Thoughts on the libertarian meeting: action arising?

Hi, at long last I have got onto this blog.

Well folks, how very good and pleasant it was to meet our fellow travellers at the blogbash a couple of weeks back, and ‘give to airy nothingness a local habitation and a name’. Congratulations and thanks to skepticlawyer for organising it.

I particularly liked meeting the people behind the net names, finding out how people came to be libertarians, hearing everyone’s interesting approach. It was very enjoyable indeed to hear different libertarians air their views on issues of practice and theory affecting us. Roll on the next one I say.

However the din of those pubs made it difficult to converse without shouting at close range. It also meant we missed other interesting conversations too. Probably more than half of the people I didn’t get a chance to talk to, but I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations I had.

I think next time it would be better to meet at a place where we could sit down in a room to ourselves, where we could buy food and drink and hear ourselves think a bit better. I’ll have a look into it. Any ideas?

That way, apart from just chatting, we could also dispatch some items of business that would give us all more satisfaction as well. For example, we could better co-ordinate our activism, and hear news from within the Liberal Democratic party. If we are going to debate fine points of libertarian doctrine or policy directions, at least let it be so we can all hear and enjoy it.

People who are prepared to stand up for the principle of liberty as a principle, rather than simply protecting their interest in doing this or that particular activity, have always been in a small minority. We libertarians have a history of influence out of all proportion to our numbers in the population.

However Murrary Rothbard wrote that libertarians tend to be strong in theory but weak in practical strategy; whereas socialists tend to have the opposite problem. One thing libertarians tend to concede to the socialists is that, even though their arguments are morally and intellectually bankrupt, they are better at organising effective activism than we are. How much better could we be?

We all want to change the status quo; that’s what defines us. We are all activists. So I invite you to have a think about how can we improve. What is the best use of our scarce resources? How can we focus better, collaborate, and get more bang for our buck?

The common characteristics I saw in the people at the meeting on Saturday night were: intelligence, and passion.

I could only wish for the addition of one thing: more focus.

We must not let our individualism give us the ethos of a herd of cats. Better to focus our efforts, to concentrate our firepower.

I know you all have great ideas: Helen wants Catallaxy to be the premier political blog in Australia, John and David want to take direct action in the legislature to cut back the thornbush of government, Benjamin is setting out the arguments against government in a book I very much look forward to, my goal is to put forward the arguments for liberty in the newspapers, GBH exposes and attacks the lies of fascism wherever they raise their ugly misbegotten head: and glad is my heart for all of this!

However to talk of needing a strategy assumes the need for a process to agree what it should be, before we agree on doing it. Perhaps we could open up the floor to hear people’s ideas on how they would like it to go, or how they would like other people’s help, and then later draw in the threads to agree a common purpose.

A word of warning. The natural thing with a group of critical thinkers like this is to fall into the trap of critical argument which is easy but destructive. Remember Benjamin Franklin’s words to the Continental Congress when they fell into arguing: ‘We are sent here to confer, not to contend.’ We should focus more on how to get better practical results in the 98 percent we agree on, and less on the theory of the two percent we don’t.

For example, a strategy might be like this. We pick an area of policy, which we are going to focus on for a certain time, say three months, or 12. Let’s say it’s abolishing state schools. We campaign on that topic for that period. We try to move policy in one direction. We might begin by defining the result we are aiming for. We collect all the arguments in one place, as well as reduce them to catchphrases. We analyse the arguments against us and their answers. Then we focus our efforts for example by pounding one medium, or one electorate, or one legislature, or one publication. Even if we got only one reform, for example, school vouchers to begin to dislodge the government’s stranglehold on compulsory indoctrination – or even if we saw our ideas gain widespread exposure in the community and media – how good would that be? Wouldn’t we feel better?

The libertarian activist group Bureaucrash do great things too. For example, they find out when there is going to be the launch of a book inimical to liberty. Then they go and crash the book launch, so that anyone there sees objections coming from all over the audience, asking the author critical questions which display to the world what a vicious violent fascist he really is.

Another strategy is to assemble the arguments on a topic, and then write a campaign of letters and essays to all the major newspapers, and all the regional newspapers: a tidal wave of libertarian opinion in the press.

We could also combine our efforts so that next time we meet, it is at a time and place where the LDP has planned some recruiting or other activism, so we can all lend a hand.

We might also want to have a private room on the blog so that we can discuss tactics without our intentions being made public.

Any strategy we come up with will be better than what we have now, which is no strategy.

Let the fact that we are a social movement be more apparent.

Let’s have a bit of focus on our activism. What is the best use of our limited resources, and are there ways we could collaborate better for the same costs in time and money?

78 thoughts on “Thoughts on the libertarian meeting: action arising?

  1. Alas, Jason must take most of the credit for organising the blogbash – all I did was get myself to Sydney and follow his lead. But thankyou for your kind words, and for an excellent precis of events!

    You are spot on when it comes to working out exactly what our strategy should be. David and I are trying to use the fact that Catallaxy has a large audience to get discussion started on some welfare policy ideas (aside from 30/30). At David’s urging, I’ve put a post up here, and both of us are keen to lots of thoughtful engagement with the non-libertarians who also frequent Catallaxy.

  2. I don’t think such events should be too frequent. Part of the attraction was that a lot of people could make the occasion. If they were too often this might not be the case and then the appeal in general would decline. Much organisation can be done online.

    I agree that the pub was too noisy. I’m more of a coffee drinker myself. Upstairs at the first venue was ideal.

    Well done to those involved in organising it all (Skeptic and Jason).

  3. People are forgetting that the pub event wasn’t meant to be a high minded libertarian exclusive seminar. It was for blog readers and writers. Only the dinner was meant to be libertarian exclusive. It would have been too impractical organising a blogbash in a cafe considering that people could turn up any time and in any numbers – look at how anal that German place was about our getting *everyone* in before they would assign us a table.

  4. “GBH exposes and attacks the lies of fascism wherever they raise their ugly misbegotten ”

    GBH? Grievous Bodily Harm? LOL, a Freudian slip? I presume you meant GMB …

  5. Jason,

    Good points. I suppose there is no such thing as a quite pub. And you can never make everybody happy anyway.

    The Forbes where I had drinks with you on the monday is often a good venue because it has a cocktail bar on the top floor, restaurant below that and pub on the bottom two floors. Not to mention major train stations close by.

    I had fun regardless and would do it all again at the same venues so long as it was not too soon.


  6. Although this is an ALS blog rather than the LDP, I’ll post this here anyway as it relates to Justin’s comments.

    The LDP needs to hold regular monthly meetings in Sydney for members and supporters. This has been recognised for some time and I thought I had someone to act as organiser/convener but he’s failed to come through so the post is still vacant.

    We need a venue where we can have our own space. Easy access (including parking) and food (buy your own) are also important. I can handle notices to members.

    Any suggestions or volunteers?

  7. well, there you go, Terje’s had a good idea. Let’s make the Forbes our place. It even has the same name as a major supplyside politician 🙂

  8. Yeah but perhaps we ought to make it some place where we can have takeaway alchohol.

    Afterall if its going to be monthly thats going to eat into peoples budgets.

    We might be able to take turns in coming up with a place.

    Dudes who have wives are going to provide blow-back if you are off blowing money on in-house drink, taxis and take-aways each month.

    “But honey I’m saving the continent from creeping slavery in this harsh century” might not go very far in some of the poorer households.

  9. I think we need to devise a basic ‘model of war’. Then we distinguish various “REALMS”. Then we devise a strategy to gain the upper hand in each of them.

    For example one REALM might be Ozblogistan.

    So how do our ideas get the upper hand on the internet?

    Well my generic strategy for actual war-killing-type war-type-war is to

    1. Make sure the home-base is unassailable.

    2. Pin the enemy down with proxy war so as to keep them busy IN or CLOSE to THEIR TERRITORY.

    3. Build up your own firepower….

    …. Well thats enough but it goes from there.

    And what has struck me with the left is that though the movement is dead from the neck up they kind of by analogy follow the above strategy in keeping their efforts to keep this brainlessness afloat.

    I mean apart from some sort of safety net (which hopefully will one day not be necessary or will not be exploited much) 90% of this current churning and regulation is just so mindless that you wouldn’t think anyone could defend it and keep a straight face.

    But yet the left are winning in terms of actual policy applied and by a large margin.

    And their tactics were not designed to hone in on a place closer to the truth!

    Rather they would invade libertarian blogs (keep them busy on their own territory).

    Pile on the abuse in swarming hordes when a near-libertarian or libertarian got in an argument with a third party (proxy war)

    .. and they would control ruthlessly conservative/near libertarians or libertarians who made it onto their own blogs.( Make sure the home-base is unassailable.)

    I already had seen this in operation prior to attempting to enter any sort of debate in OZBLOGISTAN.

    I’d spent two years on the American ether marvelling at the bigotry and ruthlessness of the left.

    We have to keep up this powerful intellectual development on the libertarian and near-libertarian side of things. As most particularly displayed on the site.

    And we have to also figure out what rules of discussion are necessary to more easily hone in on a place closer to the truth. And they aren’t necessarily rules which emphasise politeness.

    But the main thing is we have to carve out a strategy for multi-dimensional victory. That is to say for being superior and for being seen to be superior in every REALM we can conceptually carve out as somewhat seperate territory.

    This means we need to talk about a strategy for gaining ground in:

    the various churches.

    In Ozblogistan.

    Amongst our guys and girls in the armed forces.

    In the public sector.

    In each of our other political parties….

    And of course in the various Senates and Houses of political representation.

    And thats just for starters. The more factions we can identify the more we can influence things.

    I like to think this thread is a sort of “Matters arising from the minutes” of a conversation I had with Mr Jefferson at the Clock Hotel.

    As a result of this conversation I started talking about these subjects on Catallaxy but only managed to get any feedback from Anne Winter on the well-known fascist site Prodeo.

