“It is only by means of principles that men can judge the alternatives confronting them and project their future; a political campaign conducted only in terms of concretes means a candidate’s demand for a blank cheque on power.”
“When a man has ascertained that one alternative is good and the other is evil, he has no justification for choosing a mixture. There can be no justification for choosing any part of that which one knows to be evil."
That question is a constant challenge to libertarians, and a real one if we wish to live in the real world. What happens when the force of principle confronts the immovable object of bearpit politics? How can libertarians’ principled politics stand upright in the face of the Machiavellian juggernaut?
When proposing concrete policies in the context of a mixed economy and the confused milieu of politics, how can you know for sure whether you’re selling out your principles or advancing them? Down in the bearpit it’s often hard to tell, so I propose a simple test.
First, all policy must have three minimum requirements: it should be eminently practical, highly principled and arse-grabbingly provocative. Practical, because to be otherwise stretches credibility and is, quite frankly, impractical. Provocative, because voters need to be shocked out of their lethargy; to be hit between the eyes and ears by potent, colourful ideas. And principled, because our raison d'être is the principle of freedom. We are the only political party of principle, and the only one consistently promoting freedom; the one follows from the other. So: Practical, Principled and Provocative, the “Three P’s Test.”
Few would argue with the practicality test. Some prefer not to annoy people with the reality of the situation, preferring ‘not to frighten the horses,' – they are ignoring that ‘if it don’t grab attention, it don’t get heard.' But many, many more object to the ‘straitjacket’ of principle, arguing a need to judge every issue afresh.
Yet it is precisely the power of principle that allows one to consistently advance the good when in the Realpolitik of the Mixed Economy - to judge whether a planned move is a strong stand or a sell-out necessitates the test of principle. And here we come to the second part of the 3Ps test. Robert W. Tracinscki, (Intellectual Activist, July 1995) outlines the approach: “In judging a measure, one cannot hold it responsible for all aspects of a mixed economy - only for those aspects it changes. These changes can be evaluated by a straightforward application of the principle of individual rights: Does the reform remove some aspect of government control or does it add more control?...It is not a compromise to advocate reduced government control in one sphere even if controls in other spheres are left standing. It is a compromise, on the other hand, if one seeks to purchase increased freedom in one area at the price of increased control in another.”
To illustrate the point: a strong case can be made for the proposal to kill the entire front bench of Government in their beds, along with the Leaders of all Opposition Parties and the various Human Wrongs Commissars. Practical, and easily done (although there would be difficulties coordinating the overabundance of volunteers.) Certainly provocative. And strongly based on the principle of self-defence. But, the activist should beware of purchasing freedom in one sphere at the expense of increased controls in another - the subsequent police crackdown would undoubtedly remove all the freedoms gained by such a move, and for that reason it should be shunned.
Further examples of this same error: The Flat Tax proposal reduces taxes for some, but at the expense of increased sacrifice by those whose existing deductions are removed; School Vouchers do purchase wider choice, but only at the expense of bringing private schools even more under the Ministry’s boot; the currently fashionable Tradeable Emission Quotas and Fishing Quotas which purchase no freedom at all, and do so at the expense of increased bureaucracy and the effective nationalisation of industries.
Contrast these proposals with The Libertarianz’ Conscientious Objection Tax Policy. Here is a measure that hugely increases freedom and, far from requiring more controls and more regulation, actively promotes and engenders their removal. This measure allows an individual to opt out of the government’s (mis)managed Health, Education and Welfare, and in return pay only 10% income tax! Any individual can sign up to be a conscientious objctor, and is thereby saying that he will make his own arrangements for these, thank you very much. At a stroke he is better off, and with no new government controls intoduced.
This measure would also kickstart an explosion of freedom in the currently stagnant Health, Education and Welfare pools and offers an immediate lessening of government theft. This one practical proposal on its own could lead to the fiscal starvation of coercive government, and the end of the iron-handed political correctness that is killing life and endeavour in this country.
This measure clearly signals what libertarians are aiming for:
Liberty. Without compromise.