Comparing the Rudd-Gillard vs Abbott legacy

October 22, 2014

In the last week, a number of “internet-libertarians” have made the argument that the Abbott government is worse for liberty than the Rudd-Gillard governments ever were.

While this is perhaps proof of the fact that internet-libertarians are constantly in a state of perpetual outrage against the authority of the day, as well as of the frequently demonstrated phenomenon that political judgements strongly discount the past, it certainly is not a statement that is grounded in any form of reality whatsoever.

Such misinformation is not only inaccurate, spreading it is damaging to the credibility of the liberty movement

As bad as the Abbott government may be, Rudd-Gillard were worse. A lot worse.   Read the rest of this entry »

What Hope Conservatives?

October 11, 2014

It is no secret that my cultural and societal values are somewhat at odds with mainstream contemporary values; I am a traditionalist religious conservative with personal beliefs that are certainly, certainly not what is in vogue in this day and age.

Sadly, I can only see society, from my point of view, becoming worse as decades of taxpayer funded indoctrination campaigns succeed in making acceptable what I, personally, consider utterly mad.

I look at the future, and the prospect of withdrawing from society into an isolated community, homeschooling any potential kids I may have, and just living in isolation from the world, and that option seems really, really appealing.

Except it’s not. Because it’s actually not possible: The all-encompassing nature of our state, the all-powerful Leviathan, doesn’t let us escape.

No isolated community is exempt from laws, no parent (with homeschooling “reforms” now mooted) will be allowed to educate their child as they see fit, there literally is no way to escape, no way to opt-out, no way to live your life as you choose.

THIS is why conservatives should be libertarians – because the only, only way they can possibly escape a big-government agenda is to create a state where they can opt out.

And yet, so many conservatives seek to strengthen the state, to give it more power to control people’s lives, unaware that this power they give it will be used directly against them as the social tides change, as they inevitably will.  Read the rest of this entry »

Iraq, Syria, & ISIS: Foreign Policy & the Hayekian Knowledge Problem

October 10, 2014

I have had few political “Eureka” moments – moments where, in an instant, I realisd the folly of my ways. Drug policy could be considered one, but my shift on foreign policy would is what sticks in my memory the most.

It was not the Iraq war that did it. I admit: Shamefully, I gleefully supported the Iraq war at the time, only later realising the error of my ways. However, my recognition of the error of that particular intervention was a practical one – it was not one that significantly changed the paradigm in which I operate.

Rather, it was a small conflict some time after involving Russia – a relatively minor story in the great scheme of things – that transformed the way I view the world.

Those who know me would know that I am of Russian background, and as such am well versed with not only the history of Russia, but in the mindset of the Russian people, both in the diaspora and at home.

And, watching this particular story unfurl – I was living in the United States at the time – it dawned on me that no-one, no-one in the Administration, no-one in Congress, no-one in the state department, no-one in think tanks, no-one in the media, knew what they were talking about.

An entire industry had developed calling for various foreign policy responses, where not a single person knew a damn thing.

This was a rather confronting prospect for me. Up until that day, I thought that the bureaucrats and academics and journalists actually had a basic grasp of the matters, but no. They say that everyone trusts the media until the day they read a story on a topic they know about. Well, the same applies for foreign policy.

Russia, rather obviously, is not an obscure area for policy wonks in the United States. So if everyone could get Russia, a country they allegedly knew so much about, so wrong – what does that mean for the rest of the world?

If we can’t trust the experts to get Russia right, how can we trust them on anything else?

And I realised – it all comes down to Hayek. Read the rest of this entry »

The Closing of the Libertarian Mind

September 30, 2014

In very draft format. I plan to clean it up later, but thoughts welcome.

Australia remains, largely statist, and despite a present flourishing of libertarian thought in the media and the election of Senator David Leyonhjelm, the majority of our population remain quite deeply committed to a pro-government mentality.

In order to achieve greater reach of libertarian principles, believers in small government need to re-examine just how they are communicating their ideas, because clearly some things are not working. I would argue that there are two factors limiting our effectiveness at communication, that insufficient attention has been paid to: Firstly, a growing echo chamber, exacerbated by the internet, creating an inability to understand those we disagree with, thereby making us unable to refute them. Secondly, many libertarians appear to have a strange refusal to read and engage with more contemporary academic work, instead thinking that arguments made many decades, if not centuries, ago is all that is sufficient.

Unless we address these two factors, our “year of the libertarian” will be limited to 2014, and not beyond.

