This week: Republicanism, Rand and the Right…
1. DomPost: “Pharmacist, 70, jailed for supply of P ingredients”
In my work as a part-time medical officer at a drug and alcohol clinic I have a particular interest in reducing the harm to individuals, and to the greater community, caused by the health and legal problems associated with drug use. The legal problems associated with drug use include individual acts of violence and neglect related to the procurement, sale and consumption of drugs; as well as problems caused by the criminalisation of the choice to trade and/or personally use certain neuro-active substances.
Support or opposition for drug laws is a political litmus test which distinguishes the conservative ("right-wing") attitude on drug use from the libertarian view.
Conservatives believe the state owns your body, and can therefore make the rules as to what can and can't go into it, in order to stop you from making mistakes that could harm you.
Libertarians believe you own your body* and can thus determine input and output.
Conservatives treat adults as children; libertarians tend to treat adults as adults.
Currently, the state tolerates self-regulation of alcohol and nicotine intake in adults. These two drugs cause a well-documented and well-known range of negative health outcomes.
While permitting the use of these substances, our government forbids the use of many others.
This prohibition causes immense harm by arbitrarily turning peaceful people into nominal criminals, in many cases incarcerating them and labelling them as real criminals for little more that ingestion of substances of which the state presently disapproves.
Prohibition often does turn previously peaceful people into real criminals (i.e. initiators of violence against other people or their property). It tends to make the illicit substances traded much more concentrated (and therefore more dangerous), less reliable in terms of quality (has Consumer magazine ever ranked the best suppliers of cannabis?) and far more expensive. The vendors of illicit drugs are often far less scrupulous than vendors of legal substances (witness stories of illicit drug dealers flogging their wares outside schools, for example, compared to where party pills used to be sold).
The demand within our community for stimulant drugs such as amphetamine, and the state's determination to stop adults being able to buy it, has spawned the P industry—a marketplace that is dominated by criminals and gangs, and is supported by the politicians. The biggest nightmare for P manufacturers and dealers would not be further criminalisation of drug use in adults, but legalisation. Profits would simply go through the floor.
The Libertarianz Party endorses drug legalisation, because it is consistent with improving individual freedom. Supporting drug legalisation is not an election-winning strategy, but as I said before, but it is a litmus test. Those who attack the Libertarianz Party for raising the issue are always reluctant to say where they stand on it.
It is a matter of freedom. The thought of people Morris dancing in their own homes, or at Green Party conferences, repels me—but outlawing it would not stop people wanting to do it. The activity would be driven underground, to less salubrious environments run by nasty violent people, at much greater cost to all involved.
The septugenarian pharmacist jailed for supplying methamphetamine substrate to P manufacturers is a victim of our drug laws. Locking him up will not stop people wanting to self-medicate with stimulants, it simply makes less salubrious the places and suppliers with which they have to do business.
And anyone who claims that no-one should need stimulants should first check whether they themselves drink coffee. And how they would feel if coffee was outlawed.
2. NZ Herald: “Cullen: New Zealand should be republic”
Whether or not Michael Cullen delivers his anticipated call for establishment of a republic, comments contained in speech notes indicate he has done an about-face on the issue.
At the time he held a cabinet post he opposed republicanism, describing himself as the last cabinet’s "token monarchist." I guess he must have “token” vales as well.
I abhorred Cullen during his years in parliament. Fuelled by a childhood resentment of wealth and success, he and his ilk spent their entire political careers harassing and intimidating the productive people who funded their jobs and perks. Cullen's war cry, his battle chant—“we won, you lost, eat that”—perfectly summarises his snark, biting the hand that fed him like the ungrateful parasite he was.
However, I come not to bury Cullen, but to praise him—faintly, and in passing mind you—for rekindling the republicanism debate. For it has long been Libertarianz Party policy to replace the current system of democratic representative government under British monarchy with a system of constitutional republicanism similar to that of the original United States. The important point is not so much the replacement of Betty Battenburg as our head of state, but an overhaul of the form of state governance itself.
Libertarians believe government should not only be small, it should be tied up with a very short (constitutional) leash, and beaten with a very long stick if it gets ideas above its station. To ensure this, there should be separation of government powers: administration of the state bureaucracy (the executive function) should be separate from law-making (the legislative function), which in turns needs independence from dispute resolution and law enforcement (the judicial function).
History professor Paul Moon correctly points out that we are a de facto republic already, with a Queen that does not interefere in the political process. And, of course, with abandonment of recourse to the Privy Council, the judicial system has freed itself of all ties to Britain. Herald columnist Garth George, despite a silly title to his article, uncharacteristically gets things exactly right:
“We might have our own Supreme Court but we need to remember that
Parliament remains the country's ultimate court.
“It can, the way we have it set up, pretty much do what it likes. There are
insufficient checks and balances as things stand, opposition parties and triennial
elections notwithstanding. Irreparable damage can be done in three years by
self-interested politicians, as we well know.”
3. NZ Herald: “Matt McCarten: Death throes of the soulless party of self interest”
Every time I bring up the subject of the ACT Party, its defenders and apologists are quick to rush in and point to the Libertarianz Party's lack of electoral success. ACT, if one cares to remember, was the baby of two high profile ex-cabinet ministers from the best government New Zealand has had in the last fifty years. It received massive publicity and tens of thousands of people, myself included, voted for them.
Over time, and especially under the leadership of Rodney Hide, its medium-term future has looked increasingly uncertain. Not the least of its problems is abandonment its found principles, the leadership style of Mr Hide, his highly embarrassing perk-lusting behaviour after years of perk-busting rhetoric, and the ongoing lack of any statement of core values on ACT's website. I'm sure they used to have some.** They were probably similar to these ones, http://www.libertarianz.org.nz/principles/,from which come these policies: http://www.libertarianz.org.nz/policies/.
But bizarrely, it now seems ACT is being tarred with the same brush with which their own followers try and daub Libertarianz. Look at this, for example, from McCarten:
“The [ACT Party] cultists worship at the altar of their prophet, Ayn Rand, and delude
themselves if everyone only focuses on getting what they want, then somehow this
is good for everyone.”
Heaven forbid ACT should ever endorse anything from Ayn Rand! But if it isn’t individualism and rational self-interest that underpins ACT party policy and provides intellectual fuel for its electoral candidates, then what the hell does? Or did?
Anything at all?
Of course, the person throwing these accusations of self-interest at ACT MPs (as if that was an insult) is a woefully ignorant apologist for a totalitarian political movement that has been such an economic failure wherever it was tried that its luminaries murdered and starved tens of millions of people to fit them into into its straitjacket. Matt McCarten and his fellow travellers care not one iota for these facts, nor that a person's brain, his or her thoughts, and the products that derive from these thoughts and action, and the right to trade these products and to prosper thereby, are the vary basis for improvements in human standards of living.
However, even this well-known political waka-jumper and apologist for murderous totalititarianism can point to Rodney’s Super-Sized City Council as a reason to question just where ACT is heading.
I find it increasingly difficult myself to reconcile the megalomaniacal concentration of bureaucratic power that Rodney Hide has engineered in Auckland with the vision of smaller government and the devolution of services that ACT seemed to stand for in its earlier days. ACT’s dwindling number of supporters must be feeling equally confused.
“When the people fear the government, there is tyranny - when the
government fears the people, there is liberty.”
- attributed to Thomas Jefferson
* More accurately, your body is you. – Ed.
** They certainly did. The party’s founding principles were stated in two short sentences. And we have a prize on offer to any ACT supporter who can say what they actually were—and who wrote them. – Ed.