Friday, October 20, 2006

Taken to task

Still, we may as well stay with the theme of criticism: Doctor Vee is not at all happy with your humble Devil—calling him "self-congratulatory" and implying that I am not only a racist but also either a moron or a hypocrite—and takes me to task in a quite readable post full lots of lovely theories that totally ignore any of the tentative points that I made.
One of the most interesting things about libertarians is how quickly their devotion to free markets and capitalism disappear so quickly as soon as it involves those dirty foreigners getting a piece of the action.

Translation: "The Devil's Kitchen is a racist and a bigot. So you can immediately ignore everything that he says and listen to me, Doctor Vee."

That, boy, is an opening line worthy of a NuLabour minister: always paint your opponent as some sort of bigot in the very first breath: this will automatically render your argument correct because only a bigot would ever agree with a bigot and nobody wants to be thought of as a bigot, eh? And certainly not as a racist for, as we all know, racism is easily the worst crime ever conceived of (which makes me not only unenlightened, reactionary and ignorant but actually, positively evil).
The Devil’s Kitchen likes to describe himself as a libertarian (as he did in a self-congratulatory post today) and makes much of his support for free markets—albeit almost always in terms of how much tax he has to pay.

Ah, once you've established that your target is an eeeeevil racist, you much then cast aspersions on their motives: "Do you see the nasty racist, children? Well, not only is he a racist, but he is selfish, vain and greedy too, so don't you listen to him, d'y'hear?"
But yesterday all of that talk about free markets was thrown out of the window when he approvingly posted a video of Swivel Eyed Farage on Sunday AM.

"And look, our racist is even worse, because he associates with other bad men. Here is one of the bad men that he associates with; this man is mad, maaaad, maaaaaaaaad!"
DK says:
And, on current showing, there is simply no major party that supports the libertarian agenda (I believe that UKIP are the closest that we have, hence my support for them).

Ukip libertarian? I hardly think so.

Really, Doctor Vee? I think that we might be getting just a wee bit confused here. Shall we define our terms?
In international trade, free trade is an idealized market model, often stated as a political objective, where in trade of goods and services between countries flows unhindered by government-imposed costs. Intellectually, this arrangement is supported by followers of the neoclassical and microeconomic schools of thought, who argue that the benefit of trade is a net gain to both trading partners. It is opposed by anti-globalization and some labour campaigners due to perceived tendencies for abuse by wealthier states.

The term is given to economic policies, as well as political parties that support increases in such trade.

Free trade is a concept in economics and government, encompassing:
  • International trade of goods without tariffs (taxes on imports) or other trade barriers (e.g., quotas on imports)

  • International trade in services without tariffs or other trade barriers

  • The free movement of labour between countries

  • The free movement of capital between countries

  • The absence of trade-distorting policies (such as taxes, subsidies, regulations or laws) that give domestic firms, households or factors of production an advantage over foreign ones

  • Trade-distorting policies to enforce property rights so as to ensure the above conditions

As I said, I agree with the above, but I have reservations about the free trade in labour for reasons that I shouldn't have to expand on beyond saying that my reservations are based on the fact that humans are not homogenous. If we were, we wouldn't be having all this ruckus about Muslims, veils, etc. Nor would we have a foreign class who are barely able to speak English and thus unable to integrate into society (or, indeed, get the jobs that allow them to support themselves).

Under ideal free trade labour conditions, Mr X from Country X would arrive in Country Y and make stuff, and Mr Y from Country Y would be just as likely to go to Country X. When you have massive differences in GDP between countries, Mr X is much more likely to go to Country Y in hopes of gaining more, but Mr Y is far less likely to go to Country X.

Thus, not only does one country (which is of a limited size) have a large net influx of people, but the country from which they came loses much of its own (usually trained) workforce. Our policy of poaching trained nurses from Africa and the Phillipines or doctors from India has been criticised, for instance, because it leaves already impoverished countries lacking trained medical staff. And now, of course, many of our medical staff cannot find jobs here and are looking to go abroad (but you can pretty much guarantee that they won't go to the Phillipines or Africa.

