The year is 2012. It is Christmas on Vigo Street in central London. We are outside a Starbucks. We have to be outside Starbucks because Starbucks is blockaded.
A few hundred students, firmly middle class academics, and pseudo-Palestinians waving “TAX THE RICH” signs mixed with photographers, TV crews, police and confused pedestrians trying to find Zara. Someone had obviously baked and was shouting “free brownies everyone” as if they had solved the poverty problem. A muscled student in an unseasonal t-shirt, a gentile if sour faced lady in a long black coat, and a fashionable young lady in blue held up an enormous banner. They made an acapella rhythm as they chanted “PAY YOUR TAXES OR WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN” and only stopped dancing to munch on brownies. They seemed to be having fun, and were full of sneering hatred.
It was a “UK Uncut” protest.
Inside, the Starbucks baristas seemed to be effectively captive. Locked behind closed doors and reassured only by the presence of a police officer. They had been shut down already. The store would have lost most of its day’s takings and the two baristas looked traumatised, one of them, close to tears.
Later, Starbucks volunteered to pay some more tax – above the legal requirement. Strangely, its coffee is not any more affordable. If anything, they have gone upmarket.
Since 2012, the atmosphere has worsened. Tax haven banks and legal firms have had data stolen or hacked. Investigators and press are combing through people’s perfectly legitimate affairs. More corporations have raised their collective tax bills and no-one seems to be any better off for it. Our heroes seem to think this is a good thing. The tone of condemnation, if anything, has worsened. Benevolent this is not.
What would be? What kind of set up would have people co-operating locally and internationally? What would have them keeping an eye of each other with warm mutual regard rather than fear or envy? Our economy doesn’t feel like it is working well, with awkward compromise at every turn, what would be more efficient?
There was a time before the NHS and the welfare state and from that time there are historical examples. Can we apply them today?
There are new technologies blossoming daily, especially financial technology. Are there new alternatives to explore?
Have we achieved clarity, empirically and ethically on what problems we ought to be trying to solve in the first place?
I believe there are answers to these questions that do not involve acting like a thug outside a Starbucks on a frigid morning. In fact I know there are. I also know there are smart people able to articulate and facilitate these solutions and answer these questions. Yaron Brook, Anton Howes, Janina Lowisz, Julio Alejandro and others will be joining me on Saturday May 14th to share what they know.
Earlybird tickets for the Libertarian Home Benevolent Laissez-Faire conference are on sale now for £12. Enter discount code CON4LIB all this week for a further £2 off and get access to all four sessions, with food and drink provided for £10.
Benevolent Lissez-Faire is on May 14th at Rocket Holborn off Lincoln’s Inn Fields and starts at 12:30.
Simon Gibbs. Simon is a London based IT contractor and the proprietor of Libertarian Home
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty