Recent Libertarians Articles



How Milton Friedman inspired coalition NHS reforms

by Dave Osler     January 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm

When you trust someone to wield a scalpel on the most sensitive parts of your anatomy – and such, dear reader, was my painful lot some 18 months ago  – you cross your fingers and hope they are a properly trained surgeon.

But according to the libertarian right, regressive attitudes like that hold back the development of a free market in health services.

The requirement for licensure both prevents all and sundry who wish to practice medicine from doing so, and deprives the rest of us of the opportunity to purchase their services, and so should be scrapped.

In case you suspect that I am making this stuff up, it is all there in black and white in the work of Milton Friedman, a thinker whose impact on the policies of governments of all parties since the 1970s has been incalculable.

On a range of issues from monetarism and exchange controls to the clear ideological animus against public housing, the emasculation of trade unionism and explicit tolerance of tax avoidance, Friedman’s ‘Capitalism and Freedom’ has been the de facto blueprint for successive administrations.

His stipulations often have had to be watered down, simply because they are too extreme for public taste. But Friedman’s work is nonetheless crucial to understand neoliberal thinking, largely because it provides the intellectual underpinnings for what Thatcherism, the Third Way and now the coalition have tried to do.

That brings me to the present government’s decision to hand over the National Health Service to the private sector, which will effectively result in the transformation of hospitals into what Friedman called ‘department stores of health’, acting as intermediaries between patients and service providers.

Such a change is necessary, the late economist maintained, because bodies like the British Medical Association, which licences doctors to practice, are monopolists who purposely restrict entry to the profession in order to boost members’ wages.

Instead, Friedman suggested an alternative based on untrained practice, including practice by ‘people who have no professional qualifications at all’. And of course, when it comes to routine matters such as scans, it would be foolish to argue that doctors should undertake tasks that technicians can carry out perfectly well. But Friedman wouldn’t stop there.

‘I conclude that licensure should be eliminated as a requirement for the practice of medicine,’ he writes, and anyone should be ‘free to practice medicine without restriction except for legal and financial responsibility for any harm done to others through fraud and negligence’.

Individual GPs and hospitals should be replaced by the medical equivalents of John Lewis and Selfridges, with consumers able to judge between them on the basis of reputation. That having surgery is an act in no way akin to purchasing a pop-up toaster is in no way considered an obstacle to such a vision.

Here we have the inspiration for the Clinical Commissioning Groups and the ‘any willing provider’ clauses contained in the Health and Social Care Act, which is the strongest medicine the Tory and Lib Dem right feels it can get away with forcing down the electorate’s throat right now.

Naturally, it would be hyperbolic to maintain that the legislation is the full Friedmanite Monty. But it takes us more than half way there, and its impact on the standards of practitioners is all too predictable.

Never mind doctors without borders; the next stop is doctors without qualifications.

Confused on libertarians and hanging? You shouldn’t be

by Flying Rodent     August 5, 2011 at 8:47 am

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.
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Why I became a left-libertarian

by Guest     April 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm

contribution by Martin

As Libertarians across the US flock to cinemas to watch the film version of Atlas Shrugged (the film has a limited release and harsh criticism from everyone outside those who are already fully bought into Ayn Rand’s philosophy of corporate apologism and advocacy of selfishness as a way of life), the UK’s own Libertarian Party is caught in a minor controversy over its leader.

So it’s not a brilliant week to be a reader of Nozick, Rand, Friedman or Mises. But then, it’s never a good time to declare yourself associated with any philosophy that holds lassez faire capitalism to be a virtue.
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Alan Greenspan and the death of libertarian economics

by Carl Packman     April 9, 2010 at 11:20 am

US Economist Alan Greenspan has been giving his testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, criticised for failing to implement rules that would have curbed an overstretched banking system.

As the Telegraph reported:

In one of the most heated moments of his testimony, Brooksley Born, who chaired the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for three years from 1996, blasted: “The Fed utterly failed to prevent the financial crisis. Failed to prevent the housing bubble, failed to prevent the predatory lending scandal.”

Greenspan, who chaired America’s central bank from 1987-2006, said that he hadn’t “regulate[d] sub-prime mortgages because, by 2005, more than half of such home loans were being originated by institutions outside of the central bank’s control.”

For a man otherwise known for his strong libertarian, anti-governmental regulation and pro-laissez-faire views this was a shock.
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Right wing rebels

by Guest     March 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Guest post by badstephen

Somehow, over the past half-century, the right have grabbed for themselves the mantle of revolutionaries.

Right-wingers, the argument goes, are the anti-establishment mavericks, battling the status quo. Liberals now control everything. That last part might come as a surprise to many liberals.

Interestingly, the faux-revolutionary stance disguises the essential nature of the right’s project – the preservation of existing structures of power and wealth.

Friedrich von Hayek got the ball rolling in 1944 with The Road to Serfdom. Keynesian economies, allegedly, were every bit as repressive and socially restrictive as the totalitarian regimes they were fighting. Only the free market model could deliver genuine social mobility, with no single dominant class. Well, the UK has had the experiment of the last 30 years to demonstrate exactly how successful the market is at breaking down social divides. It’s not looking good, Friedrich.

