Libertarianism; The New Black

We’ve been called geeks, nerds and uncool for as long as i can remember. But after years of being unfashionable and watching lefties get all the hot girls, this is very exciting news, 

‘Low tax-low spend economics is finally threatening to become not just irresistible in terms of rational debate and empirical evidence – which, in fact, it is has been since at least the 1980s – but something far more devastating in electoral terms: it is poised to become cool. It will now be unthinkably unfashionable at dinner parties to defend the notion of the state as the monopoly supplier of virtue and fairness.’

via Samizdata

50 thoughts on “Libertarianism; The New Black

  1. Dear Pommie

    Were that it would be more than a hope in the UK blogosphere !

    The links seem to indicate that the lower and middle classes in the UK may be getting fed up to the back teeth with years of New Labour layering on New Imposts, but it doesn’t suggest that they are rallying to reject government largesse per se, maybe just their contribution to the money-go-round ?

    And the dinner parties here Down Under ? Hmmm.

    The High Nett Worths I am employed by rail against Big Government and doubtless do so at their social functions. But they are largely politically disengaged. Their main focus, as success participants in the modern economy is business, recreation and family. Some can barely drag themselves away from Saturday fun to attend a polling booth – figuring it is easier to mail in a cheque for the fine. ( which may also explain the dearth of talent in right-of-centre politics, but that is an hypothesis for another day )

    And as for the dinner parties of the politically engaged ?
    After Ruddfest 2020, I find it hard to imagine Cate Blanchett sitting at too many arts fiestas where they won’t be mentally carving up large dollops of taxpayer largesse in anticipation.

    So I dare to suggest a hypothesis that we are in a different position on the arc of the political pendulum to the UK. Populism seems triumphant here for the time being, and I still wander home from scanning the blogosphere fearing that collectivism and statism seems to be flourishing – if the volume of noise they make on the ‘net is any benchmark 😦

  2. Kev

    You’re right. 11yrs of NuLabour’s large spending program has left people wondering if *whisper it* the government is really the best entity to spend their hard-won wages.

    wonderful to see but not the case at all in propserous Australia.

    interestingly, on my parents last visit to Oz, they commented on how much higher the standard of living appeared in Oz compared to the UK.

    also interesting to note that the UK govt has just lowered the threshold where the 40% (top rate) tax kicks in to about $80k. contrast with Oz moving up from $150k to $180k.

  3. I doubt most people have heard of the word Libertarian in Australia (try asking people on the street and see if they know what it means), even if they think lower tax is a good thing.

  4. To get ‘Cool’ cred, you might want a new label. I call myself, when I’m being polite to myself, an Ultra-Liberal, who wants governments to liberally hand back all their powers to the individual voters. UltraLiberal can sound like the best of both versions of ‘Liberal’. If it had a motto, I would hope it was something like ‘Share All Power’, which all sides can agree on, depending on whether you’re a sharer or a power-seeker.

  5. Libertarianism is the new black ?

    Yeah right, lets see a libertarian party get double digit polling in America, Britain or Australia !

  6. ‘I call myself,……….an Ultra-Liberal’

    Quite rate that. I think I’ll use that at times instead of ‘libertarian’ or even ‘classical liberalist’.

  7. Dear Pommie

    I hope you will share with me in enjoying the rich “Yes Minister” irony of the following, and which I offer as an object lesson to the blogership:

    Sinister secrets of the dustbin Nazis

    “This is how Britain is now governed, through rules drawn up by German academics, at the behest of unelected bureaucrats in Belgium, and enforced by single-issue lunatics hired out of the jobs pages of The Guardian.”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1020524/Sinister-secrets-dustbin-Nazis.html

    You can’t say they weren’t warned – remember Jim, Sir Humphrey and the Euro-sausage ??!

  8. maybe the has-been from Midnight Oil and his plastic bag bans are a foretaste of what’s to come here. luckily Australia has no equivalent of the EU.

  9. He’s right though nicholas, any use of “ultra” implies an extremism that will send off most alarm bells in peoples’heads. How about:

    A loose collection of people advocating a radical change to society but without offering any empirical support for the same?

  10. And also, using ultra in a sentence to describe yourself will make your average person think that your a twat.

  11. ‘And also, using ultra in a sentence to describe yourself will make your average person think that your a twat.’