I have previously attempted to promote ideological Turing tests, an idea proposed by Bryan Caplan. The idea was rather simple and designed to test whether a political or ideological partisan correctly understands the arguments of his or her intellectual adversaries. The partisan is invited to answer questions or write an essay posing as his opposite number, if neutral judges cannot tell the difference between the partisan’s answers and the answers of the opposite number, the candidate is judged to correctly understand the opposing side”

I would suggest that most libertarian keyboard warriors these days would fail rather miserably at such a test. The consequences of this are severe: if we do not succeed in understanding our opponents, we will never be able to convince them, or achieve the public policy change Australia desperately needs. No matter how well we know Locke or Mises or Friedman or Hayek, if we do not understand the arguments of those on the other side, then we are of limited use to the liberty movement. JS Mill put it best: Read the rest of this entry »

DRAFT: The Conservative Case For Ending Drug Prohibition

July 7, 2014

A conservative seeks to be grounded in reality… the drug laws aren’t working and more damage net is being done by their continuation on the books than would be done by withdrawing them from the books”.  – William F. Buckley

With yesterday’s news that Australia is leading the world in illicit drug consumption, every conservative should heed these words of conservative icon William F. Buckely and admit the stark fact that the war on drugs is over, and drugs won. Despite a bipartisan consensus costing billions of taxpayer dollars a year, illicit drugs remain easily available, cheap, and potent. Meanwhile, 100,000 people are arrested each year and 40% of Australians are de facto criminals.

Conservatives frequently attack the left for not taking into account the opportunity cost of their actions –  for not “thinking beyond stage one” – yet the drug war is a prime example of this. Even those unswayed  by classical-liberal arguments for individual choice must come to accept that prohibition has not only failed, but has leveled a terrible toll not just on the economy but on society.

It was estimated that in 2008 Australian governments spent a staggering $4.7 billion on the war on drugs , which this week’s figures show has resulted in little more than clogging up courts and prisons. At a time of both Federal and State budget emergencies, this is a vanity we just can’t afford. With 87% of Cannabis arrest targeting mere consumers , and with over 10% of sentenced prisoners incarcerated for drug related offences, prohibition redirects limited police resources away from real crime.

Law enforcement and incarceration are just a fraction of the complete economic costs of prohibition, with productivity costs to the economy estimated by James Ostrowski at over seven times the enforcement cost.

The social effects of prohibition, however, are far broader and far more debilitating to society than purely economic ones, and should trouble conservatives even more than the budgetary impacts.

Conservatives who stress the importance of the family unit should be horrified at the effects of tearing otherwise law-abiding (predominantly young male) parents from their families, leading to broken homes and a broken society.

Worse still, incarceration serves in these cases as a “Criminal University.” Upon release, with low job prospects as a result of a criminal record, many “graduates” of this university enter a cycle of welfare dependency supplemented by a life of crime. Is this the lifestyle to which we wish to condemn the next generation of Australians?

And who can deny the boon to criminals that prohibition entails—just look at the gun-slinging wild west that parts of Western Sydney have become. Drug prohibition is bad for law and order. Is it any wonder Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer has begged for drug law reform, as has the former NSW Director of Public Prosecution Nicholas Cowdery.

Let us be clear: Australia’s high drug use is not a result of lax policies in Australia. To the contrary, Australia’s use is considerably higher than in countries where drugs are legal. Even in countries where drug use attracts the death penalty, use is still high!

This increase in Australia’s drug use has coincided with a 27.2% increase in drug-related arrests in the last decade, with a 66.4 per cent increase in drug seizures.

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the evidence shows that prohibition may actually create more users: Making something illegal gives it a “forbidden fruit” factor it would not otherwise have.  Australia has a cannabis use rate 50% greater than that of the Netherlands, with its famous “coffee shops”. Portugal, which has decriminalised all drugs and replaced the war on drugs with a system of treatment, found that within a decade of those reforms drug use halved.

In the United States, the tide is rapidly turning against prohibition. Republican Governors like Chris Christie have branded the War on Drugs “a failure”, with conservative icon Rick Perry of Texas urging moves towards decriminalisation. States are rapidly legalising Cannabis: the most recent of these, Colorado, has witnessed a jobs boom, garnered more than $10 million in taxes , saved up to $40 million in law enforcement, and witnessed plummeting crime rates, with murders down by a staggering 52.9% since legalisation.

Conservatives are right to stigmitise and condemn drug use, and to point out its damaging effects. However, using big government to enact social policies is always doomed to fail. As Milton Friedman noted: “Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike.

A shift is gradually occurring in Australia: Quadrant’s own Paddy McGuinness was long a lone voice arguing for legalisation, but more recently Michael Wooldridge , Federal Minister for Health in the Howard Government, has admitted we have 40 years of experience of a law and order approach to drugs, and it has failed”. Current Federal Liberal Backbenchers are starting to urge reform.

