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Question time ~ where are you politically?

Confession; back in the dim and distant days of my youth, when politics was something I first became aware of, I was a socialist.  I quite happily believed that the state should organise society ‘fairly’ and coercive taxation was absolutely fine to that end.

 

To be fair, I was just finishing my time in a state comprehensive gulag where obedience to the state and authority was inculcated with North Korean vigour.  We were taught straight lies such as how FDR’s wise statist policies helped bring about an end to the depression and any independent thinking or action was beaten out of you by a sadistic deputy head.  Combine that with the ever-admirable BBC being the only easily available news source pre-internet and satellite TV days and my youthful stupidity and it’s not too surprising perhaps.

 

Francois Guisot is attributed with the original version of “If you are not a socialist when you are twenty you have no heart, but if you are still one at thirty you have no brain”

 

Anyway, by the time I had arrived at my early twenties, I was beginning to notice that despite all the flowery prose, I couldn’t quite seem to find a society which was successful and a shining example of what socialism could deliver.  The East Europeans were just vile and even the Swedes seemed to have taxes at such a level as to make any kind of independent life tricky.  So being confronted by evidence, I concluded that if I wasn’t a socialist I must be a conservative right?  Certainly the low-tax rhetoric and limited intervention seemed to make more sense if we wanted to get rich as a nation and by the mid to late 1980’s despite the Beeb doing it’s best to ignore or obfuscate matters, it was clear that the Thatcher experiment was economically more successful than anything in Eastern Europe. 

 

It was kind of uncomfortable, realising I was something that I had been taught to hate, but the rationalist inside me was not suppressed despite all the propaganda.  As I looked at the economics more and more I began to think I was a really right wing conservative believing in lower and lower taxation and fewer and fewer rules.  Even under Thatcher and later Major I thought taxes were way too high and the petty meddlesome nonsense was simply government by personal preference (which of course it was). 

 

On discovering Ayn Rand I began to see conventional politics as the violent, coercive lie that it really is, viz pick your slave master and I’ve gone from the libertarian position of minarchist watchman-state to more or less the full-on anarcho*-capitalist view of Murray Rothbard and others.  If you’ve never seen him on Youtube, kick out the TV for an evening and watch a few lectures.    

 

So to the question.  In what (if any areas) do you think the state is justified?  Please explain your thinking.  Some things like foreign aid seem obvious candidates to close the book on, others perhaps trickier.  So tell me where you accept the state gun and where you prefer the heady atmosphere of freedom.

 

 

(*this is obviously not the ‘smash-up McDonalds’ position of a few arsehole socialist worker types, but actual voluntaryism).  

 

36 Comments

  1. JuliaM says:

    Defence of the realm, basic infrastructure, and…well, that’s about it, really.

  2. Lynne says:

    What Julia said. Party politics needs scrapping too since MPs seem incapable of separating what’s best for their own interests and what’s best for the nation.

  3. Richard B says:

    An army to defend us if we are attacked (and nothing else). A police force and judiciary to enforce contracts and the common law (and nothing else). A fire service, because if your house goes up, it takes mine with it. And roads, paid for by those that use them.

    Everything else, we can sort out between us.

  4. SadButMadLad says:

    A good place to see how big the state really is is to look at the list of departments, qangos, etc at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Dl1/Directories/A-ZOfCentralGovernment/index.htm

    Then you can go through the list and tick off all the ones you think are a waste of space, time and money.

  5. Henry Crun says:

    Wot JuliaM said. Defence of the realm, transport infrastucture, judiciary and police.

  6. John Galt says:

    Anarcho-libertarian here.

    My view is that the scope of the state should cover the Defence of the Realm and an impartial judicial system ONLY (supported by officers of the court rather than police).

    The absence of police to be balanced by a return to armed citizenry. Those who chose not to arm themselves are of course free to do so.

    I bet the crime rate would drop through the floor.

    Taxes to cover the only mandatory government services to be either a Land Value Tax or consumption taxes.

  7. John Galt says:

    @Lynne:

    I’m not sure that you need to ban party politics, because by cutting the state down to next to nothing you leave very little for ‘professional politicians’ to fight over / make a crust from.

    If you get rid of the need for professional politicians then political parties would wither on the vine.

  8. CountingCats says:

    I wouldn’t mind trying the Rothbard model of privatised law enforcement and judiciary.

    Have a look at The Probability Broach, Moon is a Harsh Mistress and The Ungoverned.

