George, try harder

Alerted by the venerable Dr Gabb, I discover George Monbiot’s catty attack on libertarianism, published (where else?) in the Graun. It begins:

“Freedom: who could object? Yet this word is now used to justify a thousand forms of exploitation … the word excuses every assault on the lives of the poor, every form of inequality and intrusion to which the 1% subject us. How did libertarianism, once a noble impulse, become synonymous with injustice?”

Libertarianism, he tells us, was once a ‘noble impulse’. Not a political philosophy, refined out of the ideas which enlightened Western civilisation from the time of the Greek city states onwards, forged through reflection and debate, but rather, for Monbiot, a knee jerk, albeit a noble one, an altruistic spasm, but now it has become synonymous with injustice and roguery for Monbiot and gang, as dread liberty has always been hated and feared by some. He continues:

“Rightwing libertarianism recognises few legitimate constraints on the power to act, regardless of the impact on the lives of others.”

Now Monbiot is refining his attack. Libertarian may be too broad. He must introduce the qualification ‘rightwing’, to give the target the required designation as ‘other’, and to allow his readers to relax, safe in the knowledge that he’s talking about someone else.

What does he even mean by ‘few legitimate constraints’? As any libertarian could have informed him, the very first principle of the creed is non-aggression; live and let live. Liberty means that you have a right to do as you please with your own life, your own self and your own property, COMMA, provided, of course, you don’t harm anyone else or their property.

The reason for the part after the comma is to make it that little bit more difficult for the meaning to be misunderstood or misrepresented. It should go without saying that you are not free to harm other people.

On top of this basic principle, libertarians, like most people, understand there are additional constraints of one kind and another, such as those dictated by the laws of physics and economics, moral principle and good sense, but leaving all others aside, and sticking only with the non-aggression axiom set forth above, it represents a considerable constraint.

After name-checking the IEA, ASI and TPA he states:

“Their concept of freedom looks to me like nothing but a justification for greed. So why have we been been so slow to challenge this concept of liberty?”

Ignoring the canard of greed, it is difficult to grasp how Monbiot has arrived at the view that no one have taken the trouble to challenge the concept of liberty, as understood by those groups he mentions. Did he sleep through the 20th Century? If reality were allowed to intrude, the question would read:

how have we failed to extirpate the last remnants of economic liberalism?

Poor Georgie. The statue of Cobden still stands mocking him!

And on we go into the utter tedium of Isaiah Berlin and his tiresome ‘positive and negative liberties’. I will be harsh. I have not read the man. He may have heen a thoroughly good chap, he may have stood his round and lit up a room with his presence, but his ‘positive and negative liberty’ concept is wrong from the very naming, misleading and unenlightening. We are under no obligation to doff our cap in his direction. The man has furnished intellectual weapons against liberty, whatever his intentions. As Murray Rothbard explains:

Berlin’s fundamental flaw was his failure to define negative liberty as the absence of physical interference with an individual’s person and property, with his just property rights broadly defined. Failing to hit on this definition, Berlin fell into confusion, and ended by virtually abandoning the very negative liberty he had tried to establish and to fall, willy-nilly, into the “positive liberty” camp.

Back to Monbiot:

“As Berlin noted: “No man’s activity is so completely private as never to obstruct the lives of others in any way. ‘Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows’.”

Pikes? Minnows? We are dealing with human society, not pond life. Freedom means nothing to the pike or the minnow. Libertarians do not claim the right to practice cannibalism. As the PM would say: ‘I refer the honorable gentlemen to the statement I gave moments ago’, as the non-aggression axiom deals with the matter.

But let us consider the first part of the statement, that we all ‘obstruct’ the lives of others in our daily lives. Monbiot continues by way of a poem to give an example of the kind of obstruction he means. It concerns a landlord cutting down a tree, that his tenant took pleasure in.

“The landlord was exercising his freedom to cut the tree down. In doing so, he was intruding on [the tenant] Clare’s freedom to delight in the tree, whose existence enhanced his life… But rightwing libertarians do not recognise this conflict. They speak, like Clare’s landlord, as if the same freedom affects everybody in the same way. They assert their freedom to pollute, exploit, even – among the gun nuts – to kill, as if these were fundamental human rights. “

Certainly libertarians do not recognise any conflict between the freedom of the landlord and that of the tenant in this case, because the tree belongs to the landlord, and this means he can do as he pleases with it. We can recognise that the tenant may be saddened by the loss of the tree, but this is immaterial. The matter is resolved on the basis of property rights, unless the tenant can peacefully persuade the landlord otherwise. But by this stage, Monbiot is losing all sense and coherence, as evidence in his claim that libertarians claim the right to kill. Really, George? I’m aware we call for drugs to be legalised, but manslaughter too?

Argumentum Ad Arborum

Monbiot tells the parable of the tree-loving tenant and the mean old landlord. He talks of the tenant’s pleasure in the tree’s existence as a freedom, but it cannot be described as such under any definition used thus far.

This story cries out to be counter-couped with absurd parallel situations, of other things the tenant takes pleasure in, such as the landlord’s wife sunbathing in a bikini.– who knows? Maybe the tenant was climbing the tree to get a better look!

It’s hard to see how far he’d take the argument on principle. Such as, what if the tenant cut down the tree? Would George refute that the landlord had a claim of damages against the tenant? Surely not. What is that claim based on, if not the ownership of the tree? Monbiot’s attack here is not against libertarian theory, but simple common law, the means of settling disputes between individuals. His real message is to extoll the modern power of the state to order a man not to cut down his own tree.

Who is Monbiot writing for? Does he really think that libertarians believe we have the freedom to go round raping, looting and destroying with gay abandon? If not, does he instead think that it has never occurred to us to consider, when advocating liberty for all, that some people may wish to do harm to others? Is he really this ignorant of libertarianism, or is it more the case that he is writing for people who themselves are ignorant of libertarianism?

