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The Age Of Plastic

Sp!ked Online warns us of the Temperance Movement’s latest wheeze to destroy the pubgoing experience- plastic beakers instead of glasses. We’re not safe with glasses, you see. They have to be banned. And if a few more people give up on going to the pub, and some more pubs close… great, that gets us closer to the utopian DrinkFree state!

This reminds me of an argument I had with a woman in Northampton town centre a couple of years ago. She was campaigning to have glasses banned from nightclubs, because her son had been glassed in a fight, and she had lots of home-made leaflets, and pictures of her son’s injury, which was like Nick’s self-inflicted one, but less interesting. So normally I’m a reserved chap who would have passed by on the other side, but this time I thought I’d engage her in a debate. And we went back and forth with me with all my clever philosophy about the argument from harm and Mill and what’s wrong with it, and so on, and she obviously wasn’t going to budge.

And there were people toddling up and signing her petition, and it was quite noticable that none of them seemed to be of the nightclubbing demographic. So this one middle aged chap with the look of a beer drinker about him came up to sign the petition, and out came a slogan he must have picked up from somewhere- “It’s the innocents that get hurt, isn’t it?”. He said it with a self-satisfied expression that seemed to be saying “Having signed this petition, I have done a good deed today. I think I’ll celebrate with a nice pint”.

So I said to him, “you know that if they ban them in nightclubs, they’ll make you drink out of a plastic beaker in your local pub next?”

And a look of horror came over his face, and he turned to the lady and said, “It’s just nightclubs isn’t it? Not pubs?!”

And she confirmed that indeed it was just nightclubs, and he toddled away happy, because he’d done the good deed of helping ensure that other people would be forced to drink out of plastic beakers, and it wouldn’t affect him.

Which is pretty much how the prohibitionists’ baby steps strategy works so well. They get people to vote for the precedent to be imposed on somebody else, and really, there’s no slippery slope, that’s a fallacy…


  1. JuliaM says:

    “The thing is, social democratic thinking like yours is intensely selfish. You want the rest of the world to revolve around you; everything should be made as you think it should be, and for your convenience.”

    Oh, that’s not because Darren’s a social democrat. It’s because he’s a narcissist.

  2. Ian B says:

    Oh, that’s not because Darren’s a social democrat. It’s because he’s a narcissist.

    Aren’t they synonyms?

  3. Darren says:

    I havent really got anything much to say in return to that sentiment Ian.

    I was just thinking that there is more common ground between us than we might imagine.

    I want drugs legalised, you want them legalised.

    I think as you do that legalised drug sales with no restrictions would leave us in a better place than we are now with prohibition, I just think that we should go one step further and restrict and control those sales, you dont.

    I am trying to understand what you are saying about libertarianist thinking. I actually want to believe what you say is true, I would love to live in a world with less government control, its just that I dont think it will work.

    Telling me that you want my children taken away and you want to see my wife in tears is not a great way to go about influencing people though is it.

    If you were stood in front of me and you said that I would chin you.

  4. Darren says:

    Social democrats put forward policies they think are best for the country and people choose to vote for them or not. What is selfish about that.

    I am happy for a proportion of my income to go in taxes to pay for social service, what is selfish about that?

    I am putting my views across in the same way that you are putting yours, how is that narcissistic?

    I am actually looking for a bit of enlightenment and expanding my horizons on here, am I only going to get personal insults?

  5. Ian B says:

    Darren, maybe we’re getting a bit tetchy because this debate is the kind which goes on endlessly between statists and libertarians, and it rarely goes anywhere conclusive. The point about your kids wasn’t that I actually want them taken away; I support homeschoolers, it was a rhetorical statement that basically said, social democratic thinking is why your kids and your choices regarding homeschooling are under threat; somebody else has decided they don’t like your personal decisions and are determined to stop you exercising your choices.