    If the state didn’t even look after defence and law and order what would then be its purpose?

  9. Sam Duncan says:

    Politics hit me with a bang in 1982, when I was 11. It became obvious (to the extent that the school took the unprecedented, and I think never repeated, step of writing a warning letter to all parents) that if Labour was elected, my school would possibly be forced to close. At best, the fees would go through the roof, to the extent that I could no longer stay there. It struck me as absurd, not to say vindictive, that I could be wrenched from an environment where I was comfortable and among friends by people I’d never met, on a matter of abstract, ideological, principle. That, more than anything else, turned me against socialism and government meddling. Think of it as the flipside of the NCB closure programme delivering whole towns into the arms of the Left, although I’m always surprised that more people didn’t come away from that with the idea that maybe one person in Whitehall shouldn’t have the say on whether all the mines in the country live or die in the first place; that was the lesson that I took, not that if I stick with “my” side I’ll always be safe. So maybe I’d have turned out libertarian whatever happened, but that was the defining moment.

    Today, my heart is AnCap, but my head’s minarchist. I don’t see anarcho-capitalism as (sorry, but it’s the only word) sustainable. Eventually, some people in such a system will organise themselves, voluntarily, into something resembling a state, probably for mutual defence, but, especially if they stake a claim to a geographic area, it’ll become less and less voluntary over time and eventually start throwing its weight around. In other words, the lack of a state will create a vacuum that has to be maintained. When you begin to imagine places the size of whole countries abandoning (or never adopting) AnCap, the problem becomes clearer.

    So I see the state as a necessary evil, which, like all necessary evils, should be kept to a minimum. To me, that means defence: defence, literally, of the state; ie, the state of affairs in which we have a minimal government which concerns itself solely with upholding the principle that it doesn’t do anything else. I wouldn’t complain about a basic system of civil law and impartial courts, but that’s about as far as I’d be happy with.

    I can see the attraction of a non-insurance-based fire service for the reason Richard gave, but there’s no reason to get a state involved. For example, the existing volunteer services in the US would be well-placed to convert their operations into charities, and others could easily be set up where they don’t exist: I’ve often seen much of the process of de-statification being the conversion of government bodies – schools, hospitals, and why not fire brigades? – into charitable trusts. It’s not as if we’re colonizing a desert island; all the equipment and trained personnel are here, we just need to get them out of the hands of the government and back into civil society.

    John, Lynne: I suspect you might have to do something about professional party politics to get a minimal state in the first place.

  10. John Galt says:

    I suspect you might have to do something about professional party politics to get a minimal state in the first place.

    Indeed, it is the political machinery which is one of the parasites that is killing the host. Since the transition from the current statist model requires that these self-same parasites relinquish their control, it seems to me that a move to either Anarcho capitalism/libertarianism or even minarchism would require either a catastrophic collapse of the state (Civil War, Coup d’etat, etc,).

    In all circumstances, the state and the machinery of the state is designed to protect itself even against it’s own people. This is why I have issues with both the police and troops being deployed on the streets, they are not their to serve the people (despite the well meaning, mealy mouthed mission statements). They are there to serve the state and above all else, only the state.

    In short, whatever libertarian views we hold, the only way these are likely to come into reality is over a mountain of bodies. Not because we support violent over-through, but rather because it will take that to get rid of the state and it’s self-supporting apparatus.

    Smash The State – 

  11. John Galt says:

    Bah! – No Edit!

    “Not because we support violent overthrow” also “there” not “their”

  12. tomsmith says:

    The state is not justified anywhere. If it is justified anywhere then it can be justified anywhere else.

  13. tomsmith says:

    The state is not a thing to overthrow so that an alternative state or other imposition can be set up instead. That is contradictory and self defeating. It is a thing to be ignored and avoided. It is irrelevant. Treat it as such.

  14. zack says:

    warning, long post coming.

    I’m a conservative. I have great sympathy for most posters that support the ‘night watchmen state’ (national defense, courts, roads, fire/police dept. [going from federal to state to local]) and agree with it to a certain extent. I also think that values/culture matters, and those values/cultural-institutions that nurture/strengthen the behaviors that make limited government feasible should be protected; institutions like the nuclear family, churches, charities, social clubs, etc.

