The Young People’s Party

In the United Kingdom, a new political party is in existence. The Young People’s Party is a geolibertarian party, an ideology that combines libertarianism with Georgism. Geolibertarianism is an ideology that espouses that the usage of land should incur a cost paid out to those in the community who lack the right to access this land, while fully supporting a laissez-faire market economic elsewhere.  The YPP is the second party in the UK, alongside the Green Party, to actively support the implementation of a Land Value Tax. Unlike the Green Party, the YPP is thoroughly Georgist to the core. It combines the want for land justice alongside promoting the liberties granted by a free market economy.

This makes the YPP unique, in that it advocates a sort of progressive libertarians. Most libertarians in the UK are usually associated with the Conservative party and its respective think tanks like the IEA and the Adam Smith Institute, or with UKIP. You also get a brand of civil libertarianism existing within both the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

The first unique aspect that the libertarian YPP has is its respect for the housing policy in the years of the post war consensus Britain. For many libertarians, the post war consensus was the era of statist socialism in its prime. It was the years in which libertarian ideals were considered a blight on the political scene, a reactionary ideology to revert back to the failed times of the past. This era in our politics was one in which state interference in the economy, via the nationalisation of industries or through fiscal stimulus, was the dominant urge among the elites. Even the Conservative party embraced the perverted interpretation of Keynesian economics, that Keynes was not able to put to rest due to his own passing.

The post war consensus saw the state nationalise some of Britain’s land in order to build council houses, designed to house low income families who would have no access to land ownership otherwise. Council houses also benefited the housing market in general. The low rents of council housing acted as a lid on the amount private landlords could charge for rents in their respective sectors within the market. If public rents were significantly cheaper than private rents, why go private if they would charge a much higher fee? Rationally, it would make more sense to house yourself in a cheap council home away from the travails of dealing with a landlord. Ultimately, the private sector was in competition with the public sector, which kept rents low. As a consequence, unproductive wealth would not grow to significant levels either as to earn more wealth would mean earning it through productive labour. Ensuring a more equal society all round.

The manifesto writers at the YPP refer to this as Georgism-lite. This is true. In a full Georgist economy either a Land Value Tax would be implemented on all land or land would be fully nationalised, a.k.a what Leon Walras proposed. The collapse of the Georgism-lite era also saw the collapse of a more equal society. Thatcherism completely damaged the land reforms that had so positively contributed to Britain since WWII. Inequality and poverty levels rose during Thatcher’s era. It was also an era in which libertarian ideals had the opportunity to become mainstream, rather than being an economists career suicide note.

The final note to take into account is the name of the party. The YPP wants to make the claim that Georgism is best suited for serving an entrepreneurial and creative younger generation who will struggle to have access to land. In other words, the YPP specifically wishes to target young voters who are open to a new way of organising our political and economic system. It is they who should benefit the most from the policies and philosophy advocated by the YPP.

Tax Reform

Obviously, introducing the Land Value Tax is a core policy of the YPP. What’s of interest is how they wish to introduce it pragmatically speaking. They acknowledge that the goal of a Single Tax is not achievable in the short, medium and perhaps long term. As a result, significantly lower rates corporation taxes, alongside a flat rate income tax, will have to be tolerated with a figure of around twenty percent being touted by the YPP for both taxes. As the basic rate of income tax in the UK is also twenty percent, all this means is that those who earn higher incomes will face a tax cut so that a fifty percent cut in income tax would occur for higher income earners and an even larger cut for the those who come into the highest income tax band.

It is good to see that the YPP has a sense of pragmatism in its realisation that a swift move to a LVT would be infeasible. There is the potential that a gradualist philosophy in which incremental reforms towards a Single Tax would occur, once the radical reforms of implementing the LVT have been accomplished. As with all gradualist philosophies, the most likely result would be that no Single Tax would be introduced. The blight of the income tax may still result.

I am concerned though with the suggestion that a flat rate of income tax be imposed. Some Georgists and libertarians will see no problem with this proposal. As the LVT would act as the primary form of taxation in the UK, the distortionary effects of the income tax would be reduced. The Land Value Tax itself would take care of the loss of tax paid for by high earners, defined as those earning above £31,886 per year in the UK, ensuring the tax system remains progressive in terms of not only what is being taxed but also the level of taxation on the most affluent in society.

The trouble with the tax reform policy is a political one. A flat income tax is a regressive tax because twenty percentage of a poor person’s income is more valuable to that person than someone with a significantly higher wage. Younger people are also more likely to be lower earners so, without sufficient persuasion, this policy could ensure the YPP miss their target audience in gaining support. In particular, this policy takes no account for the recent legislation passed by the government that means the poorest earners in society have no need to pay income tax. Introducing a flat tax would mean a substantial increase in the financial burden for those whose wage is under the government’s tax allowance. Also, a LVT would be introduced alongside them paying their current taxes, or additional taxes for the poorest workers, which would be seen as a tax rise on the poor and a tax cut on the rich.