With the modern Australian left obsessed with enacting more and more paternalist nanny state policies, any positive movement in this field shall be left to conservatives. This is turf that is rightfully ours. As such, it is time we accept reality, and publicly demand an end to the failed war on drugs.

The Ducking Hypocrisy of Thick Libertarians

December 28, 2013

Visiting any libertarian page or discussion group recently, a reader would be struck by the tension and frequent (rather heated!) arguments between, for lack of better terms, “thick” and “thin” libertarianism. This debate would seem to cut to the very core of what contemporary libertarianism is: is it a doctrine limited to the size and scope of government, or, as the personal is political, is it far broader in scope than that?

Whereas thin libertarianism typically remains limited to more traditional libertarian notions of reducing the size of government, thick-libertarianism seeks to go beyond this.

In a manner reminiscent of the essentially-now-failed to the AtheistPlus movement, thick-libertarianism argues that there must be something more than applying the Non Aggression Principle to governments: As Nathan Goodman has argued, “thickness is any broadening of libertarian concerns beyond overt aggression and state power to concern about what cultural and social conditions are most conducive to liberty”

Critically, however, it is a movement associated not with the FS Meyer or Nesbitt schools of thought, which, drawing from the ideas of Burke, argued that in order for a libertarian society to flourish, a civil society based on traditional values must endure, but quite the opposite. The contemporary thick-libertarian mandate is, in the most part, for libertarians to oppose any and all forms of traditional and social pressures. For if social pressures are coercion, then it is the responsibility of libertarians to oppose them, what ever they may be.

Most often, this presents itself as an imperative for libertarians to oppose social coercion just as vehemently as they do state coercion, often focussing on social pressures as they occur in regards to “slut shaming”, drug use, and racism. To use one of Mr Goodman’s examples “we should vigorously oppose slut shaming and victim blaming in the same way we should oppose any excuses offered for state violence”.

At the core of this philosophy is the notion that “individuals and groups threaten people who “misbehave” as well, with criticism, ridicule, shame, and sometimes complete ostracization” and that this is indistinguishable from state violence. As Cathy Reisenwitz notes in a post that perhaps best exemplifies the thick-libertarian mindset entitled “Shaming Others Is Unjustifiable Coercion”: Read the rest of this entry »

Shame: The Libertarian Imperative

September 12, 2013

Earlier today, Cathy Reisenwitz, a DC based libertarian writer and political commentator, wrote a somewhat controversial piece on shame.

The crux of her argument was that social pressures, particular shame, have no place in a libertarian society and is “unjustifiable coercion”

But individuals and groups threaten people who “misbehave” as well, with criticism, ridicule, shame, and sometimes complete ostracization.

Somewhere we’ve decided that the tools the state uses to influence behavior are “coercion” while the tools non-state actors use are cooperation. Where is the justification for this? I didn’t sign a contract with slut-shamers any more than I did with my government. I may find complete ostracism much more oppressive than a small fine…

But say my actions are completely and totally cooperative, but frowned upon. Maybe I’m doing heroin, or having sex with lots of dudes. What right then does anyone have to coerce me by threatening to criticize, ridicule, shame or ostracize me?

And how is this private coercion any better than public coercion? It is safe to say that those who would criticize, ridicule, shame or ostracize me do not have all of the information I have about my environment and behavior. The same knowledge problem which makes state planning inferior to markets makes other people shaming me into certain behavior inferior to me making decisions separate from that outside threat of shame.

A number of libertarian commentators have critiqued this view. Some have argued from a rights-based position, stating that that the absence of physical intimidation make it inappropriate to classify “shaming” someone as coercion, that there is a large difference between public and private spheres. Others have said that individuals who know other individuals intimately bypass the knowledge problem to a large degree, in the same way that a local shop performs better than a centrally planned distribution board. Some feminists have responded in puzzlement; when feminism depends upon shaming misogynists to force them to alter their behaviour, how can a self-described feminist argue against shame?

These are both valid critiques, however, I would take a slightly different, and no doubt more controversial, approach. I would argue that not only is “shaming” compatible with a libertarian society, it is, in fact, imperative for its success. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim’s 2013 Federal Election Senate Preferences Final Draft

August 29, 2013
BEIGER, Nicole Smokers Rights
LEYONHJELM, David Liberal Democrats
PETTETT, Jeffrey Marc Liberal Democrats
WHELAN, James Peter Smokers Rights
OBRIEN, Rick Stop The Greens
DE LIMA, Joaquim Eduardo Stop The Greens
KOUTALIANOS, Bill No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics
McDOWALL, Mijina No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics
SINODINOS, Arthur Liberal Read the rest of this entry »

The Science Is In: Our Political Class Is Responsible For “Alcohol-Related Violence”

July 3, 2013

This post is still in draft form and is posted here for constructive criticism and debate prior to final publication

Did anyone catch “Shitsville Express” on ABC2 on Tuesday Night? Joe Hilderbrand took four young politically-minded people on an emotionally-charged tour of persons affected by “alcohol-related violence” and asked for solutions. The results were unsurprising.

