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!

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 194
15th June 2010

Chamberlain, Churchill and World War II:
Reflections on Factual and Counterfactual History.
A Speech to the 2010 Conference of the
Property and Freedom Society
by Sean Gabb


This is not actually the speech that I gave in Bodrum. That was a shorter affair and was given without this text in front of me. I am not very good at reading from a text. It makes my voice even flatter and duller than it naturally is. Even so, I do find it useful to have something written in advance. This allows me to get straight in my head what I want to say, and parts of the structure and wording stay in my head. It is also useful to have as proof that what I am saying has not been made up on the spur of the moment. Therefore, the video to which I link is somewhat different from this slab of text, and may be worth watching in its own right.

I am, by the way, converting and uploading videos of all the speeches from this most remarkable of conferences. These will be made available through the Multimedia page on the Libertarian Alliance Website.



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

I could make this an entirely conventional speech about what a disaster the Second World War was for humanity, and how much better it would have been had we all managed somehow to avoid fighting it. However, bearing in mind the present audience, I do not think I should be saying anything original or challenging. For those who are interested in a conventional argument, I attach as an appendix to my speech a review article that I wrote several years ago. What I want to do instead is to explore how the world might have appeared in 1960 had there been no Second World War.

Why do this? you may ask, and why choose 1960? The answer is that my dear friend Richard Blake is now ahead of his contracted schedule. His Blood of Alexandria will come out next Thursday the 10th June 2010. The next in the series, Sword of Damascus, was offered a few weeks ago as an unrevised first draft, and was accepted without any need for changes. This means that time he had set aside for rewriting can now be given so some other project. He could write another novel about the Byzantine Empire, but has decided instead to write about something completely different.  

Mr Blake has for many years been impressed by L. Neil Smith’s The Probability Broach, which is set in an alternative 1980s, two centuries after the American Revolution had taken a much more libertarian direction, and by Kingsley Amis’s The Alteration, which is set four centuries after an abortive Reformation. He wants to try something of his own in the same genre. He did at first think of setting his novel in 2014 in a world where neither World Wars had happened. He was, however, soon daunted by the scale of what he needed to imagine. We live in a world so shaped by these big wars that it is hard to conceive the details of an alternative world. And so he has decided on something rather more modest. His The Churchill Memorandum is set just twenty years after a Second World War that never happened. Twenty years is not a long time, and it is not necessary to imagine things like a British Crown Colony on the Moon and indefinite life extension. In this particular alternative 1960, many things would be much the same as in the real 1960. But, of course, many things would be different. This allows him to craft a novel in the tradition of John Buchan’s The 39 Steps, or even the early James Bond novels.

So let us begin with the alternation. The standard objection to not fighting the Second World War is what Hitler might have done had he not been stopped. In the review article appended to this speech, I argue that he would probably not have done very much at all. But this is an argument many find incredible, and so Mr Blake has decided to avoid fruitless controversy by removing Hitler at just the right moment. In March 1939, He tore up the Munich Agreement and annexed what remained of the Czech Republic. It is an historical fact that, on Wednesday the 15th March 1939, he arrived in Prague to inspect his latest conquest. He was there for just twenty two hours, and the people of that city were barely aware of his presence. On Thursday the 16th March, he was driven from Prague Castle to the main railway station so he could travel back to Berlin. In The Churchill Memorandum, there is an accident. As the Fuhrer’s Mercedes accelerates on one of the main roads, one of the armoured cars forming his guard gets stuck in some tramlines. The Fuhrer’s car swerves to avoid this. On the frozen cobblestones….

There is no need to go into detail. It is enough to say that the body is taken back to Berlin for a gigantic state funeral – all Wagner and fluttering banners. Hitler is dead, just as the diplomatic game he started is beginning to run out of control. What might have happened next?


I think it most likely that Goering would have taken over. Unlike the other secondary leaders of the Third Reich, he was not purely a creature of Hitler’s revolution. He was a war hero, and to some extent a member of the old ruling class. He would have been acceptable both to the German people and to the military and economic establishment of Germany. There is no need to ask whether he consolidates his power in a bloody purge or by a slower process of demotion. It is enough that he succeeds to all the formal offices that Hitler had taken. Now, Goering was no liberal, and was just as fond as any German nationalist of waving his sword in the air. But he did not have Hitler’s enormous prestige or Hitler’s taste for diplomatic gambling. He had no reasonable interest in provoking war with any other great power.

By 1939, Germany was the strongest country in Europe. It had walked away from the Versailles Treaty and recovered from the moral disgrace of losing the Great War. If there were still German territories and German populations in the restored Poland, Germany had taken Austria and Bohemia and Moravia. Living space to the east was a fine ambition, but was not a pressing need. Poland itself was no obstacle to a further expansion. The Polish Government was far more terrified of Soviet Russia than of Germany. We know that, even with the Chamberlain Guarantee, it was willing to consider granting some land access between main Germany and East Prussia. It might, with a few years of diplomatic pressure, have been willing to allow German citizenship to its German minority, and even to slide into a de facto German protectorate, with mixed German and Polish forces patrolling its eastern border.

Hitler himself never wanted war with Britain, and had no particular reason to fight the French. So long as he kept his own eastern demands reasonable and slow, there is no reason to suppose that Goering would not have maintained excellent relations with the western powers. His main enemy would have been Soviet Russia. His most likely settlement with Poland would have given Germany some kind of border with Russia. The Russians were competitors for influence in Rumania and the Balkans. I think he would have avoided war with Russia – we can be sure that Stalin was desperate to avoid war. It is quite easy to imagine that Hitler’s death in the March of 1939 would have avoided another big war.

This being so, it is probably unimportant to try imagining the details of Goering’s domestic policies. He would probably have ruled over a corrupt and authoritarian social democracy. It is likely that Germany would have run into economic difficulties during the early 1940s. But these are common to social democratic regimes, and are usually overcome by a rebalancing of monetary and fiscal policy. It is hard to say how practically anti-Semitic this alternative Germany would have been. Goering had no personal dislike of Jews. There were Jews who were German nationalists. Indeed, many Jews who had left Germany after 1933 were drifting back from exile by 1939. Without Hitler and without a gigantic war, we are probably safe to believe there would have been no mass murders. At the same time, it seems unlikely that the Nuremberg Decrees would have been formally revoked. It is more likely that they would have been modified in practice. Goering’s Germany might have evolved into a place where Jews and Slavs faced legal discriminations that fell short of persecution.

Goering might still have been alive in 1960. If so, he would probably have been despised for his faint absurdity, and respected for his ability to maintain Germany as the greatest power in a Europe that had avoided another war. Even with the National Socialist interventions, it is hard to imagine Germany as other than rich and broadly contented with its place in the world.


If we turn to Russia, the alternative 1960 is unlikely to have been so pleasant. The Soviet State of the actual 1960 rested on two supports. The first was the Stalin Terror that had made any overthrow of Bolshevism inconceivable. The second was victory in the Great Patriotic War that merged Communism with Russian nationalism, and raised the prestige of Russia throughout the world and of its government at home. Had there been no Second World War, Stalin could not have emerged as its winner. There would have been no expansion into Central Europe and no general perception of Communism as an ideology of victory. But the Terror had done its work. Stalin and the system that had produced him were too closely fixed on the Russian back. Without the devastation of the Second Wold War, living standards in Russia might have been higher by 1960 than they actually were. But Russia would not have been one of the great powers except by default. So long as war with Germany was avoided, the main threat would probably have come from a Japan that would by now have conquered and occupied most of China.


For obvious reasons, Britain is the country most of interest to Mr Blake. How would Britain have looked by 1960 without the Second World War? To answer this question, we need to look at what actual harm the War did to Britain. So far as most foreigners are concerned, this was the destruction of British world power. In 1939, the British Empire covered a quarter of the world’s land surface. By 1960, it did not.

Not the Roman Empire

However, the Empire was never particularly important to Britain. For all the Roman pretensions of the British ruling class, the British Empire was never based on tribute. Rather than a cause of British greatness, it was a consequence. The Empire brought wealth to a few privilege groups – in the earlier period, of course, to the East India Company – and it provided more administrative and military employments than would have otherwise existed in a liberal state. But the Empire was of limited economic importance. In 1914, British trade with America and Germany dwarfed imperial trade. There was more British investment in America than in the Empire as a whole. Even Argentina was more important to British investors than Australia. The colonies of white settlement were useful so far as they provided a frontier – and frontiers are useful for allowing potential trouble makers outside the ruling class to emigrate, and for making ruling classes themselves behave more reasonably than they otherwise might. Even so, these colonies were not the only, or the most important, frontier. More British people emigrated to the United States during the nineteenth century than to all the white colonies added together.

So far as most ordinary British people were concerned, the Empire, in the late nineteenth century, was barely more significant than the Falkland Islands are today. It was only the Diamond Jubilee and relentless propaganda attendant on the South African War that the Empire was kept in the public mind. Even so, it was never significant enough for the Conservatives to win an election based on promises of imperial trade preference.

The Empire was an affordable appendage to British greatness when there were no other great powers outside Europe, and when the other European great powers had no worthwhile imperial ambitions of their own. With the rise of America and Japan, and with the expansion of Russia into Asia, it became an increasingly troublesome burden. The loss of Empire after 1945 was not a cause of the British collapse, but – for Britain: never mind the lost territories – a minor consequence. Indeed, it might even be seen as a blessing.

A Minor Human and Financial Cost

Nor was the economic cost of the War harmful in the long term. Its direct financial cost has been put at £35 billion – or about five times the gross domestic product of 1938. In modern American terms, this would equal a war costing something like $50 trillion. Even ignoring indirect opportunity costs, this was a gigantic cost. It cleaned out the productive classes, and burdened the British State with a debt that was a nuisance for several decades. It also caused an overexpansion of heavy industries in which the country had already lost its main competitive advantage.

This being said, we are talking about an advanced modern economy. In the actual world of 1960, Britain was far richer, by every estimate, than it had been in 1938. Living standards were higher, and were rising fast. And the debt had been made manageable by a combination of economic growth and inflation.

We can also discount the human and material losses. The demographic catastrophe of the Great War was not repeated. There were casualties, but these were among forces conscripted from the general population. It was not the case that the most able and energetic were again rounded up and thrown into a gigantic mincing machine. The main fighting was done by the Russians and Americans. The bombing killed about 60,000 people, which was s shame but hardly a disaster; and it destroyed nothing that could not be replaced at broadly inconsiderable cost.

The State Socialist Revolution of 1940

The real cost was the revolution that attended the military crisis of 1940. The defeat in Norway brought down the Chamberlain Government and replaced it with a coalition that included the Labour Party. During the next five years, the deal that Churchill made with the Labour Party was that – lavishly funded by the Americans – he could play at grand strategy, and meet on apparently equal terms with Roosevelt and Stalin, and there could be a socialist takeover on the home front. The most important work on what happened is Paul Addison’s The Road to 1945: British Politics and the Second World War. This shows how the state socialists after 1940 were allowed to take over most of the domestic administration, and how they unleashed a flood of radical propaganda that laid the foundations of the post-war settlement in Britain – this being a large welfare state and of much state economic involvement.

By 1960, it is worth saying, the effects of this revolution were still mostly potential. Fifteen years of welfare and high taxes had not been enough to undermine general habits of thrift and self-respect. There was no visible encouragement of the feckless to breed, nor any throttling of the birth rate among the more able of any class. Most areas of national life remained untouched by direct state control. By modern standards – even by modern American standards – Britain remained a free country. The laws had not been corrupted. Speech and association were free. Access to guns and drugs was not seriously controlled. The burdens of tax and regulations were not excessive. Mass-immigration of non-whites was being discussed as a problem, but had not so far produced not even demands for a multi-cultural police state. To describe the established order of things as national socialist would be a misleading use of words. But it was patriotic socialist.

Even so, everything was in place for the secondary revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. It was only a matter of time before welfare and taxes had their natural effect of degrading the national mind. And every institution and lever of power was ready and waiting for capture by the neo-Marxists who have now probably damaged England beyond any hope of recovery.

The further main cost was the prevention of any strong liberal reaction against the post-war settlement. So far as it is possible to speak of victory, Britain did win the Second World War. This gave the non-socialist old order more prestige than it deserved. But this had, since 1940, been an old order maintained as the instruments of an American protectorate over the country. So long as money could be found to pay for the ships and armies of occupation, the conservative establishment was encouraged to maintain the pretence of Britain as a great world power.

Within the rival political establishments of the 1950s and 1960s, there was no determination to restructure the country as a post-imperial liberal democracy. A really conservative government after 1951 would have floated the pound, and set down a ten year programme of withdrawal from all the colonies, and screwed down on taxes and regulations, and removed trade union and other privileges. In fact, not even the humiliation of Suez was enough to bring on a reaction against the post-war settlement. The first real attempt was made by the failed Heath Government of the 1970s, and then by the slightly more successful Thatcher Governments of the 1980s. But, as we know, even Margaret Thatcher neither understood the scale of had to be done, or was able to ensure the permanence of what she did do.

Britain without the Second World War

So let us now look at the Britain of our alternative 1960. In this world, there had been no Second World War. For an historian writing in that year, twentieth century history would have divided into two halves. The first thirty years would have been dominated by the catastrophe of the Great War – its approach, its course, and the decade of struggling to overcome its most immediately disastrous effects. The turning point in this story would have been 1931. In this year, the Coalition Government took decisive action over the budget deficit, and gave up on trying to deflate a rigid economy back to the old parity of £4.5s to one ounce of pure gold. The Great Depression was largely an American and European collapse. Britain was not greatly affected by this, and there was a strong recovery after 1934. over the next few decades – the usual cyclical problems aside, the British economy would have continued to grow strongly – the old heavy industries giving way progressively to light manufacturing and services.

Socialism Contained

Had there been no War, there would have been a general election in 1940. Though there were no opinion polls at the time, it was widely accepted that the Coalition – that is, mostly the Conservatives – would have won heavily. To say there would have been no drift into state socialism is too optimistic. The younger intellectuals and politicians – George Orwell, J.B. Priestley, Malcolm Muggeridge, E.H. Carr, Harold Laski, Douglas Jay, Michael Foot, and many others – were already talking up the socialist future. They were the equivalent of the neo-Marxists who, during the Thatcher ascendancy, laid the foundations of the New Labour tyranny. Theirs was the coming generation.

But, in our alternative world, these people would have had their turn without British war socialism, and without the moral effects of the Soviet victory. They would have been constrained by an unbankrupted and still fairly liberal old order. They might have got state control – not perhaps ownership – of the railways and coal mines. They might have got more generous state funding of education and health for the poor. It is difficult, nevertheless, to imagine that they would have been able to achieve and maintain the same intellectual hegemony in England as they in fact achieved. It may even be that many of them would have stopped being socialists in any meaningful sense. This did, after all, happen with Orwell, Priestley and Muggeridge.

Moreover, it is worth emphasising that British recovery from the Great Depression can be measured from 1934, and was not the result of the monetary or fiscal manipulations recommended by J.M. Keynes in 1936. Before 1940, Keynes may have had more admirers in America and Germany than in Britain. There is little reason to suppose that, without the War, he would not have acquired to commanding reputation that, in fact, he did.

We cannot say that, but for the Second World War, Britain would have moved back to the liberalism of the Victorian and Edwardian ages that was what most important people in the 1930s really wanted. But Britain in the 1930s remained a highly liberal country in economic and political terms. There can be little doubt that any further drift into statism would have been contained had the world remained at peace. Almost by definition, this would have made the world a better place in 1960 than it was.