Finally (thank God) comes Monbiot’s piece de resistance, the apparent failure of Claire Fox, of the BBC’s ‘Moral Maze’, to furnish a straightforward answer to his straightforward question about whether a factory is ‘free to pollute’? I have not heard the dialogue, but clearly the answer is; no, the factory is not free to pollute the property of other people.

But, what good is such an answer to Monbiot, given his seeming contempt for property rights? What good is it to explain to him that it was the state, in the form of the courts during the 19th century which chose to repudiate property rights in cases regarding this very issue of pollution? It was his beloved, godlike state, which cast aside individual liberty and property in the interests of the purported common good.

Rejecting individual liberty, misunderstanding the inherent limitations on action which no libertarian denies, Monbiot throws himself down at the altar of the state, deluding himself that the state will protect him from these wicked creatures, Man.

Who does he think controls, directs and administers this mysterious entity, if not individuals? Do they somehow lose their natural fallibility once brought together, and given power, uniforms and weaponry? Does he believe the Soviet Union to have been free from pollution, given that it was spared the scourge of libertarian individualism?

Monbiot misses. Rather than play to the tribal gallery, he could have challenged these rightwing ogres of his on libertarian grounds. By exposing, if it were possible, the contradiction between their political stance and the principles they claim to hold, he may even have won over a few to seeing his point of view, after all, I agree with him about the lead-smelting plant. The rest is very largely nonsense.

31 Comments

  1. One mistake to avoid in counting stuff like this Monbiot thing is to overstress how far we are from free enterprise. The present state of affiars IS very far from free enterprise – we have a credit bubble financial system (which may well destroy us) and a Welfare State that has led to government spending (in many nations) being around half the entire economy – an utterly unsustainable burden.

    However, to claim (as some people do) that there would be no “big business” if it were not government support for banking, or government road and rail projects (if banking was simply about lending out real savings – and road and rail system were built matters only for private enterprise) or that “big business” is somehow a violator of freedom, simply by virtue of being big, is false.

    Certainly being a libertarian does NOT mean defending the status que – other than as better than still more statism (such as Cuba, North Korea, Belarus and so on), but it DOES mean defending the right of some people to be richer (vastly richer) than other people, and the right of some business enterprises to be bigger (vastly bigger) than other business enterprises.

    Even getting rid of the concept of limited libility (and this concept is NOT anti libertarian, not if it is openly stated and voluntarily agreed to, indeed it is the basis of such concepts as churches and clubs as well trading companies) would not get rid of this. Even without limited liability (and without credit bubble finance and without government road and rail schemes) some people would be vastly richer (either by their own efforts or by inheriance – or simply by luck) than other people, and some business enterprises would be vastly bigger than other business enterprises.

    Again the status que (government at about half the economy – and financial system that is one vast credit bubble) can not be defended by a liberatian. Other than as less bad than full collectivism.

    However, if someone is offended by inequalities of income and wealth (for their own sake – not just ones created by the monetary expansion of the present, demented, credit bubble financial system) or is offended by big business (simply because a business is big) then libertarianism is not a political philiosophy for that person.

    If one hates people being rich, hates any “big business”, believes in the labour theory of value, hates landed estates, and once money and lending to be even MORE of a credit bubble than it already is….. “low interest rates”, “cheap money” and the rest of the fallices…..

    Then the place for such a person is with the Red Flag (Marxist) and Black Flag (Communal Anarchist) folk of the “Occupy” movement (and their Green Flag, Islamist Social Justice friends in the Middle East) – NOT in libertarian ranks.

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  2. By the way…..

    Your reply to Monbiot(on pollution and so on) is very good.

    And, unlike my comment above, does not contain typos.

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  3. Paul,

    I don’t disagree with anything you say there (and thanks for the compliment on my spelling!)

    We’re always in a tricky position, because we must defend capitalism against its overt enemies, the left, but also we must struggle for true free market capitalism against those on the right who claim to support it, but go along with all manner of interventions that hamper the functioning of the market, besides often supporting authoritarianism and state power in other aspects of life.

    It’s easy to attack the left, shooting fish in a barrel really, but I believe that libertarians must reach out to the middling sort, who consider themselves liberal in social matters, but just don’t grasp the economic side of liberalism. For that reason, it is good, I think, to put some clear blue water between ourselves and the rightwing, and to lay stress on the differences between libertarians and rightwingers, whenever they arise. We must confront egalitarian, leftist ideas, whilst explaining that many of the excesses the left opposes are caused by the distortions of state interference in the market – something of a juggling act, no doubt.

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    1. Actually this is not that difficult a position.

      After all one can simply say “a country where country where government spending makes up almost half the economy, and where the finacial system is a vast (government created and supported) credit bubble – can hardly be called free enterprise or libertarian”.

      This is not like the United States in the 1920s (which looked limited government, free enterprise – but, because of such things as the antics of Ben Strong of the New York Federal Reserve, really was not). Modern Britain (and modern America) do not even look like limited government free enterprise places – they are not even close.

      For example, in the United States the vast majority of mortgages are owned (in one way or another) by the government. And modern statutes are often hundreds of pages long (and yet still give vast powers to administrators to make up new regulations – in ways that were exlicitly ruled against by the Supreme Court as recently as the 1930s) – and not even read by the Senators and Congressmen who vote for them.

      One simply needs to tell the trugh and it becomes OBVIOUS that countries like Britain and the United States are (whilst not socialist like North Korea and so on) are not free enterprise places.

      However, one must attack ONLY what should be attacked – the vast level of government spending (again – it is almost half the entire economy) and regulations (how many hundreds of thousands of pages of regulations are there in there in the United States? – so much for “deregulation”), and the credit bubble finanical system – with its fatal absurdities of “cheap money” and “low interest rates”.

      What one must NOT do is attack “big business” simply for being big, or attack “the rich” simply for being rich.

      I repeat….