Now we come to primary problem that any Georgist party will face. One reason Georgists support a Land Value Tax is because it is a transparent tax, in other words the tax payer knows exactly what they’re paying. Stealth taxes are taxes implemented in which the tax payer is unaware they’re paying, or unawares of how much tax they’re paying. Even though the elimination of stealth taxes and the introduction of a LVT should lower the tax burden on the less affluent in society, it will not be perceived that way because the visible taxes they will pay will increase in monetary terms. This danger is that opponents of the YPP will pounce on this fact to ensure it never gets a fair hearing.

To get a fair hearing, it would be better to stick with the progressive income tax scheme and introduce income and corporation tax cuts all round. The rate of the tax at different income bounds would be defined in such a manner that all income tax bands would be paying in accordance to the same purchasing power that on a mean average every individual in that tax band is granted. Such a policy would make it visibly easier for the less affluent to see the benefits of the policies advocated by the YPP. It would also allow the YPP to brand itself as the libertarian party of the less well off, giving it a contrast to libertarians who exist within UKIP and the Conservative party.

Is my call for a progressive taxation consistent with the libertarian principles of the YPP? Yes. A flat rate tax fails to take into account the purchasing power of economic agents holding different amount of wealth. Libertarianism is a philosophy about maximising liberty, including maximising the amount of money an individual can utilise for themselves. Taking into account the purchasing power of a poor person relative to a rich person makes perfect sense in ensuring we maximise the liberty of individuals to spend their money as they wish. Rather than promoting the ideal of individuals paying the exact amount of cash to the government in taxation, or the same percentage; a libertarian would be better to argue that all should pay a tax equivalent to their own purchasing power as individuals. We tax income equally in the ability of individual to purchase goods within the market.  Inevitably, this means libertarians should support a specifically designed progressive taxation system that supports that end.

Personally, I would support the introduction of carbon taxes on top of a Land Value Tax. Carbon based pollution will lead to changes in the climate which will effect the usage of land by others which most certainly could be considered unjust. Is it just that a peasant loses their land to flooding when they have contributed little to polluting the nature we all live in? Is it just a farmer looses their land to soil erosion caused by a heating climate in their area of the globe? If we can justify a Land Value Tax based upon the notion that we all have a right to access the common land we all live on, which we never produced. Cannot we justify taxing activities that will deface that common land to the eventual detriment of all, but in the medium term to those who never contributed to such unpleasant activities to our natural surroundings?

Welfare State

The YPP support a citizen’s dividend scheme in which every citizen is entitled to a set figure per week irrespective of their earnings. The figure would be reduced however based upon the tax obligation a particular individual faces. This measure will mean that the government, in theory, does not discriminate between people in who receives what amount of state help. Everyone receives the same amount of support from the state, those that don’t need it though just get it took of their tax contributions.

In practice, it will mean the poor still get assistance from the state to ensure that they have a basic standard of living. The purpose of the citizen’s dividend, or a universal basic income, is to replace the current welfare system so that we have a more simpler state apparatus offering a safety net while ensuring that individuals do not have the disincentive to not go to work due to it being worse of for them. It will also mean my recommendation of a progressive income tax would not act as a disincentive to work, while a flat rate of income tax would.

Again, there are a number of problems I have with this proposal. First, it assumes that the needs of every individual are either equal or irrelevant to the implementation of a safety net. We have those who are mentally and physically disabled whose needs are not only different to most peoples but also more expensive. Access to specific institutions, or even land, may be necessary to ensure that an individual can function as much as possible in accordance to what their disability will allow. Those who are mentally incapable of looking after themselves will need dedicated carers which is far too expensive for a citizen’s dividend to cover, unless it is an extremely generous dividend.

The simple route of is to add a specific fund for the extra costs incurred by having a disability. This way the welfare system would not discriminate against those who needs are greater than most people. Such considerations will complicate the welfare system, but the beauty of simplicity should not be confused with the blight of the simple. The YPP also does allow the income for pensioners to be twice as high as most adults, with younger people receiving less. Also, why shouldn’t 18 year olds be treat the same as a 31 year old?

Second, how do we define a basic living standard? What criteria should the government use in determining what the basic standard of living is? Should absolute poverty, or relative poverty, alleviation be the goal of the safety net? These are all questions that need answering if we are to determine what the attitudes to poverty the YPP hold. We must also be concerned with the the figures they have used. How can we be sure that those figures will provide a sufficient safety net, especially when we do not know how generous of a safety net is being proposed?

The voter would inevitably ask these sort of questions, but in a more colloquial manner. There is the risk that the conservative and concrete thinking of the voter will mean they do not take the policies of the YPP in light on the consequences Georgist theory predicts will occur once these reforms are made. So the average adult may look at £75 per week and scoff at the credentials for helping an unemployed 41 year old living in with a family. Even though Georgist theory stipulates that the costs of living such reduce dramatically once rent seeking within the economy is taxed rather than productive activity.

