Author Archives: seangabb

About seangabb

Sean Gabb is the author of twenty books and around five hundred essays. Under the name Richard Blake, he has written six historical novels for Hodder & Stoughton. These have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Greek, Slovak, Hungarian, Chinese and Indonesian. Under his own name, he has written four novels. His other books are mainly about libertarian politics. He is the Director of the Libertarian Alliance, a human rights and educational charity based in the United Kingdom. He also teaches. His main experience has been in higher education. More recently, though, he has discovered a talent for teaching Latin to primary school children. This is a talent he intends to develop. He lives in Kent with his wife and daughter.

Donald Trump and the Nature of Victory, Sean Gabb (2017)

With a Bound, He was Free?
Donald Trump and the Nature of Victory
by Sean Gabb
(13th April 2017)

Since I am pushing myself into a debate between foreigners, I must begin by explaining myself. I am not an American, and do not wish to be one. I do not live in America, and do not wish to live there. The only country I love and know well is England. This being said, I have an obvious right of audience in the debate on Donald Trump. England and America share a language. Any impartial observer looking at the two countries will see two ruling classes, almost joined at the hip, facing two subject peoples whose assumptions about the good life and how it may be promoted largely overlap. If the relationship is unbalanced by an inequality of size and wealth, what happens in either country has an inescapable effect on what happens in the other. Rules of politeness that hold me from commenting on affairs in France or Germany do not apply to America. Here, then, are my thoughts on what has happened in America during the past week.

I am disturbed my Mr Trump’s apparent breaking of his election promises. He promised no more interventions in the Middle East. He has attacked Government forces in Syria, and on grounds that seem dubious in themselves. He promised better relations with Russia. These relations now seem lower than they were when Mr Obama was the American President. He denounced NATO as “obsolete.” He is now happy with NATO. American healthcare is not my proper concern. But it is worth observing, in the light of his foreign policy, that he seemed to promise his working class supporters a system less dominated by entrenched special interests. It is a mercy, I am told by friends whose judgement I trust, that his only attempt at reform was frustrated.

It may be that he has no intention of keeping his promises. Perhaps he never had any intention of keeping them. Perhaps he has seen the scale of resistance to what he promised, and has given up. Or it may be that he is playing some clever game, and will, once more, come out unexpectedly triumphant. I think it will take a year to know the truth beyond reasonable doubt. For the moment, however, I will assume the former possibility. I first voted in a general election in 1979, and paid close attention, over the next decade, to a woman who, in breach of every actual or implied promise, made my country more regulated, more heavily taxed, more diverse, more subservient to foreign interests, and generally more enslaved than she found it. Ronald Reagan followed roughly the same course. It strikes me as more likely than not that Mr Trump is now doing the same.

If so, this would be a disappointment. But it is no cause for despair. 2017 is not the early 1980s. The differences go far beyond changes of fashion and an updating of lies. They are roughly as follows:

First, Mrs Thatcher and Mr Reagan took up the rhetoric of market liberalism. Many of us looked at the chapter headings, and assumed the promise was of radical deregulation and a general penumbra of changes that seemed to follow from this. We ignored the main text, or the alternative meanings that could be placed on words. I realised what was happening earlier than most. Even I took till after the 1983 general election to understand that the real agenda was one of corporatism and the beginnings of a police state. It took me longer still to see that this would be a politically correct police state.

The rhetoric that Donald Trump took up in his campaign was of populism – and a populism that took account of all that had been done to his country since about 1980 or before. There is no unread text in the promises he made. His words have no alternative meanings. He promised an end to foreign intervention, and an end to political correctness, and an end to domination by special interests. After a very short time – and, I grant again, that this short time may not yet be over – broken promises stand out as plainly as a wrong answer in arithmetic.

Second, in the 1980s, we faced a narrative constructed and maintained from the centre. There was a centralised media that allowed only certain issues to be discussed, and that ensured they were discussed only in certain ways. This is not to say that control of the media was monolithic. Debates were lively, and even acrimonious. But important facts were often withheld, and the public was encouraged to look at those facts that were published through various kinds of partisan lens that kept the truth from being perceived. Of equal and associated importance, the media in those days were organised to broadcast from the centre to the periphery. They did little to enable a conversation between the centre and the periphery, and conversations within the periphery were localised and compartmentalised. What has happened since then is too obvious to need describing. When Mr Trump ordered those missiles to be launched, Facebook and Twitter and the blogs began an unmanaged and unmanageable debate in which ordinary people could discuss in public whether and to what extent they had been lied to.

Third, and following from the above, Mr Trump’s supporters have the advantage of hindsight. I will boast again that I rumbled Mrs Thatcher earlier than most. Even so, it took years for it to dawn on me fully that she was fronting an elaborate fraud – or, at least, a mistake. Here, I speak from English experience, though I believe it was much the same in America. The Enemy she and her friends pointed us toward was a coalition of pro-Soviet union leaders and alleged degenerates. The remedy involved vast military spending, and an attack on the working class, and things like the prepublication censorship of video recordings. The actual enemy was a coalition of university graduates who wore suits, had at best a lingering taste for Marxism-Leninism, were not hostile to certain kinds of corporate enterprise, were out of love with the social liberalism of the 1960s, and whose own agenda can be summarised as political correctness plus the constable. Whether or not they noticed these people until it was too late, the Thatcherites did nothing to stop them, and tended to promote them. The rest of us were encouraged to laugh now and again at their linguistic tricks – and then go back to fretting over Arthur Scargill’s plan to make England into a copy of East Germany.

Nowadays, we know exactly who the Enemy is. These people run education and the media, and criminal justice and the administration, and most of big business. If they are not perfectly united, they stand together in a project to make the rest of us into denatured tax serf-consumers. Just because some of them work in the formally private sector does not make them into friends of private enterprise. Just because some of them want to make pornography illegal does not make them into social conservatives.

Fourth, and again following from the above, the Enemy is getting old. When I was a student, these people were in their thirties or my own age. They had a messianic belief in their own self-righteousness, and considerable networking abilities. Most of us, on the other hand, were old farts, pining for the 1950s, or semi-autistic libertarians, prepared to shun each other for taking a wrong view of the non-aggression principle. Those who were neither were chancers or shills. Hardly surprising if we were shoved aside or simply ignored.

The Enemy is now old and discredited. The successor generation is stuffed with mediocrities. The new generation of dissidents is young and not particularly bound by considerations of ideological purity. Open borders? Shut them! Socialised healthcare? If our own working classes want it, let it be! Trade policy? Whatever is politically useful! The managerial state? Shut down what we cannot take over; what we can take over use before we shut it down! Though I wrote one of its early texts, I am not sure if I qualify for membership of the Alternative Right. But I recognise quality when I see it. None of my old friends ever made the Enemy hysterical with fright. None of us ever reduced the Enemy to a laughing stock. I doubt if we ever did much, beyond voting for them, to help our clay-footed idols get elected.

The two big events of 2016 were the British Referendum and the election of Donald Trump. For a moment, it looked as if with a bound, we were free. We are now finding that not all may be as it then seemed. At the same time, those elections were won. They were won explicitly as rejections of the present order of things. Unlike in the 1980s, the correlation of forces is on our side. If Donald Trump sells out, that is unfortunate. But there will be other chances.

Terrorism and the Ethics of Collective Punishment (2017), by Sean Gabb

Terrorism and the Ethics of Collective Punishment
by Sean Gabb
(23rd March 2017)

Outraged by yesterday’s terrorist attack in London, one of my Facebook friends has posted this:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The way to deal with Islamic terrorism is mercilessly. You must not be squeamish about liberal use of the death penalty for those who commit or attempt acts of terror, or their associates. You must not be squeamish about retaliatory acts against their friends and families. Every attendee at their mosque should be deported if a dual of foreign national, then no stone of the building should be left standing and the soil soaked in pigs blood.

If you don’t do these things, or attack those who do, you are enabling terror. You yourself have some blood on your hands. This is not me being angry, for I am not angry at all. I’ve just read some history, and this is how it is. Not taking necessary dissuasive action is profoundly harmful. It is evil.

What I find interesting about the post is my friend’s advocacy of collective punishment for individual crimes. He is advancing these propositions:

First, that the man who committed yesterday’s attack is to be regarded both as an individual as a member of an alien group;

Second, that this alien group, or a section of it, is to be held partly responsible for the attacks;

Third, that punishment for the attacks is to involve loss of property and other rights for people who cannot be proven to have taken part in the attack, or to have known about it in advance, plus a deliberate religious desecration;

Fourth, that these punishments, taken together, are to mark out the attacker’s group as both legally inferior and generally unwelcome in this country.

Taking into account what he has said, and what naturally follows from it, my friend’s justification seems to be utilitarian. If a member of a relevant group has reasonable suspicion that someone he knows is contemplating a terrorist attack, he will have an incentive to tell the authorities about it. The leaders of this group will also have an incentive to take their own deterrent actions. This being so, there will be a diminution of terrorist violence from within that group.

To put it mildly, I find the post troubling. I find it troubling for two reasons.

First, we live in a civilisation that pays unusual attention to individual rights and individual responsibilities. We punish only those individuals who can be proven to have committed a crime. We also punish accomplices before and after the fact. We may also impute criminal liability in obvious cases of common purpose. But, unless they are accomplices of some kind, we do not punish the relatives and friends and neighbours of a criminal. This is an important limitation. It is central to our conception of civic order. So far as we depart from it, we become less English and less European and less Christian in our ways.

Second, collective punishment may be a recipe for civil war. If I cannot persuade the man down the road out of the crime that I reasonably believe he is contemplating, I may be tempted to inform on him. On the other hand, I may believe that my other neighbours will then murder me. This will be very likely if I belong to a group that has been officially told it is inferior and unwelcome. I may then connive at covering up the man’s crime. Or I shall be inclined to join in rioting and other acts that may deter the authorities from imposing more than a token collective punishment.

I could end my response here, basking in my own liberalism. There is, however, a difficulty with my first point. The civic order that I mention emerged in its purest form in England and those other European nations that enjoyed a high degree of ethnic homogeneity. It seemed reasonable to treat each other as individuals, because we were all members of the same group – or members of groups closely-related and with fluid boundaries. Such an order has never emerged in territories populated by groups who define themselves as radically separate from each other. The custom here has been for members of each group to deal justly with their own as individuals, but to extend such dealing to others only as a matter of limited courtesy, or from a position of overwhelming strength. When there is a conflict, the custom has been to treat individuals from another group as a representative of the group, and to hold the group as a whole responsible for the acts of its individual members.

The civic order that I mention is not a universal fact, but a product of unusual circumstances. Indeed, it has not been an entirely settled fact even in England. Look at our treatment of the native Irish after each of their rebellions. Look at our treatment of the Scottish Highlanders whenever they actively sided with the exiled Stuarts. Look at how we treated the subject nationalities in our Empire.

We have, since the end of the Second World War, moved from unquestioned homogeneity to an increasing diversity. The civic order that emerged in one state of affairs may not be supportable in a different state of affairs. There are certain new groups among us who do not wish to assimilate – or perhaps cannot assimilate. So far as it fears loss of territory or demographic weight, the traditional majority shows a growing willingness to act like any other group in history. If someone in one of the minority groups robs a bank, or murders his wife for the insurance money, he will be punished as an individual in the usual way. If he preys on the women or children of the majority group, or commits acts of terrorist violence, he will increasingly be treated as a representative of his group, and his group will be held collectively responsible for his actions.

I will add that a culture of collective responsibility is as likely to result in a restored equilibrium as in unlimited conflict. That is a matter of circumstances. Undoubtedly, though, the achievement of equilibrium will only follow some degree of conflict, and a permanent breakdown of the old order of things.

What I wish to be the case is of no importance. We are where we are, and we are headed where we are headed. It is possible that the “community leaders” of the group from which yesterday’s outrage came will also see where we are headed, and will take resolute and sufficient action. But this would be historically unusual. The usual dynamics of any conflict between groups is an escalation of mutual provocations, in which the moderates on both sides lose position to the hard-liners. It then becomes a question of which side has greater resources and the will to use them.

For the avoidance of doubt, I do not want my country to fall apart in civil war. I do not want the breakdown of our ancient civic order. But what my Facebook friend has said, I fear, is only what many others are thinking – and what many more who do not yet agree will soon be thinking.

 

 

 

On Living in a Moral Sewer (2017), Sean Gabb

On Living in a Moral Sewer
Sean Gabb
(9th January 2017)

Just over two months ago, I was interviewed by The Daily Mail. Let me give the facts of the story that I was told.

Kelly Jarvis was a police officer in the North of England. In 2013, she took a personal dislike to Fiona Miller, a member of the public. At first, she contented herself with sending poison pen messages by text and via social media. Then, using the access she had to the relevant databases, she fabricated a set of entries to make it appear that Mrs Miller was sleeping with an underage boy and abusing her own son. In 2015, the social workers came knocking. Early in 2016, the police turned up at Mrs Miller’s home so see whether her son was in immediate danger.

Fortunately, PC Jarvis had not covered her tracks, and Mrs Miller was able to complain. The Cleveland Police investigated. According to The Daily Mail:

It [the report] found she [PC Jarvis] had exploited her training and knowledge of working in a unit which deals with malicious communication offences to harass Fiona by creating three false Facebook profiles to send her abusive and upsetting messages.

In addition, the report upheld the allegations that she had accessed police systems inappropriately and made false referrals to the NSPCC.

The nasty falsehoods went on and on, painting a picture of a filthy house full of barking dogs and of Tommy being left for hours to cry himself to sleep while Fiona and Steven screamed and shouted at each other all night—all of which were recorded as 'facts' on Fiona's police file.

In there, too, was the statement about Fiona having sex with a 14-year-old boy—a boy who is now a man. He is now in a relationship with one of her friends. When he heard of the lies being told in his name, he submitted a statement to police to deny that he and Fiona had ever had a sexual relationship.

Pulling no punches, the police report said: 'As a police officer, PC Jarvis should have been honest and diligent in the exercise of her duties and responsibilities and provided the correct details on the referral forms… she has acted in a manner which discredits the police force.'

I am not sure why criminal charges were not laid against PC Jarvis. A disciplinary case was opened against her. However, she was allowed to resign before the hearing, thereby keeping her pension arrangements intact.

I gave a long interview on this case. Sadly, my comments were summarised, accurately but incompletely, as follows:

Civil liberties campaigner Dr Sean Gabb, of the Libertarian Alliance, described the case as 'outrageous', adding: 'The issue is that a police officer thought there was nothing wrong whatsoever in using her position to mess up someone else's life. It is blatant moral corruption and cannot be tolerated.'

I do not blame The Daily Mail for failing to quote me at length. I often am quoted at length, but this was already a long story. Instead, here is the substance of all that I said.

This is a shocking case. What concerns me most, however, is that it is being turned into a discussion of whether new laws or codes of conduct are needed—whether, for example, a police officer should be allowed to resign before the outcome of a disciplinary hearing. Perhaps the law should be changed in this instance. But we have spent the past two generations heaping new laws on new laws. If these laws could have worked as we were promised, we might now be living in some paradise on earth. The truth is that institutions are only as honest as the individuals within them, and laws are only as good as those enforcing them. Rather than looking for yet another new law, and telling ourselves that this will the keystone in our arch of moral perfection, we should consider that we live in a country where moral corruption has become normal.

Wherever we look in the state services, there is corruption. There is nepotism. There is favouritism and bullying. There is fraud. There is negligent waste. There is bribe-seeking. There is an obsession with secrecy, to keep these facts from investigation and punishment. You see this in local government, and in the National Health Service. You see it in the Police. You see it in education. You see it in the administration of justice. I have my stories to tell. I am sure you have yours. Taken together, these show a spreading stain of moral corruption.

I do not wish to exaggerate. On this occasion, there was an investigation. Assuming the facts reported by The Daily Mail are even approximately true, I am surprised there were no criminal charges. But, if her pension was saved, PC Jarvis was ruined. There are countries, even in Europe, where an investigation would have been squashed, and where any reporter trying to find what happened would have faced harassment and perhaps threats of murder. England is still not that sort of country. But the facts as reported are no grounds for complacency.

I could take the mainstream libertarian line, and say that corruption and the State are inseparable, and we cannot expect the first to vanish until the second also has vanished. I agree that the British State tries to do too many things. Many of these should be done by others. Many should not be done at all. PC Jarvis would have had less opportunity for corruption, given a much smaller and weaker state machinery. If true, though, this line is unhelpful. The State is unlikely to vanish in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, there is corruption.

As an aside, I will add that the last time anyone who called himself a libertarian had political influence in this country, things were made worse than they were already. In 1989, I attended a private meeting in which Teresa Gorman explained the Thatcher Government’s plan for the contracting-out of local government services. With rising scorn, I dismissed the plan as a sure recipe for corruption—that councillors and local government officers would sell contracts to the highest bidder. That, or contracts would be given by and to people with funny handshakes. The organiser of the meeting took me aside afterwards, and warned me never again to embarrass him or his grand friends. To do her justice, Mrs Gorman was not offended. On and off for the next ten years, she employed me as a ghost writer. She even paid me with greater promptness than was her custom.

But I return to the main thread of my argument. I speak of a spreading stain of moral corruption. This is notoriously spreading from the top. Most people take their lead from those above them. When those in charge are honest and competent, those they direct will at least tend to honesty and competence. When people see that those who manage them are scoundrels, and that those who manage their managers are still greater scoundrels, they will themselves tend to dishonesty and incompetence.

Why, she might have asked, should PC Jarvis not have abused her powers, when there is no one in England who believes that David Kelly committed suicide in 2003? Why should people not take bribes, when everyone knows that Members of Parliament are bribed and blackmailed by foreign intelligence agencies? Why should anyone behave justly in the state sector, when those set above him are generally incompetents with sticky hands? I could write at length about what I was told, and what I believe, about the agreement that gave Hong Kong to Communist China. I could write from personal authority about the awarding of the contract to run the National Lottery. I could ask how so many living politicians have become so rich. I could write about the sexual predations of dead politicians like Cyril Smith and Greville Janner and Leon Brittan. But this would turn an essay into a dissertation. I will only say that it has become a rebuttable presumption that anyone in public life is only there for money or sex or both. When someone is shown to be straight, the general response is incredulity. This does not excuse what PC Jarvis did. But it does explain how people of limited intelligence and a weak moral sense will behave when faced with temptation.

Again, I do not wish to exaggerate. There never was a time in this country when public life was entirely clean. Lloyd George kept the Great War going two years after we had won it on points, so he could grow rich out of the kick-backs from the contracts he was awarding to his friends in the armaments trade. I have suspicions about our entry into the Second World War. Compared with that, the modern corruptions I have mentioned are very little.

Even so, there is something dispiriting and sordid about modern England, and the case of Kelly Jarvis is a good epitome of all that is rotten. I say above that we have still not reached the degraded level of other countries. Other things being equal, we are headed in that direction.

I could ask why this has happened. Why is nearly everyone at the top bent or useless? This is another opportunity for writing at length, and I will not take it, except to suggest the Somme and Passchendaele as probable causes. Instead, I will try to end on a positive note. Our abilities to find out and make public what is happening have never been greater than they now are. So far, what has been uncovered has created a mood of pervasive cynicism. Sooner or later, though, there must be some kind of reckoning. When that happens, I hope the primary site of infection will not be overlooked.

 

A Christmas Message for 2016

At home in Deal, Dr Gabb, dressed in twinset and pearls, sits with Christmas tree in background.

At this time of year, few sights evoke more feelings of cheer and goodwill than the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree.

For myself, the tree behind me takes me back to the Christmas of 1993, when my wife and I had been married for nearly one year. It was our first Christmas together as a couple, and it was the first year when she cooked the traditional mushroom soup and fried carp of a Slovak Christmas feast.

We have enjoyed such feasts every year since then. At least, we have until this year, when our daughter’s aversion to fish of any kind has persuaded my wife to change the main part of the meal to chicken fried in breadcrumbs.

And this, I suppose, is what 2016 has been about. For so many years, we had been assured – and for so many years we may have assured ourselves – that the future of our country lay in continued membership of the European Union. Yet, when the people of our country were allowed to vote on this, last June, they chose, by a considerable margin, a return to national independence.

And, looking to America, we have seen a similar change in the menu. Very few, this time last year, could have expected that, despite the opposition of one or two persons in the media, in business, and in the political class, Mr Trump would become the next President. Yet this is just what he and the people of the United States have achieved.

But life is a continuous journey, in which change and surprise are never wholly absent.

I was forcefully struck by the truth of this observation earlier this year, when I paid a visit with my wife and daughter to Slovakia. We were greeted by many friends, both old and new. Wherever we went, we experienced a continual fount of goodwill to ourselves and the people of our country.

And it was the same when, in the September of this year, I paid a visit, without my wife and daughter, to our good friends in Turkey, Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Gulcin Imre. Both were naturally concerned by certain untoward events in the country. Even so, we contrived with many other friends, from all over the world, to make this an event filled with joy and with feelings of charity to all.

Gathering round the tree gives us a chance to think about the year ahead. I am looking forward to further changes, that will make the promise we have seen this year of a better world into a growing reality.

It also allows us to reflect on the year that has passed, as we think of those who are far away or no longer with us.

The custom of topping a tree also reminds us of the very first Christmas, when it was an angel who announced the coming of a better world. For Joseph and Mary, the circumstances of Jesus’s birth – in a stable – were far from ideal. But was it not Jesus who told us to render unto Caesar only those things that are Caesar’s?

Although it is not an easy message to follow, we shouldn’t be discouraged; rather, it inspires us to try harder: to be thankful for the people who bring love and happiness into our own lives, and to look for ways of spreading that love to others, whenever and wherever we can.

Christmas is a good time to be thankful for them, and for all that brings light to our lives.

I wish you a very happy Christmas.

Fade to refrain from Land of Hope and Glory

La politique britannique: attendre la révolution (2016), by Sean Gabb

La politique britannique: attendre la révolution 
Par Sean Gabb 
(15 Décembre 2016)

Je ne suis pas un oracle politique. Je suis occupé. J'ai deux livres à terminer. Si l'enseignement du grec et du latin n'est pas en soi difficile, le sens des nouveaux niveaux A est difficile. Par conséquent, j'ai ignoré les demandes de commentaires sur le désordre continu de notre départ de l'Union européenne et l'interdiction de prétendues «organisations terroristes de droite» et les nouvelles lois de surveillance et quelles que soient les forces armées qui pourraient tuer quelque part monde. Au lieu de la critique détaillée, je n'ai que cela à offrir pour le reste de 2016.

 Après 1917, les communistes imposèrent une tyrannie sombre à ce qui avait été l'Empire russe, ou à des parties de celui-ci laissées par le réaménagement des frontières en 1919. Après 1945, l'Union soviétique a imposé des versions un peu moins horribles de lui-même Une grande partie de l'Europe centrale. Pendant les quarante années suivantes, la moitié de l'Europe était enfermée dans un système de contrôle politique, culturel et économique sans précédent dans l'histoire européenne. Les efforts pour se libérer – en 1956 et 1968, par exemple – ont été aplati par l'invasion soviétique immédiate.

Puis, le 7 e Décembre 1988, Mikhaïl Gorbatchev, le dirigeant soviétique newish, se leva devant les Nations Unies, et a annoncé qu'il retirait la plupart des forces d' occupation des Etats satellites européens, et qu'il ne regarderait pas défavorablement sur les politiques Changements dans ces États.

Le discours n'avait pas de résultat immédiat dans les états satellites. Les hommes âgés et vieillissants qui étaient arrivés au pouvoir après 1945 ont continué comme avant. Il n'y avait pas de diminution de la censure ou de l'espionnage. En effet, en octobre 1989, le gouvernement tchécoslovaque a publié en octobre 1989 une nouvelle lettre de Klement Gottwald, le premier, et indéniablement le pire, des présidents communistes du pays.

Mais nous savons ce qui s'est passé ensuite. Les forces de répression dont disposaient ces hommes restaient redoutables à toutes fins fixées, mais non pour faire face à une dissension soudaine en public. Personne, sauf peut-être au sommet, ne croyait que le système était bon ou durable. Sans la menace ultime d'une invasion soviétique, le système n'avait pas de soutien. Dans un pays après l'autre, à peine un coup de feu ou une tête brisée, le communisme fut emporté par une vague de dégoût populaire. Un quart de siècle plus tard, personne ne prétendra que ces pays sont des endroits positifs pour vivre. Mais ils sont tous une amélioration incommensurable sur ce qu'ils étaient.

Nous pouvons être maintenant dans la même position, ici en Angleterre. Je ne sais pas si Donald Trump sera autorisé à prendre ses fonctions. Je ne sais pas s'il sera autorisé à tenir bon nombre de ses promesses. Mais son élection, le mois dernier, n'était en partie que le résultat de l'étrange mécanisme constitutionnel américain. La génération quelque peu ruineuse à laquelle j'appartiens – en termes, du moins, de la date de mon certificat de naissance – a dominé l'Occident après environ 1990. Elle s'est discréditée. Il vieillit. Il est en train de rire hors du pouvoir par les hommes plus jeunes. Si Donald Trump est autorisé à être en fonction de ce qu'il a promis d'être dans la campagne, ces jeunes hommes poursuivront leur révolution. S'il est étouffé, ces jeunes hommes ne vont pas s'en aller, mais continueront leur destruction de l'ordre établi. Supposons même que l'élection ait été annulée et que Mme Clinton fût nommée présidente plus tard ce mois-ci – pense-t-on que l'Amérique continuerait d'être exactement ce qu'elle était avant le mois dernier? Je ne.

Cela m'amène à mon propre pays. Il y a quelques mois, j'ai souffert de mon enthousiasme périodique pour le Parti conservateur. Mme May, je l'ai dit, était un conservateur d'une nation. Il était dans son intérêt de nous sortir de l'Union européenne. Il y avait au moins une chance qu'elle surveillerait une libéralisation interne. J'avais tort. Le flot des lois de l'État de police continue à pleine pression. Quant à l'Union européenne, je crois toujours que son intérêt réside dans une rupture rapide et radicale. Mais il semble que ni elle ni personne d'autre dans son gouvernement n'est compétente pour le faire. On ne s'est pas éloigné de l'exactitude politique à la maison et du néoconservatisme à l'étranger.

Malgré tout, la corrélation des forces a changé. Pour toute sa solidité apparente, le système sur lequel Mme May préside est fragile. Le référendum tenu en juin dernier était moins sur la question de savoir si nous devrions quitter l'Union européenne que ce que nous pensons de nos propres dirigeants. S'il y a une élection générale en 2017, je soupçonne qu'elle montrera des niveaux de désaffection toujours croissants. Les conservateurs gagneront probablement, mais le schéma des votes exprimés dans de nombreuses circonscriptions sera souvent plus intéressant que celui qui est réellement rendu.

L'histoire est façonnée par une combinaison de grands mouvements et d'accidents. Si nous regardons l'Europe en 1914, nous voyons un ensemble d'alliances militaires finement équilibrées placées au sommet d'un tas de mortier moral et démographique. Quiconque a montré seulement ceci acceptera qu'une guerre générale était probable. Mais il fallut cet assassinat dans les Balkans, suivi d'un mois de stupidité universelle, avant que les canons ouvrent le feu.

Ou bien, l'échec du système soviétique était évident à partir de 1980. Son implosion était cependant l'effet de la croyance imprévisible que le politique pouvait prévaloir sur la réforme économique.

Je ne sais pas – je ne peux pas savoir – ce qui abaissera l'ordre actuel des choses en Angleterre. Mais les circonstances dans lesquelles cet ordre a émergé, et qui le soutenait, cessent de s'appliquer. Tôt ou tard, il s'effondrera.

Par conséquent, je ne vois aucune raison d'intimider moi-même dans un autre gémissement sur la conservation des données, ou l'emprisonnement des dissidents politiques. Theresa May a choisi d'être notre propre version de Gustav Husak en 1989. Les mauvaises lois qu'elle fait sont sa version de cette centaine de billets de la Couronne.

Il y aura un changement en Angleterre. Ça ne réglera pas tout. Mais il est peu probable que ce soit pire que ce que nous avons actuellement.

British Politics: Waiting for the Revolution (2016), by Sean Gabb

British Politics: Waiting for the Revolution
By Sean Gabb
(Published by Katehon, 15th December 2016)

I am no political oracle. I am busy. I have two books to finish. If teaching Greek and Latin is not in itself difficult, making sense of the new A Levels is difficult. Therefore, I have ignored requests to comment on the continuing mess of our leaving the European Union, and the banning of allegedly “right-wing terror organisations,” and the new surveillance laws, and whomever our armed forces may presently be killing somewhere in the world. Instead of detailed critique, I have only this to offer for the rest of 2016.

After 1917, the Communists imposed a grim tyranny on what had been the Russian Empire, or those parts of it left by the redrawing of borders in 1919. After 1945, the Soviet Union imposed slightly less awful versions of itself on the whole of Eastern and much of Central Europe. For the next forty years, half of Europe was locked into a system of political and cultural and economic control that had no precedent in European history. Efforts to break free –  in 1956 and 1968, for example – were flattened by immediate Soviet invasion.

Then, on the 7th December 1988, Mikhail Gorbachev, the newish Soviet leader, stood up before the United Nations, and announced that he was withdrawing many of the occupying forces from the European satellite states, and that he would not look unfavourably on political changes within these states.

The speech had no immediate result within the satellite states. The old and ageing men who had come to power after 1945 continued just as before. There was no diminution of censorship or spying. Indeed, the Czechoslovak Government issued a new hundred Crown note, in October 1989, with a picture on it of Klement Gottwald, the first, and undeniably the worst, of the country’s Communist Presidents.

But we know what happened next. The forces of repression available to these men remained formidable for all settled purposes, but not for dealing with sudden dissent in public. No one, except perhaps at the very top, believed the system was either good or durable. Without the ultimate threat of a Soviet invasion, the system had no backing. In one country after another, with barely a shot fired, or a head broken, Communism was swept away on a wave of popular disgust. A quarter of a century later, no one will claim that these countries are positively nice places to live. But they are all an immeasurable improvement on what they used to be.

We may now be in the same position, here in England. I do not know if Donald Trump will be allowed to take office. I do not know if he will be allowed to keep many of his promises. But his election last month was only in part a result of America’s odd constitutional machinery. The somewhat rubbishy generation to which I belong – in terms, at least, of the date on my birth certificate – dominated the West after about 1990. It has discredited itself. It is growing old. It is being laughed out of power by younger men. If Donald Trump is allowed to be in office what he promised to be in the campaign, these younger men will carry forward their revolution. If he is stifled, those younger men will not go away, but will continue their destruction of the established order. Let us suppose even that the election were set aside, and Mrs Clinton were to be made President later this month – does anyone suppose that America would continue to be exactly what it was before last month? I do not.

This brings me to my own country. A few months ago, I suffered one of my periodic fits of enthusiasm for the Conservative Party. Mrs May, I said, was a One Nation Conservative. It was in her interest to take us out of the European Union. There was at least a chance that she would oversee some internal liberalisation. I was wrong. The stream of police state laws continues at full pressure. As for the European Union, I still believe her interest lies in a swift and radical break. But it does seem that neither she nor anyone else in her Government is competent to bring this about. There has been no move away from political correctness at home and neoconservatism abroad.

Even so, the correlation of forces has changed. For all its apparent solidity, the system over which Mrs May presides is brittle. The Referendum held last June was less about whether we should leave the European Union than what we thought of our own rulers. If there is a general election in 2017, I suspect it will show continuing and increasing levels of disaffection. The Conservatives will probably win, but the pattern of votes cast in many constituencies will often be more interesting than who is actually returned.

History is shaped by a combination of grand movements and accidents. If we look at Europe in 1914, we see a set of finely-balanced military alliances set atop a pile of moral and demographic tinder. Anyone shown only this will agree that a general war was likely. But it took that assassination in the Balkans, followed by a month of universal stupidity, before the guns opened fire.

Or, coming forward, the failure of the Soviet system was obvious by 1980. Its implosion, though, was an effect of the unpredictable belief that political could take precedence over economic reform.

I do not know – I cannot know – what will bring down the present order of things in England. But the circumstances within which that order emerged, and that sustained it, are ceasing to apply. Sooner rather than later, it will collapse.

Therefore, I see no reason to bully myself into another moan about data retention, or the jailing of political dissidents. Theresa May has chosen to be our own version of Gustav Husak in 1989. The evil laws she is making are her version of that hundred Crown banknote.

There will be change in England. It will not set everything right. But it is unlikely to be worse than what we presently have.

Donald Trump et le patriotisme anglais: Un rinçage inattendu (2016), by Sean Gabb

Donald Trump et le patriotisme anglais:
Un rinçage inattendu
Par Sean Gabb
(14 e   Novembre 2016)

L'élection de la semaine dernière de Donald Trump a pris presque tout le monde par surprise. Pour certains d'entre nous, c'était un moment de joie, pour d'autres un choc terrible. J'étais dans la première catégorie. Le gouvernement britannique était dans la seconde. De Theresa May à la baisse, les ministres avaient passé un an   entassant mépris M. Trump . L'ampleur et la nature de leurs insultes ne seront pas rapidement oubliées. Leur première punition semble être qu'on leur a dit d'aborder M. Trump   que par Nigel Farage . Je ne doute pas qu'il y aura d'autres humiliations.

Une partie de moi est ravie. J'aime Donald Trump. J'aime Nigel Farage. Même si elle est meilleure que David Cameron, je reste méfiant et hostile à Mme May. Qu'elle et ses ministres mangent de la saleté pendant quelques semaines, pour ensuite se faire une idée plus raisonnable des intérêts britanniques. Tout cela me laisse mal à l'aise. Cet article, je dois vous avertir, sera plus que d'habitude solipsistic. D'autre part, j'ai toujours essayé d'être intellectuellement honnête, et je me sens obligé au moins de décrire ma difficulté actuelle.

Durant une vingtaine d'années, jusqu'à mardi dernier, j'ai tenu un ensemble d'opinions qui – je l'avoue toujours – ont peut-être eu tort, mais qui étaient cohérentes à l'interne. Ils sont allés quelque chose comme ceci:

Les intérêts fondamentaux de chaque pays sont les mêmes. Ce sont pour donner autant de liberté et de sécurité à leurs citoyens que les circonstances locales le permettront, tout en vivant en paix avec tous les autres pays. Ce qui dérange cette vision du monde, c'est que l'intérêt et la capacité ne coïncident pas toujours. Les États-Unis ont été capables de dominer le monde, et il a. La Grande-Bretagne n'est plus en mesure de le faire, mais a pu agir au-dessus de son pouvoir inhérent en devenant un satellite des États-Unis. J'ai trouvé ces deux faits irritants avant 1989. Après cela, l'Amérique est devenu le foyer de la rectitude politique et néoconservatisme. Pour moi donc, l'Amérique est devenue le Grand Satan. Tout gouvernement britannique voué à nos intérêts fondamentaux devrait commencer par rompre les relations avec les États-Unis. En attendant, j'étais même prêt à voir l'adhésion de l'Union européenne comme un contrepoids utile au pouvoir américain.

Je ne sais pas ce qu'est vraiment une présidence Trump. Mais il est possible que les opinions que je viens de résumer soient soudainement obsolètes. Il est possible que, dans quelques semaines, l'Amérique cesse d'être le Grand Satan, et devienne le siège de la   Empereur-Dieu-papa . Je me trouve déjà dans la même position que les gauchistes envers la France en 1789, ou vers la Russie en 1917. Il se peut donc que vous puissiez dépouiller toute la rhétorique Powellite, et je ne serai révélé que comme un anglospheriste dissident . Ma seule différence avec les gens que je dénonce depuis une génération, c'est que je veux un   différent   Empire américain.

Il ya une certaine vérité en cela. Le gouvernement de mon propre pays est maintenant à la tête de l'intérêt néoconservateur. Je serai certainement soulagé si les ordres rigides sortent de Washington, et Theresa May et Boris Johnson vont scinder à Moscou pour réparer leurs différences avec M. Poutine. Mais, si les faits sont changés, mes principes ne le sont pas.

Aucun bouton de réinitialisation n'a été appuyé la semaine dernière en Amérique. Le pays ne retournera pas à ce qu'il était censé devenir dans les années 1780. L'Amérique restera le pays le plus puissant du monde, avec des intérêts sur tous les continents. Elle peut les concevoir et les poursuivre de façon plus rationnelle. Mais il est peu probable que ses intérêts s'harmonisent parfaitement avec ceux de mon propre pays. Pour cette raison, nos intérêts dépendent, à long terme, de relations étroites avec la France et l'Allemagne, et d'une relation adéquate avec la Russie. Si nous pouvons ajouter à ces relations amicales avec l'Amérique, ce sera un bonus.

Je me tourne vers la question de ce que M. Trump fait déjà à Mme May. Pendant longtemps, l'establishment britannique a été une franchise en propriété exclusive du complexe militaro-industriel en Amérique, pris dans son sens le plus large. Les gouvernements britanniques sont néoconservateurs parce que c'est ce que Washington voulait. Ils sont politiquement corrects pour la même raison. Si la pression américaine ne doit pas être supprimée, mais simplement changée dans une meilleure direction, je serai reconnaissant pour cela. Je serai reconnaissant à court terme. À plus long terme, je veux toujours une indépendance totale. Je mettrai en place un maître plus raisonnable quand on dit à ses huissiers d'aller tranquillement sur le fouet. L'ambition finale n'est pas du tout un maître.

Je passe maintenant à la façon dont je vois l'Anglosphère. Il ne fait aucun doute que l'Angleterre et l'Amérique sont plutôt dans la position des jumeaux siamois. Nous partageons une langue. Nous partageons une culture. Parlant pour moi, j'ai autant d'amis américains que l'anglais. Quand je vais à l'étranger et que je suis parmi les Américains, nous nous retrouvons toujours dans un groupe unique, oubliant presque les différences de passeport et partageant des blagues sur les étrangers parmi lesquels nous sommes. Toujours en tenant compte de notre poids différent, ce qui a été fait au monde après 1989 était une entreprise conjointe britannique-américaine. La résistance intellectuelle à cela a été non moins une entreprise conjointe britannique-américaine – en tenant compte également de nos différents poids. Les libéraux et les conservateurs de nos deux pays n'ont pas seulement travaillé ensemble au cours des dernières décennies – nous avons appartenu au même mouvement, et nous avons travaillé contre le même ennemi, bien que dans deux endroits différents. Mes amis américains se sont réjouis quand l'Établissement britannique a obtenu un nez sanglant en juin dernier. Nous nous réjouissons maintenant que M. Trump soit le prochain président. Notre lutte a été et est la même. Nos victoires sont leurs victoires. Leurs victoires sont à nous.

Je ne suis pas sûr si je me suis fait aussi clair que je veux être. Peut-être devrais-je réfléchir davantage aux événements de cette année avant de pouvoir redevenir aussi sûr de moi-même que je l'ai fait au cours des trois derniers siècles. Il reste cependant que je suis ravi que l'incertitude que je décris soit devenue nécessaire. Tous ces gauchistes américains la semaine dernière, leurs visages comme des ballons éclatés, étaient un cadeau de Noël tôt. Les visages tendus de Theresa May et de ses ministres sont exactement du même genre.

J'attends avec impatience le premier voyage de Mme May à Washington l'année prochaine, et j'aurai un bon rire quand elle se prosternera de la manière appropriée devant le Dieu-Empereur-Papa. Ce sera une victoire pour moi et tous les autres dans le monde qui veut le meilleur pour l'Angleterre et l'Amérique en particulier, et pour une humanité souffrante en général.

Donald Trump and English Patriotism

Donald Trump and English Patriotism:
An Unexpected Wrinkle
by Sean Gabb
(14th November 2016)

The election last week of Donald Trump took nearly everyone by surprise. For some of us, it was a moment of joy, for others a terrible shock. I was in the first category. The British Government was in the second. From Theresa May downward, the Ministers had spent a year heaping scorn on Mr Trump. The scale and nature of their insults will not be quickly forgotten. Their earliest punishment appears to be that they have been told to approach Mr Trump only through Nigel Farage. I have no doubt there will be other humiliations.

Part of me is delighted. I like Donald Trump. I like Nigel Farage. Even if she is better than David Cameron, I remain suspicious of and hostile to Mrs May. Let her and her ministers eat dirt for a few weeks, and then come to a more reasonable view of British interests. All this does, however, leave part of me uncomfortable. This article, I must warn you, will be more than usually solipsistic. On the other hand, I have always tried to be intellectually honest, and I feel obliged at least to describe my present difficulty.

During the twenty years or so till last Tuesday, I held a set of opinions that – I always grant – may have been wrong, but that were internally consistent. They went something like this:

The fundamental interests of every country are the same. These are to give as much freedom and security to their citizens as local circumstances will allow, while living at peace with all other countries. What disturbs this view of the world is that interest and ability do not always coincide. The United States has been able to dominate the world, and it has. Britain is no longer able to do this, but has been able to act above its inherent power through becoming a satellite of the United States. I found both these facts irritating before 1989. After then, America became the home of political correctness and neoconservatism. For me, therefore, America became The Great Satan. Any British Government committed to our fundamental interests should begin by breaking off relations with the United States. In the meantime, I was even willing to see membership of the European Union as a useful counterweight to American power.

I do not know what a Trump Presidency will be really like. But it is possible that the opinions I have just summarised are suddenly obsolete. It is possible that, within a few weeks, America will cease being The Great Satan, and become the seat of the God-Emperor-Daddy. I already find myself in the same position as leftists did towards France in 1789, or towards Russia in 1917. It may, then, be that you can strip out all the Powellite rhetoric, and I shall be revealed as nothing more than a dissident Anglospherist. My only difference with the people I have been denouncing for a generation is nothing more than that I want a different American Empire.

There is some truth in this. The government of my own country is now at the head of the neoconservative interest. I shall certainly be relieved if stiff orders come out of Washington, and Theresa May and Boris Johnson go scuttling off to Moscow to patch up their differences with Mr Putin. But, if the facts are changed, my principles are not.

No hard reset button was pressed last week in America. The country will not revert to what it was supposed to become in the 1780s. America will remain the most powerful country in the world, with interests on every continent. It may conceive and pursue these in a more rational manner. But its interests are unlikely to become perfectly aligned with those of my own country. For this reason, our interests depend, in the long term, on close relations with France and Germany, and an adequate relationship with Russia. If we can add to this friendly relations with America, that will be a bonus.

I turn to the matter of what Mr Trump is already doing to Mrs May. For a long time, the British Establishment has been a wholly-owned franchise of the military-industrial complex in America, taken in its widest sense. British Governments are neoconservative because that is what Washington wanted. They are politically correct for the same reason. If American pressure is not to be removed, but merely changed in a better direction, I shall be grateful for that. I shall be grateful in the short term. In the longer term, I still want full independence. I will put up with a more sensible master when his bailiffs are told to go easy on the whip. The final ambition remains no master at all.

I turn now to how I view the “Anglosphere.” There is no doubt that England and America are rather in the position of Siamese twins. We share a language. We share a culture. Speaking for myself, I have as many American friends as English. When I go abroad, and am among Americans, we always find ourselves part of a single group, almost forgetting differences of passport, and sharing jokes about the foreigners we are among. Always taking account of our different weight, what was done to the world after 1989 was a joint British-American enterprise. The intellectual resistance to this has been no less a joint British-American enterprise – again taking account of our different weights. Libertarians and conservatives in our two countries have not merely worked together over the past few decades – we have belonged to the same movement, and we have worked against the same enemy, though in two different locations. My American friends rejoiced when the British Establishment got a bloody nose last June. We now rejoice that Mr Trump is to be the next President. Our struggle has been, and is, the same. Our victories are their victories. Their victories are ours.

I am not sure if I have made myself as clear as I want to be. Perhaps I need to think more about the events of this year before I can become as self-assured again as I have been for the past third of a century. It remains, however, that I am delighted that the uncertainty I describe has become necessary. All those American leftists last week, their faces like burst balloons, were an early Christmas present. The strained faces of Theresa May and her ministers are of exactly the same kind.

I look forward to Mrs May’s first trip to Washington next year, and I shall have a good laugh when she prostrates herself in the appropriate manner before the God-Emperor-Daddy. It will be a victory for me and everyone else in the world who wants the best for England and America in particular, and for a suffering humanity in general.

 

¿Todos norteamericanos ahora? (2016), by Sean Gabb

¿Todos norteamericanos ahora?
Sean Gabb
A Translation Published on Katehon, 9th November 2016)

Para mí -y creo que para muchos otros- las elecciones presidenciales norteamericanas han sido una repetición del referéndum europeo. Me fui a la cama con una leve esperanza. La cobertura de la BBC de los resultados estaba repleta de un ligero derrumbamiento del optimismo del establishment. Me desperté y encendí la computadora, para mirar las mismas caras conmocionadas como el pasado mes de junio. Es demasiado pronto para decir con certeza si ha ganado, pero parece que Donald Trump será el próximo presidente de Estados Unidos.

Ahora, hago la reserva habitual sobre la Alianza Libertaria que dirijo. Somos una organización benéfica. No tomamos parte en la política electoral. Fuimos, como organización, perfectamente indiferentes entre el señor Trump y la señora Clinton. Hablando por mí mismo, estoy encantado, y felicito a todos mis amigos estadounidenses, que trabajaron tan duro y esperaban tanto ver este resultado.

La idea de que el Sr. Trump hará todas las cosas que ha prometido es, y debe ser, poco probable. Parece estar en la naturaleza de las cosas para los políticos el decepcionar a las personas que los eligen. Pero dejemos eso a un lado. Al igual que con el referéndum europeo, esta ha sido una votación sobre el Nuevo Orden Mundial. Durante generaciones, los pueblos británico y norteamericano han estado fuera del muro de una democracia controlada. Se nos ha pedido que decidamos entre asuntos que otros han definido para nosotros. En el mejor de los casos, hemos podido elegir el menor de los males. En junio pasado, y este noviembre, nos dieron una opción real, y corrimos hacia la salida.

El efecto moral de lo que parece estar a punto de ocurrir será explosivo. Dos establishment hinchados y traicioneros han hecho frente a retos electorales y han perdido. Los "bribones" y "deplorables" han ignorado a los grandes medios de comunicación y al gran capital, y han votado por su conciencia. El izquierdismo cultural no ha sido derrotado – tiene un control demasiado grande de las instituciones para desaparecer de la noche a la mañana. Pero se ha puesto en aviso de despido.

No habrá una escalada de la guerra en Siria. No habrá una guerra con Rusia. No habrá presiones de los puestos más altos del gobierno estadounidense para que el Gobierno británico aplaste nuestra salida de la Unión Europea. No cabe duda de que habrá más perturbaciones en las próximas elecciones a través de Europa.

Hablando personalmente de nuevo, es demasiado pronto para estar seguro. Sin embargo, durante muchos años he estado denunciando a los Estados Unidos como el Gran Satán. Era el Nuevo Orden Mundial. Era la fuente de toda guerra y gobierno inexplicable. Bueno, todo lo que puedo decir en este momento, es que el Gran Satán parece haberse arrepentido, y miraré las banderas estadounidenses que encuentro cuando hago mis negocios diarios en Inglaterra con mucho menos disgusto que en cualquier otro momento de este siglo.

Independientemente de nuestra nacionalidad, mis amigos y yo somos todos estadounidenses esta mañana.

Para el resto, tendremos que ver.

All Americans Now? (2016), by Sean Gabb

All Americans Now?
By Sean Gabb
(Katehon, 9th November 2016)

For me – and I think for many others – the American presidential election has been a repeat of the European Referendum. I went to bed with a faint hope. The BBC coverage of the results was filled with faintly crumbling Establishment optimism. I woke and turned on the computer, to look at the same shocked faces as last June. It is too early to say for sure if he has won, but it does seem that Donald Trump will be the next President of America.

Now, I make the usual reservation about the Libertarian Alliance that I direct. We are a charity. We take no part in electoral politics. We were, as an organisation, perfectly indifferent between Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton. Speaking for myself, I am delighted, and I extend congratulations to all my American friends, who worked so hard and hoped so such to see this result.

The idea that Mr Trump will do all the things he has promised is, and must be, unlikely. It seems to be in the nature of things for politicians to disappoint the people who elect them. But leave that aside. As with the European Referendum, this has been a vote on the New World Order. For generations, the British and American peoples have stood outside a wall of managed democracy. We have been asked to decide between issues that others have defined for us. At best, we have been able to choose the lesser of evils. Last June, and this November, we were given a real choice, and we raced for the exit.

The moral effect of what seems about to happen will be explosive. Two bloated, treasonous Establishments have faced electoral challenges, and have lost. The “loons” and “deplorables” have ignored the big media and the big money, and have voted for their conscience. Cultural leftism is not defeated – it has too great a control of the institutions to vanish overnight. But it has been put on notice of dismissal.

There will not be an escalation of the war in Syria. There will not be a war with Russia. There will be no pressure from the highest points of the American Government for the British Government to fudge our exit from the European Union. There will, almost certainly, be further upsets in the forthcoming elections through Europe.

Speaking personally again, it is too early to be sure. However, I have, for many years, been denouncing the United States as The Great Satan. It was the New World Order. It was the source of all war and unaccountable government. Well, all I can say at the moment, is that the Great Satan appears to have repented, and I shall look on the American flags that I encounter as I go about my daily business in England with far less distaste than at any time this century.

Regardless of our nationality, my friends and I are all Americans this morning.

For the rest, we shall have to see.

Las elecciones americanas a través de los ojos ingleses (2016), by Sean Gabb

Las elecciones americanas a través de los ojos ingleses
Sean Gabb
(Translated and Published on Katehon, 5th November 2016)

Creo que en general es una mala idea escribir sobre las elecciones de un país extranjero. No vivo allí y no entiendo las circunstancias particulares del país. Los extranjeros que escriben sobre Inglaterra siempre hacen un montón de errores tontos. ¿Por qué debería estar yo mejor informado sobre sus países? Más que eso, lo que ocurra fuera de Inglaterra no es asunto mío.

Rompo la regla por las elecciones americanas porque lamento que sea mi asunto.  Lo que sea que ocurra en América tiene un impacto directo y profundo en lo que ocurre en Inglaterra. Esto me da derecho moral a opinar. Si el derecho no se extiende a decir a los americanos cómo votar en sus propio interés, se extiende a considerar cómo el modo en que los americanos puedan votar, afectará a los intereses de mi propio pueblo.

Por tanto, empiezo. 

Espero, aunque no creo, que Donald Trump gane estas próximas elecciones. No supongo que mantenga muchas de sus promesas. Algunas de ellas no parecen capaces de ser mantenidas. Pero el hecho único de su victoria sería un golpe contra el nuevo orden mundial que es garantizado por el poder militar americano y la influencia cultural. En el discurso que dio el 13 de octubre dijo:

Nuestra gran civilización, aquí en América y a lo largo del mundo civilizado ha llegado a un momento crucial. Lo hemos visto en el Reino Unido [RU] donde votaron para liberarse del gobierno global, y del acuerdo de comercio global, y de los acuerdos de inmigración global que han destruido su soberanía y han destruido a muchas de esas naciones. Pero, la base central del poder político mundial está justo aquí, en América, y es nuestro corrupto poder político establecido aquella grandísima potencia tras los esfuerzos de la globalización radical y la privación de derechos de la gente trabajadora. Sus recursos financieros son virtualmente ilimitados, sus recursos políticos son ilimitados, sus recursos mediáticos son inigualables, y más importante, la profundidad de su inmoralidad es absolutamente ilimitada.

Porque el hombre que dijo esto para convertirse Presidente, legitimaría toda la crítica del Nuevo Orden Mundial y la corrección política que impone. Puede que él no cierre agencias relevantes, o prive de fondos a universidades. Puede que no haga mucho en absoluto. Pero está dando voz a una marea creciente de protesta en América que no desaparecerá, y que ya está cruzando el atlántico, para dar una apariencia de vida en nuestra propia deprimente política. Una Presidencia Trump sería en sí misma un terremoto político a ambos lados del Atlántico. Como tal, la victoria de Trump estaría en los intereses ingleses.

Pero no creo que vaya a ganar. Entonces, ¿qué podemos esperar de una presidencia de Clinton? Visto desde Inglaterra, todavía veo beneficios. Clinton no iniciará una gran guerra. Puede haber diez o veinte millones de estadounidenses que creen que una guerra nuclear en el Medio Oriente traerá la Segunda Venida. Nada de eso, sin embargo, tiene alguna influencia en el Partido Demócrata. La Sra. Clinton y su personal no desean pasar el resto de sus vidas atrapadas en un refugio anti-radioactivo, discutiendo sobre unas existencias cada vez menores de piña en conserva. Lo único que realmente quieren es empujar a Rusia y China a una alianza defensiva, y luego comenzar una nueva Guerra Fría contra una nueva "amenaza". Esto es totalmente indeseable. Pero, dado que, como en la primera Guerra Fría, ambas partes seguirían hablando detrás de la cortina, no es inasequible para América o sus satélites. Su principal costo, aparte de la colina habitual de cadáveres no blancos, sería una corriente de cheques en blanco a los sospechosos habituales en el complejo militar-industrial.

Me han dicho que abrirá las puertas a la inmigración ilimitada. Si es cierto, este es un problema principalmente estadounidense en el que no tengo interés. Cuando no es un problema puramente americano, veo beneficios para Inglaterra. Todo inmigrante que se presenta en América, por definición, no aparece aquí. Más importante aún, la inmigración debilita el Nuevo Orden Mundial.

Póngase un acento americano, medio triste y medio ansioso, y diga conmigo: "Estas personas son en su mayoría católicos y otras personas de fe. Son conservadores naturales. Debemos convencerlos de que voten republicano". Esto es, a primera vista, una declaración absurda. El Partido Republicano es visto -y, por debajo de su liderazgo normal, lo es- la voz política de la América blanca. En principio, al menos, se opone a la acción afirmativa y al bienestar indiscriminado. ¿Por qué los inmigrantes de Honduras, México o Somalia deben votar republicano?  Sin duda, algunos lo hacen, porque creen en el Sueño Americano. Buena suerte para ellos. Pero la mayoría no, y no lo hará.

Hay, sin embargo, un elemento de verdad en la declaración. Los tipos de inmigrantes que tengo en mente no son izquierdistas en el sentido americano. No tienen ningún interés en "salvar el planeta". La mayoría fuman. No están visiblemente a favor de invadir Tombuctú por no permitir que los transexuales usen el retrete para damas. Cuanto más importante sean como grupo que vota, menos problemas provocará América en el mundo, y esto está en el interés de mi propio pueblo.

Pero el beneficio más sólido de una victoria de Clinton sería su efecto desestabilizador sobre la política en Estados Unidos. Si creo que va a perder, sospecho que el Sr. Trump recogerá más votos que los republicanos perdedores en las dos elecciones anteriores. Estos votantes no estarán complacidos de que su hombre haya perdido debido a un muro de dinero corporativo, y unos medios de comunicación abiertamente sesgados, y grupos electorales cuyas raíces en el país no pueden ir más allá de 1965. Será, como un viejo amigo mío solía decir, sangre en la luna. Si acepta o no la derrota, el apoyo que el Sr. Trump ha identificado estará maduro para la recolección por cualquier otra persona que asuma su estándar. Los gritos de rencor resonarán alrededor del mundo. Serán escuchados particularmente en Inglaterra.

