Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Issue Number 110
25th August 2003

"Nej till Euron"
Fighting the Evil Empire in Another Province
by Sean Gabb

Adlon Hotel, Stockholm, Monday 25th August 2003

With Mrs Gabb, I am in Sweden for two reasons. The first is to address the summer conference of one of the main libertarian movements in Scandinavia. The second is to help strengthen the no campaign in the closing stages of the Swedish referendum on the Euro. It was my intention to write a long account of the things seen and done during this past week, together with observations on the Swedish people and their architecture and language. But I am presently short of time, and the glare of the television lights has dimmed all else but the events they illuminated. I will write at more length when back in England. For the moment, though, I will concentrate on the second reason for my visit.

Late last year, the Swedish Prime Minister—some vain creature whose name escapes me, but who likes to get himself photographed in company with Tony Blair—decided to try pushing his country into the Euro. He announced a referendum, and doubtless imagined that a year of campaigning would so wear out everyone else that he would have his way in the end. Sadly for him, though most of the parties and media and most of the Swedish establishment in general were in favour of giving up the Crown, the Swedish people have so far shown unwilling. With three weeks to go before the vote, the opinion polls continue to report strong opposition. The yes campaign seems to have more money and a better co-ordination of effort than the diverse coalition of movements against joining. But truth and greater commitment have so far been decisive.

Not surprisingly, the campaigners for a yes vote have descended from vague generalities—peace in Europe, more investment and jobs in Sweden, and so forth—to specific falsehoods. The claim at present is that Sweden cannot escape the Euro, since just about every country in Europe either is a member already or is about to become one. Even Britain, they insist, will join within the next few years. This being so, Sweden has no choice.

It was with these claims in mind that one of the more vigorous groups campaigning against the Euro—Medborgare Mot EMU, which is Citizens Against Economic and Monetary Union—decided to bring over some British Eurosceptics to explain that Britain was in fact very unlikely ever to join. This group is led by Margit Gennser, a former Conservative Member of Parliament in Sweden, and has Erik Lakomaa as its Campaigns Director. Together, they chose to invite me, Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute, and Bernard Connolly, former civil servant with the European Commission and author of The Rotten Heart of Europe. We made our presentations this morning at the Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, before an audience of bankers and politicians and virtually all the main Swedish media.

We began at 10:00 am. After a brief introduction by Professor Kurt Wickman, who was chairing the meeting, Madsen Pirie went first. What I like most about listening to Madsen is that beneath the entertaining surface of what he says is a logical structure of argument that lets whatever he says be reconstructed from memory days or even months after the event. I first noticed this at a conference in 1988, when I was able to sit down two days after he had introduced us to the concepts of an internal market and diversity of funding in the National Health Service—dull stuff now, but exciting when explained by one of the people who had just helped think of it—and write three pages without a single note. Today was no exception. Madsen began thus:

I was first in Sweden 35 years ago. While I was here, you changed from driving on the left of the road to driving on the right. I well remember the endless confusion during the weekend of the change—the traffic jams, the young men and women with their yellow jackets and flags, and the general excitement of the change.

In retrospect, all Sweden got was to put itself at a disadvantage in a car market that still includes, Britain, Japan, India, and various other important places. I am here again during what may be a process of change, and I can tell you this with pretty near certainty—whatever you may decide in the next few weeks, British driving will continue to be on the left and its politics on the right.

He now moved to explaining the "five tests" set by Gordon Brown—that is, the political device for ruling out British membership of the Euro until it could be shown not to be bad for the economy. This had not been shown. He dwelt on the considerable differences between the British and European financial economies. For example, 70 per cent of British families owned their homes. 80 per cent of mortgages were advanced under variable rate agreements—that is, payments rose and fell with changes in the lending rate set by the bank of England. This was often very unlike the rest of Europe, where people either rented or bought on fixed rate mortgages. In Europe, a change of interest rates could take 18 months to have an effect on consumer spending. In Britain, the change was almost immediate. This made the activities of whoever is in charge of monetary policy far more important in Britain that elsewhere.

Again, he said, the British economy was far more open and flexible than those on the Continent. Even after six years of Gordon Brown, Britain remained by European standards a country of low taxes and light regulation. This had allowed the country to attract up to 40 per cent of all direct inward investment to the European Union as a whole. "In terms of geography" he said, "Britain is just off the coast of Europe. In economic terms, it is somewhere in the mid-Atlantic—half way between Europe and America." Nothing that might seriously damage these facts could be considered.

From this, Madsen passed to the political consequences of joining the Euro—how it would increase the regulatory pressures from Brussels. He concluded:

At the moment, let me assure you, there is an 80 per cent probability that Britain will not join the Euro. If you vote no to the Euro next month, that probability will rise to 100 per cent. Voting no will not leave you isolated in Europe.

Madsen spoke for about 15 minutes, which was just right for the audience. I saw two campaigners for the Euro looking concerned as they discussed his speech. Next, I spoke. For those who are interested, a recording of my speech will soon be somewhere on the Internet. For those who cannot wait, or do not care to endure my loud, flat voice, what I said went roughly as follows:

Dr Pirie has explained very convincingly the reasons why, on both micro and macroeconomic grounds, Britain will not join the Euro. I will now explain why, on political grounds, this will not happen.

You can never under-estimate the vanity and stupidity of politicians—look, for example, at your own Prime Minister. However, what politicians usually want above all is a quiet life. It is perfectly obvious that trying to get Britain into the Euro will give no one in government anything but trouble.

As in Sweden, there must be a referendum before Britain can join the Euro. The first difficulty with this will be the question. This will inevitably cause an argument. No matter how fair the questions seems to one side, the other will claim bias. Probably, the matter will end up in court, and there is no certainty of what the Judges will rule. The politicians may well find themselves going into a referendum with a question not of their choosing.

Then there is the matter of funding. The State will give money to both sides, but this will be greatly supplemented by wealthy activists. The result will be a disadvantage for one side. This might also end in court.

Though the Government might win all cases brought against it, the mere fact of being taken to court would make many of the electors suspect they were being tricked—and this would incline them to vote against joining even if they could think of no other reason.

Then there is the matter of public opinion. For years now, there has been an overwhelming majority against joining the Euro. No campaign is likely to change this. Most likely, the Government would lose. In theory, it could stay in office having lost a referendum. But the moral damage would be immense, and it might destroy the Government.

Even assuming a victory, there would be trouble. In the first place, the opponents of entry would not just go away. They would make loud accusations of cheating. Many would turn out to even louder street demonstrations. Some might even start campaigns of civil resistance. In the second, whatever government took us into the Euro would be made to accept the full blame for the next recession. At present, we all know there will be a recession, but no one seems much inclined to blame Gordon Brown. After all, the Conservatives won elections in 1983 and 1992 as the country was bottoming out in very deep recessions. They lost an election in 1997 about half way through one of the most spectacular booms in British history. Since Margaret Thatcher retaught us our economics, we have learnt to regard politics and economics as largely separate matters. In the Euro, we would blame the politicians for any recession. They took us in, we would insist. The Euro caused the recession, we would assert. We would crucify them.

So what is in it for the Government? The answer is nothing. Tony Blair might look for some reward in Europe—the Presidency, perhaps—but what about Gordon Brown and Jack Straw and David Blunkett, and all the others who would expect to stay behind and live with any resulting mess?

One should never say never. But assuming some understanding of their self-interest, the various members of the British Government have no reason to lift a finger to get the country into the Euro. It will not happen.

Now, I was warned before giving this speech that—to quote John Cleese—I should not mention the War. I do not think I have. But if I have, I do not think you noticed.

I put in this rather odd final point because some other British Eurosceptics had recently visited and had given credibility to the yes campaign by insisting that the European Union was exactly the same as the Europe intended by the German National Socialists. It seems that most Swedes know the scripts of Fawlty Towers by heart, and we decided to throw in the reference so we could head off the usual boring questions about paranoid xenophobia and whatever. It got a big laugh and a round of applause.

Next came Bernard Connolly. He spoke at much greater length - nearly an hour—and concentrated on the details of which he was a master and Madsen and I were not. He spelt out the corruption and incompetence at the heart of European decision making, giving examples of how economic decisions are made for political ends, and how these are made to work no matter at what cost to productive and allocative efficiency. It was a speech worth hearing, but was too long and involved for me to retain the full threads.

Then there was questioning from the floor, but this produced nothing new and is not something I feel any duty to report.

I will not report the comments I received. But I know I did a good job. I looked smart in my suit. I spoke clearly and fluently. I conformed closely to the Madsen Pirie school of public speaking - "stand up, speak up, shut up". I also handled a long interview for the television rather well. I had been willing to bet money that no one in the Swedish media would have bothered to find our who I was. But the researchers had been set to work, and I faced a polite grilling about the Candidlist, about the Libertarian Alliance, and about my reasons for not wanting laws against drinking and driving. I answered all questions honestly and dully—that is, I killed any story that might have been under construction. My experience is that straight answers are always the best. This was no exception.

The efforts today of the three British visitors—and mine were less than a third of the whole—have tended to help the no campaign in Sweden. We have not in ourselves made a great difference. But we have helped to knock down the claims that Britain is about the join the Euro, and that Sweden ought to hurry to avoid being left out.

I would normally be dubious about getting involved in the internal politics of another country. But referenda on the Euro are a different matter. The European Union is a threat to all the peoples of Europe. In the face of this common threat, we help ourselves by helping each other. I am sure the Swedish politicians do not intend to take no for an answer in this referendum. As in Denmark and the Irish Republic, their intention, if they lose, is simply to keep holding new referenda until they get the answer they want. However, this may not work. The Euro is an economic disaster. All the promises made in its favour have come to nothing. If the Swedes vote against joining, the British will not even be asked. If Britain stays out, the whole project may begin to unravel.

The Europhiles often call people like me "narrow little nationalists". We are encouraged to visit other member states of the Europe Union, and to get involved in issues of common importance. We are told to learn that our fellow citizens of the European Union are people just like ourselves, with similar problems and similar hopes. Well, I have taken that advice—and I hope its results will not be pleasing.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet
Issue Number 140
29th September 2005

Reflections on the Case of Subhaan Younis
by Sean Gabb

While having coffee with Dr Tame yesterday [28th September 2005], I did a brief telephone interview with BBC Radio Oxford. The issue I was called on to discuss was whether it was right for a certain Subhaan Younis to be sent to prison for 60 days for having shown someone a video clip on his mobile telephone of a beheading in Iraq.

My answer to the question was no. I agreed that to seek out and take pleasure in such images showed a singular depravity of mind. I also agreed that to show such images to someone who had not agreed in advance to look at them was at least in bad taste. But I disagreed with the man’s being sent to prison. By all means, I said, let him be named. Let others know the depravity of his mind, and let him be shunned by the respectable on account of that. But no one should be punished for merely looking at or even publishing things that others might find offensive. 

Of course, there is the matter of procurement. If this man had commissioned the beheading so that he might look at pictures of it, it would be right to prosecute him as an accessory to murder. However, so long as no such connection could be shown, he should not be sent to prison.

Then there is the matter of showing the images to someone who had not consented to look at them. According to the newspaper reports, the person to whom they were shown was shocked and upset. Here, though, while there might be some question of an action for the tort of nervous shock, I fail to see anything that ought to be regarded as a criminal matter. Mr Younis should not be in prison. He should be released now he is there.

And that was the whole of my radio discussion. I spoke clearly and firmly, and no one asked me any hard questions. In any event, the whole item took up only about five minutes, and there was no room to develop a full argument or to answer full objections. All I managed in the time was to outline the distinction, on which libertarians mostly insist, between doing and looking. But there is more to be said – as I realised afterwards in a long dissection of the issues with Dr Tame. Indeed, the Younis case is of little importance compared with the larger issues into which its discussion leads.

What Criminal Act?

Let us begin with the question of whether Mr Younis had committed any act that could be regarded as criminal. There is an exception as regards acts against the whole community. But where common crimes are concerned, it is fair to insist that when no individual victim can be identified, there can be no crime. I have no idea what motivated Mr Younis to show that image. He might have been trying to illustrate the horrors of Moslem terrorism. Or he might have believed in the accurate presentation of reality – as opposed to the sanitised, or censored, imagery provided on British television. But his name is Asiatic, and he could be one of those citizens of convenience – that is, someone who values his British passport purely for the material comforts to which it entitles him, who does not share our national ways, and who knows enough about us only to hate us. If so – and I say at once I have no evidence to believe it really is – he would fall into that large class of persons whose presence among us is becoming a problem that needs at least to be honestly discussed.

However, this being raised, let us put it aside and concentrate on whether he can be regarded as a common criminal. Here, we need to identify a victim. It was not Mr Younis himself. His possible moral corruption is not so much effect of the video clip as cause of the faults that led him to seek it out in the first place. So how about the woman to whom he showed the image? Can she be called the victim of an assault?

I do not think so. Mr Younis showed her something that she found upsetting. But let us be reasonable. What he showed her was most likely a jerky, pixellated video clip, and it must have been displayed on a screen of no more than one inch by one and a half. Any person of reasonably firm mind should have been more upset by a good newspaper report. Even applying the civil burden of proof, in making out the tort of nervous shock, I do not think it reasonable for him to have anticipated so extreme a reaction. Unless the accounts I have read of the incident have left out something important, I fail to see how showing that video clip could have been taken as an assault – or even the breach of the peace for which he was punished.

