Apr 252010

The results of my straw poll are in. Obviously they are not representative, but by and large they are the answers of some of the self-described libertarians who read this blog, and a few cheaters (here’s looking at you, Mr Rob). Approximately 105 people contributed, though a few of those answered some questions and not others. So – what did they say?

Are we rich bastards?

Mostly, no. 59% of respondents have never earned more than £38,000 in a single year, therefore putting them outside of the ‘rich people’ tax bands.

Of those, 29% report that they have never earned more than £13,000 in a single year, although this is probably due to age – these will likely be younger libertarians who are still in education of some sort and have not yet worked in a full-time position. And 23% say their maximum per-annum earnings fall somewhere between £13,000 and £23,000.

So libertarians as surveyed here are mostly not rich. However. £23,000 is roughly the median annual income in Britain – and 70% of us have indeed earned more than that amount in a year.

The actual breakdown is as follows (gross income):

more than £38,000 in a year – 43 (41%)
between £23,000 – £38,000 in a year – 30 (29%)
less than £13,000 in a year – 18 (17%)
between £13,000 – £23,000 – 14 (13%)

Do we live off the sweat of others?

Not really. 56% of libertarian respondents work in full-time jobs (35 hours per week or more). A further 10% support themselves with part-time jobs.

Full-time students who don’t work are well-represented – 12% – as are a surprising number of people who are unemployed or between jobs (11%).

Only 3 respondents live from accumulated wealth.

The actual breakdown is as follows (working for a living):

more than 35 hours per week – 46 (44%)
about 35 hours per week – 12 (12%)
not at all, full-time student – 12 (12%)
not at all, unemployed/between jobs – 11 (11%)
less than 35 hours per week – 10 (10%)
not at all, retired – 6 (6%)
not at all, accumulated wealth – 3 (3%)
part-time with other support – 3 (3%)
not at all, maternity – 1 (1%)

Are we drooling rubes?

Definitely not. Despite frequent claims that educated people are left-wing (and that left-wing people are educated), 70% of libertarians surveyed have a university-level education, almost half of whom have some kind of post-graduate degree or qualification.

The actual breakdown is as follows (education level reached):

bachelor’s degree or equivalent – 41 (39%)
post-graduate degree or qualification – 33 (31%)
A-level – 22 (21%)
GCSE – 5 (5%)
still in school – 4 (4%)
no formal education – 1 (1%)

And so?

What this presents to me is a general picture of libertarians as hard-working, middle-class types. No surprise there, at least to me, as that basically replicates what I know of libertarians I’ve met in person.

But ‘all right, Jack’? Well, yes. We tend to be all right. But we work for it. And although I can’t speak for everyone, my own feeling is that this is the way it should be. Being all right should require hard work, and hard work should make you all right. So fair dues to us.

Anybody want to draw other conclusions?

It’s not just me and DK

 indolence  Comments Off on It’s not just me and DK
Apr 252010

Other people are frustrated with British immigration policy.

See Andrew Hickey here.

And he’s right. There are too many outright misrepresentations floating about. Britain does not have as restrictive border controls as some countries, but neither does it have ‘open borders.’

In fact, a large part of the problem is that those of us wishing to stay here legally and gainfully are obstructed, while very little is done to discourage those who come here either through legal channels or because they are entitled to benefits.

Of course I must add that even those coming here illegally, or without jobs, are not sub-human and don’t deserve to be spoken of in the way some (though not a ‘vast majority,’ Dave Semple, thank you for getting on your high horse about that) Britons do – but I don’t really think I need go into that at 2 am. I doubt very many immigrants come here for the benefits, frankly, but even if they do, so what? Apparently benefits are a human right now. And immigrants are humans too.

Apr 222010

Just some brief remarks, because I expended most of my rage by silently live-tweeting.

There were two main things that struck me about what the party leaders had to say.

The first was something Brown said about an hour into the debate: that if the voters realised how much of their daily lives was affected by government policy, they would be a lot more politically engaged. Someone had asked about coalition governments, hung parliaments, and voter turnout, and his response was to point out that income, benefits, housing, the environment, business, crime, social cohesion, etc. etc. etc. were all inextricably linked to government policy and action.

Frankly, I was horrified. If your argument that people should exercise their vote is that government affects everything in their lives, you’re not exactly pointing out a positive there. Unfortunately, I think he’s right. I don’t like it, mind, but he wasn’t misrepresenting the truth (or whatever is the parliamentary language for lying). The fact of the matter is that he is right. Government in this country does have an impact on almost every aspect of people’s lives. And that is profoundly depressing.

Oddly enough, the other thing that really gripped my wick was also a Brownism. I expected not to have any reaction to Brown – I thought I was completely insensitised – but actually I found what he had to say more interesting (if also more objectionable) than the other two know-nothings on stage with him.

During the question on immigration, roughly 20 minutes before the end of the debate, Brown was defending Labour’s points system (introduced less than two years ago, by the way) by claiming that it made sure that the only non-EU immigrants who came here (legally) were ones with necessary skills.

I beg to differ, my friends. Having gone through the torturous process of the new points system, I can say with absolute certainty that it has nothing to do with skills and everything to do with wealth.

