Monday, 16 February 2015

Right of reply: David Seymour

Guest post by David Seymour

In response to Peter’s conjecture I am a libertarian but not as we know them, and that I may be part of a dangerous strain of compromising libertarians, a few thoughts.

I believe in human flourishing, that people should be free to flourish in self-chosen ways.  I believe this is most likely to happen in an environment where the role of government is limited in a principled way.  I believe the role of government in New Zealand today is too large, and that the government should own, spend, and regulate less than it currently does.

The next question is how to achieve a freer society.  I don’t claim to have a monopoly on wisdom in regard to this question.  There is probably no one answer, different people apply different talents to different facets of the problem.  We should respect a diversity of approaches.

My approach is this.  I want to take the 150,000-200,000 New Zealanders who are most in favour of a freer society and represent them in parliament.  The rationale for this number is that it is the smallest group that can support a viable political party under New Zealand’s electoral system, year in, year out.

Of course not everybody in such a group will be a died-in-the-wool libertarian purist.  The party they vote for will not be a pure libertarian party.  This is where an important principle in public policy and in life applies: choose between realistic alternatives.  The realistic alternative in this case is not some magical party that is at once pure libertarian and politically viable, it is the National Party as the parliamentary defender of freedom.

Given that that 150,000-200,000 are a disorganised minority, so far as parliament is concerned, would those of us be better or worse off if my approach succeeds?  If you believe it is worthwhile then you have to decide what you’re prepared to give up in order to help.  Some ways of supporting are practically costless, others do come at a cost that you must weigh up for yourself.

Joining ACT would help.  If you are not a member, it is $20 for three years.   Membership lists are secret but your number adds moral weight to the party. 

Politics costs money, especially rebuilding a party.  Remember, political parties are the most proximal restraint on government by civil society.  If you are prepared to support ACT you can donate  here.

Or, if you’d just like to take a look, come to our conference at Alan Gibbs’ farm this weekend, Saturday 21st.

David Seymour is the MP for Epsom, Leader of ACT New Zealand, and a master of party promotion.


  1. "The next question is how to achieve a freer society"
    "who are most in favour of a freer society and represent them in parliament"
    "Of course not everybody in such a group will be a died-in-the-wool libertarian purist."

    Not *anybody* in such a group. Why? Because a libertarian is committed to a free society, not your 'freer society'. Libertarians are not satisfied with the lesser of two competing evils or, "choose between realistic alternatives" as you put it. Libertarianism is the political extension of the non-initiation of force. Not the 'practical' or the 'realistic' or the lesser initiation of force.

    So I think we have our answer, David is not a libertarian and goes on to slander the adherents as 'some magical party' as if non-violence is a myth alongside unicorns and leprechauns.

    Very well then, please don't dismiss libertarians and then ask for our money and support. And please don't kid yourself and others by borrowing the name for yourself as a libertarian. You are not a fellow-traveler, you are an enabler. You are false advertising. You are a state agnostic gate-crashing on state atheists.

  2. Weasel words David.

    Peter's header post linked to my own blog post here:

    That post has one specific purpose, to ask your reason for not championing a euthanasia bill via the ballot?

    From that, the question of are you a social liberal on issue of euthanasia, drug legalisation, et al, or a conservative? "Flourishing' tells me nothing.

    You know, after all this, you still won't even place yourself on the line on if you personally, even, agree with assisted dying legislation, and the basic individual right transacted by that?

    Do you? Forget the politics: do you personal believe in that right?

    Though I hate politics and 'public' I'll offer all the back office support I am able to for you to get the equivalent of Maryan Street's Bill into the ballot.

  3. Addendum: I'll offer the back office support for that one bill, but I certainly won't be joining ACT with this wishy washy nonsense.

  4. Jesus, re-read. Helping 'the National Party as the defender of freedom' !!! Really?

    And you have no desire to even try and differentiate ACT. What's the point of you or ACT?

    Cynical political game playing career building, at best, clueless at worst.

  5. Libertarianism is supposed to be all about freedom, yet when a self-proclaimed libertarian actually thinks for themselves on any given issue (such as after considering what actually happens in the real world as opposed to a theoretical 'libertarian society') they get excommunicated from the cult.

    That is if they were ever considered to be enough of a tool to be a member of the cult in the first place.

    And the Libz wonder why they are dismissed as a group of nutters.

  6. Max has it sussed. The libs sound like the "People's Front for the liberation of Judea" and various competing sects in "the Life of Brian". I like the idea of liberteranism but will be excluded because I'm Christian and haven't read the Gospel of Rand.


