Sunday, 28 May 2017

Review of Labour Manifesto

This is a quick review of the manifesto of the Labour Party, based on the bullet-point summary provided by the BBC here.  I will make a brief comment on each bullet and award a score as follows:

  • 2 points if I agree and it is important, or I very strongly agree
  • 1 points if I agree but I don't consider it important
  • 0 points if I am unsure or don't care
  • -1 points if I disagree but I don't consider it important
  • -2 points if I disagree and it is important, or I very strongly disagree

To clarify, since I am libertarian I will give a positive score to any policy that increases liberty and a negative score to any policy that decreases liberty.

I have done a similar review of the manifesto of the Conservative Party here.  I'll do the same for the Lib Dems and UKIP over the coming days.  I have already written a detailed review of the Libertarian Party manifesto here.


Health and Care


  • -2: The NHS doesn't need more funding, the system is flawed and we need a free market in healthcare.  £30bn is a huge increase in funding, far more than the £8bn pledge from the Conservatives
  • -2: Privatisation should be extended to cover the entire health care system, not reversed.  The partial and piecemeal privatisation from the Conservatives amounts to corporatism, where private businesses and the state are in partnership.  The full benefits of privatisation will only come when the whole system is private
  • -1: Such a guarantee would require a massive increase in funding, and even then is doubtful.  Private providers operating in a free market are more likely to achieve that target
  • -1: Every person should pay for their own care or find somewhat willing to voluntarily pay for them; taxpayers should not be forced to pay.

Brexit


  • -2: We sensibly voted to leave the EU, and this includes leaving the single market and customs union, as was made clear before the referendum
  • +1: Almost no one wants EU citizens living here legally to be deported.  Even if no deal is reached with the EU, they would not be deported.  This makes it pointless to use them as a "bargaining chip" in the negotiations, and creates unnecessary uncertainty.
  • -1: There are some so-called "workers' rights" and "environmental protections" that should be removed after we have completed our withdrawal, so we should not now hamstring ourselves by committing to maintain them.
  • -2: I can't think of a worse negotiating strategy than to say that we will accept any deal rather than leaving with no deal!  Obviously that creates an incentive for the EU to give us the worst possible deal!  The Conservatives and UKIP are right that no deal would be better than a bad deal (and better than remaining in the EU).

Immigration


  • +1: While the UK has a welfare state, socialised industries and state subsidies, freedom of movement is unworkable.
  • -1: Free markets handle changes in conditions (such as an increased population) better than any state planner ever could, so there is no need for this fund.
  • -1: Why?  This seems like an arbitrary way to manipulate the net migration figures.
  • 0: The main problem with immigration is bad policy, not enforcement; unlike in the US, where ILLEGAL immigration is a major problem, in the UK the problem is uncontrolled LEGAL immigration.  Policies should be changed.  Having said that, additional border guards may be needed to ensure the new policies are enforced; I would need more information to decide whether I agree with this policy.

Economy and Taxes


  • -2: Stimulus packages prevent the market from recovering from a previous distortion of the market caused by central banks.  It is an immoral transfer of wealth from taxpayers to support companies that are wasting resources.   
  • +2: Taxation is theft and economically destructive, so should be eliminated, or at least reduced, and certainly not increased
  • -2: See above.  Theft from "the rich" is still theft, and still economically destructive.
  • -2: See above.  The corporate tax rate was cut from 28% to 19% by the Conservatives and this INCREASED corporate tax receipts.  By reversing these cuts, receipts would likely reduce, as well destroying marginal businesses and jobs, and making products more expensive.

Education and Family


  • -1: People that wish to go to university to pay for it themselves; taxpayers should not
  • -1: Parents that wish to use childcare should pay for it themselves; taxpayers should not
  • -1: Teachers, like everyone else, should be paid according to the value they produce (their marginal productivity), and the only way to ensure this is to have a free market in schooling and let individual schools decide how much they pay each teacher
  • -1: Class sizes should be lower, but the way to do this is to have a free market in schooling, not by increasing funding for a failing socialist system.  Parents (or private charities) should pay for their children to eat; taxpayers should not.

Housing


  • -2: Price controls are always economically destructive.  Maximum price laws create shortages; a maximum rent law will prevent housing supply from rising to meet demand.  
  • -1: Government should not be in the business of owning houses; all council houses should be sold immediately, and the right-to-buy policy is one way to do this, so it should be kept and expanded.
  • -1: See above.  Government should get out of the way so that the private sector can build the houses needed to meet demand.
  • -1: See above.  Private charities can help people that need help, and can do so much more efficiently and effectively than government can.

Welfare and Pensions


  • -1: Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidise pensioners.  Winter fuel payments, if needed, should be paid by private charities, not the state.  It should be up to bus companies to decide whether to allow pensioners to travel for free.  State pensions should be privatised, but until they are they should not increase at a rate above both inflation and wages, because this is effectively a forced transfer to pensioners from younger people who are working hard to make ends meet
  • -1: The welfare system should be privatised, so that everyone can decide for themselves who is deserving of their charity.  Private charity is better targeted and delivered more effectively than welfare payments.  
  • -1: The way to increase employment is to allow free markets: lower taxes, fewer regulations, no price controls and by privatising socialised industries.  With free markets, employment and wages would be maximised, lessening the need for welfare top-ups.
  • -1: People that want or need a carer should pay for it themselves or find someone who will pay for them voluntarily; taxpayers should not be forced to do so.

