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The point of socialism

After asking this question a while ago, I think I now have the answer as to the point of socialism. For despite Britain’s crumbling police system, where seemingly every day unprotected bystanders are punched, knifed, and shot, by lowlife scum, in a pursuit to spend grubby stolen fivers on narcotics, the purpose of socialism has become clear. For where lumpen prole John Prescott could be fighting in the British Cabinet for innocent individuals to have the right to defend themselves, a right he personally cherishes, he’s pursuing far more worthy aims instead, ones really worth getting out of bed for, in one of those four houses he currently occupies.

For have you ever burned yourself or your children, in the bathroom, with red hot scalding water? Have you ever then thought immediately afterwards that I wish the state would intervene here, because I’m obviously far too stupid to either look after myself or my children? If you have had these thoughts, then help is now at hand. For Captain John Prescott, Champion of Children, is going to step in and rescue you. He’s going to make it compulsory for all new installed hot taps, in British bathrooms up and down the land, to have heat regulators fitted to them, to prevent you pitiful serfs from hurting yourselves and depriving the state of its rightful income taxes if you take a day off work to recover.

You’ll have to pay extra for these tap fittings, of course, skewing the economy, but generating extra sales tax income for HMG. And naturally the state will need extra bureaucratic regulators to regulate all of these compulsory thermostatic regulators. No News Corporation link, I’m afraid, but here’s what I read in ‘The Sun’ Newspaper, this lunchtime, over my black pudding, sausage, bacon, and eggs (which came to you today, from the excellent ‘Piggies’, on St James Road, in Surbiton, Surrey):

JOHN Prescott has landed himself in hot water — over trying to control our hot water. The Deputy Prime Minister says taps in new and refurbished homes must have a thermostatic control to stop people scalding themselves. But Prescott has been accused of Big Brother tactics. Tory housing supremo David Curry said: “This regulation-obsessed Government is now trying to regulate the elements.”

And so the ratchet tightens another click.

36 comments to The point of socialism

  • Jim

    Thanks for highlighting this particular idiocy, Andy. I have the great fortune to be currently employed by a council housing dept (I know, I know) and our technicians started fitting these thermostats to our tenants’ taps last year. Hailed as a great success for child safety by our glorious leaders in the department, most have been removed by the tenants themselves, as they don’t allow the water in baths and sinks to heat up enough to be useful.

  • peter

    Why not just eliminate hot water or indoor plumbing? Better yet, ban autos, kitchen knives, electricity, poisonous household products and everything else that has the potential to harm children. Then, build a vast bureaucracy to police it.

  • Simon Jester

    Online version:
    http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2004010468,00.html

    - which just says the same as Andy’s quote.

  • What is your principled way of separating stupid regulations from wise ones?

    Or are all regulations stupid?

  • toolkien

    Where I live in the US we’ve had such regulations for years (as well as low flow equipment etc) which make for tepid showering/bathing at best. Just a case in point of the slim, hypothetical minority who burn themselves dominating the rest of the population who want a decent washing up. Just example 312 of 24,609 such examples of bureaucrats trotting out statistical sub-groups to legitimize invasion and control. Of course there are other side benefits to all this as it uses less water and less energy and tickles the tree-hugger’s fancy as well. Meanwhile the masses get to enjoy lukewarm showers and pine for the old days.

  • just some M.E.

    Here in the US, depending on what state you live in, the plumbing code may requier what is called a tempering valve
    in the hot water supply to the sinks/showers/baths.

    The tempering valve (cost-$15) has 3 ports, and an internal wax element
    thermostat (which is externaly adjustable with a knob or screw)

    Hot water goes in one port, cold in another, and
    temperature limited water comes out of the third.

    In my older house, built before these valves were requiered, I put one of these
    tempering valves in, because the hot water is heated with a heat exchanger inside the heating furnace core.. So when the hot water is not flowing, it gets a LOT hotter inside the furnace, and can actually come out as steam when first turned on.

    Anyway, to get to the point, I view the tempering valve
    as a usefull tool to prevent disaster, such as the overpressure
    relief valve on the furnace itself, which will vent pressure out in case of some equipment malfunction before the boiler ruptures..

    I dont know much about British plumbing, except that in some houses the cold water is supplied at pressure from the street, while the hot water is supplied by gravity from a giant cistern (toilet tank) in the attic, so I dont know if the Brit system is more or less dangerous..

  • Andy Duncan

    David Sucher writes:

    Or are all regulations stupid?

    Oh come on David, surely you know me well enough now to know the answer to that particular question? :-)

    In Duncan World, however, there will be ONE regulation, upon which all common law will be based. That everyone leaves everyone else the hell alone. Errr…. and that’s it.

    Jim writes:

    I have the great fortune to be currently employed by a council housing dept

    You know, Jim. You must resolve this.

    Though saying that, I did work once for the ‘Department of Employment’. Who was my nominal boss at the time? Yes, you guessed it, the man of the moment, Michael ‘Dracool’ Howard! :-)

    Thank God that last night I read in a Ludwig von Mises biography that the Great Austrian himself once worked as a civil servant for the Austro-Hungarian empire.

  • Andy Wood

    What is your principled way of separating stupid regulations from wise ones?

    I don’t know if it is ‘principled’, but one way is to have voluntary regulations set by insurance companies, who have an incentive to offer cheaper premiums to customers who agree to follow rules which reduce their risks. That way the benefits of the regulation will be reflected in the price of the insurance policy.