Now, some of you may argue that wealth is a good indicator of skills, and that showing a high previous income roughly correlates with having useful skills. Perhaps so.

But not if your job is highly skilled (in the general, wishy-washy sense) but low-paid. I was a teacher. Britain had a teacher shortage. Before the introduction of the points system, teachers could immigrate here quite easily. After it, only teachers of maths and sciences can do so easily, even though the shortage of teachers has not diminished, regardless of the subject being taught. The ‘skills-based’ points system application never enquired as to my profession or the skills necessary to work in it. It wanted to know how many degrees I had, and how much money I had earned in the previous twelvemonth.

I was fortunate in that I had been earning in sterling during that time. But an American, or Canadian, or Australian teacher wanting to come here would have been in a pickle (and I’m sure many were) because of the exchange rates. Teachers in those countries are paid roughly the same number amount as teachers in the UK. So, for example, a teacher in the UK might earn £25,000 p.a., while a teacher in the US, Canada, or Australia might earn $25,000 p.a.

But the ‘skills-based’ points system only considers your earnings in pounds sterling. So a quite respectable wage in the other Anglosphere countries becomes miniscule under this system, because it has to be converted into pounds sterling. When I first applied for my ‘skills-based’ points system work permit, the exchange rate was roughly £1.90 = £1.00. That $25,000 an American teacher might have been earning would only count, under the points system, as £13,000 – not enough to earn even a single point in the ‘previous earnings’ section of the application.

The honest-to-God truth is that Labour’s points system gives the highest rewards to those who have earned the most money, not those who have the most necessary skills. Third-world kleptocrats would have no problem immigrating to the UK, whereas skilled professionals earning what would be considered huge amounts in their native countries would be turned away because the points system measures earnings in pounds sterling, not the average wage in the country of origin.

The other thing I’d like to point out regarding Labour’s points system is that it gives huge advantage to those who have an MBA. Many, many people on the left wing are big fans of Labour because they have the impression that Labour will stick it to the evil capitalists. They do not realise that Labour’s immigration system is now designed specifically to favour those evil capitalists: an MBA will automatically grant a person 80% of the points they need to immigrate here. Add into that the points you gain for knowing English, and someone with an MBA will waltz into the UK, way ahead of doctors, nurses, teachers, blue-collar workers, etc – the very people the left wing are supposed to be supporting.

Now, obviously I don’t care much about the massive advantage MBAs have in the British immigration system. Businesspeople are all well and good. But I found that, in the reality of Labour’s ‘skills-based’ points system, it no longer profited me to be a teacher. Instead, I have gone into evil capitalism. This country, with its dire shortage of teachers, has lost a skilled and experienced teacher because it treated me like a piece of foreign shit: not as worthy as a businessperson, and not nearly as worthy as a native Briton, despite the kind of bottom-feeding scum who are native to this country and contribute nothing to it in the way of hard work, taxes, or civil behaviour. This government (and all prospective governments) has done everything it can in the past two years to reinforce their view that compared to even the shittiest British wastrel imaginable, I am inferior. There are Britons who have never worked or paid taxes – I do. There are Britons who are criminals – I’m not. There are Britons who hate me, as part of a general ‘inferior’ class, because I was not born on this soil and because they think I’m stealing something from them, either a job or resources, or because I’m diluting their pristine and delightful culture that… treats immigrants like shit.

I did not choose to come to this country out of romantic Anglophilia or anything like that. I came here because, in order to do my post-graduate degree, I needed documents archived in British libraries and it made more sense to get the degree here than to do inordinate amounts of travelling from the US. I stayed because, for the most part, I like the British people and I like British culture. I would certainly never do anything to harm either.

But I get more and more demoralised by the fact that a lot of British people, most of whom are perfectly happy to have me in their country, nevertheless go on about how ‘something must be done’ about all of these fucking immigrants. And they say it without realising just how hard it is, in reality, to be a legal immigrant in this country. They seem to have this idea that immigrants are just strolling over the border and doing whatever they please – and I can state without reservation that for 99% of immigrants, that is just not the case. It’s hard to immigrate here. And I’m not saying that’s wrong.

What I am saying is that none of the parties – none – are going to fix it in any reasonable, humane way. Cameron and the Tories want an arbitrary quota. Clegg and the Lib Dems want to intern migrants in particular regions. And the Labour party has already shown its fascist colours in making their points system overtly partial to wealthy businesspeople rather than, as Brown disingenuously avers, the highly skilled.

So let’s cease the lies, shall we? Forget complaining about racism towards immigrants. Let’s all just admit that the vast majority of British people are xenophobic hypocrites who preach endlessly about social justice but then vote to prop up an immigration system that is manifestly socially unjust. Oh yes, everyone has a right to education, healthcare, a living, blah blah, except immigrants. They can get to fuck. They’re stealing benefits that should be reserved for native Britons. And if they come here and work and pay taxes, then they’re stealing jobs. And if they come here as independently wealthy taxpayers, they’re diluting the culture.

Immigrants can’t win. And the three fuckers leaders have made that abundantly clear.

If I had the vote, I’d vote for whoever acknowledged that the vast majority of non-European immigrants subsidise your fucking state and come here because they want to be part of British culture.

