would be anathema to small government types. Not so – popular opinion on taxation and public services may be tantamount to tyranny, but whenever the people speak on a subject that penalises one of their bugbears and, crucially, annoys lefties, you can hear the champagne corks popping from a mile away.

I can already hear the objections that really, it’s a bit more complicated than that.  It’s not more complicated than that. 

When you’re talking about people whose entire worldview can be reasonably reduced to Life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money, it’s a major error to expect consistency in anything other than their tendency to be as much of a twat as possible about absolutely everything.

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Flying Rodent is a regular contributor and blogs more often at: Between the Hammer and the Anvil. He is also on Twitter.
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Reader comments


They call themselves libertarians, but they aren’t really. For them, it’s just a euphemism for ‘selfish turd’. Proper libertarianism has a proud tradition.

There is no such thing as a libertarian campaign to bring back hanging. The campaign, such as it is, is by Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines) who has some libertarian sympathies but is not, and never has been, a spokesperson for the libertarian movement.

Many libertarians, such as myself, are opposed to the death penalty, calls for an end the occupation of Afghanistan, the disbanding of NATO, bans on burqas, and other involvement of the nanny state on private matters.

By all means criticise libertarianism (we do support free speech and are opposed to censorship), but do try and get your facts right!

Libertarian Anti-Defamation League on line one…

On that quoted passage – it’s tendentious, to say the least, to claim there’s a contradiction between democracy and a political position that isn’t mainstream. That smacks of the lazy ‘liberal elitist’ slur used by rightwing populists. Respect for democracy doesn’t mean you have to hold a mainstream political position.

Notice how, when you call libertarians on their rubbish, other libertarians will pop up claiming “those aren’t real libertarians”? Bless!

#5 Surely the elasticity (or, I would argue, widespread misuse) of the term is obvious; it’s used to self-describe both the Cato Foundation and Noam Chomsky, FFS.

Cato Institute, even.

FR
There is no contradiction because the philosophy of libertarianism , in the modern right wing sense does revolve around property rights.
I am surprised the rightist libertarian wing hasn’t added more crimes for executions.
As Ian points out on another thread the golden age of this small state philosophy economic liberlism was the 18th C. Look at the number of offences you could be executed for in that era.
Also many economic liberals argued for slavery.
Economic liberalism is different say from social liberalism.
Saying that many can be adhere to both or believe in just one strand.
As for capital punishment, I can understand the revenge argument. But not the deterrent argument . If somebody commits murder they will do it whatever the punishment.

Of course people can self-define as whatever they wish. I’m sure James Parnell thinks he is a leftie!!!

However having read some of the public pronouncements of Paul Staines, I’d have to say that his views seem to me to be to be pretty far away from libertarianism and he certainly has had no contact with any libertarians I know. And your point about the death penalty is well made although of course libertarians believe that one of the few roles the state should have is to organise a criminal justice system that punishes aggressive behaviour.

You are also correct that the ban on minarets and burqas is a good litmus test of a true libertarian instinct (no genuine libertarian could support it). However I would say that the natural antipathy to be supporting the right to freedom of the fundamentalist wing of an authoritarian religion confused some. I seem to remember calling Old Holborn out on it on these pages.

But for balance, you should have pointed out that some lefties also have qualms about supporting the rights of a group that is inherently hostile to homosexuals and the rights of women.

Quite, Joshua. As much meaning remains in the word as it does in “progressive”. That is to say, very little.

David Gerrard,

Notice how, when you call [$GROUPNAME] on their rubbish, other [$GROUPNAME]s will pop up claiming “those aren’t real [$GROUPNAME]s”? Bless!

I’ve corrected your post.

Not sure which is worse: a) the logical fallacy by which Guido is held to be representative of libertarianism, or b) the general cluelessness about libertarian thought.

12. flyingrodent

You are also correct that the ban on minarets and burqas is a good litmus test of a true libertarian instinct (no genuine libertarian could support it). However I would say that the natural antipathy to be supporting the right to freedom of the fundamentalist wing of an authoritarian religion confused some.

I think it’s overly charitable to say they were “confused”. They were not, and they aren’t “confused” this time either. It was a measure that cracked down on somebody else and was one in the eye for the awful Socialissesss and the EUSSR, and that’s all that mattered. So too it is with the hanging petition.

I’m considerably less outraged by calls to reintroduce the death penalty than I imagine most other LC contributers are, but it’s a mistake to assume that Guido et al give a shit whether their latest fads conflict with their supposed political principles. They have no political principles to conflict with.

The old rule holds good here – don’t pay attention to what they say, look at what they do. They say they’re fierce opponents of state power, but they do, when push comes to shove, support enhancing the power of the state in the most regressive ways, if there’s even a slight advantage to be had in it. That tells you everything you need to know.

“Of course people can self-define as whatever they wish. I’m sure James Parnell thinks he is a leftie!!!”
Do you think so ?
I would imagine James, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Nick Cohen, John Rentoul and many other Blairites are waiting for call from Dave.
Of course Nick wasn’t a Blair boy just a neo con
Also all of above have only ever used the word left as a term of insult.

14. littlekeithy

Don’t you think that in raising the issue of the death penalty the petitioners are going after a bigger target?

A popular movement in favour of trusting the rozzers and the CPS to string up the right people backed by a sympathetic debate in parliament would highlight government commitments in the Human Rights Act and EU legislation on justice etc.

These are the real targets and opposition to them unite the right-wing Tories, UKIPers and various people who call themselves Libertarian but are actually not according to other Libertarians (nice to see that the right can have its Life of Brian moments just like the left).

It’s just another way of advancing the UK out of EU line.

Right libertarianism is a form of sociopathy.

I seem to remember a version of this argument before here (that’s the problem with Lib Con, stay here long enough and you’ll see the bodies of previous threads float by).

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/11/05/david-davis-libertarian-against-striking/

My position then was that libertarianism should be pretty incompatible with the belief that the state has the right to kill its citizens. But apparently Murray Rothbard disagrees, so there we are.

Alas, thanks to common self description and usage Libertarianism now essentially means “I got mine, fuck you”. I’d suggest those wishing to claim “true” libertarianism find a new name that hopefully wont be debased by fuckloads of clueless bellends.

I think it’s overly charitable to say they were “confused”.

With people like Staines, I’d agree. Some on the right see libertarianism as a convenient philosophical peg on which to hang their coat and, as I’ve explained, it is impossible to stop them doing so.

But it is equally facile to suggest their views are representative of those of libertarians or that other political responses to Islam are not confused and apparently contradictory.

What is the correct woolly liberal response when Muslims start putting posters up condemning gays, or use corporal punishment in their schools or refuse to properly educate young girls?

@flyingrodent:

The old rule holds good here – don’t pay attention to what they say, look at what they do. They say they’re fierce opponents of state power, but they do, when push comes to shove, support enhancing the power of the state in the most regressive ways, if there’s even a slight advantage to be had in it. That tells you everything you need to know.

i.e. that “they” are not libertarians. Yet having discovered “everything you need to know” you continue to call “them” libertarians and to bundle all soi-dissant libertarians into the same camp. Nicely done, but entirely wrong.

20. flyingrodent

This “Guido and his crew of headbangers are not real libertarians” thing always sounds to me like an argument on the letters page of the NME, circa 1979. It’s like some hack announcing Did you hear that the singer out of the Jizz Monkeys said that the Sex Pistols aren’t real punks? and everybody asks, Who the hell are the Jizz Monkeys?

Why is this filed under ‘humour’?

I loathe Guido Fawkes as much as the next person with a bit of common sense but this sneery, self-righteous codswallop is just borderline offensive.

Such condescending remarks will win you no support from the centre-right majority in this country.

I’m not a libertarian, but this guy was, and he seems into it:

http://mises.org/daily/4468

Bearing in mind the above caveat, I don’t see any particular contradiction in the idea that the state should both small and strong. Surely if you extend the argument in the OP to its logical conclusion then the libertarians should have moved to Somaliland already.

Isn’t Dillow ‘confused’ (scare quote, because I don’t think he is, he’s just more polite) not just because it’s ‘libertarians’ (scare quotes, because 9 out of 10 are nihilists) wanting to hand the State power but also more fundamentally because what the hell are libertarians doing signing petitions in the first place? Tyranny of the majority, what what?

@22

The Ludwig von Mises Institute to whom you link is at the forefront of the neoconfederate movement. They’re historical revisionists who often claim that because some slave didn’t work under overseers, the institution of slavery wasn’t so bad. The use libertarian arguments to claim that the US Civil War was really a war about tariffs not the defence of the union.

