Timmy eslewhereAugust 19, 2014 Tim WorstallTimmy Elsewhere32 CommentsAt the ASI: The tension between democracy and liberty. previousErr, no, just nonextWell, yes, fair enough really 32 thoughts on “Timmy eslewhere” Ironman August 19, 2014 at 9:34 am Russell Brand once appeared on Question Time. One of his answers started with “If we want to punish the bankers”. The audience applauded of course. God knows where someone like him could lead us. Many people do confuse democracy with what they understand to be ‘democratic values’. If a serous threat to freedom like Richard Murphy can boast “I am a democrat” then we should be vigilant in protecting peoples’ rights ken August 19, 2014 at 10:12 am If one reads the likes of Rawls and other high liberals, they would disagree with Tim as they do not place a high level of priority to economic rights in the way that Libertarians do. BraveFart August 19, 2014 at 12:12 pm Apposite given the subject matter of homosexuality, but we had the misfortune to have a joint panel of Tommy Sheridan and Owen Jones massaging each other’s cocks and egos while answering questions on the nightly political Scottish referendum TV programme on BBC 2 up here last week. Truly nauseating. I don’t doubt that they finished the deed for each other off camera. alastair harris August 19, 2014 at 12:30 pm There are two basic problems. Government is essentially a monopoly, and power corrupts. And one fundamental law, which is that the world of people is complex. The outcome of which is so wonderfully described in Orwell’s Animal Farm. Unfortunately there is no peaceful solution to this, but it does help you to understand why you should NEVER EVER trust a politician, and also why any sensible society will seek to restrict what they are allowed to do. Peter Risdon August 19, 2014 at 12:57 pm Not really. Democracy is a good way to decide how we want, say, policing managed: issues of common interest. The principles of personal autonomy and limited government mean government has no business interfering in people’s sex lives or discriminating on the grounds of sexual preference, whether it’s a democracy or not. Tom August 19, 2014 at 1:09 pm That’s why I think we should have a written constitution limiting the power of the demos. The problem is, we wouldn’t get one like the American Constitution limiting the power of government, but a hodgepodge of ‘rights’ like the EU Constitution. I suppose that if ever UKIP get into a good bargaining position with the Conservatives, for a coalition government, we could attempt a proper constitution. Ian B August 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm The problem isn’t democracy, or any other collective decision making system. The problem is allowing collective decision making into areas of life it has no place in. Western democracies have certain assumptions as to the limits of democracy, and we often boast about them. For instance, that we should have religious freedom and democracy should not interfere in matters of faith. The problem is, there are far too few of these assumed constraints, or rather that democracy is allowed into “every area from which it is not specifically denied”. The USA God bless ’em did try to fix this by enumerating the powers of the Federal government, such that it would be assumed that democracy- or any other political system at the Federal level- would only have specific areas of power, rather than specific areas of exclusion from power. Unfortunately, they then confused matters by also enumerating certain areas of exclusion (“Congress shall make no law…”) which meant that it has developed to an assumption that the State can do anything not expressly prohibited by the Bill Of Rights. But ultimately the problem is not the system used to decide, it is the enablement of that system to run wild over virtually all areas of life. Unless your constitution specifically says, “Congress shall make no law deciding whether people can eat sugary foods that make them fat”, or there is some deep assumption of the same (as with religious freedom in non-written constitutional democracies) then you’re screwed, because at some point the people who want to expand government will pass such a law. Tom August 19, 2014 at 1:33 pm Ian B: maybe then the best option will be automatic ‘Sunset’ provisions for all laws. i.e. any law passed by parliament must be renewed, individually and not as part of a package, every five years or so. Otherwise they expire. bloke (not) in spain August 19, 2014 at 2:30 pm Ian nails it with: “The problem isn’t democracy, or any other collective decision making system. The problem is allowing collective decision making into areas of life it has no place in.” And in the example of homosexuality it’s gone from disapproved of & thus liable to legal sanction to approved of & disapproval liable to legal sanction, without passing liberty on the way through. Something a lot of libertarians don’t seem to get. There’s nothing libertarian about democracy. A true libertarian