George Walford: Freedom (46)

Anarcho-capitalists, and others in favour of the free market, will be pleased to learn that the Association of European Airlines is on their side. Faced with EC attempts to ban the cartel-like arrangements between airlines and force them to compete with each other, the incoming AEA president protests, and calls upon free market theories for support, saying: “A free market means the freedom to talk to each other.” [1] It is hard to dispute this. If the market is to be fully free then participants in it must be free to make any arrangements they choose among themselves, including cartels, price-rings, and agreed monopolies. To prohibit these, or even discourage them, would be to limit freedom.

As their name implies, the anarcho-capitalists advocate a special brand of anarchism,claiming freedom especially for the market. Anarchists unqualified – orthodox anarchists if the phrase be permitted – or some of them at least, demand freedom without qualification, universal freedom. (See, for example, the quotation from Freedom the journal below). Doubtless they, too, will be glad to welcome the Association of European Airlines as comrades in the fight. [1] Sunday Times 20 May.

To say the British government has joined the freedom fighters might be misleading, since to fight something is to oppose it and in this instance our rulers are not doing that. They are gallantly defending the liberty of British double-decker coaches, carrying 60 unbelted passengers, to travel at 70 mph while the EC wants to impose a limit of 60 mph. (Observer 10 June).

On the other hand the Observer itself, which one used to think of as a liberalish sort of paper, seeks to restrict freedom. Noting the way investment firms keep going bust after being certified OK by the Department of Trade and Industry, it wants tighter controls imposed on them. (Observer 10 June).

“Whosoever looks after liberty to lust after it has committed anarchy in his heart.” Quoting this from Edward Hyams, FreedomĀ (10 May) also reports police attacking a demo, bankers operating their “racket” and government imposing poll tax. They lust after the liberty to do these things, but Freedom does not therefore welcome them as comrades. If you want to qualify as an anarchist it’s evidently not good enough to lust after just any old liberty; you have to stick to the approved ones.

from Ideological Commentary 46, July 1990.