  7. The last two comments are trolling, not even on the issue.

    I note 3:16, the ultimate 'pragmatist', along with his buddy Seymour, commented on my euthanasia thread also, I'll simply copy and paste my response to him from my blog:

    'Go away.

    Because here's another perspective. Euthanasia will be VOLUNTARY. Thus, those who don't want it as an option, including my father, christian, currently dying and existing in circumstances he told me yesterday he would prefer not to have to live through, don't have a say in this debate. The naysayers, mainly mystics, always inhumane when trying to force their medieval views of the nobility of suffering, are irrelevant.

    ACT, as a classical liberal party exists only to champion an individual's volition over life and death, in all matters. Jamie Whyte understood that.

    But this ACT are not classical liberals: rather, authoritarian social conservatives.'

  8. By the way, the fact I see (for the first time, s/he never admitted it on my blog) that 3:16 is a Christian Conservative, about places ACT where I thought they were under Seymour.

    Move on, no classical liberal party here, it's just Colin Craig's lot.

  9. @Mark Hubbard - 3:16 is a Christian, but I'm not sure he (she? I'm going to assume he, don't shoot me) is a conservative. Any time I've entered into a debate with him, he has responded intelligently, and without resort to insult or abuse. He's also professed belief in minimal government. Can't we therefore discuss instead of abuse? Maybe there's more agreement than you think? Or maybe we (I say we, since I side with you Mark on voluntary euthanasia) can present a persuasive enough argument to challenge the opposing arguments and "convert" a few to our side?

    @3:16 Objectivism and libertarianism aren't the same. Being a christian may preclude you from the former, but not the latter. Don't get me wrong, without evidence for your deity, I'll always think you're a bit nuts, but I have plenty of friends who think I'm a bit nuts for being a libertarian!

    @David Seymour I was hoping your "right of reply" would actually constitute a rebuttal to Mark's points. Instead it read like a party political broadcast/recruiting tool. How about another post where you actually state your position, and reasons for holding it, rather than just point your thumb at John Key and say "I'll do what he does and I'd like you all to pay me to keep doing so"?

  10. @3:16 Just to clarify, I am pretty sure if the bible says you should do something, you wouldn't expect that should be enforced by government, correct? That is, individual morality should be left to the individual, rather than dictated by the government, no matter what anyone believes any god may have to say on the matter?

  11. Grieg

    You make some good points. But no apologies for being a hot head on euthanasia. People who are dying in appalling circumstances don't have time: this is not a normal issue, it's a vital one.

    What Xians such as 3:16 don't seem to get is they have no right to be heard on euthanasia. It's voluntary; they aren't being forced into anything, they have no right to force their views on those of us who know it's a basic right. Same goes for the abortion debate: Xians need to butt out.

    The classical liberal society allows Xians freedom of religion, as it allows me services such as assisted dying - that's the social contract. But Xians always have to have their noses in other peoples lives: look at comments to my original piece.

    But the classical liberal society: apparently Seymour doesn't get it either. And you were right in your final part. I would have expected a philosophical rebuttal,and a firm statement of his personal views. Instead we got a cut and paste from a National Party election pamphlet.


    I'll raise a beer to your good health, regardless, Grieg :)

  12. Mark, the test for if a person is a libertarian or not is *NOT* if they support euthanasia.
    People can have completely legitimate reasons against it (be it religious, or moral, or other reasons) to oppose euthanasia.
    Yet still be full supporters of libertarianism, just because they don't support your particular specific strand of libertarianism doesn't make them not libertarians too.

    1. That is an issue of which they do not support the libertarian viewpoint though, It is a conservative viewpoint, on that issue. I do agree we shouldn't then call them a conservative, but it's to an extent correct.

  13. Reasonable stuff from Seymour -- playing the hand dealt him, and trying wrangle it to advantage.

    Epsom did not put him there because they wanted a classical lib/libertarian -- it was a tactical vote to support National. He gets this.

    Had ACT got more votes, they'd have had the support base & MPs to take a more libertarian tack & role & frighten the horses. But there was no appetite for this among the NZ voter.

    Seymour is looking out towards the next 6-9 years, while respecting the Epsom voter. It's a small, lucky beachhead he's working to hold onto & consolidate. Makes sense.

    If you want anything out of him, understand his position & work within it. Or, just keep firing off the slings & arrows.