    No-one wanted to touch this subject or even acknowledge it.

    But we don’t spend all this time to purify our souls for some sort of reward in some Otherworld.

    We’ve got to get it together to make some quick wins in the here and now before we all get seriously old and that takes some ruthlessness.

    You toss a bunch of ideas around which may or may not be ethical to get a viable series of strategies going and only later put these various activities through the ethics filter to see which measures are to be dropped.

    Here is an example of this approach from Justin:

    “The libertarian activist group Bureaucrash do great things too. For example, they find out when there is going to be the launch of a book inimical to liberty. Then they go and crash the book launch, so that anyone there sees objections coming from all over the audience, asking the author critical questions which display to the world what a vicious violent fascist he really is.”

    Now this has to go through two filters. The value-for-effort filter and the ethics filter. And it may or may not make it through.

    So we ought not be shy in coming forward with the most ruthless of ideas to get the discussion going knowing with great confidence that the eventual strategy will be righteous.

    But the point is we have to get all the ideas out there with reference to a theory of warfare and we also have to develop that theory of warfare.

    Here is some ideas I started tossing around on Catallaxy. No individual proposal meaning to be taken seriously except as a way of getting the discussion off the ground.

    “Just win baby.”

  10. “alternatively, GBH, you could just try not to drink so much”

    I weren’t talking about me. I’m famously wealthy and single with a bit of polygamy on the side.

    I was just trying to think about others for a change.

    Try it some time Jason.

  11. I’ve got some timeshare credits and so may check out some of the local places and could be good for a venue one or more months if they appear to be appropriate.

  12. Jason, I’m not knocking it for a gathering, I thought it was great; and a big pat on the back to you.

    The best kind of venue would be at least a room to ourselves. Twenty or so people trying to hear and be heard in one place is surely enough?

    Someone suggested to me ‘the canteen at the Museum’. This actually seems to me a good idea – a place that is for quiet and thinking. Could we go to a university and just bludge the use of an empty room? Any uni students? The other idea is those private function rooms at Chinese restaurants, do you know them? The other thing is, lots of hotels have function rooms: surely a cheap hotel would have cheap rooms? This would be in accordance with our fantastic image.

    The quieter the atmosphere, the more the opportunity to give better form and content to the whole thing.

    Also, what about that Liberal party guy Allan Anderson, who works for Peter Costello? He was there at the blogbash. Does anyone know how to contact him? He of the political class, who have lots of access to good meeting places, might know some suitable place. I think it’s good to invite people like that, and have some dialogue.

    Three monthly is good: not too long, not too short. I agree with Terje they should not be too often. They don’t need to be.
    I think it is a good idea to combine the meetings of the LDP with those of the libertarian movement generally. I know David got two new members that night. If people don’t want to join, that’s fine, and if the party wants to do business of its own, that’s fine, but it might as well be at the same venue, even if it’s not in the same room. There are few enough of us libertarians as it is without dividing our forces even more. The party should take strength from the movement and vice versa: sounding like a right socialist now aren’t I?

    As for strategy, I take it Helen would like others to contribute posts to Catallaxy intended to persuade the visitors. I would be happy to join in that. Can I originate posts, and if so, how?

    What about others: is there something you would like other libertarians to do?

  13. Exactly. All of the above.

    Still Justin if we find the cheap places then Davids idea of one a month might THEN seem to be absolutely spot on. And I think that will be the case if we can get these cheap venues.

    So we ought get that DOWN and then decide the frequency of it all afterwards.

    Socialists and sundry slave-philosophers never sleep.

    I think our pitch is more effective if we are coming from an identification with the lower middle-class and the working poor. Because all the bullshit-momentum and lies of the centuries serves to gyp these people most particularly.

    So its entirely appropriate that we plan some fast victories from a cheap room with only paper pens (and yet a lazy laptop or three) and a couple of 30-can cartons to drive things along.

    We have to take your average bloke with us. And we have to cut costs and use our efforts wisely and with discretion.

    Because we are right.

    And so therefore it is imperative that we win.

  14. Guys, please accept the assignment to find a suitable venue, ideally not in the eastern suburbs (parking is a bastard). We’ll work out frequency as we go.
    An example is the Welcome Hotel in Rozelle. The CIS in-crowd meets there monthly for lunch. The main problem is it’s too expensive for most LDPers.

    Terje, Graeme, Jason – this is an invitation to embark on a serious investigation of pubs in the interests of freedom and democracy. Practical politics requires sacrifice.

  15. I’m looking for intelligent participation in the comments threads, especially as we move into the new year. Catallaxy gets a lot of visitors, but the lifeblood of a blog is a lively and diverse commenting community. One of the things we don’t do is ‘preach to the choir’. This means that very good bloggers who’ve been banned on other sites (CL comes to mind) have a place to engage and think. We’ve been getting good publicity throughout 2006 and I’ve got more in the pipeline for 2007.

    I’ll just warn you that when you first register, your initial comment is placed in moderation until an admin releases it. After that you can comment as and when you like. If I know that a bunch of you are about to turn up to register to comment, I’ll sit on the dashboard and make sure everyone is approved immediately.

    I’m not sure why Terje is having so many difficulties with his Palm Pilot. In fact, if you could send me or Jason an email describing what happens, we’ll get it to c8to and see if the problem can be fixed.

  16. I suggested the Forbes (in the Sydney CBD) but it was more as a venue for a future blogbash where you want a bit of a party atmosphere but also space to break off into little groups and chat as well.

    If you are looking for an LDP venue for a slighly more business like get together I think the North Ryde RSL club is a terrific venue. It has well priced drinks and food (six different cafe/restaurants inhouse) and a variety of conference rooms of different sizes. It has plenty of onsite parking and is well fitted out. It also has a courtesy bus that will pass by the Dehli road railway station on the new Chatswood to Epping line (although this won’t open for another 18 months). They even have a limited form of child minding until 9:30pm most evenings at the Tribal Zone amusement area.

    I used to be part of an organisation that used their conference rooms for a regular monthly meeting in the evenings. Most people ate at the venue before the meeting and just took drinks to the function room so there was no catering costs (just room hire). We had about 30 members, however they have conference rooms of various sizes that are usually vacant in the evenings so you can start out a little modest and scale up over time. To start with you could get away with just finding a corner in one of the onsite cafes and so long as most people are drinking a beer or a coffee and it looks informal I don’t think they would mind.

  17. I’m not sure why Terje is having so many difficulties with his Palm Pilot. In fact, if you could send me or Jason an email describing what happens, we’ll get it to c8to and see if the problem can be fixed.

    It is not a Palm Pilot. It is a Nokia E61 that uses the Symbian operating system. It works fine with, and other wordpress sites. On the Catallaxy site it loads the webpage and then locks up the entire OS at which point I have to reboot the phone.

  18. I admire and respect your “collective” passion and energies but could I suggest that instead of providing a detailed plan of attack, including dietary preferences to your ideological enemies, that perhaps you take a “shock and awe” approach. All the best in 2007 to you and your families. Matt

  19. Shock and awe is all very well but we have to organise the beers first.

    That theyar Ryde RSL sounds like just the shot.

    Skepticlawyer when you say ‘One of the things we don’t do is ‘preach to the choir’’, do you mean we should be doing it more, or not? One school of thought says there’s no point in posting to libertarian blogs because it’s preaching to the choir. But it seems to me to give a point of focus, to let each get ideas from the others, and to make a point of contact with others who want to know more about the philosophy.

  20. As a non-libertarian with little interest in politics allow me to proffer a few unkind observations about Libertarians.

    Libertarian politics? Oxymoronic?

    Walk down the street and ask strangers: what do libertarians stand for? I have never heard of libertarians apart from some discussion forums.

    You lot like making references to Hayek and von Mises, I have read economists and historians who regard these two figures as being hopelessly lost in economic idealism; an argument I have some sympathy with. Stop being ideological and start being empirical.

    The name “libertarian” sounds like a bunch of hippy anarchists.

    These blogs could turn out to be your worst enemy. There are some incredibly stupid and arrogant things proclaimed on these blogs, ample ammunition for anyone who wants to attack the libertarians.

    For example, the policy of legalising all drugs. Now that is as stupid as stupid gets. Why? Because it is an ideological argument not an empirical one. This argument will receive no support from the relevant professionals; they would regard it as foolish and reckless. As soon as the general public becomes aware of this policy you will crash and burn.

    “Eliminate the welfare state. ” Yeah, people are going to embrace that. It certainly is a mess but sweeping statements like this, quite rightly, cause people considerable alarm. Go for “reducing the welfare state”, never talk about eliminating it.

    Or how about: “Islam will eventually take over Europe.” Who comes up with such stupid nonsense? Europe is the most secular continent on the planet, I’d be much more worried about the infiltration of fundamentalist chrisitans into USA and Aus politics than Islam in Europe.

    Or how about: “all lefties are dead above the neck”. Idiotic, statements like that will make you lot appear like a pack of arrogant condescending jerkoffs who think they are superior to everyone else; which, incidentally, is an impression too often given by libertarians. As if they are in possession of some special wisdom.

    Terje once commented that libertarian ideas will not gain a foothold in his lifetime, or at the very best only just manage the same. That is probably correct. So instead of aiming at winning office libertarians must put much more work into garnering wider public support. In the political sphere I would be focusing on a much more restrained approach, aiming to chip away at the edges of current policy rather than advocating wholesale change.

    I don’t think libertarians are ready to run for politics. Too many of you have your heads up your ideological asses, saves the trouble of doing homework, thinking, and critiquing your thinking.

    Choose your demographic: the business community. Most other people will regard you lot as being in the pockets of business community so you can likc their asses with frequency. Why? It is suprising how often you people attack just about everything except the excesses of big business. The business community will be much more receptive to your ideas and rightly so; libertarians have some good ideas to offer.

