Libertarians and Intervention — April 1, 2012

Libertarians and Intervention

Two words that seemingly refuse to go together. On the whole, libertarians are against any foreign intervention, regardless of circumstances. They are ideologically stubborn, refusing to concede any ground or waste their time with pragmatism.

They believe in their principles, which is partly to be admired, but on the whole, very annoying. I have principles, political and non-political, if I can I stick by them I will, but don’t get me wrong I’m willing to be flexible with them – unlike libertarians. For them, (and yes, I am generalising) you have to stick to every principle you choose.

I’ve asked many libertarians what they would do about the problem of regimes like Assad’s in Syria. In reality, I haven’t received a decent, convincing response. Freedom and liberty is crucial for libertarians of course, and they protest to the hilt against any infringement against our liberties here in the UK. So I find it very hard to understand why they are not as passionate when defending the rights and liberties of everybody. Why are our rights superior to the people of Syria? Why should they be foaming at the mouth about Government plans to read our emails, but not protecting the lives of people being persecuted in Syria and other places?

Now I am not advocating a policy stance whereby the UK should intervene at the drop of a hat, we have to look closely at the details and the effects of any intervention. We should not get involved, replacing one murderous dictator and allowing another to take their place. We have to be strong with economic sanctions, embargoes and diplomatic pressure. If this continues to fail though, intervention may be necessary, protecting the lives of persecuted minorities should not be something the UK should be ashamed off.

Libertarians argue that Government cannot give you freedom, and that you can only free yourself. Whilst ideologically this is fine, in reality its impossible. I’d like to see a libertarian tell a family in Syria that armed with their words and ideas that they can free themselves from the oppressive Assad regime. Because after all, words are more powerful than weapons. Maybe in the fantasy ideal world that libertarians place themselves in, but in reality, they are simply killed for protesting.

What I find wholly uncomfortable is the idea that we cannot fix every problem in the world and that we in effect, simply accept that people will be killed worldwide whilst we stand by and watch. It is a very cold, inhumane approach to take and it is deeply concerning. As Edmund Burke so eloquently put it “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

I hope, and I really mean this, that somebody reads this and tries to convince me that I’m wrong about libertarians, and that they do have some solutions, because right now I’m yet to hear one.

If we need to, we should not be ashamed to intervene in Syria — February 6, 2012

If we need to, we should not be ashamed to intervene in Syria

Over the weekend the fighting in Syria has intensified. The Syrian leader President Bashar al-Assad is openly killing his own people whilst the world watches on. Some have called for a military intervention to protect the lives of the innocent people in Syria. Any such assistance has been questioned, and looks highly unlikely after China and Russia wielded their veto on sanctions on Syria.

The discussion of military intervention has caused a divide between a lot of people I have spoken to. A lot of people claim to be “liberals”, but the word liberal clearly means something different to them, than it does to me.

I believe in freedom. Not just freedom for me, or anybody lucky enough to be born in a “free, liberal society” but for everybody around the world. I think the UK should be leading the way in pushing for an end to the violence and oppression. We have a moral duty to do so. How can we be liberal, and not promote liberalism?

There are plenty of arguments not to get involved. Past interventions haven’t worked out the way people hoped, I admit. But just because we have failed in the past doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and help again.

If their is international intervention then simply replacing Assad is not enough. We must not allow another dictator to take his place. I am not suggesting that the one-size-fits-all democracy that we have in the West is the solution, but we cannot allow this mindless killing to continue.

One thing is for certain; we should not be ashamed to intervene in Syria for humanitarian reasons.

The case for a Negative Income Tax — January 20, 2012

The case for a Negative Income Tax

I thought I’d start my return to blogging starting with a radical idea that I’d like to see in British Politics.

The Negative Income Tax is a theory which would partially abolish the welfare system and would simplify the tax system. Originally devised by Juliet-Rhys Williams, a then member of the Liberal Party in the United Kingdom, it was further expanded by economist Milton Friedman. The concept became a popular theory when Friedman added a flat tax component to the original idea in his work The Constitution of Liberty. A negative income tax proposes a system where there is an equal starting point for all citizens. At the beginning of the tax year, everybody would be given a fixed, equal amount.

For this example I will set the figure at £20,000. This £20,000 is equivalent to a personal disposable allowance. The worker would then add their personal income to this total. Person A – earns £25,000 – taking their total disposable income to £45,000. Person B is unemployed and earns £0, therefore their total income remains at £20,000. The government then imposes a flat tax on any earnings. In this example, I will set tax at 20%. Person A therefore pays £9,000 tax for the year. Person B pays £0, as they have no earnings leaving their disposable incomes at £36,000 and £20,000 respectively. (These figures are of course demonstrative). Friedman believed this to be a fairer approach to the tax system than the current alternatives.

The issue with progressive income taxation is that it relies too heavily on the rich to fund the state. In the UK, the top 1% of earners paid almost 25% of all income tax in 2009. Any increase in the top band of tax, could lead to a phenomenon known as the “brain drain”, whereby the rich leave the country to avoid heavy taxes. The UK is at risk of such a brain drain, especially considering the rise of the UAE in recent years, where they pay no personal taxes.  Without the implementation of a starting income as described above, a standard regressive flat tax (such as VAT) is disproportionately harsh on those at the bottom end of the income scale, taking more as a real value than it does from higher earners.

A Negative Income Tax would give every UK citizen a solid starting point for the year. It would do away with unemployment benefits and housing benefits, but would keep vital benefits such as Disability Allowances, ensuring that those who are most at risk remain protected by the state. The so called “undeserving poor” (a phrase I am not too keen on) those who remain on benefits despite having the ability to work would have more incentive to work. As they would not have to comprehend a confusing taper rate, which is a vast improvement on the complex system currently employed in the UK.

The idea is backed by some inside of the political sphere. The Tax Payers Alliance has argued that a Negative Income Tax would be cheaper in terms of bureaucracy for the Government, and of course much simpler for tax payers of the UK.

Despite the merits of Negative Income Tax theory, it is worth noting that a Negative Income Tax has never been tried by any country and currently remains an economic and political theory.

And before any clever clogs attacks the theory by saying there aren’t enough jobs out there… This an economic theory and in my opinion it would work better than the current system. Please judge it solely on its merits, not on your party politics.