      Even if there was no credit bubble financial system (even if banks just lent out real savings and nothing more) and even if government spending and taxation were low (perhaps the low point in this country was around 1870 – as a percentage of the economy one is then talking about total government spending, national and local, at less than 10% of the economy), some enterprises would still be vastly bigger than other enterprises, and some INDIVIDUALS would still be vastly richer than other individuals.

      And there is NOTHING WRONG IN THIS.

      It is NOT a violation of the nonaggression principle. It is NOT an injustice.

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  4. Paul

    Most libertarians have no problem with large corporations providing they operate in free markets. However modern capitalism tends towards monopoly and oligopoly in many areas of economic activity with economies of scale favouring amalgamation and government regulation raising barriers to entry.

    Multinational corporate tyrants are as dangerous as those produced by the state (maybe more so)and many libertarians are attracted to a much more localist and mutualist model than the one you represent.

    Libertarianism is a broad church combining free market economics with social liberalism and both anarcho-syndicalists and monetarist economists should be free to self-define as libertarian if they wish.

    Of course every individual will have their litmus tests to apply. Are you, for example, in favour of the decriminalisation of all drugs and unrestricted immigration?

    That’s one of mine!!

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    1. I do not like the term “modern capitalism” or even “capitalism” as these terms were invented by socialists – for use as smear terms.

      You say “most libertarians have no problem with large corporations providing they operate in free markets” actually that should be “libertarians have no problem with….” the word “most” implies that someone can be a libertarian who DOES have a problem with this.

      Nor is even limited liability (the practice of churches and clubs and so on for thousands of years) the issue. I know that because I have tested the “left libertarians” by asking them what about an INDIVIDUAL who owned a large landed estate or great industrial enterprise.

      They always have an EXCUSE for wishing to destroy such people (sometimes they will even play games such as “if you trace this land back to the Norman Conquest….. and if you mention the few estates that were not confiscated at the time of the Normal Conquest they have a excuse for wishing to take this land also).

      Henry Ford? His cars ran on GOVERNMENT ROADS (so it would be O.K. to take his factories and kill him if he resisted), this “Kevin Carsonism” (for want of a better term) is not “left libertianism” because it is not libertarianism at all. Such folk are no more libertarians than Lenin or Hitler were.

      “Multinational corporate tyrants are as dangerious as those produced by the state (maybe more so)”.

      What is that line even supposed to mean?

      I am supposed to believe that Jon Huntsman (and other people who create and build up vast manufacturing enterprises) are somehow evil? Indded “maybe more so” than REAL tyrants?

      A “tyrant” is someone who has a army and uses it to slaughter the innocent.

      “Mutualism” – there is no bar to coperatives and other such RIGHT NOW (nor has there even been).

      So when someone tells me they want to create a coop (or even live in a commune – religious or secular) my reply is very simple.

      DO SO – NO ONE IS STOPPING YOU, GO RIGHT AHEAD.

      In practice such things do not tend to work (for example communal living was opted for by, at most, 5% of the Jewish population in Israel at any one time, and in the case of Israel such communes were greatly subsidized, and the communes and so on are actually becomming less and less communal now).

      However, YES if it does not violate the nonaggression principle go right ahead.

      But if someone says “I need the land (and other resources) of these individuals or private companies to make my dream work so I am going to TAKE it….”

      Then it is time not to say “they are libertarians – but of another point of view” NO – it is time to get out a rope and make a noose.

      Take the example of the Robert Owen (at least he had the honesty to call himself a socialist) inspired commune near where Dallas now stands in Texas.

      This commune failed (they tend to) – and some of the people there moved to the new town of Dallas.

      Let us say that instead of arriving peacefully they had, instead, said “we need more stuff to make our community work, so we are going to take it from you – after all there were once indians on this land so you did not JUSTLY ACQUIRE your property, not if we trace things back far enough, so we have a right to take this stuff and kill you if you resist…”

      Libertarians of another point of view?

      Or CONG?

      By the way……

      I take a Victorian view of drugs and immigration.

      Accept a take a harder line.

      If a person was dying because of drugs, or because they were an immigant from some far off place and no one wanted them (the Victorians, of course, had no real “drugs policy” or “immigration policy”) Victorian local government (the elected Poor Law Guardians in England and Wales under the pre Victorian Act of 1835 – before 1835 the tax financed aid was actually more generious) would take them to a “Workhouse” were they would recieve basic care (both food and medical care – of a basic kind).

      I see no reason why the taxpayers should be FORCED to provide aid to such people (after all, for example, till 1845 there was no legal right to aid in most of Scotland, including in large cities such as Glasgow – the Act of 1845 was very much against the “spirit of the voluntarism” of the Rev. Thomas Chalmers and others) “But Paul then no one would come to Britain – if the immigrants got NOTHING AT ALL”.

      I do not see that as a problem.

      Paul.

      P.S. Before someone points it out…. I do know that even after the Act of 1835 (which got rid of vast wage subsidy schemes and other things that were driving rate payers to bankruptcy) “out relief” (making payments to people in their own homes) was twice as much used as “in relief” (taking people to the Workhouse), but the “threat” of the Workhouse was the Act of 1835 was about (even if only a third of the people who came before the locally elected Poor Law Guardians of an area were actually sent to one).

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  5. Sorry for getting all Germanic – going into all the details and so on.

    The “bottom line” is simple enough.

    The Black Flag people, the communalists who wish to TAKE the property of others (claiming that is not “rightfully” theirs) are not “libertarians of another point of view” they are ENEMIES – just as much as the Red Flag people (the Marxists) they march alongside (and it is no accident that they march together).

    The point that some of these folk call themselves “libertarians” does not alter this in the slightest.

    It is THEY (not corporate executives – no matter how greedy or short sighted such subsidy grubbing corporate executives may be) who aim at destruction and tyranny, destruction and tyranny just as bad as that the Red Flag folk (the Marxists) would bring upon the world.

    To change the subject – but not really change it at all (for I about to talk about another foe of civil society).

    I recently wrote a post (over at “Counting Cats in Zanzibar”) about Max Keiser of Russian Television.

