EU Copyright Directive Protests

I am hearing there are big protests planned internationally to oppose the EU Copyright Directive. The directive is similar to ACTA which you will recall sparked similar international protests which we covered in a break from our holiday in Amsterdam.

From the Open Rights Group newsletter:

The European Conference of Presidents will vote this Thursday in Brussels on a request to fasttrack the final MEP vote on the EU Copyright Directive to 12 March. If successful, international protests against upload filters planned for 23 March will become obsolete. Stay tuned for ORG’s call to action.

More information about protests is listed at Save the Internet. For some reason, however, there is no planned demo in London. From afar my estimate is that copyfighters are predisposed to support Remain and the feel of the ORG newsletter is that they would really rather not have to go ahead with this right before the Article 50 Brexit deadline.

Some Thoughts on Antisemitism

Antisemitism is periodically in the news as a major problem in society. This time, it is the Labour party, with its leader Jeremy Corbyn, that is at the center of the scandal. From what I have heard, there seem to be indeed some people with antisemitic ideas in the labour party. I find it, however, difficult to believe that Corbyn is a real threat to jews in the UK.

If he were to become PM, he would certainly be a threat to everyone, including jews. I, too, would leave the country if that were to happen. Luckily, he does not seem to have a realistic chance of moving into No.10. That being said, I have not heard any specific threats being voiced against jews in particular by him. I even doubt that he is personally an antisemite. I get the impression that it is more a plot to get rid of him rather than a real scandal of antisemitism.

At worst, he is not willing to give jews the same identity politics privileges that he would grand to other minorities. That would make him a hypocrite. But a hypocritical politician is not particularly unusual. In fact, it seems almost impossible to become a leading politician without being one.

It needs to be said, however, that, given the disastrous history of antisemitism in Europe, jews may be excused to worry a bit too much. After all, they have made the mistake of not being worried enough before, with horrible consequences. It is understandable that they are very sensitive when it comes to antisemitism.

I don’t like identity politics. It should be scraped all together. While it is true that real antisemitism exists, and can be a problem, it seems also true that there is a lot of bad politics being made with it. What is antisemitism? Antisemitism, to me, used to mean the hatred of jews as a collective for being jews. More than that, if it is supposed to be evil, then this negative view of jews needs to be based on clearly false ideas.

This qualification, however, is only necessary in theory. In practice, it is difficult to see how all jews could be bad as a collective. Therefore, claims that all jews are bad are in reality certainly false. That cannot be said about individual jews, of course. But calling out individual bad jews would not be antisemitism. It seems therefore sufficient to define antisemitism as the hatred of jews for being jews.

Antisemites believe that there is something inherently evil about jews. This is often coupled with the believe that there is an active conspiracy of jewry to control parts of society, or even the whole world. An example of a common conspiracy theory is that jews control the almighty banking system. Therefore, and this is the dangerous bit, jews need to be fought back to crush the conspiracy.

These kind of jewish conspiracy theories were mainstream at many times in history. They are still mainstream in a number of regions in the world. What makes them so dangerous is the fact that there is clearly lots of evidence against them. Like a lot of other conspiracy theories, it is based on circular reasoning. Evidence in favor is seen as proof, while any evidence against is ignored. Even worst, evidence to the contrary is often interpreted as a deliberate disinformation campaign. It is turned into evidence of how sophisticated the conspiracy is. That makes it impossible to disproof these theories.

In other words, jews don’t really have a chance of defending themselves against these bogus allegations. They become the victims of false ideas that are out of their control.

This, to me, is antisemitism. And for all the reasons above, it is indeed evil. While it seems unrealistic to expect the world to become completely free of dangerous ideas, fighting them is certainly an important cause. The only way of doing that is with good arguments. And in order to be able to make these arguments we need an open and free debate.

But we don’t have an open debate around antisemitism. The subject seems very stigmatized. In addition to that, it seems to also have been hijacked by some special interest groups. The definition of antisemitism that is being used at the moment appears to be very different from my own. At the centre of the debate is the working definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This definition states:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Superficially, this definition is quite similar to mine. Yes, antisemitism is the hatred of jews for being jews. Although, this definition does not actually say hating jews in general, it just says jews. So it is not clear whether this could also mean hating specific jews.