Foreign and Defence


  • +1: A review is needed, and hopefully it will find that we will be safer if we stop aggressing against foreign nations, and instead refocus the armed forces on defending this country.  
  • -1: We are spending about 2% now, and that should be reduced by refocusing the armed forces as above.
  • -2: Individuals should be able to decide who receives the money they wish to spend on charitable causes.  Government international aid is typically ill-targeted, inefficient and increases corruption, such as by supporting dictatorships in Africa
  • -1: If veterans want home insulation they should pay for it themselves or find someone who will pay for them voluntarily; taxpayers should not be forced to do so.

Future of the UK


  • 0: This would be a waste of time and money; as the example of the USA proves, a Constitution is powerless to limit government or prevent them from violating fundamental rights.
  • -1: Nobody should be able to vote themselves more money at the expense of someone else; suffrage should be reduced, not expanded.
  • -2: If the Scots want to secede, they should certainly be allowed to.  Being kept in the UK against their will is a clear violation of the principle of self-determination.
  • 0: This seems like a waste of time and money, since England already dominates the UK.  Far better to allow Scotland, NI and Wales to secede (or grant them more autonomy) so that UK ministers become de facto ministers for England.

Transport and Environment


  • -2: Government should not be involved in the transport industry; it should end the monopolistic Network Rail, stop subsidising and regulating rail companies and allow genuine competition instead
  • -1: Government should not be involved in running bus services
  • -1: No legislation should be passed in the name of preventing pollution.  The best way to prevent harmful pollution is for the courts to enforce genuine property rights, treating pollution as an invasion of private property.
  • -1: Government should not be involved in the energy industry or deciding between different forms or methods of generating power.

Overall

  • Health and Care: -6
  • Brexit: -4
  • Immigration: -1
  • Economy and Taxes: -4
  • Education and Family: -4
  • Housing: -5
  • Welfare and Pensions: -4
  • Foreign and Defence: -3
  • Future of the UK: -3
  • Transport and Environment: -5

Final Score: -39


Have I been fair in my review?  Do you agree with how I have scored the policies?  Let me know in the comments below.

Don't forget to check out my similar review of the Conservative manifesto here.  Over the next few days, I'll do a similar review of the Lib Dem and UKIP manifestos.




Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Review of Conservative Manifesto

This is a quick review of the manifesto of the Conservative Party, based on the bullet-point summary provided by the BBC here.  I will make a brief comment on each bullet and award a score as follows:

  • 2 points if I agree and it is important, or I very strongly agree
  • 1 points if I agree but I don't consider it important
  • 0 points if I am unsure or don't care
  • -1 points if I disagree but I don't consider it important
  • -2 points if I disagree and it is important, or I very strongly disagree

I'll do the same for the Labour Party, the Lib Dems and UKIP over the coming days.  I have already written a detailed review of the Libertarian Party manifesto here.


Health and Care


  • -1: The NHS doesn't need more funding, the system is flawed and we need a free market in healthcare
  • +1: Every person should pay for their own care or find somewhat willing to voluntarily pay for them; taxpayers should not be forced to pay
  • -1: There shouldn't be a cap, see above
  • +1: No problem deferring bills as long as they get paid (though this should be a decision for the each care home to make individually).

Brexit


  • +2: We sensibly voted to leave the EU, and this includes leaving the single market and customs union, as was made clear before the referendum
  • +2: Correct, no deal would be better than a bad deal, and better than remaining in the EU
  • +1: The settlement is less important than the ongoing arrangements, but we should still seek to get back some of what we have contributed to the EU over the years, and certainly shouldn't pay a bill to be allowed to leave!
  • +1: Yes, for an orderly transition, just translate all EU law into UK law, then after we've left we can remove the (many) parts of EU law that are bad for the UK.

Immigration


  • +1: Quality is more important than quantity, but reducing the total number should mean those who get accepted are better quality
  • -1: Companies should be able to employ whoever they want, so they should not be penalised for hiring immigrants
  • +1: This would help ensure immigrants are economically self-supporting and therefore a net benefit to the UK
  • 0: This would depend on whether the students are an economic benefit to the country or an economic loss, and I don't know which is the case.

Economy and Taxes


  • +1: A balanced budget is important because future generations should not be burdened with the debt of the current generation.  This should be achieved by reduced spending, not by increased taxation.  It should be done as soon as possible and should easily be achieved sooner than 2025.
  • +2: Taxation is theft and economically destructive, so should be eliminated, or at least reduced, and certainly not increased
  • +2: See above, any and all tax cuts should be welcomed
  • 0: Depends what the review finds, obviously.  Hopefully it will reach the sensible conclusion that reducing business rates will help businesses thrive, create jobs, economic growth and cheaper products.

Education and Family


  • -1: The problem with state-run schools is the same as with any socialist system (waste, inefficiency, bad incentives, lack of innovation, inability to rationally allocate resources, etc).  Since the problems in the schools are systemic, throwing more money at them would just be a waste of taxpayers' money.  Homeschooled children and children that go to schools outside the state system get a better education than those in state-run schools.
  • -1: All state schools should have their budgets cut - to zero!
  • +1: All types of schools should be allowed
  • -1: Tinkering with the qualification system (again!) is not going to help anyone.

