Well, things seem a bit quiet around here today, so here is something I photoed earlier:
I encountered the tie at an IEA event about road pricing. The tie proclaims the fact of and the principles espoused by the Mont Pelerin Society. It was being worn by Dr Eamonn Butler, Director and co-founder of the Adam Smith Institute, and, among many other distinguished things, the author of many fine books explicating and popularising the ideas of freedom and of the free market.
One thing puzzles me, though, and my limited googling abilities were unable to solve the puzzle for me. What was so special about the year 1824? That’s an Italian flag, right? So what happened in Italy that the Mont Pelerin Society regards as so worthy of commendation?
I would have asked Eamonn Butler, but my camera has better eyesight than me, and I only saw the 1824 references when I got home.
The Spectator have made it clear that regardless of what state regulation parliament imposes upon the press…
They will not not cooperate.
We say in our leading article that we would happily sign up to any new form of self-regulation which the industry proposes, no matter how onerous. But we would have no part in any regulatory structure mandated by the state. That is to say: we would not attend its meetings, pay its fines nor heed its menaces. To do so would simply betray everything that The Spectator has stood for since 1828.
To say this is ‘admirable’ would be to damn it with faint praise. It is magnificent.
A Guardian blog commentator attacks the free-market right thus:
[A] criminally insane coterie of maladjusted right wingers – whose regular Pooteresque diatribes against the poor and craven support of neo-liberalism are beyond parody – that infests every political thread on the Guardian blog. Just listen as they condemn themselves out of their own incoherent foaming mouths. Their comments on the poor/disabled/unemployed, exposes the pathology of their neo liberal right wing extremism. Their attack on the NHS is no surprise – how could they not? The NHS stands as a symbol in opposition to everything these disturbed, juvenile, Ayn Rand fantasists and free market barbarians hold dear in their perverse belief system. These people are incapable or unwilling to understand a beloved institution that represents altruism, egalitarianism, self sacrifice and the humanistic collective will of an unselfish inclusive society.
This verminous, parasitic , parvenu, lickspittle, non empathetic sociopathic trash. These reductive whores of unfettered market driven, voodoo Social Darwinism, that wishes to reduce every aspect of humanity to mere units of production, who despise ordinary people, who see their only value, as an entry in a of profit and loss account – to be exploited by the human garbage that this sub-strata of humanity are, and the corporate fascism they serve. To read their comments is to see the true face of their malignant, cancerous moral degeneracy, and in that, they at least serve a purpose. Much like the gargoyles on a church spire, they represent a grotesque warning of how deformed ones humanity can become. These end of pier, amateur hour economists, these workhouse barbarians, these neo liberal whores are, “nothing more than errand boys sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill,” that we’ve already paid for in full. Long may they continue as a reminder of supreme idiocy and malevolence .
It won’t fit on a T-shirt, but maybe “verminous, parasitic , parvenu, lickspittle, non empathetic sociopathic trash” would.
” Half of the libertarians seem to have gone entirely off the rails… a very vocal half. Fiddle around reading “libertarian” websites and you’ll find all sorts of bizarre things: neo-Confederate denunciations of Lincoln, 9-11 Trutherism, anti-vaccine nonsense, climate change denialism, idiosyncratic “theories” of mental illness, apologia for Putin, arguments for the moral equivalence of Nazi Germany-United States-Israel, and (especially) rabid, blind rage against anyone who dares offer a counterargument. A sensible person, wondering what libertarianism is all about and trying to find whether it offers anything of value, would be so put off by this stuff that they’d forswear libertarianism as a kind of madness. (This isn’t hypothetical — decent people occasionally ask me how I can be associated with such craziness.) So right when the world most needs ‘em, libertarians are going bonkers.”
Charles Steele, at his Unforseen Contingencies blog.
Hmmmm. I agree with much of this although it is worth repeating that being a skeptic about the claims made for catastrophic man-made global warming is not the same as being some sort of incorrigible “denier”.
I would also add something else. Libertarianism is no different from any other secular or for that matter, religious creed in having its fair share of nutters, heretics or those who say or do things that are just plain embarrassing. But even nutters can say or do things that open up debates that more “reasonable” people shy away from. Consider just how shockingly radical Mrs Thatcher’s brand of conservatism was made to appear 30 years ago, for example.
