I mentioned before that Ireland has an oxymoronically titled Competition Authority. If that level of government intrusion was all we had to worry about, I wouldn’t mind too much. Unfortunately we are also saddled with the similarly Orwellian-sounding Equality Authority. Their motto is “Diversity for an Equal Ireland” or “Equality for a Diverse Ireland” or something else equally bland but diversely platitudinous like “Be Reasonable, It Pays!”. This bunch of state-stipended, humourless entitlement-enforcers is headed by – some achievement this – probably the most pompous man in Ireland: Niall Crowley. He is an insistent hectoring presence on our radio waves. Through the the op-ed and letters pages of our newspapers he regularly reminds us of our “reponsibilities” in prose laden with jargon, tautologies and sundry infelicities. So it was with delight today that I read Blog Irish’s eloquent skewering of this self-serving organisation and supremo.
One of the most appealing aspects of a libertarian outlook is simplicity. It is often the case that when one examines, in greater depth, what initially appears to be a libertarian conundrum, it proves not to be. One such faux-dilemma, suggested to me by Alan K. Henderson’s comments to Andy’s post below, is the extent to which liberty can be threatened by non-state interests.
This can be the basis for populist political crusades against “Big Oil”, “Big Pharma”, even “Big Food”. The faux libertarian conundrum is the notion that we need a strong state as a guarantor of “real competition”: to break up monopolies in the interests of consumers. Yet surely such interference in the market is un-libertarian? In reality the conundrum evaporates when one examines how such monopolies arise. Put simply, monopolies wither in the free market and thrive under state regulation. Such monopolies, rightfully abhorrent to any free market capitalist or libertarian, are sustained by the very political system which seeks to regulate them. Just as the enforced “tolerance” of multiculturalism is a form of intolerance, so enforced competition is inimical to true free-market competition.
A similar dilemma is suggested by considering the plight of those in Northern Ireland who have fallen foul of paramilitaries. It matters little to a person tortured or exiled on threat of death whether his tormentors are acting for the state or a paramilitary group, Yet so-called human rights bodies such as Amnesty International, pay little attention to the human rights of such individuals, reserving their comments for infringements by state forces. Glenn Reynolds struck a chord when he cheered David Trimble for pointing this out. Needless to say this did not go down too well with some of the socialists and nationalists who comment at Slugger O’Toole. The conundrum is that surely a libertarian can agree with Amnesty’s justification: It is proper to be more concerned by state abuses than actions by private agents.
In examining this “conundrum” it also evaporates but leads to a surprising, counter-intuitive insight. In the segregated, working class urban ‘bantustans’ of Northern Ireland, paramilitaries are in a position to exert punishment and enforce exiles because they have been ceded a monopoly of violence. By the state. Local hostility to police forces means they are reluctant to carry out normal policing and individuals are prevented from defending themselves. This gives the paramilitaries a free run. Though they are nominal antagonists, the IRA effectively operates a monopoly of violence backed by the British state. The plight of its victims should be the proper concern of any agency which professes to uphold human rights.
Running your own business is a pretty good way of disabusing yourself of any lingering enthusiasm for state regulation and mandatory collective provision. That those in business tend to be capitalists is an obvious, platitudinous assertion but there remains one profession which is perversely immune to free-market reason and where public sector boosterism persists, my own: architecture.
If you take the most prominent prosperous ‘progressives’ subtract the entertainers and journalists, those cosseted in extravagant public sector sinecures and those endowed with a generous inheritance, you can be sure that there is a preponderance of architects among the ‘productive’ remainder. Take George Galloway’s podium partner and erstwhile Blair buddy: Richard Rogers. He is arguably one of Britain’s most celebrated architects and certainly one of its wealthiest, yet his political beliefs are barely more developed than the average student union firebrand.
The architectural media shares the same core assumptions about society, economics and the public sector as the likes of The Guardian, The Independent and the BBC and if you are unfortunate enough to wade through a turgidly worded missive from the Architect’s professional institutes – in Ireland we have the RIAI, in the UK, the RIBA – you will find little from which a Guardian-reading career bureaucrat would demur. Sustainability, Public Realm, Social Justice etc. etc.
Leaving aside the obvious fact that architects in the public sector or benefitting significantly from public sector work tend to favour an expanded public sector, there are a number of factors which explain why architects in general are often prone to left-leaning politics. → Continue reading: Why so many left-wing architects?
I happened to catch the BBC Radio 5 sports punditry show Fighting Talk on Saturday. One topic under discussion was whether soccer’s FA Premier League should “do something” about dominance of the current top three teams in the league, it being alleged that their success made the rest of the league boring. One of the pundits was against this notion, making the point that, as little as 15 years ago, there were different dominant teams. Those who celebrated Liverpool’s invulnerability in the mid 1980s could hardly have imagined that that club’s place would be taken by Manchester United in the 1990s. Indeed, barely six months ago, nobody could have predicted the emergence of oligarch-funded Chelsea as title contenders. She argued that the league had evolved “organically” – any problems would tend to correct themselves – and lamented the prospect of a “genetically engineered” league with structures designed to hobble the successful teams and boost the mediocre.
I thought it was interesting to hear those specific terms used to support a laissez faire position and it struck me that there is a paradox about environmentalism. That is that, while it holds that organic processes are desirable in food production and any kind of “artificial engineering” is bad, it holds that the reverse applies to society and the economy. Capitalism has developed without a plan. Nobody had to sit down and design civil society. Yet these natural phenomena are scorned by the likes of the Green party whose underlying premise is that society should be re-engineered so that it can become “more natural”.