    Why are socialists better at strategy than you people? Because socialists have better insight into people. More importantly, socialists are committed activists, I suspect libertarians have a very high percentage of people who are along for the ride. To be really serious about wide scale social change you often have to commit a substantial proportion of time, labour, and money into it. I don’t libertarians in general are prepared to do that.

    Finally, you have no vision, or you are unable to articulate it. (This is an important point, socialists have long realised the importance of a “vision” for people to aim for, as have most poltiicians.) I have read a number of novels espousing libertarian ideas but often in these novels one sees all manners of problems arising from the collapse of states. Libertarians needs someone to write a “Walden Two”, a famous text by BF Skinner, a frequently despised psychologist whose ideas have found use in educaton, prisons, traffic control, child rearing, management theory, crowd control. You have a one time novelist on staff, hop to it!

  21. I greatly sympathise with Justin’s comments. But what if it turned out that the apparently minor theoretical disagreements are actually more significant than it seems. For example, the McCarthyites and libertarians were both supposedly anti-socialist, yet the McCarthyites greatly increased socialism in America as they were crusading against it.

    For an example closer to home and recently in the news, Kevin Rudd has been arguing against the uncompromising free-market radicalism of Hayek and the CIS, in the name of Rudd’s social democratic theory. But what if it happened that Hayek and the CIS had compromised so much that they might as well be called social democrats as well? Indeed, compare Mises to Hayek, then try to call Hayek a radical and uncompromising advocate of free markets.

    One final thing on Hayek and Rudd and social democracy. The discussions in the mainstream press and blog world would do well to include this article: . The discussions of it, I feel I need to say, should be based on its content, not whatever people may have heard about its author.

  22. Bad history Ben. Its not plausible to say the McCarthyites greatly increased socialism. How so? And who are we talking about here. A man (ie McCarthy) was being subject to a leftist witch-hunt and a few people were trying to defend him so he could continue with his campaign of moving security risks to the public sector, or to less sensitive jobs.

    Now how is that increasing socialism. Its simple prudence.

  23. Dead Soul makes many good points, albeit his style is somewhat in-your-face.

    We libertarians are radical in that we want to abolish many encroachments on liberty that came into fashion in the last century. We are radical in that we want to get rid of many departments of the state, and replace many of the current ways of doing things. I for one make no apologies for that.

    It is easy to forget that what seem now to be irremoveable landmarks of the state and society, such as state welfare and the criminalisation of drugs, have only come about in relatively recent times. They are the result of ideas and political fashion, not fixed laws of the universe. They were made on ideological grounds, and there is no reason why we should not offer to unmake them on ideological grounds.

    As for others considering us ideological, so what? Are you telling me that socialism and the welfare state are not ideological?

    Academe is infested with socialists, intellectually and morally bankrupt. So what if many academics regard Mises and Hayek as idealists? The same could have been, and was said of Marx in the 1890s. Socialism in the 1890s was avant-garde and radical. By the 1950s it was established in many countries across the globe. I remember the advocates of ‘women’s liberation’ in the early 1970s being openly scoffed at. By twenty years later it was an established item of governmental orthodoxy. Change can happen fast.

    It is not right for libertarians to put down the chances of libertarian change. We at least should observe the logical possibility. It reminds me of the CEO from IBM who in the early 1960s estimated that the world market for computers was ten, or some small number. We should not sell short the wishes of the many people who are sick to the back teeth with the present plague of over-government, who have no voice in the corridors of power, and who perhaps have never heard of the philosophy of liberty, but only feel it in their waters.

    Besides, we can be satisfied with many changes we can make without winning government.

    Many people, including libertarians, just assume that the electoral appeal of our proposals will be small, but what if they are wrong in thinking so? Who’s going to put forward proposals for liberty on their merits if we aren’t?

    If we are not going to be the party of government, then we should not shrink from putting forward our radical proposals. If our only hope of influencing the legislature is as a balance-of-power party, then we should put forward the policies that we want to put forward, not a compromise. And if we are going to be the party of government, then we shouldn’t shrink from putting forward our radical proposals either!

    If we are so far from influencing public opinion, why is Kevin Rudd of the opinion that Hayek is the author of the world’s ruling economic orthodoxy, and why does David McKnight feel so threatened by the ideas coming out of libertarianism?

    Practical politics proceeds by the radical voices on either wing shifting the centre of gravity in their direction. If they are quiet, then the major parties carry on with business as usual, trying to distinguish themselves in the market for votes, prostituting whatever value they think will buy whatever vested interest, while keeping as much to the middle ground as possible. Before Pauline Hanson, any discussion of Aborigines or immigration was strictly verboten: anyone who tried would be castigated as a racist, even if their proposal contained no racial criterion. But after her radical voice, discussion of these issues became possible. Even Noel Pearson waited until Hanson had broken the ice, didn’t he?

    There are plenty of Australians who think we pay too much tax, that the welfare system is perverse, and that there are far too many regulations on everything! It’s the incumbents who should be worried about their position, not us.

    There is not only a risk that our too-radical proposals will turn off the middle-ground voters. There is also the opposite risk that our not-radical-enough compromises will turn off the people who want to vote for liberty, which is why I did not join the LDP for so long. The main parties are completely unprincipled: they are nothing but compromise. I don’t see why we should join them in their approach, which disgusts everyone who witnesses it.

    The Republican party in the US started out as Thomas Jefferson’s party. Now look at it. A more bloated behemoth of unrestrained power there never was. They got that way by compromising their principles for the sake of political expedience.

    Let other people compromise their principles. If we’re not going to speak up for liberty, who is?

    The need to gain popular understanding of our radical proposals is not something that is stopping us from doing our job: it is our job.

    There is no need to choose between spreading our ideas and political activism: we should do both.

    Dead Soul is right that we should put more work into garnering public support; only it should be as well as, not instead of, working for political change.

    Socialists do not have better insight into people. How can they when their whole theory of human action is demonstrably erroneous? The advantage they have is that they can appeal to people’s interest in getting something for nothing, pretend to moral superiority in persecuting phony villains, force other people to obey their will, and use stolen money to do it. The philosophy of liberty denies to us all those advantages and interests, so what we’re doing is harder. But we have the ethical advantage that we are opposed to using force and threats to get what we want, and the practical advantage that liberty promotes peace and prosperity.

    I think Dead Soul is right in that we have difficulty articulating a positive vision. Critiquing government is like shooting fish in a barrel. But painting a positive picture of what life would be like, and selling it, especially in obtaining political change, that’s a different matter.

    It would be a good exercise here to cast the positive vision showing why the liberty we want would benefit the population more than the advantages of big government.

    So let me ask this: put aside our critique, what is our positive vision? Why would life be better in a free country that had abolished all or nearly all: tax, welfare statism, labour market regulation, occupational licensing, censorship, state education, government medicine, government lands, government patronage of the arts, government television and radio, national parks, race-based laws, and government ‘services’ generally? What does a day in the life look like? What are all the benefits we can think of? Why should someone buy into our vision?

    Benjamin, a very good article, amazing in fact: I never realised Hayek was such a social democrat.

    Are you suggesting something follows as a matter of practice? What difference does it make to the work in hand? What do you think libertarians should be doing in practice?

  24. Justin, three things:

    1) If many so-called libertarians are trying to work together, but it turns out that they are not all really libertarians, then perhaps we should be placing even more emphasis on and attention to theory, not less.

    2) As for what libertarians should be doing in practice: whatever they want. Some think they have an obligation to at every opportunity make their opinions known (these often are from religious or party backgrounds); others just sit back and laugh and approach activism with a smirk rather than sticking to a particular method (this is my preferred method – what could be funner? not a libertarian utopia!); and on it goes.

    3) What would be the advantage in sticking to a particular method? I cannot think of any. If we all specialise at what we think we are best at, then perhaps the division of labour will mean that not working together is the best way to work together.

  25. Yobbo says

    Thanks for your input Dead Soul, now back to your HSC homework.

    Too bad for you, an exact example of what I am talking about libertarian attitudes. I deliberately put the word “unkindly” into the intro, just to warn you that I was adopting an unusual style that is not that unusual in politics. You lot here display exactly those styles of verbal behavior, and then condemn those who do the same to you. The psychology remains the same, the contents have changed. You have to be more mature than that.

    You’re also missing another important point. I know very little about libertarian ideas but I know more than 90% of the population. The whole point was that, as stressed in “garnering support”, was that people are going to rely on what they know about libertarians most of which will not come from you people. As I stated, many novels(scifi) I have read have painted libertarian type pictures of the future, though I doubt that these authors are libertarians themselves, it is just that scifi authors are particularly explorative on such subjects. Libertarians need a “Walden Two”. In other second hard sources I have read, rarely favourable.

    So then someone attacks the whole academic community. Again, these sweeping generalisations. Really, who do you think people are going to believe: people who spend their lives studying human behavior or people who are part time activists most of which wouldn’t know a DLPFC from mRF let alone “operant conditioning” or “cytokine dysfunction” , “glucocorticoid resistance”, interleukin rate limiters, the LC, the OC, VTA, BG, putamen, “response classes”, DSM, …. ? Get the point? Who do you think people are going to believe? Hell, you probably don’t even know who Robert Sapolsky is.

    Irrespective of the historical reasons for why laws were made, that does not determine the utility of the current drug laws. It is worth keeping in mind that the two legal drugs, alcohol causes more problems for society than most illicit drugs combined. You want more of that? What do you understand about the dynamics of addiction? Have you ever heard of Alexander’s famous “Rat Park” experiments? Or what about the fascinating study on how social status impacts on certain dopamine receptors in the brain(monkeys) that are strongly implicated in addiction? Familiar with such an approach to the problem I trust. It doesn’t matter why laws were enacted in the past, what matters is the logic behind the laws as they stand today.

