Tag Archives: Liberty

Liberty and the Swedish Example


Liberty and the Swedish Example

By Duncan Whitmore

“Many are irresistibly attracted to liberty as an intellectual system or as an aesthetic goal, but liberty remains for them a purely intellectual parlor game, totally divorced from what they consider the ‘real’ activities of their daily lives. Others are motivated to remain libertarians solely from their anticipation of their own personal financial profit […] The consequence of the narrow and myopic vision of both the gamester and the would-be profit maker is that neither group has the slightest interest in the work of building a libertarian movement. And yet it is only through building such a movement that liberty may ultimately be achieved.”

                  –  Murray N Rothbard1

In the five decades or so since these words were written, we have been able to come to a more precise conception of what the “libertarian movement” should be and what it should do. As we have explained before, efforts to bring about a world in which a greater degree of freedom prevails are unlikely to be successful if we rely solely on the promotion of abstract concepts (such as “non-aggression”) – indeed, it is difficult to think of a more insipid rallying cry than “leave people alone”. Although there are particular moral propositions and personal qualities that are likely requirements for the sustenance of any free society, freedom is synonymous with self-determination – that different individuals, families, communities and nations will pursue their own goals based upon their own values. It is these varying pursuits themselves (embedded in the culture, custom and traditions of differing peoples throughout the world) which are likely to be the motivating factor, with liberty being the vehicle for their achievement rather than the end itself. Indeed, when we look to the inspirations that motivated some of the greatest authors, poets, artists and composers, they often chose to capture the essence of their homelands in their works: the “Sceptred Isle” speech of John of Gaunt in Shakespeare’s Richard II; Blake’s Jerusalem; Monet’s Sunrise; Smetana’s Má Vlast; Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony, to name but a few. In contrast, we might be waiting a very long time for “A Non-Aggression Symphony” or the “Ballad of Private Property”. Or, to give a sporting metaphor, we can look upon liberty as the pitch, but not the game. The turf needs to be laid and the grass watered and mown, but the motivation to do these things is the thrill of the match that will be played. Read more

An Open Letter to my MP about Climate Change and De-Carbonizing Transport


I have just sent an e-mail to my Member of Parliament (Jeremy Hunt) regarding the submission I made two weeks ago in response to the UK government’s consultation on “de-carbonizing transport”.

Here is the covering e-mail, which also draws his attention to a long, complex article I have written on lockdown actions taken against the COVID-19 virus, and how appropriate and effective they have been.

Dear Mr Hunt,

Please find attached, for your consideration as my MP, two documents on the subject of climate change and the UK government’s plans to “de-carbonize” transport. The first is a two-page letter, with a number of questions on these matters, whose relevance I very much hope you will appreciate. The second is a 56-page PDF, which I submitted two weeks ago as my response to the recent government “consultation” on these matters.

While writing, I would also like to take the opportunity to give you a link to an article I have recently written and published on the subject of lockdowns against the COVID-19 virus. The article is here: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/08/11/covid-19-lock-downs-or-cock-ups/.

This is, of course, an area in which as a former health secretary you have almost unrivalled expertise. My researches have led me towards the conclusion that the lockdowns, as implemented in the UK (and many other countries), have been way over the top compared to what was actually necessary. I realize you might personally disagree; but I am sure you will be aware that the longer all this stuff goes on, the less inclined ordinary people will be to give the government the benefit of the doubt.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Lock

And here is the two-page letter, with the questions:

<Address redacted>

Jeremy Hunt MP

(South West Surrey)

House of Commons

Westminster

London

SW1A 0AA

 

13 August 2020

 

Dear Mr Hunt

 

Climate Change and De-Carbonizing Transport

 

Twelve years ago, on July 14th, 2008, I wrote you a nine-page letter urging you find out the facts regarding climate change. And, having done so, to take the strongest possible stand against the UK’s Climate Change Bill. You never bothered even to acknowledge my letter, let alone reply to it. Even though I prompted you about it when you phoned me to solicit my vote the day before the 2010 election. I was, to say the least, disappointed in you.

Now, twelve years later, here we are again. But things have moved on, since you voted for that dreadful bill on that snowy night in October 2008.

Two weeks ago, I submitted a response to the government’s recent consultation on “de-carbonizing transport.” It is a 56-page PDF, and I include it in the attachments to my e-mail. I would ask you please, Mr Hunt, to read what I have to say, and to give full consideration to it. You are, after all, my one and only representative in a parliament, many of whose acts over the last year and more I consider to have gone well beyond the bounds of reasonable behaviour. By its actions the parliament has, as far as I am concerned, brought itself into disrepute. And as a result, I have now lost all respect for it.

I would like to know your views on some of the issues I raise in my document. But I won’t expect you to dig into any of the scientific detail. Your liberal-arts education, and your many years of experience with government bureaucracy, should be sufficient for you to be able to address my questions.

