Ukip libertarian? I think not

One of the most interesting things about libertarians is how quickly their devotion to free markets and capitalism disappear so quickly as soon as it involves those dirty foreigners getting a piece of the action.

The Devil’s Kitchen likes to describe himself as a libertarian (as he did in a self-congratulatory post today) and makes much of his support for free markets — albeit almost always in terms of how much tax he has to pay.

But yesterday all of that talk about free markets was thrown out of the window when he approvingly posted a video of Swivel Eyed Farage on Sunday AM.

DK says:

And, on current showing, there is simply no major party that supports the libertarian agenda (I believe that UKIP are the closest that we have, hence my support for them).

Ukip libertarian? I hardly think so. Here is Swivel Eyed Farage in action.

I read one person somewhere (sorry, I’ve forgotten who) complaining that the amount of time Ukip was given on Sunday AM wasn’t enough. Having now watched the clip, I can understand why. If it continued for much longer it probably would have counted as a Party Political Broadcast. How Farage could get away with making such glaringly inconsistent statements almost in the same breath without anything less than fawning deference from Huw Edwards is beyond me.

Farage said:

Should somebody who’s interviewed as a school teacher and then changes faith midway through be allowed to teach a class of children when they can’t see her face? I wouldn’t have thought so, no.

Immediately afterwards, when Huw Edwards asked about the British Airways worker who was asked to cover her cross, Farage’s response was the exact opposite! One rule for Muslims and another for Christians.

Well I find that amazing, I mean British Airways are one of those companies that have consistently been anti-British… So I’m not surprised at all by BA’s behaviour.

Later on he says:

The underlying philosophy that runs through every single Ukip policy is that we want less government interference in our lives.

But predictably, just one minute later, he advocates the view that governments should be able to tell people where they can and can’t live. The reason why? As DK says:

His point about differing GDPs is a good one, I think, and forms the basis of my reservations on the unfettered free trade of peoples between countries. It seems to me that, inevitably, should you allow this, many more people will flow from the lower GDP countries into the high GDP countries and, realistically, that there will be far fewer emigrating to those lower GDP countries.

The fact that different countries have different GDPs is not a good argument against “the unfettered free trade of peoples between countries”. GDP is a measure of all of the income earned in an economy. So if you say that a country has a lower (per capita) GDP than another, that just means that the average income of a citizen of that country is lower.

Different people have different incomes. That is a fact of life. These differences in income exist within Europe. They also exist within the UK. They also exist within Kirkcaldy.

If this is so much of a problem that the government has to set some kind of limit to immigration, then it must also be enough of a problem to set a limit to the amount that people move within a country. There would be quotas on the number of people who can move from the Highlands to the Home Counties. They would build a moat around Ferguslie Park.

But they haven’t. That’s because the economy can cope with people of different economic backgrounds moving around the country. It is a fact that Scots prepared to move to England and English people prepared to move to Scotland in search of work will make more money than if they just stayed where they were born.

The economy as a whole benefits from this free movement of people. If Mr S from Scotland is really good at making widget X which is made in England, Mr S will move to England to work in job X because that’s what he’s good at, so he’ll make the most money there. And because he’s really good at his job, he makes widget X more efficiently than the average Mr E from England would have. Because Mr S is better at his job, firm X’s costs are lower and the benefits are spread to the economy as a whole.

Just because the line on the map has moved doesn’t make this fact untrue. And this isn’t just some pie in the sky economic theory. I am sure that everybody can think of several people who have moved long distances to get a job because they could see the clear benefits of doing so. DK himself is an Englishman living in Edinburgh for crying out loud! Just imagine how much of an economic shithouse the world would be if nobody ever moved away from their place of birth.

I really don’t see how it can be consistent to support a free market within a country but then advocate that the free trade — which is supposedly so beneficial to all — should end at the line drawn on a map.

Given that DK is such a “libertarian”, I am sure he will be familiar with the section of libertarian poster boy Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations dealing with protectionism (Book IV, Ch II). Smith might be talking about goods, but I cannot see any reason why what he says does not apply to labour aswell. If anyone has any reasons I would love to hear them.

Saying that the fact that countries have differing GDPs is a problem for a free trade area is a bit like saying that having firms of differing sizes is a problem in an economy. It is not. DK is probably right when he says, “there will be far fewer emigrating to those lower GDP countries,” if free trade of peoples is allowed.

This kind of thing is usually celebrated by libertarians. It’s freedom of choice, you see. So when there is competition, firms that don’t match the expectations of their customers have to adapt in order to survive. It is exactly the same for countries. When people can pick and choose where they live, governments are forced to take a long, hard look at the way they are running their economies. Sometimes they might even reform.

If, as libertarians suggest, it is the case that cutting back on welfare benefits, lowering corporate tax and so on improves a country’s economy and living standards, then open borders will force governments to adopt these policies as they try to attract jobs to their economies.

I thought that was what DK wanted? But by opposing the “free trade of peoples”, he could well be supporting the continuation of the welfare state.


  1. Doctor Vee,

    You are quite correct in many ways and, indeed, the majority of free-traders (rather than libertarian) do support totally open borders.

    All I was saying was that I have reservations about that policy, and my reservations are on the grounds of space and culture too.

    Look at the problems that we are having with the Muslim culture: there, by itself, is one argument for not allowing a free market in peoples.

    I shall write more…


  2. You’ve pinpointed the glaring hypocrisy of most people who call themselves libertarians. They’re usually nothing of the sort: more like “what I have, no matter how I got it, is mine”-ians.

    Also worth noting: all those wonderful predictions of neoclassical economics… the optimality of free trade, the inefficiency of taxation, the macroeconomic burdens of regulation, all of them… only work in the presence of perfect or near-perfect labour mobility. So next time someone chucks “free markets are best” at you, you know what to ask them back…

  3. […] Not sure whether either or both of the protagonists will thanks me for including these posts but my co-host doctorvee has had an interesting exchange of views, ahem, with the Devil’s Kitchen. Start here, then here and finally (for now anyway) here. The part which really rings my bell is doctorvee’s view on whether you believe in government intervention in the economy: Once you accept that some government intervention can be a force for good, you have voided your ability to use “small government” as a mantra, a panacea for all economic ills. […]

  4. […] Remember my first post on this subject? I cited Adam Smith for a reason. As I said in my first post, Smith is talking about goods and capital, but I don’t see any reason why it can’t apply to labour. DK does say in his post: “A plastic toy frog from China is not going to suddenly jump up and rape and kill your daughter.” I’ve dealt with crime already. So given that (ideally) criminals would not be let in, let’s assume that people coming into the country are not more likely to become criminals than British-born citizens. […]