  26. Justin,

    With the vision thing you are essentially looking for a Martin Luther King “I have a dream” type of moment. I agree that for a lot of people it is more important to move towards something that away from something. It is a pleasure/pain thing. We can move towards a vision that offers pleasure or away from a situation that offers pain. I think change requires both associations. There needs to be a sence that the status quo is no longer tolerable as well as a vision of something better. One is not enough.


  27. Dead Soul likes being told what to do. He’s used to the government telling him and can’t see anything wrong with that. So do as Yobbo says DS, there’s a good boy.

    To follow up Justin’s comments, it is not as difficult as it sounds. Although politics is the battle of ideas, it has a lot in common with marketing. Break it down into stages and it gets easier. These are, generally, gain awareness, establish relevance, create desire, prompt action, etc.

    Libertarians will not win over the majority because of their philosophy. It’s the same problem the socialists face – most people don’t give a shit. Awareness and relevance are achieved through specific issues. That’s why the socialists tend to focus on green issues. We need to choose some issues of our own. If we choose the right ones, we can win the battle.

  28. Right.

    So in some cases it could be a sort of Roccoco libertarianism for a single issue that we can push on behalf of a lot of ordinary Joes.

    I like it.

    If we break it up in that way we can really get going.

  29. Dead Soul your entire first post boiled down to “You guys are different than the 2 major parties, so you might as well not bother”. You got the response you deserved.

    “It is worth keeping in mind that the two legal drugs, alcohol causes more problems for society than most illicit drugs combined. You want more of that?”

    It’s worth keeping in mind that when alcohol was illegal, it caused 10 times the number of problems and those problems are still felt on a very wide scale more than 70 years after the mistake was corrected.

    You want more of that?

    I’m not going to respond to the rest of your points, that is why we have primers on the LDP website – for those who are clueless about libertarianism to catch up.

    If you want to discuss things here on a libertarian discussion website wth other libertarians, you could at least make the effort to try and understand our arguments rather than rejecting them out of hand because our policies are different from those of the Liberal and Labor parties. If we wanted to join those parties it is a fairly simple matter to do so.

  30. Terje said

    What matter is whether the laws do any good. People with a drug addiction are burdened with a medical problem. How does criminalisation help?
    The medical model will never explain addiction. The medical model as it currently stands is far too narrow to explain addiction. Calling it a “medical Problem” fails to appreciate the multiple factors that lead to addiction. Indeed, the very word “addiction” is problematic. Given our current understanding one could even argue that conformity is an addiction. I have raised this on a forum and no-one could counter my argument.

    A medical problem? “Rat Park”, puts that in a very different perspective. Or how about this little experiment, considerable success in maintaining abstinence simply by giving the addictions $500 a week? Or that christian charity groups at one point enjoyed good success rates in treating heroin addicts. There is even evidence that allows one to speculate how one’s position in the social hierarchy has a direct impact on susceptibility to addiction. Sound like a medical problem now?

    Criminalisation is a problem but it is also a deterrent. There is no single approach that will work because this problem has been with us since time immemorial. Making drugs freely available can have disastrous consequences. Ever heard of a rastafarian winning a Nobel prize? In principle I am in favour of decriminalisation, I’ve used many illicit drugs and in my opinion for most people most drugs are safe. But the problem is this: one man’s meat is another’s man poison. An individual may not be susceptible to addiction for one drug but much more so for another, the more drugs out there to try, the more potential addicts one can end up with. I have seen too many lives wasted because of the ready access to dangerous drugs. (Hell, there’s even evidence to suggest that the Suez crisis was in part because of Eden’s addiction to prescribed drugs! And what about Nixon …. ).

    Decriminalisation, in itself, will do nothing to address these issues and may well worsen the situation. If it were up to me I’d be adopting very different policies in relation to drug addiction. It is not the preferred solution, show me a better one. Remember though, once a drug becomes widespread throughout society you can never get rid of it.

    We should not put addicts in jail but the principle reason we do that is because we cannot provide the medical and psychosocial services that will help them. Even if we did, these programs have limited success. As one psychiatrist who treated addicts used to do: he would deliberately make the dosage illegible so the chemist would ring him to confirm because the addicts were changing the script. Providing the necessary services would probably cost more than prison dammit. You know what the single most important thing for a recovering drug addict is? Getting away from their sources. (Reminds me of a study by two economists who found that the frequency of fast food consumption correlated with the number of fast food shops around.)

    I do not know the solution to this problem but I do know that if you keep proclaiming that all drugs should be legalised most people will think you’r e nutters. It is a good long term goal but we can never be sure that it will be the solution, we don’t have enough evidence for that. So we can work towards that by adopting policies that move in that direction and measure our success as we go. Then we determine the next step. That’s what I mean by being empirical. It’s slow I know, but it is intellectually prudent and honest. This is not about sacrificing principles but rather focusing on pragmatism and measuring results.

    Yobbo, you still do not get the point. Whether or not I deserve the response is irrelevant, what you must always think about what other people will think of your responses. That is far more important than simply responding reflexively to cheap shots. Sure, if your protagonists keeps behaving badly, throw in a few, but not first off. Oh and by the way, suggesting to someone who has given presentations at scientific conferences that they should attend to their HSC is a good example of how libertarians can permanently chase away those expressing interest in their views. You must get out of that habit.

    Me, like government telling me what to do? Because I don’t subscribe to a particular creed is precisely why I have greater intellectual freedom than most. What a presumptuous comment, as if you can see so deeply into my character based on a few statements. Truth is, most people who know me regard me as an iconoclastic radical thinker whose first cognitive step is typically to challenge the status quo. The hubris in claiming to know so much about a person based on so little informaton! You must get out of that habit.

    The responses I have received are fairly typical and one point I have been trying to get across is that if you want to differentiate yourself from mainstream politics then adopt a different rhetorical style. You claim to be rationalists yet engage in smear campaigns, denigrate and ridicule whole classes of people (politicians, trade unions, academics, social scientists, left wingers, me … ). Do you have any idea how arrogant it sounds when you start dismissing whole classes of people as oxygen bandits? For example, one poster stated that all socialists are intellectually bankrupt. Gee, I wonder what JBS Haldane would have thought of that. Your rhetoric is barely distinguishable from politics in general. Why should I bother to listen to people who engage in the same cheap rhetorical strategies that mainstream politics does? Some people here handle themselves very well, what I am suggesting to those people is that they should help the others to adjust their rhetorical style.

  31. “Gee, I wonder what JBS Haldane would have thought of that.”

    Is he a socialist? In 2006?

    Well what can we say. The guys an idiot and an oxygen bandit.

    Its a mental handicap is what it is.

    Perhaps in the 1890’s that wouldn’t necessarily be the case. Or if the fellow is under 20 then he’s got an excuse one imagines.

    Who is this Haldane and what is his excuse?

    Sounds like a moron to me.

  32. Dead Soul,

    I know a few rustafarians and prohibition has not saved them from their beliefs. Liberalism won’t either but it will spare a lot of other people some grief. The LDPs position on welfare is more likely to make a difference but even then I would expect it to be very modest.

    I am okay with society making steady incremental reform. However I don’t think a minor party with a radical reform agenda will lead to radical reform. Such a minor party will simply tip the table modestly and even then only it has something different on offer. Many people who vote for the greens for instance don’t want the full policy position of the greens ever implemented but they do want the political debate tilted slightly in that direction. Likewise people will readily vote for one party in the lower house and another in the upper house so as to achieve the balance they desire. The role of the LDP should not be to win government. It should be to offer a specialised outlook that people can add to the political portfolio as they see fit. It is the voters that decide the pace of reform and the point of the LDP should be to ensure that liberty is prominantly on the menu. The voters may always decide they like the smell of something else.

    In terms of taming rhetoric I agree with you in principle. However their are three main factors that determine how people vote. Philosophy, Policy and Personality. In essence you are asking for the LDP to be unique on the third point. Policing rhetoric is near on impossible in a voluntary organisation. So whilst your point is valid it is not readily achievable as a point of differentiation except perhaps at the candidate level and even then it is tricky. I would suggest that all people of all political inclinations should listen more and persuade using good reasoning and respectful questions. Verbal attacks and belittling remarks are poor forms of persuasion. However people are people.


  33. Dead Soul… don’t judge a philosophy by a few people being rude. All groups have such people.

    It is perhaps not obvious now given the ill-will that people love to foster on blogs, but my unsoliticited reading of your politics is that your an independent thinker who is likely to have already (and will have increasingly more) libertarian sympathies.

    I agree that the radical elements of libertarianism (such as legalise all drugs, among many others) are instinctively rejected by most. When I first started being sympathetic to libertarian ideas I dismissed the radical elements as idiotic, fringe, weird and boring in their insanity. Now I believe in the “insanity”… but I can certainly still empathise with how odd libertarian beliefs seem in the modern world.

    That has consequences for political activism (and note that the LDP is and always has been more moderate than the average opinion in the ALS) but it doesn’t impact on the truth about drugs…

    In my opinion, freedom is good. So is utility (ie happiness). Freedom is a process and utility an outcome. Appreciating boths leads to a premise that people should be free, unless an act of violence/coercion can increase total utility. The impotant thing to note here is the burden of proof.

    In your argument for prohibition you state that we can’t prove that legalisation will work. Perhaps. But more importantly, you can’t prove that prohibition is helping anybody. Burden of proof. Presumption for freedom.

    Indeed, the overwhelming evidence as I read it suggests that prohibition leads to only a marginal decrease in usage rates (because of the relatively demand inelasticity of drugs) while increase price (ergo crime) and decreasing quality (ergo more deaths). It achieves these dubious honours at a very high price, while managing to keep organised crime in business. I think that the case for government regulation of our bloodstream is very very poor and it is one of the clearest cases for the government “cure” being worse than the disease.

