The worm turns in Bennelong

I previously wrote about my campaign efforts as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the federal seat of Bennelong. I must admit that at the time I wrote that piece my sense of optimism had taken a battering.

Now however the worm has turned as the media finally stops worrying about leaks and gossip and focuses in on our policies.

Liberal Democrat candidate Terje Petersen

76 thoughts on “The worm turns in Bennelong

  1. That image is a bit big for a lot of browsers, and messes up the page formatting… can’t you shrink it down and have a “click to enlarge” option?

  2. I can read it on both my PC and my iPhone without any trouble. I did try a smaller version but I couldn’t read it.

  3. That’s awesome. You are a giant amongst men, Terje!

    If the LDP hangs around long enough there comes a point where it can’t be overlooked. It could become known but irrelevant, like Socialist Alliance i.e. everyone has heard about it and probably seen it on a ballot paper, but because the LDP solutions are innovative, workable and pragmatic, I think there’s a good chance something of substance will come of it. That could just be another major party stealing the policies. But there’s no reason to believe it may be more than that.

  4. My wife and sons are all talking to me (at once, on different topics).

    My final sentence was trying to indicate that there’s every reason to believe the LDP could achieve enduring ‘substance’ and relevance in it’s own right.

  5. The Australian Democrats and the Liberals are already making moves to steal our $30k tax free threshold idea.

  6. It’s interesting that you raise the Democrats, because that’s the other side of the coin. Like One Nation, that’s a brand that’s had its day. There’s every reason to believe popular momentum will ensure there’s no chance of either of those parties rising from the ashes.

  7. I’d vote for you if I was in Bennelong Terje. Unfortunately here in Melbourne it’s a race between the Greens and the ALP – the Libs don’t even bother showing up, and there’s no LDP candidate that I know of.

  8. Oh there is a Liberal candidate running in Melbourne, just can’t remeber her name. The vote is so left wing here they don’t bother campaigning, but they send one of their B team for the few rusted on voters

  9. That article provides a nice summary of libertarianism for those who have never heard of it. Even if people don’t vote LDP it’s great that more people will be exposed to the idea of a free society.

  10. “The Australian Democrats and the Liberals are already making moves to steal our $30k tax free threshold idea.

    Comment by TerjeP | August 14, 2010 ”

    Fantastic. I don’t want to be a politician. I would like very much for a Government I approve of though.

  11. Gosh, TerjeP, you look almost like a Liberal candidate! How much of your agitprop piece (Sorry- meant ‘reasoned policy positions’!) did they bother to reprint? Did they leave out anything that you consider important?

  12. With more space it would have been good for our immigration policy to get an airing. The suit is deliberate because I didn’t want to look like a stone head. Partly because I’m not a stone head and partly because it would be suggestive of motives other than a view that prohibition laws cause harm.

  13. I really like that article because, as someone already said, it is a nice little summary of libertarianism. What the LDP needs most is exposure. I’ve probably always been libertarian but didn’t know it until a few years ago when I read about something about it.

    I have recruited 3 new voters for the LDP this election so far. 1 was in the same situation as I was; a libertarian without knowing it. The other 2 where self described libertarians but didn’t know Australia had a libertarian party!

    So for all the rest of you who think you know someone who might want to vote for the LDP show them this article.

  14. How to write a profile of a Liberal Democrat politician for your newspaper, magazine, or television or radio show:

    1) Write the sentence “Marijuana would be legalised under a Liberal Democrat Government.”

    2) Fill up the rest of the words with any old shit. Maybe write about their other policies, or what other people say about them. It doesn’t really matter.

    That’s it.

  15. Troy – good work. However I don’t see this election as being about recruiting voters so much. In my view the LDP should be recruiting more members. It is only through having more members that we can exponentially spread the message. Please ask your converts to join, it costs nothing and it helps work towards registration for state elections. Membership builds the foundations for the future.

  16. A woman’s right to “choose”? How about a baby girl’s right to life? I’m sick of state-funded abortions.

    What’s more, science tells us that babies (not just twins) communicate in the womb – so you’re also pro-censorship.

    Please show some compassion. There’s nothing really libertarian about anti-life libertarians at all.

  17. Ben, grow up. Libertarian means less government, and more individual choices, such as whether to have, or not have, an abortion. Libertarian is political, whilst an abortion would be a personal, moral, choice. As an Esoteric Christian, I believe that all actions have consequences, but it is not up to me to control other people, and tell them not to have an abortion.
    I agree that abortions have lots of adverse consequences, but this is not the forum to discuss these issues.

  18. I don’t think that’s particularly helpful Nuke because Ben probably thinks abortion is literally murder.
    Obviously murder should be illegal right? It’s not “a personal moral choice”.

    The fact is that abortion is not murder. A growing fetus is part of a women’s body and is not an independent life until it is born. A society based on protecting the freedoms of individuals must protect the rights of a mother who wishes to abort her fetus. Otherwise you are effectively saying that the rights of the unborn are of greater importance than the rights of those alive. My sperms are sacred!! And you do not have a non-contradictory system of equal rights for all.
    A mother has a right to her life and this is why abortion should rightly be legal.

    The classic example is the situation where a mother may need an abortion to save her own life in a complicated pregnancy.

    I’m not sure if it’s worth saying but natural processes lead to far more spontaneous “abortions” than pregnancies. Early miscarriage is extremely common even if it’s a hush hush topic.

    There may possibly be an argument against very late term abortions. This would be based on the idea that the mother if carrying a baby to say 8 1/2 months for example knows full well she’s pregnant, and has had every chance to abort. She has therefore possibly effectively made the decision to keep the baby.
    The vast majority of women would absolutely hate the idea of having an abortion. It’s a tough decision and it’s never a nice thing to have to do. But it’s still a women’s right.