    For more details, read the sections on insurance Law’s Order, by David Friedman, or Regulation without the state, published by the IEA.

  • R. C. Dean

    What is your principled way of separating stupid regulations from wise ones?

    First, you get two boxes, one labelled “Stupid Regulations” and the other “Wise Regulations”.

    Then, you throw all the regulations into the first box.

    Easy!

  • Andy – you know, some regulations are actually Ok.

    Take your example : leave everyone the hell else alone. Nice in concept, and absolutely impossible to actually put into practice. Kind of like socialism, in that respect.

    Ex.1

    My neighbor is free to listen to whatever music he wants. I am free to sleep whenever I want. What happens when I want to sleep at the same time he wants to listen to dance-techno remix? One of us is going to lose. Either I’m going to lose sleep, or he’s going to lose music. It’s a zero-sum game.

    Now, my neighbor and I could contract around this. We could, completely privately, contract how to handle this little problem. BUT I would also have to contract with every other neighbor. How would we bargain? There are hundreds of apartments in my building – how could we get these people to agree? What about the people across the street? We can hear them too. We also don’t like it when they power-wash their sidewalks at 2 AM (true story).

    A mechanism is needed to allow all these people (including myself) to get along without killing each other, and without wasting too much of each other’s time. Luckily, there’s a handy-dandy little “excessive noise ordinance.” Before 10 PM, he get’s to listen to whatever he wants. After 10 PM, and until 7 AM, I get to sleep. Yay. A quick phone call to the front desk usually solves the problem. I have only had to call the friendly NYPD once.

    Sometime, I know this is hard, but sometimes a regulation is more efficient then private contract. Just like it’s more efficient to pay the Marines to handle national security than to do it “privately”, if that’s even possible.

    Not in the case in post though. This hot-water control thing is just stupid. It’s their own damn house, and the government shouldn’t be bothering with it. A good contractor will know what should and should not be included, and bargain privately with the builder. Much better that way.

    But not in all cases.

    Ex. 2

    Private enterprise allowed us to beat the Nazis by out-producing them, but it required the central control and coordination of the US Govt. Private enterprise, all by itself would have lost. Liberty would have been lost.

    The British Empire would have come to an end.

    In Conclusion

    Private enterprise is a tool. Government is a tool. They both have their strengths and their weaknesses. I’m a Capitalist to the bone, but that means I seek the function with highest utility, and sometimes that means government. Have the Socialists in Europe gone overboard? Way overboard. Is this hot-water reg. stupid? Way stupid. Does that mean no regulation is good? NO.

    The greatest mistake the Communists made was believing that Government could meet every human need without the aid of private enterprise. It would be an equal mistake to believe that private enterprise could survive and provide without some government.

    Now we just gotta’ figure out how much “some” is…

    Brock

  • Tony H

    You couldn’t make it up. But did I see that Andy Duncan’s source for this is The Sun? And is the miscreant not John Prescott, buffoon-in-chief and i/c removal of pocket fluff from T.Blair’s trousers? We don’t need to get all Kafkaesque: he’s an embarrassment, but surely no-one takes him seriously.

  • Susan

    The law of unintended consequences spring sto mind here. Mightn’t those who are interested in enjoying a hot rather than tepid bath be tempted to do it the old-fashioned way — by heating up a pot of water on the stove and dumping it into their tepid bath? And mightn’t that actually pose a more serious safety hazard to children in the long run?

  • Andy Duncan

    Hi Brock

    Ex1

    The problem here is that the government is the owner of last resort. It owns all the roads in a City, all the rivers, etc, and takes upon itself the right, in the final instance, to own everything.

    For instance, here in Britain it can purchase your property against your will, to do with it whatever it likes, extend an airport, build a road, create a Heffalump breeding area, whatever. Because of this total de-facto ownership, the government are the ones who regulate everything and the only people you can appeal to for justice, say in the case of you trying to reduce the noise from nosiy neighbours.

    It also means the state controls all planning, so people have to jam up against each other in apartment buildings, because the state won’t allow enough spaced out buildings to be constructed.

    Here in the UK most of us are jammed into terraces and semi-detached houses, very expensive ones, because the planning laws won’t allow the construction of large cheap spacious homes. This is so farmers can have lots of cheap land. So we can pay them subsidies not to farm on it.

    But, let’s take your apartment building. In Duncan World this would be privately owned by someone, when it was built. You could either rent a flat, from this owner, or buy it from him, but this would in effect be a long-term rent, because the land upon which the apartment building stands, even if you bought the apartment, would still belong to the original building owner.

    But no matter. Let’s say there are fifty occupants to this building, and they’ve all bought their apartments from the original owner.

    When you buy your apartment, you make sure that you have in your purchase contract that at such and such a time of day, from a certain position in your home, it should be quiet. If not, you may make a financial claim against the building owner.

    The owner also gets a clause into the contract, to say that at such and such a time of day, if you make a certain level of noise, he may make a financial claim against you.

    Therefore, with a noisy neighbour, you claim against the landlord, he pays you, he claims against the noisy neighbour, the neighbour pays him. The problem will quickly abate. The justice will also be much swifter than in the state system.

    BTW, another reason you bought THAT particular apartment, from THAT particular landlord, was because he was signed up with the SAS insurance security service. And it was known for being a landlord with particularly tough noise clauses built into his sales contracts.