    If I was dictator tomorrow I would abolish drug laws completely. However, we live in a democracy and as you and I agree, such a policy will not win votes. We need to be moving in the right direction (otherwise, what’s the point) but we need to be taking people with us and changing minds. Consequently, in our previous campaigns the LDP has had a policy of legalising marijuana and allowing privately-funded heroin-injecting rooms. The latter issue can actually be viewed as a compromise position between the two mainstream positions (no injecting rooms v govt-funded injecting room) and is certainly within the bounds of electoral viability.

    And I liked how you mention yourself as an entire class of people. 🙂

  34. There are a lot of good ideas in this post. I think we should focus on getting op-eds, letters to the editor, etc into the mainstream media instead of spending too much time writing blog posts which only libertarians read. There are many intelligent libertarians who could get published and have their by-line be associated with the LDP so more people hear about us. We should form a committee of some sort that could be responsible for this.

    I would think people like John, David, etc. who have public policy credibility could easily get exposure. Most of the time the media isn’t interested in new and different ideas unless there is some authority (ie. degrees, affiliation with academia, lobby group etc). backing it, so that rules me out at least. Although I have tried in the past to get into the mainstream media, from my demographic they are only interested in fluff pieces on “youth issues”, not serious policy analysis.

    And I like the idea of running with an issue for a few months. The first could be water. We’re already on stage 3 water restrictions in victoria, and possibly looking at stage 4 down the line. Yet nobody seems to think this a particularly bad and freedom diminishing way of tackling the water problem. Some people have even been duped into thinking they have a moral duty to dob in their neighbours who breach the restrictions and help the government.

    And when we do stuff, it must always be under the LDP banner. The ALS is like a hobby group where people come to socialise in their free time, but for real change all efforts must be directed at the LDP.

  35. GB said

    Who is this Haldane and what is his excuse?

    Sounds like a moron to me.

    Yes, that will work, just go out and lambast one of the most important mathematical biologists of the last century, he is right up there with with Fisher and Hamilton, is frequently quoted, has given us insight into evolutionary processes that you could not even begin to understand. But that’s okay Graeme, even though you know nothing about the man he is a moron. See Graeme I set you up, I deliberately chose one of the most important intellectuals of the last century and you just walked right into the trap. Seriously folks, any savvy politician will have a field day with mistakes like that.

    The trouble with your attitude Graeme is that if everyone adopted the same attitude no-one would listen to libertarians but would just dismiss them as morons. So you have no warrant to expect other people to listen to libertarian ideas when you are so intolerant that you won’t listen to anything but libertarian ideas. On the basis of comments made in this forum the following classes may be dismissed as morons and bankrupts:

    all left wingers
    all socialists
    all politicians
    all academics
    and …

    In short, the majority of the population.


    Yes, I know rhetoric is very hard to control but remember that freedom of speech is not freedom from logic or common decency. The fact that it is hard to control is all the more reason to address the issue. By way of example, I once worked with a couple of International socialists. They are a lot worse than you people, no comparison is justified. Their credibility is zero. I drove them mad because I kept driving them into conceptual cul de sacs, so their typical response was lambasting. (I had to leave the party I was invited too because some threatened to knock my head off.) When you start doing that you’ve already lost the argument(both them and me!).

    The fact all such groups contain such rowdy elements does not excuse it. Consider the damage done to Family First by that one supporter who yelled, “you lesbians are witches that should burnt at the stake”. That’s why I stressed that people here need to be more conscious about what is put on this forum because when the Libertarians do gain a foothold the media and the opponents will trawl these forums. Ammunition, don’t give it to them. Consider the rhetoric of the two minor parties that gained ascendency in the last decades: The Greens and the Democrats. Distinctly different from the major parties. When was the last time Bob Brown said, “all you right wingers are a bunch of morons”?


    Yes, prohibition appears to have little effect on consumption. In point of fact no-one has yet discerned the primary drivers of drug use. The studies are hopelessly muddled, too political so too much stacking of the data deck. But the fact remains that an incremental approach is an intellectually more honest approach. It is a form of social experimentation that will hopefully lead to better insights. My suspicion is, in complete contrast to the “medical model”, is that cultural factors play a much more determinative role than say the dopamine D2 receptor or some allele. There’s a good example of a persistent logical error, people think because of some correlation between a pathology and an allele ipso facto the allele is a causative agent. This silly genetic determinism, Dawkins hates it and so do most geneticists. Genes are not the sole determinants of phenotype.

    It is worth remembering that the most commonly abused drugs are the ones readily available – tobacco, alcohol (I call this one a mug’s drug), and caffeine(this one, incidentally, has some stunning nutrient qualities but that is another matter). Tobacco and alcohol independently, cost the community more than all illicit drugs combined.

    The idea of legalising marijuana has merit, as does that for heroin. Despite the horror stories you hear (M causes schizophrenia!), the evidence suggests that neither of these drugs is particularly harmful. Pure heroin does no physiologic damage, cannabinoids have antioxidant capacities superior to Vit E or C, is neuroprotective, has demonstrated anti cancer properties, are powerful antiinflammatories, and there is very strong evidence to suggest that cannabinoids can confer potent protection against dementia). However, both drugs are addictive, create psycho social problems, and M in particularly is disastrous for most intellectual types unless they keep it under tight reign. Don’t believe that crap about M being non-addictive, the neurochemical profile is entirely concordant with other addictive drugs, with the obvious caveat the “addiction” is a slippery concept. Strictly speaking, no substance in itself is addictive.)

    I have already stated that prohibition is not an ideal solution, it is a bloody bad solution. The situation in the USA is ridiculous. Strange thing is, irrespective of whatever policies government put in place, drug usage rates seem to move along quite independently of that. The problem of usage frequency though is confounded here because prohibition does not mean loss of supply.

    The problem here is not burden of proof, it is obvious that prohibition in its current form raises more problems than it solves, but the bigger problem is that a one off radical solution may unleash more demons than it exorcises. Socialists have always amazed me in their belief that one can conduct an “orderly revolution”, yet I fear that any political party with radical ideas will rush headlong into the same mistake (eg. Whitlam).

    John, the point of my first criticism was not to judge libertarians ideas from my own perspective but rather to use my experience to illustrate how the general Joe might take to these ideas, hence the first line on my first post. In any event I am not particularly interested in libertarian philosophy, my main interest in how libertarians intend to reify that philosophy. I think you’ll find most of the electorate is more interested in the practical consequences of a philosophy than the philosophy itself.

    There are some great people here, people who can do a lot of good, but remember that loose cannons can sink libertarians. How much damage was to done to Malcolm Fraser when he was misquoted (life was not meant to be easy).

    I apologise for offending people but in order to play this little game that was going to be inevitable. I’ve fucked up, made too many mistakes, it seems I will spend my whole life fixing my logical errors. Sadly however, the more one reads the more one realises how much isn’t known and how much that is taken as a given aint so given. Eg. I just finished a book on the origin of life and it confirmed what I have always thought: no-one knows, it remains a mystery, yet many think science has explained the origin of life. It hasn’t, it may never do so, the field is dying because everyone is giving up the search. This search for certainty is so paradoxical. It never stops, it is so frustrating.

    Now that I’ve finished with this little game I would rather turn towards ideas to help libertarians push their barrow. I won’t bother addressing the rhetoric issue anymore, if by now people haven’t got the point they won’t. In any event I’m probably overstating the case.

  36. Dead Soul,

    But the fact remains that an incremental approach is an intellectually more honest approach.

    I am not sure why you think this. I don’t see any reason why it should be true in general. It is essentially just a conservative stance towards reform. I’m often conservative myself on many things but I don’t think it always relates to being more intellectual or more honest.

    An incremental approach is probably desirable if the costs are incremental and the benefits are incremental. Most libertarians would accept that complex big bang government initatives are risky and problematic. However sometimes the costs are incremental but the benefits come in quantum leaps. For instance a railway track that goes 90% of the way between town A and town B delivers 0% of the benefits of a railway track that goes all of the way despite still costing 90% of the complete project.


    p.s. I appreciate your contributions here. And I think your point about people being unnecessarily rude towards their opponents is not without some merit.

  37. And terje… I appreciate the way you don’t not use double negatives.

    It appears that Dead Soul pretty much agrees exactly with LDP policy and his complaint is simply that some libertarians admit what they believe in public forums.

    Personally, I appreciate having the radical agenda out there in the blogosphere and the www. The existence of a radical libertarianism didn’t stop me becoming a moderate libertarian… but over time and with more exposure to radical ideas I found them convincing. I am glad those ideas weren’t better hidden.

    Likewise, the existence of ultra-conservatives doesn’t prevent people believing in centre-right politics… and the existence of socialists doesn’t stop people being social-democrats. We are richer for having all the alternatives involved in the debate.

    To the degree that Dead Soul thinks we haven’t done enough… he is free to help us do better. Our movement (ALS & LDP) isn’t huge. But 10 years ago it didn’t exist and now at least it’s started. If we play our cards right, libertarian ideas could be the new new thing after the next election.

  38. Yobbo, Graeme and I weren’t unnecessarily rude. It was totally necessary. We’re bad cops.

    Now that you good cops have pulled DS’s wang, see if you can get him to join the LDP. I’ll bet he’s a paid up member of Lib/Lab.

  39. John,

    My problem is not people expressing their views but the manner of their expression. What I did in my first post was mirror such manners. As a result I now have two enemies, Yobbo and David L. Anyone who labels me as a stupid little boy who can’t think for himself is my enemy. That’s why I fucked up.

    I will never agree exactly with LDP policy. I have never in my life exactly agreed with any platform. This can make my life very difficult. This is one reason why I am a set of one. I am at 3 sds on so many parameters of humanity that I can no longer see the bell crest and find it very difficult to relate to those within 1 sd … . Which is why I like but never use: I need more space so keep climbing that hill you boring little tit.


    Local rags, rather than the larger papers, are more receptive to letters etc. Aim for those as good targets. It might pay not to tag the views with any party, simply air the views and more importantly, start archiving responses to your public statements. This is time consuming but over time it may provide insights into public responses and provide further tactical insights. By tagging the views one helps avoid prejudicial interpretations. Let the ideas filter throughout the community so that as libertarians promote the ideas the implanted seeds will eventually bear electoral fruit.

    Online Opinion is worth thinking about, a few articles there offering comparisons between libertarian ideas and the status quo may stimulate debate. There must other online forums where libertarians can have some exposure, though the ngs for Australia (soc.culture. Australia or whatever), are of poor quality.

    The business community is the ideal demographic. They will find great value in your ideas and are easily the best demographic to have on your side.

    Present the practical realities of your philosophy, this is what people are interested in.

    Be positive in your statements, don’t get to too caught up in challenging other ideas but rather keep the focus on promoting your ideas.

    Avoid references to historical figures and schools of philosophy. Most people are too ignorant to grasp the significance of these things.

    Probably too late now but I don’t like the name: LDP. It does have the advantage of appearing aligned with the Liberals because many liberal voters are very disenchanted. This apparent alignment also tends to obscure the inherent radicalism in your views. However, I would have preferred something like “Liberty Democratic Party”. Whatever.

    Turn activism into a competition. See who can generate the most responses from the public statements, or who can get the most information out there, or who is travelling to other online forums and generating discussion.

  40. David,

    I’m positively certain that I can’t get him to join the LDP. He will join if so inclined and all that can be done is to present reasons and opportunity. That is all any salesman can do.

    Dead Soul,

    Your ideas are all fine however there is not necessarily one single perfect path to success. The movement needs people who can move from ideas to action. One action you can take is to spread the ideas. However it is only when somebody translates the ideas into action (a vote, a stand, repeal a law, pass a tax cut) that anything changes. Ideas are necessary for this process to work but they are not sufficient. Change starts with you.

    The LDP/ALS is a vehicle. Nothing more. It is just a means. A bit like gym membership or a credit card. You’re here so you are already using it.


    p.s. I assume Dead Soul is a “him”.

  41. Dead Soul: “I will never agree exactly with LDP policy”

    Of course not. I started the bloody party and I don’t agree exactly with LDP policy. Indeed, you’re probably closer to the LDP position than I am! The only party were all members agree on everything is a party of one.

    So Dead Soul — which seat would you like to be the LDP candidate for?

    And don’t be too harsh on Yobbo & David L. They weren’t trying to win friends and influence people… but after somebody takes a few pot-shots at our online community it’s natural for some people to throw back a few jabs. They’re both good blokes.

  42. Don’t worry about yobbo and David L, that was me getting out of hand with the enemies comment! Eventually we all get caught out dammit … .

    Good, unlike those socialists the LDP does not demand strict adherence to some doctrine carved in stone. Actually I’m quite surprised that the creator of a political party should even suggest that strict adherence is not required, that in itself is a nice distinction from so many other parties which demand conformity in an almost communist like fashion. Is it true that in the Labor Party you have make some oath never to cross the floor or something like that?

    I’ll stick around, I’ll play devils advocate occasionally, but as I suggested to Terje and John sometime back, I need educating in economics! So I’ll be following those threads more closely.

    Thanks everybody

  43. Ps:

    I’m not a paid up member of any party, never have been. The LDP is the first political party I’ve ever encountered that demonstrates an above average level of intelligence.

    Also, I was wondering about the value of looking at the current membership of the ALS and LDP. The usual statistical breakdown, it may provide some insights into the type of people already being attracted to the LDP and so help plan recruitment strategies.

    It’s probably not a good idea for me to get involved in politics directly, my character makes me ill suited towards such goals. I’m good at the planning and theoretical stuff but because I am so different from the average person I have a great deal of difficulty in understanding them. There is the suggestion I “lean towards” aspergers, some have even suggested I have savant like skills but that isn’t true. So while I’m happy to help people like yourselves, I am someone who probably should stay away from direct involvement. I am much useful behind the scenes.

  44. Dead Soul,

    Most LDP members are not paid up either. Most take the free membership option.

    John did not ask you to be a politician. He asked if you would be a candidate at the election. At this point the LDP mostly needs names on ballots, not a mouth piece on TV. He can even put you up in a very safe seat (ie guaranteed not to get talked to or elected). The point for now is party profile before personal profile.

    The LDP needs people that for one single day will lend their name for the cause. In other words people who will take a stand for liberty. The more seats the better, even if nobody wins. It does not have to be you. However if not you then who?


  45. Spoke to a taxi driver about libertarianism recently. He said it’s a nice idea in theory, but wouldn’t work in practice. At one time, that was my gut reaction too.

    That would pretty much be the attitude of a lot of Australians, which gives an indication of the size of the challenge the LDP faces.

  46. Libertarian economics seemed to work fine in Hong Kong. Or perhaps he means gay/lesbian/female/black equality won’t work in practice? Or maybe the privatisation of Qantas & Telstra won’t work? Or is it free trade that won’t worked? Or drug tolerance in the Netherlands?

    But yes, we have a big challenge.

  47. I ran all the LDP policies plus taxi deregulation by him. It was a long ride. The only opposition came in relation to liberalising gun laws, legalising marijuana and taxi deregulation. In these cases, he said libertarianism appealed in theory but he didn’t think it would work in practice.

    Specifically, he said taxi deregulation needed to strike a balance. Go too far in deregulating and you could have taxi drivers mugging their passengers and getting away with it, apparently. Which is probably true.

    I think the anti-freedom mentality arises from lack of understanding. It’s almost as if people don’t believe we can have our cake and eat it too, ie. both natural rights and utilitarian ends can be achieved via the same route of decreasing government.

    “What?! We can have freedom AND achieve utopia?? An impossibility!”

  48. It certainly is a challenge. That’s why John is probably right to characterise the LDP as moderate libertarian. You start off with a bit of freedom and and add more as people get used to is. Think about floating the dollar and lowering tariffs – in the end, even the farmers were calling for more.

    Having said that, I still think we need to have “innovative” policies in selected areas.

    Unless Sukrit inherits half of India, we are not going to have the money to push all those ideas he ran past the taxi driver. We’ll just pick a few with reasonable support and leave it at that.

  49. Dead Soul, you make many good points.

    What are you in favour of in the philosophy of liberty?

    What would it take for you to become a member of the LDP?

  50. David L,

    Notes from this afternoon’s reading, relevant to your statement. By the way, a great parody of cops was a short series on the ABC, Bad cop, Bad cop.

    3/01/2007 6:09PM
    A neuroanatomical model of passivity phenomena
    Consciousness and Cognition 13 (2004) 579–609
    Ralf-Peter Behrendt


    Good paper, surprised to see Jaspers figure so prominently. In light of below, what about working memory?

    “Instead of immediately activating an associated response, stimuli resembling action effects may
    only elicit a disposition to produce the effect. Elsner and Hommel (2001) considered that ‘‘presenting
    an acquired action effect arouses only a tendency to react with the associated response.’’
    Several perceived stimuli or anticipatory images may activate competing response tendencies and
    a selection will have to be made in accordance with the overall motivational state of the organism.

    The organism needs to be ‘‘able to overcome automatic response tendencies if these are incompatible
    with other more important action goals.’’ Elsner and Hommel (2001) suggested that this
    would involve ‘‘suppressing present, but unwanted, response tendencies.’’ Failure of such inhibitory
    mechanism in schizophrenia may give rise to passively experienced actions that patients will
    construe as made actions.”


    You’re one of the impressive people around here.

    I’m in favour of liberty because we’re losing it. The short response is:

    welfare is a mess, driven by electoral opportunism not economics.
    The taxation system is an unmitigated disaster.
    the gun laws are atrocious. No, don’t own a weapon and probably never will but ….
    We have too many levels of government and the simple fact is most ministers have little understanding of their portfolio.
    the more we reduce the size of government, the more power we take away from the government, the less likelihood of war and inter state rivalry. Defence spending, and that blasted industrial military complex, will be crippled. Massive savings.
    People should be free to choose to their own employment conditions, but this does present problems during periods of high unemployment. What measures does the LDP have to address this issue?

    It is worth remembering:

    The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

    H L Mencken

    It is not practical for me to become a member as yet. After a long period of illness I am currently catching up with a huge backlog of reading and just the other day a collaborator sent me a 15,000 word review paper we submitted and of course it needs to be rewritten I hate fucking editors! The illness has also stopped me working and will probably make my formal work possibilities forever limited. I spent over 12 months living off my savings before I went to Centrelink. That was a stupid mistake.

    Can you address these questions for me:

    If the LDP gains ascendency will it push for the abolition of parliamentary privilege?
    If … will it adopt a drug policy of harm minimisation with ongoing lifting of prohibition where the evidence indicates it is desirable?
    If … and where possible, will the LDP always strive to have people in portfolios who actually know something about that portfolio?
    If .. will the defamation laws be changed so that people are allowed to speak out without fear of financial ruin?
    If … will politicians’ performance be subject to review, bonuses, and penalties?

    Take your time, direct me to relevant links. I’ll be sticking around so no hurry.


    Strange, two weeks ago some people told me I’d be great in politics, which isn’t true. Let’s see how things pan out.


    Can anyone direct me to a site which explains how LDP ideas are reified in Hong Kong?

  51. Dead Soul,

    I don’t speak for the LDP but let me offer my own views on some of your questions.

    If the LDP gains ascendency will it push for the abolition of parliamentary privilege?

    I think it should be extended. Everybody in the country should enjoy the privilege of free speech.

    If … will it adopt a drug policy of harm minimisation with ongoing lifting of prohibition where the evidence indicates it is desirable?

    Sounds good to me. Although I would lift prohibition unless evidence showed it was desirable. In other words a position of liberty would be my operating assumption.

    If … and where possible, will the LDP always strive to have people in portfolios who actually know something about that portfolio?