Here’s the Mises ‘scholar’, Donald W Livingston making more excuses for slavery
http://mises.org/journals/jls/16_2/16_2_4.pdf

9 out of 10 are nihilists

If you even know ten “libertarians” they’re a pretty unrepresentative ten I’d say.

@24,

Be that as it may, surely you agree that Murray Rothbard has a pretty good idea about what policies are consistent with libertarianism?

We are all libertarians
I’m not

@26

I don’t agree with Murray Rothbard, full stop. More importantly, I don’t agree with anarcho-capitalism.

Anarcho-capitalism is a perversion. You can’t be a proper anarchist and support free market capitalism. The two ideas are incompatible…unless you’re a Randroid but who cares what they think?

The Rodent is engaging in pathetic name-calling. If he was honest he would accept that many libertarian bloggers are totally opposed to this for all the same reasons that non-libertarians oppose the death penalty, plus the additional reasons of being more against state power than other political philosophies.

Everyone can play the same game. A variant is; ‘leftwing are you? What, like NORTH KOREA?’ What devastating rhetoric, not.

buddyhell,

I wasn’t asking you if you agreed with his politics–as I wrote above, I do not–but if you agreed that he reasonably represents some strand of libertarianism.

@29 buddyhell,

“Anarcho-capitalism is a perversion. You can’t be a proper anarchist and support free market capitalism”

Would you like to offer up whatever definition of anarchist you are using for this statement?

33. ex-Labour voter

U S conservative columnist George Will said a few years ago something like this:

“Remember, the death penalty is a government programme”

And John Engler, Michigan’s very conservative Republican governor strongly supported that state’s longstanding abolitionism.

34. Roger Mexico

As so often with Guido and his compadres, you get the impression of a bunch of 15-year old boys at a minor public school trying to annoy their housemaster without going so far as to suffer any punishment. So I suspect that this petition business is more about Mr Staines tweaking the noses of various persons in government that any real desire to change the law.

But they may also be trying out some idea of a US-style ‘culture war’ as has been so profitable for the New Right there. This is rather difficult in Britain as for example this YouGov/Prospect poll shows, the ‘war’ has already been well lost in the UK on such ‘hot button’ issues such as abortion, evolution, gay marriage etc.

What cultural conservatives there are, are few and aging, and the only people left in the UK who agree with them seem to be militant Muslims. With whom for some bizarre reason they don’t get on. (Though I reckon you’ll see lightning conversions from one side to the other, like ex-Commies going far Right in the Fifties. We’ll see Mad Mel in a burka yet).

Furthermore ‘libertarians’ such as Guido often disagree with the cultural conservatives on such issues – they always feel the vices they personally indulge in should be allowed. And one possible candidate for populist shit stirring – immigration – they tend to be in favour of, as it keeps labour costs down.

So the death penalty is all they have left

35. Luis enrique

This makes me admire America. The have prominent smart libertarians, Tyler Cowen and Will Wilkinson, and prominent smart lefties, Krugman, Yglesias, Kevin Drum etc. whilst we have Guido and Richard Murphy, both doing convincing impressions of MI5 plants intended to discredit their respective factions. Why do these idiots get any attention?

36. Arthur Seaton

I dare say there are a few pure principled, consistent libertarians out there. But yes, the majority who identify themselves as such are just self-serving hierarchical plutocrats like Staines, those who disaprove of the state when it provides you with healthcare or unemployment benefit, but are quite happy for it to torture you or snap your spinal column.

37. Mr Eugenides

Using Guido Fawkes’ support for the death penalty as a stick to beat all libertarians is like saying that the Left made a big mistake by backing the Iraq war. Er, well, some of you did, and some of you didn’t. To say that it “proves” that socialists believe X or are hypocritical about Y would be daft, because [self-described] socialists don’t all have the same opinion on everything. Of all the online libertarians on my RSS, twitter and bookmarks, I’d estimate that 90%+ are against the death penalty, as I am.

So let’s keep it simple, FR, because you’re a smart writer and I should know better than to respond to some fairly lazy Friday morning trolling: just because you dislike all libertarians equally does not mean that all libertarians believe the same stuff.

29
I’d say that most true Marxists believe in a free-market.

What we are seeing, with the revival of the hanging debate, is the carefully manufactured argument by those who are attempting to divert attention from the real problems of our depressed economy.
Next, it will a debate about euthanasia and the right of the individual to voluntary, assisted suicide. And then the cost of health-care for the ageing population, we already have rationing with formal care and certain drugs and technologies. Disabled people are being verbally and financially attacked for malingering, what next, the useless eater argument?
And don’t kid yourselves that I’m being hyperbolic.

@31

I thought I’d made myself clear. No.

@32

I thought that was obvious.I’m not referring to anything on the right that refers to itself as “anarchism”, especially when that form of soi-disant anarchism works in the interests of capital. That’s minarchism.

Perhaps you’ve not heard of anarcho-communism or anarcho-syndicalism?

@36

Correct. Their ‘libertarianism’ is a flag of convenience.

@32

You’re some kind of minarchist aren’t you? Or are you one of those mutualist types?

Have to admit I don’t understand how is it possible, in principle, for a market libertarian to be coherently against the death penalty.

You can’t have small government if you keep a lot of people in prison. You can’t have poverty wages and a small prison population if risk of prison is viable alternative to poverty (see the recent US case of the man who robbed a bank of $1 to get health care). And you can’t have a market economy and non-poverty wages without some form of welfare state or transfer payments.

Is there any way to square that circle without deliberately making prison as brutal and squalid as possible, with execution (or perhaps torture) reserved as a means of keeping order?

the logical fallacy by which Guido is held to be representative of libertarianism

Fair enough, can we hold Somalia to be representative of libertarianism instead? Or are the von Mises Institute nottruelibertarianstm either?

Fair enough, can we hold Somalia to be representative of libertarianism instead?

No, it’s an anarchy.

Does this mean I’m no longer to be regarded as a libertarian then?

“As has been pointed out, those of us who don’t trust the State to run libraries aren’t really the poster children for the idea that the State will successfully identify those who should be killed.”

Or this?

“Arguing that cop killers should hang when hanging cop killers is exactly and precisely the reason that we know that we hung the wrong person is, well, it climbs the very bounds of stupidity really.”

In a post titled:

“Either Guido or Harry Cole are being very, very, stupid indeed.”

Or is FR just being a little lazy in his use of the word “libertarian”: essentially, as with Murphy and “tax abuse”, taken to mean anything he doesn’t like?

@soru,

… Alternatively, don’t criminalise so many things – like drugs, for example.

@ Buddyhell,

in two successive comments you state:

“I thought I’d made myself clear”

and

“I thought that was obvious.”

What is clear and obvious is that you are against libertarianism, but that you’re not really sure what you’re talkinig about. If I understand correctly, you are denying that Murray Rothbard represents an important strand of libertarian thought. Of course he does. That doesn’t mean that all libertarians agree with him or like him, but his influence is massive. Also, you haven’t given any definition of anarchism. I don’t mind, as I know what it means, I just wondered what you meant by the term, given your statement @ 29

As to your question @ 42, yes, I would say I am some kind of minarchist, and fyi I’m not signing Staines’ petition.

@45

I hope you’re not conflating a state of anarchy with anarchism.

I have always found that the majority who claim to be ‘libertarians’ are really more like right wing, saloon-bar bores.

But who can blame them for this lackof consistency when libertarian queen Ayn Rand, the heroine of the Tea Party and Alan Greenspan amongst others, who despised the welfare state and altruism turned out to be a welfare queen herself?

‘Ayn Rand took government assistance while decrying others who did the same’

(under an assumed name natch)

http://boingboing.net/2011/01/28/ayn-rand-took-govern.html

49 – of course not, otherwise I’d have called it ‘an anarchist state’ rather than ‘an anarchy’.

People who use Somalia to make a point about the relative efficacy of theories of Governmental systems are wilfully missing the point in any event.

Tim J,

People who use Somalia to make a point about the relative efficacy of theories of Governmental systems are wilfully missing the point in any event.

You’re too kind.

@48

“What is clear and obvious is that you are against libertarianism, but that you’re not really sure what you’re talkinig about”

Wrong. I do know what I’m talking about and that’s a pretty typical right libertarian response. You’re no anarchist.

“If I understand correctly, you are denying that Murray Rothbard represents an important strand of libertarian thought”

You’re confused. Rothbard is not an anarchist in the accepted sense of the word. He’s a right libertarian. He may represent an “important strand of libertarian thought” but that doesn’t mean that I have to subscribe to it or even agree with it.