The Empire and World Power

Does this mean that the Empire would not have collapsed? I think the answer is not. World power depends largely on demographic facts that are largely independent even of big events like the two world wars. European ascendancy in the nineteenth century was based an on economic progress that was not shared by the rest of humanity, and on an associated absolute and relative growth of population. Even before 1914, non-European powers like Japan were modernising, and there was a perceptible slackening in both absolute and relative rates of white population growth. This slackening was accelerated by the Great War, but by no means caused by it.

Had the Japanese been sucked deeper into their Chinese war, and not been diverted by the American blockade and British pre-occupation with Germany into an attack on the European colonies, there would have been no sudden collapse in the 1940s. But it may be asked how long British primacy in the East could have survived the economic and demographic rise of the Oriental races. Already, in the 1930s, India was on the path to full Dominion status within the Empire. How long before this would have led to effective independence may be wondered. The Japanese destroyed the illusion of European superiority all at once in 1941. But it is impossible that this would not otherwise gradually have waned.

In our alternative 1960, there would have been a much larger and more glorious British Empire than there was in fact. But it would have been visibly in decline. There would have been no military threat from Germany or Japan. There would have been a much reduced spiritual threat from Soviet Communism. The Americans would not have held the whip hand. But the rising cost of maintaining the Empire, and its continuing economic uselessness, would have been an important factor in British politics.


One of the reasons why Mr Blake gave up on his plan of a world without the Great War was the extreme difficulty of imagining alternative developments of technology. If we take the first two decades after the non-occurrence of the Second World War, we can be less fanciful in our imagining. We can, for example, speak of technologies that would not have advanced as they did. There would have been much less development in aeroplane engines and rocketry. These were technologies obviously accelerated or even brought into being by the actual War. Instead, aeroplanes would surely have remained small and of low power. There might instead have been a renewed development of airships. These are, after all, cheaper than aeroplanes, and perhaps better suited for civilian uses.

It is easy to imagine no worthwhile development of rocketry. There would have been visionaries talking about space exploration, and perhaps rich individuals willing to fund some experimentation. But I see no reason for the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, or even anything like the German V2 rockets.

It is the same with computing. I think it is only since the late 1970s that there has been sustained civilian interest in computers. Until then, computer development was driven by the needs of governments made big by war and threats of war, and by the needs of corporations themselves made big by military contracts.

It may be the same with nuclear technology. On the day our imaginary world diverged from the real world, humanity was just six years from the first atom bombs. But their development was obviously a fact of war. The American Government was able to gather just about every relevant scientist in the world outside Germany, and throw unlimited money at them. Without the War, Britain and Germany might, by 1960, have been able to develop small nuclear weapons. The Germans might have been considering the use of these against Soviet Russia, and the British might have been shoring up their world position by making vague threats against Japan. But it is unlikely that this world would have been two years away from anything so frightening as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Against this, we need to balance those technologies that would have been accelerated but for the War. Here, we are confronted by the obvious unknown. We are into the territory described by Bastiat in his analyses of what is seen and not seen. We can look at the technologies that did benefit from the War. We cannot see those that were hindered or even frustrated by it.

Had there been no Second World War, German industry would not first have been co-opted and then destroyed. British and American investment would not have been diverted from its civilian courses. What would the results have been by 1960? Perhaps there would have been more medical progress. Perhaps there would have been much the same electronic progress, but without its actual military emphasis. Perhaps there would have been colour television sets and cheaper telephone calls. Perhaps many of the developments in what we call entertainment technology would have been brought forward from the 1970s to the 1950s. We cannot say.

What we can say, however – and this is worth saying at least once explicitly – is that fifty million people would not have been murdered in various acts of organised violence, and western civilisation would not have been brought to the edge of total collapse. Indeed, the best we can say at the moment is that western civilisation has not yet fallen over that edge. The longer term disastrous effects of that War may remain in the future.


I have left America to the end of this speech partly because it does not fit easily into the main body, and also because I can speculate here with much less assurance than about half my audience. What would America have looked like in 1960 had it not gone to war in 1941?

We can be sure that the Great Depression would eventually have ended. We can be equally sure that its end would have had nothing to do with Roosevelt’s New Deal. For all the state interventions of the Roosevelt regime, America’s economic progress in the 1930s is pitiful compared with that of Britain, which remained broadly orthodox in fiscal and monetary policy. But how and when would America have recovered? Without the excuse of a big war, there could surely have been no capture of America by a military-industrial complex. Or was some lapse into corporatism a largely inevitable effect of the first Roosevelt and Wilson eras? If not a big war, would there not have been some other excuse? Bear in mind that, unlike Britain in 1940, America never had the same revolution that stripped its conservative forces of most of its wealth and prestige. Yet it was still tending to rottenness even before 1941.

Would America have avoided the cultural collapse of the 1950s – all that childish music and trashy television? Or was this an inevitable effect of a high birth rate and increasing wealth? Would it have been able to overcome the apartheid in its southern States that followed the War between the States without the “civil rights” movement it actually got – a movement that was largely a front for a neo-Marxist revolution?

Would America, but for the War, have become an aggressive world power? Certainly, it would not have been the first country to develop nuclear weapons. It would not have fought a war from which it emerged triumphant not only over Germany and Japan, but also over Britain. It could not, by 1960, have displaced Britain as the main world power. But it should – unless the Roosevelt experiment have brought on some collapse into despotism or civil war – have been very much richer than Britain.

Closing Reflections

One of the problems with alternative history is a tendency to believe that the avoidance of evils that actually happened would not be attended by other unimagined evils. If Hitler had died in March 1939, it is easy to imagine that there would have been no lunatic invasion of Poland the following September. But, even under someone as cautious as Goering might have been, would Germany have been able to resist the temptation of a crusade against Soviet Russia in the late 1940s? Would this have been won by a German development of nuclear weapons that would then have been used by an unbalanced German leadership into making demands on Britain and France? Was America actually saved from civil collapse by the War?

Or let us look at the world of 1960 as described in Mr Blake’s Churchill Memorandum. The British State is trying ineffectually to maintain peace in an India increasingly torn apart by Hindu and Moslem fanatics. It is doing this partly because it has ruled India for two centuries, and cannot imagine not continuing to do so – and also because it needs India as a base for siting its fleet of nuclear bombers to keep Soviet Russia and Japan in check. Japan now rules China, and is financing trouble in India Burma, and is making trade and immigration demands on Australia and New Zealand.

The Jewish Free State in Palestine has become a German-speaking effective German satellite to which Goering is threatening to give nuclear weapons for use against an Arab world still loosely tied to the British Empire. Goering himself is old and dying, and there are some very odd people ready to step into his shoes and make more effective use of the immense wealth and power accumulated during Germany’s own twenty five years of recovery from the Great Depression.

America remains strangely quiescent. This is partly because of the conservative reaction that followed the collapse of the New Deal. At the same time, there are rumours of a secret treaty with Britain made in 1950. If revealed, this treaty might cause such uproar in Washington that American isolation would be abandoned overnight. This would please Germany, which might then have a better ally than Britain has been in the containment of Soviet Russia. It would also be the perfect excuse for Germany to give nuclear weapons to its Jewish clients. The world would move sensibly closer to a war that the British have, for their own selfish reasons, been frantically trying to avoid.

The spring of 1959 – it is actually twenty years after the accident in Prague that Mr Blake sets his novel – looks as dull and ordinary as any other that Britain has known. But there is the same general unease as we can see in the last years before the Great War – a feeling that some immense and probably unwelcome change is in the air. There is the same attempted escape into nostalgia. The television channels are filled with Jane Austin and Dickens adaptations. The best-selling novel of 1958 was set in a world where Germany had been crushed by a British attack in 1940. For all that the last big war ended in November 1918, n one regards the world in which he lives as anything approaching utopia.

Mr Blake’s novel opens with the return to England of an Anglo-Indian historian from America. He has been researching the second volume of his biography of a Winston Churchill who drank himself to death in 1950 and who left his papers to Harvard University. These papers have, unaccountably, remained under lock and key. But our hero has managed to bribe his way through the security. Contained in the five boxes of papers he smuggles past the American border officials is a memorandum the old man wrote towards the end of his life. If the German spies who chase him through England can lay hands on this document, it will have incalculable effects on an international conference to be held in London later that year….

But I have said enough. If you want to know more, you really need to encourage Mr Blake to hurry up with writing his Churchill Memorandum. You can do this most effectually by purchasing as many copies of his Blood of Alexandria as you can afford, and helping him to secure a Hollywood deal!


 Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement and the British Road to War
Frank McDonagh
Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York, 1998, 196pp, £14.99 (pbk)
ISBN 0 7190 4382 X
Reviewed by Sean Gabb
9th April 2003

I read through this book during my lunch break today, sat in an unusually warm and sunny Kensington park. An old man saw the cover with its bold title and rather nice line drawing of Chamberlain. "Neville Chamberlain?" He said to me with an accusing stare. "What a wanker he was." I thought of putting the book down and starting an argument about the realities of British foreign policy before 1940. But lunch breaks for me are far too unusual for wasting on argument with someone who would only start ranting about Saddam Hussein and plastic shredders or whatever—and I get quite enough of that from the Internet. So I smiled and carried on reading.

His reaction, though, was no more than the conventional wisdom. Despite more than 30 years of revisionist scholarship, Neville Chamberlain is still seen by the world exactly as those in and around the first Churchill Government wanted him to be seen. That view is of a weak and confused man out of his depth in the snakepit of European politics. With his rolled umbrella and wing collar, he blundered round Europe in the late 1930s, deceived at every point by bad men of greater intelligence, but hoping that he could settle German demands for territory as peacefully as he might settle a strike in a Birmingham button factory. In the process, he refused to let the country re-arm sufficiently to face the inevitable conflict in defence of liberal civilisation. His name has become shorthand for weakness and self-delusion in foreign policy. "Appeaser" has become one of the ultimate insults in political debate throughout the English-speaking world; and every argument over the present war with Iraq must include some slighting reference to Neville Chamberlain and some lavish praise of Winston Churchill, his apparently more realistic and courageous antithesis.

In fact, this view of Chamberlain has largely disappeared from the scholarly literature. What we have instead is a cool understanding of the limitations of British power in a changing and increasingly hostile world. This book expresses the view briefly yet fully, and it gives useful extracts in support from contemporary documents, and contains a good bibliography for further reading. As such, it is an excellent introduction to the subject for students and for those simply interested in the approach to the greatest war ever fought by this country and the last in which it entered as a primary belligerent.

And that is all I will say about the book. I am reviewing it simply as an excuse for writing more about British foreign policy - this time from the perspective of the 1930s.

Undoubtedly, the Great War had been a disaster for this country. It was an act of stupidity to enter it, and even more stupid not to try for a negotiated settlement in 1916. It had killed nearly a million men, and left many more maimed. Its financial cost had been immense, requiring heavy taxes and a devaluation of Sterling, and a tenfold increase in the national debt. It had also distorted patterns of investment. The vast overseas portfolio built up during the previous generations had been partly liquidated and replaced by heavy indebtedness to American interests. Internally, capital had diverted into an unsustainable expansion of heavy industry—areas in which the country had for some time been losing its comparative advantage, and the products of which could no longer be readily sold in an increasingly fragmented and economically hostile world market. The years before 1914 were not some long, golden summer. But to those looking back from the years after 1918, that is how they often seemed.

But while disastrous, the Great War had not for us been a catastrophe. It was, if in various ways, for Germany, France, Russia and Turkey—but not for us. It had not been fought on our territory. Nor had it been followed by any serious challenge to the established order. Though these did not at all justify the heavy costs, it had even been attended by certain benefits. Germany and Russia and Turkey were destroyed by defeat and revolution. France was prostrate. The United States had briefly emerged as an active great power, only to return to a determined isolationism. In terms of naval supremacy and imperial security, the country was restored to something like the position it had enjoyed after Waterloo. And, while taking the German colonies was of no value, the despoiling of Turkey had given us control over the Middle East and its increasingly important oil reserves.

By 1920, it was clear that the Great War had ripped holes in the financial web that had once bound the world to the City of London. There could be no exact return to the position of 1914. But, if it had shaken the foundations of British power, the War had not undermined them. Something like the old position could still be restored. It was necessary to make a complex and difficult set of changes. At home, it was necessary to cut taxes and spending back towards the levels of 1914, and to force down the price level to the point where the gold standard could be restored at the old parity. At the same time, the over-expansion of heavy industry had to be reversed, so that labour and capital could flow into the more productive new sectors—cars, chemicals, electricals, general light engineering, and so forth.

In the Empire, it was necessary to reduce the commitment to India —returning to something like the system of indirect rule used before the Mutiny—and to shift the balance of imperial interest to the now more valuable Middle East. Outside the Empire, it was necessary to restore as much as possible of the old financial and trading system.

Any one of these required much effort and some luck to achieve. Astonishingly, most of them had been achieved after a fashion by the 1930s. The Great Depression had put an end for the moment to hard money and free trade, but caused little harm overall to the domestic economy. The unemployment and other hardships were mostly confined to the declining heavy industries. From the Midlands down, the country was enjoying a steady increase of output and living standards. Indeed, looked at from about 1935, the Great Depression seemed to serve British world interests rather well.

After 1918, the only potential challenger was the United States. Its size and wealth appeared to place it beyond all hope of competition. If it wanted to outbuild the Royal Navy, it could. However, its prevailing constitutional and moral order made a challenge unlikely. Though it might take an occasional interest outside the Americas, it was essentially isolationist. Though it might have the cash to challenge British primacy, it lacked the will. It had been tricked into the Great War to serve British interests. Now, it had largely withdrawn. The Great Depression seemed to confirm its impotence. The general collapse of its economy after 1931, and the emergence of mass unemployment—averaging, I think, around 35 million—threw it proportionately into a scale of suffering quite unknown in this country. Moreover, the election of Franklin Roosevelt had opened it to a departure from economic orthodoxy that opinion in this country rightly saw as likely to keep it in depression for as far ahead as could reasonably be seen.

All this country needed to consolidate the recovery was time - time for the new arrangements at home and abroad to take full effect. What had to be avoided at all costs was another big war. That would destroy all the cautious but solid progress made since the removal of Lloyd George from power in 1922. The Treaty of Locarno had got us out of all practical European connections after 1925—the guarantee to both France and Germany was in effect a guarantee to neither, as it justified a refusal to enter into close military relations with either. The League of Nations was a useful means of imposing British will elsewhere in the world where it was no longer convenient to act unilaterally.

By 1935, the country had never in living memory enjoyed such profound home and imperial security, or spent so little of the national income on defence. Let all this continue, and by 1960, the financial and strategic costs of the Great War would have scarred over as surely as those of the Napoleonic wars had a century before.

This is the background against which Adolf Hitler was viewed by this country's ruling class. There is no need, I think, to argue that he was a thoroughly bad man. He turned Germany into a semi-socialist police state, and tainted with his embrace what had previously been one of the homelands of liberal civilisation. However, I share the official perception of his early years that he was no threat to this country. His published writings and speeches at the time, and his private conversations made available after his death, all point to a settled ambition. This was to expand German power deep into Eastern Europe. He wanted to gather up the Germanic fragments of the Habsburg Empire under his own rule, and to conquer large colonies of settlement for the German people in Poland and western Russia. That was the consistent purpose of his foreign policy in the east. In the west, his only declared and perceptible aim was to reach a settlement with Britain that would give him a free hand in the east.

