The London Libertarian

The London Libertarian

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Commentary and debate on politics, economics and culture from a libertarian perspective. To Libertarian Alliance Website >

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PoliticsPosted by Jan Lester Wed, April 09, 2014 14:22:46

need *Commonsense opinion often has it that our needs are few, obvious and easy to satisfy, but the wants of the *greedy are infinite and uncontrolled, thereby causing the needy to go without. The reality is the reverse: our needs are infinite, often unknown and ultimately impossible to satisfy; our wants will always be finite and subject to our control; trying to satisfy our wants is what most helps the needy.

It can be useful to distinguish between a biological need (something that is required for an organism’s healthy survival, which this entry discusses) and a hypothetical need (something that is required to achieve a particular chosen goal). Some biological needs are unknown (as the need for vitamin C was once disastrously unknown by sailors) and they are literally infinite (we shall all eventually die because we shall not receive something required for our survival).

Almost everyone makes trade-offs between their known needs and wants unrelated to those needs. Only those who are doing everything they possibly can to live as long as possible are attempting to have perfectly congruent needs and wants. On average they will not live much longer than most people, but it may well seem longer—including for those people whom they insist on telling about their efforts. Anyone who approves of using the *state to *coerce people to meet certain of their own needs, whether by making them do something or not do something, is to some degree a *health *fascist.

The view that the state should provide, or guarantee, opportunities for people to meet their needs falls foul of their infinite and sometimes unknown *nature, as well as *economic calculation (as competing needs have to be balanced in an *economic way, as only the *market is capable of doing, even if we ignore what people actually want).

Generally, people obtain more of what they need plus more of what they actually want via the *free market. State intervention replaces the *invisible hand of the market with the manifest jackboot of *politics. And it is in *countries in dire *poverty that the state will do the most harm by trying to assist with needs (see *famine; *less-developed countries).

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

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PoliticsPosted by Jan Lester Wed, April 09, 2014 14:19:44

poverty There are various competing accounts and criteria of poverty. Some have an absolute conception often in terms of *need, but there are problems with that (discussed in the entry on need). Others prefer a relative conception, but there are great problems with that too. In particular it can entail that there will always be poverty as long as there is inequality (so this definition suits *politically correct *ideologues), and that means while humans exist (which suits those *academics and *charity-workers living off the ‘poverty industry’: the overclass that needs to maintain the existence of the underclass). Also the degree of the alleviation of poverty, and to what extent it matters, might not be clear as the goal posts keep being moved.

Assume an absolute conception that is not needlessly precise: poverty is some low and desperate standard of living such that normal human flourishing is difficult or impossible. This is undoubtedly a severe *welfare problem, but one that might ultimately be solved. We can distinguish the two most important questions. What is the cause of poverty? What is the cure for poverty? A plethora of answers have been forthcoming from different academic disciplines and different *ideologies. Rather than attempt to list and discuss them all, this entry will give the answers that might be expected from *libertarianism. The overwhelming proximate cause of poverty is severe *political interference in an *economy. And the fastest and most complete solution to poverty is *free-market *anarchy.

Thus this is just an extreme example of the general point that the more political interference you suffer the more your welfare and *liberty will be destroyed; and the more you approach free-market anarchy the more that welfare and liberty will be enhanced. So it is not necessary to abolish *politics completely to, start to, solve the problem of poverty. Any moves in the right direction should help: significantly lowering *taxes, abolishing *minimum wage legislation; allowing *free trade, *depoliticizing industry, scrapping building codes that cause *homelessness; *freedom of travel and migration, etc. See the relevant entries for explanations.

Even if we take a relative conception of poverty, then poverty is alleviated by the fact that the market tends toward long-run *equality while the state tends to create an underclass that falls ever lower behind the average. So cutting welfare benefits is, ironically but utterly, germane to raising the standards of this artificial underclass.