Procurement and Agency

The publisher and viewer of the clip being excluded as victims, let us turn instead to the unfortunate subject of the clip. Can we say that Mr Younis had in any sense procured his beheading? As said, there is no doubt that the direct procurement of images that show illegal acts should in itself be a crime. If I have a man killed for the sake of having his death filmed, I ought rightly to be charged as an accessory to murder. But how about what may be called indirect procurement – that is to say, how about acts that fall short of commissioning a criminal act, but which still contribute by a possible chain of inference to the committing of similar acts in the future?

This is an argument that frequently arises when people are found guilty of collecting pornographic images of children. We are told that while they may not have commissioned the specific images found in their possession, they have provided through their act of purchasing an incentive for the creation of similar images in the future. Does that argument apply in this case?

I do not think so – and that is granting its validity as an argument. There is nothing in the newspaper reports to show that Mr Younis had paid to obtain his video clip. Nor is there any reasonable chance that the Iraqi resistance group had beheaded someone with a view to selling the video footage. Nevertheless, while there is no reason to assume any financial incentive, the footage was released in order to attract approval and support outside the resistance group.


Does Mr Younis support the Iraqi resistance? Did he approve of the beheading? The newspaper reports I have seen give no answer to these questions, and I have no evidence for thinking greater ill of him than I do for simply possessing and showing the video clip. But let us for the sake of argument suppose that he does support the Iraqi resistance, and that his support was quickened by sight of the beheading. Does this change matters? Could it be argued that the intention of the beheaders to gain approval and his granting of public approval did create a sufficient nexus to justify an accusation of indirect procurement?

I do not think so. It may be wrong to support the various groups resisting the American and British occupation of Iraq, and to glorify their acts. But this must be regarded as fair comment on events of public importance. To magnify any such comment with video clips of an atrocity is irrelevant. I know that the British Government is trying to create a new offence that will cover expressions of support for irregular political violence. But this is political censorship. It is the modern equivalent of the seditious libel laws that were used in the 1790s to stifle the support of some English radicals for the French Revolution. If applied consistently, the proposed law – indeed, the breach of the peace law used to punish Mr Younis – could be used to punish my own view that the Iraqi resistance groups stand in a tradition that leads through the Guerillas of the Peninsula War and the French Resistance of living memory. To answer yes to the above question is to sanction as close a censorship of the media as we have known in this country since the expiry of the Licensing Act.

Should Possession Ever be a Crime?

But while I think I have answered the specific question of whether Mr Younis should have been sent to prison for showing that video clip, I have done so in a way that avoids what Dr Tame and I take as the wider and much more interesting question – of whether any possession or publication should in themselves be treated as crimes. What happened yesterday to Mr Younis was an act of disguised censorship, and I can join with the media class in deploring this. But I am drawn to discuss it by the general principle that some are using to justify his punishment. Should possession or publication be treated as crimes in themselves?

The Case of Child Pornography

Let us turn back to the issue – raised above – of child pornography. This is presently seen as the most revolting and indefensible kind of publication. As such, it is the perfect example for answering my question. I do not accept the standard English mumble about “not carrying arguments to an extreme”. It is precisely in its extreme applications that an argument is most effectively tested. If it fails that test – if it collapses into absurdity at the extreme – the argument is to be rejected. If it holds up, it is at least internally consistent. So, should it be a crime to possess or publish child pornography?

Dealing first with the issue of possession, my answer is no – this should never in itself be a crime. Possession should be acceptable as evidence of direct procurement of children for sexual acts. But without that nexus, possession should not be a crime. If the possessor of sexual images involving children cannot be shown to have had contact with those involved in the creation of the images, there has been no act that can be reasonably described as criminal. After all, where no aggression can be identified, no crime can be imputed.

There is also the argument of procedural honesty – that to make a crime of possession is to give the police even greater scope for corrupt and oppressive behaviour than they otherwise enjoy. To prove an offence of publishing usually requires objective evidence that is difficult to fabricate. To prove an offence of possession requires the unsupported word of a police officer or some agent of provocation. I do not think, at this late stage in our national decline, I need to bother with arguing that the police are corrupt and oppressive. It is notorious that the police in this country have a long history of “stitching up” individuals by planting whatever items may currently be demonised. Anyone who believes they are uniformed civilians, paid to do the job that we might, if so inclined, do for ourselves of protecting life and property, has never read a newspaper – or, for that matter, much history. On this ground alone, the crime of possessing “indecent” images of persons believed to be under the age of sixteen – first introduced, I think, in the Criminal Justice Act 1988 – erodes the safeguards against unjust prosecutions far more than it protects the rights of children.

But there is a more fundamental objection. We can grant that products should be made illegal so far as their creation involves illegality. This would then justify criminalising the mere possession of child pornography. But it would also justify criminalising the possession of clothes made with child labour, or the consumption of electricity made with coal dug out of the ground by workers who are effectively slaves. The principle is the same in all cases. Possession proves purchase. Purchase rewards creation. Creation involves what by our laws is illegality. Thus we have a connection of sorts linking creator to possessor. Yet almost no one suggests that buying clothes made in Bangladesh should be a crime, or the burning of coal imported from Colombia. We have here an argument that does collapse at its extremes, and that ought therefore to be rejected. If its principle is applied selectively, it is because those pressing it object more to the pleasure that some adults get from child pornography than to the alleged harm to children involved in creating it. For all the talk about protecting the young, the real object is to police the imagination.

I turn now to publication. And here, for the avoidance of doubt, I will say that I do believe there should be some age of consent, and that those below it should be protected from sexual use by adults. That is the only ground I can see on which laws against child pornography can reasonably stand. But this does not justify the laws against publication in itself that we now have. If a publisher can be shown to have procured the creation of images that involve criminal acts, he is to be regarded as an accessory to those criminal acts. But what if he has not procured them? Suppose I find a magazine lying in the road one day, and this contains child pornography; and suppose I then pass this to you. In the technical sense I shall have published child pornography. But does this mean I should be treated as a criminal?

I do not think so. As I said yesterday about Mr Younis, where no connection can be shown to its original creation, there should be no crime in publication. Or, as I have just said above – where no aggression can be identified, no crime can be imputed. The argument that buying what is already in being encourages the creation of more is invalid, so far as it muddles the necessary distinction between identifiable and prospective victims.

Moreover, my understanding is that child pornography is created for the market mostly in places like Russia and Latin America and the Far East. These are outside the traditional jurisdiction of our courts. And I think it highly dangerous to go any further than we so far have in the granting of extraterritorial jurisdiction. We have gone too far already. Unless we are to consent to the growth of an unaccountable and increasingly tyrannical body of international criminal law, we should insist on principle that acts committed elsewhere in the world ought not to be the business of our own criminal courts. For the same reason we should insist that those accused of criminal acts in this country should not be extradited to face trial elsewhere in the world – and that therefore our Government should refuse to implement the European Arrest Warrant, and should denounce the treaty signed a few years back with the United States of America.

National Sovereignty and Law

I suspect most of my readers will agree with these two last points. But there are problems with the refusal to countenance any extra-territorial jurisdiction. Does this mean that, if a man living in this country should directly procure the filming of a rape and murder in France, he should not be subject to prosecution in this country? Does it mean that Egyptian nationals living in this country should be able with impunity to procure the assassination of the Egyptian President in their own country?

With regard to the second question, I can argue that, as a matter of policy, we should not allow foreigners into this country who are likely to complicate our foreign relations. And any who are found plotting here should be expelled at once – regardless of what punishment they can expect in their own countries. But answering the first question is difficult. Before the law was changed in 1858, in response to the Orsini bomb plot, there was no crime of conspiring to break the laws of another country. Nor, until the Fugitive Offenders Act of later in the century, was there any means of sending suspects from this country to face trial in another country.

I sympathise with the old concept of an absolutely separate territorial jurisdiction. On the other hand, the concept was applied in a world where, having regard to the state of communications, France was more distant from England than China is today. Paris is now within a three hour railway journey from Waterloo Station, and the price of telephone calls to anywhere in the world is heading toward zero. Perhaps the concept is no longer applicable in its strict sense. Perhaps, then, there is a case for laws to punish the direct procurement of crimes in another country. This would cover publishers who commission pornography from anywhere in the world. It would also cover people – such as Mr Younis is almost certainly not – whose approval of terrorist acts abroad amounts to commissioning. As said, such laws might not cover Mr Younis. But they would cover those hyphenated Americans who have spent the past 30 years contributing financially to the Fenian insurrection in Ulster.

But this takes me further from the case of Mr Younis than I intended to go. I will conclude by repeating that he should not have been sent to prison on the basis of the facts reported in the newspapers. Nor should he have been sent there on the basis of any argument I have seen made or can imagine being made. I do not know Mr Younis. I have no sympathy for him. But this is irrelevant to the question of his punishment. What is relevant is to recall the words of John Lilburne as he was led out to punishment: “What they do to me today, they may do to any man tomorrow.”

Mr Younis should be released.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Issue Number 130
16th February 2005

What's Wrong With British Conservatism?
Text of a Speech Given By Sean Gabb
at The Royal Society of Arts,
Tuesday the 15th February 2005

On Tuesday the 15th February 2005, I spoke at a conference organised by the Royal Society of Arts in London. The subject was “What's Wrong With British Conservatism?.” According to the official notification of this debate:

While American conservatism is in such apparently rude health, its English cousin appears terminally ill. The British Conservative Party used to be the biggest political party in the West, but is now a shadow of its former self. What happened to the social base of the British Conservative party? Can the British Conservative Party learn any lessons from America?

The speakers were:

  • Boris Johnson, MP for Henley and editor of The Spectator;
  • Dr Irwin Stelzer, Director of Economic Policy Studies, The Hudson Institute, and editor of Neoconservatism;
  • Paul Whiteley, Professor of Government at the University of Essex;
  • Dr Sean Gabb, Director of Communications at the Libertarian Alliance.  

The Chairman of the debate was Samuel Brittan, a writer for The Financial Times and author of Against The Flow

It was a most interesting debate, and I am glad that so many of my friends were able to attend. I am obtaining a recording of the event, and will place this on the Libertarian Alliance website just as soon as I can find time for the necessary conversion and html coding. In the meantime, here is a brief record of it.

Dr Irwin Stelzer spoke from an American perspective. He said that the British Conservative Party needs to learn from the Republicans. He made several good points. But since the American Republicans are not really concerned with liberty, or with any type of conservatism relevant to the English tradition, his advice was of limited use.

Boris Johnson gave his usual good and enthusiastic performance. Though I had a rather bitter dispute with him in 2001, I have come in recent years to think more highly of him. He is easily the most interesting and clever Conservative politician in the public eye. If only he were less immediately ambitious and were willing to wait another five years or so for a chance of real power, he might look forward to a very successful career. As it is, he feels too constrained to follow the existing Party line, and this diminished the impact of what he had to say.

Paul Whiteley ran through various polling statistics that showed the Conservatives to be not entirely without hope of winning the next election. While the main opinion polls put the Government ahead, this lead vanishes once the likely turnout is considered. Labour support is melting away in much of the country, while the Conservative core vote is largely holding together. While I am not sure what sort of mandate might flow from an election won on the basis of whose vote collapses the least, I do grant that Mr Blair may be in serious electoral trouble. 

Now to my own speech. I do have a strong prejudice against reading from a prepared text. The ancients never did this – and whatever they did in the arts is a model for all eternity. There used to be rules in the House of Commons against even notes. And the soporific effect of a read speech entirely cancels the effect of the best preparation. On the other hand, I had only eight minutes for my speech, and I wanted to ensure that I made every point I had in mind. So I wrote a speech last Friday, and spent the next few days thinking about the balance and spoken emphases of the sentences. I did think to have the text in front of me as I spoke. Fortunately, I was unable to find this in my bag, and so had to speak from memory and momentary inspiration.

I shall never be a really good public speaker. My voice is too flat, and I never think to smile at an audience. But I can be effective. I spoke clearly and grammatically last night, and I said everything I wanted much as I had wanted. I may even have made the best speech. Here it is:

The central question of this debate, ladies and gentlemen, is what is wrong with British conservatism?  My answer – and I speak for many other people, both in this room and beyond – Is hardly anything at all. From Europe to tax to immigration, conservatives are beginning to set the agenda of public debate. Forget the largely mythical threat of Islamic terrorism: it is against conservatives that laws like the Civil Contingencies Act have been made. Whole stretches of popular culture – the comedian Jimmy Carr, for example, or BBC satirical programmes like Monkey Dust and Little Britain – are objectively conservative. There is now in this country a conservative movement – and I include libertarians in this movement – more passionate and more agreed in substance on what needs to be done than I can recall. All that is wrong with British conservatism is that it lacks a conservative party. The Conservative Party has been out of office now for almost eight years; and even against a Government that, for corruption and incompetence and petty tyranny and high treason and utter discredit, is unprecedented in our history, it is unlikely to win the next election – or perhaps the one after that.