Global Warming

I find the ‘agnosticism’ on the issue of global warming staggering. The scientific evidence in favour of anthropogenic global warming is as abundantly clear as the evidence for the theory of evolution. We have a good account of the science of how the warming process works, the main work climate scientists are attempting to do now is translating that into how it will affect the global climate. The difficultly here lies primarily in the chaotic and complex systems that evolve within our climate, making them difficult to model. Whether this view is the result of trying to appeal to libertarians, who can be rather backwards when it comes to scientific understanding, or is a genuine reflection on the inability of the parties founders to look at the plentiful of evidence I don’t know. It’s the one issue about the YPP that is troublesome.

Immigration and Racism

I find the parties policies on these matters unsatisfactory. It is appalling that the party seems absent minded on the role institutional discrimination plays in large parts of society. They even acknowledge such discrimination exists within the police force and companies, but their attitude seems to be vague utopian hope that we can all get along with one another. However pleasing that is, and I wish we could all get along with another without bigotry in a purely voluntary fashion, why haven’t we arrived at such a state already? The whole political correctness movement is based upon the principle that we need to be made consciously aware of the institutional factors that allow racism, sexism, homophobia, transophobia and the other forms of bigotry to propagate influencing our behaviour and attitudes.

Government Spending

I find this unappealing and appealing at the same. It most likely has to do with what I think is useful government spending. Do I have a problem with government subsidies to wind farms? No. Any perversion caused by subsidies is of far less consequence than the affects of doing nothing on climate change.

Otherwise, I fully support abolishing subsidies for home building, mortgage payments and private finance initiatives plus many more initiatives that can be called corporate welfare. Corporate welfare ensures the benefits that a market can provide stop functioning as governments become less concerned ensuring that a market remains healthy; they’re more concerned with ensuring businesses and shareholders have a nice time of it.

Banking Reform

The YPP are right to insist on the connection between land prices and the role of speculative finance which led to the last crash. Personally, I would also add a Minskyian bent to this. Even after land speculation results in a dramatic reduction in financial speculation, the financial system would still be unstable at its core. The result should be much less severe recessions though as the size of the boom should be much smaller than the one leading up to the Great Depression and rose to being in the Great Moderation.

I also think that the YPP are right to insist that banks ought to be allowed to fail. The ease that governments are willing to bailout failing financial incentives has led a a financial system in which moral hazard has become systemic. This itself promotes a culture in which speculative finance will play a prominent role in the system.

My understanding of the financial industry is that the central bank plays a big role in how banks lend to one another anyway. Banning interbank lending would most likely harm the financial industry rather than produce any economic benefits. Having directors with greater levels of liability should help ensure that the banks would become fiscally responsible. The bank asset tax raise proposed sounds like a promising proposal as well.

Housing and Planning

The policies in this section are wholly sensible. The YPP recognise that it is the state’s responsibility to ensure everyone has access to land. They plan to ensure that a sufficient provision of council houses is available for the least affluent so they have access to housing. They also wish to liberalise planning laws. The effects of the LVT should ensure that land is used more efficiently so less need exists for construction of homes, other than council houses.

I would prefer more voluntary forms of association in developing cheap housing, such as establishing a mutual bank that is essentially a cooperative run by a community that lends money out to the less affluent so they can build a house on a set of land. Such land could be owned by the individual, in which the LVT would act as a deterrent to land speculation, or preferably owned commonly for the benefit of the wider community. Failing that though, I would recommend the YPP’s proposals or the proposals made by the Co-op party

Other Policies

Naturally, I find their position on civil liberties and drug legalisation very appealing. I also admire them for taking the utilitarian approach to the matter rather than a deontological support for allowing individuals to take drugs. Overall, I find their views on these matter very sensible.

When it comes to the relation between labour and capital, the two work in tandem when they become the same thing. In other words, when the labour force own the means of production through businesses operated as worker cooperatives. This market socialism is the origin of my mutualist belief system which I think is just as important as the Land Question. I do not share the YPP’s optimism that getting rid of red tape will make it easier for new businesses to start. It will certainly remove state sanctioned obstacles to creating new businesses, but not make it easier. A high amount of positive liberty is necessary in order for setting up a business to be considered easy. Removing red tape will mean nothing if no one has the means to set up a business in the first place.

On Law and Order, they have a fascinating proposal to change the punishment system in prisons. To be released from prison, prisoners must achieve certain goals during their time in prison. For instance, they must have an educational spell, helping out in the community, etc. The concept appears to be that prison should be a productive activity for the prisoner in assimilating themselves back into society by providing potential deficiencies that resulted in their crime. Not only that, but prison would be seen as an apparatus for law breakers to earn their way back into society while gaining the necessary skills to contribute in society and the economy.

Conclusion

Would I vote for the YPP? Yes, it is a Georgist party committed to abolishing as much as possible rent seeking within the economy. It promises to establish economic justice via achieving land justice. It wants to abolish state funding that grants privileges to the elites within society. It wants to maximise liberty in order that individuals can express themselves how they wish, not in accordance to what the government feels is appropriate. In some aspects of his manifesto, it gives a good blend of Georgist and libertarian thought placed under a pragmatic framework designed for implementation at the national level.