For clarifications, the IHRA does give a number of examples of what it thinks is antisemitism. While some of them seem perfectly correct, others merit the suspicion that this is not really about clarifying the debate. Let us look at some of the examples. They are not necessarily in the order presented on their website.

“Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective – such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

“Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews”

These are two good examples of real antisemitism. But wait a moment. Why is the second example antisemitism? After all, we might be talking about real, and not fictional, acts. There are two reason why it is indeed antisemitism. Firstly, the logic is not valid. One cannot conclude from the specific to the general. This is called inductive reasoning, and it is a common mistake many people make.

As I already said, it is difficult to see how all jews could possibly be bad. Jewry is not a militarily organized, top down, organization. It is a religion, with very diverse believes and people in it. We are dealing with individual human beings. Humans have a free will to make their own decision. Holding someone responsible for what someone else did is therefore illegitimate. This is an individualistic, liberal view of humans. A true collectivist, however, might disagree with this.

So, yes, this is antisemitism. And it is so within a liberal worldview. The fact that the IHRA is calling out this view is a hopeful sign that this organization has liberal values. Unfortunately, some of the other examples make that conclusion look very questionable. Let us have a look at two examples that, in my view, are not necessarily antisemitism.

“Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.”

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”

In other words, no matter what the government of Israel uses the Holocaust for, it cannot be criticized for it. And, no matter what policies Israel actually adopts, even if it was real national socialism, comparing these policies to the Nazis is a priori wrong. Any such criticism is automatically antisemitism, even if it was factually accurate.

This seems odd. In order to be evil, antisemitism needs to be based on false, unfalsifiable ideas. Let us, for the sake of the argument, assume that there really was a jewish conspiracy to control the world. If that were actually true, than in my view it would be very sensible to have a debate over whether the rest of us might want to do something against that conspiracy. It is only because these conspiracy theories are clearly bogus, and unfalsifiable, that antisemitism is evil.

But is it still antisemitism, if real acts of some real jews are being criticized? If so, than that would turn antisemitism from being evil to being a potentially sensible position to take. Palestinians, for example, have some good reasons to hate at least Israelis. If a foreign, and hostile, army occupies your home, why wouldn’t you be angry? This is not paranoia, or a crazy conspiracy theory. It is a real problem for them. That is not to say that hatred is a good policy adviser, but it is certainly not irrational in this situation.

It is text book identity politics to exempt certain groups of people from being criticized. And it is one of the reasons why it should be abandoned. No matter what certain groups say or do, criticism is deemed to be a priori evil.

As I said earlier, I would go along with this, if we were talking about jews as a collective. Yes, Palestinians have no good reason to hate all jews in the world. They don’t even have a good reason to hate all jewish Israelis. If they did, and many do, then that would be indeed unjustified antisemitism. The real issue I have with these examples is that we are no longer talking about all jews anymore. Instead we are talking about real acts of real groups of jews.

Israel is a real state, with real policies. It does not represent all jews, nor is it essential to be an Israeli to be a jew. Many jews are not Israelis, and many jews are not even zionists. So why would criticizing Israel in any form be the same as the hatred of jews in general? Why equate Israel with Judaism?

By equating jews with Israel, the IHRA has adopted the same faulty, collectivist, and inductive reasoning that it called out in the second example we looked at. If someone hates certain jews, like the Israeli government, for what they really do, then that is the same as hating all jews in general. This conclusion simply does not follow from the premisses, unless one is a collectivist. But if we accept collectivism as true, then blaming all jews for what certain individual jews do is also valid.