    It’s how you say it. If I’m introduced to others as a libertarian, by my friends who are keen Liberals, I would rather ‘defuse’ the situation by saying ‘I’d consider myself more along the lines of ultra-liberal!’ Or maybe just very liberal. Or even ‘true to the liberal cause’. But the reality is 90% of the population will shy away from ‘libertarian’. It’s just normal judging of people with views that may conflict with your own. For example, there’s also the other side to this coin. I consider ‘moderate’ to usually mean wanker who doesn’t have morals and probably doesn’t really know wrong from right if they were ever put to the test. And needs to be everyone’s friend to make up for their own inadequacies, because they’re frightened of being judged by others ’cause they can’t stand on their own crap virtues and values.

  12. “A loose collection of people advocating a radical change to society but without offering any empirical support for the same?”

    That’s garbage. I used to put up voluminous amounts of empirical evidence on many seperate issues here whilst “debating”, (i.e lecturing) that Trinifar dolt. She didn’t think it was any kind of persuasive argument either. Why don’t you?

  13. Ultras are Italian footbal hooligans. Classical liberal is the only term that has any chance of reclaiming the true meaning of the term liberal.

    I’d be wary of declaring low taxation the new battleground in Britain. Only just year the Tories were promising to maintain spending at projected Labour levels for the first two years of a conservative government. This of course was in response to the faux election campaign Brown started at last year. I bet he wishes he went to the polls then now.

    Until a political party is prepared to tackle (dismantle) the NHS, big government will be the norm in the UK. This isn’t wholesale reform, just broadbase chic.

  14. Libertarianism is the new black ?

    Yeah right, lets see a libertarian party get double digit polling in America, Britain or Australia !

    LOL. Yes, competition can be cruel, can’t it? Solid single-digit polling would have been an improvement for the LDP. Non-compulsory voting would have made those figures worse, I’d wager 😉

  15. The last commenter said:

    “It’s democracy as long as they vote for the right people, i.e not you.”

    What a champion of people power. Deciding for the rest of us the “correct” party to vote for.

  16. democracy is always in style.

    I actually reckon if voting was non-compulsory, then the LDP would have fared much better. Only those motivated to vote for something they are at least mildly passionate about would turn up, and no doubt the LDP supporters believe in smaller government, gun rights and less taxes.

    If Libertarianism is the new black, then why didn’t those LDP posters with “Less government, lower taxes, more freedom” win over tens of thousands of voters ?

  17. The LDP isn’t winning people over because too many libertarians have the public relation skills of a dead gnat. They engage in too much personal invective, shout too often, and propose radical solutions without providing steps towards those solutions. Libertarians need to focus much more on providing and demonstrating practical outcomes of their ideas rather than spruiking their philosophy.

    I am no libertarian nor and can I ever be but I do acknowledge that libertarians ideas deserve a greater voice in society and society would probably better off for the same.

  18. Correct on all counts except the public relations thing is a little unfair. PR is an art to itself and most libertarians don’t specialise in this stuff. Is it more important to have a rational, consistent, progressive philosophy, or be really good at selling yourself and manipulating people? Decent people want the former, but unfortunately successful politicians are generally better at the latter.

  19. I don’t think tens of thousands of voters have seen the LDP posters. And if they did, I can’t see a large precent caring too much. Maybe we should try more pretenious advertising like that of a French perfume or a poster that states “LPD – Google it!”
    And then there’s people like my dad who believe to a degree that we have to pay this much tax in order to make the country work. And then there’s Homer Simpson’s line “The whole reason why we have paid officials is so we don’t have to think.” Which is the mentality of “things aren’t currently horrible so why rock the boat.”
    Some top notch PR peole would be handy. I’m optimistic that things will pick up and in ten so years Libertarianism will be the new black.

  20. Is it more important to have a rational, consistent, progressive philosophy, or be really good at selling yourself and manipulating people?

    Useless dichotomy Mick. Most people wouldn’t know a rational, consistent progressive philosophy even if it bit them in the arse.

    Must be able to do both. Good ideas triumph not through their own power but through people. Never forget that knowledge is NOT power and power is what counts. Very cynical I know but also very true.

    The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
    –George Bernard Shaw

    Cynicism is a euphemism for realism. Seeing things the way they really are, instead of the way we’d like them to be.
    *Hans Selye

  21. Mick – John is right. If a libertairan party is to make any progress with the electorate, it needs to learn better PR. That includes dropping some of the more ‘extreme’ policies that turn off voters in their thousands (even if they are ‘pure libertairan ‘ ideas).

    I would prefer the message to be kept simple – lower taxes, less govt nannying and more freedom. i don’t see the need to get bogged down in too much policy detail.

