Libertarianism, Reasonableness and Protest

Now I am by no means a libertarian, a lot of my libertarian friends would hurt me for suggesting that I am. I am generally much more realistic and pragmatic rather then idealist. But this article will concentrate on a few tweets that I have seen over the last few weeks regarding the possible eviction of various occupy protests, and the rights to protest.

A lot of the tweets (from libertarians) seem to support the protestors taking up long-term camp and supporting their right to protest, regardless of other people’s rights.

Now as being slightly libertarian I believe people should be able to do what ever they want, as long as it doesn’t have an unreasonable negative effect on a 3rd party (note, a 3rd Party could be a person or business or any other organisation).  Third Parties will be used interchangeable with people.

So if we break that down, the keyword in the sentence is “unreasonable”, what exactly is unreasonable? And in that case what is reasonable?

People have to interact with many different 3rd Parties all the time. Most of these transactions are reasonable and negative effects are minimized. But there are times when some of these transactions are a cause for concern and have to be moderated.

One of the easiest transactions to use as an example here is that of planning permission & property building. So I buy a plot of land down a street, or an existing house and want to build a new property on it. There are two issues of concern here. How will the building process affect the neighbours, how can these negative effects be kept to a minimum to keep the neighbours happy.  The second issue is the effect of new building on the properties around it, how will it affect the neighbours in terms of physical effect and financial effect.

The first issue is a rather minor one, the negative effects from the building process is a temporary one, and are in most cases fairly reasonable, and in some cases where there are people with particular issues near by that restrictions on build are placed (restricting the hours of work to minimize noise at certain times).

The second issue is that of the effects of the building once built. Building designs have to be reasonable to not negatively effect neighbours. This means that if you want to build a 3 storey house down a street of bungalows your out of luck, your house cannot look out of place, and should not be overlooking neighbours. Building a 3-storey house down a street of bungalows would be unreasonable, building a bungalow wouldn’t be, and in some cases building a small house wouldn’t be unreasonable either.

So now I have explained reasonableness and unreasonableness lets apply it to the recent protests we have had, and the recent occupy protest.

Now while I think a lot of the recent protests are pointless and disagree with the aims, the ones which go for a stroll around London then go home, are fine and perfectly reasonable, because the negative effect while large, at the time is very temporary and a one off, so can be regarded as reasonable.

The occupy protests though are in my mind unreasonable, because they go on for a long time, affect many people constantly for the duration, and that this negative effect is unreasonable. So I regard it as a illegitimate form of protest.

This is where I am in contrast to a number of my libertarian friends, they regard the protests to be legitimate, and the negative effects a worthwhile effect because the right to protest trumps the rights of those who are negatively affected by the protest.

So while the right to protest is very important, the rights of the masses are as well and therefore protest should be moderated to ensure the negative effect from the protest are minimized and kept reasonable