    Much of what Max K. says is TRUE – especially about the banks (the ulimate greedy and subsidy grubbing corporations – for example the European ones just got almost FIVE HUNDRED BILLION EUROS in sweetheart loans from the European Central Bank, on top of all their other subsidies, just last week).

    However, just because Max opposes the greedy (and subsidy grubbing) bankers does NOT mean he is a friend.

    Far from it.

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  6. An obvious example (of the rich man who many would attack – but whom a libertarian should not wish to see robbed or killed) is the Duke of Bedford in the time of Edmund Burke (a conservative Whig).

    The Duke of Beford’s family did not gain their estates by hard work and merit, or even good luck – they gained a lot of them by being toadies of Henry VIII (and he gained them by STEALING them from the Roman Catholic church – which he attacked as the “corrupt transnational corporation” of its day).

    Nor was the present Duke of Bedford any good.

    He was, at best, an idiot – who actively cooperated with supporters of the French Revolution (subsdizing them and so on), people who would sell out the country to the French Revolutionary enemy (treason) and who would rob and kill their own benefactor (the Duke of Bedford himself). Just as the Duke of Orleans (“Citizen Equality” – the richest man in France who had financed the French Revolution and had voted for the murder of his own cousin, the helpless weakling Louis XVI) was himself (eventually) robbed and murdered by the very activists he had supported for so long.

    So when Edmund Burke wrote about about the Duke of Bedford in his “Letter to a Noble Lord” what did he say?

    Did he say that this man should have his “non justly acquired estates” confiscated?

    On the contrary – Burke DEFENDED Beford. He did not defend the folly of the Duke (indeed he exposed it strong terms) – but he defended the life and the property of the man.

    Indeed Burke (quite rightly) pointed out that it is a DUTY to defend the lives and property of such people, no matter how lacking they are in any virtue (just as much as it is a duty to defend the lives and goods of people with great virtues and clear understanding).

    Defend them – even if they spit on you for defending their lives and estates.

    Not play stupid games about how-if-we-trace-his-line-back-the-estates-were-not-“justly acquried”, or “carts-carrying-his-stuff-used-a-state-built-road – so we can ……..”

    If defending lives and goods was simply a matter of defending noble people (such as Jon Huntsman senior or the late Sam Walton of Walmart) it would be easy.

    But it is also a matter of the defending the lives and goods of utter scumbags – such as George Soros or Jamie Dimon.

    Of course that does not mean AGREEING with them.

    One does not have to be pleased when (for example) George Soros gloats over the “happiest year of my life” (the year in Hungary he spent looting Jewish property with the Nazis – before they found out that he himself was a Jew and he had to flee for his life, he did not even get to take the loot with him), and one does not have to be pleased when Jamie Dimon pats himself on the back because of the profits of J.P. Morgan Chase (a bank that really is dependent on government subsidies and favours – i.e. nothing to pat oneself on the back for).

    On the contrary one says…..

    “I think your life (including you much boasted of charitable giving – much of which turns out to be money you have given to political activists in return for indirect influence for your personal benefit) has been utterly disgusting Mr Soros – you can expect no subsidies (or inside information) here, please do not call again”.

    And to Mr Dimon one says – “No more Federal Reserve and other subsidies for J.P. Morgan Chase – what do you mean THE BANK WILL COLLAPSE, I thought you always boasted of what a great manager you are, if your boasts are true the bank will not collapse, perhaps you should not have gone around making false boasts for so many years”.

    However, if someone comes for the home (and the family) of Soros and Dimon (and the rest). If someone (on the basis of their misspent lives) tries to take their goods away from them…… saying such things as “why should such men have nice clothing, and cars, and their own jet, and nice houses by the sea…… let us TAKE them”.

    Then one must spring to the defence of Soros and Dimon (and so on) as if they were noble men such as Jon Huntsman.

    Although, being what they are, they will utterly astonished by this – their minds will not be able to grasp how anyone could be their foe when they were powerful (and giving so much money to Comrade Barack Obama and so on) and yet, the moment they are helpless, turn to defend them and their families – when the very activists (“community organizers” and so on) they have paid TURN ON THEM.

    Which they will.

    …………………………………………………………..

    For those who think the above is “too moral” whatever that means, I will produce a practical argument.

    In England (before the French Revolution) there was an effort to give power to take land of “doubtful title”.

    “Good that means the Duke of Bedford would have lost his estate”.

    Well I see no good in him losing his estate – but, anyway, he was not the target.

    The target was the DUKE OF PORTLAND.

    Second only to Rockingham among the landed section of the Rockingham Whigs.

    He was targeted for political reasons (America and so on) and Edmund Burke had to fight in Parliament to put a stop to this “legal” looting.

    As any “left libertarian” will tell you, virtually anything is of “doubtful title” if one looks back far enough – and does some creative thinking. Anything can be looted from anyone (great or small – after all if you own a house is it on land that was taken during the Norman Conquest, or somesuch?).

    Give arbitrary power to the Crown or to “the people” and you do not get liberty – you get tyranny.

    Real tyranny – not “the tyranny of transnational corporations” and other such nonsense.

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    1. Thanks for all the history lessons however I think comparing Kevin Carson to Lenin and Hitler is..err..,frankly, bonkers. And accusing left libertarians of being looters is equally bizarre- the non aggression axiom is the touchstone of libertarianism.

      However, to bring matters to the present day and examine your own libertarian credentials, I note you did not respond directly to my litmus test.

      Are you in favour of the legalisation of all narcotic substances and the free and unrestricted movement into the UK of all immigrants who want to come here.

      A yes or no answer will do.

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      1. I have already dealt with the issues of drugs and immgration – as you can type (indeed type better than I can) it is natural for me to assume that you can read also.

        On the idea of confiscation of all large scale property….

        I regard it as quite extreme – indeed “frankly bonkers”.

