Throughout the conflict I was serene… Libertarians are awful people

@AdamBrereton sent me this link.

The link discusses a thought experiment:

There are ten people on an island.  Adam Abel, with one day’s hard work, can produce enough to feed all ten people on the island.  Eight of the islanders, with the same hard day’s work, can only produce enough to feed one person.  Hapless Harry, on the other hand, can’t produce any food at all.

1. Do the islanders have a right to tax Adam’s surplus supply in order to support Harry?

2. Suppose Adam only produces enough food to support himself, and relaxes the rest of the day.  Do the bottom nine have a right to force Abel to work more to support Harry?

3. Do the nine have a right to tax Adam’s surplus to raise everyone‘s standard of living above subsistence?

4. Suppose Adam only produces enough food to support himself, and relaxes the rest of the day.  Do the nine have a right to force Adam to work more to raiseeveryone‘s standard of living above subsistence?

Quite a few libertarian bloggers have lost their nut over the above.  The arguments come down to the differences between the various libertarian branches, with the extremes being:

1. OMG the only right is the property right a person has over themselves.  Adam Abel would totally be a slave if the others taxed his surplus.

2. Something, something, something, Dark Side.

Often, it’s the way we construct a question which forces our hand when answering.  The above thought experiment, out of necessity, blurs and simplifies a lot of issues in order to get to the core point: taxation is just like slavery.

But, more importantly, it also frames the questions in terms of rights.  The islanders aren’t moral, cultured people; they’re little bags of rights.  Does Adam Abel have a property right?  Are his rights being respected by the guy who just wants to live?  Does the guy who wants to live have any rights worth mentioning?  &c. &c.

The thought experiment shows why it’s important to reject the rights-dialogue.  It fosters the idea of the individual as being in constant threat of other individuals.  Even the Harm Principle — you have rights up to the point that they interfere with somebody else’s rights — is built on this assumption of the negative impacts of interaction.

If we replace the rights-dialogue with virtue ethics, we get a very different outcome.  What should the islanders do if they are all trying to be excellent people?  Beefing it up to a virtue politics: what should the islanders do together if they are trying to be an excellent society?  Adam accepts his obligations to the others because he would not prefer to live in a society where his laziness results in the death of somebody else.  The islanders come to the arrangement that everybody produces food (except Harry).  They put the surplus into storage so they can reward the entire community with holidays.

Seriously, libertarians, hunter-gatherer societies worked this shit out thousands of years ago.  Wake up.

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I play both good and evil parts… Beware the rise of Young Liberals

While most conservatives have one eye firmly focused on the past, a better conservative will also have an eye looking into the mid- to long-term future.

A good conservative

I endeavour to be a good conservative, but it’s particularly difficult when my side of the political fence has more than its fair share of undesirables.  The Right now seems quite at home with xenophobes, homophobes, and libertarians.  The less said about the ‘Christian Right’, the better.  It wasn’t always the case — many of the great politicians of the past have been conservatives.  There have been things that conservatives got wrong (both factually and morally), but that’s been true of all sides of political debate.

But there is a patina building up on the old conservative pillars.  There’s been such little movement from the sort of conservatives with whom I politically identify that even our dust is collecting dust.  In less than twenty years, we went from being the principled, noble, and — alas — elitist side, to the populist muckrakers of today.

It would be wrong to say that this came out of nowhere.  Even as far back as Menzies, we had unfortunate spates of populism, exemplified in the Communist Party Case.  It’s so out of character that Malcolm Fraser states in his memoir (co-written with Margaret Simons) that Menzies wasn’t really a fan of the dissolution act but had his hand forced by factions in his party.

As bleak as the present situation is, the future looks worse.  In his Quarterly Essay ‘Trivial Pursuit’, George Megalogenis  notes that the current ‘generation of politicians was drawn from a narrower gene pool just as the nation was becoming more diverse’.  He cites John Button’s critique of the ALP ranks, which noted the transition from Hawkes’ socially mixed ministry to Beazley’s mostly homogeneous opposition party of ‘political operators’.  The complex system of factions in the ALP all but necessitates that the future ALP will be an amalgamation coughed up from the stomach lining of the current machine.

The ALP gets a disproportionate amount of criticism about its factions.  The media seems almost obsessed by factional differences between the ALP left, the ALP right, and the various unions, but ignores (often) more significant rifts in the Coalition.  While some might try to suggest that factional splits are historically more problematic for the ALP (the biggest split caused anti-Communists to create their own party), those people would be forgetting that the Liberal Party was created when Menzies burnt the cosmic ratnest, the United Australia Party, to the ground.

Despite attacks on the ALP for being a party of ‘career politicians’, similar accusations could be levelled at the shadow cabinet:

Abbot (Press Secretary for Hewson), Abetz (Australian Liberal Students’ Federation), Brandis (Young Liberals), Hockey (University and State politics), Pyne (Worked for Vanstone, Young Liberals), Robb (Party director, Chief of Staff to Peacock), Turnbull (Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party), Hunt (Adviser to Downer), Morrison (State Party director), Mirabella (Australian Liberal Students’ Federation),  Bilson (Adviser to Kemp).

I couldn’t find any evidence of significant, pre-parliamentary party activity from Bishop, Truss, Scullion, Joyce, Macfarlane,  Johnson, Dutton, Andrews, or Cobb (but it is interesting that National Party politicians are more likely to be in this latter group than the former).

