Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Accountable goverment

If there's one thing that pisses me off—and there are actually, as regular readers will know, loads of things that severely grip my shit—it's people who wank on about how governments are accountable because the sheep get to vote for them every five years.

This is absolute horseshit.

Apart from anything else, the civil service is not accountable and, apparently, doesn't even think that it should be.

But we don't even really get to choose any kind of accountable politicians either. I mean, the Coalition might be just very slightly more liberal and a teensy bit less profligate than NuLabour, but it's hardly as though we are even heading for a minarchist state any time soon—let alone an anarchist society.

I've written hundreds of posts and thousands of words on this theme, but few of them have been as utterly effective as the UK Libertarian's reply to one of his commenters, concerning the relative accountability of the state versus private, voluntary charity.
Before slavery was abolished you wouldn’t expect abolitionists to “offer a viable alternative” because some farmers had become used to the slave labour and it might inconvenience them to lose their workers. No, Slavery is wrong, by any empathetic human yardstick, and so it was ended. After that if the plantation owners want to voluntarily offer those people work for a wage they both arrive at, then that’s between them, but slavery is wrong, and so is theft.

I’ll change “completely unaccountable” to “almost completely unaccountable” then. The truth is elections are every 4 years. And just because one candidate gets a majority of “votes” (from people who usually don’t even know what thy’re voting for) it doesn’t make it okay for the minority to be stolen from to pay for things they don’t approve of. In the private sector I can IMMEDIATELY “vote” not to fund something by simply opting out. So no 4 year wait, instead it’s immediate, and no compromising, I can decide EXACTLY what I want to fund.

I often hear that it’s “up to me” to create a new party if I disagree with the existing ones. This is shifting the blame to the victim. If me and my friends all “Vote” that it’s okay to rob you, then you are the victim, and we can hardly ask you to devote every moment of your spare time frantically trying to rally enough support so you’re no longer in the minority and can “vote” not to be stolen from. It’s a crazy idea. Theft is wrong. Tyranny of the majority is wrong. And I’ll pose the same idea back to you: If you think it’s “up to me” to change the system, why can’t I say it’s “up to you” to voluntarily setup your own NHS or Welfare system on the free market and try to persuade people peacefully and voluntarily through persuasion to fund your charity?

I really recommend that you go and read the whole thing...

23 comments:

Smoking Hot said...

Good post DK

FlipC said...

I know it's petty but UK government voting is every 5 years; it's US and UK local elections that are every 4 years.

"Before slavery was abolished you wouldn’t expect abolitionists to “offer a viable alternative”" Other than the compensation that the US slave-owners were paid by their government?

However in the main I agree - it's an unaccountable system. A local problem here has seen two Con councillors apparently siding with their Party against the wishes of their ward. Can the electorate do anything about this? No; once they're in they're in for four years regardless of their actions.

Blue Eyes said...

"it's hardly as though we are even heading for a minarchist state any time soon"

Which means that people are getting what they vote for. Sorry DK but the vast majority of the electorate absolutely do not want a small state.

Our system is very good at reflecting the consensus viewpoint. In Britain that means something pretty close what we have.

Devil's Kitchen said...

BE,

Does that mean that bringing back slavery would be OK, as long as the majority had voted for it?

DK

Snotrocket said...

@blue eyes:

How the fuck do YOU know that the 'vast majority of the electorate do not want a small state'?

When have they EVER been asked?

What it seems that the 'vast majority (ie: those of the electorate who couldn't be fucking bothered to go out and vote - and discounting those smart arse bastards who manipulate Nu Labour's very own locked in (postal) ballots) voted for is to leave them alone with their benefits and booze.

In case you didn't hear it at the last election, the loudest sound to be heard was that from the people telling the fucking useless shower of shit that was supposed to be a Labour (ho ho - socialist FFS!) to get off our backs!

And I make no apologies for the language....you made me fucking mad!

PS: DK....what on earth has happened to Anna??????

Devil's Kitchen said...

Just for the record, I have no idea what has happened to Anna. Why is everyone asking me—is it in a pointed way, like you suspect that I might have had her killed...?

DK

Snotrocket said...

DK.. I only ask you about Anna 'cos I understood that she is of the Libertarian persuasion, which you lead; that you often link to her blog in your writings; and that as a super techie you would have some idea why her blog, first of all, said it was going fown for 'housekeeping' for a year, and secondly, now shows www.bluehost.com when trying to get to annaraccoon.

Thanks anyway.

Longrider said...