“That doesn’t mean that all libertarians agree with him or like him, but his influence is massive”

His influence is only “massive” within right libertarian circles. Anarchists (especially those that I know personally) reject him like they do Rand.

“Also, you haven’t given any definition of anarchism.”

Ah, yes that old trick. If all else fails, accuse the other of not providing ‘evidence’ or a ‘definition’. Your understanding of anarchism appears to be confined to right libertarian discourses and does not accept the existence of left anarchism (anarcho-communism and so on).

You do understand that Marinetti and the rest of the futurists referred to themselves as ‘anarchists’. They weren’t, they were right libertarians.

“As to your question @ 42, yes, I would say I am some kind of minarchist, and fyi I’m not signing Staines’ petition”

Good for you. Tell me, is Staine’s position consistent with libertarian ideas?

@50

As much as they hate to admit to it, right libertarian always need state intervention. Just look at Pinochet’s Chile or Mussolini’s Italy.

54 – if your definition of libertarianism stretches to include Fascist Italy, then I suggest it’s a touch too broad.

56. Roger Mexico

A splendid outbreak of No True Scotsman-ism from the ‘libertarians’. Though I suppose if you really do believe in radical individualism, the logical conclusion is that you and only you satisfy the criteria.

flyingrodent is completely wrong though. That’s how the NME letters page was in 1977.

Luis enrique, as usual, raises something interesting. I think the superiority of US discourse (present company excepted) may be due to a more dispersed ‘official’ intellectual life. In Britain all standards are set by the London-based Press and for decades that has been dominated by a sort of faux-populism that is scared of seeming ‘too clever’. The same thing exists in the States of course (sometimes more virulently) but there are other places where serious things can be taken seriously.

However in England especially, a general uneasiness with actually having to think about things means that, when people should do so, they fall back on rhetorical gestures and conventional ideas. And this is what those who decide what gets most widely circulated, and most of those that read it, are happiest with. I suspect as well, the Oxford Union tradition of debate, which privileges the superficial over the thoughtful, has a deadening effect.

So bombast gets mistaken for seriousness and clowns like Staines and Murphy flourish.

57. theophrastus

buddyhell @ 15:

“Right libertarianism is a form of sociopathy.”

Left authoritarianism is certainly sociopathic. And it’s killed far more people than right libertarianism ever has.

If you meet someone you suspect of being a faux libertarian, ask him the following three questions.

1) Are you in favour of the legalisation of all narcotic substances?

2) Are you in favour of unrestricted immigration?

3) Is the UK government worse the that of the EU?

Chances are, if you get a yes to all those, you have the real thing.

Hang on, not all Libertarians are like that! It’s just that the consistent ones obviously get a lot less of a following or voice politically because sometimes, inevitably, you will be on the left and sometimes on the right.

The whole mosque at ground zero thing seemed to be a private property rights issue to me for example, but then so does burning a koran too. Another funny one is the closing of NOTW.

Like any ideology there are plenty of people who are just very unpleasant and use the pretence of the ideology as an excuse for being so. Libertarianism lends itself quite well to that I guess. But don’t let that complete devalue those who genuinely prize personal liberty above all else. It is a pretty sensible view of the world to hold.

60. Roger Mexico

Actually, to return to the topic, surely ‘libertarians’ should only be in favour of hanging if it’s done by lynch mob?

61. Paul Newman

I am a Conservative not a Libertarian a word that is in my view meaningless except in opposition to specific encroachments onto private terrain. There is no conflict in me supporting capital punishment then. I do so because the glaring injustice of 25 years inside as compared to the murder of child especially in the distressing circumstances such events generally take place, rape torture and incarceration is like a worm that infects the whole justice system. It has become a bag it up and forget “it ” system based on social convenience and assorted trendy nostrums.
For me capital punishment is symbolic of a wider moral seriousness though.The best argument against it is not that its nasty and howwid of course it is the best argument is that you would never get a jury to convict. This is really a disagreement about the nature of society not just jurisprudence .

Btw — small point the death penalty does not requires a large state sector ,or anything like a modern state at all . If you are an economic Liberal and small government proponent I do not see why you should not hold any view at all on this unrelated matter

… Alternatively, don’t criminalise so many things – like drugs, for example.

I don’t see how that works. In a pure market economy, legalising drugs would just raise the required set of things you need to purchase to keep up with the status quo, while, in many cases, reducing peoples capacity to earn that higher living wage in a free market.

It also would greatly reduce the opportunity to commit low-end ‘victimless’ crime. That would then end up being substituted with regular crime (e.g. burglary).

If you were going for a sci-fi novel society, you could try legalising burglary, fraud, mugging and so forth. But I think you are just going to end up with a Red Queen’s race where every move you make to legalise something just creates an equal increase in whatever remains.

Legalising drugs and making them free, or highly subsidised, might work, but that’s just a pretty bizarre form of transfer payment.

63. flyingrodent

There seems to be a bit of confusion about where I’m coming from on this thread.

I’m aware that there are plenty of people who describe themselves as Real Libertarians who would disavow Guido and his pals. They feel hard done by because they think that Libertarianism is being tarred with the same brush as a self-publicising, dishonest economic royalist disguising himself as a populist.

I think that’s particularly ironic, since I believe that enabling and empowering self-publicising, dishonest economic royalists, so that they can smuggle a lot of horseshit past the public disguised as populism, is precisely the entire point of Libertarianism.

It exists as an ideological concept, not in spite of the countless right-wing fraudsters who have used it as an excuse for vicious and stupid policies. It exists entirely to promote the cause of right-wing fraudsters with vicious and stupid policies.

Now. I know lots of the Libertarians on this thread will disagree with that assessment, and I sympathise, after a fashion, but don’t shoot me. I’m just the messenger here.

Here’s a useful scale model of Fawkes/Cole’s egos in relation to their integrity…

http://www.hartrao.ac.za/other/eclipse2002/sunwl_s.jpg

@ 45

Well then, why are the von Mises institute holding it up as some kind of libertarian ideal?

@48

Can you give me a list of right libertarian thinkers you think are valid to use as sources on right libertarianism? You’ve said Rothbard, but are there any others? Caplan or Rand maybe?

Because this is one of the problems with trying to debate right libertarianism. Whenever a position is put forward that is disagreed with, there’s a constant shifting of the goalposts of who is and isn’t legitimate as a source.

Which makes it incredibly difficult to pin any ideas down. It’s one thing to say that you disagree with a thinker, another to claim that they aren’t libertarians at all. Hell, there’s sections of anarchist theory I’m not overly keen on (the primitivists and the loonier wing of the insurrectionists), but I don’t deal with that by claiming we’re not part of the same school of thought.

@58

The other crucial question is “do you unconditionally support the right to choose”. It’s strange how so many right libertarians seem to not consider the state controlling women’s bodies to be an example of “big government”.

@61 Actually the biggest argument against capital punishment is when miscarriages of justice occur. It’s hard work releasing a dead man once it’s been established that he was in fact innocent of the crime he was sentenced to death for. It’s not something you can reverse in the event of error.

67. Robert Hayward

Stop calling them libertarians. Up until 5 years ago, the only libertarians in British political history were people like Roy Jenkins, Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Nye Bevan – those who advanced the causes of civil liberties and of the greater individual freedom brought by social equality. Stop pretending that those who advocate the transfer of power from the state back to plutocrats and theocrats, are libertarian is any way.

68. theophrastus

@66: Actually, it is not, or not any longer. DNA-testing, other advances in forensics and CCTV, for example, hugely reduce the chance of a miscarriage of justice. With a protocol that no-one could be executed unless convicted with DNA evidence and with other corroborating evidence, the chances of executing an innocent person would be vanishingly small.

The strongest arguments against the death penalty in my view are moral ones — that they state can never have the right to deprive a citizen of his/her life, that the pocedure is barbaric and morally corrupting, etc.

With a protocol that no-one could be executed unless convicted with DNA evidence and with other corroborating evidence…

A system that killed or jailed people who’d been convicted of the same acts but on different evidence would look somewhat foolish!

Had capital punishment never been abolished it’s likely that such people as Barry George, the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six, Paul Blackburn, the M25 3, Stephen Downing, Judith Ward and Al Megrahi – all of whose “guilt” was fraudulent or has yet to proved – would’a been up for execution. Anyone who mourns the fact that this never came to be is being pretty dumb.

@ 65 Waterloo Sunset

(great song btw)

“Can you give me a list of right libertarian thinkers you think are valid to use as sources on right libertarianism? You’ve said Rothbard, but are there any others? Caplan or Rand maybe?”

