Sunday, May 04, 2008

Post 1000

I have been blogging for over 2.5 years and so today this is my 1000th post.

So why do I bother? What has been the result?

There is some effort involved in having a daily rant. It started and still is about that, but I’ve noticed the hit rate rise and drop. I average about 100 users with about 130 page views a day. I've been linked to by numerous sites from time to time, and am grateful for that.

However, what I want to do most of all is make people think, beyond simply a rant. I blog primarily about NZ politics from afar, but also UK and US politics, international affairs, and occasionally trip reports and personal matters. Given I am a transport sector management consultant I have a lot to say about that, but know the audience is limited. Indeed transport almost highlights why I have a suspicion of government doing good, as in most cases it makes foolish decisions.

So I am a libertarian, objectivist and atheist. You figured out that easily enough. However why? What was my philosophical, political journey to take me to something that is, frankly, a highly minority opinion?

My first ever exposure to politics was my maternal grandfather who was a card carrying member of the Labour Party. I briefly remember the 1978 general election, and that “Mr Muldoon” was the Prime Minister. My grandfather told me why he supported Labour though I understood little, I listened to his criticisms of Muldoon. Sadly he died when I was 10, but from that I followed politics a little more. It seemed to be a contest between good and evil. I remember the 1981 election and more specifically the party political broadcasts that Labour, National and Social Credit put out on TVNZ, which then had a statutory monopoly. Labour argued that income tax was too high, but business tax too low. National argued Think Big “Jobs for our children and our childrens’ children that’s what this is all about” bellowed Muldoon. Social Credit was difficult to understand, but the idea of a third party automatically appealed.

The political environment of the time was full of conflict. The Springbok tour, protests against US nuclear powered/armed ships, and the economic malaise all caused concern and divided opinion. I remember inflation at 18%, and interest rates BELOW that for the bank, thinking I was getting a good deal on my paltry savings at the then Post Office, when in fact Muldoon was ripping me off, like he did hundreds of thousands of children. Those are the days Jim Anderton and Winston Peters remember fondly for some reason. I also recall learning from books how dictatorial East Germany was, with citizens prevented from leaving by big barbed wire fences. I wondered how bad a country can be that it needs to force its people to stay.

The 1984 election was an exciting one, not least because Bob Jones’s New Zealand Party made it amusing. I was loyal to Labour, not least because it was the party that could unseat Muldoon and National, which I thought was a party of economic madness. At school we were meant to do a project on the election, and I remember going to the Social Credit office in Wellington to ask for a manifesto, only to have a weird little bearded man mumble and hand me something. Bob Jones’s diatribes on Skoda driving grey zip-up shoe wearing bearded teachers made some sense at that point. Nevertheless, I was convinced David Lange was honest and would do what was right – in some respects had Labour embarked on a mad socialist programme I would have accepted that at the time, but no…. it was all going to be very different.

I was astounded by the reason behind pulling the plug on subsidies, the opening up of markets and the general willingness by the fourth Labour government to get out of the way of business. The sheer mind numbing ineptness of the Post Office, Railways, Petrocorp and the like was patently obvious. Why couldn’t these be businesses, why should businesses receive taxpayer funds at all? How possibly could politicians know better than consumers, producers and entrepreneurs?

I was convinced by Douglas, so supported Labour even up to voting Labour in 1990. Why? Because of the sheer audacity that politicians would do what is right rather than obtain short term political advantage. The fourth Labour government outraged farmers, manufacturers, unions (albeit somewhat muted) and many others, yet who could argue to retain the bloated state sector and its inane regulations of things such as international air fares! Who could argue that the government could keep overspending ad infinitum?

However, it didn’t all please me. The Treaty of Waitangi became centre stage, and the cries of victimhood and claims that Maori committed crime, did badly at school and smoked, drank and ate themselves to early graves because of Treaty breaches sounded suspicious. The establishment of new Ministries such as Women’s Affairs seemed like an unnecessary increase in the size of the state. On top of that Labour had reintroduced compulsory unionism, and effectively severed military ties with the USA- the anti-nuclear rhetoric appeared largely emotive nonsense, and the anti-American insinuation was ridiculous. Few protested Soviet nuclear weapons.

However National did absolutely nothing to confront any of this, except voluntary unionism. National was totally unwilling to deal with the Maoist attitude to debate on some of these things that I encountered at university – all Maori were disadvantaged and I should be disadvantaged to give Maori a “hand up”. Funny how I noticed some who had such a “hand up” came from wealthier families than I did. I am the first from my family to go to university.