Housing


  • -1: Government should not be in the business of building houses; they should get out of the way so that the private sector can get on with it.  All council houses should be sold immediately
  • +1: I presume this means reducing regulations so that the private sector can meet the strong demand for more houses in this country, rather than building council or subsidised housing
  • +1: Government should not be owning any land, so if this means freeing up government-owned land for the private sector I am all for it
  • -1: Government should not be in the business of making sure people have houses.  If some people need the kind of help this Act proposes, let private charities provide it.  They will do a better job and won't use force to obtain funds.

Welfare and Pensions


  • +1: State pensions should be privatised, but at least this will ensure that pensioners don't benefit from income increases above both inflation and wages, at the expense of younger people who are working hard to make ends meet
  • +1: Winter fuel payments should be paid by private charities, not the state, but at least this will ensure that wealthy pensioners who do not need the money will not receive them any more; any private charity would adopt a similar policy
  • 0 (-1 and +1): It should be up to bus companies whether they allow pensioners to travel for free, they should not be state-subsidised.  The exclusion from having to pay for a TV license should be kept, and extended to everyone, i.e. it should be abolished immediately as an unjust, unfair and archaic method of funding what is mostly state propaganda
  • -1: All regulators should have less power, not more power; people should be free to make exchanges with anyone they please on any terms they wish so long as there is no force or fraud involved.

Foreign and Defence


  • -2: The UK should withdraw from all these organisations, and work with other nations to address international issues on a purely case-by-case basis.  No entangling alliances!
  • +1: The UK should definitely become a global champion for free trade, but not by signing new trade deals, which are totally unnecessary.  The UK should declare universal free trade unilaterally, setting an example for other countries to follow
  • -2: Individuals should be able to decide who receives the money they wish to spend on charitable causes, by donating to private charities.  Government-to-government aid is typically ill-targeted, inefficient and increases corruption, such as by supporting dictatorships in Africa
  • -1: UK defence spending should not be bound to any target set by NATO or anyone else; defense spending should be reduced by cutting out all overseas spending.

Future of the UK


  • +2: Decisions should always be made as close as possible to the individuals affected by them, which means devolution should be extended, and certainly not reversed
  • -1: Each nation (indeed each county and even each individual) should be allowed to declare independence from the UK whenever they wish.  It should not be up to Westminster to decide when Scotland has it's second referendum, but the Scots themselves.  Personally, I'd advise the Scots to wait until Brexit is finished, but it should be up to them
  • 0: The number of civil servants should be reduced.  What would be the point of moving them out of London and the South East?
  • -1: This fund is apparently to be used to reduce inequality between regions, effectively a new subsidy payment from the south to the north, to replace EU subsidies.  Government should not be involved in transfer payments of any kind, including to reduce inequality.  Let the regions secede if they wish.

Transport and Environment


  • -1: Government should not be involved in the transport industry; all transport infrastructure should be privatised and government should get out of the way for the private sector to deliver a better service at a lower price
  • -1: Government should not get involved in any disputes between companies and their employees.  Employees should be allowed to strike, as long as they do not initiate violence against anyone.  Companies should be allowed to fire employees who strike
  • -1: Heathrow Airport should be completely private, and the question of expanding it should be made on a commercial basis by the owners of the airport
  • -1: Rail tickets should be priced in whatever way the rail companies believe is best and it is no business of government how they price their tickets.  Genuine competition in the rail industry (no monopolies, no regulations, no subsidies) would help ensure that rail companies make decisions based on what is best for their customers.

Overall

  • Health and Care: 0
  • Brexit: +6
  • Immigration: +1
  • Economy and Taxes: +5
  • Education and Family: -2
  • Housing: 0
  • Welfare and Pensions: +1
  • Foreign and Defence: -4
  • Future of the UK: 0
  • Transport and Environment: -4

Final Score: +3


Have I been fair in my review?  Do you agree with how I have scored the policies?  Let me know in the comments below.

Over the next few days, I'll do a similar review of Labour, the Lib Dem and UKIP manifestos.  I wonder if any of them will get a higher score than the Conservatives.,.



Friday, 12 May 2017

A Missed Opportunity: The LPUK Manifesto 2017

The Libertarian Party UK is a minarchist, or classical liberal, party. This means they consider government to be legitimate only when it is limited to activities relating to defense, both from domestic and foreign violators of the Non-Aggression Principle. In other words, governments should operate a military, a police force and a judicial system of courts and prisons, and should leave all other industries to the free market; there should be no involvement of government in welfare, healthcare, education, transport, energy or other industries.

As a voluntaryist, naturally I disagree with this position from a theoretical point of view: since governments by definition violate the Non-Aggression Principle by their very existence, I believe all governments are illegitimate and that even defense should be provided by private organisations operating in a free market.

I also disagree from a strategic point of view: there is no hope of LPUK getting elected, so the best use of a libertarian political party would be to run an educational campaign. I believe there would be value in a voluntaryist Libertarian Party that explains the libertarian philosophy from first principles and applies it to the issues of the day. Making exceptions to the Non-Aggression Principle, to allow for government in the defense industries, as a minarchist party does, undermines this educational message.