But since I can’t vote, I simply have to ask the rest of you British people, with all sincerity and no small amount of self-interest: consider what the immigration system here is really like. Take a look at the UKBA website and see if you, as I did, could sort yourself out without a solicitor or immigration advisor. Ask yourself if you would be willing to do what I did to get a visa. Ask yourself if your boyfriend, girlfriend, or whatever would be willing to do what DK did for me. Consider whether you earn the minimum of roughly £22,000 p.a. that a foreigner needs to earn to get a work permit here, or whether you have have the master’s degree you would need. Really put yourself in an immigrant’s shoes. And then, when inevitably some of you discover that if you were an immigrant you would be turned away with a contemptuous laugh, give a thought to how you vote.

There are more people in Britain than simply Britons. Most of us have no say in this election. We are entirely at the mercy of whatever government is in power. If you have no preference yourself, consider what our preference might be. One of the primary precepts of libertarianism is that all people are human and equal, regardless of race, creed, gender, or nationality. Yes, we came to Britain knowing we wouldn’t have the vote. But I think most of us would like to think that the British are humane enough to consider us when making their decision at the polling station. We, the foreign minority, rely on you to protect us. Please don’t let us down.

Apr 192010

Libertarians, by their nature, are wont to bang on about liberty, and that it is desirable, and that it is the mother of Order. In the mind of a libertarian, this is all correct and proper, for liberty is the blank slate of the individual; only when he exists in a state of freedom may he pursue those ends which he deems appropriate and suitable for himself.

Thus libertarians take a critical view of those who claim that liberty is an end state, rather than a means – a philosophical ideal to be reserved for a time when material needs have been fulfilled. A person is not free, say these terminal types, until he no longer need struggle for food, clothing, a roof over his head, healthcare, education, employment, transportation – in short, until his physical integrity and livelihood are assured by minimal effort on his part. Western society has, in fact, become so progressive that ‘liberty’ is sometimes defined as ‘possessing sufficient time, money, and energy to expend on leisure rather than sustenance.’

This is, to be sure, a wonderful development in one sense. Rarely in human history has daily toil been considered an irritation to be minimised in favour of pleasure, rather than an essential and all-consuming necessity for survival. Peasant farmers in early medieval Europe had, on the whole, much more liberty than we do today: being unimportant, they suffered little interference from the state, especially those who only farmed enough to feed themselves; being poor, they suffered little interference from others, as they were both inoffensive and had nothing worth stealing. But on the other hand, they had to struggle for food, clothing, a roof over their heads, and had no healthcare at all, or education, or employment, or transportation – therefore they were not free, in the sense that they spent all of their time ensuring their survival and virtually none of their time or effort on leisure.

In essence, then, we have two conflicting modern interpretations of ‘liberty.’ Let’s call them liberty-as-means and liberty-as-ends. Liberty-as-means is a basic state of being in which coercion and unwanted interference by others or the state are absent. This will unfortunately mean that an individual may have to struggle for physical integrity and livelihood. Liberty-as-ends is an advanced state of being in which the struggle for physical integrity and livelihood is absent. This will ideally mean that an individual may therefore focus primarily on the pursuit of that which gives him pleasure.

Enders take a critical view of meansers (libertarians), claiming that those advocating liberty-as-means are able to do so because they are not on the margin of struggling for physical integrity and livelihood. I cannot say with any certainty whether this criticism is valid for all meansers; it may indeed be the case that material comfort breeds libertarianism. On the other hand, it may be that people with a libertarian mindset drive themselves to achieve material comfort. We may never know the answer – counterfactuals can’t be proved – but it might be interesting one day to survey the backgrounds and material circumstances of libertarians.

In any case, we have this situation of liberty in opposition to itself. Meansers cannot have their basic state of liberty because it nearly always has to be infringed in order for the enders to achieve their advanced state of liberty. Enders cannot achieve their advanced state of liberty because meansers are always resisting their methods.

This raises some understandable questions.

First, can liberty-as-means result in liberty-as-ends, and if so, over what sort of timescale?

Second, if not, can liberty-as-ends result in liberty-as-means – and if so, over what sort of timescale?

Finally, if our two conflicting interpretations of liberty are mutually exclusive, which is objectively better and thus more worthy of pursuit?

Stay tuned.

Apr 142010

So. After two years of slowly building itself in the wilderness, crafting press releases that media outlets file carefully in the bin, organising speeches, events, and awareness campaigns, and spreading the libertarian word to individuals bit by bit (from giving party cards to shopkeepers to chatting with taxi drivers and barmen), the LPUK has finally appeared on the national scene, doing two television appearances in one week. It never rains but it pours, eh?

Publicity bite number one came this past Sunday, when LPUK leader Chris Mounsey was invited to debate the question, ‘Should the drink-driving limit be dropped from 80mgs to 50?’ on The Big Questions.

As a matter of fact, he was not being asked to form part of the panel – a detail which the producers failed to mention until he actually walked onto the set for the live broadcast. In reality, he was to present a single point of view, in company with a doctor from the BMA, a grieving mother whose son was killed by a driver over the 80mgs limit, and a representative of an auto association. He also discovered when he walked on set that the question was not, ‘Should the drink-driving limit be dropped from 80mgs to 50?’ but rather ‘Should drivers drink?’

