In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

Judging Our Souls

Michael McManus, a researcher and policy advisor at the European Parliament, says why he is not a libertarian, in his article at The Backbencher . It begins:

You cannot be socially liberal and fiscally conservative because the consequences of unfettered liberalism will have significant fiscal consequences. Unfettered social liberalism will also create so much chaos, that only the authoritarian measures libertarians hate will remedy it.

Strong claims require strong justification. (Photo: XKCD)

Yes, I need to use this again. (Photo: XKCD)

This seems like profundity, but is actually vapidity. Libertarianism is not merely the alchemy of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism, but a belief in the minimisation of coercion. Mr McManus asks:

Can you really be fiscally conservative in the face of collapsing social structures, soaring crime, health crises and the abandoned children of addicts needing care?

These “soaring costs” are never quantified.  A fiscal conservative would undertake a full cost-benefit analysis, rather than simply looking at one side. Regulated drug sales, with Pigou taxation directed towards additional care for the small number of extra addicts, would help squash criminal networks.  Reduced state expenditure on making arrests, performing raids and imprisoning users should also be considered. Mr McManus claims drug regulation creates a “social fire”, but it is more like flickering embers. There are social gains, as fewer die from contaminated drugs.

Mr McManus argues that regulated prostitution does not “keep [the prostitutes] safe”, since:

In Amsterdam, every brothel has a panic button, and according to Prostitution Research and Education, 40% of prostitutes have been physically or sexually assaulted by a customer at least once.

No comparison is given with assaults on prostitutes where it is illegal. The “sharp spike in women and girls being trafficked for sex” in New Zealand is not cited, but it is a compositional fallacy to believe those women and girls would not be trafficked at all if prostitution attained universal illegality. The illegality of this trafficking does not undermine the regulation of prostitution.

The French Revolution

According to Mr McManus, “Libertarians believe humans are essentially good and can be left to behave as they like”. No libertarian is quoted. Humans are fundamentally flawed, so government – as a human institution – is imperfect, providing a powerful reason to limit its power.  Next, Mr McManus gives his analysis on the French revolution:

Post-revolutionary France degenerated into hyper-authoritarian mass murder as the regime realised the only way to keep control of a libertine society was heavy duty authoritarianism.

The real reason that revolutionary France got rather choppy – beheading between 15,000 and 50,000 citizens in just nine months – has nothing to do with social permissiveness. It was the paranoia of Robespierre, who sought to purge France of any threats to national security and counter-revolutionary thought. Arbitrary state mass murder cannot be used to attack libertarianism: a belief system centred on the limitation of state power.

Lastly, the article is littered with insinuations, such as: “This faux concern for women’s safety is a smokescreen for the real, more sinister reason many want prostitution legalised.” Despite many misstatements about libertarianism in the article, the author feels ready to judge our souls.

This ocelot is your reward for reading that article. (Photo: 9GAG)

This ocelot is your reward for reading that article. (Photo: 9GAG)

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This entry was posted on September 18, 2013 by in National Politics and tagged , .
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