Yes, we are told endlessly that his eastern policy was just his first step to conquering the world. Give him Poland and Western Russia and their great resources, the claim goes, and give him the lack of an enemy to the east—Soviet Russia being destroyed—and he would surely turn eventually on Britain. I suppose he might have. But he might also have died his hair green, or applied to join a kibbutz, or had an early sex change operation. In deciding what someone might have done in circumstances different from those he actually faced, we can say nothing for sure. If we want to say anything at all, we can only do so in the light of his stated or revealed intentions. For Hitler, there is no evidence that his ambitions stretched to a conquest or even a humbling of Britain.

He had a sincere, if not always well informed, admiration of Britain and the British Empire. He respected our victory in the Great War, and wanted to avoid another conflict. He did not share the desire of other German nationalists for a return of the lost German colonies. He had no interest in naval construction, and went out of his way to condemn the naval race that had poisoned Anglo-German relations after 1898. He signed a naval agreement with us in 1935, and I think this is the only treaty he ever made that he took care to observe. When the Arabs rose against us in Palestine, they sent emissaries to him in Berlin, seeking financial support. Since they were all good anti-semites, one might have thought they would reach a deal. But Hitler refused all help, declaring in effect that he would not lift a finger against white rule over the coloured races.

It is possible that victory in the east would have raised his ambitions in the west. We cannot be sure that it would not. But neither can we assume that he would have been any more successful in his invasion of Russia than he actually was after June 1941. Without facing us, he would not have had to divide his forces between France, North Africa and the Balkans. At the same time, he would not have had forces hardened in those wars, or the record of invincibility that for a while silenced his internal critics. And the Russian winters would have been no less ruinous of invaders than it had always been before. He would probably have taken Moscow and Leningrad. But I do not know how much further into the Eurasian landmass he could have reached. He would have faced much the same war of attrition with the partisans, and would probably have had to keep a vast army of occupation in the east before it could be made safe for German settlement. He might well have been able to present no threat of any kind to the west. His only contact with us might have been endless requests for loans, and complaints at our unwillingness to join his crusade against Bolshevism.

Even otherwise, he would have dominated much the same area as Stalin did after 1945, and done so at a comparative disadvantage. Most obviously, he was not the acknowledge head of an international conspiracy to spread his rule. He had no bands of committed followers stirring up trouble everywhere from China to Peru. As its name suggests, national socialism was not an ideology for export. It was an ideology of Aryan domination. Even in other Aryan countries, it had little following. Oswald Mosley made a big noise in this country for a while, but never came close to electoral significance. Under Soviet rule after 1945, the Slavs of Eastern Europe went into their factories and film studios and, for a while, worked with something like unforced gratitude for their masters. Under Hitler, they had to be coerced from the start.

Granted, his economic policies were less insanely destructive. At the same time, the expectations of his people were higher, and they had been less frightened by his tyranny out of expressing them. And he was a socialist. If he had presided over a recovery from the Great Depression, that recovery was running into trouble after 1938. Inflation could only be hidden by wage and price controls, and was evidenced instead by shortages of consumer goods—see, for example, how the German forces sent into the Czechlands in March 1939 stripped the shops in Prague bare of things like razor blades and overcoats. Not all the frenzied rhetoric in the world could have saved Hitler's revolution from running out of steam after 1940. It was only the war that kept up a semblance of prosperity into the middle of the decade.

A German domination of the east might have involved us eventually in a cold war. But ours would have been an unexhausted, unbankrupted, unhumiliated Britain and British Empire. There would have been no American support. Neither though would there have been need of any.

There are two further points to be made against me. The first was made by a friend last week, as we sat arguing over what I have just written. Suppose, he asked, Hitler had not only failed to conquer Russia, but had lost. Suppose Stalin had all by himself beaten Hitler and conquered all the way to Germany. Would this not have been worse for us? There would have been no limit to the prestige of Communism, and every Comintern agitator throughout the world would have had a glorious time against liberal civilisation. At least in the real war, the victory was shared between us and them.

I have no answer to this point. It requires more detailed understanding than I have of the relative balance of forces in hypothetical circumstances between Russia and Germany. But while it strikes me as reasonable to say that Hitler might not have won very easily, I find it hard to believe that he could have lost to Stalin.

The second point is the atrocities committed by the Germans. These are often used as justification for going to war. Do I not care about these? My answer is that I do not think they were grounds in themselves for war. An individual has all manner of moral responsibilities, and looking to these will by no means be always in his own interest. A government, however, is a trustee of the nation to which it is accountable, and must look only to the interests of that nation. It would be wrong for our government to visit positive evils on foreigners. It would be right for it to perform such good offices for them as did not involve much cost to us. But it has neither the duty nor the right to go about the world acting as some knight errant, putting down the bad and raising the good. When we talk about the British Government, the adjective is at least as important as the noun.

It must also be said that the worst atrocities were committed towards the end of a general war, and do not seem to have been long premeditated. They happened at a time in which fear of defeat and a misplaced desire for revenge had extinguished the usual moral feeling, and in places far removed from the battlefields that most attracted western curiosity. I have no doubt that an invasion of Russia after about 1943 would have resulted in great atrocities. But I do doubt if these would have been so bloody as the ones actually on record.

Of course, we cannot be definite on what would have happened had there been no outbreak of war in 1939. But the worst I can imagine for us is no worse than did happen after 1945. And it could easily have been better.

This being so, it was not our business if Hitler wanted to tear up the 1919 settlement in the east. It involved us in dangers that can only now be demonstrated behind a mass of subjunctives. Nor, to be fair, was there anything we could have done to stop him. Our guarantee to Poland was a nonsense, bearing in mind our lack of ability to send help. Even if we had—as is often urged—intervened to stop the remilitarisation of the Rhineland, or the union with Austria, or the occupation of the Sudentenland, we probably had not the military power to enforce our will, even against a Hitler weaker than he became. Nor would there have been the public support at home or abroad to legitimise such pre-emptive actions.

And so the policy of Neville Chamberlain was neither cowardly not absurd. It reflected the realities of British power and British interests at that time. I do not accept the accusations of some American conservatives that Winston Churchill was equal to Hitler or Stalin in his infamy. They are angry that he got their country into a war from which it emerged supreme abroad but ruined in its constitutional and moral order at home. I sympathise with this complaint. But he was in every sense a better person.

Even so, did ruin this country. He did so because he never understood the true foundations of British greatness. He saw that splash of red on the map of the world, and never realised that he was looking only at the effect, not at the cause. His ambition was "to make the old dog sit up and wag its tail". In fact, what he wanted for us before 1940, and what he did to us after, was the equivalent of making an invalid get up from his bed and dance too soon after an operation. He brought on the collapse that the Great War had only threatened. He undermined the foundations of our greatness abroad, and at home acted as the front man for a socialist revolution. For five years, he dressed and spoke and acted as if the traditional order was safe in his hand—while quietly behind his back it was taxed and regulated and smeared out of existence. "Why worry? We've had a Labour Government since 1940" was the comment of one observer after the 1945 general election.

All considered, the 20th century as it actually ran was not too bad for this country. We did not lose any big wars, or have a revolution or civil war. We did not even suffer a real economic or financial collapse. Within a few years of each of the two big wars, we had recovered our old living standards in full and were making rapid continued progress. We ended the century as the third or fourth richest and the second most powerful country in the world. We are even remarkably free in practice to live as we please. We did far better than I think we deserved. But it could have been better still. If only we had kept out of those dreadful wars and remained masters of our own fate, the whole world, I have no doubt, would have been a better place. 

Hans-Hermann Hoppe
nd the Political Equivalent
of Nuclear Fusion
y Sean Gabb

I have been invited to contribute a chapter to this book of appreciations of Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Now, he is a person of forbidding achievements. He has made important contributions to economics, to political theory, to law, and to epistemology, among much else. He is also a person of much organisational ability, and the conferences he runs at Bodrum for his Property and Freedom Society have rapidly established themselves as one of the high points in the libertarian calendar. 

This makes it difficult to know where to start when it comes to writing a single chapter about his achievements. What I have decided to do, however, is to try and show how what he might regard as one of his minor achievements is contributing to a new and potentially significant consensus within the libertarian and conservative movements. 

The End of the Cold War: A Victory Denied

In the ideological sense, the Cold War was fought between the defenders of liberty and tradition and their most open and comprehensive enemies. Yet in the settlement that followed the defeat of Communism, the main losers have been libertarians and conservatives. 

Those who still regard this defeat as one for the enemies of liberty and tradition have failed to see beneath the surface of things to the underlying reality. Orthodox Marxism-Leninism, together with its numerous heresies, was mostly important not in its own terms, but as an excuse. In every generation, there are people who want to live at the expense of others, or to make them unhappy, or both. Unless they are able to be predators by act of conquest—the Assyrians, for example, or the Mongols—these people always need arguments to persuade their victims that being robbed or murdered will make the world a better place. Most of them need themselves to believe these arguments. 

Long before the Berlin Wall came down, Marxism had become an embarrassment. Its historical and economic underpinnings had crumbled. Its predictions had all been falsified. Its promises were all broken. Its body count and the poverty of its survivors could no longer be denied. It no longer served to justify the actions or the existence of the Soviet state. Its disestablishment after 1989 was less a defeat for the enemies of liberty and tradition than a release. 

The accelerated rise of politically correct multiculturalism since then, and the rise from almost nothing of environmentalism, should not, therefore, be seen as ideologies of asylum for dispossessed Marxists. Rather, they are ideologies of transformation and control more in keeping with the spirit of the present age. Just as Marxism once did, each provides a shared narrative, a shared terminology, and shared feeling of doing good for those whose objects are anything but good. 

They are, moreover, better than Marxism, so far as they are less threatening to the powers that be in the West. Diversity and sustainability requirements raise up bureaucracies that allow a cartelisation of costs that privilege established wealth against the competition of new entrants. They otherwise provide jobs and status in organisations that look reassuringly like conventional businesses.

The New World Order

The result has been the emergence since 1989 of a new order in which broadly liberal and democratic institutions are being transformed into the agencies of a police state, and in which traditional ways of life and real diversities are being swept aside in favour of centrally-directed homogeneity.

There is nothing unusual about what is happening. There is nothing that should not have been at least dimly perceived back in 1989. At the end of every real war, the winning alliance tends to break up, as the often radically different interest groups that comprised it find that what brought them together no longer exists to hold them together. New alliances then form between interest groups on the winning and losing sides.

This happened at the end of the Napoleonic wars, when Britain and France found themselves increasingly on the same side against the Central European powers. It happened again at the end of the Second World War, when the Americans and Russians fell out, and both recruited their zones of occupied Germany as allies in the new struggle. It has now happened with the new ideological that emerged at the end of the Cold War.

Whether or not this was to be expected, libertarians and conservatives have reason to feel aggrieved. They were perhaps the two most prominent ideological groups in the battle against Communism. Libertarian economists provided the most devastating weapons of attack. Conservatives did most to articulate the revulsion that ordinary people felt when confronted with the kleptocracy and mass-murder at the heart of Communism. They are now jointly surplus to requirements in a world where ex-Trotskyites and even former Communist Party members have put on suits and become government ministers, and now sit happily at dinner with the heads of global corporations.

There are three possible responses to this state of affairs. Libertarians and conservatives can whine piteously about the unfairness of things. Or they can carry on, as if nothing had changed after 1989, addressing arguments to the same allies and against the same enemies. Or they can recognise that the world has changed, and that promoting the same values requires differences of approach.

New Times, New Ways

Let me now drop the impersonal tone. I will not speak directly for the conservatives. But I will speak for the general libertarian movement. There is no orthodoxy here. Libertarians disagree with each other almost as much as we disagree with our various opponents. Even so, it is possible to see an emerging consensus—first that there is need of a new approach, and second of its nature.

In explaining this, the logical place to start is with our thoughts on the free market.

Limited Liability: The Worm in the Free Market Bud

Everyone knows that libertarians believe in free markets. Something we have not always made sufficiently plain—something that we may not always have been clear about ourselves—is that when we talk about free markets, what we mean is markets of free people. It does not mean that we endorse markets simply because they are efficient, or even because they are creative. In particular, we have no affection for big business.

Though there can be no doubt they have enriched the world, companies like Microsoft and General Motors and ICI are not natural institutions. They are creatures of the State. They came into being and are sustained by incorporation laws. These laws permit individuals and groups of individuals to act not as themselves, but as servants of a fictitious entity. The directors and shareholders are not legally responsible for the debts of the entity. Nor need they feel morally responsible for their actions or inaction on its behalf.

Because of limited liability, business corporations can attract large amounts of investment. Because they are not natural persons, they need not follow the cycle of growth and decline normal to unincorporated businesses. Instead, one generation of directors and shareholders can give way to another. These devices allow business corporations to grow much larger than unincorporated businesses.

It might be argued that incorporation laws are similar to marriage laws—that is, that they gather what would otherwise be a number of complex agreements into a single act. If there were no state, people would still cohabit. Each partner could still make the other next of kin. There would be agreements or customary rules to regulate the management of common property and the rearing of children.

But this is not the case with incorporation. Certainly, the owners of any business could agree with their suppliers and customers that they are servants of a fictitious entity, and that their liability for debt is limited to their investment in the entity. But they could not contract out of liability in tort. This fact alone would put off any investor who was not able to buy a controlling interest. I and countless millions of people like me own shares in companies of which I know nothing. If we knew that we were to be regarded, in the event of a large award of damages, as jointly and severally liable for payment, hardly any of us would risk being shareholders.

Now, except for anarchists, to say that something could not exist without the state does not make it in itself illegitimate. But it is a reasonable presumption.that whatever cannot exist naturally needs a strong justification in terms of utility. It is not enough to point to the achievements of big business. Libertarians have faced similar arguments for centuries now about the state. In most countries, the state provides education. In my country, the state provides most healthcare. Obviously, this does not mean that education and healthcare would not be provided without the state. It is the same with business corporations. All pharmaceuticals and most computer software have been developed by big business corporations. But there is no reason to suppose they cannot be otherwise provided.

And even if it could be shown that there would be fewer of these things in a world without incorporation, the costs of incorporation must be weighed against the benefits.

Crony Capitalism

When the number and size of business corporations grows beyond a certain limit, they tend to become part of the ruling class. To create a new business and make it grow large requires entrepreneurship, which is most often a quality of outsiders. To administer what is already established and make it bigger require skills similar to those required by politics and state administration. Between the state and the larger business corporations, therefore, there will be an overlap or a continual exchange of personnel.

This will make it possible for business corporations to externalise some of their costs of growth. They will, as political insiders, press for state involvement in the building of roads and railways and other transport infrastructure that allows them to enjoy greater economies of scale than would otherwise be possible. They will press for the political control of foreign markets. They will be best placed for securing government contracts—often to provide things that they themselves insist are necessary.

Given an ideological climate favourable to active intervention, they will fashion the tax and regulatory system to the disadvantage of smaller competitors.

There are then the cultural costs. Anyone who works for any length of time in a large business corporation tends to become just another “human resource”—all his important life decisions made for him by others, and encouraged into political and cultural passivity. To do well here, he needs to become a receiver and transmitter of orders, to accept authority and avoid arguments with superiors, and to regard success in terms of steady income punctuated by steady advances. He must essentially be a bureaucrat. He will know nothing of how real business is transacted. He will care nothing about laws and taxes that stop others from transacting real business. He will not be inclined to resist paternalism in the political arrangements of his country.