Now, it is not for a political actor to complain that the media do not play fair; when he realised his carefully researched data were going to be useless in context, Chris manned up and did his level best to demonstrate that there is no statistical benefit to prohibiting drivers from drinking at all. Unfortunately, he ran straight into:

Maxim 1 of Political ‘Debate': Your opponent will always lie.

The doctor from the BMA had come armed with her own ‘data’ to prove that, hey, a tiny bit of alcohol slows reaction times by 12.5%, and with 80mgs of drink in the blood reaction times are 10 times slower than with 50. Subsequent research has shown these claims to be rather dubious.

Furthermore, he encountered:

Maxim 2 of Political ‘Debate': The victim (or his mother) is always right.

Never mind that only a tiny proportion of people are killed in drink-driving accidents; never mind that only a tiny proportion of drink-driving journeys result in accidents at all. Anyone who does not utterly oppose the conjunction of alcohol and driving, however limited, is essentially an advocate of manslaughter – and, incidentally, a total monster for making a grieving mother cry.

That said, he did at least have the opportunity to say one or two things about libertarianism, and it was encouraging to find the audience applauding rather less enthusiastically for the bansturbators than they had done earlier for those guests who averred that priests abusing children was a disgrace. If banning drivers from all alcohol consumption was such an obvious no-brainer, surely the audience would have given it the same acclamation they gave to the many other no-brainer statements made on the programme that day.

Publicity bite number two occurred this very morning. Again, LPUK leader Chris Mounsey was invited to speak about the party, this time on The Daily Politics. The producers contacted him to say the interview would be part of a segment on the ‘small parties’ and their policies – as if to suggest that, alone of all media outlets, The Daily Politics was responsible and engaged enough to tell its viewers that there actually are more than three political parties in the United Kingdom. Again, Chris agreed to appear.

And again, he found himself wrong-footed. The ‘interview’ would turn out to be a two-and-a-half minute segment during which Andrew Neil actually did most of the talking. Outliers of all types have to be kept in the liminal spaces, of course, and with small parties, there is a distinct danger that if the media actually report their actual views in any kind of detail, those parties might cease to be quite so small.

Andrew Neil obviously entered the ‘interview’ with that in mind, and ensured that every one of his questions reinforced that marginalisation. He asked not one single question about the party’s policies, manifesto or activities during the course of its two-year existence; instead, he asked, ‘Why are you so small?’ and ‘Why are you standing only one candidate?’ These are not invalid questions, per se, but they have as much relevance to what the party advocates as why they chose blue and gold for the party colours, or a gryphon for its logo.

Maxim 3 of Political ‘Debate': If your position is generally perceived to be marginal, your opponent will focus solely on marginalising you.

During a general election when the media is prepared to demand ridiculous levels of detail about main-party policies, they are certainly not going to waste valuable time asking what is the general goal, outlook, or most prominent policy of any small party. It might suck up the time they’d rather spend reporting on Sarah Brown’s wonky toe.

But fair enough. Chris was there to answer Andrew’s questions, and he did a good job. He explained that the party is young and not well enough funded to pay deposits for many candidates, but that the membership is growing steadily.

Then, perhaps unsurprisingly, Andrew asked about Chris’s blog. And thereby made a colossal tactical error. First, Andrew named the blog, breaking:

Maxim 4 of Political ‘Debate': Never give your opponent free advertising.

Then, he repeated several times that he was not permitted to articulate the blog’s content on television! He made it forbidden fruit, thus also breaking:

Maxim 5 of Political ‘Debate': Never make your opponent’s position look attractive or intriguing.

Unfortunately, Chris was not prepared for a fuck-up of this magnitude on Andrew’s part, and found himself rather at a loss. Should he apologise for the unrepeatable content, or should he remain unrepentant (and thus raise his danger appeal even more)? In the end, because he is a gentleman, he plumped for an non-committal statement of regret. One wonders whether he regretted writing ‘inappropriate’ remarks about public figures, or whether it was simply that he regretted Andrew felt the blog was at all relevant to the LPUK manifesto.

The LPUK, and libertarians in general, have now learned some valuable lessons.

First, Chris was right to go and speak on these programmes. Most of the speaking engagements we libertarians do tend to be in front of other libertarians, which is great but is also preaching to the choir. Although these appearances will not have enlightened anybody about libertarian views, they have nevertheless made a lot of people aware of the existence of a libertarian party. We on the series of tubes lose sight of this sometimes (pace Boaty & D), but there are lots of libertarians out there who aren’t bloggers or blog readers, but who do watch television. Now some of them will know there is a substantial, organised community of libertarians out there that they can be part of.

Second, our assumptions about the media have all been true. They are not interested in reporting, nor are they in any way responsible holders-to-account of public actors. They are a business, and like all businesses they exist to sell their product. Consumers of news media enjoy both outrage and scandal, which unfortunately run-of-the-mill public figures do not provide in great supply. Liminal public actors, therefore, must take up the slack by submitting themselves not to questions designed to elucidate, but to statements designed to confront and incite. There is nothing necessarily wrong in this, but it does require the we liminal types adjust our own strategy accordingly. If the media want shocking interviews, we must shock unapologetically. If the media want to focus on what makes us marginal, we must learn to wear those marginal views with pride. After all, we have nothing to be ashamed of. Pity and guilt have no place among libertarians.