  22. Perhaps the simple message could be- “Less Taxes, and Less Intrusions!” If we characterise govt actions as intrusions, which they are, then getting rid of them can be cast as a good thing.

  23. There is nothing in the LDP policy to be ashamed of. It is backed up by facts.

    It is a little rich to one hand blurt out PR and then blurt out that we should get rid of policies. If we could jsut get rid of policies to be more popular, we wouldn’t need PR, would we?

    Recognition and Senate preferences are problems many times more important than PR or taste. Look at how the Greens have changed debate and accepted agendas by remaining relevant in other ways and continually pushing ideas. The Greens were not populist to begin with.

    A popularity contest isn’t a good way of determining policy. They are moderate to begin with, balancing evidence backed policy, populairty compromises and workability from the current policy context. If abortion rights become very unpopular, are we going to change that as well? If extreme ideologies become popular, are we going to drift with the current a little as well, to show that we are “reasonable”? You lose credibility and brand recognition when people don’t know what your principles are.

    As for being diplomatic to everyone: the Democrats tried this (after trying to keep the bastards honest of course). Where did it get them? There is nothing wrong with politely pointing out someone is being deceitful or they are misinformed. If they take offence, it is because they are not getting their own way. Are we going to let that dictate what policies we support?

    Yes persuasion is a better tactic than confrontation. But confrontation challenges anyone who wants to change the status quo.

  24. Jono

    I actually reckon if voting was non-compulsory, then the LDP would have fared much better. Only those motivated to vote for something they are at least mildly passionate about would turn up, and no doubt the LDP supporters believe in smaller government, gun rights and less taxes.

    Maybe, but put it this way: if it were polling, the LDP vote in most seats in which they stood would have been within the margin of error. We’re both guessing, but I think that donkey vote, “lesser donkey” vote (e.g. voters who heard the LDP were gonna let them smoke pot) and human error might have counted for some of the numbers. Hence my comment.

    JH:

    They engage in too much personal invective, shout too often, and propose radical solutions without providing steps towards those solutions. Libertarians need to focus much more on providing and demonstrating practical outcomes of their ideas rather than spruiking their philosophy.

    Ha! Sounds like the same problems that extremist left parties have!!!

    MS:

    Is it more important to have a rational, consistent, progressive philosophy, or be really good at selling yourself and manipulating people?

    False dichotomy. Why does other people’s political success mean they’ve “manipulated people”? Surely you’re not spruiking explanations in terms of “ideology”? How is political failure a mark of consistency? Honestly, you hear the same reasoning in Socialist Left ALP branches. Isn’t it better to adapt your platform to what people want?

    If you don’t get votes, you should look for flaws in the platform, not blame the voters. PR might help, but it needs attractive policy to sell. And in a democracy, praise be It’s name, everyone has to compete in the established marketplace.

  25. Isn’t it better to adapt your platform to what people want?

    no, it isn’t. it is always better to cut taxes, cut red tape, free up trade and increase individual freedom, no matter what is currently popular. The LDP has many excellent policies.

    however, i do think libertarian parties need to be aware more of how some of their policies come across. many people agree with the need for less govt nannying but there;s a big jump from this position to wanting to ban seat belts (for example). they need to be guided there in baby steps.

  26. @Conrad

    The word ‘libertarian’ has actually been mentioned a lot over the past few days in regards to Bill Henson and his pseudo-child photography.

    Need I say more?

  27. It feels a bit of a shame that my FONZIE-FATHER-FIGURE level-of COOL is finally trickling down to all you faux-libertarian ingrates.

  28. A popularity contest isn’t a good way of determining policy.

    Loser talk. The popularity contest that sifts policy options is called democracy. Look at the election results; look at the polls. People want more state presence in the economy and society not less. Are they all idiots? How does that suddenly change when they\’re in the marketplace, FFS?

    Maybe it would be easier for you folks to think about democracy as a marketplace of ideas. No one is buying your stuff. You could change the product or keep doing your deposit.

    no, it isn’t. it is always better to cut taxes, cut red tape, free up trade and increase individual freedom, no matter what is currently popular. The LDP has many excellent policies… (people) need to be guided there in baby steps.

    LOL more Socialist Left logic. \”We know what\’s best for you, comrades, only ideology stops you realising it\”. Patronising and paternalistic. Aren\’t baby steps what nannies encourage?

    Look at the polls. Look at the parliament. Rudd and Swan basically had to force-feed people tax cuts – people want it spent on services. They want the state to manage risk for them. Better to have tax cuts? Says who? Get out there and convince people. \”Oh we need better PR\”; \”Oh the voters are too stupid\” – they are cop-outs that winners don\’t need to resort to.