An End to Compromise

As said, this rejection of what may be called “actually existing capitalism” is only an emerging consensus. There are still many libertarians who see nothing wrong with business corporations in themselves. And until quite recently, people like me were on the fringe of the libertarian movement. But, then, until recently, it was not unreasonable for libertarians to look favourably on business corporations.

Until 1989, all politics were shaped by the great ideological tug of war over socialism. We had little choice about joining that tug of war, and none in which direction we would be pulling—and none about with whom we would be pulling. The Communists wanted to destroy business corporations as well as market freedom. Even corrupted markets are better than no markets. And it should never be forgotten that “actually existing capitalism” works. It may constrain both markets and the human spirit. But it has been better than any other system of economic organisation offered in the last hundred years. It has been fantastically productive. It has raised, and is raising, billions from poverty to prosperity. A libertarian world of small and unprivileged business units would be better. But what we has was pretty good, and was to be defended against all its mainstream rivals.

But times are altered. Business corporations have become increasingly global since the end of the Cold War. They have been moving steadily out of their entrepreneurial phase into the bureaucratic. They are increasingly demanding naked privilege. They are demanding intellectual property rights laws that go far beyond what any ordinary person might think reasonable. Through what are called “free trade” agreements, they are promoting regulatory cartelisation at the world level. Nobody of consequence wants to nationalise the corporations. They work happily with governments of every apparent persuasion. Their leading personnel are, more than ever, members of the ruling class.

The more libertarians doubt the legitimacy of the business corporation, more we reconnect or connect with other traditions of resistance to state power. There is nothing anti-libertarian about strong working class organisations. So long as there is no grant of legal privilege, libertarians can have no objection to trade unions, or cooperatives, or other institutions. We might have nothing against the break up of large landed estates—country and town.

Big business no longer needs or deserves our support. We can now safely emphasise the radical elements of our ideology. We are no longer in danger of supporting alternative institutions that may turn out to be Communist front organisations.[1]

Outreach to Conservatives: Old Friends in New Times

So much for the first part of our emerging strategy of resistance. But there is now the matter of our relationship with the conservatives. I do not mean by this the neo-conservatives. Generally speaking, the prefix “neo” has a negative meaning. And these people are less interested in tradition than in keeping up a military-industrial complex that may have been necessary to face down Soviet Communism, but which now is simply a standing danger to freedom at home and peace abroad.

No—what I mean is real conservatives in the English-speaking sense. Their defence of tradition is necessarily a defence of limited government, of due process, of civil liberty, and of market freedom. They were natural allies in the past. There is no reason why they should not continue to be in the future.

The problem so far has been that there are certain differences between libertarians and conservatives that have prevented full-hearted cooperation. With the ending of the Communist threat, it did seem for a while as if we might go our separate ways. Even now, it is not commonly accepted that there is a new threat just as deadly and just as much in need of co-ordinated resistance.

The main difference is one of vision. The libertarian utopia is one of maximum choice in a world of rapid technological progress. What we ultimately want is an order not wholly based on this planet, in which people live for at least a very long time. We are not very interested in keeping up old ways of life simply because they are old.

Conservatives, of course, are interested in keeping up these old ways. They hated socialism as an attack on their ideal order. They sometimes regard libertarianism as barely less of an attack. In particular, they do not believe in mass immigration, which they perceive as a threat to their organic nation state. And they are dubious about a freedom of trade that may prevent their country from feeding itself or from producing its own manufactures.

Here we come at last to what I see as the main achievement of Hans-Hermann Hoppe. I am not qualified to assess his economic work. Because my own philosophical outlook is bounded by the Greek sceptics and by Epicurus and the British empiricists, his epistemology does not really answer any of the questions that I have ever asked. Nor will I claim that he agrees with my own dislike of business corporations. But his clarification of what a libertarian order might be is something that I can appreciate. And it is this that I think his greatest contribution to the joint cause of liberty and tradition.

The Problem of Immigration

Let us consider his work on immigration. Until the end of the twentieth century, there was a libertarian consensus over immigration that had emerged during earlier concerns about the entry of Jews and Irish Catholics to England or of the southern and eastern races of Europe to America. Libertarians insisted, and gained agreement over time, that the problems raised by these immigrations were either imaginary or short term; and that policies of benign neglect would turn strangers into citizens.

With the rise of mass immigration from outside the European world, this opinion has had to come under review. If every Jew in Eastern Europe had moved to England before 1906, it would have raised the population by perhaps three million. If every Slovak in Europe had moved to America before 1920, it would have raised the population also by three million. These were peoples whose appearance and values were reasonably similar to those of the native population, and who could be expected in time to become largely indistinguishable from the native population.

It may be different with non-European immigrants. These look different. Their values are often radically different, and even hostile. There are potentially unlimited numbers of them. Their simple presence seems likely to displace cultural patterns that have long been vaguely favourable to freedom, and to place a strong downward pressure on the incomes of the poor. They are, moreover, being used as an excuse to create an order in which freedom of speech and contract and in which democratic accountability are being set aside in the supposed interests of public order.

The mainstream libertarian response has been to deny that there is in itself any problem at all, and that the experience of past immigrations will simply be repeated. Their only policy recommendations are to raise louder objections to the multicultural police state that was already growing before the quickening of non-European immigration. They also point out that much dispute between newcomers and natives takes place within areas controlled or influenced by the state. Let there be no state education, and there need be no argument over whether some schools should allow teachers to wear veils and others should teach the inerrancy of the Bible or the non-existence of God. Let there be no welfare state, and there need be no argument over taxes on natives to maintain the children of strangers or over taxes on strangers to pay the pensions of natives.

As for the argument over falling wage rates, this is countered by the observation that greater market freedom would after a while check or even reverse this trend, or by denying the legitimacy of any state concern with the living standards of the poor.

What Professor Hoppe does is to ignore the polarity of the debate as it has been set up. Those who want an anarchist order have so far had to accept the legitimacy of mass-immigration. Those who have been worried about mass-immigration have had to accept the need of a state to control the border. Professor Hoppe walks straight through this debate.

The State: Not Guardian but Traitor at the Gate

He regards the mass immigration of the past half century into western countries as an instance not of libertarian open borders, but of “forced integration”. It is different from free trade in goods and services so far as it is not a free choice of individuals to associate as they please. Instead, it is a product of anti-discrimination laws and state welfare policies.

In a democracy, politicians will have an interest in importing those most likely to vote for big government, or those most likely to lend themselves to an electoral balkanisation that puts an end to the accountability of rulers to ruled. Given enough pressure by the majority, these politicians will make immigration laws that look tough. But these will lead at best to random acts of oppression against the sorts of immigrant who, in any rational order, might be welcomed. The policies of indiscriminate welfare that attract paupers into the country, and of political correctness and multiculturalism that prevent the majority from resisting, will continue unchecked.

But let us imagine a society in which there is no state. Obviously, there would be no welfare provided by the tax payers. Nor would it be possible to frighten the natives into passivity. Nor, though, would there be unchecked immigration.

Professor Hoppe says:

[L]et us…assume an anarcho-capitalist society…..All land is privately owned, including all streets, rivers, airports, harbors, etc.. With respect to some pieces of land, the property title may be unrestricted; that is, the owner is permitted to do with his property whatever he pleases as long as he does not physically damage the property owned by others. With respect to other territories, the property title may be more or less severely restricted. As is currently the case in some housing developments, the owner may be bound by contractual limitations on what he can do with his property (voluntary zoning), which might include residential vs. commercial use, no buildings more than four stories high, no sale or rent to Jews, Germans, Catholics, homosexuals, Haitians, families with or without children, or smokers, for example.

Clearly, under this scenario there exists no such thing as freedom of immigration. Rather, there exists the freedom of many independent private property owners to admit or exclude others from their own property in accordance with their own unrestricted or restricted property titles. Admission to some territories might be easy, while to others it might be nearly impossible. In any case, however, admission to the property of the admitting person does not imply a ‘freedom to move around,’ unless other property owners consent to such movements. There will be as much immigration or non-immigration, inclusivity or exclusivity, desegregation or segregation, non-discrimination or discrimination based on racial, ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural or whatever other grounds as individual owners or associations of individual owners allow.

Note that none of this, not even the most exclusive form of segregationism, has anything to do with a rejection of free trade and the adoption of protectionism. From the fact that one does not want to associate with or live in the neighborhood of Blacks, Turks, Catholics or Hindus, etc., it does not follow that one does not want to trade with them from a distance. To the contrary, it is precisely the absolute voluntariness of human association and separation—the absence of any form of forced integration—that makes peaceful relationships—free trade—between culturally, racially, ethnically, or religiously distinct people possible.[2]

Indeed, he does not stop with immigration. He argues that a libertarian world would have room for highly traditional communities in which conservative views of morality would be the norm.

Now, I repeat, this may be a theoretical contribution that Professor Hoppe rates lower than his work on Austrian economic theory. For me and for anyone else who wants a fusion of libertarian and conservative movements, it is a contribution of first class importance.

Resisting the New World Order: The End of the Beginning?

Conservatives might not be wholly pleased by such a world. Their organic ideal has room for a powerful state. But the answer to this at the moment—and for some time to come—is that any state able to intervene in matters of personal morality will necessarily be run by the kind of people who now run the state that we have. This will not be a conservative state. Therefore, libertarianism must, for the foreseeable future, be a strategy for conservatives.

We are talking here about a debate that is taking place between a few hundred people, and that is ignored by almost everyone else. There is no chance, either in England or in America, of a libertarian or even of a really conservative electoral victory.

But, if regrettable, this is not necessarily important. What is important is that two groups of intellectuals should arrive at the truth and agree between themselves on that truth and how it should be promoted. If what they decide is the truth, it will eventually have its effect.

I have said that those who enjoy living at the expense of others hardly ever argue honestly about what they want. They hardly ever admit to themselves what they want. Instead, they operate from behind the most presently convenient ideology of legitimisation. Attack these ideologies hard enough, and they will crumble. That may provoke the oppressed to stand up and demand their rights. More likely, it will confuse and weaken those who benefit from such ideologies so that they eventually give in to less violent demands.

Libertarians and conservatives may have lost the Cold War. But the battle continues. And, thanks in part to the work of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, what just a few years ago might have seemed a futile last stand may be the prelude to a dazzling counter-attack.


[1][1] None of the above should be regarded as original. There is a large, though mostly American, literature on this point. See, for example, Murray Rothbard: “Every element in the New Deal program: central planning, creation of a network of compulsory cartels for industry and agriculture, inflation and credit expansion, artificial raising of wage rates and promotion of unions within the overall monopoly structure, government regulation and ownership, all this had been anticipated and adumbrated during the previous two decades. And this program, with its privileging of various big business interests at the top of the collectivist heap, was in no sense reminiscent of socialism or leftism; there was nothing smacking of the egalitarian or the proletarian here. No, the kinship of this burgeoning collectivism was not at all with socialism-communism but with fascism, or socialism-of-the-right, a kinship which many big businessmen of the twenties expressed openly in their yearning for abandonment of a quasi-laissez-faire system for a collectivism which they could control…. Both left and right have been persistently misled by the notion that intervention by the government is ipso facto leftish and antibusiness.” (Murray N. Rothbard, “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty,” Left & Right 1, no. 1, Spring 1965.

 For further discussions, see: Gabriel S. Kolko, Railroads and Regulation, 1877-1916, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1965 and The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916, Free Press, New York, 1965; Murray N. Rothbard, “War Collectivism in World War I” in Ronald Radosh and Murray N. Rothbard, eds., A New History of Leviathan, Dutton, New York, 1972; Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1987; Paul Weaver, The Suicidal Corporation: How Big Business Fails America, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1988; Butler Shaffer, In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918-1938, Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg, 1997; John T. Flynn, As We Go Marching, Free Life, New York, 1973; Roy Childs, Big Business and the Rise of American Statism, unnamed publisher, 1971; Joseph Stromberg, “Political Economy of Liberal Corporatism” and “The Role of State Monopoly Capitalism in the American Empire”, both from the Center for Libertarian Studies, New York, 1978; Kevin A. Carson, The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand : Corporate Capitalism as a System of State-Guaranteed Privilege, Red Lion Press, Montreal, 2001; Kevin A. Carson, Austrian and Marxist Theories of Monopoly-Capital: A Mutualist Synthesis, Economic Notes 102, The Libertarian Alliance, London, 2004.

I particularly commend the works of Kevin Carson. See also Appendix Two for a more extended discussion of these matters.

[2]Hans-Hermann Hoppe, On Free Immigration and Forced Integration, 1999—available at: (checked September 2008)

Review of David Marquand, The Unprincipled Society,  Jonathan Cape, London, 1988, £18
(Published by the University of York Freedom Society in October 1988)
by Sean Gabb

To some the Hayek of the New Centre, Professor Marquand is certainly both prominent and influential in the SLD. He is to a large extent shaping that Party's thinking. With this in mind, willing to face the often chill shock of the unknown, I opened his latest book.

It offers "a fresh assembly of new ideas" with which to break the Thatcher ascendency. Now the Prime Minister draws her peculiar strength largely from a commitment to a dilute libertarianism. Armed with this, she has utterly broken the mould of British politics, and begun a transfer of power from State to citizen that would have seemed miraculous 10 years ago ‑ and which might seem timid 10 years' hence. Without a long, searching critique of her ideology, and of its more consistently radical source, any such offer is worthless. Lacking one, his book is sad stuff.

Put in plain English, and ignoring their modish green tinge, his practical ideas are neither new nor freshly assembled. Free markets are an abomination, and even "social" ones are an Owenite heresy. Instead, Government is to help the larger pressure groups run the economy, with inflation hiding the resulting mess, and controls hiding the inflation. A bizarre remodelled constitution caps this vision of Utopia, leaving us both over‑governed and ungovernable.

Turning to history, Marquand is simply funny ‑ another Corelli Barnett, but without the saving brilliance. The seeds of British decline, he says, were planted in the 18th Century. Ruled by a property‑owning oligarchy, we caught a stiff dose of "possessive individualism" and never recovered. While the European monarchies evolved into "Developmental" or "Entrepreneurial" states able to "build" vigorous modern economies, we lagged behind crippled by individualism and the "ethos of the market economy". What we really needed, it seems, was our own Corvee and secret police, and a judiciary that relied on evidence wrung out by torture. Just imagine how thoroughly modern these might have made us by now. Like our European neighbours, we might have progressed from Absolutism  through Fascism to the mature glories of Social Democracy.

Now we know.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet
Issue Number 148
14th June 2006

The Inaugural Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society:
An Incidental Record
by Sean Gabb

The Property and Freedom Society was set up in August 2005 by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Its Opening Declaration reads as follows:

The Property and Freedom Society stands for an uncompromising intellectual radicalism: for justly acquired private property, freedom of contract, freedom of association—which logically implies the right to not associate with, or to "discriminate against," anyone in one's personal and business relations—and unconditional free trade. It condemns imperialism and militarism and their fomenters, and champions peace. It rejects positivism, relativism, and egalitarianism in any form, whether of "outcome" or "opportunity," and it has an outspoken distaste for politics and politicians. As such it seeks to avoid any association with the policies and proponents of interventionism, which Ludwig von Mises had identified in 1946 as the fatal flaw in the plan of the many earlier and contemporary attempts by intellectuals alarmed by the rising tide of socialism and totalitarianism to found an anti-socialist ideological movement. Mises wrote: "What these frightened intellectuals did not comprehend was that all those measures of government interference with business which they advocated are abortive...There is no middle way. Either the consumers are supreme or the government."