    Nobody argues with the SAS security service, though they are held throughout society to be extremely fair, using the very best judges, for good justice prices. In fact, you’re a member yourself. Personally, I’ll be with Scots Guards security service, myself. It’s a clan thing.

    So, that noisy building across the street? Someone in it is making a racket at 2am? Simple, sue your building owner for breaking your agreement about noise levels at particular times. He has to pay you, and the value of his property is going down, therefore he is driven to do something about it.

    He takes his case to the SAS court, that the production of noise from the other building is harming his livelihood, as per our one allowed regulation, that nobody may harm anybody else. The SAS judge agrees, and awards for your landlord.

    The other landlord says “Fooey!, I’ll do whatever I damn please, it’s my building.” His Welsh Guards judge (his name is Jenkins), awards in his favour. It has to go to the final arbitration court, Scots Guards, Judge A. Duncan presiding. He awards for your landlord, case closed. The noise stops. If it starts again, a quick phone call soon stops it.

    If you really don’t like the noise in the end, which the neighbour keeps making, despite the constant flow of money from their pocket to yours, you sell up, and get a detached place in a quiet area.

    This is all a naturally self-balancing system. Those who don’t mind a bit of noise, get cheaper rents in apartment buildings, those who do mind noise, or the hassle of having regular brushes with the common law, to get it sorted out, have to pay more for quieter more detached spots, say in Albany, or Buffalo! :-)

    So, you want a cheap apartment AND a quiet spot? Simple. Become a democratic socialist and through the ballot box force everyone else to be as quiet as you want, but aren’t prepared to pay for. Not that it will work, of course. Ever been to a socialized apartment building?

    Now you could call all that stuff above regulations, and almost a mirror of current state noise regulations. (Be thankful that you live in the US, with a strong common law, and a history of light regulation. ) I prefer to call this regulatory system private agreements. You freely sign up to them, and you then must abide by them for the duration of the agreement. Where there is remaining dispute, the common law based upon the principle that no man may harm another, fills in the cracks.

    These are unlike state regulations, which are foisted upon you whether you like them or not, usually by bureaucrats over whom you have absolutely no control. And unlike state regulations, which only the innocent obey, which bad men ignore with hardly any problem, certainly in the UK, these private agreements WILL be enforced, swiftly and cheaply, by the private justice system.

    What? You signed up to buy a flat WITHOUT sorting out the contract clauses on noise? Oh dear. I’m afraid the SAS judge isn’t interested in your case, on the private agreement front, buy may be prepared to listen on the common law principle that no man (ie. someone doing heavy duty washing at 2am) may harm another (trying to sleep).

    You pays your money. You takes your choice.

    Ex2

    I’ll have to pass on this one, I’m afraid. I’m only up to page 17 of Professor Hoppe’s ‘Myth of National Defense’. I’ll refer you to his book Introduction to give you a flavour of what my response to Ex2 will probably be, in a week or two’s time.

  • Andy Duncan

    Errr…my apologies to the Samizdata bandwidth God, for that last post. Whoops! Got carried away there, thought Brock had to be answered. Again, apologies ;-)

  • veryretired

    There is a scene in Dr Zhivago, during his “voluntary” service with the Red partisans, when the military and political officers are discussing whether he should be released or kept in the unit. The political officer’s comment is that it doesn’t matter how good a doctor Zhivago has been, when the fighting is over, everyone will be judged politically, i.e., one’s political correctness is all that will matter.

    When you see examples like this faucet rule, it helps to remember that, to the committed collectivist, anything and everything is to be dealt with politically. The solution to any problem is always to craft another rule, amend a previous policy, pass some more legislation. All life is merely fodder for the regulatory apparat to feed upon.

    In the US, this is sometimes referred to with the half-comic phrase, “There oughtta be a law…”, and indeed, the legislative codes of the various law making bodies are overflowing with any number of well intentioned, but utterly worthless, or counter-productive, regulations.

    This is symptomatic of the reason collectivism fails so spectacularly—it consistently inverts the rational relationship with reality which human beings require to survive. Flexible response is replaced with the dictates of whoever managed to claim the authority to make decisions for everyone else.

    Collectivsm does not fail in practice because humans aren’t good enough, it fails in its basic tenets because the definition of what human life is is wrong.

    To cite some compelling ancient wisdom, this particular faucet-fool has forgotten that the law is made for man, not man for the law.

  • Andy – great stuff as always.

  • Sandy P.

    Idiot, why doesn’t he just pass a law that water heaters can’t go about x degrees?

    We have that law in IL for foster parents, water heater can’t be above 110 d until the child is 10.

    It’s like speeding, just make cars that don’t go above a certain mileage.

  • Well, Andy, I was somewhat serious as the marvelous Samizdata blog seems to be home to libertarians of varying degrees of strictness. And I couldn’t quite place exactly where I’d find you.

    For example, I just saw a reference to the introduction in 1978 (?) by Mayor Koch of NY’s ‘pooper-scooper’ law. Is there a free-market alternative to that one? For the life of me, I can’t figure one out. I mean if there was money to made by collecting dog feces (as there was (?) for human ‘night soil’ many years ago in the far east) then we’d have kids collecting turds instead of delivering newspapers or selling kool-aid. No?

    So where do you come down on pooper-scooper laws? An outrageous socialist infringement on liberty? :)

  • Guy Herbert

    Leaving it to insurance companies would be worse. If there’s anything more risk-averse than a state bureaucrat, it is an insurance-company bureaucrat.