  19. What constitutes harm can be highly subjective. Take circumcision, for example.

    Tim: “effectively saying that the rights of the unborn are of greater importance than the rights of those alive”
    Actually it would be closer to saying the foetus’s right to life is greater than the mother’s right to be comfortable.

  20. “What humans, we may ask, have the right to be coercive parasites within the body of an unwilling human host?”

    The mother, by having an abortion is exercising her right to self-defence. If the foetus willing vacated her body then she’d have no need to violently defend her body against it.

    Unfortunately foetuses are stubborn and not prone to negotiation.

  21. Ben – the article deals in cliches not in detail. That is the nature of the medium. Personally I agree that beyond a certain gestation period an abortion entails killing a person. I think late term abortions are conceptually horrible. However this isn’t about whether abortions are good or bad but about whether criminalising abortion is good or bad. I don’t advocate abortion, I advocate against criminalising abortion.

    p.s. I don’t think abortions should be state funded or culturally revered.

  22. Shem – I think a women has the right to control her body and it’s occupants but I don’t think babies grow there purely by magic. Common sense dictates that babies are not like parasites.

  23. Shem: Rothbard makes a solid argument that it’s not murder. However that’s really besides the point. For example, if I’m the only person with water and you’re about to die of thirst, then letting you die is not murder on my part. That said, I would rather not live in a state which allows such behaviour. I consider abortion past a few months of gestation in a similar way. The woman would be free to leave the state (and not come back) and have the abortion.

  24. “If I’m the only person with water and you’re about to die of thirst, then letting you die is not murder on my part.”

    I don’t believe that would be the case from a Rothbardian perspective. He seems cynical of negative responsibilities of any kind.

    Not saying I agree with him. But it’s an interesting argument and I just like his turn of phrase above.

  25. Tinos, A “right” is an on/off thing. You either have the right to live your life as you see fit or you don’t. It’s not a partial permission. You should have the right to be comfortable if you choose.

    Anyway, your “comfort” comment is strange because having a baby is not just a matter of a tough 9 months, a painful birth and a short recovery period. Having a child is at least a 20 year commitment with many challenges to be overcome.

    Having a child with down syndrome for example would mean a massive change to your life style for the entire lifetime of the child.

    So I stand by my comment that a legal ban on abortions would create a contradiction to the idea that we have a right to our life. Because the rights of the unborn would trump the right to life of the living.

  26. Tim: “You either have the right to live your life as you see fit or you don’t.”
    If that is the choice, then you don’t. I think a state has every right to ban marijuana, for example.

    “at least a 20 year commitment”
    Not if you give him/her up for adoption.

  27. “I think a state has every right to ban marijuana, for example.”

    Why? I notice you went specifically with marijuana, rather than making a general statement about the legitimacy of state bans.

  28. Jarrah: State bans are legitimate. If you say otherwise, then you are claiming there should be no society on Earth where a person can go and not have to put up with drug addicts (for example). However I do believe such bans are only legitimate at the state (or local) level, rather than national level.

  29. OK, first I thought you meant ‘state’ as in nation, not as in NSW. Which brings me to my next question – why are they legitimate at State level but not nationally?

  30. A centralised government cannot legitimately legislate every aspect of our lives. The logical extension would have Chinese voters telling us all how to live!

    However *why* is an interesting question. I think the social contract only extends as far as is necessary for a particular kind of law to be practical.

  31. That’s a pretty bad example. Banning marijuana doesn’t magically destroy all drug addicts. In fact legalisation in some European countries has lead to lower rates of drug abuse and use.

  32. I believe all drugs should be legalised.
    Initiation of force should be banned.

    Tinos, you need standards and measures to determine what is “practical”.

    For example, a basic problem with a utilitarian approach to ethics comes from this famous hypothetical (NB/ I generally don’t like hypotheticals because they can be too artificial to be meaningful or can drop context):
    Section 5

    “Imagine that each of five patients in a hospital will die without an organ transplant. The patient in Room 1 needs a heart, the patient in Room 2 needs a liver, the patient in Room 3 needs a kidney, and so on. The person in Room 6 is in the hospital for routine tests. Luckily (for them, not for him!), his tissue is compatible with the other five patients, and a specialist is available to transplant his organs into the other five. This operation would save their lives, while killing the “donor”. There is no other way to save any of the other five patients (Foot 1966, Thomson 1976; compare related cases in Carritt 1947 and McCloskey 1965).”

    “Utilitarians can bite the bullet, again. They can deny that it is morally wrong to cut up the “donor” in these circumstances. Of course, doctors still should not cut up their patients in anything close to normal circumstances, but this example is so abnormal that we should not expect our normal moral rules to apply, and we should not trust our moral intuitions, which evolved to fit normal situations (Sprigge 1965). Many utilitarians are happy to reject common moral intuitions in this case, like many others (cf. Singer 1974, Unger 1996, Norcross 1997).”

  33. If you accept that interp personal ultility comparisons are crap, and that is an absurd hypothetical, there is no problem.

  34. It’s a good hypothetical, and I have a good utilitarian answer.

    If killing one would save five, and the decision was being made by a perfect being, then there would be a strong case to do it. The flaw with that situation is that there is no perfect being. Not even me.

    The problem is that there is no such legislation “let’s give the government the power to do only good”. Instead, the legislation will be “let’s give the government power, and hope they do good”. Those are very different propositions. And that is why it is so important to distinguish between “act utilitarianism” and “rule utilitarianism”.

    “Act utilitarianism” looks for any specific act that will increase utility and insists it must be done. But that only works if you have a perfect being making the decisions.

    “Rule utilitarianism” recognises that you can only introduce a rule, and then that must be implemented by imperfect people. Not only do you have to consider the benefit of when the rule is properly used, but you have to consider the problems of when the rule is improperly used. And it will be improperly used.

    Rules will be misused for several reasons. First, people aren’t perfectly nice. Second, people aren’t perfectly knowledgeable. But more importantly, no system of government provides the right incentives… so even if the decision makers were perfectly nice and perfectly knowledgeable, they would still sometimes make the wrong decisions.

    So the hypothetical becomes this:

    “Should we give doctors the power to kill one person when they judge it will save more than one person?”

    I suggest that such a rule would not increase the utility of the society that implemented it. It would create a disincentive to go to hospital. Doctors could easily make the wrong decisions. The system would be easy to “game” to hide murder. It would require difficult measures of the value of two sick 80-year olds v one healthy 20-year old that is nearly impossible to determine.

    If you can find me a killing rule that passes a rule utilitarian test, then I would be happy to consider it… but citing individual examples of hypothetical perfect government decisions is not sufficient.

  35. Tinos, are you sure you are a libertarian? I ask because most libertarians I know, having met some at our get-togethers, tend to be unconcerned about marijuana- indeed, they think it should not be prohibited. I do not like people using marijuana, because there are legitimate questions about damage to your brain with longterm use, but I don’t think any government should have the power or mandate to ban it. Just like alcohol and cigarettes, you could issue health warnings, but I think allowing the government to prohibit some personal choices is a backdoor to an expanding state, controlling our choices by selective bans. I don’t want the precedent to be set, because governments always try to widen powers, claiming for the best of reasons.

  36. I really admire you philosophical guys, its bloody hard to think down to that level.

    In mining and drilling I have to fix a lot of stuff up, but that doesn’t make me a doctor so that might disqualify me here.

    So you have, a, b, c, d, and e, who are all going to die unless they get an organ. Healthy f, is compatible with all of them. Therefore they are also compatible with each other. One is going to die first, …..

    The simple rule is that you don’t canibalize parts off a working machine when you can get one off one that is out of order.

    Next time you need help with the deeper meaning of life, get in touch.

  37. Jim, how dare you! This has stumped philosophers and deep thinkers for years, and you overturn it with practical, workable, advice! What are they going to do for jobs now?! You really should leave deep questions to those who are getting paid to solve them! If we adopted your pragmatic solution, the government has no reason to intervene and feel important! If you’re so good at this thinking stuff, what do we do with the others?

  38. Nice answer Jim 🙂

    Yeah John and full stop person, while I’m not a fan of Singer and utilitarian type ethics generally, I do think there are some problems with the above hypothetical.
    It is true that human beings are not omnipotent and of course there’s all sorts of problems with giving governments power which means your refutation is a fair one IMO. I think full stop man was referring to the difficulty in quantitating things like happiness?
    I think hypotheticals and thought experiments can be useful but you have to be careful.
    I also realise there are a LOT of variations on utilitarian type ethics too.

    Just to be clear, in comment #37 I’m trying to point out to Tinos why a standard or an agreed upon measure is important to guage the morality and/or practicality of an outcome.
    To continue on from John’s comment, I found this at

    “The scenario is usually presented something like this: a doctor has several patients who will die if they don’t receive organ donations. Perhaps one needs replacement kidneys, another needs a replacement heart, or whatever. Now supplies of these organs have come short, and there are no spare organs. There are, however, a number of healthy people available who could be suitable donors, except that they are unwilling to sacrifice themselves to save the others. The number of people required to supply the organs is less than the number of lives can be saved by carrying out the transplants and, in this situation, it is suggested, utilitarianism supports killing some people to save the lives of those in need of replacement organs, since the harm of killing a few is supposed to be less than the harm of many dying. Does this follow?

    Not necessarily. There are a whole host of side effects we would need to consider. For example, how could we pick a victim for our supplies, without generating fear and alarm in the community? If someone who goes to hospital with a minor complaint gets killed for his body parts by the doctors, would this not generate a fear of hospitals in the general populace… who would then refuse to enter one lest a similar situation occur again? And how, if we give doctors the power to decide who should die and who should live, do we stop doctors abusing their powers and becoming, for instance, extortionists? There is also the assumption that different people’s lives necessarily have roughly equal worth… which is simply ridiculous from a utilitarian perspective. What if the two recipients are Hitler and Goring, and the forced donor is Martin Luther King?

    Now, some may suggest, these concerns are irrelevant to the basic issue. The scenario can changed in the details to overcome these potential problems – it can be specified in the description of the scenario that the necessary assumptions hold. In that case where, on balance, the effects are the best if we kill someone, does utilitarianism support it? Of course it does. Can it ever be right to kill some to save others? Under any plausible system, I suggest, the answer is yes. The alternative is that we would let everyone die rather than kill a single individual, which is nonsensical if we assume that life is valuable.”

  39. Nuke: “are you sure you are a libertarian?”
    99% sure. I think there’s a significant chance you’re not a libertarian, though, but rather an anarchist. The difference is important, because Hoppe (for example), who is an anarcho-capitalist, has argued for more immigration restrictions (which I think is certaintly not libertarian).

    “I do not like people using marijuana”
    I would if it were legal. I think I’d probably prefer it to alcohol. I’d buy it straight away!

