Southampton University Libertarian Society

Ayn Rand’s Howard Rourke on Creativity by sconzey
February 8, 2010, 12:33 am
Filed under: Libertarianism, Philosophy, Views | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Open Contracts: A Market Anarchist Theory of Advertising by sconzey
January 22, 2010, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Philosophy, Views | Tags: , , , ,

In discussions with Statists, regulation of advertising is commonly raised as an objection to market anarchism. The argument goes that false advertising used to be a serious problem, but thanks to ex ante regulation, companies are prevented from using advertising which is obscene or misleading.

On the face of it, this is a serious problem. Suppose landowners used ex ante regulations to control advertising on their property. When property holdings are large, this is a reasonable proposition; in the case of a for-profit metropolitan company for instance, it is entirely reasonable that consumers be aware of the company’s advertising policy. However when passing through unfamiliar property, or when holdings are small, how can a consumer be expected to know the constraints placed on the truthfulness of advertising? Indeed, this very problem is still largely unsolved on the great unregulated Internet.

The reader should be familiar with that staple of market anarchist theory, the Private Defence Agency; both police and armed forces, an Agency protects their subscribers’ personal and private property, as well as enforcing their contracts, settling disagreements between subscribers in an arbitration court and then enforcing the decisions. When a dispute arises between the customers of two different PDAs, a pre-agreed arbitration court, or one nominated by the two disputers is used, with both PDAs agreeing to abide by it’s decisions.

The solution to the problem of false advertising is clear then: if a company believes that the claims they use in their advertising would stand up in a court of law, they place the logo of their PDA subtly on the advert, signalling that it is not just an advert, but an open contract between them and whoever buys their product or uses their services.

The problem of obscenity in advertising is much harder one, because people have no right not to be offended. I think this can satisfactorily be left to civil society, to ensure that most places enforce minimum standards of conduct and behaviour.

Reflections on “that” Question Time by sconzey
October 23, 2009, 6:43 pm
Filed under: Current Affairs

Listening to some people call in to Radio One, and reading a statement from Nick Griffin reposted by the times, it seems that the beeb have played right into the hands of the BNP narrative of “the left-liberal media trying to silence the troof”.

Lets face it, most britons — as Bonnie Greer said — find the BNP’s historical narrative and philosophical foundation fundementally unpaletable. There was no way Nick Griffin was — through his oratorical prowess — going to sway the opinions of vast swathes of the british public.

The Beeb could have done one of two things with the question time: they could have had a “business as usual” affair, whereby current affairs questions were asked to a panel, with Mr Griffin providing a slightly unusual perspective. As it was, they chose the second option: “Lynch the Racist” whereby the questions and audience members chosen were intended to establish the narrative that the BNP are crazy racists.

In my opinion, the first option would have been more damaging. Those who are willing to believe that the BNP are crazy racists already think so; QT was preaching to the choir. The problem was that along with the actual crazy racists, those viewers at home with slightly racist views were tarred with the same brush and a few hundred marginal voters felt a little more affinity for the party.

However their policies on immigration are not the most ludicrous thing about the party, and indeed many of their most ludicrous sail dangerously close to Old Labour territory: Unions, Protectionism, Public Ownership, etc.

A lot of people think something like “Them immigrants; taking our jobs,” and yelling “RACIST!” at them isn’t terribly constructive. Carefully explaining that whilst a job-loss is a terrible thing, it is this same process worldwide which means they can pop into Curries and buy a widescreen TV for a few months wages is a much better option.

Society News by sotonlibertarians
October 16, 2009, 1:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

We’ve started the affiliation-ball rolling. Sketched out a draft constitution; now we need 25 members including three committee members. If you are still a student at Southampton University: SIGN UP! If you know a student at Southampton University: SIGN THEM UP!

The Committee places going are:

  • President
  • Secretrary
  • Treasurer

Selfishness vs. Self-interest by sconzey
October 16, 2009, 1:04 am
Filed under: Libertarianism, Philosophy, Views

If there ever were two concepts so hopelessly confused it is selfishness and self-interest.  Many say: “Oh you Libertarians, you believe everyone’s so completely selfish; they’d stab their own granny for two dollars.” Let us read again that oft-quoted passage of our favourite free marketeer (emphasis mine):

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.

So it is not selfishness Smith speaks of, but something he calls self-interest.  What is this “self-interest” and why is it different to selfishness? I propose: self-interest is man’s natural expression of his evolutionary imperative. Selfishness is an unnatural expression of man’s evolutionary imperative.

Think about it: for homo sapiens sapiens to develop as a species, we each have a duty to ourselves and our family to insure the continuity of our genetic material; somewhere along the line someone learned that co-operation and mutual exchange helped everyone and impoverished no-one, so all across the planet parents teach their children the same maxim: theft is bad, murder is bad.

This is self-interest: Looking after yourself, your family, and your tribe. Fastening your own oxygen mask before helping your neighbour with theirs. Getting the women and children into the life-rafts first.

Selfishness  is taking the self-love to such an extreme that you impair your own ability to reproduce — stealing from your neighbour so you can be full even though it leaves him hungry. Fastening your oxygen mask, then keeping your neighbour’s as well, just in case.

Self-interest is what makes the collective voluntary exchange we call the “market” work. Self-interested individuals help others happily and willingly: but family first, then friends, then neighbours. Selfish people do not help others (although they may be quite happy to force others to).

So when a Libertarian says “everyone is self-interested,” it’s not a criticism. Self-interest is fastening your own oxygen mask, before helping your neighbour with theirs.

Capitalism and Democracy by sconzey
September 4, 2009, 4:24 pm
Filed under: Libertarianism, Philosophy, Views | Tags: , , ,

In an ideal democracy, every individual has a direct and unrestrained voice in all decisions made that affect them. Ideally the policies affected by their vote also affect as few others as possible, so their votes are not diluted. The Scottish parliament for instance is a good thing democratically as it grants Scottish people a voice in issues that affect only Scotland, and devolves the scope of many policy areas, so the interests of the Scots are not diluted by the interests of the English, the Irish, the Cornish or the Welsh.

By that same token you could argue it best to devolve further. So that people’s voices on transport, health and education were only diluted by those in their county. Wiltshire could have a low income tax rate, but a completely privatised school system, whilst in Gloucstershire, private schools are illegal. Both counties have the school system their constituents want, and neither affects the other.

However, there are still people in each country having the decisions of the majority forced upon them. The only democratic thing to do is to devolve further, to the level of the individual. Each individual’s voice is alone, undiluted. They get only the services they ask for, the government they want, without affecting anyone else.

Oh wait, there’s a word for when each person selects the product they want from a number of competing alternatives.

The Free Market.

The Local Mafia by sconzey
August 31, 2009, 2:36 pm
Filed under: Current Affairs, Views | Tags: , , ,

This weekend I worked at a rural music festival. Chatting to one of the organisers as the event wore on, we discussed the Cost of Things.

“You know what the single largest expense was?”


He gestures to pairs of burly young men standing throughout the grounds. Well dressed in a black jacket, tie, smart trousers and shoes; high-viz jacket and their signature hard-hats. “We had to tell them how big the event was, and then they tell us how many of their guys are needed to  protect us, and send us an invoice.” Continue reading