Si yo fuera un americano que se preocupara por la nación en la que nació, mi voto sería para el Sr. Trump. Puede haber preocupaciones sobre su comportamiento personal y su honestidad. Obtendría mi voto de la misma manera. Pero no soy un americano, y, por todas las razones, me alegro de ello. Hablando como un inglés, prefiero que el Sr. Trump gane. Puedo ver muchas ventajas para mi país en su victoria. Pero una victoria de la Sra. Clinton también traería ventajas, aunque menos.

No voy a quedarme de guardia toda la noche, para ver a diferentes estadounidenses radicados en Londres hablar de los últimos resultados de Hicksville. Pero leeré el sitio web de la BBC la mañana siguiente más que de lo habitual.

Y esto es todo lo que tengo que decir sobre las elecciones americanas.

The American Election through English Eyes (2016), Sean Gabb

The American Election through English Eyes
By Sean Gabb
(26th October 2016)

Note: The Libertarian Alliance is a charity, and it takes no view of any British or foreign election. For the avoidance of doubt, this article gives an entirely personal opinion. It is published only to encourage discussion, and does not reflect the corporate view of the Libertarian Alliance.

 

I think it in general a bad idea to write about elections in a foreign country. I do not live there and do not understand the particular circumstances of the country. Foreigners who write about England always make silly mistakes. Why should I be better informed about their countries? More than that, what happens outside England is none of my business.

I break the rule for the American election because I regret that it is my business. I regret – indeed, I am outraged – that our relationship with America reverses the normal standing of mother country to former colony. Whatever happens in America has a direct and profound impact on what happens in England. This gives me the moral right to an opinion. If the right does not extend to telling Americans how to vote in their own interests, it does extend to considering how the way that Americans may vote will affect the interests of my own people.

Therefore, I begin.

I hope, though do not believe, that Donald Trump will win the election next month. I do not suppose that he would keep many of his promises. Some of them do not seem capable of being kept. But the fact alone of his victory would be a blow against a New World Order that is underwritten by American military power and cultural influence. In the speech he gave on the 13th October, he said:

Our great civilization, here in America and across the civilized world has come upon a moment of reckoning. We’ve seen it in the United Kingdom, where they voted to liberate themselves from global government and global trade deal, and global immigration deals that have destroyed their sovereignty and have destroyed many of those nations. But, the central base of world political power is right here in America, and it is our corrupt political establishment that is the greatest power behind the efforts at radical globalization and the disenfranchisement of working people. Their financial resources are virtually unlimited, their political resources are unlimited, their media resources are unmatched, and most importantly, the depths of their immorality is absolutely unlimited.

For the man who said this to become President would legitimise an entire critique of the New World Order and the political correctness that it enforces. He might not close down the relevant agencies, or unfund the relevant universities. He might not do much at all. But he is giving voice to a rising tide of protest in America that will not go away, and that is already crossing the Atlantic, to breathe a semblance of life into our own dreary politics. A Trump Presidency would be in itself a political earthquake on both sides of the Atlantic. As such, it would be in English interests for him to win.

But I do not believe he will win. So what might we expect from a Clinton Presidency? Looked at from England, I still see benefits. Mrs Clinton will not start a big war. There may be ten or twenty million Americans who believe that a nuclear war in the Middle East will bring on the Second Coming. None of these, however, has any influence in the Democratic Party. Mrs Clinton and her staff do not wish to spend the rest of their lives stuck with each other in a fallout shelter, arguing over a dwindling stock of tinned pineapple. All they really want is to push Russia and China into a defensive alliance, and then to start a new Cold War against a new “threat.” This is grossly undesirable. But, given that, as in the first Cold War, both sides would continue talking behind the curtain, it is not unaffordable for America or its satellites. Its main cost, apart from the usual hill of non-white corpses, would be a stream of blank cheques to the usual suspects in the military-industrial complex.

I am told that she will open the gates to unlimited immigration. If true, this is a mostly American problem in which I take no interest. Where it is not a purely American problem, I see benefits to England. Every immigrant who turns up in America does not, by definition, turn up here. More importantly, immigration weakens the New World Order.

Put on an American accent, half mournful and half eager, and say with me: “These people are mostly Catholics and other people of faith. They are natural conservatives. We must persuade them to vote Republican.” This is, on the face of it, an absurd statement. The Republican Party is seen – and, below its normal leadership, is – the political voice of white America. It is, in principle at least, opposed to affirmative action and indiscriminate welfare. Why should immigrants from Honduras or Mexico or Somalia vote Republican? Doubtless, some do, because they believe in the American Dream. Good luck to them. But most do not, and will not.

There is, even so, an element of truth in the statement. The sorts of immigrant I have in mind are not leftists in the American sense. They have no interest in “saving the planet.” Most of them smoke. They are not visibly in favour of invading Timbuctoo for its failure to let transsexuals use the ladies’ toilet. The more important they grow as a voting group, the less trouble America will make in the world – and this is in the interest of my own people.

But the most solid benefit of a Clinton win would be its destabilising effect on politics in America. If I think he will lose, I suspect that Mr Trump will pick up more votes than the losing Republicans did in the previous two elections. These voters will not be pleased that their man lost because of a wall of corporate money, and an openly biased media, and voting groups whose roots in the country may go no further back than 1965. There will, as an old friend of mine used to say, be blood on the moon. Whether or not he accepts defeat, the support Mr Trump has identified will be ripe for the picking by anyone else who takes up his standard. The cries of rancour will echo round the world. They will be particularly heard in England.

If I were an American who cared about the nation into which he had been born, my vote would be for Mr Trump. There might be concerns about his personal behaviour and his honesty. He would get my vote all the same. But I am not an American, and, for all manner of reasons, I am glad of that. Speaking as an Englishman, I would prefer Mr Trump to win. I can see many advantages for my country in his victory. But a win by Mrs Clinton would also bring advantages, though fewer.

I will not sit up all night, to watch various Americans based in London talk about the latest results from Hicksville. But I will read the BBC website next morning with more than usual interest.

And this is all I have to say on the American election.

 

 

Margaret Thatcher as Libertarian Hero (2016), by Sean Gabb

 

Published on Oct 11, 2016

Conservatives and many libertarians look back fondly on British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whom they remember for taking on trade unions and the left, and advocating free-market economic policy. Is this an accurate picture of the former British leader? Sean Gabb joins me for an unconditional look at Margaret Thatcher. Subscribe to the Tom Woods Show: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/t…
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Further Thoughts on Theresa May (2016), by Sean Gabb

Further Thoughs on Theresa May
by Sean Gabb
(7th October 2016)

I delivered my interim report on Theresa May at the weekend. On Wednesday, I watched her main speech to the Conservative Party Conference. It was a very accomplished speech, perhaps the most accomplished speech of its kind since James Callaghan delivered his sermon on economic reality to the Labour Party Conference in 1976. I also noted one quotation from Vergil (“Parcere subiectis et debellare superbos”), and another from Horace (Carpe diem). Mrs May is no Demosthenes or Burke, but she appears to have good taste in speechwriters. Beyond that, I had nothing to add to what I had already said.

However, I have just seen this from the Guido Fawkes blog:

May wants “government to step up, not back”. So who do you vote for now if you want a balanced budget, free markets and to get the state out of your life?

I suppose the short answer is to ask whom he voted for last time, and, if it was not the Conservative Party, how the Prime Minister’s speech has narrowed his choice. The truth is that, since the 1960s, Conservative and Labour Governments have alternated. In this time, with the partial exception of the first Thatcher term – and she did consider banning dildoes in 1983 – the burden of state interference has grown, if with occasional changes of direction. In this time, with the exception of John Major’s second term, the tax burden has stayed about the same as a percentage of gross domestic product. I cannot remember if Roy Jenkins or Gordon Brown managed to balance the budget in any particular year. But I do know that George Osborn never managed it, or tried to manage it, before he was thrown into the street. Whether the politicians promised free markets or intervention, what was delivered has been about the same.

A longer answer is to draw attention to the low quality of political debate in this country. It seems to be assumed that there is a continuum of economic policy that stretches between the low tax corporatism of the Adam Smith Institute (“the libertarian right”) and whatever Jeremy Corbyn means by socialism. So far as Mrs May has rejected the first, she must be drifting towards the second. Leave aside the distinction, already made, between what politicians say and what they do. What the Prime Minister was discussing appears to have been One Nation Conservatism, updated for the present age.

Because it has never had a Karl Marx or a Murray Rothbard, this doctrine lacks a canonic expression. However, it can be loosely summarised in three propositions:

First, our nation is a kind of family. Its members are connected by ties of common history and language, and largely by common descent. We have a claim on our young men to risk their lives in legitimate wars of defence. We have other claims on each other that go beyond the contractual.

Second, the happiness and wealth and power of our nation require a firm respect for property rights and civil rights. It is one of the functions of microeconomic analysis to show how a respect of property rights is to the common benefit. The less doctrinaire forms of libertarianism show the benefit to a nation of leaving people alone in their private lives.

Third, the boundaries between these first two are to be defined and fixed by a respect for the mass of tradition that has come down to us from the middle ages. Tradition is not a changeless thing, and, if there is to be a rebuttable presumption in favour of what is settled, every generation must handle its inheritance with some regard to present convenience.

The weakness of the One Nation Conservatives Margaret Thatcher squashed lay in their misunderstanding of economics. After the 1930s, they had trusted too much in state direction of the economy. But, rightly understood, the doctrine does seem to express what most of us want. If that is what the Prime Minister is now promising to deliver, and if that is what she does in part deliver, I have no reasonable doubt that she and her successors will be in office as far ahead as the mind can track.

The question, I suppose, is to what degree she will deliver. Here, let me explain what may be true, or what may turn out to be wishful thinking. Between about 1990 and 2010, the cultural leftists came close to hegemony. It did not begin in 1990, and certainly did not end in 2010. During this time, even so, England was not a conservative country. It was ruled by a coalition of slimy leftists and hard-faced businessmen and a mass of other special interest groups united in their disdain for the nation as traditionally conceived. All of them are now getting old. Their intellectual and political leaders of ability are now mostly dead. The quality of the remainder is dipping below the mediocre. They hold their places in society wholly through nepotism. Their promise – a promise they may once have believed – of a kinder, fairer world has been shown by events to be a fraudulent prospectus. If they had less of an iron grip on the mainstream media, they would by now be subjected to the same blast of withering satire as the old order had to face in the 1960s. As it is, they are pilloried by the alternative media – media dominated by bright young men about half my age, and who are not leftists of any kind.

In America, the shorthand term for this essentially new movement is the Alternative Right. Its acknowledged, though perhaps not entirely knowing, leader for the moment is Donald Trump. That is only for the moment. Whatever happens next month in the American election, the Alternative Right will not go away. It has no exact counterpart in England. Instead, discontent was until recently expressed through UKIP. This has now collapsed. Politicians who beat each other up are not loved in England.

If you read the speech Theresa May gave on Wednesday, you will see attacks on the “international elite,” and the claim, unprecedented from a recent British Prime Minister, that, “if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.” Her speechwriters are obviously borrowing from Nigel Farage and Donald Trump. They are also pinning her to a modern restatement of One Nation Conservatism.

I will say yet again, that there is a difference between words and actions. All things considered, though, something is changing in British politics. Theresa May is no kind of liberal. She pushed through the Psychoactive Substances Act – a law that would have shocked just about every British politician before 1980. She has been pushing for years to give the police an open warrant to read our e-mails. But that perhaps was then. Her interests as Prime Minister may lie in a slightly less authoritarian direction. Certainly, there is nothing sinister about what she said on Wednesday. We have an overextended state that has been generations in the making, and that will not go away in the foreseeable future. If she can, in any degree, move its working from the advantage of the rich and well-connected to that of ordinary people, this will be something.

 

Theresa May: An Interim Report (2016), by Sean Gabb

Theresa May: An Interim Report
by Sean Gabb
(2nd October 2016)

Though she was the only candidate not manifestly unfit to keep watch on a public toilet, I groaned when Theresa May became Prime Minister. She had been a dreadful Home Secretary. In the Referendum, she had formally supported the Remain side. There was reason to suspect, given its abbreviated manner, that her appointment was some kind of Plan B by the Conservative Party establishment to ignore the will of the people.

I have just watched her speech to the Conservative Party Conference. As these things go, its wording was unusually transparent, and its delivery neither patronising nor robotic. It supports an hypothesis I formed shortly after her appointment, and that I have so far seen little evidence to overturn. This is that those parts of the British ruling class represented by the Conservative Party have decided to risk an almost complete break with the European Union. This may not have been something they wanted before the Referendum, but is something that they have now decided is most congruent with their interest. I will explain.

First, leaving the European Union unites the Conservative Party. This has been split since at least 1970, and the split was largely between the Party leadership and its membership and normal electorate. It became apparent when Edward Heath forced through the European Communities Act 1972. It contributed to the Conservative defeat in 1974. Without ever closing, it became less of a wound during the high days of Margaret Thatcher, but worsened again once she began her decline after 1987. It may have ruined the Major Government. It certainly contributed to the internal chaos that allowed the rise of Tony Blair to go uncontested. It did much to keep the Conservatives out of government before 2010.

Looked at overall, the June Referendum gave no decisive answer. But, looking past the Celts and the ethnic minorities, the English voted to leave by two thirds to one, and there was almost no class difference in the voting. We remain the largest group in the United Kingdom, and we are the people who are most inclined to vote Conservative, even if only occasionally. The Party and electoral arithmetic were obvious. The Labour Party was already damaged by losing the 2015 election and by its choice of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. The Liberal Democrats were pretty well destroyed. The Celtic nationalists could be ignored or faced down. Let a Conservative Government take us out of the European Union, and an almost accidental and perhaps a brief advantage given in 2015 might become as total and continuous as the Whig ascendency after 1714. Set beside this opportunity, the desire of certain business and administrative interests to remain in the European Union was of little weight.

Second, the May Government’s refusal immediately to invoke the Article 50 leaving process is not an effort in delay. Once the Article is invoked, the European Union itself becomes a party to any negotiations. This would be an unnecessary complication. Better for the Government to speak directly to the Germans and French, and reach an agreement that can be imposed on the smaller members – and only then invoke Article 50 to give formal ratification. I do not believe there are great difficulties in reaching an agreement that gives us privileged access to the European market while remaining outside the European institutions. The main heads of agreement could be settled in a couple of afternoons. The less those essentially powerless, but still obstructive, officials in Brussels are involved, the better for us all.

Third, my fear that leaving the European Union would make us at once into a total satellite of the United States may be obsolete. I have no time for the Heath Government, but accept that part of its agenda was to counterbalance the influence of America. Since then, many of the most articulate Eurosceptics have been less interested in British independence than in strengthening what they call “The Anglosphere.” This explains much of my own disenchantment with Euroscepticism after the Iraq War. But the magnetic pull of Washington had its climax between the second term of Bill Clinton and the first of George W. Bush. Since then, that pull and American influence in general have been in decline. I have no idea who will win next month’s election in America. But I doubt if America will be quite the overpowering master in future that it has been.

For this reason, we can expect Britain outside the European Union to act at least some of the time in British external interests. This will not involve the almost total isolationism that I would like. There will be a continued strutting about at the United Nations, and British servicemen will continue making trouble in already troubled parts of the world. But I no longer fear that we shall become an American satrapy.

Fourth, I have written much about my fears of what the British government might do internally once clear of the European Union. I will not repeat my argument in detail. It is enough to say that almost no element of the British police state has been required by European law, and that membership of the European Union has often slowed the growth of our police state.

I remain alarmed by what our own Government may do to us. Theresa May was a bad Home Secretary who continued the drift to despotism that began under Margaret Thatcher. On the other hand, if specifically libertarian arguments retain as little appeal as they have ever had in my lifetime, the sudden prominence of the Alternative Right is cause for hope. Its own agenda, if not libertarian, is less despotic than that of the present Establishment. Even otherwise, the few decades that separate the decline of one order of things from the entrenchment of another tend to be an age of relative freedom. The Alternative Right is an entirely American fashion as yet. It has barely any counterpart in this country. But, in almost every sense, we wear American clothes, and I am no longer so ready to believe that Britain outside the European Union will become a nightmarish Airstrip One, with state barcodes in every wallet and revolving but equally lunatic hate campaigns.

For these reasons, the speech Mrs May gave earlier today is reassuring. When Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister back in 1979, I wrote that income tax would be abolished within a decade, and that Britain would be second only to America in wealth and power. I was a boy then, and I am not inclined now to believe very well of any politician. But I do see some grounds for optimism. If I have been a pessimist since the 1980s, it is not because that reflects the balance of my mind. I have been more often right than wrong. If I am now turning optimistic, it may be that, as with everything else, the order of things that came into existence under Margaret Thatcher is beginning to pass away.

A Libertarian View of Cannabis and Drugs, by Sean Gabb

A Libertarian View of Cannabis and Drugs
Sean Gabb
(Written early in the 21st century for a Roger Scruton publication)

The libertarian position on drugs is simply stated. People should have the right to do with themselves as they please. This necessarily includes the right to take any drugs they please – for recreation or for medication. No one else automatically has the right to interfere with such choices, unless they can be shown to involve force or fraud or some attack on the whole community that threatens its dissolution.

Taking drugs in consenting company is not an act of the first kind – it causes no one else the sort of harm against which they can legitimately demand protection. Nor is it an act of the second kind. We are told endlessly that drugs are a danger to social stability – that they lead to crime and degradation and so forth. There is no evidence for this claim.

The British past provides a compelling example. Until 1920, drug use was uncontrolled. Between 1827 and 1859, British opium consumption rose from 17,000lb to 61,000lb. Workmen mixed it in their beer. Gladstone took it in his coffee before speaking. Scott wrote The Bride of Lammermoor under its influence. Dickens and Wilkie Collins were both heavy users. Cannabis and heroin were openly on sale. There was no social collapse. There were few deaths from taking drugs. Most deaths involving opium were individual accidents, and even these were negligible – excluding suicides, 104 in 1868 and thereafter to 1901 an annual average of 95. Hardly anyone even recognised that a problem might exist.

The claim that drugs are bad for a society falls. The opposite is true. Criminalisation is bad. All the ills now blamed on drugs are more truly blamed on the illegality of drugs.

When drugs are illegal, only criminals will supply them. And when criminals are allowed to dominate an entire market, they will be able – indeed required – to form extended, permanent structures of criminality that could never otherwise exist. They will then make drugs both expensive and dirty.

Drugs will be expensive because bribes, transport inefficiencies, rewards of special risk, and so forth, all raise the costs of bringing drugs to market. Therefore much of the begging, prostitution and street crime that inconvenience Western cities.

Drugs will be dirty because illegal markets lack the usual safeguards of quality. When a can of beer is stamped "8 per cent alcohol by volume", this does not mean anything between 0.5 and 30 per cent. Nor will caustic soda be used to make it fizzy. Brewers have too much to lose by poisoning or defrauding customers. Drug dealers can afford to be less particular.

Therefore frequent overdosing. Therefore poisonous additives. Therefore, the frequent transmission of aids even today by the sharing of dirty needles.

Moving from the costs of the crime resulting from illegality, we come to the costs of enforcement. These also are massive.

In the first place, the Police need to become a virtual Gestapo if they are to try enforcing laws that create no victim willing to complain and help in any investigation. They need powers to stop and search people and to search private homes that would never be necessary to stop things like burglary and murder. They need to get involved in entrapment schemes. They are exposed to offers of bribes frequently too large to be turned away. In one way or another, the War on Drugs leads to the corruption of every enforcement agency sent into battle.

And that War cannot be won. The British Customs and Excise have no land border to worry about. They can track every boat and aeroplane that enters British territory. They have far wider powers of investigation than the regular Police. Even so, they themselves estimate that they stop fewer than three per cent of the drugs smuggled into the United Kingdom every year.

In the second place, we have the war on money laundering. Since it is impossible to stop the import and sale of the drugs, attention has switched in recent years to stopping the profits of the trade from being enjoyed. The idea now is to confiscate these profits and use them for further investigations. However, before the money can be taken, it must be found. This requires surveillance and control over all financial transactions. Because any one of us might be a drug dealer trying to launder dirty money, we must all provide endless documentation when we open bank accounts. We are not allowed to pay in large amounts of cash without facing an inquisition from the bank clerks. Our banking details are open to official inspection virtually on demand.

Just as with drugs, the war on money laundering is also a war on freedom. In this case, it frees the authorities from the requirements of due process. The confiscations of alleged drug money are increasingly made without any pretence of a trial. In America, civil asset forfeiture, has become legalised theft of the plainest kind. In Britain, we are moving towards a similar breach of Common Law rights.

Moreover, the fact that our financial transactions can now be monitored gives the authorities an entirely new power over us. Its means of exercise are not yet in place. But we are moving fast into a world where all our purchases can be stored in a database. We can try to avoid this surveillance by using cash. But there are experiments in both Britain and America to see how anonymous cash can be replaced by cards that leave a record of every transaction.

Therefore, on the grounds both of individual freedom and of social utility, there is no argument whatever for continuing with the present War on Drugs. It is a War that benefits only criminals and a few drug enforcement agencies, and that harms every one of the rest of us, whether or not we take drugs.

Introduction to Greek and Latin Course, by Sean Gabb

Acts of the Apostles
A Greek, Latin and English Parallel Text
Being an Aid for Adults to the Easier Learning
of the Classical Languages

Prepared with an Introduction
by Sean Gabb

Uncritical Introduction

The main content of this book is a parallel text, in Greek, Latin and English, of The Acts of the Apostles. In making it available, I claim no excellence of scholarship. I downloaded the Greek and Latin texts some years ago from the Internet—so many years ago, indeed, that I no longer remember where from. I have read through each of them, and nothing obviously corrupt has leapt off the page. If, beyond that, I trust in their purity, it is solely because they were uploaded by people who believed they were transmitting the Revealed Word of God, and who therefore showed greater diligence in proofing than I ever have.

You may notice that, while the Greek and English texts mostly correspond, the Latin is missing several verses, and there are a few variations of numbering the verses. The reason for this, I understand, is that there are two main lines of descent for the text of the New Testament. The translators of the Authorised Version used one of these lines. So, it appears, do I. St Jerome, who prepared his Latin translation in the fourth century, used the other. However, while these discrepancies have generated much heat between the various Christian sects, my current purpose is less to advance any religious view than to promote the learning of the classical languages.

This reservation being stated, I move the question of why anyone should learn these languages. Perhaps the only language nowadays worth learning is English. This is the language of science and technology and the main language of communication. It is also the language of two wealthy and powerful nations, with a shared great literature and with separate but equally instructive histories. If you are not a native, this is the only foreign language you need to learn or perfect. If you are a native, you may find it useful to learn another language to live or do business in a foreign country. But why bother with Greek or Latin?

There are three main answers to the question. The first is that learning either language immerses you in the only civilisation comparable in its achievements to our own. Indeed, in several respects, it was superior to our own. It is worth studying purely for itself. Second, that civilisation is the basis of our own. We cannot fully understand who we are, and where we are, without a close knowledge of the Ancients. Third, there is a practical value for those of us whose first language is English. Our language is deficient in the obvious distinctions of grammar. Most nouns have only singular and plural forms. Most verbs have only four or five distinct forms. The present participle, the gerund and gerundive all share the suffix –ing. All tenses beyond the present and past perfect are formed by compounding with auxiliaries. It is the same with the various moods. For this reason, English grammar is best learned by comparing it with that of a more inflected language. German has shed many of its inflections. Greek uses a different alphabet. That leaves us with Latin.

Which brings me to the question of how to learn the classical languages. Some time between the invention of printing and a time within living memory, the custom in England was to give boys in the better kind of school a text by Julius Caesar or Cornelius Nepos, and to have them go through it sentence by sentence. In class, they would take turns to construe the text, and the master would explain the grammar and syntax of the language. Class preparation involved memorising the declensions and conjugations and using a dictionary to make sense of the text. It was the same with Greek, only the boys were expected to know Latin, and the preferred text was by Xenophon. The first years of a traditional course could be difficult. Several hundred years of experience had shown that the best way to keep the boys attentive and willing to learn was to threaten them with violence.

It was not an ideal mode of instruction, and the modern softness of our manners has removed the chief incentive to learn. It is also not suited to girls or to adult learners. It has nowadays been replaced by giving students specially-composed passages, and providing each of these with a full vocabulary and just enough grammatical explanation to make sense of them. These passages run in complexity from something like Amelia est puella…, to simplified extracts from the classics.

The method works with children. Even a few months will give them some Latin and improve their English. The problem is that, unless the ascent is very steep, it can take years before a student is able to read a classical text. And it is still not suited to adult learners. If you want to learn Latin, how long will you put up with stories about trips to Eboracum to buy brooches and waxed tablets? For Greek, I still shudder at the memory of translating apparently random sentences about youths dancing in a village, or how soldiers love their horses, while sailors love their ship.

I have no training in linguistics, and am at best only an occasional teacher of Latin. But my suggestion, if you are an adult, is to ignore every instruction course presently on the market. If there are some that cannot be avoided, many of the difficulties involved in learning the classical languages can be avoided or reduced. The method I recommend may seem rather hard. It may seem perverse. On the other hand, it immerses you from the first in the actual literature of the language; and, whatever you may think in advance, the burden it places on your memory will be lighter than with any of the other methods. Moreover, so far from perverse, this is the genuinely traditional method.

I spoke of the invention of printing. Before then, dictionaries were scarce. Of one kind or another, word lists have always existed. So far as I can tell, though, the samples dug out of the Egyptian rubbish dumps deal mostly with the meanings of foreign or unusual words. A lexicon of Greek and Latin in the modern style, or just the kind of spelling dictionary you can buy in a pound shop, would have filled dozens of papyrus rolls, and would have been available only in the libraries of places like Rome and Alexandria. Even written texts were prohibitively expensive. Therefore, if a Roman schoolboy was to learn Greek, he would sit cross-legged before a tutor who took him, word by word, through a text that he might hardly ever see. Each word would be explained. Though not read, the text would then be remembered. Together with conversation in the language, this would be how he was instructed.

It was the same in the middle ages with the teaching of Latin. Instruction was oral. The schoolmaster would be both dictionary and book of grammar. The meanings he gave to words would be appropriate to their particular context and their particular form. When Petrarch tried to learn Greek, it was by reading through The Iliad with the help of a Byzantine scholar.

This method went out of fashion around the end of the sixteenth century. Now that printed dictionaries and grammars were reasonably affordable, the custom grew of expecting boys to work out meanings for themselves. The justification was that a dictionary gave fuller information about the meaning of words than the average schoolmaster could. A grammar book was more systematic, and came with the authority of a man of great learning.

It would be a good justification had the method not been tried. Learning the classical languages from a dictionary and grammar can be disheartening. In Greek, most verbal forms comprise a stem with both suffixes and prefixes. Take the verb λύω (I loose or release). You will find this in the dictionary. You may be able to work out that λύονται (they are being loosed) is the third person present passive. But how about ἐλελύκεισαν? This is a third person pluperfect (they had loosed). It will not be in the dictionary. Now, λύω is one of the standard paradigms given in the grammar books. You can find all this if you look in Abbott and Mansfield. But you will have trouble locating every form of the irregular verbs.

In Latin, a fairly limited vocabulary was overcome by giving a diversity of meanings to words. Take the verb soluo, which is the equivalent of λύω. This can mean: to undo, untie, release, free, acquit, break up, relax, weaken, cancel, remove, destroy, explain, pay, let down hair, open a letter, set sail, refute—and my own dictionary continues for half a column of definitions and illustrations. Cast most boys adrift with nothing but a dictionary and grammar, and no wonder they will need to be flogged like tired galley slaves to keep moving forward.

Though unchallenged in the best schools, this method never achieved total hegemony. There were always protests. One of the first and most notable comes from John Locke. Published in 1693, Some Thoughts Concerning Education makes this recommendation:

[If a teacher cannot be found] …the next best is to have [your son] taught as near this way as may be, which is by taking some easy and pleasant book, such as Æsop’s Fables, and writing the English translation (made as literal as it can be) in one line, and the Latin words which answer each of them, just over it in another. These let him read every day over and over again, till he perfectly understands the Latin; and then go on to another fable, till he be also perfect in that, not omitting what he is already perfect in, but sometimes reviewing that, to keep it in his memory. And when he comes to write, let these be set him for copies, which with the exercise of his hand will also advance him to Latin. This being a more imperfect way than by talking Latin unto him; the formation of the verbs first, and afterwards the declensions of the nouns and pronouns perfectly learned by heart, may facilitate his acquaintance with the genius and manner of the Latin tongue, which varies the signification of verbs and nouns, not as the modern languages do by particles prefix’d, but by changing the last syllables. More than this of grammar, I think he need not have, till he can read himself Sanctii Minerva, with Scioppius and Perizonius’s notes. [s167]

In short, he suggests a return to the older method of instruction, though advising reliance on printed texts as a substitute for purely oral instruction. Students are to get their vocabulary from the text, and to learn only as much grammar as is needed to make sense of the text.

Then, there was the work of James Hamilton (1769-1831) In his History, Principles, Practice, and Results of the Hamiltonian System, he recommended that all foreign languages should be learned from the study of interlinear texts. Again, there were to be no dictionaries, and grammar was to be secondary to comprehension. Despite the sneers of those already educated, his ideas were taken up by many adult learners. In his Autobiography, John Stuart Mill says that he learned German by “the Hamiltonian System.” If you look around on Google Books, you will find any number of interlinear texts of the Greek and Latin Classics.

I have no principled objection to these interlinear texts. Whatever works is right. But I have downloaded an interlinear Lucian from 1838. It begins:

lucian

I would not like to throw this at a beginner, or even at someone who already knows Latin. It strikes me as both too complex in itself and too alien in many of its assumptions. This is despite the Editor’s rearrangement of Lucan’s text from its original word order: ἄρτι μὲν ἐπεπαύμην εἰς τὰ διδασκαλεῖα φοιτῶν ἤδη τὴν ἡλικίαν πρόσηβος ὤν….

My preference is to use a parallel text of The Bible. On the one hand, most of us have read at least parts of it in English, and we know much of the its background. On the other, there is none of the looseness of translation that you generally get in all but interlinear versions of the pagan classics. It is invariably translated by men who believe that the original must be followed absolutely. St Jerome made as literal a translation from Greek and Hebrew as his own language allowed. So did the commissioners appointed by King James. Each version corresponds with the original. Leave aside the slight variations, already noted, between the originals, and each version corresponds with the other. Having any one of these versions as your key, you can read the others without a dictionary.

Here, then, are my recommendations for how to proceed with the contents of this book.

I will first assume that you are ignorant of both Latin and Greek, and that you want to learn Latin. You should begin by getting hold of the shortest Latin grammar you can find. The best I know fills eight pages in the Teach Yourself Latin Dictionary. This may no longer be in print, but there are copies to be had on Amazon, or you can find something like it on the Internet. You must read through this, to get an overview of the language. Please do not feel any obligation to memorise the declensions and conjugations. The most you need is a vague awareness of how things like accusative cases and present participles look, and enough of an overview to know where to look if the English is not clear enough as a key to the grammar of the Latin. It is only when you start looking up particular issues that you should pay attention to the details of things like ablative absolutes and subjunctives. Yes—do not try in advance to learn the grammar. It is to be consulted not committed to memory.

This done, you begin with 1:1—primum quidem sermonem feci de omnibus o Theophile quae coepit Iesus facere et docere. Read it aloud so that you can familiarise yourself with the sound of the language. You then turn to the English—“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.” You puzzle out the Latin. Primum and sermonem you can guess from their English derivatives mean “former treatise.” You may recall from your skimming of the grammar that nouns ending in m are likely to be direct objects. Feci seems to correspond with “have I made.” Omnibus is used in English to mean the whole of something, and so probably means “all.” O Theophile explains itself, though you may look in your grammar to confirm that it is a vocative case—that is, a form showing that someone is being spoken to. And so you continue, corresponding Latin to English by guesswork or by looking for English derivatives.

Once you have finished with the first three verses, you commit them in both Latin and English to memory. This is not as hard as it sounds. What you have here is a text with an overall meaning. It is easier to memorise than the meanings of individual words. For example, you could look up doceo (I teach), and try to remember its various forms. I think you will do better to recognise docere (present infinitive) as a word in its context that means “to teach.” Equally, you should avoid digging round to find that feci is the perfect form of facio, and keep reciting facio, feci, factum. Do this with twenty verbs, and you will forget half of them. Trying to remember the meanings of words in themselves is harder than to remember the sentences in which they occur. Declension and conjugations do nothing to help with comprehension. They provide a system after the fact of comprehension.

This does not mean, by the way, that you have to get the whole book by heart in both English and Latin—though it will do no harm if you do. You only need to memorise those verses that introduce meanings that you might otherwise forget. For the most part, you need to read and reread the text until you have a feel for the Latin.

Reading the first chapter in this way will be hard work. If you get that far, though, the second will be easier. By the time you get to the fourth, you will be able to read simple Latin. At this point, you will have outgrown the simple grammar you started with, and can get a copy of The Revised Latin Primer, which will now become your main work of reference. As you continue, you will find that you are turning to the English version only for new words that you cannot guess from their look or context, or to resolve ambiguities in the unpunctuated Latin. As you continually turn back to revise, you will see that previous difficulties no longer exist. Long before you get to Chapter 28, you will have become moderately competent in Latin.

Let me now assume that you already know some Latin, and that you want to learn Greek. All that I have said above still applies. The difference is that you will use the Latin text as your key to the Greek. Also, you will benefit from a more comprehensive grammar. I recommend Abbott and Mansfield, which explains many points of Greek by reference to Latin. Again, you should skim this, not trying to remember, let alone memorise, what you read. The purpose is to know where to look for the answers to specific questions that may arise. You will see at once, that while it is a more complex language, with more exceptions to its general rules, Greek is structurally similar to Latin. This is because they are genetically related, and because, after about the third century BC, Latin was reshaped under Greek influence. With the present text, moreover, you will benefit from St Jerome’s concern with absolute fidelity to the Greek original.

Take, for example, the end of Acts 26. St Paul has been examined before Festus and Herod Agrippa. He thinks he has talked his way out of trouble. However, once they are in private, “Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.” This wonderfully ominous line in Greek is: Ἀγρίππας  δὲ  τῷ  Φήστῳ  ἔφη  Ἀπολελύσθαι  ἐδύνατο  ὁ  ἄνθρωπος  οὗτος  εἰ  μὴ  ἐπεκέκλητο  Καίσαρα. St Jerome translates this as: Agrippa autem Festo dixit dimitti poterat homo hic si non appellasset Caesarem. We have here the same order of words and the same case endings, and a close similarity of moods. If you have trouble recognising ἀπολελύσθαι as the perfect passive infinitive of ἀπολύω, you have the more easily recognised dimitti as a guide.

Once you are finished with Acts in either language, you will be ready to move to the more conventional classics. You may have read that the Greek and Latin of The Bible is somehow defective. Undoubtedly, the Greek you will find in this book is the simplified form that became standard among the educated classes after the conquests of Alexander. It avoids dual cases and the middle voice, and there is a greater use of prepositions. But whether or not it was written by St Luke, The Acts of the Apostles was written by men who had received a good education. In other circumstances, they could probably turn out a fair imitation of Demosthenes. When you do pass to Xenophon, you will need a dictionary—or perhaps an interlinear text. But it will not be as if you were jumping from George Orwell to Chaucer. There is probably less difference between “St Luke” and Xenophon than between Xenophon and Thucydides.

It is slightly different with the Latin of St Jerome. Again, he was an educated man, and we have many other writings by him that are as classical in style as you could want. But, as said, he tried to produce a literal translation. One consequence is the occasional avoidance of the accusative-infinitive construction in favour of quod as a subordinating pronoun. See, for example, 16:38—audito quod Romani essent (when they heard that they were Romans), instead of audito eos Romanos esse (when they heard them to be Romans). In this case, the words are a direct translation of ἀκούσαντες ὅτι Ρωμαῖοί εἰσι. Here, St Jerome is using a popular form that is found in the early Latin playwrights, and in Aulus Gellius, who wrote in the second century, and that became general in the middle ages. I am not enough of a scholar to say why it was so deprecated by the classical authors, especially since it was normal in Greek. But variations like this aside, if you can read The Bible in Latin, you will be well on your way to reading anything else in Latin that takes your fancy.

So here is my advice on how to learn the classical languages. Whether I am setting you on the straightest road possible, or am encouraging you to run head first into a brick wall, is entirely for you to decide. I will say no more.

Sean Gabb
Deal, October 2014

Further Note on the Text

It was my intention of publish these three texts across one page. Sadly, I am limited to a maximum page width of 8.5 inches. Fitting three columns onto a page of this size would have made for a difficult read. I have therefore strained the formatting capacities of MS Word and Adobe Acrobat to something like the limit to fit Latin and Greek on the right hand page and English on the left. Because Latin is a more compact language than Greek and English, and Greek is more compact than English, I have so far as possible kept the texts together by giving their columns different widths. For the rest, I have moved the beginning of each parallel chapter together by adding white space.

Yet again, I feel obliged to mention the variations between each text. Missing verses in the Latin text are indicated by square brackets. Even so, there are other differences. See, for example, the beginning of 8:1 in English—“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem….” In the other languages, the first sentence is at the end of the previous verse,7:59. By the time you reach differences like this, I expect that you will be able to work out for yourself what has happened. But I do feel obliged to to warn you in advance.

I have said the Latin text is unpunctuated. I reget that I was unable to find anything with punctuation marks added. Though useful, however, punctuation is not necessary. The Greek and English texts are punctuated; and, if you find the Latin ambiguous, you will find guidance here.

Against Islamophobia (2016), by Sean Gabb

Against Islamophobia
by Sean Gabb
(13th September 2016)

 

This brief essay on the relationship between Islam and violence is inspired by and expands on a comment left earlier today by Keir Martland on the Libertarian Alliance Blog. I will not presume to call it an expression of his own view – though I suspect it largely is. But it does express a view I have held for many years, a view that I feel is worth repeating as often as it becomes relevant.

I am told every so often that Islam is necessarily a religion of terrorism – that a true Moslem has no choice but to accept the rightness of spreading and upholding his faith by violence, and that any Moslem who denounces the murder and oppression of unbelievers is either lying or not a true Moslem. These declarations of alleged orthodoxy generally come from people who are unable to read The Koran in Arabic, and who are unfamiliar with the two million hadith, or sayings and doings of the Prophet, which are variously binding on the faithful, and who have not made themselves aware of the different schools of interpretation of these foundation texts, and who have only a nodding acquaintance with the multiplicity of sects that have arisen within Islam over the past fourteen hundred years. Usually, they come from people who have not read the whole of The Koran in English. Their ignorance, even so, is matched by the certainty they bring to what they say about the nature of “true” Islam.

Rather than take issue with these factual claims, let me shorten the argument by discussing our own religion. A Christian is minimally defined as someone who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ, whose coming was prophesied in the Old Testament and whose life and teachings are to be found in the New Testament. This definition being stated, there is much else in dispute. Is Christ one with the Father, or like unto the Father? Has He a dual or a single nature? Is The Bible the only source of authority, or is it supplemented by, or co-ordinate with, church tradition? If it is the only source of authority, are we to believe that the universe is six thousand years old, and that the value of π = 3, or are we to apply some scheme of interpretation? Is the Pope vested with the keys to heaven, and infallible in matters of dogma? Or is he only the first among the Patriarchs? Or are popes and patriarchs and bishops, and all else not explicitly endorsed in the Gospels or the Letters of St Paul, absolutely illegitimate? Are we obliged to kill witches, or should we follow our reason and deny their existence? Are we to burn heretics, or are we to call them “separated brethren”? Are we able to choose good or evil of our own free choice, or is all predestined? Are kings by God anointed, and to be obeyed in all things? Or have we inalienable rights that we are justified in using violence to defend?

These are the questions that come immediately to mind. There are many others. The answer to all of them is open to argument. I have friends who believe that their answers are the absolute and obvious truth, even if there are only fifty people on earth who agree with them. Looking, however, at the generality of Christians, the practical consensus is that, adherence to the minimal definition being given, Christianity is whatever Christians believe. John Locke was a Christian, and so was Torquemada. So was Martin Luther. So was Pope Innocent III. So is the Patriarch of Moscow, and so is Justin Welby.

I turn back to Islam. There are Moslems who smoke, and Moslems who shoot smokers. There are Moslems who wear short dresses, and Moslems who circumcise their daughters. There are Moslems – in Iran, for example – who have given themselves functioning representative democracies. There are Moslems who think it right to live under absolute monarchies. There are Moslems who blow themselves up in coffee bars, and Moslems who run coffee bars. There are over a billion of them, and they have been around for over a millennium. Their theologians have been almost as clever as ours, and just as soaked in Aristotle. You stand up as an outsider, ignorant of the libraries of exegesis that go into the average tract, and tell any Moslem what he is obliged to believe, and you will get – and deserve – at least an impatient frown.

We are told that Moslems are hand-chopping misogynists who persecute Christians and throw homosexuals off tall buildings. Some of them are. But judge not lest ye be judged. Under a law of Henry VIII, poisoners were to be fried in molten lead. Until the middle of the eighteenth century, women who murdered their husbands were burned alive. In France until the Revolution, the normal mode of execution was breaking on the wheel, and blasphemers were roasted to death over slow fires. Judicial torture was common throughout Europe before the 1780s.

In traditionalist Islamic states, Christians have been subject to legal discrimination, and have had to pay special taxes to be left alone. We are supposed to raise our eyes in horror. Well, in Christian states, until a few hundred years ago, it was considered a duty of the secular power to uphold one view of Christianity, and to persecute anyone who dissented. One of the many reasons why the Islamic conquest of Syria and Egypt was so complete and final in the seventh century was that their overwhelmingly Christian populations could no longer be bullied from Constantinople into accepting the canons of the Council of Chalcedon on the dual nature of Christ. One of the reasons why Hungary has a large Protestant minority today, and Slovakia has none, is that the Turks ruled Hungary until the Austrians had given up on religious persecution, and the Austrians ruled Slovakia throughout the Counter-Reformation.

The hijab is, no doubt, an inconvenient form of dress. But I doubt it is so constrictive and unhealthy as the corsetry and mass of petticoats that European women were expected to wear until just over a hundred years ago. And, if corsets and petticoats are not prescribed by any religious text, it was not unusual for Christian ministers of religion to denounce the more comfortable female attires that came into fashion after the Great War. Equally, the hijab does not appear to be prescribed in The Koran. It is a Greek and Syrian custom that has been associated with Islam, and has never been universally followed in Islam.

I go further. Until the 1880s in England, married women had no separate legal personality. On her marriage, Jane Jones became Mrs John Smith. Any property she held at the time of her marriage was automatically conveyed into her husband’s possession, and the law gave no regular protection if he promptly stripped her naked and left her in the gutter. I am not sure if traditional Islam is better than this, but doubt if it is greatly worse.

Where homosexuals are concerned, I was born into a country where men were routinely locked away for having sex with each other. I was nearly thirty when two men were arrested for kissing each other at a bus stop in Oxford Street. Traditional Islamic societies have been notoriously more tolerant in these matters, and with at least some religious support.

We have two great advantages over Islam. The first is that, in every European state, and wherever Europeans have settled, there has been a tendency towards consultative government. There have been periods of despotic rule, but these are the historical exception. Even the Roman Empire was largely a confederation of city states, negotiating with the central authorities. The second is our scientific and technical progress. These advantages placed us ahead of all other civilisations after our earliest emergence from barbarism, and our consistent use of the inductive method, since the seventeenth century, has placed us in a position of unique wealth and power in the world.

But, if no Islamic civilisation has matched us in these things, that is because Europeans may have certain advantages over all other peoples. Assume ourselves out of existence, and Islam automatically moves into first place in terms of relatively less despotic government and a relatively less stagnant technology. Another reason the Christians of Syria and Egypt settled so easily under Islamic rule was that the new tax gatherers were for a long time less rapacious than the old.

I will not say that the House of Islam was ever paradise on earth. But it has often compared well with Christendom, and has been better than all the other civilisations – not excepting classical paganism. The idea that Islam is some kind of religious virus that turns human beings into suicide bombers is an absurdity on the most casual acquaintance with the historical record.

The problem we face is not Islam. It is mass-immigration from the third world. The arrival among us of large numbers of people radically different from ourselves in their ways and appearance is destroying free constitutions all across the West. Mixed populations can only be kept at peace by unaccountable and vastly empowered ruling classes that regard themselves as detached from those over whom they rule.

And the enemy in this process is not the immigrants. Some of them are human trash who make trouble because they are trash. Many of them are essentially decent people who, but for their ineradicable difference of appearance, might blend in among us to our common profit. The enemy is our own ruling class who allowed these people to settle among us, and who have made it a crime to try avoiding them or to complain about their presence.

All this being said, I reject the Islamophobia now fashionable in our movement. I regard traditional Islam as a most admirable civilisation – inferior on the whole to our own, but admirable all the same. My view is that our present difficulties could be easily settled, and to general satisfaction. Part of the deal is that our government should stop invading and bombing their countries. And, if I prefer to leave the other parts unsaid, it is not because I am worried that someone with a beard will murder me in the street.

Islam is not our enemy.

Notes from the Eleventh Conference of the Property and Freedom Society, by Sean Gabb (2016)

Notes from the Eleventh Conference of the Property and Freedom Society
in Turkey, September 2016
By Sean Gabb

Bodrum, 30th August 2016

“We’re not going there!” said Mrs Gabb last month, when the BBC showed footage of the military coup in Turkey.

“Oh, certainly not,” I said, playing for time.

I’ve no doubt the coup was a nuisance for many other people beside the Gabb family. But it was a nuisance for me. A few days before, we’d agreed our plans for the summer. A drive to Slovakia at the end of July. Three weeks with the in-laws outside Pezinok. Then, instead of committing ourselves to the same boring old motorways back to Dunkirk, a new drive – Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria; crossing into Turkey, a few days looking round Istanbul; then across the Bosporus into Asia Minor, and the long motorway to Bodrum. From there, we’d strike out into the hinterland – Hierapolis, Aphrodisias, possibly Laodicea. It would, we agreed, be a wonderful adventure for us, and would give our daughter an endless fund of stories to impress her friends at school. One look at those artillery shells going off on the telly, and the whole thing was right off the menu.

We eventually agreed that I could go alone to the eleventh conference of the Property and Freedom Society – but I’d stay in the Hotel and call back to mind all the experience of survival in dodgy foreign parts acquired in a misspent but lucky youth.

Well, here I am in Bodrum, safe in my hotel room and fresh from a long Skyping session with my women. The journey was uneventful. Deal to Stansted; largely empty airport; a flight stuck next to two fat Irish women who spent half the flight getting plastered at £15 a round and half making me stand up so they could go to the toilet. I suspected nothing worse. After all, what suicide bomber ever threw himself away on blowing up an aeroplane with “EasyJet” written on its side? Milas airport was also largely empty when we landed. Immigration control took all of five minutes. Baggage reclamation ditto. The driver from the Hotel Karia Princess was waiting for me. Another two minutes for the man to have a fag, and we were on the road from Milas to Bodrum.

The first time I came here, back in 2006, the road from the airport was decidedly quiet. To the left was an endless vista of rockiness, to the right an unbroken view over the Aegean Sea. The concrete factories have been working since then at full pelt, and, coming here by night, both sides of the road were lit up like Christmas trees from the new hotels and shops. Bodrum itself seems to have doubled in size, and there were traffic jams even late in the evening. But the Hotel is exactly the same as ever. The Manager was waiting for me on the steps. Greetings, polite conversation over the check-in, then to my room.

Bearing in mind how long I’ve been here, and how I got here, I can’t speak about Turkey with any authority. Thirty miles inland, I know there is a radically different Turkey from the coastal towns, which look to Europe in both culture and demography. There is political trouble in the big cities, and military trouble in the east and south. Tourism is probably down by half, and all those hotels and associated businesses may be in a terrible squeeze. I expect I shall see evidence of strain in the next few days. But no unshaven men running about with guns a la Syria and Ukraine. No signs of artillery duels or airstrikes. Just a busy tourist port on the eastern shore of the Aegean Sea. Sitting where I am, I feel that I could and should have brought my women with me.

My life to date has been divided between idleness and guilt. Only this second has got me as far as I’ve come. And I was filled with guilt in the Skype conversation with my women. They had been having second thoughts ever since I booked my flight. Perhaps they should come after all. Since I didn’t really know what I’d find, I was noncommittal until it was too late to change the booking. Now, I felt guilty that I’d left them behind in boring Deal. They could have had a lovely week or so sitting by the pool and going about the town. I’d not have risked hiring a car again, as I did the last time we were all here together. It would have been a jolly holiday all the same.

So here I am, for another PFS Conference. My speech this year will be a denunciation of Margaret Thatcher. My colleague, Keir Martland, will be here on Thursday. His speech – his first to the PFS – will be about the Glorious Revolution, which he – most perversely, if I may be so unkind as to comment in advance – fails to see as the greatest deliverance in English history until such time as one of us becomes Lord Protector. I haven’t looked at the rest of the schedule, though I have no doubt it will be up to the usual standard.

I’ve brought my various pills with me, just in case the awful infection that nearly carried me off in June reoccurs: I doubt it will. I’ve brought my own coffee this time. It may be advancing years, but I find that Sainsbury does a nicer half pound bag than the Turkish supermarkets. I’ve even brought a big plastic mug, as hotel cups are never big enough for coffee as it should be drunk. I have my nice webcam, which I’ve got working with the Windows Anniversary Edition. I have the Annales of Tacitus in Latin to keep me entertained when not socialising or speaking, and the Essays of Macaulay, which I haven’t reread this century. I used to like him a lot, and hope to like him again.

All that should keep me going.

31st August 2016

Woke up surprisingly early. Then again, this isn’t the sort of climate to encourage late rising. Breakfast. Greetings to the few others so far arrived. Then, in breach of all assurances given to myself and my women, I went out of the hotel for a walk through Bodrum.

When I was first here in 2006, the town was bustling, though never crowded. Over the years, crowds did emerge, and they and the traffic grew steadily heavier. This morning, much traffic, but hardly any tourists. The restaurants were mostly closed, the few coffee bars all deserted. I expected to be mugged by shopkeepers, desperate to unload some of their Chinese souvenirs. The only one I encountered not too busy chain smoking in quiet misery told me that an already rotten season had turned catastrophic after the coup last month. His belief was that tourism to the western coast was eighty per cent down, and that it might not recover for several years. He’d heard the same conspiracy theories as I’d picked up on the Internet – that the coup was political theatre to let the Government sack all its enemies, or that it had been foiled on a tip off from Moscow – but was unable to give any local insight. I gave him my sympathies and walked back to the hotel through absolutely still backstreets. Still no suicide bombers hurling themselves at me from the recessed doorways. Still no sound of heavy bombing. The probable truth is that Turkey is no more dangerous than much of Europe, and that I should have brought my women with me. We’d not this time have hired a car to drive deep inland to ruined and largely unvisited ancient cities. We’d not have driven down the coast to resorts with nice volcanic beaches – safety, after all, is a relative thing, and there might be a spot of banditry on the roads. But they’d have enjoyed the pool no end.

Back at the hotel, swam and bumped into various friends. They agreed we should have come for a bit longer, and we joined in sneering at the Americans who’d cancelled coming out of fear of what they’d seen on the telly.

Dinner with Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Norman Stone. Conversation enjoyable, but best omitted from this public version of my diary entries. Hans told me the names of who’d cancelled, but confirmed that Walter Block would be coming. That, I said, was more than adequate compensation….

General Reflections

In the formal sense, the Property and Freedom Society held its first Bodrum conference in 2006. I still regard that one as the best conference I’ve ever attended. But if I had a glorious time, making new friends, and scurrying about ruins and showing off my ability to read Greek inscriptions, it had none of the tight structure of the later conferences. The 2007 Conference was nearer to the classical model, but there was still no realisation that something so wonderful called out for a full video record. In 2006, I’d recorded my own speech, and I might have recorded the lecture given by Hans – though I don’t think I ever published either. I certainly never published the footage I shot by the pool, when Paul Gottfried stripped off and joined in the belly dancing. In 2007, I was also selective in what I recorded. This being said, I did record a fascinating interview with Paul that has turned out to show where he’d reached with his idea of an alternative right. It was only in 2008 that I began recording and publishing all the speeches, and this conference set the model for all others.

This being said, I was asked by Keir Martland, here for the second time, which I thought was the best conference. My answer is that it was impossible to answer his question. They have all been at the top of their class. There is no other annual conference where we spend a weekend at a hotel in the Eastern Mediterranean, and where we spend as much time sat round the pool talking and talking and talking with friends old and new as listening to each other in the conference room. I also believe there are no other conferences – certainly not outside North America – where libertarians and conservatives have been able to spend a decade talking over their differences and helping to bring into being a new kind of opposition movement to the leftist hegemony, broadly united in our analysis and united in at least our short term goals.

So was this one the best? Rather than give a yes or no answer, I will say that 2016 was a conference in which the falling off in attendance gave those of us who did attend a greater than usual sense of taking part in something important. I will add that the speeches were much more uniform in their high quality. I was sensible that my 2015 speech was lacklustre and showed a lack of preparation. My reason that that I spent much of that year in one of my depressions, and, if I almost pulled myself together for that week in Bodrum, I was far from at my best. This year, I made careful preparation for my attack on Margaret Thatcher and delivered it rather well. Hans had asked me to go over her with a blowtorch, but I saw that Norman Stone would be listening, and he was one of her speechwriters. An attack on her would in some degree be an attack on him, and gratuitous rudeness is always to be avoided. I managed a careful balancing act.

The only criticism I will make of what I said is that it’s one thing to know what happened in the 1980s, but another to unpack its awfulness before an audience largely unaware of the truth. I am ashamed to say that my voice began to shake at the horror of it all. Since I try to keep my speeches witty and faintly aloof, I regard this as a fault. I’ve never been overcome before when speaking, and I don’t propose to be again.

I could describe and comment on the other speeches. However, they will be published in due course on YouTube, and I leave it to you what to think. I will only mention that that Keir made his first speech this year to the Conference, and did it with enviable poise and fluency and command of his material. I won’t go from here into a digression on the theme of “So young and so good.” Youth is a wasting asset, and there comes a time when a brilliant child must stop being described in the tone you’d apply to a walking dog or an Olympic champion with only one lung. Keir is now eighteen, which makes him an adult. If he will get better with age, it’s now appropriate to judge his speech on its merits and not him on his age. It was a good speech – a very good speech. He made about the best case that can be made that James II wasn’t an awful King of England, whose despotic intentions were only frustrated by the great men of the country and two of his closest relatives. He also fielded the difficult question I put to him in the panel session. For the rest, I will refer you to the text and video of the speech. I hope neither will be long delayed.

The Hoppe speech was particularly good, and undoubtedly significant, being a summary of his argumentation theory – which may be his most enduring academic contribution. Again, though, it will soon be out on video. If he’s read this far, I will remind Hans of his promise to let the Libertarian Alliance have first publication rights over the text.