I’ve not said ‘right libertarian’. If you’re working to such a definition, fine. Murray Rothbard was American and lived through a particular historical era, and we must be careful not to overlook what he’s saying and the definitions that are being employed.

I have no view on either Caplan or Rand, having never read anything by either. As far as I’m concerned, Rothbard is the measure, and his thought is very consistent to libertarian principle. The Mises Institute people, such as Lew Rockwell, Tom Woods, Walter Block, Robert Murphy, Peter Schiff etc are all good sources of the same brand of libertarianism. They don’t of course all agree on everything. Like all schools of thought, there are lines of division and particular subjects which they fight over.

“Because this is one of the problems with trying to debate right libertarianism. Whenever a position is put forward that is disagreed with, there’s a constant shifting of the goalposts of who is and isn’t legitimate as a source.”

From my point of view, Rothbard is wholly legitimate, and If an anti-libertarian throws Rothbard in my face, even if I don’t agree with what Rothbard is stating, I will not deny its legitimacy. If I wish to consider what the ‘correct’ or better consistent libertarian position is, I will first turn to Rothbard. I don’t want to make out that his word is final, but it is always illuminating.

In this case in point, someone has already flagged up his statement on the death penalty. What you can’t expect is for libertarians to surrender their decision-making process to anyone else. With regard to this statement, I would point out, as I said above, the temporal and geographical context. He is writing because at that time in America, it was impossible to dodge the issue. That’s not the case here and now, because no one thinks the death penalty is in any way likely to be brought back.

71. donpaskini

“The have prominent smart libertarians, Tyler Cowen and Will Wilkinson, and prominent smart lefties, Krugman, Yglesias, Kevin Drum etc. whilst we have Guido and Richard Murphy”

That is not, how you say, a like for like comparison. The US have prominent wingnuts who make Guido look like a social democrat, and the overall public discourse in the US is more the stuff of nightmares than something to emulate.

72. Luis enrique

Don, no you’re quite right, the US has a surfeit of loons. But I still think we have a shortage of Cowen, Krugman quality pundits.

@66: Actually, it is not, or not any longer. DNA-testing, other advances in forensics and CCTV, for example, hugely reduce the chance of a miscarriage of justice. With a protocol that no-one could be executed unless convicted with DNA evidence and with other corroborating evidence, the chances of executing an innocent person would be vanishingly small.

Small but not zero, yes?

The thing about the death penalty is that it’s irreversible.

The strongest arguments against the death penalty in my view are moral ones — that they state can never have the right to deprive a citizen of his/her life, that the pocedure is barbaric and morally corrupting, etc.

These are good arguments too, though not shared by all, obv.

74. theophrastus

@ 69:

“A system that…jailed people who’d been convicted of the same acts but on different evidence would look somewhat foolish!”

Er…what? This happens at present.

Let’s say this about the difference between Britain and America. Over the pond, a libertarian has helped to save a man’s life. Here, our most famous “libertarian” is campaigning to end them.

76. Shatterface

Its not a contradiction for Right Libertarians to support the death penalty as they believe each person is responsible for their own actions.

It IS inconsistant for them to believe that the State should hold a monopoly on the death penalty.

On the other hand, this isn’t something for State Socialists to get smug about given the tendency to not only execute opponants en masse but also put their children in the hands Party members, which qualifies as genocide.

The point, theophrastus, lies behind your ellipses.

Shorter everyone else:

Libertarians should be more liberal.

I think Flying Rodent in pointing out the contradictions in the absurd Paul Staines serves a useful purpose. In some respects, I can understand the No True Scotsman point of genuine libertarians. In the internet era they appear to have attracted quite a collection of fruitloops. Moreover, even the genuine ones seem to become almost cult-like in way they coalesce around some hero. The libertarian free banker economist, George Selgin, enjoys provoking them to emphasise that they are a cult.

” Every once in a while I get this sudden urge to smash my fist into a nestfull of Rothbardian hornets, as I did with my last blog, causing a cloud of them from the EconPolicyJournal.com hive to rush to the defense of the Queen Wasp. As the venom of vespa rothbardbro has a curious molecular struture that may interest students of economic entomology, I here offer some samples from among those I garnered by means of my brave sacrifice to the cause of science: ”
http://www.freebanking.org/2011/07/30/ye-shall-know-them-by-their-fruits/

“…more than that, to both take part in a personality cult, built around von Mises, and attract such a cult himself. One sign of the presence of such a cult is precisely the scorn its members heap on potential rivals to the cult figure. ”
http://www.freebanking.org/2011/07/28/me-murray-and-milton/

@ 78

and liberals should be more libertarian!

@79,

lazy ad hominem.

Over the past decades many countries have made significant strides to increase personal freedom in areas such as homosexuality, divorce, abortion, etc. This has typically been initiated by sections of the left (only sections, some notoriously are capable of being authoritarian and reactionary), liberals in the British party system and more off-beat radicals such as the old Partito Radicale in Italy.

You would have search very, very hard for evidence of right libertarians making any contribution to advancing personal liberties like this anywhere. Or, in other words, FR is right.

@68 Those are very good arguments as well, however we are still not anywhere near close to the 100% certainty from evidence alone to ensure that only the guilty face the chop. Assuming justice is the main purpose of the courts I can think of no greater injustice than for someone to be found guilty when they’re innocent, incarcerated for a crime they did not commit and then just for the cherry on top have the state murder them for something of which they are blameless.

You also have to assume that those in charge of the evidence will refrain from tampering with it, or will provide all of it to the defence.

84. Mr S. Pill

I’m increasingly of the opinion that “libertarianism” – as professed by idiots on the internet – was made up by someone who liked the idea of not having any rules but also was greedy enough to see private wealth as a good in itself. So they took a bit of liberalism, a bit of anarchism, then whacked in a whole heap of corporate capitalism in to the mix. Hence the contradictions – it’s not a philosophy so much as a teenage boy screaming “it’s not FAIR” at hs parents when they say No to some demand.
Sadly, some twats take this bullshit seriously and even more sadly the government actually listens to them.

85. Mr S. Pill

(further to @84 – I forgot about a big dose of nihilism, thus making the teenage boy analogy even more perfect… “libertarians” dislike human beings, a lot.)

@ Mr S Pill,

it’s so much easier to attack straw men, isn’t it?

Why don’t you attack some actual libertarian positions, such as:

the non-aggression principle
self-ownership
abolition of victimless crimes, such as drug possession

Even if you don’t want to touch those, there are plenty of other things to attack, where there is a genuine difference of opinion, such as;

getting rid of state education
opposition to military interventionism.

Instead it’s just the same old childish crap.

87. Charlieman

@76. Shatterface: “Its not a contradiction for Right Libertarians to support the death penalty as they believe each person is responsible for their own actions.

It IS inconsistant for them to believe that the State should hold a monopoly on the death penalty.”

Playing devil’s advocate here, try taking the minarchist position. In minarchist society, the role of government is to settle social squabbles informally and to enforce the laws of minarchism (freedom from theft, freedom from physical violence etc). Minarchists should and may not create lynch mobs because a minimal role of the state is to prevent physical violence.

In a minarchist society, the death penalty is irrational. A minarchist state would be less scient than our own, and the risk of miscarriage of justice would be greater. Depriving a citizen of property in a minarchist society would raise eyebrows; but to kill a citizen?

88. Mr S. Pill

@86

There is little or no point in arguing with any “libertarian” position on anything because they are so ill-thought out. We’ve experiemented with (say) not having state education and it was a national disaster. Similarly the ultimate goal of privatising everything in sight is an utter shambles and removing the state from helping people (though somehow allowing them to kill people at the same time) would see millions starving and homeless. Fine if you want that sort of thing – I’m not saying people can’t hold those opinions – but thank god the vast majority of people are more intelligent than idiotic bloggers & over-represented ranters on the internet. How many votes did the Libertarian Party get at the election btw?
It’s a joke philosophy and should be treated as such. The Raving Loonies have more grounding in reality.

@86 I’m not sure they are exclusively libertarian positions.

90. Leon Wolfson

@90 – And what a “libertarian” is…blurs, just as much as anarchist. Especially between countries.

I consider myself a mutualist. My position is not, in practice, a mile way from the cooperative party’s. But read say… Kevin Carson’s blog on mutualism – a very good case can be made he’s both a left-wing libertarian and anarchist.

@89 Cylux,

I’m sure you are right, in which case there is an overlap between libertarians and, say, liberals in a lot of areas. This is not of course news to anyone reasonable. I made the point for the benefit of Mr Pill, who prefers to represent libertarians in a wholly distorted manner. He thinks it’s a joke to believe in self-ownership and non-aggression, the two most fundamental libertarian principles.