    “I don’t think any government should have the power or mandate to ban it”
    I disagree. I would agree to the statement,
    “I don’t think any government should ban it.”
    The difference is that if 99% of people in a community want a drug banned, it’s ridiculous to claim the gov’t shouldn’t even have the power to ban it. The result would be that in the entire universe there would be no community for a person to live without hard drugs being available! Yours is a one size fits all approach.

    “I don’t want the precedent to be set,”
    I agree. But I do want gov’ts to have the (hypothetical) power to set the precedent.

    Tim: “Initiation of force should be banned.”
    I agree. But I believe that if you live in a certain area you’re agreeing to abide by the local laws, and so it’s mostly not aggression.
    However I think putting people in prison for victimless crimes does usually count as aggression. Have there been any libertarian arguments for replacing prison time with exile?

  40. Tinos, a brief history lesson- the first anarchists called themselves libertarians, and believed in communal living. I am not an anarchist, but a minarchist- one who believes that property-owners should be absolute monarchs over their own private properties, with local councils owning and regulating public properties, and with residents within the county having the right to choose to be citizens and earn the right to vote and to try for public office.
    On their own property, people should be free to grow and smoke and sell marijuana- even if it was illegal to advertise over public properties, or to sell it or use it on public property.
    Libertarian is now a broad term for anyone who thinks that governments should be the LAST resort to solve any problem. some libertarians think that all crimes should be treated as insurance cases, with all ‘prisoners’ becoming debtors to the company of the offended party. It would be up to each person to take out insurance, like health insurance.
    And most libertarians think that all people should have a right to secede from their surrounding country, if they want to be an autarky, or trade as they will.

  41. “the first anarchists called themselves libertarians”
    So Rousseau was a libertarian!

    “absolute monarchs”
    Suppose I decide to build a nuke at home (probably possible)…

    “LAST resort to solve any problem”
    No. As a libertarian, the gov’t is the first place I look to take down a terrorist cell. Sure, you could contract it out, but I trust the gov’t more.

    “most libertarians think that all people should have a right to secede from their surrounding country”
    No. Most libertarians would support declaring war on Home Hill if it tried to secede.

  42. Tinos — to say that living in an area implies a contract to obey the government is to start with the assumption that the government has the legitimate right to own everything. I disagree with that. I prefer private property rights and voluntary contracts. Government action is by definition coercive or redundant (either they force you do to something you wouldn’t do voluntarily, or they tell you to do something you were going to do anyway).

    That’s not to say it’s bad. Perhaps it is appropriate to have an organisation that is allowed to use coercion sometimes to fix certain problems. But let’s no pretend that the government is inherently a voluntary institution. It is not.

    I think Nuke gave a fair overview of a generic libertarian position: people can do what they like on their property so long as it’s voluntary; the government is the last resort; and people should be able to break away from their surrounding state. Of course, moderates will like to build in some caveats to those… but that is a fair overview of the concept.

  43. John: “by definition coercive”
    I consider your consent given by your living in the state, so it’s not coercive.

    “prefer private property rights and voluntary contracts”
    So do I. This doesn’t contradict the idea that the gov’t has the *right* to own everything within its borders. You’re claiming that a socialism should exist nowhere in the entire universe, even in societies where there’s say 99% support for it. I believe that reduces my freedom.

    After all, a society of committed socialists would outperform a capitalism of lazy drunkards any day.

  44. I don’t think John is claiming socialsim shouldn’t have the right to exist anywhere in the universe.

    Generally, libertarians and anarcho-capitalists would hold property as being implicit in freedom.

    I wonder how “I consider your consent given by your living in the state” would go for people living in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea…

    You have an odd idea of consent. The degrees of bondage differ, but as John said, all governments are coercive or redundant.

    After all, a society of committed capitalists would outperform a society of committed socialists. While the committed socialists would be building bridges to nowhere, the committed capitalists would be producing things they actually need.

  45. Rob: “people living in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”
    That gov’t isn’t democratically elected. It doesn’t reflect what the people living there want.
    Also, I believe people should always have the right to leave peacefully if they don’t like the state.

    Democracy & the right to emigrate are two things I universally demand.

  46. Shem: Only if the higher level ceases to be democratic, or violates the constitution. Other than that, I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot down the secessionists.

  47. A democracy isn’t sufficient for consent. A democracy only gives control to a majority.

    You’ll need more than those two things.

    In my rubbish hypothetical, I have a society that has those two things. Before we allow you to leave, we vote to have your hands and feet cut off. The majority decides to do this.

    And if they shouldn’t cut off your hands and feet, why not?

    You apparently have given consent for a democracy to pillage and plunder and do as the masses feel simply because you live there.

  48. Rob: For me, the right to emigrate peacefully involves being able to, as closely as possible, leave with all one’s property.

  49. Tinos… as I said, the only way you can consider my living to be consent is to assume that the government owns all of Australia. Are you sure you believe that?

    We’re not talking about whether the government has the *right* to own land. Sure. They can buy land if they want. Or steal it if the reason is good enough. But your thesis that “living = consent” pre-supposes that the government forever owns all the land. That’s a pretty drastic axiom, and basically inconsistent with the idea of human self-ownership.

    Nothing I have ever said prevents people forming a voluntary socialist community. Indeed, I think that would be a great idea. Depending how they organised the community, I might even go and live there for a while. Israel has already experimented with voluntary socialist communities, called kibbutz.

    The beauty of a libertarian world would be the existence of hundreds of different communities, run with a diversity of different rules. In some communities they would probably have rules against drugs, in some they would have very strict regulations, in some they would have a high amount of redistribution, in some they may discriminate against certain groups, some may be religious, in some guns would be banned, etc.

