I’m a self-described Euro-Libertarian. I believe in the supremacy of the individual, of civil rights and of the supremacy of free market. The ‘Euro’ bit comes in because from my experience living in Europe, it’s clear that a welfare-state works to some extent. Read that again, US readers: The welfare-state, to a reasonable extent, works.
Economically, I believe in anti-trust laws to moderation and in consumer rights. I believe that a market will work best if the government interferes as little as possible, if at all. Sounds like a contradiction perhaps, but a very good balance can be struck by imposing anti-trust measures, protecting consumer rights and then letting go.
Socially, I believe in the welfare-state, to some extent. In most cases, the welfare system in Europe is bloated and openly abused. In Germany, new Turkish immigrants marry (illegaly) multiple wives, have dozens of children and live off taxpayer contribution without working themselves. I do not believe in multiculturalism the way it’s being played out in England or Germany, because the abuses taking place in these countries are in most cases done by or in the name of the Islamic religion – marrying into making a huge family in order to avoid work and mooch off the State, driving children into Islamic education centres, etc. A tangential anecdote: A while back, I was applying to British universities through the UCAS system. I clicked on the letter ‘I’ to bring up Imperial College and to my horror, next to Imperial College was ‘Islamic Further Education Centre’. This is, I remind you, not Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia or Saudi Arabia. This was for England, where one of the most violent Abrahamic religions comfortably set up an indoctrination centre within the framework of secular further education. To my chagrin, I did not check whether there were any Christian colleges in UCAS – seeing the presence of the Islamic indoctrination centre in UCAS was shock enough.
To return to the case in point, socially, I believe in the supremacy of the individual and of civil rights. I dislike the hysteria about security which leads only to the forfeit of privacy and of civil rights.
“Those who are willing to trade a little of their individual rights for a little security are going to lose both and deserve neither”
As a result, I also oppose the interference of the State in matters such as smoking, drinking, eating, thinking or habits of any kind. Restricting smoking in public places is to me, as a non-smoker, ridiculous and moralistic – and has no other ‘benefit’ other than regulating people’s habits. Certainly it is the duty of the State to inform the citizen as much as possible about the dangers of the habits they might engage in, but to regulate them is incredibly arrogant and dangerous (not to mention unsubstantiated scientifically).
The question remains: Where does religion fit in your framework of adapted Euro-Libertarianism?
Religion is a set of beliefs. You would be hard pressed to deny this. That it is a set of beliefs that many people hold or a set of beliefs that have survived for long makes no difference – a religion is an assembly of people who have similar beliefs.
A political persuasion is a set of beliefs. In a similar fashion to religion, a political persuasion could have been around for long and may be held by many people.
The difference between the two (aside from the domain the beliefs nominally deal in – religion with the supernatural and big questions, political beliefs with the functioning of society) is that religion is sheltered and protected, whereas political beliefs aren’t. Let’s take a hypothetical radio talk show:
KRSVP: Welcome to KRSVP, Europe’s newest American modelled Radio Talk show station! Today we have two very special guests, French Presidential hopefuls Monsieur Sarkozy and Madame Ségolène Royale!
Mr. S: Hello there
Mad. R: Hi
KRSVP: Monsieur Sarkozy, what is your opinion on Madame Royale’s proposal to escort female police officers on their way back home at the end of their shift, in order to protect them from gender abuse crimes?
Mr. S: Well, Monsieur, I think it is a non-issue. Madame Royale’s proposal is nothing short of ludicrous – she attempts to inflate the already bulging budget and to convolute the already over-populated bureaucracy even more! I will not even deal with the childish idea she deals with anyway. It’s a ludicrous waste, a product of a twisted political manifesto that deserves no space in French society – typical, if you will, of other hair-brained schemes Madame Royale has put forward too.
(silence in the studio)
(Madame R. walks out, indignated)
Mad. R: Sir, you have insulted my beliefs! You’re being rude to what I believe in and I will not accept this any longer.
This is clearly not the case in real life, thankfully. A politician can slam and shred to pieces an opposing politician’s policy. A politically apathetic person can do the same with complete impunity. Because they’re beliefs. Now, if Monsieur S. had slammed Madame R. for being a woman, then we would have a problem. But not if he slams her beliefs – a belief is a personal decision and it’s very much open to discussion and criticism.
Let’s suppose the following:
Mr. B: The Islamic faith is violent, oppresive, racist, misogynistic and dangerous.
For someone who is accustomed to treating religion with a cushion of respect, this is a barbaric statement, a bigoted, outrageous outcry against someone’s faith.
I beg of you who think that way to reconsider for one second with me. I am not dealing with, say, Arab or Iranian or any kind of peoples. Had Mr. B said “Arab people are violent, smelly and dangerous”, I would have been the first to shank Mr. B with a sharpened toothbrush. Notice Mr. B makes a criticism of a set of beliefs. Compare:
Mr. B: Communism is violent, oppresive and dangerous.
Mr. B: The Islamic faith is violent, oppresive and dangerous.
The first is a succinct summary of Richard Pipes’ account on Communism. The second is (unfortunately) an example of racial hatred and bigotry.
I hate to be one to state the obvious, but criticism of a religion, be it Islam or Judaism or Christianity is as valid as the criticism of a sports club, political manifesto or ice cream flavour.
For that reason, and to finally get back on track of where this post was originally headed, in my version of Euro-Libertarianism (Secular Euro-Libertarianism?) religion has no particular prominence. It is not oppressed. The right to believe in whatever you might wish is protected and enshrined by my deification of civil rights (heh).
Voltaire put it well, “I disagree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
This, of course, means that religion loses tax-exemption status. Religious education is not recognised by the Ministry of Education, just as a Communist Education wouldn’t be either. If the parents of a child were to want to send their child to a, say, Christian upbringing, they would have every right to – as long as it does not replace the main education and the State Curriculum.
See, in my version of Euro-Libertarianism, everybody has the right to assembly and to believe in whatever they wished, be it fandom of a particular sports club, affiliation to a particular political party or adherence to a certain religion.
Those accustomed to talking about religion in hushed, respectful terms will find this vitrolific and oppressive. Why belief in God is any more prominent than belief in social conservatism or in Real Madrid is beyond me.
- Prominence of individuality and civil rights
- Consumer rights protection and anti-trust legislation
- Small, non-interfering government
- Welfare state to those who actually need it
- Protection of right to assembly and belief
- No prominence given to religion (or any other set of beliefs)
I understand most of my readership (all 3 of you) are probably in the States, and I would appreciate your take on this post, all of which is entirely my opinion.