        The Black Flag movement (i.e. the COMPULSORY commual “anarchists” or COMPULSORY “mutualists”) are bonkers – and are in no sense libertarian.

        Any more than the Red Flag (Marxist) movement is.

        Or the Green Flag (Islamist) movement. And Kevin Carson is on record as supporting the “Arab Spring” crouds in Egypt (and so on) also, and NOT the nice peaceful liberal types – he EXPLICITLY supported the looters and wreakers (the sort of Islamist mob that attacked Laura Logan).

        I challenged him on this – and he did not withdraw his support (not for the attack on Laura Logan – but for the looting and wreaking). So it is not me who is “bonkers”.

        As for Hitler (not someone I made a big point about – but if you insist…..).

        Certainly Hitler was more “moderate” on the particular point of the confiscation of all large scale property – his great evil was ETHNIC (his desire to exterminate Jews and enslave Slavs). This is NOT a point about K.C. (as far as I know, KC has no ethnic views – no more than “Lenin” did).

        However, it is correct that Hitler believed in “cheap money” (credit expansion).

        And believed in the labour theory of value (to oppose it was “Jewish economics” – which is odd considering that both David Ricardo and Karl Marx were from Jewish families, and the great foe of the theory was Carl Menger – who was NOT).

        Hitler also (like the French Jacobins) only believed in private property if it could be shown it was for the good of the people. An individual (or a corporation – church, club, whatever) did NOT have a right against the collective.

        By the way Hitler was always clear (unlike Mussolini) that “the people” was the main thing – the state was just a means to an end (to be rejected if it did not serve the interests of the people – the people as a collective of course).

        However, yes I admit, on the specific point of the confiscation of all large scale property (whether owned by individuals or corporations) Hitler did take a more “moderate” position than K.C. does.

        This does not undermine my main point – the black flaggers (the COMPULSORY communal anarachists) are not libertarians.

        Indeed they are the deadly enemy of enemies of libertarians – just as much as the red flaggers (the Marxists) who they happily march along side.

        They march together.

        They denounce the “1%” together.

        They will (if given the chance) wreak and loot together.

        As they already have in such places as Oakland California.

        Why do you not ask you-know-who what his opinion is of the “Occupy Oakland” movement.

        Remember they are NOT all Red Flag people – there are communal (compulsory communal) “anarchists” there also.

        By the way ask him his opinion of Noam Chomsky. The person who always says “I am not a Marxist – I am an anarchist”.

        The number one cited enemy “thinker” of the modern world.

        Someone who YES sided with the Soviets (and other Marxists) on every major issue.

        And, also, has actively worked with Nazi apologists also (inspite of being Jewish).

        See the references (chapter and verse stuff) in the “Anti Chomsky Reader”.

        I can lend you my copy of this work if you wish – I am quite prepared to do that.

        The enemies of large scale private property are the ENEMIES OF LIBERTY.

        They may use the words “freedom” and “liberty” and “libertarianism” all the time.

        But they stand for the opposite.

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  7. By the way – if you really can not understand my previous comment (which dealt with immigration and drugs).

    In the circumstances of Victorian Britain – YES.

    In the circumstances of modern Welfare Sate Britian – NO.

    So now you have got both “yes” AND “no”.

    So you must be happy.

    Although I have left myself open to being called Mitt Romney.

    Now that would be cruel…….

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  8. In the circumstances of Victorian Britain – YES.

    In the circumstances of modern Welfare Sate Britian – NO.

    The issue of free movement of people over national borders is a libertarian principle. State welfare is a quite separate issue and does not directly impinge on the principle (although as things stand immigrants to the UK from outside the EU are not entitled to immediate welfare benefits).

    Anyway, lets test you on a couple more.

    How do you feel about the Swiss ban on the building of minarets and the French prohibition of the burqa?

    Should Muslims Against Crusades be allowed to burn poppies or should they have been banned as an organisation?

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  9. Gents – superb discussion and I’ve enjoyed reading it.

    Having spent a lot of time around, and known many ‘right conservatives’ who share our point of view on matters economic but spout socially authoritarian poison, I’d be inclined to see anyone regarding themselves as a ‘left libertarian’ in much the same way, perhaps as allies of convenience about half the time, but nothing more than that.

    Isn’t ‘left libertarianism’ simply a form of anarchism in pseudo-intellectual clothing? Liberal values are the type that people either hold instinctively, flowing through their veins or they don’t. Perhaps the litmus test of this is:-

    Beyond issues covered by the law of the land, is there such a thing as the greater good?

    The only instinctive liberal answer to that question is absolutely f***ing not!! This is why ‘left libertarians’ and ‘right conservatives’ bewilder me in equal measure, since intruding into one area of an individual’s life will always have a knock-on effect down the track.

    Permit the state to snatch someone’s money (regardless of how much they have), and their lifestyle choices will soon become restricted by it.

    March the state into their personal choices, and you’re likely to hamper the means by which many of them make a living.

    The two are naturally tied together.

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  10. Hi Daz

    Isn’t ‘left libertarianism’ simply a form of anarchism in pseudo-intellectual clothing?

    It can be but it needn’t be. The Randian view of big corporations and intellectual property rights is challenged every day on the internet.

    Many of its greatest accomplishments, Wikipedia, Flickr and Linux for example, have come from human beings acting altruistically and not always out of self-interest and the pursuit of profit. There is an online culture of sharing, co-operation collaboration and collectivism that challenges the big digital corporations. You didn’t write your blog to make money (though I think Simon hopes to!!!).

    The reason localism and mutualism don’t work so well in real life is because the state does not allow people to act freely and wants its cut of any wealth created.

    But where the real world meets the virtual, there is a war currently under way and the shock troops of the libertarian left are Anonymous, Wikileaks, the Darknet and the Pirate Party. We begin to see crossover to reality in areas like micro investment and peer to peer lending- virtual challenges to the hegemony of political corporatism.

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    1. IP (patents and copyrights) is a big issue.

      Two problems (of many) are as follows….