The problem with the Conservative Party and its associated media is that as long as I have been alive, its function has been less to advance conservative interests than to neutralise conservative opinion. This country is ruled by the left. The left dominates the administration and the media and education. Its aim is to construct a new order in which – whatever its proposed merits—we shall have been stripped of our historic liberties and our national identity. The left continues to rule by ruthlessly destroying anyone who challenges it. Even so, it must rule a nation that, so long as it remains a nation, is strongly conservative. The solution is a Conservative Party and a Conservative media that many of us increasingly call the Quisling Right.

A Quisling Rightist is someone who calls himself a Conservative. When standing for office, he implies promises without making them. If pressed, he will make promises that he has no intention of keeping. If elected, he will make firm declarations of principle and argue over inessentials. His conservative politics are purely symbolic. Where essentials are concerned, he will do nothing to challenge the continued domination of the left. In return for this, he will be invited to the best parties, and allowed endless time in the media. When he leaves politics, he will become the Warden of an Oxford college or the Chancellor of one of the new universities. He will be allowed income and status. He will earn this by systematically betraying those who trusted him to stand up for all that they held most dear this side of the grave.

There was a time when conservatives were not able properly to discuss what, on a candid review of the past half century, is hardly worth contesting. Conservatives generally came together only within the institutional structures of the Conservative Party – a rigid, centralised organisation, as able to suppress internal dissidence as the old Communist Party. But the Internet has now brought thousands of us together in places far beyond Party control. And if we argue there over many things, we agree on many others. And what we are coming to agree most firmly is that there is no point in working for a victory at the next election of the Conservative Party.

What would happen, we ask, if, by some miracle, the Conservative were to form the next government? Our answer is that they would do nothing substantial. At the end of five years, there would have been much political excitement and much appearance that something was being done. But there would, at the end, have been still fewer of our historic liberties and still less of our national identity. The project of the left would have moved forward as if Labour had never left off ice.

Why then vote Conservative? For myself – and for most of my friends – if I must be destroyed, let me be speared in the front by someone who looks me in the eye and calls himself my enemy. Far better this than be garrotted from behind by a supposed friend.

Until recently, this line of thinking could often be checked by the approach of an election. The Conservatives are dreadful, we would say. They have broken all their promises so far. But Labour is dreadful too, and these Conservatives might this time do something half decent. But this check no longer applies. The present generation of the Quisling Right is so ineffective that it cannot even tell a straight lie. It will not win the next election. This being so, we in the conservative movement might as well vote for a party that says what we believe. That party will not win either, but at least our votes will be counted and recognised as a clear statement of opinion. What party will this be? It might be UKIP. It might be Veritas. It might be some other party yet to be formed. It will not be the Conservative Party.

Let me end where I began. The conservative movement in this country is in enviably good health. All we need to take power and dismantle the project of the left is a conservative party that is at heart conservative. All that holds us back is that we are stuck with the Quisling Right. 

I could have elaborated on these points. But I made them well enough.

Afterwards to dinner with Dr Tame, David Carr, Bruce Nichol and Paul Staines. We agreed that there was a comfort in despair. Now that the Conservatives have made it clear that they have no intention of rolling back the New Labour revolution, and now that they have ensured they cannot win the next election – as opposed to watching Labour lose it – we felt content to watch the downward course of events, while continuing to prepare for some eventual reaction. 

As said, I will in due course publish a sound file of the proceedings, and will also get copies of the various photographs taken.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Issue Number 135
16th April 2005

Free Trade v Fair Trade:
A Debate Organised by Christian Aid
St Margaret’s Church, Westminster
The Evening of Friday 15th April 2005
12:15am – 1:15 am
A Speech Together with Introduction and Brief Commentary
by Sean Gabb


I took a telephone call about a week ago from a young man called Leo Bryant. He worked for Christian Aid, he said, and was organising a joint conference with Oxfam on world poverty. Would I like to sit on the panel and debate the issue? The provisional title of the debate was “Free Trade v Fair Trade”. Would I speak for free trade? I should normally have said yes at once. The conference was to be in St Margaret’s Church in Westminster, and would draw an audience of around 700. I had long been scandalised by the socialist takeover of English Christianity, and this would be the closest I might ever get to addressing one of my sermons to a real congregation.

The problem was the timing. The whole event was set for Friday evening, and my debate was to be after midnight. I thought of having to wander round Central London with nowhere to go between the closing of my university and the beginning of the debate, and was inclined to turn Mr Bryant down. But he offered me a bed for the night, and urged on me the size of the audience. So I agreed.

As it happened, Central London was just as cold and lonely as I had expected. But there I finally sat last night, about 20 feet in front of the altar in St Margaret’s. Beside me was Alex Singleton from the Globalisation Institute. Beside him was Alan Beattie of The Financial Times, who would chair the meeting. Beyond sat Martin Khor from Third World Network and Prosper Heoyi from Oxfam. Before me was the large audience I had been promised. They were a fragment of a vast procession that had streamed all evening through Westminster, waving banners and candles and singing the rather feeble stuff that has since the 1960s passed for religious music.

Not all was grim, though. I had some friends there. David Carr, David Goldstone, Paul Coulam and a few others had braved cold and boredom to be there. More would have come, but were appalled by the timing of the event.

We began with Alex Singleton. He put the case for free trade in its most orthodox form. Trade benefitted both parties, he said. It was not an act of charity for us to open our markets to poor countries, but obvious self-interest. As for the poor countries themselves, those that had liberalised their domestic economies and opened up to foreign trade and investment had enjoyed the best growth rates over the past few decades. It was all true and all very well said.

I had expected to speak at the end of the debate. I had agreed with Mr Singleton that he should use the first five minutes to put the case for, and that I should use the next to last five minutes. However, Mr Beattie turned to me and asked me to go next. This was a nuisance. I had been settling into a gentle doze in preparation for the fair traders, and I think it was amusingly plain to the audience how I unprepared I was for immediate action. However, I had written and largely memorised a speech, and I delivered this, cutting where necessary to fit it into the time available. 

Though I was praised afterwards, I know that I am a poor speaker for short occasions. I am not frightened by large audiences. I can speak clearly and grammatically. Give me 40 minutes to outline a case, and I can do a fine job. I am, after all, a lecturer. But I do not shine when it comes to the short speech. So it was last night. I had been awake for nearly 20 hours. I had given four lectures during the day. was half asleep. I found my eyes wandering to my text. If praise was due at all, it was for the content of what I was saying, not for my manner of saying it. Yet the speech was a good one. I can write well.

These reservations being made, here is what I said::

The Speech

If you think that I came here tonight to defend multinational corporations and the international government institutions, you have chosen the wrong person. These are dishonest. They are corrupt. They are incompetent. They have blood on their hands.

But do not suppose for a moment that the world trading order as it actually exists is liberal or more than incidentally connected with free markets. A free market is a place where individuals and groups of individuals come together to transact voluntary exchanges without any backing of government force. To call the actually existing order liberal – or “neo-liberal” – is as taxonomically accurate as calling the old Soviet Communist Party syndicalist. That order is based on tariffs, subsidies and a web of other often invisible regulations. The international institutions are a projection of Western states. The multinational corporations are creatures of these states. They shelter behind the privilege of limited liability. They get their political friends to cartelise markets, and do favours in return.

This is not market liberalism. It is a fraud played on us all by our ruling classes – these being those politicians, bureaucrats, educators, lawyers and media and business people who derive wealth, power and status from an enlarged and activist state.

But this being said, the fair trade solution is easily worse than the problem.  The ruling classes in any country never have at heart the best interests of their subjects. But in the West, we can just about afford corporatism. We still have some heritage of market liberalism. Our ruling classes are to some degree restrained in their predations. That is not so in poor countries. The ruling classes there are naked kleptocracies. All that keeps them from utterly starving their unfortunate subjects is their own idleness and incompetence. The fair trade talk may well be of “import substitution” or “rational planning” or “picking local winners”. The reality will be to turn poor countries into sealed territories ruled by the law of the jungle – a jungle in which only the well-connected will survive. Presented in the lilting, caring tones of “helping the poor”, what we have is nothing more than the old Nazi policy of autarky.

Let me give one example of how fair trade works in practice. On the 1st January this year, import taxes were raised in Kenya and in several other African countries on second hand clothing from the West. The stated purpose of this was to give local textile manufacturers the chance to grow big enough to face foreign competition. Of course, the textile interests will never be able to face open competition. Infant industries never grow up. Protect them, and prices rise. Money that would otherwise be saved and invested is spent on paying the higher prices. Money that would otherwise be spent on other goods is spent on paying the higher prices. The country gains a sector in which it may have no comparative advantage—or in which it might have a comparative advantage only in less well-connected hands. Those sectors in which there might be a comparative advantage suffer. But the lucky capitalists who are protected make big profits, and their friends in government collect the usual gifts. And the people at the bottom? Norman Nyaga, a Kenyan Member of Parliament can answer here. Writing in The Kenya Times last month, he accused the Government of deliberately rigging the textile market in favour of some foreign investors. He said the effect would be to damage the livelihood of 10 million Kenyans who work in the second hand clothing sector, and to lower the incomes still further of the 56 per cent of Kenyans who live below the official poverty line and who must buy second hand clothes or go without.

I do not support the present system of world trade. But give me a straight choice between this and the economics of the jungle that is fair trade, and I will choose the present system. Global corporatism may be unfair. But it does at least allow some wealth to be created. It does allow at least some rational economic calculation. Fair trade simply gives even more power to politicians and bureaucrats and favoured business interests in poor countries—that is, to the very people and interests that made and have kept these countries poor.

If you really want to improve the lives of the poorest, forget all this “kumbaya socialism”—which is a cocktail of bad economics and bad theology, held together by self-righteous candle-waving. Either settle for what we have —which, unfair as it is, delivers something—or campaign for a system of real voluntary exchange. Fair trade can never be fair. But free trade can be free.


Had I been giving a lecture rather than a brief speech, I could usefully have elaborated on some of my points. I have written at length elsewhere about the political and economic implications of the Christian faith, and so will not repeat myself here. But I grow increasingly convinced that allowing the creation of joint stock limited liability corporations was one of the greatest legislative mistakes of the 19th century. Their existence is based on a separation of ownership from control. The owners are released from all responsibility. The controllers form a separate class of corporate bureaucrats little different in outlook from civil servants. The usual psychology operates. They will commit immoral acts for their organisations they might not consider committing for themselves. The owners will assent. The legal privileges and unlimited lifespan of these corporations let them grow to enormous size and wealth. The opportunities exist for highly effective immorality. Collectively, they become part of the state apparatus, and work to destroy true, unregulated enterprise.

These corporations could not exist in any natural economic order. I have heard other libertarians argue that they might emerge without legal privilege on some loose contractual basis. But I do not agree. The shareholders would still be liable in tort, and that alone would deter them from any involvement with a business that they did not personally control. As for the utilitarian argument, that large undertakings need large companies, I also disagree. So long as it showed an acceptable return on investment, there is no project too big to be taken on by clusters of sole traders and partnerships. No doubt, things like the Channel Tunnel would not have been built – but I fail to see how not having that would have made the world a poorer place. Even if some highly valuable projects might not be undertaken, their lack would be compensated by the greater general innovation to be expected in an order of small, unregulated firms.

Indeed, the matter of what to do about the corporations is more interesting to me than world poverty. As I said in my speech, people in places like black Africa are poor because they have maniacally corrupt and oppressive governments. They would do better even with the most cartelised global corporatism than left in the clutches of their own rulers. And that is it. But how can this corporatism be replaced by a system of voluntary exchange between legally responsible small firms? I think I have a few answers here, but will give these at another time.

Outside the church, I bumped into the personal assistant for one of the Conservative leaders. The usual sort of well-dressed, well-connected young man on the make who appeals to such people, he insisted I might have brought a few people over to my side had my speech been less “abrasive”. I replied by noting how eight years of being soft and gentle had got his Party nowhere. I also pointed out that five minutes speaking time is best given up to blunt expression, when what is expressed is probably new to the audience. I know that a few mouths had fallen open at my dismissal of “self-righteous candle waving”. But that effect was my intention. I wanted the audience to go away with a few memorable phrases. These might eventually provoke a chain of thought in the hearer’s mind, or be passed on in conversation to someone else more receptive.

There are times when arguments can be won by moderate expression and compromise. But this was not such a time. It was not even a time for argument. An hour chopped into little blocks of comments from the panel and questions from the audience does not allow for argument in any meaningful sense. As said, it was a time for blunt expression.

I wish I had been able to stay longer and have some real arguments, but I could now feel great waves of tiredness sweeping over me. So I went off to bed. The audience remained in the church, singing responses in a language unknown to me and set to music that might have been more suited to lullabies for an idiot child. The rest of the procession had taken to resolute candle waving, and had moved down Whitehall to Downing Street, where hopes were expressed of waking up Tony Blair. A pity, I thought at the time, the Salvation Army had not sent a few of its brass bands to join in the parade.

And that is it. A fuller account would mention the grotesque nonsense uttered by the other speakers. They had obviously never opened an economics textbook in their lives. Nor had most of the audience that so warmly applauded their nonsense. But I cannot be bothered to record any of what was said on the other side. There will be a DVD of the whole event, and this will speak for itself. 