    I’m not sure why you think democracy makes such a difference. There is nothing inherently moral about two people agreeing to beat up a third person. It is simply not true that the third person has “consented” to being beaten up just because the beating was democratically agreed on. Consent only happens at an individual level.

    I think the key starting point is this question… do you believe that each person owns themselves?

  50. John: “government owns all of Australia”
    No, you said “government has the legitimate right to own everything”.
    I partially agree with the latter, but not the former. The former is a terrible idea, even at the local and state level. I say “partially” because the degree of potential legitimate ownership depends on the level of gov’t. For example, I think a state gov’t should have the right to nullify a national minimum wage (or likewise, kill something like WorkChoices).

    “Nothing I have ever said prevents people forming a voluntary socialist community.”
    Yes, you have. Consider QLD. Surely if 99% of Queenslanders want socialism, then we should have the power to implement it. (Aside: QLD is probably too big and needs to be split up.) What you’ve said is that this socialism is somehow illegitimate.

    “existence of hundreds of different communities”
    In my opinion, we already have emerged from a natural state of anarchy to have approximately that.

    “democracy makes such a difference. There is nothing inherently moral”
    Democracy is inherently moral or else you could end up with something dysfunctional like feudalism. I consider anarchocapitalism potentially very dangerous for that reason.

    “not true that the third person has “consented” to being beaten up”
    They have consented, by remaining in the state. I believe a fundamental right is the right to peacefully emigrate under such situations.

    “believe that each person owns themselves?”
    I do.

  51. “Surely if 99% of Queenslanders want socialism, then we should have the power to implement it. (Aside: QLD is probably too big and needs to be split up.) What you’ve said is that this socialism is somehow illegitimate.”

    You seem to miss the point. Socialism should only be legitimate if every citizen agreed to it. Not 99%.

    You have stated that democracy is inherently moral, now back it up with an argument. Why is it moral?

    I consider it better than feudalism, but it isn’t invincible. A strong rights based approach would see democracy and other styles of government almost redundant.

    ““believe that each person owns themselves?”
    I do.”

    And here your logic breaks down.

    You own yourself, but society and 99%, or even 50.01% can break down your self-ownership.

    To truly own yourself, you must be able to command your mind, and the the fruits of your labour or effort. Socialism denies this—even a democratic one.

  52. Rob: “every citizen agreed to it”
    They do, by choosing to live there.

    “Why is it moral?”
    I have to say it’s an axiom. I can’t imagine any alternative system that could lead to the greatest good for the greatest number. ‘Homesteading’ is too vague for me to take seriously.

    “strong rights based approach”
    What counts as a right? Does a parent have the right to circumcise their child? These questions must be answered democratically.

  53. Tinos — I’m not sure that you’re reading my points correctly. If you think that my living in Australia shows an implicit agreement to obey the government then YOU (not me) are saying that the government owns all of Australia.

    I prefer private property. I prefer voluntary contracts. Those positions are INCONSISTENT with your preference for complete government ownership of all of Australia.

    Further, read carefully what I said about voluntary communities. Nothing I have ever said would stop people forming VOLUNTARY communities. If you want to enforce your communities on other people (even if your ideas are popular), then of course that isn’t voluntary. Voluntary doesn’t mean “done through force so long as you have friends”. It means voluntary.

    I’m not sure what “natural state of anarchy” you are referring to. I encourage you to actually learn about anarchy and history of political structures before making such comments. Historically, the “natural state” seems to be some people holding coercive power over the lives of other people. Freedom is an alternative to that “natural state”.

    You are simply asserting that democracy is moral, but give no reason. If two people walk into your house and then you have a house vote on whether they can take your stuff — is the outcome of them taking your stuff moral? If 51% of people agree with slavery, is slavery moral? If Hitler was democratically elected, does that make his actions moral? If a majority of people want to prevent you leaving an area (which you seem to think is important) then is it right?

    If you think morality is determined by democracy, then you face the paradox of not knowing how to vote because morality doesn’t exist before the vote has occurred. You then also face the problem that you can never change the situation… because whatever democracy has said is “right” by definition, and so you should not campaign against it or you are being “immoral”.

    Clearly, morality exists separate from democracy. Personally, I think moral flows from the axiom of human self-ownership. If you believe in that axiom, I urge you to investigate the logical consequences.

    You are also creating a false dichotomy between democracy and feudalism. There is another option… and that is that each person has self-ownership and they interact with other people voluntarily.

  54. all questions about morality when applied to politics are meaningless metaphysics and will never be resolved, equivalently to arguing over whether chocolate is preferable to vanilla.

  55. Jason, even a utilitarian approach is based on a metaphysical axiom that utility is better than disutility. Basic meteaphysical axioms can’t be avoided… but I believe it is possible to develop those axioms using reason.

    I’ve said it many times before so I won’t repeat the full reasons here, but I believe that nature of humans qua humans means that voluntary action is axiomatically preferential to involuntary actions, cet par, and utility is axiomatically preferential to disutility, cet par. Of course, cet is never par and so we face difficult political questions… but I believe those axioms are robust.

  56. John: “government owns all of Australia”
    No. I’m saying the federal gov’t has partial ownership over all of Australia, to the extent that it has the power to deal with national issues such as defence, foreign intervention and inter-state relations.

    “I prefer private property. I prefer voluntary contracts.”
    So do I.

    “Nothing I have ever said would stop people forming VOLUNTARY communities.”
    Yes it would. QLD is a voluntary community, and what you’re saying is that socialism in QLD is somehow illegitimate.

