The eviction of the gypsy encampment at Dale Farm
has been a cause embraced by the radical left, anti-capitalist movement, so it is odd to find myself agreeing with them.
Let’s look at some of the arguments the pro-eviction camp put forward, that I fully agree with.
1. “The law should apply equally to everyone. I would not be allowed to build a house in my garden without planning permission, so why should Gypsy developments be allowed without permission.”
2. “Nobody should have to put up with nuisance neighbours. If people commit crimes then they should face the consequences.”
The first argument that the law should apply equally to everyone is reasonable, but is it universally true?
What if the law itself is unjust.
Laws are made by the State and can be objectionable. What about the Nuremberg Laws introduced in Nazi Germany that made it illegal for non Jews and Jews to have sex, or the South African Apartheid law that made mixed race marriages illegal ?
If a law is unjust, then the morally correct thing to do is support those who reject it, not to endorse its existence and demand universal adherence to it !
For the Libertarian laws fall into two broad groups:
1. Those laws that protect the rights of an individual and their justly acquired property. e.g. laws against Murder, Rape, Robbery, Fraud, etc. These laws are simply the legal codification of the Non Aggression Principle (NAP) in various specific circumstances. These laws constitute the core belief of Libertarians and must therefore be considered by them to be just.
2. Those laws that sanction state intervention into the activities of the individual for what the State deems to be their own good, or the public good, etc. e.g Laws against not wearing a seat-belt, laws requiring the payment of taxes, laws forbidding the opening of shops on Sunday’s, laws setting a minimum wage, etc. These laws are the codification of State control and are the antithesis of Libertarianism. For the Libertarian all such laws are inherently unjust.
So in the Dale Farm case we have a group of people who have purchased some land in a voluntary exchange with another party. They have decided to use their property to live on. In and of itself, living on land you have justly acquired is not a violation of the non aggression principle (We will deal with the bad behaviour issue further on). The only thing it violates is a law imposed by the state to control what people may or may not build on their own property. To a Libertarian such a law is inherently unjust.
Yes the law should apply equally to everyone but this law (and all planning control laws) should be abolished.
All people should be allowed to build a house in their back garden in the same way that the Gypsy encampment should be allowed.
The Libertarian’s argument is with the state law, not with the Gypsy encampment who are fighting for a right that, on principle, we should fully support.
So let’s move on to the second argument about nuisance neighbours.
If the lives of the other residents around the Dale Farm area are made miserable by anti-social behaviour from residents of the Gypsy encampment, then that is clearly an issue that needs to be dealt with.
Nobody should be subject to violence, threat of violence, damage to their property, etc. All of these things are against the Libertarian Non Aggression Principle. Those who commit these acts should be punished (and under a Rothbardian Justice system the penalties would be much more severe and focused on restitution and punishment, not rehabilitation)
But before rushing to evict the encapment, a few questions need to be asked:
1. Is the entire community, including all the women and children, guilty of these crimes ?
2. Can it be right to punish everyone in a group for the acts of some members of the group?
3. We don’t evict convicted burglers, rapists or even murderers from their homes, so why is this punishment suitable for the lesser crime of anti-social behaviour ?
Take away the prejudices and stereotypes surrounding gypsies and ask yourself, would you think it acceptable to evict a local family from their home and demolish it, if the teenage child of the family was causing a violent nuisance in your neighbourhood?
Wouldn’t a more appropriate response be to punish the violent offender.
I agree that “Nobody should have to put up with nuisance neighbours. If people commit crimes then they should face the consequences.”
If there is a crime problem centred on the Dale Farm encampment, we should be protesting that the state run police service don’t catch the criminals and that the state run court system doesn’t punish them sufficiently, not supporting the wholesale ethnic cleansing of a group from their own land because the group contains some suspected offenders.