I have long contended that in the absence of the following principle – for brevity let’s call it Principle A – almost ANY act of government coercion and interference will be justified. And I have two examples which are demonstrable of that.

Principle A is this: that the actions of individuals should be free, except those cases in which such actions infringe on the equal freedoms of another individual. Needless to say, our current lawmakers do not incorporate this principle in much of their decision making. The political scene is based instead on competing ideas, most of which differ on an issue-by-issue basis. For instance, on the drugs issue, there are some who believe drug-taking is harmful, and they therefore should be banned. There are others who believe that it would lead to bigger problems. There are others who advocate drugs being classified into different groups, and some of the lesser-harmful groups legalised. There are others who think drug use is prohibited by their religion. And there are yet others who contend that drugs should be legalised; because they are not as harmful as people make out, because they enjoy them, because we can’t fight the war on drugs, because its costing the country too much money to do so. But all of these reasons, for or against, fail to ask the question Principale A does. A libertarian, someone who subscribes to Principle A, believes that an individual should be free to put whatever substance they want into their own body, as it is their body, not that of the state. All other concerns are secondary, and do not affect lawmaking. Therefore the correct question to ask, under Principle A, is this: ‘Do the acts of drug-taking, drug-buying or drug-dealing infringe on the freedoms of any other individuals?’ The answer being, clearly, ‘No’, then the state is not able to interfere.

And most of what consumes current politics does not ask this question. Of course, I am not making here an argument FOR subscribing to Principle A – that’s another debate. But, in order to support and bolster the beliefs which constitute a libertarian viewpoint, I want to offer the following two examples of recent lawmaking exercises which I think lie at the outer edge of that spectrum of politics that could claim to be reasonable, even in the absence of the influence of Principle A. And, predictably, both examples take place within the EU.

The first is from Italy – a Turin city council lawmaking exercise which dictates that all dog owners will be fined up to $650 if they don’t walk their pets at least three times a day. People will also be banned from dyeing their pets’ fur or any other form of aesthetic changes such as docking dogs’ tails. Dogs may be led for walks by people on bicycles, the rules say, “but not in a way that would tire the animal too much.” Fairgrounds are banned from giving away goldfish in plastic bags. Etcetera, etcetera. That people know their pets better than anyone else, that it is not at all harmful to dogs to dye their fur as is the case with human hair – the lawmakers got a bee in their bonnet and decided they were omnipotent. Had the Italian constitution been strictly built upon Principle A and based on libertarian rights, the lawmakers would have found that they were not able to make such a law, that such an act was not within their sphere of control, because the responsibility for caring for an animal in any particular way lies with the animal’s owner and not the state. Principle A would guarantee the right of a dog owner to walk, or not walk, his or her dog as many times per day that he or she likes without interference from people who are threatening to take them to jail.

The second is a story from Sweden, in which a lesbian couple got thrown out of a Stockholm restaurant in 2003. They won a judgement yesterday against an earlier court ruling that cleared the restaurant owner of sexual discrimination. The court ordered the restaurant owner, Aziz Cakir, to pay 50,000 crowns ($7,100) in damages. Cakir has said that he does not allow ANYONE to engage in such behaviour on his property, regardless of sexual orientation. But the courts, who are swayed by ‘politically correct’ ideals, didn’t think that was a good enough answer. And the gay rights movement love it, of course – HomO director Hans Ytterberg says he hopes this will “function as an effective deterrent.” I’m trying to remain calm here, folks. That it was the owner’s private property, that he should be perfectly entitled to cater to the wishes of his other customers, that they were engaging in behaviour that he deemed inappropriate for his setting – none of this managed to persuade the legislators that the case was outside their arena of authority. Had this been an issue within a libertarian society, Principle A would have guaranteed the restaurant owner the right to refuse anyone at any time for whatever reason on his own property, and simultaneously guaranteed the lesbian couple the right to do whatever they want on the property of any other restaurant owner willing to permit it (indeed, there would likely be property owners wishing to cater particularly to that kind of behaviour, as it is a market that people like Cakir do not).

In most cases, Principle A will not only mean consistency, good theory and good philosophy; it will mean good results, too. In the absence of such principal, it is clear from the nonsensical crap emanating from legislatures that almost any act of government coercion and interference, no matter how fricking ridiculous, will be justified.

Now the question is: when will we realise that, enough to do something about it?

John Wright