Nonetheless, I will here review the LPUK 2017 election manifesto section-by-section against the standard of minarchism.



Introduction 


The introduction is incredibly weak. In the very first paragraph, it promotes a bizarre conspiracy theory about why the election has been called, which is bound to rile up Conservatives. It goes on to make petty remarks disparaging the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. This is not a good start to what is essentially a marketing document aimed mainly at voters of these other parties. Why not present a positive vision of a libertarian society?

In the fifth paragraph, we come to what LPUK sees as the “main issue that is not being addressed”. What could that be? The growth of big government? Socialism? Overseas wars? Violations of civil liberties? High taxes? Interventions into free market? No. Apparently, it is that we do not have a written constitution! It seems to have escaped the notice of LPUK leaders that the (largely libertarian) American constitution has been a complete failure at restraining the American government. As Lysander Spooner put it:

“But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain - that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.” 

The LPUK wants to see more Swiss-style referenda in the UK, more direct democracy, and the abandonment of the First Past The Post system. But recent libertarian scholarship has shown that democracy, especially direct democracy with universal suffrage, tends to make governments larger, not smaller. If you allow people to simply vote themselves more money and privileges, is it any surprise that they do so? As Frederic Bastiat said:

“The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.” 

Or as Hans-Hermann Hoppe put it:

“Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else.” 

A libertarian manifesto ought to advocate directly for smaller government. Advocating changes to the form of government should be secondary at best – and it should certainly not advocate changing it to a form that will make government less libertarian!

At the end of the introduction, finally taxation gets a mention. Perhaps here we will be told which taxes will be eliminated or reduced under a LPUK government? No. We are instead told that LPUK plans to create a new form of taxation! This “Gordon Brown tax” is specifically for paying down the national debt. A libertarian party true to its name would support an immediate default on the national debt and the elimination, or at least reduction, of all taxation and all government spending. 

Apparently, no libertarian principles or solutions whatsoever are considered worthy of mention in the introduction to the LPUK manifesto!


Balancing The State 


Libertarianism is all about reducing the size of the state and shifting power from the state to the people. And yet, the first main section of the LPUK manifesto does not talk about reducing the state, but “balancing” it - and even supports measures that expand it!

LPUK want not only a written constitution, but a new Constitutional Court, a new English Parliament, compensation to be paid to people “injured by the State” (adding insult to injury for taxpayers!), and a new system of tribunals to hear cases of public corruption and commercial disputes (and to decide whether someone can hold a commercial Directorship!). These things all increase the size of government, not reduce it.

They also support abolishing the House of Lords, reducing the number of MPs, reducing the time the Parliament sits, ending First Past The Post, eliminating the payment of deposits for standing in elections, and limiting the granting of honours to those who do military service. These all amount to mere tinkering with the system of government; they will not reduce the size of government, nor make it more libertarian – possibly the contrary.

These are not libertarian principles, but principles of democracy, which should be rejected by libertarians.


Defence 


The subtitle of this section is “The only legitimate role of the State”, which is what I would expect from a minarchist party. I welcome this statement; I only wish the rest of their manifesto reflected it.

This section begins with an excellent quote from Thomas Jefferson:
“Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” 
Oddly, however, the manifesto then goes on to say that LPUK supports membership of NATO: an entangling military alliance!

The LPUK aim is “to ensure a strong, independent, sovereign nation” with the Armed Forces “geared for the defence of our nation and shipping”. Why “and shipping”? It goes on to explain that the LPUK believes that the UK armed forces should not just defend the UK, but also “project force… globally” and protect “supply lines”. This is a surprising expansion of the typical minarchist role for the military of defending the people against foreign invasion. Why should the UK military defend commercial interests overseas?

LPUK wants to retain and replace the nuclear deterrent. Why? In what possible circumstances would an LPUK government use nuclear weapons? They also want to create new military pensions and military hospitals, and pay a “living wage” (whatever that means) for the armed forces. There is no explicit mention of any policy that would reduce military expenditure.

There is no explicit rejection of overseas wars. What is the LPUK policy on Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel, ISIS, etc? Does the protection of overseas “supply lines” include military interventions in the Middle East on behalf of oil companies? Would the LPUK support NATO in such operations?


Immigration 


There is no “correct libertarian position” on the issue of immigration, because in a true libertarian society there is no state and therefore no issue of who is to be allowed to cross state borders. In a minarchist state as envisioned by LPUK, immigration is still only a minor issue, because there is no welfare state and no socialised industries, therefore all immigrants must be either self-supporting or living at the expense of some private charitable party. Immigration is only a major issue when it is possible for people to immigrate and then live off the state in the form of welfare payments, subsidised housing and “free to use” socialist systems like public healthcare and schools.

The LPUK manifesto states that the “core tenet is that there should be free movement of peoples” but that that is “not practical whilst we have a large welfare state”. In light of this, I expect LPUK to support interim immigration policies that mimic as far as possible the situation when there is no welfare state, i.e. no welfare payments for immigrants, no subsidised housing, no free access to the NHS or state schools, and so on. Instead, the only restrictions proposed are limits on the issuing of NI numbers, a requirement for medical insurance, and stricter rules for asylum seekers. Nevertheless, as long as LPUK plan to eliminate the welfare state and socialism quickly (we shall see later whether this is the case), perhaps their interim immigration policies are not especially important.

