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Cheers - AE

Friday, 20 May 2011

A reply to Sue

In the comments on the last post Sue raised a few points over my bagging UKIP. For the record I'll make it plain: I have a lot of time for UKIP and I agree with a lot of their of their aims. However, my argument was and still is that UKIP is not a libertarian party or a party of libertarians but just another party with some libertarian policies. That they seem to have more than the big three is a point in their favour, but that they are still prepared to trash liberties and property rights means I don't think they can be described as all that libertarian. There are also areas where they aren't saying what their policies are, and while I hope they'd tend toward the small government and liberty end of things until they make it clear we just don't know. If other libertarians feel they can compromise on such things that's their decision, but speaking for myself and having gone through UKIP's policies in detail over the last two days (not for the first time) I keep finding policies that are either illiberal, illogical or might as well have come from Conservative or even Labour HQ. They're still by far and away the best on offer, but if being less awful than Labour isn't a good reason to vote Tory (or vice versa if that's your thing) then being merely an improvement on both isn't enough to vote UKIP, at least not in a general election. Put simply, I find more reasons to not vote for UKIP than to vote for them.

On to Sue's comment, and to take some of her points in turn. First my use of the word "populist" to describe UKIP, using a similar definition to my Collins dictionary:
 adj 1 - appealing to the interests or prejudices of ordinary people - n 2 - a person, esp. a politician, who appeals to the interests or prejudices of ordinary people 
Sue replied:

The EU and it's elite have been using the word as a derogatory term for "Nationalism/Patriotism". ... Populism to the EU means "Oh No, not democracy again!!!!"
Indeed, and they're correct to do so, though their mistake is to think that that which is populist is necessarily bad. They think of people such as Hitler as populists (and of course he was) and therefore populism is inherently bad, which is like noting that Hitler was a vegetarian and that therefore vegetarianism is inherently bad. This is obviously bollocks and probably only politicians and bEUrocrats think that way.

However, it's just as big a mistake to think that that which is populist - or democratic for that matter - is inherently good. I'm not just talking about the democratic deficit here, I'm talking about the fact that there is nothing inherently good about democracy when it means getting the shit kicked out of you by majority decree. Consider a few hypothetical situations:

  • the smoking ban is voted for by the non-smoking majority
  • continued membership in Europe is put to a referendum and is approved by a majority
  • a carbon tax is made a manifesto commitment in a two party state and the party proposing it wins the election
  • a majority approve the reinstatement of slavery

While hypothetical none of these situations are actually that unrealistic. The smoking ban was a NuLab evil, and an evil which went further than they actually said it would, but the point is they didn't have any problem getting democratic support for trampling over property rights and smokers' liberties. Ireland voted for the Lisbon treaty - yes, we all know it was a bit of a cheat but again it got a democratic mandate. Carbon taxes and ETS are on the cards thanks to a number of democratically elected governments, and in some of those countries surveys still indicate popular support. As for slavery, officially it's been dead and gone for ages but most industrialised nations are full of tax slaves who aren't allowed to enjoy the full fruits of their labour but are forced to hand over more and more to support the public sector. Call it slavery-lite, and bear in mind that it's got overwhelming democratic and popular support all over the world.