    Although in theory insurance companies could offer different premiums based on different circumstances, the cost of doing so outside a few restricted markets is too great. They have to be run on forms of limited size, where data concerning the options is readily available. Otherwise they make arbitrary requirements based on virtual risk or refuse cover altogether.

    State regulation has this advantage: that it can be claimed and relied upon as a common standard. One doesn’t have to guess (or go to the trouble of enquiring) what the insurance requirement for someone one is dealing with may be.

    My tentative proposal for a touchstone: where a matter is not open to reasonable inspection or enquiry by someone personally affected by it, then there may be a case for regulation, but there is not otherwise. Thus thermostatic taps fail, because scalding water is an easily observable hazard.

    The real problem with regulation (in my non-fundamentalist view) is the institutional one. Most modern polities have systems calculated to create regulation for its own sake, and where regulation is regarded as an unchallengeable good. There’s a vicious circle of bureaucrats, lobbyists,”consumerists”, media, and politicians, that will be terribly hard to break. It is easy, but probably futile, to oppose idiot regulation piecemeal. How do we break the circle?

  • They’ll take my unregulated hot-water tap when they pry it from my scalded cold, dead fingers.

  • Guy Herbert

    As a side note to Jim’s first comment:

    Of course, all such interventions show an unfounded faith in the cooperation of those they are designed to help. They also presume competence on behalf of the intervener, which may not be forthcoming.

    I once lived in a council flat where the backup immersion heater had been built into the cold water system. (Producing, if one were foolish enough to attempt to use it in lieu of gas, such unnerving and dangerous effects as a scalding hot lavatory flush.) It’s probably a wise move among his acquaintances to disable any new device installed by the council.

  • Alan

    Won’t be long before they demand regulators on electric kettles to stop people making drinks hot enough to scald your mouth…

  • Dave O'Neill

    Here in the UK most of us are jammed into terraces and semi-detached houses, very expensive ones, because the planning laws won’t allow the construction of large cheap spacious homes.

    While there is an element of this, there is also some geography at play. If you, like I have in my life, want to live within easy walking distance of a mainline fast track into London e.g. Waterloo – no amount of relaxation of the planning laws is going to help you, if you only want a 30 minute train ride or something like that.

    Where my family live in Hert’s on the Liverpool mainline, developers are throwing up housing estates on every scrap of land they can find within easy distance of the railways and that isn’t effectively a peat bog (a problem in the Lea Valley) – but what they are also doing is building houses and flats to maximise their profit. I can hardly blame them.

    However, all is not lost. A distant cousin-in-law is a developer in Preston and he builds absolutely massive detached homes in new estates all over the North West.

    Of course, the problem is, nobody wants to live there do they…

  • Dave O'Neill

    Above “Liverpool” = “Liverpool Street”

    Sorry.

  • Andy Duncan

    David Sucher writes:

    And I couldn’t quite place exactly where I’d find you.

    I have no idea, either, alas. My libertarianism/individualism/classical liberalism is, as I’m sure it is for everyone, a constantly developing theme. Yes, I could be rapidly approaching Moonbat status, where I’ll start to leave the bounds of sanity in a bid to remain consistent, but what I’m striving to find is that mode of economics/philosophy where you can remain entirely sane AND entirely consistent. Currently, I think this very narrow tightrope is somewhere in the direction of developing Rothbardianism (which itself is developed Von Misesianism, which is developed Mengerism, unserweiter, unserweiter). The man mostly closely associated with developing Rothbardianism is, of course, Hans-Hermann Hoppe. But even though I disagree with some of the Professor’s solutions to his superbly analysed problems, please do place me firmly with him and the Austro-libertarians, if you must pigeon-hole me. Though all Austro-libertarian ideas must be constantly honed in the face of Popperian objectivism, always to edge closer towards ‘The Truth’ in the same way that an economy must always head towards some unreachable perfect balance.

    For example, I just saw a reference to the introduction in 1978 (?) by Mayor Koch of NY’s ‘pooper-scooper’ law. Is there a free-market alternative to that one? … So where do you come down on pooper-scooper laws? An outrageous socialist infringement on liberty? :)

    Come on, David. Security is the big problem area for Austrians, not pooper-scooper laws. But, if you must have it, here we go:

    Think private aeroplane. If you were allowed to take a dog on board, and your dog fouled the passageway, do you think it is within the wit of man to work out what to do, in a private context, or do you think only ‘The State’ is capable of working out what to do?

    Let’s extend that.

    In Duncan World all the streets will be privately owned, including all of the pavements. Indeed, the whole city may be privately owned by one person. When you buy, or more likely, rent, your apartment/house/David Blaine glass box, you will purchase access rights to these adjoining privately owned streets, for which you will pay an annual rent. Now the street owner can stipulate any clauses they like in their street-use agreements. I would suggest that primary ones I as a street owner would insist upon, will be that if you take your pet animal onto these streets, you must pay an annual premium for that privilege. Also, that if you allow your pet to foul the street you will be subject to two further possible charges. The first will be a small charge, if you clean the mess up yourself. If you decide to leave the mess, there will be a much heftier charge. However if you’re busy, and prepared to pay the resulting very hefty charge, that’s no problem, as a privately paid-for maintenance worker, salaried out of all the stree access rents, will be along in a moment to clean it up for you. The street owner needs to arrange to have this done quickly, to avoid being counter-charged by any of his other street users who could insist on compensation for soiled shoes, if the mess is left there too long. Leaving your pet’s mess behind you will therefore cost you a LOT. But all these rules for using the street will be up to the street owner, and those wishing to purchase his street access services.