      The philosophical problem of the length of time IP should last (no one seems to say “for ever”) and exactly what they cover.

      Some say 50 years, some say 75 years (and so on) – the state decides and it all seems rather artificial and arbitrary. Also recent court cases (with, for example, Apple sueing everyone in sight) show that the definition of what some patents cover has become (to be blunt) silly – with patents becomming so broad (and covering general ideas) that it is difficult to not break them (even if one had no intention of doing so).

      But there is also the practical problem…..

      How does one enforce patents and copyrights in a world sized economy?

      For example, the Chinese government may say they are going to enforce American patents (indeed may even execute people, now and then) – but it is a bit of sham. In private Chinese (and other companies) break IP all the time (and, if they have good political connections, little can be practically done about this in third markets).

      Of course, to be fair, Rand’s heros never got the state to enforce their patents – they just never revealed their secrets.

      If some was (for example) clever enough to work out how “Rearden Metal” was made…..

      However, in the real world such secrecy is only going to give you (at most) a few years start.

      Someone is going to be clever enough to work out how you did XYZ – and copy you.

      In the end production tends (in part) to move to the place where production is cheapest – not always the place of lowest wages (indeed for many decades America was where was where production was cheapest – even though wages in the United States were the HIGHEST of any major nation in the world).

      Basing an economy on patents and copyrights (whether they are justified or not) is building an economy on sand.

      For, as stated above, production will move to where production is cheapest (where taxes and so on are least bad) – of course transport costs (and so on) limit this. But that is how things tend to go over time.

      So waving patents and copyrights at people will not sustain a largescale economy over time – only being a good place to do business (to actually make things) can do that.

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  11. On corporate welfare….

    Ayn Rand always opposed that – so attacking her on those grounds makes no sense.

    Also it does MISS THE POINT.

    The point is not “should the French be allowed to ban the…..” (actually it should be up to private property owners if they want people with face coverings on their property).

    Nor is the point “should the Swiss be allowed to ban….” (how about a deal – Muslims can build as many, and as large, places of worship in Switzerland as Christians can build in Saudi Arabia).

    Nor is the point “should Muslims be allowed to burn poppies” (on their own property YES – and they can chant “death to Paul Marks” as well, as long as I do not have to hear them).

    The point is actually very simple – and I can not really believe that you do not know it Ken.

    COMPULSORY anarchocommunalists COULD NOT GIVE A TOSS about “corporate welfare” – not really.

    I know this from years of interactions with them.

    Do you think they hate Ford (which did not default on its debts) any less than they hate General Motors (which was so allowed – and got a vast government bailout to boot)?

    Well they do not hate Ford any less – they hate both equally.

    Do you think they hate Jamie Dimon (the subsidy man of J.P. Morgan Chase) any more than they hate Jon Huntsman (the man who started life in a “house” made of CARDBOARD and created Huntsman Chemical company from nothing – and has devoted billions of his profits to helping people with cancer).

    Well they do not – actually they hate both, equally.

    They do not hate rich individuals and corporations because of subsidies and “corporate welfare”.

    They hate them BECAUSE THEY ARE RICH.

    That is why the black flag people (the COMPULSORY communal anarchists) march side by side with the red flag people (the Marxists). That is why they fight together (not against each other) in “Occupy Oakland” and so on.

    Because on the BASIC ISSUE (which is not “should Muslims be allowed to burn poppies”) THEY ARE THE SAME.

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  12. How does one enforce patents and copyrights in a world sized economy?

    You rightly deduce that you can’t, Paul. But even when they operate within nation states they are a brake on wealth creation.

    You are also correct that the Randian belief in intellectual property is based on a false premise- that such rights can exist and can be enforced other than at the point of a gun and with the connivance of the state. And that should be anathema to libertarians.

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  13. The point is not “should the French be allowed to ban the…..” (actually it should be up to private property owners if they want people with face coverings on their property).

    Agreed.

    Nor is the point “should the Swiss be allowed to ban….” (how about a deal – Muslims can build as many, and as large, places of worship in Switzerland as Christians can build in Saudi Arabia).

    So two wrongs make a right?

    You are suggesting that states should be allowed to barter the freedoms of their populations?

    I think you need to think that one through.

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    1. Good point Ken – two wrongs do NOT make a right.

      And, of course, Islam in Europe is not just an immigration issue – it is also a conversion issue.

      My friend (and we are friends – although we argue a lot) Nick over at “Counting Cats in Zanzibar” argues that if a culture is so weak that it can not even pass on its own traditions, it is DYING (whether there is mass immigration OR NOT).

      Christianity was on the decline in Europe long before Muslims were invited in (and they were invited – the guest worker stuff of the German government and the campaigns of other governments).

      If Christianity had been replaced by Randian Objectivism (or some other strong belief system) that would have been one thing….

      But, in fact, many (most?) modern Europeans do not really seem to believe in anything.

      In this sense Europe is vacuum – and nature abhors a vacuum.

      Again I can see the problem – but I CAN NOT SEE THE SOLUTION.

      Perhaps younger brains than mine can work one out – but I have been unable to solve the problem.

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  14. Lastly on “localism” and “mutalism”.

    Not the same thing of course.

    “Localism” can mean (but does not have to mean) local government.

    Actually this is a bit of a grim story in this country.

    The Act of 1835 (which set up the elected local councils – in place of the Tory dominated closed town corporations) was supposed to cut local taxes.

    The Liberals went around Manchester (and so on) saying that if the local government was elected the local taxes would come down.

    Well, after the Act of 1835, the local council was elected and….

    Well you know what is comming – the tax went UP.

    “But if that was the will of the ratepayers…..”

    Well I might argue about that (should 51% have the right to impose higher taxes on the other 49% – people can debate that issue), but at least the voters (under the Act of 1835) were actually ratepayers (unlike a lot of voters now) – so there is some sort of argument there.

    However, the Tory government of 1875 (Dizzy’s government) did something that I think no free market person can defend.