Walter Block’s speech was a good knockabout demolition of welfare economics. He was one of the new friends I made there, though our conversation must have seemed comical to anyone watching it. We spent half our time together arguing about immigration, and half discussing our various wars on the curse of stoutness. “You know, Dr Atkins wouldn’t approve,” I said once with a scowl at his pudding, while hiding a burp over my second helping of smoked salmon and super-hot chillies.

Oh, but this will have to do as my record of the latest Property and Freedom Society conference. If you want to know more, why not book your places for 2017? I might not relish a full hotel. On the other hand, these events are not run for the sake of my somewhat eccentric preferences. This being said, I was told there might be a visit next year to some very interesting ruins covered in Greek inscriptions….

Margaret Thatcher: A Conservative View, by Sean Gabb (September 2016)

Margaret Thatcher: A Conservative View
Speech Given to the Property and Freedom Society
2nd September 2016
Sean Gabb

 

When she died in April 2013, the mainstream assumption was that Margaret Thatcher had been something like the kind of person Donald Trump is hoped or feared to be. She had humbled the left. She had brought about fundamental reforms in economic policy. She had made her country strong again and respected in the outer world. This being the assumption, conservatives went into ostentatious mourning, and the leftists rejoiced.

I am aware that one of her personal friends is in this room, and I will say now, for the avoidance of the slightest doubt, that I will speak no ill of her personal character, which appears to have been singularly plain and honest for a British politician. I do not, even so, share the assumption that was general at the time of her death. I will, in the time allowed me, give my settled opinion, which is that, in no sense, was Margaret Thatcher a conservative – let alone a libertarian – hero. Rather, she was, in every sense, the midwife of the leftist police state that is modern Britain.

I begin with her economic policies. When she came to power in 1979, the British Government was running a large budget deficit. This debt was routinely monetised, and the country had known double digit inflation for much of the previous decade. The trade union movement was very strong. It used its strength to demand regular cost of living wage increases for its members, regardless of local circumstances. It also resisted structural changes in manufacturing industry without which wage increases in real terms could not be sustained. Mrs Thatcher’s solution to these problems was disastrous.

You end that kind of inflation by cutting government spending. You shut down a few ministries, and apply real cuts to the salaries of the state employees who remain. She did neither of these things. Instead, she allowed and encouraged the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raise interest rates to the point where much manufacturing industry found it impossible to borrow. A further effect was a rise in sterling on the foreign exchanges that made our exports uncompetitive. Between 1980 and 1983, about a quarter of British industry disappeared. Unemployment rose past three million, and, bearing in mind all the statistical tricks to hide the true rise, may have gone far beyond that. This unemployment did not come substantially down until the middle of the 1990s, and that fall was largely because many of the long-term unemployed were ageing, and could be moved from unemployment benefit onto their old age pensions.

The effect was to destroy the industrial working class as it had emerged in the nineteenth century. I will try not to romanticise these people. They elected and gave firm support to trade union leaders who resisted all attempts at modernisation, and who were often sympathetic to, or even in the pay of, a hostile foreign power. At the same time, the working classes were our people, and virtually the whole cost of ending the inflation was put on them. The old system of skilled and semi-skilled industrial labour had given dignity to millions of working class people, and both the financial security and general autonomy that allowed them full exercise of the freedoms associated with liberal democracy. At a stroke, they were reduced to the clients of a mean and capricious welfare system, or pushed into menial jobs without security. There was a corresponding rise in divorce, illegitimacy, various kinds of substance abuse, and in political apathy, and in superstition, and in a tendency to witch-hunting hysteria against whoever was described in the media as the monster of the day. This should not have been surprising. It is what always happens when people find that the bottom has dropped out of their world – especially when they know that the authorities have, more or less deliberately, knocked the bottom out of their world.

I appreciate that, in our movement, talk of economic equality is not popular. But, given that we are where we are, and that most actually existing élites owe their positions to less than natural merit, there is a case for avoiding policies that throw large masses of our people into pauperism. Certainly, I spent the first decades of my life in a country where inequality was diminishing, and have spent the rest in a country where it has grown increasingly obvious and accepted. I, for one, know which I preferred.

Who were the beneficiaries of these policies? Not, I tell you, the traditional entrepreneurial class. If the headline rates of income tax were cut – the standard rate from 35% to 25%, the top rates from 98% and 83% to 40% – the overall burden of tax as a percentage of gross domestic product was about the same when Margaret Thatcher left office in November 1990 as when she came in. Hardly anyone had paid the old top rates. A mix of inflation and slower rising thresholds brought many more into the new top rate. If the more obvious regulations were abolished – price controls, for example, and exchange controls – there was a steady growth of other regulations. Tax collection became increasingly rapacious and impenetrable. Health and safety laws became a serious check on business, without making people noticeably more safe or healthy at work. There was an unchecked growth of money laundering laws and, toward the end of the 1980s, of environmental protection laws.

The beneficiaries were workers of all kinds in the state sector, and workers in the service sector – above all those who worked in the City of London after the financial institutions had been transformed into globalised casinos. The problem with the service sector is that, generally speaking, it gives secure and well-paid employment to small minorities at the top. Everyone else is decidedly menial and insecure. I touch again on my point about the undesirability of economic inequality.

But I turn to the state sector. At any time, it would have been unjust to spare this from the costs of ending an evil mostly thrown up by its own growth. But the 1980s were not any time. Mrs Thatcher was always keen on identifying enemies and marking them for destruction. There is a case for this in principle. Her problem was that she consistently identified the wrong enemies. Near the top of her demonology was a group of men who had known the unemployment of the 1930s, and perhaps fought on the Communist side in the Spanish Civil War, and who thought it would be a fine thing if the supermarkets could be nationalised. These were a nuisance, especially when they also happened to be trade union leaders. But, if a nuisance, they were not an existential threat. There was another group – a much younger and more diverse group – who, because they wore suits and drank mineral water, she regarded as barely a nuisance, but who were an existential threat.

Call these people what you like – the totalitarian humanists, the cultural Marxists, the New Left, the neo-puritans, the Enemy Class: there is still no agreed name for them, though we all recognise them when we see them. As with their name, their fundamental nature remains controversial. Are they disciples of Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt School? These are the people they read at university, and whose terminology they use. Or are they really the latest manifestation of Anglo-American puritanism? On the one hand, Gramsci and Marcuse had no interest in regulating sex and sexuality, and would have scratched their heads at the War on Smoking. On the other, the people I am discussing have no particular belief in God. There is room for continuing debate on these people. One thing, however, is clear. During the 1980s, they were moving upward in the state sector and in education and all the other sectors funded by the State, and they were growing to dominance in the media. They had no interest in controlling the price of bread, and cared nothing about the white working class. What they wanted was to get inside our heads and to remake us as a people in their own lunatic and evil image. They would do this in the first instance by their control of education and the media. If allowed, they would do it by direct control of the State.

What else is clear is that Mrs Thatcher and her ministers did absolutely nothing to slow their colonisation of the state sector and its associated bodies.

Indeed, they did worse. By 1979, if not so fervently as the Thatcherites, I accept that the trade unions were out of control. The Thatcherite answer, however, was to place the union movement in a legal straitjacket where the older style of trade union official was unable to operate. In consequence, the unions were taken over by university graduates who knew how to make the new system work in their own interests – university graduates, I hardly need add, whose nature and opinions I have already mentioned. Too concerned with her war against Arthur Scargill and his friends – a war in which the traditional working class was collateral damage – she did all but roll out the red carpet for those who later became the friends of Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson.

Foreigners often wonder how the revolutionary changes made after 1997 by Tony Blair could have been so swift and seemingly irreversible in a country so conservative as England. My answer takes me into a brief digression on the nature of the English Constitution.

For Americans in particular, a constitution is a set of words on paper. Matters of right and wrong in government policy are discussed in terms of how it is legitimised by the explicit wording of a document written in the eighteenth century. This is for me a most alien style of argument, and that is why I find conversation with American conservatives and even libertarians often so tiresome. Properly seen, the constitution of a county emerges from the settled nature of its people. Replace the people, and, obviously, a new constitution will emerge. Over time, the concerns of even a settled people will change in line with new circumstances, and so the constitution will change.

Within this loose framework, radical or ill-considered breaks from what emerged in the past will be prevented, or perhaps slowed, by fixed constitutional rules. This, I grant, justifies much American discussion of exactly what was settled in the 1780s. At the same time, a written constitution is always open to reinterpretation. For example, the first and second sections of the American Bill of Rights appear at present to hang on who nominates the next Judge in the Supreme Court. In America, it is less important who makes the rules than who interprets them.

England has no written constitution. The long stability of our institutions rested instead on a sense of tradition, or an imagined sense of continuity with the distant past. If, in 1980, you had asked the average Englishman to justify trial by jury, his answer might have been that it was a useful check on political justice, and something about the unwisdom of allowing case-hardened judges sitting alone to decide matters of disputed fact. More likely, the justification would have been that trial by jury had existed since at least the thirteenth century – which effectively meant it had existed forever – and that abolishing it would therefore be as unwelcome and outrageous as trying to metricate the clock and the calendar. I suspect this is also the case in America. Once you get behind the verbiage about what such and such a clause of the Constitution says and what it means, you pass to an instinctive belief in not changing what has been long settled. The main difference between our countries is that we avoid the verbiage – and we maintained a free constitution, I will add, for about twice as long as America has existed.

Now the body of customary rules and assumptions and expectations that make – or made – up the English Constitution has no hold on the imagination as a set of individual parts, but as an undifferentiated mass. Everything is connected to everything else, and everything supports everything else. Trial by jury has always existed. So has the English system of weights and measures. So has the wearing of horsehair wigs in court, together with names like “bailiff” and “sheriff” and “plaintiff.” Abolish and make radical changes to any one, and the others are weakened. Make sufficiently radical changes in a short enough time, even to supposedly incidental parts of the constitution, and the fundamental parts may come to be seen as so much clutter from the past, to be cleared away in the supposed interest of fairness of efficiency. The Tory case against constitutional reform in the early nineteenth century can be expressed in one sentence by Lord Eldon: “Touch one atom, and the whole is lost.”

Before about the 1960s, however, constitutional change in Britain was either organic, in the sense that new meanings were, by unspoken consent, attached to ancient forms, or carried through with a decent regard for the unamended remainder. The genius of the Victorian reformers was that they made radical changes to the substance of the Constitution without touching the surface forms; and even the Judicature Acts of the 1870s, which were probably their most fundamental break with the past, were soon absorbed into the perception of an unchanged structure. By 1901, only legal scholars or older lawyers were aware that the courts had ever worked differently.

The Thatcher Government made a century of changes in eleven years. These were carried through with an almost gloating disregard for the proprieties, and were generally to enhance the power of the State. We were given pre-publication censorship for the first time in three hundred years, and a real War on Drugs, and ex-post facto criminal laws, and punishment without conviction or trial, and reversals of the burden of proof in criminal cases. The ancient right to peremptory challenge of jurors was abolished, together with the ancient right of an inquest jury to find a general verdict. The rights to political speech and association were curbed. The agreed rule that police officers were civilians employed and given uniforms to do what everyone else had the right to do was swept aside for the creation of an increasingly armed pro-State militia.

And, talking of militias, it was the Thatcher Government that disarmed us. The Firearms Acts 1920 and 1968 only regulated the right to keep and bear arms. So long as you knew how to fill out the right forms, and what public admissions to avoid, you could have as many guns and as much ammunition as you wanted. The Firearms Act 1988 was our first substantive step to victim disarmament.

I passed my twenties denouncing these changes. I denounced them as bad in themselves, and bad so far as they weakened the cohesion of our ancient constitution. I said they formed precedents for an even more dictatorial future government. I was called a fool and told that the changes were needed to maintain firm and efficient government. Or I was referred to the words of the neo-Marxist Martin Jacques about “a free market in a strong state.” No one paid attention to my reply that there was no free market, and that government was not made observably more efficient.

The volume and speed of change intensified after Mrs Thatcher resigned in 1990, and the Major Government was probably our most authoritarian since the 1680s. In 1997, the Blair Government came in. It found the entire Constitution already broken apart. No work of undermining was needed. This was a government predominantly of the people I have mentioned. It was the work of only three years to clear away the broken mass of our Constitution and create the new order under which we now find ourselves.

In 2001, I had lunch with an old university friend. He complained that the Blair Government was the nearest thing England had ever seen to a Jacobin revolution. I disagreed then, and I disagree now. The Blair Government was Napoleon, creating a new order to replace what had already been destroyed. The Jacobins had been the Thatcher and Major Governments. They had destroyed the ancient constitution. They were the ones who had broken what Walter Bagehot called “the cake of custom.” Every precedent of importance had been set by the Thatcher Government.

When I came out as a libertarian in 1977, I thought it reasonable to support the Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher. I joined the Party. I took time off my A-Level revision to campaign in the 1979 general election. I hailed the Conservative victory as a new dawn for English liberty. After much head-scratching over the next three years, I had a fresh burst of enthusiasm when the Falklands War began. I spent that war jumping up and down with a Union Flag in each hand. I believed Mrs Thatcher’s libertarian and conservative rhetoric. I was not alone. The millions who voted Conservative in 1979, 1983 and 1987 believed that the country was being saved. I was earlier than most in my disillusion, though not so early as I now feel I should have been. I also took the trouble to write it down at the time. But it is now thirty seven years since Mrs Thatcher became our Prime Minister. That is long enough to see her in perspective. She was no champion of liberty. She was no Ron Paul. Assuming he is what I am assured he is, she was no Donald Trump. She pushed through – or, on the most charitable estimate, she unwittingly fronted – the transformation of our wonderful and beloved England into a sinister foreign country.

At the beginning of my speech, I mentioned her foreign policy. That, however, would be another speech in itself. It is enough to say that, by the time she left office, she had done what every previous British Government since 1945 had carefully tried to avoid. She turned us into an American satrapy. If, before then, it had required American consent, hardly one bullet left the gun of a British soldier by 1990 but on American orders. What she called making Britain strong in the world amounted to nothing more than making us the more efficient servant of a foreign power – and, I would add, a foreign power hostile to our true interests as a nation.

Oh, and no mention of the European Union either – something else she did much to promote, before and after she became Prime Minister.

And so I do not admire Margaret Thatcher. She competes with Tony Blair for the status of our worst peacetime Prime Minister in the century since 1914. For the reasons I have explained, she may have been worse than Tony Blair. I ask you to look through what she promised and then claimed to have delivered. Look through the blast of hot air that attended her death three years ago. Look at what she did. By their fruits ye shall know them, said Christ. She was a corrupt tree bringing forth evil fruit, the bitter taste of which may never leave our mouths.

Neither Brussels nor Washington, reviewed by an Amazon Customer

 

Essential Reading for Politically Minded Britons. 30 July 2016

This work is essential reading for British Libertarians, or anyone willing to examine British politics of the last 30 or so years from a different perspective. The author has a frank and honest approach and confirms his own biases at the outset, he also mentions his own shortcomings, errors or changes of opinion; even including another writers rebuttal to some of his more inflammatory statements about Americans.

The book is a collection of articles previously published by Dr. Gabb, and at first I was upset to see that it had not been formed into a single cohesive work, as he mentions it does contain some repetition, however by the time I had finished it (I read it cover to cover over several days) I realized that presented in the way it was, it shows a progression of feeling, thought and reflection on events as they unfolded, along with reference to mainstream perceptions of the time. In many senses this is one of the best ways to consider political history, with the emotion, rhetoric and experiences as they unfold.

This book is not intended to be a Rothbardian attack on the state, or a Misean dialectic discussion of principles. It is Libertarian and at times verges on Conservative. It is the thoughts of one man, an intelligent and educated man, who has suffered the painful knowledge of what actions the State performs in the name of all British Citizens, while many of his fellow countrymen continued on, unaware of the predicament that to this day increasingly surrounds them.

Many ideas were familiar to me, some were new. Yet even the re-visited ideas received new light because a few days before I just finished "Lord Milner's Second War" by Mr John P. Cafferky and in many ways the two are congruent. Neither Brussels Nor Washington could also be seen as a companion guide to the drivel published by mainstream political press, drawing out the salient facts and putting things in perspective of Britain's long history.

Addendum: You will not want to read this book if you are a fan of Tony Blair, or his period in office as he is fully taken to account for his many misdeeds. That said… if you are a fan of Tony Blair, or Tony Blair himself, then this is perhaps the book you most need to read.

What about the Workers? A Libertarian Answer (2016), by Sean Gabb

What about the Workers? A Libertarian Answer
by Sean Gabb
(22nd July 2016)

I was called this morning by the BBC. It wanted me to comment on the claims that Sports direct, a chain of sports clothing shops, mistreats its workers – keeping them on zero-hours contracts, sometimes not paying them even the minimum wage, scaring them out of going sick, generally treating them like dirt. Would I care to go on air to defend the right of employers to behave in this way? I am increasingly turning down invitations to go on radio and television, and this was an invitation I declined. I suggested the researcher should call the Adam Smith Institute. This would almost certainly provide a young man to rhapsodise about the wonders of the free market. My own answer would be too complex for the average BBC presenter to understand, and I might be cut off in mid-sentence.

Here is the answer I would have taken had I been invited to speak on a conservative or libertarian radio station on the Internet.

First, it is a bad idea to interfere in market arrangements. Sports Direct is in competition with other firms. Making it pay more to its workers, or to give them greater security of employment, would require it to raise prices and make it less competitive. A general campaign against zero-hour contracts and low pay would raise unemployment. In even a reasonably open market, factors of production are paid the value of their marginal product. Establish a minimum price for labour above its clearing price, and those workers whose employment contributes less than this to total revenue will be laid off. If I felt more inclined than I do, I could produce a cross diagram to show this. The downward sloping curve would show diminishing marginal productivity, the upward the supply of labour at any given price. The point of intersection would show the clearing price. Draw a horizontal line above this clearing price to show the minimum allowed price, and you can two further lines from where this intersects the curves to create a box showing the unemployment that would result. I leave that to your imagination.

Second, intervention of this sort tends to benefit larger firms at the expense of smaller. Sports Direct might be able cope with the resulting increase in labour costs by replacing labour with capital, or by squeezing its suppliers. The result would be increased market concentration, and this may not be to the benefit of workers.

Third, let us suppose that intervention for the alleged sake of the workers was actually to their benefit. It would still be undesirable, so far as it made the State the arbiter of fair practice and raised the prestige of the State still higher – thereby justifying still more interventions. I do not believe that any state intervention for the alleged benefit of ordinary people has been other than to enrich or empower some special interest group. But every state has its tame intellectuals to cry up whatever it does as steeped in the public good.

So far, I could pass – age and appearance always excepted – as one of Madsen Pirie’s young men. The difference is that I do not see the present state of the British labour market as the best of all possible worlds. I repeat – it is a bad idea to interfere in market arrangements. But we should look beyond the cross diagram I have described. Market arrangements do not emerge in a vacuum. Their forms are determined by legal and institutional arrangements that can be judged in terms of how they contribute to the national wellbeing, and that, where they fail this test, ought to be changed. Here are my further comments.

First, the bottom end of the labour market is distorted in ways that force workers to present themselves to firms like Sports Direct. Many years ago, when I was a student, I was in want of money, and so I worked in London as a mini-cab driver. All I needed was a car and driving licence and a certificate of hire and reward insurance. I paid a weekly rent to the cabbing company, and worked what hours I found convenient. I found myself working beside a milkman who wanted money for his daughter’s wedding, and a bus driver who was saving up for a deposit on a house, and men who were unable to find work anywhere else. When I no longer wanted the work, I stopped paying my rent and walked away. The market is nowadays regulated and licensed. Costs of entry can be as high as £60,000. Once in the market, these costs are handed on to the passengers, but initial entry has costs that deter most ordinary people.

I could go through dozens of other occupations that are effectively closed. But the point I am making is that, for most people, there is no alternative to paid employment, at whatever rates of pay.

Second, mass-immigration imposes terrible costs on the working classes. Think again of my cross diagram. Flatten the supply curve until it is almost perfectly elastic, and you have something like most labour markets at the bottom end. When the clearing price of labour is less than the minimum wage, that is what will be paid. If there is some enforcement of the minimum wage, then overall wage costs will be lowered by denying customary benefits like tea breaks and sick leave.

Third, there has been a consistent bias, as least since 1979, against any kind of enterprise that may give comfort and dignity to the working classes. In part, patterns of comparative advantage have shifted against mass-manufacturing in this country. In part, the behaviour of the trade unions after 1945 made much manufacturing unviable. But it is also a fact that policy since 1979 has been to promote the service sectors of the British economy. This has been greatly to the advantage of anyone who can get into the financial sector. For those at the bottom, it means semi-casual labour in places like Sports Direct. Indeed, I am not convinced that the patterns of comparative advantage I mention are as impersonal as changes in the weather. Globalisation is not free trade in the sense conceived by the early liberals, but is managed trade – regulated at almost every point in the supply chain to produce a determined outcome.

My answer, then, to the BBC’s question is not to lean on Sports Direct or other firms of its kind, nor to celebrate the glories of our alleged free market. It is instead to insist on non-intervention in market arrangements, while taking a strongly critical look at the wider arrangements within which market activity takes place. I trust you will agree that this would not have been the sort of answer appropriate to the average BBC discussion, and that I was right to decline that invitation.

English, and Therefore Sedate, but a Revolution All the Same (2016), by Sean Gabb

English, and Therefore Sedate, but a Revolution All the Same
By Sean Gabb
(14th July 2016)

My friends are generally disappointed by the new Government. Looking at the short term, it is hard not to agree with them. At its head, we have Theresa May. She was a monstrous Home Secretary. She gave us at least one Investigatory Powers Act, the details of which chill the blood of any liberal. Her Psychoactive Substances Act makes everything pleasurable we can eat, drink, sniff or inject illegal unless specifically allowed by law. Despite assurances to the contrary, she presided for six years over Merkelesque levels of immigration. She even campaigned for us to stay in the European Union. Now she is Prime Minister.

Or we have Boris Johnson. I could write a philippic on his lack of good character, but suspect he will soon resign, engulfed in scandals old and new. Phillip Hammond may turn out a competent Chancellor, but was a dismal Foreign Secretary. As for Amber Rudd, the new Home Secretary, all I can presently say about her is that she sounds like an exotic brand of e-liquid. David Davis, put in charge of leaving the European Union, may be an excellent choice, or he may not. At least, he will be some restraint in Cabinet on the dominant puritans.

This is all I have to say about the personnel of the new Government. They will have to do, and they probably will do. We seem to be in a state of revolution, and one of the regularities of such states is that those who preside at the beginning seldom direct the main course. In this light, we can see Mrs May as a kind of Mirabeau or Kerensky or Bakhtiar. These all had obvious connections to the Old Regime, and their immediate objects were to moderate the forces that had brought them to power. You need some knowledge of history to know their names and what they tried to do. Everyone knows about Robespierre and Lenin and Khomeini.

It seems that Mrs May’s objects are to take us in the most minimal sense possible out of the European Union, and to hold the United Kingdom together, and to keep herself and her friends on top.

Her first object will probably be achieved. A 52:48 referendum vote is not overall a solid mandate. At the same time, the details of the vote show a solid preference to leave among the English. It is obviously in the interests of the Conservative leadership to give us what we want, and it will be given. The details of how we leave are mostly unimportant. The European Union itself is an unstable construct, and the Referendum may have put its plans of “ever-closer union” into unstoppable reverse. Even so, what we agree in the next year or so can be unpicked at our leisure. What matters is to simplify the lines of accountability, so that the politicians in London are unambiguously our rulers. It even helps that the new Prime Minister was a Remainer. She is seen from the outset as untrustworthy, and will have to struggle to be taken at her word.

Keeping the Union together may succeed or fail. English politicians have no legitimacy in Scotland, and it is for the Scotch politicians to decide what they want and can get away with. So far as we are concerned, North British events are about to recede to the inside pages of the London newspapers.

But I return to my chief point. Mrs May’s third object may not be achieved, and ought not be achieved. What the English delivered last month had nothing to do with worries about subsidiarity in the regulation of the sheepmeat sector. It was a vote of no confidence in how our country has been governed for at least the past half century. Unless we lose our nerve – always, I grant, a possibility – those who fail to carry the revolution forward will be discarded. They will be replaced by others whose names may as yet be unknown. We have asked for our country back, and we now find ourselves in the best position I have seen in my lifetime to get for ourselves and our children the most noble status of free citizens of an independent country. Beside this, details to who is in and out of the new Government are as trifling to all but future historians as who said what to whom in 1789 about the King’s civil list.

In the meantime, Theresa May will have to do.

 

 

After the Referendum: Sorting through the Rubble (2016), by Sean Gabb

After the Referendum: Sorting through the Rubble
By Sean Gabb
(2nd July 2016)

What more to say about the past eight days? They began with a referendum vote that sent a shock across the world. They have now settled into something like business as usual. The shape of the British Constitution will be determined by the internal politics of the Conservative Party. Here, then, are some thoughts on how things might proceed between now and Christmas.

First, we shall most likely leave the European Union. A margin of four per cent is a less than solid mandate for the biggest constitutional change since the Parliament Act. Going in was nothing compared with coming out. As a whole, the ruling class would like us to stay. Membership is a useful veil for hiding the lines of accountability. But leaving suits the Conservative leadership. It will end the longest and most nagging split in party history. Virtually all the party members and most Conservative voters want to leave. The Europhile wing in Parliament will be leaned on to vote as told. The result will be a united Conservative Party facing a fractured Labour Party and a non-existent Liberal Democrat Party. Indeed, more people voted to leave than ever vote Conservative. There is a sectional opportunity in view that probably trumps the overall interest of the ruling class.

The Scotch voted to stay in. But they are a long way off and all in one place, and they are probably not brave enough to vote for independence. Their historic record is to obey the English and spend the next few centuries whining about what a hard deal they got. If they do otherwise now, that will be a problem for next year or the year after, and it will have little impact on English politics.

Yes, we shall most likely come out.

Second, the leaving terms are largely unimportant. I would like a free trade agreement and nothing more. If British companies want to export to the European Union, they will need to obey the various product regulations – just as British cars sent to America drive on the right hand side, and just as British jam sent to Turkey is labelled in Turkish. But there is no reason why these regulations should apply in our own market unless we wish them to. However, it will not be the end of the world even if we agree to the whole of the Acquis Communautaire and continued budget contributions. Inside the European Union, these things have the force of domestic law, and they are difficult to evade and impossible to change. Once we are out, they will be treaty obligations, and treaties can be renegotiated or repudiated as we find convenient. A clean break would be best. A dirty break will make no difference in the long term.

Third, and bearing in mind the above, the choice of next Prime Minister is largely beside the point for how and when we leave the European Union. But here is when those of us who share that inclination must put our libertarian hats on again. Leaving the European Union will be useful. It will allow our ruling class to move to a less compromised form of economic liberalism than has so far been possible. Politically, it will make the source of ultimate power over our lives less ambiguous than it has been since 1973. But it is not the European Union that made us into a chaotic police state. The European Union never forced us to employ armies of feral social workers, or to unleash the police, or to abolish freedom of speech and association, or to tear up the common law safeguards in criminal trials. It did not give us laws against drugs and pornography that would have made David Maxwell Fyfe rub his eyes with astonishment. It did not push us into those unjustified and lost wars. Our own rulers did all that – by themselves or on orders from their American overlords.

I have no doubt that leaving the European Union will eventually give us a set of trade and fiscal and regulatory policies more in keeping with our national interest. It will not in itself make our country free again in the traditional sense. That remains decidedly unfinished business, and is something that will occupy the minds of libertarians and conservatives for a long time to come. If, last Thursday week, a page was turned in our national history, it remains for us to ensure that we have some guidance over the hand that writes it.

I may be wrong in this analysis. Since I was wrong about the result of the Referendum, I have no right to claim any unusual power of seeing into the future. But, just over a week after the votes were counted, some important facts do seem to be drifting out of the mist, and these, rather than the details of when and by whom Article 50 will be invoked, may have the strongest claim on our attention.

Europe: The Age of Globalism, 1989-2016 (?), by Sean Gabb

Europe: The Age of Globalism, 1989-2016 (?)
by Sean Gabb
(26th June 2016)

I spoke earlier with a friend who lives in Bath. He told me how, in 1989, he sat on the Berlin Wall as it was being torn down, and how, last Thursday, he went and voted to leave the European Union. Writing history before it has happened is particularly unwise. We have not left the European Union. We have not even notified our intention to leave, and no one knows what settlement will eventually be reached, or if other member states will decide to leave as well. This being said, it may be that future historians will regard the time bounded by these two events as forming a distinct epoch, different in its tone and assumptions from what went before and what came after.

The fall of the Soviet Empire was the opportunity for a return to an order of civilised nation states in Europe, each respecting the others’ borders and particular ways of life – but at peace with each other and trading and cooperating as they thought convenient. Instead, that opportunity was wasted. Instead, we got a vast expansion of American power via NATO, and a growth of the European Union and other global institutions. I grant – indeed, I have argued – that the European Union has been to some extent a counterweight to American power. But both have worked along similar lines, which are to undermine the cohesiveness of every European nation state in favour of a single territory, culturally levelled and made safe for multinational corporations.

The British vote last Thursday may have brought this dispiriting age to an end. Even if other member states do not leave, the European Union has been weakened. It has been weakened economically, in the sense that Britain has been one of its largest and richest and most powerful members. More fundamentally, it has been weakened morally by the ending of belief in its finality. Counties can not only join, but also leave.

Now, rather than say what I think will happen – something I cannot begin to speak about just a few days later – I will say what I want to happen. I want Britain to leave as quickly and as cleanly as can be achieved. I want us to set about a profound restructuring of our institutions to allow a recovery of our lost freedoms and our damaged identity. We need to create an environment for the revival of manufacturing and agriculture and fishing. Unlike the counting of other peoples’ money in which the City specialises, this is real economic activity. It gives work and security to the working classes and remakes us as a formidable power.

On reflection, I rather hope the Scottish will abandon their fantasy of breaking up the United Kingdom. If that is what they want, that is what they must be allowed to do. There will be benefits for England, I have no doubt. But the Union has been useful to both nations, and can be again. I also hope the Irish will see the logic of their position and leave. There will not be another Cromwellian conquest that only the European Union can prevent. Instead, there are obvious ties of shared blood and shared interests.

I would like, before I am eligible to collect such pension as I may receive, to see a Europe of three interlocking zones. There will be Britain, with Ireland, Holland and Denmark as its allies or soft dependencies. There will be Germany, leading the Austrians and Western Slavs. There will be France, with its ties to the other Latin nations. These three zones will form a trading bloc, based on multilateral treaties and mutual respect. They will cooperate in areas of common interest. They will establish a friendly relationship with Russia and its dependencies. They will keep a cautious distance from the United States. In time, these zones may progress, though a process of organic growth – and based on a perception of common external threats – to something like the confederations of the Greek city states. There will be no Maastricht Convergence Criteria, or Common Agricultural Policy, or Europol – no centralised attempt at “ever closer union.” But Europe is a common civilisation, and it is worth our looking out for each other.

Is this what we shall move towards? Or will Britain become a sort of Airstrip One, ruled by lunatic necoconservatives and authoritarians? It was my worries about this that caused my wobbles over Euroscepticism. But we have made our decision. If I did not sit on the Berlin Wall, I lived in Czechoslovakia shortly after its liberation. I am now reliving, in my own country, the same feeling that everything is possible and that everything may go wrong. I can only hope that we are able to face the challenge of building for ourselves, and leading our European brothers and sisters towards, a better order of things than the one we are leaving.

The Referendum: Mea Culpa sed Laus Deo

The Referendum:
Mea Culpa sed Laus Deo
By Sean Gabb
(24th June 2016)

I was wrong about the European Referendum, and my colleague Keir Martland was right. I said it would be lost. I said it would be badly lost. Instead, England voted to leave, and many parts of England voted crushingly to leave.

I assumed many things. I assumed that Mr Cameron had a card up his sleeve – that he would come back near the date with real concessions from Brussels. I assumed that the awfulness of the official Leave campaign would keep people at home. Above all, I assumed that the English people were no longer up to wanting to live in an independent country. I was wrong. I am not complaining. I am not disappointed. But I was wrong.

This being said, we need to accept that virtually all the problems we face as a nation are only incidentally connected with membership of the European Union. During the past forty years, almost everything bad done to us has come from our domestic rulers. All the European Union has ever really wanted is our money.

But I have rehearsed all this at great length elsewhere. What matters at the moment is that we may find ourselves once again in a position where we have no doubt who is ruling us, and who is responsible when things go wrong. The next time they mess up a foot and mouth epidemic, or allow the rivers to silt up, or if they try to metricate the road signs, our own politicians will not be able to shift the blame to the European Union. There is a danger – and I repeat that I have written about this at length – that these people will run mad, now they no longer need to agree their oppressions with another 27 ruling classes. But leaving the European Union simplifies the dynamics of power. We know who our masters are, and they know that we are watching them, and that we may be inclined to sack them.

Winning the Referendum is not the end of the war. We need to make sure that we do indeed leave. Above all, we need to make sure that, once we have secured it, we can live up to the measure of our ancestors in deserving our independence.

But the Referendum is won, and those of us who feel inclined can give praise to God for that. It may be that He has not deserted us after all.

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Medication: A Neglected Front in the Argument over Drug Policy (2016), by Sean Gabb

Self-Medication:
A Neglected Front in the Argument over Drug Policy
by Sean Gabb
(1st June 2016)

For the past twenty years, the mainstream debate on drug relegalisation has organised itself round four chief positions.

First, there are the libertarians. We ought to have the right to do with our minds and bodies as we please. This includes the enjoyment of chemical pleasures. If pleasure comes at a risk, that is our problem.

Second, there are the puritans. Some of these believe that pleasure is bad, and that they have an obligation and a right to stop it wherever possible. Some – and this is not always just a front for hatred of pleasure – look at the risks and derive from these the obligation and right to control others for their own benefit.

Third, there are the opportunists. The War on Drugs has become a path to income and status. Prohibiting drugs does not make then unavailable, but enables the growth of criminal enterprises that would not otherwise exist. This growth in turn legitimises the growth of opposing bureaucracies of enforcement that employ tens or hundreds of thousands at the national and international level. Again in turn, the enforcers are open to bribes from the criminals. Then there are the bankers who launder the proceeds, or use the consequent War on Money Laundering to legitimise controls that entrench their own position in the financial markets.

Fourth, there are the pragmatic libertarians. These may or may not be ideological libertarians. Their argument begins with a cost-benefit analysis of the present system, and ends with the claim that there would be fewer deaths and less crime and corruption if the War on Drugs was called off.

My own position is both one and four. I have trouble understanding what drives the puritans, and I despise the opportunists. But I am drawn increasingly to an advance on my stated positions – an advance that might appeal to people who do not identify as libertarians, but who are not committed to positions two and three.. I believe we should have the right not just to make ourselves immediately happy, but also to try to cure ourselves of illness. I believe that ending the War on Drugs would benefit the world not only in the negative sense, of removing unnecessary evils, but also in the positive sense, of quickening medical progress.

A few years ago, someone I know fell into a serious depression. If he had various reasons for unhappiness, his depression was an excessive response. He was frightened to go to his doctor, because that would go on his medical records, and that might harm his future prospects. Perhaps this was an unreasonable fear. But it is not unusual. So I went to a website based in India, and bought a three month supply of fluoxetine, which is the generic name for Prozac. I know that Prozac is not always what its inventers claimed it to be. Even so, within a month, my friend was restored to a state of mind in which he was better able to deal with the real problems in his life.

The doctors like to tell us that diagnosis and treatment are difficult matters that require a long education to do properly. There is some truth in this. I believe the symptoms of kidney stones and stomach cancer have much in common, and the treatment for one will do nothing for the other. On the other hand, most diagnoses are not difficult. A Google search will usually do at least as well as a visit to a general practitioner. Modern diagnostic machines are just computers with various kinds of input devices. I might need a specialist to tell me if I had a brain tumour, and certainly a specialist to remove it. I think I could diagnose my own diabetes or arthritis, and I could then choose with reasonable competence what, if any, medications for treating it.

Instead, we have laws that ban the legitimate supply of most drugs, or turn the supply into a medical monopoly. Doctors will not usually prescribe without a diagnosis. Getting a medical diagnosis is expensive or involves a long wait. Even then, doctors are often mean with prescribing. By a combination of training and their own personalities, they incline to puritanism. Or they are answerable for how they prescribe to puritanical bureaucracies. This makes them especially mean with prescribing pain relief. Drugs like Tramadol may be addictive, and there may be dangerous side effects. That does not justify leaving old people with bone disorders in constant pain. I see no reason why the terminally ill should not be sent off in a blaze of opium-fuelled euphoria, or why the depressed should not be allowed, by trial and error, to find whatever drug or cocktail of drugs will restore the balance of their minds.

I repeat – doctors are hardly redundant. But doctors are a limited resource. And, however, funded, health budgets are always under pressure. Leaving us to our own diagnoses and medications would allow the medical professions – such as they ought to exist as they do – to focus on those areas where they are of actual use. So far as I can tell, most general practitioners spend most of their time handing out advice and prescriptions that could, with little harm, be left to pharmacists or the Internet.

I come to the positive side of my argument. I recently gave a lecture on Mill’s Essay on Liberty. One of the many passages in this work that makes you stop and reread puts the case for what he calls “experiments of living.” He says, in Chapter III:

As it is useful that while mankind are imperfect there should be different opinions, so is it that there should be different experiments of living; that free scope should be given to varieties of character, short of injury to others; and that the worth of different modes of life should be proved practically, when any one thinks fit to try them. It is desirable, in short, that in things which do not primarily concern others, individuality should assert itself.

In virtually all countries, there are pharmaceutical regulations that require testing of new products before they can be made generally available. These are justified by reminders of what can happen when a new drug fails. Thalidomide is the usual example – a drug to treat morning sickness that caused many thousands of children to be born deformed. It is an argument for putting elsewhere that the compulsory testing schemes we have slow down the introduction of new treatments, and that thousands are saved from side effects at the cost of millions who die for lack of treatment. But the principle of testing is a good one. All drugs are complex things. So too the human body. No one can know in advance what the larger effects will be of a new treatment.

Now, very often, new uses will be found for existing treatments. These are generally found by accident. I believe that Viagra was developed as a treatment for heart disease. Only when tested was it revealed as a powerful aphrodisiac. Aspirin had been on sale for a century before anyone realised it might be useful for preventing or treating strokes. A few years ago, someone discovered by accident that bicarbonate of soda was a safe and effective treatment for certain kinds of kidney failure.

Or a medical consensus may be wrong. For nearly half a century, we have been told that obesity is caused by eating too many calories, and that the best diet for diabetes is high in carbohydrate and low in fat. These consensus appear to be falling apart as I write. Or there is the dead consensus that peptic ulcers are caused by lifestyle and hard to treat. We know now that they are often caused by an infection. Or there is the growing belief that much heart disease is caused by a Vitamin B deficiency – calling in doubt the consensus on other risk factors.

With the exception of dietary advice, these advances came from within the medical and pharmaceutical establishment. For any number of reasons, however, some already given, this is an establishment highly averse to innovation outside an established line of progress. The bacterium theory of ulcers was ridiculed until overwhelming evidence was produced. The Vitamin B theory was virtually suppressed for a generation. In justification, it is the duty of scientists to be sceptical of radical breaks from whatever seems already to be proven. But add professional monopolies to scepticism, and the result can be a slowing of progress.

I return to the present dispute over dietary advice. The calorie and low fat theories have been disputed for a long time; but it is only because dietary advice has not been monopolised, and because of a public outcry, that this debate is now taking place within the relevant establishment. It would be a worthwhile change, I suggest, if all medical treatments and advice were subject to the same open testing and experiment. There is a natural limit to the number of accidental discoveries and new departures we can expect from within the establishment. Medical progress would be quickened if every individual who so fancied were free to experiment on himself and communicate his real or apparent discoveries to the world.

No doubt, some people would medicate themselves to death. But, as I said at the beginning of this essay, I am a libertarian, and I believe in the right to take risks. And some of these experiments, I have no doubt, would be as beneficial as the accidental discovery of morphine and penicillin, or the accidental discovery that people who had caught cow pox were immune from small pox.

And so the debate on drugs should rightly include defences of the right to get high without having your front door kicked in by the police. But it should also include an awareness of the possibility that someone will find – say – that the right mix of aspirin, turmeric and nifedipine can cure cancer or extend our lives to five hundred years. We need more of Mill’s “experiments of living,” not fewer. We need a general right of self-diagnosis and of self-medication.

Autopsy on a Lost Referendum (2016), by Sean Gabb

Autopsy on a Lost Referendum
by Sean Gabb
(27th May 2016)

Though we have nearly four weeks yet of campaigning, I find it hard to believe that the European Referendum will end in other than a crushing defeat for the Leave Campaign. For many on our side, this will be the end of their hopes. They have spent twenty five years – sometimes forty – connecting everything bad in this country with membership of the European Union, and pressing for a referendum. They now have their referendum. It will be lost. Age alone will give many of them nowhere to go. Some will pass the rest of their lives complaining that the vote was rigged. Most will drift away into confused silence. My own view is that the Referendum was always a mistaken strategy, and that its loss will bring an end to one of the less valuable chapters in the history of our movement.

The failure of the Leave Campaign can in part be blamed on the personalities involved. They are generally chancers and incompetents. If there is some reason to believe they were bought off in advance, nothing involving Boris Johnson was bound to end other than in defeat. I have always thought him a sinister buffoon. The only reason he became and stayed Mayor of London was that he was running against Ken Livingstone. Even I might have voted for him. Everything else achieved in his life has been the effect of sucking up to the right people. I have barely anything good to say about Michael Gove, and nothing good about Michael Howard or the others whose faces I see in my occasional skim of the BBC website.

In part, though, the failure is structural. The Leave Campaign has no plan for how to leave and what to do afterwards. It has none because none of the many plans on offer has general support. The Remain side can unite round a clear and simple message: we are better off in the European Union. The Leave side is a loose coalition with nothing in common beyond wanting to leave the European Union. Do we repeal the European Communities Act, scrap virtually all the regulations from Brussels and elsewhere, and practise unilateral free trade? Or do we disengage using the treaty mechanism, and then keep most of the regulations? Or do we try for a Keynesian siege economy? There is no agreement. If the Leave Campaign were to speak in details, it would disintegrate. The alternative, of being torn apart by the Remain side, is ruinous though preferable. So long as the campaign remains in being, something might turn up before polling day.

But I return to the matter of personality. Every so often, I see an opinion article that speaks about a “freewheeling, buccaneering” Britain outside the European Union. I think this is meant to be an appeal to some fading memory of Francis Drake or Robert Clive. I know – and so does everyone else – that it simply looks forward to having London as a giant offshore casino, with a few warehousing jobs on minimum wage for the rest of us. Mainstream conservatism in this country has morphed into support of a soft money corporatism designed to suck wealth upwards. In terms of what it offers ordinary people, it is no better than European social democracy – and may be worse.

The truth is that the European Union is a nuisance. It hides political accountability and raises business costs. At almost no point, however, does it touch on the real problem we face, which is dispossession of our identity and freedom. It has given us neither Balkanisation nor a police state. Leaving would not in itself undo what has been done to us since 1979 or before. The same ruling class would be in place. This might no longer be able to hide behind the fig leaf of international agreements. On the other hand, it would no longer be obliged to keep in step with a cartel of other ruling classes, not all of them equally malevolent in every respect.

The ultimate cause of all the problems we face is not a few Directives that may or may not exist about the curvature of bananas. It is that we no longer see ourselves as a distinctive people, able and willing to hold onto our ancestral homeland and our ancestral ways. Membership if the European Union is one symptom of this collective failure. So is multiculturalism. So is our cultural prostration before America. So is the degeneracy of our rulers, and the immiserisation of our working classes. These symptoms cannot be addressed before the cause is addressed.

So, how to address the cause? Let us rule out a rich man willing to lavish money on us. The money would not come to us, but be grabbed by the usual suspects and spent on cocaine and whores in the usual manner. The rich man would almost certainly be a fool, more focussed on speaking in the Albert Hall than on doing something useful. And I doubt there are any rich men on our side – certainly none likely to make even a third rate Donald Trump. What I suggest instead is a growth of self-sufficient communities of interest.

We need to form closer bonds with each other than the commonalities of outlook that have brought us together. Because state and corporate employments are increasingly closed to us, we are forced to consider self-employment. This gives us the moral advantage of independence. This being said, the self-employed flourish best not as isolated individuals, competing in some anonymous market, but as members of tight networks. We need to do business with each other, and to help each other. In every respect where it can be given, we must give regular preference to each other. We should employ builders and window cleaners who share our outlook. We should expect preference in the sale of our own talents from those who share our outlook. We need our own schools and institutions of learning and research, our own orders of distinction and merit. We need standards by which to discipline the unworthy, or purge them from our communities, and to prevent infiltration. We need to show indifference to smears from the ruling class media, and discretion and flexibility enough to shelter us from its direct invasions.

Now, I am not suggesting withdrawal and quietism, even if that might be the result for some of us. The purpose is to create communities with institutions of outreach and proselytism, and a cultural revival and style of life that makes us worth listening to. It is not an unprecedented strategy. It has, with necessary variations, been followed by every group of outsiders who survived and flourished and had eventual influence. I think of Christians in the second and third centuries, or Jews in twentieth century England, or Moslems at the moment in England. These are all examples from which we can learn.

How long before these communities can grow into a network of communities able to have a measurable influence on our national life? I have no idea. But I do insist that, had this been our strategy in 1992, some difference might now have been made. Instead – and, so far as I have been alive and active in this time, I do not exclude myself from the blame – we have spent a quarter of a century variously whining about the Maastricht Treaty and helping rich men grow still richer by arguing for the transfer of state monopolies into their hands. It is simply unfortunate if we must begin a strategy that might work somewhat later than we should have. But nothing can be achieved otherwise. The sooner we begin, the better it will be.

So let us get the Referendum over and done with. Let it go 60:40, or 75:25, or only 55:45. Even let it be "won" – it will make no difference. What we badly need is to stop fighting what time has shown to be the wrong battle. We must stop mistaking symptoms for causes. There is no with-a-bound-he-was-free option. Voting will not save us. If we are to save our country, we must start with ourselves.

 

Preface to Chris Tame’s “Not Just Tobacco” (2016), by Sean Gabb

Not Just Tobacco:
Health Scares, Medical Paternalism, and Individual Liberty

By Chris R. Tame First published on the 20th April 2016
By the Hampden Press, London
© Chris R. Tame, Sean Gabb (Editor), 2016

PREFACE BY SEAN GABB (2016)

The Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (FOREST) was an organisation set up in 1979 by the British tobacco industry for the purpose described in its name. Its first Directors were Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris and Lieutenant-General Sir Geoffrey Charles Evans. Though men of some distinction, neither had experience of dealing with the corporate bureaucrats who funded their activities. Their names remained on the headed notepaper, but they were replaced in 1981 by Stephen Eyres, who had been an effective Campaigns Director at the Freedom Association. Under his leadership, FOREST settled into a well-funded and well-connected opposition to the growing clamour against the tobacco industry and its customers. His genius lay in persuading his funders that his increasingly libertarian campaign for free choice was no danger to their own wish for a compromise with the prohibitionists.

His weakness was a great and undiscriminating taste for the company of strangers. Late in 1987, he began to show the symptoms of an illness he had done nothing to avoid. By the following summer, he was incapable of managing the daily affairs of FOREST, and he appointed Chris Tame as the Campaigns Director.

Chris took on the position with much enthusiasm. He had already distinguished himself as Manager of the Alternative Bookshop in Covent Garden, and as Director of the Libertarian Alliance. He had been considering a position in the Institute of Economic Affairs, or in some other organisation that focussed on economics. The offer from Eyres seemed far better. Unlike most other libertarians and conservatives in the 1980s, Chris no longer saw traditional socialism as the main enemy. The Soviet Union was a power in evident decline. State socialism, as defined by nationalisation for the benefit of the working classes, was equally in decline. The enemies now of our traditional liberties wore business suits and looked like social democrats. They had no interest in nationalisation and little in high income taxes and welfare redistribution. Their road to power lay through the regulation of thought and lifestyle.

Many of his friends thought defending the right to smoke was at best a diversion from the real struggle. Chris saw it as central to the real struggle. The enemy was not stupid union leaders or ranting Trotskyites. It was a group that goes under many names, but that may for the moment be called the Enemy Class, and that may loosely be defined as those administrators, lawyers, experts, educators and media people whose living is connected with the State, and whose guiding principle is belief in their right and duty to tell everyone else how to live. Such people, of course, have always been with us. What made these people different was their swelling numbers, and their fondness for ideologies of control that made them a collective, though not wholly cohesive, enemy of the English liberal tradition.

Though constrained by a small budget, Chris spent the next year putting detail into a strategy that Eyres had already outlined, but for which he lacked the intellectual resources. This was to give the tobacco industry just enough short term public relations to keep its managers happy, and to make a purely token effort at populist outreach. The main effort was to be a sustained attack on the ideological bases of the Enemy Class. A month or so after taking up his position at FOREST, Chris asked me to write about the theology of free choice as it applied to tobacco. After I had delivered the manuscript, he commissioned me to ghost or edit a series of short books. These took their evidence from the debate on smoking, but they were always an attack on the Enemy Class.

Sadly, by the end of 1989, Eyres reached a crisis in his moral and physical decline. Never very scrupulous in his use of money, he had turned to outright embezzlement. I am not sure how much money he stole from the FOREST accounts, but it was more than £100,000 – money all spent on unlikely therapies, or on paying for enthusiasms that continued until just a few weeks before his death. The discovery of his crimes would always have been a problem for the organisation. The coincidental appointment of Ralph Harris to the governing board of FOREST made it into a problem for Chris.

The appearance Harris gave the world was of an affable pipe-smoker. He wrote well, and he had a way with charming money from tight-fisted businessmen. He was also a man of dark and even villainous passions. If I choose to pass over the more scandalous facts, his many adulteries had opened him to blackmail. Eyres had no inclination to spend his last months in a prison hospital, and he threatened Harris with a letter to The Guardian. The deal then worked out was that Chris should be sacked. The police would not be set on him, but the funders would be told that he was at least partly to blame for the vanished money.

This was one of the few Harris plots that failed, and, while Eyres was paid off most generously to console him for blindness and the amputation of his toes, Chris was appointed Director of FOREST in January 1990. He was forty, and in charge of an organisation that he hoped he could use to make a difference. Harris thought otherwise. He never forgave Chris for besting him. If for other reasons, the tobacco people agreed. The Eyres scandal had undermined their willingness to let FOREST go about its work with only loose supervision. Over the next few years, the budget was repeatedly cut. Chris was forced to give up most of his ideological project, putting his time instead into fighting discrimination against smokers in their places of work. Early in 1995, he was released from his contract. I attended his leaving party. Harris made a farewell speech of lush praise, and had already put the word round to stop Chris from finding work anywhere else.

The text here republished was written after Chris had left FOREST. His leaving package included some tapering consultancy of which this was one of the last items. He was never a fluent writer, and the failure of his professional hopes, and the gathering disintegration of his marriage, had left him depressed. He asked David Botsford for help. But David was falling into a depression of his own. Work on the book went slowly. A few weeks before the deadline, Chris asked me to help.

Reading the complete text for the first time in twenty years, I can often see my work. There are many passages that I remember having written, and several more that sound like me. But the text is properly described as the work of Chris Tame. He provided both tone and overall structure. Sat at home in Charlton, I would put together the Tame and Botsford fragments, filling out the blanks, until I had a draft of one of the sections. I would e-mail it to Chris as a plaintext. He would print it and write all over it, and provide another half dozen clippings, and post it to David, who would then type it into WordPerfect 5.1, and post me the disk for approval and amendments. We met several times in Central London to discuss the analytical approach we were trying to develop. Our last review meeting was in a coffee bar in Southampton Row. In all but matters of style and grammar, we deferred to Chris. After I had printed and read the consolidated text, I spoke to David on the telephone. We agreed that Chris had overseen the production of something important that would have an impact on the debate over lifestyle regulation.

Harris disagreed. By now, he was in unchallenged control of FOREST, and this was not something he wanted his FOREST to publish. I am told his first act when shown the manuscript was to cross out my name – he never much liked me, though why is no longer relevant. This done, he cut half the evidence and neutered the analysis. As I could only bring myself to skim the version that he allowed through the press, I cannot say in detail what was published. But no one thought it very important, and it had no impact.

It is now twenty years later. Harris is dead. So is Chris. So is David. As the only man left who had any share in its production, and since I am taking the trouble to publish it and offer it for sale, I feel obliged to say what I think of the complete version of the text. Do I still think it as good as its three authors did over the coffee cups in Southampton Row? Or has it, after so long, become as dated as some turgid report of its day from the Adam Smith Institute?

I do not think the factual claims we discuss have dated. The mass of news clippings that Chris provided are all a generation old. Almost any one of them could go, without looking out of place, into a newspaper published tomorrow.

Take this:

“Eating too many pickled onions increases the risk of throat cancer and a preference for taking very hot soup or drinks as well will increase the risk further.” (The Independent, 29 May 1992)

Or this:

“Nearly 35,000 children a week drink more alcohol than the safe limit for adults, survey find­ings show … as the Drinkwise campaign was launched … ‘It is estimated from this survey that 130,000 children under the age of 16 claim to be drinking alcohol regularly in pubs’, the [Health Education Authority] says.” (The Guardian, 12 June, 1990)

Or this:

“Frying or barbecuing meat, chicken or fish produces potentially cancer‑causing substances [according to the] US National Cancer Institute.” (The Irish Times, 27 March, 1991)

The claims have not dated. Nor have the responses we made in the text, or referred to in the notes. This gives our work a value none of us imagined in 1996. If someone tells you, with high authority, that the world will end next Tuesday, you may or may not be persuaded. If you learn that he made the same prediction for last Tuesday, and the Tuesday before that, and for any number of other Tuesdays stretching back into the more or less distant past, you will need to be in the grip of some unusual passion not to regard him as insane or a fraud. The obesity time bomb has still not exploded. Mad Cow Disease has not yet rotted our minds. The young men of 1996 who were said to be destroying themselves with cheap lager do not seem to be falling dead in middle age. If for no other reason, what we wrote in 1996 is worth reading today for its deflating effect on the latest scare stories.

I am less happy with some of our analysis. We believed that the purpose of the various scares was to lead us into a total state based on health fascism, and that this purpose would be achieved without firm ideological opposition. But there has been no firm ideological opposition. Since we wrote, the British libertarian movement has pretty well died. Before illness claimed him, Eyres was a man of ability. Harris, whatever can be said against him, bordered on greatness, and his peerage was one of Margaret Thatcher’s less risible creations. Since 1996, British libertarianism had decayed into an organised mediocrity, enlivened by a set of bizarre personality cults. Yet the continued freshness of the evidence we accumulated falsifies our prediction. Scare stories can only be recycled as they have been when they remain unaddressed.

Undoubtedly, England has become a more authoritarian country than it was in 1996. Speech is less free. The rule of law has been weakened. Another generation of having news and entertainment and education in the grip of the Enemy Class has left an English people still more degraded and hysterical than it was a year before Diana had her car crash. But Mars Bars and bacon remain openly on sale. Coffee is still untaxed and has no statutory warnings all over its packaging. Cigarettes are more expensive than they were, and they can be smoked in fewer places. But the Puritan State we predicted seems, in its full imposition, as distant now as it was then.