In addition to free movement being impractical whilst we have a large welfare state, the manifesto also says it is impractical while “other countries are themselves not broadly Libertarian in nature”. I do not understand the thinking behind this at all. Why would UK immigration policy be dependent on the policies of other nations?

Another questionable policy in this section is support for CANZUK, which involves free trade, free movement of people and foreign policy cooperation between the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Given the LPUK’s laudable rejection of EU membership, and the above considerations regarding free movement of people, why would it support membership of an international body that appears to be very similar to the early form of the EU? Why should these three countries be treated differently to all others?


The Rule of Law 


This section correctly states that “a central tenet of Libertarianism is that we are all equal before the Law”. (That this principle leads directly to the view that all governments are illegitimate seems to have escaped the notice of LPUK). It states that LPUK wants law that is “understood by the Layman” and is “enforceable”. It says it wants “less Law and regulation,” although it doesn’t explain exactly what laws or regulations it would remove. Price controls? Product controls? Prohibitions? Which laws and regulations would LPUK eliminate?

LPUK advocates a “legal insurance system”, though it is unclear what is meant by this or whether it would be mandatory, or why the current system of “legal aid” is insufficient.

LPUK supports the Nine Peelian Principles of policing, locally-elected police constables, simplified police targets, a reduction of paperwork, stricter rules on discarding DNA, and various other changes to police procedures. While these things sound reasonable to me, I am not an expert on policing and, I presume, neither are the authors of this document. Surely the details of police policy should be left to the experts – ideally entrepreneurs providing police services in a free market – and not politicians.

LPUK claims to be able to “ensure that sufficient prison places are available” but does not explain how this will be done. They support longer prison sentences (in the form of “an end to early release”) and “harsher” prison conditions for “uncooperative” inmates. Will new prisons be built, or will the prison population be reduced, and if so, how? LPUK will “investigate the possibility” of prisoners being able to perform paid work “if they wish”. Surely a more libertarian position would be to force criminals to pay for their own incarceration, easing the burden on the long-suffering taxpayers.

LPUK rightly opposes capital punishment, torture and RIPA, and supports decriminalisation of all sexual activity between consenting adults (presumably this means legalising prostitution, which is of course the libertarian position, but this is not explicit).


The Welfare State 


Just three paragraphs of the LPUK manifesto are devoted to the welfare state. No actual changes to it are mentioned! There is a strange sentence that states that “all these changes will be phased in over a twenty year period”. I have no idea what changes they are referring to, or why they would need to be phased in over such a long time period. An excellent opportunity to explain why private welfare is superior to state welfare is missed in this manifesto. It looks like they just couldn’t agree which parts of the welfare state should be cut first, so they are left saying nothing at all about it.

This section also includes the out-of-place statement that “all A&E services will remain free at the point of delivery.” And here I was thinking this is a minarchist party – why do they support a role for government in providing A&E services?! Surely as libertarians they must understand that A&E services could be much better provided by free market firms than by governments!


The NHS 


The libertarian solution to healthcare is quite simple: sell all state-owned hospitals and healthcare facilities to the private sector and privatise healthcare insurance, with no government intervention thereafter in either healthcare or any related industries such as pharmaceuticals.

Rather than taking this position however, the LPUK merely want to change the current system into a “National Insurance Board” which pays for all treatments and decides who and where treatment can be administered. It is unclear what LPUK supports in regard to ownership of healthcare facilities, and (other than allowing opt-outs for those with private medical insurance) it is unclear how this “new system” would be any different to the current system. Changing the name is not the same as changing the system. No vision for the future of healthcare is presented.

A fundamental libertarian principle is that of self-ownership, which means, among other things, that each individual has the right to decide for himself what drugs he consumes. LPUK advocates decriminalisation of drugs “following the Portuguese model”. Decriminalisation is not the same as legalisation. Drugs are still illegal in Portugal; small-scale users have their drugs confiscated and are forced into treatment, while large-scale users and dealers are still considered criminals. This is not a libertarian policy. Only full and proud support for complete legalisation of all drugs can be called libertarian; the LPUK manifesto falls woefully short even on this straightforward issue.


The Economy 


Libertarians support a free market economy, which is known to produce more wealth than any other kind of economic system. This means no (or low) taxation and no (or little) government intervention into free markets.

LPUK laudably supports abolishing personal income tax (and inheritance tax and capital gains tax). This is a good start. However, they propose an “initial” policy of raising the personal income allowance to £21k and introducing a flat rate beyond that. Why not eliminate it immediately?

They support lowering corporation tax to 10% (why stop there?), simplifying the tax system, and shifting it towards consumption rather than income. They say they will “investigate the viability of a 5 years exemption from Corporation Tax for start-ups”. Why does this need to be investigated? What would prevent this policy from being “viable”? It should be done immediately, and ideally corporation tax eliminated not just for start-ups, but for all businesses.