  1. Do you agree with the quote from Bertrand Russell, with which I begin my Preface?
  2. Would you agree that government exists to serve the people, not to rule over them against their interests?
  3. Do you agree with me when I say: “you should expect government always to be reasonable towards the people it governs?”
  4. Do you agree with me when I say that MPs: “ought always to support the interests of the people they represent against encroachment by other political interests. For example, MPs in rural areas ought to champion the car as the best means of transport for people in their areas, even when it is pooh-poohed and threatened by the big-city slickers.”
  5. Would you agree that government, and those whom it funds, should always behave with honesty, integrity and good faith towards the public?
  6. Would you agree that government must never make costly commitments on behalf of the governed without rigorous justification?
  7. Would you agree that, in a case such as the allegations that human emissions of carbon dioxide are leading to catastrophic climate change, the burden of proof should always be on the accusers to substantiate their case beyond reasonable doubt?
  8. Would you agree that the UK Interdepartmental Liaison Group on Risk Assessment’s 2002 re-formulation of the precautionary principle, which I link to from my document as reference [5], was dishonest and done in bad faith? Would you agree that it had the effect, in matters such as the “climate change” allegations, of negating the presumption of innocence, inverting the burden of proof, and requiring the accused to prove a negative?
  9. Do you think that the BBC likening allowing climate change skeptics to speak to “letting someone deny last week’s football scores” violated their own guidelines on impartiality?
  10. Would you agree that the UK government’s 2009 abandonment of the social cost approach to valuing carbon dioxide emissions when considering policies, which I link to from my document as reference [6], was dishonest and done in bad faith?
  11. Do you think that the UK government’s 2010 “Climategate” inquiries were entirely honest and done in good faith?
  12. Would you agree that Extinction Rebellion is an extremist organization, and should never have been allowed to influence UK government policy?
  13. Do you think that the Committee for Climate Change is an independent, impartial body?
  14. Do you agree with me that setting arbitrary collective targets and limits on what people may do, for example “carbon budgets,” is unjust and tyrannical?
  15. Do you think that the UK government’s plans for implementing “zero carbon,” their costs, and the consequences to the people affected by them, have been fully thought through?
  16. Would you agree that the arrogant tone of the “setting the challenge” document, in particular in its use of words and phrases like “interventions,” “behaviour change” and “accelerating modal shift,” is inappropriate to the way in which a democratic government ought to treat its people?
  17. Would you agree with me when I say: “The UK government must commission a thorough, independent, scrupulously honest, unbiased audit of its own conduct, and the conduct of those it funded, in environmental matters over the period since 1970?”
  18. And finally, if you had known in 2008 that the policies resulting from the climate change agenda would eventually have such large negative consequences for the standard and quality of living of your constituents, would you have voted for the climate change bill?

I have put my case, as fully and eloquently as I can, in my PDF document. I hope that you will feel able to take Bertrand Russell’s sage advice, and seek the facts of the matter – just as I asked you to, twelve years ago. When you have done so, I think you will find that most, if not all, of my concerns on this matter are justified. What you decide to do then will, of course, be up to you.

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Neil Lock

P.S. I will publish this letter as “An Open Letter to my MP about Climate Change and De-Carbonizing Transport” on my own small blog http://www.honestcommonsense.co.uk/, and on another blog where I am an author. I will publish your reply on my own blog when I receive it.

Enclosure: “Response to Consultation on ‘De-Carbonizing Transport’ in the UK,” July 31st, 2020.

Liberty and Society – a Reply to Ben Lewis


Liberty and Society – a Reply to Ben Lewis

By Duncan Whitmore

In a recent post on this blog, the present writer offered an explanation as to why the intellectual accomplishments of Austro-libertarians have been disproportionate to their relatively meagre success in effecting real world change. We concluded that the attempt to merely spread ideas of the justice of non-aggression and the truth of “Austrian” economics is, in spite of its importance, not enough. Libertarians must also learn how to mould these ideas so that they speak to people’s aspirations within the prevailing conditions in which they live.

In a short post on the blog of Bastion Magazine – a relatively new publication which shares similar intellectual and political priorities to those of Mises UK – Ben Lewis has chimed in with something similar, addressing what he calls “the inconsistency of libertarian consistency” – that while conservatives, according to him, concede that libertarianism is a more logically consistent philosophy, this feature does not necessarily make the latter a superior system of thought should it be also inconsistent with “the real life nature of man and society”. These sentiments are in the same vain as three of his earlier blog posts where he discusses voluntary social relations, social duties and his reasons for being a conservative.1

To be fair to Lewis, not every view examined in this essay is necessarily one that he has stated explicitly and it would be wrong to ascribe to him a belief in every matter that is subjected to criticism. However, in the interests of thoroughness, we will examine not only what Lewis has actually said but also that which could be reasonably interpreted or inferred from what he has said.