    “natural state of anarchy”
    I’m referring to the fact that in hunter-gatherer times there was pure anarchy. The result is the statism we have today. I believe if we go back to anarchy, we’d eventually (after much blood shed and grief) revert to statism. In an anarchic world, I’d see world gov’t as the eventual goal, anyway.

    “Freedom is an alternative to that “natural state””
    Only in the positive sense. In the natural state, little could be accomplished, but people were unrestrained.

    “give no reason”
    It’s what I start with, then I describe how much better the resulting universe would be than what you’re proposing. A logical proof is impossible.

    “walk into your house”
    I believe democracy need not extend below the state level.

    “is slavery moral”
    “If Hitler was democratically elected”
    “If a majority of people want to prevent you leaving an area”
    All violate the right to emigrate.

    “morality is determined by democracy”
    No, but democracy is a necessary condition.

    “whatever democracy has said is “right””
    No, (almost) whatever democracy has said should be enforced, even if it’s (in my subjective opinion) wrong.

    “each person has self-ownership and they interact with other people voluntarily”
    I agree. However that’s not enough. For example: within a given geographic region, there should be only one military. I want that military to be democratically controlled. I won’t accept any alternative.

  57. “I agree. However that’s not enough. For example: within a given geographic region, there should be only one military. I want that military to be democratically controlled. I won’t accept any alternative.”

    What if I homestead and people settle in my kingdom (held as a constructive trust) under contract?

    What if as king I allow private competing militaries and refuse any form of democracy?

  58. Tinos — Queensland is not a “voluntary community”. You’re not allowed to just make up the meaning of words.

    You say that you want the government to be able to provide defence and courts and a few other things. Fine. But the implication of your “living = consent” argument is that the government owns everything. Absolutely everything. You need to decide whether you really believe that. Because if you don’t, then your “living = consent” argument falls apart.

    You keep going back to talk about anarchy. While that is an interesting topic (which you understand very poorly), it’s not the central topic here. Just because I recognise that violence is violent and coercion is coercive… that does not mean I have to be an anarchist. It is perfectly internally consistent to admit that the government is coercive, but then say that outcome XYZ is so important that you can justify that level of coercion.

    For example, you say you want the one military, controlled by government. Good. Fine. Then you can justify the level of government coercion necessary to achieve that goal. Most people here would agree with you on that one (though I doubt any libertarian on earth would agree with your above reasoning).

    But if you insist on saying “violence is not violent” and “coercive actions are voluntary” then you are doing the English language a disservice.

    You provide absolutely no evidence that a democratic government decision generally leads to a better outcome than a free-market decision. Indeed, the evidence is overwhelmingly in the other direction. If you look at the democratic decision to over-tax, over-subsidise, over-regulate, restrict trade, micro-manage our lives, nationalise businesses, etc I think it’s easy to show that a free-market approach is better.

    Democracy just determines who is in power… it doesn’t determine the morality of the decisions that they make. A libertarian believes that the person in power (no matter how they got there) should not control our lives, with perhaps a few minor exceptions (such as defence & courts).

    You didn’t answer the questions about the morality of stealing your stuff democratically, the morality of democratic slavery, or democratic hitler, etc. Does the fact that they are democratic make them ok? Yes or No. If the answer is “no” then your democratic god has been slain.

    For some reason you are insisting on your “right to emigrate”. Personally, I agree with that right, which comes from a person’s self-ownership. But what if democracy votes against your right to emigrate? That provides no contradiction for me… I just think that democracy is wrong. But you’re caught in a logical trap.

  59. “What if we allow the government to run society?” Or “what if we had strong government in Africa?”

    “What if there was no government?”

    “What if a country had no military?”

    There are examples of successes and failures of all political systems. I am not suggesting that anarchy is utopia, or that it is effective or desirable. I very much doubt that it can work in low-income places. But your assumption that we need strong government to prevent war is just wrong as a point of historical fact.

  60. John: “Queensland is not a “voluntary community”.”
    Yes it is. It’s a community and everyone is here voluntarily.

    “your “living = consent” argument”
    No. I believe “living there probably = consent”.

    “government owns everything”
    I believe the degree of legitimate ownership on the lvl of gov’t. QLD does not have the right to have its own military, for example.

    “Absolutely everything.”
    Not people’s bodies.

    “you understand very poorly”
    I understand enough to know I’d never want or support it.

    “you can justify the level of government coercion necessary”
    No, I can’t. If
    a) coercion is wrong
    b) what the gov’t does is coercion
    c) gov’t is necessary
    Then you’re condemning me to live as a Christian does with “original sin”.

    “saying “violence is not violent” and “coercive actions are voluntary””
    Never have, never will.

    “no evidence that a democratic government decision generally leads to a better outcome than a free-market decision”
    Depends on what you want. If 90% of people generally despise the Chinese and their products, then the decision to restrict trade, for example, is better than the free-market approach (from society’s point of view). Similarly for over-taxing, over-subsidising, over-regulating & micro-managing. The elections are the evidence!

    “Democracy just determines who is in power”
    Not necessarily; direct democracy would be a different approach.

    “should not control our lives”
    Agreed. But we should also believe that they have every right to.

    “didn’t answer the questions”
    Yes I did. Answer: “No”.

    “democratic god has been slain”
    Nope. I said, “democracy is a necessary condition”.

    “what if democracy votes against your right to emigrate?”
    Then that democracy is evil. No logical trap.

    WWII: As the Austrians say, a necessary correction! Still, I’d rather live under Hitler than under anarchism, even if it means murdering millions of Jews.

    Pennsylvania: Wasn’t an anarchy. It had a governor, a single militia, a single judiciary, all land was owned by gov’t, no free speech etc. Interestingly, later on taxes were avoided by printing and spending money directly.