On balance, it was worth attending. I waved the flag for the Libertarian Alliance. I handed out several dozen business cards. I might be invited to speak at other events where I can outline my objections in more detail to the heresies of theological socialism. Together with Mr Singleton, I might even have started a few trains of thought in unknown minds.

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the
Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 157
3rd January 2007

More on the Persecution of the BNP
by Sean Gabb

One of my duties as Director of the Libertarian Alliance is to defend the right to free expression of people whose views I may not share. I do not perform this duty as often or as effectively as I might wish. But I begin the new year with another of my comments on the persecution of the British National Party.

Just before last Christmas, a journalist called Ian Cobain published a series of articles in The Guardian newspaper, revealing how he had joined the BNP and been made its Central London Organiser. In this capacity, he got hold of the Party's membership list. His articles were essentially a listing of names of middle class members. Further news reports in the same newspaper and in others detailed the actual and suggested persecution of these members.

The most widely discussed member has been Simone Clarke, a leading dancer at the English National Ballet. She was quoted by Mr Cobain as saying that immigration "has really got out of hand". The ENB is a body funded by the taxpayers, and it has a duty under the Race Relations Act 2000 to "promote good race relations". The funding body, Arts Council England, insists that funded "organisations have to make sure that they promote cultural diversity as a clear and central part of all their work".

Not surprisingly, there have been calls for her to be sacked. Lee Jasper, Equalities Director for the Mayor of London and Chairman of the National Assembly Against Racism, said:

The ENB must seriously consider whether having such a vociferous member of an avowedly racist party in such a prominent role is compatible with the ethics of its organisation. I seriously doubt that it is and that should lead to her position being immediately reviewed. I think she should be sacked.

He called on funders and David Lammy, the Arts Minister, to intervene.

Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said people had a right to their private political views but added:

This will taint the ENB in the eyes of many minority communities. Questions need to be asked about how someone in that position can be allowed to abuse that position to promote the BNP."

I could move to my analysis of the agenda behind Mr Cobain's articles. But I cannot resist a brief digression on Mr Bunglawala. He is treated in the coverage of this story as if he were a political moderate, righteously shocked at the "political extremism" of the BNP. In fact, his own opinions appear quite as alarming as anything alleged against the BNP.

Take his statement that people have a right to their private political views. That may be the case in some benevolent oriental despotism. In England, it has long been accepted that we have a right to express our political views in public. Such, at least, has always been my understanding.

Turning to his comments on the ENB, it is worth asking what possible further taint he thinks the organisation can receive through its association with Miss Clarke. He appears to believe that western classical music is a sinful indulgence, and that listening to it is inconsistent with Islam. He makes a point of rejecting the more purist Islamic position, that

Listening to music and singing is a sin and cause for the sickening and weakening of the heart. The majority of the scholars of the Salaf are unanimous that listening to music and singing and using musical instruments is Haram (prohibited).

He says instead that:

We accept music but would frown on disco-going, or concerts where alcohol is served or where there is unrestricted mixing of the sexes. That would be opposed by Islamic scholars. 

But where is the difference? While in Bratislava last month, I attended a performance of La Traviata. The plot centres on the relationship between an unmarried man and a high class prostitute. There was shameless mingling of the sexes in the audience. There was alcohol served in the intervals. During Act 2, Scene 2, the ballerinas showed their legs most immodestly and contorted their bodies in ways that might have given Mr Bungawala a seizure.

He says he accepts music. Has he ever seen The Rite of Spring? Is he aware of the double orgasm portrayed in the Overture to Don Giovanni? Does he know the score of Tristan und Isolde? Would he recommend Moslems to attend any of these works? So long as she refrains from lecturing the audience between pirouettes, does it add to the infamy of a performance if Miss Clarke holds opinions of which he disapproves?

But enough of Mr Bunglawala. I turn to the main agenda.

We have in this country a ruling class committed to political, economic and social globalisation. While some parts of this are consistent with libertarianism, others are not. Much of the consequent association of peoples takes place in a market systematically rigged by taxes and regulations. Much is nakedly coerced through equal opportunity laws and censorship. But whatever libertarians might think of what is going on, large and increasing numbers of people dislike it all.

Since both main political parties are agreed, opponents have a choice between not voting at all and voting for one of the smaller parties. Many are voting for the BNP. There is a chance that many who do not vote will also vote BNP once it can prove that it is a credible political force. Therefore, the BNP must be destroyed.

The gentler forms of destruction involve lies. Undoubtedly, the BNP grew out of a national socialist movement. But it does not appear now to be a national socialist organisation. So far as I can tell from its website, the BNP believes in a mixed economy welfare state, with some regard for traditional civil liberties. It also believes that the alleged benefits of this should be largely reserved for English-speaking white people. This is not something that I find particularly attractive. Nor however is it the same as wanting a totalitarian police state plus gas chambers.

Since lying about the BNP does not work very well in the age of the Internet, the gentler forms of destruction are being supplemented by stronger. Its leader has just been acquitted after a trial for speech crimes that did not exist when I was a boy. Its known members are losing their jobs in public bodies up and down the country. It has trouble getting its material printed. Banks are being persuaded to close its accounts. The legal machinery is in place to deny it access to the ballot in elections.

Mr Cobain's articles must be seen as part of this attempted destruction of a political party. Let it become known that middle class supporters will be named and have their careers destroyed, and party membership will not proceed far beyond the working classes. Let it be made effectively impossible for any middle class person to stand as a BNP candidate, and the only candidates will be criminals and fools, who can then be held up as a reason not to vote BNP.

Much of this would be happening if there were a Conservative Government. But the intensity of the persecution faced by the BNP is peculiar to Labour. There has been a strain of antinomianism in our politics since 1997 not seen in centuries. From Tony Blair down, the Ministers believe passionately that they can and therefore must turn England into some kind of multicultural love feast. Their vision of a transformed England is not very clear. But, as with an impressionist painting, vagueness of detail is compensated by vividness of colour.

These people cannot imagine that anyone of good will could fail to believe as they do. Therefore, all opposition is evil, and may rightly be put down without regard for traditional norms of right and justice and common decency. See, as an example of this, how Peter Hain defends as a Minister police state measures that he used to condemn when used by the South African Government. To the Saints of New Labour, all things are lawful.

It helps that most of these people used to be Marxists. They no longer seem to believe in the positive doctrines of Marxism, but they retain its assumption that the traditional norms are mere "bourgeois legality".

We can, therefore, look forward to much more of this. Sooner or later, our ruling class will shut down all electoral dissent. The only possible opposition will then be on the streets.

Now, I am able to say this from a position of safety. Neither I nor the Libertarian Alliance expect to suffer in any measurable degree from this shutting down of debate. We live in a potemkin democracy, where only limited diversity of opinion is tolerated. But even so, there must be some opposition.

I am fortunate enough to find myself in the licensed opposition. I face no official discrimination that I can see. I am allowed to work in state universities. I am allowed regular appearances in the media. I am not obviously under surveillance. This may be because our ruling class does not regard libertarians as much of a threat. It may be because someone outside the ruling class has to be tolerated, for the sake of keeping up the pretence of liberal democracy. Whatever the reason, we do not operate under any of the disadvantages that the real dissidents of the BNP must take as facts of life.

This imposes a duty on me and my friends to speak up in defence of the dissidents. Unlike the other "rights" organisations, we believe in freedom of speech with no exceptions. We do not enquire into the substance of a person's views before defending his right to express them.

We denounce the persecution of the BNP. Though I do not expect them to pay any attention, I call on Liberty and the Conservative Party to do likewise.

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 181
16th February 2009

Text of a Speech to Conservative Future,
Given in The Old Star Public House, Westminster,
Monday the 16th February 2009
by Sean Gabb

I want to begin by praising your courage in having me here tonight to speak to you. I am the Director of an organisation that tried hard during the 1980s to take over the youth movement of the Conservative Party. The Libertarian Alliance provided a home and other support for Marc-Henri Glendenning, David Hoile and Douglas Smith, among others, when it looked as if libertarians might do the same to the Conservative Party as the Trotskyites nearly did to the Labour Party. Sadly, our efforts failed. Since then, the Conservative Party has become more watchful of people like us. It has also, I must say, made itself progressively less worth trying to take over.

I did say that I would come here and be rude to you. But that would be a poor thanks for your hospitality. Besides, while your party leadership has consistently ignored my advice during the past twelve years - and has, in consequence, been out of office during this time - there is no point in dwelling on what might have been. We are where we are, and I think it would be useful for me very briefly to outline my advice to a future Conservative Government.

Now, this is not advice to the Government that looks set to be formed within the next year or so my David Cameron. I may be wrong. It is possible that Mr Cameron is a much cleverer and more Machiavellian man that I have ever thought him, and that he plans to make radical changes once in office. But I do not think he is. I think what little he is promising to do is the very most that he will do. In any event, he is doing nothing to acquire the mandate without which radical change would lack legitimacy. And so this is advice that I offer to some future government of conservatives, rather than to any prospective Conservative Government. It may even be a government formed by the people in this room.

My first piece of advice is to understand the nature of your enemy. If you come into government, you will be in at least the same position as Ramsay MacDonald, when he formed the first Labour Government in the 1920s. He faced an Establishment that was broadly conservative. The administration, the media, the universities, big business - all were hostile to what it was believed he wanted to do. The first Labour Governments were in office, but not fully in power, as they were not accepted by the people with whom and through whom they had to rule the country. To a lesser degree, Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson faced the same constraints. A future Conservative Government will find much the same.

Over the past few generations, a new Establishment or ruling class has emerged in this country. It is a loose coalition of politicians, bureaucrats, educators, media people and associated business interests. These are people who derive income and status from an enlarged and activist state. They have been turning this country into a soft-totalitarian police state. They are not always friendly to a Labour Government. But their natural political home is the Labour Party. They will accept a Conservative Government on sufferance - but only so long as it works within a system that robs ordinary people of their wealth and their freedom. They will never consent to what should be the Conservative strategy of bringing about an irreversible transfer of power from the State back into the hands or ordinary people.

A Cameron Government, as I have said, seems willing to try coexistence with the Establishment. The Thatcher Government set out to fight and defeat an earlier and less confident version of the Establishment - but only on those fronts where its policies were most resisted. It won numerous battles, but, we can now see, it lost the war. For example, I well remember the battle over abolition of the Greater London Council. This appeared at the time a success. But I am not aware of one bureaucrat who lost his job at the GLC who was not at once re-employed by one of the London Boroughs or by some other agency of the State. And we know that Ken Livingstone was eventually restored to power in London.

If you want to win the battle for this country, you need to take advice from the Marxists. These are people whose ends were evil where not impossible. But they were experts in the means to their ends. They knew more than we have ever thought about the seizure and retention of power. I therefore say this to you. If you ever do come to power, and if you want to bring about the irreversible transfer of power to ordinary people, you should take to heart what Marx said in 1871, after the failure of the Paris Commune: “the next attempt of the French Revolution will be no longer, as before, to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it, and this is the precondition for every real people’s revolution….”

The meaning of this is that you should not try to work with the Establishment. You should not try to jolly it along. You should not try fighting it on narrow fronts. You must regard it as the enemy, and you must smash it.

On the first day of your government, you should close down the BBC. You should take it off air. You should disclaim its copyrights. You should throw all its staff into the street. You should not try to privatise the BBC. This would simply be to transfer the voice of your enemy from the public to the private sector, where it might be more effective in its opposition. You must shut it down - and shut it down at once. You should do the same with much of the administration. The Foreign Office, much of the Home Office, the Commission for Racial Equality, anything to do with health and safety and planning and child protection - I mean much of the public sector - these should be shut down. If at the end of your first month in power, you have not shut down half of the State, you are failing. If you have shut down half the State, you have made a step in the right direction, and are ready for still further cuts.

Let me emphasise that the purpose of these cuts would not be to save money for the taxpayers or lift an immense weight of bureaucracy from their backs - though they would do this. The purpose is to destroy the Establishment before it can destroy you. You must tear up the web of power and personal connections that make these people effective as an opposition to radical change. If you do this, you will face no more clamour than if you moved slowly and half-heartedly. Again, I remember to campaign against the Thatcher "cuts". There were no cuts, except in the rate of growth of state spending. You would never have thought this from the the torrent of protests that rolled in from the Establishment and its clients. And so my advice is to go ahead and make real cuts - and be prepared to set the police on anyone who dares riot against you.

I fail to see how you would face any electoral problems with this approach. Most Conservative voters would welcome tax cuts and a return to freedom. As for those who lost their jobs, they do not, nor ever will, vote Conservative.

Following from this, however, I advise you to leave large areas of the welfare state alone. It is regrettable, but most people in this country do like the idea of healthcare free at the point of use, and of free education, and of pensions and unemployment benefit. These must go in the long term. But they must be retained in the short term to maintain electoral support. Their cost and methods of provision should be examined. But cutting welfare provision would be politically unwise in the early days of our revolution.