We are constantly told by politicians, the media and the public health lobby that we have a problem with ‘alcohol fuelled violence’. Alcohol is to blame for social ills, and this is a problem that can only be solved with more taxes to reduce consumption, and more regulation to discourage poor behaviour. Why, think of the children!

Yet as anyone who has travelled to Europe would know, alcohol consumption in Australia is relatively low by European standards, yet ‘alcohol-related violence’ is almost non-existent on the Continent.

The evidence for different reactions to alcohol across countries not purely anecdotal: a landmark study looking at alcohol-related aggressive behaviour across the world found that  “alcohol-related  aggressive behaviour—as measured by male involvement in drunken brawls—is about as likely to  be present as it is to be absent” . Another found that “men engaged in drunkenness in 76% of 60 small societies examined, but aggressive drunken behaviour was found in less than half. ” The prestigious “Criminology” Journal recently observed: ”  The evidence suggests that drinking has a strong effect on adolescent violence in the Nordic and Eastern European countries but has little or no effect in the Mediterranean countries

What accounts for this?

What is it that makes “alcohol-related violence” such an issue in Australia? Why do Europeans drink so much more than we do and yet never seem to get out of control? After all, there is “There is enormous cross-cultural variation in the way people behave when they drink”. Why is it that here alcohol is associated with violent and anti-social behaviour, while in other countriesdrinking behaviour “is largely peaceful and harmonious”?

The answer to this question is not a mystery. Criminologists, sociologists, and anthropologists have researched this for decades, and have reached an overwhelming consensus: culture.

Multiple controlled experiments conducted under double blind control conditions have confirmed that aggressive behaviour is determined by cultural expectations rather than the chemical actions of ethanol.” Similarly, cross-cultural and longitudinal studies have shown that the effects of alcohol on behaviour are primarily determined by social and cultural factors, rather than the chemical actions of ethanol.

Let us stress this: science is clear – “we can conclude that there is no direct causal relationship between alcohol and violenceRead the rest of this entry »

The post-post-Christian Era & Its Challenges to Libertarians, Christians and Atheists

June 25, 2013

Note: This post is still in draft form

We are nearing the end of the Post-Christian Era.

A process that began with the Enlightenment, had, by the 1961 publication of The Death of God, well and truly reached fruition. For the last several decades, we have lived in a society that cannot be called Christian in any sense of the word.

This is not to mean, of course, that Christianity does not exist, nor that it does not have significant adherents (although the decline of self-affirming Christians in the national census, not to mention falling church attendance numbers tell only part of the story; many “Churches” that remain are little more than Sunday Social Clubs, with a theology that can only be described as Gnostic at best). Rather, Christianity, as a sense imbuing the national consciousness and from which our moral, ethical, and legal frameworks stem, is well and truly over. Of course, a valiant band of Trad Catholics (The Church of Rome in many ways having hoisted the white flag of surrender in 1965), Evangelical Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox continue to flight a brave rearguard action, but our culture, our national consciousness as a whole, for good or ill, well and truly succumbed – many years ago.  What we are now witnessing in the so-called “culture wars” is little more than the dying throes of a Christian culture as secular institutions and the all-powerful State have taken over all: Socialists may have failed in “dragging heaven down to Earth”, but they have created their own replacement. Christianity has once again returned to its roots at the margins of society.

This presents unique challenges not just to Christians, but atheists and libertarians also. For there is one area where Christianity undoubtedly still lingers – its legacy on modern Western concepts of morality and virtue ethics: the dignity of the person, equality and individual rights. And, as these influences are gradually eroded, as the foundation upon which they are based becomes unmoored, the post-post-Christian era presents new challenges to all interested in ensuring a beneficial body politic.

Yet the uniquely Christian concepts of dignity, equality, and charity, so radical when first presented by Christian in the Roman Empire that they were mocked and derided for weakness by the then popular culture, have become the bedrock upon which our contemporary society is based: we have abandoned our belief in Christianity, yet its values live on. Only the most wilfully-blind atheist, brazenly ignoring the evidence of history would deny that the values which contemporary society holds dear – these were uniquely Christian values in the west:  values of individual rights, of the equal dignity of all, and of charity, pity, and mercy were all uniquely and distinctly Christian in origin. Read the rest of this entry »


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