frank_davis (frank_davis) wrote,

But am I a Libertarian?

I've been astonished to discover that my blog, which has barely been going for two months, has been voted 19th out of 63 Libertarian blogs. I'm stunned. I vaguely knew that there was vote taking place, but as a complete newbie, I didn't even begin to imagine I'd get any votes at all. Anyway, the top 20 were:

But am I a Libertarian? I've never said I was. But perhaps I am? When I do these online political quizzes, - like this one - I sometimes get told that I'm a Libertarian or that I am a centrist moderate social libertarian. Left: 0.39, Libertarian: 3.02
But is it only Libertarians who hate smoking bans? And smoking bans are what this blog is about. I can think of good reasons why a Labour voter might hate smoking bans - they trample on the poor and the working classes -, and I can also think of good reasons why Conservatives might hate smoking bans - they trample on traditional British culture -.

It's not the first time I've been described as Libertarian. My Idle Theory website got a very favourable mention by someone called Patrick Vessey late last year. He wrote:

...yesterday I briefly outlined my own take on what we should view as constituting economic progress and growth/wealth: an increase in leisure time.
The argument is simple; the less time that you have to spend working in order to fulfil your utilitarian survival needs (a roof over your head, food in your belly etc.), the more time that you have to do other things. You might choose to work some more, to fund your purchase of shiny things, or you might spend your free time fishing, playing with your kids, or whatever. The more 'leisure' time that you have, the more choices that are open to you -- which has always struck me as an extremely good fit with the libertarian ethos.

Yup, that's pretty much Idle Theory. The fraction of people's time that is free time is what I call their 'idleness', and this can range from 0 to 1, with 0 as the threshold of death. 

And then he went on to mention me - bearing in mind that Frank Davis is one and the same person as Chris Davis - except that Chris Davis is cool and quiet and thoughtful, while Frank is angry and loud. 
Whilst the idea of economic growth and prosperity being measured in terms of a decrease in the need to work to fulfil basic needs is hardly mainstream, I'm not alone in holding it. Over the years, Chris Davis has taken this view and expanded it into a fully fledged social, economic, political and ethical system which he terms Idle Theory. Whilst there are historical precedents for some of the ideas that I've been talking about (e.g. from Russell and Lafargue), I'm not aware of anyone other than Davis who has attempted to pull things together in such a comprehensive manner.

Well, I don't know about the 'fully fledged' bit. Idle Theory is a huge, sprawling, but ultimately incomplete idea. I've been working away at it for years like Andy Dufresne with his rock hammer in the Shawshank Redemption, and it's still nowhere near complete.

I would have liked to have joined in the subsequent discussion. It was, after all, about Idle Theory. But by the time I belatedly showed up, the party was long since over, and the bottles were empty, and everyone had gone home.

So who was this Patrick Vessey? Well, none other than the founder of the UK Libertarian Party., that's who. He'd been writing about Idle Theory on the LPUK blog around about the time he'd stepped down as party leader. I don't know what he'd doing now. I'd have been interested to find out what he agreed with in Idle Theory, and what he disagreed with. And what got him reading Idle Theory in the first place. Maybe someone will nudge him in my direction.

Because I still don't see that I'm a Libertarian. Or rather I'm only as libertarian as the idleness of a society permits. If 90% of time is idle or leisure time, then I'm 90% liberatarian. If only 10% of time is idle time, then I'm only 10% libertarian. I argue in Idle Theory that the least idle societies are likely to be monarchies, and the more idle ones liberal democracies, and the most idle ones pretty much anarchies. I think a modern Libertarian is simply someone who takes the rosy view that modern Western societies are something like 95% idle. But are they? Has anyone ever measured it? I could as easily be a monarchist as a libertarian.

Drinking beer and smoking cigarettes is what people do in their idle time. And - like Patrick Vessey said - economic growth entails increasing people's idleness, and increasing their real freedom to choose. It's a negation of this hard-won freedom - won over many centuries - to start pulling the cigarettes out of people's mouths, and the beers from their hands. It's a negation of all economic and political progress.

Over this at least, the emotional Frank Davis and the rational Chris Davis are both agreed.
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