See *aid, foreign; *democide; *famine; *less-developed countries.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

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PoliticsPosted by Jan Lester Wed, April 09, 2014 11:48:46

impartiality Various *ideologies—including some *religions, *animal *rightists, and the *politically correct—interpret partial treatment as in some way inherently immoral and unjust. It is true that *morality and *justice require a form of impartiality. But the sense in which they do is that any such rules must be applied without any bias that flouts the rules themselves. Thus if the rule is that theft is wrong or unjust, then one cannot consistently make exceptions such as for oneself or for an *organization such as the *state. Pure impartiality, as with pure *toleration, makes no sense: one must first have a rule or principle toward which one is partial. And all rules *discriminate in some way, so discrimination cannot be inherently unjust or immoral unless there are to be no rules (which risks falling into paradox: a rule against rules).

For instance, to hold that it is immoral to kill *persons but not immoral to kill non-persons (including other animals) does not flout moral impartiality despite being partial to persons. Nor does impartiality as such require that, 1) there be *objective criteria for differences in treatment, 2) all persons are treated as *equals in any way, or 3) any differences in their treatment must be deserved. I may simply choose to favour someone with something that he does not deserve (my patronage, a gift, a job, or whatever) without thereby being immoral or unjust. In fact, being partial to some, such as family and friends, can be morally admirable and even a *duty.

See *fairness; *prejudice.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

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PoliticsPosted by Jan Lester Tue, April 08, 2014 15:51:48

prejudice A *judgment, or *opinion, formed prior to due consideration of adequate evidence. It is often suggested, implicitly or explicitly, that this is not *rational or *moral. But this seems mistaken for several reasons. 1) As *belief-formation is automatic, rather than a choice, most prejudice is inevitable and part of the intellectual process. 2) Contra *political correctness, on the basis of any kind of judgment people have a *right to take any actions they deem appropriate within the rules of *anarchic, *private-property ownership. They do not *proactively impose on anyone by such *libertarian behavior. 3) It is not always *economic, or possible, to obtain and duly consider adequate evidence. 4) It is a matter of considerable conjecture when this has been done. In fact, it will be a *critical-rationalist quest that is ultimately stopped for *economic reasons.

That said, a lot that is alleged to be prejudice is not prejudice at all but either, 1) a considered view that is merely at odds with the observer’s different view, or 2) a matter of personal preference or taste where further evidence would be irrelevant. It might overthrow the prejudices of some people to realize that it is both possible and popular to have an ‘anti-*racist prejudice’ and an ‘anti-sexist prejudice’. Generally, allegations of prejudice—as with those of *bigotry and *dogmatism—are pejoratives that may apply as much or more to the person that is making the accusation. Thus, outside legal contexts, the word is possibly best avoided except perhaps in retaliation against such charges.

See *discrimination; *stereotypes.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

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PoliticsPosted by Jan Lester Tue, April 08, 2014 15:47:21

bigotry Bigotry is, broadly, the unreasoning *intolerance of any creed, opinion, or even some group other than one’s own. It is sometimes said that a fool cannot reason and a bigot will not reason; to which we might add that a philosopher will not stop reasoning.

The first thing to note is that bigoted views might well be true, good, or useful. But even if they are not, people have an absolute *right to be bigots in the expression and implementation of any view, as long as it is within the framework of *consenting *persons and their *property. So bigotry must be tolerated. Bigotry is only a problem for *liberty if it results in the *license of *proactively imposing on the persons and property of others. And there it is the license that is the problem and not the bigoted views as such.

It is a controversial matter, in any case, which views are held in a bigoted (i.e., unreasoningly intolerant) way. Contra *political correctness, for instance, there is no inherent reason that one cannot use (sound) reasoning to defend *discrimination. The only useful test of *illiberal bigotry ought to be whether someone wishes (or, a fortiori, seriously attempts) *aggressively to impose his bigoted views on others; whether via *state *legislation or by physically attacking them. Here again, it is the wish to impose that is illiberal, rather than any bigoted nature of this wish. By this test, some *‘racial-purity’ *nationalists may be illiberal bigots. But then so are many of the self-styled ‘anti-*racists’ and ‘anti-sexists’, and politically-correct *fascists of all sorts; which is ironic, as they also want to accuse people of bigotry when those people merely wish peacefully to exercise their *freedom of association and *free speech.