I have already spoken longer than I intended. But one more point is worth making. This is that we need to look again at our constitutional arrangements. The British Constitution has always been a fancy dress ball at which ordinary people were not really welcome, but which served to protect the life, liberty and property of ordinary people. Some parts of this fancy dress ball continue, but they no longer serve their old purpose. They are a fig leaf for an increasingly grim administrative despotism. I was, until recently, a committed monarchist. I now have to admit that the Queen has spent the past half century breaking her Coronation Oath at every opportunity. The only documents she has ever seemed reluctant to sign are personal cheques. Conservatives need to remember that our tradition extends not only through Edmund Burke to the Cavaliers, but also through Tom Paine to Oliver Cromwell. We live in an age where it is necessary to be radical to be conservative.

But I have now spoken quite long enough, and I am sure you have much to say in response. I therefore thank you again for your indulgence in having invited me and the politeness with which you have heard me.

[A combination of silence and faint applause]

Comment 1: You accuse the Conservatives of having ignored you for twelve years. From what you have just said, it is a good thing you were ignored. Under David Cameron's leadership, we have a Conservative Party that is now positively desired by the people. Your advice is and would have been a recipe for permanent opposition.

Response: I disagree. There is no positive desire for a Conservative Government. If there were, the polls would be showing a consistent fifty point lead or something. What we have is a Labour Government that is so dreadful that I have trouble thinking what could be worse.

[In a private conversation before my speech, I said that the Labour Party had turned out to be about as bad in government as the Green Party or the British National Party or Sinn Fein.]

There are two ways of doing politics. One is to listen to focus groups and opinion polls, and offer the people what they claim to want. The other is to stand up and tell them what they ought to want, and to keep arguing until the people agree that they want it, or until it is shown not to be worth wanting. I think I know what sort of politicians will run the next Conservative Government. What sort of politicians do you want to be?

Comment 2 [from an Irishman]: What you are saying means that the country would be without protection against obvious evils. With no child protection services, children would be abused and murdered. Without planning controls, the countryside would soon be covered with concrete. Without planning controls, cities like Manchester would be far less attractive places.

I will also say, as an Irishman, that I am offended by your reference to Oliver Cromwell, who was a murderer and tyrant. You cannot approve of this man.

Response: You have been taken in by the Establishment's propaganda. This is to insist that we live with vast structures of oppression, or that we must accept the evils they are alleged to curb. I say that that these structures do not curb any evils, but instead create evils of their own. We have, for example, seventy thousand social workers in this country. They appear to have done a consistently rotten job at protecting the few children who need protecting. instead, they are taking children away from grandparents to give to strangers, and are setting the police onto dissenting ministers who allow their children to climb onto the roof. None of this should be surprising. The Children Act and other laws have created a bureaucratic sausage machine that must somehow be filled. I say let it be destroyed along with all else that is evil in our system of government.

[What I might have said, but was too polite to say: As for Oliver Cromwell, he was one of the greatest Englishmen who ever lived. It is partly thanks to him that we have just had around three centuries of freedom and political stability. When you refer to his actions in Ireland, you are repeating Fenian propaganda. What he did in Ireland has been exaggerated by the enemies of England, and in any event was in keeping with the customs of war universally admitted in his own time. If you want to throw an offended fit every time an Englishman in London praises an English hero to other Englishmen, you should consider moving to Dublin where all the letter boxes have been painted a reassuring green, and your own national sensitivities never need be offended again.]

Comment 3: All you speak about is winning and the destruction of enemies. Yet you are willing to consider keeping the welfare state. You are nothing but an unprincipled trouble maker. Thank God the Conservative Party no longer has any place for people like you.

Response: If we were facing the sort of Labour Government we had under Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson, you would be right. However, we have an Establishment that has already given us the beginnings of a totalitarian police state. Today, for example, the authorities will start collecting details of every telephone call, text and e-mail sent in this country. Children are about to have their details stuffed into a giant database that will enable them to be monitored by the authorities until they are adults - and probably through their entire lives. We live in a country where privacy is being abolished. Speech is increasingly unfree. The police are out of control. Everything is getting rapidly worse, and it is easy to see the end state that is desired, of total control.

If a government of radical conservatives ever does take power, it will have one attempt at saving this country. That means radical and focussed actions from day one. Anything less than this, and it will fail. I am suggesting a revolution - but this is really a counter-revolution against what has already been proceeding for at least one generation. If we are to beat the heirs of Marx, we must learn from Marx himself.

Comment 4: You are wasting our time with all this radical preaching. People do not want to hear about how they are oppressed by the Establishment, and how this must be destroyed. What they want to hear is that taxes are too high, that the money is being wasted, and that there are ways to protect essential public services with lower taxes. That is why the Taxpayers' Alliance has been so much more prominent than the Libertarian Alliance. We must have nothing to do with the ranting lunatics of the Libertarian Alliance.

Response: You may have a desire for electoral success that I do not share. But I am the better politician. All debate is perceived as taking place on a spectrum that has a centre and two extremes. If the Libertarian Alliance did not exist, the relevant spectrum would simply reconfigure itself with the Taxpayers' Alliance at one extreme, and the centre would be still less attractive than it now is. Since most people consciously take centrist positions, it is in your interest - regardless of whether I am right - to say what I do. It makes you and your friends moderate in relation to me.

[At this point, some unfortunate woman began screeching that I was a fascist, and the debate came to an end.]

[I normally like to comment on these events once I have described them. I think, however, the above stands by itself.]

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 217
12th January 2012

On Defending “The Indefensible”
by Sean Gabb

During the past month, I have spent much of my time as Director of the Libertarian Alliance speaking up for the rights of Emma West – the South London “Tram Lady” – and of the alleged murderers of Stephen Lawrence. Because of this, I have received several e-mails of denunciation. I normally ignore criticism. However, since I may spend at least the next few years defending the rights of people who are regarded as unspeakably evil by the ruling class and all who stand in awe of the ruling class, it may be useful if I say something in my own defence.

I discovered that I was a libertarian in 1977. Since then, I have written over a million words on libertarian issues. Compared with all the novels and poetry and diaries and letters and other things, this is a minority of my output. However, it is still a large mass of words, and its mass often obscures individual pieces. Add to this that many of the things I wrote before about 1990 were published in obscure magazines, and have since disappeared. But among the causes I have taken up over the past 35 years are the following:

In 1981, I wrote and spoke in support of the trade unions, which were being threatened with state supervision of their internal workings. The supposed justification was that the unions had been privileged since 1906, and that it was necessary to check abuses of this privilege. I answered that the privileges themselves should be taken away, but that the unions should be free to organise as they pleased.

In 1984, I wrote in support of the striking coal miners, who were stopped by the police from moving about the country. I may at the time have believed that the miners were Moscow-inspired wreckers – perhaps they were. But I also believed that people should be free to go where they pleased in their own country, and should be punished only after they had committed actual crimes against life or property.

In 1988, I wrote against the shooting of probable Sinn Fein/IRA terrorists in Gibraltar. I argued that, while these men had almost certainly been up to no good, it was absolutely unacceptable for the State to run South American style execution squads.

Again in 1988, I wrote against the law that excluded members of Sin Fein/IRA from the broadcast media. I called it censorship, and said that, bad as it was in itself, the law set a very bad precedent. A short summary of a longer piece, now lost, can be seen here.

I wrote much after 1985 against police ill-treatment of black people alleged to have committed public order offences. It is a pity, bearing in mind recent accusations, that most of these writings have perished. But this brief passagehas survived from 1989:

“In 1985, following the Broadwater Farm riots, a boy of thirteen was interrogated alone in a Police Station for three days. Wearing only underpants and a blanket, he eventually confessed to murder. He might possibly have been guilty. But the judge was so aghast, he felt he had no choice but to direct an acquittal. This, however, was a use of discretion, not, as in America, the application of a fixed rule. For lack of one, it stands to reason the Police will go on pressuring suspects too young or ill-informed to be worth being frightened of.”

In 1990, I wrote in support of the right of consenting adults to commit incest. I began by describing an old case I had found in the law reports, and continued with a critique of the various arguments for the criminalisation of incest between consenting adults.

In 1991, I wrote the earliest and perhaps the best defence of the fifteen men who had been found guilty of taking part in private sado-masochistic orgies. I made the usual argument that no one has any right to interfere in what consenting adults do in private. When people even at Libertarian Alliance meetings sniggered at me, I paid no attention. Instead, I returned to the subject several time more – finally in 1993.

In 1995, when we still had a Conservative Government, and this was going through the motions of persecuting sexual minorities, I wrote generally in favour of defending anyone who was oppressed, regardless of what others might think.

In 1999, I wrote in defence of Gary Glitter, who had been sent to prison for having pictures of naked children on his computer. He had also been acquitted of sexual molestation of a girl in the 1970s. I argued that, while it was legitimate to use such images as evidence of actual offences, it was wrong to make possession in itself an offence. When nothing else but possession had to be proved, the law made it easy for the police to plant evidence. It also set a precedent for criminalising possession of other images or even writings.

As for the failed charge of sexual abuse in the 1970s, I argued that it was oppressive to drag people into court for alleged offences so old. By all means, let someone stand trial for a murder committed in the 1960s, or even earlier – so long as there was no doubt that there had been a murder, and there was some objective evidence of guilt. But it was wrong to prosecute in cases where even the existence of the offence was one word against another. I added that the evidence of allegedly abused people so long afterwards was inherently suspect. When this brought a flood of hysterical denunciations, I made sure to write again on the issue – hereand here, for example.

Oh – and, though I do not normally go out of my way to distance myself from the people whose rights I am defending – I will say for the record that I do not approve of sex with children. Nor do I approve of child pornography. What I do not like is breaches of due process and natural justice in the prosecution of child molesters and child pornographers.

In 2004, I wrote in defence of a Christian preacher in Sweden who had been punished for quoting Biblical condemnations of homosexuality. This was a clear matter of freedom of speech, and I was beginning to grow alarmed at the tendency of formerly persecuted homosexuals to seek and to use criminal laws against those who disapproved of them.

In 2010, I put out a news release denouncing the banning of Islam4UK. This organisation was exactly what you might expect from its name. But I said this:

“The rights to freedom of speech and association are fundamental to a free society. So far as these rights are diminished, that society becomes less free. I was born in a country where these rights had been enjoyed for centuries. I have reached middle age in a politically correct police state where the Government is now trying to criminalise dissent”

In 2006,I had sent out a news release defending the right of Abu Hamza to preach “hate.” Sadly, this news release seems to have disappeared in my reconstruction of the Libertarian Alliance website. However, until I can upload it again, here is evidence that it was sent out.

In 2011, I wrote an attack on the growing official intolerance of Christians in this country. This was prompted by the refusal of a local authority to let a Christian couple foster children – on the grounds that they might say unkind things about homosexuals. Again, bearing in mind what is currently said against me, I will mention that the couple in question was black.

Again, in 2011, I wrote a general defence of the right to discriminate. This branched into a longer analysis of an issue in dispute between libertarians. But it managed to insist that the landlord of a public house had every right to throw two men out for kissing each other.

Of course, I have written at greater length about all the usual libertarian things – drugs, guns, porn, kinky sex, taxes, regulations, war, and so on and so forth. But none of this is controversial. What is presently controversial is all that I have written over the years in support of “racists” to have their say and be left alone. I cannot be bothered to link to all the various essays written since 1993. But there was my defence last month of Emma West, and my defences last week of the men convicted of the Stephen Lawrence murder. Miss West has now been charged with assault. I cannot comment on this, but I will say that all she was filmed saying on that tram came under the heading of freedom of speech.

As for the Lawrence convicts, I would never argue that they were nice men. But I do argue that their trial was not fair. Most of the evidence looked fabricated. I suspect the jury was packed – and, however the jury was composed, the men had been so demonised since 1993, that a fair trial would have been impossible. Above all, one of them could only be put on trial by abolishing the ancient and essential rule that no one should be made to stand trial more than once for any one alleged offence. It is a disgrace that the entire “liberal” establishment did not explode with outrage. They would never have put up with this sort of trial for a Sinn Fein/IRA terrorist, or one of the Brixton rioters – and rightly. The long, collective orgasm with which they received news of the convictions will bring them one day into the same universal disrepute as those who cheered the conviction of Oscar Wilde in 1895, or who mobbed people with German names in 1914.

In all this, and much, much more over the past thirty years, there is what ought to be an obvious consistency. I am a libertarian activist, and I see it as my duty to stand up for freedom of speech and freedom of association and due process of law – and for much else – whenever they are denied. And, since I do not have unlimited time or money, I make my biggest noises in those hard cases where other “libertarians” choose to sit on their hands. Sometimes, I have found myself speaking up for people who have become lifelong friends. Sometimes, I have defended people I would normally cross the road to avoid. That is not important. What is important is that, if we do not defend freedom in the hard cases, there will eventually be no freedom at all.

I said earlier that I expected to spend the next few years defending people like Emma West. It is possible, however, that the more totalitarian homosexual activists will bring on such a reaction, that I shall find myself going on the radio once more to defend the right of consenting male adults to use each other as they please in private. I do not know. All I do know is that I – and, so long as I direct it, the Libertarian Alliance – will continue to defend whatever uses of freedom may currently be seen by those who rule as indefensible.

And that is all.
Flash Animation

Britain and the Global Reversion to Ancestral Ways:
A Speech Given to the Conference of
The Traditional Britain Group,

Held in London on the 19th October 2013.

