Sunday, October 22, 2006

Doctor Vee misses the point

Doctor Vee has posted a follow-up to this libertarianism debate.
It is a contradiction to say that government intervention in the economy is a bad thing, then to turn around and say that the government should do everything it can to control immigration. Either interfering in the economy is bad or it isn’t. Make your mind up.

I am not saying that everybody has to make a black and white choice between having a lot of government invovlement or none at all. Far from it. I sit in between, like most people do. It is not inconsistent to want free trade in goods and services but to want a restriction in the movement of labour.

Look, let's look at this logically. Libertarians of my stripe—and even someone like Worstall believes this—that we need government to do those things that we are unable to do as individuals. Now, Tim would include the criminal justice system, defence and not a lot else. In theory, I agree.

However, one might also say that, to bring the greatest economic prosperity, one might desire a certain type of person to move into this country. Are the people that Martin Kelly constantly highlights in his Foreign Criminal Of The Day series (a great many of whom carry previous convictions in their own countries) economically or socially beneficial to this country? I would say that they are not. If you asked an individual, "Would you like this man, who has been convicted of rape and murder in his own country, to come and live in your country?", the vast majority would reply in the negative. However, it is difficult for individuals to police this country's borders (certainly if they are going to be economically active in any other way) and thus I think it is reasonable to ask the government to assume that role.

People are not like goods and services, OK? People are different; people can and do act autonomously. A plastic toy frog from China is not going to suddenly jump up and rape and kill your daughter. Can you see the difference here?
But this is the thing. Once you accept that some government intervention can be a force for good, you have voided your ability to use “small government” as a mantra, a panacea for all economic ills.

Oh, good god. No, you haven't; you have simply asked the government to act in the interests of the people but only within that competence. Now, it may be that there is a small economic hit in slightly restricting the numbers and the type of people that are allowed to come here but then that is the price that we pay for government. "Small government" is no panacea for all economic ills: you could have a government of two people, but if no one else gets off their arse and works, then you aren't going to have much of an economy.

The point is that the government (and by this we also mean the civil service, etc.) should be the smallest size possible to carry out the demands of those competancies asked of it and no more.
It is no longer good enough just to say, for instance, “the government should reduce taxes because government intervention harms the economy and restricts my freedom.” Because in DK’s instance, he has decided that, in the case of movement of labour, govenment intervention improves the economy and that freedom matters not a jot.

Don't be a nitwit. If the people of this country have asked their government, their servants, to restrict, in some small ways, immigration then they are hardly asking their government to curtail their freedom (to emigrate if they want). We are not talking about totally shutting the borders, or even massive restrictions; simply that we be free to allow certain restrictions that might be needed in order to balance the economic benefits with the social ills.
[DK's] post contains not a single sweary-word, which AntiCitizenOne in the comments reckons means that “you can tell he was angry”. Heh, sorry about that DK.

Not really; I was attempting patience. You had, quite rightly, questioned my core beliefs and I felt that I should answer you in a civil manner.
The thing is, DK is probably right that there are problems with culture, language and so on that mean that in reality free movement of people can be a genuine problem (even though I think most of the “problems”, particularly with the debate about veils at the moment, are exacerbated and blown out of proportion by the government and the media).

Granted, but you have admitted the cultural problems so I almost need not continue; nevertheless, I shall.

The economic stuff that Doctor Vee cites is fair enough.
All I will say is that short term losses for long term benefits are usually relished by libertarians. Who can seriously argue that cutting welfare benefits would not make anybody worse off in the short term, even if it makes them better off in the long term?

But now, of course, we come to the problem of what is politically viable; this would come under the heading of what The Longrider called "pragmatism". As I am sure that Doctor Vee knows, I am a supporter of the Citizen's Basic Income and of losing all other benefits besides that. Let us say that it is more about how the benefits are delivered, than the actual monetary amount.

At the moment, we have seen a vast increase in means-tested benefits which lead to massive marginal tax rates, often of over 90%. This is clearly a disincentive for people to get off their fat, fucking arses and work (and thus take responsibility for their own lives).The Welfare State and the associated massive government structures required to run it, lead not only to appalling delivery of services, but also to the degredation of human beings through voluntary abdication of their responsibilities. Personally, I would leave that awful woman to starve—or see if she'd rather get off her bum and work rather than do so—but that is not, alas, politically feasible.

The only benefits should be the CBI—which one receives from the age of 16 whether one is working or not and should be no more than keep one just below the bread line (often proposed at about £80 to £100 per week)—and the free payment, through vouchers, of education (just because the parents are unspeakably awful is no reason why the child should suffer). That is it, the whole kit and caboodle.
Since DK has revealed that in his opinion government intervention can be a force for good, he has become a utilitarian like the rest of us. It is no longer good enough just to call for smaller government for the sake of smaller government which is what most libertarians spend much of their time doing.