Just to piss off Mr Thompson one more time, I repeat my view that there are no such things as Libertarians. They are all fake.

To see Staines leading this campaign is ridiculous. From a man who says that the last honest man in parliament was Guido forks because he wanted to blow it up. The great anti establishment bullshitter now wants the same parliament to give the state power to murder us based on the say so of the police, (I mean they are so trust worthy….. not)

Guido has finally jumped the shark.

…Ok just to clear up, Libertarianism has no leaders ok? So to call something a libertarian campaign is a bit dim.

There are more self described Libertarians FOR the Ban than against it.

Yes, i personally think that Libertarianism is at odds with giving the state power of life and death over its citizens…but you firstly point this out and then attack Libertarians..bit dopey.

I will not say all Anarchists are idiots..I will say the incorrectly self named ‘Anarchists’ are idiots when they demand more state intervention, but not the term in general.

Libertarianism ftw

@82 abolition of slavery, female suffrage

@92 Sally,

stop attacking the straw men and attack the fundamental principles:

self-ownership
non-aggression.

Come on, Sally, tell me why you are opposed to these two principles, owning yourself and not harming others. Or maybe you don’t oppose them. Oh no! Poor Sally realises she may be … I can’t say it, it’s too horrible.

Did you read that thing the other week about a town in Wales that decided to get rid of traffic wardens? They thought the people would be all grown up, and be nice and non aggressive to each other, and the council would save money. Well, it was chaos, people blocking loading bays, blocking disabled places, people getting out of cars and fighting other drivers.

Ivory towers and all that.

Sally, think you are confusing Libertarianism with Anarchism. Don’t worry for the layman its an easy mistake.

98. the a&e charge nurse

[91] “self-ownership and non-aggression, the two most fundamental libertarian principles” – aren’t non-aggression and punishment mutually exclusive terms?

Following murder, the state (on our behalf) can either drive somebody near mad by locking them up for a very long time, or execute them.

Imagine having somebody like Levi Bellfield as a long term neighbour.
I am sure there are other equally disturbing characters who find their way into our category A prisons – what must it be like having to endure 20 days, let alone 20 years exisiting in such a depressing milieu?

I have begun to modify my position slightly – I was always against the death penalty but have now began to accept the possibility that decades in jail would represent (for some) an even more terrifying form of punishment than a quick(ish) end, perhaps it’s time we offered them the choice?

99. Mr S. Pill

@91

“I made the point for the benefit of Mr Pill, who prefers to represent libertarians in a wholly distorted manner. He thinks it’s a joke to believe in self-ownership and non-aggression, the two most fundamental libertarian principles.”

Not at all. I’m talking about the “libertarians” who seem to make up an overwhelming majority of the libertarian blogosphere. Including Mr Staines. Self-ownership? Fine and dandy. But don’t go privatising my NHS. And how about a proper look into, in particular, ownership of land? How does that stuff we walk and build on come to be in one particular individual’s hands? Non-agression is great. I didn’t know libertarianism was pacifist.
See the thing is, you talk about these two things as if they’re the fudamentals but they really aren’t. The fundamental rule of “libertarianism”, as far as I can gather, is removing the state from peoples lives. right? So sure there’s some crossover – as mentioned above it has a pick and mix approach & I’m quite a fan of liberalism and some parts of anarchist philosophy – but the rampant capitalism and nihilist attitude towards, well, everything, rather puts one off. I like having free healthcare, free schools, a minimum wage, a security net if I fall on hard times, cheap or free childcare should I ever have children, a progressive income tax so those at the top can help out those at the bottom. I suspect the majority of the country do as well.

100. Charlieman

@94. DBirkin: “abolition of slavery, female suffrage” (alleged examples of right libertarians standing out).

I’d argue that abolition of the slave trade (slavery did not exist in the UK) was delivered by Whigs, Conservatives and Christians. The UK suffragettes were a similarly blended bunch; the Whigs no longer existed so substitute for Liberals and founders of the Labour Party.

Right libertarianism is a modern phenomenon. That’s fine with me but don’t argue that there is a continuous history of right libertarians sticking their necks out.

101. flyingrodent

– I was always against the death penalty but have now began to accept the possibility that decades in jail would represent (for some) an even more terrifying form of punishment than a quick(ish) end, perhaps it’s time we offered them the choice?

“Choice” isn’t on the table. What is on the table is the opportunity for a hack blogger to get his face on telly yet again. Expect more of this wedge issue bollocks from now on, since it clearly works – I think abortion is usually the next one on the list, if we’re playing by Yankee rules.

Well the Tories are responsible for the end of it in the empire and female suffrage, even if you insist they were just a part. It’s strange that originally it is used as a slur that the libertarians haven’t historically gave us anything only for you to claim they didn’t exist historically.

Self ownership is a central tenet of libertarian doctrine. You own your life, your freedom and your work. If people choose to exchange their labour for the offered possessions of another, be it land or property, then that is up to them.

The land would be everyone’s if we could go back to the beginning of time perhaps, but due to the constant exchange, lawful exchange we have to allow the amnesty.
The NHS could be seen as a breach of self ownership, as your labour (roughly 10 hours ish from a standard week) is taken by the government, whether you want them to or not to pay for it amongst other things which they have no say in.

@98

“[91] “self-ownership and non-aggression, the two most fundamental libertarian principles” – aren’t non-aggression and punishment mutually exclusive terms?”

I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, but the main thrust of criminal law from a libertarian point of view is restitution for the victim of aggression, rather than punishment per se. I don’t personally object to criminals being punished, provided that they actually committed a proper crime i.e. an act of aggression against the person or property of someone else, and not some fake crime like drug possession, and secondly that the punishment is proportional to the crime. For this reason, a case can be made for the death penalty for murder, i.e. it’s proportionate, and the murderer pays with their life for the life they took.

However, I don’t consider the debate on the death penalty to be worth the candle, as we all know it ain’t coming back, and there are more important problems to address in the criminal justice system.

105. Charlieman

@102. DBirkin: “The NHS could be seen as a breach of self ownership, as your labour (roughly 10 hours ish from a standard week) is taken by the government, whether you want them to or not to pay for it amongst other things which they have no say in.”

From a liberal or libertarian perspective, that is a more worthy question for the UK House of Commons to address than the death penalty. An *open* MP debate about overall levels of tax might be productive.

But on the civil liberties scale, it is a minor point. As a country, we are trying to determine whether people were tortured, whether they were tortured enough to meet the international standard for torture, or whether the UK sent them to a country where they would be tortured.

106. Robert Hayward

91: self-ownership and non-aggression, the two most fundamental libertarian principles

Then libertarianism is socialism (but apparently with the adoption a complete ignorance of history and economics, since the policies advocated by “libertarians” are unable to deliver self-ownership and lead to aggression).

@106

“Then libertarianism is socialism”

Absolutely not. Socialism is wholly contrary, because it rejects individual liberty, private property and the free market. Instead it wants state control of the means of production and central planning, i.e. a committee telling everyone what to do.

” (but apparently with the adoption a complete ignorance of history and economics, since the policies advocated by “libertarians” are unable to deliver self-ownership and lead to aggression).”

Self-ownership is not delivered by policies. It is necessarily true, and ethically necessary. If you don’t agree, I will read your defence of slavery with interest, but I doubt it will convince me, since I don’t want to be a slave nor own one.

You think I am ignorant of history? Not at all, it’s a subject I have loved since a child. Economics is something which has interested me more recently.

Anti-libertarians such as you like to mock us for being a small minority. Indeed we are, but then you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t blame us for all the wars and the economic mess that the establishment has presided over. Our ideas are never popular with the ruling class, because we say the ruling class is the problem, that they should do nothing, they should ‘laissez faire’, but of course they never listen.

And I’m not a “libertarian”. I am a libertarian without quotation marks.

108. douglas clark

Seems to me that Libertarians don’t exactly exist.

Anna Racoon who self defines as a Libertarian appeared to have a bit of an issue with someone called Andrew Withers.

Perhaps folk closer to the Libertarian camp could pick up the story?

Can’t believe someone tried to infer that libertarianism is akin to socialism.. it frightens me that someone can consider their knowledge of a subject sufficient to debate with someone else when they don’t know the difference between chalk and cheese terms.

110. douglas clark

DBirkin,

Perhaps you can clarify on the strangely silent issue of the cash disappearing? That, at least, seems to be a consistent theme between so-called Libertarians and socialists.

How do you mean the cash disappearing? The goal of a cashless society or a specific incident?

Brilliant!

