Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bloggertarians - update

NuLab: The way we live now.

All of this bloggertarian business got picked up a bit more than I expected. If you haven't been following it, it started with an exchange of unpleasantries in which right-wing genius Devil's Kitchen called me seven kinds of cunt because I'd written this post arguing that many self-styled libertarians were really just right-wing negativists. It all inspired this post over at the Trots and escalated from there.

Devil's Kitchen offered this by way of response and has now provided some links to his back pages to prove that he is not - in fact - negativist at all. Oh no. Not a negativist. Certainly not.

Item one is a post ('Carnival of Polly Kicking #3') which is 'excoriating' (trans: swearing at) Polly Toynbee ("liar", "fool", "shut the fuck up" and "thieving cunt". Oh - sorry - that last one was aimed at Gordon Brown).

Have a look if you like. Libertarian? Well, it shouts about a few totemic libertarian objectives I suppose, but it's prime motivation appears to be to advance a position that is as far as possible, the direct opposite of anything Polly Toynbee would argue for.

If you can find anything that acknowledges where we are, that understands the various actors and institutions or that offers any recognisable road-map that supporters of his proposals could follow .... well good luck. No-one who really would like to see a smaller government could take any comfort from the fact that so many Bloggertarians are appropriating the word 'libertarianism'.

It's claim to non-negativism seems to rest entirely on a back-of-the-fag-packet outline of how a Citizen's Basic Income could work. It's hardly original (I think I've visited at least a dozen blogs that advocate a CBI - but I've never seen one that offers any advice on how any electable politician would be able to implement it). I'm waiting in hope by the way - I quite like the idea in principle. But - in passing - none of the Bloggertarians ever address the question of how you can have a CBI without ID cards?

And that's it. There are a number of other posts in the list that we're asked to consider as proof that DK isn't a negativist. Check them out.
  • Privatise schools!
  • Sack all of the civil servants!
  • Global warming is all made up by doom-mongers!
  • Privatise pensions!
And, er.... modest curbs on immigration probably.

All of them based on an utterly ahistoric assessment of modern institutions and power-structures. Most of them are - in themselves - complete electoral liabilities. No counterfactuals. Not really anything that would pass as argument outside of the semi-religious circle-jerk that crops up in the comments boxes of sites like that.

Instead of there being historical processes that could be altered by recognisable forces, we are offered a list of cunts (teachers, civil servants, politicians, Polly Toynbee), and a list of largely unargued demands for ultra-Thatcherite excesses.

This isn't libertarianism. It is simply numb-skulled Poujadism. The cherished themes that aren't electoral liabilities (leave the EU!) would not be possible to argue without accompanying policies that would be electoral liabilities. No wonder these people's understanding of 'democracy' stretches little beyond a demand for referendums on a variety of cherished stand-alone issues.

And where am I going with this? Well, in the comments under my post at The Trots, things rapidly descended into a slightly asymmetrical argument. A number of the commenters argued that there is no point in bickering with the Bloggertarians because it is a bit like engaging with creationists.

It's a fair point. If your base position is so ignorant of history and your diagnosis of society's problems are so ... weird ... then surely any further reasoning is a waste of time? If you really think that "under New Labour, the UK has become subject to a Sociofascist, Autocratic and borderline Kleptocracy" then you really have (to borrow a phrase from Shuggy) went and done and gone and lost your damn mind.

On the other hand, are lots of complicated know your enemy arguments. On a more civilised level, you learn something when you have a more sober argument with a fairly reasonable Tory (again, here's oneinspired by this spat). The Bloggertarians - whatever they claim - have a gravitational pull on The Conservative Party. In these arguments, Tories will always side with the Bloggertarians. Like UKIP, they are the Tories 'Id'.

Know what they are arguing for today, and you can see where The Stupid Party is heading tomorrow. It's a two way trade, even with the self-styled left-bloggertarians. Allies - or objective allies? Take your pick. My argument for picking these fights is that - if you write about Bloggertarians - your comments box becomes a very good Petri Dish.

But sod that. There's another good reason for picking fights with them. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. It's therapy for people who aren't so ill that they have to write 5 x 1000 word posts calling everyone a cunt every day. It helps you gird your soul and see the enemy for what it is. Anti-democratic. Negativist. A liability to any party stupid enough to regard them as allies or an asset of any kind.

