Monday, May 03, 2010

Licensing life

Via Obnoxio the Clown (who is typically scathing), I see that the Labour campaign has fallen foul of its own laws again.
He was hailed by Alastair Campbell as the "megastar" who would boost Gordon Brown's flagging election campaign, but an Elvis impersonator has left Labour feeling all shook up.

Mandrake learns that Corby borough council is investigating whether the performance at the weekend breached the Licensing Act.

Lodge Park Technology College, where Mark Wright sang for the Prime Minister, is not allowed to permit performances of live music before 6pm.

Why? For what possible reason? One could understand if they weren't allowed to hold massive open-air live rock concerts at 3 in the morning—why on earth should nothing be allowed before 6pm. No one's sleep is going to be disturbed, is it?

And does this mean that Lodge Park Technology College is not allowed to teach music, since any practising of an instrument would, presumably, count as a live performance? What the hell?
Damian Wilkins, the health protection manager at Corby council, has contacted Tom Waterworth, the head teacher, to demand an explanation.

Under the Act, Campbell, the organiser of the event, and Waterworth, the licence holder, could face criminal prosecution resulting in six months in prison or a £20,000 fine.

What on earth happened to the concept that any punishment should be proportional to the crime committed? Sure, that is probably the upper limit, but where is the victim in this crime? If there is no victim, it should not be a criminal offence.
The college was unable to get a Temporary Event Notice authorising the performance of music, as plans to allow last-minute event notices were withdrawn by the Government this month.

I have been meaning to comment on this kind of crap for some time, although I think that Timmy did so with aplomb some time ago, when commenting on another iniquity of this same licensing law. [Emphasis mine.]
What I do regard as vastly more important than this is the basic deal that we British made over the centuries. Yes, of course, there must be laws, there must be government, there must be taxes to pay for it all. But in terms of daily life, the liberties and freedoms to follow that path from cradle to grave in our own sweet manner, we’d pretty much be left alone.

Sure, we might be asked to cough up the taxes to pay for some socialist wet dream like nationalising the commanding heights of the economy. But we didn’t have, unlike many other countries, the man with the clipboard looming over the minutiae of the everyday. Few and simple rules, rules that were largely agreed were reasonable, the rest of it left to consenting adults to muddle through with.

The government of recent years has changed all of that. Not, you’ll understand, for the better in my opinion. And I don’t see any of the likely combinations of parties elected on May 6th changing that.

Look, we all know that, economically, we are completely screwed. But as Timmy points out, this is of lesser importance. The government will have to stop spending so much of our money: either it will do so of its own volition or—as is looking far more likely—because the IMF insists that it must.

There will be some hard years, many people will lose their jobs, and their houses and their careers: some of those people will suffer unjustly (having not voted for such profligacy)—the rest will have deserved it.

Ultimately, however, the economy will right itself—if only because there are still men and women of talent and drive in this country (although many of them have already left). It will be hard, and the government will not—and should not—help except to lower taxes in order that businesses will flourish.

Yes, we all know that the government will have no money except for the bare essentials.

And yet it would cost David Cameron nothing—not one solitary penny of our money—to promise to cancel all of these petty rules and regulations that make living (and making a living) in this country such a desperate, miserable experience for so many people. Simply to remove the pettifogging bureaucracy and paper-pushing would cost society nothing—indeed it would boost business and make us considerably more free.

Indeed, it would help to rebalance our entire political life too. David Cameron maintains that we need to establish that politicians are servants of the people: I agree. And yet how will we do that when people must beg (and pay) for permission from the politicians and the bureaucrats in order to go about their daily lives.

If you think that I overstate the case—after all, you may not be a circus owner or a pub manager or a headmaster—then why not try IanPJ's little exercise?
Totalitarian? If you don’t believe that Britain is governed totally by political rules, regulations, orders and diktats, please name me 6 everyday activities, yes, just six, that you undertake that does not require a. permission, b. licence, c. regulated action, d. regulated packaging, materials, ingredients, tools etc.

i.e. 6 activities that never touch the state or a regulator.

Anyone? Feel free to have a go in the comments...

Now, there are some—many, in fact—who would argue that these rules and regulations make our lives better, safer, easier. I would agree to a certain degree, but I disagree that laws are the only way to achieve these aims (even if we believe the aims to be desirable). And when those laws amount to us begging for permission to indulge ourselves at no cost to others, they are utterly wrong.

I have consistently maintained that there should only be one, single criminal law:
You shall not initiate force or fraud against someone's life, liberty or property.

A court—composed of a judge and a jury—should then decide whether you have, in fact, done so. This would make the law accessible and understandable to everyone (with the commensurate benefit that lawyers would become a luxury rather than a necessity) and—since only the gravest crimes would come before a criminal court—cheaper for society to administer.

All other circumstances should be dealt with by a civil court upon application by a complainant. This is how the system of Common Law used to operate. And it is why I asked "who is the victim?" in the Elvis case above. If there is no complainant, then there is no case to be heard.

