Thursday, 23 July 2009

My journey to Libertarianism: 4

(Part 3 is here)

The 1990s were a time when my political outlook didn’t change much. I was basically anti-Labour, but couldn’t summon up any enthusiasm for the Conservative Party. In fact, they got worse instead of better. Mrs. Thatcher, for all her faults, was a conviction politician, and clearly had a vision. If Mr. Major had a vision, it was difficult to see what it was. He spoke of wanting Britain to be ‘a nation at ease with itself’, which to me at least, sounded as if the goal was complacency. The Conservative Party’s sole purpose appeared to be to remain in government, and their MPs, for the most part, seemed to be people whose main interests were holding on to their seats, getting richer, and advancing their careers. Idealism was out of fashion. Despite my desire to keep Labour out, I was reluctant to vote Conservative.

Did my thought move in a libertarian direction? Not really. But a couple of things happened which helped prepare the ground. First, I read an article about Fractional Reserve Banking, which took the view that this practice was essentially fraudulent - a view which is not mainstream - but which is fairly standard among libertarians - (see, for example, this article by Murray Rothbard.) Well, I don’t know much about economics, and I’m not about to mind on the subject on the basis of one article - but I must confess that it sounded convincing to me.

Perhaps more significantly, I found myself moving in a eurosceptic direction. I had always been a supporter of the European Union. When I was a youngster, I was told (on good authority) that going into the EEC would make sweets and chocolate cheaper. That sounded to me like a move in the right direction. When I was a little older, I listened to my parents and their friends talking, and it was clear that enlightened and broad-minded people supported membership of the EEC, while those who were opposed were, at the very least, nationalistic - and probably xenophobic. I joined the Liberal Party, and heard about how the Labour and Conservative Parties were not really committed to the EEC, and so Britain was not really benefiting from membership as much as we might. I took it as axiomatic that the EEC was good, and never really questioned it. (Funny that. I had lots of questionings and doubts about God and the Bible, but never about the EEC!)

Why did I develop doubts about the membership of EEC / EU? Basically because what had started off as simply a common market was moving slowly but (it seemed) steadily toward becoming a European Super State. The number of British laws that were coming from Europe seemed to be increasing - and a lot of them didn’t seem to be very good. The defining moment came when an American, who had been living in Britain for a few years, remarked to me that he really couldn’t understand why we were giving up our independence to the EU. And it struck me that he was right - that was precisely what we were doing.

And so three more pieces of the jigsaw were in place: a disillusionment with all the main British political parties, an openness toward Austrian Economics, and a conviction that British membership of the EU was not a good thing.


measured said...

Too much of anything appears to me not to be a very good thing. I hope young bears are not prone to idealistic views, Young Mr Brown.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Thank you very much for your comment, Ms. Measured.

It has always been my ambition to combine hard-nosed realism with wide-eyed idealism. (I realise that this probably makes me seem very ambitious indeed.)

The curious result is that I am sometimes regarded as being a rather cynical young bear.

I take it that you have doubts about idealism. If so, you may well be right. I have often thought that most of the trouble in the world is caused by idealists.

But I'm still an idealist. Otherwise I wouldn't have joined a microscopic political party which is unlikely to gain political power in my lifetime - indeed, at the current rate, unlikely to gain a single parliamentary seat in my lifetime!

JonnyN said...

I wouldn't make Austrian Economics a precondition for libertarianism.... Those guys can be very doctrinaire.

Young Mr. Brown said...

I recall encountering a quiz on the internet where one answered questions, in order to find out what kind of economist one was. Since I couldn't understand most of the questions, I couldn't find out if I was an Austrian Economist or not!

Still, a lot of it makes sense, especially if it is Peter Schiff that is talking.

What would your own critique of Austrian Economics be?