society is a tyranny because at least one person, the tyrant, gets liberty. Bar that, even an anarchy, all peoples’ actions are always restrained to one degree or another. The Mills’ fist intersection with jaw analogy is a myth. There is no dividing line. It’s blurred. All actions impinge on others, to some degree or another. alastair harris August 19, 2014 at 2:32 pm IanB, in what sense do you think democracy is a “collective decision making system”? That certainly isn’t what we have in this country. Where decisions are actually taken is an interesting question, but that a voter, or even voters have any power over what those decisions are is just wrong. Ian B August 19, 2014 at 2:36 pm Alastair- Well, you could look at that two ways. Firstly that true democracy (which we don’t have) is decision making by the collective. But the democratic political system- or any political system- can be described as a system which makes decisions which apply to the collective. Gareth August 19, 2014 at 3:12 pm The UK has a representative democracy. We pick representatives to choose things on our behalf. We keep picking shits who like to write themselves more authority. Tom said: “maybe then the best option will be automatic ‘Sunset’ provisions for all laws. i.e. any law passed by parliament must be renewed, individually and not as part of a package, every five years or so. Otherwise they expire.” I can see some benefit in that. A steady stream of revisiting laws due to expire will occupy the time of our politicians so they have less capacity to expand their authority. A lot of stuff is shoveled through parliament using statutory instruments (which I think pass by default unless they are opposed) and gets bugger all attention from the vast bulk of our representatives. Sunset clauses would help work against that too by gumming up the system with the revisiting of old laws. Tim Newman August 19, 2014 at 3:43 pm Democracy is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The problem is, nobody can agree on what the ends should be. Luke August 19, 2014 at 3:59 pm Ken, “If one reads the likes of Rawls and other high liberals, they would disagree with Tim as they do not place a high level of priority to economic rights in the way that Libertarians do.” What is an economic right? Ian B August 19, 2014 at 4:26 pm Luke- The right to transact with others in matters involving one’s private property, basically. The idea that if I make a chair, I can dispose of it how I wish, including selling it, giving it away, etc. The right to do that. ukliberty August 19, 2014 at 4:51 pm Democracy is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The problem is, nobody can agree on what the ends should be. Tim Newman wins the thread. ukliberty August 19, 2014 at 5:35 pm Gareth, The UK has a representative democracy. We pick representatives to choose things on our behalf. We keep picking shits who like to write themselves more authority. The system for electing representatives to Westminster isn’t particularly representative of the votes. alastair harris August 19, 2014 at 5:38 pm I think the late great Douglas Adams summed it up best – “Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.” I like the idea of a sunset clause. I also like the idea of politicians doing what they are paid to do – and actually scrutinizing their legislation properly in the first place. Runcie Balspune August 19, 2014 at 6:17 pm What grinds my gears about little wise-asses like Jones is how him and his ilk are want to carpetbag democracy endlessly for their own political ends. The political establishment, of which he is a proud member, gains its power from the public servant, the welfare recipient and the immigrant, and continues to provide for them exclusively whilst those who pay for it all are routinely ignored and bled dry, like a grand rent-seekers charter, which is about as abusive of the democratic system, and as illiberal as you can get. And yet he somehow sees himself as the champion of liberty. Luke August 19, 2014 at 6:30 pm Ian B Hmm. If I wished to be annoying (perish the thought), I’d ask what gave you the right to use the stuff from which the chair was made? Economic or property rights always depend at some stage on some human made law/custom about how stuff is to be divided up. That law may be sensible with all sorts of benefits, but it’s still something made up, and which could have been different. Eg Copyright only exists because the law says so. I agree that once we have established such rights, and people have acted in reliance on them, we should be wary of moving the goalposts. I just think libertarians are pulling a fast one in saying that imposing higher taxes is the same as imprisoning people who engage in harmless activities that others find distasteful. NiV August 19, 2014 at 7:56 pm “Economic or property rights always depend at some stage on some human made law/custom about how stuff is to be divided up.” True. It’s a human instinct, like language. The connection