    Thankfully, these things tend to flourish in a minarchist environment, so that’s all well and good. I also believe that civil society is better at defending these then government is, but there are somethings that I think do need special protections. Example: I think that no-fault divorce is harmful when there are children in the family and should be more restricted (things like abuse being the obvious exception). I also think that these things are not to be handled on a Federal level; state level all the way.

    I also support the principal of subsidiarity – states should have more authority to regulate then the federal government (though I think that these go to far in many cases today), and that communities/towns should have more authority to regulate things then I would ever consider appropriate for more distant levels of government. If a town wants to use zoning to preserve it’s quaint charms, or want to have higher density developments, or want to block a a business (like say a power plant, a bridge, or a porn shop) that the community as a whole doesn’t want, I think they should have that ability. I may not agree with the decision, but I think the should have the ability to make it. It’s easier to leave a town then it is a state or a country, and a towns ability to change course is much greater then the county/state/federal governments, and so the damage is easier to undo.

    Am I a libertarian, or a minarchist? No, and I know that makes me a minority on this board. But I do believe that the modern distribution of power today is almost completely inverse of what it should be. I think the Federal government, and many o the States governments, loom to large and the local communities too small. I support the conservative-libertarian alliance because I think we have more in common with each other then either does with the leftists/statists; and I think that these movements need each other. Libertarianism isn’t workable without a moral population, and I believe that the traditional morals/values that conservatives cherish are the ones that make limited government workable. By the same token, the world that conservatives want to conserve (I think restore is a more apt term at this point) is one that is much closer to the libertarian ideal then it is to the statist one.

    Again, sorry for the long post, but I hope I adequately explained my position.

  15. Fred Z says:

    “foreign aid”? Still a bit of commie then, aintcha?

  16. Furor Teutonicus says:

    National defence, emergency services, town cleansing. Thats IT.

    Why should I pay my hard earned money for such crap as the “National theater”?

    If such things can not pay for themselves from what they take on the door, then they deserve to rot.

    Schools? I HATE wee bastards. I have NO intention of having any. For those that do, THEY can pay for them. NOT me.

    Everything else “pay as you go.” I don’t expect the world to pay for my hobbys, why should I be expected to pay for the hobbys of others?

  17. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    Okay my two cents on the replies:

    No-one seems keen on foreign aid and if we like it, we can just pay for it personally. No need for collective action here.

    Education, again no-one much fancies this to be state run and having gone to one, I can confrm the car wreck it is. Indeed having met a friends two children who have just finished state schools it seems as bad as ever, albeit they may just be unresponsive teenagers.

    Health, gah, why won’t a single politician even say “lets think about this instead of treating the three letters as a religous mantra”

    Defence, more complex. Most attacking states like to try to take over the machinery of other states. That’s not to say an untaxed and rich population might not be tempting to someone to tax. So some kind of citizen militia model might be very important and an airforce come air defence seems vital. So I reckon if we all have guns and a subscription to an airforce this could work. Problems of non-payment/avoidance of course. Absolutely should be wholly private because defence procurement is perhaps the worst and most expensive government action in a strong field. I read somewhere the army rifles still cost over a grand each where as I can go on a website and buy M4′s for $195. Nick M can probably help me when it comes to how cheaply one can buy aircraft on the private market but I reckon you could get a goodish air defence system for the cost of a few raptors.

    Courts, with everyone who wants to be, armed, expect little crime (after an intial surge where current criminals take ‘em selves out of the gene pool by shooting each other). Also, no welfare means hardly any welfare mums so far, far fewer kids growing up to be welfare criminals themselves (really just watch ‘em all become contraceptively responsible when a baby is no longer a meal ticket come rent card). Also expect formerly taxed-to-death working people be able to afford kids again who aren’t likely to have bastards, commit crime, take drugs or become parasitic on the host community in general.

    Roads, government roads are dire. Blocked, potholed, impassable and frozen in the winter, just blocked, potholed and impassable in the summer. Sell ‘em all off. Also sell off all the railway lines and make private roads for competition purposes.

    Fire services. Nothing wrong with a private fire brigade (I understand Marcus Crassus had one in Rome and used to go to burning buildings and offer to buy them at a low rate! ha ha) but subscription again maybe the answer and if the neighbour in a burning terraced house wasn’t subscribed, sue him in a private court.

  18. Edward Lud says:

    Pretty much what everyone else has said, except than banning party politics would require severe restrictions on freedom of association.