The only alternative conclusion is that the IHRA, in its definition, was indeed not exclusively talking about hatred of jews in general, but even just hatred of specific jews. This would be odd. It would mean that jews, even as individuals, cannot legitimately be hated, no matter what they do. That is not really a conclusion that can be taken seriously.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the IHRA has adopted a collectivist mindset in this example. Which begs the question what is it going to be? Are we gong to judge jew hatred from a collectivist or an individualist perspective? Antisemitism is only irrational from an individualistic perspective. Another example gives us an answer of why jews are being equated with Israel.

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

Note that it says jewish people and not individual jews. Again, this is real collectivism. As a libertarian, I cannot make sense of the idea that an involuntary, and very diverse, collective can have self-determination. What does that even mean? None of these artificial collectives, like the Germans, French, English, Italians etc. can be self determined. The idea that they could is dangerous nonsense. It is the major source for the growth of the state. After all, if governments just express the self determined will of the people, than how could anyone object to what they are doing? The people can hardly oppress themselves. I am with Ayn Rand on this, only individuals can be self determined.

It is particularly bizarre to think that self determination could be facilitated by a state. That is not what states are. States are immoral entities. They are unfortunate facts that we have to deal with. The verdict is still out on whether they are necessary evils, but they are definitely evil. Certainly, no one can have a right to something that is evil. According to this IHRA clarification, everyone with a liberal mindset, like myself, who opposes collectivism, and considers states to be evil, is an antisemite.

The idea that jews as a people should be self determined is of course the very core idea of zionism. What this statement therefore does is to declare an opposition to zionism as being antisemitic. That is a real problem. Zionism is not a crazy, unfalsifiable conspiracy theory. It is very much a real political ideology, and movement. It has well known thinkers and leaders. It is also the official ideology behind the current state of Israel. Zionists are not in hiding. If asked, they openly, and often proudly, say that they are indeed zionists.

Declaring the criticism of a political ideology itself to be illegitimate is an unacceptable attempt to censor a political debate. No political ideology should be freed from being criticized. This is particularly bizarre as there are a lot of liberal, and even non-liberal, jews who are also opposed to this collectivist ideology. Meaning, some jews themselves could become, and quite frankly are, antisemites, according to this definition. That is obviously absurd.

But the IHRA is only collectivist when it suits them. As we have seen, if it does not, then they are perfectly capable of being individualists. It all depends on whether collectivism is used to defend or attack jews. The same is true for their views on Israel.

“Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”

So, at first, Israel is portrayed as the collective representation of the will of the jewish people, who have a right to self determination. Opposing this idea itself is antisemitism. But when the perverse logic of that collectivism is consistently applied then that is also antisemitism.

Going through the working definition of the IHRA, one can only conclude that it is an ill conceived, incoherent drivel. It is not designed to clarify what antisemitism is, but seems more suitable to confuse the debate. Sometimes, seeing jews as a collective is wrong, and at other times not seeing them as a collective is also wrong. No matter what the argument is, as long as it is critical of some jews somewhere, it could, according to this definition, be called antisemitism.

If clarifying antisemitism was the goal, the IHRA could have just left it at, “antisemitism is hatred of jews as a collective”. That would have been sufficient and clear. The problem is that this would not have included criticism of zionism. Their clarifications do the opposite of clarifying. They confuse, and water down the definition to the point that almost any criticism of jews, and especially zionism, can be called antisemitic, if convenient.

Confusing the debate is likely to be the real point of this definition. It is a text book bullying tactic of identity politics. Make people insecure of what is and what is not allowed to say, and they will shut up. Why take the risk of being targeted by this mob? And despite the fact that the IHRA says that there can be legitimate criticism of Israel, it clearly has a problem with debating zionism.

Be a zionist or be an antisemite. To that I say, don’t push me, because I won’t pick zionism. Neither will a lot of other people. It is a dangerous strategy to declare liberal worldviews to be antisemitic. In the long run, this will backfire big time, and we are already seeing this happening. To try this anyway seems to reveal an insecurity of not being able to defend zionism in an open debate, within a largely liberally minded society. And zionists should be insecure, because their nationalist ideology certainly is not liberal.