There are aspects of the libertarianism within the YPP which I dislike. It is willing to propose a flat rate income tax which is politically, economically and morally detrimental to its agenda. To implement a progressive tax with a recessive tax, on which is already a recessive tax, is not productive to gaining support from progressives who are libertarian inclined. Neither will those most likely to benefit from such policies wish to vote for it, which will only result in a market economy that rewards rent seeking over productive economic activity. I do not grasp how you can be a climate agnostic when so much evidence points to anthropogenic global warming, let alone the Earth’s climate actually warming.

A Priori and A Posteriori Anarchism

Traditionally, anarchism is defined as the political philosophy advocating a stateless society. The majority of anarchists are anti-statist ensuring that they presume that anarchism is thoroughly opposed to the existence of a state. Philosophically, there are vague and questionable elements to this definition and conception of anarchism.

We have not been sufficiently clear as to what is being opposed. Is it though the very concept of the state or actually existing states that is being opposed? This distinction is essential for a rigorous debate about the virtues of anarchism.  The first disjunct corresponds to a view called a priori anarchism. Essentially, it holds that it is an a priori fact that states are morally unjustifiable entities. Making this statement clearer, all possibly existing states are morally unjustified.

The best argument for this view is an argument made by Robert Paul Wolff in his book In Defense of Anarchism. Wolff argues that it is inconsistent with a persons ability to exercise their free will and yet be under the authority of a supreme authority. The concept of sovereignty is that of having supreme authority over its actions. So the state must be a body that has supreme authority over its subjects. Otherwise the state wouldn’t exist as the entity would not have a key property that states must have, sovereignty. Therefore, it is unjustifiable that a state exist while people are able to exercise the autonomy necessary for them to be moral agents, as to be a moral agent you need free will.

It is clear that Wolff is objecting to an abstract notion of what the state is. All possible states that can exist are under consideration. Even if every state we see and live in today was as generous in allowing citizens to exercise their liberty as Santa Claus is in giving presents to children at Christmas, it would not make the slightest difference to the truth or falsity of Wolff’s argument.

Not all anarchists are philosophically minded though. Even those that are may not be sophisticated users of philosophical argumentation. This gives us a clue that not all anarchists are in fact a priori anarchists. If they are, it indicates they do not have sufficient logical justification for holding that view. I’m not saying that no justification exists for a priori anarchism, only that some anarchists themselves don’t have it.

Most anarchists justify their philosophy empirically by explaining how undesirable social, political and economic phenomena have been caused because of the existence of the state. Market anarchists of the Mutualist sort, for instance, argue that state interference in the market, or elsewhere for that matter, leads to undesirable effects that allow inequalities to foster both socially, politically and economically. It is via a truly free market that individuals can be liberated to live in accordance to their own desires and freedoms.

Notice though that these are empirical statements about the world around us. We should, in theory, be able to test whether the market anarchists are right by simply forming a free market as they envisage it and see whether what happens conforms to their predictions. Why does this matter? For these types of arguments are not a priori arguments. They are a posteriori arguments. In other words, these anarchists cannot immediately state that all states are morally unjustifiable. Why? Because they haven’t considered every possible state that could exist, only ones that actually have existed in the concrete world.

It is here that the debate can get really interesting, but in a bad way. A market anarchist might say that their argument in favour of truly freed markets isn’t an a posteriori one, but an a priori one. The same can apply to anarcho-communists who wish to abolish the market system, abolish private property and abolish all unjust hierarchies. Full communists may argue for their position as a philosophical rationalist like René Descartes would do, rather than a philosophical empiricist like John Locke.

The market anarchist effectively would be arguing a priori, i.e. without any recourse to the way the world works, that markets work and that they promote liberty better than any other system, or are even necessary for the promotion of freedom. It’s not difficult for a philosopher, or any rational person, to see how untenable a view that is. Whether markets work or not in achieving a certain set of goals is an empirical matter that can be investigated. I doubt anyone believes that claim to be false.

To argue a priori then is a completely wrong approach to take. We must justify empirically why markets work like they do, not through pure logic. Immediately, though, this means the market anarchist has no a priori justification for rejecting all states. They can only reject the moral legitimacy of every existing state as they are the only states that can be empirically referred to.

Once you reach that conclusion, it is not difficult to see that some anarchists who wish to abolish contemporary existing states cannot justify why all states ought to be justified. In other words, they are anarchists who must contemplate the possibility that some states may in fact be morally legitimate.  Thereby, anarchism itself cannot be a philosophy that stipulates that the state is intrinsically morally unjust.

This view of anarchism is called a posteriori anarchism. Unlike the term a priori, a posteriori means to come from experience. This form of anarchism is a form of anarchism because it believes that currently existing states are in fact morally unjust. Morally unjust states ought not to exist. A stateless society would in fact be better than having these morally unjust states in existence. This form of anarchism does advocate a stateless society as well.