Long ago, I learned to stop worrying about this so long as the core message of respect for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness came shining through and so long as the majority of people who held such views seemed to be, and were, decent people. The problems start when that does not happen.
I just did a recorded interview (for the Cobden Centre) with Patrick Crozier, and experienced the mystery that is Doctor Theatre. This is when you are ill, but performing. For the duration of the performance, the illness goes into a state of voluntary liquidation. As soon as the performance ends, back comes the illness.
I still have the remnants of a cough. When talking at all volubly, I have to stop from time to time, to cough. Except that during this performance, I did not cough once. As soon as the official part of the conversation stopped, I coughed, and Patrick said: that’s the first time you coughed during this entire conversation.
I talked about all this happening before it happened, with another friend. I thought that might spook it. But no. It happened exactly as predicted.
As to whether the conversation I had with Patrick, without coughing, was any good and at all worth listening to, that’s another matter entirely.
I recently had this conversation on Twitter:
Rupert Murdoch said something and I replied. Someone else overheard and I sent him a link to Madsen Pirie’s series of videos about economics. Well, how would you answer that question in 144 characters? Now one more person knows that there is such a thing as Austrian economics.
I am not surprised to encounter people who have never heard of it. “Economists” are presented as a homogeneous blob by the mainstream media. It is nice to be asked about it and to have the answer be appreciated.
The Heartland Institute has aroused much controversy with its recent anti-global-warming billboards, such as this one:
Here is their announcement concerning these billboards, and the fact that they have now taken them down.
Many climate skeptics are most unhappy. Ross McKitrick, for instance, is “absolutely dismayed”:
I am absolutely dismayed. This kind of fallacious, juvenile and inflammatory rhetoric does nothing to enhance your reputation, hands your opponents a huge stick to beat you with, and sullies the reputation of the speakers you had recruited. Any public sympathy you had built up as a result of the Gleick fiasco will be lost–and more besides–as a result of such a campaign. I urge you to withdraw it at once.
Strike the tone in your advertisements that you want people to use when talking about you. The fact that you need a lengthy webpage to explain the thinking behind the billboards proves that your messaging failed. Nobody is going to read your explanation anyway. All they will take away is the message on the signs themselves, and it’s a truly objectionable message.
You cannot simultaneously say that you want to promote a debate while equating the other side to terrorists and mass murderers. Once you have done such a thing you have lost the moral high ground and you can never again object if someone uses that kind of rhetoric on you.
I’d be very interested to hear what others here – fellow posters, regular commenters and for that matter irregular commenters – think about this. Is this an own goal, as we say in soccer-playing England, or has the Heartland Institute actually accomplished something valuable and important with this operation?
Me, I am genuinely unsure, but at present think that this operation may actually play out rather well.
For instance, I would never tangle with McKitrick over things like bristle cones, but is he right to say that the big advert above is “fallacious”? Surely not. “Believing in Global Warming” is a muddled phrase. ( I have long preferred C(atastrophic) A(nthropogenic) G(lobal) W(arming).) But it just about serves.
My over-all hunch as of now is that these billboards seem outrageous but actually, they are not. They seem down and dirty. Because they pull no intellectual punches, they seem like some of the more disgusting statements perpetrated by CAGW-ers against their skeptic enemies. But, they make various points which are true, and very important, and they tell no lies.
The big point they make, I think, is that all this talk about cute polar bears and melting ice caps and so on, quite aside from usually being mistaken, is not nearly as nice as it seems. It is a part of a huge argument, and not a nice argument at all, which says that modern industrial civilisation is evil and should be trashed, and the human species savagely culled to the tune of millions, sometimes billions. Or: not.
Most of the people who fret about polar bears have no serious designs on western industrial civilisation, nor do they have fantasies of mass genocide. However, all those who do now want industrial civilisation trashed and humanity culled, and a global despotism of people like themselves superimposed upon the ruins, use CAGW as either an excuse or a reason for their nightmare projects. The psycho-politicians who launched the various global institutions which funded the “science”, and the mass propaganda, behind the CAGW scare had exactly these murderously destructive ends in mind. (For a brief summary of this story, I suggest, once against, the excellent Watermelons.)
