Cartoon: By Pope
It would be difficult to come up with a word that causes more confusion as to its meaning than libertarian. To actual libertarians it’s relatively simple; a belief in fiscal conservatism, social tolerance, individual freedom, and limited government.
Among outsiders it varies from a reasonable understanding of the above, to right wing fanatics, hopeless utopians, selfish pricks, right through to the left wing journalistic interpretation; a suitable alternative to the adjectival use of the F word in polite society.
Peter Van Onselen of The Australian though, appears particularly confused on the issue when referring to the politics of Clive Palmer:
… Equally, Tony Abbott must contend with the newly formed PUP, which primarily challenges the conservative side of politics.
Clive Palmer is an odd mix of conservatism, libertarianism, social liberalism (witness his advocacy for onshore asylum-seeker processing) and self-interest.
Nevertheless, there should be little doubt that his supporters hail more from the Right than the Left, and with that Palmer becomes Abbott’s problem, not Bill Shorten’s. PUP picked up a senator last weekend, which takes its Senate total to three, four if you include the deal done with motoring enthusiast Ricky Muir. …
There isn’t much to be confused about in Clive’s positions if you consider his origins and history.
Clive is an old-fashioned rump National Party dropout conservative and crony capitalist, who has created a populist party based on telling every audience what it wants to hear. There is nothing whatsoever that is libertarian in Clive.
PUP lists five policies on it’s website:
(1) That his party officials may not be lobbyists;
(2) Abolishing the carbon tax. Libertarians would give this one a tick;
(3) A nebulous statement on refugees that says nothing substantive;
(4) A bizarre statement on ‘creating mineral wealth’, and;
(5) A feel-good statement on wealth flowing back to where it’s created.
In the case of (4) and (5) he reveals his statist, big government agenda.
In the case of ‘creating mineral wealth’, he wants to utilise the minerals of Qld and WA, but wants to send them to the southern states, far from their origins and process them there. Apart from increasing transport costs to get them there, typically, he then expects incentives from big government to do it,
Libertarians tended to support the Lang Hancock concept of a privately funded railway from WA to Central Queensland, with processing plants and ports on either end, with Qld coal going west and WA minerals going east.
In the case of created wealth, a libertarian would favour not taking it out in the first place, rather than Palmer’s idea of taking it to Canberra, churning it through the bureaucracy, then sending what is left back to where it came from.
For the patient with time on their hands, PUP also has a huge quantity of press releases from the party for perusal. It’s actually fun to go through and find out how many are contradictory. This is probably the result of a knee-jerk desire to get something, anything, out there in relation to any piece of information in the hope of sounding good, or at least concerned in relation to it without really thinking it right through.
Van Onselen is probably a little justified in being confused; Palmer does that to people. There is however, no excuse for observing an odd position or two that may gain the approval of some libertarians and assuming that this qualifies as part of that philosophy. A broken clock gets the time right twice a day.
Libertarianism is a consistent philosophy of liberty and as result all policy positions are consistent with that condition. If this is not the case, then the person or party is not libertarian.