Something we failed to predict was how the Enemy Class would behave once it was fully in power. No doubt, it still has members who dream of putting everyone on a diet of raw porridge and boiled potatoes, and are willing to lock anyone away who gives them a funny look. I was once in a radio debate with a health bureaucrat who wanted to deny cigarettes to terminal cancer patients. Her argument was that a hospital was supposed to be a place of healing, and that smoking had no place there.

In the main, however, the Enemy Class in power is less like a plague bacillus than a parasite. Its members have salaries and status. If there are many more of them today than in 1996, they are more interested in controlling whatever moves than in stopping it from moving. They want to educate us about the dangers of passive drinking. They want voluntary agreements on how things can be described and where they can be sold. They want to commission endless further research by their friends. With few exceptions, they do not really want to ban anything. I repeat that nearly all the things attacked in 1996 remain openly available.

Another failure was our dismissal of big business. I did not write this passage in the text, but I did agree with it:

The[…] tendency [of corporate bureaucrats] is to engage in what can only be called pre-emptive cringing. They lean over backwards to be “reasonable.” Instead of confronting, refuting and defeating their enemies, they produce platitudes. They have no conception of the nature of the opposition they face from enemies determined to cripple or destroy them. They “compromise” when compromise only encourages their opponents, and opens the door to the next restriction. They rely on PR hacks who have little understanding of the power of political ideologies and no idea how to combat them. They think things can be sorted out with behind-the-scenes “deals” with politicians – who cannot be trusted and will succumb to whosoever exerts the most pressure.

All three of us were feeling bitter about the failure of these people to see our merits and shower us with even half the money Steven Eyres spent on amyl nitrate. Well, they were right. Compromise worked – or it has so far. They bribed. They wheedled. They selectively gave in. They employed Enemy Class consultants and learned how to turn away wrath by learning to speak the language of that class. They recognised the changing nature of that class in power from total state revolutionaries to rent-seeking apparatchiks, and made all necessary adaptations. They faced the resulting increase in costs just as they might any increase in their material costs. They even took take advantage of the new order that was ushered fully into being with Tony Blair’s first election victory. Advertising bans were made into opportunities for cartelising cost. Regulations were turned into the means of preserving market share against competition from outside.

And that was it. Business went on as usual. Old products were improved, new products introduced. Prices of nearly everything continued to fall in real terms. Better technology aside, we live in a world not radically different from that of 1996. Indeed, the past twenty years seem to me a kind of endless present – the same hysterical preaching of threats and calls to action, the same lack of really decisive action. We may be sinking, but we have not yet broken in half, and the deck chairs have not substantially moved.

I think, even so, we were right in our claim that the function of all these revolving health scares was to make people into a flock of terrified sheep. If we can be alarmed into diets that make Orthodox Judaism look sensible, or if we can be made to believe that too much washing will give us cancer, or that every male over the age of five is a potential paedophile, or that leaving a few lights on will make our planet into a copy of Venus – why, no one will complain about the salaries and pensions lavished on our new masters, or about the generally more authoritarian state we nowadays endure. If we exaggerated the effect of the scares on their formal targets, there is no doubt of how they helped legitimise the emergence of a new and generally more authoritarian ruling class. Revealing the methods used may not in itself undo this legitimisation. But the ammunition it provides remains useful for a broader attack.

Aware, then, of its virtues and its faults, I commend the present text. If it can have any part of the effect its authors hoped it would, I shall not have published in vain.

Sean Gabb
Deal
April 2016

Weder Brüssel noch Washington: Argumente für eine britische Außenpolitik (2016), by Sean Gabb

 

Weder Brüssel noch Washington: 
Argumente für eine britische Außenpolitik 
Sean Gabb, 2016


Allgemeine Einführung

Die erste Version dieses Buches erschien im Jahr 2004, als Krieg und das nationale Interesse: Argumente für eine britische Außenpolitik und wurde fast vollständig auf die Debatte über den Irak – Krieg fokussiert. Obwohl in einer kleinen Auflage veröffentlicht, und in den Tagen vor dem Aufstieg des E-Book, erreichte es eine bescheidene Bekanntheit. Es folgte eine CD von Lesungen aus dem Buch. Ich habe eine zweite Auflage im Jahr 2005 vorbereitet. Inzwischen jedoch, Chris Tame starb an Knochenkrebs, und ich setzte jedes Projekt beiseite, das nicht offensichtlich dringend war. Er starb 2006, und meine Zeit wurde sofort behauptet, indem er die erste einer Reihe historischer Romane schrieb. Im Jahr 2011 habe ich endlich veröffentlicht das Buch auf Kindle. Aber das war die nicht revidierte Ausgabe 2005. Seine Formatierung war defekt. Ich habe keine Anstrengungen in die Vermarktung. Ich hatte sogar die Audiodateien, die ich im Jahr 2004 gemacht hatte, verlegt. Wenn ich nun die Arbeit wiedersehe, fühle ich, dass sie eine zweite Chance verdient, wenn auch nicht in ihrer ersten oder zweiten Auflage. Seit 2004 schreibe ich über die britische Außenpolitik. Ich hatte gelegentlich darüber geschrieben , bevor wir in den Krieg gegen den Terror beteiligt wurden. Ich veröffentliche daher in einer neuen und erweiterten Auflage, unter einem neuen Titel, die besser reflektiert seine breitere Fokus.

Weil die Inhalte in mehr oder weniger chronologischer Reihenfolge gruppiert sind und weil sie mindestens drei andere Einleitungen haben, die zu verschiedenen Zeiten geschrieben wurden, fühle ich mich verpflichtet, einen kurzen Überblick zu geben, was ich zu sagen versucht habe.

Das Versagen der britischen Außenpolitik

Mein allgemeiner Grundsatz ist und war es immer, daß der Hauptzweck der britischen Außenpolitik darin besteht, die Unabhängigkeit dieses Landes und die Freiheit des Volkes zu bewahren, unter ihren traditionellen Gesetzen und Institutionen zu leben. Das Wachstum und die Aufrechterhaltung des Imperiums erforderten eine Ablenkung von diesem Grundsatz, die einen Schwerpunkt auf Teile der Welt aus unserem eigenen Land verlangten und entsprechende Bündnisse und Kriege, die keinen Sinn für unsere eigene Sicherheit darstellten. Die beiden großen Kriege des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts waren eine weitere und eine größere Ablenkung. Dann gab es die lange Zeit des Kalten Krieges, die viele als Rechtfertigung für eine enge Allianz mit den Vereinigten Staaten sahen.

Es gibt immer Gründe, wenn man über Geschichte spricht, um darüber nachzudenken, was sonst hätte getan werden sollen und was sonst hätte geschehen können. Ich decke diese in einigen der Aufsätze. Vor allem aber akzeptiere ich die Vergangenheit als unvermeidbar und schaue, was seit 1990 geschehen ist und was nun zu tun ist.

Das Ende des Kalten Krieges war eine Gelegenheit, die außenpolitischen Fehler, die wir seit 1940 und vielleicht seit 1914 gemacht hatten, zu korrigieren. Wir hatten nicht mehr ein Reich zu beachten. Wenn seine Bedrohung nicht so groß gewesen wäre, wie wir gesagt wurden, war die Sowjetunion nicht mehr. Wir waren in Frieden mit jeder Macht in der Welt von keiner Bedeutung. Wir hatten eine ungewöhnlich tiefe Freundschaft mit unseren unmittelbaren Nachbarn. Jetzt war die beste Gelegenheit, in mindestens einem Jahrhundert für den Rest der Welt allein zu verlassen, und für die Konzentration, ohne Störung, auf die Wiederherstellung unserer traditionellen Gesetze und Institutionen.

Stattdessen setzten unsere Herrscher unser Engagement in der Europäischen Union weiter fort und bauten einen inländischen Polizeistaat. Sie setzten auch – ohne die geringste Notwendigkeit für amerikanische Unterstützung – fort, zu jeder Melodie zu tanzen, die in Washington gespielt wurde. Wir befanden uns in einem Balkankrieg. Wir gingen in den Krieg in Afghanistan und zweimal im Irak und in Libyen. Wir kamen in einen Krieg in Syrien. Wir nahmen an bemerkenswerten Brüchen des Glaubens und an Gräueltaten gegen die Zivilbevölkerung teil. Wir leben heute unter einer Regierung, die wenig mehr ist als ein Zweig des Pentagon, und das ist selbst ein militarisierter Despotismus. Wir sind in vielen Teilen der Welt gehasst, wo wir keine Geschäfte zu stören haben. Unsere lächerliche Einwanderung und unsere multikulturelle Politik machen uns im eigenen Land unsicher und wurden für den Polizeistaat weiter entschuldigt.

Gedanken zur Europäischen Union

Ich habe Amerika nie gemocht oder vertraut. Ich wurde in eine Familie geboren, die eine lange, wenn auch niedrige Verbindung mit der Marine und mit kaiserlichen Angelegenheiten hatte. Als Kind habe ich viel Skepsis über die Art der Allianz, die wir mit Amerika in den 1940er Jahren gemacht haben, und viel Bitterkeit über das, was die Amerikaner bei uns in Suez im Jahr 1956 gemacht haben. Aber bis ich schrieb den ersten der Aufsätze in diesem Buch , Was ich von Amerika dachte, war ein zweitrangiges Anliegen. Ich war mehr besorgt über die Bedrohung durch die Europäische Union. Ich kann nicht sagen, wann das Gleichgewicht von meinem Anliegen verschoben. Es war nicht alles auf einmal, und ich war von der Verschiebung weitgehend unbewusst, bis es geschehen war. Spätestens 2010 wusste ich, dass ich meine Meinung geändert hatte.

Heute glaube ich, dass die Europäische Union , wie es existiert ein Ärgernis ist. Es ist eine Kraft für den Korporatismus und die Abflachung der Vielfalt unter den Mitgliedsstaaten. Aber das ist alles, was wir sehen, nicht mehr als ein Ärgernis. Und es ist ein Ausdruck des legitimen Wunsches unter den Völkern Europas für die Zusammenarbeit bei der Verfolgung gemeinsamer Interessen. Großbritannien, Frankreich und Deutschland, und ihre verschiedenen Satelliten, sind eine Familie von Nationen. Unter allen Sprach- und Religionsunterschieden haben wir mehr miteinander zu tun als mit den gegenwärtigen Großmächten. Großbritannien, Frankreich und Deutschland sind Länder mit etwa gleicher Größe und Reichtum. Keiner ist in der Lage, die anderen zu beherrschen. Alle unsere Interessen liegen in der Freundschaft, und, ohne zu vergessen, die Gefallenen zu ehren, in der Absicht Vergangenheit Unterschiede. Die Europäische Union , wie es sollte vorhanden gekündigt werden. Eine andere Union von Europa ist zu umarmen.

Amerika I

Amerika hingegen ist eine existenzielle Bedrohung sowohl für Großbritannien als auch für die anderen europäischen Nationen. Obwohl eine Projektion von Europa – und besonders von Großbritannien – seine Größe alleine macht eine Allianz in eine Beziehung von Meister und Diener. Es ist darüber hinaus auf lange Sicht eine messianische Ideologie, die ihr eigenes Volk und jedes Land in seiner Umlaufbahn in das Wegwerfmittel zur Verwirklichung eines unmöglichen Sachverhalts in der Welt bringt. Soweit ich sagen kann, gibt es zwei Imperative hinter der Europäischen Union. Einer ist ein deutsch-französischer Traum von einer einzigen Staubsaugerfabrik für den ganzen Kontinent und arbeitet an einer tausendseitigen Regelung über die Größe und Form seiner Taschen. Das andere ist der Begriff der falschen Vielfalt und der spirituellen Re-Engineering, die ihre Geburt in Weimar Deutschland gehabt haben, aber die nur geworden sind hegemonial wegen ihrer Mischung mit amerikanischen Puritanismus. Man kann mit leben, bis ein besseres Gefühl herrscht. Der andere zerstört uns. Es mag sein, dass im Jahr 1945, von einer messianischen Supermacht auf die andere blickend, die Amerikaner das kleinere von zwei Übel waren. Jetzt ist das größere von diesen Übel in die Geschichte übergegangen, wir sollten noch einmal schauen – und ich schlage vor, wir sollten dann fest wegschauen.

Dies erklärt meine jüngsten Schwankungen bei der Mitgliedschaft in der Europäischen Union. Ich werde die Gründe für die Ablösung von Brüssel nicht proben. Aber, wenn die wahrscheinlichste Alternative eine noch engere Beziehung mit Washington ist, wie man im gegenwärtigen Referendum über die Mitgliedschaft wählen kann, wird eine Wahl, die ich und viele andere einst seltsam hart gedacht haben. Das Ziel eines unabhängigen Nationalstaates ist klar. Der Weg zu diesem Ziel kann ansonsten unwahrscheinlich und rein an sich unerwünschte Kompromisse beinhalten.

Die in diesem Buch gesammelten Essays befassen sich ausführlich mit der amerikanischen Bedrohung und suchen, wenn auch mal abrupt, einen ausgewogenen Blick auf die Europäische Union. Sie berühren auch die britische Außenpolitik vor 1940, wie sie war und an ihr vielleicht sein sollte. Es gibt eine Analyse der Tony Blair Angriff auf unsere traditionellen Gesetze und Institutionen, und das Lob des britischen Empire, sowie eine Übersicht über Enoch Powell. Das allgemeine Thema bleibt jedoch die Notwendigkeit, so viele Gespräche wie möglich zwischen den herrschenden Klassen in London und Washington zu schließen.

Ich wende mich der eigentümlichen Einleitung zu, die ich von Daniel Mulroney einschließe. Ich fand dies im Internet im Jahr 2005, und fragte und erhielt die Erlaubnis, es in zukünftigen Ausgaben enthalten. Es ist eine höfliche, aber durchsuchende Kritik, sondern macht auch eine gute allgemeine Einführung. Da ich immer bereit bin zuzugeben, dass ich mich irre, und da der Ton der Essays in diesem Buch oft an die Polemik grenzt, gefällt es mir, eine Art Balance zu geben.

Amerika II

Darüber hinaus werde ich zur Vermeidung von Zweifeln sagen, dass meine Abneigung gegen Amerika nicht alle Amerikaner umfasst. Die meisten meiner Freunde sind Amerikaner. Die meisten Bücher, die ich unter verschiedenen Namen schreibe, verkaufen besser in Amerika als in England. Es wäre zumindest ungnädig, wenn ich in die Gesichter meiner Freunde und Kunden spucken würde. Ich werde weiter gehen. Ich mag nicht viele Amerikaner überhaupt nicht mögen. Ich habe immer geglaubt, daß unsere Kriegserklärung über Deutschland im Jahre 1939 ein Irrtum war. Das liegt zum Teil daran, dass ich nicht akzeptiere, dass Deutschland eine Bedrohung für mein Land war, und zum Teil, weil der Verzicht auf Deutschland uns zwangsläufig in die Hände der Vereinigten Staaten gestellt hat. Ich erbitte unseren glatten Ersatz als die hegemoniale Macht der Welt. Gleichzeitig tadelt mich die Amerikaner überhaupt nicht für das, was sie nach 1940 getan haben.

Eines der Prinzipien, die viele Male in diesem Buch erklärt wird, ist, dass ein Land seinen vernünftigen Interessen folgen sollte. Wenn dies ein allgemeines Prinzip des Handelns wäre, wären die Außenpolitik so vorhersehbar wie die Bewegungen des Sonnensystems, und es gäbe weniger Gelegenheiten für den Krieg. Nun, klopfen Großbritannien aus seinem Barsch war wohl in den amerikanischen Interessen, wie ich sie definieren, und ich kann mich kaum beklagen, wenn dies ist, was passiert ist. Ich kann unsere eigene herrschende Klasse dafür tadeln, daß sie nicht sehen konnte, was klar gewesen sein sollte – und was für vernünftigere Beobachter klar war. Ich habe gesagt, ich sei mit einem Groll gegen die Vereinigten Staaten aufgewachsen. Ich denke, dass ich dieses herausgewachsen habe. Wenn es Menschen, die im Jahr 1940 schuld waren, waren sie in London, nicht in Washington. Für alle seine vielen Fehler, tat Präsident Roosevelt nicht und konnte uns nicht seine freie Kredite aufzunehmen zwingen, oder mit Mexiko und Panama zu verbinden, scheinbar für immer, in Harem seines Landes von Satelliten. Was Suez angeht, hätten wir vor der Einreise nach Ägypten um Erlaubnis bitten müssen – oder wir hätten bereit sein müssen, Eisenhowers Bluff anzurufen, wenn er uns auffordert, aufzuhören. Unsere eigene Regierung war schuld daran, daß sie nicht die Natur unserer Beziehung zu Amerika verstand, oder daß sie nicht die notwendigen Schritte unternahm, um diese Beziehung zu ändern.

Die Amerikaner, die ich nicht mag, sind diejenigen, die außerhalb einer vernünftigen Vorstellung ihres Landesinteresses treten, und die versuchen, die Welt in ihren eigenen fragwürdigen Geschmack umzugestalten. Dies sind die Menschen, die in der Vergangenheit Tyranneien installiert haben, wo sie zugunsten der amerikanischen Konzerne stehen oder die Länder in ihrem Kreuzzug gegen Erholungsdrogen auf den Kopf stellen könnten. Sie sind heutzutage die Leute, die aufrichtig glaubten, dass Saddam Hussein und Colonel Gaddafi eine spontane Annahme des amerikanischen Weges herbeiführen würden. Das sind schlechte und gefährliche Menschen. Sie sind schlecht für mein Land. Sie sind schlecht für ihr Land. Sie sind schlecht für die Welt. Sie sind die Leute, die ich im Sinn habe, wenn ich in eine meiner Denunziationen von Amerika starte. Wenn ich hier und da in diesem Buche irgendeinen andern Hinweis auf meine Ansichten gebe, so muß dies als einer jener rhetorischen Exzesse angesehen werden, die Herr Mulroney in seiner Einleitung erwähnt.

Jedes Buch über zeitgenössische Angelegenheiten ist ein in Arbeit befindliches Werk, und ich habe wenig Zweifel daran, dass ich in den nächsten Jahren mehr zu sagen habe, und mehr Qualifikationen in späteren Einführungen zu machen. Werden wir gegen alle gegenwärtigen Erwartungen stimmen, um die Europäische Union zu verlassen? Wer gewinnt die amerikanische Präsidentschaft? Diese Fragen werden vor Weihnachten beantwortet werden, und die Antworten liefern frische Angelegenheit für Spekulation und Argument. Aber jetzt ist es eine gute Zeit, daß ich meine Gedanken über die britische Außenpolitik zusammenfasse, und mit all ihren Fehlern, die durch einen fortgesetzten Versuch der Ehrlichkeit ausgeglichen sind, biete ich dieses Buch der Welt an.

Sean Gabb 
Deal, April 2016

Neither Brussels nor Washington (2016), by Sean Gabb

Neither Brussels nor Washington:
Arguments for a British Foreign Policy

Sean Gabb, 2016

General Introduction

The first version of this book appeared in 2004, as War and the National Interest: Arguments for a British Foreign Policy, and was focussed almost entirely on the debate over the Iraq War. Though published in a small print run, and in the days before the rise of the e-book, it achieved a modest notoriety. It was followed by a CD of readings from the book. I did prepare a second edition in 2005. By now, though, Chris Tame was dying from bone cancer, and I set every project aside that was not obviously urgent. He died in 2006, and my time was at once claimed by writing the first of a series of historical novels. In 2011, I finally released the book on Kindle. But this was the unrevised 2005 edition. Its formatting was defective. I put no effort into marketing it. I had even mislaid the audio files I made in 2004. Looking now at the work again, I feel that it deserves a second chance, though not in its first or second edition. I have continued to write, since 2004, about British foreign policy. I had written occasionally about it before we became involved in the War on Terror. I therefore republish in a new and expanded edition, under a new title that better reflects its wider focus.

Because the contents are grouped in more or less chronological order, and because they have at least three other Introductions, written at various times, I feel obliged to give a brief overview of what I have been trying to say.

The Failure of British Foreign Policy

My general principle is, and always has been, that the central purpose of British foreign policy is to preserve the independence of this country and the freedom of its people to live under their traditional laws and institutions. The growth and maintenance of the Empire involved a diversion from this principle, requiring a focus on parts of the world a long way from our own country, and corresponding alliances and wars that made no sense in terms of our own security. The two big wars of the twentieth century were a further and a greater diversion. Then there was the long period of Cold War that many saw as justification for a close alliance with the United States.

There are always grounds, when discussing history, for considering what else should have been done and what else might have happened. I cover this in some of the essays. Mostly, though, I accept the past as unavoidable, and look at what has been done since about 1990 and what ought now to be done.

The end of the Cold War was an opportunity for correcting the foreign policy mistakes we had made since 1940, and perhaps since 1914. We no longer had an empire to consider. If its threat may not have so been as great as we were told, the Soviet Union was no more. We were at peace with every power in the world of any importance. We were on terms of unusually deep friendship with our immediate neighbours. Now was out best opportunity in at least a century for leaving the rest of the world alone, and for concentrating, without disturbance, on the restoration of our traditional laws and institutions.

Instead, our rulers continued to deepen our involvement in the European Union, and to build a domestic police state. They also continued—without the slightest need for American support—to dance to every tune played in Washington. We found ourselves in a Balkan war. We went to war in Afghanistan and twice in Iraq, and in Libya. We came close to a war in Syria. We took part in notable breaches of faith and in atrocities against civilians. We live today under a government that is little more than a branch of the Pentagon, and that is itself a militarised despotism. We are hated in many part of the world where we have no business to interfere. Our ludicrous immigration and multicultural policies are making us unsafe in our own country, and have been made further excuse for the police state.

Thoughts on the European Union

I have never liked or trusted America. I was born into a family that had a long if lowly connection with the Navy and with Imperial affairs. As a child, I absorbed much scepticism about the nature of the alliance we made with America in the 1940s, and much bitterness about what the Americans did to us at Suez in 1956. But, until I wrote the first of the essays in this book, what I thought of America was a secondary concern. I was more worried about the threat from the European Union. I cannot say when the balance of my concern shifted. It was not all at once, and I was largely unaware of the shift until after it had happened. No later than 2010, however, I knew that I had changed my mind.

Today, I believe that the European Union as it exists is a nuisance. It a force for corporatism and the flattening out of diversity among its member states. But this is, in terms of all that we face, no more than a nuisance. And it is an expression of legitimate desire among the peoples of Europe for cooperation in the pursuit of shared interests. Britain, France and Germany, and their various satellites, are a family of nations. Beneath all the differences of language and religion, we have more in common with each other than with any of the present great powers. Britain, France and Germany are countries of roughly the same size and wealth. None is in a position to dominate the others. All our interests lie in friendship, and, without forgetting to honour the fallen, in setting aside past differences. The European Union as it exists ought to be denounced. Some other Union of Europe is to be embraced.

America I

America, on the other hand, is an existential threat both to Britain and to the other European nations. Though a projection of Europe—and particularly of Britain—its size alone makes any alliance into a relationship of master and servant. It is, moreover, in the long term hold of a messianic ideology that makes its own people, and any country in its orbit, into the disposable means of achieving an impossible state of affairs in the world. So far as I can tell, there are two imperatives behind the European Union. One is a Franco-German dream of a single vacuum cleaner factory for the whole Continent, working to a thousand-page regulation on the size and shape of its bags. The other is notions of a false diversity and of spiritual re-engineering that may have had their birth in Weimar Germany, but that have only become hegemonic because of their mixture with American puritanism. One we can live with until better sense prevails. The other is destroying us. It may be that, in 1945, looking from one messianic superpower to the other, the Americans were the lesser of two evils. Now the greater of those evils has passed into history, we should look again—and I suggest we should then look firmly away.

This explains my recent wobbling on membership of the European Union. I will not rehearse the reasons in favour of detaching ourselves from Brussels. But, if the most likely alternative is a still closer relationship with Washington, how to vote in the present referendum on membership becomes a choice I and many others would once have thought strangely hard. The goal, of an independent nation state, is clear. The path to that goal may involve otherwise unlikely and, purely in themselves, undesirable compromises.

The essays collected in this book deal at length with the American threat, and, if at times haltingly, seek a balanced view of the European Union. They also touch on British foreign policy before 1940 as it was and at it perhaps ought to have been. There is an analysis of Tony Blair’s attack on our traditional laws and institutions, and praise of the British Empire, plus an overview of Enoch Powell. The overall theme remains, even so, the need to close down as many conversations as we can between the ruling classes in London and in Washington.

I turn to the peculiar Introduction that I include by Daniel Mulroney. I found this on the Internet in 2005, and asked and obtained permission to include it in future editions. It is a polite but searching critique, but also makes a good general introduction. Since I am always willing to concede that I may be wrong, and since the tone of the essays in this book often borders on the polemical, it pleases me to give some kind of balance.

America II

Moreover, for the avoidance of doubt, I will say that my dislike of America does not include all Americans. Most of my friends are American. Most of the books I write under various names sell better in America than they do in England. It would be at least ungracious if I were to spit in the faces of my friends and customers. I will go further. I may not dislike many Americans at all. I have always believed that our declaration of war on Germany in 1939 was a mistake. This is partly because I do not accept that Germany was a threat to my country, and partly because declaring war on Germany inevitably placed us in the hands of the United States. I resent our smooth replacement as the world’s hegemonic power. At the same time, I do not at all blame the Americans for what they did after 1940.

One of the principles explained many times in this book is that a country ought to follow its reasonable interests. If this were a general principle of action, foreign affairs would be as predictable as movements of the Solar System, and there would be fewer occasions for war. Well, knocking Britain off its perch was arguably in American interests as I define them, and I can hardly complain if this is what happened. I can blame our own ruling class for not seeing what should have been plain—and what was plain to more sensible observers. I have said I was brought up with a grudge against the United States. I think I have outgrown this. If there were people to blame in 1940, they were in London, not in Washington. For all his many faults, President Roosevelt did not and could not force us to take his free loans, or to join with Mexico and Panama, seemingly forever, in his country’s harem of satellites. As for Suez, we should have asked permission before invading Egypt—or we should have been prepared to call Eisenhower’s bluff when he told us to stop. Our own government was at fault there for not understanding the nature of our relationship with America, or for not taking the steps necessary to alter that relationship.

The Americans I dislike are those who step outside any reasonable conception of their country’s interest, and who are and have been trying to reshape the world to their own questionable tastes. These are the people who, in the past, installed tyrannies where they could for the benefit of American corporations, or turned countries upside down in their crusade against recreational drugs. They are nowadays the people who sincerely believed that pulling down Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi would bring on a spontaneous adopting of the American Way. These are bad and dangerous people. They are bad for my country. They are bad for their country. They are bad for the world. They are the people I have in mind when I launch into one of my denunciations of America. If, here and there in this book, I give any other indication of my views, that must be taken as one of those rhetorical excesses that Mr Mulroney mentions in his Introduction.

Every book on contemporary affairs is a work in progress, and I have little doubt that I shall have more to say in the next few years, and more qualifications to make in subsequent Introductions. Will we, against all present expectations, vote to leave the European Union? Who will win the American Presidency? These questions will be answered before Christmas, and the answers will provide fresh matter for speculation and argument. But now is as good a time as any for summing up my thoughts on British foreign policy, and, with all its faults, balanced by a continuous attempt at honesty, I offer this book to the world.

Sean Gabb
Deal, April 2016

Review of “Saturn’s Children,” Sean Gabb (1995)

Saturn’s Children: How the State Devours Liberty, Prosperity and Virtue
Alan Duncan MP and Dominic Hobson
Sinclair-Stevenson, London, 1995, 448 pp., £16.99 (hb)
(ISBN 1 85619 605 4)

Note by Sean Gabb. I was sent this book just after it came out in 1995, and asked to review it for a Conservative Party magazine. Chris Tame read a first version that has now vanished, pointing out that, for a Law lecturer, I showed a worrying indifference to the law of libel. Even the shortened version that I sent in was received with cries of outrage and sent back to me. I am not sure if it was ever published elsewhere. If not, it is probably worth publishing now. The evidence is in, and my review shows that I had a fair understanding of where we were headed in the mid-1990s.

 

It is truth discreetly veiled, that politicians seldom write the books that bear their names. This is manifestly the case with the present work. I doubt even if it was all written by the named collaborator. The variations of style and deep inconsistencies of opinion between the chapters indicate at least three writers. I go further, doubting if Mr Duncan put himself to the trouble of reading what his ghost writers finally sent him. It may be that he believes in the relegalisation of drugs. It may be that he is so strongly convinced by the arguments that he was willing to risk a career in the Conservative Party by putting his name to them. If so, he would not be the Alan Duncan I have occasionally wasted the time to see speaking. More likely, since the chapter in question comes late in the text, he skimmed the typescript to make sure all the pages had writing on them, and sent it off to his publisher.

This being said, the book is unexpectedly good. Parts of it read like an extended Libertarian Alliance pamphlet. Its subtitle is a summary of its contents. During this century, the twin evils of welfare at home and adventure abroad have made the State from an incompetent servant to an absolute and often arbitrary master. We were assured fifty years ago that state control could turn nasty only in countries without a liberal tradition. Well, we have it now by direct experience that a liberal tradition is less a block on the road to serfdom than at best a set of speed restrictors.

Already, the heavy weight of taxes has abolished any true right to the fruits of our labour – which are better seen as a commission paid on how much we add to a collectivised national income. The equally heavy weight of regulation has tended to abolish most other property rights, turning these into conditional loans to be varied or resumed almost at will. The consequent loss of independence has exposed us to the whims of a politically correct bureaucracy, no different in principle from the past tyrants who imprisoned Galileo and burned Servetus and shot anyone who thought Mendel a better scientist than Lysenko.

And what benefits have we had from this new serfdom? When Esau sold his birth right, he at least got his contracted mess of pottage. When this country went statist, it simply got the most rapid fall from greatness on record. The loss of Empire is nothing worth lamenting. But given a consistently liberal policy since 1900, we might still be the most prosperous nation on earth – replacing Japan as the island equal of the great land masses. As it is, we are falling behind countries like Italy and Thailand.

We cannot even now say that any loss of freedom and prosperity has been compensated by gains in material equality. We are fast learning what the Victorians took for granted – that poverty is as much a moral as an economic fact. Not only has a welfare budget of £90 billion failed to prevent the emergence of an underclass as degraded and dangerous as anything drawn by Hogarth – it has actually encouraged the process. Head lice now coexist with satellite television, illiteracy with designer clothing.

After several hundred pages of describing how awful things have become, and are still becoming, the authors make their recommendations. Despite the radical analysis, I expected nothing unusual here. When a Tory MP on the “right” of the Party commissions a book to bear his name, the rule is to let the real solutions emerge from the analysis but remain unspoken. All that can be spoken is the usual “Thatcherite” agenda of spending cuts and deregulation – the sort of thing Lady Thatcher never actually did while in office, but which it is quite respectable to claim as a Party orthodoxy. Interestingly, the authors break this rule. As well as for the relegalisation of drugs, they for the privatising of state education. Their scheme of a basic income is also interesting and worth considering. In short, they put forward a programme that, if implemented, would within thirty or forty years repair all the harm done during the past hundred.

If implemented! I began reading this book the day after John Major resigned as Party Leader. I am writing this article the Sunday after the Cabinet reconstruction. Michael Heseltine as Deputy Prime Minister! Malcolm Rifkind as Foreign Secretary! Michael Howard left at the Home Office to complete his abolition of the Common Law! All this in a party that has lost two thirds of its membership since 1990, and has fewer Councillors than the Liberal Democrats! I see no hope here of implementation. Mr Duncan has commissioned a good book. But he is attached to the corpse of a Tory Party that stinks to high heaven.

Some of my friends are more optimistic. “Wait for the next election” they tell me. “Major and co. won’t last forever. Once they are out of the way, our people will take over. The Party will be reborn.” But will it? Never mind the body of ideas ready and waiting to slide onto the political agenda – look at the people whom we are expecting to give those ideas the necessary push. The present wet ascendency within the Government may be a coalition of intellectual and spiritual dwarves; but these tower above most of “our” people in the House of Commons. Just look at them.

Look at Norman Lamont, the earliest of the potential challengers in the leadership election. I have friends who actually respect this most discredited of politicians. His Euroscepticism did not keep him from sitting in the Cabinet that approved the Maastricht Treaty – or from doing everything possible to keep the Pound in the Exchange Rate Mechanism. We must all swallow the occasional toad, but Mr Lamont in office had an almost Gallic passion for them. Except he was finally sacked, he would still be at the high table with his mouth wide open.

Look at Teresa Gorman, twice last week described to me as a “libertarian pin-up”. One look at her voting record should knock this phrase on the head. In 1988, she supported the clause in the Local Government Bill banning the promotion of homosexuality and nothing else. In 1994, she voted against lowering the homosexual age of consent either to sixteen or to eighteen. Since she was not whipped into these things, and doing otherwise was hardly the political kiss of death, I take them as more reflective of her true beliefs than any impression she may accidentally have given my friends that she is “one of us”. Of course, we need to make alliances with such people. But I see no reason for worshipping them.

Look at John Redwood, the real challenger. Like Mr Lamont, he sat for years in a Cabinet that he now denounces for following policies hostile to the public interest. To be fair, he is an open authoritarian; and had he become Prime Minister, there might have been even more police state laws than Mr Major is delivering. If my friends swarmed round him, that is purely their desperate folly. But take his promise to end corruption in high places. This was an odd promise from a man who – though himself of spotless integrity, I have no doubt – ruled Wales as something like a mafia colony.

Look at Michael Portillo, the preferred challenger. There is nothing wrong with being only half English and bilingual. There is nothing wrong with denouncing foreigners as corrupt. It is strange, though, to combine them. It is no recommendation to do the second twice in the same month, and to excuse each occasion as “off the cuff”. Nor, when pressed, is it any recommendation for a man of forty to let his friends join in with remarks about the exuberance of youth. Nor, perhaps more seriously, am I impressed by a man who could neither honestly challenge the Prime Minister in the leadership election nor honestly support him. I disliked Mr Portillo on sight. Even without evidence, I thought him a vain buffoon, less interested in ideas than in getting the right starch for his shirts. Nothing I have learned since then gives me reason to think he is worth supporting for the Party leadership, now or in the future.

I could continue like this for page after page, weighing the leading figures on the Tory right. But it is enough to say that I find them all wanting. We cannot look to them for deliverance. We might find people with more sense of what needs to be done, and with more ability to do it, by picking names at random off the House of Commons catering payroll. Bearing which in mind, the book that I am sort of reviewing is best regarded not as a programme for action, but as a beautiful dream – rather like the proposals for reform made in France at various times before 1789, that had every excellence, lacking only the smallest chance of being enacted.

The British Local Elections: Yawning over the Results (2016), by Sean Gabb

The British Local Elections: 
Yawning over the Results
By Sean Gabb
(6th May 2016)

There were local elections yesterday across much of the United Kingdom – Scottish and Welsh parliaments, London Mayor and Assembly, and a sprinkling of English local authorities. Most of the results are not in yet, and I have no intention of looking at them very closely. They are in themselves a short term issue, interesting and important to a few obsessives and to anyone who hopes to make financial gain from whoever is now in. They are interesting and important to me only so far as they contribute to a longer term realignment of our politics.

Before 1940, there was a clear choice in politics. On the one side was the Conservative Party. This was committed to preserving whatever could be held of the traditional social and economic structure of the country. The landed interest was no longer dominant, but remained a strong part of the Tory coalition, and its interests were broadly congruent with those of the other possessing classes. Abroad, the Party was committed to preserving the Empire and British world power. These were not narrow-minded concerns. Traditionalism involved a defence of things like freedom of the press and due process of law and the general system of English liberty. It also involved a concern with the welfare of the poor. Whether protectionism was a good or bad policy is less important than the desire it showed to guarantee work at reasonable wages to the working classes. The Labour Party was not in practice that far removed from the Conservatives on foreign and Imperial policy. Its main difference was the belief in an economic reconstruction that made the welfare of the working classes the main criterion of policy. For the sake of balance, I will say that there was nothing ignoble about the old Labour project. It was mistaken in its means, and my personal inclinations would have made me a Conservative. But there is nothing wrong with a concern for raising up the poor.

Between 1940 and the present, these competing national visions have faded into slogans for bringing out at election time. Of course, there is no longer an Empire, and British world power has declined. But the Conservatives still like to sound like members of the traditional ruling class, and often are in genetic terms. The Labour Party still talks fondly about Clement Attlee. The reality is different. Both parties are committed to a neoconservative foreign policy dictated from Washington, and to domestic policies that are both authoritarian and corporatist. They are also equally committed to Bakanising and thereby abolishing the country as it has existed over time.

If Britain – or just England – is to survive and recover, both parties must be destroyed. The problem is that, since at least the 1970s, each has been living off fears of the other. By way of explanation, let me give my own personal experience. I voted Conservative in 1979 in youthful hope of a traditionalist reaction. With the Falklands victory still in mind, I was eager to vote Conservative again in 1983. By 1987, I voted Conservative with growing doubts. Since 1992, I have voted Conservative only to keep Labour out. When, in 2001 and 2005, the Conservatives had no reasonable chance of winning, I voted UKIP. But I voted Conservative in 2010 and in 2015. I would certainly have voted Conservative had yesterday’s elections been for Parliament. I have Labour friends whose personal history is similar. Both parties are unpopular with or reviled by many who vote for them. Each survives by making itself ever so slightly better, in the eyes of its electors, than the other.

To get rid of both parties, therefore, we need to lose either one of them. Lose one, and the other loses its only selling point. Peter Hitchens has long been convinced that the Conservatives should go first. Without giving my reasons. I disagree. In any event, the Conservatives are in Government, and are likely to stay there for a long time. At the moment, Labour is the weakest member of the duopoly.

Now to the elections. I was hoping Labour would do a great deal worse than it did. I am pleased that it did badly in Scotland. Because of traditionally weak support in England, it will need to do well in Scotland to win the next general election. A further benefit is that the loss of Scottish support to the nationalists reduces the number or influence in Westminster of some really malign authoritarians. I am less pleased by Labour’s showing in England. The party has not been entirely deserted by the white working classes, and it looks as if its collapse into a sectional party for state workers and non-whites will not happen in time for the next general election.

An encouraging sign is the present scandal over Labour’s anti-semitism. I do not for a moment believe that Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone are Hitler-worshipping anti-semites. Their hostility to Israel has nothing to do with a dislike of Jews, but is partly to firm up Islamic electoral support, and partly because they are instinctively outraged by the sight of an ethno-state willing to do whatever it takes to look after its own people. But it is a funny scandal to watch. These are the people who first began whining about racism in the 1970s, and who made rules wherever they could in the 1980s against mention of black bin bags and black coffee. To see them now opening their mouths with astonishment is rather like watching Robespierre dragged to the guillotine. I doubt if many non-whites will be put off voting Labour by accusations of anti-semitism. But the accusations sow useful dissension at a time when the party is already weak.

The ideal outcome at the next general election will be a Conservative landslide. What happens in Scotland is no longer important. The referendum on Europe is also unimportant. I doubt if we shall leave the European Union in the next ten years. When we do leave, it will be as part of a general scheme of reconstruction. What matters now is the destruction of the Labour Party. Give the Conservatives a majority of two hundred at the next election, and they will spend a few weeks running about like a dog with two tails. They will then start tearing themselves apart. Even otherwise, the path will have been cleared for the emergence of new parties committed to liberty and tradition.

Putting this analysis earlier today to one of my colleagues, I was reminded of Labour’s big victory in 1997. This shattered the Conservatives and kept them weak for a decade, yet the Labour Party did not implode. My answer to this point is that there was no credible socialist alternative to New Labour. Many Labour voters, and some politicians, may still have worshipped Arthur Scargill in 1997. But hardly anyone thought that kind of socialism was likely to work. Intellectual leftism has been a dying force since the 1980s. The universities and every institution connected with the State are dominated by people who call themselves leftists. These continue to do much harm, and will do more yet. This being said, they are increasingly no more than a social network – ruthless and without mercy or charity if you are not one of them. But they are an organised mediocrity. Though we can laugh at their obscurity, men like Althusser and Lukács had something to say. When they publish, their successors are just going through the motions. They have nothing to say that convinces anyone with half a brain. After 1997, New Labour was The Left.

The right, on the other hand – however you want to define that – is increasingly vibrant. It may be split into dozens of factions, not all of them on speaking terms with each other. But it is a live intellectual force. Look behind the red dwarf that is Conservative Central Office, and the clamour of rightist intellectuals is only kept out of the mainstream media by the current generation of scared apparatchiks who continue to dominate our national life.

And so yesterday’s results look promising. Once you look below the surface, nothing happens quickly in politics. But something does appear to be stirring, and may have been stirring for some time.

Now, let me say in closing, for the avoidance of doubt, that the Libertarian Alliance is a charity. We do not involve ourselves in party politics. We made no recommendations of how to vote in yesterday’s elections, and we make none for any election in the future. This article and others like it must be taken purely as intellectual commentary in pursuit of our charitable objectives.

 

 

 

 

Libertarian Failure: The Paradigm that Never Shifts (2016), by Sean Gabb

Libertarian Failure: The Paradigm that Never Shifts
by Sean Gabb
25th March 2016

Here in Britain, the main effect of the Brussels bombings will be to speed passage of the Investigatory Powers Bill. This will require communications service providers to store all our Internet activity for a year, and to make it available to the authorities in circumstances that will not always require a warrant. I will say, for the avoidance of doubt, that I regard this as a very bad Bill, and I will briefly outline my objections to it.

1. In the 1970s and 1980s, we faced a serious – indeed, an existential – threat from Sinn Fein/IRA. It raised an insurrection within part of the United Kingdom for the purpose of detaching part of the United Kingdom. In shootings and bombings, mostly in Ulster, but also in the mainland United Kingdom, it killed thousands of people. The authorities responded with firmness, but made few changes to the normal course of law enforcement. Those changes made were contained in the Prevention of Terrorism Acts, which had to be renewed annually, and the powers granted fell with the lapsing of the Acts.

Islamic terrorism has killed few people so far in this country. Taken as an average since 2000, around five people a year have been killed. Yet the response is to make everyone in the country into a permanent terrorism suspect.

2. The powers granted in the Bill are unlikely to deter terrorists. They do not mostly communicate by e-mail and telephone calls. Or, if they do, they communicate in foreign languages, using theological allusions that I do not believe our authorities are able to understand. Collecting data on the whole population is likely to divert resources from the normal policing that is needed to deter or to catch terrorists.

3. There is no certainty that any information gathered will not be shared with, or sold to, or stolen by, foreign governments or other kinds of criminal. The British State has has a bad record on protecting the data it already has. Indeed, there is a Wikipedia page devoted to data losses by the British State. All else aside, it is unwise to let more data be accumulated by people who cannot be trusted to look after what they have.

4. The Bill allows local authorities to require access to our communications records, for the purpose of investigating welfare and other frauds. I suspect that this is part of the real intention behind the Bill. We are not being given a police state so the authorities can keep us safe from terrorists. Terrorism is just the latest excuse for giving us a police state.

5. When I speak of a police state, I do not mean formal censorship and arbitrary arrest and punishment. These are not necessary in a country like ours. To make people into obedient sheep, it is enough to let them know they are being watched. That alone will make people change their behaviour. They will avoid disfavoured opinions and activities, and speak and act as they are required. I doubt if the present Bill will take us straight into this sort of police state. But it is a possibly important step to it.

Bearing these points in mind, I oppose the present Bill. But I see no point in developing them. I have already written about them elsewhere. More important, nothing I say will have any effect on whether and how the Bill becomes law. It may be sad that no one in authority listens to people like me. It is, however, a fact that must be taken into account. What I will discuss instead is why no one takes notice of us.

I am currently preparing a book of essays by my late friend Chris R. Tame. He was an accomplished bibliographer, and I have been slowed down in publishing his book by the need to type in hundreds of references scribbled over the hard copy. This has reminded me of the immense body of literature produced on our side between about 1930 and 1990. University professors, university journals, policy institutes lavishly funded by big business, economists, historians, philosophers, historians, sociologists, political scientists, journalists – no criticism in this period that could be made of the managerial state was left unmade. In writing his essays, Chris ran over whole libraries of books and articles. I read many of them when I was younger, and was convinced. Their collective effect was close to zero. Since about 1980, the authorities have placed a greater emphasis than they did on market rationality. No doubt, the Institute of Economic Affairs had some influence here. On the other hand, the model of statism established in the 1940s had become inconvenient to those who rule, and whatever market reforms were suggested went into a filter from which nothing emerged but corporatism. Again, the generations of men who wrote all those books were not replaced. In part, this was a failure of the last generation, which generally appointed non-entities. Mainly, though, the universities and big business have been captured by the leftists. There are not, and will not be, any more Antony Flews and Stanislav Andreskis – no more men with the time and the tenured authority to continue the work of arguing for a free society.

We have lost, I believe, because those generations of highly able men were engaged in the equivalent of making bricks without straw. In 1986, the Social Affairs Unit published A Diet of Reason, This was a comprehensive demolition of official dietary advice and food regulation. It was discussed and heavily promoted in those parts of the media that were still conservative. Thousands of copies were bought and handed out by food manufacturers. There was even an audiobook edition. It had no effect. The food controllers had a few months of diminishing embarrassment, and continued expanding their numbers and powers. The book is now forgotten. Or there was E.G. West’s Education and the State, published in 1965 by the Institute of Economic Affairs. This piled up massive evidence that England was already a literate society before the State intervened in education, and that the Education Act 1870 and its precursors were projected on various kinds of statistical fraud. Again, the book had a brief notoriety, and was forgotten. It is not listed in the bibliography of any mainstream history of education that I have read. I could mention dozens of other books of the same kind. But these two can stand for the rest.

To make use of Thomas Kuhn, there is, at any time in any society, an overall paradigm that both explains the world and provides an agenda for action. For a very long time in this country, the paradigm has been statist. The justifications may overlap and change from time to time – the welfare of the working classes, racial and sexual equality, anthropogenic climate change, the demonisation of Moslems and paedophiles and the unhealthy, and so forth. But the paradigm is one that accepts an enlarged state as both inevitable and desirable. Books like A Diet of Reason and Education and the State do no more than draw attention to anomalies.

Now, anomalies can overthrow a paradigm. But they need to accumulate on a scale that amounts to the catastrophic – for example the impact of the Spanish arrival on the Aztec theology. This barely ever happens. What does mostly happen is that anomalies are ignored and forgotten. Or, if they continue to accumulate, they will force a shift within the existing paradigm. I mention again the change in economic policy after 1980. If it were otherwise, those libraries of books that Chris put in his bibliographies would by now have carried us into

some kind of anarcho-utopia. If our present social paradigm is to be destroyed, it is necessary to make people lose interest in it. I cannot be bothered with a minute critique of the Investigatory Powers Bill because, as said, no one important listens to us – but also because proving how our Internet records will end up with ISIS or in North Korea will get nothing more than a shrug and a few soothing words about the “safeguards” in the Bill. We need to do better than produce anomalies of detail.

I will give this illustration of how paradigm shifts take place. In 1600, just about everyone in Western Europe assented to these propositions: that we are surrounded by invisible beings of great power; that some of these beings are evil; that humans are able, through the appropriate rituals and incantations, to make contact with these beings; that we must do whatever is necessary to deter and to punish such contact. Showing that some alleged witches had been framed, or that some were mad, did nothing to overthrow belief in witchcraft. By 1700, almost no one in authority believed in witchcraft, and the laws in England and France had been repealed or were in abeyance. Yet there was virtually no attack, during the seventeenth century, on the basic propositions mentioned above. They were defended with great subtlety, but never contested. What happened was that the educated classes gave up on Platonism. They preferred instead to think of the universe as a kind of machine governed by laws that could be reduced to mathematics. In this new paradigm, there was no room for belief in witchcraft. It was abandoned with barely a considered thought. Otherwise inexplicable events were now dismissed as not yet explained.

I doubt it was the work of Kepler and Galileo and Newton that produced this paradigm shift. Hardly anyone read them. They only became generally famous in the eighteenth century, after the paradigm shift had already taken place. The shift was more likely caused by contemplation of the pocket watch.

All through the twentieth century, our people tried to shift the paradigm by purely intellectual activism. Given the altered correlation of forces within the universities, they worked on a scale that we cannot now match. They still failed. The reason was that they were trying to apply their lever to the wrong point. The Diet of Reason was a modest sensation. But the leftists controlled light entertainment. You can wait for the fuss over an unwelcome book to die down. You cannot argue with a plotline in Eastenders, or the lyrics of a pop song. And it was not just light entertainment, or in the 1980s, that the leftists became culturally active. They had, by 1960 at the latest, taken control over virtually the whole mechanism of cultural reproduction, both here and in America – and they had been increasingly predominant for decades before then. They were able to set the terms of debate, and they were able to create the environment within which their setting of those terms was seen as reasonable.

Intellectual activism is not a waste of time. Someone needs to articulate the counter-paradigm. But this is not sufficient in itself to overthrow the dominant paradigm. It should be seen rather as one line of attack in a largely cultural assault. We need our economists and philosophers. We also need our writers and artists and musicians. We need our own unofficial and unregulated – and that probably means secret – schools. We need our own structures of family life and arbitration. Our counter-paradigm must be seen to exist across the whole spectrum. We cannot try to privatise defence procurement, or bring back gold, and expect the tone of Hollywood and the BBC and the publishing industry to change accordingly. We must provide our own full-spectrum alternative. Plainly, we have done almost nothing in this direction. Hardly surprising if we life in a grotty police state.

I therefore see no purpose in more than a token attack on the Investigatory Powers Bill. We should spend more time writing and reviewing fiction, and composing music. We should try to have more children, and to bring them up in our values. If you are rich, and have read this far, I suggest your donations are better spent on publishing alternate history novels or commissioning wind quintets from libertarian or conservative composers, than on yet another with-a-bound-he-was-free effort to reform the Bank of England, or to leave the European Union, or to defeat a Parliamentary Bill that virtually every elected politician thinks it madness not to pass.

But that is all. I think I have explained myself.

Thoughts on the European Referendum: A Personal Attempt at Clarity (2016), by Sean Gabb

Thoughts on the European Referendum:
A Personal Attempt at Clarity

by Sean Gabb
(25th February 2016)

Because of its charitable status, the Libertarian Alliance takes no view of the European Referendum set for the June of 2016. This is, then, more than usually not an ex cathedra statement. It is purely an expression of what I think. For anyone who is interested, and has no inclination to read my justifications, I will say now that I will vote to leave the European Union. This is notwithstanding the views that I have lately expressed regarding the nature and benefits of our actual membership. I now proceed to my justifications.

I do not believe that the terms of our membership are, in themselves, onerous. So far as I can tell, the various regulations and directives that the Eurosceptics denounce are generally vague, and are studded with derogations. In short, they can be ignored where inconvenient. The Austrians, Slovaks and Hungarians are subject to the same rules as are said to have stopped the British State from dredging the riverbeds. Their management of the Danube is unaffected. To my personal knowledge, the Slovaks do not recycle. The European railways run better than ours. The Germans and Austrians do not extradite their citizens to face trail under European arrest warrants. If these requirements are carried to the point of lunacy in this country, it is because our rulers are incompetent, or because they are in bed with special interest groups that want full and overfull compliance.

As for most harmonisation and product regulation rules, these are nearly all decided by other international organisations, such as the World Trade Organisation, or the various bodies of the United Nations. If they arrive in this country via Brussels, that is simply the most convenient way of bringing them into effect. Leaving the European Union would not free us from these rules, or others like them. Our own rulers might have some direct influence over their making. On the other hand, these are rulers who gold plate everything already. A British seat at the relevant tables might easily make things worse.

I believe that the effect on trade and investment of leaving or staying in would be minimal. We are all subject to the rules of the World Trade Organisation, and neither the British nor any European government would be interested in unpicking the current patterns of trade and investment. There would be little business lost with the European countries, and little gained elsewhere.

And, if this country has become a cultural leftist police state, that has nothing to do with the European Union. There is nothing in the European treaties about feral social workers, or “equality and diversity” rules. No European law requires British citizens to drop their voices when talking in public about certain issues, or the schools to be made into propaganda centres for the ruling class. European law did not take our guns away. It did not cartelise the universities. It did not, in the first instance, ban smoking outside the home. It is not considering plain packaging for cigarettes, or minimum prices for alcohol, or dress codes for children. Nor does it order the police to hound old men to their graves over allegations of sexual assaults committed half a century ago, and made by anonymous complainants. The European Union did not compel us to take part in three Middle Eastern wars that have been catastrophic for the people living there.

Indeed, when European laws do bite, the victims are as often our rulers as ourselves. It is thanks to European law that our communications data is not made available to the authorities on request. It is thanks to European law that the growth of the DNA database has been slowed.

If we vote to leave the European Union, we shall be at the absolute and unaccountable mercy of a thoroughly malignant ruling class. There will be no more appeals to foreign judges, who may think our rulers are off their heads, no more need for these rulers to nag or bribe several dozen foreign governments into slow agreement on common schemes of oppression.

We shall also drift completely into the orbit of the United States. Downing Street has been mostly a branch of the White House since about 1940. Without any counterweight from Brussels, the relationship of overlord and satrap will become total. We shall not get any of the benefits of American constitutional law. All we shall get is unlimited military commitments in areas and on sides that have no congruence with our own national interest. It is hardly surprising that every shabby neoconservative whose name I know – Michael Gove, for example, or Liam Fox – is desperate to leave, and is wrapping himself in a Union Flag that he only wants to soil more than it is.

Why, then, have I decided to vote to leave? One answer is that nearly all my friends will vote to leave. This may not seem a very good reason, given what I have said above. But I do not wish to let the side down. When I denounced the Iraq War, I also upset many friends. The difference then was that I knew most of these were not really friends. My Eurosceptic friends are real friends, and, as said, I will not be seen letting the side down, now the referendum campaign has begun.

A more compelling answer – and this is associated with the above – is that opposition to the European Union has become a shorthand for opposition to much else besides. The scepticism I have expressed so far about Euroscepticism is based on the assumption of no domestic change. I have asked – do we really want to be locked into a vast open air lunatic asylum run by the usual suspects? On the assumption of no domestic change, my answer is to vote to stay in. But is this a valid assumption?

If virtually the whole political class, plus the BBC, plus big business, plus the universities, are so eager to stay in, perhaps they have seen something I have overlooked. This is unlikely to involve any rational consideration of our interests as a nation. It is more likely to be fear of what might follow a vote to leave. A victory for the leave campaign might be the occasion for some kind of genteel uprising. At the same time, a defeat for the leave campaign might not be followed by a return to business as usual. I repeat that actual Euroscepticism includes much more than concerns about “ever closer union.” It may draw most of its strength from a desire to stop and turn back the cultural leftist revolution. So far as I am right, a defeat for Euroscepticism would be a general defeat.