One of the few Big Points about which I entirely agree with the more fanatical CAGW fanatics is that this is indeed a very important argument. However, I think it very important that my side should win and that theirs should lose.
The CAGW scare is indeed not a small spat about polar bears. It is a very big confrontation, right up there with such things as Civilisation versus Communism. Indeed, again as these posters indicate, the CAGW scare is in many, many ways, Communism 2 (and to a somewhat lesser degree also Nazism 2).
This is why, exactly as these posters highlight, a succession of history’s recent villains, great and small, have aligned themselves with the CAGW scare, and have in some cases been strongly influenced by it.
I presume many on the CAGW side are now also getting very angry about these billboards. But again, this was one of their purposes. You shouldn’t be this horrid, eh? Well no, maybe you shouldn’t. Comparison is invited, between these insultingly true billboards and the insultingly false abuse that has been hurled over the years at people who have opposed the whole CAGW scare, people like Ross McKitrick for instance. Far from lowering the tone of the CAGW debate, I suspect that these billboards may well end up raising it.
I always have my doubts about that “moral high ground”. Yes, it’s good to have it, but not if you leave all the other ground in the possession of the enemy.
Also, I think that a great many people will read that Heartland webpage.
I may, after I have studied that webpage and further reactions to it some more, change my mind about all this. But I thought it worth posting my half-formed thinking-aloud thoughts nevertheless, and also hearing anything others have to say here in response.
On the Sunday between the two rounds of voting for the French presidential election, a curious thing happened in North-West London. Two Frenchmen rang the doorbell of my parents’ house and asked to speak to my mother (who is French). They wanted to know if she would be supporting Nicolas Sarkozy next Sunday, and if she had any doubts, would she like a leaflet outlining the President’s agenda for his second term. Naturally, not a word of English was spoken.
As it happens, I have never been canvassed in France for a French presidential, or any other kind of election. I was under the impression it was not done the same way as in the UK (privacy laws and so forth). Yet here were a couple of party activists, one white, the other of likely South-East Asian origin, wandering around London looking for swing voters. With about 400,000 votes cast by French citizens in the first round outside France (a turnout of nearly 40% of the registered overseas electorate), I can see why this get out the vote operation [GOTV] would exist. But even in London, where most of the UK’s half million French people live, it is not a case of calling door to door.
Before recent changes to French election law which create constituencies outside French territories that are represented in the National Assembly, presidential elections in the Fifth Republic (since 1962) were already a worldwide affair. Citizens in such French territories of Wallis and Futuna, Tahiti and Mayotte would cast votes at polling stations in Mata’utu, Papeete and Mamoudzou respectively. → Continue reading: National elections go global
I probably should not do it to myself, but sometimes I can not help but wonder how a large group of seemingly intelligent people can be so wrong about so much. Charlie Stross has written about what might even be somewhat legitimate concerns about Amazon but as ever with him there is an infuriating wrongness floating on the surface and the comments amplify it.
But there is much to learn here about misconceptions about libertarians. Let me start with Charlie’s characterisation.
I’m not going to lecture you about Jeff Bezos either, although I do want to note that he came out of a hedge fund and he’s ostensibly a libertarian; these aspects of his background make me uneasy, because in my experience they tend to be found in conjunction with a social-darwinist ideology that has no time for social justice, compassion, or charity.
I am a libertarian. I notice that people suffer less when they are richer. I notice that greater freedom leads to greater wealth. My views are formed precisely out of a desire to see greater wellbeing and happiness in the world and this has been translated in the mind of someone who is ostensibly not a moron into a survival of the fittest race to discard those inferior to me to starvation and disease for my own personal benefit.
I need a new advertising agency.
I need to start being explicit about the end goals and work back from there, and always remind people about the goal at every opportunity. It needs to be the first and last thing I say in any debate with a non-libertarian: the aim is to reduce suffering. Now: how do we do that?