The Hidden Damage of Brexit

On the 29. March, the UK is suppose to exit from the EU. That day is not very far away, and yet it is still not clear how exactly this exit is going to happen. Possibilities range from a clean, no deal break, to no Brexit at all, and everything in between. As I argued in my last piece, I expect there to be a very soft Brexit. Either the UK or the EU is going to give in to a compromise at the last minute. But there is a possibility that either side is so afraid to make concessions that we are going to get a clean break.

A lot of people seem to be very frightened by that possibility. We are being bombarded with horror scenarios in case the UK will “crash out” of the Union. The most pessimistic ones are even predicting an outright breakdown of the economy, with shortages in important products like food and medicine. But how much is there really to these negative predictions? Are we dealing with genuine concerns, or is this a deliberate “project fear”?

Of course, governments can cause a lot of damage to the economy, no question. In fact, most of what governments do is damaging. But if economic history has taught us anything, it is that market are robust systems. We are always getting the combined wisdom and luck of all participants. It takes a hell of a lot of interventions to visibly disrupt markets.

A majority of the damage caused by governments is not directly visible. Yes, regulations and taxes are damaging the economy, but most of the damage comes in the form of misallocating resources.

This misallocation has two effects. On the one hand it causes an artificial boom in certain industries. If, for example, we are going to get more tariffs then this will cause a boom in people dealing with the bureaucracy of these tariffs. This is the most visible side to the intervention. Usually, most people do not perceive this to be a problem. After all, what they see is that jobs are being created. What could be wrong with that?

What is wrong with that is that the resources being used to create these jobs are not available for the real needs they where suppose to satisfy. This is the damage side of the regulation. Unfortunately, this damage side is not very visible at all. We do not easily see the opportunity costs that are lost from a government intervention. The great 19. century economist Frédéric Bastiat already described this phenomenon in his famous article “That which is seen, and that which is not seen”.

Libertarians know this phenomenon all too well. The fact that the damage is not easily visible is the main reason why it is so difficult to argue against government interventions. Theoretical arguments like this are not very persuasive. At the very least, they are less persuasive than to argue that visible jobs are being created. Arguing against job creation appears to be cruel. In addition to that, the interventionist argument is also being supported by a number of economists at Universities. These academics think they are very smart by showing the visible side in statistics to “proof” that government interventions work. In reality they are clueless.

Strangely enough, it is a lot of the usual interventionists who are now hysterically pointing out the destructiveness of government interventions. Be that as it may, there can be no doubt that Brexit has and will cause economic damage. Tariffs and access barriers are a big disruption to the free flow of markets. If Brexit is going to be a long term economic success, the UK government will have to use it to abolish more barriers and regulations than Brexit creates. Given how protectionist the EU is, this, in principle, should be easily doable. But we are talking about governments here. Nothing is easily done with governments.

In the short term however, there is no way around Brexit causing some economic disruption. In fact, we have already seen quite huge damages since the 2016 vote. The value of the Pound fell by over 15%! That is a hell of a move for a major currency. It means every asset valued in Pounds has lost at least 15% of its value, an enormous damage for the UK.

In addition to that, since the referendum, all international businesses with activities in the EU had to reallocate resources to plan for the exit. And since May’s government was unable to lay out a clear plan for its Brexit strategy from the beginning, or really at all, businesses had to plan with an additional amount of uncertainty. Nothing is more destructive than uncertainty for a business. Consequently, this too has added a lot of unnecessary damage.

How much of that damage was visible though? Sure for people who buy a lot overseas or run an international business, it has been very visible. This however, is a minority of people. The average person in the street probably has not noticed much of it. That does not mean they were not effected, it just means they did not notice.

Here is where the no deal horror scenarios get it completely wrong. They are not wrong that Brexit has and will cause damage. At least in the short term, it will! But where there are wrong is that this damage will be very visible to most people. In fact, we have probably already seen most of the damage. Sure, in the last 2 ½ years, businesses had to put resources into planning the exit. This damage, however, is probably mostly done by now. Going forward, we are unlikely to see anything close to the disruption we saw in 2016.

