18 September 2007

Libertarian Frauds.

I went to the End of The Road Festival at the weekend. While there, I saw a band I quite liked called Misty's Big Adventure. During their set, the lead singer had a brief rant against the smoking ban and how the government have eroded liberty. In the next minute he started a song about the dangers of mobile phone masts.

I think this sums up for me the inconsistencies of...
these so called libertarians. On the one hand they say it is a breach of civil liberties to ban smoking indoors - something that affects people right across society and where there is pretty conclusive evidence of the danger to people's health, while on the other they rant against radiation from mobile phone masts - something where there is no evidence of harm.

I'm sure someone will say - we can avoid smoky pubs but not mast radiation. But in practise that does not happen, does it? Come on be honest for once! A theoretical choice is not a real choice.

Of course what is really happening here is that these 'libertarians' are choosing which liberty THEY consider the most important. Liberty is not a one way street - one person's increase in liberty can be another's loss of liberty. As I have tried to argue, the greater liberty is actually served by having a smoking ban, because the majority of people who desire a smoke free environment get that choice, something they are otherwise denied.

A few posters on here have tried to devise compromise positions on the smoking ban. Admirable in that they are at least CONSIDERING the views of those who want a smoke free environment, something that seemed to be ignored by most before the ban came in. Unfortunately there really is no satisfactory compromise on this issue. Like incurring any violence - each individual should not have to put up with this sort of harm as a consequence of simply wanting a night out, smoking in an enclosed public space is simply unacceptable. People should never have to put their health at risk and tolerate something they find deeply unpleasant just to satisfy someone else's habit (especially when it is only a minor inconvenience to the smoker to go outside to smoke - as the overwhelming observance of the smoking ban demonstrates).

18 comments:

  1. mathew priest18/9/07 2:53 pm

    I was at this Misty's Big Adventure gig also and there are few things that need clarrifying:

    - The lead singer, Grandmaster Gareth rants about not being able to smoke not necessarily because he is a libertarian but because he is addicted to smoking and hates being told what to do. Also, it was not a rant, it's actually part of the song 'The Long Conveyor Belt'
    - He didn't rant against phone masts. He sang a funny song called The Kids Are Radioactive which takes the piss out of the furore surrounding mobile phone masts by saying that children from a school that a mast was built next to all go mad and start killing everyone.

    I support what your doing man, but if you start contorting facts to suit your agenda then you are no better that the Daily Mail.

    Cheers

    mathew priest

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  2. Mathew: I know it was a funny song (I said it was a song not a rant) but the sentiment was anti-phone masts. It just made me think about the inconsistency of it all after he had bemoaned the smoking ban.

    In refering to the smoking ban Grandmaster Gareth definitely made some reference about the government controlling people's lives. Maybe it was all light hearted and I missed the point. If I have misinterpreted what he said I apologise, but it did seem like an anti-government rant to me.

    Of course this takes nothing away from the gig - which was excellent. Hope you had a good time at the Fest. The Brakes were my favourites.

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  3. I think the difference between your position and the position of most libertarians is obvious. It's contained in your use of the words "public space".

    Your position appears to be that every enclosed space in to which the general public are invited or permitted is a "public space" and becomes more or less the property of the state. It follows that the government have as much of a duty to regulate behaviour in a bar or restaurant as they do in a government-owned building.

    A libertarian would probably begin with the property rights of the owner of the bar, restaurant or whatever. It is the antithesis of libertarianism to allow the government to assert property rights over something that the government doesn't own, so that is where the argument stops.

    The libertarian's argument is based on the rights of a person to control his own property.

    Your argument requires you to create rights to go into pubs and drink beer without inhaling smoke. You seem to dismiss with contempt the idea that someone who doesn't want to get smoky can choose to not go to the pub.

    It's not surprising that you come to the conclusions that you do - you're a socialist, so you start with a rather different set of assumptions about the role of the state than a libertarian. It's also not surprising that you don't agree with libertarians on this issue - you are trying to get them to change their conclusions, because you like a different conclusion better. They won't change their conclusions because they follow directly from their basic assumptions of liberty, and those liberties are too valuable to sully for a little temporary gain.

    Disclaimer: I'm not a libertarian, nor do I play one on TV. I would tend to place myself closer to their position than to your "tyranny of the majority" approach to socialist democracy, though.

