For the second year I’ve attended the Freedom Forum, Liberty League’s conference (aimed at students) based in London. On day one I attended three excellent panel debates:
- Technology – setting us free or hiding the chains: this was chaired by Marc Sidwell of City AM (THE libertarian newspaper – worth a read). Many technologies were discussed including encryption technologies, such as PGP, and Bitcoin. The key thought that I took away from this debate was that no matter what technologies we introduce to evade the state’s interference, it is but a temporary reprieve, for the state will simply outlaw or neutralise that technology (e.g. laws around encryption keys needing submitting to law enforcement agencies, closure of Silk Road, etc.). I have some thoughts on this, which may become a future article (or even a start-up!)
- The Welfare Debate – should libertarians support a welfare state? This was an excellent, if somewhat fractious, debate. It comprised speakers from across the libertarian spectrum, ranging from the bleeding heart libertarian approach to the hardcore objectivist. The viewpoints ranged from the Citizen’s Basic Income to a return to voluntary and contributory methods, such as friendly societies, trade unions, etc. While I am sympathetic to the pragmatic aims of the CBI advocates I have yet to be convinced that this approach won’t simply distort the market and create new moral hazards (and ultimately it still requires taxation of some description, whether a sales tax or Land Value Tax).
- The lifestyle freedoms debate: should victimless crimes be punished: This was a lively debate chaired by Chris Snowdon and comprising a panel of a former-Chief Constable, a porn star and a ‘radfem’ (Julie Bindel). The cases for drug legalisation, pornography and prostitution were put forward by the first two panelists, and then Julie Bindel spoke against prostitution. Sadly her contribution to the debate was the usual Marxist-style rhetoric, complaining that “prostitution is like any other capitalist exploitative industry”. Her case appeared to be that although she “didn’t want to ban anything” she did want to remove the choice of sex work for those from lower socio-economic groups or anybody that may have been abused in the past.
I look forward to today’s sessions. Look out for tweets with the hash tag #LLFF14.