As mentioned earlier, they wish to repay the National Debt, rather than default on it, as would seem to be the correct libertarian position. A sovereign default would ensure governments don’t overspend in future much more surely than any new “constitution” would! LPUK propose a new “Gordon Brown tax” to pay down the debt – about as unlibertarian a position as you could get!

LPUK rightly stress the difference between free markets and corporatism and claim to support the former, although they do not specify any particular policy proposals that would move us from the latter to the former. They might have explained that corporatism involves government privileges to businesses, and freeing markets means simply removing these privileges.

In another example of the manifesto seeming half-baked, it says “Attempts to reform our economic system would flounder if we ignore… the question of how our money supply is created”. Then they ignore the question completely! Again, the libertarian position on money is very simple: we support competition in the production of money. This means repealing legal tender laws, all monopoly privileges of the Bank of England and all regulations of the banking industry. None of this is mentioned in the LPUK manifesto; perhaps another issue where disagreements within the party resulted in a manifesto that is silent about it.

At the end of this section, it says LPUK supports “The Spending Plan” produced by The Tax Payers Alliance. Having briefly looked through that plan, it looks very good, significantly cutting government spending. LPUK should have been bold enough to explain to their readers what this plan entails.


Education 


The libertarian position is that the government should have nothing to do with the education of children, which should be the sole responsibility of parents or guardians. There should be no state-owned or state-run schools, no state regulations, and no tax money should be spent on schooling.

Once again, the LPUK manifesto falls well short of this standard. While they claim to support parental responsibility for education, they do not mention any plans to privatise schools or repeal compulsory school attendance laws. They propose “as an interim measure” (interim on the way to what, it is not explained) that each child would receive an educational voucher to spend at a school of their parents’ choice. While this proposal may be preferable to the current system, it has problems of its own, and it is entirely unnecessary: no interim measures are necessary here. Sell all the state-owned schools, colleges and universities, and get government out of the education sector entirely. Those parents who cannot afford to pay for schooling (even after they have been privatised and freed from regulations and thus become very cheap) can home school or appeal to private charities.


Public Works 


LPUK would scrap HS2, which is good, but this appears to be the only mention of transport in the entire manifesto! What is the LPUK policy on roads, railways, airports, etc?

LPUK would end all foreign aid, which is also good, as it inevitably is used to prop up foreign dictators and fuel corruption. Private charity is much more effective and efficient at helping people that are in need of help.

LPUK will cancel the building of Hinckley Point nuclear power station “in favour of smaller British built nuclear plants”. This is the only mention of the energy industry in the entire manifesto. Why is a supposedly minarchist party taking a position on which form of energy is better? Why not leave it to the market?

LPUK would cancel the restoration of the Palace of Westminster, and build a new Parliament building instead. Surely a libertarian position should be to privatise the Palace, and find a suitable existing location for Parliament to move to, if it is to be retained!


Not Mentioned in the Manifesto 


I understand that space is limited in a manifesto, but there are some key issues that are barely even mentioned, or not mentioned at all. As I already pointed out, there is very little about the welfare state, nothing about money or central banking, and nothing about transport or energy. There is also no mention of gun rights, intellectual "property", labour regulations (eliminating the minimum wage alone would be a massive benefit to the poor), business regulations or the environment. There is no mention of Scottish secession; libertarians should support all secession movements.

Perhaps the biggest omission of all, given the timing of this election, is Brexit. It is mentioned in the introduction that LPUK supported and campaigned for Brexit and are “confident that a new European settlement will be reached for Free Trade”. This election is a great opportunity to put forward the libertarian position of unilateral free trade. We don’t need a “trade deal,” even a “free trade deal,” with anyone. If another country wants to impose tariffs on our products, that is their prerogative and it is their own consumers who will be harmed the most by such a policy. Regardless of the policies of other countries, the UK should impose no tariffs on any foreign imports, because tariffs always harm domestic consumers. LPUK should heed the advice of Professor Patrick Minford and his “Economists for Free Trade” group, and highlight their common-sense libertarian position as widely as possible. The rights of existing (legal) immigrants to remain in this country should also be affirmed immediately; they should not be used as bargaining chips in any negotiation with the EU.


Conclusion 


The LPUK manifesto represents a missed opportunity to promote libertarianism in the UK. Even by minarchist standards, it is tepid and shies away from taking any controversial positions that would significantly reduce the size of the state and increase liberty. If we libertarians are truly confident of our principles and our belief that liberty is the solution for a wide range of social issues, we should proudly state, explain and defend our positions, even at the risk of hostility and the widespread rejection of our ideas. The LPUK has shown through this manifesto that it lacks the courage to do this.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

What is Voluntaryism?

Summary

Voluntaryists believe that:
• ideally all human interactions should be voluntary: mutual consent
• the initiation of coercion is never permissible by anyone for any reason
• the libertarian theory of property rights is superior to all others; laws should be based on this theory
• governments are illegitimate as they inherently violate the libertarian theory of property rights.


1. Types of Interaction 

All interactions between human beings can be classed as one of two types:
• A voluntary interaction is one that both parties consent to. Both parties are free to avoid the interaction, but choose to interact because they expect to benefit from the interaction.
• A coercive interaction is where one party does not consent. These interactions occur because the non-consenting party (the coerced) is prevented from avoiding the interaction due to the use or threat of physical force by the coercer.

