Posts Tagged ‘libertarians’

Coalition dreams of freedom: the good, the bad, the mad.

July 12, 2010

The Government’s ‘Your Freedom’ website is an easy target for sneering taxin’, appropriatin’, regulatin’, nanny statin’ socialists like myself. The YouTube videos of Nick Clegg getting all excited about his liberation struggle are eminently mockable. But some of the ideas aren’t too bad, so here is a fair-minded selection of three suggestions:

Capital gains tax on wine investment

I propose  that wine investments become subject to the same capital gains and inheritance tax as other investments such as stock portfolios and property. HMRC has apparently dismissed this in the past as wine is considered a wasting asset. With dire stock and property market performances over recent years my investments in those have definitely become wasting assets!

The papers this week are full of news of the remarkable 2009 Bordeaux with cases selling upwards of £13,000 and many prices having doubled in the last few weeks.

Surely there should be a tax on any profitable sale of these investments? it would be easy to administer; if someone sells their investment before drinking and reaps capital gains then tax should be applicable. If they merely buy the wine to drink then they pay nothing.

My children’s school is one of those that has suffered at the hands of the abolition of BSF. I  resent the fact that their education will suffer when there is a huge, additional and fair revenue source just waiting to be tapped.

Heareth endeth my rant!

Allow cycling on pavements

a) We spend money marking and signing cycle lanes on pavements. It would be better to allow cycling on all pavements except in areas where expressly prohibited (e.g. busy city centres, pedestrian areas).

b) Better for the enviroment, more people will cycle when they feel safer and don’t have to be on the road.

c) safer for cyclist (less risk of being hit by car), safer for motorist (reduced need for overtaking)

Allow to carry self protection pepper spray!

Seriously,  I am afraid to walk around, especially at evenings. I scared for my life, my body and simply my Dior handbag which attracts a lot of attention of pick pockets.

Second Amendment-alism

August 17, 2009

Some folk in the US of A think it’s a good idea to bring along their favourite deadly toys when protesting outside town hall meetings where the President is speaking.  

YOU CALL THAT A NUT WITH A GUN?

gunnut1

THIS IS A NUT WITH A GUN!

gunnut2

The Liberal Democrats who say ‘No2NHS’

August 16, 2009

First some figures:

Membership of the facebook group A Better Way of Funding Universal Healthcare (#no2NHS) = 120.

Membership of the facebook group We Love the NHS = 8,352 (and rising!).

Excellent stuff.

Looking at the names behind some of these online anti-NHS efforts, I was mildly surprised to find out that there was a Liberal Democrat mastermind pushing the buttons.

It seems that the ‘No2NHS’ twitter campaign and facebook group was set-up Sara Scarlett, a student at the Royal Holloway and former national officer of Liberal Youth (the Lib Dem yoof contingent).

Scarlett blogs at Liberal Vision, the libertarian wing of the Liberal Democrats. One of her recent posts is entitled ‘If you love the NHS so much – marry it!! #privatisetheNHS’.

In a commendably frank interview with Conservative blogger Tory Bear (I don’t think he considers himself to be this type of bear but I can’t be sure) Scarlett came out with all sorts of juicy quotes which reveal the full extent of her libertarianism.

She’s disappointed with Nick Clegg because he hasn’t been loud enough about “personal freedom”. Asked by the Bear whether her fiercely anti-state views would not be more suited to the Tory Party, Scarlett declares: “I’ll join the Conservatives when David Cameron legalises heroin”.

Ooookay.

Other administrators of the facebook group include Mark Littlewood, a former head of media for the Lib Dems who has been subjected to the physical wrath of a Liberal Democrat MP, and Shane Frith, director of the think-tank Progressive Vision which – much like Dan Hannan – argues that “the NHS is providing one of the worst levels of performance in the developed world” and “a new system must be adopted. Singapore’s health savings accounts system is showing promising results”.

People who try to convince themselves that the Lib Dems are a harmless, perhaps even left-wing, alternative to Labour are mistaken. I’m sure that these right-wing libertarians are a minority within the uneasy ideological coalition underpinning the Lib Dems, but it’s always worth pointing out to voters that there is a strong strand of Yellow Toryism within the party.

Dan Hannan’s hatred of the NHS

August 11, 2009

The calm and reasoned debate taking place in the US over the future of health care routinely features comparisons to the health systems in other countries, including our own.

As Luke and Hopi note, Tory MEP and libertarian hero Dan Hannan has been merrily trying his best to convince Americans that they have an excellent system of health care and they should count themselves lucky not to be saddled with something as godawful as the British NHS.

Hannan presumably thinks the millions of Americans who suffer without health insurance or who struggle with bankruptcy as a result of health care costs are better off than they would be under a NHS-style system.

After all, as terrible as it is to be in physical pain or to be made homeless due to hospital bills, at least inhabitants of the land of the free are not being subjected to a dastardly “Marxist system” and “massive encroachment of the state”.