But I don't do that, Doctor; I call for small government because big government is not only economically bad, but also socially damaging: hence my little exegesis above. I do not call for small government because I am a libertarian (indeed, I was barely aware of the concept before I started blogging: I am no trained economic or political commenter, a fact which must be painfully obvious to those that are. I merely extrapolate from information delivered): it is because I have come to the conclusion that the smaller you can make the government the better it is for everyone that I call myself a libertarian (because it is the closest to the concept that I believe in. Naturally, I believe that I should be a benign dictator: I would do a great job).

To say that I have become a "a utilitarian like the rest of us" is completely fucking stupid; Neil Harding also believes that government can be a force for good: are you saying that he and I are the same because we are both utilitarians? I don't fucking think so. Neil is a socialist: I am very far from being so.

What we all do is to start with our ideal and then look at the most pragmatic way to implement that ideal. Neil essentially believes that business is evil (alright slightly overstating (I think) but you get the gist) and that more government is intrisically good; Neil sees the government as the defender of the people against the economic storms that may ravage them.

I see business as beneficial and government as, generally, a bad thing which must be kept to a minimum; mainly because it is very, very bad at trying to do anything. I accept that we need it to do those very few things that we as individuals cannot do and that should be the extent of it (but, in doing that minimal amount it is, yes, a force for good).

Now, are we the same? Are we both utilitarians? Well, by Doctor Vee's lights, yes we are. To anyone with an ounce—sorry, 28.3495231 grams—of common sense, or to anyone who has followed our occasional and somewhat heated debates, we are quite patently not. If the good Doctor cannot see this, he is a total fuckwit.
But people have been predicting such a Malthusian catastrophe for centuries and it has never happened, not in Britain at least (and famously the world has a food surplus). Incidentally, the fact that a Malthusian catastrophe has never occurred is also one of the most popular (and convincing) arguments put forward by climate change / peak oil deniers. Somehow, for some on the right, while it means that nothing should be done about climate change, it suddenly becomes a major problem when it comes to migration. Strange.

No, not a major problem. But a problem. To be honest, one of the reasons that I have not formed any definite ideas on immigration is because I reckon that their are a goodly number of far more pressing problems to be looked at first. However, to bring it back to what started this debate, I do share UKIP's premise that it is wrong that it is the EU which controls our policy: whatever we decide to do about immigration, it should be the people—or, even, the elected government—of this country that make it, not the unelected bureaucrats of the EU. Call it a point of principle, if you will.
DK points at water shortages in the south east as evidence that it is happening, but I don’t buy that. People just as commonly point at climate change or the privatisation of water companies as causes of those water shortages, but DK wouldn’t see it as a reason to nationalise the water industry or treat climate change as a top priority.

I wouldn't agree with renationalisation because the government monopoly's are even more shit at running things than business monopolies. Of course, I would like to see a country-wide "water grid" but I doubt that that will ever happen.

Nor would I treat cliamte change as a top priority, mainly because I don't believe that doom-mongers. To me, a rise of just under one degree C since 1860 is not a massive problem. Further, I don't believe that man's contribution to climate change is anything other than fractional; if the climate is changing, it is doing so through natural means; the earth's natural cycle, the increased output from the sun, etc. We are nowhere near the temperatures of the Mediaeval Warm Period (why did that happen? I don't remember the knights of the Round Table driving 4x4s); that lasted four centuries and people seemed to cope with far less technology and flexibility than we have (and will certainly have in a hundred years time when it's suposed to become "catastrophic"). Really, what is more likely to be causing water shortages, all other things (scales of leaks, etc.) all being equal: a miniscule rise in temperature over the last ten years, or an increasing density of users? I'll go with the latter, thanks.
Given that population growth in the UK (and Europe) is reaching a plateau, and that population in Scotland has actually been declining...

Yes, because they are all moving south. I was up in Laggan and the person that we were staying with was pointing out that, as from next year, there are two years when there will be no school leavers for her to hire (not to mention a shortage of customers). It'll only be a matter of time before the Highlands are almost entirely left to the deer and the grouse.
... the idea that the UK is somehow running out of space is absurd.

Sure, but no one actually wants to move to the places with space (like Laggan); they want to move to crowded places like London or Edinburgh and the south east (of either country).
Anyway, if we were genuinely unable to accommodate more people, nobody would want to move here, would they?

Really? Who's going to tell them? Would we put a big sign up at Dover saying, "Sorry, no vacancies?"
That’s how the free market supposedly works you see.

Fair enough. Though note the word "supposedly"...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Plato inferred that Socrates thought that although they lived in a democracy, that a benelovent dictator would be the ideal government.