I admit that I am conflicted. I know that what I am proposing is a gamble. Sadly or not, though, it is a meaningless gamble. Whatever way I choose to vote or write, I do not presently believe that the British people will vote to leave. The leave campaign is already a shambles. There is no agreed plan of how to leave, or of what to do next. Official funding of the leave campaign will probably go to some of the most shamelessly useless men I have ever met. They do not even need to be bribed to mess things up.

Also, I suspect that Mr Cameron has a card up his sleeve. The prospect of losing the referendum strengthens rather than weakens him. Until the referendum was called, he had little influence with European politicians more concerned about the refugee crises and another possible collapse of the Euro. He could be ignored or given very little. Now the referendum has been called, and now there is some chance that he will lose it and have to go through the motions of negotiating a withdrawal, he has the leverage to extract apparently real concessions. I shall not be surprised if he comes back from a summit at the end of May, with a treaty that is legally binding and that allows Parliament to make or repeal laws regardless of European requirements. That this can already be done for the most part, and that it will mostly not be done once it is formally allowed, is beside the point. What matters is that, by the end of May, the leave campaign will be even more of a shambles than it is now, and Mr Cameron will have looked strong.

Or, with his secret weapon of the official leave campaign, all he may need to do is sit back and wait for the public to look at him and at his chosen opponents, and vote for the man who does not look unusually incompetent or certifiably mad.

And so, with this possibly specious reasoning, I have joined myself to another lost cause. On the whole, however, I feel relieved. Defeat, and with your friends beside you, is always more honourable than sneering from the sidelines.

Arguments for Freedom of Speech (2016), by Sean Gabb

Arguments for Freedom of Speech:
A Talk Given at the London School of Economics
to the Hayek Society
on Tuesday the 16th February 2016

On Tuesday the 16th February 2016, Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, travelled to the London School of Economics, to talk to the Hayek Society about freedom of speech.

The London School of Economics is developing a scheme to police all speeches to student societies. This is partly to comply with the British Government's "anti-radicalisation" laws. The academic who sat in on this meeting was an entirely friendly presence. Even so, Dr Gabb decided at the last minute to give a speech of studied moderation.

He argued:

  • That freedom of speech means the right to publish without legal hindrance on anything that does not breach some private right or involve an act of treason – both of which conditions are to be tightly drawn and continuously monitored;
  • That our only confidence in the truth of propositions outside our immediate knowledge rests on a scholarly consensus, openly reached and openly maintained in the face of open challenge;
  • Without open consensus, knowledge becomes a matter of prudential faith, attended by some degree of private doubt;
  • That the exceptions made for the various kinds of "hate speech" are both arbitrary and inconsistent;
  • That anyone who wants universities to be a "safe space" for the sensitive is arguing not for a university as traditionally known in our civilisation, but for a nursery school.

There was a lively set of questions and answers.

Death to America? (2016), by Sean Gabb

Death to America?
by Sean Gabb
22nd January 2016

Talking about the future is often a sure recipe for looking like a fool. However obvious it may seem to us, nearly everything that happened in the past was unexpected at the time. I am not aware of anyone in 1639 who believed the Stuart State was about to collapse. Nor do I think anyone in 1788 predicted the occurrence and course of the French Revolution. The course of the Great War repeatedly took all the clever men by surprise. The difficulty with looking ahead is partly that most of the facts are unknown, but partly that the facts already established will be seen out of focus. We always tend to see the world through the twin lenses of unreasonable fear and of wishful thinking. For the world as it is, facts already established provide some correction. For the world as it may be, the only correction is to wait and see.

I will, therefore, not predict the decline of American world power. On the one hand, the country does appear to be in decline. It suffers internally from an increasingly predatory and freakish system of government, and from a national culture that is malign in its values and intrinsically worthless. None of its military interventions in the past quarter century has achieved its stated purpose, and all have been disastrous for the foreign peoples they were supposed to help. The military and diplomatic power of American has declined. It is no longer even clear that the Dollar will keep its hegemony. To put it mildly, the demographic changes now taking place are undermining the equilibrium and cohesiveness of the United States as it has been known since the 1870s.

On the other hand, the bulk of scientific and technological and economic progress remain concentrated in the United States. No other country approaches America in these respects. Nor is there any reason to suppose that any other country will. Also, every country that ever rose to greatness has combined tendencies to further progress and to disintegration. Until the very end, these forces have risen and fallen against each other. It may be that America has passed what will, in retrospect, be seen as a tipping point. Or it may not. I do not know, and I am sceptical when others claim they do know.

Rather than say what I think will happen, I prefer to say what I would like to happen. In doing this, I speak primarily from what I think to be the interests of my own country.

My view of America is tinged with a paranoia born from jealousy and resentment. I believe that American self-respect has, for at least the past hundred years, required the destruction of England as a great and independent nation. The Americans speak a language that did not emerge among themselves. They live within a system of law and within a set of constitutional assumptions that are also not co-existent with their nation. If their country were a minor power, they could, like Haiti, or Australia, or America before the 1870s, accept the fact of inferiority. If it were to vanish from the earth, they could look on the originator of their language and institutions with sentimental affection, as the Byzantines did on Athens and Rome.

Their problem is that, before 1940, England was a strong competitor. Since then, it has been generally subordinate, but never with full willingness. Therefore, the Americans have mixed occasional humiliation, as at Suez, with continual meddling in our politics. Our foreign policy has, since 1945, been largely set by Washington. Our leaders are mostly American Quislings, and these have systematically promoted American culture at the expense of our own. It may be that the accumulation of blocking powers by our new Supreme Court is an imitation to be welcomed. But the importation of American political correctness is not to be welcomed. Nor, I suggest, should we welcome the official replacement of English with American words and expressions – see, for example, the use of “train station” for “railway station.” This may appear, in itself, a trivial complaint. Repeated across the whole administrative and educational machinery, it has the effect of making our own recent past into a foreign country.

What the Americans want is for England to be discussed mainly in the past tense. They will study our literature, and sometimes our history. Some of their higher classes will put on Anglicised airs and graces, much as the Romans did after they had plundered and enslaved Greece. But to see their preferred model for living Englishmen, look at the characters played by Wilfred Hyde-Whyte, or the character of Alfred in Batman – polite, reliable, elderly, and, above all, ineffectual.

Though I dislike the European Union, I believe that the long term interests of my country lie in a close relationship with France and Germany, and in an amicable working arrangement with Russia. We have an obvious commonality with France and Germany of economic and strategic interests. We are of approximately equal weight. None is able to dominate the others. Each must work in compromise with the others. Any talk of “hands across the Atlantic” is either self-deception or a lie. Except perhaps between 1922 and 1940, there has never been an equality between England and America. Any close relationship between these countries has otherwise rested on the domination of one by the other – a domination with at best a limited overlap of interests. Though roles have changed, so it was at times before 1914, and so it has been since 1940.

Whether it will happen I cannot say. What I want to happen, however, is a continued relative decline of American power, both military and cultural, and probably in terms of economic output. I want the rise of a purely West European alliance able to dominate the whole of Europe, and to deal, in the light of its own interests, with the rest of the world. I want the re-emergence of my own national culture within my own country. I want this new equilibrium to continue for a very long time. I do not want England to be a satellite of any other country or civilisation.

Do I want America to collapse? Do I want it to break up into squabbling regional blocs on the North American continent? Do I want to see the rise of China or India, or even Russia, to world power? The answer is no. I do not believe any of these countries has the ability to replace America. Even if one could, I would not want it to. Nor do I think an internal collapse is likely.

Here, I come to the difficult point in my view of the world. I am hostile to America. I want to diminish its control over England. But, if the world must be dominated by one big power, it is probably for the best that this power should be America. Without romanticising America as it actually is, I see liberal democratic capitalism as the best human order presently on offer. I benefit from the universal use of the English language. I do not like what I know of the authoritarian state capitalism of the East. What I know of modern Russia is not something I understand or admire. Had I been in charge of England between 1945 and 1990, I would have told the Americans to fight the Cold War without our active help. At the same time, like the Swedish Government, I would have been clear which side I did not want to win. I can sympathise with resentment of America in the Moslem world. I do not regard Islam as in any sense a worthwhile civilisation.

And so, I wish America to decline, but not to fall. I want a looser world order, but not a replacement for America. I will never call a railway station a “train station,” nor will I cease to regard American popular culture with the contempt it deserves. At the same time, I will continue, without any feeling of inconsistency, to use the Internet and all the other technological marvels of American civilisation. For the rest of my life, I expect to look on America as a safety blanket, variously useful and despised.

In short, Death to America – but not just yet!

 

Introduction to Keir Martland’s First Book (2015), by Sean Gabb

product_thumbnail.phpLiberty from a Beginner: Selected Essays
Keir Martland

ISBN    9781326524715
Edition    Second Edition
Published    06 January 2016
Language    English
Pages    170
Binding    Perfect-bound Paperback

Also available for Kindle

Forward by Sean Gabb

Because my working day tends to be about twenty hours long, much of my correspondence – especially via Facebook – is conducted on a sort of autopilot. People write to me. I write back. I forget the nature of the exchange a few seconds after pressing the send button. I therefore cannot give the exact date when I first encountered Keir Martland. Certainly, though, we were regular Facebook correspondents in the early months of 2012.

My first impression was of a young man of great intelligence and fluency. He was cynical and witty, and seemed to share an impressive number of my own prejudices. We got along increasingly well. Within a couple of weeks, he had moved from the list of my autopilot correspondents into the much smaller group of actual friends.

One day, after he had said something particularly well, I had a look at his Facebook profile. First thing I looked for was the university he was attending, or had attended. I saw mention of a school in the North of England, but no university, nor job. No matter, I told myself. Not everyone who lives in the North goes to university. Not everyone there has a job. The important thing about friends is what they think and can write.

Then he submitted an essay to the Libertarian Alliance. It was a very fine piece of writing, and I passed it straight to Dr Meek, our Editorial Director. A few days later, he called me while I was fighting to stay awake over one of my novels. He was in a terrible flap, and I thought at first someone was trying to sue us for something I might have said.

“Keir Martland is thirteen, Sean! Are we allowed to publish anything by him?”

“Thirteen, eh?” I woke up. I sat up. I stopped thinking of words to describe the scream of someone who has just had a sword rammed into his bladder. “Well, er, yes, I was aware of that. Don’t worry, Nigel. You don’t need to pass a CRB check to publish someone under age.”

You can be sure he got a deal more of my attention after that. Were you up to writing coherently and at length when you were thirteen? I was not. Without realising it, I had stumbled into the company of my probable successor as leader of the British libertarian movement.

Keir is now sixteen. He has just sat the first round of his A Levels, and is looking at which university he will grace with his attendance. I could fill up the rest of this Foreword with praise of his unusual abilities. I could, for example, say how, a few months ago, he was called, with a day’s notice, to speak beside me at a Manchester University debate on the British Empire, and how well he spoke without any text, and to an audience I had already provoked into something close to incandescent rage. But I will not. His writings stand by themselves.

Another reason I will drop the matter of his precocity is that youth is a transitory asset. As said, Keir’s writings stand by themselves. Some mention has to be made of how young he still is. But the mai question is whether his writings are any good. I think they are.

Most notably, they break out of the dead end that British libertarianism – and much American – has found itself in since about 1980. In this time, standard libertarian writing has veered between an arid economism and cultural leftism. The question of who owns the coal mines, or the railway network, is obviously important. But it is not centrally important. Indeed, many of the things written about by libertarians are not only of secondary importance, but the positions taken have been counter-productive.

For example, there is a good case in the abstract for privatising the prisons and the police. There would still, in a stateless society, be need of law enforcement. Since this could not be done by the State, it would need to rest on some kind of voluntary provision. This being said, allowing private enterprise into these areas at the present time does nothing to reduce the extent of coercive power. It simply alters the nature of that power, by making it more opaque and therefore less accountable. It blurs the distinction between private enterprise and the State in ways that would have been thought dangerous between 1945 and 1980, and that are dangerous in any event.

If a constable employed by Her Majesty the Queen behaves abusively or illegally, you have a direct line of complaint that goes through your Member of Parliament to the Home Secretary. So long as you are reasonably intelligent, and have a good case, you will generally have redress. You will have this without needing to spend time and money in the civil courts. If you get into an argument with a private contractor, there is no direct line of complaint except through the civil courts – and no one goes to law in this country unless he is rich or slightly mad, or both.

As for prisons, when these are owned and run by the State, those working for them have an interest in cushy working arrangements and nice pensions, but do not generally try to influence the content of the criminal law. A private enterprise prison, on the other hand, will be run by an obvious interest group. If you own a prison, and you want to make a profit from using its inmates as slave labour, you will not want your cells filled the dross who have traditionally found themselves inside. You will want drug-dealers and tax-evaders and even political prisoners – the kind of people you can rent out as booking clerks and call centre operatives. You will, therefore, lobby for the retention of victimless crimes and for longer sentencing.

Similar objections can be made to a whole range of the policies advocated by libertarians for the past generation. So far from reducing the power of the State, these have tended to enable the growth of a police state.

A better approach is to make a fearless defence of freedom of speech and association, and to support any group of people who want to be left alone. This nowadays involves a defence of Christians and identitarians, and perhaps of some Islamic separatists. A quarter of a century ago, I was seen as broadly on the side of the angels when I spoke up for a group of sado-masochistic homosexuals who were prosecuted for beating each other up in private. One of them, I recall, was convicted of the horrid crime of “aiding and abetting an assault on himself.” I got a couple of funny looks, but no one thought of shunning me, or thinking me a bad person. Happy days. The modern victims of state power tend to be people who want to explain in public that homosexuals will go to Hell, or that there are too many black faces in the country, or that politicians and the police are fair game for retaliation.

In my younger days, I was able to move slightly ahead of the pack in part of the direction we have come. Any libertarian now must stand against the tide.

But this brings me to cultural leftism. I still make a point of insisting that there is nothing wrong with all-male sex. I believe in general that everyone should be equal before the law, and that no criminal laws should be made that focus disproportionately on any ethnic or religious or sexual group. But the time when homosexuals and black people and women were victims of state discrimination is long past. Words and slogans that I was happy to take up when young, because they were about legal equality, have been drained of their old meaning. They are now the cover for an attack on the rights, and even the existence, of the traditional peoples of this country. The object is no longer legal equality, but the creation of a new and heterogeneous population that can only be kept at peace by an unaccountable police state.

We need, then, to distinguish between a defence of individual rights and the advocacy of “political correctness.” Any libertarian who drops this challenge, and takes refuge in muttering about transaction taxes in the City of London, is not putting the libertarian case as it needs to be put.

I go further. In all times and places, libertarianism of any kind has been a minority interest. Freedom has only ever been the rule when libertarians have allied themselves with other ideological interests. The considerable changes of the past quarter century have brought our traditional alliance with big business into question – just as, a hundred years ago, our alliance with the landed interest ceased to be viable. We need now to start looking for understandings with ideological interests that are not in themselves libertarian, but that might, if they succeed, establish an order less practically illiberal than the present order of things.

When I read these essays, I feel some assurance that the approach taken by me, and, and before his lamentably early death, by Chris Tame and me, will not terminate with my own death or retirement from the libertarian movement. Keir is young. In the normal course of things, the line started by Chris and continued by me is reasonably secure.

But I return, in closing, to Keir’s youth. There are very few men who continue to believe at fifty what they believed at sixteen. Time alters both opinions and ambitions. It is possible that, by the time he leaves university, Keir will not be what he now is. If so, his choice must be respected. It is, after all, his life; and the choices I made when I was his age have not, fully considered, been to my advantage. Even discounting the time absorbed, I could have been a more successful writer without the baggage of the Libertarian Alliance. I will add that, but for certain unpleasant circumstances that manifested themselves at the beginning of that year, it was my intention to withdraw somewhat from libertarian politics in 2011. If, in 2020, Keir looks at the broken down old men who are expecting him to take up the burden falling from their own hands, and he decides instead to bury himself in the Inns of Court, who will I be to complain?

Nevertheless, whatever the future holds, the present is secure. I have not the slightest hesitation is commending these essays to a reader. And I thank Keir for the honour he has paid me by his request that I should write their Foreword.

Sean Gabb
Deal, June 2015

 

Be of Reasonable Cheer (2016), by Sean Gabb

Sean Gabb

[This began as a response to one of our Blogmaster’s more pessimistic comments. On reflection, it should be a main posting.]

We live in a remarkably free country. Bad things happen, but bad things have always happened. There never was a time when there were no persecuted outsider groups in this country.

Look at how full the lunatic asylums used to be – not all of people who were mad by any reasonable definition. Look at the anti-homosexual witch hunts – dozens of men were hanged for Buggery every year until the 1820s. Look at laws like the Contagious Diseases Act, or at the Sedition laws, or the anti-Catholic laws. Look at the anti-Jacobin panic and prosecutions of the 1790s, or the harrying of the Jacobites, or the Popish Plot mania.

The main difference between then and now appears to be that power was misused in the past in misguided attempts to protect the community. It is now misused to destroy the community. This is a considerable and a worrying difference.

Even so, we still have as much effective freedom of speech as anywhere in the world. There is probably nothing you cannot say in this country. There are things it is legally ruinous to say in certain forms of expression. There is a smaller class of issues that are best avoided altogether because of informal penalties. Except that the ideas not to be expressed are different, no change here from the past.

Indeed, if you look at the people who have got into trouble for opening their mouths, they have spent years asking for it. Of course, they should not get it. We can agree that it is disgraceful that Joshua Bonehill got sent to prison for sending out some antisemitic cartoons, or that Anjem Choudary may go to prison for suggesting that suicide bombing may be rather a good thing. But these men had spent years annoying the authorities. At any time up till their arrest, they could have said sorry and shut up and been left alone. Again, no change here from the past. That is how things have always worked.

Yes, Nick Griffin nearly got sent to prison for making those comments on Islam. But he was a noted dissident – and he did get off. He did better than other dissidents who were done for Blasphemous Libel or Seditious Libel as late as the 1820s. Yes, Emma West was done over for speaking out of turn on a tram. But she was lower class and a bit mad. People like her have never had entire freedom of speech. If she had spoken up on a tram c1910 for abortion on demand or a republic, she might have been spat on, or even committed.

We are spied on as we go about our business. But hardly any of the information harvested is ever used. One of the reason the authorities keep asking for more catch-all laws is that whatever they pull in after the last set of laws is never of any use to them. Bearing in mind all the IT procurement scandals, probably everything they harvested before about 2010 is as easily available as whatever data we may still have on 3.5" floppies.

We may do well to see state oppression as a searchlight. It often shines today on things that were ignored in the past. But it has always been there, and it shone just as brightly in the past on other things. It may have a larger cover nowadays. Or it may not – we cannot say for sure.

For the avoidance of doubt, I have never done any of these things, and I do not advocate doing them. But there seem to be workrounds for virtually every apparently draconian law. If you want drugs, find a reliable supplier – there are thousands of doctors who will prescribe anything for a small fee – and consume them at home. If you want illegal porn, don't pay for it with a credit card, and keep it on the smallest memory card you can find on E-Bay. If you want to set up a madrassa and lecture five year-olds on the joys of head-chopping, don't advertise for students in the local paper – and keep your lustful hands off the children. If you want to deal in substantial amounts of cash, find a plausible excuse for the bank clerks, and make sure to pay a reasonable amount of income tax. If you want to evade tax altogether, try not to live like a prince.

The number of things known to the authorities is very small. The number of things known that can be acted against is even smaller. If it were otherwise, there would be less public hysteria and fewer exemplary punishments.

Speaking for myself, I find the authorities in this country notably mild. They have no legitimate right to know how much money I am earning, or to expect me to ask permission to knock down a building in my garden. But they have those rights at present. They have never been used tyrannically against me. It is a nuisance to deal with all the bureaucracy and meddling in private life. But I am middle class, and have no evident desire to suffer martyrdom. I am the sort of person who knows how to make focussed complaints in writing. I mostly get what I want, and have never yet suffered more than low-level inconvenience. Even police officers armed to the teeth call me "Sir."

Returning to our general situation, we have much better means of outreach than ever before. Since the entire surveillance budget is probably earmarked for spying on teenage Moslems in Leicester, I doubt we are being watched, or watched with any interest. If there is any truth in what we are saying, it will gradually make its way into the mainstream. See how the global warming narrative has collapsed. See how the medical authorities eventually accepted that many ulcers were caused by bacterial infection. See how the dietary bureaucracies have quietly given up their demonisation of fat and their plugging of carbohydrate. Wherever we look, there are cases of truth prevailing over falsehood. It may take a while for truth to prevail. In the meantime, no one gets sent to the salt mines for challenging established opinions – or arrested for dissenting from them in middle class prose.

In general, every unique challenge we face is balanced by a unique means of responding. I don't deny we are a long way from any kind of libertarian victory. But we don't live in Airstrip One, and are unlikely ever to find ourselves there. In the meantime, we plod on, neither martyring ourselves nor going invisible.

Judicial Discretion and the Managerial State (2016), by Sean Gabb

Judicial Discretion and the Managerial State
Sean Gabb
(1st January 2016)

Any system of criminal justice worth the name needs to reconcile humanity with certainty. On the one hand, part of the function of the criminal law is deterrent. When you know that you will go to prison for six months if you smash someone’s window, you may be less inclined to pick up the stone than if you believe you may get an absolute discharge or a whipping. Another part of the system’s function is to match severity of sentencing to the perceived gravity of offences. We need to see that breaking a window is less of a crime than breaking someone’s nose, and that murder is much more of a crime than either.

On the other hand, no set of laws can take into account every set of circumstances. Should someone who steals a loaf of bread for a bet receive the same punishment as if he had stolen it to feed his hungry children? We can write in allowances for age and mental capacity. We can write in examples of mitigating circumstances. But rigid sentencing tariffs will always lead, sooner or later, to perceived injustice of punishments. Indeed, unless the system is in the hands of human robots, rigid tariffs will usually be circumvented in practice. Before the nineteenth century, English juries would often acquit rather than see a defendant sentenced to death or transportation for a crime of passion or an uncharacteristic lapse. Or judges would pass sentence, and then approach the King or his Ministers for a pardon or a commutation of punishment. Later on, the prosecuting authorities would bring lesser or greater charges, depending on how they saw a defendant.

By the twentieth century, both in Britain and America, a criminal justice system had emerged in which, murder and treason aside, offences had minimum and maximum sentences laid down in the law, and it was up to the judges to decide what sentence was appropriate within these bands. Sometimes, a judge was too harsh or too lenient. On the whole, however, the system worked. It reconciled a general hierarchy of punishments with a reasonable faith in the justice of punishment for each individual case.

In Britain, the system is now breaking down. Take these examples:

In January 2013, Chelsea Lambie and Douglas Cruikshank attached bacon to door handles and threw strips inside the Edinburgh Central Mosque in Scotland. In June 2014, Lambie was sent to prison for twelve months and Cruikshank for nine months. [Pair jailed for Edinburgh's Central Mosque bacon attack]

In June 2014, an Islamic teacher called Suleman Maknojioa was found guilty of sexually molesting one of his eleven year-old female students. He was let off going to prison because the Judge accepted that his wife’s English was too bad for her to function in England without him to take her about. [Islamic teacher who sexually abused girl, 11, as he taught her the Koran spared jail because his wife doesn't speak English]

I could fill a whole article – I could fill a small book – with similar instances of differential punishments that must shock any reasonable sense of right and wrong. I am not saying that the wilful desecration of a place of worship should go unpunished, or even that the case given above should have been punished exactly as if the defendants had left bacon in a church. But prison for sacrilege and a suspended sentence for sexual assault of a child – where is the justice in that?

The answer is that the criminal justice system has been politicised. It still dispenses justice, but the justice dispensed is no longer our justice. It instead reflects the sense of right and wrong of a ruling class that has no regard for the moral views of ordinary people, but is committed to a revolutionary transformation of British society. Stupidity aside, there are no mitigating circumstances for those Scottish bacon-layers, and they deserved some punishment. But their real crime appears to have been that they disobeyed the prime commandment of the modern law, which is to act and speak at all times as if we really were living in a multicultural love feast. Their actual crime was “hate,” or “intolerance.” The act of leaving bacon in a mosque was only evidence of their crime. As in Rotherham [Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal], the sexual abuse of children may be at best a minor offence, to be lightly punished, if not systematically covered up, when committed by one of the ethnic minorities.

But the corruption is more profound than the manipulation of sentencing guidelines. During the past twenty years in Britain – and perhaps also in America – the criminal justice system has been politicised at its heart. Traditionally, a criminal court has been asked to consider two elements of guilt – wrongful act (actus reus) and wrongful intention (mens rea). For example, murder is defined as “killing with malice aforethought.” If you poison your wife to lay hands on the insurance money, you have killed her, and you have killed her deliberately. You have committed murder. If, on the other hand, you kill her by accidentally knocking her off a ladder, or letting her catch your cold that then turns to pneumonia, you may only have been negligent. You may be guilty of manslaughter or nothing at all. But you are not guilty of murder.

Beginning with the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the British ruling class has added a further element, which is motivation. For example, if you commit grievous bodily harm against someone of your own race or religion, the maximum prison sentence is five years. If you commit this against someone of a different race or religion, and it can be shown that you were motivated by dislike of that race or religion, the maximum sentence is now seven years. There is a consistent loading of punishments for virtually every crime against life or property.

According to the Crown Prosecution Guidance Note:

[T]here are common problems that are experienced by victims of racist of religiously aggravated crime. They can feel extremely isolated or fearful of going out or even staying at home. They may become withdrawn, and suspicious of organisations or strangers. Their mental and physical health may suffer in a variety of ways. For young people in particular, the impact can be damaging to their self-esteem or identity and, without support, a form of self-hatred of their racial or religious identity may result.

This may be the case. But it can be the case with any assault, regardless of motive. The effect of the law is to make opinions into crimes. If you get into a fight with a black man, and you are charged with assault, you will be in greater trouble if the police then search your home and find copies of books by Enoch Powell, or if your browsing history shows that you read articles on VDare. Again, some part of your crime will be “hate,” and, again, the specific assault will be merely evidence of this.

A through tyranny, such as Bolshevik Russia, can get away with perverting the law in this manner. In a semi-free society, such as Britain or America, the natural result is gradually to bring the criminal law into scandal, and its officers into contempt. The main danger is probably not that differential punishments will lead to thorough tyranny. There is still the possibility of a reaction. The danger is that all law, of whatever kind, will be seen as an expression of rule by a malevolent ruling class, and that all the safeguards of life and property will be weakened. A further danger is that if, or when, the reaction comes, the idea of sentencing discretion will be so discredited that the balancing of certainty with humanity will be forgotten, and we shall find ourselves with a criminal law written in letters of blood.

Sadly, given the nature and current progress of the revolutionary transformation mentioned above, it can be doubted whether something unpleasant can be avoided.

 

 

 

 

 

ID Cards: Solving a Problem that Dare not Speak its Name (2015), by Sean Gabb

ID Cards: Solving a Problem that Dare not Speak its Name
by Sean Gabb
18th December 2015

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on the 10th December 2015, two Members of Parliament – Frank Field and Nicholas Soames – regret the cancellation, in 2010, of the previous Labour Government’s identity card scheme. They argue that the threat of terrorism requires us to think again.

By all means, let us think again. However, since no material facts have changed, I see no reason for reaching any different opinion from the one I have always held. Identity cards are an astonishingly bad idea – so bad that it is hard to make a case for them with any semblance of good faith.

Undeniably, there are benefits to having a single and authoritative means of identification. We all need to identify ourselves several times a week, sometimes more often. There are times when the authorities have legitimate need to identify us. Fraud appears to be a growing problem – so too illegal immigration. A biometric identity card would simplify large parts of our lives. It would smooth many of our interactions with the authorities.

The problem is that these benefits are not as great as we are told. Those European countries that already have identity cards do not seem to have less crime than we have. Certainly, France, which has a comprehensive identity card system, has suffered much more terrorism in the past few years than we have – large scale terrorism that gets reported in our news, and a continuous round of intercommunal violence that is not reported. In most cases, identity cards are irrelevant to solving these crimes. The problem is less the identification of suspects once arrested than finding someone to arrest in the first place. For the rest, identity cards are no more secure than bank cards and passports and bank notes. Whatever document is issued and has value can and will be forged by the dishonest.

As for identifying ourselves, most of us already have passports and National Insurance cards and bank cards and driving licenses. The inconvenience we face is, at most, trivial.

Against these doubtful or minor benefits, there are the substantial costs of an identity card scheme. Some of these costs are financial. Issuing everyone with secure biometric identity cards will be expensive, and we do already have a large budget deficit. The main costs, though, will be to our traditional way of life.

Preventing Islamic terrorism is clearly not a main objective of the authorities. If it were, they would not have opened the borders after 1990, and kept them open. They would also not have done so much to cover up various kinds of wrongdoing in our Islamic communities. Fighting crime against life and property is equally not a main objective.

Far more important objectives of the British State, so far as I can tell, are to stop us from smoking and drinking and looking at pornography – and to keep us from organising against our increasingly Potemkin liberal democracy. There is already a vast database, filled with who we are and what we are doing. Identity cards would be a useful front end to this. It would allow us to be tracked as we went about our daily business. It could be used to see who was buying cigarettes or drink, and who was attending meetings of anti-corporate or identitarian pressure groups.

And the knowledge that we were being watched would change our behaviour. Raise even the potential costs of nonconformity, and there will be fewer nonconformists. Would you go to a gay strip club, or to a meeting of the British National Party, if there was a policeman outside with a pretext for checking the identity cards of everyone going in? How many cigarettes or bottles of gin would you buy, if you had to show an identity card at the checkout, and if you knew the records would be shared with the National Health Service and the child protection authorities?

In short, identity cards enable a soft totalitarian police state. To be watched is to be controlled. Without a single concentration camp or rubber cosh in sight, they will take us into a world that has become a stage on which we act at all times under the watchful eye of the authorities.

Look at the history of the debate over identity cards. Every real or alleged problem we have faced in the past quarter century – football hooliganism, bank and welfare fraud, personation in driving tests, selling stolen goods, being drunk in public, terrorism, illegal immigration – has been made into an argument for identity cards. If another Black Death were to wipe out a third of the population, the surviving officials in the Home Office would make this into an argument for identity cards. The problems change. The solution stays the same. The obvious reason is that the authorities really want to know what we are doing, and to scare us into stopping.

And so, my response to Messrs Field and Soames is: I will take my chance with the terrorists; you go back to Westminster and do the job we elected you to do. This is to protect our lives and property and traditional rights from a British State that is going, or has already gone, out of control.

Should Michael Adebolajo have the Right to Sue His Jailers for Assault? (2015), by Sean Gabb

Should Michael Adebolajo have the Right to Sue His Jailers for Assault?
by Sean Gabb
10th December 2015

Michael Adebolajo, one of the men who murdered Lee Rigby in 2013, has decided to sue his jailers for assault. He alleges that the beat him up after he was arrested, amd knocked out two of his front teeth. This has caused outrage among the public and politicians.

On Thursday the 10th December 2015, Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, went on the BBC Radio Ulster Talkback programme, to defend Mr Adebolajo's right to sue.

He argued:

  • Mr Adebolajo committed a most infamous crime, and, when guilt is as plain as in his case, life imprisonment may have been too gentle a sentence;
  • However, that was his sentence, and no sentence should entail any punishment more strict than the one laid down after conviction;
  • Mr Adebolajo has been deprived of his liberty, not of his right to live unassaulted, or of any other right unmnentioned in his sentence;
  • If we breach these ancient principles, we begin a process that will make us no better than the Islamic State;
  • Therefore, Mr Adebolajo should be allowed to sue his jailers exactly as if he were any other person in this country.

The debate went on and on, and Sean's contributions make up only a fraction of the programme.

Europe: The Gabb-Cameron Correspondence

Note: It is said in this chapter from Mr Ashcroft's biography that I have "revealed" a "private correspondence" with Mr Cameron when he was trying to enter Parliament. I am not the kind of man who gets pompous and starts talking about lawyers. But I will say that Mr Ashcroft's claim is false. I never reveal anything said to me in confidence. It may be one of my few redeeming features that whatever is said to me in private stays private.

I will put the record straight. Between 1999 and 2001, I ran the Candidlist campaign, which tried to classify every Conservative Member of Parliament and actual or prospective candidate according to his views on European Integration. This was perhaps the first successful use of the Internet in British politics. I helped end several political careers, and I helped several other people to get into Parliament. Whether, in retrospect, they deserved my help is a question I do not feel inclined here to discuss.

I was called last year by one of Mr Ashcroft's ghostwriters. All I gave her was the correspondence with Mr Cameron from 2000 that I published at the time in full on The Candidlist website. I reproduce this in full at the bottom of the present extract from the biography.

This aside, the reference to me is rather flattering. It achieves the impossible of making me sound like a serious player in this country's politics. SIG

Extract from Call Me Dave, first published in The Sunday Times on 04 October 2015

The toxic ‘E word’ has long plagued David Cameron. Now the incendiary biography of the PM by Michael Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott reveals that for all his Eurosceptic posturing he has privately declared he would not quit the EU

RED-FACED

and spitting expletives, David Cameron was having a rare and very un-prime-ministerial loss of cool. The immediate object of his fury was Zac Goldsmith, the multimillionaire MP — and now candidate for London mayor — who was sitting in his Downing Street office. The more general source of his frustration was what he called the “E word”: Europe.

It was October 2012, and Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers were giving him yet another headache. For as long as he could remember they had been badgering him to commit himself to offering an EU referendum, a constant source of grief. Now they were kicking off about the European Union’s budget, making demands he considered hopelessly unrealistic. Soon there would be a vote on the issue, and he was set to lose.

The row was being pitched as a test of his authority on Europe — again. It was all so familiar: Eurosceptic MPs had been causing trouble for Tory leaders ever since Cameron had been a young researcher. Now it was his turn to feel the heat. But where exactly did he stand?

As early as the 1990s, there was confusion over the scale of his hostility to Europe. While he was searching for a parliamentary seat, Cameron was dismayed to discover he had been classified as a “question mark” on a document categorising hundreds of Tories as “Europhile” or “Eurosceptic”. Compiled by an academic, Dr Sean Gabb, the “Candidlist” was designed to stop candidates deceiving selection panels on what its author described as “the most important issue of our time”.

Nowhere was this more sensitive than in Witney, where Cameron was trying to succeed Shaun Woodward MP, a defector to Labour who had glossed over his Europhilia to win selection in 1997.

A question mark was potentially damaging to Cameron, indicating he had avoided giving a view or would simply obey party whips. Some prospective parliamentary candidates took the list so seriously that they threatened to sue.

For his part, Cameron emailed Gabb to protest about his classification.

Gabb has now revealed their private correspondence. It was a lengthy and somewhat ill-tempered exchange, in which Cameron argued that he should be designated a Eurosceptic “on the basis that I oppose the single currency and any further transfer of sovereignty from the UK to the EU”.

However, he conceded he was not in favour of withdrawal — “the answer is no” — and accepted that EU law was supreme in some cases (“I don’t like it, but it’s a fact”) which further fuelled Gabb’s suspicions about his status.

“Your complacent tone does you no credit whatever,” the academic told him. “It is only because I believe you are sincere in what you say that I do not reclassify you as a Europhile.”

Alarmed, Cameron shot back a missive saying Gabb must have misunderstood his position. “I am not a lawyer and perhaps my original email put it the wrong way,” he wrote. “But these are my views — no to the single currency, no to further transfer of powers from Westminster to Brussels and yes to renegotiation of areas like fish where the EU has been a disaster for the UK. If that is being a Europhile, then I’m a banana.”

Further missives followed, after which Gabb reluctantly reclassified Cameron as a sceptic.

In his own constituency, where Woodward’s treachery was still raw, Cameron knew he had to sound hardline. To reassure local activists, he would occasionally invite his staunch Eurosceptic colleague John Redwood to visit and give a talk, which could be guaranteed to strike the right note.

“He said one of the reasons he wanted me to come was because my views were much prized among his voters,” Redwood recalls. Yet as he put it himself, Cameron was no “Euro obsessive”.

Fundamentally Eurosceptic, he was never stridently so. Cameron’s friend and ally Sir Nicholas Soames MP says: “He’s Eurosceptic, no shadow of doubt. He’s immensely irritated by it and frustrated by it in every way. But he’s not a ‘get out’ man.”

While courting Eurosceptic Tory MPs during his leadership bid, Cameron was honest about where he drew the line. The Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan says: “I was impressed, after years of listening to Conservatives hinting at some inner Euroscepticism, by his frankness. He said, ‘I don’t think we should leave the EU, I know we’re going to disagree about that; but you’ll have the chance to put your case.’”

Iain Duncan Smith agrees that Cameron has never viewed Europe as a die-in-the-ditch issue. “If you asked him instinctively, how much of what the EU does do you think is good, I think the answer would probably be not much. Does he think it’s worth having huge bust-ups and fights over? No.”

Even so, Cameron provoked a row when he tried to win over Eurosceptics during his leadership campaign with a commitment to withdraw Tory MEPs from the European People’s party, a grouping of centre-right parties in the European parliament, viewed with suspicion because it contained federalists.

In his capacity as Cameron’s “eyes and ears”, Desmond Swayne, his parliamentary private secretary, fired off an email to the leader warning that moderate Tory MEPs were “furious”. Unfortunately, he forgot to log off the Commons computer he used, and his missive was leaked to The Sunday Times, along with another, sent two months later, which warned of their “depression” and “dismay”.

“The feeling of frustration and impotence is compounded by our perceived silence on things European,” Swayne wrote.

Cameron’s ambivalence on Europe was always going to set him on a collision course with those in the party for whom the issue is paramount. Having witnessed at close hand the devastating electoral consequences when his party “banged on about Europe”, when he became party leader he considered the subject toxic, and approached it with extreme caution.

There was tacit agreement in his inner circle that he should talk about it as little as possible, to avoid being characterised as leading the “same old Tories”.

When the issue could not be avoided, he was deliberately bland. He immediately regretted an LBC radio interview in 2006, in which he described members of Ukip as “a bunch of fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists”. From that moment, the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, took a personal dislike to him, vowing that they could never make any electoral pact.

The following year, Cameron made a “cast-iron guarantee” that he would offer a vote on the Lisbon treaty, which enhanced the process of European integration. But this was later dropped once it became clear that he was powerless to stop its ratification.

According to a well-placed insider, the U-turn upset at least one former Conservative prime minister. A close friend of the late Margaret Thatcher explained that, in her eyes: “If you’d said something, that was the same as doing something. She believed in delivering promises.”

Eurosceptic backbenchers and activists yearned for a leader who felt as strongly as they did. The spread-betting tycoon Stuart Wheeler, who once gave the party a £5m donation, summed up the mood among many during Cameron’s years as opposition leader when, in March 2009, he declared that he could no longer back the party in European elections.

“The Conservatives, though perhaps more Eurosceptic than Labour, just wish no one would talk about the EU so that they can win the general election in peace,” he complained.

It was true. Cameron had no desire to emulate the disastrous 2001 election strategy focusing on Europe and the threat to the pound. He simply hoped the issue would go away.

The low priority he gave to European matters in opposition reflected the view of the electorate, for whom the subject had always ranked below issues such as public services and the economy.

But from the moment he entered Downing Street, he found himself under relentless pressure from a significant and vocal tranche of his backbenchers to offer an “in/out” referendum.

It found expression in a series of private member’s bills and parliamentary motions and was a constant drag on his leadership. In October 2011, he infuriated many of his own MPs by ordering them to vote against a parliamentary motion calling for a referendum.

It triggered an almighty showdown. A total of 81 Tory MPs defied the whip, the biggest post-war rebellion on Europe. There had been nothing like it since 1993, when 41 Tory MPs defied John Major over the Maastricht treaty.

In this febrile atmosphere, Cameron did manage one spectacular PR coup. On December 8, 2011, he walked out of an EU summit after exercising his veto over proposals for fiscal union. Though the gesture changed little in Brussels, backbenchers were ecstatic, and the party bounced in the polls.

Privately, Cameron reflected that the positive reaction showed an entrenched Euroscepticism among most British voters. He was beginning to wonder whether any party — least of all his own — could enter the 2015 election without some sort of referendum pledge.

The following year, he clashed with backbenchers again, this time over the EU budget. The European Commission had outraged Eurosceptic MPs such as Goldsmith — and many British voters — by proposing a 5% rise, taking it to £898bn for the period 2014–20.

With Britain in the grip of austerity measures, the prime minister was under intense pressure from MPs to block the deal. While he believed the best he could deliver was a freeze, backbenchers, including Goldsmith, were pushing for a real-terms cut. Once again, Cameron faced a Commons revolt.

In the run-up to the vote on October 31, 2012, he lost his temper, letting rip at Goldsmith during a meeting in Downing Street.

According to a Whitehall source, he began pacing around his office effing and blinding and ranting about the “disloyalty” of those whose careers he had helped.

It was a highly unusual loss of temper that exposed his exasperation at finding himself in the same position as so many of his predecessors.

For all his attempts to dodge the Europe ball, like so many other Tory leaders, he found it being kicked in his face. A total of 53 Tory MPs defied the whip. Rebel leaders now warned that he faced a war of attrition with his own party.

Meanwhile, Ukip continued to gain ground, eating into the Tory vote (though as it turned out, the groundswell of support for Farage would not translate into Commons seats).

In Downing Street, Cameron was pulled in both directions, his fundamental Euroscepticism kept in check by his Europhile chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, but fuelled by the discovery that it was difficult to achieve anything in government without bumping up against an EU regulation or directive.

He developed a particular distaste for EU summits, where he would become so bored he would while away time sending surreptitious text messages.

“He can’t stand all those dreadful meetings, having to sit through meals and sit up all night. He makes a great virtue of mocking it,” says a colleague.

A little over a year after his veto, in a landmark speech at the London headquarters of the American financial data and media giant Bloomberg, he finally caved in to the inevitable and pledged an in/out referendum on Europe before the end of 2017. The party was ecstatic. But first he promised to “renegotiate” Britain’s relationship with Brussels. The stage was set for the biggest test yet of his diplomatic skills, and the groundwork began immediately. First stop: Angela Merkel’s schloss in Germany.

The Original Correspondence Published on Candidlist

E-mail Dated Wednesday the 16th February 2000,
David Cameron <David.Cameron@carlton.com>
to Sean Gabb

Dear Dr Gabb

Some time ago I sent you an e-mail asking for my definition as a "?" on the "candid list" to be changed on the basis that I oppose the single currency and any further transfer of sovereignty from the UK to the EU.

You came back to me with two questions.  I have had a computer crisis, but have  now retrieved your e-mail and will answer them.

Question 1 is simple – yes, I would oppose UK entry into the Eurozone even if  the leadership recommended it.

Question 2, about "if required to choose between accepting the supremacy of  European law and leaving the European Union, would you vote for British  withdrawal?" I find more puzzling.  The fact is that EU law is already supreme in various areas.  I don't like it, but it is a fact.

So if the question is "given the current unsatisfactory situation, do you favour withdrawal?", the answer is no.

But if the question is "do you favour extending the powers of the EU and thus reinforcing the supremacy of EU law", the answer is no.

Indeed, I would support moves to take back some areas which we have ceded to EU control, particularly fishing.  This would require some renegotiation of our entry terms.

Your final question was, in any event, did I agree with William Hague's mantra that we should rule out the Euro for this Parliament and the next and resist further moves towards European Inegration?  The answer is a wholehearted "yes".

I hope this helps and I look forward to hearing from you.

David Cameron


E-mail of Reply Dated Wednesday the 16th February,
Sean Gabb to David CameronDear Mr Cameron,

I have read your e-mail and must take issue with your claim that European Union law is already supreme.  Parliament is sovereign. It passed the European Communities Act.  It has chosen to allow other bodies to exercise a wide jurisdiction under that Act.  But it can repeal the Act as any time it feels inclined.

This, at least, is the view taken by Mr Justice Hoffmann in the cases of Stoke-on-Trent City Council v B & Q plc and Norwich City Council v B & Q plc (Chancery Division), reported in The Daily Telegraph, 18th July, 1990. See also per Lord Denning MR in Macarthys Ltd v Smith: "if the time should come when our Parliament deliberately passes an Act with the intention of repudiating the Treaty [of Rome] or any provision in it or intentionally of acting inconsistently with it and says so in express terms then I should have thought that it would be the duty of our courts to follow the statute of our Parliament” ([1979] 3 All England Reports, 325).

The European Communities Act only becomes unrepealable if Parliament dissolves itself, and hands on the Act as part of the constitutional law of a less powerful successor body.  Unless that happens, the Act is legally no different from any other.  Given the political will, it could be repealed in half an hour.  What legal means could be used to frustrate the will of the Queen in Parliament?  What British soldier or police officer would lift a finger to execute the writ of some European court?

If, on the other hand, you are right, your complacent tone does you no credit whatever.  If, without any consultation of the people – if with a lubrication of deliberate falsehood – we really had been placed under the supreme jurisdiction of a foreign power, that would justify and even require immediate action.

By insisting on a view of our Constitution that is manifestly wrong, you are helping to advance the cause of European Union supremacy that you claim to oppose.  It is only because I believe that you are sincere in what you say that I do not reclassify you as a Europhile.  However, I am now publishing our correspondence so that others can see on what evidence your don't know classification is based, and so that they can decide for themselves whether your inability to answer my questions qualifies you to stand for and perhaps sit in a Parliament where our relationship with the European Union will be finally settled one way or another.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Sean Gabb
Candidlist Webmaster


E-mail Dated Thursday the 17th February 2000,
David Cameron to Sean GabbThank you for your e-mail.  I am not sure we actually disagree, though re-reading my response I think I could have made myself clearer.  Let me have another try.

1.  Of course I agree that Parliament is sovereign and could choose to repeal the European Communities Act.  I believe that it should retain the ability to do so.

2.  If, as an MP, I was asked to choose between retaining Parliament's sovereignty and giving it up, I would vote to retain it.

3.  What I was trying to say by saying that "EU law is supreme in various areas" is that the Treaties that have already been signed – like the Single European Act – have committed us to accept rules in various areas.

I am certainly not complacent.  For the last 30 years Politicians have given up far too much sovereignty and explained far too little about the true nature of European Institutions.  This issue is one of the reasons I want to stand for Parliamnet in the first place.

I am not a lawyer and perhaps my original e-mail put it the wrong way.  But these are my views – no to the single currency, no to further transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels and yes to renegotiation of areas like Fish where the EU has been a disaster for the UK.  If that's being a Europhile then I'm a banana.  Please feel free to publish our correspondence.  I look forward to hearing from you.

David Cameron


E-mail Dated Sunday the 20th February 2000,
Sean Gabb to David CameronDear Mr Cameron,

Thank you for your e-mail of clarification.  I am not sure that you go quite far enough to qualify under the Candidlist defintion of sceptic. However, you may well qualify under other definitions; and I think it only fair to publish our correspondence in full so that selection committees and electors can form their own opinions on the basis of the evidence.

If you wish to supply me with further clarification of your views, please feel free to contact me at any time.

We thank you for having helped to make the Candidlist more accurate.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Sean Gabb
Candidlist Webmaster


E-Mail Dated Sunday the 11th June 2000,
Sean Gabb to David CameronDear Mr Cameron,

It comes a little late for selection purposes – and Candidlist has done nothing to retard your progress in any event – but I have looked again at our correspondence, and have decided to reclassify you as a sceptic after all.

I could have quietly left you as a don't know or have quietly adjusted the list.  But I feel in all fairness I should do this publicly.  Candidlist is candid or it is nothing.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Sean Gabb
Candidlist Webmaster

The Perils of State Surveillance (2015), by Sean Gabb – Video File

The Perils of State Surveillance
by Sean Gabb
Speech to the Traditional Britain Group
24th October 2015

I argue as follows:

  • I was a techno-pessimist in the mid-1990s. I thought that, in spite of many collateral advantages, the IT revolution would enable states to gather and use vast amounts of information, and that this would be used to enslave us.
  • This fear seems to be confirmed by the Government's current push to get access to all electronic data and to spy on us.
  • The push is excused by the need to protect us from the Moslems.
  • But the Moslems are not a problem at all as great as Sinn Fein/IRA used to be. Islamic terrorism in this country has produced a body count trifling set against the 3,500 killed in the Sinn Fein/IRA insurrection. Every other difference is in favour of the Moslems – though there are other problems here that may need addressing in due course.
  • Nor will universal surveillance protect us from terrorism. That needs traditional policing.
  • The scale of surveillance currently demanded by the British State will carry us into a police state – this being better defined by the fact of control than any mode of enforcement.
  • To be watched is to be controlled. When people are watched in all they do, they will mostly obey without actual threat of punishment.
  • On the other hand, while there are dangers, the IT Revolution has given us powerful tools of resistance. We need to use these if we want to be free.
  • Also, the kind of police state we are getting is based on fear not of torture or death, but of disapproval and low-level persecution. If we want to be free, all we need is to find a collective backbone and stop behaving like girlie-men.

An Evening with Enoch Powell: A Brief Extract from Sean Gabb’s Diary (22nd November 1986)

An Evening with Enoch Powell:
A Brief Extract from Sean Gabb’s Diary

Note: This is an exact transcript from one of the handwritten volumes of my Diary. I have kept this, with occasional lapses, since I was fifteen. It currently runs to about five million words. Most entries are of no interest to anyone else. Many are a waste of paper and ink. Some are too shocking or embarrassing ever to be published. Here and there, nevertheless, are entries of actual value. This is one of them. SIG

Saturday 22nd November 1986

No concert after all last night. Instead to Newham North East Conservative Club, to see Simon Pearce – and, much more than that, to see ENOCH POWELL.

Last time I was at the Club was almost a year ago, when it was Harvey Proctor speaking. Nothing much had changed in a year – the same elderly women, the same sprinkling of epicene young men. Oh, of course, there was a good showing of the locals last night. Like me, they’d come out on a wet night to see Enoch. Who wouldn’t?

He came into the meeting room at about 8pm. Dressed with elegance that nearly shocked me in a black, three-piece suit, he must be pushing 75. He didn’t look a day over fifty, nor a day older than the last time I saw him in the flesh, at the Alternative Bookshop. He sat at the front table, on his right the local PPC – some chinless creature whose name I missed and didn’t bother asking for afterwards – on his left Simon, beard impressive as ever, white streak in his hair ditto.

Simon opened the proceedings, with a lavish though halting panegyric on EP. He was scholar, soldier, former Minister, prophet. He drew attention to EP’s great and continuing kindness to East London Conservatives. He sat down to great applause. To greater applause, EP stood up.

He began slowly, thanking the Association for the kindness of inviting him to speak. Looking at his notes, he started the main body of his speech. This was an attack on the idea of positive discrimination and on the system of quotas that would be needed to give it any real meaning. He spoke of the craze for “ethnic monitoring” – “a plague more deadly than aids” – currently sweeping the professions. He gave the Law Society’s recent survey as a prime example. He then attacked the idiotic Prince of Wales with a reference to complaints of “not enough black faces under the buzbies.”

All this, he said, was just one more symptom of the mischievous importation of race into the laws of Great Britain, an importation first made in the Race Relations Act 1965, and now widened and entrenched to the point where it directly endangers the indigenous heritage of these islands.

Our constitution and whole way of life, he went on, was based on the premise of a largely homogenous population, with more fundamental points of agreement than disagreement, and a bare majority of whom could be trusted with unlimited formal power, because there were commonly-accepted, if not explicit, rules of how that power might be exercised. Undermine that basis – let areas of the country be settled by groups without this perception of common interest – and the system would become unworkable. This was happening now all about us, here in East London.

There was a conspiracy of silence among the powers that be, he concluded, and his duty over the past twenty years had been to see that the truth was told, before it became too late for remedial action to be peacefully taken.

Questions followed. I asked for his comment on Lewisham Council’s policy of removing “offensive” literature from its libraries. He said this was another illustration of the tendency he had described. The Labour Party was exploiting the race issue throughout the inner cities. As such, it was like a man riding on the back of a tiger – but any man who tried this would find himself eaten alive before proceeding very far on his journey. He mentioned the current fuss in the Labour Party over the issue of black sections.

Someone else asked about education and “mother-tongue” teaching. The answer was fascinating. Education, he said, has two functions. One is to hand on from one generation to another the heritage of a nation. The other is to satisfy human curiosity,. Deny the first of these purposes, and you add yet more kindling to the funeral pyre of our nationhood.

Someone asked what was to be done. As ever, he raised repatriation as the only sure answer.

He said much else beside the above, which is only a poor abstract of the speech – an abstract made a day later and without benefit of notes. Oh, inter alia, he praised Mrs Thatcher for her skill in avoiding the imposition of sanctions against South Africa, and he condemned all attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of another country, without also assuming a corresponding degree of responsibility.

It was a grand performance, quite in the old style of English oratory. There was no tinselly rhetoric, no use of long words for their own sake, no striking for alliteration or sentences without verbs. Nor was there any of the monotonous delivery you get from someone who is reading from a text. Instead, every sentence was as grammatically perfect as if written down in advance, yet delivered naturally – and all linked into a single persuasive whole.

That was his speech. I have read greater – of course, I have: last night’s speech was only good, not great – but have heard nothing in my life so far to match it.

One further point. I have mentioned the audience – mostly working class locals. None of these, I suspect, has had the advantage of an education much beyond sixteen. EP spoke, during more than half an hour, in long and often complex sentences. Once he referred to Greek history. Once, he mentioned the French Revolution. At no point did he lose his audience. They listened in silence. They understood him. They questioned him on what they had understood, and listened to him again. I suspect that those politicians who say they are adapting their style to suit the limitations of their audience are only trying to excuse their own limitations.

Nothing much to report after the speech – except that one of the young men I mentioned above had an epileptic fit in the bar. It was a big one, and interesting to watch. Unlike the ones Big Julie has every morning, he seemed to keep control of his bladder. But he twitched and stiffened, and looked as if he would swallow his tongue.

Should I be reporting this? Why not? It was all part of my evening with Enoch Powell.

 

 

The Paris Atrocities: The Most Probable and Bankrupt Response of Our Own Government (2015), by Sean Gabb

The Paris Atrocities:
The Most Probable and Bankrupt Response

of our Own Government
by Sean Gabb
14th November 2015

Because Keir Martland has already commented with great brilliance, and even a certain nobility of tone, I will make no comment directly on the Paris Atrocities or their probable causes. I will instead deal with our own Government’s most likely response to them. This will be a new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill. It will require Internet and telephone companies to store all communication data for a year, and to make this available to the police and security agencies.

The stated reason for this will be that we are in danger, and in particular danger from Moslem terrorists. What happened yesterday in Paris was only the latest episode in a campaign of terror that began with the American Bombings in September 2001, and proceeded through the Madrid Bombings, and the London Bombings, and the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich, and the Charlie Hebdo killings. How long before a coordinated terror attack in planned again for London? We are at war, and war calls for a deviation from the normal course of government.

I will not deny that the latest atrocities are shocking, both in their effect and in the careful planning that they show. I will not deny that mass-immigration from the Third World into Europe was always at least a mistake, and that the latest wave of immigration inspired by Angela Merkel is an existential threat to the civilisation of which we are a part. I will not argue against the proposition that further immigration should be prevented, and even that some of the immigration we have so far experienced might usefully be reversed.