And a complete and utter shower of cunts.

Update: Proof of the Petri dish argument: There are lady-Bloggertarians as well! Now I'd never have believed it possible until I saw this which I found in the comments here. I'm beginning to feel sorry for the Tories.


Nightstudies said...

While I agree with everything you wrote, I can't shake the feeling that, here in the United States, the blogger-left, even worse, a blogger left that has lots of influential party activists, is mostly a horrible liability to the Democratic party. If anything, feel sorry for us.

mikeovswinton said...

Paulie; You have my unceasing admiration for making a point I first made about 20 years ago at the Flying Picket in Liverpool - how can you have Basic Income if you don't have some sort of ID scheme. Why is this not obvious to the folk who advocate it? I guess the answer is that you could have CBI without ID cards, but the whole scheme would be so devalued that it wouldn't be worth having, because we'd all have about 10 citizen's incomes running at any one time. The guy who didn't take the point when I made it is now, I think, a Professor. And still advocates CBI.
Keep the Faith.

dirigible said...

how can you have Basic Income if you don't have some sort of ID scheme

Use NI numbers, which already exist.

ID cards are basically a solution to people not having ID cards.

Paulie said...


I'm leaving your comment there as an example of the kind of dull trollery that I normally delete.

Any more of it in this thread goes in the bin.

The Plump said...

Spot on Paulie, especially on the negativism. The whole thing is an exercise is applied selfishness - I don't want to pay tax and aren't I clever. (The obvious reply is, 'pay up and no you are not').

The CBI argument is interesting. This is a statist scheme, it is expensive and it requires taxation. If it is to be equitable that taxation has to be progressive. Both taxation and distribution of benefits require identification and administration. Concerns about the civil liberties aspects of ID cards rest on the extent of the purposes for which they are used and of the information that is recorded. Thus opposition to ID cards in the context of CBI has to relate to the other uses to which the card can be put, extraneous to the identification of citizenship, rather than the existence of a card itself.

CBI is an admission that you cannot have individual liberty without economic security, and that security can only be achieved through collective action. This doesn't seem to be an argument that they are making.

Tim Worstall said...

"Privatise schools!"

Err, I'm not wholly convinced that DK does advocate "privatising" schools. I'm pretty sure that he advocates having a system of vouchers to pay for education. As is done in that most bloggertarian of states, Sweden.

I also don't get your insistence that a cbi would require ID Cards. The operation of the tax system doesn't require them, the operation of the benefits system doesn't require them.

John M said...

I'm a bit baffled by the insistence that a CBI would require ID cards too. Someone made the point that NI numbers would be a perfectly usable mechanism and was denounced as a troll. I don't understand why (although there may well be perosnality issues that I am unaware of, of course). Some clarification would be welcome.

Paulie said...

Tim / John,

Dirigible is a regular troll at a lot of sites that I visit. He pops up early in the thread with an assertion that ignores foregoing arguments.

I don't have the visitor numbers to attract trolls very much, and if I ever get them, I'll discourage them.

I think that Mike and Mr Plump have dealt with the ID card question, and I raised the question as an example of the way that seperate arguments are often just mindlessly asserted in isolation.

I think that we can agree that a CBI would place a larger burden on the state to ensure that every citizen has a single authenticatable unduplicatable identity, can't we?

Having more that one NI number is hardly unusual. There are plenty of spivs out there with a few of them to spare.

Jackart said...

The Bloggertarian distrusts Governement and thinks it in most instances to be a malign entity. He (for 'tis usually so) therefore opposes any solution with Government management at its core, preferring market-based solutions.

CBI is not a core policy for bloggertarians. In any case, are you seriously suggesting that the current means-tested system is not widely abused and grossly inefficient?

As for negativism. We bloggertarians have lots of policies. It's just that most of them involve removing state management and control from areas. This is still a policy, and it is positive.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me to be very clear that noone in this thread, or the post itself, has made a case for why CBI requires ID cards. Perhaps I am being obtuse. For the avoidance of doubt perhaps someone could set out why using National Insurance nos allows people to draw 10 CBI's at once.

Larry Teabag said...

Is someone who devotes most of their blogging career to opposing "negativism" a "positivist", or doubly negativistic?

Paulie said...


