Enemy of freedom: National Civic Council

Libertarian philosophy is not right-wing or left-wing. While many libertarians spend time attacking left-wing notions of the welfare state, high tax, over-regulation, bureaucratic control and the victim mentality… there are plenty of right-wing notions that are just as toxic.

The anti-freedom element of the right is shown clearly by the National Civic Council and their magazine, News Weekly.

Unless you’re a libertarian masochists or an economic nationalists, I suggest avoiding it. In the latest edition alone there was a call for Australia to get more tough on drugs, opposition to foreigners buying Australian assets, a rant against free trade and free markets, support for more regulation, saber-rattling against Nth Korea, a puff piece endorsing Sarah Palin, support for anti-terror laws and dismissal of civil liberties, a call for subsidies for stay-at-home mums, opposition to stem-cell research, opposition to same-sex rights, a rant against porn, opposition to abortion, an advert for a book on how evolution is wrong and then a call for a government bank. Phew!

And that wasn’t just one bad edition. There is an ongoing theme against free markets and against civil liberties.

Libertarians are sometimes bundled in with the “right-wing” because of our opposition to left-wing policies. Groups like the right-wing National Civil Council show why libertarians should reject both wings and instead build an independent political identity based on freedom.

34 thoughts on “Enemy of freedom: National Civic Council

  1. Great points.

    But what if other countries are subsidising their exports? I’d say slapping a tariff on people like that is completely fair.

    Free Trade aint free unless the country your trading with is free in a domestic sense.

  2. If the pub down the road was selling subsidised beer would you slap a tariff on yourself for drinking there? Most people would just enjoy the cheaper beer. That’s how we ought to react when foreign nations give stuff away.

  3. True Terje, though we already have a tariff on local stuff by way of income taxes and other taxes/levies which were applied to it’s production…

  4. Fleeced — the GST applies to imports and domestically produced goods, and the income tax applies to people whether they buy imports or domestically produced goods. Excise taxes are also applies to petrol/alcohol/cigarettes irrespective of whether they’re imports or domestically produced goods. So those points are not relevant.

    tony76 — as Terje says, just because other countries have bad policies, that doesn’t mean we should do the same.

  5. GST is notionally better than income tax when it comes to international trade because it is does not add any cost to exports (other than administrative costs). A GST lets exports to a given country compete on a more equal footing with products produced domestically in that country. As such an income tax does represent a larger trade wedge than a GST, although one applied via exports rather than imports.

    John – you skirt this issue by presuming (incorrectly in my view) that income tax is a tax on consumption rather than a tax on production.

  6. One Nation shared a lot of policies with the NCC. I could never understand why the left was so vociferous in their opposition. Economically, they overlapped more than they differed.

    Libertarians are the only true centrists.

  7. JohnH, errr they were the aligned with the DLP and unless i’m mistaken the DLP was the breakaway group from the labor party- the anti-communists.

    There has been nothing “right wing” about this group since its inception and the only thing they ever did was support the right against the ALP as at the time ALP was basically overrun by commies.

    To suggest this group is right wing is simply wrong. Right wing? Catholic labor is more like it.

    Check out their polices, most of which Rudd would support.

    What Rudd would support?

    a call for Australia to get more tough on drugs,


    opposition to foreigners buying Australian assets,


    a rant against free trade and free markets, support for more regulation


    support for anti-terror laws and dismissal of civil liberties,


    a call for subsidies for stay-at-home mums,


    opposition to same-sex rights,


    a rant against porn,


    an advert for a book on how evolution is wrong and then a call for a government bank. Phew!

    ½ tick

    There’s quite a few things Rudd would support. In fact there’s quite a few things the Labor right factions actually do support

  8. @terje and @John Humphreys

    Consider a scenario where you buy shoes from a guy who has slaves that make the shoes.

    You are essentially saying:

    “Well if the guy I buy shoes from has slaves, that’s not my problem. I should just take advatage of the slavery and prevent the person with the true comparative advantage for making shoes”.

    Your problem is that its not a one way street. By legitimising the slave good you are preventing someone else from arising in the true marketplace. That is coercion.

  9. Ironic that in the past this type of rightist swing at liberty would have been stifled by the conservative media and ethos of the day, but in the shadow of the nanny state it is submitted to our national conscience as ‘reasonable’ and liberal media makes it sound down-right correct to the avg man.

  10. Tony76,

    If we regard taxpayers in foreign lands as slaves then we really ought to focus on getting our own house in order because we have plenty of domestic taxpayers and plenty that profit from appropriating their labour via taxation. If we don’t regard taxpayers as slaves then your analogy fails.

    In terms of a literal answer if there is a shoe shop in town that does actually own slaves then I don’t want an extra tax on their shoes, I want the slave owner put in prison and the slaves liberated.

    Foreign industries such as US agriculture that receive subsidies are not slave owners.

    I am however not ideologically opposed to tariffs. I wouldn’t mind at all if import tariffs were the only form of tax that the government was permitted to levy. What we would lose in international trade we would make up for in domestic trade via the removal of other taxes.

  11. Tariffs are just taxes on consumers, paticularly the poor, at the benefit of local producers.

    It is not fair at all the tax local consumers to the benfit of local producers because a foreigner producer earns economic profit at the expense of a foreign consumer!

    The “slaves” Tony is talking about are consumers. You don’t make slavery overseas right by enslaving your own.

  12. I’d argue that all taxes ultimately fall on producers (including workers) not consumers. You can’t take production from anybody other than producers.

  13. I’d argue that taxes can fall on producers and/or consumers, depending on the elasticity of demand. If there is a high elasticity of demand (ie consumers change what they buy easily), then producers will pay the tax (seen as lower wages and lower return on capital)… if there is a low elasticity of demand (ie consumers will continue to buy no matter the price), then producers will pass on the costs as higher prices and consumers will pay the tax.

    tony76 — export subsidies are not the same as slavery.

  14. I’m not saying I wouldn’t support trading with other countries. I’m just saying you can’t cite “free trade” as a reason for supporting trade unless the other country qualifies as a free-market itself.

    I would prefer trading with the US because at least they have SOME PEOPLE who value libetry. India is a bastion of socialism, corruption, violence, poverty, etc.

    I’d say the only reasons to trade with India are for economic benefit (not a certainty and has moral consequences) AND as a form of humanitarian aid (but this also has moral consequences).

  15. Tony76,
    Britain unilaterally opened its’ markets to the rest of the world in the 1800s. Other markets were not as free, compared to them, so who benefitted? Most economists think Britain did. So one-sided free trade can have benefits.

  16. ?

    If you trade – you only do so for a (perceived) benefit. Sustained trade therefore is beneficial, there can be no doubt about this.

    There are moral consequences for trade as well – it avoids conflict and cultivates interdependence.

    Protectionism is another form of socialism. How can you fight socialism with socialism?

    Trade is justified from the gains from specialisation and gains from exchange. Free trade is justified in that it is better than all other policy options.

  17. Tony – in addition to what Ncholas said, 90% of the gains from trade unilateral liberalisation accrue to the nation that liberalises, 10% goes to the rest of the world.

  18. Mark, why try and justify trade liberalisation with the arguments of nationalists?

    Should I care if trade liberalisation makes the poor in India wealthier at the expense of Australia? If trade liberalisation is good and moral, shouldn’t it be good and moral regardless of who it profits?

    The thing about trade liberalisation is it benefits everyone, even if it is unilateral. Trade with socialist countries benefits us AND people in those countries. That is why it is moral. If the only justification in favour of unilateral free trade was “it benefits Australians at the expense of Indians” then I’d definitely not support it!

  19. Shem — I’m not sure what you’re saying. As Mark points out, when people trade, they both benefit… otherwise they wouldn’t trade.

    The country that liberalises gets more benefits than those countries that don’t liberalise because they get both allocative & dynamic benefits while the other countries are still burdened with inefficient tariffs and/or subsidies. But we can’t be blamed for the policy mistakes of other countries. If they want the benefits of trade, then they are free to liberalise whenever they want.

    tony — I can’t work out what you’re saying. You say that you’d only support trade with India because it has economic benefits, mixed with humanitarian benefits. Of course. We all support trade with India (and the world) for those reasons. So what’s the problem?

    We don’t need foreign countries to be free market before we can benefit from trading with them. If that was our criteria, then we couldn’t trade with any country, including our own!

  20. Shems statement was clear enough but so was Marks observation about self interest.

  21. John- I was saying I don’t like using nationalism as justification for free trade. In fact it’s stupid to talk about trade between countries anyway. What is really happening is trade between individuals and businesses in different countries.

    I find it odd when people say “we should try and use trade to promote our ideological agenda overseas and only trade with democratic countries”. By trading with those countries freely we’re still promoting an ideological agenda- just one valuing capitalism and trade.