Then there is comment 100:
Perhaps you could point to a working libertarian utopia so I could understand how such a wonderful system works? Otherwise, it’s no more meaningful than those who complain that they problem with communism is it hasn’t been tried properly…
It has not been tried but one can notice without much effort that the places that look more like libertarian utopias, that is to say they have more freedom and smaller governments, tend to be richer than those that look less like libertarian utopias. Richer meaning that there is less starvation and suffering, let us not forget.
In comment 128 Charlie makes the closest thing yet to an interesting point when he accuses us of having a “fundamentally broken model of human behaviour”. It is a shame he does not say how the model is broken. The biggest problem I can think of with human nature is the tendency in many humans to want a leader or to want to boss others around. It really would be nice if these people could find each other without involving me. Which brings us to comment 473:
The thing is, libertarians really don’t just want to be left alone. You want to impose a libertarian society on us even though the overwhelming majority has made it abundantly clear that they have absolutely no desire for such a change.
If you want to go off on your own and build a libertarian country, go with our blessing. But leave us in peace. If you want to stay, accept that we do not want a libertarian society and let the matter drop.
Oh how much I would love to. Perhaps Jeff Bezos will finally succeed. Until then, good luck getting the International Community to allow it. With that option removed it is probably not worth pointing out to this commenter exactly who is imposing what upon whom. What is really going on is that this person thinks that a more libertarian society would lead to more starvation and disease and of course he does not want that imposed upon him. It is the same marketing problem again.
In my recent posting praising that Libertarian Home meeting addressed by Tom Burroughes about IP, I said that people wanting to know what Burroughes actually said about IP should await the video.
This is now available, together with abundant written details of the talk.
Simon Gibbs talks about how people “without means” to enjoy the video can read the text and summary instead. But it isn’t only those who are technically prevented from watching video who will appreciate text instead. Some just prefer text.
Concluding paragraph of the summary:
The talk does not suggest that there is a definite “right” or “wrong” answer, although having considered many of the arguments, I am more favourable to IP than I had expected when I started to explore this issue. It is hugely relevant: patent fights, for example, are frontpage news concerning firms such as Apple. And copyright fights feature regularly in the music and movie business.
Like I said, Burroughes sat on the fence. Watch the start of the video and you’ll see that SImon Gibbs introduced him by saying he would climb down off the fence and tell us all what to think. No such luck.
Last week I attended that Libertarian Home meeting that I mentioned here, addressed by Tom Burroughes, concerning intellectual property. (Pictures of it, and an outside view of the venue, here.)
I agree with Tom Burroughes about intellectual property. In his talk he sat – learnedly, naming and summarising lots of useful luminaries on both sides of it – on the fence. So do I. When it comes to theism, I am an atheist rather than an agnostic. But concerning IP my agnosticism is as strident as the theism and the atheism, so to speak, of all the other contending parties in this ongoing debate. I think IP has to exist if modern life is to flourish, and will emerge from the contracts people make if by no other means. But, I understand the objections to the various forms of IP that come in such abundance from those who disapprove, not least the fact that so much of IP enforcement seems to depend on the state chucking its weight around. IP needs to exist, but it also needs to be treated with suspicion.
I won’t say any more about IP than that. When I later emailed Simon Gibbs about what a good meeting I thought he had arranged and compered, adding that I hoped some time soon to be writing something to that effect for Samizdata, he suggested I might want to wait for the video. When it comes to us all arguing about what Tom Burroughes said about IP, that probably makes sense. But I also want to elaborate a bit about what a good meeting it was, as a distinct point. My basic point being that it really was very good. → Continue reading: The Libertarian Home meeting last Thursday and the difference that a speaker makes
I was just about to do a posting here linking to this Anton Howes piece, but I see that Johnathan Pearce has go there first, see below. I strongly agree about the importance in particular of student libertarianism, which the Liberty League is doing so much to encourage.
The only thing I now need to add to that is that earlier this week I promised Anton Howes I would mention here that the Liberty League‘s Freedom Forum 2012 is coming up soon, on the weekend of March 30th/April 1st, in Newcastle.
This is not a convenient place for me, but is massively more convenient for northern English and Scottish libertarians than such an event as this would be if held in my own London, as most such British events have tended to be. I hope this event goes really well.
I see that occasional Samizdatista Alex Singleton is already signed up as a speaker.