I am always amazed how good markets are to solve problems. Like many libertarians, I have expected the economy of most western countries to collapse under the burden of welfare states and central banking by now. It has not happened. I still think it is going to eventually, but I have clearly totally underestimated the ability of markets so solve problems. Somehow, entrepreneurs always seem to find new ways to optimize wealth creations and get around regulations.

The fact, for example, that we still have car manufacturers, able to produce cars profitably, is nothing short of a miracle. This industry has been bombarded with a constant tsunami of new regulations, and yet they have not drowned in it.

That is not to say that governments are incapable of breaking the economy. Markets are not indestructible. We have seen many governments succeeding in causing an almost total collapse. The most resent example is Venezuela. Chávez declared an outright war on the market. Nevertheless, it took the openly socialist government in Caracas a number of years before the economy finally completely broke.

A lot of damage has to accumulate for it to become clearly visible. And by the time that happens, the connection between interventionism and the decline in wealth is not that obvious anymore. Governments often have no problems blaming the damage on the market rather than their own doings.

That is why many libertarians almost long for a collapse of the system. Not because they are cruel and want to see people suffer. But only if the damage becomes visible enough, we will be able to win the argument against interventionism. At that point we could finally move to a better system.

Realistically, however, even if we get to that point, we will only see the state being moved back just enough to make the damage less visible. Once the damage is reduced enough, interventionism continues to triumphs again.

The same will be true for Brexit. Don’t expect there to be too much visual disruptions of a no deal. I know, the remain crowd longs for big Lorry queue and empty supermarket shelves. Not because they are cruel, but because they want to be proven right. But even though, at least in the short term, they are right, they are not going to be visibly proven right.

For that to happen, governments would need to decide that they want disruption. They would need to actively decide to control every Lorry, and take their time doing it. But that is unlikely to happen, given that this would cause enormous damage to both sides. The political pressure to not do that is significant, and most likely bigger than the gain from visible disruptions.

But even if it happened, that would just cause lorry queues. There is almost no chance of product shortages in the UK. While there might be a very small possibility that the EU will decide to actively disrupt the flow of goods, there is not much incentive on the UK side to do that when it comes to imports. The UK government has a strong interest to make Brexit look like a success. So they are going to let the goods in, unchecked if necessary. Many Tories have already said that they would take unilateral measures to ease import disruptions.

The only imports that No.10 seems hell bound to disrupt is immigration. Theresa May has declared that she will do everything to stop foreigners from coming in large numbers. And unfortunately, she will probably succeed. Meaning, that particular disruption is mostly still ahead of us. But again, it won’t be that visible for most people. Brexit is only as good as the government that does it. And the UK government is pretty terrible at the moment.

Explaining The Democratic Brexit Chaos

The last 2 ½ years, since the UK decided to leave the EU, have been quite a political journey. Not a good one, but an interesting one. Much can be learned about politics observing this spectacle. As a libertarian, I know that politics is useless when it comes to solving problems. I also understand that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to reduce the size of the state.

States are like gigantic machines that keep on moving into one direction, no matter what lies in their path. Most of the time, the only thing that can keep them from growing is when they reach the point where their sizes suffocates the ability of society to function. Not that there is an inherent moral limit to stop growing at that point. But if society cannot function, it also cannot produce enough resources to fuel the machine. And so, like any machine running out of fuel, it has no choice but to slow down.

From a libertarian point of view, Brexit is an opportunity to shrink the size of one state, the EU, before it starts to suffocate society. But even shrinking the size of a state like the EU, which has no army, no police and no taxing power, turns out to be very very difficult indeed. Even just leaving seems difficult.

One reason for that is that not everyone who wants to leave the EU is motivated by liberalism. It has long been clear that there are two very different groups of Brexiteers. One group wants to get rid of the control of Brussels and replace it with nothing. They want open borders for goods and people. The other wants to gain back control from Brussels and give that control to Westminster. And we need to be honest about this, the latter group is far bigger than the former.

