A blog by Patrick Crozier

May 21, 2004

What I mean by “libertarian”
Patrick Crozier

Others may have different definitions but this is mine:

Over his body and justly acquired property man is sovereign

Update 08/06/04

It occurs to me that that is actually a definition of freedom or the free market (I don't really distinguish). A libertarian is someone who happens to believe that people should have as much freedom as possible.

Update 19/06/04

I really ought to point out some of the implications in living in a libertarian world:

  • no taxes, so no spending, so no state healthcare, education or welfare
  • the privatisation of everything currently owned by the government including roads and railways.
  • no bans
  • no regulations (including no safety regulations)

Does this mean no army, no police, no law courts? OK, you've got me there. In principle: yes. In practice: probably not. I just don't see how they can be got rid of without jeopardising peace (which I am all in favour of).

Does this mean the legalisation of murder and theft? No, because these are violations of the individual's rights (see above)

Why I am a libertarian
Patrick Crozier

I am a libertarian because I believe it comes closest to delivering what I want from a political philosophy.

But what’s the evidence?

It comes in two parts. First of all, there is the empirical side. It seems to me that those countries that have closest to abiding by libertarian principles have also come closest to delivering what I want from a political philosophy.

But there’s also the theoretical side on which, I am afraid, I am a bit shaky. Although I am sure great writers like Adam Smith, von Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Friedman (both Milton and David) and Block have covered this in exhaustive detail for the most part I have never read them, or, if I have, have long since forgotten what they said.

However, one thing does strike me. In a libertarian world the individual can only make his world a better place either by doing it himself ie making things out of his own property or by swapping his property for someone else’s. That means that someone else has to be willing to swap and the only way that that swap can take place is if both parties feel that they are better off as a result. In which case the world is (if in a very small way) a better place.

Update 21/05/04

What doesn't come across here is how deeply sceptical I am about the state. I am deeply sceptical about the ability of the state to achieve anything. That is why I started compiling a list of 100 State Failures.

Update 19/08/04

The ASI have a posting on wealth and freedom. Seems the freer you are the wealthier you are - though they do point out there is something of a chicken and egg situation here.

May 09, 2004

Chateau generals?
Patrick Crozier

'One of many first-world-war myths exploded by Holmes concerns the bravery (or lack of it) of Britain’s most senior officers. In fact, says Holmes, some 58 general officers were killed in the war, many near the front line. Ten generals held the Victoria Cross, and 126 the DSO. As Holmes asserts, “Much can be said about the generals of the first world war, but they were certainly not physical cowards.”'

Hew Strachan in the Sunday Times. I wonder what constitutes a general officer and if all of them were British.

May 08, 2004

What I want from a political philosophy
Patrick Crozier

I spend a lot of time talking about libertarianism, applying libertarian principles and generally turning out libertarian propaganda of varying quality, the assumption being that libertarianism is best. But is it? And if it is how would I know? What am I measuring it against? What, in other words, do I want from a political philosophy? What do I want it to deliver?

I should point out that this is very a personal question. And this is a very personal answer. This is what I want. It will differ in degrees small and large from what every other person wants. But nevertheless it is, I think, a worthwhile exercise.

So here’s the list:

Prosperity. In all its forms. It’s not just Mars Bars but things like clean air and clean water, culture etc.

Sustainability. The ideal system should not be doomed to collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions.

Peace. A political system is pretty useless if it cannot defend itself from its enemies both internal and external

Freedom. Freedom is an end in itself as well as being, I think, a means to an end.

Equality. I don’t want to see people denied healthcare or an education because they are poor. Mind you I am not going to demand perfection in this area: partly because it contradicts the effort and reward item.

Effort being matched by reward. Assuming that that effort’s towards something sensible. Not jazz or opera etc.

Progress. The idea that things will get better.

Social mobility. Is it possible to rise from the bottom to the top?

Clear rules. Knowing what you can and can’t do and what the likely consequences are if you break the rules.

Variety. Having lots of things to do. Lots of interesting places to go on your hols.

OK, that’s the wish list. But what if I can’t have all of that? What if I have to compromise? If the choice is between, say, freedom and equality which should win through? I suppose I would have to say that if there were one factor above all others it would be sustainability. After that peace and after that prosperity.

[It occurs to me that this exercise is not unrelated to Rawls’s idea of the Veil of Ignorance .]

May 07, 2004

The trouble with blogs and a possible solution
Patrick Crozier

"I have met lots of people who have been persuaded by books but I have never met anyone who has been persuaded by a blog."

That remark was made to me about a year ago by a good libertarian friend. It's pretty stinging. It hurts because firstly, I believe that the internet is the obvious place to try to persuade people of the merits of libertarianism and that blogs are (so far) the best way of getting thoughts across and, secondly, because it is true.