Unlike a priori anarchism, a posteriori anarchism cannot denounce the morally legitimacy of all possible states. So even though a stateless society is advocated by the anarchist, there is room manoeuvre for them to support morally legitimate states. Any anarchist that find the concept of anarchism supporting morally justifiable states as contradictory to anarchism are in fact confusing anarchism with a priori anarchism.

The argument in favour of a market anarchy is one example of an a posteriori argument for anarchism. Another is that all existing states oppress individuals freedoms which is a function of the state as we observe them that makes them morally illegitimate. Unlike Wolff’s argument, the only abstraction here is one derived from our empirical experiences of how states behave and how they are designed to exercise their functions.

Due to this, the a posteriori anarchists can’t preclude the possibility that a state designed in a certain way may in fact be just. This anarchist can support a stateless societies because no arguments have been put forward that argue that some states are morally unjustifiable. Note that this is different from saying we have an argument that all states are morally unjustifiable, the absence of a positive argument in favour of a morally legitimate state isn’t proof that no such argument exists.

It is this reason why a distinction is needed between these two formulations of anarchism. Both advocate stateless societies, thereby qualifying themselves as being anarchist philosophies. One argues in favour of the position that an intrinsic property of the state that makes it morally illegitimate, while the other refers to how states in the world around us have functioned and behaved in morally unjust ways and therefore should be abolished in favour of just ways of organising societies. Confusing the two is to disservice the rich body of thought that anarchism provides.

On Neurotic Georgism

The MeltFund has recently blogged a post condemning the Georgist movement of lacking sophistication in its ability to perceive the world in an accurate and healthy manner. Georgism, supposedly, is a dogma held by its holders as fervently as any other religious creed. This faith acts as filter to all other perspectives, making Georgists loose touch with reality. In other words, becoming neurotic.

The condemnation mainly relies on how Georgists seemingly will solve most of societies ills through the implementation of one tax and eradicating all the rest. The source of this remedy is that economic difficulties we face today and in the future are all to do with rent seeking. The dedication that Georgists have to this theory the MeltFund finds troubling. It is not the analysis itself that is necessarily the problem. No where in the article does the MeltFund criticise Georgist’s for having the wrong analysis about today’s problems.

In fact, the trouble lies in that Georgists don’t go as far as they could. As with all creeds, the purpose of Georgism is to give a meaning to the lives of it devout followers, not to tackle the problems it has identified. The supposed proof of this is when Georgists primarily attack landowners , forgetting that  million people in the UK own a house. The meaning Georgists get out of life is finding an enemy to attack, forgetting that the type of people they will want support from also happen to be part of the landowner class.

The MeltFund’s criticism strikes me as a strawman formulation of Georgism. First, Georgist’s are willing to adopt a Land Value Tax which they see as a remedy for tackling the land problem and the rent seeking problem. Rent seeking seems intricately linked to land in the modern economy. This hardly a sign of stopping your analysis so you can focus upon a good old rant about landlords.

Second, Georgism is not an economic theory and moral philosophy which condemns people from owning land. The fact that so many people owns household is not a concern for Georgist’s. Georgist’s want to tax the rent that the owners of the home would demand if they were to rent out their house, rather than the income they earn from labour. The rise in the number of home owners as merely allowed banks a greater opportunity to use land as collateral for loans they make to others.

The key point is that the rich own better quality and higher quantities of land, yet don’t get sufficiently taxed on it if at all. Also that most land is owned by a select few, rather than being open to the vast majority of people to freely use means we have people needlessly homeless. Georgist’s see the same thing that social democrats do when a select few in society take the lion’s share of the nation’s income, except land rather income is the object of concern.

Third, Georgists come in all shapes and sizes. Some are social democrats who support nationalising some public utilities and advocate a mixed economy. Others are geolibertarians who support a full on laissez-faire market economy while believing that social justice will be achieved through taxing land and other natural resources. Others argue that nationalising land while supporting a laissez-faire economy. Some Georgists are influenced by Henry George himself. Others are Steiner-Vallentyne libertarians.

Personally, I consider myself to be a Georgist Mutualist, or a Geo-Mutualist. I advocate a economically liberal market economy in which taxation is based primarily on land, natural resources, pollution and some Pigouvian taxes. I advocate cooperatives as the best form of business entity in the economy. Not only are cooperatives, particular worker owned co-ops, more productive than traditional business entities in the capitalist system, they will decentralise economic power among individuals more effectively due to economic democracy.

This decentralisation is liberty enhancing as it allows workers, or consumers, a much more participatory role within the governance of market entities. It is fundamentally a left libertarian concept because of the more egalitarian approach to maximising the liberties of individuals.

Why should I support a corporation tax? I’m a market socialist. Supporting a corporation tax is a tax on workers, it is tax on the fruits of a workers labour. How unjust is that? Let the profits of cooperatives be spread among workers, and for investment purposes to help make the population more prosperous. The more investment that occurs in the economy, the more prosperous everyone will become in the long run. The short and medium run will be different as some co-operatives will fail because they have bad business ideas, while others will become successful. Some inequalities will reside, but the overall decentralisation provided by co-operatives will overall mean they will not become too influential in the overall scheme of things.