    Difficult under the Australia system for appointing ministers. I prefer the US system in some ways where ministers are draw from outside the body of elected representatives. The skills and motivation that make someone a successful politician are different to the skills that make somebody a good technocrat and manager. I suppose that the LDP would strive for competence in government if it had that much power. If it ever got that powerful and failed to be competent we would have to start another new party to remind them what it is all about.

    If .. will the defamation laws be changed so that people are allowed to speak out without fear of financial ruin?

    I certainly hope so.

    If … will politicians’ performance be subject to review, bonuses, and penalties?

    I’m open to suggestions on how it might work but I am somewhat doubtful.


  52. Mencken is great. And now that you’ve said that you oppose our gun laws you might find DaveL is your new best friend. 🙂

    There is no practical problem to you becoming an LDP member (total privacy, no cost or obligations) but if you don’t feel comfortable yet then that’s fine.

    Regarding your questions:

    Drugs — I would describe our position as steady movement towards fewer victimless crimes (including drugs). Personally, I don’t consider drugs just a health issue. They are also a lifestyle issue.

    Defamation laws — Absolutely! And if defamation laws are modified then doesn’t that make parliamentary privilege irrelevant?

    Portfolios — Sure, but evey political party will say that. It’s not really a distinguishing feature of the LDP.

    Regarding labour market reform & employment… the latter leads to the former. A minimum wage and IR regulation (which creates additional artificial costs of hiring) creates a “price floor”. That means that the enforced price is higher than the equilibrium price and will intersect the demand curve at a lower level than the supply curve. Excess supply over demand in the labour market is unemployment. Liberalising IR laws will only be good for employment. You might like to check my 30/30 paper for some more discussion:

  53. “Yes, that will work, just go out and lambast one of the most important mathematical biologists of the last century, ”

    Right. I checked him out. But he was a Marxist. And thats a symptom of mental defficiency of some sort past the age of twenty-something.

    And he after all was born in the 19th century. Might be a savant in his chosen field. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t have feet of clay.

  54. Graeme,

    The problem with your perspective is this:

    If I were to adopt the attitude that if people held different beliefs from mine then I would have to declare the vast majority of population as mentally deficient. The fact that a person holds a particular point of view does not in itself point to mental deficiency. For example, Einstein never accepted Quantum Mehanics, for as he stated, “God does not throw dice”. Yet the evidence is overwhelming. Einstein simply refused to believe on philosophical grounds, and in some respects his criticisms have merit, they may even turn out to be true because despite the mass of empirical support QM contains some fundamental problems that are beyond resolution, hence the search for other approaches. (There was a recent report from deGroot et al claiming validation for Einstein’s contention that the uncertainty was a product of “hidden variable”). Einstein did appear to have some type of religious belief, does that make him mentally deficient?
    Godel, the most significant logician of the last century, suffered from some psychopathology. One of the strange things about all this is that people with borderline problems of specific types, have, on average, much stronger intellectual abilities than the general population. A very mysterious thing. More specifically, the relatives of those with schizophrenia show an even more marked tendency towards giftedness. The lesson here is that we shouldn’t use “mental deficiency” as a criterion for dismissing the views of others. If we did, we would need to abandon all of Newtonian mechanics, the mathematical foundations of QM(created by Dirac, who was a weird sort), and … .

    Or what about Isaac Newton and all that alchemy rubbish, not to mention his obsession with the bible? One could argue, and some have, the Penrose, a Nobel Prize winner, went off the deep end with his quantum consciousness nonsense. Shall I dismiss him as mentally deficient?

    There are many more examples but the above illustrates my point.

    Sure, Haldane was badly mistaken but keep the historical context in mind. He did abandon Marxism. We all have serious flaws in our thinking, often we just don’t look deeply enough. One of my biggest problems is finding people who can help me uncover my own “mental deficiencies”!

  55. Dead soul got everyone going for a while.

    He raises valid points however,especially regarding our manners. As a person who has stood for federal parliament under a libertarian banner (Progress Party) in the very early 80s, I would have shuddered at the thought of yobbo and some others coming to my aid, as while they provide great “shock and awe” tactics to keep the comitted people in line, they are not people to put in front of the electorate.
    Voters do not respond well to insults.

    I enclose advice that I sent to an American group, The Advocates for Self Government, in response to an online poll:-
    Probably the best advice that I can give is to try to use the more aggressive libertarians as far as possible, on the converted, while approaching the public with more explanatory types.

    An analogy was once given to me about a man standing on top of a cliff, looking down at the beach.

    Explaining to him, about the path around the side, would please him, while just telling him that you are going to put him down there may give him the wrong impression.

    It is my belief that there are huge numbers of libertarian semi believers out there, who, having grown up in the comforting arms of statism, can see the flaws in it, and understand what we are on about, but are afraid to venture outside the comfort zone of their mental chains.

    These people need to be coaxed, not driven.

    The main problem with libertarian politics, from the point of view of getting people into government, is that a true libertarian has no time for politics or the type of person who wants to be a politician. The Progress Party had this problem too. Our preselection process, was not one of back-stabbing to get it, but one of ganging up on some poor bastard to push him or her into it.

    SO WATCH IT DEAD SOUL,I recognise the first signs. Actually with your attitude, basicly of despising politicians, I can see you as a natural libertarian one, so Go for it fellas.

  56. “For example, Einstein never accepted Quantum Mehanics, for as he stated, “God does not throw dice”. Yet the evidence is overwhelming.”

    I don’t think the evidence is overwhelming at all.

    I think its a good predictive model patched together by probablility and voodoo.

    Its easy to make good predictive models if you are allowed to patch up their deficiencies with probability and voodoo but I don’t know how you’d keep a straight face.

  57. “Godel, the most significant logician of the last century, suffered from some psychopathology. One of the strange things about all this is that people with borderline problems of specific types, have, on average, much stronger intellectual abilities than the general population.”

    But don’t you see.

    Thats my point exactly. Godel may have been the best exponent of bivalent deductive logic ever.

    But he was so befuddled by phantoms that he ended up killing himself from starving. He thought people were trying to poison him. He only trusted his wife.

    He was a nutter. And if it turned out that he was a Marxist we wouldn’t credit marxism with anything because of it.

    And this is where you prove that I was right.

    That Haldane was a Marxist will not make idiotic ideas non-idiotic.

    These things are there to remind us that we are in some ways only trumped-up chimpanzees. And so Haldane was being foolish being a marxist and there is just no justification to be a marxist but as the Christians say we are a horribly flawed species and not a lot more can be said about it.

    So when you said “Gee, I wonder what JBS Haldane would have thought of that.”

    ….. you invoked the scientist in error. It doesn’t MATTER what Haldane said or would have said about it.

    Makes no difference.

  58. jmunro says

    SO WATCH IT DEAD SOUL,I recognise the first signs. Actually with your attitude, basicly of despising politicians, I can see you as a natural libertarian one, so Go for it fellas.

    Yeah, I’m getting closer all the time. Just now, while sending off some stuff on the cholesterol myth to a few friends, a mate popped up to advise me that the British are planning ot biometric everyone who is not a citizen with a long term view to all citizens. Yeah, I’m getting closer all the time … .

    I did raise a ruckus and that was very intentional on my part. I was over the top on occasion and I did apologise for that but I was deliberately testing the political panache of the libertarians and that is why I came out so hard on the rhetoric issue. So thanks for backing me up on that, its nice to know that occasionally I get something right. I trust people here have now noted my different attitude.

  59. “For example, Einstein never accepted Quantum Mehanics, for as he stated, “God does not throw dice”. Yet the evidence is overwhelming.”

    Graeme said

    I don’t think the evidence is overwhelming at all.

    I think its a good predictive model patched together by probablility and voodoo.

    Its easy to make good predictive models if you are allowed to patch up their deficiencies with probability and voodoo but I don’t know how you’d keep a straight face.

    Yeah, I share your cynicism towards “statistical theism”. Especially in relation to medicine! deHooft and colleagues have recently put forward a paper arguing that Einstein was right about the “hidden variables”. Another group in the USA has forward what they called “The Free Will Theorem”, which advocates indeterminacy.

    Go figure Graeme, what do we poor laypeople do when after 100 years the bods still can’t make up their mind?

    QM has all sorts of problems. Have you heard about John Wheeler’s delayed choice dual slit experiment? Mind boggling. My point was this: great people can make great mistakes, they doesn’t mean they are not great people, they simply made a mistake. Einstein’s problem with QM was more philosophical than scientific. As a scientist he should have accepted QM because it was subject to more experimental verification than his theories!

    I call us “Risen Apes”.

    As to your refusal to recognise that someone of differing political persuasions may be intelligent, I’ll just dismiss that as a classic example of tribalism.

  60. Without quantum mechanics we would not have got the transistor or integrated circuits. So even if at some future date we find better ways to complete our understanding in this area anybody that pretends that quantum mechanics has not been useful is in my view incredibly misguided. Quantum mechanics revolutionised electronics and in turn it revolutionised all of society. To refer to it as sloppy thinking is incredibly lazy.

  61. Yeah its useful.

    Thats why I call it a useful predictive model.

    But it gets a bit too much when people then circle around and get Buddhist on you on account of the Voodoo they need to make the thing Jibe.

    There is a lot of models out there that have to be considered provisional-useful-models rather then revealed truth.

    The other thing is when you get some model thats not tied down and confirmed and then you build on it I reckon there’s a law to it.

    You can build on it one step and get useful results…. perhaps even two steps…. But you keep building and you’re liable to get pure gibber coming out of it eventually.

    I would suggest the inflation side of the big bang theory is an example of this. They are getting results that would normally be considered a reduction to absurdity.

    And I think its because they’ve built on stuff that hasn’t been proved beyond useful predictive model stage.

    You notice that the grand unification projects are going nowhere. And this is a sign that I’m right.