between specific sounds and meanings is something that’s ‘made up’, although the fact that there can be a connection is wired in. Similarly, a baby quickly learns which toys are his, and not by reading property law as laid down in Parliament. But the specific conventions are mutable and converged on jointly. “I just think libertarians are pulling a fast one in saying that imposing higher taxes is the same as imprisoning people who engage in harmless activities that others find distasteful.” It’s about people being able to tell other people what they are allowed to do (or what they must do) with their own stuff – whether that’s what they can spend their own earnings on, or what they can put in their own body. Luke August 19, 2014 at 8:12 pm NiV “their own stuff ” Who says it’s “their” stuff? Why is it “their” stuff? NiV August 19, 2014 at 8:23 pm “Who says it’s “their” stuff?” Who says what the words of a language mean? Who decides its grammar? It’s decided collectively by social interaction, combined with the instinctive mechanisms by which we recognise what’s socially accepted. Interested August 19, 2014 at 9:01 pm Luke, good point. I’ll be round in the morning to take away anything I fancy. Luke August 19, 2014 at 9:43 pm Interested, Good point but fail. I believe property rights arise from the state saying “x owns y.” And I’m happy to enforce what the state says. And to use the state to enforce my property rights. Luke August 19, 2014 at 10:00 pm NiV “Who says what the words of a language mean?” Try that in front of a judge. Go on. Ironman August 19, 2014 at 10:15 pm A baby’s ability to learn language in he same way they learn property, it’s hard wired. They don’t need the State to teach them what ownership means. Luke can see that. He pretends he can’t because he thinks he’s clever and funny; not sad. bloke (not) in spain August 19, 2014 at 10:23 pm I’d be inclined to agree with Luke, here. Historically, individual (stress individual) property was pretty well limited to articles one had around one’s person & in regular use. The notion of individual property beyond that is the product of a society with some form of property law, defines what’s one person’s rather than another’s. So the concept of property is indivisible from property law. NiV August 19, 2014 at 10:42 pm A judge would know very well what I was talking about. The rules originate in the ‘common usage’, which legislators acting as representatives of the community codify as a uniform, unambiguous, and consistent expression of the collective will, which the judge is then responsible for interpreting and arbitrating on. Judges only judge by State law, but they will use the commonly understood conventions and the idea of ‘natural justice’ as a guide to what the written law means where it is ambiguous or under-specified. They will even, rarely, set aside the literal meaning of the word of the law when it’s very clear that it’s contrary to the intention. So trying to use contorted loopholes in the wording of a badly-written law to try to gain an unfair advantage will not generally work – the judge will interpret what was meant in preference over what was said. However, even in those cases where the judge follows the letter of laws that conflict with what people between them believe they own, that doesn’t mean the judge’s interpretation is the only valid one. It’s the only one backed with the State’s guns. It’s the only one the judge is *allowed* to enforce that way. But it’s still only one convention of several. And in cases of legislative injustice, such as when the property of a persecuted minority is seized by the State, there are still plenty of people outside the system who will apply their own interpretation of ownership and say it still belongs to its original holders, and if the regime is overthrown or replaced, their successors will usually try to give it back. If ownership was *defined* by law, this would not be the case. NiV August 19, 2014 at 10:47 pm “Historically, individual (stress individual) property was pretty well limited to articles one had around one’s person & in regular use.” It still is, to a large extent. But even then, there were exceptions. Your wife, for example. alastair harris August 20, 2014 at 11:12 am Luke – wrong. My property rights derive from my ability and/or desire to protect them. The government passing laws simply and only provides a particular sort of authority behind said protections. There is probably a divergence in terms of what is considered acceptable protection – but we can quibble over that in court! Luke August 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm Alistair, “My property rights derive from my ability and/or desire to protect them.” So your rights arise purely from you having and being prepared to use a gun? Why would we bother with court? We just have a shoot out. I have to admire your consistency. Leave a Reply Cancel replyYour email address will not be published. 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