In that case, there is no complainant, so there should be no case. However, in this world of licences and permissions, it requires only a council worker to notice that a form has not been filled correctly to initiate a frivolous prosecution over an action that has harmed no one.

To adopt this attitude would not only make us more free—it would aid Call Me Dave in his bid to cut the costs of the state. Without the need for constant approvals and scrutinising of the most petty of permissions, there would be no need for state workers to administer them. They could be sacked—set free to do something productive.

With fewer costs—in both time and money—on businesses, there would be more businesses. With more businesses, there would be more jobs—jobs that our ex-council jobsworth could now do. Indeed, our jobsworth might be happier—for we know that sick leave in the public sector (especially for stress) far outweighs that of the private—knowing that she is producing something worthwhile, rather than giving and refusing people permission to deal with the minutiae of their own lives.

This is what libertarianism is truly about—and it is why I totally believe in it. I could articulate it—and have been known to—but, once again, Charlotte Gore has done it as well as anyone. [Emphasis mine.]
The reason I love my libertarian politics is because I see it as the opposite of that, something that allows adults to be adult, to experience the full spectrum of human emotion whilst understanding the incalculable value of overcoming obstacles and what that does for people’s confidence, self worth and ability to truly appreciate what they have.

It’s about using liberal economics to fix the underlying failures at the heart of our economy, to create real wealth and crucially leave people with enough money in their pockets that they can stand on their own two feet. It’s about embracing social liberalism, too, to simply let people live their lives as they see fit so long as they’re not stopping others doing the same. Let adults be adults.

We’d still be us, but more amazing. More confident. More self-assured. More alive, somehow. And that’s why I do all this writing, why I care about all this. For me there’s something real and tangible to get excited about…

And I feel the same way: I genuinely believe that people have the capacity to be amazing, to produce great works, to achieve amazing feats and to find joy in both the sublime and the everyday. I believe that people are fundamentally good; that most people would wish to do no harm to others, if not actively to help them; that people want to do a job of work that they can be proud of and take joy in (as Charlotte saw that I do); to work for their essentials and to save for their luxuries, and know that they have earned the lot.

When those on the Right complain about "all these chavs, living off benefits", those on the Left often retort that living off benefits is no joy; that it is hard financially and that it wears the soul too. "No one," they maintain, "really wants to spend their lives living off benefits. They just have no other choice."

This may well be true—certainly the idea has never appealed to me. But how then do we enable them to get jobs? Those jobs must be created, and the state cannot truly create jobs. Every job that the state "creates" is paid for by the destruction of a job in the productive sector. Every "free" service that the state sets up ensures that private enterprise can never create jobs by providing that service instead. And every job that is not created condemns another person to a life on benefits, to a life without point, to a life without advancement or achievement or pride.

Ultimately, that is why I believe that the state is wrong and, ultimately, it is why I helped to form the Libertarian Party. I have no interest in going into politics—apart from anything else, I have no interest in trying to tell other people what to do. And I want to carry on producing amazing things, and that is not something that I can do in politics.

But what I might be able to achieve, what I might be able to bring about—whether through my writing, or my speaking or my party—is a place in which everyone can fulfill their potential, where everyone can create, where every person can have the joy in their work that I do, where every person can stand up and be proud of what they do, of how they live, where they're heading.

Yes, we as a party need to address on what people consider to be the "big issues"—welfare, health, education, etc.—and they are important. But more important still is allowing the people to go about their daily lives without state (or corporate) interference.

And we should do so because it is this that enables people to live without having to obtain a licence to do so; to feel that they must beg permission from some faceless bureaucrat in order to be their best; and it removes the constant knawing fear that maybe they cannot be who they are because their may be another form to fill in, another unsympathetic pe-pusher to persuade.

All of these aspirations can be summed up in a single word: "freedom".

And freedom allows people to be who they are—but more amazing.


Angry Exile said...

Who is the victim? I reckon the state sees itself as the victim whenever the proles don't do what they're told.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Great piece.

Even explaining libertarianism would have been less time consuming 15 years ago, as people had an idea what freedom looked like. It's criminal that so many have lost sight of that after Labour's vicious decade-long assault on liberties.

The thing is, experience tells me that when it is explained, people invariably like the idea.

Labour's biggest crime is defining liberty as somehow unnatural, and there are many, many victims of that policy.

increasinglymiffed said...


The scary thing is not so much that lost sight of freedom - it's that the current young generation haven't even seen it after 13 years of NuLab!

Even 20+ year olds won't have any real recollection of life before Labour.

Lord T said...

For once anyway.If the sixmonths and 20K fine are imposed on Campbell Justice will have been served.

I'm not holding my breath.

Gareth said...

"What on earth happened to the concept that any punishment should be proportional to the crime committed?"

No matter what our Government might say, it is still there in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights those troughers tried to hide behind recently.

No excessive bail. No excessive fines. No fines before conviction. No cruel and unusual punishments.