For the avoidance of doubt, I will also agree with the general proposition that there are times when what is undesirable becomes essential. There are times when insisting on the traditional proprieties will undermine the order within which those proprieties have meaning. But where something like universal surveillance is concerned, the whole burden of proof must be on those projecting it. Allowing the authorities to monitor all electronic communications brings obvious dangers. It will complete the loss of privacy that began with the money laundering laws. It will enable the full growth of a police state based on high technology. Bearing these considerations in mind, I suggest that the British Government’s likely response will be disproportionate, and will almost certainly do nothing to make us safer.

I begin with the disproportionality of universal surveillance. Between 1969 and 2001, the Sinn Fein/IRA insurrection produced 3,500 deaths. The purpose behind this insurrection was to fragment the United Kingdom, and to subject Ulster to the same religious persecution and ethnic cleansing as Southern Ireland saw in the 1920s. The main response by the authorities was to disrupt the terrorist gangs, and wait for them to run out of energy. I wish they had done more. But, until the Blair Government decided to surrender for ideological reasons, this was a reasonably effective response. Our main inconvenience, outside Ulster, was the removal of rubbish bins from railway stations.

There have been large Moslem communities in this country since the 1960s. In this time, fewer than a hundred people have died in specifically Islamic terrorist attacks. I know that I am ignoring the death toll in New York and Madrid and Paris. But I am discussing my own country, and, even if there is a large attack in London, it will not compare in its nature with the Sinn Fein/IRA insurrection.

Doubtless, the large number of Moslems settled here brings other problems. But they have no territorial demands against us. They remain attached to their countries of origin. Many retire to these countries. They often see their stay in this country as temporary. Their religious leaders are more forthright in condemning terrorism than the Irish Catholic hierarchy ever was. Most of them do not want to kill us. Those who want to convert us believe they are doing us a favour. By the standards of our own recent past, the Moslem threat – so far as it really exists – is trivial.

I turn to the likely success of universal surveillance. I fail to see how the surveillance currently possible will make us measurably safer. Terrorists do not plan their attacks by sending each other e-mails in through BTInternet. Instead, they meet each other face to face, or speak using foreign or pay-as-you go mobile telephones. Rather than harvesting and trying to sift through the two billion e-mails sent every day in the United Kingdom, the authorities should remember how they dealt with the terrorists of Sinn Fein/IRA. That means identifying suspect groups, and infiltrating them, and finding out and exploiting their personal and ideological motivations. It will involve targeted surveillance, for which the law is already adequate. It does not require universal surveillance.

Or, if a greater problem emerges than we seem actually to face, there are other approaches. Sinn Fein/IRA was a movement of white Europeans. It drew support in England from communities so long established, and often so completely integrated, that it had to be treated as a domestic problem. For all we might wish we could rerun the past seven hundred years of our joint history, England and Ireland are effectively Siamese twins. As said, the Moslems in this country are an alien presence. A few changes to our immigration and citizenship laws, and a new spirit in the administration of the law, would be sufficient to deal with their misbehaviour – if, and only if, it were to become necessary.

In at least the short term, the approach the authorities wish to take will fail. They will heap up masses of unuseable data. After a few scandals and rigged public enquiries, they will try to deal with this by developing better data mining software. They will then find the data insufficient. The logical next step from here will be to require access to the content of e-mails and telephone calls. After this, they will lay hands on the content of all other public and private databases – particularly anything that lets them see how where we are and how we are spending our money. Indeed, without waiting for the powers already taken to fail, the authorities are already looking to expand the scope of surveillance. On the 21st October 2015, a new Bill was announced, to give the security services the right to hack into computers and mobile telephones, to look at text messages and photographs, and even to plant software to allow live surveillance.

Whether or not this Bill is likely to become law in the form announced, we are moving rapidly into a society where nothing is private from the authorities – where any one of us may find himself under surveillance, even when not under actual suspicion.

I return to my point about the completion of a police state. I say again that there are circumstances in which what is undesirable becomes essential. Since universal surveillance is neither necessary for the purpose stated, nor likely to achieve that purpose, it remains for me to mention some of the costs.

I have sometimes been called an alarmist when I speak of Britain as a police state. The reason for this is that a police state is commonly defined by its extreme manifestations. We have no obvious secret police in this country, nor any counterpart of the Soviet and national socialist concentration camps. The media are not openly censored. Children are not given medals for informing on their parents, and we can make jokes about our rulers.

Bad things do happen here. In 2011, for example, Mark Duggan was dragged by the police from a taxi in London and shot to death. In general, the police are increasingly partial to killing members of the public – sometimes at random. Or there has been the arrest and prosecution of Emma West, for being rude to the other passengers on a South London tram. But these events are still exceptional. If you want to define a police state by South American or East European practice, Britain is not a police state.

However, a police state should be seen as less a matter of enforcement than of control. There are many reasons why a police state comes into being. The most common are that a ruling class wants to rob and oppress beyond what is customary, or when it has utopian fantasies to impose on an unwilling population. Whether either of these cases fits our present situation I will leave to one side. What I will say instead is that, once a police state is desired, its modes of enforcement depend on circumstances.

Sadists and outright lunatics are a rarity in government. Perhaps they have a greater representation there than among the people at large. But torture and censorship and concentration camps are generally modes of enforcement used only when there are no others conveniently to hand. Most Jacobins and Bolsheviks, I am sure, would rather not have relied on terror to get their way. Terror was an embarrassment to their ideologies of universal freedom and love. It needed to be hidden away or explained away. It was expensive. The overall reason they censored and tortured and murdered was because they had no other way to scare people into obedience.

The East German and Czechoslovak Communists were not notably better men than their Soviet counterparts. But they were much gentler. They murdered on a smaller scale because they came to power in states with a more developed bureaucracy of inspection than the Czars had constructed. Even so, they kept their secret police secret, and looked round for convincing euphemisms for censorship.

Modern technology means that our own authorities can be gentler still while having their way. If people can be made to obey without being clubbed to death in a police cell, why bother with violence? If they can be stopped from speaking their minds without overt censorship, why bother with overt censorship. There is no British Gestapo or KGB or Stasi, because our own police state rests on a foundation of changes of investigatory and criminal procedure and of increasingly surveillance. When people know that they are being watched in all that they do, and when they know that stepping over some invisible line will put them to great inconvenience and expense, they will change their behaviour and their attitudes to authority.

To put it bluntly, to be watched is to be controlled. In police states where people cannot be efficiently watched, control needs to rest on threats of murder. In other police states, control may rest on a combination of surveillance and threats. In modern Britain, and in most other parts of the modern West, surveillance is already omnipresent enough for threats of violence to be kept in the background.

It is not illegal in England to buy most kinds of pornography. It is not illegal to buy a bottle of whisky every day, or two hundred cigarettes a week. It is not illegal to join a group that works for the mass-conversion of the white population to Islam, or to join the Traditional Britain Group. But how many people will decide not to do these things if the details are being logged against their names in a central database? After all, being a known consumer of pornography may bring the police to the door when a child goes missing from down the road. Smoking and drinking may compromise the right to NHS treatment, or to adopt children, or even to continue looking after their own without supervision and preaching by the authorities. Membership of disapproved organisations may bring all manner of quiet persecutions. The Government’s promise of Extremism Disruption Orders for “non-violent extremists” is only part of the arsenal of threats. They may not really be necessary.

When watched in this way, people will be more inclined to conform to whatever may be the current preferences of those in authority. Moreover, many will be inclined to show cheerfully willing – after all, a state able to persecute is also able to reward. Perhaps, when it has become enough of a habit, cheerful obedience will even ripen to love of the authorities. After all, resistance to oppression has always been less common than loyalty to the oppressors. When Stalin died, it was not only from prudence that millions in Russia broke down and wept in public. Possibly much of the grief when Kim Jong Il died a few years ago was also genuine. Show most people a stick, and beat them with it, and their response will eventually be to kiss it.

Modern technology, plus the desire to make it a window into our souls, is already producing a new kind of person in this country. The New Model Briton is a man who keeps his head down and looks after his own affairs. He expresses no opinions. He possibly has no opinions. Opinions of any kind are a luxury. What may be tolerated or approved today may not be so tomorrow. He makes no jokes. These can be dangerous. The wrong sort of joke nowadays can get you the sack. He looks the other way when bad things happen to others. He breaks into a sweat if someone in authority over him raises a disapproving eyebrow. In short, without the hint of a concentration camp, or of a bullet through the back of his head, or of pre-publication or post-publication censorship, he behaves like a citizen of East Germany.

I am no particular fan of Lord Hoffman. He really should have resigned in disgrace after his judicial conduct in one of the Pinochet hearings. But his comment in the case of A and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department – [2004] UKHL 56, at para. 97 – is worth bearing in mind:

“The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve.”

The best monument we can raise up to the slaughtered innocents in Paris is the preservation of what liberal democracy remains in this country. It will not be nodding through the creation of a police state that will only make us safer after it has created a people who do not deserve to be safe.

Against Universal State Surveillance (2015), by Sean Gabb

Against Universal State Surveillance
by Sean Gabb
4th November 2015

The British Government is promising a Bill to make Internet service providers and telephone companies store details of our communications and to make these available to the authorities. Sean Gabb discusses this on BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester. He says:

  • The powers demanded are disproportionate. The Sinn Fein/IRA insurrection led to 3,500 deaths and was aimed and breaking up the United Kingdom. This insurrection was stopped without universal state surveillance. The threat from radical Islam is petty by comparison.
  • The powers demanded are unlikely to stop terrorism. Terrorists do not plan their attacks by sending e-mails to each other. Besides, there are over two billion e-mails sent every day in the United Kingdom alone. How are these to be sifted through in any effective manner?
  • The powers claimed are dangerous. When the State is able to access our communications, none of us is safe. The claim "Those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear" is worthless. We all have something to hide. Even if our lives are completely blameless by present standards, these standards may change in unexpected and unwelcome ways. To think nothing bad of the powers claimed is to make a bet with the future that may be lost.
  • As for the need to stop young men from going off to fight in Syria – why, let them go. But then cancel their passports and stop them from coming back. That will probably be very effective to stop recrutiment to the Islamic State.
  • By all means, let warrants be issued to intercept communications between people reasonably suspected of planning a crime. But let us have none of this projected universal surveillance.

Libertarian Thoughts on State Welfare (2015), by Sean Gabb

Libertarian Thoughts on State Welfare
By Sean Gabb
(26th October 2015)

One of the main British news stories at the moment is an argument over changes to part of the welfare system. The Government claims it wants to make the child and working tax credits system more efficient. The Labour opposition claims it wants to cut benefits to the poor. I realise that, in writing about the welfare system, I am under a double burden of ignorance. First, I have limited experience and knowledge of state welfare. Second, and partly in consequence, I am not able to say whether the Government or the Opposition is lying over the probable effect of the changes proposed. This being said, welfare benefits are an important issue; I have been urged to write about it; and, so long as I keep to broad principle, my ignorance of the details should not be a disadvantage.

As a libertarian, I try to judge the abstract legitimacy of any institution or government policy by asking whether it would exist without a state to uphold it. I have in my mind the idea of a purely natural order, in which all association between adults, excepting only defence against aggression, is voluntary. Since this natural order would have no government, and therefore no taxes and no redistribution of income, there would obviously be no state welfare system. On these grounds, I say that the British welfare state has no abstract legitimacy.

Note, however, the qualifying adjective. Just because something is illegitimate in the abstract does not mean that it should be immediately abolished, or even that its abolition should be high on the agenda of any military junta advised by libertarians. In applying libertarian principle to the world as it is, we need to take into account both abstract legitimacy and particular circumstances. Where state welfare is concerned, the circumstances should rule out abolition in both the short and medium term.

Though by any reasonable standard, I am on the political right, I accept one of the central insights of left-libertarians like Kevin Carson. This is that we should not confuse the present order of things with a natural order. We should not defend the present structure of outcomes as if they were the outcomes of a free market. To look only at England and America and the rest of the civilised world, there are many people – perhaps ten or twenty per cent – who cannot earn enough to enjoy what is generally seen as a fair standard of living. Some of these people are what used to be called “the undeserving poor” – that is, they are lazy, or they are drug addicts or habitual drunks, or they have in some other way made parasites of themselves. But many are victims of circumstances that, like state welfare, would not exist in a natural order.

I have no doubt that some kind of wage system would exist in a natural order. There are people who do not like risk, or who have a high time preference. Rather than produce today for an uncertain future return, they will prefer to sell their time for a more secure periodic wage. But the nature and scale of the wage system that presently exists is not natural. It came into being and is sustained by a set of laws and institutions that set at least the poor at a structural disadvantage.

I am lucky. I am able to get a living almost as if I were in a natural order. I write. I am a private tutor and educational consultant. I teach for a small salary. I have no debts, which fact counts as an income in itself. I am not rich. I have to limit my expenses in ways I find unwelcome. I have to juggle unavoidable commitments in ways that I sometimes find embarrassing. But I have no one source of income, and any that goes down can be replaced without a plunge into actual want. Though I have fairly unusual skills, many more people should be able to live like this. They cannot, because, as said, they have been placed at a structural disadvantage.

There is always a demand for taxi drivers and delivery couriers, and for child minders, and for beer and wine made in small batches, and for cooked food, and for other goods and services that, in themselves, require little skill and capital to provide. But these goods and services are so taxed and regulated that they can only be provided with credentials or on a scale that most people cannot manage. If they are to get a living by work, it must be for wages.

When I was a boy, this was not a great practical evil. There was no shortage of paid work, and most wages were not very far from the median. Since then, further market distortions have driven much industry out of the country, and placed a firm and continuous downward pressure on unskilled and semi-skilled wages. Worse, there are parts of the country where almost no paid work can be had.

The various kinds of state welfare available are a necessary corrective to what would otherwise be grinding poverty. I agree that state welfare may encourage idleness. But there is worse than idleness. State welfare is a secondary distortion to markets to correct primary distortions that some libertarians still insist on calling market outcomes.

It is a disgrace to claim welfare when you do not reasonably need it. But there is no disgrace in claiming it when circumstances are against you. If we ever move towards a natural order, state welfare will eventually disappear. But it should not disappear before the distortions that presently make it necessary have been removed. By all means, let systematic fraud and wilful idleness be discouraged. But, for the moment, no one with any sense or humanity should wish to take away the safety net.

And I will be honest. I have said I live almost as if in a natural order. But “almost” is an important qualifier. When I was at university, I had a full student grant. I paid no tuition fees. I use the National Health Service. My wife collects whatever family allowance is nowadays called. We send our daughter to a state primary school, and are preparing her for the eleven plus examination that will let her attend a grammar school at public expense. In due course, I hope to claim my old age pension. If I get one, I will make full use of my free bus pass. No one who is in my position has the right to denounce the poor if they claim different benefits. So far as state welfare is based on robbery from the tax payers, we are nearly all thieving from each other.

I turn now to the specific benefits that are said to be under threat. Working tax credits are paid to those in work whose income falls below a certain level. Child tax credits are paid to those with children whose income falls below a certain level. They were introduced by Gordon Brown. Though otherwise an infamous man, he did much to rationalise a benefits system that tended to encourage idleness. Because, as said, I am ignorant of them, I will avoid going into details. But tax credits are a reasonable approach to the negative income tax proposed by Milton Friedman. If we are not to abolish state welfare, it should be fully rationalised. We should end unemployment benefit and housing benefit and old age pensions and family allowance and free school dinners and free gas boilers, and all the other ad hoc benefits brought into being in the twentieth century. We should replace them with direct cash payments, via that tax system, to bring every family to what is seen as a reasonable living. By all means, deter fraud, and exclude recent immigrants from the system. But let us have a welfare system that gives security and even dignity to the poor.

And so, to the extent that it really is trying to roll back the least objectionable part of the state welfare system, the Government is to be condemned. The politicians should think again about how to cut public spending. This is not the place to list the things that ought to be cut. But I am sure I am not alone in being able to find other economies than hurting the poor.

The Perils of State Surveillance (2015), by Sean Gabb

The Perils of State Surveillance
by Sean Gabb
Speech to the Traditional Britain Group
24th October 2015

Here is an audio recording made on my mobile telephone and then tarted up in Audacity. A better version will be available soon, but this will do for the moment.

I argue as follows:

  • I was a techno-pessimist in the mid-1990s. I thought that, in spite of many collateral advantages, the IT revolution would enable states to gather and use vast amounts of information, and that this would be used to enslave us.
  • This fear seems to be confirmed by the Government's current push to get access to all electronic data and to spy on us.
  • The push is excused by the need to protect us from the Moslems.
  • But the Moslems are not a problem at all as great as Sinn Fein/IRA used to be. Islamic terrorism in this country has produced a body count trifling set against the 3,500 killed in the Sinn Fein/IRA insurrection. Every other difference is in favour of the Moslems – though there are other problems here that may need addressing in due course.
  • Nor will universal surveillance protect us from terrorism. That needs traditional policing.
  • The scale of surveillance currently demanded by the British State will carry us into a police state – this being better defined by the fact of control than any mode of enforcement.
  • To be watched is to be controlled. When people are watched in all they do, they will mostly obey without actual threat of punishment.
  • On the other hand, while there are dangers, the IT Revolution has given us powerful tools of resistance. We need to use these if we want to be free.
  • Also, the kind of police state we are getting is based on fear not of torture or death, but of disapproval and low-level persecution. If we want to be free, all we need is to find a collective backbone and stop behaving like girlie-men.

More Joys of Poetry

My daughter is required to write a poem for tomorrow about a child’s favourite thing. She’s demanded I should do it for her. I’ve said I won’t, but have written this to hold in reserve:

Oh, you can love the telly,
Or to look at trees.
But, thinking of my belly,
What I love is cheese.

O Beautiful, beautiful cheese:
One sniff and I’m weak at my knees,
And I cry: “Kind Sir, if you please,
A pound of mature cheddar cheese!”

So you can love your jelly,
Your coffee and your teas,
And I will fill my belly
Every day with cheese.

The Joys of Poetry

Many years ago, when I was a young man, I was asked by one of the sneering thugs set over me in the office where I worked what was the use of poetry. I thought the answer I gave was no more than good-natured badinage. Sadly everyone else thought otherwise. I didn’t work there much longer.

Young professional, straining
Through bulging haemorrhoid
The solids of your business lunch
Painfully to void;

Discontented, how to get
Back to your car unsure,
Staring at a dirty invite
Scribbled on the door;

Time to ask and time to say,
Now you sit alone,
Whether so many thousand pounds
Are worth so many stone.

Anjem Choudary and the Glorification of Terror (2015), by Sean Gabb

Anjem Choudary and the Glorification of Terror
by Sean Gabb
21st September 2015

Anjem Choudary is one of this country’s main Islamic trouble-makers. So far as I can tell, he and his wife and their four children live on various forms of state welfare. He uses his time to campaign for a privileged status in England for Islam, if not for the establishment of Islam as the state religion. His view of the legitimacy of violence as a means to this end can be summarised in this quotation from 2005, just after the London Bombings:

Look, at the end of the day innocent people—when we say “innocent people” we mean Muslims—as far as non-Muslims are concerned they have not accepted Islam and as far as we are concerned that is a crime against God. [Source: Wikipedia]

I now see that Mr Choudary has been arrested, and will soon go on trial for offences under section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000. His specific alleged offence has been to encourage support for the Islamic State, a group that requires no comment.

Whenever I write this sort of article, I usually put in a disclaimer, for the avoidance of doubt, of any agreement with what the person in question is supposed to have done. In Mr Choudary’s case, this is hardly necessary. I heartily wish he and his family and all his friends and supporters would go and live somewhere else. Mass-immigration has been a disaster for this country. Anyone who still claims the country is a better place for what has been allowed during the past half century is, in my opinion, either a fool or a rogue. All I will say here, for the avoidance of doubt, is that, since he is subject to active criminal proceedings, I make no comment on whether Mr Choudary is guilty as charged.

This being said, Mr Choudary is not charged with any offence known to the laws of England before the beginning of this century. No one claims that he has chopped off any heads, or tied a Semtex waistcoat to someone, or incited violence against any reasonably identifiable person or persons. His sole alleged offence has been to encourage support for one side in a foreign civil war. He may have done this in rather florid terms. But his sole alleged offence has been to express an opinion.

Every school in England has been told to preach “British values.” These include freedom of speech and democracy and the rule of law. Well, here is a British Value that was never in doubt when I was a boy, and even as a young man:

Everyone should have the right to express his opinion on public affairs. His opinion may be unpopular. It may be perverse. It may be plainly false and perhaps evil. But to express it, and to the best of his ability should be his right. The right should only be limited if its expression is liable to cause a breach of the peace as recognised by the Common Law. In other words, I deny the legitimacy of the law under which Mr Choudary has been charged.

It may be said that we nowadays face a terrorist threat unique in our history. I have already mentioned the London Bombings. I could mention the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich. There have been lesser terrorist attacks, and terrorist scares. Given this new factual background, surely the law should change to reflect the dangers we face?

My answer is no. Not only do I repeat that the law is illegitimate, I also deny that we face any unique danger.

I am old enough to remember the campaign of terror waged against us by Sinn Fein/IRA. Hundreds of our people were murdered by these terrorists. They were publicly supported by thousands of Trotskyites and Irish nationalists. These people had complete freedom of speech, as was right and proper. Many of them—some of the actual terrorists, indeed—are now part of the government in Ulster. I do not think this right or proper, but it is a fact.

I say again that I do not like mass-immigration. To be fair, however, the crimes of terror committed by immigrants or their descendants are a piffling fraction of those committed by Sinn Fein/IRA. I will add that the terrorist crimes committed by Moslems all show what under other circumstances would be admirable courage. They have blown themselves up along with their victims, or have waited to be arrested. The terrorists of Sinn Fein/IRA were despicable in their personal cowardice. Turning to personalities, Anjem Choudary has always been open about his ends and his means to those ends. I have always thought Gerry Adams a piece of human offal, and still feel inclined to projectile vomiting as often as I catch sight of his face in a newspaper.

Part of the mission of the Libertarian Alliance is:

To publish essays and other scholarly works explaining the benefits of political and economic freedom and of toleration in the sense put forth by such philosophers as John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill, F.A. von Hayek, Karl Popper, and many others in the British liberal tradition;…

To bring to general notice such failings of the British State as may appear from a consideration of the generality of the above;…

As Director of the Libertarian Alliance, I am now discharging an important part of our mission. Again, I say nothing calculated to prejudice a jury as to the guilt or innocence of Mr Chaudary as he has been charged. But I do suggest that the law under which he has been charged is inconsistent with British Values in any meaningful sense.

 

 

 

 

Should the British Police be Privatised? (2015), by Sean Gabb

Should the British Police be Privatised?
by Sean Gabb
21st September 2015

CaptureLister Hospital, which is somewhere in the Midlands, has employed private security staff, whose powers include the right to demand names and addresses and to issue fixed penalty fines. Early in the morning on Monday the 21st September 2015, I was called by BBC Three Counties Radio to comment on this.

I will begin by observing that the on-air discussion is about the worst I have ever done. Iain Lee, the Presenter, looks like a rabbit and behaves like the sort of person who gets extra time in school examinations. I had a cold, and was trying hard not to sneeze. The result was a slurred performance in which I make no effort to hide either boredom or contempt. I have, during the past year, refused most invitations to go on the radio. After this morning, I may refuse all invitations whatever.

I turn, though, to the substantive issues. Should private security guards have the power to demand names and address and to issue fines?

Whether anarchists or conservatives or classical liberals, those of us who identify as libertarians agree that the British State is larger than it ought to be. Many of its functions should be abolished. Many others should be privatised. When I was a boy, the State owned the Thomas Cook travel agency. When I was a young man, it still owned all the steel factories and coal mines. Selling these made obvious sense. It reduced the size of the State, and it enabled more rational patterns of investment and employment. I will say nothing about the details of what was done, but also agree with principle of selling the telephone network and the railways and the water boards, and so on.

This being said, privatising the police, or contracting out certain functions of the police, is a different matter. I agree that, in an entirely natural order – that is, a society without any state – the detection and punishment of crime would necessarily be private concerns. I will add that, before the nineteenth century, there were no state police in England, and most prosecutions were brought by the victims of crime or their representatives. But none of this validates the transfer, at present, of actual policing functions to the voluntary sector.

Police officers nowadays have many more powers than they had in the past. They are no longer persons hired and given uniforms to do what any other citizen might care to do. They have enhanced powers of stop and search, and of entry into private property. They have the power to issue fines without conviction by any due process of law. These powers should not exist. While they do exist, they should not be contracted out to the employees of private corporations.

No doubt, the police are frequently incompetent. They are corrupt. They are oppressive. They are increasingly armed, and their ranks are filling with unprosecuted murderers. But they are fully accountable in theory, and mostly accountable in practice. They are answerable to their chief constables, and to Members of Parliament, and to the Home Secretary. We know who they are, and for whom they act. Knowing who our masters are is almost as essential to living in a free country as rules limiting what our masters can do.

The employees of a private corporation are accountable before the civil courts – they and, by the rules of vicarious liability, the corporations. But the difficulty with private legal action is its present cost and complexity. Also, as anyone will agree who has experience of the building trade, liability can often be subcontracted out of existence. These might not be difficulties that applied in a natural order. But they do apply in the present order of things.

I say, then, that whoever exercises the powers of the State should be accountable via the State. This is not an argument against privatisation in general. I have said that, in a fully natural order, there would be no state policing; and, in any movement to a natural order, increasingly core activities of the State will be shed into the voluntary sector. But we are where we are. There are libertarians – I will not say for whom they work, or by whom they have been influenced – whose objection to the Soviet Gulag would be lessened by a spot of contracting out, or who would think better of Auschwitz had the inmates been called customers. Before we agree to any scheme of privatisation, we really need to know what is being privatised.

This is an argument against privatising the coercive powers of the State. I will briefly add that I doubt the propriety of contracting out the non-coercive ancillary functions of the State. It may be that roads would be cheaper and better if their building was contracted out. It may be that DNA testing and storage would be cheaper and better if contracted out. Most things done by the State are done badly.

On the other hand, private business is not some realm of angels. My local baker is a human being. His present interest is to supply me with bread at prices and a quality no worse than I could find it anywhere else in my area. Give him a contract to supply bread to every prison in England, and he might soon learn how and whom to bribe, and how to import his flour from the neighbourhood of a Romanian nuclear power station. He might also try blocking reforms that would reduce the prison population. All considered, it might be better to let prisons bake their own bread.

The point I am making is that mixing private enterprise with state activity raises up interest groups that may slow or wholly frustrate any progress towards a natural order.

But I have said enough. The above would make an interesting podcast. If you listen to the recording of this morning’s performance, you may agree that the BBC is no longer a fit institution for hosting an intelligent discussion.

Margaret Thatcher, the Miners’ Strike, and the Triumph of Middle Class Leftism (2015), by Sean Gabb

Margaret Thatcher, the Miners' Strike, 
and the Triumph of Middle Class Leftism
Sean Gabb

20th April 2015

A few days ago, I put the following post on my Facebook account;

It’s about thirty years since the end of the Miners’ Strike – the final humbling of our working classes. Thinking back, I am filled with hatred for Margaret Thatcher, and despise myself for having believed in her.

I appeared to be siding with the workers in a loss-making nationalised industry against the woman who is generally credited with saving the country from socialism. My posting led to an often sharp discussion, in which, among others, these points were made against me:

1. That Arthur Scargill was a Marxist who had to be stopped;

2. That the mining communities I was lamenting were drenched in socialism and were kept alive by taxpayer subsidies to which they had no right;

3. That the trade unions in general were a menace that had to be stopped.

I replied to these points on the discussion thread. But I have been asked to put my defence into a more connected form. Here it is:

1. Arthur Scargill, Marxist

Accepted. He was a Marxist and a pro-Soviet Marxist. His ideal Britain was another East Germany, but with warm beer. He regarded the National Union of Mineworkers as a personal army that he could use to lead a national strike that would bring down the Government. He was also a fool. He called his strike without any formal consultation of his members, and made sure it began in the spring, when demand for coal was falling and would remain low for the next eight months. He then fought the strike with a combination of inflammatory rhetoric and violent picketing.

This being said, the Thatcher Government pushed him into calling the strike when he did, and had been secretly building up large stocks of coal so it could ride out the strike without fear of the power cuts and disorder that had brought down the Heath Government in 1974. Its strategy was not so much to end the strike as to smash the strikers. It succeeded. Once the strike had collapsed, it set about closing down much of the coalmining industry, and was able to complete its remodelling of all the trade unions with minimal resistance.

I deplore both the end of coalmining and the attack on the unions, but will give my reasons in a moment. What I will now observe is that the Government beat Mr Scargill by destroying the members of his union. It waited and watched as the miners lost everything they had and then, one by one, crept back to work as atomised individuals. Also, it won the strike in part by turning the police into an arm of the state. They were given the right to stop British citizens from moving freely about their own country. They were also given a blank cheque for whatever authoritarian laws took their fancy. I am inclined to believe that the big gun control law of 1988 was pushed through largely because the police disliked the thought of an armed population, and that this was part of their reward for doing over the miners.

2. Illegitimate Subsidies and Socialist Culture

Accepted again. With the move to oil and gas and some nuclear power, and fears of smoke pollution, coal was no longer so important to the country by the 1980s as it had been in the 1940s. Also, many pits were uneconomic or becoming so. A rational policy would have been selective closure of pits and investment in modern extraction technologies for the others. The coal miners and their union bitterly resisted every closure, and they held up the introduction of any technology that would have increased productivity but caused job losses or changes to existing work practices. From about 1960, the National Coal Board was only kept solvent by annual subsidy. These were compelled transfers of money from those who had to find willing buyers for their labour to those who did not.

Yet the National Coal Board, by then renamed British Coal, made a loss of £485 million in the year before Mr Scargill called his strike. This was covered by the British State. If we add to this the indirect subsidy from the electricity boards, which were forced to buy British coal at inflated prices, the total subsidy for 1983-84 was £727 million. Let us assume what is unlikely, that prices have trebled in the past thirty years, that would be a subsidy in modern terms of £2 billion.

A lot of money, no doubt – and money, I repeat, extracted from the taxpayers. On the other hand, the direct cost to the British State of winning the strike was £7 billion. Also, we need to consider the cost, after the strike, of redundancy payments to the unemployed miners, and the cost of welfare payments that kept most of them alive until they retired or died, plus the cost of the state “investment” into the mining areas once the mines were gone. I am not sure the strike led to any net reduction of cost.

Then we need to look at how the modern British State spends our money. I believe the annual cost of dealing with fraudulent claims about global warming is more than £18 billion. I have no idea what the private finance initiative scam has so far cost the taxpayers. The figure may be in the region of £100 billion. The last time I looked, our net contribution to the European Union budget was £11 billion a year. The cost of the wars we have been continually fighting since the end of the last century has not been trifling. £2 billion to keep the coal mines going does not seem, in retrospect, a horrifying extravagance.

The difference is that the coal subsidy went mostly to working class miners in a sector of some actual and great potential strategic importance. I am not a protectionist, but £2 billion strikes me as money well-spent on the admittedly dubious assumption that it was the lowest cost of keeping us self-sufficient in coal. The much bigger sums I have mentioned go to the rich and well-connected and to various clients of the corporatist police state that Mrs Thatcher and her successors created.

I turn to the nature of the coalmining communities. I think there were over 150,000 British coalminers at the beginning of 1984. Adding to these wives and children and the retired, this makes a coalmining interest of more than half a million people. These lived in a great federation of close and morally self-sufficient communities. They had a culture that went back in many cases to the eighteenth century. They were the nearest thing we had to a landed peasantry.

I will not romanticise their culture. Coalmining is a disgusting occupation. I would not like to dig coal. I had two friends at university who had been miners. They were not going back after graduation. One of my grandfathers was a miner in Kent for a few years in the 1930s. I am told he was very glad to get out and join the Merchant Navy. I regret the settled belief of the miners in their right to pick our pockets to keep their communities alive. But they were an imperium in imperio. Authoritarian states are instinctively scared of social structures outside their control. What they want, in the words of Auberon Waugh, is the power to press one button and watch everyone jump at the same time. In a free country, there is no single imperium. Certainly, a free country needs some commonality of blood or language or religion or historical experience. Anything less is a recipe for inter-communal unrest that needs an authoritarian state to keep the peace. Beyond that, however, it is a federation of more or less impermeable communities. If at all, such a country must be ruled by discussion and consent.

The virtue of the mining communities was not that they were filled with good people, but that they were filled with people who wanted to live according to their own ways, and who had sufficient trust in each other to tell intruders into their lives to go to hell.

By the end of the miners’ strike, these communities lay in ruin. Even before the jobs went, the moral bonds had been severed. The result was not a burst of individual enterprise, but a void into which the new class of middle class leftists could advance without check. Would those old mining communities have tolerated a smoking ban in their pubs? Would they have let their institutions be co-opted into celebrating unlimited mass-immigration by unskilled competitors in the labour market? Had she been a miner’s wife, could Emma west have been held without trial for eighteen months, until she broke down and confessed to various “hate crimes” that did not exist when she was born? It is more than partly because there is no autonomous working class movement that this country has moved so quickly and without opposition into soft totalitarianism.

3. The Trade Union Menace

What I have said about the coalminers applies to the working class as a whole. Regardless of whether we had, or could have had, a comparative advantage in steelmaking or shipbuilding or whatever, the general cost of subsidising the other nationalised industries was not, by comparison with how the British State nowadays spends our money, extravagant. But these industries, and British industry as a whole, gave meaningful work and lives to millions of our people. Once the industries were allowed to fail, the traditional working class was destroyed. It was replaced by what can only be called the lower classes. Some of these people have non-jobs in the public sector. Many more live on various forms of welfare. Others scrape a living on the financial edge – part-time casual work, zero-hour contracts, security guarding, van driving, a bit of welfare fraud, a bit of petty crime. These people have not yet started pulling their forelocks when their betters walk by. But they know their place in the new order of things. They know when to keep their mouths shut and how to look the other way if the social workers roll up to take the children away from their neighbours.

The old trade unions were a nuisance. I am old enough to remember the strikes and the working to rule and the resistance to innovation. But I used to discuss all this with Chris Tame when he was alive. His first real taste of libertarian activism came in the late 1970s, when he helped break the Grunwick strike. He hated the unions. More than that, though, he despised the useless management of British industry that had allowed the unions to become the nuisance they were.

Imagine. It is 1975, and you are running a small engineering firm in Birmingham. One day, a new shop steward covered in badges comes to you with some farrago of nonsense about tea breaks. When you fail to give him exactly what he wants, he calls a sudden strike. What do you do? You can go whining to the newspapers about how hard done by you are, and give money to the Conservatives, who promise to sort things out if they win the next election. You then wait to go bankrupt. Or you can set private detectives on the Trotskyite pig who is wrecking your firm. He must have one embarrassing weakness. Everyone has a weakness. Or you can bribe him with cash or sex, and photograph his acceptance. Whatever the case, you get the dirt on him and make it clear that, unless he leaves you alone, you will make him sorry he was born.

Of course, this is not the end of the matter. You also treat your workers like human beings, and pour investment into new products that will give you a full order book as far ahead as anyone can see. You also spend a lot of time on the shop floor, listening to your workers and explaining your own vision for the common future.

There may have been such companies. But I worked for a few weeks in 1979 in a small manufacturing company in South London. The senior managers came by once or twice, never speaking to us, and visibly scared of getting grease on their fine suits. They were hated and distrusted to a man. The older workers kept production going by ignoring what they were told and following their own sense. I am surprised the company made it to 1979. It was gone by 1981.

I grant, the unions were in need of sorting out. But this was mostly a question of better management in both state and private companies. I do not recall that Japanese or American companies in this country were held to ransom by the unions, and they operated in the same legal environment as everyone else. Other than that, the Government needed to take away the privilege given in 1906, and make trade unions vicariously liable for the torts of their officers. Instead, the Thatcher Government came close to nationalising the unions with wholesale intervention in their internal affairs – an intervention that made it necessary for the unions to replace working class officials with middle class cultural leftists. It also failed to cut public spending, and financed its deficits with an interest rate policy that messed up the exchange rate and made it impossible for many small companies to borrow.

If I knew less about them – had I seen less of them in action during the 1980s – I would accuse the people who advised the Thatcher Government of being less interested in ending trade union militancy than in using it as an excuse to destroy the British working class. But they were not that bright. All they did was to clear the way for the real villains to step forward.

When I was young, I used to go to Adam Smith Institute events, and listen to the silly chatter of the young men who surrounded Madsen Pirie. You will not believe the rubbish I stood through, a glass in my hand. Internal markets for the National Health Service – that is, more, and indeed unlimited, management jobs for cultural leftists. Contracting out of public services – that is, unlimited corruption opportunities for councillors and local government officers, and, of course, more management jobs for cultural leftists. Pulling up the railway lines and replacing them with toll motorways – a fine use for strips of land barely twenty feet wide. Privatised prisons – how to blur the distinction between state power and private enterprise, and how to raise an interest group in favour of laws to imprison healthy and literate slave workers. A poll tax – good for keeping tabs on who lived where. The private finance initiative – oh! I soon stopped trying to argue with these people. I went instead to their gatherings for much the same reason as people of quality once paid to watch the lunatics howl and caper about in Bedlam. It was 1989 before I began putting my objections to the Thatcher Project in writing. My only regret is that I waited so long, and that I was so mild for so long after in my criticisms.

But I return to the coal miners. What should have been done? My answer is that, instead of being sent off to murder Hilda Murrell, the security services should have been set on the union leaders. As said, everyone has a secret. The mines should then have been handed over, with a tapering subsidy, as worker co-operatives. Better macro-economic policies would have helped. But, rather than shut everything down that was not worth selling for cash, the Government should have turned the nationalised industries over to those who worked in them. Some of the co-operatives would have failed. Some would have demutualised and become normal joint stock companies. Others might have flourished. We would not have had to sit for a whole year through the spectacle of a government at war with a significant group of its own people.

I and millions of people like me voted Conservative in 1979 in good faith. We believed that we were electing a government that would set us free. The state sector would be reformed and reduced. Enterprise would be liberated, the currency stabilised. We would reach the end of a troubled century with our ancient freedoms not merely restored but significantly enhanced. Well, give or take a few electoral wobbles along the way, there has been a continuum of government policy from 1979 to the present day. The evidence is in, and the Thatcher Revolution stands revealed as a ghastly wrong turn.

I feel sorry for the miners, and I feel sorry for all of us.

 

Something about Jeremy Corbyn (2015), by Sean Gabb

11th September 2015

I suppose I should say something about the Labour leadership election. I will begin by saying that I did not register as a Labour supporter, and have not voted in the leadership election. I dislike any form of political cheating, and I do not think good will come of interfering in the internal affairs of opposition parties.

This said, I turn to Mr Corbyn. I have no reasonable doubt that he is an honest lefty. He appears to believe everything he says. What he says veers between the reasonable – ie, avoidance of yet another war in the Middle East and a de-escalation of our new cold war with Russia – to the stupid and dangerous. This includes the whole of his economic programme, which I cannot be bothered to discuss. I will add his opposition to freedom of speech and freedom of association, and his belief in purging every institution within reach of the State of anyone still there who is not politically correct. Nor will I forget his past support for the IRA.

But he is an honest lefty. He looks and behaves like a normal human being. He does not appear to be financially or sexually corrupt. Ask him a question, and he will answer it with what he thinks, and is indifferent to whether this will get him the vote of the questioner. In the British political landscape that emerged after 1979, and that has seemed a permanent fact since 1997, this gives him a great advantage.

To call his opponents liars would be to flatter them. They are low apparatchiks who believe nothing at all in the wider sense. They are neither better nor worse than the generality of British politicians. Watching them shrivel beside Mr Corbyn is like watching Nigel Farage dominate a Question Time panel.

This is the weakness of the current order of things in England. It is built on lies. It is still not absolutely hegemonic. It is not only staffed but also led by people without character. It is brittle. Perhaps Mr Corbyn will lose the leadership election. Perhaps it will be rigged against him. If he does win, perhaps he will be removed by various means. Whatever happens, though, he has shown the weak points in the Thatcher-Blair Settlement.

But suppose he does win, and is not removed. I suspect Labour will begin to revive – in Scotland as well as in England. People like sincerity, and there is enough in what he promises to attract wider support than from the Trotskyite fringe. The Conservatives who are now rubbing their hands will then have a problem. It will not be enough to be less economically illiterate. The Party leadership will need to start honouring some of the promises it has been making or implying for the past ten years.

That will be interesting.

Notes on the Eighth PFS Conference in Bodrum, 19th-24th September 2013, by Sean Gabb

Notes on the Eighth PFS Conference in Bodrum,
19th-24th September 2013
Sean Gabb

Conferences of the Property and Freedom Society are arranged so that half hour speeches are followed by fifteen minute coffee breaks, and each of the three days has a very long break for lunch. The last session of each day is about an hour long, and all the speakers of that day sit on the stage to take questions from the audience. This is an arrangement that emerged after the first experimental Conferences in 2006 and 2007, and it works very well. There is very little that cannot be said in thirty minutes – in most cases, giving people more time only encourages padding – and the coffee breaks are always welcome.

This is my seventh report of a PFS conference, and there is a limit to how many times I can praise the attendant circumstances – the fine accommodation, the endless gossip and debating over dinner, the balmy weather, the joy of walking about the city where Herodotus was born, and so on and so forth. Let us therefore take all this as read, and get on with a summary of the Some of my summaries are longer than the others. Some are in more connected prose. This may reflect a bias of my own interests, or an occasional wandering of my attention. There will, in due course, be a full video record on the Internet, and this will correct the defects of my written account.

[Further Note – 21st September 2015: These are notes I took at the time. I did intend to work them up into a full report for publication. However, I was busy with other things after my return from Bodrum, and I forgot about the notes. I have now found them again, and have decided to publish them without amendment. In some cases, my notes are inadequate – Professor Hoppe’s speech, for example, is not well-reported. Again, my report of Stephan Kinsella’s speech is unfair, as I make it into a dialogue between us on limited liability. But, unless you care to sit through all the videos, what I have written is the only account of the conference. I publish it for this reason. SIG]

Friday the 19th September 2013

David Howden, Labour Laws: Legislating Unemployment

The recession in Europe is worse than the official accounts say it is. However, there are grounds for optimism – or would be, but for the European Union’s responses.

It is worse, because most of the alleged economic growth since 2008 has been in the state sector. Only in Holland and in Italy has private growth been faster than state. In countries like Spain, the overall economy is shrinking, and so is the private share of this.

The good news is from the shadow economy – that is, those activities not reported to the authorities. Reasons for non-reporting include evasion of tax and regulation and reporting requirements; illegal goods and services.

There are various techniques of measuring the shadow economy. For example, assume all shadow activity is paid for in cash. This done, estimate how much cash is needed to finance the activity. Ask the central bank how much cash is in circulation. Deduct from this the amount needed to finance official activity. The remainder may be a good measurement of the shadow economy.

In general, the shadow economy is a smaller proportion of the whole in northern than in southern Europe. One reason is that countries with a better rule of law and more honest administration provide better reasons to operate in the formal economy. Another is the scale of belief that taxation is theft and that taxes are incompetently and corruptly spent. Then there is effectiveness of policing. Not surprisingly, in places like Greece and Spain, the shadow economy is about 40 per cent of the whole.

It is harder to estimate how many people are engaged in the shadow economy. More assumptions are needed, and more assumptions mean a greater chance of reaching the wrong answer. But it seems that actual unemployment rates are substantially lower than the official figures suggest. Spain, for example, has an unemployment rate of 27 per cent, but the perceived level of activity suggests higher rates of participation.

The response of the authorities has been to tighten policing – spot checks on businesses to see that workers are registered; limits on the use of cash, etc. The claim is that tighter policing will drive activity from the shadow to the formal economy. There is no probable truth in this, however. The formal economy will only grow if the tax and regulatory burden is low and equitable enough to justify private investment. Therefore, government responses are throttling the European recovery.

Mateusz Machaj, The Keynesianism of Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman has two faces. He is a radical libertarian – often very radical. But his technical economics are generally more favourable to interventionism. In particular, there is his claim that the Great Depression came about because of a failure by the authorities to print enough money to prevent the deflation.

These two faces are both surprising and a disappointment. His technical work undermines his wider libertarianism. And it is a fundamental error.

Friedman’s academic work as an economist begins with an acceptance of the Keynesian approach – a focus on aggregates and a belief that monetary policy has real effects on the aggregates. According to Paul Krugman, he would have supported some kind of quantitative easing. Friedman disagrees with the Keynesians chiefly over their emphasis on fiscal policy as opposed to monetary.

But leave aside whether or not he is a Keynesian – the monetarist economics that he considered his most enduring achievement are simply irrelevant. His monetary rule – that the money supply should be increased in order to stabilise the price level – relies on the ability to measure the money supply. This allows effects to be predicted and measured. During the past 30 years, financial innovations have made it very hard to define money, and therefore to measure changes in its quantity.

Nikolay Gertchev, Entrepreneurship and Betting: What, if Anything, Can Businessmen Learn from Betting Odds?

The entrepreneur and the gambler are seen as opposite types – rational calculator v the impulsive shirker. However, they have a lot in common.

First, they risk their own property. Second, they operate in inherently uncertain environments, and work to reduce the uncertainty.

NG goes into fifteen minutes of close reasoning about the Mises probability theory. Human action takes place because there are things of value that people do not have. His economic theory is based on a priori reasoning and on introspection. It does not rely on evidence, but explains reality. We call this praxeology. But this says nothing about the causal relationship between means and ends. This requires much experience. Because our knowledge of the world is inevitably defective, we must rely on probabilities. There is a learned discussion of objective and subjective probabilities.

Entrepreneurship and betting are both founded on calculations of risk and uncertainty. An entrepreneur speculates on the future behaviour of his customers and competitors. Betting odds reflect the average opinion of betters on the chance that something will happen.

The similarities are particularly evident in the derivatives markets.

Roman Skaskiw on Bitcoin (an optional session)

The State is organised violence, but violence can’t do maths. Bitcoin is a decentralised system of exchange that uses cryptography and allows pseudonymous and soon perhaps completely anonymous transactions. These are instantaneous and can take place anywhere in the world for both large and small amounts. Bitcoin competes with state money.

16 per cent of US retail sales are now on-line. There is an obvious advantage to using Bitcoin.

RS talks about precursors to Bitcoin – PayPal, E-Gold, etc. Bitcoin differs in that it is decentralised – There are no offices to raid, no people to arrest, no records to sequester.

It began in 2009. Early transactions were mostly experimental. Prices of Bitcoin were volatile at first. But diminishing confidence in state money and state-controlled banks is raising wider interest in Bitcoin. There are 11.5m Bitcoins as of September 2013. Total number soon will be 21m.Total value is about $1.6bn. It is now possible to live by spending Bitcoins. It is possible to buy houses. Agorists in New Hampshire have abandoned silver for Bitcoins. Also, it was used for donating to Wikileaks after PayPal account the relevant closeds.

Moves to an explanation of Bitcoin mining. For transactions to be secure, computer cryptography is needed for verification and registering. This is labour-intensive. Therefore, those performing the calculations are rewarded by new issues of Bitcoins.

From this, he goes into technical details that are beyond my understanding.

Bitcoin might be the herald of peer-to-peer monetary system. Bitcoin is open source, and all changes are made by consensus.

Attempts at regulation have so far been confused. The American authorities have been rather hostile. Not so Canada or some European countries. The  legal status is unclear in many countries.

Will big software companies get involved? Whether or not, there is no way to stop Bitcoin. It cannot be monitored. Therefore, it cannot be controlled.

This is a very good speech, and it goes on longer than scheduled. However, there is much sceptical questioning from the audience. People doubt that Bitcoin cannot be regulated or destroyed. They doubt its security and stability. I say something like this:

“Governments in the rich world are mostly not stupid. They seldom inflate money to nothing in the short term. They hardly ever confiscate savings from bank accounts. They leave us reasonably alone to accumulate wealth. For this reason alone, I see no use for Bitcoin except for illegal transactions – which in itself opens users to surveillance and persecution. Also, I trust my state-regulated bank more than any decentralised and anonymous monetary system that I do not fully understand. If money goes missing from my bank account, I know for sure whom to complain to and how to complain. What happens if I have money in Bitcoin, and the whole system just vanishes one day in a puff of smoke?”

No satisfactory answer to that question. A good speech, but fails to convince.

Thorsten Polleit, Organised Crime and the Progression Towards a Single World Fiat Currency

Organised crime may be defined as activity having a permanent structure to enable extraction of unlawful gains. The usual example of organised crime is the mafia. A better example is the State – it has the power to tax and the power to enforce ultimate jurisdiction.

Normal justifications of the State are from Plato, Aristotle et al – the State is needed to define and protect property. But property exists without a state. The State is less likely to have come about via social contract than by naked aggression. Also no one with any sense would sign such a contract.

How does the State, which benefits the few at the expense of the many, maintain itself? Either it uses or threatens violence, or it uses propaganda and a sparing distribution of the spoils of taxation. TP quotes Hoppe on the public ownership of government, and the tendency of majorities to elect bandits. In particular, democracy destroyed the gold standard.

He moves to discussion of the tendency of the main states in the world to reduce currency competition by creating a single fiat currency for the whole world. There are calls for the International Monetary Fund to become a central bank for the whole world.

This would be a disaster. Short term effects may be a more robust monetary order. Longer term effects will be world government. This cannot be democratic, but must be despotic. So long as there is ethnic and cultural diversity amount humanity, there can be no world government.

Paul Cantor, What Literature Can Teach Economics

Differences between literature and economics. But both connected with the idea of spontaneous order.

Idea that commerce and only corrupt culture, and this has led to much hostility from artists towards free market capitalism.

Great literature is often seen as an organic whole – every part contributes to the perfection of the whole: change one part and the whole suffers. Examples are Shakespeare sonnets. Great artistic genius has created a single moment of perfection. Great literature is said to exist outside time.

Artist is often said to be autonomous creator. Therefore, commercialisation said to harm artistic integrity. Compromise is deprecated. Therefore much support for government funding of the arts. Government is called on to shield artists from pressures of the market.

Artists are often socialists because of the working habits. They plan their works and execute them. They have total control over plots and characters. They carry this over into their economic views. This might explain why so many artists like dictatorship. We see this in much utopian fiction – generally, a perfect society is conceived as a socialist despotism. For example, H.G. Wells.

Another idea of literature is that great novels often go through an evolution. Look at serial publication in the 19th century. These were planned, but always changed in the course of writing. Quite often, they were changed in response to continuing sales figures. We can see this in the novels of Charles Dickens. Few of these have the perfect consistency that is called the highest quality of great art.

Was this an example of how commerce corrupts literature? Or were these novels products of cooperation between author and readers via the marketplace?

Writing a novel should perhaps be seen as a discovery process, just like any other act of entrepreneurship. Should not regard everyone but the author as a negative force.

Culture and commerce not antithetical. The contrary is much exaggerated.

Questions and Answers: Howden, Machaj, Gertchev, Polleit, Cantor

Mostly directed to Paul Cantor, whose talk was the most interesting of the day. SIG asks a question that amounts to a puff for his latest novel!

Saturday the 21st September 2013

Eugen Schulak, Friedrich Nietzsche – Right Wing Anarchist?

Introduction – FN in his times. Predicted wars followed by nihilism. These are consequences of democracy. Will end in transvaluation of all values – carried out by intellectual elite.

Was he an anarchist in the Mises/Rothbard tradition? Possibly. Rejects the State as not interested in truth. Any alliance between philosophy and the State requires philosophy to support the State rather than the truth. Therefore, he believed in a very small state. Did not believe the State could or should produce general security. Rejects democracy and nationalism and militarism.

However, this critique is not placed within any scientific framework. Speaks at length, with close reference to various texts. Speaking for myself, the whole mass of German philosophy isn’t worth a single railway bridge built by Brunel.

Sean Gabb, Understanding England and the English

I’d like to begin by thanking Hans and Gulcin for their great kindness in inviting me once again to Bodrum to address the Property and Freedom Society. But where to begin with the title that Hans has set for me? I could take the patronising approach taken by many Englishmen when called to speak about their country to an audience largely of foreigners. Whether I talk about Shakespeare, the Changing of the Guard and Churchill, or gush about the sinister pantomime that opened last year’s Olympic Games in London, it would have the same implied message. You see, we are an extraordinarily nationalist people. Our nationalism, however, doesn’t cause us to hate foreigners. Instead – and this applies also, and indeed particularly to Americans – we don’t hate you: we just feel sorry for you.

But I’ll not patronise you this morning. I’ll even avoid telling you the truth – that, in the development of our modern civilisation, two great nations have the greatest honour: England and Germany; and that, of these two, England is by far the greatest. What I will do is confess what you must have noticed for yourself – that something has gone badly wrong in England. Exactly when the rot began is a subject that would require far longer to discuss than the time given to me this morning. But you can see the earliest plain evidence of national derangement when the Princess of Wales died in 1997. I watched in horror as the mountains of flowers piled up, and as the funeral was made into a carnival of insanity.

The examples have multiplied beyond counting. I won’t give examples of the multicultural frenzy. Instead, I’ll talk about the sexual mania.

First, there is the legal privileging of homosexuality. In doing this, I speak with much security. I began denouncing the laws constraining homosexual conduct when I was a schoolboy – at a time when what I was saying might have got me roughed up in the playground, and certainly got me funny looks from other boys and teachers alike. I also wrote one of the earliest and best analyses of the Spanner Case. Since then, though, persecution has given way to privilege.

Take, for example, the case of the Rev. Alan Clifford, Pastor of the Norwich Reformed Church. A few months ago, the Norwich Gay Pride organisation held a rally in the middle of Norwich. Dr Clifford and four members of his congregation attended and handed out leaflets of the usual kind. Afterwards, he sent the leaflets out to everyone on his mailing list. This now included the leaders of Norwich Gay Pride. They complained to the police, and Dr Clifford was visited in his home by the police. They told him that a homophobic hate crime had taken place, and gave him the choice of confessing, in which case he would be given a police caution and made to pay a £90 fine, or of denying guilt, in which case he might be prosecuted.

Not surprisingly, Dr Clifford chose to deny his guilt. If the authorities ever do take him to court, they will probably get a bloody nose. Dr Clifford is a Calvinist. His sort drove Catholicism out of England in the 16th century, and pulled down the Stuart state in the 17th. He will turn up in court with the Bible in his hand and speak to a public gallery filled with his congregation. But his example is important as illustration. There is a regular persecution of Christian street preachers in England. There are new cases several times a year.

The next example is of the Late Jimmy Saville. During his lifetime, he was adored by the media for his charity work and his public eccentricity. When he died in 2011, enough hot air about him went up to fill a balloon. Then, in 2012, it came out that his sexual taste had been for pubescent girls. The media went hysterical. His family joined in. Early in 2013, his grave stone was torn up, its inscription ground smooth, and then smashed into small pieces and taken off for landfill.

I suggest this is evidence of great mental derangement. It is certainly unEnglish. The custom so far has for the dead to be left to rest in peace.

These are two examples of the madness that has gripped England. Of course, the madness is not universal. If you look at the continuing popularity of Gary Glitter, it seems that many people – perhaps the majority – do not partake of the madness. But it can be seen in every organised area of our national life.