    But as I said, these discussions tend to go around in circles.It seems to me to be very rare in human life that a debate changes somebody’s mind about issues as heartfelt and important as these. I think when people come to profound changes in their political, social, religious, etc views it comes from personal experience and from within; it’s rare that intellectual discussion can be affecting enough to achieve that change. So I think just as a libertarian on a statistt forum will not get treated very kindly, a statist on a libertarian one is likely to meet some annoyance.

    Libertarianism is a hugely diverse church, like socialism or conservatism. If there is a core unifying “belief”, it is a gut-level desire for liberty, and I think the basic understanding that you cannot have liberty yourself unless you respect the liberty of others. That includes an acceptance of compromise; of tolerating aspects of society of which one may personally disapprove, like smoky pubs or lap dancing clubs or whatever. There is no way that we can all ever agree about what society should be, and so we have to accept the existence of things we’d like to be different. Indeed libertarianism is a commitment to true diversity. An atheist libertarian won’t try to get his local church shut down however much it might annoy him, because Christians choose to worship and that is their business.

    So the libertarian then says, let the state not make these personal choices. Let it restrict itself to preventing direct assaults on a person or their property. That is the most neutral position and the only one that can create a state of liberty. And in the end it is that desire for liberty that matters. Once you start giving up liberties for some nebulous common good the process is never-ending; the state intrudes into more and more areas of life and the citizens become nothing but automata obeying its will.

    Liberty means accepting imperfection because utopia cannot be attained; one woman’s paradise is another’s hell. The hope we hold out for a state of liberty is that at least the endless struggle just to hang onto what you have- your right to bring up your kids as you wish, or to have a beer unmolested, and so on- will come to an end and, while society may be far from perfect at least it will be more peaceful.

    Libertarians are sick of fighting for rights. We don’t want to have to struggle and form pressure groups and lobby and blog and all the rest of it; we’d just like to be left alone to quietly live as we wish, so long as we do not harm others. Either you want that, or you don’t. I can’t think of another way to put it.

  6. Darren says:

    Well if you libertarians want to only talk to each other and slap each other on the back without outside interference then I will leave you to it.

    I came to this site through a link with a home educators site. My experience with the government and home education has made me interested in libertarian views, and I find myself attracted to them.

    If I question your views and you come back with answers that make sense to me then I think my views can change, if that causes annoyance I am sorry.

    Well I hope you get your state of liberty somewhere one day, I would like to see how it gets on.

    It seems to me that this particular site will not help your cause though as ‘statists’ are not wanted. I will try my luck elsewhere.

  7. Ian B says:

    Darren, I didn’t say you aren’t wanted. If you want to discuss these issues, that’s great and you are welcome. But please bear in mind that any politically orientated blog gets a fair share of opponents of its viewpoint who simply want to argue, and so people don’t always indulge them as it doesn’t achieve very much; a little like an atheist turning up on a christian blog to argue that God doesn’t exist, or somebody opposed to Home Education commenting against that. Since your comments came across as anti-libertairan, it is natural for us to think “oh, here we go, somebody who just wants an argument”.

    As I said, you are very welcome here and perhaps we can answer some questions and we’re happy to do that and discuss things. Many libertarians are very strong home education supporters with strong opinions on the subject; it is a very “libertarian issue”.

    Libertarianism is a very broad church and there is as much internal debate about details- and even generalities- as between libertarianism and other political and social ideas. I hope you can find some useful food for thought here.

  8. Daphne says:

    Damn, 56 comments on plastic cups…

    we just drink out of glass bottles over here. No biggie.

  9. Ian B says:


    When I was a hip young thing, all of twenty years ago, many happy evenings were spent in some dark sticky rock’n'roll club with too few fire exits, drinking from a bottle, smoking cigarettes or joints, listening to deafening music that made my ears ring for days afterwards. Can’t do any of that now. It’s all bad for us, you see.

    Happy memories. What has happened to us since is just sad. Good times, the 80s.

  10. [...] link: The Age Of Plastic – Counting Cats in Zanzibar August 26th, 2009 in plastic drinking glasses | tags: beakers-instead, evenings-were, hip-young, [...]

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