    Costa Rica: “small forces capable of law enforcement and foreign peacekeeping”
    You say “potato”, I say “potata”.

    “examples of successes and failures of all political systems”
    “as a point of historical fact”
    I’m yet to see any facts indicating that peace can exist without gov’t. As I see it, the best thing that could happen for world peace would be a world gov’t.

    P.S. You’re Africa link failed.

  61. Tinos — I’m not sure what you mean by “community”. It doesn’t mean “live within 2000km of somebody” nor does it mean “live in an area were the same group takes your taxes against your will”.

    I agree people are voluntarily living in the geographical area called Queensland. But I disagree that people voluntarily signed up to the group called “Queensland government club”. Just as living in Brisbane does not implicitly make me a member of the Brisbane Broncos club. The government is an organisation. The only difference is that the government is allowed to use coercion/violence, and the Broncos are not.

    You now say “living probably = consent”. Where did the probably come from, and what does it mean? Either people have given consent or they haven’t. Consent has to be voluntary. I haven’t given consent.

    You are still missing the point with regarding government ownership. We’re not talking about whether the government can buy a railroad, or even steal your land. I’m talking about whether the starting assumption is complete government ownership of everything. You need to decide whether you believe that… because changing that starting assumption drastically changes the conclusion.

    I agree that coercion is wrong… but it’s not the only value in life. There are other values, and when values conflict then a trade-off is necessary. If you believe that coercion can never be justified then you are right that the logical consequence is no government. (As an aside, if you believe that coercion needs to be minimised, you could still justify government… but that’s not a relevant side-track at the moment.)

    Your problem is that you want to say you’re against coercion and you want a government… so you invent a fake language where “violence is non-violent” and “coercion is voluntary”. But that just destroys English.

    The honest way to resolve the conflict is to say that voluntary is better than coercion, but that you can relax that starting point if the consequences are important enough. That is the position that most libertarians take. They prefer voluntary human interaction and free-markets… but if the consequence is important enough then they accept some coercion (a bit of tax, a few regulations, government monopoly on courts etc).

    You given an example of Chinese products to show how government is better than free-markets. If 90% don’t want to buy, then lets compare the democratic government outcome with the free-market outcome. In the free-market, 90% who don’t want to buy don’t buy. The 10% who do want to buy are allowed to buy. Everybody gets what they want for themselves. In the democratic outcome the majority get what they want, but the minority does not. Majoritarianism is a recipe for the exploitation of minorities.

    The elections are the evidence of how people vote. But to say that the elections prove that everything a democratic government does is correct is absurd, and I doubt even you believe that. For your premise to be right, you have to believe that a democratic government has never made a mistake. Really? That sort of religious faith in government is touching… but very, very wrong. I suggest “the myth of the rational voter”. Best book of the last decade on politics.

    You say that democracy doesn’t determine the right outcome, but that democracy always determines the right outcome. Which is the “real tinos”?

    I find your “Hitler is better than no government” amazing, and suggest you research anarchist Iceland and wild west America before making that your final conclusion. But anarchy is a side-track in this discussion anyway.

    Of course Pennsylvania was an anarchy… they had no single authority. You can have a single militia & single judiciary in an anarchy. It seems you don’t really know what “anarchy” means.

    With Costa Rica, I’m providing evidence that a strong military is not necessary to prevent war & chaos. Do you agree?

    (The Africa link was just a link to an African civil war that occurred with your beloved government. There are hundreds to choose from.)

  62. John: “mean by “community””
    A group of people who live in a particular area.

    “disagree that people voluntarily signed up to the group”
    Because you have different axioms. Don’t pretend that yours must be right.

    “government is allowed to use coercion”
    Either both the Broncos and gov’t need to use coercion, or neither does. The Broncos kick you out of a game if you misbehave!

    “Where did the probably come from”
    Always was there, you mischaracterised my position.

    “what does it mean?”
    Interesting question. If a person’s right to emigrate has been violated, then there may be no consent. Or if they just woke up from space shuttle crash, etc.

    “I haven’t given consent.”
    Yes you have.

    “complete government ownership of everything”
    No. No gov’t can own people’s bodies, for example.

    “coercion is wrong”
    But what actually constitutes coercion in real life? That’s where axioms come in. I see no reason why I should accept axioms which make me inherently a criminal.

    “just destroys English”
    Okay, you’re right on this. So far I’ve been using Rothbard’s (stupid) definition. I’ll change my terminology: coercion is good. Coercion is what Woolworths does when it tells me to open my bag.

    “voluntary is better than coercion, but that you can relax that starting point if the consequences are important enough”
    That’s a cop-out. If the consequences of vulantary action are not as good as those of coercion, then coercion is better than voluntary.

    “90% don’t want to buy”
    That wasn’t my antecedent. My antecedent was, “90% of people generally despise the Chinese and their products”. That covers not wanting to live in a community that deals with the Chinese. The democratic approach is clearly superior.

    “Majoritarianism is a recipe for the exploitation of minorities.”
    The minorities are free to go somewhere more tolerant or where they’re the majority.

    “everything a democratic government does is correct”
    I never said that.

    “democratic government has never made a mistake”
    No. Nothing excuses executing people for drug dealing, for example.

    “Which is the “real tinos”?”
    Neither. Democracy is a necessary condition for a good universe.

    “anarchist Iceland”
    Ended with a religious state. Also, competition in defence was not allowed. Not an anarchy in the Rothbard sense.

    “wild west America”
    Almost entirely due to US gov’t expansionism. Settlers were dependent on the US gov’t for land, law & security. Not an anarchy in the strict sense.