    You don’t like other people being allowed to let their pets foul the footways? Move to somewhere where the local streets are owned by someone who refuses to allow pets to be taken onto their streets.

    You can’t find anywhere like that? Form an anti-pet company, Sucher Corp, buy a bit of land, and create a suburb, or even a City there, Sucherville, where you can have whatever street and property rules you please. Then go and find some customers to go to live there, to generate the profit necessary to keep Sucher Corp investors happy. You may find enough, in North America, to justify your investors beliefs in your plan.

    In this way cities of varying types will spring up, all over the place, attracting those who like living in different mutually satisfactory ways. All in a naturally occuring spontaneous manner.

    And just wait until we get into Space. Your company will be so successful, your descendants will be able to buy SucherWorld, somewhere near Alpha Centauri, a whole planet ran just the way your inheriting descendant wants it. Though they’ll have to attract enough people there to make it pay, of course, or they’ll be in trouble from the investors.

    Apparently, on the Queen Mary II, named today, you’ll be able to take your pet dog to New York from England, on board. Here’s to hoping they can cope with all the potentially messy eventualities, without the helping hand of John Prescott and his cretinous state-loving friends needing to impose pooper-scooper laws upon them.

  • Tony H

    Andy, in order to impose dog-shit charges your notional private street owner will have to employ such a large gang of intrusive dog-shit snoopers (or CCTV) as to make life unbearable for anyone wishing merely to walk up and down the street without being spied upon by miserable gits who are even worse than traffic wardens. It would resemble a bigger-scale version of those Parisian dog-shit wardens who zoom around on motorbikes equipped with special vacuum-cleaners, and who have the power to levy instant fines…

  • R. C. Dean

    So where do you come down on pooper-scooper laws? An outrageous socialist infringement on liberty?

    Just another completely ineffective excrescence of the nanny state. People who will let their dogs crap in public and walk away from it will do so regardless of the law. Like most such laws, it is ineffective, and therefore harmful, and should be done away with.

    What to do about dogshit in the streets? Well, watch where you are walking, for starters. When you see someone who is not being a decent human being by leaving their dog’s crap in the public way, do what I do – walk up to them, and ask them what the hell they think they are doing, in a nice penetrating voice guaranteed to draw attention.

    This is a civic problem, to be dealt with via civic means, not a legal problem requiring the threat of injury or imprisonment.

  • Andy -

    Your privately owned streets don’t sound very different than the streets we have today. If you imagine any modern city to be a Partnership whose residents each own one share of stock, you pretty much get what you just decribed. Toss in a rule that you must but into the Partnership when you move in, and sell it when you move out (because it’s attached to the land), and presto, you’ve got exactly the same effect, simply come at from a different direction.

    Either way you’ve got pooper-scooper rules, so who gives a crap (heh heh) about where the rules came from?

    I read the introduction to Professor Hoppe’s ‘Myth of National Defense’ you provided. The only part I found to be intellectually interesting was the right to secession being built into all governments. There may be something to that. The American Civil War is one of the very few cases where a democracy fought a democracy. Secession also seems to be working for the East Timorese.

    However, much beyond that I found his argument to be quite weak. You see, I don’t believe government to be an entity separate from the individual actors who comprise government. The people are the only “real” things, and the phrase “The government” is just a handy label to describe their relationships with other people in society. Person X builds cars, and person Y makes sure the cars don’t give off too much emissions. The fact that person X works in the “private” sector and that person Y works in the “public” sector are just descriptive labels.

    For that reason, Prof. Hobbes’ whole premise falls apart. He thinks that government has a monopoly on production, and it clearly doesn’t. Every 2,4 or 6 years Americans can (and do) replace all the people in government, and change the rules too. Is it really the same government as it was before? I say that is isn’t. It’s a new government.

    The fact that there is only one government at a time does not make it a monopoly either. I only own one car at a time, but that doesn’t make Honda a monopoly. At any time I can sell the Honda and buy a Ford. It’s still a car, and it still meets my needs, but the producer is different, and competes for my business. The same for government actors. They compete for my business.

    After that Prof. Hobbes goes completely down hill, IMHO. If governments caused 170 million deaths in this century, it was governments founded on Marxism or Fascism that easily caused 95% of those deaths. I don’t think any nation in the Commonwealth could take responsibility for those deaths. The USA can’t be held responsible for too many either. Even counting casualties in wars WE DID NOT START, the deaths caused by the USA and the UK pale in comparison to Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Chine, Cambodia, Iraq, most of Africa … the list goes on and on. The argument that government is the greatest threat to human liberty is wrong. It’s BAD government that is a threat to human liberty.

    The problem is when you insulate the providers from the consumers so that the providers cease to be accountable for their actions, they cease to care about their actions. They become corrupt and evil when they don’t have to worry about the consequences of their actions. The French rule that you can’t press criminal charges against a sitting President is a good example in a Western nation. In non-Western nations it gets much worse, and leaders can kill, rape and torture with impunity. In countries where a certain tribe controls the levers of power, nothing good will come of it.