Actually Blue Eyes is probably correct. Whenever I speak to people outside of the libertarian persuasion, I am met with blank looks and puzzlement when I talk about a smaller state. Not so long ago a sister in law told me that she wants the government to make her and her daughters safe and laws that do this is okay.

Out there in the real world, this is a normal mindset. These people do not want a smaller state. We are the ones who are not normal. It's a big mountain that needs climbing.

Shooting Blue Eyes is shooting the messenger.

Snotrocket said...

@Longrider: Your sister-in-law is correct is demanding that government should make her safe and enact laws to make that so. But that doesn't make for a big state and does not act against us being a small state.

My argument with the 'messenger', Blue Eyes, was that the 'vast majority' of voters did NOT vote at all in the last election, so he (and you) cannot take that to mean that they did not want a smaller state.

By the same token, I don't know who you talked to regarding the need for the smaller state but where I live we couldn't wait for the state to get off our backs. And by 'state' I include the EU, which makes nearly 80% of the laws we live by in this country.

So, a smaller state does not mean we are less protected: paradoxically, it is the larger state (and EU) that is busy running down the armed forces of this country who would defend us and submerging us in ridiculous health and safety laws (which will grind you down, even as you laugh at them). They - the powers that be - are doing this in the pursuit of their goal for a European armed forces (we already have the EU police).

So, shoot the messenger? No. I merely want to shed some light, if I can.

SadButMadLad said...

The problem when asking people if they want a small state is that they don't know what it means. They think it means taking away all the things that surround them. They think it will mean no child support, no care homes, no weekly bin collection, no unemployement benefit, no parks, no sports facilities, no planning rules, no schools, no libraries, etc.

What the small state means is that these services can still be provided. Just not necessarily by the state. What's to stop a community paying a private company to collect the rubbish? Planning rules will always be required to ensure certain standards are met, but they don't need to detail that only certain materials can be used and that only certain types of houses can be built. Other things like unemployment should still be paid by the state (as a safety net, not a cradle) because the state is big enought to provide this kind of insurance.

The other thing a small state does is not stopping people from doing things themselves. So if someone wants to mow the verge in front of their house, the council should not stop them. If a group wants to set up for a reason, the state should not dictate rules that they must jump though hoops and loops to follow to the letter. The state should let people do things themselves.

Give people responsibilty and they will use it properly. It's only when you dictate and take responsibility away from people that they act irresponsibly - just like a spoilt child. It also leads to people not doing anything because they expect the state (or someone else) to do it for them.

TheUKLibertarian.com said...

Thanks for the kind words DK, I really appreciate it.

FlipC, thanks for the clarification. That I didn't even know that shows how little I care for this horrible process, though I am glad to be corrected.

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Longrider said...

Your sister-in-law is correct is demanding that government should make her safe and enact laws to make that so. But that doesn't make for a big state and does not act against us being a small state.

She made her comments in the context of defending terrorism laws. Still think she was right?

I didn't vote last time and I certainly want a small state. But unless you ask enough of them, you can't draw the conclusion that all those others who didn't vote also want a small state. I agree with sadbutmadlad, people think that it means losing services - as opposed to possibly improved versions if provided by private enterprise. it's also possible that many of these people who didn't vote want more state intervention, that they didn't vote because Labour isn't left wing enough.

So, I'm not sure you can make the leap that you have. The only common conclusion that I think you can draw from the available evidence is apathy towards the political system and antipathy towards the political class.

Blue Eyes said...

@Longrider, thanks for actually understanding my comment. The rest of you should learn the difference between pointing something out and agreeing with it. Just because it's true doesn't mean I like it.

Seriously, if the vast majority wanted a very small state, don't you think one of the main parties - which exist only to pander to public opinion - would have noticed by now?

songsparrow said...

Can we stop calling them the 'Powers that be' and 'The Authorities'? They are public servants.
I have yet to find anybody who trusts a politician. They have stolen from us in breathtaking arrogance, they lie to us and ignore us. But some here are saying this is what we want? Well I don't want it. I don't want petty minded bureaucrats spending thousands of pounds persecuting old ladies for dropping cigarette ash. I don't want nosey 'officials' looking to see that I am throwing away the correct rubbish! This is what we forget isn't it? When we hear talk of creating jobs and other left wing guff! Creating useless non jobs that the rest of us have to pay for! Well I'm sick of it!

Stephen said...

I would have commented on the original but comments are closed there.

UK Libertarian says that Tyranny of the majority is wrong .... If you think it’s “up to me” to change the system, why can’t I say it’s “up to you” to voluntarily setup your own NHS or Welfare system on the free market and try to persuade people peacefully and voluntarily through persuasion to fund your charity?


