Sunday, June 15, 2008

Is this hubris?

Oh dear, oh dear: your humble Devil finds himself in something of a cleft stick over this Scotsman article (found via The Englishman).
DAVID Davis's by-election campaign on the issue of 42 days will be just the first salvo in a major "freedom" campaign led by the former shadow home secretary.

Supporters of the Tory MP said they are gearing up for a relentless campaign on issues such as ID cards and the surveillance state, claiming they want to redraw the Conservatives as the party of liberty, against the authoritarian Labour Party.

Davis will set out his agenda in the coming week as he aims to link the new law allowing the police to detain suspects for 42 days without trial to his wider campaign. One ally said: "David is making it clear that the only truly libertarian party out there is the Conservative Party. That is what the Tory Party was about and should be about for the future."

Having spent some time praising Davis's stand from a libertarian point of view (and helped with the LPUK press release), one feels that one may have been somewhat out-manoevered. Whoops!

Notwithstanding the fact that I still applaud Davis's stand on the civil liberties issue, I should point out that the Conservative Party is hardly "the only truly libertarian party out there". The idea that libertarianism is "what the Tory Party was about" is, frankly, laughable. The best that can be said about the Conservatives is that they might be less authoritarian than NuLabour (it would be difficult to be more so without simply declaring a one party police state) but libertarian they are most decidedly not.

Long ago, in the 1800s, the Tories may have been laissez faire but that is not quite the same thing; it was out of laziness rather than ideology. After all, they were more than happy to bribe the electorate with their own money in order simply to beat the Whigs (a tactic that they are still using today).

I wish that it were, in fact, so; I wish that the Tories really were going to be libertarian because then LPUK could just pack up the party and go home. I would have to buy Jackart a few drinks as an acknowledgement that his tactics were right but, in the end, we would have achieved the desired result: a libertarian government.

I, for one, would welcome it.

But this is not going to happen. Amongst other things, the Tories are still in favour of Britain's membership of the EU—an organisation which is fundamentally unlibertarian and whose laws have primacy over our own—and they do not truly believe that people should be left to their own devices; the day that the Tories announce, for instance, the legalisation of all drugs will be the day that I believe that they are not a quinessentially statist party.

Still, it is, at least, a move in the right direction and if they get the word "libertarian" out there and known amongst the general populace then they are doing half of our job for us...

12 comments:

Bishop Hill said...

Making the Conservatives the libertarian party? An uphill task I would have thought.

I spent Friday night in the pub with a bunch of guys, the majority of whom are Conservative supporters. To a man they were right behind 42 days.

haddock said...

DK, I reckon there are more important things to sort out than getting pissed on the tube or letting stoned drivers share the roads with me.
Shallow headline grabbing stuff is no way to build a party, even an upmarket anarchist party.

Devil's Kitchen said...

My dear haddock,

Allowing people to be the masters of their own bodies by allowing them to take drugs is a pretty big fundamental of libertarianism.

Once they harm others -- whether on drugs or not (and let me remind you that the vast majority of road crashes are caused by those who are entirely sober) -- then that is a different matter.

The legalisation of drugs is a big poster child for libertarianism because it seems so counter-intuitive. Oh, and it allows patrician middle-class drug-takers to patronise the proles too.

DK

Outside In said...

This is an interesting discussion but it does promt the question of how libertarian from either the perspective of left or right is DD

The following conversation over at SU is instructive and gettings a few on targets hits on DD

http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=2470#comment-75866

Anonymous said...

Back in the 1800s the Tories weren't fucking laissez faire - that was the Whigs. And Macmillan had it right: "laissez fairies". It was that mad fucking woman regurgitating her undigested Hayek wot done it.

Anonymous said...

"David is making it clear that the only truly libertarian party out there is the Conservative Party. That is what the Tory Party was about and should be about for the future."
There is something about this that is starting to look just a little bit pre-planned.
Never trust a Tory.....

Jock Coats said...

It seems to me that economically the Tories have pretty well always been on the protectionist side of the balance. It was owing to their protectionist stance that Churchill resigned in 1903 and though they had been roundly defeated in popular opinion that Free Trade should prevail, they returned to their protectionist roots after the depression during the national government.

It is one of the greatest sources of confusion to me about Libertarianism that, in the minds of many, libertarians are seen as being anti-authoritatarian on social issues, but entrenching the hierarchical, coercive model of capitalism. And that seems to me to be why the Tories can give the impression they are libertarians - despite being trenchant defenders of vested interests!

Those nineteenth century libertarian/individualist anarchists informed the debate about Free Trade versus Protectionism, identified the mechanisms by which protectinoism was implemented to the detriment of the poor and proposed policies to address them once and for all. A hundred and so on years later these have not been tackled by governments of any flavour, despite being the single biggest step we could take in empowering everyone.

Economic libertarianism has two sides to it and whilst occasionally the Tories claim to be the party of lower taxation on the grounds that it gives people more of their own back, which is libertarian, they make very little noise about absolishing the corporate welfare that makes life harder for the labourer caught on the wrong side of the hierarchical capital versus labour divide.

The divesting from the state of nationalise industry in the 80s was as much about corporate welfare - there were a whole raft of protectionist measures accompanying them that have made entry into the former nationalised (and often monopolistic) sectors a very expensive business.

I do not recognize the Tory party as in any way libertarian and cannot for the life of me fathom why people who are libertarian seek refuge at times in that party. If there are genuinely libertarian folk in the Tory party their voice is nearly silent. They need to exert their influence in party policy, or join a really libertarian party!

Devil's Kitchen said...

Jock,

I don't disgree with a word you say there...

DK

haddock said...

"Once they harm others -- whether on drugs or not (and let me remind you that the vast majority of road crashes are caused by those who are entirely sober) -- then that is a different matter."

So by that logic driving when drunk is perfectly OK as long as no one is actually hurt..... will we see this in your manifesto ?

The Remittance Man said...

I'm not so sure that it's all doom and gloom. I'm detecting a distinct shift from certain elements of the political elite, not just David Davis, against the more authoritarian aspects of modern Britain. Ths may just be politicing as the public mood swings, but surely it's a good thing.

As for closing down the Libertarian Party; I wouldn't recommend it. While the chances of it forming a government any time soon are pretty slim, simply by existing and putting the libertarian view into the public domain it must be influencing people. That in turn puts pressure on the politicians in the mainstream parties, especially those espousing "libertarianism" to actually walk the walk (to use a much despised expression).

pagar said...

Haddock

When you do the stats based on the percentage of drivers found to be over the notional drink driving limit in completely random tests and compare that with the percentage of drivers involved in accidents who are found to be over the limit the only rational conclusion is that the drunks are the safer drivers!!!

The point is that, as a driver, I should be held responsible for my actions on the road. If I have drunk alcohol and that has contributed to my poor driving then that should be considered by the Courts as an aggravating factor when I am sentenced. If my dangerous driving has been responsible for someone else's death they should through away the key.

But ultimately I should be judged against the consequences of my actions. And I know from simple observation that, having consumed three pints, I would be a safer driver than many others I encounter on the road.

As people grow older, the quality of their driving inevitably deteriorates and they become more dangerous to other road users. So do you ban them? Before they have caused an accident?

So why does the state set an arbitrary alcohol limit over which I can be arrested despite having harmed nobody?

Roger Thornhill said...

Anon has a point: The DD statement does appear to be a land-grab for the term "Libertarian". I consider that flattery, but a warning that the Tories are concerned.