I also was far from enamoured at the conservatism of some in National. Graeme Lee had a strong influence on censorship law in the early 1990s, to the extent that it became an offence to possess “objectionable material” even if you didn’t know it was or reasonably should know, and that definition included depicting acts that are legal.

I believed in freedom and wanted less government, the only voice in the early 1990s appeared to be Roger Douglas and the newly formed Association of Consumers and Taxpayers. However while ACT promised radical reform of health and education, it never spoke about freedom – that was when I discovered the Free Radical.

The notion that adult interaction should be voluntary was so clearly obvious as to make it strange to think otherwise, yet that was what government was all about. I became a libertarian because I was tired of people demanding governments use force to make others do what they couldn’t convince them to choose to do. Those on the left are particularly keen to tell others what to do, but many on the right do too. However it is more than just freedom, it is about life.

That is how I discovered being a libertarian and the philosophical underpinning for it – objectivism. You see I value human life. I don’t seek purpose outside existence, I am alive and I may as well enjoy it. I want to be free to do this, whilst respecting the same in others. My body, my property and my life, and others have the same. I can’t conceive why others can have any right to tell me what to do with any of these, given I do not want it over anyone else. Government should exist to protect people from each other and from other governments, it should not exist to do anything else.

However objectivism goes beyond the role of the state, and is actually about why we live and how to live. A life of reason and passion, enjoying what time we have is what objectivism is about.

Contrary to this is so much in statist politics, whether it be socialism, fascism, conservatism or more recently environmentalism. All are an abandonment of reason. Environmentalism selectively uses science to spread fear of doom and death, whilst often advocating anti-science, in objecting to biotechnology, or anti-economics, in advocating protectionism, subsidies and higher taxes. Religion all too often, besides being explicitly an abandonment of reason for faith, is concerned about the after life, not life. At its worst it has been the banner for murder on a grand scale, at best it is a distraction and a private comfort for some.

My overwhelming mission in this blog is to question the role of the state in almost all aspects of human affairs. The state, after all, is simply a collective of human beings with only one difference from everyone else – the right to use force against them. The idea that in many instances politicians and bureaucrats know better than other people how to spend their money, use their bodies or their property is rather peculiar – yet it is the core belief of those who join the Labour Party or the Green Party, or dare I say it, National.

The liberty of the human individual is a beautiful thing. You can see this most clearly in a child, who unsubconsciously explores the world around her, who smiles, trusts and seeks to learn, and make the world into what she wants it to be. That is before being told not to be “too clever” or “how important it is to be liked”.

Today, thousands of young people grow up concerned most of all about being liked and “belonging”, when they should celebrate being themselves, pursuing their passions and respect others doing the same. Millions live today demanding the state take more money off of others because it is “fair”. Fair apparently that others should live for them, make a living that must be paid to others. The insipid socialism that there is something wrong with the “rich getting richer”, and the “poor” standing still –and that the rich should fix their lot, not the poor.

The violence of the state is every bit as abhorrent as the violence of individuals who mug, steal, attack and take from others as crimes. However it has the veneer of respectability Рit is ok to vote for your neighbour to be robbed to pay for what you like. After all, taxation is theft, regardless of any justification one may make or other clich̩ claimed, taxes are taking money by force.

So I ask you, when you read this blog, or read others or the rants of politicians who want something from you, do politicians not have the powers granted to them by the people they are meant to represent? If politicians only have the powers granted to them by the public, why do they use powers that no member of the public could ever have? You have no right to steal, so how can you grant that to a politician? You have no right to stop your neighbour painting his house the colour he wants, so how can you grant that to a politician? You have no right to arrest someone because he ingests something you disapprove of, so how can you grant that right to a politician?

That is why I advocate freedom – I don’t think politicians and bureaucrats are better than me, or anyone else. What could be more egalitarian than that?

3 comments:

Gekko said...

Congratulations on the milestone post.

Don't stop blogging - you are on my required reading list and are the most referred to blog when I try and spread the ideas of liberty. You are an invaluable tool :-) I don't always agree with you, especially with regards to the existence of the state but no matter.

Thanks for all the effort and time you take to blog and know that it is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Ditto

Ad Libertas said...

I only discovered your blog recently, but I very much enjoy reading your posts.

It's a breath of fresh air to get clear and in depth analysis by a principled libertarian without the stereotypical bitterness and nastiness.