We often wish that public figures did more straight speaking during interviews – the constant diet of pabulum fed to us by the news outlets is so wearying. This criticism still applies to print news, of course, but I think we can all recognise now that live interviews are very different. Whether you’re a shady MP or a total nub, your interviewer’s goal is the same: to ask you only questions that put you on the back foot. I guess that’s why MPs have obfuscation techniques drummed into them from the second they join the party. We, at least, don’t have to obfuscate, so I suggest a different strategy. Instead of assuming that such questions are meant to draw us into a discussion, we should realise their purpose is to back-foot. And instead of stepping neatly into this trap, we should refuse to play – by answering the question, and nothing more.

So that when Andrew Neil says, ‘So you’re a five-man band?’ we don’t explain. We simply say ‘No’ and wait courteously for the next question. So that when he says ‘Do you think this kind of unrepeatable language is appropriate?’ we don’t qualify. We simply say ‘Yes.’ Because that’s the honest answer. And if Andrew Neil wants to call us unmitigated monsters, then the only appropriate response to such idiocy is an insolent shrug. That’s the only response it deserves.

Finally, we know that preparation is pointless. For a twenty-minute speech to other libertarians, we come armed with facts. In such company, we expect to be asked to justify our views with reference to reality. Well, plainly facts and reality are not wanted by media hosts and audiences – and even if they are wanted, the host will negate any you’ve gathered by changing the question at the last moment. So no more data, no more evidence, no more statistics. Why bother? Even when people do listen, they have no idea whether or not you’re telling the truth. If our integrity is such that we can’t permit ourselves to lie outright, then we simply emphasise over and over whichever single statistic most powerfully proves (or supports) our point. Otherwise, extemporise. Then we’ll be flexible enough to respond to the questions we actually end up facing.

After his appearance this morning, Chris offered his resignation to the party. The LPUK refused to accept it. Libertarians, we are who we are. Chris’s only mistake was assuming his hosts actually wanted a calm, logical defence of libertarianism. He was nevertheless magnificent. And the LPUK were right to refuse his resignation. What they need is a leader who is fearless, unapologetic, and completely certain of the rightness of his position. As we all know that’s exactly what the Devil’s Kitchen is, Chris Mounsey need only be himself to succeed.

And lest you think my point of view is biased, allow me to direct you to other apologia here and here and here and here.

UPDATE: And here. And here and here and here and here (sort of) and here and here.

UPDATE 2: And here and here and here and here.

On the other hand, if self-congratulatory I-told-you-sos are more to your taste, go here. With what horrific vocabulary is the Devil’s Kitchen accused of crimes against decency! Bad Conscience is tearing into first place in this contest of the vapours: ‘Highly offensive’ – ‘frequently deliberately outrageous’ – ‘heinously and wilfully offensive’ – ‘personalised, pornographic, narcissistic, grievously offensive invective and vitriol’ – ‘heinously offensive [again]’ – ‘disturbing’ – ‘nasty vitriolic crap.’

Please, dude. Don’t make yourself such a Victorian lady. I bet you’re the first to proclaim what a magnificent satire of the selfish Thatcher-and-Reagan era is Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. And the Devil’s Kitchen has nothing on him.

Apr 132010

UPDATE: I’ve had an email from the mods telling me, among other things, that I nearly crashed their site because of everybody voting multiple times. This is considered unfair. Be told.

It appears that the mods over at publicservice.co.uk did not appreciate the free traffic yesterday’s pollbomb gave them. One of the mods has left this remark on the poll feedback site:

It would seem there are people out there who spend so long in their blogging basements that they a) have lost any understanding of democracy and fair play and b) consider their actions to be revolutionary and even relevant when in fact they are risible and, well, bordering on the just plain silly…

The actions by such people don’t do anything other than allow them to snigger to themselves (and each other) which is all very satisfying for them, I’m sure. But the whole point of a poll is for people to express their honest opinions which will hopefully be of interest to people who actually do have something worthwhile to say. Bombing polls is ridiculous and pointless, much like the sites that advocate it and relish in it. And the whole premise that there is a public vs private battle like a City vs United thing is nothing short of lame and shows extremely shallow thinking. For those of us who have operated (and still do) in both sectors, we know this is simply not the case.

So to the rest of you out there who do believe in democracy, intelligent debate and discourse, please keep voting and sending in your opinions. We do value them and we will not abandon any poll simply because someone thinks it’s clever to attempt to sabotage it (but sitting at 43-57 at the time of writing they haven’t even managed to do that) for the sake of a collective online giggle.

This is standard practice for humourless precious types, I’m afraid. Let’s examine whether the mod’s own comment meets the test of ‘intelligent debate and discourse.’

1. Insults:

  • ‘risible’
  • ‘silly’
  • ‘ridiculous’
  • ‘pointless’
  • ‘lame’
  • ‘shallow’
  • unintelligent
  • think it’s clever [implying that it’s stupid]

2. Baseless accusations:

  • no understanding of democracy and fair play
  • dishonest
  • lack of belief in democracy
  • ‘sabotage’
  • ‘for the sake of a collective online giggle’

3. Derision:

  • not ‘revolutionary’ or ‘important’
  • nothing worthwhile to say
  • opinions of pollbombers not valued
  • ‘ridiculous and pointless’ pollbomb failing anyway

Is anyone out there surprised by this method? You shouldn’t be. It’s straight out of the Righteous Manual of Pious Outrage.