  19. Thornavis says:

    I know this about how people see their ideal non state community but shouldn’t we be considering what is possible rather than what is desirable ? Reading libertarians can be uncomfortably like listening to coherent socialists, everything is wonderfully clear in the abstract, internally consistent and hopelessly unrealistic. The state just isn’t going away, in fact it’s getting stronger and that is supported by the population at large who have come to see the state as the answer to every ill, and btw Zack conservatives are just as guilty of that as everyone else. There’s also a rather unpleasant undercurrent of apocalyptic thinking amongst some libertarians, again mimicking the current socialist/green meme, which seems to have been picked up from conservatives, that the world is heading towards catastrophe and only drastic solutions can prevent it, in other words everyone seems to have gone a bit barmy.
    So what’s my preferred option, I hear you all ask, I don’t really have one but I would probably be happy enough if we had a genuinely classically liberal political party to vote for that reigned in the worst excesses of government meddling, made economic sanity the priority and stopped bossing everyone about, a small enough thing really but I have absolutely no expectations of living long enough to see such a thing.

  20. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    @ Thornavis ~ yes indeed; part of the point of these posts is to try to crowd source some proposals.

  21. John Galt says:

    @Thornavis:

    I suppose it depends upon when / where you were born really. I was born in the late 1960′s and the fear of nuclear holocaust was both ever present and real (especially during the 1980′s), so our thoughts of achieving catharsis through apocalypse is perhaps no surprise.

    Equally, as a UK teen during 1982, I was at the birth of the home computer revolution. I never owned or even saw a ZX80, but I had a ZX81 and a couple of ZX Spectrums. The ZX Spectrum’s came pre-packaged with a tape called the “Horizons: Software Starter Pack” and one of these was a very simple simulator called “Evolution” which simulated the rise and fall of foxes and rabbits populations.

    30-years on and that simplistic representation stays with me still, as the rabbit population increases so does the fox population. Eventually the number of rabbits exceed the amount of available foraging and the population crashes through starvation, followed by a crash of the fox population. Then the cycle begins again.

    There is a similar analogy in human populations, except the Rabbits are tax payers and the foxes are tax consumers. Although the taxpayers may work very hard, there is a fundamental limit to how much they can do productively, yet the state is ever-increasing and the only thing which will reduce its hunger is for a massive reduction in available prey.

    The system runs for a long time, despite the ever increasing productivity of the taxpayer rabbits and the ever increasing (albeit faster) rapaciousness of the tax consuming foxes, but the cycle continues.

    UK taxes have gone from around 2% in 1900 to around 40% today, this cannot continue indefinitely, but for the state to continue to expand as it does, this rate expansion has fluctuated over the years, increasing rapidly in the 1960′s and 1970′s before falling back in the 1980′s and 1990′s.

    Do protests seem to be having any effect? Does economic collapse have any effect? No, the government just invents a new ‘economic reality’ (QE1, QE2, etc.) and prints money.

    Do you think this is in any way sustainable? Can the 50% or less of the productive people support the unproductive?

    How can this end in anything other than collapse? If we are lucky, it will be Argentinian style or Russian style.

    If we are unlucky…

  22. ivan says:

    Those of us born in the 40s saw any hope of a bright future die with successive labour governments and their repressive laws.

    What my father had to say about labour/socialist governments and such organisations as CND are unprintable today, although they weren’t when he said them, and he was from a working background.

    Changing from what we have today to any form of personal accountability and responsibility will only take place when people finally find the burden of the state too much to carry.

    I foresee a time when the state is forced to die and its laws with it. It has in the past and will in the future, if only because the state never learns from history.

    Unfortunately I don’t expect it to happen in my life time but I would be overjoyed if it did.

  23. Thornavis says:

    @ John Galt
    Do you think this is in any way sustainable? Can the 50% or less of the productive people support the unproductive?

    I honestly don’t know, I outrank you by the way on the apocalypse experience ! Born 1952 most of my adult life has been lived surrounded by one impeding inevitable disaster after another that never seemed to quite arrive. I’m not being complacent I hope but I’m not entirely convinced that economic reality will always trump political will, humans have an amazing capacity to keep a ramshackle show on the road long after it has ceased to function properly. My problem with this is that, in relation to the theme of the thread, we always seem to be arguing that the road to Libertaria doesn’t start from here, however if we can’t get there by normal politics, which we probably can’t, then we certainly won’t get there via societal collapse which will inevitably produce even more state control, if not straightforward totalitarianism, that seems to be the lesson of history anyway. There doesn’t seem a lot of point in discussing our preferred form of libertarianism if there’s zero chance of it happening.