    But that doesn’t mean all government is bad, or that all regulations are bad. The cost of bargain can be very high. The ability to internalize external costs can sometimes only be realized with government. How else do you stop your neighbor from polluting the air? Without pollution taxes or a flat ceiling regulation, it’s very hard to prevent your neighbor from polluting on you, and infringing your liberty. It’s hard enough for the USA and Canada to bargain for pollution rights – can you imagine in everyone in both countries were personally involved? It would be a major pain in the ass. I’ve got too much school work to do to bother with that. I’d rather delegate it to some politicians, and then kick them in the nuts if they do it badly. Problem solved.

    Frankly, since the City of New York is incorporated anyway (and it is), I’d rather have the system I’ve got than the one you described. Since I live on a certain plot of land I’d rather change the manager than move all my stuff. I like living where I am. I’m not forced into an apartment by zoning laws. I could have a nice 3 bedroom ‘detached’ house in the ‘burbs for what I pay in rent, but I like being within 100 yrds of three different subway lines, and a 1/4 mile to the World Trade Center PATH hub. If the street I lived on belonged to a private owner I couldn’t do a damn thing about it – except move.

    I prefer the system the way it is.

    I’m afraid that the overly paternalistic EU government has poisoned you to the idea that any government can be good. It can be. It can be useful, accountable, and no more intrusive than it had to be. Your government does not have a monopoly on you. You can vote to change it, and you can vote with your feet too. Come to the USA. Try Texas or Alaska. Did you know that where my friend Josh is from it’s illegal to NOT have a gun on you? Seriously. There’s plenty of competition in the ‘government’ sector.

  • R.C. Dean –

    I have to disagree. I live in New York. There are way too many dogs in this city, and way too little sidewalk space to allow the crap to accumulate. And quite often, I am not there to deal with the dog walker when his dog is doing the crapping.

    And what would I do if I were there? Pay him to pick it up? Fuck him. His dog is a privilege. This is my sidewalk as much as it’s his. I haven’t given him my PERMISSION to leave dog crap all over the place.

    The purpose of government (one of the big ones) is protect liberty. To prevent my neighbor from infringing on my liberty to walk without stepping in dog crap. To prevent me from resorting to violence to protect my liberty, protecting his freedom to not get the snot kicked out of him.

    The sidewalk is a natural monopoly. No two ways about it. We both have to use it, and there’s no alternative. That means we have to agree how it’s to be used. If some piker comes along and leaves dog crap all over the place, he has two option. A cricket bat to the head, or a ticket from the police.

    Either way he’s been discouraged from discourteous behavior.

    I leave it to the dog walkers of the forum to decide which method of persuasion they would rather have used on them.

  • Andy Wood

    If you imagine any modern city to be a Partnership whose residents each own one share of stock…

    I don’t think this analogy works. Incompetent managers of a joint stock company are constrained by the threat of being sacked following a takeover by an investor who buys up at least 50% of the shares.

    What is the analogy of the takeover bid in the politcal marketplace?

    Either way you’ve got pooper-scooper rules, so who gives a crap (heh heh) about where the rules came from?

    Have you read anything about public choice theory?

  • Dave

    I don’t know about the US local government but in many parts of the UK, the entry criteria to get involved in the council are pretty low. If people feel strongly about something, they generally should be able to get involved.

    Make enough local noise and use your councillor and you may be surprised. The electoral margins in many wards are so low that local representatives have to be more accutely tuned to the locals in many places. I think its what gives the Tories the edge.

  • Andy Duncan

    Brock writes:

    the deaths caused by the USA and the UK pale in comparison to Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Chine, Cambodia, Iraq, most of Africa

    We’ll have to agree to differ on all your other points, but I think the point above has a little mileage left in it.

    Who invented ‘Area Bombing’, and ‘Fire Bombing’, where bombers just dropped huge fire stick payloads in the hope that they might hit something military. Like a soldier’s granny.

    Yes, the good ol’ United … wait for it … Kingdom. Yes, good ol’ Bomber Harris. Ask the residents of Dresden and Hamburg about how harmless the British and the Americans were, compared to the Nazis.

    Or better still, read one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors:

    Slaughterhouse-Five

    Bugger, I’ve started spelling ‘favorite’ the WRONG WAY, again! :-)

    How many was it died in Dresden? 100,000? Or was it 200,000? What’s a hundred thousand between friends?

    Then we can add in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan, then Iraq again, plus inumerable other little places, like Grenada, Eritrea, and God alone knows how many other covert operations in Greece, Cyprus, Malaysia, Borneo, Yemen, and anywhere else the American CIA and British MI6 have been. We really are blood brothers. I’ve probably missed a few. But it’s only other people, in other faraway places, so it’s not important.

    We, the British and the Americans, may not have quite the figures behind us of entirely innocent civilians killed, as the National Socialists and the International Socialists killed, in their heady days of power, or should I say ‘collateral damage’ as these butchered people are currently known, to spare the blushes of UK and US newsreaders, but I reckon we’re still pretty good at it, murdering civilians, given half a chance, especially from 15,000 feet. Tony Blair, international socialist and lover of mankind, in particular, loves nothing better than giving the order for the RAF to go in and hit villagers’ homes. In fact, he’s addicted to it.

    I wonder which war he’s going to start this year?

  • Shawn

    “Who invented ‘Area Bombing’, and ‘Fire Bombing’, where bombers just dropped huge fire stick payloads in the hope that they might hit something military. Like a soldier’s granny.

    Yes, the good ol’ United … wait for it … Kingdom. Yes, good ol’ Bomber Harris. Ask the residents of Dresden and Hamburg about how harmless the British and the Americans were, compared to the Nazis.”