The vast majority of human interactions are voluntary. The difference between a voluntary interaction and a coercive interaction can be seen in the difference between charity and theft, between employment and slavery, and between consensual sex and rape.

Voluntaryists believe that ideally all human interactions should be voluntary. 


2. Types of Coercion 

In recognition that there will always be some people who engage in coercive interactions, we distinguish between two classes of coercion:
Initiatory coercion is where an individual uses coercion against someone that has not previously coerced him. Initiatory coercion is also referred to as aggression.
Responsive coercion is where an individual uses coercion against someone that has previously coerced him. He is responding to coercion that has been initiated against him. Responsive coercion is also referred to as retaliatory coercion or defense.

Voluntaryists believe that proportionate defense is permissible, but that aggression is never permissible by anyone for any reason. This is known as the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). It applies to all individuals, regardless of identity, occupation or employer.


3. Property Rights 

Distinguishing between aggression and defense requires an underlying theory of property rights.

The purpose of a theory of property rights is to help prevent and resolve conflicts, by telling us who is the rightful ultimate decision-maker (owner) regarding each scarce resource (property). A scarce resource is anything over which conflicts about usage may occur.

Every theory of property rights specifies:
• how property rights in previously unowned resources can rightfully be acquired
• how property rights are rightfully transferred from one individual to another.


4. Libertarianism 

Voluntaryists believe that the libertarian theory of property rights is superior to all others. This belief may be based on a deontological theory of ethics (arguing that all other theories of property rights are immoral), or on consequentialist grounds (arguing that the libertarian theory of property rights creates the best outcomes), or both.

The libertarian theory of property rights comprises three basic principles:
• The principle of self-ownership: that all individuals rightfully have property rights over their own physical bodies.
• The principle of homesteading: that property rights over external things that are previously unowned can only rightfully be acquired through an act of original appropriation; a mere verbal declaration is insufficient.
• The principle of voluntary exchange: that property rights over external things previously owned by someone else can only rightfully be acquired through voluntary exchange.


5. Law 

Law is a service produced to help prevent and resolve conflicts.

Producing laws involves applying a theory of property rights to a particular conflict or potential conflict. A lawmaker gathers facts and evidence about a conflict that has he has been asked to help resolve, then refers to a theory of property rights to identify which party is the aggressor and which party is the victim of aggression.

He then specifies certain actions that the aggressor must take in order to make amends for his act of aggression, by referring to a theory of justice. Those actions may include paying restitution and damages to the victim and/or receiving retributive punishment. Law enforcement may be used to ensure that the aggressor carries out the actions specified by the law maker.


6. Government

A government is an institution that is a territorial monopolist producer of law. That is, government is a producer of law that uses coercion to prevent other producers of law from operating and competing with it within a specified territory.

Within any territory where a government is operating, all conflicts must be brought before the government, because no other producers of law are allowed to exist there. This includes conflicts involving the government itself.

Invariably, using it’s power of monopoly, a government will exempt itself from certain laws that it enforces on others. For example, it will exempt itself from laws against theft, allowing it to commit theft with impunity, calling it “taxation”, and it will exempt itself from laws against murder, calling it “war”.

Voluntaryists therefore consider all governments to be illegitimate, because they inherently violate the libertarian theory of property rights and they are the biggest aggressors in society. All voluntaryists are anarchists: individuals who support competition in the field of producing law, rather than law being monopolised by a government.

Voluntaryists seek to eliminate governments and bring about an anarchic society where lawmakers compete with each other for customers and produce laws based on the libertarian theory of property rights.


This was originally posted at the Voluntaryism UK forum: http://voluntaryismuk.freeforums.org/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=7

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Brexit: Assessing Remain Claims – 3 Months On

It is 3 months since the UK voted to leave the EU.  The Remain campaign – dubbed Project Fear by the Leave campaign – claimed that Brexit would lead to disaster.  To quote from the official campaign website:

“Leaving the EU would devastate UK trade, businesses and economic growth, and put millions of people out of work. There would be less trade, less economic growth, less investment and fewer businesses meaning higher prices and fewer jobs and opportunities for you and your family now and in the future.”

“Economic experts forecast a drop in the value of your home, your pension and the pound.”

Let’s look at their claims in more detail and see how many of them have come true and how many have proven to be false.


Political Events

Claim 1: David Cameron said he will stay on as PM even if we vote leave.

Result: FALSE.  Cameron resigned as PM the day after the vote, saying that his strong pro-remain views made him not the appropriate person to lead through Brexit.  Theresa May, who was also pro-remain was elected as his replacement.

Claim 2: David Cameron said Article 50 will be activated immediately, to start the process of withdrawal.

Result: FALSE.  Article 50 still hasn’t been activated.  Theresa May quickly stated that it would not be activated before the end of 2016.  It is widely expected to be activated in 2017, but bookmakers believe there is a good chance it won’t be activated until 2018 or later.   


Political-Economic Response

Claim 3: George Osborne claimed there will need to be an emergency “Brexit budget” involving higher taxes and reduced spending.

Result: FALSE.  There was no emergency budget after the referendum and Osborne instead proposed tax cuts.  The new chancellor Philip Hammond quickly ruled out the possibility of any emergency budget. 