  24. Andrew Duffin says:

    Defence, immigration policy, enforcement of the criminal law*, provision of an equitable enforcement mechanism for civil law. End of.

    * I mean real crimes like stealing and murder, not nanny crimes like causing offence to the professionally-offended or their self-appointed patrons.

  25. zack says:

    Thornavis: I know this about how people see their ideal non state community but shouldn’t we be considering what is possible rather than what is desirable ? Reading libertarians can be uncomfortably like listening to coherent socialists, everything is wonderfully clear in the abstract, internally consistent and hopelessly unrealistic.
    ———————————

    I agree, that’s one of the reasons that I’m not an anarcho-capitalist. No, government can’t solve all of our problems, but getting rid of it isn’t a silver bullet either.

    —————————–
    The state just isn’t going away, in fact it’s getting stronger and that is supported by the population at large who have come to see the state as the answer to every ill, and btw Zack conservatives are just as guilty of that as everyone else.
    —————————-

    I think you are getting the conservative movement and the Republican party mixed up. Look at the Teaparty, or groups like the Hoover institute, the Heritage foundation, etc. All of these groups want a LESS activist/intrusive government, want LESS government spending. The republican party may pay lip service to Conserative, but the old Rockefeller, country-club progressive-lite group still has alot of influence there. Trust me, Conseratives in America recognize the Republican party has been far from ideal; but at the same time, I think that the growth of the Teaparty and the influence they’ve had in the Republican primaries (especially in the House and Senate, and on the State level) I remain hopeful that a more thoroughly conservative Republican party is in the making.

    ————————-
    So what’s my preferred option, I hear you all ask, I don’t really have one but I would probably be happy enough if we had a genuinely classically liberal political party to vote for that reigned in the worst excesses of government meddling, made economic sanity the priority and stopped bossing everyone about,
    ————————-

    so you want pretty much want the return of the values/cultural-norms that made the Anglospheric world the freest and most prosperous society in human history? In other words, you agree with me – welcome to the fold brother! I’ll make sure to give you the “so now you’re a conservative” initiation package and “how to be an evil capitalist pig” pamphlet at the next weekly secret conservative potluck for world domination :)

    ————————-
    a small enough thing really but I have absolutely no expectations of living long enough to see such a thing
    ————————-

    I hope you’re wrong – I really do.

  26. Thornavis says:

    Zack

    The Tea Party may be all you say it is, unlike most other Brits I don’t feel qualified to pontificate about US politics so I will take your word for it. However, my point was more general, conservatives have usually been in favour of some, often a great deal, of social coercion, be that though the state, church or local community, I don’t see myself as a natural conservative I’m afraid so I will have to decline your kind offer to enroll me in the world domination league ! On this business of the Anglosphere, I’m really not sure there is such a thing, I suspect this is something invented in Britain to try and provide consolation for the loss of Empire, like that fifties nonsense of Britain playing Greece to America’s Rome. Whilst it may be true that the ideas of liberty and free enterprise received their impetus from the English speaking world in post enlightenment times, I don’t think we can make any grand claims to ownership or even to have made the largest contribution necessarily and I don’t think it means much now, I can see no reason at all for thinking that the modern English speaking world is any more interested in the ideals of liberty than anyone else.

  27. Most Tea Party members I come across, via the web, seem to favour a less economically interventionist state, but want much more in the way of social controls than I would ever be happy with – see for example this:

    http://atheism.about.com/b/2011/04/12/don-haase-extra-marital-sex-should-be-illegal.htm

  28. Sam Duncan says:

    zack: “By the same token, the world that conservatives want to conserve (I think restore is a more apt term at this point) is one that is much closer to the libertarian ideal then it is to the statist one.”

    That’s a good point. It’s not a hard rule, and is often overstated, but in general it’s true: while there were laws enforcing social taboos and mores in the past that libertarians wouldn’t want to revive (hence IanNTB’s problems with the Tea Party), overall the state played a much smaller role in everyday life (hence my, on the whole, lack of too many).

    Edward: “banning party politics would require severe restrictions on freedom of association.”

    Indeed. I was thinking more along the lines of abolishing salaries for elected representatives. It’s not enough, but it would help.