What we have seen in the last two years is a demonstration that democracy is not in itself freedom. The process of politics remains to be a civil war between different groups of interest. The only accomplishment of democracy, and why it might be worth having, is that this war stays largely cold rather than hot. The loosing party is encouraged to accept their defeat and continue fighting peacefully in the next election.

Many people do not perceive the democratic process to be a war. I bet that has changed since the referendum. This has caught many by surprise. As far as I can tell, there are two reason why the condition of a cold war has become more apparent. The most obvious one is that the change proposed is larger than usual. It is so large that the loosing site will not be able to simply reverse the decision in the next election. But the prospect of another battle in the imminent future is a major motivation to convince the losers to keep the war cold and civilized.

The other reason which makes this war messy is that it is complicated. The two war parties, remain and leave, are roughly the same size. In addition to that, the two camps are split on major issues themselves. As far as I can tell, there are at least five different interest groups in this battle.

Firstly there is the camp of liberal Brexiteers. Their main interest is to just get out of the EU. Their motivation is big picture politics. The EU needs to be stopped before it really starts to suffocate everyone. Since this is all about the long term future, this group is not too concerned with the short term disruptions the exit might cause. In the long run, leaving will be better for everyone. I am personally, very much in this group.

Secondly, there is the Brexit camp that likes protectionism. They want a strong state, as long as they see themselves in control of it. A lot of them have the strongest opposition to the most liberal aspect of the EU, like free movement. But they are mostly interested in specific issues, and not so much in the big picture. A lot of them are perfectly willing to make compromises with the EU, as long as their issue of interest is fixed.

Then there is the group of EU enthusiasts. Ironically, this third group is probably the biggest one. There are a few libertarians in this group, who mainly like the EU for its enforcement of free movement and opposition to nationalism. The waste majority of people, however, like the EU precisely because it is a giant state. They love the state.

They understand full well that we live in a world of global markets. Shutting oneself off from these markets will have bad consequences. But allowing these markets without global governments will weaken the state very much. Producers and taxpayers can move flexibly. They will play those little nation states against each other like a fiddle. Consequently, the ability to do politics will be weakened significantly. Forget about high taxes and welfare expenditure. Their argument for the EU is essentially mine against it.

Ironically Theresa May, and most of the Tory party, is in this third group. May in particular really loves a powerful government, the bigger the better. She clearly believes that less state control equals more chaos, and negotiates with the EU in that spirit.

The fourth group is a group of remainers around the labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Just like the third group, this group loves the state. But unlike them, Corbyn does not understand the huge benefits of global markets. He things he can beat globalism by organizing the national economy from the top.

In other words, this group is really very much like group two. However, for political reasons, it pretends to be in group three. Corbyn very much wants to get out of the EU. But since he is in the opposition, he cannot say that openly. His interest, therefore, is to not disrupt the Brexit process to the degree that Brexit won’t happen. At the same time, he has an interest in making the government look as incompetent as possible, in order to provoke another general election.

Lastly, there is a very bizarre fifth group. It is small but significant. It is an interest group in Northern Ireland. They are hardcore UK nationalists, but ironically, that does not make them Brexiteers but strong supporters of remain. I am sure I will not have to explain the details of this, as my readers will know. Despite its size, this is really the most disruptive group. There truly is no logical way, how the UK can genuinely leave the EU without a border in northern Ireland. The only possible solution is an officially existing border which is practically not enforced, and therefore stay invisible.

So, to sum up, we have a battle in which the loser cannot hope for a second chance in the near future; we have five different major interest groups with very different agendas, neither of which has a majority; and on top of that we have an EU enthusiast in charge of Brexit and a Brexiteer in charge of opposing the process. What could possible go wrong?

Looking at the situation, the most reasanable outcome is a giant compromise. Every group will have to give a little and take a little. If we assume a fair compromise, we can expect the reasult to be 20% liked and 80% hated by each group. In reality, it won’t be a completely fair compromise. But by and large, theoretically, the most likely outcome of this is a compromise that almost no one likes. And it looks very much like that is exactly what we are going to get. So the political model described above seems to represent reality well.