I owe you an apology here.

I read your comment in haste (and mixed you up with another occassional commenter who always puts unconstructive trollery everywhere).

I shouldn't have responded to you in that way and I apologise.

I still think that NI numbers probably wouldn't be enough, but then I'm not *actually* advocating either CBI or ID cards.

I just raised the question.

Apologies again. Forgiven?

Paulie said...



Larry Teabag said...

Well at least we agree on something.


Ian said...

I don't quite get this "negativists" boo-word.

Is it really such a sin to point out problems with the government/EU without necessarily having a solution other than "stop lying to your electorate and coming up with illiberal policies and yet more laws, politicians"?


Paulie said...

Yes. It is a sin, and There is a problem with it.

Ian said...

From a quick reading of what you've linked to, I don't think we're talking about quite the same thing.

What he (Dsquared) seems to be saying (or at least what you interpret him as saying) is that a commenter shouldn't propose solutions to problems.

All I'm saying is that they shouldn't have to propose solutions - that it is a valid contribution simply to point out why something is undesirable. Do you disagree with this?

Paulie said...


Paulie said...

Sorry, yes.

Devil's Kitchen said...

"Libertarian? Well, it shouts about a few totemic libertarian objectives I suppose, but it's prime motivation appears to be to advance a position that is as far as possible, the direct opposite of anything Polly Toynbee would argue for."

Heh, yup. That's a good definition of libertarian: being against anything that Polly Toynbee is for...


Ian said...

My response to all this is up here.

Will said...

You see...this idiot is also poisonous and he is one of the better ones

basically a troll with a blog (if that isn't a contradiction of terms).

Note his Toryism seeping through - note the creepy personalization - note the thought processes at work...polly toynbee is to blame!

fuck me. I hate and despise these fucking cretins more than I realised.

PS. Vote for me and I will have the fuckers shot. No question. Up against that wall you go you cunt!


One very, expertly aimed bullet will do the job!

alabastercodify said...

Double apologies for being late to this thread and for picking at the same old scab.

But on the issue of CBI and ID cards - I don't get why you haven't answered the point I made in the comments of the original thread on the question, which you link to in this article.

The position's really simple. No one I've met actually really objects to having an ID card - it's hardly very different from having an NI number.

What they object to is the attendant database, especially its scope, its openended nature and the government's record on other databases.

So there just IS no contradiction between advocating CBI and being against "ID cards" as a shorthand for the database.

I hope you don't consider this to be trolling - the point seems obvious and reasonable to me.

Paulie said...


You overestimate my censoriousness towards trolls, and your comment doesn't fall anywhere close to trollery either.

I didn't reply here because I didn't fully understand your point - I meant to research it at the time but never got around to it.

I don't see how you can have a credible ID card without having a searchable database backup of it?

The biometric data must surely be unique? Surely the case for ID cards is that they are an unduplicatable and authenticatable?

I will stress again here that I am neither particularly an advocate of ID cards of CBI.

alabastercodify said...

The point is what the database is used for. If it is a merely an adjunct to the card, verifying the information held on the card (which may well include biometrics - I don't think that need be a problem), and therefore providing an effective proof of ID - I don't think anyone would have a problem. It would just be a better form of NI.

But a database that actually contains a record of the lifetime use of the card is clearly very different, and I would say not acceptable.

The problem many people have with this particular scheme is partly the fact that the government has never said exactly what the limits of use of the database may be, while giving many hints as to various extra uses they want to put it to, and drafting legislation that gives them room to effectively use it for anything they want. For example, how much will be logged on the database about the use of the card? And then there's the state's record with other databases, where they seem to be in favour of maximum possible usage - such as the congestion charge database, which logs car journeys even at the weekend when there is no charge.

Thus my point is, there isn't any contradiction between wanting CBI, involving a proper ID scheme, and opposing this ID database.

Neil Harding said...

Paulie, I have been having my fight with the bloggertarians for over two years now. Good to see I am not on my own anymore. I think they are all tories in disguise. You are absolutely right in your analysis. Keep up the good work!

Neil Harding said...

On a CBI, I came to similar conclusion to you about the need for ID cards. I think universal child benefit shows it could work with ID cards but child benefit is so low, it is hardly worth the fraudsters having a look, a CBI would be a different situation.

will said...


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