AnonymousLefty makes a good point about why ‘career politicians’ are becoming more prevalent:

It wouldn’t matter how much my views had changed, any youthful indiscretion or internet quote that could be taken out of context and misrepresented, would be, and it wouldn’t matter how transparent the motives and how ultimately irrelevant the attack – it’s the personal smears that get remembered, that stick. I get enough of that abuse as a minor blogger – you can imagine how much would come back to bite me if I ran in an election. [Source: AnonymousLefty]

Which is a shame.  Even though I disagree with him about pretty much everything (including his ability to count and breathe through his nose), he’d stick to his principles (even in the face of all reason and maths).

So it looks like the best place to look for the future of the Liberal Party is with the Young Liberals.

Le sigh.

Out of eleven ‘executive’ Young Liberals, there’s only one female.  If the Liberal Party were serious about improving female representation in the party, this would not be the case.  You can’t tell me that only one female out of eleven is meritorious.  But, no.  It’s important that women don’t feel tokenistic in the Young Liberal sausage-fest.

Speaking of festy, I when I tried to find information about these Young Liberals, it was easier to find comments about Whittney Jago’s appearance than it was to find comments about her ideas (Crikey didn’t do much better: a young woman drinks?!  Quelle horreur!).  That seems to be par for course: one blogger tried to be funny by showing how ‘hot’ the female Young Liberals were (NSFSanity: Contains a picture of a girl reading Ayn Rand).  When Andrew Bolt calls you out for being offensive, you know you’ve crossed a line.

Despite being founded by Robert Menzies — cough, ‘ [W]e are [not] to return to the old and selfish notions of laissez-faire. The functions of the State will be much more than merely keeping the ring within which the competitors will fight. Our social and industrial laws will be increased. There will be more law, not less; more control, not less‘, cough — the Young Liberals seem overwhelmingly libertarian (with more than a slight Randian flavour).

Vice-President Roderick Schneider, for example, appeared on Thursday night’s Hack on Triple J, only to act like a complete buffoon.  You know you’re doing it wrong when even I think Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is the sane party in the debate.  She also won that position by default: Schneider did whatever he could to talk over everybody.

‘Strategic Engagement Chair’, James Patterson advocates privatising the ABC and sings the praises of the Tea Party.

Long story short, the Young Liberals is basically an echo chamber for those with an extraordinary sense of entitlement.  A number of them are older than me, and yet write as if Fightback! had been their wet-nurse.  If these are the sorts of people floating to the top of Young Liberals (and cream isn’t the only thing that floats), old school conservatives are going to be a rare breed.

Running around, robbing banks, all whacked on the Scooby Snacks… Wait! Hippies robbing banks?! Isn’t that socialism?!

Far be it from me to besmirch the mighty boffins at the Institute of Public Affairs

Wait.  You haven’t heard of them?  But they provide such excellent opinions, such as

— but there comes a time when you have to scratch your head and ask: ‘In which libertarian wet dream are you living, Chris Berg?’

In an article for The Drum, Berg takes a vague and pointless swipe at ‘growth sceptics‘.  The assertions ranged from the absurd to the crazy.

Growing richer means getting healthier. People in wealthy countries live longer – this graph, which compares GDP per capita with life expectancy demonstrates that clearly enough. — Berg.

The graph is worth a look.  It charts life expectancy at birth against the GDP per person adjusted for purchasing power.  Take a look again and notice the x-axis.

This isn’t a straight line correlation at all.  Check out how close together 1,000 and 2,000 are compared to 5,000 and 10,000.  If you tease out the numbers with a consistent x-axis, you note that everything goes all over the shop and that beautiful line vanishes.

What the graph actually shows is that there are no high life expectancy countries which are poor.  What it doesn’t show is that growing richer means getting healthier.  If it did show that, there’d be a straight line correlation and countries like South Africa and Equatorial Guinea would be placed higher on the y-axis. Continue reading

But there were planes to catch and bills to pay… and so we needed a web filter to protect your children

Okay, the title of the post is a lie but it’s a frequently heard lie.

It amazes me that I most often hear this lie from opponents of the web filter. The argument appears to run like this:

1. They’re bringing a web filter to protect the children.

2. The web filter won’t protect the children.

C. Therefore, we shouldn’t have a web filter.

In our insatiable desire to be the United States in the Southern Hemisphere, opponents of the web filter have been screaming incoherently about their rights to access anything and everything through the internet — especially the stuff they don’t want to access. One friend of mine said that the web filter was an incompetent impingement on her rights because the filter could be circumvented. Another friend cited the Sydney Morning Herald which incoherently compared the web filter to speed humps on a highway.

It turns out that — hold on to your hats, folks — there’s a huge trade involved in getting illegal items through Customs. I know. You’re completely shocked that the drug industry imports drugs from overseas. Customs catches a great deal of it but, given that there are imported drugs in Australia, they’re can be evaded.

I don’t think there are too many people around who would argue with a straight face that Customs is an incompetent inpingement on their rights. Yet when we have what is essentially the internet equivalent of Customs, people cry foul.

The filter takes out the huge grey area with issues such as pornography. It might be that I’m a huge misanthrope but I can fairly easily imagine the AFP busting a pornography ring and people using as their defence that they did not know that the stuff they were accessing was illegal.

But if they have to deliberately go out of their way to circumvent a filter to access illegal material, it’s obvious that they know what they’re doing is illegal. They are deliberately setting out to commit a crime. There’s no grey area here and I think that’s a good thing.

This material is already illegal. If you’re caught with this stuff by Customs, it’s game over for you. Continue reading