    From my angle, it seems like Libertarianism is the new red. The new fringe cause that would rather maintain its purity than establish paths to political victory.

  29. “Rudd and Swan had to force feed people tax cuts”.

    Please be honest. Both the Coalition and ALP ran on a policy of tax cuts. Over three quarters of the primary vote went to tax cutting parties.

    Acknowledging that we need better PR isn’t a cop out.

    We are in the business of convincing people to vote for us so we can win with a platform, not convince people we can give them everything they ask for.

    I never said voters are stupid. We have had very limited funds and they haven’t heard of this. If I could make money by changing policies, I would have a portfolio of several thousand small political parties.

    It is amusing that non libertarian interlocutors crash in and try to “help” us by trying to persuade us to be non libertarian.

    Thanks, but we’re spoken for.

  30. people want it spent on services. They want the state to manage risk for them

    i don’t disagree. however, that’s what people thought in the UK until they saw the consequences of 12 years of state spending. having lived thru that, they now want tax cuts and less state involvement.

    when people are wealthy, they vote for more welfare. when things get tough, they vote for more economically literate policies.

    there is no way any libertarian party would ever sanction more state spending just to gain power.

  31. The most telling factor in my transition to libertarianism was the argument for limiting the power of the state to interfere in our lives and in the process reducing the financial dead weight of government.

    If we “ever sanction more state spending just to gain power.” then we cease to be libertarian. I am all for a gradualist approach, but this must not violate our basic principles.

  32. i do think libertarian parties need to be aware more of how some of their policies come across. many people agree with the need for less govt nannying but there;s a big jump from this position to wanting to ban seat belts (for example). they need to be guided there in baby steps.

    For the record, the LDP is not in favour of banning anything (apart from bans on things). Its philosophy is quite simple – when nobody else is likely to suffer adversely and involuntarily (ie coercion), it’s none of the government’s business.

    While its policy does not specifically include repeal of seatbelt laws, it regards enforcement as a low order priority. It might be stupid not to wear a seatbelt, but stupidity is not sufficient justification for invoking criminal law.

    In purist terms, repealing seatbelt laws makes more sense. In New Hampshire the wearing of seatbelts is not compulsory for libertarian reasons. However, the LDP operates in the Australian political environment, not the US. Australians are less comfortable with accepting responsibility for their own decisions, so a more measured approach is needed. All the LDP’s policies have been written from that perspective.

  33. As a libertarian of the Co-Monarchist strain, I think that things like seat belts are the right of the owners of roads to decide. Ideally, local counties would decide this, and users of public property should respect the owners, called the public.
    On your own land, live as unsafely as you like!

  34. It’s none of the road owner’s business whether I wear a seatbelt or not on his/her road. So long as nobody else is coerced as a result, it’s entirely my affair.

    There is nothing about a private property right that places it on a higher level than owning your own body.

  35. But the use of one’s property is a right, and the collective right of share-owners to dictate the conditions of use of their property is one I would respect. I also think that licences are a right that any owner can insist on, so I don’t object to licenses for road-safety reasons.
    As for owning your own body, I agree with that. I also think that land-owners should be allowed to decide what to do with their lands, including my right to allow or expel people or things from my property, and to put conditions on what they do. I extend this right to collective entities, like companies that own lands, i.e. roads.
    I see no ownership clashes here. (What do you do on someone else’s property, DavidL? Do you go to parties determined to do your own thing, regardless of the wishes of the hosts?)
    In the case of the nude photos, if the photos are kept in a private studio, and the kids, or their guardians, gave their consent, then there is no cause to call the cops. I would not visit it because of my values, but I wouldn’t have the right to impose my values over someone else’s property.

  36. People don’t want governments to provide services, they want somebody to provide services, anybody, it doesn’t matter who. The idea that needs to be spread around is that not only are governments the wrong people to provide services, they actually get in the way of the right people.

  37. MaxT- nice idea, but how will we publicise it? And I don’t know if we should let the government get away with calling things ‘services’ when they force you to pay for them whether you use them or not! There is a small slither of morality to the Lands Department, where I work, because people pay for the service that they want done- we are not financed by taxes. In a liberated economy, i still think that something like the Lands Office would be useful, to validate claims to land, and size of lands- Insurance companies would want such information, as one example.

  38. Pingback: Club Troppo » Missing Link Daily

Comments are closed.