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Laura Perrins: The logic of Carswell’s libertarianism is an end to the NHS and benefits for single mums


Last week our co-editor Kathy Gyngell interviewed Douglas Carswell MP, who would like to bring about a libertarian Utopia. I am willing to accept for now, that libertarians and conservatives are close cousins and share the common desire to roll back the State. The libertarians want the State to remain ‘neutral’. The State should not make choices for others, or ‘nudge’ them in any one direction – even if this is good for the individual person or society as a whole.

One of our readers stated that libertarians believe that the State should not interfere with our private lives (or should only do so to a minimal extent). We should be free to live our lives how we choose.

My question for the libertarians is, who bears the costs? What does it mean that the State should be ‘neutral’? If we are all free to make choices, particularly in our private lives (as long as it is does not harm another in the classical JS Mill sense) I assume it follows for the libertarians that only the individual picks up the tab should they make a personally damaging or irresponsible decision. The State, in reality responsible citizens who avoid making these decisions, should not pay the price for another’s shoddy life plans. If the State does tax the responsible to compensate the irresponsible, it is not being ‘neutral.’

How would this work in practice? Let’s take drugs – the libertarians, along with the potheads, want to decriminalise cannabis, heroin and cocaine (the jury seems to be out on substances such as highly addictive crystal meth). Does it follow that should someone suffer drug-induced psychosis, or contract HIV from sharing needles, the NHS would no longer pay the bill for this entirely predictable consequence of an individual’s disastrous personal decision to take drugs? If the State does step in to clean up the mess, surely this is not ‘neutral’?

This would apply to other damaging decisions, such as consuming large amounts of alcohol or smoking oneself into oblivion. The NHS would no longer pay for the resulting cancer treatments and liver transplants. In fact, for the libertarian Utopia really to blossom and in the name of fairness, which we hear about so often, I would assume we are abolishing the NHS completely and replacing it with a fully private health insurance scheme? Otherwise the drug liberalisation could bankrupt the State in about five minutes.  Funnily enough, I do not remember this being stated as official Ukip policy by Utopian Emperor Douglas Carswell.

When it comes to the family, again in libertarian Utopia, everyone goes there own way but bears their own costs. So should you wish to set up a polygamous commune, that is fine but the commune would not get a State subsidy (perhaps they would not need one). Likewise, married couples would not receive any benefit or allowance (not that they do now anyway). If you decide to parent alone, equally the taxpayer would not fund this.

There would be no child benefit or child tax credit. Everyone would bear their own costs as the State now would be ‘neutral’ when it comes to this private decision to parent alone. You would have to figure out how to care for a child as well as provide for it materially, no matter how difficult that might be.

There would no stigmatisation but no handouts either. Likewise if Mum and Dad decided both to work after junior is born, they pay for the outsourced care of junior, entirely. There would be no subsidy from the taxpayer; the childcare industry would receive not a penny. Something tells me the cost of childcare would increase drastically even further – but that would merely reflect the true cost of caring for a child without a massive State subsidy, which is a breach of libertarianism.

So in Libertarian Land I would assume, just for starters, there would be no NHS, no nudge units, no breastfeeding vouchers and no ads telling mothers not to smoke during pregnancy. Equally there would be no taxpayer subsidies propping up any family, either traditional or modern, single earning or double earning. I look forward to this being championed in the Ukip manifesto.

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