    “no single authority”

    “Do you agree?”
    No. The extent to which they have a weak military is the extent to which they are not preventing war & chaos abroad.

    “hundreds to choose from”

  63. I agree we have different axioms. My axiom is that there should be private property, and the preference should be for voluntary exchange. Your axiom appears to be that the government owns all of Australia and should have totalitarian powers. I am not “pretending” my axiom is right. I am saying that I think it is right.

    If your definition of community is “people who live in a particular area” then it is not clear why it includes both Cairns and the Gold Coast. And if a “particular area” extends that far, they why doesn’t it also include Auckland or Cairo? I suggest “community” refers to a group of people who come together to form a community.

    I fear your definition of “community” is basically just “government”. That is a shame, because they are very different concepts.

    I agree the Broncos can deny you access to their private property. But they are not allowed to use coercion. The Broncos aren’t allowed to take your money without your permission, they are not allowed to break into your house to stop you using marijuana etc.

    You keep saying I’ve given consent. I haven’t. You can give consent if you like… but you don’t get to decide what I do. Consent must be voluntary, and only I can decide what I voluntarily do.

    You say you believe in self-ownership. But without an ability to live anywhere, that is moot. If you believe in complete government ownership of Australia (as you seem to) then you effectively don’t believe people should be able to control any of their own life without government permission.

    You ask what is coercion. I’ve explained that, as have many hundreds of other libertarians. It is the threat of initiation of involuntary behaviour (normally shortened to “threat of violence”). That is just the definition of a word. Whether it is appropriate or not depends on many things, but it is impossible to have rational discussion unless we have words for concepts. There is a concept of “threat of violence” and the word used to describe that concept is “coercion”.

    Whether coercion is always bad is a big topic. Most people accept some degree of coercion in a political system.

    You are wrong that coercion is when Woolworths tells you to open your bag. That is called “private property rights”. Private property rights means that you can set the rules on your own property. If somebody does not want to obey the rules of your private property, then they can choose to not go there. If they agree to the rules, and then break the rules, then it is they who have violated your private property rights and it is they who have violated the concept of voluntary human interaction. (This is in effect “theft” through breach of contract.)

    Libertarians believe that private property rights are a good thing. The alternative is that the government effectively controls all of the country.

    Saying that coercion can be good in some instances is not a cop out. It’s a perfectly normal sentence that describes the views of the vast majority of people. If you think that coercion is always better than voluntary action, then that political system is called “totalitarianism”, and comes in lots of varieties (fascism, socialism, slavery). Some people hold those views. In contrast, libertarians tend to believe that voluntary action is generally better than coercion. That doesn’t have to mean “always better”. Many libertarians will accept a bit of coercion in some limited circumstances, such as tax necessary to fund defence.

    I understood your chinese example. The 90% who despise chinese products can ignore them. They can form a voluntary community where those products don’t exist. They can choose not to deal with people who use chinese products. No problem in a free world. The only thing they can’t do is force their views on other people.

    That can only be achieved through coercion or violence. If you think this is an example of coercion being better than voluntary action, then fine. That is your political belief. However, as a libertarian, I support free trade. If you like, we can have a debate latter about whether free trade is a good thing or not. But it is a total non-sequitor to say that it must be a good thing because it’s popular. Popularity does not determine truth. We don’t vote on the the value of pi.

    You say that minorities are free to “go somewhere more tolerant”. That is only true under a free system where people form voluntary communities. Under your system, people will forever be controlled by a strong government with totalitarian powers that manages their life, and they just have to hope that some government somewhere likes them.

    You wrote: “Similarly for over-taxing, over-subsidising, over-regulating & micro-managing. The elections are the evidence!” (that democratic government creates a better outcome than free-markets).

    I’m glad that you’re now backing away from that position. The very obvious truth is that democratic governments make lots of mistakes. You can’t defend a position as right just because it has been democratically decided. As I’ve explained before in depth, democracy can’t determine morality because morality has to pre-exist the vote.

    Iceland was an anarchy because they had no central authority. Anarchy doesn’t mean “competing defence forces” anymore than it means “competing bakeries”. And while anarchist Iceland did end, all historical systems have ended. That proves nothing. But the anarchy argument is a side-track anyway. Most libertarians aren’t anarchist.

    It is also very wrong to say that the wild west worked because of the American government. I invite you to read more about how the societies functioned beyond the scope of the American government. If you prefer to “research” this in a more enjoyable setting, I suggest watching the TV series “deadwood”. The government did NOT provide land, law & security.

    I said that a country with a weak military can survive without delving into war & chaos. You say you disagree because that country can’t be involved in international peace-keeping missions. That is a massive non-sequitor. The fact is that Costa Rica survives. As does San Marino and New Zealand and Vanuatu and many others. You can have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own facts.

  64. Tinos… instead of continuing this here, how about you write a blog article. I think the most important areas for discussion are your ideas that (1) the government is not coercive; (2) tax is paid voluntarily; and (3) that democratic decisions are good because they are democratic.

    The anarchist argument is quite separate and has been done many times before… but I think the above points are worth exploring in more detail. And certainly, they are totally at odds with libertarian thought and so should spark some interesting debate.

    You can e-mail me the blog post and I’ll put it up as a guest post. My e-mail address is john.humphreys99 [at]

  65. I understand if you don’t want to do it: but I think you might be under-selling yourself.

    A blog post isn’t held to the same standards as a MSM op-ed and you are free to pursue thought-bubbles, even if they aren’t yet fully formed. I think just summarising your views (as presented partially above) could be a good discussion starter. It could help to crystalise the points of agreement and disagreement.

    Anyway… up to you.

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