Now, one can argue that this is precisely what the free market is about, but it is difficult to conclude that it does not both countries, in general terms, worse off. Further, in the instance of medical staff, very many of the staff are coming from countries with which we do not have free trade agreements; so even if you consider the outcome to be good, it is hardly an argument against having immigration restrictions.

Doctor Vee disagrees with this argument, netch'rally.
The fact that different countries have different GDPs is not a good argument against “the unfettered free trade of peoples between countries”. GDP is a measure of all of the income earned in an economy. So if you say that a country has a lower (per capita) GDP than another, that just means that the average income of a citizen of that country is lower.

Different people have different incomes. That is a fact of life. These differences in income exist within Europe. They also exist within the UK. They also exist within Kirkcaldy.

If this is so much of a problem that the government has to set some kind of limit to immigration, then it must also be enough of a problem to set a limit to the amount that people move within a country. There would be quotas on the number of people who can move from the Highlands to the Home Counties. They would build a moat around Ferguslie Park.

But they haven’t. That’s because the economy can cope with people of different economic backgrounds moving around the country. It is a fact that Scots prepared to move to England and English people prepared to move to Scotland in search of work will make more money than if they just stayed where they were born.

Yes... and no. On grounds of space, well, there is no net immigration into the country and thus, in theory, no strain on national services. Actually, of course, there is—witness the water shortages in the south east.

Average GDP severely affects overall standards of living as a rich society can build far more comprehensive infrastructure. Ferguslie Park may be a fucking pisshole, but it does have running water. The same cannot be said for large swathes of rural Italy, let alone Poland.

Then there is the cultural argument: as an Englishman, I can actually understand someone from Scotland (even though many Englishmen think it rather amusing to pretend not to be able to). Although I haven't met anyone from Ferguslie Park, I have worked quite happily, for many years, alongside people from Kirkcaldy, Linlithgow, Livingston, Musselburgh, Niddry, Leith, Lockerbie, Newtongrange and Maryhill.

How well would I work with someone who cannot speak or understand English? With rather more difficulty, I suspect.

How well would I work with someone who regards me as inferior because I do not subscribe to their religious superstitions? Once again, probably not very well (it's difficult enough working with a bunch of Scots who treat you with suspicion because they have been brought up mindlessly to hate Englishmen).
I am sure that everybody can think of several people who have moved long distances to get a job because they could see the clear benefits of doing so. DK himself is an Englishman living in Edinburgh for crying out loud!

Yup, I came to Edinburgh University (mainly because they accepted me): when I left, I decided to get a job in Edinburgh partly because I liked the city but mostly because I was too lazy to leave. But now I am planning to move back south: now that is mainly for economic reasons (plus, on a cultural note, I am fed to the back teeth by (and fed up of having the front ones broken because of) the petty parochialism of a great many Scots. Oh, yeah, and the increasing fascistic tendencies of the Scottish Executive).

Whilst I am happy with free trade in goods, capital and services, I have, as I said, reservations about the free market in labour. You want my true opinion? You've just had it. I really don't know: I really am not decided on the issue of immigration. But there you are, there are my reservations.
Libertarianism is a political philosophy advocating that individuals should be free to do whatever they wish with their person or property, as long as they do not infringe on the same liberty of others. There are two types of libertarians. One type hold as a fundamental maxim that all human interaction should be voluntary and consensual. They maintain that the initiation of force against another person or his property, with "force" meaning the use of physical force, the threat of it, or the commission of fraud against someone who has not initiated physical force, threat, or fraud, is a violation of that principle (many of these are individualist anarchists or anarcho-capitalists).

The other type comes from a consequentialist or utilitarian standpoint. Instead of having moral prohibitions against initiation of force, these support a limited government that engages in the minimum amount of initiatory force (such as levying taxes to provide some public goods such as defense and roads, as well as some minimal regulation), because they believe it to be necessary to ensure maximum individual freedom (these are minarchists). Libertarians do not oppose force used in response to initiatory aggressions such as violence, fraud or trespassing. Libertarians favor an ethic of self-responsibility and strongly oppose the welfare state, because they believe forcing someone to provide aid to others is ethically wrong, ultimately counter-productive, or both. [Emphasis mine.]