As culturally conservative libertarians, we are convinced that the process of de-civilization has again reached a crisis point and that it is our moral and intellectual duty to once again undertake a serious effort to rebuild a free, prosperous, and moral society. It is our emphatic belief that an approach embracing intransigent political radicalism is, in the long run, the surest path to our cherished goal of a regime of totally unfettered individual liberty and private property. In thus seeking a fresh and radical new beginning, we are heeding the old but frequently forgotten advice of Friedrich Hayek's: "We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a programme which seems neither a mere defence of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty..., which is not too severely practical and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible. We need intellectual leaders who are prepared to resist the blandishments of power and influence and who are willing to work for an ideal, however small may be the prospects of its early realization. They must be men who are willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realization, however remote�..Unless we can make the philosophical foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. But if we can regain that belief in the power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost."

When I read it, this struck me as a fine declaration of intent. Here was a new international libertarian movement that promised not to descend into a clique of efficiency experts for the State, and not to accept the narrowing of the boundaries of debate that is the deal many libertarians strike with our politically correct masters. Even finer perhaps was that I was invited to attend and speak at the May 2006 inaugural meeting in Halicarnassus, otherwise known as Bodrum.

Except I once spent an hour on a runway in Constantinople, I had never visited Turkey, and I was interested to see the country. I was interested because, together with Athens, the Ionian coast was the cradle of our civilisation, and its ruins, I have always read, are a wonderful sight. In particular, Halicarnassus must always be of interest to the historian, as it is where Herodotus was born.

I was also interested because I grew up with a strong prejudice against the Turks. They were the leading representatives of The Other. They had nothing to do with the first explosion of Islam that took Syria, Egypt and North Africa from our civilisation. But they did, from the eleventh century, swallow up all that remained of the East Roman Empire. They took Constantinople. They took Greece. They got twice to the gates of Vienna. They were, until they declined and we progressed beyond all hope of competition, a continual standing threat to Christian Europe. Mention the Turks to me, and I tended to think of the Crusades and the siege of Constantinople, and the Battle of Lepanto, and John Sobieski. I thought of oriental despotism, and bottomless decadence, and Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail. As a European, I thought, and I shuddered.

And I shuddered because the Turks were a threat not in the sense that the Mongol Hordes or the Soviet Empire were threats. They were so threatening because what they had to offer was often so very attractive. They were relaxed in matters of nationality, and they were tolerant in religion. So long as the appropriate taxes were paid and respect given, they allowed each ethnic and religious group to govern itself. That last, heroic defence of Constantinople was undercut by the unwillingness of many Orthodox Christians to pay the cost of remaining in Christendom. I am not sure if the Western powers were able in the fifteenth century to give the effectual help the Byzantine Government was so desperate to obtain. What I do know is that the price of any support was too great for the Orthodox—involving as it did submission to Rome in all matters of doctrine. It was Lucas Notaras, the last Byzantine Grand Admiral, who said "Better the Sultan's turban than the Cardinal's hat".

Under the Turks, the Greek Church remained free to continue its own doctrinal evolution. The modern Greeks tend to emphasise how they suffered under the Turks. They say nothing of how they collaborated with the Turkish invaders against the Venetian rule of Crete. Even the fairly neutered Inquisition allowed by Venice was worse than some Pacha who cared nothing either way about the Filioque. Indeed, one reason why Hungary is the only country in Central Europe that has a large number of Protestants is that it was only recovered by the Hapsburgs from Turkish rule after religious persecution had begun to go out of fashion.

What ruined Turkey was partly the Scientific Revolution and the general miracle of Western Europe, and partly the defects of oriental despotism. Given a bright, energetic Sultan in Constantinople, the wealth and power of Turkey were at once a marvel and a terror to European travellers. But there was none of the constitutional order that sustained Byzantium until the end. Let a fool or a weakling rule in Constantinople, and all security for life and property was at an end.

I knew that the Turks had made an admirable recovery after losing the Great War. They had reformed their laws to imitate the West, and had made a determined—if neither right nor wise—attempt to impose an imitation of Western manners on the people. The Turks I had known in England were generally fine people. And for all my impassioned Hellenism, I had come to despise the modern Greeks—a shifty, disreputable people, like a beggar in the street holding up their often self-inflicted sores for pity. Their constant whining about the Elgin Marbles, and more recently about the Turkish revenge for what they did to the minority in Cyprus, disgusted me. They have turned Athens into a sewer, and seem to derive much of their national income from frauds on the European Union. In London, even the kebab shops are better when run by Turks. One day, I shall consider giving up what is now the affectation of using the Greek names for Turkish places.

But Turkey was The Other. I set out on my journey there with mixed feelings that I have only partly described above.

My first impression of the Turks was decidedly good. In Heathrow, as I was disrobing and feeding my hand luggage through the scanners that are supposed to protect us from terrorism, someone stole my wallet. Since this contained £300 in cash and all my credit cards, I was more than usually agitated. The security staff muttered into their radios and looked panicky, but showed no inclination to do anything for me. It was the Turks also queuing for the flight who jumped into action. Within a minute, they had caught the thief and recovered my wallet. Left to their own justice, they might have kept the lower class Englishman who had "mistakenly" acquired my property and beaten him to jelly. Instead, they handed him to the security people, who promptly let him continue his own journey.

However, for all their supposed thoroughness, the security checks in Heathrow overlooked a certain item I had forgotten was in my camera bag. This should have been apparent to the most casual glance at the scanners. But I managed to travel with it unchallenged all the way to Constantinople. There it was discovered. As the official there pulled it from my bag with a flourish and a twirl of his moustache that reminded me of Hercule Poirot, I nearly fainted with horror. I wondered how many years I might spend in a Turkish prison. Instead, the official took the item, filled out a form, got me to sign it, and sent me on my journey to Halicarnassus with detailed instructions on how to recover my property at the airport there.

As I came through security, I was met by a young lady who had my property for me in a paper bag. She got me to sign another form, then handed it over with a reminder that I should consider packing the item in my main luggage for the journey home.

So much for all that intrusive and expensive security. The only reason, it is clear, why no one hijacks aeroplanes out of Heathrow is that no one particularly wants to.

I could mention that the Turks mislaid my main luggage in Constantinople, and I had to wait for it to come down on the next flight. But these things happen everywhere, and I was filled during my fairly short wait with about a gallon of Turkish coffee while an old man in the airport security told me stories about his grandfather, who was a private soldier on the Ottoman side in the Gallipoli disaster. The only point of difference between us there was that he thought better of Winston Churchill than I did.

The drive down to Halicarnassus took about an hour and was of great interest. Looking out of the window of the special car sent to collect me, I could see the coastal terrain of Asia Minor. I had never realised how mountainous it was, and how relatively easy it must have been for the coastal cities to defend themselves against the larger continental powers inland. Otherwise, there was Don W. Printz, a retired dermatologist and longstanding friend of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. We spent much of the next week together, and our conversations on history, economics, syphilis—he used to be an expert on sexually transmitted diseases, in which I have some academic interest—and related matters, all began on that drive through the dramatic landscape.

Except it is prettier and more relaxed, Halicarnassus looks like any other resort on the Mediterranean coast. Whatever may be their race or religion or general manners, the various nations looking out from the shores of that remarkable sea all seem to possess a similar culture. And it is a most attractive culture—or so it is to an outsider—with its wine and salads and tobacco and relaxed view of life. In this, the coastal Turks are the same as the Spaniards, the Italians and the Greeks. I am told that travelling inland, past those mountain ranges, you will find a progressively alien world. But Halicarnassus might pass for a gentler, more tasteful Hagios Nikolaos. My only reminder of being outside Europe was that I was, for the first time since 1991, in a country where I could not understand the local language.

The conference was to be held in the Hotel Karia Princess. This is owned and run by Gulcin Imre, whose doctoral thesis was on the economics of Ludwig von Mises. The hotel is a splendid place—luxurious yet welcoming. Mrs Imre is fluent in both English and German, and has a good line in intellectual conversation. And I would say this even if she had not been kind enough to buy one of my books and praise it. Her Head of Public Relations, by the way, is a Slovak. A shame Mrs Gabb was unable to attend. She would have loved every minute.

What can I say of Professor Hoppe? Some call him the greatest libertarian philosopher of our age. Others shudder at the mention of his name. Many, I have no doubt, manage both. I had read and admired his book, Democracy: The God that Failed, and many of his articles. I like his general vision of a libertarianism made compatible with the conservatism of the English world— after all, what is libertarianism but a systematisation of the English Way? I am less convinced by the philosophical rationalism he shares with von Mises and others of the Austrian tradition in social thought. I am too immersed in—or perhaps was too early corrupted by—the thought of David Hume. But I found him a charming and tolerant leader of the Property and Freedom Society. And he is, like most foreigners who learn our language, one of the few people who can speak fluent, grammatical English. With a cigarette between his fingers—and they are dirt cheap over there—he is a first class raconteur.

I am aware that I ought now to move to a detailed account of the conference. It was a good one, and I particularly enjoyed the speeches of Paul Belien and Paul Gottfried. Even the short contributions of the panellists told me much of interest about property rights in other parts of the world and about the contributions, actual and potential, of religion to the institutions of civil society. I learnt that, in spite of all I read in the newspapers, Turkey can be expected to become a more truly liberal place for the return of Islam to its politics. But the surroundings were so overpowering, and the conversations over dinner and on the various trips were so interesting, that my enduring memories of the conference have been overlaid by these other things.

I have already mentioned Dr Printz, whom I look forward to seeing again. Then there was Paul Belien, there with his wife Alexandra Colen and two of their children. Dr Belien founded the Centre for the New Europe, which was until recently run by my friend and partner in the Libertarian Alliance Tim Evans. Dr Belien is a Flemish nationalist and his wife sits in the Belgian Parliament. Just before leaving Belgium, Dr Belien was hit with a major smear by the Establishment of the country. he had written the sort of article about the right to keep and bear arms for defence that I write every year or so. Where my articles in England simply get me on the wireless and into the newspapers, this got Dr Belien into potentially serious trouble. Some youth had got a gun and gone on a killing spree, and everyone in politics and the media had decided that Dr Belien was somehow to blame. He had been forced to take the article down from his website, and was now facing the threat of criminal proceedings. I listened to the story with incredulity. I thought England had gone rotten. I was not aware that Belgium was more rotten still. With its laws against free expression, and its systematic discrimination against its most enterprising nationality, the country hardly ranks as a liberal democracy. For what little it may be worth, Dr Belien has the full support of the Libertarian Alliance in defending his right to freedom of speech.

Then there was Paul Gottfried. His speech was a denunciation of the American conservative movement very similar in tone and content to my own of the Conservative Party. We agreed on loathing Tony Blair as a worthless and malevolent creature. Over lunch one day, he expressed a certain impatience with "victim nationalities". He mentioned as examples of these the Irish, the Greeks and Jews of East European origin. His admiration is for strong, self-confident peoples for whom past misfortunes are not the material for present obsessions. No wonder, he has little time for the modern English and Americans. He also gave me what seemed a penetrating insight into the mentality of the Jewish neoconservatives in Washington. I was wrong, he told me, in thinking that these people had any dislike of Islam. They actually felt closer in their general outlook to Moslems than to the Christian Zionists, who are the real authors of the catastrophe that is American policy in the Middle East. The latter they regarded, he said, as "stupid gentiles". Their one point of difference with the former was the existence of Israel. Let that be settled, and the serpentising televangelists might continue baying for a nuclear Armageddon followed by the Second Coming. But the flow of coherent Islamophobia would be turned off like a redundant bath tap.

Then there was Stephan Kinsella, who subjected me during a boat trip around the Ionian coast to a friendly but probing examination of what I thought about Ayn Rand and epistemology. I am not sure if he approved of all I gave in answer. Even so, the surrounding conversation was enjoyable. He was scathing about Objectivism. He noted that David Kelley is an improvement on the official movement. "But when someone has to write 15,000 words on why it is permissible to be nice to others, or to tolerate disagreement" he said, "there must be something wrong with his underlying philosophy".

Then there were all the old friends who were also there—Frank van Dunn, Christian Michel, Josef Šima, Robert Grözinger, and others. But I will not give a full list: it would be the whole conference programme. I say this even though Christian gave one of his most polished and elaborate speeches. I hope he will publish it, as I can recall only its main heads.

Nor will I say much about my own speech. It was my usual idle effort. Until five minutes before I was due to start, I had no idea how to start. Once I had started, I had little idea how to continue. As ever, despite the uncertainty, I kept up a logical flow and finished on time. What I said went down well, and I suppose it was fair enough. One of these days, I am assured, my reliance on inspiration will fail me. I shall stand up, my mouth will open, but nothing coherent will come out. Fortunately, that did not happen in Turkey.

Professor Hoppe gave the closing speech. He explained that he had started a movement that would meet every year, and that would push the libertarian movement towards the open discussion of issues presently thought too controversial to discuss. Obviously, there is the question of border control: is this another statist intervention as harmful as price control? or would the movement of peoples be so free of internal cost in a world without states as it now generally is? Then there are the revisionist histories of the Great War: even today, nearly everyone looks at the events of 1914 as if it were still 1945. Or there is Hitler's War. How monolithic was his dictatorship? How much was its more notable beastliness personal to him and a few colleagues? Would that beastliness have survived him had he lasted until about 1950? Might it have been restrained had there not been that war of attrition with Soviet Russia? Then there is so much about contemporary politics and economics and sociology and religion that is worth discussing in places where the Thought Police do not operate, or where they have other concerns.

After this, there was the boat trip already mentioned. I was told the Aegean was cold in May. But I am a strong Northerner, accustomed to walking out of my house in summer to swim in the English Channel. I threw myself bravely into the clear waters. It took only a week to recover from the sunburn. In the evening, we had the belly dancers. I have a video record of Professor Gottfried dancing along topless. I have none of me. I remained fully clothed—but, having no notes to give her,  fumbled most embarrassingly to fit £7 in change into the dancer's bra.

That is all I will say. The next conference will be in Halicarnassus next May. I hope for another invite. I enjoyed this one, and I regret not being able to visit the ruins of Ephesus or spend time in Constantinople. If you are interested in attending, or in supporting the work of the Property and Freedom Society, you should contact Professor Hoppe—and do so quickly, as the conference is already being planned.

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the
Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 160
21st June 2007

The Second Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society,
Bodrum, May 2007:
A Brief Record
by Sean Gabb

When I came back last year from the inaugural meeting in Turkey of the The Property and Freedom Society, I was unable to imagine how the next could be better. Everything about that meeting—the hotel, the location, the speeches, the new friendships—was as near perfect as could be. How, then, could the next one be better? It was set for the same place, between the 24th and 28th May 2007.

The answer is that it managed to be better by being much the same, plus a little extra. The Hotel Karia Princess was as wonderful as before—and I do most strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to visit the Aegean coast of Turkey. My opinion of the Turks is, if possible, higher still than it was last year. I then compared them with the Greeks. I had yet to discover the Sicilians, about whom I cannot speak truly without risking imprisonment under the Public Order Act.

I will speak later about my impressions of Ephesus and Constantinople. But I gave my general thoughts last year on Turkey, and so will not repeat them here

I turn then to the conference proceedings. Remember that the Property and Freedom Society was set up by Hans-Hermann Hoppe for the uncompromising promotion of libertarian values—that is, a promotion that is not to be moderated by any considerations of what the ruling classes of the West consider to be appropriate. Last year, what was said was so interesting that several ordinary guests in the hotel booked their next holiday to coincide with the next meeting. I do not think they were disappointed. Let me summarise those speeches which I recorded on video or of which I took written notes.