    Between 1835 and 1875 many powers had been given to local councils IF THEY WANTED THEM.

    What Dizzy did in 1875 was to say that about 40 functions had to be done by local councils WHETHER THEY WANTED TO DO THEM OR N0T. It did not matter which way local people voted – they got statism.

    I think that any “localist” would have to agree that this Act (the Act of 1875) is unacceptable.

    Of course there were still differences between councils (for example in Manchester utility functions were bought and operated by the council – whereas in Newcastle they were private enterprise)), but the Act of 1875 did destroy much local autonomy.

    Now “MUTALISM”…..

    This normally means some sort of communalism.

    This can be religious (like monks and nuns – or Shaker communities in the United States, with their nice chairs and tables and so on), or secular.

    Normally if someone says “I am a mutualist” they are secular (they are not talking about a religious community).

    The idea that “the state” is the great enemy of this is false.

    For example, it was not “the state” that destroyed the Robert Owen communities in the United States – they destroyed themselves.

    Nor was it because “the people were not good enough” (the classic get out excuse for the failure of collectivism).

    For example, many of the people in the Owenite community near where Dallas now is proved to be good craftsmen. They actually helped create Dallas – after they gave up on their communal experiment.

    They just did not want to bring up their families in this experiment – it, like all the others, failed.

    The thing about monks and nuns (and Shaker communities) also, is that there are no children – and children do seem to be one (although not the only) reason these communities fail.

    As for the modern day…….

    In Israel “the state” did not try and undermine various sorts of communities (that were anti money and anti private ownership of the means of production).

    On the contrary – many Zionists (although not all) were full of communal ideas.

    The state (and overseas charities also) ENCOURAGED these experiments as much as they could.

    However, only about 5% of the Jewish population (at any one time) choose to live in one.

    And they tended to either fail – or become more and more “capitalist” over time (although some still exist – in something like their original form).

    Really they were often not practical.

    I remember reading in Sharon’s autobiography how his father tried to live in one of these communities.

    But the lack of any real understanding of farming drove Sharon (senior) to rage. Listening to a bunch of ….. sitting around in a circle and deciding what to do…..

    Some of the “kibbutzim” were just awful (like the “Pilgrim Fathers” who landed in Mass – and almost STARVED TO DEATH before they gave up on communalism, that [not kindly indians] is the real story of “Thanksgiving”), Sharon senior left in disgust.

    He took a job and saved money till he could buy himself some land (people who can not get enough savings have to rent land) – then he started out as a real farmer. Someone who decided what he wanted to grow on his own land – and sold it (for cash money) to people who wanted to buy it. With his profits he bought more land – and hired people (for wages) to help him work it.

    That is what farming is.

    As M.M. Postan pointed out long ago (1972 “Medieval Economy and Society”) even a village in the Middle Ages was not really the communalist place of the fantasies of Ruskin and Morris. Of course Alan Macfarlane (“The Origins of English Individualism” 1978) is even tougher on the myth.

    But if anyone wants to make the fantasy communities of Ruskin and Morris a reality…..

    Go right ahead and try – “the state” is going to be the least of your problems.

    Indeed with someone like Barack Obama as President you may even get a subsidy – if you try to set up such a cooperative living experiment in the United States (there have been plenty of subsidies for manufacturing and other cooperatives already – with generally negative results).

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  15. The real strength of “localism” is that people (to steal a line from “Lenin” – although he did not mean it)can “vote with their feet”.

    If people really like high taxes and lots of regulations they can live in a place like that, but if they do not they can move to some other place.

    Slavery destroys that – as slaves are not ALLOWED to move (that makes the claims of the Confederacy in the United States hollow – and what about “States rights” when they were demanding that people in non slave States be FORCED to send escaped slaves back?).

    But if everyone was free then “federalism” or “confederalism” would work – accept…….

    The Federal (or Confederal) government always undermines it.

    They undermine by offering subsdies to State and local governments – and imposing taxes to finance the subsidies.

    Australia, Germany, America, even Switzerland – it happens (to a greater or lesser extent) everywhere, and it GETS WORSE OVER TIME.

    Also the Federal or Confederal govenrment takes more and more functions to itself.

    Either because the Constitution gets changed (as it was in Australia – by popular vote) or IGNORED (as happened in the United States in the 1930s – when the Tenth Amendment, and much else, was basically torn up and used for toilet paper).

    How does one stop the Federal or Confederal government taking more and more power (and corrupting State and local governments – and the PEOPLE themselves by “bribing them with their own money”).

    I DO NOT KNOW.

    People have been thinking about this problem since Montesquieu – and they have not come up with a good answer.

    And I do not have a good answer either.

    I wish I did – but I do not.

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    1. Well I did live in Bolton (not a vast distance from you) for a year – and rather liked the North West.

      Had I actually got the teaching qualification (alas – they did not have enough “hours” to offer me, and that is a central part of the process), I might well have moved to that general part of England.

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  16. Paul,

    a lot of water has flown under the bridge in this conversation, but I must pick a bone. Surely the right of someone to some particular property is based on it being justly acquired. If that property was stolen, then it should be returned to the rightful owner, no matter if it has passed through other, innocent hands. Such issues should be dealt with by the law, and as such evidence must be brought to bear showing that the property is rightfully that of someone other than the person in possession, the presumption being in favour of the current possessor. I think we can all agree that the Norman Conquest is too far back for anyone to make any kind of claim for restitution, but the principle must hold that property acquired through theft or fraud is not justly-held.

    There is nothing in the above that sanctions the state to seize property for the common good, of course, and I don’t know the story of the pro-jacobin duke you mention.

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    1. Virtually any property can be attacked as “not justly acquired” if one goes back far enough (and does some creative thinking).

      You know this Richard (I am NOT attacking you) – but the “libertarian left” DO use such things as the Norman Conquest (and so on).

