Thursday, August 02, 2007

Libertarianism: what is the point?

Tom Paine is feeling a little down in the dumps; reviewing the state of Britain, especially as regards the Cash for Honours non-prosecution, Tom concludes...
So, I have been finding it hard to blog. Read the above paragraphs again. Is there anything to inspire? No. Is there a positive message of hope? No. Is there a call to arms? No.

Really, Tom, I feel your Paine (boom boom!); I sometimes wonder what the point is. I have wondered where the counter-revolution is, I have even wondered if I might set up a Libertarian Party (at least one person has emailed me proposing it and offering help and expertise).

But, really, what is the point? It isn't that, as some people say, trying to get libertarians together is like "herding cats"; it is that nothing would happen. Let us take LibertarianUK.net, a site set up to explore viable, i.e. electable, libertarian policies: in the two months or so that it has been taking submissions, the grand total is 19 articles by 10 different individuals (out of the 40 or so registered as writers).

They are good articles, to be sure, but what is the point of trying to set up a party when it is painfully obvious that, no matter how much they protest and rail against the state, barely anyone can be arsed to contribute to a website that might act as a central planning place for a libertarian agenda?

And if people cannot be bothered to even write about their beliefs—not even to the extent of cross-posting from their own blogs—then what the fuck is the point of attempting to set up a political party—the only call to arms we rationally have?

In fact, such a party would be even more dilute than a website of essays; people such as Jackart, who has contributed good articles to LibertarianUK, would never in a million years join a Libertarian Party because he cannot see the point of minority parties. We may have arguments about it, but I cannot shake his belief in this.

So, any party would consist of those few people who believed in fighting for a pure agenda of what they believed in, and they would have to commit time (at the very least) to do so. What is the point, when they will not commit to pushing an agenda through mere writing?

So, I understand Tom Paine's depression; I feel it myself, almost every day. It's just that I'm still young and angry, and trying to enthuse others through my writing is the only way in which I can possibly make a difference.

And still I wonder who on earth I should vote for...

26 comments:

C4' said...

I feel exactly the same as you DK and Tom Paine.

Toque said...

I have a strong libertarian bent which is why I mistrust '-isms'.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

Well there is such a glut of sites. I would point out DK that its the summer and most blogs are a lot quieter than they are normally.

Overall I agree with your point though.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

Enough of this negativity. Come on everybody. Smile,it's summer

Tom Paine said...

Thanks for the back-handed sympathy. "Still young" indeed! Cheeky young devil. I am off on my hols tomorrow and plan to come back fighting.

Roger Thornhill said...

I held off submitting to LibertarianUK waiting for others...

Ok, I have my tax, welfare, a repost of the health concept. You asked for it!!!!

I am considering revisiting Roger's Manifesto to re-publish, update and expand it in situ, especially to refocus in to some headlines and a phased delivery - phased Libertarianism is, for me, the only practical way forward.

We all get run down now and again. Yes, a fringe party for some is not worthwhile (I have a post in regards to this "cleaving to the winner") but for me politics should be about what you believe is right, not what you believe the majority thinks is right (Tory "must win" strategy).

That said, I have never been inside a party machine. I do think one aim is to win over someone (e.g. Boris?) who is actually Libertarian to all intents and purposes.

We can't let the Fascists win.

Longrider said...

I try to write differently for Libertarian UK as it has a specific agenda; hence by and large, I don't cross post. Given that, I will write when the muse strikes. Sometimes, it doesn't - or, given the overwhelming deluge of authoritarianism coming from NuLab on a daily basis, a kind of fatigue sets in.

John Trenchard said...

you can say bye bye to libertarianism if the EU Reform treaty is ever implemented

please do read the linked article. it covers the "self amending" aspect of the proposed EU Reform Treaty.

Vindico said...

I still have optimism. Maybe its 'cos im 21 and full of youthful idealism? Mot sure a new party is the way forward though. Just need some decent libertarians on TV, in politcs. A Ron Paul for the UK!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Will someone give me an example of how Libertarianism would impact on public policy?

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

These are interesting issues for us. I feel we're at a crossroads, at least knowing the little that I do about the libertarian movement(s) in this country. We've been blessed with a tool that has brought together thousands of libertarians- millions across the world- to enable us in our discussions and soapboxing. Now we have to show we can do something with it, in much the same way that the mainstream are.

Alex Singleton came across a similar problem to yours in maintaining his social portal- the predecessor to his current www.spontaneousorder.org.

Perhaps it is the disjointed nature of libertarians on the Internet? We don't have anything like ConHome or the piss-weak LabourHome, or even LibDemVoice. This is understandable, given that there probably isn't the resource for two full-time staffers, which is why Alex took the bottom-up approach with SO. The viral nature of other movements also seems to meander past libertarians, too, and so it gets a little 'cliquey' (Samizdata is a good example of how cliquey it can get- and particularly unwelcoming to new libertarians).