Friday 25th May 2007

First were Richard Lynn, on "The Global Bell Curve" and Tatu Vanhanen on "IQ and the Wealth of Nations". Though these gave different speeches, both were on the same theme, and both speakers drew from the book they have written together, IQ and Global Inequality. They explained that one of the main indicators of economic success for a nation—assuming reasonably sane government—is IQ; that it is possible to construct a scatter diagram to show the stability of this relationship; that IQ is largely inherited and fully innate; that IQ is different between countries and different between the temperate and equatorial regions of our planet; and that IQ averages in the former regions may be depressed by migration from the latter.

They dismissed cultural differences between groups and social inequalities. These, they insisted, did not explain differences of income so fully or so simply as differences of IQ.

These are controversial claims, and they provoked a long discussion from the floor. At the end, Professor Hoppe made a number of points which are worth summarising;

First, these are claims about matters of fact. As such, they ought to be subject to the same reasoned discussion as any other set of evidential claims.

Second, if they are true, they have no bearing on the core values of libertarianism. Just because some groups may not be of equal average intelligence or other ability does not mean that any individual should have other than equal rights to life, liberty and property.

Third, a free society based on the division of labour has room for all levels of intelligence and other ability.

The next main speakers were Yuri Maltsev and Paul Gottfried. Professor Maltsev spoke about "The Quest for Equality and the Poverty of Nations", and showed that those nations in which equality of outcome has been most strenuously pursued are the poorest and least equal places on earth. Professor Gottfried asked "Can We Defeat the Disease of Egalitarianism?" I did not record his speech, but I did record an interview with him that is now available on the Internet. In this, he gives a characteristically radical answer.

That was the end of the first day of proceedings. We moved to a long and enjoyable dinner in the gardens of the Hotel.

Saturday 26th May 2007

The first session on Saturday included: Peter Mentzel on "The Ottoman Empire: How Sick Was the Sick Man of Europe?"; William Marina on "A Desert Without Thaw: US—Iran Relations 1944-Present"; and Hunt Tooley on "Divide, Rule, Manipulate: Western Strategies for the Middle East in the Period between the World Wars".

These were all fascinating speeches, and I wish I had recorded them on video. I learnt that the Ottoman Empire was actually dong rather well by all normal indicators until 1914, and that it managed to outlive the Tsarist Government that had coined the "Sick Man" epithet. From Professor Marina, I most recall his revelation that the Persians will, within the next generation, become a minority in Iran, and that there is, in obvious consequence, a natural basis for a settlement of all differences with the western powers.

Next came Thomas DiLorenzo on "The American Myth of Limited Constitutional Government" and Marco Bassani on "Empire or Liberty: The Anti-Federalist Alternative". These took sceptical views of American politics in the 1780s, and showed how failings in the framing of the American Constitution gradually defeated the stated purpose of the War of Independence.

Next was Paul Belien on "Secessionism in Europe". This included a trenchant attack on Scottish nationalism, which Dr Belien declared has less to do with creating an independent Scotland than with breaking up a Eurosceptical United Kingdom.

Then came I. When Professor Hoppe asked me for a title last year, I did suggest "Demography and History". I then changed my mind, and thought it would be more interesting to speak about the possibly libertarian implications of the global warming hysteria. But I found the title on the agenda when I arrived, and Mrs Gabb told me it would be rude to make changes so late in the day.

I therefore spoke about the demographic changes in the Eastern Mediterranean world of the sixth and seventh centuries—how these had been caused by a pandemic as great as the Black Death, and how they led to the collapse of ancient civilisation and the Arab conquest of Syria, Egypt and North Africa. I have uploaded the video of this speech to the Internet, and so will say no more about it.

So ended the second day of proceedings. In the evening, we all went off for dinner in the fishing village of Kadikalesi. We sat on the beach until long after sunset, eating fish and drinking various wines and spirits.

Sunday 27th May 2007

The first speaker on Sunday was Christian Michel, who is, among much else, the Director of European Affairs for the Libertarian Alliance. He spoke about "The Neuroses of Science and State". Christian speaks the best English of any Frenchman I have met. Indeed, he speaks better English than most Englishmen. And this was a characteristically polished and elliptical speech on how state control and state finance of research corrupts knowledge. I am sure the text will soon be available through the Libertarian Alliance.

Then came Edward Stringham, asking "If Anarcho-Capitalism is so Great, Why doesn't it Exist?" and Dan Stastny on "The Economics of Economics".

After this came Professor Hoppe with a long and very interesting paper on "The Origins of Private Property and the Family". This is hard to summarise. But it seeks to explain the emergence of both property and the family as responses to population growth. It is only when individuals are able to own property that new resources are created. It is only when individuals are held responsible for the maintenance of their children that population does not grow beyond the constraint of the resources presently available.

Mrs Gabb drew a number of highly conservative inferences from the speech. But as the speech has now been published in full by the Libertarian Alliance, I will not mention these now.

Then came Juliusz Jablecki, commenting on "Libertarian Strategy in the Post-Modernist Age", and Olivier Richard, making "A Note on Libertarian Strategy". Mr Jablecki spoke about the feasibility of using the language of post-modernism against the post-modernists, and this led to an entertaining argument with Paul Gottfried. Dr Richard spoke about the need to reach out to groups not currently regarded as libertarian, but who may be favourable to a reduction in state control over their lives.

And that was it for 2007. We spent the evening in the Hotel for a dinner that included belly dancing and a carpet sale.

General Reflections

The fact that these conferences are so enormously pleasant as a social experience does not blind me to their merits considered as conferences. The libertarian movement is hardly on the edge of collapse. Even with its minimal funding, the Libertarian Alliance is going though one of its more energetic periods. There are libertarian movements in almost every civilised country—and in many uncivilised countries.

But there is often a feeling of staleness about libertarian arguments. I am not dismissing our frequent concentration on economic issues. Whatever anyone may claim, we have not won the arguments on economics. We are as heavily taxed as ever—and more heavily regulated than in the 1960s and 1970s. But the nature of the statist enemy has changed in the past few decades. It has learnt to combine some degree of economic rationality with new modes of oppression and new modes of justification. I do not feel that we have, as a movement, come adequately to terms with these changes.

I believe that there is still good work to be done in building alliances with some sexual and other minorities and with many people who regard themselves as on the "left" of politics. At the same time, there is much common ground with intelligent conservatives like Paul Belien and Paul Gottfried. They are not libertarians, but they do have insights into the nature of the new order of things from which we can all benefit.

The value of the Property and Freedom Society is that it provides an institutional framework within which differences can be discussed and areas of agreement explored. The intention is that its annual meeting should become better every time. This does not necessarily mean bigger: it means better and more exclusive. Invitations should become an essential mark of acceptance to everyone who is anyone in our movement.

Therefore, I do most warmly commend the work of Professor Hoppe and of his colleagues in the Property and Freedom Society. Anyone who is interested to learn more about this work should contact Professor Hoppe directly. He is already planning the next meeting in Turkey for the May of 2008, and is looking for additional participants.

Other Activities

This year, Mrs Gabb went with me to Turkey, and she enjoyed herself as much as I did. We spent much of our free time wandering around Bodrum and looking in the shops.

We also hired a car and drove several hundred miles along the Aegean coastline, looking at Ephesus, Miletus, Magnesia, and other famous but now ruined cities of the ancient world.

Most importantly, though, we spent two days in Constantinople—the Second Rome. My new, and so far unpublished, novel is set here in the year 610. It has barbarian raids, chariot races, political intrigue, murder and civil war woven into the plot. But the place where all this happens is the great City of Constantine.

In writing the novel, I relied much on reconstructed maps of the mediaeval city and of descriptions by modern historians. I knew that the old maps were unreliable, due to more than a thousand years of continuous redevelopment. But our first walk through the City told me I needed to rewrite many parts of the novel. I had not realised the immense scale of the City within the Walls of Theodosius. It is bigger than Westminster and the City of London combined. It can take hours to cross from one side to the other.

Then there are the hills. I had somehow imagined the City as more or less flat. The centre, however, is on a plateau that rises to several hundred feet above sea level. You can look out from the windows of the Hagia Sophia Church and look down to the Golden Horn and the Bosporus. I shall have much fun rewriting the relevant parts of the novel.

The modern City is also impressive. We did all the usual sights—the Blue Mosque, the Spice Market, the Grand Bazaar, and so on.

Perhaps most interesting, though, was that we arrived in the City on the 29th May. After a day of walking from place to place, Mrs Gabb and I sat down in the wide space that used to contain the Hippodrome and were busy discussing where we should have dinner. At once, there was the crash of Turkish military music—the sort that Mozart was good at mimicking. We got up and pushed through the large crowd that had formed. Along the street towards us about twenty men dressed as Janissaries were marching. As they passed, the crowd let up a cheer and joined in a procession.

Someone gave me a Turkish flag and waved me into the procession. Mrs Gabb suggested that this might be one of the civil disturbances we had been warned about on the television. But everyone looked very cheerful, and I wanted to know what was happening.

We marched along until we reached a square with a stage and seating set up. The Janissaries and the band went onto the stage, and everyone else crowded into the seats or stood around.

Someone dressed very smartly got up and began a long speech in Turkish. I understood none of this, but turned to look at the banners that had been draped around the square. I read the words "Istanbul Fetih 554 yili Konseri". I know that Fetih is "victory" in many oriental languages, and that konseri must mean "concert". The "554" told me, though, what was happening. This was the 29th May. On that day in 1453, the City was taken from the Greeks.

As I am rather pro-Byzantine, I felt wicked to have taken part—even unwittingly— in a celebration of so notable a disaster. On the other hand, I was smitten with admiration for the Turks. In England, we just about manage to celebrate historical events since 1940. Anything earlier tends to be officially discouraged or ignored. Here, though, the Turks were in full patriotic glow about the fall of the Eastern Empire. And, if regrettable, it was a splendid achievement. Unlike the Crusaders, who simply burnt and looted and killed, the Turkish conquerors rebuilt the City in magnificent style and made it once again the capital of a great empire.

I did as Mrs Gabb said, and put the flag away, but we both stood listening to the concert until darkness and hunger drove us in search of food. I managed to shoot some interesting if disorganised video footage of the event.

We will go back to the City. But that will be another article.

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the
Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 166
21st November 2007

My Contractually-Obliged
Lecture on the Environment
by Sean Gabb

At one of the places where I teach, senior members of staff are required to work an environmental theme into every lecture course they give. Here is the lecture I shall give next Monday morning to three hundred undergraduates. I will not read this to the students. That is not my practice. It should instead be seen as a summary given in advance of what I shall say, and as a source of quotations to use against me in the subsequent group discussions.

Our Duty to Save the Planet
Sean Gabb

According to all the newspapers and television stations and all the politicians, we are facing a serious environmental crisis. We are told that global temperatures are rising, and that they are rising because of economic development, and that, unless we make radical changes to the ways in which we live, sea levels will rise and the world in general will become less pleasant.

I am not a scientist, and I am not competent to examine the detailed claims about the nature and extent and causes of global warming. But I believe these claims are all lies. I believe they are the latest attempt by some very nasty people to stop the progress of the human race to unlimited self-improvement.

History and Class Oppression

Until about 250 year ago, the normal situation of humanity was stagnation. There might be ages of improvement, but these hardly ever improved the lives of the poorest, and they were always followed by a decline of economic activity.

This was a world in which society was shaped like a broad pyramid—a very small ruling class enjoying fabulous wealth and status, and a great mass or ordinary people at the bottom living in poverty. It was a world in which more than half of all children born died before they reached the age of five, and in which the great majority of ordinary people died in their thirties.

The libertarian revolutions of the 17th century in England led to a sudden increase in general wealth during the 18th century. By around 1800, it was plain that this was an improvement unlike any other before. For the first time, larger and larger numbers of ordinary people were enjoying cheaper and better food and clothing.

Other European governments looked on this with envy, as greater national wealth meant greater military power. But many, both abroad and in England, were concerned about he social and political impact of these developments. They meant that more and more ordinary people were moving about and improving their lives, and they were thinking for themselves, and beginning to question political arrangements that delivered immense differences of wealth and status.

The Reaction

The first reaction against market liberalism was purely conservative. Churches and landowning interests put much effort into defending the old order of things. Look, for example, at this verse from a Church of England hymn:

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
He made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate

The meaning of this is that God had given everyone a certain position in the world, and this position had to be accepted without complaint or attempts at change.

Without massive government force behind it, this sort of reaction was a failure in every place it was tried. Even there, it tended to fail. No dungeons in this world, or threats of hellfire in the next, could stifle the news of freedom and enrichment.

And so the next step in reaction was to disguise conservatism as progress. Ideologies were developed that looked progressive, but the effect of which would be to stop all further progress.

That is the significance of many kinds of socialism and particularly Marxism. These doctrines spoke about equality and freedom and growing wealth, but were obviously about the exact opposite. Even before the first socialist experiments, liberals were analysing the socialist claims and announcing that a socialist society would be a dictatorship in which the great majority of ordinary people would be made poor again.

This was the result of actually existing socialism in the 20th century. Countries like Russia, East Germany and Czechoslovakia had fast economic development among their stated goals. In fact, the only really growth was in the amount of pollution their factories produced.

The only liberty and equality and economic development that have ever been seen have taken place in countries like England and America and Germany and Japan— where people have mostly been left alone to look after themselves and their families.

With the collapse of socialism at the end of the 1980s, it looked for a moment as if all the barriers had been lifted to unlimited improvement for the whole human race. It seemed that we could look forward to a world in which everyone had a motor car and a refrigerator and a telephone.

Environmentalism: The Last Communist Refuge

Then the environmental movement grew big. This had been around since the early 1960s. At first, it concentrated on things like chemical pollution and rapid population growth and how the world would soon run out of oil and other minerals. The problem was that its claims were always proved to be wrong.

For example, we were told in the 1960s that population growth would soon lead to mass starvation. In the event, living standards continued to rise faster and faster all over the world.

Again, we were told that the oil would run out before the middle of the 1980s. In the event, more and more oil was found, and we now know that we have enough o last for centuries to come.

Again we were told in the 1970s that industrialisation was leading to global cooling and that there would soon be another ice age. This also did not happen.

But, since the collapse of socialism, the environmental movement has grown bigger and bigger, and is now arguing for regulations and taxes that would soon stop all further economic growth—particularly in Asia, India, Africa and South America. That is the goal of all this endless propaganda in the media, and all the talk about carbon footprints.

Now, it may be that there really is a problem with the environment. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. But I find it historically significant that environmentalism has grown big at the very moment when every other argument against human progress has been disproved.

I therefore believe that the claims of the environmentalists are lies. They are an excuse for returning humanity to a dark age of inequality and stagnation.

An Invitation to Debate

I am circulating this lecture a week in advance, to give you time to read it and to consider the issues raised. I hope this will make the long discussion after lunch even more lively than it would otherwise be.

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the
Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 173
4th July 2008

The Third Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society,
Bodrum, May 2008:
A Brief Record
by Sean Gabb

I dreamed last night of the Hotel Karia Princess in Bodrum. I do this perhaps once a week. Last night, though, the dream was unusually vivid. I was walking down the stone steps from the Migros supermarket, a bag in each hand. On my left, at the foot of the step, the taxi drivers were gossiping loud in Turkish and chain smoking. The sun beat down on me from overhead. I could smell the dust of the road and of the aromatic plants all around. Directly across the road, the Hotel shimmered vast and white.

