Tomorrow we are promised the spectacle of widespread mob rule by UK Uncut, as they occupy branches of Starbucks at various locations. As libertarians are the first to deny the legitimacy of the state to act in numerous ways, if not its legitimacy in toto, and do not believe that the law, at least where that word means whatever legislation is on the books, should automatically be obeyed, some may not understand what objection a libertarian would have to such political action. Let me try to explain at least my objections.
For a libertarian, the Law could be summed up in one commandment: thou shalt not initiate force or fraud against another person or their property, nor threaten to do so. Therefore, where legislation violates this principle, it is not considered legitimate. As Thomas Aquinas said: an unjust law is no law at all. So, it is not the case that, a priori, law-breaking, including civil disobedience, should be condemned. Morality may dictate to the individual conscience that a law must be broken, in full knowledge of the penalty that may be incurred, and there are many martyrs who libertarians are right to venerate as heroes for doing just this.
If all UK Uncut planned to do was boycott Starbucks, then no offence would be committed, either against the non-aggression principle or any law, even if based on the screwy political views of the group in question, and the boycott is a wholly legitimate act, one which could be used far wider than is presently the case, but they go further, and what they plan to do is clearly a breach of the non-aggression principle, as they say they are going to forcibly take over businesses, and deny those businesses their liberty to trade. Every penny of lost trade is a tort against those businesses. It’s possible that those businesses, due to the threats against them, will shut up for the day to avoid the mob, or that UK Uncut are only hoaxing their plans, and will instead do something else. Even so, the threats have been made, and the damage will be done.
As for their justification, on the face of it, it’s ludicrous. They are blaming Starbucks for various cuts to welfare that the government have imposed (the mythical ‘austerity’, in which the government keeps spending way above what it shakes out of us in taxes), as if Starbucks paying over money it doesn’t legally owe to the government would change that. They see no distinction between evading tax, a crime (malum prohibitum, but certainly not malum in se), and minimising one’s tax, emphatically not a crime. It’s not enough as far as UK Uncut is concerned to obey the law, you must do more, you must pay whatever the cackling sans culottes demand or face their mob.
All the while the establishment media, at least the left-wing side of that (BBC etc) are lionising these latter-day blackshirts, along with Richard Murphy, the movement’s version of Oswald Moseley, without the tight-fitting tunic, thankfully. The response of the authorities will be interesting, as UK Uncut are driving forward an agenda in the interests of the bloated state, in peddling the absurdity that handing over more money to the unproductive, parasitical part of the economy, somehow we all benefit.
Fundamentally, UK Uncut are the foolish foot-soldiers of a very nasty ideology, which, secondo Murphy, proclaims that the state owns everything, and you should be grateful for whatever crumbs it leaves you, once it’s helped itself to your money and resources. As George Harrison sang in ‘Taxman’, with reference to the contemporary 95% income tax rate; “Should five percent appear too small, be thankful I don’t take it all”.
The ideology is laid out for the drones in Murphy’s opus ‘The Courageous State’, or as it was historically known, the totalitarian state. Murphy waits impatiently for the ‘courageous’ leader, who will embrace the task of providing milk and honey to the suffering masses, and won’t be constrained by those weak and unmanly principles of individual liberty, property or the law. We have seen such ‘courageous’ leaders before. Perhaps Murphy could emulate one particularly famous such leader, by going down in a bunker and chomping down on a cyanide capsule while blowing his brains out. If so, I will offer my services in carrying him outside and pouring on the gasoline.