That is not to say that Theresa May did a good job. There certainly could have been a better deal with a more competent negotiator. But then, the fact that we have such a bad negotiator also is an outcome of the political process. That means it is not entirely accidental either. In a democracy, a leader needs to be elected. And in this process, all the different interests that I described above come into play. So instead of expecting the leadership to be won by some idealistic Brexiteer, we should expect someone to win who resembles a ruthless pragmatic compromise that no one likes. Which is what Theresa May pretty much is.

Still, the analysis above is not entirely accurate. With the current deal on the table, the liberal Brexiteers don’t really get 20%, they get pretty much nothing. The deal essentially agrees on the worst protectionism of both worlds. Free movement, the best and most liberal thing about the EU, will be ended and all the other regulations will stay.

Why did the liberal voice turn out to be excluded from current proposals? One possibility is that they really got unlucky. That is possible, but not likely.

Another possibility is that the system is rigged against liberalism. The problem with achieving liberal politics is, that it fundamentally opposes all other interest groups together. Liberalism is idealistic and therefore not well suited for compromises. Every compromise feels like a total defeat. In this particular battle, the liberal Brexiteers have portrayed everything but an essentially no deal departure as a betrayal of Brexit. But in a battle where you can realistically hope for 20%, asking for all or nothing will most likely get you nothing. Realistically, we would need to get lucky to get no deal.

There is, however, another possibility. Maybe I am simply fooling myself to believe that the liberal Brexiteers are a significantly large group in all of this. Maybe there are really only four and not five groups, all of which are like protectionism in some form.

The political process within states can neither solve problems, nor will it likely lead to a serious reformation of the status quo. Unless the state has reach the point where it starts to suffocate society, and the status quo itself is in a crises, Leviathan usually continues to grow. The best outcome, libertarian Brexiteers like myself can hope for is that by some giant accident, the different groups hate each other so much that they don’t end up agreeing on anything, and we get no deal by default.

Hope springs eternal. It is not really that realistic, because the fact that a no deal needs to be prevented is the one thing that all of the other parties can agree on. That means the more likely outcome from such a chaos is that there won’t be much of an exit from the EU at all. The only question with such an outcome will be, whether it will keep the civil war cold. In this country, however, it probably will.

Brexit is often described as one of the biggest democratic events in the history of the UK. In an ideal democracy, we would get the rule of the average opinion. What else could the will of the people be than that?

The problem wth averages is that they can be completely detached from reality. The average woman in England has 1.8 children. I, however, have never met one single woman that actually has 1.8 children, how could she? The statistical average for every woman does not actually describe a single real world woman.

If democracy is supposed to represent the average opinion of the people, in other words, the will of the people, than it is possible that the policy resulting from this, while it describes the will of all people, does not describe the will of any single real human being part of that same people. I don’t think that a lot of democracy advocates understand this simple truth. They clearly assume that the will of the people needs to satisfy most people.

The latter, however, is only the case if society is largely in agreement on issues. The more opinions there are, the more likely democracy will deliver a result that no one likes. Alternatively, the system will simply end up paralyzed. And as I have described above, when it comes to Brexit, opinions differ hugely. So democracy probably really did win, and was not betrayed, when it comes to Brexit. It is just foolish expect democracy to produce good outcomes. In reality, democracy really is that messy. It is the wrong system.

The principle of the state is that one size always has to fit all. For this to work, at least most people need to roughly have the same size. The more sizes differ, the more likely it is that the average size, that is supposed to fit all, fits no one. That is why, state advocates always end up to be some kind of egalitarians. Only then, at least the illusion can be kept up that the whole thing actually works.

But in reality, people are not equal. They differ in many ways, and they certainly often do not agree with each other. The only peaceful and harmonious solution in that kind of reality is liberty. Instead of asking how can we find a size that fits all, we need to instead ask, how can we minimize the rules that need to be enforced on everyone. That would be the only universal size we need to find. Of course there need to be rules to make society function. But these rules should be at the absolute minimum possible. In other words, we should have a maximum of interpersonal liberty. That way, everyone can wear their own size.