I cannot remember going in through the revolving doors into the cool, marble interior. But as I write, I can imagine the smiles of the reception staff, and the endless loop of the Third Movement of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, and being called over by Paul Gottfried checking his e-mail, or Justin Raimondo, or by one of the semi-permanent German guests.

It is now two years since my first conference there with the Property and Freedom Society. I got the e-mailed invitation out of the blue from Hans-Hermann Hoppe. How he found me and why he wanted me I have never thought to ask him. But his conference was set to happen in the middle of my summer term, and I was minded at first to send a polite refusal. But I discussed it with Chris Tame as he sat in his hospital bed waiting for death.

"You've got to go, Sean" he had said, looking up from the list of attendees. "Whatever people say about him—and, let's face it, all his enemies are envious windf*ck*rs who don't like us either—Hoppe is the Big Man of the Movement. Now Rothbard is gone, he's it." He brushed aside my whines about teaching commitments, and sent me off to book my ticket.

And so, just over two years ago—after a journey that involved the failed theft of my wallet at Heathrow, and a most civilised encounter with a Turkish customs official who found Chris' Swiss Army knife in my camera bag: the Heathrow machines had failed to spot that!—I found myself sat with Hans beside the Hotel swimming pool, sipping chemical cola and discussing the failed war in Iraq.

Since I wrote at some length about the first Property and Freedom Society Conference, I will avoid repeating myself. But I was back for the second—this time with Mrs Gabb. And I wrote about that one too. This year, I was back for the third—this time not just with Mrs Gabb, but also with the Baby Bear.

And it was an astonishingly good time. I will try not to say more than I already have about the Hotel, beyond that it is the sort of place you read about in novels or—always with nostalgia for what is long past—in the memoirs of people who are or soon will be dead. Bodrum can be a hectic place come June. As the temperature goes about the hundred mark, so the population rises from 30,000 Turks to around two million tourists. Within the Hotel, though, all is quiet; all is ordered; all is, without ostentation, civilised.

The Turkish State, sad to say, had this year decided to flash its European credentials by forbidding smoking in enclosed public spaces. And, to my surprise, the police were showing a certain zeal in enforcing the ban. But when you are used to lighting up outside in the high thirties and the pouring rain of London at any time of year, stepping out into the gardens for a cigarette is hardly worth a moan.

It may be the venue—though I doubt it—but I do believe the Property and Freedom Society is an indispensable part of what Americans call the paleo-libertarian movement. If you think libertarianism is defined by wanting to privatise the paving stones while mouthing politically correct platitudes, these gatherings are not for you. These conferences provide a time and a place where nothing is off limits. There are no forbidden subjects, no polite suggestions that whatever is being loudly debated over dinner by the swimming pool might be "inappropriate". The only rule is the obvious one—that you listen to the other side before making reply.

These are conferences where social conservatives sit down with anarcho-libertarians, where Czechs and Chinese discuss where history went wrong, where English is the preferred language, but a knowledge of half a dozen other languages will frequently come in handy.

They are also conferences useful for what everyone nowadays describes blandly as networking, but what the old Marxists, with a more sinister and accurate turn of phrase, called "cadre building". It is in Bodrum, every May, that the connections and ideas that will be the future of the libertarian movement are first to be perceived.

I will not bother summarising the actual conference speeches. This year, I made video recordings of everything, and have already uploaded it all to Google Video. Of all the sessions, though, I think most people enjoyed the debate over Ron Paul and what he means to the wider Movement outside America—particularly within Europe. Justin Raimondo and Robert Groezinger were particularly eloquent on this.

My own favourite speech was John Lott on guns.  I live in a country where gun ownership has been made into a crime except for the police and the very rich, and where being caught with a peashooter will probably soon carry the same prison sentence as rape. I liked the relentless piling up of cases and the statistical analyses. I will use them myself the next time I go on television to talk about guns. Should I also say that, however degraded it may have become, I am part of a culture that has more respect for proven fact than for elegant hypotheses?

Hans was profound on the nature of the State. Paul Gottfried was at his venomous best about the roots in American Protestantism of political correctness. Mustafa Akyol and Peter Mentzel were interesting on Turkish and late Ottoman history. I was quite good on the nature of financial markets in the ancient world. But, as said, all the speeches are recorded, and—allowances being made for the air conditioning and the public address system—are pretty well recorded.

Let me return to the cadre building. I knew we were in for a good conference when Paul Gottfried walked into the hotel lobby, his bags carried behind him. He threw a benevolent glance at the Baby Bear and then demanded of me the aorist of χαίρω.

"Εχαίρα? Εχαίρον?" I hazarded. He gave a contemptuous sniff that I really should investigate, and asked if I could help him connect to the Internet. Over dinner, he went into full flow—in two languages denouncing the Germans for their gutless historical masochism. Perhaps they were to blame for 1939: it is at least arguable. But 1914? he sneered. That was at most a no fault car crash. And some Germans are even blaming themselves for 1870!

Then there was Justin Raimondo. I first discovered his writings during the Iraq War, when large stretches of the British and American libertarian movements had come together and agreed what fine things maiming and killing and torturing were when called "assisted regime change". It was good to find someone even more forthright in his condemnation than I was of the neo-imperialist project. I rather envied the fear and loathing I discovered he could inspire in all the right people. I greatly admired his biography of Murray Rothbard—it is a model of how to summarise and judge the life of a turbulent intellectual. Now we were together in Bodrum, there was all the time in the world for getting to know each other, and for argument and debate.

Narrating all that we covered in ten days as we puffed away in the open would take a short novel. But one recurring argument was over the coming Presidential elections in America. Justin supports Barack Obama, which is fair enough, bearing in mind the only alternatives at the time were a geriatric warmonger and a venomous old harpy. But he also believed Mr Obama could win. I accept I know little of America, but I was unable to agree. "Whatever they tell the pollsters" I kept insisting, "the American people will not vote in sufficient numbers to elect a black man as President. Our only hope of avoiding war with Iran is for the money to run out in Washington."

Another discussion that stays prominent in my memory is towards the end of the conference. It was late, and there just a few of us sat at a table beside the swimming pool with Gülçin Imre, the owner of the Hotel—since last year, she has been Gülçin Hoppe. After a general conversation, we focussed on happiness. Rather, we focussed on why so many people in the rich world appear to be unhappy. Most people no longer die at absurdly young ages. Most people do not see half their children cough and sweat their way to early graves. We all have enough to eat. We have soap and water and warm clothes. We have an endless succession of shiny electronic toys to divert us. In another decade or so, what we have now will doubtless seem as inadequate as MSDOS and video cassettes now do to us. But we already live in something approximating the utopia of the early twentieth century science fiction writers.

So why so much unhappiness? Why are the streets of every Western city teeming with plainly bored and aimless sheep of every age and condition? Was it always this way? We agreed that it probably was not. Most of us were old enough to remember a time when there seemed to be more quiet contentment, even though there was much less in the material sense to be contented with.

No one thought to raise the silly old argument that wealth and happiness are and must be inversely related. I can understand that the rich have generally tried to impose, and the poor have too often taken comfort in, the belief that three meals a day and the chance of living past thirty five are to be pitied rather then envied. But I see no reason whatever for sharing the belief. Certainly, some of the people round that table were rather well off, and were not obviously unhappy. Speaking for myself, I have been moderately embarrassed in the financial sense, and moderately comfortable; and I know which state for me is more conducive to happiness.

We did briefly touch on whether mass enrichment has been accompanied by a loss of freedom and of identity. Very few people may want to do any of the things that have been banned over the past century. But everyone is in some sense aware of the immense structures of guardianship that shape our lives. And everyone to some extent has noticed the rise of a new and utterly malevolent ruling class, that enriches and privileges itself behind a palisade of words about "equality" and "diversity" and "tolerance".

What more interested us, however, was whether happiness in the long term is not so much about bodily pleasures and material consumption as about being able to follow some self-chosen mission. What mission each person might choose will depend on his inclinations and general abilities. For one, it might be bringing up children in a respectable family home, or building a successful business. For another, it might be collecting classifying every species of butterfly in the Falkland Islands. For someone else, it might be understanding and opposing the ambitions of our new ruling class. Whatever mission is chosen, it gives meaning to life. Anything short of catastrophic failure gives some protection against becoming just another of those depressed, apathetic sheep in the street.

Nothing novel here, of course. But it was a good conversation, in good company. And it was a conversation this part of the world must have heard many times before. The cities of Asia Minor seem to have been places where Epicurus and his philosophy were always particularly honoured.

Yes, it always for me comes back to the ancient world. Modern Turkey, the Ottoman Empire and Byzantium all have much to commend them. But I can never go to the Mediterranean without feeling the endlessly renewed thrill of realisation that it was here where the human race went through one of its two great enlightenments; and that this particular enlightenment was wholly spontaneous. Miletus, the birthplace of scientific rationalism, is just a drive up the coast. Cos is a ferry ride away. Barely anything remains in modern Bodrum of Halicarnassus. But you can stand on the beach at sunrise, and ask if it was here that Herodotus once stood, looking out to sea and wondering what lay beyond the horizon....

There is much else I could mention about the conference and its attendant comforts—the belly dancers, the boat trips, the visit to Ephesus, and the opportunity for sitting down with intelligent Turks to discuss what it is really like to live in the most dynamic and interesting country in the whole Mediterranean. But I will not do more than mention these things. If you are really interested, contact Professor Hoppe, and try to find out for yourself.

And so, for the third time running, I commend the Bodrum conference of the Property and Freedom Society. Any libertarian or conservative who has not managed to secure an invitation at least once is very much to be pitied.

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 183
28th May 2009

What is the Ruling Class?
By Sean Gabb
A Paper Given on Sunday the 24th May 2009
to the Fourth Annual Conference
of the Property and Freedom Society
in the Hotel Karia Princess in Bodrum, Turkey

PFS09 Sean Gabb "What is the Ruling Class?" from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.

In giving this paper, I make no pretence to originality of thought. Everything I am saying today has been said already – usually better, and always in greater detail – by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, by Roderick Long, by Kevin Carson, by Christian Michel, and by many others. If I can contribute anything to the libertarian analysis of class, it is brevity alone. 

Libertarians often define a ruling class as that group of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, businessmen, therapists, educators and media people who derive income and position from the State. By definition, so far as such people operate as members of a ruling class, they are parasitic on the efforts of ordinary people. Their position comes from forcing others to act as they would not freely choose, or by excluding them from activities they might freely choose. Their income is based on forced transfers of wealth.

The size and activities of a ruling class will be determined by the physical resources it can extract from the people, by the amount of force it can use against them, and by the nature and acceptance of the ideology that legitimises its existence. None of these determinants by itself will be decisive, but each is a necessary factor. Change any one, and the working of the other two will be limited or wholly checked.

Of these determinants, the ideological are the most open to control and change. In the short term, resources are fixed in quantity. At any time, the amount of force available will be limited. What will always interest ruling classes, therefore, is the nature and acceptance of its legitimising ideology. This will vary according to circumstances that are not fully within the control of any ruling class. It may involve averting the Divine Wrath, or promoting acceptance of the True Faith, or protecting the nation from external or external enemies, or raising the condition of the poor, or making us healthier, or saving the planet from us. The claims of the ideology may, in other times and places, seem unfounded or insane. What they generally have in common is the need for an active state directed by the right sort of people.

Since the function of these ideologies is to justify theft or murder or both, they need to be promoted by endless repetition – which is a valid form of argument if truth is less important than winning – and by at least the discouragement of dissent. Efficient promotion will produce a discourse – this being the acceptance of a language and of habits of thought in which dissent cannot be expressed without also conceding its immorality. Efficient promotion will also produce a state of almost universal false consciousness – in which ordinary people are brought to accept ideological claims as true that are opposed to their own interests as these might be reasonably considered.

Now, to speak of ruling classes, and in these terms, will often produce a strongly hostile reaction from libertarians and from conservatives. In the first place, it sounds like Marxism. Indeed, in summarising my own beliefs about a ruling class, I have deliberately borrowed terms from the Marxist theory of class – “discourse”, “false consciousness”, “class consciousness”. This is sure to disturb many – and perhaps many in this room. For at least three generations, our movement was at ideological war with Marxism. We did all we could to refute its claims and to spread the truth about its consequences wherever it was tried. To use its language to express broadly similar concepts will appear to be making concessions that amount to intellectual surrender.

In the second place, many libertarians deny that the concept of a ruling class has any meaning in our own world. In 1605, for example, Guy Fawks and his fellow conspirators tried to blow up Parliament while it was being opened by the King. If they had succeeded, they would have killed the King and the whole of the senior aristocracy and the leaders of the Established Church and – give or take a few nominees – the leading men of every shire and town in England. At one stroke, they would have killed around seven hundred men, and this would have snuffed out the whole of the English ruling class.

And this was a ruling class. Its members were largely there by virtue of birth. They were often related to each other. They shared a common education. They dressed differently and spoke differently from those over whom they ruled. Generally, they were cleaner. They were committed to the Protestant faith and to the land settlement of Henry VIII. Their class consciousness was expressed in countless ways, and was reflected in their language. They spoke of “persons of quality” or “persons of gentle birth” or of “gentlemen”.

In England or America today, whatever I call the ruling class is far larger and has far less apparent unity. I have defined it as a group of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, businessmen, therapists, educators and media and business people. Perhaps I should just call these a gathering of groups, united only in their competition for power and income via the State, and each with a different legitimising ideology. Perhaps they are best compared not to the undoubted ruling class of Jacobean England, but to the members of a French bus queue. The common defining characteristic of these latter is that they all want to get on the bus. But it plainly serves no analytical or propagandistic purpose to define them on these grounds as a class.

Then there is the problem of collective action. Members of a supposed ruling class, for example – just as of a cartel – have personal interests as well as group interests. The former will often be more pressing than the latter; and the tendency over time will be for the rich and powerful to preach class solidarity while undermining it in their behaviour.

I will deal with the second of these objections in a moment. The first is easily answered. There is nothing specifically Marxist about the analysis of class and of class conflict. The Wealth of Nations is largely an exercise in class analysis. In France, J.B. Say was the father of a whole school of classical liberal class theory that was developed by, among others, Charles Compte, Charles Dunoyer and Augustin Thierry. In England, Cobden and Bright conceived their struggles against the corn laws and against war in terms of a class struggle. Marxian class theory, when it emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century, was one theory among many, and not at all the most prominent or most widely accepted.

This being said, Marxian class theory has, since then, received by far the most attention, and has been most fully developed. It is natural for many of us to feel uncomfortable about accepting any parts of this theory. But, if understandable, this is to be regretted. Marxism is false as a theory of human behaviour. But it has been developed by men of sometimes considerable talent and insight. To reject the incidental truths found by these men is rather like denouncing motorways because the first person to build them was Hitler. Astrology and alchemy were false sciences. Their claims about prediction and transformation were long ago falsified. Even so, the real sciences of astronomy and chemistry owe many incidental debts that no chemist or astronomer is ashamed to admit.

It should be the same with libertarians and conservatives in their view of Marxian class theory. Marx himself, together with Marxists like Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser and even Michel Foucoult, have much to tell us, and I am not ashamed to use Marxist terminology when I think it suits the needs of a libertarian class theory.

