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Polly Toynbee – libertarian agitator?

Peter Briffa catches Polly Toynbee talking sense:

The middle classes, who benefit most, might have preferred an earmarked income tax rise to extra university fees.

The government replies that 80% of taxpayers never went to university, so why should they pay too? Besides, if taxes rose, there are better spending priorities. Why should the 50% with too few opportunities fork out for the lucky ones? That’s very nearly a good enough answer – but it raises key questions, too.

For that is not social democratic thinking: on that basis, why should those without children pay for schools? Or those without cars pay for roads? Or the great majority who never use trains pay for the 4% who commute by rail? Or those outside London contribute �1bn a year to the tube? Or southerners pay for the Angel of the North, while ballet-haters pay for Covent Garden? And why should the majority pay for social housing or tax credits they will never use?

Once you start to question who should pay for what, the idea of national collective provision crumbles. Where is the line in the sand? Where does it stop? Is there really something about universities that is clearly, qualitatively different to any of the above? You might just argue that there is a stronger personal financial gain to be had from a degree which justifies a personal contribution. But the same case might be made for why the suburban commuter should pay the full cost of his train, paying for his pleasure at living somewhere salubrious. �

Very good! PT of course intends that all these very good questions should be answered with:yes. Yes, southerners should pay for the northern angel, yes ballet-haters should pay for ballet, etc. And yes, higher education despisers should pay for other people’s higher education. But for once, I like the cut of her jib. Asks Briffa mischievously: Is the penny finally dropping for La Toynbee? No of course not. She is incorrigible. But might not some of her readers find their brain cells being prodded into unfamiliar directions by all this flagrant logic.

This spasm of Toybee sanity reminds me of when people say that I should oppose some little government tyranny not for being tyrannical (that being perhaps too difficult or unpopular to do effectively), but for being inconsistent with some other not-so-tyrannical arrangement. Beware of asking for consistency in such circumstances, I reply, you just might get it, in the form of consistent tyranny. Toynbee starts by arguing for consistency and immediately finds herself sounding for the duration of her point like the purest sort of libertarian.

Heh.

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4 comments to Polly Toynbee – libertarian agitator?

  • Döbeln

    “Once you start to question who should pay for what, the idea of national collective provision crumbles. Where is the line in the sand? Where does it stop?”

    Where you want it to stop. The notion that public decisions must use decision formulas no longer than one line always struck me as a bit odd. Where the line is drawn is a manner of preference. Hell, even most libertarians still want a tax-funded police force and military. Just as it’s possible to put “a little” ketchup on your burger -if you are skilled enough you don’t have to pour the entire bottle onto your slab of good juicy meat with onions an… erm, getting a bit off topic here…

    /Döbeln

    -Stabil som fan!

  • Julian Morrison

    “The notion that public decisions must use decision formulas no longer than one line always struck me as a bit odd. ”

    The “decisional formula” is called logic and self-consistency. The lefties use logic (from bad premises) to justify redistribution. libertarians use logic to justify property and laissez-faire. “Centrists”, it seems to me, merely lack initiative, letting their politics be defined as the midpoint between the two. As Ayn Rand put it: a compromise between food and poison.

  • I have to say I am beginning to warm to the Pollster. No, I don’t agree with her but she is rare amongst our opponents in indulging in ideological arguments (rather than ad hominem) attacks and being prepared to take things to their logical conclusion.

  • Corruption — using gov’t force to take one group’s money and use it for yourself or your friends.

    [Like I said earlier on your later post above]

    Everybody should get benefits back from their own taxes! (See my Tax Loan proposal at tomgrey.motime.com )