What if my analysis is wrong? I’m more than willing to change aspects of my world view to accommodate them. If necessary, the whole of my world view will change.

Henry George was an insightful writer about the nature of the economy, not a prophet from God.

Mikhail Bakunin on Authority and Reason

This quote demonstrates that libertarianism and anarchism is not a refusal to accept authority. Rather, it is that authority must not be assumed but consented to by an individual’s initiative. In particular, Bakunin consents to authority on the premise that is reasonable to do so. In other words, he can find a justification himself for why a specific person should have authority over him.

The reference to a special person also indicates that it is a rareity that a person will exist who is deserving of being consented to have authority by another person. To have authority over another is a special treat that needs to be earned, rather than be assumed that is justified.

Could the Labour Party become home to a Georgist Mutualist Movement?

Jock Coats is a self described geo-mutualist who operates within the Liberal Democrats to try convince members to become thoroughly rigorous liberals. The Liberal Democrats do have a strong liberal tradition and the Lib Dem ALTER movement is supportive of introducing a Land Value Tax. Could someone do the same within the Labour party?
This makes the Liberal Democrat an ideal party for Georgist and Mutualists to reside. The Liberal Democrats are a pro market party, it is in the constitution of the party to be so. This will suit both Georgists and Mutualists who both indicate that the market is a tool that can empower people and challenging the vested interests in society. It is the challenging of vested interests in society that, philosophically, differentiates the pro market Lib Dems from the pro market Tories.
The socially democratic Labour party, on the other hand, isn’t strongly linked to the liberal ideology. However, there does exist the Labour Land Campaign which is Labour’s equivalent to ALTER. The Labour party are also affiliated with the Cooperative Party, which has been the main promoter of mutual solutions to existing problems in society and the economy in parliament.
At first glance, the Labour party would seem an ideal home to establish a Georgist Mutualist movement in British politics. Labour is willing to show the same concern about land injustice that is core to the Georgist movement. They are also closely linked to the cooperative movement, which ought to satisfy Mutualists. Since the New Labour takeover of the party, there has been attempts to establish a New Mutualism, which is essentially a cooperative form of social democracy.
What is a cooperative social democracy? It is the support of a mixed economy in which the state takes an active part in regulating the market, but an emphasis is placed on cooperatives to help provide services within the economy itself.
Here lurks the trouble with the Labour party being home to a Georgist-Mutualist movement. It’s a statist party ultimately. The Labour party is the most paternalistic of all the major parties. The Labour party is also reasonably conservative in its approach. Barring the early Thatcher’s years and the beginning of the post War consensus, Labour has never been a radical socialist party.
This is a damning indictment of Labour’s potential to home a movement based on Georgist and Mutualist principles. Mutualists wants to radically overall both the moral and economic landscape in order that individuals may live in a freer and more equal society. Morally, it will necessary for individuals to be prepared to aid others rather than simply rely on the state to do it. Economically, the whole monetary system will be overhauled due to the implementation of the Land Value Tax. The structure of businesses would change as well, with a gradual change towards cooperatives rather than limited liability corporations and businesses were the few own the capital of the company.
Labour is rooted within the Fabian socialist tradition in which public ownership of key national industries is the primary aim the party wishes to accomplish. It is Fabianism, which ideologically, is core to the left wing of the Labour party. This has little to do with the Georgist movement. The Georgist movement is sceptical, overall, about the role the state plays in allowing certain market participants to extract rent from others. Nationalising industries does not seem an effective way of tackling the problem of rent seeking. Nationalising industries involves nationalising the productive side of the economy, rather than the rent seeking part.
The right of the Labour party may be pro market, but they are also corporatists. Corporatists believe that a strong relationship between businesses and the state must exist for the economy to run effectively. Corporatism is almost the antithesis of market radicalism. The right wing of Labour are capitalist enthusiasts who will have little sympathy to the Georgist and Mutualist cause.

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Yet, there is hope for Labour to become a political party which advocates pro market economic systems based on Georgist and Mutualist principles with the potential to unify both the left and right of the Labour party. The left will be pleased about the willingness to decentralise power to the many, especially workers. The concerns of land justice will also have an attraction to some on the left. The right of the party will see that the concerns of the left can be unified with the belief that the market economy is the best economic model we have available.
To accomplish this though involves giving a good account for why left libertarianism, rather than social democracy, is the future for Britain. The Mutualists would need to show why small state socialism is the future. By being a pro market form of socialism, the vision required need not be so radical that it will disturb the party en masse. Mutualism and Georgism can help Labour become a pro entrepreneur party while also being a radical left at the same time.
The rise of Blue Labour’s influence has put the issue of decentralisation on the policy tables near the top of the Labour party. Blue Labour is an admirable, but at times detestable, attempt a new idea in the Labour party. That people should control their own destinies. Admirable for everyone should feel at home with the idea of letting people be free to live the life they want. Detestable because it tries incorporating a social conservative world view that contradicts the notion of liberty. Detestable for the fact it allows paternalists the opportunity to be espousers of liberty.
Abandoning Blue Labour’s social conservatism for the more progressive and liberal social values traditionally espoused by Labour while logically expanding on why more decentralisation across the board is necessary may be the best route to convince the Labour party core support on the need for a new left wing politics to emerge. A politics for the twenty first century, not the twentieth.
Slowly but surely, Labour may learn that libertarianism as it was originally espoused is the key to allowing a prosperous British nation which is thoroughly left wing in its politics. Libertarianism need not be a synonymous with free market capitalism, but with small state socialism instead. Perhaps a day may arise in which Liberty, originally a part of the Labour logo, may find a place for itself within Labour again.
The Labour party though has become one of the established parties now. Once this becomes the case, it will be very difficult for Labour to restore the necessary radicalism to become a home to a Georgist and Mutualist movement worthy of the name. The top of the party have little chance of becoming part of the movement. The grass-roots, particularly younger Labour member’s may be open to a different formulation of left wing politics compared to the formulation espoused by conventional wisdom.