In light of this unprovoked nastiness and accusation, I moseyed back over and left my own comment. Knowing that they censored DK straight into the aether, I reproduce my words in full here.

Hi there! I’m the ‘plain silly’ blogger who started the pollbomb. I know the assumption by the moderators here is that I’m shallow and think myself ‘quite clever.’ I’ll omit pointing out the essential hypocrisy of such swipes and merely explain my motivation.

On the ‘about us’ part of [the publicservice.co.uk] site, you will find these statements:

‘We are THE provider for all your public sector information needs’

‘We continually strive to build on our reputation as a key source of news and analysis on public sector matters’

Given the self-proclaimed prominence of this website and its parent company in providing the public sector with THE information it needs to know, perhaps you could explain to me why you judge it unfair that some of us should choose to send an informative message to the public sector by voting in your poll.

If, as you claim, the poll ‘won’t die any kind of quiet death,’ then I hope that when you disseminate the results to your public sector clients, you report very clearly the following:

1. Numerous people took time out of their busy days and evenings to bring traffic to your site and participate in a survey to which you presumably wanted answers.

2. Many of those same people felt strongly enough about your question to leave comments explaining why they voted in the way they did.

3. There is a significant amount of resentment felt by private sector workers toward public sector ones. This is not because we assume all public sector employees earn huge amounts – far from it. We know nurses and policemen are generally not highly paid. The resentment stems from the fact that private sector employees are forced by law to fund public sector entitlements which they themselves could not afford and which reduces their capacity to afford other things too.

This is why we ‘ridiculously’ chose to ‘sabotage’ your poll, and why we hope that as THE provider of public sector information needs, you pass along the message.

And a message to the moderators of this site: given that you are censoring responses, I will also be publishing this reasonable and non-abusive (unlike your own) comment elsewhere.

We shall see whether they are truly in the market for ‘honest’ input.

Apr 122010

All right, all you readers out there. Time for a pollbomb.

At publicservice.co.uk (Public Sector & Government News), they’re running a weekly poll in which the question is:

Should public sector workers have to pay more to maintain the value of their pensions?

You won’t be surprised to hear that the ‘No’ votes are winning.

Can we round up enough ‘Yes’ votes to make them think pubic sector workers are all in favour of paying higher pension contributions? It would save the rest of us money, after all. And they deserve our spiteful little tricks.

Join me! Vote for higher pension payments for pubic sector workers. The poll is on the home page, in the right-hand sidebar.

Apr 112010

John Demetriou has responded, with equal reasonableness and clarity, to my post from earlier today. I wrote before that I have a lot of sympathy with his position, and after his response, I find that I have even more. I feel I understand better what is driving his actions on this question of libertarianism, libertarian bloggers, and the public image of the Libertarian Party. In fact, after reading his post, I find I understand my own position somewhat better, and that is one of the reasons why, despite our arguments, I continue to have a lot of time for JD.

And so there is a further point I wish to make.

In his post, JD says:

What is important is that libertarianism, for the first time, became sort of ‘incarnate’ once the [LPUK] came into being. The day the party was formed, it was like the soul and future purpose of libertarianism was hoisted up off the ground and placed upon the shoulders of this vehicle.

Well, why else would it form? It must have had a purpose? This purpose was surely to seek out electoral popularity and success, in the long term. Libertarianism does not really exist in other parties (I do believe that for a fact), and so people like me and other like-minded liberty lovers look at the LPUK and think ‘please succeed and please advance our philosophy’.

Since this is his view of the LPUK, his position on Old Holborn and other libertarian bloggers and everything else is perfectly justified. If I shared this point of view, I would be behind JD one hundred per cent.

But reading his words, I realise that I don’t share this. I’m not saying he’s wrong; just that I don’t feel this way about the LPUK.

Partly this is because I think political parties, to a very real extent, inhibit true democratic representation. Parties, because they are large, necessarily have to moderate their policies and make compromises in order for their candidates to get elected. They promote a handful of generalised, core values that are broad enough to appeal to large numbers of voters and vague enough not too put too many voters off. In practice, they end up chasing the ‘centre ground’, and in practice end up standing for nothing in their pursuit of populism and inoffensiveness. I would much rather see individual candidates lay out their individual views and intentions and for the voters to choose based on the merits of those individual candidates. But because of the way the British government is structured – in which the party with the majority of candidates elected to parliament forms the Government and controls the business of the legislature – what I would like to see is not practical. So although I understand the practical necessity of having a Libertarian Party, especially as none of the other parties promote anything remotely like libertarianism, I have no great faith in the concept of political parties in general.