  14. Damn, I meant to reply to David's comment. Not used to this forum.

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  17. Try again, sorry, typos my undoing ....

    To David. Yeah I know. Where I enter this thread is simply because Peter used my post as an 'instance'. And at the moment I'm only concerned with euthanasia, which Seymour refuses to speak to.

    Though, I don't believe you can call yourself libertarian if you don't believe in assisted dying, because you don't then believe you own your own body, and thus volition, in one of the most important parts of your life.

    And quite apart from all that, all libertarians should accept that those who don't believe in euthanasia have no right to have their voices heard, because it's voluntary: no one is forcing you, and so no libertarian would seek to not allow such law for those who want it.

    Again, the social contract is NOT the damned tax state based on the tax take forced on us by statists, Left and Right, it's that society where I accept religious freedom, et al, for people to believe in the big tree frog for all I care, and the religious accept policies anathema to them, such as euthanasia, abortion, drug legalisation, et al. The binding principle is non-initiation of force and do no harm.

    Here's another for Seymour: does he support drug legalisation? (Though because he refuses to tie himself down to a 'side' on a non-contentious issue such as euthanasia (supported by the majority, and no, I don't hold any truck with majoritanism), we'll be waiting for a long time for his view on that.

    And by the by, his most dreadful statement above is that he believes National are the champions of freedom, which, given their draconian moves to enforce and bolster the tax state, alone, is absurd - read my blog, especially my last post on FATCA:

    Also, Seymour seems to have no wish to even define ACT as something other than Nation.

  18. Following from my last comment, for those of you who think National are the champions of freedom, as Seymour does, read my summary piece on this link, on how everything is tax avoidance now, if the state says so, everything is illegal: this is the omniscient state:

  19. @ Greig 11pm. Yes, I have no expectation that the govt will legislate what the bible says I should do at a personal level. The bible, when read in context, is big at a personal level on kindness, compassion, self reliance, accountability and so on but I think those are moral perspectives that cannot realistically be legislated. You can't pass a law that says people must be honest etc... Islam tries and look at the disingenuous violent shambles that is. So I live in a world where I hate most of the petty rules but have to ignore / tolerate them. I am an ardent capitalist but as a Christian that means I ponder treating people nicely and being ethical - its not all about the money. I'm no fan of Colin Craig and his socialist but supposedly moral conservative party and have not been tempted to vote for many years. The political system is so broken that I cannot, with a clear conscience, support any part of it because economically they all suck and the root causes of the mess remain in place.

    My issue with Mark Hubbard, whose politics I generally like, and his crusade is that you can't expect anyone to be a one trick wonder in politics. If you want to kill yourself I'm fine with that (but I'm not going to pull the trigger), it should be your choice and one I may make myself, but once the govt passes a law about when, who and how you must it will become a minefield. There is no easy answer and with something as difficult as this that is hardly surprising. I'm also tired of people comparing an ill human being to a dog or other pet as well. You put a dog down because its a dog and I struggle to see that its noble to treat people that way.

    3:16 is a bible reference that should mean something to Christians and those atheists who profess to know all about the Bible so they can rubbish it.


  20. @3:16 I know it's a bible reference, and weirdly, I even know what it says, though I dispute the reality of the assertions "God", "Son", and "loved"! ;) Since you don't have a handle though, I assumed it was your nom-de-plume of choice and you just didn't feel like having an account. How would you like to be addressed?

    It's good to see that we agree on far more than we disagree on. I think disagreement is almost as important as agreement when it comes to getting things done. The problem is that so often, people can't treat disagreement as an intellectual puzzle to be solved through debate, but rather an excuse to entrench or become (to continue the earlier Python reference) "splitters" and form yet another People's Front of Judea.

    I think you make an excellent point on the nature of legislation. How would you propose to achieve the end that both you and Mark desire (an individual's freedom to end their own life) without such a piece of legislation though? A modification to manslaughter laws perhaps, including an exception?

    While I take your point (and agree) that a dog and a human are not equal, the point is valid in that no living thing wishes to continue suffering. If a suffering dog had the means to end its own life, I believe it would do so. That's simply opinion though.

    @Mark We really must have that beer sometime! :)

  21. I have no easy answer as to how Mark can have what he wants in a way that I see as safe. I don't think the issue is one a govt should rule on at all as my life is my life. So, to me, it comes back to a medical opinion and care with pain control leading to death. It can be made to sound so darned simple. Part of the problem seems to be that people who "assist" go on to tell everyone or write a book about it. Maybe sometimes you have to just get the job done and shut-up despite thinking you are on a moral crusade?

