The Limits of Libertarianism?


Sometimes you just can’t win.  On Monday night at UKIP’s Louth & Horncastle branch meeting, a member of the audience (not yet a member of the Party, but here’s hoping) berated the branch — and the Party — for not doing enough to stay in the headlines since Eastleigh.  In particular, he said “There are so many issues that really matter to voters out there.  Take immigration.  It’s a key issue on the doorstep, but UKIP seems to have nothing to say about it”.

This despite the wide coverage of Godfrey Bloom’s comments on foreign aid.  And I’d been on two BBC local radio stations that very morning, criticising Labour Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant and his inept attack on Tesco and Next for hiring foreign workers (when it was Bryant’s own Labour government that opened the doors to mass immigration).

Then last night at a meeting of UKIP’s Gedling branch at the Longbow pub in Arnold, I was asked whether UKIP risked being seen as “A One-Issue Party” — not, as is usually the case, on the EU, but on immigration!  We seem to have promoted it to the #1 issue, I was told.  So there you are.  Over the space of two days, we were not mentioning the key issue of immigration, and we were promoting it as our #1 issue.  I think the truth is in between — that immigration is a key worry for voters, that we have to present a rational immigration policy in a robust way (which we do) but that we need (and indeed we have) a much broader policy agenda.

My interlocutor at the Longbow presented me with a copy of an e-mail from a new UKIP member, Vid Auty, expressing concern about our immigration policy.  Vid has very kindly given me his permission to quote what he said.

Vid recognises that UKIP is a broadly libertarian Party.  As far as possible, we’d like to see decisions left to the individual rather than taken by the State on our behalf.  We hate Nanny Statism and Political Correctness.  But Vid seems to want what I regard as an extreme form of libertarianism, where “economic migrants are welcome to arrive, to try to sell their labour, and to sink, or swim, or go home”.  He recognises, rightly, that this approach would not work in conjunction with our welfare system, since we should simply end up paying vast sums of welfare to an unending flow of economic refugees.

But I also think that Vid is wrong in principle, quite apart from the practical issues of welfare costs.  A world in which everyone was free to go everywhere would not deliver Libertarianism.  It would deliver mass migration, anarchy, chaos and social unrest, and pave the way for authoritarian régimes which would be welcomed if they promised to restore order.  Such a move would be a first step to despotism.

If you believe in UK Independence, as UKIP does, you must necessarily believe that the nation state is a good thing.  The nation state has meaning and value only to the extent that it confers rights and benefits on its citizens which are not available to non-citizens.  The right of residence in your home country is basic to this concept. This is why the EU’s “freedom of movement” fundamentally undermines the nation state.

It’s also why we get so hot under the collar when liberal judges try to accord the same rights to foreign criminals that they would accord to British citizens, and refuse to send these people back to their own countries.  It is not our job to consider whether the justice system in Ruritania is adequate by our standards.  It’s the foreign criminal’s country, and he must be judged in his own country by his own justice system.  The duty of our judges is first and foremost to British citizens, not to foreigners.  Yet these same judges will happily send British citizens, under the European Arrest Warrant, to other EU countries with lower standards of legal protection.

The moral and economic justification for the nation state is that citizens pay (rather too much, mostly) for the necessary services delivered by the state, and therefore must have the first call on state benefits.  The NHS can scarcely afford to be a health service to UK citizens.  It certainly can’t afford to be a health service to the world.

Vid goes on to complain that we’ve made immigration our #1 issue “in an attempt to harvest Nationalist-bordering-on-xenophobic votes”.  No Vid.  That’s what the Guardian and the hard left want you to believe, but it’s utterly wrong.  We in UKIP want a rational and robust immigration system that works for the benefit and best interests of all British citizens.  And that is exactly what our policy would deliver.

So yes.  UKIP is a broadly libertarian Party.  But we don’t extend that to the anarcho-Libertarian philosophy of “Let ’em all come”.

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8 Responses to The Limits of Libertarianism?

  1. David H. Walker says:

    Looks like Sid is putting his aspirations ahead of his principles. UKIP won’t win members or elections bloviating in chorus with its adversaries and the liberal buffoons who seek to undermine the productive classes. Libertarians require a nation of laws first, wherein the empowered individual is the one who plays by the rules and recognizes the rights of his fellow sovereign citizens. Scofflaws need not apply.

  2. Me_Again says:

    Well said Roger.

  3. Eric Worrall says:

    Even Libertarians have a lock on their front door. The world is full of unimaginably bad scumbags, feral child soldiers, rape gangs from the troubles of Africa and Yugoslavia, and other places, narco-enforcers from South America, with decades of experience of brutality, mayhem and lawlessness.

    If you can keep a few of these people out with proper border controls, I cant see how this diminishes the cause of libertarianism.

    • David says:

      One of our village pubs is run by a guy, from what was the Balkans, I,m told he is OK quite pleasant etc, but that his friends are rather different, because they are from that area they are used to violence, tough, and ready to get nasty by nature, being born, brought up in such conditions, so do we want to open borders to the bad guys en masse?

      Trouble is we already have, and will continue to do so whilst in the eussr.

      This form of libertarianism is a step to far, there still has to be “standards”.

      And we know who got us to this dont we, yet the sheep continue to listen, vote for them, enemies of our state.

      They come on telly saying they have the answers, yet they created the problem.

  4. Mike Stallard says:

    I think a lot of the problem is that the Establishment plays by its own rules.
    August is the silly season when all the professional politicians are on holiday. The hacks look for stray nipples and fat tummies on the beach. UKIP won;t get much airtime there – except to be ridiculed.
    When the Great Conference Season Begins in September, politics will resume again.

    The more I read and the more I think about the EU, the more convinced that we have to get out fast before the roof comes tumbling down either with our own (Swiss/Austrian, Belgian?) Stalin, or else in total destitution under the heel of the Germans.

    • David says:

      Hi Mike,
      Please dont forget our Maoist leader Barrososad, the Ex? commie from Portugal.

      Wonder how he is an ex commie, surely those ideals are still in his every cell.


  5. Personally I think getting out of recession ought to be our number 1 issue and is the #1 issue in most elections, whatever the politicians want. On this we can beat any other party largely because we alone act as if we believe free markets work (the statistical evidence for this is irrefutable) and we alone want to let the free market reduce energy prices (thank you for enunciating that).

    Economic Freedom + Cheap Energy = Fast Growth

    This is something on which no other party can rival us.

    It is hardly our fault if, on virtually everything our policy is far better than the alternatives as to make us outstanding one each of these “single” issues.

    It isn’t our fault that the BBC censorship is bad – provably comparable in its dishonesty to the USSR’s in the Lysenko era Perhaps the non-member might be willing to join a UKIP picket outside the BBC.

    On immigration and libertarianism it depends on (A) whether you believe libertarianism is an absolute ideology that trumps other national interest (I don’t) and (B) whether citizenship of a country should be treated like an inherited shareholding – not to be redistributed or inflated lightly (I do)

  6. Andy Lovie says:

    Roger Helmer – totally agree.

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