Moreover, as an American I have witnessed the evolution of the Libertarian Party there, and it does not inspire much confidence. I’m not saying the same will happen to the LPUK; I hope it doesn’t. But the Libertarian Party in the US has endured several regrettable developments. For a time, it was popularly known as the Party of Stoners because of its capture by single-minded advocates of marijuana legalisation. I am entirely in favour of marijuana legalisation, of course, but their harping on the point to the virtual exclusion of all other aspects of liberty made them appear to be fringe cranks who cared only about their desire to smoke a doob. More recently, they have fallen victim to the ‘populist and inoffensive’ trap, to the extent that their presidential candidate in 2008 Robert Barr, a former advocate of drug prohibition and one-man-one-woman marriage who voted for the Patriot Act in Congress, was widely believed to be so un-libertarian that many LP members absolutely refused to campaign for him. He is also a total moron. Here he is in Reason talking about why he voted for the Patriot Act:

The administration also, from the attorney general on down, gave us personal assurances that the provisions in the PATRIOT Act, if they were passed and signed into law, would be used judiciously, that they would not be used to push the envelope of executive power, that they would not be used in non-terrorism related cases. They gave us assurances that they would work with us on those provisions that we were able to get sunsetted, work with us to modify those and to look at those very carefully when those provisions came up for reauthorization. The administration also gave us absolute assurances that it would work openly and thoroughly report to the Congress, and by extrapolation to the American people, on how it was using the provisions in the PATRIOT Act. In every one of those areas, the administration has gone back on what it told us.

No intelligent libertarian would be this stunningly naive.

Quite apart from the inconsistencies of the US Libertarian Party, I also see that most of the real progress of the libertarian movement in the US in the last five years has been achieved by people who are not members of the party. Ron Paul has won hearts and minds for libertarianism all over the United States, especially in that all-important ‘young voter’ group who were unengaged in politics. In late 2007 it was not uncommon to see first-time voters at Ron Paul rallies bearing signs that read ‘Ron Paul Cured My Apathy.’ To my total bewilderment, he received a lot of criticism from the higher-ups of the LP for, of all things, being a Republican. That only served to reinforce my view that political parties do more harm than good: for who cares what party a libertarian is in, as long as he is a libertarian?

The Tea Party is another entity that has out-libertarian’d the LP in the United States. They’re not a political party (yet), they have only the most basic shared ideology, and they do not call themselves libertarians; but the vast majority of what they advocate is libertarianism by the back door, slipped into public discourse without the terminology that has become so tainted by faction and party hypocrisy, such that millions of people have rallied around them and so become libertarians without even realising it.

Given all of this, then, I do not hold the idea of a Libertarian Party in the UK in quite the same hopeful regard as John Demetriou. I support them in the ways that I can, I believe in them so far, I hope they win electoral success by the bucketload, and I would vote for them if I could. But if the LPUK fails, or splits into factions, or becomes associated with fringe nutjobs, I don’t believe it will necessarily set back the cause of libertarianism. For failure, factionalism, and fringe movements are exactly what has happened to the Libertarian Party in the US, and yet libertarianism as a politico-philosophical position is more popular and more successful there now than it has been in my lifetime.

In short, I want the LPUK to enjoy tremendous electoral success while maintaining their ideological integrity. But if they don’t, well… no biggie. Libertarianism abides.

‘Hey, fat boy!’

 hilarity, indolence, stupid-heads  Comments Off on ‘Hey, fat boy!’
Apr 102010

We’re going to burn you in effigy! Slim down, or next time we’ll put you in there when we light it on fire. For the sacrifices of those caught in some offence are more pleasing to the gods, but if the supply of such people runs out, we will not hesitate to sacrifice innocents.’*

Can we expect to see Jamie Oliver officiating as Chief Druid?

Hat tip to Longrider, Leg-Iron, and Ambush Predator.

*Adapted from Caesar, De Bello Gallico VI.16 for maximum absurdity value.

Apr 102010

I am told that the blogger known as Old Holborn intends to stand as a parliamentary candidate for the Jury Team in the forthcoming general election.

I say ‘I am told’ because I know nothing other than the fact that Boaty & D keep banging on about it. My understanding of the source of this beef is basically zero.

But because Old Holborn has historically called himself a libertarian, John Demetriou is (perhaps understandably) concerned that non-libertarians might make inferences about the rest of us based on Old Holborn’s very public campaigns and his well-known online presence. JD has called on the UK Libertarian Party, despite not being a member, to sever its links, whatever their nature, with Old Holborn, and on libertarians in general to distance themselves publicly from Old Holborn, certain of his attitudes, and certain of the Jury Team policies he is obliged to support as one of their candidates – all in an effort to demonstrate as clearly as possible that Old Holborn is not representative of libertarians as a group. Indeed, Demetriou does these things himself, so he is not demanding from anyone else what he is not willing to do himself.

A couple of evenings ago, he and I had quite an instructive conversation on the matter, in which he outlined the basics of his position and made various suggestions. My response, however, was evidently unsatisfactory, as he mentioned on his blog this afternoon:

None of the other top 20 libertarian bloggers have any issues whatsoever with OH and his campaign. It’s ‘ends justify the means’ ‘so what?’ all the way to the bank.

The hypocrisy and inconsistency inherent in the lack of questioning going on here about OH and these others is incredible.

And when I press the issue home, certain other bloggers make out like OH is nothing to do with them, the LPUK or libertarianism.

This, despite the fact that the Treasurer of the LPUK is OH’s mate and fellow blogger and the leader of the LPUK and his wife went on a London demo at Parliament together.