Democracy isn't a bad system, but there's nothing inherently good about it either. I'm no longer sure it even deserves the title of the least worst system.
We might not always like the outcomes but we live in societies that need rules.
Nowhere have I said that we can dispose of rules. Some rules, yes, and I'd say all victimless crimes, the one a day new crimes NuLab invented over its time in government, simple drug possession, and many others could be dispensed with, but libertarianism does not mean no rules at all. Quite the reverse, it means sticking with rules even if it goes against the popular majority, even if there is a democratic mandate for dispensing with a rule and replacing it with an injustice. Rules such as not stealing (taxing half your income and then racing up a huge debt in your name also qualifies), not restricting someone else's freedom, and not initiating violence are at the heart of it and would remain so even if popular or democratic opinion wanted otherwise.
The UKIP policy states "five-year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement", it does not say that talented engineers will not be able to work and live in the UK.
Didn't say it did. But will they be tempted to come when there is absolutely no prospect of permanent residency no matter how much work they put in, or will they instead choose to go somewhere that's happy to take them simply on the condition that they don't rock up with their hands out? Attracting skilled migrants is a competitive business and UKIP's policy will make Britain less competitive. Not only that but as I pointed out in the post it's not even necessary if UKIP follow through on the issue of withdrawing benefits, which will have a vastly greater effect.
Libertarianism is another utopian dream...
A dream perhaps, but that doesn't make it utopian and is not the same thing as a fantasy. There is nothing about it that couldn't be put in place right now if there was the will to do so.
... in which every citizen is responsible for his own actions and deeds but everyone isn't like that. We live amongst some greedy, cruel, despicable people who don't care about being responsible or reasonable.
Not quite how it works. Expecting everyone to be responsible is unrealistic and would be a fantasy since it's clearly not going to happen. However, holding everyone responsible for their actions regardless is not the same as thinking they will become responsible, and getting there is simply a matter of making the decision to do it. You accept that some people are going to be irresponsible and in all cases the response is the same: tough shit, you brought it on yourself, and you've no right to expect anyone else to sort it out for you (though they might volunteer help if you ask nicely). Again, we could begin now if there was the will to do so. Among the Lib/Lab/Cons there is not, and I think the same applies to a large proportion of Britons, possibly a democratic majority since most people keep voting for more of the same. Sadly UKIP haven't convinced me they are any different in this regard. I will watch in the hope that I'm completely wrong.
UKIP is not perfect by any means but the alternatives are totally unacceptable to any sensible person.
The question I asked was not whether UKIP is perfect or if the alternatives are worse, but simply whether UKIP is a libertarian party. Unfortunately at present they seem to be just another party but with some more libertarian policies than the competition, and that's just not enough. Even aside from my vow to never again vote simply for the nicest bastard in the room the issue of property rights - the lack of respect for which I feel is ever so slightly communist* - is something I feel I cannot compromise on. As with voting for the least worst option if others are prepared to that's up to them, but I'd warn them to expect disappointment. The smoking ban was a breach of property rights, and while UKIP want to reverse it they're happy to breach property rights in other ways, and on that issue that makes them no better than the big three in my eyes. As long as you're voting for someone who's prepared to give others rights over your property you'll always be subject to the whim of others.
If UKIP are to become truly democratic then the policies will change for the better as time goes on, but that's not up to the likes of Mr Farage, it's up to us to tell our politicians what we think the policies should be and our democracy should evolve.
"Oh No, not democracy again!!!!" ;) Seriously, see above. I can't get excited about something that promises more democracy. More being taxed to pay for things I don't use because the majority demand it, whoopee! More not being allowed to say what I think because the majority consider it offensive, hooray! More not being able to do as I wish with my property even if it doesn't affect anyone else because the majority disapprove strongly enough to assert rights over what I own, hallefuckinglujah! Democracy has never done me any favours - it's just been used by cunts who want to legitimise stealing from me. Check the John Adams quote at the bottom of the left sidebar. Prescient of him given that democracy is doing precisely that right now - either feeding on itself or degenerating into technocracy. I'd much rather have a benevolent dictator who admits he doesn't know what's best for me and instead just guarantees my liberty to muddle through life to the best of my ability, and is always succeeded by someone like minded. Shame there isn't one or I'd be off there like a shot. However, a republic is a decent alternative and it's perfectly possible to put liberty at the centre of it (could also apply to a monarchy, but like benevolent dictators the quality of future monarchs is uncertain). Nobody's given it a try for a couple of hundred years - maybe it's time someone had another go.

Incidentally, I have a non-libertarian reason for not voting for UKIP. I am at least in principle a republican, though it's not a priority, and I'm all for the permanent separation of Church and State. UKIP, I'm disappointed to have seen yesterday, are not only staunch monarchists but also unswerving antidisestablishmentariainists. However, I've always wanted to work antidisestablishmentarianists into a blog post so in gratitude I'll continue supporting them for European elections.** They're unquestionably the best choice there anyway and my reservations about them aren't all that relevant in EU elections.

* Yes, you read that correctly. I did say communist, I did so on purpose, and I chose my words with great care. If I own something and my rights over it are usurped by the state on behalf of "the people", or even by the people directly thanks to rights the state has granted them over me, then I don't see it as being fundamentally different to what the communists got up to except on the scale on which its done. UKIP's manifestos make it clear that they will do this.
** I know, it ought to be hyphenated. Grammar nazi day is tomorrow.
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