Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Coalition of the willing

Let's look at a list* of some of the main things have been made illegal (or might be made illegal) for no good reason (whether such a ban is actually enforced or not in practice is by-the-by) and the two most stupid traffic regulations:

Smoking in pubs and clubs
Drinking alcohol on public transport
Smoking cannabis
Patio heaters
Plastic carrier bags
Taking ecstasy tablets
Traffic lights
National speed limit on the motorways and major roads
Allow handguns for sporting purposes
Scrap ID card scheme, national ID database and interviews for passports
Allow local councils to subsidise post offices via a precept on Council Tax, subject to local referenda
Allow trading and collecting ceremonial swords
Allow shops to use pounds and ounces
The reason why 'they' get away with it is because the majority of people don't smoke (either tobacco or cannabis); the majority of people don't work in or admit to visiting brothels; didn't used to go fox hunting and so on. But surely, a majority of people would like to at least some of these bans lifted (those particular bans that affect them personally) or to see more humane traffic regulations? OK, there may well be a minority who don't do any of these things, who don't mind being stuck at traffic lights and who are basically total kill-joys, but let's ignore them for now.

To sum up, would there not be any mileage in a political party saying that they'd lift all these stupid bans and regulations, in one fell swoop - lock, stock and barrel?

For sure, there may be hippy dope smokers who support the fox-hunting ban; there may be women who hate traffic lights and quite like plastic carrier bags but have a moralistic aversion to brothels; there may be those who used to enjoy lighting up in the pub who believe (erroneously) that ecstasy is a dangerous drug - but have we not reached the tipping point where all these narrow groups could declare an armistice and all do their own thing and let others get on with doing their own thing?

* Please leave a comment if I've missed anything important off the list!

UPDATE 24/05/08 - the online poll over here is currently standing at 24 'ayes' and 23 'noes', most heartening indeed! Why not drop in and have your say?


The Remittance Man said...

The handgun ban

Mark Wadsworth said...

For sporting purposes, sure, but I'm very wary about this whole 'right to carry' movement.

Simon Fawthrop said...

This sort of move was/is the Left's position and it hasn't really worked. In their case they think if they appeal to enough minor/ethnic groups they can cobble together a majority.

Typical examples would be: lesbians/gays/Muslims/blacks/disabled etc. It didn't really work and whilst I would like to see your proposal implemented I can't see it being a vote winner for a political party.

You would think that a true Liberal Party would be up for this, wouldn't you?

Mark Wadsworth said...

GS, The Statists' position always is to give each group the impression that they are being favoured by simply hobbling everybody else.

The Corporatists think it's a great idea to offer subsidies to the specific industries, notwithstanding that everybody ends up paying everybody else's subsidies via higher taxes, so the overall result is a deadweight loss.

The crusty Tories think it's a great idea to tax earned income and productive activity rather than unearned land values.

The PC-brigade pander simultaneously to gays and Muslims, which is crap of course - either you are relaxed about homosexuality (which I am) or you want to pander to Muslims (which I don't).

And positive discrimination is totally counter productive - it puts up the backs of white people and makes employers even less likely to want to hire 'minority ethnic' people or women.

What I am suggesting is the opposite of all this, I have no intention of 'favouring' people who e.g. use brothels or smoke cannabis (I'd charge them as much tax as I could get away with), I am just saying that if we can make that list long enough, there'll be something there for everybody.

Seriously, there'll be stuff on that list that I personally don't approve of, but I'd happily concede the lot just to be able to light up in a pub and have a can of lager on the train home.

Anonymous said...

I'm in favour of your proposals. That is not to say that I agree with people engaging in all of them. For example, I find the hunting of foxes quite unappealing but I would not raise the rights of a pest to animal husbandry over those of the people who wish to hunt. Perhaps the slogan of the party would be, "We agree on the right to disagree".

Simon Fawthrop said...


Don't get me wrong, I agree with everything you say. I just don't see it working as the Daily Mail brigade have too much hold on the hard of thinking.

By having a live and let live philosophy it meas you have to live with social authoritarians, by the Labour, Liberal or Tories.

The Remittance Man said...

Oddly, Becky [] posted on this recently. Except her angle was how to persuade all sorts of disparate types that the Libertarian Party would offer them something, even if it meant they had to accept other things they might not like.

Basically it's a case of getting people to tolerate things they may not like, but don't harm them directly.

Indeed I think it was John Stuart Mill who said something about a decent society allowing others to live as they pleased up to the point their activities harm others.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'd love to see it.

The problem is getting people into the libertarian mindset. Lots of tories started screaming about liberty over fox hunting, but they were happy to previously vote for the Video Recordings Act and to extend the war on drugs (and want to discriminate against lesbians having IVF).

knirirr said...

Trading in certain types of sword has been got at recently as well:
Not very exciting to most people, but a completely useless piece of legislation.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Knirirr, is this link the one you meant?

Anonymous said...

As you say Mark, "...there'll be stuff on that list that I personally don't approve of, but I'd happily concede the lot...."

In my circle of friends (perhaps I need a new circle of friends) I've come across no one with a clearly thought out position on personal freedom. I generally find two views, often held simultaneously.

The first, and most common, is "I'm not affected by this particular ban, so why should I care."

The second is to gloat over the persecuted minority, and feel somehow superior because, "My particular lifestyle is somehow more moral because no ban was aimed at me."

They might be stupid bastards, but I can't say too much because they are my friends.

Mark Wadsworth said...

John, that's the point, I need to establish how many people fall into the category of the "minority who don't do any of these things" - maybe it's not a minority - maybe more than half of people are not affectd by anything on the list, in which case we are doomed.

Snafu said...

Should people be allowed to drive without secured seatbelts or motorcyclistst be allowed not to use crash helmets!?!

Mark Wadsworth said...

Snafu, why not? First, work out what incremental NHS costs are (more serious injuries, but similarly, more deaths, which gets the bill down again), then add this (to the extent that there is a net overall cost) to their insurance premiums to be forwarded to the NHS (or whatever we replace the NHS with).

Simon Fawthrop said...

Just thought of one - proper handpumps in pubs with auto-feedback. I was talking to someone about this over the weekend and we both agreed that beer tatsed better, and was cheaper because spillage is reduced

Trooper Thompson said...

I don't think this approach will work. It seems like we would be playing the part of a bull, attacking a succession of capes, rather than the matador – the matador being the authoritarian power of the state, which is trampling our individual sovereignty.

We are hampered in all such matters by the dire state of the law in this country, and the absence of a clear constitution and bill of rights, that define and thereby limit the scope of the state and explicitly assert our individual rights.

In the search for allegory...

The village is constantly under attack from marauding bandits – and they're smart enough to only attack one or two houses at a time, so as not to rouse the whole village to action. Mark wants to marshal the village together to fight them when they come, but because each of the villagers dislike some of the other villagers, they are disinclined to take this collective action.

Building a wall around the village is the better longterm strategy.

knirirr said... this link the one you meant?

I think that they relate to the same thing, but that the final decision was to restrict "curved" swords rather than simply "samurai" swords. This does, of course, screw over huge numbers of people, and it was already illegal to murder people using a katana anyway.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Trooper T, that's a good allegory but the one I'd offer in response is the Christmas Day Truce, 1914. Stop letting the Powers That Be play us off against each other.