See *prejudice.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

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freedom of association

PoliticsPosted by Jan Lester Tue, April 08, 2014 15:41:41

freedom of association Not being *proactively prevented or compelled as regards associating with *persons. Hence freedom of association must be with the permission of all persons and any *property owners involved. This is traditionally recognized as one of the most important freedoms. It has been considerably curbed by the rise of *political correctness, which does not fully allow it with regard to sex, *race, sexual orientation, and an increasing number of other characteristics. Only *anarchic *private property makes freedom of association fully viable, otherwise people come into *political conflict over *state-owned areas. This *liberty of association logically extends to businesses *discriminating with regard to employees and customers, and vice versa, as much as to any other areas of life.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

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PoliticsPosted by Jan Lester Tue, April 08, 2014 15:39:38

fairness This means little more than whatever state of affairs or procedures someone finds *morally attractive, usually because *honest but also often *equal in some way (including not *discriminating). And so the idea that ‘equality is fair’ will seem to be a moral axiom to some people. But *libertarians have sound reasons for rejecting the idea that inequality or discrimination is inherently unfair, and so reject the ‘axiom’ as a mere *prejudice.

Even if we consider some *politically correct interpretation of ‘fairness’, it does not follow that *political *coercion should or could rectify some unfair situation. Any ‘fairness’ that is *proactively imposed will tend to destroy *liberty and *welfare, for the usual *economic reasons. Thus such ‘fairness’ should not be a criterion of what is permissible in *law. But sentiments of fairness that have an *egalitarian basis do not withstand informed *criticism: they are childish and uncivilized (see *envy). Applied to society as a whole, this sentiment is known as *‘social justice’.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

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PoliticsPosted by Jan Lester Tue, April 08, 2014 15:35:21

discrimination In its basic sense, to discriminate is merely to make distinctions. But practically this must be for purposes of making choices. In fact, the more useful distinctions people can act on, the better off they are likely to be. The whole of social or interpersonal *liberty can be explained as discriminating as you wish in your use of your *legitimate *property. Thus *private-property discrimination is a *civil liberty. All *proactively imposed restrictions on such discrimination interfere with liberty for the purpose of increasing the *license or illiberal *power of other agents; whether this be the *state itself or *privileged interest groups.

Genuinely arbitrary discrimination in the *free market, that does not reflect any underlying reality of *demand or supply, is very likely to be competed away by businesses that do not thus discriminate and that thereby make more *profit. Any remaining discrimination is probably *efficient, such as that based on a market reflecting *racial preferences, or insurance companies having differential rates based on varying statistical risks among identifiable groups. It was only state action that created such uneconomic institutions as *apartheid in South Africa and proactively imposed *racial segregation in the *USA.

Notoriously, the word ‘discrimination’ is also used by the *politically correct (PC) as a pejorative for any social discrimination to which they object. These currently include discrimination on such bases as *race, color, ethnicity, *national origin, sex, *gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, *religion, *disability, age, ancestry, height, weight, marital status, veteran status, family status, language, accent, and dress. Some main PC objections are that these discriminations are based on *prejudice or *bigotry and are *irrational, *unfair, *unjust, *oppressive, or *morally arbitrary; see respective entries for further discussion.

The issue also arises of whether the state should discriminate in any of these politically incorrect ways. The most important point for the *libertarian *anarchist is that there should be no state-provided, or subsidized, services financed by *tax-*extortion, and so the question is redundant. Given that the state does intervene, though, there seems no reason to assume the *legitimacy of a PC bias. The least unlibertarian state action, and wider than just avoiding PC impositions, would possibly be to attempt to work out what the market and *charity would have roughly provided. Another possibility might be to allow net taxpayers to choose their policy preferences on their tax forms.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism

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