[What began as laziness, and then settled into method, is that I do not prepare speeches in advance. What I do is to prepare a mental list of the things I feel inclined to say, and of the order in which I might say them, and then to leave the manner of saying them to the inspiration of the day. If there is a written text, it is usually prepared after the event. After decades of practice, this usually works rather well. Because there will soon be a video of it on YouTube, you can judge for yourselves whether my speech to the Traditional Britain Group was any good. Here, for the moment, is what I probably said.]

I think you will know, ladies and gentlemen, about the Socialist Workers Party. If not, this is an organisation that has spent the past four decades latching on to every working class grievance in sight, and using it to promote the good news of Trotskyism. For example, the workers at a button factory in Leeds might go on strike in some dispute over tea breaks. Sooner or later, you will hear the raucous chanting and see the unmistakeable font of the banners that tell you the Socialist Workers have turned up.

During the three decades of its existence, we at the Libertarian Alliance have been paying close attention to these tactics; and we do, to the best of our ability, try to imitate them. Our people go to conferences of traditionalist conservatives, of sado-masochistic porn worshippers, and even to student union meetings and the occasional Islamic group. Our purpose is the same as the Socialist Workers: it is to convert as many people, no matter what they initially believe, to what we believe.

Of course, there are differences between the Socialist Workers Party and the Libertarian Alliance. We have no booted thugs to put on the street, to beat up or intimidate our opponents. Above all, we are honest about our intentions. We do not seek to lead people deceptively and in stages to what we regard as the truth. Instead, we delight in proclaiming that truth, as loudly and as clearly as we can, to all who will listen to us. This being so, let me tell you what we believe, and would like you to believe as well.

We want to live in a world where every human being has equal rights to life, liberty and property. I will not specify the meaning of this phrase, but it includes the right to follow what some of you may think utterly degenerate ways of life. We believe in legalising all drugs, and guns. We have no moral objection to homosexual marriage or homosexual adoption. We believe in completely free markets, and in the scientific and technical progress that these enable. Our only objection to progress is that it has not been completely unfettered, and therefore that its curve has not yet turned completely vertical. We regard the natural world  - for which many of you have a mystical veneration – as a vast repository of resources to be used for reshaping the world for our increasing wealth and general convenience.

You will appreciate, then, that I have little time for many of the philosophers and writers who have inspired some of you. I have read much Nietzsche, and some Julius Evola and Francis Parker Yockey, and am loosely familiar with Alexander Dugin. I follow the Counter Currents Blog and AltRight and The Occidental Observer and other publications that a well-brought up libertarian should never confess to knowing about, let alone to reading. And, while I appreciate the frequent brilliance and occasional insight to be found here, I have not been at all convinced. Indeed, what I appreciate is largely a critique of the present order of things that is partly shared by libertarians. When it comes to the replacement of this order with another – when it comes to actual prescriptions of what ought to be – I really think the whole collected mass of these writings has contributed less to the wellbeing of mankind than a single railway bridge built by Brunel.

Does this mean I should not be here? Does it mean that I have nothing to say that you should feel obliged to take seriously? I hope not. As well as a libertarian of sorts, I am also a conservative of sorts. I am deaf to the beauties of Nietzsche and Evola and the other foreign conservatives. But I am profoundly impressed by our own conservatives – Burke and Lord Salisbury and Enoch Powell, among others. These men have taught me much about politics and how to think about politics.

Moreover, I believe that, in a country like England, the defence of liberty is often best made through a defence of tradition. Most people do not think much about political and legal philosophy. This is not a criticism, but an acceptance of what is. When, therefore, it comes to defending institutions like trial by jury, the best defence is not an abstract case for an independent power in the legal process, but to say that the institution has always existed in England, and that it always should exist. It is the same with all the other protections of our legal system, and with freedom of speech.

Then there are the accommodations that any libertarian of sense needs to make with reality. I have said that I want to live in a world where everyone has embraced libertarianism. I want to convert China and black Africa and even the Islamic World. I am ultimately a universalist. At the same time, I accept that, at the moment, not every people is equally inclined to libertarianism, nor will be for the foreseeable future; and that it is not sensible to allow those places where a limited form of libertarianism exists to be settled to the point of obliteration from places where no libertarianism can presently be found. To be clear, I am against mass-immigration from the third world. Those libertarians who arrive, by some process of semi-geometrical reasoning, at the idea of open borders have no understanding of the world as it is, nor any chance of being taken seriously on other issues.

It is the same with hereditary nobilities, or established churches, or evidently coercive taking part in institutions such as trial by jury or a citizen militia. For the sake of maximising the liberty that can exist in any particular time or place, we need to accept incidental breaches of the equal self-ownership principle. And this means an often large concession to the conservative defenders of an established – or recently disestablished – order of things.

Now that I have explained the nature of my own accommodation with conservatism – an accommodation that is, in its approach, pretty common among libertarians – let me explain why you conservatives and nationalists should embrace libertarianism.

The first reason is that you have no consistent choice. You belong to a nation the history and laws of which have been the raw material from which every liberal or libertarian doctrine has been refined. Ours is a country where, for many hundreds of years, we enjoyed freedom of speech and faith and association and contract, and where they have not yet been wholly taken from us, or taken by any semblance of democratic process. Ours is a country where power has been formally and informally limited, and where the authorities have always been more or less accountable to the governed. Your favourite writers – usually foreign – denounce Bacon and Locke and Newton and Hume and Darwin and all the others as the purveyors of some moral poison. But you cannot regard these men as eccentrics who just happened to be born on the same island, and who systematically perverted the thinking and the institutions of that island. For the most part, they are celebrated because they put consistently and memorably into words only what their countrymen already thought or were inclined to accept as the truth. If you are an English or British conservative, you must – unless you want shamelessly to misrepresent your national ways – also be a libertarian.

The second reason is that, even if you reject free markets and the idea of a small and limited government, you will be mad to suppose that a large and activist government is likely to bring about and sustain the kind of order that you may want. Every institution of, or connected with, the British State belongs to what we all understand by what I call “the left.”

Leftist thinking is absolutely hegemonic within the ruling institutions of this country. The left is the institutions. The institutions are the left.

Assume that, somehow, you were to take power tomorrow. You could parachute each other into the leading positions in the state bureaucracy, or in the universities and the BBC. But you would need to run these institutions through the existing management. They understand what they are running, because they have grown up within it. And they are many; you are few. You would find yourselves pulling levers and pressing buttons that were disconnected from the effective machinery of control. You might be in office. The left would remain in power. It would take a generation to displace it – and you would not have the luxury of a generation to bring about these changes.

There is much to be said, then, for at least a conditional libertarianism. You cannot have the big state you may want. You should investigate how little state is actually needed to keep things running. That must lead you to a better acquaintance with libertarian economics and legal and political philosophy than you may so far have possessed.

I regard myself as a conservative among libertarians, and as a libertarian among conservatives. Because I am an Englishman, I can be both. Leave aside the state socialists – who, though regrettably successful, are a recent and a foreign intrusion into our national life – our political spectrum runs from very traditional conservatives on the one hand to rationalistic libertarians on the other. And there is, in the centre, a wide area that is neither exclusively one nor the other, but where elements of both are – sometimes harmoniously, sometimes jarringly – combined.

All this being so, I call on you to recognise the logic of your position, and to explore the libertarian side of your folkways.

[This is a tidied up version of what I said. I suppress a digression on a global return to ancestral ways. This turned out, as I spoke, to add nothing to my argument: I put it there because my speech would otherwise have had no obvious connection with the title I suggested without thinking what I might say.

One additional point worth recording is my answer to a question about what I thought of a young German who spoke very ably in English, and without notes, about his involvement in the identitarian movement, which seems to be rather important in some European countries. My response is that I am a bourgeois liberal. I have a preference for peaceful and, so far as possible, legal campaigning. There may be circumstances where influence will need to be gained through putting boots on the street. But this would take me in directions that I find most undesirable, and that are best avoided.

In general, this was the most interesting one day conference that I have attended in many years. Because they were all recorded, and will be made available on YouTube, I see no reason to summarise or discuss the other speeches. But I thank the Traditional Britain Group for having invited me to listen to these speeches, and for the great indulgence that it showed for my own. The lefties have made a fetish of “diversity.” I am not the first to observe that what they mean by this is letting people of all colours and genders and sexualities mouth at each other the same dubious platitudes. The only diversity that matters – which is of sincerely-held opinions – is something more often seen among the enemies of the left. So it was here.]

Politische Philosophie:
Warum Konservative libertär sein müssen

von Sean Gabb

Die Linke ist mit dem starken Staat verwachsen

[Vorbemerkung: Die folgende Rede hielt Dr. Sean Gabb, Direktor der „United Kingdom Libertarian Alliance“, am 19.10.2013 in London vor der Versammlung der erzkonservativen „Traditional Britain Group“ – ein Verband, der die regierende konservative Partei David Camerons als Verräter an ihrer Sache betrachtet. Übersetzung für ef-online von Robert Grözinger.]

Ich denke, meine Damen und Herren, Sie kennen die Socialist Workers Party. Falls nicht: Dies ist eine Organisation, die die letzten vier Jahrzehnte damit verbracht hat, jede Beschwerde der Arbeiterklasse zu übernehmen und sie zur Verbreitung der frohen Botschaft des Trotzkismus auszunutzen. Zum Beispiel wenn die Arbeiter einer Knopffabrik in Leeds wegen eines Streits über Teepausen streikten. Früher oder später würde man das lärmende Gegröle hören und die unverkennbare Schrift der Banner sehen, die einem sagen, dass die Socialist Workers erschienen sind. 

Während der drei Jahrzehnte unseres Bestehens haben wir von der Libertarian Alliance dieser Taktik große Aufmerksamkeit geschenkt; und so gut wir können versuchen wir, sie zu imitieren. Unsere Leute gehen zu Konferenzen von traditionellen Konservativen, von sadomasochistischen Pornoanbetern und sogar zu Treffen der Studentenvereinigung und gelegentlich zu islamischen Gruppen. Unser Ziel ist dasselbe wie das der Socialist Workers: so viele Menschen wie möglich, egal was diese zunächst glauben, von dem zu überzeugen, was wir glauben.

Natürlich gibt es Unterschiede zwischen der Socialist Workers Party und der Libertarian Alliance. Wir haben keine gestiefelten Schläger, die wir auf die Straße schicken, um unsere Widersacher zusammenzuschlagen oder einzuschüchtern. Vor allem sind wir aufrichtig bezüglich unserer Absichten. Wir versuchen nicht, die Menschen betrügerisch und etappenweise zu dem zu führen, was wir für die Wahrheit halten. Statt dessen ist es uns ein Vergnügen, diese Wahrheit so laut und klar wie wir können zu verkünden, und zwar jedem, der uns zuhört. Somit lassen Sie mich sagen woran wir glauben und was Sie wie ich meine ebenfalls glauben sollten. 

Wir möchten in einer Welt leben, in der jeder Mensch die gleichen Rechte auf Leben, Freiheit und Eigentum hat. Ich werde die Bedeutung dieses Satzes nicht im Einzelnen ausführen aber er beinhaltet unter anderem das Recht das zu tun, was manche von Ihnen für eine äußerst verkommene Lebensführung halten. Wir glauben an die Legalisierung sämtlicher Drogen und Waffen. Wir haben keine moralische Einwendung gegen homosexuelle Ehen oder Adoption durch homosexuelle Paare. Wir glauben an absolut freie Märkte und an den wissenschaftlichen und technischen Fortschritt, den diese ermöglichen. Unsere einzige Beschwerde über den Fortschritt ist, dass er nicht vollständig entfesselt ist und dass deshalb seine Kurve noch nicht komplett senkrecht verläuft. Wir betrachten die natürliche Welt – für die einige von Ihnen eine mystische Ehrfurcht empfinden – als eine gewaltige Lagerstätte, die dazu genutzt werden sollte, die Welt für unseren zunehmenden Wohlstand und allgemeinen Komfort umzugestalten.

Sie werden dann verstehen, dass ich wenig übrig habe für viele der Philosophen und Dichter, die für einige von Ihnen eine Inspiration waren. Ich habe viel von Nietzsche und etwas von Julius Evola und Francis Parker Yockey gelesen und bin etwas vertraut mit Alexander Dugin. Ich verfolge den „Counter Currents Blog“ und „AltRight“ und „The Occidental Observer“ und andere Publikationen, deren Existenz zu kennen ein gut erzogener Libertärer niemals zugeben sollte, von der Lektüre ganz zu schweigen. Und während ich die oft anzutreffende Brillanz und gelegentliche Erkenntnis hochschätze, die man hier findet, bin ich überhaupt nicht überzeugt worden. Was ich begrüße ist hauptsächlich eine Kritik der gegenwärtigen Ordnung der Dinge, die teilweise von den Libertären geteilt wird. Wenn es zur Ablösung dieser Ordnung durch eine andere kommt – wenn es um tatsächliche Rezepte geht, wie die Dinge sein sollten – denke ich wirklich, dass die gesamte gesammelte Masse dieser Schriften weniger zum Wohlergehen der Menschheit beigetragen hat, als eine einzige von Brunel gebaute Eisenbahnbrücke. 