    This kind of moral equivalency argument is specious nonsense, though it is typical of Anarcho-Capitalist arguments. Ask the holocaust survivors if they would have prefered it if the Allies had done nothing at all. Or if they would have prefered it if the Allies had not taken measures to hasten the wars end.

    “Then we can add in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan, then Iraq again, plus inumerable other little places, like Grenada, Eritrea, and God alone knows how many other covert operations in Greece, Cyprus, Malaysia, Borneo, Yemen, and anywhere else the American CIA and British MI6 have been.”

    Even if you take every military and covert operation for the last one hundred years, you still do not get anywhere the more than two hundred million murdered by fascist and communist regimes since 1917. This is the kind of moral equivalency argument that the left normally resorts to. It is interesting that the only group on the right to use it are the Anarcho-Capitalists. The argument reveals a sad degree of moral bankruptcy on both the left and the paleo-right.

    The argument in essence that is advanced by anarchists is that if we just got rid of the state then we “ain’t gonna learn war no more”. In the anarchist view the state is the source of all the evil in the world, and while the right wing anarchists do not exactly make the same utopian claims that left wing anarchists do it is clear the views are not far apart.

    The obvious problem with this is that it ignores both human history and human nature. Spend some time watching a group of children playing together and you will soon see that conflict is part of being human. The real issue is how we manage such conflict. This is where conservatives have something to teach libertarians. Having a healthy skepticism of utopianism and the reality of human nature. That is why both conservatives and sensible libertarians understand that we must have some minimal government to act as referee and to protect and preserve the rights of individuals. A minimalist state as advocated by libertarians is necessary to ensure that the non-initiation of force principle is upheld. Competing systems of private law sound good in theory but are likely to lead to less rather than more freedom, and to constant inter-group conflict. Having a single system of law based on libertarian principles and upheld by a single state justice provider schooled in those principles will lead to far more objective freedom that an anarchist system.

    In a market-anarchist system there would be no central state. But there would still be corporations, small voluntary states or tribes of one sort or another, and of course a number of competing private mercenary services, private armies, and other security services. The likelyhood under such a scenario is that the number of mini wars would increase. Assuming that humans will obey the non-initiation of force principle without a central state to enforce it is utopian. This is what is so ludicrous about paleo-libertarian web sites like antiwar.com and lewrockwell claiming they are “anti-war”. In fact they are simply opposed to war by the state. Nothing they propose would eradicate war itself from human affairs, and many of their claims about how a stateless system would work sound a great deal like the “if only” claims of Marxists. And if you want an example of where stateless inter-tribal war can lead take a good look at Somalia in recent decades. With no central state to arbitrate between them and to enforce the non-initiation of force principle the result is constant war.

    I recently read an interview with Prof Hermann-Hoppe. When asked about his views of the Sept.11 terrorist atrocity he trotted out the standard left wing argument that it was all Americas fault, and then proceeded to claim that our action against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was just a cover for an oil grab. The fact that the oil argument with regards to Afghanistan has been completely debunked seems to have bypassed the good Prof. But it is indicative of the mentality of the anarchist right. Mr Hermann-Hoppe completely ignored the history of Islam with regards to the West. He completely ignored the history of Islamic fundamentalism, which predates the founding of the U.S. And he completely ignored the public statements of bin Laden hinmself, who has cited the reconquest of Spain in the 17th century as one of his motivations for Jihad against the West. No, n Hermann-Hoppe’s world, as in the world of other rabid anti-Americans like Chomsky, Pilger and Michael Moore, its all just America’s fault.

    “I wonder which war he’s going to start this year?”

    Mr Blair has not started any wars to begin with. The war with Iraq was started by Iraq in 1991. A coalition was formed to rightly defend Kuwait against Iraq’s initiation of force. When Kuwait was liberated, a cease fire contract was entered into with Iraq. Since then Iraq has violated this contract repeatedly. Finally last year the U.S. and Britain took action against Iraq’s repeated contract violations. By libertarian principles this action was right and just.

    Andy gives us an example of the rhetorical tactics used by the left and by the paleo-right. Ignore the facts, and just cry “warmongering” and “imperialism” at every opportunity.

  • Andy Duncan

    Shawn writes:

    Ask the holocaust survivors if they would have prefered it if the Allies had done nothing at all. Or if they would have prefered it if the Allies had not taken measures to hasten the wars end.

    The killing of armed Nazi soldiers, or the bombing of munitions plants, or dambuster raids, or invasions of Normandy, or whatever other specific military-target operations you like, I am not, at the current moment, going to argue against. But this does not then make it OK to then deliberately firebomb a non-military city, with over a hundred thousand civilians in it, because ‘ the Germans started it’, the usual reason the British man in the street will give you, if you dare raise such a subject. ‘They’, the Nazis, were evil. That’s why we opposed them. Did that then give us the right to be equally evil in return? Perhaps it did against the Nazi leadership, and anyone with a gun pointed in our direction, but 135,000 civilians, including thousands of women and children, to be deliberately fire-bombed in a non-military city about to be captured by our erstwhile ‘Allies’? I’d much rather take your insults than defend Dresden as a good thing. And if you must mention the Holocaust, I speak as a member of an East European Jewish family, on my mother’s side, which was almost wiped out in the Holocaust, some of whom also (probably, we’re not entirely sure) died in the Gulag. None of those who survived were saved by Dresden. Normandy, yes. Dresden, no.