Now, as The Longrider points out in a very good post on this whole debate, I am obviously of the second persuasion of libertarianism for reasons of practicality.
None of the libertarian bloggers I frequent appear to be offering anarchy as an alternative to what we have. This means that they recognise the need for some form of collective behaviour where individuals are unable to achieve their aims alone. We need government for foreign policy, policing, defence, local services, for example. Therefore, we accept (grudgingly) the need for general taxation to fund these activities. Depending on just how extreme is the individual will decide just how large that list is. So all of those libertarian bloggers are prepared to compromise. It doesn’t damage their libertarian credentials, though; it merely makes them pragmatists.

Quite. I describe myself as a "libertarian" because it is more convenient than listing everything that I do believe in every time that someone asks; in the same way that I describe myself as in favour of "free-trade" (with reservations about labour). Anyone who reads The Kitchen on an even vaguely regular basis will have got the gist of my beliefs anyway.
For an increasingly disenfranchised electorate, our vote is something we cast to the least worst option. UKIP are probably the least authoritarian party on the British political landscape at present. This does not fill me with cheer. A libertarian blogger throwing his weight behind them is understandable. That they may not be as libertarian as we would like is, well, compromise.

Personally, I’m happy with the principle of open borders. However, for that to be a viable option, all nations would have to operate open borders to have any hope of a free movement of labour (you can take it that I don’t like protectionism in trade either). Ours is a small island with a population of sixty million. Inevitably, immigration control will rear its ugly head. That people who are otherwise libertarian should be advocating such controls is not a contradiction, it is just evidence of that compromise coming into play. It is a pragmatic recognition that lines on maps are, indeed, important. So important that humanity has fought wars over them. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is; that’s life; so we must accept it. The argument comparing movement of peoples within the UK and peoples moving in from outside is fine but for the small matter of numbers. Just how many people can we accommodate before it becomes too much? Therefore, considering the possible imbalance between low and high GDP countries makes sense.

Really, I could have just pointed to The Longrider's post really, couldn't I? Because he has it spot on.

For me to point out that UKIP is the most libertarian party around (do you see the comparative there?) is hardly contentious. They are advocating free trade in goods and services, but not labour, as I am. Since they are the only party advocating withdrawal from the EU, they are the only party (bar the BNP, and they are not advocating free trade) who can be serious about this policy. Since the EU controls our trade with every other country in the world, any party who says that they will introduce global free trade to Britain is lying.

UKIP are the only party who are advocating small government as a central tenet of their policies, the only ones advocating the effective privatisation of all schools, the only ones advocating vastly simplified and progressive taxes as a means of weaning people off the state teat. This, to my mind, makes them the most libertarian party currently operating in Britain.
If, as libertarians suggest, it is the case that cutting back on welfare benefits, lowering corporate tax and so on improves a country’s economy and living standards, then open borders will force governments to adopt these policies as they try to attract jobs to their economies.

I thought that was what DK wanted? But by opposing the “free trade of peoples”, he could well be supporting the continuation of the welfare state.

Sure, except that I support the severe reduction of the welfare state on societal as well as economic grounds. So, forced? It should be a matter of policy: further, it should be a matter of UK policy; and it should be a matter of UK policy now, not when everyone else has already done it or when we are effectively bankrupt and left with no option. That would be the actions of a madman. It is thus unfortunate that we are, indeed, currently ruled by a Cyclopean lunatic.


David B. Wildgoose said...

I've posted the following on his site, but I'm reposting it here just in case my comment fails to make it through moderation...

Libertarians (such as myself) believe in private property, and the right to protect it. We also believe that the citizens of a state own that state and have the right to protect it. In what way is this incompatible with having serious doubts about uncontrolled immigration of people actively hostile to the current inhabitants of the state? None whatsoever!

If you want inconsistency, it is with your supporting both uncontrolled immigration AND a Welfare State. You can't have both. But then, us libertarians actually have some grasp of economics.

doctorvee said...

David, did you mean you posted on my blog? If so, I never got it. I've been getting a lot of spam recently, but I don't think it should have got held in the moderation queue. Anyway, sorry about that.

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Oh yeah? So what has happened for the last ten years, exactly?

Over at the ASI, they are posting some of the winning entries of the Young Writers on Liberty. One does not want to put such keen minds off,...