In the 1960s, Richard Nixon further developed the concept of the anti-establishment right-winger. There was, apparently, an urban elite entrenched against him. The liberal media was out to get him (“You guys won’t have Nixon to kick around any more.”) And he invented the ‘silent majority’ – the right’s imaginary friend ever since. “Grocer” Heath was doing much the same thing in the UK. He was the first Tory leader to break the patrician mould and present himself as an outsider. Oddly, the modern right is reluctant to acknowledge its debt to these two pioneers.

Yet their legacy is all around us. Take climate change. Sceptics project themselves as bold iconoclasts, bravely taking on the great global green conspiracy. It wouldn’t be quite so cool to be seen as apologists for the fossil fuel industries. Whenever Jeremy Clarkson questions global warming, he does so carefully, as a naughty schoolboy making jokes about polar bears, not as a cheerleader for the automotive conglomerates. continue reading… »

Welcome to Libertopia

by Don Paskini     February 10, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Wondering what “savage cuts” in public spending would actually mean in practice, or what would happen if the government got out of the way of providing basic services? The residents of Colorado Springs are about to find out:

More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.

The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.

Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that.

Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.

City recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools, and a handful of museums will close for good March 31 unless they find private funding to stay open. Buses no longer run on evenings and weekends. The city won’t pay for any street paving, relying instead on a regional authority that can meet only about 10 percent of the need.”

A budget crisis caused by the recession left Colorado’s second-largest city with a $28-million shortfall in its $212-million general budget. Residents — largely conservative, anti-tax and suspicious of their elected leaders — resoundingly voted against a proposal to triple property taxes and keep the city humming. Mayor Lionel Rivera said the city has no choice but to cut fundamental services.”

Why lefties should question the role of the state

by Guest     February 6, 2010 at 9:30 am

contribution by Luis Enrique

Sensible people may disagree, but they ought to agree on this

The appropriate role of government in the economy is a fundamental question, and one that should excite the interest of LC readers. In the interminable blog war between libertarians and statists, there are two polarized positions that all sensible people should disavow.

1. Government activity is generally undesirable (on one side)
2. Government programs with laudable goals should be supported (on the other)

These extreme views are paraphrased from this blog post, which was itself inspired by this blog post, in which a couple of libertarians try to persuade their fellow libertarians to embrace government.
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Where are all the ‘Nurses’ for Reform?

by Unity     January 25, 2010 at 5:08 pm

This morning’s guest post by Zarathustra, of the excellent Mental Nurse blog, flagged up the existence of a right-wing campaign group calling itself ‘Nurses for Reform’, and as Lib Con’s resident data hound that naturally prompted me to ask a very pertinant question:

Just exactly how many of the people behind ‘Nurses for Reform’ are actually nurses?

Is this actually a genuine organisation that can point to a significant level of support within the nursing profession or it is, like the Taxpayers’ Alliance, just another small, well funded, right-wing front organisation with a name carefully chosen to mislead the naive and unwary into taking it for something it almost certainly isn’t?

So who, exactly, are ‘Nurses for Reform’?

Well, their director and primary mouthpiece is Dr Helen Evans RGN and she is, indeed, a nurse with 20 years experience in the NHS under her belt and a PhD in health management from Brunel University. So she’s a doctor, but not in the medical sense of the term.

As for her organisation, it claims to be a ‘growing pan-European network of nurses dedicated to consumer-oriented reform of European healthcare systems’, although evidence of any links to like-minded nurses organisations or campaign groups are a bit thin on the ground.

The other noticeable feature of the NFR website is, with the exception of a page listing members of advisory board, the marked lack of reference to anyone other than Dr Helen Evans, who appears to be the site’s sole contributor, contact point and, for all anyone knows, chief cook and bottle-washer.

Not exactly a flying start then, but there is an advisory board, so maybe we’ll find a few more nurses there…
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Exclusive: Campaigners advising Cameron compares NHS to “Nazi” system

by Guest     January 25, 2010 at 9:00 am

contribution by Zarathustra

Nurses for Reform have been featured on Liberal Conspiracy before. They’re a campaigning group with links to the libertarian Adam Smith Institute and ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation think-tanks.

Last month they met with David Cameron to discuss their ideas, which included wholesale privatisation of the NHS, the scrapping of national pay agreements for health workers and nurses being given brands like consumer products.

The idea of competing brands of nurses (None of yer manky Tesco nurses working in our hospital. We only use Sainsburys nurses) might sound daft, but this weekend Nurses For Reform crossed the line from silly to downright offensive.

Their leading spokesperspon has been strongly implying the NHS was created along Nazi principles.
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How not to kill a good story

by Guest     January 16, 2010 at 9:18 am

contribution by David Hencke

An extraordinary attempt was made just before Christmas to kill off a story of mine to spare the blushes of a rather hapless Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate caught out for living a dual life in cyberspace.

Greg Stone is now toast and has had to stand down as Liberal Democrat candidate for Newcastle-upon Tyne East and Wallsend as a result but the shennaghins surrounding the attempt to make sure this did not get into print is worth recalling.

Guido Fawkes tried to come to the rescue of Greg Stone aka Inamicus by using one of the oldest tricks of ye olde print media -a spoiler before the tale could be published by a rival.
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