Bedeutet das, dass ich nicht hier sein sollte? Bedeutet das, dass ich nichts zu sagen habe, das Sie ernst nehmen sollten? Ich hoffe nicht. Ebenso wie ich eine Art Libertärer bin, bin ich auch eine Art Konservativer. Ich bin taub gegenüber den Wohlklängen von Nietzsche und Evola und den anderen ausländischen Konservativen. Aber ich bin hochgradig beeindruckt von unseren eigenen Konservativen – Burke und Lord Salisbury und Enoch Powell, neben anderen. Diese Männer haben mir viel über Politik und das Denken über Politik beigebracht.

Darüber hinaus glaube ich, dass in einem Land wie England die Verteidigung der Freiheit oft am besten durch eine Verteidigung der Tradition erreicht wird. Die meisten Menschen denken nicht viel über politische Philosophie und Rechtsphilosophie nach. Dies ist keine Kritik, sondern die Akzeptanz dessen was Tatsache ist. Wenn es daher zur Verteidigung von Institutionen wie das Schwurgerichtsverfahren kommt, ist die beste Verteidigung nicht ein abstraktes Argument für eine Unabhängigkeit der Gerichte, sondern zu sagen, dass es diese Institution schon immer in England gab und dass es sie immer geben sollte. Dasselbe gilt für all die anderen Absicherungen unseres Rechtssystems und für die Meinungsfreiheit. 

Jeder Libertäre mit Verstand muss sich an die Realität anpassen. Ich habe gesagt, dass ich in einer Welt leben will, in der jeder den Libertarismus übernommen hat. Ich möchte China und Schwarzafrika und sogar die islamische Welt überzeugen. Ich bin schließlich ein Universalist. Gleichzeitig akzeptiere ich, dass derzeit nicht jedes Volk in gleichem Maße dem Libertarismus zugeneigt ist, noch dies in absehbarer Zukunft so sein wird; und dass es nicht vernünftig ist, Einwanderung aus Gegenden, wo kein Libertarismus festzustellen ist, dort zuzulassen, wo eine limitierte Form des Libertarismus existiert, bis dieser gänzlich ausgelöscht ist. Um es klar zu sagen: Ich bin gegen Masseneinwanderung aus der Dritten Welt. Jene Libertären, die durch einen Prozess halb-geometrischer Argumentation auf die Idee offener Grenzen kommen, haben kein Verständnis von der Welt wie sie ist, noch jegliche Chance bei anderen Belangen ernstgenommen zu werden.

Es ist dasselbe mit dem Erbadel oder etablierten Kirchen oder die offensichtlich zwangsweise Teilnahme an Einrichtungen wie einem Schwurgericht oder einer Bürgermiliz. Aus Gründen der Maximierung der Freiheit, die zu einer bestimmten Zeit oder an einem bestimmten Ort existieren kann, müssen wir nebensächliche Verletzungen des Prinzips gleichberechtigten Selbsteigentums akzeptieren. Und das bedeutet ein häufig umfangreiches Zugeständnis an die konservativen Verteidiger der bestehenden – oder kürzlich abgeschafften – Ordnung der Dinge. 

Da ich nun das Wesen meines eigenen Zugeständnisses an den Konservatismus erklärt habe – ein Zugeständnis, das im Denkansatz unter Libertären ziemlich verbreitet ist – lassen Sie mich erklären, warum Sie, die Konservativen und Nationalisten, sich den Libertarismus zu eigen machen sollten.

Der erste Grund ist, dass Sie keine widerspruchsfreie Wahl haben. Sie gehören zu einer Nation, deren Geschichte und Gesetze das Rohmaterial gewesen sind, aus denen jede liberale oder libertäre Doktrin weiterentwickelt worden ist. Unseres ist ein Land, in dem wir seit mehreren hundert Jahren die Freiheit der Meinung und des Glaubens und des Zusammenschlusses und des Vertrages genießen, und wo uns diese noch nicht ganz oder durch den Anschein des demokratischen Prozesses genommen wurden. Unseres ist ein Land, in dem Macht formell oder informell beschränkt worden ist, und wo die Amtsgewalt immer mehr oder weniger rechenschaftspflichtig gegenüber den Regierten gewesen ist. Ihre Lieblingsautoren – meistens ausländische – verunglimpfen Bacon und Locke und Newton und Hume und Darwin und all die anderen als Verbreiter moralischen Gifts. Aber Sie können diese Männer nicht als Exzentriker betrachten, die zufällig auf derselben Insel geboren wurden und die systematisch das Denken und die Institutionen dieser Insel pervertiert haben. Zum größten Teil werden sie gefeiert weil sie beständig und einprägsam nur das in Worte gefaßt haben, was ihre Landsleute schon dachten oder geneigt waren als Wahrheit zu akzeptieren. Wenn Sie ein englischer oder britischer Konservativer sind, müssen Sie – es sei denn sie wollen Ihre nationalen Eigenheiten schamlos verdrehen – auch ein Libertärer sein. 

Der zweite Grund ist: Selbst wenn Sie freie Märkte und die Idee einer kleinen und beschränkten Regierung ablehnen, müssen Sie verrückt sein, wenn Sie glauben, dass eine große und aktivistische Regierung wahrscheinlich die Art von Ordnung zur Folge hätte, die Sie wünschen. Jede Institution des britischen Staates oder die mit ihm verbunden ist gehört zu dem, was wir unter „der Linken“ verstehen.

Linkes Denken ist innerhalb der herrschenden Institutionen dieses Landes absolut dominierend. Die Linke ist die Institutionen. Die Institutionen sind die Linke. 

Angenommen Sie kommen morgen irgendwie an die Macht. Sie könnten sich gegenseitig in die führenden Positionen in der Staatsbürokratie plazieren oder in die der Universitäten und der BBC. Aber Sie würden das bestehende Management brauchen, um den Betrieb aufrecht zu halten. Dieses versteht, was es leitet, weil es darin groß geworden ist. Und es sind viele; Sie sind wenige. Sie würden feststellen, dass Sie Hebel ziehen und Knöpfe drücken, die von der eigentlichen Kontrollmaschine abgekoppelt sind. Sie wären im Amt. Aber die Linke würde an der Macht bleiben. Es würde eine Generation dauern, sie zu ersetzen – und Sie hätten nicht den Luxus, eine Generation Zeit zu haben, um diese Veränderungen durchzusetzen.

Es spricht daher sehr viel für einen zumindest bedingten Libertarismus. Sie können den starken Staat, den Sie möglicherweise wollen, nicht haben. Sie sollten untersuchen, wie wenig Staat tatsächlich nötig ist, um die Dinge am Laufen zu halten. Dies muss Sie zu einer besseren Bekanntschaft mit libertärer Ökonomie und Rechts- und politischer Philosophie führen als die, die Sie bisher besessen haben. 

Ich sehe mich selbst als Konservativer unter Libertären und als Libertären unter Konservativen. Weil ich ein Engländer bin kann ich beides sein. Abgesehen von den Staatssozialisten – die, obwohl bedauerlicherweise erfolgreich, eine neue und fremde Einfügung in unser nationales Leben sind – reicht unser politisches Spektrum von sehr traditionellen Konservativen auf der einen zu rationalistischen Libertären auf der anderen Seite. Und es gibt, in der Mitte, ein breites Feld, das weder exklusiv das eine noch das andere ist, aber in dem Elemente beider kombiniert werden – manchmal harmonisch, manchmal misstönend.

Da dies so ist, rufe ich Sie auf, die Logik Ihres Standpunktes zu erkennen und die libertäre Seite Ihrer traditionellen Lebensweise zu erkunden.


Originalrede von Dr. Sean Gabb

26. Oktober 2013

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 195
17th June 2010

Reflections on the 2010 Conference of the
Property and Freedom Society
by Sean Gabb

I have never bothered asking what persuaded Hans-Hermann Hoppe to invite me to the first conference of the Property and Freedom Society in 2006. I received his invitation in about the February of 2006. It looked interesting – not least because it was to be held in Bodrum, which is the modern Turkish name for Halicarnassus, the birthplace of Herodotus and otherwise famous for its Greek theatre and the remains of the great Mausoleum. However, Chris Tame was dying in hospital, and I decided that my place was at his side.

“Oh no, it isn’t,” Chris answered from his bed. He sat up and stabbed at the print-out of the invitation. “I’ll be dead long before May. Whatever the case, you’d be mad to turn this one down.” He took me through the names listed in the invitation, pointing out their eminence within the conservative and libertarian movements. Finally, he reminded me of the key importance of Professor Hoppe within both movements, and his importance in his own right as an economist and philosopher. It was my duty to attend, Chris announced. If he were not confined to his death bed, he would go with me.

And so – Chris now dead, just as he had predicted – I set out in the May of 2006 for Bodrum. I wrote a longish account at the time of this first conference of the Property and Freedom Society, and see no reason to say more about it now. But Chris was right. It was a significant event in my life. Until then, I had long admired from a distance, but never met, men like Professor Hoppe and Paul Gottfried and Stephan Kinsella. Now, in the luxurious surroundings of the Hotel Karia Princess, and in the perfect weather of the Eastern Mediterranean, I could sit down to dinner with them and get to know them. I was invited back the following year, and the year after that, and the year after that. Last week, I went again, and can report that this fifth conference was every bit as interesting and productive as all the others.

PFS 2010 - Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Welcoming Remarks. The PFS - After Five Years
from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.

Because I made video recordings of all the public proceedings, I do not need to give a close account of all the speeches. They will, in the next week, all be uploaded to the usual place for anyone to see. But it is worth discussing professor Hoppe’s opening speech, The Property and Freedom Society: Reflections After Five Years – now published by the Libertarian Alliance as Personal Perspectives, No.25. In this, he explains why he set up the Property and Freedom Society and what he hopes it to achieve. He begins with a critique of the mainstream libertarian and conservatives institutes. It is, for example, now 63 years since the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, and it is hard to see what good this has achieved. F.A. Hayek cannot be wholly blamed for its failure, since he was never wholly in charge. But it was, from the start, a place where limited statists were able to mingle with avowed advocates and beneficiaries of fiat law and paper money. And any scheme for limiting either of these is impossible in principle and has failed in practice. The tendency of fiat law is to become ever more arbitrary and burdensome. The tendency of paper money is semi-permanent inflation. Both are means for the ruling class to tighten its control on society. The State cannot be limited. At best, those directing it can be persuaded to pick and choose among various schemes for making their control easier or less immediately destructive.

The very success of organisations like the Mont Pelerin Society to engage with governments is a sign of their failure. In the past, ruling classes were able to neutralise the far more potent threat to their control posed by religion. They have used much the same methods to deal with the limited state movements. As with the churches, they have been bribed and flattered into moderating their critique of the State, and even co-opted as some kind of intellectual fig leaf.

Professor Hoppe saw this clearly in the 1990s, when he attended three meetings of the Mont Pelerin Society. These were filled with politicians and central bankers and general clients of the ruling class. There was no discussion allowed of the American State’s military aggressions, or of its monetary corruptions, or of the multicultural discourse that is the main current legitimation ideology of the State. His own attacks on democracy and support for constitutional monarchy were considered scandalous and “confrontational”, and he has not bothered going back.

His experience of the John Randolph Club was slightly more positive. This was largely a Murray Rothbard front organisation, where conservatives and libertarians were able to come together and discuss their equal, of sometimes different, objections to unlimited state power. It was also a place where members of each movement could learn from the other. Libertarians, for example, could overcome the indifference to the cultural and historical underpinnings of liberty that often proceeds from their emphasis on economics. In turn, the conservatives could learn some true economics.

Ultimately, though, the John Randolph Club fell apart because of the failure of many of its conservative members to radicalise. They were never able to put aside their fantasy of somehow capturing the institutions of an extended state and using these to impose a conservative authoritarianism. And they would not reconsider their support of stupid economic policies like protectionism and soft money.

It was on account of his disappointment with even the least useless of the other policy institutes he had known that Professor Hoppe decided to set up the Property and Freedom Society. Its purpose was not to engage with the ruling class or its various clients, but to have nothing whatever to do with them. It would exclude politicians and economic illiterates. It would reject the State and all its works. It would instead seek to foster a counter-culture that was opposed both to the State and to the legitimising ideologies of the State that many libertarians have not been able to recognise for what they are. The Property and Freedom Society would provide a space within which representatives from a range of traditions would be able to discuss the principles of a free market natural order, and to see the State more clearly than is normally possible as nothing more than a gang of bandits surrounded by various applause societies and useful idiots.

The Property and Freedom Society was conceived as a kind of salon – a place where intellectuals from various traditions could come together as friends, and share and harden their own opposition to the State and its legitimising ideologies. Presided over by him and by his wife Gülcin Imre, the Salon Hoppe would surely have it impact on the movement, and on the world at large.

This was the essence of Professor Hoppe’s opening speech. And his movement has been a success in the way that he intended. Its public proceedings are the speeches, and I am glad that I have been able to help make these available by making video recordings of them and putting them on the Internet. I regret that my recordings of the first two conferences were incomplete. I also regret that my fuller recordings of the next two were marred by technical incompetence. Some of these have adequate sound, but many are hard to follow, either because I relied on the internal microphone of my video camera, or because I was ignorant of how to place an external microphone. This year, I am happy to say, I was more successful. All the speeches have adequate sound, and many have good sound. A problem I have not been able to overcome is that, outside of England – in both Turkey and Slovakia – recording on mains power with an external microphone is inseparable from a feedback hum. The morning sessions I was able to record on battery only, with partial recharges during the coffee breaks. Afternoon sessions required mains power. I can filter out much of the feedback hum, but cannot wholly eliminate it. Whatever the case, the speeches all have clear sound, and I shall eventually buy additional batteries or a better video camera.