What is the cause? The answer is complex. There is no single cause. But one cause worth exploring is the unbalancing of our Constitution during the 20th century.

In 1908, Rudyard Kipling published a short story called “The Mother Hive.” In this, the bees in a hive decide to drop all outmoded ideas of hierarchy and to make everyone equal. This includes the right of workers to eat royal jelly and to mate with the drones. In the spreading chaos that results, traditionalist dissidents are first shunned and then murdered. Eventually, the bee keeper looks into the hive, and sees the empty honeycombs and the horribly deformed offspring of the workers. His response is to poison all the bees.

Now, something like this has happened in England. In the past few generations, the whole of national life has been taken over by the cultural Marxists. They run government and the administration, and the law, and education and the media, and business too. They have imposed on us a nasty hegemonic discourse. Cultural Marxism is ultimately to be traced to European thinkers like Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser and the Frankfurt School. But this has come to England in American clothing. It has prestige because it was taken up by the American universities.

In America, however, the progress of cultural Marxism has been resisted, or slowed, by a strong religious right and by a written constitution that it is taking a long time to subvert. Here, we have no religious right, nor an entrenched constitutional law. In the past, freedom and common sense were safeguarded by an hereditary land-owing aristocracy and gentry. These ran the country, and did much to determine its moral tone. During the 20th century, they were marginalised and then eliminated from government. They remain as a class – still very rich – but the tacit deal since at least the 1940s has been that they will be left alone, so long as they keep out of politics. Government has been left to middle class lefties. The effect followed the cause only after several generations. But here it is.

It may be interesting for you, as foreigners, to learn an answer to the implied question in the title of this speech. But it is essential for the English to think about the question and its answers. You see, like both the Germans and the Russians, we have had a revolution. Unlike them, we have had no obviously revolutionary event. The Russians had the storming of the Winter Palace and the murder of their Royal Family. The Germans were utterly defeated in 1945. Their cities were bombed flat. Their country was occupied and divided. Every German knows either that German history came to an end in 1945, or at least that a new chapter in German history had begun.

We do not have that awareness, and it would be useful for us to understand, even so, that we are living in a state of revolution. England has become the Mother Hive.

Robert Nef, Understanding Switzerland and the Swiss

Switzerland is not a model for others to imitate, but an experiment. Sadly, it is an experiment that must end in a centralised and despotic state. On the other hand, it is still a better place than most countries in the European Union.

The country can be best explained by the analogy of the Beata Crucis.

Station 1. The Swiss love monarchy

Station 2. Direct democracy – Landesgemeinde. Most government proceeds by show of hands in small assemblies open to all citizens.

Station 3. ???????

Station 4. The country is not a traditional nation state. The constituent nations do not love each other, but get along. Analogy of the hedgehog.

Station 5. Even so, strong national pride.

Station 6. The Swiss think of themselves as special. Their federation arose from the need to protect their territory and their liberties from conquest by their neighbours. Unlike in other nations, the State does rest on an historical contract.

Station 7. Tension between William Tell and Rutli.

Station 8. The fundamental principle of neutrality.

Station 9. 20 per cent of the population are immigrants. 80 per cent of violent criminals in prison are immigrants. But citizenship open to foreigners of good character who can be adopted by vote of one of the communities.

Station 10. Switzerland not decentralised but non-centralised. The distinction is important. It means that individuals can secede from one community and seek adoption by another.

Station 11. All able-bodied men are enrolled in the militia. And most parliamentarians are part-timers.

Station 14. The Swiss have a sense of humour.

Anthony Daniels, Public Health or Public Totalitarianism? A Report from the Medical Journals

World Heath Organisation defines health not as the absence of disease, but as complete physical and moral well-being. Good health is a desirable state – unless you are a beneficiary of the welfare state, when alleged ill health brings financial advantages. But the definition adopted legitimises virtually all activity by the authorities to make us healthy. It allows doctors and health bureaucrats to entertain the wildest utopian fantasies.

For example, The British Medical Journal recently suggested that all legislation should consider its effects on public health. Again, there has been a great multiplication of mental illnesses that have no physical symptoms.

Another consequence has been the centralised mandating of therapies on the grounds that they will bring about statistical improvements in the health of particular groups. There is mass-screening. The authorities never consider the harm done by screening – for example, the possibility of over-diagnoses. There is a bias against considering whether the good of screening is not outweighed by its harm.

Another consequence is regulation of lifestyle based on bad epidemiology. See, for example, the American Government’s order to the food companies in the 1970s to reduce fat. They responded by increasing the amount of sugar. In fact, the link between fat and obesity and diabetes was based on flawed research. See also the Bangladeshi arsenic poisoning.

Questions and Answers: Schulak, Gabb, Nef, Daniels

No notes taken

Sunday 22nd September 2013

Richard Lynn, Why are the Jews so Smart?

Before answering this, various preliminary questions. Are the Jews smart? How many of them are smart? Can smartness be measured?

Before the 19th century, not much interest in the Jews, nor much contact with them. Changed with emancipation. Soon became evident that Jews were clever. Ricardo and Nathan Rothschild in England, and Disraeli. Increasing prominence during century all throughout Europe. Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn, Mahler, Karl Marx, et al, et al.

Cleverness noted by Francis Galton in Human Genius, 1876. Also Gobineau and Mark Twain. General consensus view. Invention of IQ tests in early 20th century. Test children at seven for IQ, and this measures intelligence and general progress through life.

Richard Lynn has devoted his life to measuring the differential intelligence of the races. This can be said of the Jews:

  • British Gentiles 100
  • Askenazim 110
  • Sephardim 98
  • Mizrahim 91
  • Ethiopean Jews 69

Not surprisingly, the Ashkenazim, from Russia, have a dominant influence wherever they settle and are allowed to flourish. The Sephardim, from Spain, dispersed throughout the world, mostly to the Balkans. The Mizrahim, largely resident in Iraq and Iran, mostly moved to Israel after 1948. The Ethiopean Jews are Africans.

  • Ashkenazim 110
  • NE Asians 105
  • N Europeans 100
  • S Europe 92
  • Mizrahim 91
  • US/UK blacks 85
  • N Africans ??

Ashkenazis good at verbal rather than special reasoning. Therefore prominent in law, science, literature, etc. Not so good in engineering and architecture.

Jewish ability became a concern in America c1920. Massive overrepresentation in universities. Previously admitted on basis of intelligence tests. Now, other criteria established to reduce Jewish numbers.

Why clever?

Possibly because they practised eugenic selection over many centuries. To become a rabbi required great intellectual ability. Also brought great prestige, and rich men wanted their daughters to marry rabbis. In a world where the rich had more surviving children than the poor, this would, over many centuries, raise average IQ.

Possibly because of persecution. More intelligent Jews escaped, less intelligent killed off. Result was rise in average IQ.

Concentration on money lending – selection for intelligence.

Apostasy theory of Charles Murray. Decline in Jewish numbers in early Christian centuries. Possibly because less intelligent ones dropped out on account of onerous learning requirements.

Theory that intelligence gene mutated among Ashkenazim c1200, and spread throughout population. This rather speculative – gene postulated, not yet discovered.

Likely that all played some part in bringing about the current situation.

Jared Taylor, A Brief History of US Race Relations

Conflict endemic in human affairs. One of the most common reasons for conflict is race. Two races in same territory will almost inevitably produce conflict. American race relations began in 1607 in the Jamestown settlement. English settlers disliked Spanish brutality and had no set ideas of racial superiority. Tried to be nice to the Indians. Built no fortifications. But Indian attack that would have ended in massacre had someone not scared them off by firing cannon. Afterwards, discovered that Indian neighbours disliked them the most. Trade and relations best with more distant tribes.

Further history of Anglo-Indian relations. 22 March 1621, plan to murder all English. Indians did in fact murder a third of settlers. Return to peace. Then, in 1644, another attempt. This followed by English counter-attack that destroyed Indian power.

Relations with Indians characterised by trust and good feeling. But presence of English seen in itself as offensive. Indians wanted newcomers out. However, English civilisation provoked into total dispossession.

No generalisations possible about black slavery. Variations between colonies. Variations in same colonies over time. Variations between individual owners. But often very good masters. Oral history project in 1930s – many former slaves spoke well of masters and looked forward to meeting again in heaven. Don’t forget – not all blacks in South were slaves, nor all owners white.

Slavery can be described as one way of managing racial conflict – though depended on brute force.

Most abolitionists wanted to free slaves and then send them back to Africa. Even Lincoln wanted to expel freed blacks. Wanted to send them all to Central America.

Whites feared not only conflict, but miscegenation. Most states had laws to ban interracial marriage. 16 States still had such laws until 1967.

Admits that whites often behaved badly. 4743 lynchings. But about a quarter of hanged were white, and some hanged by blacks. In most cases victims may have been guilty. Most lynching for murder. Not imaginary crime.

Race riots – whites in past willing to go on attack. Last white offensive in 1943. Since then, race riots mean black and other ethnic violence. Mentions Rodney King riots.

Revolution in white racial attitudes. Until 1950s, most whites believed that different races unable to live together in peace, and wanted immigration only by whites, and that blacks already among them should be pushed into own areas. Since then, radical transformation of thinking. Now public believe that race is social construct – no differences. Whites have no valid interests, so illegitimate to organise for defence. Whites should welcome diversity in all areas and all respects. Reduction of whites to minority status widely celebrated. Miscegenation also celebrated. But all other races encouraged to show solidarity with each other.

Because all races supposed to be equal in intelligence, non-white failure has to be seen as evidence of white racism.

Predicts American slide into third world status. Mentions SIG claim that this good for rest of the world. Conflict and tragedy.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe, On the Nature of Man, Truth and Justice

Last two speeches about empirics of mankind. This will be about the commonality of mankind. Will go back to roots as philosopher rather than economist.

Possible to explain man in naturalistic terms. But, though legitimate, purely naturalistic explanation of man not sufficient to understand complexity of human condition. Unable to make naturalistic analysis of most human thought – especially that connected with search for truth.

Man can argue. A priori of argumentation. Transcendental argument – answers to the sceptic who denies that there is ultimate justification and a priori truth. What is presupposed by argumentation?

Argumentation presupposes action. Even most of speech acts are not argumentation. Most of the time, we do not speak when acting.

Argument is a special case of Misesian action.

Argument is a form of communication, most communication not argument. We speak for many other purposes.

(Achievement of social sciences often belittled. But most communication is successful. Conflict is rare. Speech is very successful at bringing about coordination of action. Greater eloquence brings greater success.)

Most action is silent. Most knowledge is tacit. Most action is successful.

Why argumentation so special?

Tried to refute behaviourists who want to explain man purely in terms of the natural sciences. And also sceptics who want to deny that there is an essential and unchanging human nature. We do know the difference between right and wrong and we know many other a priori truths about man. Refutation of Hume and Hobbes. If a solipsist argues in writing, he is inconsistent with his stated belief.

Norman Stone, World War II Revisited

How to talk about the second world war in half an hour? Best turn it into two questions: How did Germany fall into the state it was in by 1939? How did other countries interpret their success in the war?

The weakest charge laid at Nuremberg was that Hitler had planned a world war. Goering made a fool of the prosecution. However, Hitler should have known that Britain would fight over Poland, and he still went ahead and invaded. Chamberlain didn’t want to go to war. He told the American Ambassador that it would end exactly as it did – with Europe in ruins and Russian domination of half of it.

Hitler wanted back the Europe of Brest Litovsk. Very clever, but also a very nasty, vindictive man – never performed a single chivalrous act. Two big advantages. First, it is very hard to set up a small party. These things split easily. Hitler had immense charm when it was required, and could explode with rage when required. He also made sure to keep control of all the money: the NSDAP was Adolf Hitler trading as. His second advantage was he was a gifted speaker and writer. He kept the party together all through the 1920s, until the post-War system collapsed after 1930.

The collapse was inevitable, because Weimar was doomed from the outset – too much democracy to no effect. Also because the new post-Hapsburg states were divided over whether Russia or Germany was the main enemy.

Further advantages were the revelation of the French defence strategy when the Maginot Line was built. Also, America was out of things. Hitler knew that he only had to worry about the British.

There was no question that Britain could be beaten. The Navy and RAF were supreme. There was a world empire. The only weakness was to devote too much effort to holding Singapore.

But it can be argued that the British response to winning the war was fundamentally mistaken. The welfare state was badly put together and morally corrupting. British foreign policy was based on the false assumption of continued great power status.

Russia also made mistakes – belief in world power status, but supported by a weak economy and collapsing society. Has much sympathy for Mr Putin.

America seemed to have got things right. Wonderful domestic order. Put Germany and Japan back together. But led to delusions of invulnerability.

Germany and Austria have done well. Readable press, infrastructure that works, very civilised place. German influence in Eastern Europe wholly benign. Perhaps all the bombing was a force for good after all.

Stephan Kinsella, The role of the Corporation and Limited Liability in a Private Law Society

Murray Rothbard once asked Mises for a clear distinction between a free and a socialist economy. The answer was possession of a stock exchange – crucial to the existence of capitalism and private property.

Now, a stock exchange means the existence of joint stock limited liability corporations. These exist in order to minimise transaction costs. There are upper limits to their size. Other forms of business organisation – sole traders, partnerships, etc.

Defines corporation – state registration which gives legal personality, perpetual duration and limited liability. Company “owned” by the shareholders.

Critics focus on these features as state-granted privileges. Early critics from the left like Ralph Nader. Argued that privileges should justify heavy regulation to enforce good and responsible conduct. Also many libertarian critics.

Would limited liability exist in a free society? Are corporations like roads? Presently state built and maintained, but obviously would exist in a free society. Or like marriage? Or are they like patents and copyrights, which are purely creatures of legislation?

Leftists believe that corporations should exist and be regulated. Conservatives believe the same, though with less regulation. Some libertarians deny their legitimacy, and want them to be abolished. These libertarians also believe that the existence of corporations makes for a more hierarchical society and deplore the expansion of employment.

According to SK, entity status could be created in a free society by agreement. Separation of ownership and control can be brought about by private agreement. Limited liability – two types of liability: contractual and tort. No problem with contractual limited liability. Arguments about tort, however, are based on the assumption that the shareholders ought to be responsible for the debts. But why should the shareholders be vicariously liable for the torts of others? Critique of respondeat superior and vicarious liability. People should not be responsible for the acts of others. Ownership does not bring responsibility. Example of gun companies

Questions and Answers: Lynn, Taylor, Hoppe, Stone, Kinsella

Very sharp questioning of Jared Taylor. Even much hostility from audience.

Re Kinsella speech,SIG asks this question: “Stephan, I’d like to thank you for so clear a summary of your argument, and for so fair an exposition of the opinions of those who disagree with you. However, I find your analogy of the gun shop defective. If I sell a gun to somebody, who then goes and shoots someone, the decision of the buyer to commit a crime is a new intervening cause and breaks the nexus between me and the crime. But let us take this example. I am a sole proprietor running a delivery company. While going about my business in my time, one of my drivers causes an accident and hurts someone or damages valuable property. The driver himself may be without assets. I grant that in both England and America, the doctrine of vicarious liability has been pressed too hard. At the same time, I find it outrageous that, in the case just given, I shall not be responsible for accident caused by my employee. And I say that regardless of whether I have been personally negligent in my selection and training of the driver, or in my choice and maintenance of the van. Your idea that ownership does not carry responsibility strikes me as bizarre.

And what applies in the case of a sole proprietor is not changed if I decide to run the company as a joint stock limited liability corporation.

The SK answer is to accept the impropriety of the gun shop example, but to insist that shareholders cannot be regarded as the owners of a corporation. I ask a supplemental question: “So, who owns corporations like British Petroleum?” The answer seems to be not the shareholders.

His answer is not satisfactory. In the first place, he seems to confuse ownership and possession. In the second, he keeps insisting that shareholder cannot be regarded as the owners of a corporation, because their ownership consists solely in the right to elect directors and share in the profits. However, the shareholders of a corporation have the power to change the articles and memorandum of association, so that they were consulted on all management decisions, just as if they were the people of democratic Athens. They have the power to do this. If they do not, that does not make them any the less the owners of the business.

Interesting question from Richard Lynn about the cause of intellectual differences between the races. His answer explains the movement of people from Equatorial Africa to cooler environments, where selection must take place for more intellectually demanding tasks.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Concluding Remarks

Thanks all the speakers for their diverse and well-expressed opinions. It is the function of the Property and Freedom Society to provide a forum for controversy. It is a place where libertarians and conservatives of all shades come together to hear opinions and arguments that they might not otherwise do. The PFS seeks to be controversial – and not to hide its quest for controversy in closed meetings, but to advertise it in the full light of day. These speeches will all be made fully available for anyone to watch on the Internet.

Thanks also to his wife and step-daughters and to Jay Baykal.

Next year’s meeting, 18th-23rd September 2014

Sean Gabb, Talk on State Surveillance, Bratislava, 12th August 2015

INESS podcast s riaditeľom britskej Libertarian Alliance Dr. Seanom Gabbom na tému štátne špehovanie/ INESS podcast episode on state surveillance with Dr. Sean Gabb of Libertarian Alliance (United Kingdom)

Roger C. Hereford reviews this talk as follows:

Another illuminating speech from "Dr. Seanom Gabbom"!

You are correct that the modern threat of a police state is a different one from the classic stereotypes of the mid-20th century. The First World authoritarianism of the early 21st century is less about a conscious imitation of Stalinist regimes and more about the freeing of governments from traditional restraints or accountability. In the information age, they want all the sensitive information they can get, to use as they please.

An especially worrying point you make is the effect that the knowledge of surveillance is likely to have on the national character. As you say, "to be watched is to be controlled". If people know that their actions are being recorded and are therefore not private, they will naturally modify their behaviour accordingly. The prospect of the free Western European nations becoming populated by obedient conformists, who view individuality of thought and behaviour as a social embarrassment is a thoroughly depressing one.

For that reason, I hope you are right in your essentially optimistic appraisal of the situation we face. When you suggest that ordinary people are able to "watch the watchers" and hold them and their words to account in ways that were impossible even twenty years ago, you highlight an important point. The Internet allows us to fact-check the statements of our rulers, and also to communicate and receive news and information that they would rather we couldn't. We can film agents of the state in their public duties and post the video on the web.

In a dark and darkening world, the Internet and growing ease of popular communications and information are rays of sunshine that may yet prove to be the saviour of liberty and any kind of civilisation worth having.

Statement on Harvey Proctor (2015), by Sean Gabb

Sean Gabb

My longest meeting with Harvey Proctor was on the last Friday in March 1982. For reasons to do with one of my dissertations, I had withdrawn to my bed in the late afternoon. At 6pm, one of the porters knocked on my door. I opened it in my pyjamas and stood blinking at him and Harvey Proctor MP.

I should explain that Mr Proctor and I both attended York University, though at different times, and that he was always most generous with his time when it came to invitations from the University of York Conservative Association. On this occasion, the Social Secretary had invited him and neglected either to tell anyone else on the committee, or to remember it herself. Mr Proctor arrived, with a speech prepared and in anticipation of a long and jolly dinner afterwards, and I was the only committee member who hadn't gone off on a pub crawl. This was before our modern age of mobile telephones. Mr Proctor had travelled all the way from London, and had no chance to give his speech.

Embarrassing – but taken with very good humour. What I most vividly remember of the rest of the evening was that Mr Proctor was wearing the same perfume as our Social Secretary, and could do a passable impersonation – perhaps not entirely deliberate – of Larry Grayson.

I can't say that I knew him well. He was always on the authoritarian wing of the Party, and I was not. But I liked him, and, after university, would sometimes go and see him give a speech in the East End of London. I was sorry to read about his troubles with the law, and believed that a distinguished career had been unfairly cut short.

I turn to the current allegations against him – paedophile rape and murder, and membership of a semi-satanic cult that included Edward Heath. Though, as said, I never knew him well, I find it impossible to believe a word of these allegations. Mr Proctor had – and possibly still has – a taste for rent boys over the age of sixteen, and for flagellation. These relationships have always been consensual. But, while I knew, in the 1980s, of the allegations, now partly confirmed, against Leon Brittan and Peter Morrison and Edward Heath et al, I never heard so much as a whisper that Mr Proctor was engaged in any non-consensual activity. Again, though I never knew him well, what I did know of him never suggested the faintest suspicion of the present lurid claims.

I have nothing to tell the police in Mr Proctor's support. But, for what little it may be worth, I will express my firm conviction that the claims against him are false and malicious, and that the officers concerned should be disciplined for a shocking abuse of power. I wish him well, and commend the courage he has shown.

For the record, I also doubt the more shocking allegations made against Edward Heath and Leon Brittan. It is now a rebuttable presumption that every Member of Parliament has a taste for bribes or prostitutes or both. But I shall need better evidence than I have yet seen to believe that any of them has a taste for sacrificial murder. After a month in Slovakia, I came back here last night to a strong feeling that I had been recommitted to a vast open-air lunatic asylum.

Mojou ríšou je písané slovo (2015)

Mojou ríšou je písané slovo
August 2015

Študentom histórie na univerzite v Yorku, kde kedysi študoval, odkázal, že si určite neužijú toľko zábavy, ako on. „V skutočnosti som väčšinu času presedel v knižnici,“ – smial sa na besede v čitárni U červeného raka anglický spisovateľ a historik Richard Blake.

Richard Blake je pseudonym, pod ktorým píše historik a politický aktivista Sean Gabb sériu románov z obdobia Byzantskej ríše (7. storočie n. l.). Hlavným hrdinom je mladý britský úradník Aelric, ktorý prišiel o dedičstvo i rodinu, po mnohých dobrodružstvách sa však stal senátorom a dôverníkom cisára Herakleia a ako starý deväťdesiatročný muž spomína na všetko, čo prežil. Richard Blake vytvoril hrdinu, ktorému nič ľudské nie je cudzie, ani alkohol, ani drogy, ani sex či láska k obom pohlaviam. Žil v dobe násilia, sú tu scény mučenia, vraždenia, teroru a zrád. Aelric musí použiť všetok dôvtip i šarm, vrátane šermiarskeho umenia, aby prežil.

Kým sa Sean Gabb stal spisovateľom na plný úväzok, pracoval v realitnej kancelárii, v školstve, roky 1990-1992 prežil v Prahe, kde pôsobil dokonca ako poradca predsedu vlády vo vtedajšom Československu. Odkedy však zistil, že mu „to píše“ rýchle, ľahko a zábavne, živí sa písaním. Žije s manželkou a dcérou v Kente.

Vydal tridsať kníh, medzi nimi básnické zbierky, literatúru faktu a romány, ktoré sú mixom sci-fi, fantasy a hororu – tie pod svojím skutočným menom. Byzantská séria je najúspešnejšia, okrem Anglicka vyšla v Španielsku, Taliansku, Grécku, Maďarsku, Číne, Indonézii a na Slovensku. V slovenčine zatiaľ vyšli tri knihy Richarda Blakea: Krv Alexandrie, Teror v Konštantínopole a Sprisahanie v Ríme.
 
Pre tých, ktorí sa do čitárne U červeného raka nedostali a sú zvedaví na autora historických románov z temného obdobia našej histórie, tu je záznam toho, čo odpovedal na otázky Dada Nagya:


Začiatkom deväťdesiatych rokov som prišiel na pár týždňov do Prahy, nakoniec som v tomto meste ostal dva roky, časť z toho dokonca na pozícii poradcu vtedajšieho predsedu vlády. Moje rady premiérovi mali okrajovú hodnotu, hociktorý turista z Veľkej Británie by mu poradil podobne, i lepšie. V skutočnosti som mu vybavoval korešpondenciu v angličtine. Dnes je Slovensko štandardnou európskou krajinou, na začiatku deväťdesiatych rokov to však bolo inak, spolu s Českou republikou to bola krajina, na ktorej sa podpísalo štyridsať rokov komunizmu, a pre mňa bolo fascinujúce sledovať, ako sa táto štruktúra rozpadá a vzniká niečo nové.

Čo robím teraz? Práve vychádza siedma časť byzantskej série, dopísal som ôsmu, ktorá vyjde v septembri, a na vianočný trh príde deviata časť. Na budúci rok pripravujem jednu sci-fi knihu a jeden horor, obe knihy pod mojím skutočným menom Sean Gabb.

Medzi sci-fi a historickou fikciou je podľa mňa veľmi malý rozdiel. Obe sú fantasy, pozývajú nás na cesty do inej spoločnosti a a do iného obdobia, vzdialeného od súčasnosti.

Mojím cieľom nie je vzdelávať čitateľov, ani nalievať im múdre myšlienky do hláv, chcem ich len zabávať. Nie som Hemingway, nežijem bohémsky život, väčšinu času trávim v svojej hlave, nie v kaviarňach. Ak sa chcete uživiť písaním, musíte vydávať veľa kníh, a to je ťažká práca. Mojou ríšou je písané slovo.

Prečo práve siedme storočie? Lebo toto obdobie nie je historicky dobre zmapované. Aj keď pri písaní prvej knihy som sa nad tým nezamýšľal, proste som si sadol a zrazu napísal dvadsať strán. Prvú knihu som napísal celú za šesť týždňov, bol som prekvapený, ako rýchle a ako veľa som schopný napísať. Ak hľadáte čokoľvek o Nerovi alebo Caesarovi, nájdete stovky titulov, no o siedmom storočí a Byzantskej ríši nájdete toho málo, pravdepodobne len moje knihy. Mám monopol na toto obdobie, nikto iný sa mu nevenuje. Zaujalo ma tým, že Byzantská ríša bola pokračovaním Rímskej ríše a že už bolo etablované kresťanstvo. Bola to kontroverzná doba, naša civilizácia po rozpade obrovskej Rímskej ríše takmer skolabovala, zo všetkých strán ju ohrozovali barbari – barbari, ktorí sú predkami nás všetkých – no nakoniec sa vynorila z kríz a v podobe Byzantskej ríše nielen prežila, ale aj prekvitala.

Moje knihy sú plné násilia a sexu, nedávajte ich čítať svojim deťom a vnúčatám mladším ako 14 rokov – aj keď ja by som čosi také v tom veku veľmi rád čítal. Dnešná Európa je bezpečná, v tom je výnimkou v tomto svete, a ja ako autor historickej knihy nemôžem prehliadať, že v storočí, o ktorom píšem, patrilo násilie ku každodennej realite. Hlavný hrdina sa spíja, berie drogy, vyhľadáva sex s obomi pohlaviami… Mimochodom, v staroveku bola láska muža k mužovi i k žene považovaná za rovnako legitímnu. Stále dostávam e-maily, v ktorých sa ma čitatelia pýtajú, či som to ja. Musím, žiaľ, odpovedať, že vôbec nie, že ja som príliš nudný. Možno si želám, aby som bol ako on, ale som na to príliš zbabelý. V nebezpečných situáciách, v ktorých sa Aerlic ocitá, by som buď utekal a prišiel o koleno, alebo bojoval a prišiel o rameno.

Spisovateľ historických románov musí naštudovať čo najviac informácií o dobe, o ktorej píše. Ale zároveň musí písať tak, aby z textu netrčala umelo, aby bola živá.  Pri príprave každého románu, nielen historického, musí autor myslieť na tri veci: 1. aby bavil svojho čitateľa, 2. aby bavil svojho čitateľa, a po 3. aby bavil svojho čitateľa. Aby ten pri čítaní videl, cítil a voňal taký svet, aký vtedy naozaj bol. Všetko ďalšie nasleduje až potom. Zároveň však musí rešpektovať intelekt čitateľa. Pre prvé časti tejto série som toho musel veľa naštudovať, teraz už nemusím, už sa môžem viac venovať príbehu.

Prečo nepíšem o súčasnosti? Lebo súčasnosť je pre mňa nudná. Aj politické osobnosti súčasnosti sú zväčša nudné výtvory PR oddelení. Historické osobnosti sú zaujímavejšie, minulosť aj budúcnosť sú pre mňa zaujímavejšie, rád sa do týchto období utiekam a tento únik ponúkam aj čitateľom.

Must Libertarians Believe in Open Borders? (2015), by Sean Gabb

Must Libertarians Believe in Open Borders?
by Sean Gabb

(August 2015)

As I write, there are several thousand non-European refugees outside Calais, all trying to enter the United Kingdom. Because they are disrupting travel across the Channel in the main holiday season, the British media has no choice but to report on their presence, and to keep reporting. Their presence is followed by the British public in part because of the disruption, but mainly, I think, because of what they visibly represent.

Britain, together with every country like Britain, is faced with an inward movement of peoples no smaller in extent than the mass-emigrations from Europe that settled North America and Australasia, and perhaps as great in its effects as the incursions from across the Rhine and Danube that transformed the Western Provinces of the Roman Empire. We face a mass-immigration from the Third World that may eventually double or treble our populations, and that will, by inevitable force of numbers, make us minorities in what we have so far considered to be our homelands.

What have we, as libertarians, to say about this?

The mainstream response, I suggest, has been unsatisfactory. For the libertarian mainstream, the only legitimate use of force is to protect individual rights. Since movement across a border is not in itself a violation of individual rights, closing the borders is, by definition, an illegitimate use of force. Therefore, the libertarian mainstream is formally opposed to immigration control.

Of course, libertarians are not blind. They are usually aware of the crime and welfare dependency, and of the demands for accommodation to the ways of the newcomers – demands increasingly backed by threats of terrorism, or by actual terrorism. They are also sometimes aware of how the arrival of the newcomers has been used as an excuse by our ruling classes to abolish freedom of speech and association, and to create a multicultural police state, and to reverse the gradual equalisation of classes that has taken place since about 1850. Many are quietly troubled by the demographic projections.

Their response, though, has been to look more at treating symptoms than at addressing the cause. They call for a smaller welfare state, to discourage the more undesirable sort of newcomers. They call for an end to the censorship and coerced association laws. Or they turn for comfort to a partial reading of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, and insist that neither mass-immigration not its effects would exist in a free world.

But none of this will do. State welfare will not be abolished in the short term. Even if it were, coming here to beg in the streets would be a better option for many immigrants than staying put. It is difficult to argue for freedom of speech, when it will only provoke rioting and the sort of targeted murders we saw in Paris earlier this year. And, whatever solutions might have emerged in a free world – however the problem might not have emerged in a free world – we live in a world of overextended states. These have crowded out alternative institutions, and these institutions are a work of many decades or even centuries.

We are where we are. Either mass-immigration must be stopped with the means currently at hand, or it will not be stopped. This means passports and visas, and agencies empowered to seek out and return those who slip through the first line of immigration control. Where the refugees in Calais are concerned, it means deporting them to the last non-European country they left, and making sure that no more of them are allowed to reach the northern shores of the Mediterranean.

This is, I hasten to add, only part of the solution. Our governments must also stop turning much of the Third World into slagheaps soaked in human blood. They must stop veering between support of local tyrants and their more recent insistence on forms of government inappropriate to actual conditions. They must, so far as possible, leave other peoples to work out their own destinies in their own ways. This will, I have no doubt, reduce the outward push behind the migrants. Even so, we must secure our own borders.

Now, for many of those libertarians who accept the existence of a problem, this solution is itself a problem. An ideology that cannot be followed in extreme cases must be a false ideology. If the non-aggression principle is not to be consistently applied, is it worth applying at all?

I appreciate the difficulty. At the same time, it is a manufactured difficulty. It would not have been recognised as a difficulty by most of our intellectual ancestors. If many libertarians, when they think about mass-immigration, are now beginning to look like scared ostriches, or the more double-joined Indian fakirs, this is not because of any defect in the libertarian fundamentals. It is because, over the past few decades, libertarianism has been re-interpreted in ways that part company with reality. To be specific, the non-aggression principle has been raised from something to be desired within circumstantial constraints to an abstract and absolute imperative. If the only legitimate use of force is to protect individual rights, all other uses of force are illegitimate, and must be rejected out of hand by libertarians.

Let us consider how distant this imperative is from reality.

First, look at the nature of the imperative. It is not something written into the basic laws of the universe. There is a line of verbal trickery, culminating perhaps in Ayn Rand, that tries to establish individual rights with the same firmness as we recognise the nature of a circle, or are able to know the melting point of lead. But, unless you want to claim that God wants us to be free – a claim attended by difficulties still unsettled after several thousand years – your assertion of rights is no more than a request for other people to leave you alone. If your request is rejected in whatever degree, you must either put up with being less free than you would like, or choose between defensive force and escape.

Second, there is no reason to believe that most people want to be free in the sense demanded by libertarians. This is not to deny the value of freedom. When those who want to be free are enslaved, everyone else may suffer. But most people, in all times and places, have been content to be free only in the sense allowed to teenage children, or to the citizens of an authoritarian police state. They want to be free to choose what colour shoes to wear, or whether to lie in on a Sunday morning. Beyond that, they are willing to leave all the other choices to custom or the direction of those set over them. Wherever this has not been the case, freedom has generally been granted unrequested from above, or it has been demanded as one item in a package of more highly-valued goods.

Third, what most people do want is an identity beyond themselves. This may be provided by a religion. Most often, it is provided by a sense of shared nationality. People join together with those who share their blood, their language, their basic assumptions and habits of thought. They research and celebrate their history. They take consolation for their own death as individuals in the belief that their nation will continue indefinitely into the future.

As with the non-aggression principle, nationhood is not an abstract imperative. It is, however, an immensely powerful desire, shown in all times and places of which we have knowledge. People will kill for their nation. They will die for it. When committed for the sake of their nation, they will condone what would otherwise be thought the most shocking crimes. They regard their own lives and property as leasehold interests in a freehold held by the nation as a whole. However they began, and whatever else they do, states are regarded as legitimate so far as they perform their duties as agent of the national freeholder.

You may insist: “I am not part of any collective. I have no group interests. I am a sovereign individual.” In a country like England, you will not be killed for saying this, or shunned by your neighbours. But your wishes will be ignored. You will be punished if you are caught breaking the laws of your country, or if you refuse too openly to pay your taxes. Again, there is no abstract right or wrong in this. It is just what happens, and what most people want to happen.

If, on the other hand, there are enough people in a nation who share your belief – or if the authorities choose with sufficient firmness to outlaw national feeling – the natural consequence is that your nation will lose out to other nations that remain more cohesive.

This brings me to immigration. The scale of what we presently face seems likely to turn majorities into minorities. I repeat that this is neither good nor bad in the abstract. But there are plain dangers in belonging to a separate and visible nationality that lacks its own territory and machinery of state. Though often tolerated, minorities are not always tolerated. They are under permanent threat of a range of harms bounded by forced assimilation and murder.

The Israelis know this very well. Where non-Jews are concerned, they operate one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world. They flatly refuse any “right of return” to the descendants of the Arabs they once expelled, and they are surrounding their country with steel fences. Israel is their Jewish State, and they will do whatever it takes to keep it so. The white Rhodesians and white South Africans have discovered the same truth. It was a truth discovered by all the peoples displaced by European settlers – why else did the Maoris and Red Indians fight such hopeless wars of resistance, once the immigrant ships began arriving in earnest? Though it cannot be forthrightly discussed, given our multicultural police state, it is a truth known well enough in Britain and every country like Britain.

What all this means for libertarians is that we have, for the past few decades, been trying to explain and influence the world with the equivalent of a non-Euclidean geometry. Not surprisingly, our movement has got nowhere. Not surprisingly, many of us are now scratching our heads and asking how, if we have been reasoning correctly from our premises, what we conclude about mass-immigration is so at variance with what we and most other people really believe.

The answer, I suggest, is to bring libertarianism back to the realities of human nature. Lack of belief in wide-open borders should cease to be regarded as at best a derogation from the orthodox view. Instead, we should accept that we are members of a nation, and that our nation is precious to us – so precious that we want it to be free. There are sound utilitarian arguments for freedom of speech and association, for due process of law, for minimal taxes and regulation, and for a non-interventionist foreign policy. Though they do not exist in the abstract, rights do exist in a nation state, where they can be seen as nodes in the permanent circuitry of power.

Whether directly or by secondary benefit, free people are happier than unfree people. This is to be welcomed. And a free nation, there can be no reasonable doubt, is richer and more powerful than less free nations, and is better able to defend its territory and its way of life.

Considered in this light, libertarianism is not a prescription for letting be done to ourselves what we did to the Maoris. It is instead part of a strategy for group survival and advancement.

None of this means asserting that we are morally or genetically better than other nations. We do not need to hate other nations, or to wish them ill. We may find it useful, now and again, to learn from them, or to encourage them to learn from us. If the most vocal opponents of mass-immigration at present are authoritarians, this is entirely an accident of fashion. There is no necessary connection between wanting our own country for ourselves and wanting a despotic government. Just as authoritarians and libertarians both wear trousers, or drink coffee, there is no reason why they should not both believe in their nation – though they might have radically different ideas of how and to what extent it should be governed.

That we belong to a nation, and that we want our nation to be free, is a better start to a conversation with non-libertarians than the usual output of the libertarian movement. It is also a better start to a conversation with ourselves.

UKIP und der „Gay Pride March 2015“

eigentümlich frei

 

 

UKIP und der „Gay Pride March 2015“
Schwulenrecht ist Eigentumsrecht
Doch die Homo-Bewegung will neue Privilegien
Sean Gabb
(Published June 2015 as a translation from this)

Am 6. Juni 2015 verkündeten die Organisatoren des „Gay Pride March“ London, dass sie den Antrag der UK Independence Party auf Teilnahme abgelehnt hatten. Sie hatten sich einer Petition gebeugt, in der die UKIP als „grundsätzlich homophob, transphob, fremdenfeindlich, rassistisch und frauenfeindlich“ bezeichnet wurde.

Bevor ich mich zu dieser Aussperrung äußere, sage ich folgendes:

Erstens: Weder bin ich ein Mitglied der UKIP, noch bin ich je eines gewesen, und bei der Unterhauswahl im letzten Monat habe ich die Konservativen gewählt.

Zweitens: Ich habe schon in den 1970er Jahren Gesetze gegen schwulen Sex gebrandmarkt – das heißt, bevor viele unserer führenden „Schwulenrechte“-Aktivisten damit begonnen hatten, ihre Windeln zu füllen. Manche dieser Angriffe wurden in schriftlicher Form ausgeführt, und von denen sind genug erhalten geblieben und können auf meiner Webseite gefunden werden, die zeigen, dass ich die Wahrheit sage. Ich füge hinzu, dass man sich mit dem, was ich als Schüler und junger Mann sagte, komische Blicke einfangen konnte. Mir passierte das nie, aber das Risiko bestand, und ich habe dieses Risiko in Kauf genommen.

Drittens: Was mich anbetrifft, beginnt und endet die Bedeutung von „Schwulenrechten“ mit dem Recht, mit seinem Eigentum zu tun, was einem beliebt, und einen Umgang mit anderen, einwilligenden Erwachsenen zu pflegen, wie es einem gefällt. Das bedeutet, es darf kein Strafgesetz gegen schwulen Sex und keine staatlichen Diskriminierungen geben. Es bedeutet außerdem, dass es keine Sondergesetze gegen schwule Erotika und zum Schutz des „öffentlichen Anstands“ geben darf. Was ich meine, ist vollständige Redefreiheit und eine großzügige Auslegung dessen, was auf den Straßen toleriert werden sollte, da ich gegen allgemeine Gesetze gegen Erwachsenen-Erotika bin, und da ich glaube, dass für die Regulierung des Verhaltens in der Öffentlichkeit die alten Gesetze gegen die Störung von Ruhe und Ordnung ausreichend waren.

Viertens: Ich habe keine prinzipielle Einwendung gegen die Homo-Ehe. Ich habe mich in den 1980er Jahren zu ihren Gunsten geäußert und sehe keinen Grund, weshalb ein Bündel von Erklärungen und Vereinbarungen, die eine Ehe darstellen, nicht für alle zur Verfügung stehen sollte, die dieses haben möchten.

Dies scheint so ungefähr die Position zu sein, die meine schwulen Freunde in der UKIP einnehmen. Es scheint im großen und ganzen die von Nigel Farage in der Öffentlichkeit eingenommene Position zu sein. Verglichen mit dem Maßstab von vor 25 Jahren ist die UKIP-Position im Hinblick auf Homosexualität unerhört libertär. Warum wurden ihre Repräsentanten daran gehindert, an einer „Gay Pride Parade“ teilzunehmen?

Die Antwort ist, leider, dass die Homosexuellen-Bewegung kein Interesse mehr an den grundsätzlichen in der englischen liberalen Tradition anerkannten Menschenrechten hat. Ihr Anliegen ist ein partikulares Privileg – ein Privileg, das nur von einem erweiterten und aufdringlichen Staat gewährt und aufrechterhalten werden kann. Die UKIP und Nigel Farage wurden abgeurteilt, weil sie gegen Antidiskriminierungsgesetze sind. Ihre Stellung dazu wird „borniert“ genannt.

Das Koalitionsrecht beinhaltet jedoch auch das Recht, nicht zu koalieren. Zwei Männer sollten auf jeden Fall das Recht haben, sich zu ehelichen. Aber niemand sollte gezwungen werden, ihre Hochzeitstorte zu backen. Wenn Sie ein Unternehmen führen, riskieren Sie Ihr Geld und Ihre Zeit. Wenn Sie, aus welchen Gründen auch immer, mit gewissen Menschen keinen Handel treiben möchten, sollte das Ihr unbestrittenes Recht sein. Es mag unklug sein, zahlende Kunden fortzuschicken. Es mag kleinlich sein von Ihnen. Aber es sollte Ihr Recht sein. Es ist ein Recht von genau der gleichen Art wie das Recht zweier Männer, Sex miteinander zu haben.

Wenn Sie ein Geistlicher sind, sollten Sie nicht gezwungen werden, eine homosexuelle Ehe einzusegnen. Oder, wenn Sie eine homosexuelle Ehe gegen die Regeln Ihrer Konfession einsegnen, sollten Sie kein Recht auf Rechtsbehelf haben, wenn Sie zeitweilig oder endgültig Ihres Amtes enthoben werden. Eine Religion ist eine private Organisation, formell oder effektiv vom britischen Staat getrennt. Der britische Staat hat kein Recht, sich in ihre inneren Angelegenheiten einzumischen, es sei denn, sie ist dem Leben, der Freiheit oder dem Eigentum anderer gegenüber aktiv feindselig eingestellt.

Redefreiheit beinhaltet das Recht, Erotika zu veröffentlichen und zu konsumieren. Ebenso gehört auch das Recht dazu, über die dargestellten Handlungen Ekel zum Ausdruck zu bringen und schlecht über jeden zu sprechen, der sie genießt. Nichts davon beinhaltet das Recht auf Störung der Ruhe und Ordnung, wie sie traditionell verstanden wird. Aber niemand sollte auf irgendeine Weise bestraft werden, weil er sich für oder gegen eine bestimmte sexuelle Handlung oder einen bestimmten Lebensstil ausspricht.

Man nehme als Beispiel die Behauptung, UKIP sei eine „rassistische“ und „fremdenfeindliche“ Organisation. Ich glaube nicht, dass dies der Wahrheit entspricht. Aber es ist irrelevant, selbst wenn es wahr wäre. Eine Abneigung gegen Männer, die der Homosexualität zuneigen, und eine Abneigung gegen Ausländer mögen gleichermaßen lieblos sein. Aber sie sind logisch getrennt. Sie können der Masseneinwanderung mit der Begründung widersprechen, dass sie die traditionellen Einwohner eines Territoriums verdrängt. Diese Meinung hat keine automatische Auswirkung auf die Vorstellung, wie diese traditionellen Einwohner sich zu verhalten haben. Diese Unterscheidung ist nicht abstrakt. Ich kenne Identitäre, die die Einwanderung aus der Dritten Welt und den Multikulturalismus entschieden ablehnen, aber der Homosexualität gegenüber gleichgültig sind.

Ich füge hinzu, dass viele Neuankömmlinge der Homosexualität gegenüber nicht gleichgültig sind, und dass die Gegenden, in denen sie überwiegen, für Männer mit homosexuellen Neigungen eher ungemütlich sein können.

Natürlich ist „Gay Pride“ eine private Organisation, und sie hat das gleiche Recht, wie es ein christlicher Bäcker haben sollte, nicht mit Menschen zu verkehren, die sie nicht mag. Aber ich wiederhole, allgemein ist es so, dass sich die Mainstream-Homosexuellen-Bewegung in diesem Land von den liberalen Grundsätzen, die sie von den 1950er bis in die 1990er Jahre predigte, abgekehrt hat. Sie hat sich zu einer zunehmend unheimlichen Interessengruppe entwickelt, die mit Nachdruck Zensur und erzwungene Vereinigung fordert. Wenn sie nicht in der Lage war, die straf- und zivilrechtlichen Gesetze zu diesem Zweck zu nutzen, verlangte sie ebenso wirksame behördliche Maßnahmen, die sie auch bekam.

Dieser Wesenswandel ist in sich falsch. Er ist außerdem gegen die langfristigen Interessen seiner angeblichen Nutznießer. Sämtliche von uns gegenwärtig genossenen Freiheiten sind die Früchte der englischen liberalen Tradition. Wenn diese Früchte einigen Leuten entzogen werden, ist das ein Präzedenzfall dafür, sie anderen zu entziehen. In der vergangenen Generation waren die alten Vorurteile gegen Homosexualität dabei, zu verschwinden. Wer kann sagen, was die nächste Generation bringt?

UKIP and the Gay Pride March (2015), by Sean Gabb

UKIP and the Gay Pride March
Sean Gabb (18th June 2015)

On the 6th June 2015, the organisers of the Gay Pride March in London announced that they had rejected an application from the UK Independence Party to take part. They had given in to a petition which called UKIP “inherently homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, racist and misogynistic.”

Before making my statement on this ban, I will say the following:

1. I am not, nor ever have been, a member of UKIP, and I voted Conservative in last month’s general election.

2. I started denouncing the laws against all-male sex in the 1970s – that is, before many of our leading “gay rights” activists had started filling their nappies. Some of these denunciations were in writing, and enough of them survive and can be found on my website to show that I am telling the truth. I will add that saying what I said as a schoolboy and as a young man could get more than funny looks. It never did in my case, but there was always a risk, and I took that risk.

3. So far as I am concerned, the meaning of “gay rights” begins and ends with the right to do with your own as you please, and to associate as you please with other consenting adults. This means no criminal laws against all-male sex, and no discrimination by the State. It also means no special laws against all-male erotica and no special laws to protect “public decency.” Since I do not believe in general laws against adult erotica, and believe that the old laws against causing a breach of the peace are all that is needed for the regulation of public behaviour, what I mean is complete freedom of speech and a relaxed view of what should be tolerated in the streets.

4. I have no principled objection to gay marriage. I wrote in its favour in the 1980s, and still see no reason why the bundle of declarations and agreements that constitute marriage should not be available to all who want it.

Now this, broadly speaking, seems to be the position taken by my gay friends in UKIP. It seems also largely to be the position taken in public by Nigel Farage. By the standards of twenty five years ago, the UKIP line on gay issues is outrageously libertarian. Why ban its representatives from joining in a gay march?

The answer, I regret, is that the gay movement is no longer about the basic human rights recognised in the English liberal tradition. It is about sectional privilege – privilege that can only be granted and maintained by an enlarged and intrusive state. UKIP and Nigel Farage are condemned because they are against anti-discrimination laws. Their position on these is called “bigotry.”

However, part of the right of association is the right not to associate. Two men should certainly have the right to live together in matrimony. But no one should be forced to bake their wedding cake. If you are running a business, you are risking your money and your time. If you do not wish to do business with people, for whatever reason, that should be your unquestioned right. It may be unwise of you to turn away paying business. It may be small-minded of you. But that should be your right. It is a right of exactly the same kind as the right of two men to have sex with each other.

If you are a minister of religion, you should not be compelled to solemnise a gay marriage. Or, if you do solemnise a gay marriage against the rules of your denomination, you should have no right to any legal redress if you are suspended from or deprived of your position. A religion is a private organisation, formally or effectively separate from the British State. The British State has no right to interfere in its internal affairs, unless these are actively hostile to the lives, liberties or property of others.

Freedom of speech involves the right to publish and to consume erotica. It also involves the right to express disgust for the acts portrayed, and to speak ill of anyone who enjoys them. None of this involves the right to cause a breach of the peace, as traditionally known. But no one should suffer any punishment for speaking out for or against any particular sexual act or any particular lifestyle.

As an aide, let me deal with the claim that UKIP is a “racist” and a “xenophobic” organisation. I do not believe this to be true. But, if true, it is irrelevant. Disliking men whose taste is for all-male sex and disliking foreigners may be equally uncharitable. But they are logically separate. You can oppose mass-immigration on the grounds that it displaces the traditional occupiers of a territory. This has no automatic bearing on how those traditional occupiers should be allowed to behave. And the distinction is not abstract. I know identitarians who are strongly opposed to third world immigration and multiculturalism, but who are indifferent to all-male sex.

I might add that many of the newcomers are not indifferent to all-male sex, and that the areas in which they predominate can be rather unfriendly to men whose taste is for all-male sex.

Of course, Gay Pride is a private organisation, and it has the same right as a Christian baker should have not to associate with people it dislikes. But, I repeat, it is generally the case that the mainstream gay movement in this country has moved away from the liberal fundamentals that it preached from the 1950s until the 1990s. It has become an increasingly sinister interest group pushing for censorship and coerced association. When not able to use the criminal and civil laws to this effect, it has demanded and obtained equally effective administrative policies.

This change of nature is wrong in itself. It is also against the long term interests of its alleged beneficiaries. All the freedoms we presently enjoy are the fruits of the English liberal tradition. Every denial of those fruits to some lay down a precedent for their denial to others. For the past generation, the old prejudices against all-male sex have been dissolving. Who can say what the next generation will bring?

The EU Referendum: Wake Me after the Defeat (2015), by Sean Gabb

The EU Referendum: Wake Me after the Defeat
Sean Gabb (May 2015)

Though I no longer read newspapers or watch television, I see the British Government has published its Bill for a referendum on our continued membership of the European Union. I suggest that anyone who believes in eventual withdrawal, and who sees a referendum as a means to that end, needs to have his head examined.

Let me explain.

First, my own belief in eventual withdrawal is tempered by an awareness of present benefits. I agree with Richard North that complaints about harmful regulation from Brussels are often misplaced. Much regulation comes via rather than from the European Union. A growing number of regulations – the Codex Alimentarius, for example, or further laws on money laundering – are agreed at a higher international level before being transmitted to Brussels for incorporation in Directives. If we left the European Union, perhaps we might have more control over the making of these regulations. Perhaps we might have more scope for quietly ignoring them. But leaving would not in itself free us from giving effect to these agreements in our own laws. This being said, the economic benefits of leaving may be overstated.

Turning to the present benefits of membership, there is no doubt that leaving would subject us to the unrestrained power of our own ruling class. Our constitutional arrangements have proved inadequate over the past century for the protection of our historic rights. The Judges are working hard to provide us with one. As yet, however, we still have no body of fundamental law that can be used to strike down incompatible Acts of Parliament. Therefore, if we want to stop the Government from turning the country into a freakish police state, we must look ultimately to the European Court and to the separate but associated European Court of Human Rights. I want eventually to leave the European Union – but not with our current political arrangements still in place.

But let me now address those who want to leave the European Union, regardless of how this might empower the British ruling class. The overwhelming probability is that any referendum held in the next five years will be lost. This is partly because the referendum will be fixed in various ways. Business and the mainstream media will line up for continued membership. The Conservative Party will ultimately join the Yes Campaign. Somehow, ways will be found to give the Yes side more money than the Noes. The referendum question is already slanted, so far as anyone wanting to leave must vote for a negative rather than a positive.

However, the real imbalance is entirely fair. The Yes campaigners will be united on essentials. Doubtless, they will disagree on matters like membership of the Euro and on the meaning of legislative subsidiarity. But they will be united on the need to stay in and to argue for whatever they conceive to be in British or wider European interests. If we look at the Noes, there is no agreement on anything except the need to leave.

How are we to leave? Should we simply repeal the European Communities Act 1972, and then denounce the Treaty of Rome as amended? Or should we use the leaving mechanism set forth in the Treaties? If the former, what will be the status of all the delegated legislation made under the 1972 Act? Should this be allowed to lapse with the repeal of its enabling statute? Or should it be retained for phased amendment or repeal? What should be amended or repealed? Once we are out, what trading arrangements should we seek with the rest of the world? Should we try for the relationship Norway or Switzerland have with the European Union? Should we try to join the North American Free Trade Association? Should we follow a policy of unilateral free trade? Should we bring in selective protection of key industries? What kind of country do we want once we are out of the European Union? Do we want a fairly libertarian place – a sort of Hong Kong? Do we want a British ethno-state? If the latter, do we want an ethno-state like Israel –  liberal on all matters not regarded as existential? Or do we want something rather Burmese? Supposing England votes to leave, but not Scotland? What new and hastily-made arrangements will this require?

The problem is that everyone who wants to leave has his own preferred answer to these questions. Even before the possibility of leaving came onto the agenda, most Eurosceptics were barely on speaking terms. After decades of agitation, nothing had been agreed. I doubt if anything will now be agreed. There is certainly no agreed leadership for the No Campaign. A leadership will probably have to be imposed by the Government if the referendum is not to become an open scandal. Doubtless, the leadership will be a pack of thirty-something apparatchiks obviously in it for the money and fame. But, even otherwise, it will be denounced by its supposed followers for alleged treason and incompetence.

To win the referendum, the Yes Campaign will do best to say very little that cannot be handwritten on a postcard, and to watch the knives come out on the other side.

I do not know how I will vote. I do not even know if I will bother voting. But, unless something wholly surprising happens between now and the vote, I predict that the Yes Campaign will win decisively, and that the question of our membership of the European Union will be put to bed for another generation.

So there it is. We shall have the referendum that has been demanded at least since 1992. It will be lost. Why, then, pay any further attention to it? I hope I shall pay none.

Written as “Richard Blake,” Sean Gabb’s latest novel, Game of Empires, was published on the 15th May 2015. It is available on Amazon and from all other booksellers.

Will Smoking be Banned in the Home? (2015), Sean Gabb

Sean Gabb on BBC Radio Tees on Friday the 29th May 2015.

The anti-tobacco campaign has now reached the point where little remains to be banned. The main target that does remain is a person's right to smoke in his own home. This is now under attack on the grounds of protecting children.

Sean Gabb argues:

  • The present ban on smoking in public places ought to be repealed.
  • The statistics cited to justify bans are self-interested falsehoods, and there is no more need to investigate their particulars than to examine claims that someone was seen flying on a broomstick. They must be dismissed out of hand.
  • There probably will be a ban on smoking in the home. It will come in by getting local authorities to rewrite tenancy agreements and by leaning on the insurance companies to load up household policies. Where this last is concerned, there will need to be a few well-publicised cases where policies have been voided after full ashtrays were found in burned houses for the ban to be obeyed.

Sean would have said more, but that was the end of his allotted time.

Nigel Farage and the Leadership Principle (2015), by Sean Gabb

Nigel Farage and the Leadership Principle
Sean Gabb
(17th May 2015)

I have met Nigel Farage three times. Once was when we had lunch. The other times were when I attended UKIP events, and we found ourselves in conversation. I liked him. He had no reason to court me, but was both charming and modest. This is not to say that I am a regular UKIP voter. I always vote UKIP in European election. I voted UKIP in the 2001 and 2005 general elections, when it was plain that the Conservatives would lose, and the best use for my vote was to tell them to try harder. But I voted Conservative in 2010, when they had a good chance to get Labour out, and again in 2015, when it seemed they might fail to keep Labour out. I remain, even so, a fan of Mr Farage, and was glad that UKIP did well in terms of votes the week before last.