The main difference between Marxist and libertarian theories of class is in where each side locates the source of class power. For the Marxists, class power derives from ownership of the means of production. Standing in the tradition of Rousseau, Marx and his followers believe that mankind lived at first in a state of primitive communism, in which the means of production were held in common. This ended with the rise of a class that was able to take the means of production into its own possession. This class then set up the State as an executive committee to assist in its domination of everyone else. Since then, there have been successive revolutions as changes in the means of production have raised other classes to wealth, and these classes have then consolidated their own leading position by taking over the State.

According to this theory, therefore, the source of class power lies in wealth, and political power follows from wealth. This explains the Marxist belief that a communist revolution, by abolishing class domination, will rid the State of its oppressive nature. The State may then be dispensed from the liberal requirements of limitation and due process, and can be safely used as an instrument for ending such class power as remained. It will then, of itself, wither away.

This theory is manifestly false. Even without the thirty or fifty million corpses piled up by Marxist tyrannies in the twentieth century, it shows a terrible ignorance of human nature. Whether we dismiss the Marxists, in their main theory, as idiots or as villains depends on who is being discussed. But this is not to deny the incidental truths uncovered by Marx and his followers.

And these can be fitted into a libertarian class theory that locates the source of ruling class power in the State. For us, the State is not something created by the already powerful. It is, instead, something captured by those who want to become powerful – and who cannot become powerful by any other means. Without a state, there can be no exploitation. Without a state, the only transactions would be exchanges of value between free individuals from which all parties benefit according to their own conceptions of their interests. It is the State that can steal and kill. It is the State that raises up or calls into being groups that hope to benefit from the use of these powers, and that then constitute a ruling class. Abolish the State – or severely limit its size and power – and class domination will fall to the ground. The groups that comprise the ruling class will either die like tapeworms in a dead rat, or will be forced to offer their services on terms attractive to willing buyers.

I will now deal with the second libertarian objection to the concept of a ruling class. I accept that there is a problem of collective action. But this does not make an absolute refutation. For some purposes, group solidarity may be weaker than the pursuit of individual interests – but not always. Anyone who doubts this has only to look at the large number of young men in every generation who allow themselves – or volunteer – to be put into uniform and sent out to die for their country. Cartels are generally accepted to be conspiracies against the public interest. Class solidarity – so long as based on a legitimising ideology that is as firmly accepted by rulers as by ruled – can generally underpin collective action for many purposes and over long periods. Indeed, one of the sure signs that a ruling class has lost its will to rule is when significant numbers of those within it make fun of their legitimising ideology, or merely cease in private to believe in its truth. It is then that class solidarity becomes a sham, and the rulers begin to act like members of a cartel.

I also accept that ruling classes are, in our societies, much larger and more diverse than in the past. But accepting its size and diversity does not refute the claim that there is a ruling class. It is not necessary for the various groups I have mentioned to agree with each other in all respects. There is no reason for the ruling class to be monolithic. The medical establishment and tax gathering bureaucrats do not agree about state policy on smoking. Big business may disagree with the education establishment about what and how children are taught. Just a few years ago in England, the Government and the state-owned BBC fell out very bitterly over the Iraq War. During such disputes, different groups within the ruling class may even turn for physical or moral support to groups far outside the ruling class. They may even, from time to time, recast themselves – by accepting newly attractive groups, or expelling groups that no longer contribute to the class as a whole, or that endanger the continued existence of the class as a whole.

Even so, there is a general solidarity of interest that holds an effective ruling class together. No matter how they argue over the details of what the State is to do, its constituent groups will extend each other a mutual recognition of legitimacy. They agree that the State is a force for good, and that they are the right people to direct it. Their disputes will not be carried to the point where they knowingly undermine their overall legitimacy as a class – or the legitimacy of any of the constituent groups. Roderick Long has likened modern ruling classes to Church and State in old Europe. For the better part of a millennium, these institutions fought – and often bitterly – over which should be the predominant force in their societies. They hardly ever lost sight of the fact that they had a common interest in keeping the rest of the population subject to authority.

Sot it is now. Anyone who has ever taken money from big business will surely have noticed how his paymasters have been willing to use weakened forms of libertarian ideology to make specific points – but have never shown interest in promoting libertarianism as a full agenda of attack. In all cases, libertarian defenders are brought in to argue for concessions from the taxing and regulatory groups of the ruling class. They are never permitted to argue against the general legitimacy of taxes or regulations. That would risk undermining the system from which all groups –even if they might lose out in the short term – derive income and position in the long term.

This may be the common defining characteristic of a modern ruling class – a belief in the State and in the right and fitness of the groups I have described to direct it, and to gain income and status from their positions within the State. And, as in the past, class consciousness is reinforced by more than commonality of interest. I grant that, in America and to a lesser but similar extent in England, individual position is no longer rigidly fixed by birth, and it is common for people, wherever they start in life, to rise or sink according to their abilities. Nevertheless, we can still see families and networks of families that, in generation after generation, turn out individuals who occupy positions within the ruling class. Remember names like Toynbee and Gore and Kennedy and Cecil.

Otherwise, members of the British and American ruling classes share a common outlook on the world that is gained by attending the same schools and universities, and that is maintained by small but significant movements from one group to another that comprise the ruling class. In England, for example, it is common for politicians to begin or to end their careers in the more privileged big business corporations or in other agencies that look for their existence to the State. And it is fairly common for people from these groups to be recruited into senior political or administrative positions. There may be cultural differences between these groups. But these are not so great as to endanger close cooperation between them in the common project of exploiting ordinary people.

I agree that this is not an entirely satisfactory account of the ruling class. If I were a Marxist, it would be much easier. A member of the ruling class is someone who owns the means of production. I cannot supply an equally clear common defining characteristic. I cannot even put too much emphasis on the parasitic nature of a ruling class. The groups comprising a modern ruling class are parasites so far as they act as a ruling class. But they will often act both as members of a ruling class and as members of the productive class.

Companies like Wallmart and Tesco, for example, are privileged organisations. They benefit from incorporation laws that let them exist in the first place, from transport subsidies that externalise their diseconomies of scale, from taxes and regulations that disproportionately harm their smaller competitors, and in many other ways. At the same time, they provide cheaper and better food than their customers might once have thought possible. The media may be a producer or and conduit for propaganda. At the same time, it provides entertainment that people appear to enjoy. The medical establishment wants to coerce us into giving up probably harmful things like tobacco and probably beneficial things like vitamin pills, and procures laws that limit patient choice. At the same time, it does appear to be encouraging rapid medical progress in at least some areas.

Western ruling classes are not like the Soviet Nomenklatura. Many of the groups within these ruling classes have double functions inside and outside reasonably functioning market systems. Their activities are illegitimate only so far as they take place outside the market.

And so, while I do believe that the concept of a ruling class has meaning in our societies, I cannot dispute that it has problems. Nevertheless, in spite of all reservations, I do believe that the concept of a ruling class is not wholly useless, and I do suggest that those of us who have so far paid it little attention might do well to give it some thought.

Euroscepticism and Nationalism: Not Necessarily Allies
By Sean Gabb
(A Speech Given to a University Conservative Association in May 2005)

One of the consequences for Britain of the war with Iraq has been the further weakening within our governing classes of enthusiasm for the European Union. This had already been in decline for about 15 years. Decline was brought about in part by the lack of any enthusiasm among the wider public. Though not particularly democratic, ours is a country in which public opinion counts for something. So long as this was indifferent to the arguments for and against, the governing classes could press gradually forward with their project of integration. But indifference has for some years been changing to various shades of hostility; and if even radical transformations can be made in this country without public support, they cannot really be made in the face of settled opposition. In part, though, the governing classes themselves have shared in the change of opinion. While not socialist by any reasonable definition, the European governing classes do believe in levels of state intervention that are incompatible with the existence of an open financial economy; and it is from the City of London that the country as a whole - not to mention the governing classes themselves - ultimately derives its wealth.

The war has not brought, nor will bring, a fundamental change of mind about the European Union. Much rather, it has sharpened doubts that already existed.

In a sense, this is to be welcomed. The greatest actual threat to both our personal freedom and our national independence is membership of the European Union. Whatever contributes to the removal of this threat cannot be ald bad. Nor, however, is it all good. The Eurosceptic movement is a coalition - a coalition of groups, but perhaps still more of individuals. The unifying thread within the movement is the desire somehow to leave the European Union. Beyond this, there is no agreement. For myself, I have always tried to avoid the sectarianism that has brought many of the Internet discussion groups into chaos and disrepute. I have tried to maintain friendly relations with all players in the movement, and will continue to try. This being said, I am strongly aware that many of my friends and comrades within the movement have an agenda wholly different from mine.

I believe, with Enoch Powell - a man I admire more unreservedly the older I grow - that my country should be governed by its own absolutely sovereign institutions, and that our foreign policy should be about securing our own immediate national interests. Others in the movement, however, believe in the notion of an “Anglosphere” - that is, as part of a grouping of nations connected by common language and culture, and working together more or less closely. Some even hope for an eventual expansion of the United States, to take in the United Kingdom and the white Commonwealth.

Now, for reasons to which I will come, I will not dismiss an Anglosphere out of hand. There are points to be made in its favour - especially when compared with our present status within the European Union. Even so, I do think it on the whole a bad idea. Because they are adding their often considerable force to getting us out of the European Union, I praise and honour those who believe in it. Nevertheless, their belief is one that I do not share. Though it involves rejecting the European Union, belief in an Anglosphere is only an alternative within the wider consensus of thought that got us into the European Union - a consensus, moreover, that has contributed much to the undermining of those liberal values that are the true glory of the English-speaking world.

I will explain.

Some time between the two Victorian jubilees, the governing classes of this country began to think of national greatness in terms of world power. From Alfred Milner and Cecil Rhodes and Joseph Chamberlain, through Winston Churchill, to the Webbs and other Fabians,it was agreed that Britain was a world power or it was nothing. The future was believed to lie with the big powers. There was nothing for small nations but to huddle as best they could in the shadows of the greater.

The result of this was a bias of policy toward foreign affairs. The Victorian statesmen came to be despised: Churchill called them somewhere “little men obsessed with little issues”. Political success became increasingly identified with anything that projected British influence and power throughout the world. Domestic issues were regarded as ancillary to this. One of the main inspirations behind the welfare measures of the Asquith Government was the perceived need to create an “imperial nation” - healthy and fit for the challenges of maintaining British power. Those liberals and socialists who had no interest in this maintenance were pushed to the margins of debate. Those who could present their opinions in the appropriate clothing were assured of a respectful hearing. More than a decade before the Italian Government made fascism into a recognised ideology, the British Government was already considering its domestic policy as a matter of balancing the legitimate but conflicting interests of capital and labour to allow an uninterrupted concentration on foreign policy.

The high point of this imperial social democracy came in 1940. The deal on which the Churchill coalition rested was that he and his friends could have their war with Germany, Italy and Japan, and their grand conferences with the Americans and Russians, and the socialists could do as they pleased on the home front - so long as this did not get in the way of fighting the war.

The problem was that the War destroyed the Empire. It undermined the financial domination by the City of London on which the Empire ultimately rested, and raised up two powers that in their various ways dwarfed even the British Empire, let alone an exhausted and semi-bankrupt United Kingdom. At the moment of its greatest success, our imperial ruling class found itself without an empire to rule. No doubt, it retained formal control, even with India gone, over large territories outside the United Kingdom. But these were all drifting in various ways to independence, and could no longer be regarded as contributing real strength to the country. After the 1940s, what remained of the Empire was plainly less an asset than a liability, and the best policy towards it came to be seen as arranging for the most orderly and dignified retreat.

The option now was to try for a partnership with the Americans. They would supply the money and the weapons, we the practical experience and much diplomatic and moral support. Britain could never again be what it had been before 1914, or even before 1939. But, if below America, it could still stand higher in the world than little powers like France and Germany. It could keep its “seat at the top table”.

All seemed to go well at first. As they settled into the Cold War, the Americans found it useful to treat Britain as at least a privileged client. For the first decade after the War, it was still possible to think of Britain as a great power. Large parts of the Empire remained, and those parts given independence  remained mostly in the Commonwealth. British politicians could still go about the world saying and occasionally doing important things.

The dream ended with the Suez Crisis. The peremptory orders given from Washington showed how asymmetric the “special relationship” really was. However Anglophile most American leaders might be, Britain was a client, and should not presume to any independence of policy.

Had there been more politicians at the time like Enoch Powell, that would have been the end of all pretensions to world power. As after 1922, there would have been a shift of focus back to domestic issues. The drain of taxes and moral effort into shoring up an unsustainable imperialism would have been ended. The compromises with organised labour would then have been unnecessary. Taxes and regulations could have been cut, and much greater effort put into restructuring the economy, so that private enterprise could flourish under the burden of the smallest and most efficient welfare state that still satisfied public opinion. We might have had something like the Thatcher reforms 30 years earlier.

Instead, a debate opened between those who continued to believe in an American alliance and those who now looked to Europe to magnify British power - with a moderate position that wanted both. In this debate, Harold Macmillan and Harold Wilson were the moderates, and Edward Heath and Hugh Gaitskill the extremists.

Between about 1965 and 1985, the pro-Europeans had the better of the debate. We entered the Common Market, as it was then called, and there seemed no hope for those who were against the project. In the late 1970s, the Conservatives settled their differences, by agreeing on economic reform at home with continued if reluctant membership of the Common Market.

It must be said that the strategy was a good one well into the 1980s. The consensus from the late 1960s was that the power of vested interests - mainly but not exclusively the trade unions - was now so great that the economy could not be restructured by purely domestic effort. Both the first Wilson and the Heath Governments tried to reform industrial relations, and failed. The best hope, it was widely agreed, was to put the country under some external pressure that would take the case for restructuring outside domestic politics. Joining the Common Market did just this. It meant an end to industrial protection and gave an excuse for the eventual ending of industrial subsidies. By 1978, the British market was wide open to competition from more efficient producers in France, Italy and West Germany. Even had Margaret Thatcher lost the 1975 leadership contest, the cosy but stifling arrangements of the 1950s and 60s could not have lasted.

From the middle of the 1980s, however, the usefulness of the European project was over. The Thatcher reforms had turned Britain from about the least to certainly the most liberal economy in the Common Market. At the same time, the Common Market was departing from the economic liberalism of its earlier years and making the rhetoric of federalism into reality. No longer a hindrance to socialism at home, it was hindering continued liberalisation. It was time to leave.

Now, at this point, I should explain - as I doubtless have many times elsewhere - what is so objectionable to the European Union. It is not a conspiracy of foreigners to bring this country down to their own level. It is not a powerful external control on our government comparable to what existed in the old Soviet Empire. It is, much rather, a procedural device by which our own political classes trade favours with domestic interest groups, at our expense and without having to account to us.

It is a notorious fact that the central authorities of the European Union have no practical means of enforcing their will on a member state that chooses to ignore it. There is no way of stopping the Germans from breaching the rules of the European Central Bank. The Spanish can ignore the Common Fisheries Policy, and the Greeks just about everything. If our own authorities enforce every whim of Brussels to - and usually beyond - its letter, it is because those whims benefit some powerful group in our own country. They produce benefits for the officials, for the privileged business interests, and for everyone else who wants to live at our expense but could not do so if we had first to be asked.

According to this analysis, the argument that the European Union can be made more accountable by greater democracy misses the point. Even if a democracy could work across however many different countries will soon be member states, it would be a worthless improvement. As said, the European Union has no real power over how we are governed. It is simply a means by which our own rulers exercise unaccountable power. Getting out will not require some genteel version of the revolt of the Dutch against Spanish rule. The struggle must be wholly domestic.

But, as said, it may not now be much of a struggle.