PFS 2010 - Mustafa Akyol, Are Islam and Capitalism Compatible? from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.

But, as said, because they have all been recorded, I do not need to describe the speeches. If I have to acknowledge any star of the conference, I suppose it would be Mustafa Akyol, on Islam and Capitalism. He is a Turkish journalist who is completely fluent in English, and is a libertarian, and, it seems, is a fairly devout Moslem. His speech is an informed response to the frequent claim in the West that Islam is a religion only for men with frightening beards and wild eyes and a taste for suicide bombings. It is not. If is, of course, The Other – the historic enemy of Christendom, that subdued three quarters of what had been the Roman Empire, and came close more than once to taking the last quarter. No one who is not of that Faith can take a sentimental view of Islam. At the same time, Islam produced a great and often admirable civilisation that had room for much intellectual freedom and for extended commerce. If the accidents of immigration have made Islam in Europe a religion for displaced peasants with lavish funding from Saudi puritans, that does not make Islam in the wider sense other than a religion compatible with as high a degree of enlightenment as Christianity. Islam is compatible with a free market order. The development of a market system in Turkey has been associated with a recovery of Islam in the public sphere, and this must be recognised by anyone who wants to see through the fog of propaganda that has been raised to lead us into another world war.

I liked Paul Gottfried on Herbert Marcuse, and on Marxism in general. I liked Olivier Richard on the economics of inflation. And I liked everything else. To single anyone out other than Professor Hoppe and Mr Akyol would be – as I keep saying – superfluous, bearing in mind that everything is on-line, and unfair to the other speakers.

Naturally, this does not prevent me from mentioning my own speech. I was asked to speak about the Second World War and why it should have been avoided. I did this rather well. Mrs Gabb, who came into the conference room to watch me, was not impressed. She said it all sounded too much like an advertisement for the novels of Richard Blake. But I have watched my speech twice now on video, and I still think it was rather good. I dislike reading from a text. Even without one, my voice tends to dullness, and my general delivery is wooden. Since I can speak fluently enough without, I like to avoid having either a text or notes in front of me. At the same time, I do like – other commitments allowing – to produce a text in advance. This lets me lay down the structure of what I want to say. It also removes any suspicion that I have just turned up without any preparation to deliver a speech that is only clear by accident.


PFS 2010 - Sean Gabb on the Second World War from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.

Because both text and video are available, I will not go again over the main part of what I said. What I do think worth mentioning is the point that came into my head for the last five minutes of the speech. This is the lack of any sustained cultural production within the conservative and libertarian movements. We have always been strong on analysis and criticism. We have our philosophers and economists and historians, and these are among the best. We are not wholly without our novelists and musicians and artists. But we have not so far excelled in cultural production, and have mostly not considered this of comparable importance to uncovering and explaining the workings of a natural order. So far as this has been the case, however, we have been mistaken.

The socialist takeover of the English mind during the early 20th century was only in part the achievement of the Webbs and J.A. Hobson and E.H. Carr and Harold Laski and Douglas Jay, and all the others of their kind. They were important, and if they had no written as they did, there would have been no takeover. But for every one who read these, there were tens or hundreds who read and were captured by Shaw and Wells and Galsworthy and Richard Llewellyn, among others. These were men who transmitted the socialist cases to a much wider audience. Just as importantly, where they did not directly transmit, they helped bring about a change in the climate of opinion so that propositions that were rejected out of hand by most thoughtful men in the 1890s could become the received wisdom of the 1940s. They achieved a similar effect in the United States, and were supplemented there by writers like Howard Fast, and, of course, by the Hollywood film industry.

More recently in England, the effect of television soap operas like Eastenders has been immense and profound. Their writers have taken the dense and often incomprehensible writings of the neo-Marxists and presented them as a set of hidden assumptions that have transformed the English mind since 1980. No one can fully explain the Labour victory of 1997, or the ease with which law and administration were transformed even before them, without reference to popular culture.

I do not wish to disparage novelists like Ayn Rand, who was a libertarian of sorts. At the same time, what I have in mind is not long didactic novels where characters speak for three pages about the evils of central banking. What I do believe we need is good, popular entertainment of our own creation that is based on our own assumptions. I think the most significant objective propagandist of my lifetime for the libertarian and conservative cause was the historical novelist Patrick O’Brian. I have read all his historical novels, some more than once, and I do not think he ever sets out an explicit case against the modern order of things. What he does instead is to create a world – that may once have existed largely as he describes it – that works on different assumptions from our own. If this world is often unattractive on account of its poverty and brutality, its settled emphasis on tradition and on personal freedom and responsibility has probably done more to spread the truth than the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Ideas combined.

I would never claim that Richard Blake is in the same league as Patrick O’Brian. But he is significant so far as he is a libertarian novelist who has managed to find a mainstream publisher. His latest novel, Blood of Alexandria, is still more explicitly libertarian than his others, and he deserves all the encouragement that our movement can provide. Indeed, someone else who deserves our encouragement is Jan Lester, one of the most significant figures in the Libertarian Alliance and in the Libertarian Alliance – yes, this is not one of my typing mistakes! The Libertarian Alliance has just published his play, The Naked Politician, as Philosophical Notes, No.82. This needs a performance. Anyone who can help with this is doing the cause of right, truth and justice as great a service as by funding the distribution of the more abstract works of our movement.

But this really is enough of the public proceedings of the conference. Professor Hoppe spoke of a salon, and this works at least as well through private conversations as through formal speeches. And one of the few rules of the Property and Freedom Society is that there are to be no limits on what anyone cares to discuss over lunch or dinner. Sadly, these were private conversations, and I might find my own conversations in Bodrum far less open and interesting in future if people thought their words were about to be transcribed and published to the world. One part of a long conversation, though I can reveal. I was at dinner with some Turks who explained their bitter humiliation at being kept out of the European Union. They listened patiently to my explanation that they were lucky to have avoided that horrid embrace. Their reply was that it was a matter of national pride. They could put up with being excluded from a club made up of great nations like France and Germany and England. They could accept the inclusion of the Greeks – a matter of historical connection with Europe. But to be passed over in favour of disreputable mafia states like Romania and Bulgaria was too much to be tolerated. If I wanted to understand Turkey’s rising disillusionment with the West, and its recent closeness with the Arab countries of the Middle East, I needed look no further than its rejection by the European Union.

But this is all I think I can say. If you want to know more about them, you will have to go to Bodrum yourself next year!

I should say something now about the location of the Property and Freedom Society conferences. The Hotel Karia Princess is a luxury hotel in one of the quieter parts of Bodrum. It is about a ten minute walk from the harbour and shops of the city, and just a flight of steps away from a discreetly-placed supermarket that is most useful for those things that are not provided by the hotel. With its swimming pool and large garden and its gymnasium and Turkish bath – the hotel is a world in itself, and many guests – some go every year for a month – and conference attendees hardly ever go outside it.

Even if it were not owned and run by libertarians, I would recommend the Hotel Karia Princess for the excellence of its location and the quality of its service. But it is owned and run by libertarians, and I suggest that any libertarian or conservative who is planning a Turkish holiday should consider booking a room here. It has all that anyone could desire for a memorable holiday. My only criticism is the perhaps excessive fondness displayed by the staff during my stay for the Overture to Eine Nacht in Venedig by Johann Strauss, and for the Waltz based on themes from Emmerich Kálmán’s Gräfin Mariza. These were a welcome change from the “elevator music” played in the public areas of other hotels. And there was no coverage at all of the dreadful World Cup. Even so, I might recommend a more balanced repertory of the light classics.

Since all the hyperlinks will be stripped from this article when it is posted out, here are the full details of the hotel:

Hotel Karia Princess
Eskiçeşme Mahallesi,
Myndos Caddesi No:8
48400 Bodrum
Tel. :+90.252.3168971
Fax : +90.252.3168979

Speaking of Turkey in general, I do most highly recommend the country to the more discriminating traveller. As with Islam, I do not take a sentimental view of the Turks. Historically, they have been implacable advocates of every cause to which they attached themselves. This being said, they have never been other than a brave and honourable race. They are justly proud of their country. To anyone who does not attack Islam or the memory of Kemal Ataturk, and who refrains from going about stark naked in public, they are as straight and welcoming as could possibly be desired. Since I regard Ataturk as a great man – if somewhat flawed – and have no desire to shock the religious sensibilities of others, and am far too modest to expose my flesh to the world, I am not inconvenienced by these limitations.

I cannot speak for those parts of the country remote from the sea. But the parts of Turkey I have seen strike me as entirely safe. The reputation of Turkish drivers is undeserved. On three of my visits with Mrs Gabb, I have hired a car and driven for several thousand miles. I have never once seen an accident, and the other cars are far less battered than in Greece. The main problem on the mountain roads is finding the right points for overtaking the lorries that rumble uphill at about 20mph. On one occasion,, we ran into a giant storm on the mountain roads between Aydin and Mugla. For half an hour, it was like driving in a car wash, and the road was an inch deep in water. But everyone else on the road slowed to a steady crawl and stayed safely in lane.

The beaches within easy reach of Bodrum are mostly either crowded or dirty. The beach at Bitez is both. We spent an hour there, struck by the omnipresent smell of dog mess and the stains on the cushions provided by the local restaurant. Unless you are a lower class Englishman or an elderly German of limited means, my advice is to avoid the place. There is an excellent beach resort outside Fethiye, a few hours south of Bodrum. We arrived rather late in the day, and so had less benefit of the place than we might have liked. Otherwise, boats can be hired for about £200 a day. These will take you to places inaccessible by road, where you can swim in the warm, sparkling sea.

So far as sightseeing is concerned, I am less fond of Ephesus than I ought to be. Though grand, it is normally filled with tourists. We went there in 2007. I enjoyed sitting in the theatre where St Paul preached, and the public toilets have a sociological interest. But it rained hard while we were there, and our most memorable experience was trying not to fall down on the wet marble pavements.

But I do recommend Aphrodisias, about four hours through the mountains from Bodrum, and hardly ever visited. In ancient times, this was the provincial capital of Caria, and its sudden destruction by an earthquake in the 7th century – plus the quality of the marble used for its construction – has left ruins of great freshness and magnificence. The reconstructed gateway to the Temple of Aphrodite is particularly impressive, as is the partially reconstructed Temple of the Emperors. There is also an immense stadium on the outskirts of the city, part of which, I regret to say, was partitioned off in later antiquity for gladiatorial combats.

On all my visits to the ruined cities of what used to be Asia Minor, I have been struck by the great wealth of the region. Judging the wealth of past ages by modern standards is a worthless activity. But I do not think Western Europe had anything until fairly recently to compare with the civic life of the Asiatic Provinces of the Roman Empire. I will not boast about my knowledge of the ancient languages. I have much trouble with reading inscriptions. The ancients never separated words, and used many abbreviations that I am not learned enough to understand. But I was struck by the fact that almost every carved block in Aphrodisias is covered in writing – dedications, funerary inscriptions, public memorials: this was a civilisation based on the written word, and those who carved their words into stone did so in the assurance that their civilisation would last to the end of time. It is both interesting and melancholy to walk streets that once swarmed with people, and to wonder how London or Paris might appear to the travellers of some remote future in which our own civilisation has also passed away.

Because, yet again, we arrived rather late in the day, we had to hurry about the city. We missed the public baths and the theatre. However, we did find time to look in the museum. This is well worth seeing. Perhaps its most interesting exhibit is a statue of a Governor set up in about the year 500. I had never before seen a public statue from so late a time in antiquity, and, though much influenced by the stiffness of Christian art, this shows a strong survival of the classical tradition. For this alone, the trip was worth the drive.

We have been twice to Pamukkale, anciently known as Hierapolis. Both times, we arrived late and without any hope of seeing the whole of what was once a large city – a large city surrounded by one of the biggest cemeteries in the world. Mrs Gabb, on both occasions, was much taken with the limestone deposits that have given the whole site the appearance of a snow field. I was more interested in the bizarre paganism of the city. This was a centre for the worship of Cybele, whose priests would castrate themselves in a religious frenzy. They were notable for their visits to the Plutonium, which is a fissure in the rocks through which poisonous gas escapes. Though more visited than Aphrodisias, This is also far less crowded than Ephesus, and repays a visit.

One day, we shall pay visits to Miletus and to Laodicea. It would also be interesting to find some Turkish towns that have not been stripped of their old charm by modern development.

I could say much more. I could go into detail about the immense hospitality shown by Professor Hoppe and by his wife Gülcin Imre. I could mention the meals, the visit to the fishing village, the boat trip, and all the rest. However, this has already been a long article, and Stephan Kinsella has already written at length about these things. And so, I commend Turkey and the Hotel Karia Princess. And I commend Hans-Hermann Hoppe and the Property and Freedom Society. Long may their salon continue to shine from Bodrum!