Once again, here is Dan Hannan contributing to the red baiting and scaremongering in the US over health care reform:

The problem for ideologues like Hannan is that the NHS is a popular institution with – on the whole – loyal staff and satisfied patients.

Thatcher could not mess around with it too much. Cameron has made it clear he wants the Tories to be seen as the party of the NHS. Even for right-wingers uncomfortable with socialised health provision, it seems to be political commonsense to acknowledge the popularity of the NHS and to be seen as ‘on its side’.

Yes, there are always going to be problems with it (like any system) and we should always be open-minded about ways of improving the service, but attacking the NHS with the kind of language that Hannan uses in-front of American audiences does not go down so well with the general public over here.

Watch Hannan enjoy NHS-bashing banter with Fox News wingnut Glenn Beck in the clip below. Hannan is supposedly an intelligent man. Surely he has some suggestions from his own libertarian perspective on how US health care could be reformed. Does he have ideas on how to extend coverage and bring down costs? If he does, he doesn’t explain them here. Instead he’s just got lots of criticisms of the NHS.

Hannan is jokingly invited by Beck to stand for office in the US (they just LOVE his cute English accent and Thatcherite views out there!). As far as I am concerned they are welcome to him. Perhaps the Tory leadership also hope he decides to make a permanent move across the pond.

Libertarian paradise

July 8, 2009

It’s not a complete joke – some libertarians seem to be genuinely enthusiastic about the Somalian system of (non) governance.

For example, read this apparently serious article by a London-based libertarian.

‘LOLbertarianism’ might be a better description of this ideological creed.

A response to the Man of Kent

May 4, 2009

I actually began this as a response in the comments to my esteemed Comrade here at the Paintbrush Collective, ManofKent86.

To an extent, I agree with my Kentish comrade – Cameron’s policy announcements (where we have had them at all) have been either incoherent (British Bill of Rights), pandering to poorly-chosen interest groups (IHT cut), or plain stoooopid (“marriage incentives” in the tax system). Also, on a lot of the sort of policy issues with which he is (or would like to be associated), the amount of definite policy announced is vastly outstripped by fine, but empty, words and posturing – the environment is a very good example.

In terms of leadership – I think that, at the moment, Cameron hasn’t had to face any real challenges to his authority. All of the different interest groups in the Tories have finally woken up to the fact that public internecine bloodletting will get them nowhere, and that their best bet to get to Downing Street is riding Cameron’s horse.

But where crises requiring leadership HAVE arisen, I think it’s important to contrast them with previous Tory leaders.

Michael Howard suspended the whip from Ann Winterton for making a single racist joke (quite rightly), and he removed Howard Flight – a shadow cabinet member! – as a candidate at a stroke when he broke with the line on tax and spending cuts.

Cameron, in contrast, looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights when Graham Brady dramatically resigned over the Tory position on Grammar Schools. Not only did Cameron lose a member of his shadow ministerial team, he also failed to extract any kind of policy victory from the issue: consequently, I’m entirely unsure what the Tory policy on grammar schools actually is.

Cameron has also not dealt well with the emergence of fundamentalist libertarians like Dan Hannan as big hitters in the Tory party, and this could pose him (and the rest of us, should the Tories get into power) serious problems in the future, simply because they are making up an increasing amount of the Parliamentary Tory Party, and are bound to increase in number and in the stature of their individual members.

I suppose you have to ask yourself this: if Cameron isn’t going to be more authoritative in taking on the libertarians now, and isn’t going to enforce his view of institutions like the NHS over theirs, what’s going to happen if a tough decision has to be made in government? I think he’s leaving hostages to fortune here in a way that Blair would never have done with analagous constituencies of opinion in the Labour Party in the 1990s.

Making me iller: an open letter to Daniel Hannan

April 6, 2009

Dear Daniel,

As I said yesterday, you and the other fundamentalist libertarians in the Tory Party pose a real threat to the Cameron project.

I say this not because I want the Cameron project to succeed – quite the contrary. But if it does succeed in winning the election with you and your like as cuckoos in the nest, the consequences could be devastating for the majority of people who do not share your narrow set of values.

I want to take you up on your comments about the NHS. Quite simply, you are completely wrong.

The NHS does not make us iller. Life expectancy is, in fact, higher in the UK than in the US. In fact, for most chronic, debilitating and life-threatening illnesses, care in the NHS is as good as that which one would receive in the US, and we have broadly similar healthcare outcomes.

We get all of this for less than half the cost, per capita, of healthcare in America. Put simply, Americans pay more – far more – for a service that is the same if you are covered, and substantially worse if you’re not.

This is because – contrary to what you think – markets don’t function well in healthcare. I’m not saying this because I’m some kind of paleo-Marxist with an exe to grind: the nature of health as a good which we consume is very different to everything else.