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What Libertarianism Is…


…and What it Must Do

 By Duncan Whitmore

Anyone who has taken the time to study in depth the wealth of scholarly literature of Austro-libertarianism cannot help but be enthralled by the intellectual treasures provided by our school of thought. Not only have we uncovered a body of knowledge which – especially in comparison to mainstream social science – is rigorous, scientific, coherent and interdisciplinary, but, as the true successors of classical liberalism, we have an inspiring vision of the future that can sweep away war, conflict, strife and poverty while propelling the human race to unheard of heights of peace and prosperity. Indeed, for many of us Austro-libertarianism has been the most joyous and rewarding discovery of our lives, providing a sheltered harbour in a world which would otherwise leave us adrift in a sea of chaos.

Unfortunately, we are forced to admit that the intellectual accomplishments of Austro-libertarians are disproportionate to our achievements in effecting real world change which, by comparison, are almost miniscule. Although most forms of direct socialism have been discredited by the disaster that was the Soviet Union, we are today living in a world of unprecedented state power which the majority of the population, buoyed by a sense of control instilled by their occasional visits to the ballot box, views as entirely legitimate. It is bad enough that the modern nation state has accreted to itself power and functions that ancient kings and emperors could only dream of; but we are confronted also by a pervasive attitude that any difficulty, problem, error, injustice or whatever that life may choose to throw at us – including our own personal foibles and failings – is always the state’s responsibility to solve. The problems of paper money, the welfare state, boom and bust, public “education”, crippling regulation, disastrous overseas wars and all of the other ills bred by the state are not going to be vanquished when the majority of the public regards this institution as the magic carpet that will whisk us all away to the land of milk and honey. Read more

Why Libertarians Should Read Mises – Part One


Why Libertarians Should Read Mises

Part One

By Duncan Whitmore

Introduction

There is little need to point out to members of the forum bearing his name that Ludwig von Mises was one of the most passionate and influential defenders of the free market in intellectual history – the lynchpin of a tradition running from Carl Menger in the late nineteenth century to the active members of the flourishing “Austrian” school today. Many libertarians – including the present author – first found their enthusiasm for the philosophy through contact with Mises’ work and, in spite of the undeniably titanic influence of other great men in the field (such as Murray N Rothbard), it is Mises who remains the primary inspiration of many an intellectual career within Austro-libertarianism.

Mises made relatively few pronouncements that were concerned specifically with ethics, his intellectual endeavours being focussed mainly on developing and expounding economic theory and epistemology. It is true that he regarded this theory as the basis for an unflinching advocacy of what could then be called liberalism – an aspect we will explore in detail. However, he did so on the basis that, in general, “people prefer life to death, health to sickness, nourishment to starvation, abundance to poverty” and that praxeology and economics “teaches man how to act in accordance with these [presupposed] valuations”.1

Many libertarians share this attitude and believe that the enormous increase in the standard of living that would be afforded by the free market provides its strongest justification. Indeed, it would be futile for any strategy for achieving a libertarian world to omit this powerful argument – particularly when it becomes clear that the established elite are using the existing corp-tocracy to enrich only themselves, causing the siren song of socialist alternatives to grow dangerously louder. Read more

Capitalism and Equality


Capitalism and Equality

By Duncan Whitmore

In several recent posts and a podcast on this blog1, Rev. Rory McClure has provided some robust and insightful assaults on the leftist quest for equality. For too long it has been widely believed in mainstream circles that equality between human beings, in one form or another, is some kind of virtue to which society ought to aspire and that rank inequality is a measure of severe injustice that needs to be corrected by state action. Even though the worst excesses of inequality – such as the rising value of assets owned by the rich as a result of worldwide money printing – are, in fact, products of a state corporatist system, the perception that some people will be wealthier than others in a free market continues to provide an almost instinctive impetus towards some kind of socialism and re-distributionism. Rev. McClure has performed an important service by not only demolishing the view that inequality is a handicap for lovers of liberty but, above and beyond that, by demonstrating how inequality is, in fact, something to be embraced and cherished.

To add to Rev. McClure’s important arguments this essay will first subject the aspiration towards some kind of perfect or immediate equality – i.e. the forced attempt to render all people absolutely equal now with today’s stock of wealth and resources – to a specifically praxeological critique. However, we will also demonstrate that even if someone desires a more approximate or gradual achievement of equality – such as the so-called “equality of opportunity” – it is, in fact, statism, socialism and any kind of redistributionism that should be abandoned while, instead, those who seek to create such equality should embrace a social order that maximises the production of wealth. That social order is, of course, free market capitalism. Thus it will be shown that, even on their own terms, advocates for greater equality should be free marketers. Read more

The Manifesto of the Live and Let Live Party


(Author’s Note: Tom Rogers recently made a comment, on a thread about the forthcoming UK election, asking for “plausible and realistic ideas that can be put into action and that will appeal to ordinary working people.” Despite my strong aversion to politics as it exists today, and to politicians of all stripes and all parties, I thought it might be good to set down my best stab at exactly that. Hence this draft outline of a “party manifesto,” intended to spark thought and discussion.

I thought of several possible names for the party – the Good People’s Party, the Sanity Party, the Peace and Justice Party, perhaps even the Zero Agenda Party. But I eventually settled on the “Live and Let Live Party.”)

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