113. douglas clark

I think this is the article I originally read. Quite damning, and the start of the end of the Libertarian Party UK, if I understand cause and effect properly:

http://www.annaraccoon.com/politics/libertarian-liberties/

So, specifically, real money and real allegations.

An interesting read. Nothing to do with the ideas or falibility of the Libertarian movement though.

I suppose the leftwing equivalent would be self-proclaimed “Marxists” who have never read any, let alone understand any, of Marx’s writings and who think they must be Marxist because they don’t like capitalism and war and stuff, man.

116. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs)

@107

Socialism is wholly contrary, because it rejects individual liberty, private property and the free market. Instead it wants state control of the means of production and central planning, i.e. a committee telling everyone what to do.

Absolute balls. This is one form of socialism. You cannot claim not to be “ignorant” of history while remaining ignorant of anarchism, which has been overwhelmingly lefist and socialist in nature since first defined by Proudhon and developed by the likes of Bakunin and Kropotkin.

“Socialism” is nothing more than the notion of a society founded upon human need rather than profit – not “state control” or “committees telling people what to do”.

How such a society is to be created is up to the society, ie “socialism” is an idea, not a system.

Personally, as an anarchist of a syndicalist/socialist variety, I would like democracy devolved to communities and workplaces, with individual liberty and collective responsibilty given equal importance.

You think I am ignorant of history?

Yep. You’re ignorant of political philosophy as well.

Anti-libertarians such as you like to mock us for being a small minority.

No. We mock you for being the village idiots of anarchism and for advocating a sociopathic and adolescent form of politics that ignores the “state-like” power that capitalism wields when left unregulated and claims selfishness as the ultimate virtue. Without the abolition of capitalism, abolition of government is at best pointless, at worst the preconditions for feudal tyranny.

Here’s some history for you: Historically, the anarcho-communist Joseph Déjacque was the first person to describe himself as “libertarian”.

“Socialism” is nothing more than the notion of a society founded upon human need rather than profit – not “state control” or “committees telling people what to do”.

…..

Ok, the difference is one (socialism) is based on humanity as a whole, the other is A human (Libertarian)

Practical Socialism requires an overseer, otherwise who is to say an individuals actions serve humanity? This leads, unfortunately, to a person or group ‘more equal than others’.

Libertarianism requires no such overseer as it is about fullfilling your own needs. The minarchist branch, of which I self identify believe that a minimal state for freedom from tyranny is needed other than that, we’re ok looking out for ourselves, thank you very much.

Chalk and cheese

@ Douglas Clark, (with apologies to everyone else for going off on a tangent and an invitation for the anti-libertarians to enjoy a little schadenfreude!)

I know what you’re talking about. The Libertarian Party that was formed a few years back is at present, to give the technical term, FUBAR.

Some months back the leader, Andrew Withers was accused of various acts of dishonesty, and promptly went to ground. The financial records were in his possession, so it seems was all the money.The ordinary members, at least some of the vocal ones, demanded that the books were investigated. The NCC was split between those who wished to exonerate Withers and those who believed the original allegations. Various people resigned, and Withers tried to get the party de-registered.

At this point the fatal frailty of the party constitution was revealed, as, through much smoke and mirrors, Withers was able to hold on the reins of the party, due to having suppport of the other person whose name were registered alongside his with the Electoral Commission, (the chairman who had resigned but has now mysteriously returned from the dead) and in very recent times, this small knot of pro-Withers people have emerged from hiding with the intention of continuing the party, as if nothing has happened.

As the whole business has caused a meltdown in membership, Withers has, it seems, achieved the goal of ruling in hell, rather than serving in heaven – in other words he is the leader of a party made up of a handful of slavish supporters and a dwindling band of angry enemies, who will dispatch him at the first opportunity – an SGM or an AGM, but will not renew their membership in order to do this, as this would involve throwing good money after bad.

So libertarians are back to square one regarding political parties, but it’s been a learning experience at least!

“Some months back the leader, Andrew Withers was accused of various acts of dishonesty, and promptly went to ground. The financial records were in his possession, so it seems was all the money.”
A true libertarian hero , look after the individual first.
Serves you lot right for forming a collective

@116,

to you socialism may be merely an idea. It is also used to denote an economic system whereby the state (or whatever euphemism you prefer) controls the means of production, as an alternative to capitalism whereby there is private control of the means of production.

You write:

“Socialism” is nothing more than the notion of a society founded upon human need rather than profit – not “state control” or “committees telling people what to do”.

And how, pray tell, does one found a society upon human need? How is human need evaluated? How are decisions made? How are calculations made, as to what products are made, and what factories are built and all the rest? How is it decided how many pairs of shoes are needed?

You see, the reason you would rather keep socialism as a mere idea or notion is because you would rather not confront the problem my questions hint at, which is what earlier critics of socialism, such as liberal economist Ludwig von Mises identified as the essential flaw in socialism – an inability to make economic calculations.

In a capitalist system there is no problem in working out how many shoe factories are needed. The market decides and self-regulates. If there are too many, the price of shoes will fall, and the marginal producers will go bust etc etc.

@119 Guttman,

I don’t begrudge you the schadenfreude, but I will correct you:

Firstly libertarians have no problem with forming collectives, provided they are voluntary. Secondly, the concept of individual liberty does not, as you well know I am sure, allow you infringe upon the liberty of others by force or fraud.

@121, beat me to it 😉

No schadenfreude mate just a bad joke, personally i couldn’t give a toss about the libertarians party. Scratch one and you will find an authoritarian.
“Firstly libertarians have no problem with forming collectives, provided they are voluntary.”
I suppose you don’t want collectives like the NHS because your forced to pay for it. Fair enough but what about the armed forces should pacifists be forced to pay for the Colonels.

Secondly, the concept of individual liberty does not, as you well know I am sure, allow you infringe upon the liberty of others by force or fraud.
Why not ?
I am sure asset strippers have infringed on the liberty of others (i.e. taking away their employment)

There are libertarians and there are authoritarian tax haters who call themselves libertarians because it’s become fashionable among the Conservatives. Simon Goldie from Lib Dem libertarian website Liberal Vision has included a list of libertarian blogs against capital punishment. Note how many Facebook likes the first one has despite being posted on the blog of a libertarian. Most libertarians I know oppose it strongly (though unfortunately not all).

http://simongoldie.blogspot.com/2011/08/lib-dems-and-libertarians-unite-against.html

@122 DB,

no worries, do you want to deal with the next one? Oh never mind, since I’m here.

@ 123,

“Scratch one and you will find an authoritarian.”

Lazy ad hominem.

“should pacifists be forced to pay for the Colonels.[?]”

In a libertarian society, no they should not, but we don’t have such a society. However it is the duty of libertarians to speak out against militarism and unnecessary wars, as well as high taxes.

I said: “the concept of individual liberty does not … allow you infringe upon the liberty of others by force or fraud.

You said: “Why not ?”

Because using force or fraud on someone infringes their liberty. Individual liberty is for everyone, therefore it would be self-refuting if it allowed the use of force or fraud on another.

“I am sure asset strippers have infringed on the liberty of others (i.e. taking away their employment)”

You are misunderstanding property rights, but I don’t think you’ll be interested in my attempt to explain, so I won’t waste time. Suffice it to say, there is no a priori right to work for any particular company.

TT
you said the liberty of others
Having a job to most people is vital for their liberty

@126 Guttman,

“TT
you said the liberty of others
Having a job to most people is vital for their liberty”

I will try to answer this, and hope that you will take the answer with the good will with which it is offered.

Individual liberty is entwined with self-ownership means an individual owns themselves, i.e. their physical body, their labour and their legitimately-acquired property, and they can do with it whatsoever they choose, provided, as above, they don’t harm anyone else, or more exactly anyone else’s liberty and property.

When you work for a company, you are exchanging your labour and your time (which you own) for money. A contract exists between you and the company. As long as both parties to the contract are happy, the contract continues, but it may be terminated for a host of reasons. Just as you can say: ‘I quit’, they can say ‘you’re fired’ or ‘I’m sorry, but we have to make you redundant’. How such a termination is handled will depend on the contract. If that contract is breached, then there are remedies, such as against unfair dismissal, or perhaps failure to fulfill a period of notice. But a company cannot refuse to allow you to quit – that would be slavery. Neither can you continue to work for the company, if they don’t want to or can’t employ you.

To understand liberty, it is key to understand the property rights involved – property including one’s body, one’s time, one’s labour, as well as material possessions. Unfortunately the concept of property rights has acquired many bad and misleading connotations, so that if I try to defend property rights, some will attack me for defending rich people against the poor. This is not the case. Property rights, like individual liberty are universal.

Just to extend. You have three states. Past, Present and Future.