    Thorny: fair point about ideals, etc. One of the things that most excercises my mind politically is just this how-do-we-get-there-from-here question. I think of myself as a “conservative libertarian”, and I’ve noted here in the past that although it’s the term I use in my head, “cautious libertarian” might be less ambiguous; in other words, I’m not a revolutionary. Minarchism is what I’d like to see, but I don’t expect it overnight, and I’m not sure I’d want anyone to try to get it overnight. The shock would be too great.

    The socialists set out to change society, and in many ways they’ve succeeded; for example, as I said a few weeks ago, if the drug laws were simply repealed, a huge number of people, used to relying on the government for moral guidance, would immediately assume that this meant that dangerous drugs were now deemed good and safe. In one sense (with which I sympathise) that’s their own lookout – or as we say in Scotland, hell mend them – but there would be knock-on effects on us all. Personal responsibility will have to be relearned, and it takes time. Which is why I’m happy to make common cause with the more liberal conservatives, at least for now: one thing at a time, so let’s start with the economy.

    As for the Anglosphere, I think there is such a thing, although at the moment it exists as much in potential as it does in reality. And as far as I’m aware, the term is an American invention (I may, as usual, be wrong).

  29. Thornavis says:

    Sam

    Yes I’d agree with a lot of that, I suppose my problem with conservatism is that although I can understand the reasons for a conservative world view, I’m very aware of the need to avoid romanticising the past or glossing over the savage injustices that were once taken for granted, which is what I believe far too many conservatives do. The funny thing is that these days it’s the left who are the most conservative in that respect, they seem to wish the world had stopped around 1950. The Greens would probably push that date back to 1750.

  30. Mr Ed says:

    We need government lifeboats in the UK, in case people drown. As a rabid socialist, I have hydrophobia, and I don’t go near water in case I drown due to the cuts.

    What’s this RNLI thing?

    You mean that something can exist that does good without and outwith the State?

  31. Paul Marks says:

    Historically county police forces were made compulsory in 1856 (I think). I doubt counties that did not have them were in a condition of savage chaos. Even the cities were not in the condition that Edwin Chadwick’s biased reports suggested

    Fire services – many are voluntarily (still are – in many places in the world).

    Courts – in civil law at least private law merchant was always better than state law (indeed the work of people of people like Prof Joesph Bell and co was to bring law merchant into state law).

    Even the military?

    Who knows?

    But even the arch Tory John Reeves unintentionally gave food for thought.

    After all his private Association for the Preservation of Property and Liberty (1790s) was bigger than the official army – and had artillery and so on.

    See the book “The Loyalists”.

  32. Thornavis says:

    @ Mr Ed

    I wonder if you asked a random selection of leftists if they know of anywhere that has an emergency service that is entirely voluntary and operates without state funding how many would think of the RNLI ? Indeed it’s a living rebuke to the idea that without the state there would be no provision for unprofitable humanitarian needs. It isn’t just the RNLI either there’s quite a number of other voluntary lifeboats, something I didn’t realise myself until quite recently, I’m sure most of the fire brigade could be run on the same lines.

  33. Lynne says:

    Edward Lud: Pretty much what everyone else has said, except than banning party politics would require severe restrictions on freedom of association.

    Removing partisan affiliation from public office (because it clearly has serious problems with priorities) = severe restrictions on freedom of association?

    That does not compute.

  34. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    If the state is gone or tiny, interest in politics will be gone or tiny. No need to ban anything.

  35. jameshigham says:

    Confession; back in the dim and distant days of my youth, when politics was something I first became aware of, I was a socialist. I quite happily believed that the state should organise society ‘fairly’ and coercive taxation was absolutely fine to that end.

    We followed a similar path then. I used to hand out cards for the ALP.

  36. Tim Newman says:

    Another role for government that’s not been mentioned yet: the initial management of natural resources. The example I’m thinking of is the licensing of oil and gas exploration and productions blocks, if they are offshore they would otherwise effectively belong to nobody, and if onshore they’d otherwise belong to the landowner and you only need to see the history of US onshore oilfields to see what a disaster such a system can lead to in terms of reservoir integrity and efficient production. You need a government to take the initial ownership and put in place the licensing and royalty collection system, plus put in place a regulatory system. I’m a libertarian and balk at the thought of most government regulations, but a lot of them are sensible and necessary, and I include a lot of HSE regulations in that. The safety of offshore oilfield workers improved one hell of a lot because of the changes made post- Piper Alpha, and that’s not a bad thing.

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