I've wondered if perhaps the passive nature of those inclined to call themselves libertarians might also be down to them being fairly private 'just leave me alone' types. I'm not one of them, but I have come across them in comments etc.

As for getting involved in the process, perhaps it is easier to be inside the tent pissing out, rather than outside the tent pissing in. I've taken this approach and am still experimenting with it, to an extent.

Rather than re-invent the wheel, perhaps it is easier to embrace somebody else's product off-the-shelf and use it to our/your own ends? What I mean to say is to take the approach that DK or I have taken and (God forbid!) join an exisiting political party. I know what you're saying- they're all so amorphous, useless, self-absorbed, ignorant etc, which might be true of a number of those involved, but there are also many like-minded and sympathetic people involved, too. You're never going to win with demanding absolutes, so it's an organic and on-going compromise with those people.

For those of you in larger urban local authorities, or even university towns, it would be relatively easy to take control of a ward as councillors with libertarian agendas. In the Conservatives, new members simply join a branch, whereby they join its committee (usually of about three people) by branch election (open to branch members, which will number anywhere from five to fifty, depending on where you are. Size does not reflect the chances of being able to win the ward.), select council candidates and put them up for election, with a reasonably better chance of winning than independents or fringe parties would have. It might be that, upon successful election, you only have a couple of councillors in a major local authority, and that you would have to concentrate libertarians in a single branch just to take control of it, but if you can successfully have libertarian Conservative councillors elected, you can replicate it elsewhere- you would then have a movement within a major political party that would become a voice for something- not quite Cornerstone or even Women2Win, but perhaps something akin to the Log Cabin Republicans in the US. You won't get entirely what you want from it. You might not get anything significant from it and there will definitely be times when you become frustrated with and angered by your colleagues, but it would demonstrate some political movement and show other liberals and libertarians that we can start to put our beliefs on to the agenda.

This isn't a suggestion that many will welcome, I know, but surely some action is better than none?

We really need to be more positive about what we want and start to generate ideas about how we can get there. Now should be the time to make friends and influence people.

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

I forgot to mention that the Libertarianuk.net site might benefit from an RSS feed and a better commenting system, although I'm sure they're both something you're already mindful of! :)

Jackart said...

I'm working on an article on Tax. Consider my arse kicked into gear.

By the way. VOTE CONSERVATIVE.

Fabian Tassano said...

Like "herding cats" - sounds about right :)

I'm going to do my bit, and write one post exclusively for L-UK this month.

Ed said...

There are plenty of libertarians in the Conservative party. Yes there are also a whole shedload of social conservatives and social authoritarians but every party has a diverse mix - which is what makes them able to adapt to changes in mainstream thinking.

DK is this your entry for the "Does the UK need a Libertarian Party"?

John Trenchard said...

"Will someone give me an example of how Libertarianism would impact on public policy? "

abolishing income taxation would be one example.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DK, I think UKIP are our least worst option for now. Half of us are rabid libertarians and the other half are disgruntled ex-Tories. So let's try and get the upper hand. I met DCB yesterday and it all looks quite promising!

Roger Thornhill said...

"Will someone give me an example of how Libertarianism would impact on public policy? "


Dismantling state provision of health and education.

Repealing smoking and drug laws.

Shutting down literally thousands of QUANGOs.

Flat Taxation.

Beefing up defensive armed services.

The EU would have to be waived goodbye to even begin to implement any real Libertarian policies.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Rog, that sounds a lot like UKIP to me (except for the bit about repealing drug laws, I am afraid to say).

Roger Thornhill said...

Then, Mark, good on the UKIP!

Fabian Tassano said...

Re "herding cats", I should mention this has not applied in the case of Educational Conscription, the collective blog to oppose depriving 17-year-olds of their liberty - where Roger, S-E, I and others have managed to cooperate very effectively for a common cause. We look forward to your first post for Edu-Con, DK!

Devil's Kitchen said...

Point taken, Fabian; I shall try to pull something out of the hat today...

DK

The Remittance Man said...

Wrinkled Weasel asks: "how Libertarianism would impact on public policy?"

Isn't the answer: "By getting rid of most of it and trusting people to do their own thing"?

As for Tom's malaise. Although it's no practical help to him, at least I now feel better for not being the only one who feels that way.

I guess misery loves company.

Sacerdote said...

For me, libertarianism isn't about making a difference, It's simply a description of how I see the world.

From the depths of my non-existant soul I feel that totalitarianism in all its forms is simply morally wrong. In fact I think that it is morally wrong for any responsible adult to tell another responsible adult to do anything. Ask? yes, offer choices? maybe, if they're not hobbsonian, tell? absolutely no.

Occasionally this rouses me to furious, spitting rage at the general fuckwittery of the world, but more often I just wish people, and especially government would leave me the fuck alone. Which is why I don't join political parties, even libertarian ones.

anthonynorth said...

'Libertarian Party'?
Isn't that a contradiction? You'd have to abolish yourselves.

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

Will you be writing about the latest proposal from our cunt-faced, rent-boy-felching, fuckwit Westminster bubble overlords?