Blogs don't persuade. At least not yet they don't. They don't persuade (I think) because the typical blog posting is not deep enough. It doesn't get to the ideological heart of the matter.

Of course, persuasion is a two-way street: you need people who are open-minded, people who want to be persuaded. My guess is that that is a pretty small number, say 1-2% of the population, but even so they matter. They are the people you have to get to.

But if you can get to them you want to persuade them of the ideological case. If there are a lot of convinced libertarians out there, people who are convinced of the general case then you don't (typically) have to persuade them about the specific cases.

The other day I was thinking about writing a blog posting about James Sherwood's remarks on railway closures. But rather than just write another blog posting I wrote down all the separate statements I could make and then listed all the things I could in turn say about those statements (the sub-statements so to speak). I counted 23 statements and sub-statements ranging from core libertarian principles to how one might deal with CO2 pollution. I am pretty sure there are a whole bunch of other things I could say but 23 is quite enough for now.

The problem is that to do justice to all these 23 statements would take an age by which time the original remarks would long cease to have been current.

And, when I've published this posting, people might take an interest in it for a couple of days and then it dies. OK, there may be some committed souls out there beavering away in the archives but generally speaking it just gets forgotten.

And that is why, by and large, blog postings tend only to scratch the surface. Doing anything else just isn't worth the candle.

But what if you could do things differently? What if you could write a separate blog posting for each of these statements and then tie them all together in one posting which would mainly comprise links? OK, it doesn't change the length of time involved - actually it might increase it - but what it would give you would be a whole bunch of statements that could be reused, perhaps in a similar context, but perhaps, also, in quite different contexts at a later stage. That would be useful. If you ground out enough of these you might even succeed in having written down all your thoughts. You might even be able to take a news item and be able to write a blog posting about it using entirely archived statements. My guess is that that would be a lot easier and a lot more effective in the battle of ideas. In the long run that is.

Of course, things are never quite so simple. When I looked at these 23 statements I realised that were many that I would have difficulty in justifying. But maybe that is not so bad. At least you've stated what you believe. At least you know where the gaps are. And you never know, ideological friends might just help you fill those gaps.

But what if your views change, or you want to change the wording, or new information becomes available? Actually, I think this is where the internet and blog management systems come into their own. For minor changes you can add post scripts. New facts, new arguments, even new ways of putting things can all be accommodated this way. For major changes you can create an entirely new blog posting call it Version 2.0 and add a link to the original posting.

I have already had a couple of goes at this. One was in an article about child safety seats and the other was in an article about LA's underground. I think they went pretty well and I would like to take the experiment further and see if I can make it work for, well, everything. In this respect, having a specialist blog ie Transport Blog, is, I feel, a huge advantage, because the number of possible statements is, at least, limited. Obviously, if there are any readers out there who can assist me in this task I would very much appreciate it.

However, before I embark on what would be quite a radical departure from current practice I would like to ask readers what they think. Is there something I have missed? Are there gaps in my reasoning? I won't deny it, I am apprehensive and if there any show stoppers out there I would rather know now than later.

Update 08/05/04

It occurs to me that maybe I don't have to change everything over to this new format. Maybe, if I just do it for the things that get said again and again and again that would be just fine. At least this way I reduce the risk of screwing things up.

Can you privatise the army?
Patrick Crozier

That's the question that separates the anarcho-libertarian men from the minarchist boys.

On the surface it seems absurd but it is a logical extension of libertarian principles so well... it would be nice if it were possible. If you could privatise the army then you could privatise everything.

Certainly, the guys who wrote The Myth of National Defense (warning very big file) seem to think it is perfectly possible (thanks to Andy Duncan and Catallarchy for the link)

For what it is worth, I think that the problem of who guards the guardians is a constant. You can't escape it. But it's early days yet and I am willing to be persuaded.

May 05, 2004

Crime is down
Patrick Crozier

So says Iain Murray. But do I believe it?

May 04, 2004

Continental Bank Holidays are different
Patrick Crozier

I discovered this during my trip to Alsace. Like us Brits, the French also have a May Day public holiday. The difference is that while we take it on the nearest Monday to May 1 they take it on May 1. Every year. Regardless of the day it falls on. And when they do, just about everything shuts down. So, on Saturday, the shops were shut though in other respects it was difficult to tell the difference.

I seem to remember something similar when I was in Italy.

The corollary is that when someone tells you that the Continentals have more public holidays than us that does not necessarily mean they get more time off.

May 03, 2004

Patrick Crozier

I've just come back from Colmar in the French border region of Alsace where I was attending my cousin's wedding. So, hopefully, there will be plenty to blog about over the next few days.