I don’t need an expensively educated, qualified professional to run expensive tests to tell me how much brie I want to buy, or how many pairs of cufflinks I want, or when I want to buy a new lawnmower. I do, however, need a large and expensive medical infrastructure to tell me if I need to take certain pills, or emark on a programme of surgery or treatment.

The market deals with this badly: costs soar, and needless overprovision results in massive waste and price inflation. Insurance based systems are little better: adverse selection problems are endemic, and the insured must also bear some costs even for the rudimentary treatments handed out in Emergency Rooms to the uninsured, if they cannot pay.

Of course, there is another very good reason why we have an NHS: because, by and large, people do care if other people get sick and die of preventable illnesses. But, as a socialist and democrat, I can see why you – a headbanging, right-wing libertarian fundamentalist – might not agree.

Fair enough. But I don’t see why you fail to acknowledge why a publicly provided system is actually economically efficient, as well as arguably morally required.

Best wishes,

Vote Red Go Green

I will edit this post later this evening, when I’ve had a chance to dig out some long-since-forgotten links to academic articles about the economics of health care.

EDIT: I’ve put a couple of links in: apologies if some of them are slightly frustrating, but it appears that you can’t read a lot of academic journals unless you’re within a university network. Which I’m not, unfortunately.

Dan Hannan: Cameron’s Militant Tendency?

April 5, 2009

Dan Hannan appears here on the Sean Hannity show on Fox News. It seems that he’s become something of an overnight hit in US conservative circles. He spends the latter half decrying the NHS as a “failed experiment”, and urges America not to follow the UK down this failed socialist road.

We used to think that there was a left and a right wing in the Tory Party, and that it was their right wing that lost them the last two elections: moves such as Michael Howard’s removal of the whip from Ann Winterton over racist jokes were transparent attempts to eradicate a nasty, proto-racist, right-wing element in the Tories and try to make them more palatable to a public which had left such attitudes behind.

To an extent, this has worked: I’m pretty sure that there are very few racists, hangers and floggers left, at least in the tory Parliamentary Party. the new frontier for the Tories, it seems to me, is the rise of the ultra-libertarian right amongst them – Dan Hannan being an example.

Of course, Hannan and his fellow travellers are not hate-filled, like the racists the Tories struggled for a long time to rid themselves of. Nevertheless, in their own way they pose a threat to the Tory Party: I do not believe that their values are shared by the majority of British people, and should this become more apparent, the Tories will have a major problem.

Cracks should already begin to show when we compare Hannan’s tirade here with David Cameron’s speeches to Tory conference – should Cameron win the next election, what will happen if there are real show-downs over the NHS? The NHS isn’t as much of a hot-button issue for the commentariat as race, integration and law and order (the old issues that divided Tories), but it sure as hell affects a lot of people.

Hannan and Carswell - Camerons Militant Tendency

Hannan and Carswell - Cameron's Militant Tendency

Hannan and his co-ideologist, Tory MP Douglas Carswell, have already collaborated on “The Plan” – a frankly potty screed about how to strip away the state and hand all power to local, directly-elected representatives from self-financing local councils. On the face of it, this seems to sit well with Cameron’s “New Localism” – but in actuality, they are worlds apart. For all of his talk of “localism”, Cameron doesn’t actually want to decentralize any more than he needs to (and for good reason – the public will always condemn “postcode lotteries” and inequalities in provision between areas far more than they will criticize a “democratic deficit” when it comes to decision making).

I don’t wish to let Cameron off the hook through this comparison – far from it. Cameron’s plans for Britain, particularly on the economy and welfare state, would be disastrous. However, I believe he understands far better the electorate’s limits when it comes to certain constants of British public policy than do the real head-bangers within his own Party.

David Cameron may well – alas – win the next General Election (although that is far less certain than a lot of the right-wing blogosphere make out: a lot can happen in 12 months). Labour people need to start taking a good, critical look at how the Tories would handle power, including how far Cameron would be able to pursue his own path in government unfettered by some seriously weird elements around him.

“How Austrian are you?”

March 20, 2009

If you ever wanted to see what life would be like if you lived in a parallel universe, you need look no further than the Mises Institute – a bunch of headbanging, anarcho-capitalist libertarian types whose worship of Hayek, Mises and the rest are allowed to pass for a “research institute” in East Alabama (their rather inconguous base).

Their online quiz – entitled “how Austrian are you?” – invites you to test how far your own views stray into their particular brand of mentalism. It’s extremely long-winded and over-laden with technical economic jargon, but it has a certain appeal over all of those tedious “political compass” sites.

I scored a paltry 23/100. I’d be worried if it were any higher. Most of my answers were either “Keynesian” or “Socialist” (I’ll admit to choosing the socialist-sounding option when I disputed the premise of the question, or the validity of the answers on display).

It seems that, to score any Austrian-school points, you have to believe that the present crisis – and all previous recessions, including the Great Depression in the 30s – were solely caused by poor monetary policy.

Does anybody actually think this in the real world? Answers on a postcard, or in the comments.