Monday, October 23, 2006

And once more with Doctor Vee

And so it rumbles on...
I will ask the question again. Why is asking the government to act in the interests of the people so good in situation x, yet so so baaad in situation y? How can that be? You still have not explained this.

I explain it every day in almost every post that I make for almost every specific situation that I comment on; now, admittedly I do sometimes do this by linking to arguments that I (or others) have previously made, but then it is hardly my fault if people do not follow the links (it is something that I have complained about before). Still, let's try again.

OK; do you accept that government can be good—or, at least, better than an individual—in some areas? Like those examples I gave: defence, criminal justice, etc. Can you accept that? Let me assume that the good Doctor does allow that this might be the case.

So, you can then accept that there are also cases where people acting individually produce rather better results than top-down, organised government? Yes.

OK, so some things are, objectively, better handled by governments and some better handled by individuals.

The big difference—because very little in politics or economics is ever proveable objectively—then, is the dispute between which areas—that is, discrete areas—are better handled by each party.

A libertarian believes that almost everything is better handled by individuals; a socialist believes that almost everything is better handled by governments. Both are "utilitarian" in the light of their own beliefs.
As far as I can tell, DK seems to think that by calling him a utilitarian I am somehow trying to paint him as a socialist in denial, or make him “the same” as a Labour supporter, or something. Let me get this one clear. What I meant by describing DK as a “utilitarian” was merely that he doesn’t always believe that small government is beneficial.

But this does not mean that I am not a libertarian by Wikipedia's definition of Libertarianism: I'll quote the relevent passage again.
The other type comes from a consequentialist or utilitarian standpoint. Instead of having moral prohibitions against initiation of force, these support a limited government that engages in the minimum amount of initiatory force (such as levying taxes to provide some public goods such as defense and roads, as well as some minimal regulation), because they believe it to be necessary to ensure maximum individual freedom (these are minarchists).

I don't see how my position is inconsistent according to this definition; perhaps I'm just being really dense?
As I have said, it is not necessarily inconsistent to want more restrictions on immigration but to want fewer restrictions on other parts of the economy. But when you have conceded that government intervention can be a good thing, opposing something simply because it involves government intervention is hypocritical. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have other perfectly valid arguments in favour of your position. This is what I have been trying to get at.

I am aware that DK has often put forward alternative justifications for his opinions. In fact, he has started to do this in his post today…

I do it in my posts every, single, sodding day: that's why they are always so fucking long, for fuck's sake.What more am I supposed to fucking do? Explain the semantics of every cunting word that I use?
Of course, you could say that by controlling immigration you are stilting competition in the labour market which is clearly a disincentive for people to work harder.

But are you? How? I repeat, you are not blocking the borders, merely vetting the people coming in and only blocking those whom you consider undesirable, i.e. economically or socially damaging.
But I digress. There is nothing particularly wrong with either of the justifications that DK has made there. These arguments are worth paying attention to. But if he ever justifies his position by saying that it reduces the size of government I will ignore it because I know that he doesn’t genuinely believe in it.

Blah, blah. This is where Doctor Vee misses the point. I will say it again: I don't do that. I say, the government has fucked this up, and it has fucked it up because governments are unsuited to run this kind of operation and here's why. And, then, here is what we do about it.
The point is that calling for more government intervention in any area of the economy is not consistent with “libertarian”, “small government” or “free market” principles.

As I have illustrated above, advocating government intervention in a particular discrete areas is entirely consistent with libertarian principles (certainly as defined by Wikipedia).

What I am advocating re: immigration is, in effect, no increase in government intervention; I merely want it transferred from the unelected to the elected (rather more libertarian than the present state of play: for, unlike in the current situation, the latter can be changed). I advocate smaller government (and one can hardly get much bigger than this administration) because governments are very, very inefficient at running things not because I am a libertarian.

"Libertarian" is only a name that encompasses a reasonably broad range of beliefs: call me a "classical liberal" if you prefer, if it will help you to designate me. If you read my posts then you will understand what I stand for and why I stand for those things. Call me what you will: perhaps "Satanarian" might be coined for future reference?

UPDATE: long-time, arch libertarian David Farrer joins in the debate...

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