Claim 4: The BoE will have to increase interest rates.

Result: FALSE.  The BoE reduced interest rates six weeks after the vote.

Claim 5: Farming, scientific and medical research will suffer through losing EU funding.

Result: FALSE.  The chancellor announced on 13th August that subsidies to these industries will continue to be paid, using the money saved by no longer contributing to the EU budget.

Claim 6: Workers’ rights will be in doubt.

Result: FALSE.  There is no appetite to remove any workers’ rights that have come from EU legislation.  Most workers’ rights legislation is already written into UK law; some was written into UK law before the EU rules were created; some UK legislation goes further than EU rules.  A bill presented to parliament on 7th September to guarantee all EU rules on workers’ rights are preserved in UK law after Brexit received no opposition whatsover from any MPs.  Workers rights’ legislation is popular with the UK electorate, which is why there is no threat to them from leaving the EU.


Market Reactions

Claim 7: Foreign companies will decrease invesment in the UK and jobs would be lost.

Result: FALSE.  All the companies that threatened to withdraw or reduce investment, such as AstraZeneca and GSK, have since done a u-turn and confirmed that investment will continue and no jobs will be cut.  Wells Fargo has just spent £300mil on its new European HQ in London.  Tata Steel is now reconsidering its pre-Brexit decision to withdraw from South Wales.  (source)

Claim 8: There will be a reduction in trade.

Result: FALSE.  The rate of business start-ups has increased since the vote, retail sales are rising, and manufacturing output is up. (source)


Economic Performance

Claim 9: The UK will fall into a recession.

Result: FALSE.  GDP continues to be positive.  The UK is growing the fastest of all the major world economies.  Almost no one now believes a recession is likely. (source)

Claim 10: The stock exchange will collapse.

Result: FALSE.  After an initial drop, it took only 6 days for the FTSE100 to recover back to its pre-Brexit level, and is now very close to being at an all-time high.  The FTSE250 took about a month to recover and is now also close to being at an all-time high.  UK stocks are the best performing in Europe.

Claim 11: Unemployment will increase.

Result: FALSE.  Unemployment has continued decreasing.  It fell by 8,600 in July when the ONS predicted it would rise by 9,500. (source)

Claim 12: Wages will fall.

Result: FALSE.  Wages increased by 0.44% in July, continuing the trend from the first half of 2016.

Claim 13: Prices will increase.

Result: FALSE.  The CPI shows price inflation continues to be low, with no change in the trend between Q2 and Q3.

Claim 14: House prices will fall dramatically (18% according to George Osborne).

Result: FALSE.  House prices have fallen, but only very slightly: 1.1% in July and 0.2% in August, and commentators are predicted a strong housing market for the rest of the year.  These are the fifth and sixth single monthly falls in the last 12 months.

Claim 15: The value of the pound will fall.

Result: TRUE.  The pound fell by about 10% against the dollar immediately following the vote and has remained at that level ever since.  For comparison, the pound fell 25% against the dollar between July and November in 2008.

Claim 16: The value of pensions will fall.

Result: FALSE.  Pension pots received a boost from the vote.


International Relations

Claim 17: The EU will erect trade barriers with the UK.

Result: PROBABLY FALSE.  Whether the EU will erect trade barriers with the UK is to be decided during negotiations.  The Leave campaign argued that there would be no benefit to the EU in doing so, and that the EU would be impacted worse than the UK by such barriers.  Since the referendum, many politicians and business leaders in Europe have echoed this view, so it now looks even more likely that free trade between the UK and EU will continue, either via a bilateral free trade agreement or through the UK joining the EFTA.  The German finance minister who said during the referendum campaign that we would be treated the same way as non-European countries after Brexit has now stated that he only said that because George Osborne told him to.

Claim 18: Non-EU countries (like the US) will put us to the “back of the queue” for trade deals.

Result: FALSE.  Non-EU countries have put us to the front of the queue.  26 countries have expressed that they are eager to agree trade deals as soon as possible.  The UK-US trade deal will happen before any EU-US trade deal.  (source)

Claim 19: EU nationals living in the UK, and UK nationals living in the EU, will be at risk of deportation.

Result: PROBABLY FALSE.  EU nationals that have lived in the UK for 5 years or more (80% of the total) are granted an automatic permanent right to remain.  The government has irresponsibly refused to guarantee that the other EU nationals living in the UK will be able to stay after Brexit.  Theresa May has said that she “wants and expects” them to be able to stay, but that it depends entirely on negotiations with the EU: in particular, whether the EU allows UK nationals to continue to stay in the EU.  But UK nationals abroad are highly beneficial economically to EU economies, and collective expulsions are illegal under both international law and the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.  So it seems extremely unlikely that Brexit will force anyone to return home. 

Claim 20: France will expel our immigration officers from Calais.

Result: FALSE.  Just two days after the vote, the French government confirmed there will be no change to arrangements, despite threatening before the referendum that the border camp could be moved from Calais to Dover.


Conclusion

Out of 20 claims analysed, only one has proven correct: the pound has decreased in value.  All the other indicators suggest the UK is experiencing a post-Brexit boom, in stark contrast to the bust predicted by the Remain campaign.