    If relativity and Quantam mechanics were revealed truth rather then excellent predictive models then they would have been able to integrate them by now.

  62. The mathematician von Neumann once said that in science we do not emulate the universe but simply build useful models of it. That is, our theories are not reflections of the universe as it is but rather instruments to help us manipulate it. This is a proper scientific attitude, “revealed truth” is a religious attitude. In this sense whether or not a theory is completely true is irrelevant, what is important is how that theory enables us to better control our environment.

    What annoys me about cosmology and the search for TOEs is that these are predicated on relativity and QM both of which we know to be deficient. So extrapolating from the same is a perilous activity. Cosmology is not something we should even be that concerned about, nor should we be concerned about the origin of life because these are questions that cannot be addressed scientificially. Wait 10 years Graeme, there is a lot of exciting research going at present and its been over 100 years since einstein (1905) so we’re up for another breakthrough. Eg. Yesterday some scientists claimed that they have devised a test for string theory. Yeah, particles, waves, fields, holographics, loop quantum gravity, …. What next?? At times I wonder just how separate the fields of religion and science really are.

  63. Graemebird quoth:
    “But it gets a bit too much when people then circle around and get Buddhist on you on account of the Voodoo they need to make the thing Jibe.”

    Truer words were never spoke. Hrrmph.

  64. Dead Soul. There is no question in my mind that you have your science-epistemology DOWN!!!

    People have been too intimidated to question the priesthood on two or three grounds.

    1. The awesome way in which pure physics dovetailed into techological progress int the twentieth century.

    2. The high mathematics bar.

    3. The truly heroic efforts of the late 19th early 20th century theorists.

    4. The fact that to challenge them can leave one open to the charge that one is competing with and contradicting Albert. And…

    5. Everybody loves Albert.

    The story of Albert is that he was such a nice bloke and in the shit, not part of the academy in low paid jobs and the most brilliant of all of them. But his acheivements had an aspect of the creative artist about them.

    I think he was right to throw a few unproven assumptions into the mix and take a few shortcuts. And we see how he had the right scientific attitude and even pre-empted Popper in terms of falsifiability by setting up a test to prove HIS OWN theory wrong.

    A truly righteous guy. But nonetheless one must try and learn from the process of the brilliant blokes and not accept their stuff as holy writ and priesthood doctrine.

    That would be like just mimicing Led Zeppelin without going back and studying the blues and classical gear that was part of their canon.

    Anyhow. I run the risk of repeating the stuff from my own blog. Dead Soul. I need your help. You are the science-epistemology guy. I want you to put in some constructive and if necessary abusive criticism on my own blog. Because right now I’m going to get back on track with the topic of the thread.

    Because physics is just airy fairy stuff.

    But matters arising from the blogbbash….

    thats the REAL DEAL.

    Thats BUSINESS.

    ‘We’ve got a country to save.’

    I think when next we get together for a chat we want to put together a plan to dominate Ozblogistan and also to try and force changes in the editorial policies of our newspapers.

    I mean take the Financial Review. Working in a bank, a long time ago, I was required to read this every day. The best part of it is that cartoon Alex thats been kicking goals for twenty years. I don’t know how the cartoonist knows the banking industry so well but he sure knows it.

    It would be too much to say that the financial reviews economics editorialship is dominated by communists and Keynesian-Utopian Macromancers.

    But having said that I would like to say this:

    The financial reviews economics editorialship is dominated by communists and Keynesian-Utopian Macromancers.

    I’m sick of it SICKOFIT.

    Its bloody consumer spending this. And consumer spending that and if the consumer don’t spend then we’ll all die in the arse… And then the dumb sons of bitches wonder why our trade deficit is always so adverse.

    And then its Quiggin talking about this (WHERE IS GERRARD JACKSON?) and Gruen talking about that (WHERE IS GERRARD JACKSON!?!) and Sinclair talking about the other . And Sinclairs good and righteous but WHERE IS GERRARD JACKSON??????!!!!!!!????????

    Not to mention the other guys at Brookesnews.

    Our country would be a great deal healthier if Gerrard could be persuaded to take exexcutive control of the financial reviews economics commentary.

    That would be a major blow FOR the survival, strength and prosperity of this Great Island Nation in what will undoubtedly be a very tough century.

    I don’t think people realise just how good he is.

    Prodos clearly gets it.

    But how many others?

    The thing is the Austrian school for historical reasons were quite dirty on the British Classical School… With the upshot that very few people have mastered both schools.

    George Reisman has not only mastered them but he’s tied up all the loose ends and integrated them. He’s spent his life doing this and he’s produced this terrific treatise which I’ve lent to Mr Soon.

    But Gerrards the only other guy who I’ve read who appears to have fully sorted through both schools and gotten the best of both. And he pulls stuff out of the hat from four centuries back.

    He’s just magnificent.

    So even if we cannot put pressure on the Financial Review to literally make Jackson an offer that he won’t refuse, at least we have a way of thinking about it and that would be to influence the financial reviews economic outlook to be more like BROOKESNEWS ON A MURDOCH BUDGET.

    Anyway thats just an example. If we want to see the good society before we all get seriously old we really want to win on all levels.

    And lets have the goal of doing it quickly hey?

    I mean I’ll fight the good fight, and lose in my lifetime, if I have to, and leave a bit of an edge to posterity.

    But thats not THEE attitude.

    The attitude ought to be THAT WE CAN WIN NOW OR VERY SOON.

    And the attitude ought to be that the solution of how to WIN NOW is there but we just have to sleuth it out and find it.

    That would be the attitude to take.

  65. Thanks Graeme,

    You’re right about Einstein, his ideas will long outlive QM. You don’t need any help though, you seem to have it sorted out.

    I visited your blog sometime back, will take another look. Some of the questions I have had to deal with over recent years have caused me to re-evaluate a lot of my primary ideas. For example, even a few years ago I would have regarded libertarian ideas as outrageously off the scale but now I have a very different perspective on the matter. Now I think of it, I remember encounters with Terje on Inside Politics where I was over the top so I owe him an apology or two.

    I must admit I need to be careful here, I’m not sure I want to spend too much time trying to “dream up” a libertarian world but it is an enticing little intellectual game to pass the time. I’m just recovering from a long illness and have a great deal to catch up on. My economics is for shit and that would take a lot of work but sometimes I think that whole problem with modern economics is that it is such a patchwork structure and the best solution would be to start from scratch again but that aint possible. I even entertain the idea that under a libertarian style society the selection pressures would be such that those with initiative and a strong sense of self dependency will do the best which is at it should be. This is what I used to say about why immigration is good: those who choose to emigrate are more likely to possess such qualities hence can be good for the country. Naturally this applies to people choosing to emigrate, not being forced by circumstances.

    Evolution never stops, a friend of mine and I even used to only half jokingly argue that the reason the Middle East is such a violent place is because historically to survive there being violent was a good thing. People think allele shifts (variations of genes) in populations take a long time but it can be rather rapid and the Middle East has been a “meeting place” for humans for at least 80,000 years (note: actually this is a site in Israel where 80 miles apart is a modern human site and a Neandertal site; the lowest southern site for any Neandertals). That’s plenty of time and even recently there was a publication stating that one can identifiy ethnicity by examining what geneticists call “clines” – indices of gene changes basically I think. The most obvious example is lactose intolerance, 20% caucasians, 60% Asians, 80% negroid. It has been estimated that milk has been in our diet for only 11,000 years.

    They celebrated “Gun, Germs, and Steel”, it became a best seller and a documentary series, while “The Bell Curve” was ridiculed and attacked and sunk mostly from the public view. Yet The Bell Curve is closer to the truth than “Guns, Germs, and Steel”; which had some interesting things to say but is basically sentimental piffle. We’re not hearing this in the mass media but “The Bell Curve” has won the argument. For any human trait it is only natural that we should expect to find a genetic influence. The problem is that the way all this is reported is so hopelessly simplified and even more worryingly it’s not like the geneticists are in general agreement. It can sound a bit silly when there is a research report, just today, stating that 50% of Americans have the “diabetes gene”. Another example of fucking stupid statistics.

    At the individual level none of it really matters, these are statistical arguments which can only be applied to groups. What is more important is that many of these differences will become irrelevant in a world where we can increasingly provide the sorts of environments that we have been so lucky to enjoy because despite all the genetics the world in which one is raised and lives in can be just as determinative of what one will become as the genetics.The genetic variations in humans is small enough that one can envisage a society where nearly everyone can have a place but only if the environment is right. (I consider it an impossibility to make everyone happy with their place in life.) Irrespective of one’s genetic constitution given the wrong environment becoming an criminal, a murderer, an undesirable whatever, is possible and often very possible.

    We are the luckiest generation of humans to have ever lived, we enjoy comforts, securities, and lifestyles unbelievable even one hundred years ago. From what I’ve been able to gleen from developmental psychology and my understanding of brain maturation there are critical environmental elements that can determine a person’s fate; this is very true in the formative years. Our culture is very good at addressing those critical elements(relative to other cultures). Our culture changes more in 10 years then most other cultures would change in a century and often many centuries. The incredible thing is that we can even begin to think about making it better. Compared to First World culture most other cultures are stuck in stone. There is something different about the sort of person that emerges from our culture.

    PS: I think we have to be thankful towards christianity because it played a major role in creating our societal and moral structures which generally work very well compared to other societal systems.

    End of rant.

  66. What would help all libertarians would be a universally-recognised symbol of libertarian beliefs. Here is my suggestion- have a UN-type globe, or blue circle, with an ‘X’ over it! It would stand for the hope of excluding the world from your own world. It is easy to do, it is nicely symmetrical, and it hasn’t been used for anything else. If put on a flag, the colour of the flag should be purple, since we should all be monarchs of our own lives and possessions. My other contribution is a new description- I think of myself as an excentric, an eccentric who excises centricity. Libertarian gets confused with libertine, whereas eccentrics are lovable!

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