** I’ve amended this article to remove the geomutual and rigorous liberalism labels so as to not cause confusion with the geomutualism of Jock Coats. If any references are still in the text please inform me so I can make the appropriate changes.

Noam Chomsky on Freedom of Speech

Leo Tolstoy and Inner Morality

Leo Tolstoy

The irony of the wisdom of the quote is that to state that if only everyone could comprehend it would be to fall in the lure that Tolstoy warns us.

Richard Dawkins, Logic and Rape

The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has caused a massive storm on Twitter for the following tweets:


The whole point of these tweets wasn’t to promote misogyny or to undermine the seriousness of rape. Likewise for children and paedophilia. In fact, comprehending the tweets implies that the exact opposite. Dawkins point is that to rank some rapes as being worse than others in no way shape or form demeans how much of an abomination rape is. It’s not how we evaluate the intrinsic moral significance of rape that he is concerned with, though he may be concerned with the extrinsic significance of how differing rapes can end up being worse or more harmful to particular women. Note: Dawkins is open to the suggestion that it may not be the case that some rapes are worse than others.

 

He is concerned with those who imply that if X is worse than Y, then Y is “acceptable” (substitute which ever term you find suitable). Which if anything is the type of logic that bigots use to undermine the significance of non-consensual sex as a definition for rape. For some of these bigots, rape has to be serious enough to be considered legitimate. There exists rapes that aren’t serious enough to take seriously. You know … those rapes that are the Y proposition not the X. It is these people who need to learn how to think properly.

Hayek on the threat of emergenices

Following the passing of DRIP and the revealing of the extent of the surveillance state by Edward Snowden, receiving some wisdom on the matter would be of a great help. The provider, this time, is by the classical liberal economist Friedrich von Hayek.

One of the best historical examples of this quote is the Reichstag fire, occurring four weeks after Adolf Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany. Marinus van der Lubbe was supposedly the communist culprit that caused the Reichstag, the then parliamentary building of the Weimar Republic, as part of a communist plot to undermine the German state in lieu of a revolution. Despite cringe worthy evidence that van der Lubbe was the culprit, he was executed. Worse though was that this allowed the Nazis to put pressure on the German President Hindenburg to pass emergency legislation to suspend civil liberties. Hindenburg passed the decree which allowed for a mass arresting of anyone with communist sympathies in Germany.

Another great example is the novel V for Vendetta. Norsefire, the British totalitarian state run by Adam Susan, came into power as a result of the emergency following the nuclear war.

Even though these examples may seem like extreme events that are unlikely to occur in Britain, Hayek’s quote still rings true on emergencies that incrementally allow civil liberties to be curtailed. Just because more extreme events make clear the point of the quote, that is no reason to dismiss the concern of the quote where it may seem less clear. For it is not the quote that is the problem, just the depth of our perception.

DRIP and the Death of Liberalism

Britain is the place in which liberalism was born. Two of the most famous and important liberal philosophers lived in Britain,they were John Locke and John Stuart Mill. Liberal political economy arose in Britain due to the economist Adam Smith’s influence, who gave an account of how liberalism would work in the real world. It was further enhanced by the likes of David Ricardo, Alfred Marshall, and John Maynard Keynes. Britain also housed famous modern-day liberals such as Karl Popper and Friedrich von Hayek.

The political party that is meant to house and respect the liberal movement in the House of Commons are the Liberal Democrats, the descendants of the old Liberal party. Enhancing the freedoms of the populace, and all that entails has been one of the primary distinguishers between the Liberal Democrats from the other two main parties.

Even though the principles of liberalism are fundamental to the operations of British Democracy, the Labour party and the Conservative party have never applied those principles as thoroughly as a liberal party. Labour is a moderate socialist party while the Conservative party concern themselves with either preserving institutions or are concerned mainly with economic liberalism.

This distinction that the Liberal Democrats held is no longer in existence. The adjective liberal has been abandoned for centrism. Moderation and pragmatism is now more important than matters of principle.