    I cannot also, for the life of me, defend Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even if you accept the usual ’2 million allied soldiers would’ve died otherwise’ argument, why target cities full of civilians like this, when there were plenty of Japanese military targets to hit? Was it perhaps to demonstrate to Stalin that the Americans were bold enough to deliberately drop atomic weapons on innocent civilians, to frighten Stalin into a post-WWII Cold War, rather than a possible Hot War? Did Harry S. avoid hitting military targets, or military ports, so that after the war he could quickly make Japan conventionally safe from his Soviet Allies? Did Churchill bomb the eastern German city of Dresden, about to be captured by the Soviets, for entirely similar post-war settlement reasons? Perhaps, in your conservative terms, these were still good pragmatic decisions. But if they are the true reasons for these three massacres, and nothing to do with ending WWII, the Americans and the British governments have never been bold enough to admit it. If we are going to be evil, in the spirit of Machiavellian and Bismarkian Real-Politik, we should at least be honest about it.

    There is moral equivalency in all of these cases above. Killing people deliberately, with malice aforethought, except perhaps in self-defence, is wrong. That’s it. The Rubicon is crossed. The numbers are important if you happen to be one of those killed, but morally it’s equally wrong if I murder one person, or if I murder ten. Or a hundred. Or a hundred thousand. Or do you think we should operate some kind of points system?

    Andy gives us an example of the rhetorical tactics used by the left and by the paleo-right. Ignore the facts, and just cry “warmongering” and “imperialism” at every opportunity.

    Just because socialists use an argument doesn’t automatically invalidate it. We should never forget that some of most intelligent people in the world are socialists, though it pains me to say it, and they love it when we adopt a knee-jerk policy of opposing them on what they say, purely on the principle that they’ve said it. That way, they lead us down many garden paths, and make us look like unthinking fools. Just as they’re currently leading the West down the path towards complete totalitarian socialisation. I give Britain twenty years, at the outside, the way we’re going. I give America fifty, if it’s lucky. In some ways, of course, America is even more advanced than us in its intolerant socialisation, especially in its illiberal coastal cities. I, personally, am tired of defending America, and then having socialists say to me ‘we must ban X, even the Americans have banned it.’

    Who’d have thought that we’d be importing socialism not from Europe, but from America? Benjamin Franklin must be turning in his grave.

    No, I haven’t seen or agreed to a model where we can do without the state, for national security, though I’m trying personally to find such a thing. And I can see the validity of the Minarchist argument for a minimal state, which even Professor Mises defends in his 1944 book, ‘Bureaucracy’, and David Friedman defends, grudgingly, in ‘The Machinery of Freedom’. But Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, were wrong. Just as the deliberate targeting and murder of any innocent civilians, in any situation, is wrong, even if you, the perpetrator, think you’re fighting what you call ‘a war’ against a greater evil, or have a hundred and one other excuses as to why it was necessary.

  • Shawn

    Andy, just a few points.

    Regardless of the rights or wrongs regarding the fire bombings in Europe or the use of atomic weapons in Japan (and I stand by both of these as right actions), this still does not justify a moral equivalency argument that compares the Nazi regime with the Allies. I’m not sure that you were in fact making this argument, but I have heard it made on numerous occasions by Anarcho-Capitalists (and I’m also not saying you are one). While specific actions made by the Allies might have been wrong, that does not mean they were no better than the Naxis.

    I agree that an argument is not wrong merely because it is made by socialists. I agree with the more radical left that the drug war is a collosal waste of money that is increasing authoritariansim in the U.S. But many of the arguments that have been made by both socialists and anarcho-capittalists are indeed wrong. In general the arguments concerning America’s right to self defense and its actions in response to Sept.11 have been morally wrong and remarkably shallow. Professor Hermann-Hoppe’s response to the question about Sept.11 are an example of this. When your on the same side as Pilger, Chomsky, Fisk and company, it is time to take a hard look at yourself. Their arguments concerning U.S. foriegn policy can and have been easily refuted, and are motivated by hatred for America and support for socialist and anti-Western tyranny.

    “I, personally, am tired of defending America, ”

    A patriot never tires of defending his country. Regardless of whatever problems we may have, the answer is not to join the haters, but to fight against all our enemies, foriegn and domestic.

    A last point. I happen to agree with your response to Brock about the private provision of regulations. A minimalist state should not be involved in the kinds of regulation that Brock would like. To quote from the editorial policy of my favorite Libertarian mag:

    “We promote the belief that all adult interaction, in all spheres of life, should be voluntary. We defend the free market, not just in the realm of commerce, but universally. We are neither left nor right wing. We are as opposed to the censoring of personal intellectual and moral values, traditionally favoured by the right, as we are to the regulation of economic activity extolled by the left. We believe that the only act which may properly be banned in a free society is the initiation of force or fraud by one party against another; that the only laws which may properly be imposed are those which ban the use of force or fraud – e.g., laws against murder, rape or theft; and that the sole legitimate function of government is to define and enforce such laws.”

    http://www.freeradical.co.nz/

  • Andy Duncan

    Hi Shawn,

    Well, it seems we agree on much more than on which we disagree:

    “I, personally, am tired of defending America, “…A patriot never tires of defending his country.

    Just for the record though, my current passport says ‘United Kingdom’ on it, not ‘United States’. So when I defend America I don’t do it as a patriot, but as a believer in it, at least in its classical liberal roots, and certainly not because of Michael J. Moore! ;-)