Hello everyone. We put tickets for this event on sale just six weeks ago. It feels like next to no time to reach and gather an audience for what you are doing. But you came, which is great.
I’d especially like to thank the people who came who are not the usual sort of person that comes to a Libertarian Home event.
Those of you from the Conservative Party join us from a party which is not nearly as conservative economically as us, it is really good that you are willing to engage with those to your right as well as those in the centre.
There are a few of you here coming from way over on the left who probably look at the Conservative Party and wonder how much further right you can go before you bump into Nick Griffin. Well for us Nick Griffin is a lefty – but nevermind. Thank you for answering my challenge to be open minded and come along. We probably will not be focusing – today – on things like drug policy, the decriminalisation of sex work, and the right to marry whoever you love. There we do have some things in common, so you are going to have an interesting afternoon here!
Why did we rush to put an event like this together? I had a desire to respond to a great deal of negativity which I saw coming out in the public discourse and which frankly seemed to be aimed at me. You won’t find my name in the Panama Papers but I am a limited company contractor who, for the last few weeks anyway, has worked for one of the banks that took public money. I regularly read about new government schemes to redefine and constrain my ability to work the way I do. I spent the last four months unemployed because of rules against tax avoidance that did not used to exist. Before that I worked in a media company, in an environment where frankly I was afraid to name my favourite philosopher.
Today – you can buy one or two of her books in our book shop. And – incidentally – having a space where I feel at ease about what I believe is a big reason for doing what I do.
So this negativity feels personal and is only going to get more personal, but it is not just about me. I keep returning to the faces of Starbucks Barristas who were barricaded inside their Vigo Street branch by a very colourful and very rowdy UK Uncut protest. A protest which – although it stayed just about within the law – seemed to be full of very real hatred. That happened at several Starbucks branches and at Vodafone and Top Man and other companies like Amazon and Google have been targeted too in similar ways by people who want to raise the tax burden on corporations.
These corporations consist of property – things, infrastructure – and of people. People who provide us with things we want – things that make our life easier. If you think that beating up on these people is biting the hand that feeds you then you are — wrong. It is the wrong analogy. The people most effected by taxes on legal persons – corporations – are the employees and the customers of corporations. Normal people. So beating up on Amazon is not biting the hand that feeds – it is shooting yourself in the foot.
But – I don’t want this event to be an argument about what pro-tax campaigners are doing. Or how it is occasionally handy to have a tax haven to flee to. Yes the economics of the pro-tax position are wrong. Places with lower taxes and less regulation are in general better and anyone who ignores that is wrong to do so. Tax havens have protected the vulnerable as well as the powerful. But — whatever…
None of that means anything unless the people who believe those economic observations can put forward an alternative policy to those that don’t. That is the positive message of this afternoon’s event.
We are going to talk about the features – the institutions and the methods – that make a laissez-faire system benevolent. Those that define it, or could define, or did define it.
By laissez-faire I mean a low or voluntary tax system with little to no centralised control of anything (I do take the view that law and justice need to be democratic, I am open minded about everything else).
By benevolent I mean that it is fair and just – that it is ethically good – and it has outcomes that people will like for simple pragmatic reasons. Reasons like “it would work better” “it would cost less” or that it would allow us to thrive as individuals and collectively.
This is not a new philosophy. I am not coining a new term or inventing a new thing. It is not a branch or off-shoot of free-market ideology that we’re talking about. It is an application of our principles.
It is simply how a world could or has worked if you didn’t have the political institutions such as the NHS, BBC, our central banks, our schools and our registers and databases and so on.
Janina and Julio of BitNation and Humanitarian BlockChain are going to talk about software. They are going to talk about software that enhances and expands the kind of activities performed now by NGOs and charities; and about software which replaces at least some of the functions of Government, but does so in a way which respects the individuals’ autonomy.
Anton Howes is going to talk about market based institutions that existed in this country before the NHS and the Welfare state as we know it were launched. I happen to know they existed in other countries too. I have already booked another speaker for another event who will talk about the US and Chile. Look that up on Meetup. For today Anton will be focused more on the UK. Anton has recently become Doctor Anton Howes for his PhD thesis examining the Industrial Revolution. Anton was able to explain why our Industrial Revolution happened and did not stop happening – the answer is because we had better cultural expectations. I think that culture is a theme we will be returning to again and again today.
Yaron Brook is going to tackle what for many is the core reason to reject laissez-faire capitalism. The observation that under a market based system some people end up with a lot more wealth than others is a source of great resentment. It is the fire in the belly that provokes much of the outward negativity I talked about earlier – so his is an important session.
Yaron is something like the second most senior proponent of a modern philosopher named Ayn Rand. Rand was a unique philosopher who described her ideas first and foremost in fiction. She died in 1982, just 34 years ago. Yaron is an exceptional and tireless advocate of her ideas in the media, in print and at events such as this.
We will also be squeezing in a book signing. Yaron co-authored the book Equal is Unfair which is available in the book shop. If you are persuaded by what he says you will have a few minutes to go get the book and have a word with him and ask him to sign it. He will also – I hope – be joining us for a drink at the very end too.
He gets here about 2pm and is last to speak.
I will be joining our speakers together on stage for a panel session at the end. I can tell you now my first question to that panel. I will ask them what is the thing they would change first and why would normal people – not technical philosophers and economists – want to vote for or buy into that scheme. The rest of this session will talk about how we can get to a laissez-faire society – how we can enjoy living in one before we are dead or infirm.
So our first speaker will be Syed Kamall. I will not describe in too much depth what Syed is going to say because he is about to say it himself. Instead it is worth noting that Syed is someone who puts his ideas in practice. Who takes the simple essence of a laissez-faire economy – the idea that you do not need or want political institutions to do things for you and he is putting that into practice now. Since he will be speaking as a rather senior politician – a Tory MEP. It speaks volumes that he has come today to tell us not to rely on people such as himself.