      Indeed the reason I broke with the Libertarian Alliance was that I was given a pamphlet in my conference pack in 2006 that used this (and other such) arguments – being given the (vile) thing was not the reason I broke with the L.A., the reason was that it became clear that the person who controlled the L.A. (and still does) was a pal of Kevin Carson (the author of the thing) and de facto backed him up.

      As with the Jacobins after the French Revolution, the “libertarian left” are simply playing games by talking about property owners having not got “justly acquired” title. And the point of the game is to justify LOOTING.

      The Crown (not George III personally – but the hangers on) tried do the same thing to the Duke of Portland and others (“prove your title – going back centuries, do it NOW”).

      And such antics can hit the small property owners as well as big ones.

      Prove your house is not on land taken during the Norman Conquest. Or (for those bits of land that were not taken during the Norman Conquest), prove it is not on land that was taken by the Anglo Saxons (without fair payment) after the fall of Romano-Britain.

      This is a game – a con trick. A way to try and justify looting.

      And I certainly will not give the “libertarian left” respect they do not deserve.

      They side with everything I detest – from Noam Chomsky, to the Islamist looting mobs of the “Arab Spring”, to the looters and burners of “Occupy Oakland” and so on.

      Indeed they do not even attempt to hide this – they are quite blatent about it.

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      1. “Virtually any property can be attacked as “not justly acquired” if one goes back far enough”

        I know this is not your view, but that which you attribute to others, but the above is evidently not the case, if the law of the land is taken into account. If these rules are applied, such as if I alleged you had some property of mine, the onus would very much be on me to prove it, not you to disprove it, at least I would hope so.

        But I suggest you should not lose all hope in our leftist brethren. Property rights are a sine qua non, and expropriation by violence is forbidden and should be subject to lawful reversal where it is found to have happened in the past. However, claims based on William the Conqueror having done the initial dirty deed would, I hope, fall by statute of limitation.

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      2. Denouncing all of the “Libertarian Left” because of my bad experiences of a few individuals is indeed unfair – and I apologize.

        The latest thing to upset me is the use of the term “social justice” in a positive way by some of the “Libertarian Left”.

        It was bad enough when some in the British Conservative party started to use this term as if it was a good thing, but “libertarians” being this ignorant?

        Did F.A. Hayek (Volume II of Law, Leglislation and Liberty “The Mirage of Social Justice”), M.J. Oakeshott (“there is, of course, no place in civil association for so called “distributive” justice; that is, the distribution of desirable substantive goods. Such a “distribution” of substantive benafits or advantages requires a rule of distribution and a distributor in possession of what is to be distributed; but LEX [Oakeshott is using the Latin word because the English word “law” has become debased to mean any command of the state] cannot be a rule of distribution of this sort, and civil rulers have nothing to distribute” – footnote to page 153 in “On The Civil Condition”, part of the work “On Human Conduct”), and my late friend Antony Flew (“Equality, in Liberty and Jutice” and many other works)….

        Did these moderates (they were not even strict libertarians) all write in vain? I could accept it (although with grinding teeth) when Ian Duncan Smith and “call me Dave” Cameron came out with “social justice” as a positive term, but “libertarians” making the same error?

        The doctrine of “social justice” is incompatible with (is the sworn enemy of) the concept of justice as to each his own – to side with “social justice” is to side with Plato and co, not to side with liberty.

        The idea that all income and wealth is rightly owned by the collective (whether one calls this collective “the state” or “the people” is not imporant) and are to be “distributed” according to some (normally egalitarian or semi egalitarian) political rule – this is “social justice”, and this is the source of what libertarians are AGAINST.

        It is so basic (so fundemental) that it is astonishing to find the mistake still being made.

        Again not ALL the “libertartian left” are making this error – but I assure you that some of them are.

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  17. We can also approach this issue from another angle and ask exactly what type of world Monbiot himself wants.

    I can’t help thinking a ‘green’ society would mean a bin inspector going through your rubbish every few days, and a speed hump every 25 yards. Count me out………….

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  18. On land…..

    My first thought was that it could be a matter of as little as one generation (otherwise one gets into Irish history – with every other generation trying to “burn out” their foes in order to take land that was “stolen from us”, only to be burnt out themselves in some future revenge). A raider never has just title to land taken (and the victim of a raid never loses just title) – but once both raider and victim have passed away, the people actually in possession of the land…. (one then gets into Roman law concepts as well as Common law ones).

    However, this leads one open to some moral horror – for example a raider could take land, kill the owner and then kill HIMSELF.

    Would the land then rightly belong to the son of the raider and not to the son of the owner who was killed? That is not justice, even if the son of the owner was not born on the land (say the pregnant mother fleeing from the burning house gave birth somewhere else).

    Whilst an INDIVIDUAL claiment can be proved for a SPECIFIC piece of property the case may (in strict justice) remain open.

    But “I am Welsh this land was taken by the Anglo Saxons – so it is mine” will not do, and so on.

    Without wishing to sound like Hegel (hardly a person libertarians tend to favour) it is true that possession (over generations) by reasoning minds (over non reasoning matter) does give just title.

    NOT for those who take the land – but over the generations. Although perhaps not over one or two generations – if a specific claimnent for a specific piece of land (or goods) steps forward.

    The example of Israel springs to mind.

    Contrary to what is often taught, most land in Israel was freely bought from Arab (and other) owners. However, some land was indeed taken in war (against foes who wished to drive the Jews into the sea – so the fault is hardly mainly with the Jews), and some claiments to specific bits of privately owned land live on (although now mainly second or third generation).

    For national security reasons (the ongoing war between the Israelis, both Jews and Christians and those Muslims who side with them – as some Muslims do, and the Islamists) these claiments can not be allowed to return to “Israel proper” (i.e. the narrow strip of land between the “West Bank”, much of which is nearer the Med than it is the Jordan river, and the sea) – but I believe that such specific claiments may still be entitled to financial compensation.

    Even though the land they lost was lost in wars against a foe (their own forefathers) who wished to drive the Jews into the sea – and said so repeatedly.

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