But no, no, no links at all, OH is nothing to do with this cause at all.

I’m obviously mad or deluded. Yeah.

It is not my intention to get into a blogwar, or to take personally these remarks. I understand entirely where JD is coming from and I have a great deal of sympathy for his position. It is not enough for me to say that I am not one of the top 20 libertarian bloggers, and that I am not a member of the LPUK. It is not enough for me to say that I speak only for myself, not for libertarians in general or LPUK members, when I refuse to do what he thinks I should do. He is a fellow libertarian, and he deserves a better answer. And as there are probably many who share his view, they deserve a better answer from me too. And I deserve better than what JD’s comment implies about my views.

In the first instance, I will not question OH’s campaign or policies because I know nothing about them. I have not informed myself of the matter. Politically, it is an irrelevancy. I do not live in the constituency where OH is standing, and even if I did, I could neither vote for him nor choose not to vote for him.

Not so with the Jury Team. Some of their 30 key policies are attractive; some are not. As I feel this way about most political parties, I am hardly going to go out of my way to make a particular attack on the Jury Team on that basis. However.

JD feels that the Jury Team’s participation in the Alliance for Democracy taints it, because its partners the Christian Party and the English Democrats are proposing some truly unsavoury stuff. He points out the Christian Party’s commitment to upholding lifelong marriage between one man and one woman, and the EDP’s belief that the public culture of England should be that of indigenous English. The Christian Party also advocates the death penalty, banning abortion, prohibition of drugs, censorship, and public health campaigns to ‘discourage’ homosexuality.

Not only are these policies un-libertarian, as JD says, they are personally repugnant. They are not the policies of the Jury Team, but although it is cunningly buried, the Jury Team’s official website does state that they are a ‘full member of the Alliance for Democracy’ and the leader of the Jury Team, Sir Paul Judge, is also the leading spokesman for the Alliance. Although I cannot find it explicitly stated, it appears that members of the Alliance have agreed, as they did for the 2005 election, not to stand competing candidates in the same constituency. From this, I infer that Jury Team members and candidates are comfortable enough with CP and EDP policies to be satisfied with CP and EDP electoral victory.

And it is for that reason that I do not like the Jury Team, would not vote for them (if I had the vote), and find it utterly puzzling that a self-professed libertarian would stand as a Jury Team candidate. But nobody has to share my views, or even sympathise with them, and if OH believes he can support the Jury Team without supporting its allies, who am I to say he can’t, even if I couldn’t?

But there is more, because JD clearly objects to Old Holborn himself in addition to the Jury Team and its allies. Something about Old Holborn himself is obviously poisonous enough to corrupt the image of the UK Libertarian Party because its treasurer happens to be his personal friend and its leader (and his wife) went on a ‘demonstration’ he organised. Moreover, the very fact that Old Holborn calls himself a libertarian is sufficient to taint libertarianism in general and all libertarians everywhere unless they publicly state that they don’t agree with his poisonous views.

I am not entirely clear on what, exactly, JD doesn’t like about Old Holborn. I do not know the man personally, despite having spent an afternoon in his general vicinity and participated in a short conversation with him. I have little familiarity with his personal or political views; some of what I know, I agree with, and some I don’t agree with. He may not be an anti-Semite, but I do not agree with what I understand are his opinions about Israel or Jewish influence in politics. But because I do not really know the man or his views, I allow for the fact that I may be wrong about what he thinks, and I will not go on the attack or make public assertions about him when my knowledge and understanding are incomplete. Nor will I advise anyone else to do so.

I think these are all good explanations for why I will not do as JD suggests. But the ultimate reason, really, is that libertarianism is about principles, not personalities. Either the principles are sound on their own terms, and will remain sound no matter what sort of person advocates them; or the principles are unsound, and not even an army of saints urging people to adopt them will make them right. JD, I think, would argue that libertarian principles are more likely to be given the fair hearing they deserve if their public advocates are reasonable people, and probably he is right. But that is not a good enough justification, for me personally, to attack an individual from a position of ignorance. I want the libertarian movement to succeed, and I want its members to be well thought of, but I will not join a public crusade against an individual to achieve that.

This may be hypocritical, given that I denounce people like Ed Balls left, right, and centre with equally imperfect knowledge. Maybe JD is right and I’m permitting my tribal libertarianism to overcome my good sense. Maybe I just don’t want to get on Old Holborn’s bad side. These things could all be true, and my ‘reasoning’ just rationalising some base, gut unwillingness to go against another libertarian, especially one who is more well-known and more ‘powerful’ than I am.

But maybe it’s just that, deep down, I would not respect myself if I jumped on this bandwagon, however justified it might be. I hold libertarian principles to be right and good, and I try to persuade others of their rightness and goodness, and I try not to discredit the movement in my personal behaviour. But that is the only contribution to the ’cause’ I am willing to make, because the only person whose views and actions I’m responsible for is myself. I don’t place the libertarian ’cause’ ahead of my self-respect, and my personal code of integrity tells me it is not appropriate for me to follow JD’s course (although I do not say it is not appropriate for him). And so Old Holborn may be ‘something’ to do with libertarianism, but he is nothing to do with me.