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  4. Neil, you are way off piste (again).

    Nobody has to go into a smoky pub.

    But if they build a mast next door to your house you are f***ed, you suffer a real financial loss because people believe that they are unhealthy (and they are f***ing ugly, let's face it) so your house falls in value.

    Further the stat's on dangers of 'passive smoking' are just as ropy as stat's on phone masts or mobile phones, people want they want to believe, nothing is proved one way or another.

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  5. But if they build a mast next door to your house you are f***ed, you suffer a real financial loss because people believe that they are unhealthy (and they are f***ing ugly, let's face it) so your house falls in value.

    That, at least, is easy to fix.

    Give the owner of residential property within 100m of a proposed mobile phone mast the right to veto it. Phone companies will pay money to persuade you not to veto their mast. If they don't offer enough to counteract the loss in value that you expect your house to suffer, don't sell.

    End of problem.

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  6. Sam, thanks for that. However I don't think it is very libertarian to say to people who want a smoke free environment - 'I'm sorry but if you want to drink in a pub you have to stink of smoke, or if you want to go to a concert or gig ditto.. get used to it'. That does not sound like their liberty is being taken seriously.

    I really don't see how I am any less libertarian that anyone else on this - in fact I think the enhanced liberty of non-smokers is greater than the loss of liberty of smokers (who only have to step outside - it is only polite really) - so I am the one being MORE libertarian.

    Nearly everything we do needs regulation of some sort. Getting rid of regulation does not necessarily improve anyone's liberty - sometimes quite the reverse. The 'fraud libertarians' out there think any reduction in regulation increases freedom of choice - it quite plainly does not - they have just fallen for cheap right-wing propaganda. The market is not always right - it is full of inbuilt imperfections and corruptions.

    I think one of the most powerful arguments for not having the smoking ban - was the inertia of the status quo or 'tradition'. Well, the tradition argument is the weapon of choice of the reactionary Tory (when frankly he hasn't got much else of an argument). That is all the pseudo libertarians are frankly - whether they understand this or not.

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  7. SaM 4.47, that would be a very neat 'market' solution to the problem. But that is not what our host here is looking for ...

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  8. In fact, I give up on the smoking ban. Let me start a new line of attack...

    Neil, how do you stand on the fox hunting ban?

    Don't tell me anybody's health or happiness is endangered by passive fox hunting!

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  9. Sam, thanks for that. However I don't think it is very libertarian to say to people who want a smoke free environment - 'I'm sorry but if you want to drink in a pub you have to stink of smoke, or if you want to go to a concert or gig ditto.. get used to it'. That does not sound like their liberty is being taken seriously.

    But that's not at all what a libertarian is saying. There isn't a libertarian on the planet who wants to make it compulsory to stink of smoke if you go to a pub, concert or whatever.

    They just think that the pub belongs to its owner, not the state, and that the state shouldn't be able to control what otherwise legal behaviours I allow on my property.

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  10. I really don't see how I am any less libertarian that anyone else on this - in fact I think the enhanced liberty of non-smokers is greater than the loss of liberty of smokers (who only have to step outside - it is only polite really) - so I am the one being MORE libertarian.


    You've rather missed the point, I'm afraid. Neither the smoking nor non-smoking customers are the pertinent actors here.

    If I use your argument, you add up "Neil's "liberty" gained by non-smokers" and "Neil's "liberty" lost by smokers" with a smoking ban, and come to a positive number, so you support a smoking ban. If I increase the prevalence of smoking in the population, I can tip the scales the other way, and you suddenly oppose a ban on smoking. That's very democratic of you, but it's got nothing to do with liberty.

    The liberty that you are constraining is the liberty of the owner of the pub to decide whether he wants to allow smoking on his premises or not, just as he decides what music to play, and at what volume, which bands to book, which beers to sell and so on. [and don't get distracted by tied houses and free houses - he makes the decision at some point. And yes, "he" is often a big company.]

    Everybody else, smoker and non-smoker alike, gets to choose whether to patronise his establishment or go elsewhere.

    That is liberty.

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  11. Sam: You seem to equate liberty with what the market dictates and that is not liberty at all. It might be all fine and dandy if the market is 'perfect', infinite competition, perfect knowledge, access etc. etc.