To take away your future is to take away your life, to take away your present is to take away your liberty, to take away your past, is to take away the possessions you have aquired.

Life, Liberty and Property are all a part of self ownership.

The ability to swap your labour (which is pretty much leasing your liberty) in return of something you want is the basis of deals. To trade future labour or possessions in return for something else is what is seen as a credit agreement. When and if this credit agreement is broken, the disadvantaged party no longer has to carry on supply of his end of the deal so can reclaim or repossess what was orignally given.

The key is that these deals are free from the two elements which invalidate the fairness of a deal or agreement and that is force or fraud.

@1: They call themselves libertarians, but they aren’t really. For them, it’s just a euphemism for ‘selfish turd’. Proper libertarianism has a proud tradition.

This is true of many of them. I would distinguish between left-libertarians[1] and right-libertarians: right libertarians don’t want people to be oppressed by the state but are fine with oppression by the private sector, whereas left libertarians don’t want people to be oppressed by either. (And the last Labour government sometimes seemed to want people to be oppressed by the state but not the private sector).

1. of which I am broadly one.

@129 oh no that evil private sector …offering products or services that people can choose, if they feel like it, to buy. What demons!

Either you believe in the central tenets or you don’t. Liberty is liberty.

“Either you believe in the central tenets or you don’t. Liberty is liberty.”

Ahem. Edmund Burke in his letter to the Sherriffs of Bristol (1777):

“Liberty, too, must be limited in order to be possessed. The degree of restraint it is impossible in any case to settle precisely. But it ought to be the constant aim of every wise public council to find out by cautious experiments, and rational cool endeavours, with how little, not how much, of this restraint the community can subsist; for liberty is a good to be improved, and not an evil to be lessened. . . ”
http://ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/burkee/maxims/chap18.htm

@131 Bob B,

and your point is… ?

(hint: the appeal to authority would work better if you found a libertarian poster boy to quote, which Burke isn’t, although conservatives like him a lot, and John Maynard Keynes liked him too – this alone is enough to put me off, although I quite enjoy his style)

@130 A former bar manager delighted in telling me about how he used to flank himself with his doormen and could intimidate his staff into signing whatever the fuck he wanted.
He got away with it every time too.

@133

What’s the relevance? Employment law is the same for the state sector and the private sector.

@132 Bob B, and your point is… ?

I thought Edmund Burke, writing in 1777, was a model of lucidity …. except for the dimmest, of course.

He was making the important observation that the possibility of unconstrained liberty diminishes liberty – put simply, your liberty stops at the end of my nose. We mostly agree that there needs to be legal limits on the possession of firearms or the murder rate is likely to rise.

@135 BobB

“He was making the important observation that the possibility of unconstrained liberty diminishes liberty – put simply, your liberty stops at the end of my nose.”

Okay… I’m not quite sure how that relates to the comment you are responding to. In any case, long though it now is, you will see me make this very point above e.g. @ 121

“We mostly agree that there needs to be legal limits on the possession of firearms or the murder rate is likely to rise.”

That’s a whole different discussion, and you won’t be able to justify that assertion, because the facts are contrary. The murder rate was far lower in this country when our right to keep and bear arms was not violated by the state (essentially prior to 1920, although there was a very minor bit of gun control enacted in 1903).

I am strongly liberal with regard to gun ownership. That’s what we libertarians are; consistent, principled liberals – we actually believe in individual liberty, including the right to keep and bear arms in your own preservation and defence.

“That’s a whole different discussion, and you won’t be able to justify that assertion, because the facts are contrary. The murder rate was far lower in this country when our right to keep and bear arms was not violated by the state (essentially prior to 1920, although there was a very minor bit of gun control enacted in 1903).”

The drift of the thread discussion was to refine what is meant by the “liberty” that “libertarians” subscribe to but that is a totally dumb argument. Compare the current murder rates of the US with European countries – not current rates with the situation many decades ago when the whole social context was very different.

Btw Edmund Burke may have picked his nose for all I know but I’m interested in his analysis. With JS Mill, he is often regarded as one of the ultimate ancestors of the libertarian tradition.

Was that the same Edmund Burke who wrote ‘there’s no such thing as an individual’?

Some rules and regulations make things better, some make things worse. Some lack of regulation would make things better, other things would be made worse.

I’d like the opportunity to see what is the minimum.

My original comment was in reply to the “LIBERTARIAN” who seemed to prefer the state market to the free market. Seems a strange persuasion for a libertarian.

Minarchists want to retain a residual state (they refer to it as a ‘nightwatchman’ government) in which all the oppressive arms are retained: the police, the military and so on. Legislators will exist only to rubber stamp the diktats of the interests of capital.

@55
“if your definition of libertarianism stretches to include Fascist Italy, then I suggest it’s a touch too broad”

Reading and comprehension aren’t your strong points, are they?

Pay attention. The Italian futurists formed their own party in 1920, they were then absorbed into Mussolini’s fascists. Why? Because they realised that Mussolini would give them what they wanted. Maybe you should read some history before engaging your keyboard. No?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurism

@70

“The Mises Institute people, such as Lew Rockwell, Tom Woods, Walter Block, Robert Murphy, Peter Schiff etc are all good sources of the same brand of libertarianism. They don’t of course all agree on everything. Like all schools of thought, there are lines of division and particular subjects which they fight over”

The one thing that they all agree on is the notion of the Confederate states-as-victims. Like I said earlier, the LvMI is at the forefront of the historically revisionist Neo-Confederate movement.

Here’s a snippet
“Desegregation in the civil rights era, he says, resulted in the “involuntary servitude” of (presumably white) business owners. In the past, Rockwell has praised the electoral success of European neofascists like Joerg Haider in Austria and Christoph Blocher in Switzerland”
http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2000/summer/the-neo-confederates?page=0,1

@138: “Was that the same Edmund Burke who wrote ‘there’s no such thing as an individual’?”

Is there any evidence he said that and, if so, what was the context?

We hold individuals accountable for their actions but, feral children apart, we grow up and live in a social context. Some actions not held to be criminal nowadays were held to be criminal in past times: heresy, witchcraft, male homosexuality. Social norms and criminality in one place are not so in another: apostasy, chastity, religious dress codes, women drivers.

@137 Bob B,

“The drift of the thread discussion was to refine what is meant by the “liberty” that “libertarians” subscribe to …”

Yeah, and you offered up a definition @ 135 which was no more than a paraphrase of the one I had given e.g. @121. I made as clear as I could that individual liberty cannot involve acts of aggression against the liberty (the person or property) of anyone else.

“.. but that is a totally dumb argument. Compare the current murder rates of the US with European countries – not current rates with the situation many decades ago when the whole social context was very different.”

What, and the social context isn’t different between the US and European countries? In any case the European countries with liberal gun laws are not the highest for murders. Switzerland is not top of the league, and everyone’s armed there. I just said you couldn’t justify your assertion.

“Btw Edmund Burke may have picked his nose for all I know but I’m interested in his analysis. With JS Mill, he is often regarded as one of the ultimate ancestors of the libertarian tradition.”

Burke is a conservative icon. He was a defender of the Ancien Regime. He certainly had a point in his trenchant attacks on the French Revolution and its excesses, but I wouldn’t call him libertarian. JS Mill is influential, but not really on libertarians, more on mainstream liberals. Personally I don’t rate him as an economist (re-hashed Ricardo) or a political philosopher.

As far as I can see, there are two main philosophical wings to modern libertarianism; the English / Scottish classical liberal utilitarian wing, for whom JS Mill may well be important, and the Natural Rights wing, where I put myself, which is more interested in Locke, French economists like Turgot and Bastiat, American types like Jefferson and Jackson. Austrian free market economics in its modern incarnation sits very much on the latter side, although Austrians like von Mises was certainly a utilitarian.

A way of telling the two apart is asking what they think of Adam Smith. If they venerate him, they’re classical liberals, if they reckon he’s over-rated and not as good as Cantillon and Turgot, they’re probably natural rights people.

@144: “Burke is a conservative icon. He was a defender of the Ancien Regime.”

Burke is often rated one of the founding fathers of Libertarianism.

He unfavourably compared Robespierre and the horrors of the period of terror following the French Revolution in 1789 with the Ancien Regime.

He also spoke up in Parliament on behalf of the colonialists in America who wanted independence from British rule.

The numbers of citizens in Britain seeking the liberty of possessing a hand gun is miniscule. Most of us believe that relaxing gun laws would soon lead to more gun crimes in what, unlike Switzerland, is one of the most densely populated countries on earth.

@142,

back with your nonsense, I see.

