Thursday, 12 February 2015

Seymour: A libertarian, but not as we know it?

I’m not sure that ACT’ David Seymour would describe himself as a libertarian, but in this challenge over his refusal to support a voluntary euthanasia bill, he seems distinctly uncomfortable about being called a “social liberal.”

Seymour’s challenger Mark Hubbard claims this is just a further desertion of ACT’s claimed classical liberal position. And perhaps Jason Brennan’s “Neoclassical Liberal” would be the more accurate description anyway of someone whose maiden speech promotes “maximising” individual freedom primarily on the grounds of “efficiency”  in delivering wealth for an “equalitarian society.”  (The test of a true Neoclassical Liberal? Mention “Pareto efficiency” and see if their eyes gleam.)

If  this is libertarianism at all (given that terms like “left libertarian” and “bleeding heart libertarian” have been used to describe it) then it’s a new libertarianism. Even, perhaps, a “New Libertarianism” –something that “is more accommodating, less strident, more pragmatic, less hard core, more moderate.  It is more in line with mainstream … values and less opposed to core elements of a mixed economy and the modern welfare state.”

It embraces as a principle both philosophical and political compromise; it adopts as an imperative a position of never, ever frightening the horses; and “it is being developed in libertarian think tanks, political science departments, and campaign headquarters across the [U.S. and Canada].”

Whatever you call it, it is part of a “new wave” of thinking and political action both here in America (Hello, Rand Paul) that Objectivist John McCaskey ably describes, and acutely punctures. This last is important because

If the new doctrine keeps spreading and makes its way into political platforms and public policy, the last major … political doctrine even nominally defending individual rights will be gone.

Such an outcome would be demonstrably inefficient and wealth-minimising. It would also be morally wrong.

McCaskey’s eloquent piece looks at “where this [new libertarianism] came from, why it is importantly different, and why it is generating both excitement and contention.”

As a bonus, you get an armchair ride through the historical development of libertarianism itself – quite possibly the best, briefest, most un-jaundiced guide to the libertarian luminaries from Rand to Rothbard and Nozick to Hayek who fought and forged this political philosophy, and (with the latter) eventually gave away its keys.

4 comments:

  1. MPs can only put in one private members bill in the ballot at one time

    ReplyDelete
  2. I should point out I contacted David, whose shorter response is that while HE is a libertarian, his job is to serve the voters who elected him, who are not.

    We didn't discuss Rawls or Hayek, but he promised a longer response for NOT PC readers which might.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Peter, I should add, if I haven't already that the ACT caucus voted for the decriminalisation of medical marijuana in 2009. A private member's bill sponsored by the Greens. Sir Roger was absent from the vote.

    Nearly all the national party voted against the bill.

    ReplyDelete
  4. 'I will not let my conscience interfere with what I believe to be right'- Cyril Harker, National M.P. c 1955

    'I am a libertarian but my job is to serve the voters who elected me, who are not.'- David Seymour, ACT M.P. 2015

    'The love and protection of marine life is my life's true calling. But not my vocation...'- Early New Zealand baby seal clubber.

    'Because Filipino Tilt-a-Whirl operators are this nation's backbone!'- Will Ferrell

    ReplyDelete

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