    I do sometimes feel uncomfortable that Australia as a country doesn’t do enough to try and stop dictatorships and human rights abuses overseas. But if your neighbour bashes his wife should you go over and bash him, ignore him or still try and be his friend and set a good example? I’d say the latter… And that’s what Australia should do- try and set a good example while still staying on friendly diplomatic terms. I think that works better than military intervention or stopping trade.

  22. Groups like the right-wing National Civil Council show why libertarians should reject both wings and instead build an independent political identity based on freedom.

    The left versus right phenomenon exists throughout humankind. For reasons I don’t understand it is fundamental to how human beings identify with the world. I suspect it’s got something to do with the fact people define themselves through an ‘enemy’, by opposing something, nearly as much as they define themselves by what they support. While I respect the rationality behind libertarian thought, libertarians are doing themselves a disservice by trying to pretend it’s something that all human beings can leave behind while committing to the rationality and progressive nature of libertarian ideas. Human beings simply aren’t ready to do this and better people than those in the Australian libertarian scene have tried it in places a lot more comfortable with the idea of individual freedom and responsibility without meaningful success. If you want to be anything more than a discussion forum you need to pick a side – or pick both sides and work them independently. For example, the US has plenty of left-leaning libertarians in New Hampshire and Vermont and plenty of right-leaning ones in Texas. Pro-freedom American’s move to all of these states in the pursuit of greater freedom depending on their left-right leaning, but they still don’t see the common ground between them and loudly claim the other ones are full of either liberals or rednecks.

    Libertarianism is like objectivism: too rational, and so ‘non-complex’ and functional in it’s outlook that people can’t accept it’s applicability to the real world. If you want people to sign up to your philosophy you need to throw in a bit of god, guns and guts on the right or peace, tolerance and non-judgmental love of your fellow man on the left. It’s really a marketing issue and I’m sure a marketing person would agree with me that being all things to all people, all the time, is a pretty hard thing to achieve, and you’ll probably go broke trying. But if you choose your markets and meet their wants, placate their fears, and emphasise what they want to hear with the right message, despite having the same product, you’ll sell more stuff.

  23. I totally disagree about what we should market ourselves as philosophically.

    We are not left or right wing and either way, we lose votes. We can’t be all things to all people, and the gain in appealing to either faction is minimal and equal.

    There are trwo extremes in policy: prohibition and compulsion. Libertarians (liberals in the old, European sense) choose the centre in policy – choice.

    In marketing practicalities, we have to appeal to both left and right.

    I think privatising marriage for example can appeal to everyone on both a philosophical and practical level except defenders of the status quo.

  24. When push comes to shove most people most of the time are defenders of the status quo or some near approximation.

  25. Most people are also focused on security over freedom. That is why most people are employees rather than employers.

    Libertarians are risk-takers. People that value freedom highly are a minority in society because the rest of society would rather just be safe. Libertarianism appeals to those that like to take risks and make mistakes. It appeals to entrepreneurs, but most people in society aren’t entrepreneurs.

    That said, I think a utilitarian-based libertarian philosophy CAN become popular in society. We just need to shy away from the rights-based approach. Australia is a Benthamite political society. People evaluate policy on the basis of not only how it affects them, but how they see it affecting the society at large.

  26. Mark: I totally disagree about what we should market ourselves as philosophically.

    Well, that’s what you’re currently doing. Have you noticed that the only people who continue pay attention are ones who like to think about philosophy. If you want to convert it into some practical politics then you need to throw in some of the things I’ve mentioned above.

    Shem: ‘We just need to shy away from the rights-based approach.

    I personally think rights are justified on utilitarian grounds. But regardless of what you think about them, if a libertarian influence is going to have any impact in politics a lot of issues are going to have to be considered from a rights based perspective. For example, the mainstream believes that the ‘common good’ is best served by not recognising gay marriage, and both mainstream parties have been very solid on this because they know the consequences of suggesting otherwise won’t be pretty. How are you going to take this issue out on utilitarian grounds?

  27. We don’t need positive rights, they get in the way and allow people to abuse them.
    We need negative rights, like those found in the US constitution:
    Parliament may not pass a law abridging complete freedom of speech in the public domain
    Parliament may not infringe upon the right of the individual to hold, stockpile and trade weapons
    etc, etc

    People need to realise that a private news station kicking them out for coming out against homosexuality or conservatism is not censorship. Bias yes, but it’s private property, abide y their rules or get out

  28. I think I’ve been misunderstood. Keep the philosophy, but it is not the selling point. Use the pragmatic successes of libertarian ideas to sell the philosophy.

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