The Print is starting a new series called ‘In Conversation With…’ and The Print’s Editor-in-Chief started it off by talking with Marcin, Luke and Georgy from the Liberty Society.
Tell us about yourselves and the society.
Marcin: I’m the President and one of the founders.
Luke: I’m a member.
Georgy: I write and take notes for the society.
Marcin: The Liberty Society was established last year in September. It was established on the principles of personal, social and economic freedoms. Basically, we noticed that, around the university, societies and general student focus were very polarised. There is either an option to be a Socialist/Communist or a Conservative, very conservative. We’ve noticed there was this huge gap in the middle that needed to be filled.
It started off as a quasi-debate society based on libertarian principles. Members who leaned towards libertarianism pushed the debate towards the libertarian side. However, the society is still a space for people to decide if they agree with Libertarianism or not. A lot of our members are converts to Libertarianism.
The society tries to make people passionate about Libertarianism. There are many activities to be involved in: debates, discussions, role playing exercises. These focus on current affairs. For example, we recently talked about the demonstrations in Hong Kong and the situation in Syria. We also tend to talk about US politics.
Georgy: What we offer is an alternative. Other organisations on campus are left or right wing or are associated with a specific political party. With us it’s different we argue against all those ideologies. There’s another way for society and politics to be structed.
Luke: The point is to open debate, to learn something. To widen perspectives of the political landscape. We have people who don’t have any specific political leanings. We have people with different views on different topics.
Explain Libertarianism in layman’s terms
Georgy: What I understand it to be is that: instead of giving the government the power to govern our everyday choices, we take these responsibilities ourselves: through financial/economic means we develop and form a society that we want. For example, taxes would be voluntary, in an ideal world. Currently, we see that capitalist systems are more efficient.
Marcin: To add to that, we can talk about volunteerism: all humans would do stuff based on voluntary action. There’s is a great irony with state controls. A good example would be with weed. People can be more concerned about getting caught with weed because of the legal repercussions than any discernible health effects it may have. Libertarians would focus a person to be more concerned with the latter.
Luke: Simply put, I would say less government controls and more control for individuals equals benefits.
How did you become Libertarian?
Luke: I would say I’m half libertarian and half miscellaneous: neither left not right. I found the Liberty Society at the Welcome Fare and they were nice and welcoming. They were friendly and I enjoyed the debates and events.
Georgy: I always thought I was politically in the dead centre. I was very interested in the economic system and how it worked. When I stared to talk to other libertarians, I understood the system to be more organic and I also identified with the types of things that they were talking about. Moreover, when I came [to Queen Mary], I didn’t have much choice of political societies except from societies such as Labour or the Conservatives. I didn’t agree with any of them especially the Marxists, coming from a post-soviet country, I didn’t agree with them at all. I wanted to affiliate myself with a political leaning that I had not experienced in action: we don’t know if Libertarianism can work because it hasn’t been tried.
Marcin: I also come from a post-socialist country, Poland. I stated off as a social liberal. It started changing, when I started learning economics, gradually, I identified more with a free market-based approach. I think a free market is better at providing services like education and health care. Most issues are better off provided through a free market. Kickstarter is a great example of how people voluntary engage in paying for helping others.
Audience member: In what way is the private sector better suited to dealing with social care?
Marcin: The biggest benefit of the private sector is that it has competition. It’s hard to overhaul governments but easier to bring wide scale change in private sectors through how consumers act.
Luke: Government-run approaches encourage monopolies. For example, a train company doesn’t work efficiently but the government continues its contract with them because that specific company may be the only one who can run at a low cost.
Another good example to look at is the sugary drink tax, now there’s generally less sugar in drinks and in foods, brought through government regulation. But this revolution of consuming less sugar was brought through consumers buying products with less sugar.
Should governments be taking steps to combat climate change?
Georgy: No. It’s up to encouraging corporations to do so. By deregulating the market, we are going to be more able to do that. A company’s main objective is to maximise profits by spending as little as possible. They must find ways to maximise profits. For example, recycling allows people to produce more products with less resources.
On an international level governments sign deals but then nothing happens. For firms, they are led by being able to produce the most profit through appeasing the consumer.
Marcin: We can see charges on a private and individual level. For example, people generally, now buy more electric cars, use less plastics bags and recycle more. This influences choices by firms. Changes should go bottom up: from the people first. BP and Shell are not encouraged by the government to reduce petroleum usage or increase renewable power production. This switch is profitable to them: they respond to peoples’ expectations.
Luke: I completely disagree. The vast majority of climate change related issues are not caused by consumers. Plastic bags make up 0.1% of the oceans’ waste, the vast majority is fishing nets. Consumers are generally not as aware of this. I like the idea that consumers can create change, but they are not educated enough to demand the right kind of change, in the case of climate change. Therefore, although firms make changes, a lot of the changes can be highly superficial. I think in this case, the government can demand standards. The EU, for example, is trying to bring in legislation that means that a lot of products should be reusable.
Where do you draw the line between human rights and privileges: free speech?
Marcin: Unless you are creating harming, you can say/do what you want. Free speech should be mostly unlimited. But the limit should be, if someone is creating danger or encouraging direct violence. For other issues, such as discriminatory remarks, the onus is on people to disassociate themselves from those individuals. This will have a far greater effect on a person than government regulation because it personally affects them.
Luke: This may be controversial, but you have the right to offend but you do not have the right not to be offended. However, there is the right to feel safe. There is a difference between saying something controversial in a debate and just spontaneously saying it to someone. Legislation won’t get rid of discriminatory views; it will hide them away and allow them to get worse. Discussing controversial issues is far more effective at dealing with issues like racism then simply saying, “you are wrong do not speak”.
Finally, where is the governments place in a Libertarian society then?
Luke: It shouldn’t hold us up, it should be something to fall back on.
(Also, a big thank you to Lucía, who runs the Liberty Society’s social media and helped to organise the event.)
If you are interested in finding out more about libertarianism, then you can find contacts details for the Liberty Society here: https://www.qmsu.org/groups/17912/