David Farrer reports on first day of Libertarian Alliance 2007 Conference

My wife and I have now returned from our annual visit to the Libertarian
Alliance Conference. We travelled down from Edinburgh to London on
what’s probably going to be our last round trip on GNER before that
company transfers the franchise to operate the line to National Express.
I do believe that privatisation has been of great benefit to passengers
over the last few years.

Libertarians hold varying views on the immigration question but all of
us agree that getting rid of the welfare state is an essential part of
any solution. On the day before the conference we happened to visit
Brick Lane in East London. It’s an excellent example of how some
immigrants to Britain have created a vibrant small-business culture.

I don’t suppose that the production of the musical Chicago that we saw
on Friday evening was subsidised by the taxpayer. That’s how things
should be. And all that Jazz.

On Saturday morning I headed off early to the National Liberal Club and
met Tim and Helen Evans who were preparing for the Conference.

First off was Leon Louw who had just arrived from South Africa after
successfully manoeuvring his way through the Home Office bureaucracy.

Leon is an excellent speaker whom I’ve heard before on a couple of
occasions. His speech was entitled “The Disaster of Water Socialism: Why
the Sea should be Privatised”.

Leon emphasised that we shouldn’t pay too much attention to technical
questions such as how the sea can be fenced off but more on the
intellectual question of private ownership itself. Let the market decide
on the technology and we can all start to benefit from the vast
resources of the oceans was the message we got.

Next on was Professor Bruce L. Benson speaking on “Private Law
Enforcement: Libertarian Ideas on the Future of Justice”.

Bruce’s book  explains that:

  Benson argues that public dissatisfaction with legal institutions is as
prevalent as public disgust with many public institutions. That’s hardly
surprising. They are funded through taxes, run by bureaucracies, are
famously inefficient, lack the capacity to calculate economically, and
ignore the demands of consumers.

And that’s what we heard about. The inefficiencies of the police and
indeed the whole British justice system are to be found elsewhere. And
the solution says Benson is privatisation. I agree and would prefer to
be a customer of Lothian and Borders Police PLC instead of funding them
through my ever-increasing Council Tax.

After I’d had lunch with LA member David Ellams, there was a talk by Dr.
Syed Kamall MEP. Yes, there is indeed “one of us” in Brussels! It
shouldn’t be the case but it probably helps the libertarian case to have
someone from an ethnic background make the case for free trade. That’s
what Syed does very well. Free trade especially helps the poor.

The final session on Saturday was on the Surveillance Society.
LA members David Carr and Brian Micklethwait spoke, with David being
more pessimistic than Brian. I guess that I tend towards David’s
position on this – perhaps the result of being a libertarian in a
non-libertarian world for so long. But Brian may be right. Technology
enables us to watch them and they don’t like it. Good.

In the evening we attended the annual LA dinner in the excellent NLC
room that overlooks the river. The main speaker was Alex Singleton of
the Globalisation Institute. We heard more of Syed’s message: freedom is
essential for the world’s poor.
Neil Lock won the Chris R Tame memorial essay on “Does Britain Need a
Libertarian Party?” Dr Robert Lefever’s PROMIS Unit of Primary Care
funded the £1,000 prize.

Unfortunately my winter chest infection struck with a vengeance on
Sunday morning and I was unable to attend the second day of the
Conference but I’m sure that it was as successful as day one.