But by the same token why it is OK to 'dictate' to me that I must organise through the 'free-market'? Perhaps I don't agree that some things should be organised in such a way. Isn't his position simply the 'dictatorship' of the minority in wanting to impose a utopian philosophy (libertarianism) upon a population that appears at best uninterested in it?

It seems to me that his position is fundamentally anti-democratic. A pure democracy in which the will of the majority prevailed in all circumstances could be termed the 'dictatorship of the majority'. But we don't have that. We have a system in which the will of the majority is checked in all sorts of ways. In countries with stronger constitutions, there is even more protection against the majority prevailing in all circumstances.

If UK Libertarian wants this society to be organised along libertarian principles then it darned well is up to him to persuade the majority that this is a better way of organising society than what we have now.

Stephen said...

What the small state means is that these services can still be provided. Just not necessarily by the state. What's to stop a community paying a private company to collect the rubbish?

But what's a 'community' in this context? AFAIK, most rubbish collection is done by private companies now, as so much of it has been outsourced and privatised. Most people in the 'community' haven't the time or the interest to be directly involved in a procurement process to hire a rubbish collection company. So we'd have to elect representatives to act on our behalf. That sounds rather like what we have at the moment, doesn't it?

Stephen said...

Out there in the real world, this is a normal mindset. These people do not want a smaller state. We are the ones who are not normal. It's a big mountain that needs climbing

I want an accountable state, not necessarily a small state. I certainly concede UK Libertarian's point that our present representative system is not accountable on the smaller issues. People vote on 'big' issues such as the economy, how confident or pessimistic they are feeling and so on. Smaller issues never get a look in. All you can say about them is that people don't care enough to change the status quo to make them big issues. Thus the database state, and civil liberties more generally, never became a mainstream issue in the last election, despite all my years of serving on a NO2ID stall!

Of course one reason why our politics is so crappy is because of a certain part of the private sector - the newspapers - which promulgate a manufactured consensus about any number of things. But I'm guessing that the unaccountable corporate power of Newscorp does not vex libertarians all that much?

Longrider said...

But I'm guessing that the unaccountable corporate power of Newscorp does not vex libertarians all that much?

Oh, it does.

And I want a small state and an accountable one.

Stephen said...

Oh, it does

Well it might for you, personally Longrider, but ten years of reading and occasionally commenting on libertarian blogs, tells me that untrammelled corporate power does not feature anywhere near as high up the list as bemoaning the 'nanny state' or 'coercive taxation'!

And I want a small state and an accountable one

The problem is, no one is too sure what a 'small state' is. Thatcher and Reagan claimed to stand for a 'small state' yet both increased the power of the state. I want a state that is big enough to confront corporate power. Unfortunately what we see in the post-Thatcher consensus, that both Labour and the Tories buy into, is a small state when it comes to enforcing employment law and protecting the most vulnerable in our society and but a big state when it comes to regulating individual action that may challenge the state.

I think a lot of libertarian analysis is lacking as it seems unable to distingusih between individuals and the exercise of corporate power, which can be just as coercive and threatening to civil liberties as state power. I am not saying that you think like this but many libertarians naively see corporate power as simple an aggregate of individuals.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Stephen,

"Well it might for you, personally Longrider, but ten years of reading and occasionally commenting on libertarian blogs, tells me that untrammelled corporate power does not feature anywhere near as high up the list as bemoaning the 'nanny state' or 'coercive taxation'!"

That might be because we don't have untrammelled corporate power, but we do have a nanny state and coercive taxation.

And where does this untrammelled corporate power come from? Ultimately, it comes from those corporates lobbying the government to pass laws that provide market barriers to smaller competitors, e.g. the lobbying of the EU Commission by Big Pharma companies that resulted in the REACH legislation.

Corporatism is a blend of corporate money with the state monopoly on legal force—and I, for one, have been writing about it for nearly six years.

DK

TheUKLibertarian.com said...

Stephen, the comments were switched off because that specific post was encouraging the debate to continue on the forums which I linked to at the end.

If you wanted to cross post your thoughts you posted here over to that thread I'd be delighted to clarify some positions if you're interested and maybe get some others to chime in too.

FlipC said...

Yet DK imagine how corporations would act if even those checks were not in place?

While you argue that businesses are accountable in that I can chose not to purchase or invest with them; unless my leverage is large enough I'm just a pebble in the ocean to them.

Of course public opinion can be turned into a such a massive force, but that in itself is unlikely to occur with the current domination of a media system dependent on the businesses themselves.

In this current situation wouldn't we simply be switching a system we know is unaccountable for one we simply think is?