After the recent vote on the emergency bill known as DRIP (Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill), Liberal Democrat MPs have managed to betray the core values of the party. Only four Lib Dem MPs voted against the bill. From the three major parties, it was Labour MPs who launched the most scathing rebuttal of the bill. With a meagre 9% of their MPs voting against the bill.

We begin with the fact that DRIP is an emergency bill. The mere fact it was an emergency bill should make Liberal Democrat MPs vote no. Emergency bills are passed very quickly through the two chambers in parliament without the level of scrutiny required. They have been a tool used by successive governments to pass through controversial legislation without allowing the proper democratic process to gets its teeth into the legislation. Tom Hickman from the UK Constitutional Law blog cited emergency legislation was passed to overrule a court’s judgement that benefit sanctions had been unlawfully imposed.

Emergency legislation is designed to quicken up the democratic process when needs require. The first thoughts of any liberal should be scepticism about such statements. What need could be so great that the we need to subvert the democratic process in the name of speed? The more in need a bills passing is, the more reason for it to endure democratic scrutiny.

John Winnock, Labour MP, had this to say in the “parliamentary debate” on the matter:

I consider this to be an outright abuse of parliamentary procedure. I will certainly vote against the motion, and I hope that a number of hon. Members will do so as well.  Even if one is in favour of what the Home Secretary intends to do, to do it in this manner—to pass all the stages in one day—surely makes a farce of our responsibilities as Members of Parliament. When one considers the issues that are involved, how can one justify saying that the Bill must pass every stage by 10 o’clock? Does that meet our duty and responsibility to our constituents? … There has been no pre-legislative scrutiny by the Select Committees—none at all. This is the sort of issue that the Home Affairs Committee and other Select Committees that consider human rights should look at in detail. None of that has been done

Even if members of the Liberal Democrats felt that passing DRIP wasn’t contrary to the principles of liberalism, or felt that they were indeed necessary for the UK’s security, there is no reason why they should accept passing it through as an emergency. There is the matter of subverting the democratic process. By not allowing select committees to review the bill before being passed through parliament makes it difficult for parliament to claim that the supposed “safeguards” actually mean anything substantial. Ultimately, we must trust that sufficient safeguards have been put in by those who proposed the legislation.

The bill was also proposed behind doors in the Privy Council. This ensures that none of the discussion, which would have included the motivations for the bill, will ever be made public in the near future. Not only has the bill been passed by the House of Commons without sufficient scrutiny, there is a clear lack of transparency in how the bill originated in the first place. 

However, there are also pragmatic reasons for voting against DRIP based on the fact that it is an emergency legislation. DRIP is a response to the European Court of Justice declaring it a violation of the right to privacy for a universal accumulation of data to be collected by security agencies. To keep records of the data requires a sufficient reason, such as the individual is being investigated for a crime. This fact was known, though, since April. The government has had three months to place a bill before parliament in response to the courts judgement. So, why the inaction? This question has not been answered by anyone who is a proponent of the bill.

The content of the bill though does seem to have illiberal elements to it, or aspects that could allow illiberal tendencies by the state to be made legal. For instance, the definition of what constitutes telecoms is vague enough that it is not clear to what technologies it refers to.

David Cameron has tried selling DRIP as a preservation of the status quo, again something that should worry any liberal, yet the bill’s definition of telecoms is so vague that it could quite easy involve a large expansion in what data can be legally stored indiscriminately by security agencies.

This is worrying because DRIP is focussed upon ensuring that it is legal for the government to collect communication data. The definition of telecoms is essential because it tells us which types of data can be legally collected.

When it comes to safeguarding civil liberties, liberals ought to be demanding that precision is necessary in how the bill is formulated. Precision in the legislation will make it much more clear as to what the bill is actually proposing and to then have a clear set of criteria in which the bill can be scrutinised by. Clear and precise definitions is one of the best safeguards a liberal can ask for when it comes to civil liberties.

Instead, we get three measures designed to act as safeguards for civil liberties: first, the promise for an annual transparency report to be published; second, appointment of former diplomat to review intelligence sharing with foreign governments; and third, the establishment of a civil liberties and privacy board.

An annual transparency report is downright laughable. Assuming the report even has any substance when it comes to reporting how transparent the system is, what guarantee is there that what it reports will be acted upon?

In regards to the former diplomat, who will decide which former diplomat is suited to the task made explicit in the bill? Again, will they be listened to? Would the chosen diplomat have enough concern about privacy and civil liberties to adequately act as safeguard themselves?

The suggestion of a civil liberties and privacy board faces all the problems of the above suggestions. We can also question the extent of the powers of the board. Will it have powers to force security agencies or the  government to take on its recommendation? Or will it be a mere sitting duck acting as a gimmick to give the illusion a system is in place to safeguard the fundamentals of our society?

The manner of the passing of the bill is sufficient for any liberal to oppose it. For only four MPs from the supposed liberal party in Britain demonstrates how the principles of liberalism has vanished from the Liberal Democrats and parliament as a whole. Politicians who care about civil liberties are now in a minority, but thankfully some of the best MPs out there are appalled at the passing of DRIP.