    But as we know, the market is full of distortions and imperfections. Because of how the market operates the balance will either fall almost exclusively in favour of a ban or almost exclusively against. You will not get a realistic choice. Just as the high street has become 'clone town' across Britain with less choice as regulation is relaxed. Without the council strictly controlling what retail units can be used for - we would end up with even less choice. Even if some sort of regulation could be successfully applied to give smoke free choice in every area, it still would not be acceptable. Some things should just not be tolerated. Smoking is very harmful and unpleasant to a lot of people. Someone's personal habit should not be allowed to cause other people such discomfort and damage their health in this way, period. People should be able to go about their normal lives without undue risk and discomfort. They were denied this choice before the ban.

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  12. Nearly everything we do needs regulation of some sort.

    Only in your crazy world of control Neil. Most of us are happy for the majority of our lives to be unregulated.

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  13. Sam: You seem to equate liberty with what the market dictates and that is not liberty at all.

    No, that's not at all what I'm doing. Liberty has nothing at all to do with the results of the "market".


    But as we know, the market is full of distortions and imperfections.

    Yes, there is no such thing as a perfect market, and information is often asymmetric. That's not terribly relevant here, though - apart from anything else, the pub customer knows pretty much all he needs to - there isn't a hidden information problem.

    Because of how the market operates the balance will either fall almost exclusively in favour of a ban or almost exclusively against.

    No, it won't. That's not a ban. That's a bunch of pub owners all deciding that they're going to play the same kind of music.

    I know you're a statist, so this is hard for you, but can you please try to see that there is a fundamental difference between having a bunch of non-smoking pubs because the landlords don't want to allow smoking, and having a bunch of non-smoking pubs because the government says so. I agree that the consequences for the individual customer when faced with the row of pubs and a thirst is the same, but that isn't the point.


    You will not get a realistic choice. Just as the high street has become 'clone town' across Britain with less choice as regulation is relaxed.

    The High Street has become 'clone town' because that is what most people want. People say that they want nice little town centres with friendly butchers wearing striped aprons with sawdust on the floor, but they actually buy their meat from Tesco, because it's cheaper. When it comes down to it, they'd quite like someone else to subsidise their quaint olde worlde shops, but they really want to buy cheap food.

    People should be able to go about their normal lives without undue risk and discomfort. They were denied this choice before the ban.

    No, they weren't. They could chose whatever they liked. If they want to chose to live their normal life in my house, though, they're going to have to put up with the fact that my house may not offer a perfect environment for them.

    Obviously they can't choose to go to a pub that doesn't exist, any more than a vegan can choose to go to a branch of Tesco without a meat counter, to avoid having to see animal corpses.

    Should we ban all restaurants from using nuts in their cooking, because some people will go into anaphylactic shock and die? By your argument, a restaurant nut ban would increase the "liberty" of peanut allergy sufferers, whilst only offering everyone else the trifling inconvenience of not being able to eat peanuts. You'd better get working on that ban, Neil...

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  14. Sam: 'I agree that the consequences for the individual customer when faced with the row of pubs and a thirst is the same, but that isn't the point'.

    But that is the point. I am not interested in what works in theory, I am interested in what works in practise. That is the difference between your approach and mine.

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  15. Stpd fackin cunt

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  16. "I am not interested in what works in theory, I am interested in what works in practise. That is the difference between your approach and mine."

    It's obvious that the only thing you're interested in is forcing people to behave the way you want them to. That's why you are not a libertarian but an authoritarian.

    God forbid that people should be free to live their lives as they wish.

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  17. [Your position appears to be that every enclosed space in to which the general public are invited or permitted is a "public space" and becomes more or less the property of the state]

    That's not just Neil's view, it is the law of the land. For example: a farmer was done for being drunk in charge of a vehicle on his own field because at the time it was being used for a boot fair and thus the provisions of the RTA applied to it. It certainly does not become 'the property of the state' but it is true that the state does regulate privated owned public spaces. But this is enshrined in many hundreds of years of common and statute law.

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  18. Hi
    I noticed you are assuming that the radiation emitted by phone masts is 'safe' and there is 'o evidence'
    Nothing oucld be further from the truth
    There are 1000's of studies pointing to adverse health effects
    Please see these sites for information if you are interested in finding out that the industry is not telling you the truth
    www.powerwatch.org.uk
    www.mastsanity.org

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