There are so many parties at this time of year that one finds it difficult to choose, and I’m not talking about Christmas. There seems to be too many libertarian political parties to even count them properly. John Watson gave it a go recently:
Actually here is the full list….
pro liberty (to be registered)
Scottish Libertarians (to be registered)
UKIP (Claims to be a libertarian party in their new constitution, and apparently their new/existing/official position)
Scottish Progressives (Libertarian style message)
Independent Libertarian Network
Young Peoples Party (Advised above)
Libertarian wing of the Conservatives.
As a part of the w+Home collection of websites you will rightly expect opinions here about political parties, and libertarian ones in particular. UKIP already paid a visit at the meetup, so to get started with this round of reviews I’ll look at the Young Peoples Party.
Is it fair to start a review of libertarian parties with a collection of geo-libertarians? As a movement perhaps the Georgist axis have a problem: their core idea which they talk about unceasingly is Land Value Tax which many libertarians feel is not for them. Since this is their (the geolibs) most talked about idea it’s inevitable that your opinion on this concept will dominate the evaluation a geo-libertarian party.
So why do the Georgists make such controversial libertarians? Well, according to Georgism because I happen to have popped into existence on a piece of land owned by my family but which might otherwise have been owned by other people, those other people get to use aggression to collect a tax from me, or from my family. The justification for this tax is simply that it is unfortunate for the others that lady luck did not hand them my land. That disappointment, on it’s own, is held to trump the non-aggression principle. Further, geo-libs hold that the market value of the land determines value of the tax. My preferred alternative is voluntary taxation in which I pay, for what I receive, a price I consent to pay. If you believe that the right to property is a prerequisite for the functioning of man as a rational animal – that it is necessary for man, as such, to exist – and therefore that the design of social institutions should keep the mind free, then the Land Value Tax works precisely backwards in every respect. The land value tax is aggressive where it could be volitional, centrally imposed where it’s purpose could be enacted by the market, and substitutes the judgement of others for my own when it comes to the disposition of my hard earned income. Of course, I am really saying that I would reject a Land Value Tax having made up my made about a voluntary tax first, and your mileage may vary.
Nevertheless, the party deserves a place in the round up: they are openly in favour of legalising drugs, brothels, fox hunting and laying off on smokers. Also, they would take the sound initial step of privatising NHS provision under a voucher system and would abolish a host of taxes. Also, if those are the things you care about then you might observe that the Land Value Tax and the Citizen’s Basic Income which pairs it might be insanely popular, especially for the young. There is an argument that those personal freedoms, the lower crime and fewer social problems that would result, and the repeal of income taxes might be worth a populist compromise.
The YPP’s energy and environmental policies sound like a proposal to simply manage the system differently. There is nothing in them that applies the non-aggression principle or offers a fundamentally different moral, rather than technical, approach. As such, those policies might save money and reduce tax but will do nothing to demonstrate how life might work in a properly libertarian or even geo-libertarian way. This puts them on neutral terms with the other parties who also see themselves as better managers. This is not so much of a problem as a missed opportunity, though some of the managerial ideas do sound interesting from a technical perspective.
The major reason for including YPPUK though is that they are standing a candidate in Corby – Dr Rohen Kapur whose name will be familiar from the LPUK. The fact that Dr Kapur is standing in Corby, in as little as 30 days, means the YPP is of urgent interest. Their performance good or bad affects all of us that share the label “libertarian”.
The performance of the ticket will come from two places: party brand and policies, and the personal impact of Dr Kapur.The party is tiny and not that well known even amongst libertarians, though it’s treasurer Mark Wadsworth is well known as a committed activist for Land Value Tax. As such, the party’s performance is unlikely to impress and the bookies odds of 500:1 do not seem unreasonable, however,the point is surely not to win but to make an impact for libertarian ideas.
Turning then to Dr Kapur. Libertarians will want to judge whether he can make a positive impact for the libertarian team. I was therefore pleased when Dr Kapur emailed asking if he might come along to the Rose and Crown to promote his candidacy. I had heard just one report as to his personal conduct that was not at all kind, so it seemed essential that we judge for ourselves. I encouraged Rohen to stand up speak and he conducted a short question and answer session that you can see below. Unfortunately, I think it is obvious that while Rohen is a friendly and approachable person, the answers he gave were under rehearsed and lacked detail.
So, what is my final position on the Young People’s Party? I think that the geo-libertarian positioning will not rule them out for every libertarian voter, although I have given my reasons for disliking that particular policy. We may in fact be surprised if Land value Tax is sold well to mainstream voters in Corby. But, in a perfect world I would be able to vote for an objectivist libertarian-friendly party which used a montage of Britain’s tall commercial buildings as a logo. Regrettably, no such party exists and for anything to change in my lifetime one has to be realistic. Might a geo-libertarian world be more achievable and good enough for me? Part of the reason that it is not is actually cultural, not political. I do not believe that a culture in which Rand or her successors failed to dominate civil discourse would be a good place to stop the progress of mankind. For one thing I would want to benefit from the other 60% of economic progress that would achievable (politically) in those circumstances, but I would want to turn on the TV and see something which would inspire me rather than depress me. You don’t get depth of change from making popular compromises you get it by changing what is popular.
That they are not fielding the strongest candidate is insignificant next to a failure to include a moral argument that really changes the agenda. Whether you prefer minarchy or anarcho-capitalism, for victory to actually happen the biggest challenge is to make the case that an authoritarian system is immoral. You can do that from the perspective of an objectivist or from that of a natural rights libertarian, you could even exploit the utilitarian value of moral arguments as a cynical consequentialist, but it is necessary to make them and Georgist arguments do not fit the bill.