It is, however, naive to expect liberty as an outcome from the political process within the state. By promising that the war will be cold and civilized, the state has legitimizes the process of everyone fighting against each other. And since it is very much a war, one cannot expect this process to stay harmonious and peaceful forever. Eventually, the conflicts of interest will become so large that people will definitely hate and eventually most likly even fight each other. For that not to happen, we should really hate the game and not the players. And to be clear, the game is not Brexit. Brexit is just a battle within the game. The actual game is the monopoly that is the state.

Brexit: What is going on?

On the eve of the commons vote that Theresa May has now tried to defer, we gathered to work what is going on, what we want and what is happening next.

The panel included:

Christian Michel – Philosophy and Economics Meetup Organiser
Lucy Harris – Leavers of Britain
Catherine McBride – Senior Economist, IEA Trade and Competition Unit

In their opening statements the panellists gave their point of view. I started by asking Christian why “people” wanted to be part of the EU in the first place?

Christian does not know why “people” want to Remain, but knows why he wants to Remain. This is because he feels that the EU destroys respect for the concept of a state. There is no love for the EU in the same way that there is love for nation states. States that are remote and undemocratic lack moral authority and the end result, he says, will be that the EU exerts less authority than would be wielded nationally.

Catherine, was working in Australia as the EU developed from the EEC into the EU. For her, the institution was an “OPEC for developed nations”. In particular this is what it was presented as in Australia, making its evolution into a sovereign entity with broad and deep powers a bit of a surprise. Such was also the experience of people here, she felt. Catherine also feels that had the EU stuck to the 9 first countries (Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, West Germany, Denmark, Ireland and the UK) it might have worked out better. However the UK in particular was the “oddball” and had different economic needs and alignments, tending to develop ahead of the EU nations thanks to US influence. This meant the UK was incompatible from the the beginning.

Lucy, laments the rapid “twitter feed” progression of events in the current climate. Lucy felt that what the country needed now was a new leader from the Leave side who would be able to be braver and more bold than Theresa May and deliver the result of the vote. This deal, she says, is not Brexit and not the will of the people because it leaves us in the Customs Union. She says the Brexit we need must include “no connection” with the ECJ, freedom of movement, the customs union or single market. The reasons for Brexit are not especially tied to immigration and is not a racist phenomenon.

The panel went on to discuss, in some depth, the nature of democracy and the attitude of the Remain camp toward Brexit voters, and the likely direction of events.

 

Brexit looking shaky

So, in case you had missed it, a Brexit deal is now on the table. It introduces a transition phase while the new relationship is being discussed and keeps us in the Customs Union (and much else besides) while that process continues. After 2 years of negotiating an exit it crucially fails to assure Britain that a meaningful exit is possible at all. Since the passage of the Lisbon treaty there has been the Article 50 get out clause, but bizarrely, no such mechanism to leave is contained in the withdrawal agreement.

This is a ludicrous version of Brexit and cannot really be given the name. It has been described as capitulation, giving Britain the status of a vassal state. Regardless of your views on Brexit, or participation in politics generally, the passage of this agreement would be a disaster.

The question must now be asked: what should be done?

If the choice on the table is between Remain and this deal, then the only sensible decision is to Remain. Exit on WTO terms seems to be an incredibly unpopular option at present, and seems even likely to pass the necessary Commons vote. I greatly prefer No Deal to the present option, but the task of campaigning for it seems quixotic. It is perhaps made possible by the fact it is presently the default in law, but there are attempts underway to change that fact also.

There does seem to be some momentum behind the idea of creating an alternative deal, either by making small but important changes to this deal, or invoking the Norway option (EFTA / EEA membership). There are even a few people in the cabinet working on a fix.

The conventional wisdom is that there is no time for a second referendum, but there does seem to be a degree if political will in favour it. Should libertarians aim to begin influencing that process?

Perhaps it is better, since we are ourselves divided, to avoid taking a corporate libertarian view on the matter. This might be reasonable, but a concern is that this means sitting out one of the largest political controversies of our time.