    I read about the transgender bloke that had himself put down because he wasn't happy despite changing sex and the old cousins that went to Switzerland (so I recall) to be put down because they were frightened of being separated by the welfare people when they went into old folks homes. The former I care about because its sad to see people so screwed up and the second because there was no one apart from themselves to love them. The latter particularly saddens me. My parents loved the companionship and love of their kids as they got old, sick and died. They never doubted they were important and loved. While Mark will say death is always voluntary I see a day when it will be like the Army when they call for volunteers - you, you and you.

    I can't say I like a world where it will be legal to kill for convenience and that's where I see this going and get stuck. Being a Christian does not consciously dictate my view on this.

    Being very private I like to be anonymous.



  22. @anonymous (now I feel like I'm addressing a hacker collective ;) ) Again, I agree with what you're saying, with the caveat that the government already DOES rule on the issue. Given that fact, shouldn't we all be in favour of anything removing such ruling, and thus allowing the medical opinion and action you describe to take place free of fear of prison?

  23. Yes but I tend to think we will simply swap a rule for another rule and be little better off. It will be like Monty Python's skit 'The being eaten by a crocodile competition". Will we get unrestricted garnishing or a standard olympic mayonnaise? Will we need a new breed of people who have not signed up to the hippocratic oath though? What a job. I can hear the jokes already and see the costumes - I am Death etc... Darned Pythonists have touched every part of our emotions.

    I suspect medical treatment already ends lives and no-one reports it because it was medical first and life ending second. Maybe there are times that when you clear away the fog and see clearly what you see is a reality that was better hidden? I've said before that I think we will have legal euthanasia soon enough but suspect it will kill people who really just want a compassionate ear.


  24. Regarding your last point, 3:16, you actually pinpoint how unethical the position of NZ's Medical Association is. Sorry for linkspamming, but I've dealt with all this stuff over and over on my blog, and I don't want to repeat it everywhere, so here:

    The NZMA's position is they are against euthanasia, though they refuse to poll their members (when the UK MA did, their members overwhelmingly voted this was an issue for society, not the UK MA), however, their justification is because it's ethical to prescribe (over-prescribe) pain killing medication that may 'hasten the end of life'. It's the back-street vendor excuse of we don't need euthanasia because it happens already.

    That's shameful and negligent for an ethical point of view, and arrogant, because it implies NZMA members can decide life or death, not we individuals ourselves.

    Worse, the outgoing Chief Coroner held a series of workshops wanting to strengthen the death certification process in such a way that such doctors over-prescribing would be found out an prosecuted: so much for the NZMA's unethical position.

    I'm afraid your 'I suspect medical treatment already ends lives...' is just that negligent excuse which denies my individual volition (which, again, is nothing to do with you.)

  25. I was tempted to ignore this because I'm not allowed an opinion but what the heck. I accept your point that you alone should have a choice about your life (and have a do not revive request in place for me) but not that the mechanics and morals of ending a life are as simple as a law change. My issue centers on the ethical (?) question as to when are you entitled to expect someone else to actively provide the means to end your life. At that point your wants and life inevitably becomes someone else's business. I hope you get what you want but suspect it will be a flawed bucket of shit like the RMA that will allow abuses by those who pretend they care.


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  27. You're allowed an opinion, it just shouldn't carry any political weight with this issue.

    Regarding your 'bucket of shit', as I've said, and as with the Christian driving me nuts on my original blog post, God's got his hands over your eyes because you won't seem to read what I write: assisted dying works well, and ethically, in many jurisdictions, so there is, apparently, no shit.

    No, the mechanics and morals of life and death aren't always easy, thus it's important for law and state to largely get out of the way and leave such complexity to the individuals concerned; it's their lives and deaths after all. And don't worry about the doctors: even now, many doctors practice mercy killing (unofficially), thankfully, and many see such a service as well within their oath to care. Euthanasia law actually puts all these decisions above board, ethically, so such doctors don't have to skulk around like criminals (as they would certainly be treated like criminals if the past Chief Coroner got his way.)

    But as I said, and I don't always mean to antagonise, you are God-Afflicted, thus God-Blinded, and so have the unfortunate dismal, cynical, Fallen view of man that ends up in you backing the state against my volition, via God on almost all social issues. And that's why Christians can't be, in my definition, libertarians. At best you can be economic-small staters, but not moral small staters: that is, you are conservatives.

    And with that, I'll leave it at that 3:16.


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