I checked your link @24 and it was the complete opposite of what you said. It is in no way a defence of slavery. Others can judge for themselves whether your description is accurate or misleading. They can also go to the Mises site and judge to what extent reviving the Confederacy is a priority of theirs.

History is usually a little more complicated than you seem to think, and the US Civil War is one such example. Even if one side in a war can claim justice, this does not mean that all their actions will be just. The fire-bombing of Dresden is one such example. Also iconic heros are often found to have feet of clay. This is very much the case with Abraham Lincoln.

@57

“Left authoritarianism is certainly sociopathic. And it’s killed far more people than right libertarianism ever has”

Thanks for moving the goalposts. We were discussing so-called libertarianism versus anarchism not “left authoritarianism” whatever that is. What isn’t sociopathic about someone who regards greed and selfishness as ultimate virtues?

Socialism without freedom is a barracks.

@145 Bob B,

here’s an interesting piece on Burke by Rothbard. It looks at his early work ‘A vindication of natural society’ which, it must be said, he later pretended was only a satire. I’m sure there is much food for thought in Burke, but I still wouldn’t call him a founding father of libertarianism, although he certainly did defend the American revolutionaries.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard11.html

“The numbers of citizens in Britain seeking the liberty of possessing a hand gun is miniscule.”

I’m sure you are correct … but the rights and wrongs of such matters are not merely a question of numbers (e.g. the return of hanging)

“… Most of us believe that relaxing gun laws would soon lead to more gun crimes”

Indeed, but this is, as you say, a belief, and no more than that. It’s not a vote-winner! Still, many libertarian positions such as this are … how shall I say … misunderstood by the general public.

@146

“back with your nonsense, I see.”

Back with another half-baked apology, I see.

“I checked your link @24 and it was the complete opposite of what you said. It is in no way a defence of slavery. Others can judge for themselves whether your description is accurate or misleading. They can also go to the Mises site and judge to what extent reviving the Confederacy is a priority of theirs”

You don’t read so well. Perhaps that’s because of your emotional attachment to LvMI and its notions of ‘libertarianism’. I’m not the only person to have understood how LvMI utilises a ‘libertarian’ discourse to explain the causes of the US Civil War. It’s a narrative that is entirely constructed from an Austrian School discourse that wilfully and deliberately ignores socio-cultural conditions and relations of power.

“History is usually a little more complicated than you seem to think, and the US Civil War is one such example”

No kidding. Really? You presume me to be ignorant of history. You’d be a fool to do so.

“This is very much the case with Abraham Lincoln”

Again, no kidding. I’m well aware of the way in which Lincoln and more recent figures have had their memories cosmetically enhanced by hagiographers. It’s happened to Reagan, who is currently being depicted as “the man who single-handedly ended the Cold War”.

@146: “It’s happened to Reagan, who is currently being depicted as ‘the man who single-handedly ended the Cold War’.”

But then, let’s face it, he did have expert advice from an astrologer according to this news report from 1988:

When the news broke last week that Nancy Reagan regularly consulted a woman astrologer about the President’s schedule, reporters immediately scrambled to discover the mysterious seer’s identity. Who was this “Friend” from San Francisco who had so much influence in determining when the President of the U.S. would — or would not — hold press conferences, deliver speeches, journey abroad?
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,967410,00.html

@149

neither you nor me will convince the other, I am sure, but for other readers, they should read your comment @24 and follow the link, and decide whether your comment is accurate

You wrote: “They’re historical revisionists who often claim that because some slave didn’t work under overseers, the institution of slavery wasn’t so bad.”

Absolutely untrue. There is no defence of slavery in that article.

You also wrote: “They use libertarian arguments to claim that the US Civil War was really a war about tariffs not the defence of the union.”

You’re refuting yourself here, because you’re saying that the northern side were defending the union rather than trying to free the slaves, which is what the article is saying!

There are a couple of things that we can do about this. First, anyone on Twitter can send to @guidofawkes and ask him what greater power the State can have than to hang someone by the neck until they are dead?

Second thing is to go to the Govt ePetitions site here http://t.co/Iw68him and place a vote for retention of the ban on the death penalty. Yesterday this petition was way out ahead of the call for hanging, but we need to keep it that way.

Libertarians congregate on the Internet.

All 4 of them.

I tend to avoid calling myself a libertarian because quite frankly I don’t want to be associated with many of the people who are happy to so self-describe. Many ‘right-libertarians’ in particular come across as anti-intellectual and very selective in the evidence they choose to support their case.

Contrast for example the many writings of Colin Ward on topics like mutual aid and self help with that of Stephen Davies on the same issue. Ward accurately describes the wide range of self help groups that existed in the 19th and early 20th centuries but doesn’t pretend that these came about other than in response to appalling physical and social conditions. Davies by contrast seems to try and rewrite the history of 19th century Britain, claiming that housing conditions were by no means as bad as painted by referring not to the slums of Leeds, Manchester or Liverpool, but to Bath, Cheltenham and Edinburgh New Town as if these represented the typical living conditions of the average working class family.
(See Davies paper in The Voluntary City edited by Beito, Gordon and Tabarrok)

I’m sure there are right libertarians who are rigorous in their arguments and don’t resort to blanket ad hominem attacks on ‘benighted lefties’, but you won’t find much evidence of them on the web. The average webertarian (always of the right wing persuasion) too often comes over as stupid, dishonest, selfish or some combination of the three.

155. Bob O'Connor

A libertarian future is predicted in Book 9 of the free ebook series http://andgulliverreturns.info
Very interesting

I don’t speak for all libertarians, but here in NC, we are on record against state sanctioned killing:

Death Penalty
The LPNC opposes execution of prisoners. We believe that state-sanctioned revenge never serves the cause of justice.

157. Bob O'Connor

Libertarians against the death penalty–Who is to be taxed for the imprisonment and penalties?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  2. David Meyer

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  3. Political Animal

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  4. Felix Danczak

    Short, pithy, angry, true, amusing. http://t.co/TeWT2yl via @libcon

  5. Nissemus

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  6. paurina

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  7. Bathtubgin

    RT @libcon: Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://t.co/fRvBm9W

  8. Alec Style

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn’t be | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/GZq3RlX via @libcon

  9. Helen Robertson

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn’t be | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/JWkpHHU via @libcon

  10. Bob Piper

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  11. RussChandler

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn’t be | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/yaaqXUc via @libcon

  12. Sarah Lake

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  13. Brownhills Bob

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  14. Benjamin M. A'Lee

    Amusing article on why it's not surprising that (some) internet "libertarians" support the death penalty. http://ur1.ca/4uqj5

  15. Andy Saul

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  16. dm

    More often than not #libertarian is just a synonym for douchbag http://j.mp/oRa7cU via @libcon

  17. dm

    More often than not #libertarian is just a synonym for douchebag http://j.mp/oRa7cU

  18. David Black

    Superb column that sums up the Internet based pro-hanging campaign very well http://bit.ly/r0FoT3

  19. mark a williams

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  20. sunny hundal

    Confused on why libertarians support hanging? You shouldn't be says @flying_rodent -http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  21. Lee Hyde

    Confused on why libertarians support hanging? You shouldn't be says @flying_rodent -http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  22. Neil Hughes

    Confused on why libertarians support hanging? You shouldn't be says @flying_rodent -http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  23. DanielPoxton

    Confused on why libertarians support hanging? You shouldn't be says @flying_rodent -http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  24. Mark Rowland

    Confused on why libertarians support hanging? You shouldn't be says @flying_rodent -http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  25. David Levene

    This is proper amazing http://t.co/b6E20oN

  26. Andy Hicks

    RT @politic_animal: RT @libcon: Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  27. Jeffrey Newman

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn't be http://bit.ly/oPSAhZ

  28. Sophie Bryce

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn’t be | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/fQGj3AB via @libcon

  29. Rhiannon Lockley

    Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn’t be | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/fQGj3AB via @libcon

  30. Unlearning Economics

    My god this remains brilliant – libertarians and the death penalty: http://t.co/iCYdHmwt

  31. Taylor

    "When you’re talking about a people whose entire worldview can be reduced to Life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money" http://t.co/cf5ZtG9i

  32. Unlearning Economics

    @Trias_ yes, infact there was that death penalty furor a while back. This is hilarious: http://t.co/w4KVvSWP

  33. Unlearning Economics

    This from @flying_rodent on libertarians remains hilarious: http://t.co/K0E0rox7 "a bunch of twats who don't want to pay any tax"

  34. Marty Hogg

    This from @flying_rodent on libertarians remains hilarious: http://t.co/K0E0rox7 "a bunch of twats who don't want to pay any tax"





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