I side entirely with Mr Farage in his latest troubles. He has been accused of running his party as a cult of personality. This is to say that he makes sure that he is its only authoritative spokesman, and will allow no dissent within the general leadership from his own opinions. I could deny the truth of this, and refer to my experience of him in private. But I see no reason to do so. You can be both modest and authoritarian. If Mr Farage manages to be both, this is simply one more cause to respect him.

Let me explain.

If it is to have any success, a movement for radical change needs to be led. It needs someone in charge whose decisions are not open to regular challenge. The title of the essay includes the words “leadership principle.” These are most closely associated with Hitler. Looking at him in purely functional terms, he led the Nazi Party into government, and he kept it there. He decided what the Party’s ideology was, and its electoral strategy. Once in power, he decided all matters of domestic policy that he thought important. He also determined Germany’s foreign and military policies. For the avoidance of doubt, I do not approve of his objectives, or of his means of achieving them. But dwelling on his badness as a man is beside the point. His early strengths made him and his party supreme in Germany, and made Germany the most powerful country in Europe. His later weaknesses took Germany to destruction.

It was similar with the Soviet Communist Party. The main difference was that this existed to propagate an ideology that was already, in its essentials, decided by others. But it was Lenin who adapted this ideology to Russian circumstances, and whose leadership was critical to the Communist seizure and retention of power. After his death, it was Stalin who took up the Party leadership, and who made Russia into a superpower.

Take away Hitler and Lenin and Stalin, and neither of the two big totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century would have made the sort of mark that they did. Without their leaders, the parties would have been cliques of ranting intellectuals, unable to reach out to the people at large, and unable to take immediate and ruthless action to advance their cause. Or they might have divided into lesser movements, each with its own charismatic leader, and all sniping at each other. As it was, Stalin saw off Trotsky and his followers, and Hitler did the same with Ernst Roehm. The function of a leader is to set a course for his movement, to sell that course to the people, and to hold the movement together.

The weakness of such parties is that the leader may lose touch with reality, as Hitler did after 1940, or as Stalin may have done towards the end of his life. The only answer then is to remove him by irregular means – unsuccessful with Hitler, successful with Stalin. Or there is the problem of the succession. This was especially the case with Hitler, who was National Socialism. Even with the Soviets, though, there were voids in the leadership after Lenin and Stalin died. These, however, are problems that arise after a party has become successful. It is the foundations of initial success that interest me here.

A seeming objection to this analysis is that the main parties in Britain and, I think, in America are oligarchies with some show of formal accountability to the membership. The Conservative Party, for example, has never had a leader supreme in the sense that Hitler and Stalin were. Even Margaret Thatcher had to work within constraints. When she tried too often to step outside those constraints, she was deposed. Every recent leader has been approved by a ballot of the membership. Yet the Conservative and Labour Parties have remained broadly united and effective parties of government.

The answer is that these are not parties that have been recently brought together with any urgency of purpose. Until well into the twentieth century, the Conservative Party existed to defend a set of landed and financial interests that were long established. It was the political wing of a set of interlocking families who had ruled England since time immemorial. It had a wide base of funding and general support. It had the critical mass and the patronage to keep its intellectuals and enthusiasts under control. The membership could be guided or ignored. Except its aristocratic base has been eroded, this remains the case. Supreme leadership has never been needed for its success.

As for the Labour Party, this joined the Establishment cartel more by accident than by the nature of its leadership. Before the Great War, it was a loose pressure group. It then simply stepped into the position vacated by the Liberals. After 1931, it was governed by a clique of trade union leaders and career politicians. Even so, the powers of this clique were always uncertain. Its failure after 1979 opened the way to fifteen years of internal chaos and of resulting electoral failure. Its recovery in the 1990s was the effect of a new leadership far more authoritarian than Margaret Thatcher’s had been. Once Tony Blair was gone, it drifted steadily towards oblivion.

We can say, then, that oligarchic rule is appropriate only in the special case of parties or movements that have no ideological imperative. A good further example is the Soviet Communist Party after Stalin’s death. The country had been remade. The ideology had become an established faith. Short of dissolving itself and letting Russia rejoin the civilised world, the Party no longer had any work that had urgently to be done. It could give up on absolute leadership and become an oligarchy of those who had survived the purges. What finished it off was that the oligarchy was unable to reproduce itself, and the system it defended was a comprehensive failure.

This returns me to UKIP. It is a small party. Its funding base is narrow. Its main objectives put it in conflict with the existing order of things. It owes its success in the past few general and other elections to the leadership of Nigel Farage. The alternative to his leadership is rule by a group of men whose main skill is to stay awake through five hour committee meetings, or by men whose general abilities are untested, and perhaps better not tested. I am at least suspicious of Douglas Carswell. If he rejoins the Conservatives in the next few months, I shall not be surprised.

I am disappointed by how badly Mr Farage took his failure to win the Thanet election. His resignation as UKIP leader, followed by a hint that he might stand for re-election, followed by the withdrawal of his resignation, was an obvious mistake. It made him look absurd. But anyone who wants UKIP to remain a political success should be in no doubt of which side he needs to take in the turmoil this has enabled. Mr Farage should be urged to impose an iron control over the party, and to purge anyone who stands in his way. He should, so far as possible, own UKIP. The offer he should make to actual and potential supporters is that he will lead the way to a set of agreed ends, and they should not object to his means. If anyone thinks he can do the job better, let him go and start his own party.

Despite its failure to win many seats in Parliament, UKIP did very well in this month’s general election. With the Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties crippled, and unlikely to recover in at least the medium term, UKIP is on the verge of becoming the main party of opposition in England. So far, the pendulum has swung between two parties of authoritarian corporatists. It may be that our politics are about to reconfigure themselves into a contest between a party of authoritarian corporatists and a party of smaller and more traditionalist government. The removal of the leader who – whatever his personal and intellectual faults – has brought us to this possibility would be a disaster for anyone who believes in smaller government.

For this reason, while I have not so far been a consistent UKIP voter, I side with Mr Farage. Time to sharpen the long knives, Nigel – time to break out the ice picks!

Sean Gabb: Det onda eller korkade partiet

Sean Gabb: Det onda eller korkade partiet

Denna text är skriven av Sean Gabb, chef för The libertarian alliance. Gabb har en ph.d. i Politisk och intellektuell historia. Texten är publicerad med Sean Gabbs tillåtelse.

 

The libertarian alliance tar inte ställning i det nuvarande valet. Vår juridiska status förbjuder oss från att göra några rekommendationer om hur man ska rösta; och alla de stora partierna är åtminstone bristfälliga när man dömer efter frihetliga standarder. Av denna anledning, när jag nu kommer förklara mitt beslut om röstandet, så talar jag helt som privatperson och inte för Libertarian alliance. Jag vill tillägga att det jag tänker säga är nästan säkert en uppfattning som inte delas av en majoritet av våra medarbetare. En av dessa är medlem i UKIP. En annan är Liberal demokrat. En annan kommer under inga omständigheter att rösta överhuvudtaget. Vår förre direktör, Chris Tame, var medlem av Socialdemokraterna under ett par år under 1990-talet. Jag talar enbart för mig själv, och du bör ta detta som ett ämne för debatt istället för en uppmaning till handling.

Jag har inte läst några tidningar, inte heller sett någon tv, efter att valet utlystes – ja, egentligen slutade jag läsa tidningar för flera år sedan. Samtidigt, så får jag nyheter via internet, och jag brukar lyssna på Radio 3 bulletin vid halv sju på morgonen. Eftersom jag inte följt kampanjerna i detalj, så finns det mycket som jag inte vet. Men det kan också betyda mycket mer som jag kan se utan distraktion.

Jag hade för avsikt att vänta tills valdagen, och titta på prognoser för min egen valkrets. Om min sittande konservativa parlamentsledamot uppenbarligen skulle vinna eller förlora så hade jag röstat på UKIP. Om det fanns något tvivel om vem som skulle vinna mellan socialdemokraterna och de konservativa, så skulle jag rösta konservativt. Mitt resonemang var att även om det är osannolikt att de vinner i min valkrets, så har UKIP politiken som är närmast mig, och att bidra till att säkerställa en god mängd röster till UKIP skulle bidra till att det fanns en stor opinion fientligt inställda till vänsterkramande polisstaten.

Nu måste jag acceptera möjligheten av ett delat parlament, där de konservativa kommer att ha problem att bilda en majoritetsregering. Detta innebär en risk för en socialdemokratiskregering, med någon form av stöd från SNP. Om jag bara tittar på skillnaderna mellan de konservativa och socialdemokraterna, så ser jag ingen anledning att göra ett val. De konservativa är marginellt bättre på frågor gällande pressreglering och hemundervisning – eller i alla fall verkar det som det. Men, det finns inom de stora frågorna större skillnaderna inom partierna en emellan.

De stora skillnaderna är Englands överlevnad och politiskt ansvar. Om de konservativa stannar kvar i regeringen efter idag, kommer de tillåta ett nytt någorlunda fritt val 2020. Om socialdemokraterna bildar regering, kommer de att fastställa valsystemet för att hålla sig kvar vid makten tills gatuprotester tvingar bort dem. Denna fixering kommer att vara ”utklädd” som ”valreform”. Dessutom, om socialdemokraterna måste förlita sig på skotskt stöd, kommer priset innebära en form av balkanisering av England. I eller utanför Storbritannien, så kan inte Skottland vara en viktig enhet i de brittiska öarna, så länge det finns ett England. Därför så kommer varje rimlig skotsk nationalist trycka för upplösningen av England i en grupp av decentraliserade områden. Endast de konservativa står i vägen för detta.

Min röst är osannolik att avgöra vem som vinner i mitt valområde, men det kan hjälpa de konservativa att vinna i termer av röster om ändå inte stolar. Detta kommer att ge David Cameron rätt att insistera på att han är den verkliga vinnaren idag, och att han skulle få stanna i regeringen.

Med libertarianska mått, har den konservativa regeringen varit hälften värdelösa, och hälften illvilliga. Jag föraktar dem och jag hatar dem. Man jag fruktar socialdemokraterna. Av denna anledning, ser jag det som min plikt att rösta för den mindre ondskan. Röstandet är mer av en allmän plikt, än en privat rätt, och jag anser det som min plikt att rösta för de människor jag hatar för att hålla ute de människor jag fruktar.

Avslutningsvis vill jag upprepa att detta bör inte på något sätt ses som en rekommendation från Libertarian alliance. Jag talar inte ex cathedra som direktör för Libertarian Alliance, utan som privatperson. Jag accepterar också att jag kan ha fel.

The Evil Party or the Stupid Party? (2015), by Sean Gabb

7th May 2015

The Libertarian Alliance takes no view of the present election. Our legal status forbids us from making any recommendations on how to vote; and all the main parties are at least deficient when judged by libertarian standards. For this reason, when explaining my decision on how to vote today, I am speaking wholly as a private individual, and not for the Libertarian Alliance. I will add that what I am about to say is almost certainly a view not shared by a majority of our other Officers. One of these is a member of UKIP. Another is a Liberal Democrat. Another will under no circumstances vote for anyone. Our former Director, Chris Tame, was a member of the Labour Party for a couple of years in the 1990s. I speak for myself alone, and you should take this as a subject for debate rather than a call to action.

I have read no newspapers, nor watched any television, since the election was called – indeed, I stopped reading newspapers several years ago. At the same time, news does drift in via the Internet, and I usually listen to the Radio 3 bulletin at 6:30am. Because I have not followed the campaign in detail, there is much that I do not know. But there may be much more that I can see without distraction.

I did intend to wait until election day, and look at the predictions for my own constituency. If my sitting Conservative Member of Parliament was obviously winning or losing, I would vote UKIP. If there was any doubt regarding the contest between Labour and Conservative, I would vote Conservative. My reasoning was that, while it was unlikely to win my constituency, UKIP had the closest policies to what I believe, and that helping to ensure a good overall vote for UKIP would make it clear that there was a large body of opinion hostile to the leftist police state.

I now must accept the possibility of a hung Parliament, in which the Conservatives will have trouble forming a majority Government. This means the possibility of a Labour Government with some kind of SNP support. If I look only at the differences between the Conservative and Labour Parties, I see little reason for making a choice. The Conservatives are marginally better on issues like press regulation and home schooling – or so it appears. But, overall and on the larger issues, there is more difference within the main parties than between them.

The big differences are the survival of England and of political accountability. If the Conservatives remain in government after today, they will allow another reasonably free election in 2020. If Labour forms a government, it will fix the voting system to keep itself in power till street protests are needed to remove it. This fixing will be dressed up as "electoral reform." Moreover, if Labour must rely on Scottish support, the price will involve some Balkanising of England. In or out of the United Kingdom, Scotland cannot be an important entity in the British Isles so long as there is an England. Therefore, any reasonable Scottish nationalist will need to press for the dissolution of England into a group of devolved and squabbling territories. Only the Conservatives stand in the way of this.

My vote is unlikely to determine who wins the election in my constituency. But it may add to a Conservative victory in England in terms of votes if not of seats. This will give Mr Cameron the right to insist that he is the real winner today, and that he should be allowed to stay in government.

Judged by libertarian standards, the Conservatives in government have been half useless and half malevolent. I despise them and I hate them. But I fear Labour. For this reason, I see it as my duty to vote for the lesser of evils. Voting is more of a public duty than a private right, and I see it as my duty to vote for the people I hate to keep out the people I fear.

In closing, I will repeat that this should in no sense be regarded as a recommendation from the Libertarian Alliance. I am speaking not ex cathedra as Director of the Libertarian Alliance, but as a private individual. I also accept that I may be wrong.

Fake Evidence Regarding Christ (2015), by Sean Gabb

Below this comment, I attach an article that claims the discovery of a contemporary eye-witness account of a miracle by Jesus Christ. Here is my comment.

1. Outside the special case of the Herculaneum library, there is not a single surviving autograph by a known ancient writer, or even a second or third generation manuscript.

2. The article says the text is written on parchment that can be dated to the first century. The photograph, however, is plainly of wooden writing tablets – you can see the holes by which they were tied together. It is unlikely that a member of the Roman elite would have used these for writing or dictation. It is very unlikely that the text of an elite writer would have beencopied onto wood. Such tablets were for ephemeral use only.

3. How do we know the text is by Marcus Velleius Paterculus? I can't see the words, but there is nothing here that suggests a heading. There is no evidence that he went on a diplomatic mission to Parthia in or around 31AD. Indeed, it is generally supposed that he was put to death in that year on account of his association with Sejanus.

4. What is the provenance of the text? The Papal archives began to fill up around the fifth century. How did a first century autograph survive on wood long enough to get there? Why did no one notice its significance at the time? Why has no one else noticed it in the past fifteen hundred years?

I say this is a fake.

PS I've just had another look at the article. The claimed description of Christ as "Iēsous de Nazarenusis no kind of Latin. The whole thing really is a fake. Why are so many people falling for it?

Newly-Found Document Holds Eyewitness Account of Jesus Performing Miracle

“Albion Awake” Reviewed by Sean Gabb (2015)

Albion Awake
Mystical Anarchism and the National Quest for an Alternative Britain
By Wayne John Sturgeon
Black Front Press, London, 2014, 166pp
ISBN: 978 0 9927452 9 5

Reviewed by Sean Gabb

I begin with my apologies to the author. He sent me a copy of this book months ago. Keith Preston had said I would be a useful reviewer. I said I would review it. I promised I would review it. Then I got even busier than usual, and went into one of my periodic depressions. I never quite forgot the promise. But I did break it, and must now record how ashamed I feel, and how this has contributed to my depression.

 For a flavour of the book, and perhaps a summary of its contents, take this, from p.78:

Today there is the need to develop a true ‘anarchism of the third way’, a holistic, tribal and folkish communalism based on ecology, regionalism and decentralisation. Anti-fascist but also anti-leftist. Today we have a system where economic liberalism is married to cultural Marxism, the individual is isolated and rootless, a passive consumer and non-participant in the post-democratic sphere. In national anarcho-syndicalism, individuals can freely associate with and organise themselves into occupational groups, guilds or syndicates which can then connect the individual to the whole body of society organised into a co-operative enterprise through both workers and bosses self-management and mutual collaboration of the means of production and in the public and the nation’s interest.”

 I see no point in criticising this statement of belief. I think it would be more honest if I were to give my own counter-vision. I believe in England and the English Constitution as they were conceived by the mainstream Whigs between about 1688 and 1886. To be specific, I believe: in a strong but limited central state based in London, and comprising Crown, Lords and Commons, together with an established national church; that the limitation of the English State should lie in a combination of independent courts and a sense of restraint in a largely hereditary ruling class; and that the better classes among the people should be keenly aware of their ancient rights, and both able and willing to combine to preserve them from any encroachment. I take it as natural that the other nationalities who occupy the British Isles should be mostly left alone, so long as they accept English primacy. I also take it as natural that the resulting United Kingdom should lord it over very large parts of the world.

You can laugh, but this is what I honestly believe, and this is what I have always believed. Every scheme I write up of radical change, every demand for freedom of speech and association, every denunciation of multiculturalism and political correctness – all of these terminate in the recreation of England as it used to be seen, and possibly sometimes was. 

Sadly, what I want is off the menu. The moral and physical bases of the old order have been swept away. The ruling class is degenerate. The people are ruined. Economic change and mass-immigration have altered the whole nature of the country. In my more sensible moments, I turn to my consolation belief – that technological progress will undermine the foundations of the current order of things, and that free market societies will emerge to carry forward the hope of a liberal civilisation in new forms.

It is in my more sensible moments that I tend to think there is something in Mr Sturgeon’s vision. I dismiss his greenery out of hand: there is no impending natural disaster, and the natural world is to be seen as a vast treasure house to which we have given ourselves the key and that we have the right to do with as we find convenient. I am also too soaked in the thought of the eighteenth century to take his mysticism with a straight face. Even so, we seem to face a choice between a totalitarian state and a collapse into inter-ethnic civil war. Perhaps we face both at the same time. We do need to find some other way through our troubles. Perhaps radical decentralisation – or what the followers of Hans-Hermann Hoppe call “universal secession” – is that way.

The current British State has just as much authority as it is able to compel. It is beyond reforming. All the other European states and the American system are entering much the same crisis of legitimacy. Most states in the Islamic world have already collapsed, or are on the verge of collapse. The Asian states seem to command little affection, but are accepted because everyone in the East wants to be just like us. The African state system is a standing joke. The world might easily be a better place on the whole if the whole state system were simply to be abandoned and replaced by a patchwork of micro-polities.

I say “on the whole” because large parts of the world might easily get worse than they already are. As directed by Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi State had it bad points. On the other hand, most people knew where they stood. They could worship as they pleased. They could have a drink. Their daughters could put on western clothes. The various successor regimes have far less to recommend them. Turning to our own case, I would not like to live in one of Mr Sturgeon’s green communes. I like high technology, and have a grudging respect for big-business capitalism. I like railway trains with power points for me to plug in my computer. I like buying food at Sainsbury. I even rather like being able to look down on some of my neighbours. 

This being said, Mr Sturgeon is not suggesting that anyone should be forced to live as he wants. His ideal world seems to be a place where he and his friends can have social credit and self-sufficiency, but people like me can carry on having ceramic crowns on glass-fibre rods screwed into our jaws. His world is not a place where any one scheme of things is imposed on all – no feral social workers to tell us our children are watching too many things on YouTube, no armed bureaucracies to bully us out of smoking and drinking, no robotic police to arrest us for speaking our minds or to stop us from keeping guns in the house. I can easily imagine that the parts of his world settled by me and people like me would be considerably better.

In short, there is room for dialogue between most kinds of libertarian and the national anarchists.

I turn to the appearance of the book. This is lamentably defective. The front cover uses a Gothic font so impenetrable, and so merged into its background colour, I had to open the book to read its title. Also, the paper is bound against the grain, and the pages kept shutting on me.

Never mind that, however. Here is a closing thought. In terms of both structure and guiding assumption, the present world was called into being by England – though both England and her daughters are all much decayed. Perhaps, in considering Mr Sturgeon’s idea of radical decentralisation, we should recall the words of John Milton: “Let not England forget her precedence of teaching Nations how to live.” This time, we might do a better job.

 

Martin: A Seasonal Short Story (2015), by Sean Gabb

Capture

MARTIN
A SEASONAL SHORT STORY
by Sean Gabb
Published in The Baltic Review, 31st march 2015

Martin was conscious once more. His head felt like someone had hit it with a sledgehammer. Where was he? He opened his eyes and fought hard against the spotty blur he could only see at first.

He was in a room facing onto a white wall. Nothing to touch on in his entire field of vision. The only lighting came from a dim lamp somewhere on his left. It was now Martin noticed that he couldn’t move his head. Some of the pain was inside him, the last effects of whatever it was had knocked him out. The rest of it, though, came from the metal bands fastened tight round the top of his head and gripping his neck and lower jaw. His shoulders too were clamped, straight against the back of the chair he sat in. There was a strap round his waist, and straps round his wrists and ankles. For all he could move, he might have been paralysed.

Click!

The vice attached to his head jerked and Martin’s field of vision moved a fraction to the right. Not sure what was going on, he wanted to call out to someone “Hey ‑ what’s happening”. But he couldn’t get his jaws apart. He only managed to sound like one of those people in the television programmes who try talking when they’re bound and gagged.

Click!

His head moved again, now perceptibly to the right. The wall to his right was clearly in view where it hadn’t been before.

Click!

He counted again.

Click!

His head was being twisted round about an eighth of an inch every ten seconds. Martin panicked. He tried tearing his hands free, pulling hard as a vigorous, still young body strengthened by exercise could strain. No result but to break the skin on his upper wrists. No movement possible for his shoulders. None for his head either, except as the ratchet sent it right. He was fixed up for a slow death. He could struggle, moving about the few inches possible for him. He could go limp as a bag of rags. All the same, he was fixed up and he couldn’t change the fact.

Jennie! He suddenly remembered Jennie and what he’d been doing. “She’s a nice piece” old Hubert Shyte had leered when she’d left the office that time last Wednesday. “Yes, a very nice piece ‑ and just about asking for it, I’d say.” Martin had agreed. Even the sight of her poured into that dress had given him a hard on. No. She didn’t want her father’s taxes going over just yet. They weren’t sure the Customs and Revenue were snooping round in earnest. No point wasting time. All she wanted for the moment was to find a firm that they could trust to assist if things did start looking dodgy. But she’d come back the next day, and the day after that. “No” she’d said in the car on Saturday evening, pushing his hand away. “Father’s waiting up. He worries if I’m late.” Instead, she’d invited him home for dinner on Monday evening.

Jennie’s father had been charming. He was everything Martin’s own father wasn’t. Perhaps more to the point, he was everything Martin’s ex father‑in‑law hadn’t been. He was unbuttoned, funny, completely welcoming to some new friend of his daughter’s. Made to feel at home by him, Martin had drunk more wine than he usually let himself. His talking had got faster and faster, he remembered, and less sensible. Then everything had started going odd. There had been a strange rushing in his ears, and the two faces he was looking at had blurred and begun moving up and down. He couldn’t remember anything else. Next thing he knew was when he’d woken up, fixed into this chair.

Click!

His head was now turned ninety degrees right. He could feel the muscles in his neck starting to strain. Sweat ran down his face. His nose itched. Martin screamed through teeth jammed together. He screamed though no one came and it made him feel his head would burst with the effort, and made him all the more sensible of the gentle, growing pressure on the right side of his wind pipe.

Click!

Martin was in pain. Would he stay conscious to the end, or would he black out before it got too much? Would he go mad? If he’d been able, he could have tried biting his tongue out. Then he might have bled to death, or choked on the blood. Even that before this. But he couldn’t get his teeth apart. Holding his breath ‑ stupid ploy he’d read about somewhere ‑ wasn’t worth considering. He could swim four minutes under water without coming up.

Click!

Oh God! He was dying by eighths of an inch. And he’d be awake all through it, right up to the last tiny fraction more strain, when the vertebræ would sever and carry Martin into a next world in which he’d never believed, three weeks before his thirty ninth birthday.

From the corner of his right eye he could now see a chair and someone sitting in it. He strained his eye muscles to see better, focusing through the renewed blur of pain. It was ‑ it was ‑

Jennie stood over him. The expected shudder to the right was several seconds overdue. Another one didn’t come. Reaching behind him, she was unscrewing something. Then Martin’s head was free. The pain made him cry out as he let it fall onto his chest then moved it left and slowly right again. Now she was loosening all the straps and he could move again. He noticed her father. He’d joined in the work, massaging circulation back into Martin’s feet.

“Jennie. Oh Jennie!” At that moment as he looked up into her face, she was the most beautiful sight he’d ever seen. She was an angel, his saviour, his everything. His heart filled with love. He struggled with words. None came. Instead, he wept.

“Oh Martin” she said smiling. “Oh Martin, you are silly. April Fool!”

 

Observations on the Causes of the Decline of Ancient Civilisation (2015), by Sean Gabb

I would be most reluctant to cross swords with Ludwig von Mises on economics. I have less regard for his history. We can reject the Polanyi/Finley claim that market behaviour is a modern and transitory development, and that ancient economies were so fundamentally different that they cannot be subjected to economic analysis in our own terms. Human nature is the same in all times and places, and only the objects of superficial desire are different.

This being said, the ancient world was institutionally different from ours. We have, during the past four hundred years, grown used to living with centralised, bureaucratic states, able to impose their will for all reasonable and many unreasonable purposes. The Roman State was able to collect enough taxes to pay an army to defend its frontiers most of the time. For all other purposes, it was vastly less competent than the English or French States of the seventeenth century. Its early effort to suppress Christianity was a miserable failure. Its late efforts to suppress heresy were barely less miserable. Its civil courts had no means to compel the attendance of witnesses, and little to enforce their judgments. Its criminal courts were powerless to prosecute offenders who had any degree of local support.

The Empire was an agglomeration of communities which were illiterate to an extent unknown in Western Europe since about 1450. Even most officers in the bureaucracy were at best semi-literate. There was no printing press. Writing materials were very expensive – one sheet of papyrus cost about £100 in today’s money. Cheaper materials were still expensive and were of little use for other than ephemeral use. Central control was usually notional, and the more effective Emperors – Hadrian, Diocletian, et al – were those who spent much of their time touring the Empire to supervise in person.

The economic legislation of the Emperors was largely unenforceable. Some effort was made to enforce the Edict of Maximum Prices. But this appears to have been sporadic, and it lasted only between 301 and 305, when Diocletian abdicated. The Edict’s main effect was to leave a listing of relative prices for economic historians to study 1,500 years later.

As for inflation, it can be doubted how far outside the cities a monetary economy existed. This is not to doubt whether the laws of supply and demand operated, only whether most transactions were not by barter at more or less customary ratios of exchange. This being so, the debasement of the silver coinage would have had less disruptive effect than the silver inflation in Europe of the sixteenth century. Also, the gold coinage was stabilised over a hundred years before the Western military collapse of the fifth century. And the military crisis of the late third century was overcome while the inflation continued.

Nor is there any evidence that people left the cities in large numbers for the countryside. The truth seems to be that the Roman Empire was afflicted, from the middle of the second century, by a series of epidemic plagues, possibly brought on by global cooling, that sent populations into a decline that continued until about the eighth century. The cities shrank not because their inhabitants left them, but because they died. So far as they were enforced, the Imperial responses to population decline made things worse, but were not the ultimate cause of decline. Where population decline was less severe, there was no economic decline. Whenever the decline went into temporary reverse – as it may have in the fifth century in the East – economic activity recovered.

Von Mises is right that the barbarian invasions were not catastrophic floods that destroyed everything in their path. They were incursions by small bands. What made them irreversible was that they took place in the West into a demographic vacuum that would have existed regardless of what laws the Emperors made.

 

Observations on the Causes of the Decline of Ancient Civilization
by Ludwig von Mises

Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Freedom of Speech: A Very Brief Defence against Tanya Cohen (2015), by Sean Gabb

Freedom of Speech: A Very Brief Defence against Tanya Cohen
(23rd March 2015)
By Sean Gabb

 

I have been directed to this article, published today: Australia Must Have Zero Tolerance for Online Hatred, by Tanya Cohen of something called The Australian Independent Media Network. It is a very long article, and I will begin my response by quoting the passages I find most objectionable.

1. “…it’s just common sense that freedom of speech doesn’t give anyone the right to offend, insult, humiliate, intimidate, vilify, incite hatred or violence, be impolite or uncivil, disrespect, oppose human rights, spread lies or misinformation, argue against the common good, or promote ideas which have no place in society. We all learned this in school, and it’s not something that’s even up for debate. Hate speech is not free speech….”

2. “…even right-wing libertarians were outraged that anyone would propose watering down laws against hate speech.”

3. “There are two sides to the free speech debate in Australia: the people who believe that all offensive or insulting speech should always be illegal (the vast majority of Australians), and the people who believe that only racial vilification or incitement to hatred should be illegal (the far-right, ultra-libertarian free speech fundamentalists).”

4. “You simply cannot call yourself a progressive in Australia unless you support the outlawing of all un-progressive speech. One of the most fundamental goals of the Australian progressive movement is ensuring that anyone who voices un-progressive ideas is aggressively prosecuted, and this is something that all Australian progressives firmly agree with.”

5. “What I propose is something called a Human Rights Online Act. This Act would not only make it a severe criminal offence on the federal level to publish, distribute, promote, or access hate speech online, but would also implement a federal Internet filtering system to protect Australians from being exposed to hate sites run out of the US. The Internet filter should block access to all hate sites, and anyone who tries to access any hate sites should be sent to gaol, much like people who access child pornography. In keeping with other human rights legislation in Australia – like the proposed Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, which was unfortunately narrowly defeated by the efforts of the far-right – anyone accused of offending, insulting, humiliating, or intimidating other people should be required to prove their innocence or be declared guilty automatically, and this should also apply for anyone accused of publishing, distributing, promoting, or accessing online hatred. The principle of guilty until proven innocent is the only principle that really works when it comes to cracking down on hate speech….”

6. “Internet filtering should not just filter out hate speech. It should filter out anything that violates human rights and/or poses a danger to society. Our Australian Classification Board bans any film, video game, book, or other form of media if it offends against community standards, contains content harmful to society, or is demeaning to human dignity. If a book, film, or video game contains content that degrades human dignity, then it therefore constitutes a violation of human rights, since human dignity is a fundamental human right that all civilised governments are tasked with upholding.”

7. “All Australian websites should be required to register with the Australian Human Rights Commission in order to ensure strict compliance with human rights. If any websites contain content that opposes human rights, then they should be shut down immediately and their owners sent to gaol. In addition, all Australian websites should be required to promote human rights. Any website found to inadequately promote human rights should be shut down by the Australian Human Rights Commission, and the owner fined or sent to gaol.”

As I read through the article, I kept asking whether Miss Cohen really existed, or if this was a satire on the modern left. Quotation (4) – about banning anything “unprogressive” – does verge on the Swiftian. So does the indefinable but “fundamental” right to “dignity” that is given precedence over the traditional rights to freedom of speech and association and to the requirements of natural justice. Sadly, she does appear to exist, and this does appear to be an honest statement of what she believes.

This being so, you can take the quotations given above as part of her article’s refutation. Miss Cohen is calling for the censorship of any opinion that she and her friends find disagreeable. She wants to punish not only those who write and publish such things, but also those who read them. She believes in reversing the burden of proof, so that those accused of writing or publishing or reading shall be made to prove that they have not done as accused – to prove this out of their own resources against a prosecution with bottomless pockets and skilled lawyers. She also believes in licensing the media, so that disagreeable opinions will not be published.

There is nothing unusual about the substance of her demands. I first came across their like in the early 1980s, when I was at university. It struck me then as a scandalous misuse of words to make human rights of censorship and unlimited state power – me and the older lefties who had not caved in to the neo-Marxists. But that was then. We live today in a world captured and increasingly reshaped by Miss Cohen and her friends. All I find unusual now is the honesty of her demands. It may be that she really is a clever satirist. Or perhaps she is just stupid. But I am used to a more sophisticated defence of locking people away for their opinions, and without a fair trial.

I will deal with two of her specific claims. The first is that “right-wing libertarians” do not mind the banning of “hate speech.” The second is that “Hate speech is not free speech.”

I am undoubtedly a libertarian. I am probably a right-wing libertarian. I believe that people should, at the minimum, be free to say whatever they please about alleged matters of public fact. I am sceptical about the justice of the laws covering libel and confidentiality and copyright and official secrecy. But, so long as these are confined to achieving their traditionally stated ends, I will, for present purposes, leave them to one side. I will also leave aside photographic displays of sexual activity not limited to consenting adults. Yet, even at its minimal definition, the right to freedom of speech covers every class of utterance that Miss Cohen wants to censor. So far as libertarians, almost by definition, believe in freedom of speech, either she is mistaken about the meaning of libertarianism, or she is playing with the meaning of words.

I turn to her claim about the nature of “hate speech.” The term is designed to bring into mind ideas of inarticulate screams, or of simple orders to kill or to hurt. In fact, every act of “hate speech” I have seen punished or denounced has involved the same combination of propositions and inferences I see anywhere else.

Let us, for example, take these two cases:

1. Bearing in mind differences of population and wealth, the Great War was less destructive to England than the civil wars of the seventeenth century. Proportionately, fewer men were killed, and the economic costs were lower. Yet the physical effects of the civil wars drop out of view after 1660, and those of the Great War were a national obsession until 1939, and are now widely seen as the greatest single cause of our national decline. Therefore, anyone who accepts the consensus view of the Great War as a catastrophe is mistaking symptoms for causes. Whether or not going to war was an error, a fundamentally healthy nation could have shaken off the losses of the Somme and Passchendaele in a decade at most. That we did not indicates that there was already something wrong with us by 1914.

2. There are measurable differences between racial groups. Some of these are of intellectual capacity. Others are of propensity to crimes against life or property or both. Even otherwise, there are differences of outlook that show themselves in how the members of one group relate to each other and to members of other groups. These differences have been uncovered and confirmed by more than a century of research. They have also long been accepted as matters of common sense. Therefore, racially homogenous countries are well advised to keep out immigrants of other races. Where a country is already mixed, it makes sense to segregate each racial group so far as possible, and to govern each by different laws, or to apply the same laws with different effect to each group.

I give no opinion on the truth of these cases. The first I have just made up. The second I have distilled from my reading of various nationalist blogs and journals. Whether they are true is beside my present point. My point is that each case begins with factual claims, from which inferences are then drawn. If you disagree with either, it seems obvious to me that the proper mode of disagreement is to show that the factual claims are untrue, or that the inferences are not validly drawn. Calling in the police is at best unlikely to advance our understanding of the world.

I suppose Miss Cohen would argue that the first case, if accepted, will have no obvious effects on what is done in the present, but that the second, if accepted, will lead to ethnic cleansing or apartheid. She would infer from this that laws against advancing the second case are needed to stop a great evil from being committed.

I agree that, if we accept the racial nationalist case, difficult questions come onto the agenda. In the same way, however, if my gold crowns wear out this year, I shall not be able to afford a family holiday. The unpleasantness of the apodosis has no bearing on the truth of the protasis. Suppose the racial nationalists are right. Suppose that what they advocate is the lesser of evils in the long term. Or suppose that they are right in their factual claims, but that there are alternative and less alarming inferences to be drawn from these.  This would surely be worth knowing. I say that, once a case has been stated with any show of evidence, and certainly once it has gained any body of support, it needs to be contested in open debate, not silenced by the State.

Furthermore, where written arguments are concerned, readers are generally alone and have ample time to think before taking action. This must be considered a new intervening cause in any course that leads from the communication of ideas to actual violence. If Miss Cohen wanted laws against street agitators, she might have a case. Censoring the written word is plain suppression of debate.

The main focus of Miss Cohen’s article is on those who dissent from the present discourse on race and immigration. Looking at Quotation (6), though – “Internet filtering should not just filter out hate speech. It should filter out anything that violates human rights and/or poses a danger to society.” – we can see that she wants to shut down debate on every leftist claim. She would not allow any dissent on the nature and extent of climate change, or on what is happening in the Middle East – she is a pro-Palestinian, not that I think better or worse of her for this – or on how dangerous drinking and smoking are to health. Indeed, we seem to be at the beginning of a change in the consensus on diet and health. For about forty years, we have been told that fat is bad for us, and that we should eat a lot of carbohydrate. It may be that we are about to be told that fat is good for us, and that sugar is the main cause of obesity and diabetes. Had her proposed law been in place across the world, this debate would have been flattened by claims of “social danger.”

I could say more, but will not. I will conclude by suggesting that you should read Miss Cohen for yourself. You decide whether she is a satirist of genius, or an embarrassment to the modern left by virtue of her blundering honesty.

A British Libertarian on Margaret Thatcher, Iraq, and More (2015), Interview with Sean Gabb

Sean Gabb, director of the Libertarian Alliance, discusses what he calls the myth of Margaret Thatcher, plus much more. Subscribe to the Tom Woods Show: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/t…
http://www.TomWoods.com/362
http://www.TheLibertarianAlliance.com
http://www.SupportingListeners.com
http://www.RonPaulHomeschool.com
http://www.TomWoodsHomeschool.com
http://www.LibertyClassroom.com

HTML, CSS, Drupal, WordPress: Twenty Years of Progress (2015), by Sean Gabb

HTML, CSS, Drupal, WordPress: Twenty Years of Progress
By Sean Gabb

I built my first website in November 1995. It was just after the launch of Windows 95 and the first version of Netscape. For three years, I had been about half a dozen steps behind the cutting edge of the IT Revolution. It had been a matter of sending and receiving e-mails in raw Unix, and then in crude software packages with names like Elm and Pine, and of using a system called Gopher to download texts in atrociously-edited Latin or smutty, though often monochrome, jpeg files.

I built my website because I could. I strolled one day into the computer department at my university, and was told by the beardie man there who smelled that, as a trusted member of staff, I had the right to claim space on the server to host my own files. I nodded and walked off with his two page introduction to html coding. Hardly anyone read my writings in hard copy. I expected even fewer would read me on-line. It was probably for the best that I was right at first. What I produced, after a week of head-scratching, was a single page website containing about six essays. It was black on grey. After more head-scratching, I discovered how to break the monotony with headers an inch high, in red or blue. Even before I had tracked down all the unclosed html tags, I was enormously pleased with the result.

I got better over the next few months. By the summer of 1996, I had a website of about a hundred linked pages. Over the next year, this doubled, and I began to realise that for every one person who read me in hard copy at least a hundred read me on-line. A few days after putting up my first hit counter, I discovered how to lie with it. There was little truth in the million hits I claimed by the start of 1998. But there was far more truth than I could ever have thought possible when I was given that two page introduction.

It was now that I ran into serious problems with formatting. If you run a site of a dozen pages, you can keep going through them by hand to standardise and restandardise their appearance. You try doing that for hundreds of pages – and trying to earn a living, and to keep your wife happy, and to produce more copy. You try doing that with a navigation structure based on frames within frames within frames. Oh, and try doing it for three different websites. Even with the Netscape Composer, it meant all night sittings, followed by more of the same every time I changed my mind.

I thought I had solved the problem in 2002. I found a book on css coding, and spent a week adding style tags to every page. I was very pleased with the results. They looked almost competent. There I rested for the next eight years. During this time, the websites I controlled grew mightily. Hundreds of pages became thousands. But I had arrived at a set of structures that sort of worked. The overall effect was increasingly dated. Other people were doing things that I could admire without knowing where to begin copying. But I had my structures, and I could publish a new page in only about half an hour.

Then, in 2010, I discovered content management software. It took months to get thousands of html pages into sql databases. But I brought myself almost up to date. With automatic formatting and indexing, it now took only a few minutes to publish something new. And themes and modules let me do all the things I had long admired without understanding. Indeed, the knowledge I had of html and css coding remained useful for playing with the style sheets.

It was soon clear, however, that I had chosen the wrong content management software. I chose Drupal 6. This is, I will insist, enormously powerful software. I believe the British State uses it for all its websites. You can do wonderful things with Drupal. But it was never designed for amateurs. It took weeks of obsessive hunting on the Web to find instructions in plain English for how to use the taxonomy and views modules, and to find examples of php coding to drop into the system to associate certain blocks with certain categories.

No knowledge is entirely useless. But every act of learning is a matter of opportunity cost. I am a writer. I make my living from fiction. The cost of the time I have spent on trying to learn Drupal 6 has easily been three big novels, not to mention the loss of time with my family that will not come again.

Still worse, I have been learning an obsolete system. Drupal 6 has given way to Drupal 7, and then to Drupal 8; and Drupal 9 will soon be out there. Each upgrade is radically different from the last. You cannot jump from versions 6 to 8, but must go up one at a time. There is limited forward compatibility. I did try, a few months ago, to take the smallest website that I control to Drupal 7. After a night of frustration, I gave up and reverted.

The final crisis came last week. For several months, my hosting company had been moaning at me about a repeated and unexplained growth of one of my sql databases, and an equally unexplained hogging of bandwidth. I was using up 80Gb a month. The problem seemed to be in the Drupal cache files. Search me what was happening, though.

And so, the day before yesterday, I installed a test version of WordPress. It took several hours to import the Drupal database, and then to convert the categories. It will take a long time to clean up all the thousand or so pages of my political writings. But, I went to bed with almost as good a website in WordPress as I ever had in Drupal. Plug-ins are easier to install than modules. Style sheets are easier to manipulate. The core software updates at the click of a mouse. Different widgets and sidebars can be configured in minutes to show with different categories. After two days, the underlying structure of my WordPress site is almost as good as I had after five years with Drupal. Its appearance is already better.

See for yourself. Here is the best I can do after five years with Drupal. Here is what I have managed after two days with WordPress.

I will repeat that I do not despise Drupal. It does everything that WordPress does, and probably much more. But I also repeat that I am a user of content management software, not a developer. So far as I can tell, WordPress is like a cheap digital camera, and Drupal is like the sort of camera used by professional photographers. If you want to do something astonishing, you will not use the former. At the same time, people like me are not up to doing anything that will astonish. To do anything competent, we are better off with the basic model.

I doubt if my struggle with websites has reached a conclusion. Sooner or later, there will be something even better than WordPress for people like me. Until then, however, I will be a true and faithful lover of WordPress.  If my basic understanding of php coding remains useful, I can rejoice that I shall never again have to sweat over importing nested tables into blocks.

Such is progress.

The Cultural Desert of British Libertarianism: A Study in Failure (2015), by Sean Gabb

A speech given on Tuesday the 17th March 2015 in London to the other Libertarian Alliance.

Sean argues that libertarianism has had no impact in Britain since the 1980s because libertarians have concentrated on abstract economic arguments at the expense of cultural engagement. We face a ruling class that has hegemony both in high art and in popular culture. If we want to make any progress, we need to be looking at an artistic and cultural challenge to the current order of things.

This is an audio only upload

Greening Out Interview #23 – Sean Gabb on Classical Liberalism (2015)

Sean Gabb joins Caity and Dan for a third time for a fascinating conversation around the topic of classical liberalism.

We begin by discussing classical liberal ideas going back to ancient Greece and being hard-wired into western European thought and how this can be shown in fairy and folk tales that are quite unique to western Europe.

We chat about John Locke, the social contract and theories about how governments emerged. How the Victorian age seems like a golden age for libertarians until you look closer, the Whigs, the Liberal Party of the 19th century: how it was formed and how they may have laid the groundwork for the political system we now find ourselves in in the UK.

We also chat about the dangers of governments turning our vices into crimes, the mental deficiency act and other eugenics legislation. We get into social liberalism vs. classical liberalism, socialism in the UK, the NHS and how doctors see themselves in the UK.

We go on to discuss whether the Liberal Party of the 19th century was moved more by utilitarianism or desire for control. If the conservatives were more libertarian in the 19th century than the Liberal Party and why politicians want to control what we do.

George Formby in Child Sex Allegations

Comic Icons: George Formby(AP) – London, 3rd June 2013: The body of deceased comedian George Formby should be exhumed, to see if he was the notorious “Rock Man,” says Moira Perge of the KidS care! charity.

In recent days, the British show business community has been rocked by allegations that Formby, who died in 1961, was a violent paedophile who abused children as young as two days old at the top of Blackpool Tower. A woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, claims she suffered abuse over a four day period in 1932. “He touched me, he did,” the victim told the Associated Press from her bed in a Birkenhead care home. “I’m sure it was him. I’ll never forget his leering face as he held the stick of rock in his hand. Ooh, it was right disgusting what he done to me. He ruined me life, I think.”

Speaking from a Blackpool City Council conference in the Maldives, Moira Perge called for an immediate investigation of the claims. “These are appalling crimes,” she said. “We need to send out a message that no one, no matter how far he may think himself beyond the reach of justice, is safe.” she added: “Above all, we need to know if he was buried with a stick of Blackpool rock. If so, it will be plain that he took his sick secret with him to the grave.”

Inspector Woo of the Merseyside Police Authority confirmed that Operation Bloodmoney has been set up to investigate the claims. He said: “We are looking for a man in his late 90s who may once have taken sandwiches to Formby as he rested between bouts of abuse. Five hundred officers have been assigned to the search. Interpol has been alerted. We expect an arrest within days.”

George Formby was a much-loved British Comedian between the Wars. He also had a television series on the BBC that ended in 1957. It is believed that he may have met Jimmy Savile in the late 1940s.

No one at the BBC was available for comment. But it is believed that the British Film Institute is burning all the negatives of Formby’s film performances. His statue has already been removed from display in Wigan. An on-line petition has been started to have all reference to him deleted from Wikipedia.

The Future of Islam and the West (2015), by Sean Gabb

The Future of Islam and the West
Sean Gabb
A Speech Given in London
on Friday the 27th February 2015
to “Dialogue with Islam”
(Also published in The Seoul Times on the 5th April 2015)

Speakers (in order):

Dr Sean Gabb (Director, the Libertarian Alliance)
Jamal Harwood (New Civilisation, Islamic Political Magazine)
Dr Mustaqim Bleher (Author and translator of the Koran)
Tim Vince (Chair of Christian Heritage)

Note: This is the introductory speech that I gave on the 27th February 2015. Since no one tried to chop my head off for saying what I thought, I became bolder in my answers to the questions from the audience and in my disagreements with other members of the panel. I spoke far more bluntly about the supposed limits to freedom of speech. I even pointed out, by way of a lecture on Byzantine history and the Crusades, that, unless seriously weakened by some other force, or divided against itself, Christendom had always won its wars with Islam; and that anyone who spoke glibly back at me “about irreconcilable differences of paradigm” should be careful that he was not moving towards a conflict that had so far hardly begun and that his side would assuredly lose. 

I say that no one tried to cut my head off. This is rather a silly remark. I found myself arguing with an audience of people who disagreed with just about everything I said, but who behaved with admirable restraint and good will, and who sat down with me afterwards to a most enjoyable dinner. Indeed, I found much common ground with Jamal Harwood. We agreed on the moral illegitimacy of corporate personhood in business organisations and of limited liability laws. We both denounced fractional reserve banking and praised a fully-convertible gold and silver standard. Our main difference was over the basis – in a free market – of time preference and risk in the determination of interest rates.  

Turning to the other speakers, I doubt if Dr Bleher will be offended when I say that I found him more fundamentally German than Islamic in his manner of argument. And, while there are differences between the Libertarian Alliance and Christian Heritage, I thought Tim Vince an interesting speaker.

Before I left, someone with a big beard came and shook me by the hand, and thanked me for treating him like an adult human being when I said what I really thought.

I suspect, and even hope, that tonight was only the first round in a series of debates in which I and my colleagues can take the libertarian message to an audience that has not so far had the opportunity to give it serious consideration.

The Speech

The topic of this evening’s symposium is The Future of Islam and the West. The time I have is not enough to do justice to so large a topic. Instead, I will focus on the future of Islam in the United Kingdom.

The summary of what I have to say is that, for a group of communities so enterprising and so generally intelligent as my Islamic fellow-citizens have shown themselves to be, I am not impressed by the nature of your dealings with the British State.

You were allowed to settle in this country for various reasons. One of them is that the British ruling class does not wish to be held accountable before a united and homogenous nation. In such a nation, while there may be differences of income and faith and opinion, the people will understand one another, and will trust one another. Below a possibly turbulent surface, they will be joined by bonds of shared blood and a common history. A trespass on the rights of one will tend to be seen as a trespass on the rights of all. Show me ten reasonably homogenous nations, and I will show you seven or eight, or even nine, liberal democracies, with equality before the law and a high degree of political accountability. Show me a multi-ethnic “community of communities,” and I will probably show you an empire – an empire without working accountability, because its constituent nationalities are too suspicious of one another to present a united front to the authorities.

The British ruling class does not want to govern a nation. It wants to rule an empire. I repeat, this is not the sole reason why mass-immigration from the Third World was encouraged. But it is one of the most important reasons. You differ from the natives of this country in appearance, in blood, in faith, and in many of your most basic assumptions about the world. I will not dwell on certain unfortunate acts in Woolwich, in Rotherham, in Paris, and in the territories controlled by the Islamic State. I certainly do not wish to accuse anyone here of sympathy with the perpetrators of these acts. At the same time, those perpetrators can be seen – whether justly or unjustly I do not care to discuss – as part of a continuum that embraces many people here in this room.

This makes you ideal tools of the British ruling class. You are in the nation, but not of the nation. No doubt, some acts committed by Moslems are truly offensive to the ruling class. But even these serve the overriding purpose of divide and rule.

I will confess that I regret the mass-immigration of the past three generations. But we are where we are. The present choice for all of us is whether we descend into inter-ethnic civil war, or whether we can find some basis for mutual toleration of our differences and some basis for identifying and advancing our common interests.

Here, I return to my opening point. You were allowed to settle here because you are different from us. It is hard to say on the whole that you are privileged settlers. Your religious gatherings are spied on by the authorities. Your private associations are viewed with great suspicion. There are plans to interfere with how you bring up your children. Your movements are watched. Your opinions are censored. You risk imprisonment if you step out of line.

And your collective response? Why, you complain bitterly about the restrictions placed on you. But I have never seen any of you base your complaints on the universal principles of freedom of speech and freedom of association. Indeed, when you were presented with laws limiting the freedom of speech and association traditionally enjoyed by the natives of this country, you accepted them. Many of you would like even stronger laws – to punish all mockery of your faith, and to shut down political parties that are hostile to your presence in this country.

I tell you in conclusion that, if you want a future for Islam in this country, you must argue for your entirely proper wish to be separate, and to be left alone in your daily lives, on a firmer basis than your own convenience. You must learn to demand freedom of speech, and freedom of association, as parts of the right to be left alone.

You must learn to demand this right for yourself. And you must learn to demand it for everyone else.

In Defence of the British Empire (2015), by Sean Gabb

On Thursday the 19th February 2015, Sean Gabb and Keir Martland, both members of the Libertarian Alliance Executive Committee, spoke at a debate organised by the Manchester University Student Union on whether the legacy of the British Empire should be regretted. Both spoke against the motion.

Sean Gabb said that empires are a regrettable fact of history. The British Empire was not the first or last, and not at all the worst. Rather than condemned for its faults, which were common to all empires, it should be praised for its virtues, which were unique to our own country.

Keir Martland elaborated on the virtues of the British Empire – the suppression of the slave trade and slavery, the suppression of banditry and piracy, the spread of English law and science and the English language to formerly benighted regions of the world.

Their speeches were not always well-received by the audience, but were not greatly disrupted. Sean did his usual impersonation of a Soviet tank, not stopping even when someone began to shout obscenities. Top marks to Keir, who was brought in at the last moment for his first public debate, and who was steady under enemy fire. A fine debut.

Here is a recording of the event, though Daniel Harding may wish to play with the file or move it to another location.

Am Feeling Dirty and Disreputable (2015), by Sean Gabb

I have just caved into a computer-generated threat letter, and renewed the television licence. That's £145 handed over to the the main organ of the ideological state apparatus. My money will be used for, among much else, the following:

Salaries for people who would be more honestly employed carrying bags of cement;
Celebrating every attack on our liberty and heritage, and calling out for more of the same;
Systematically corrupting every reasonable standard of taste and decency.

I suspect the Nazi and Soviet propagandists would have been impressed by the scale and sophistication of the BBC lie machine. At the same time, they would have found most of its output artistically repulsive, and would have prevented their own children from being exposed to it.

And I am now a more or less willing accomplice to the crime. My only mitigation is that I waited until the Beeb had been forced to lose some of the money in generating and posting four threats. Oh, and I opted to receive a paper licence, which the website helpfully told me would reduce the amount of money available for making television programmes.

You may heap such abuse on me as you feel justified.

Robert Stark interviews Sean Gabb (2015)

Robert Stark interviews Sean Gabb

Sean Gabb is the director of the Libertarian Alliance in the UK

Topics include:

The objectives of the Libertarian Alliance
The divide between establishment libertarians and traditionalist leaning libertarians
How there were originally laws against the publication of pornography under the Obscene Publications Act but there were no laws about possession
How today the publication of pornography has become widespread but there are strict laws about possession such as the Extreme Pornography Act
How laws dealing with possession give enormous power to the police state
Hate speech laws in the UK
The case of Joshua Bonehill-Paine who planned an anti-Jewish rally and was sentenced to three years in prison
How the BNP membership was leaked and how many of it’s members who were government employees were sacked
Sean Gabb – Enoch Powell. The Man and His Politics
How the Labor Party imported a new electorate
How a balkanized country makes it more difficult to cooperate against the state
Whether only Europeans can create free societies
The Basic Income
The debate about whether wealth used to corrupt politics and generated by crony capitalism should be confiscated
Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost Lost England and How to Get It Back
Double Jeopardy laws in the UK and how they were dumped after the Murder of Stephen Lawrence
Police Brutality in the UK
The Legacy of Margaret Thatcher
His historical fiction written under the pen name Richard Blake and his most recent book Game of Empires
His interest in the Byzantine Empire which is the setting of many of his novels
How the Byzantine Empire was a much more free and humane society than the Roman Empire

Time to Say “Je ne suis pas Charlie” (2015), by Sean Gabb

As ever, for the avoidance of doubt, I will say that I believe in freedom of speech, regardless of what offence may be given. Anyone who responds with violence deserves the fullest punishment allowed by law. Anyone who defends a violent response is a bigot.

But let us put Islam aside for the moment, and consider the general output of Charlie Hebdo. Have a good look at this cartoon. Is it funny? Is it brave? Is it making any point that is worth discussing? Is it doing anything beyond giving gross and unprovoked offence? When Bayle and Voltaire and Gibbon wrote cuttingly about the Christian Faith, what they gave us retains all its argumentative and comedic power a quarter of a millennium later. The questions Voltaire asked about the chronology of the historical books of the Old Testament remain a challenge to any biblical literalist. The fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of Gibbon's Decline and Fall remain a masterpiece of sustained irony. By comparison, the above is at best tiresome.

Certain facts of demography have brought us into a cultural war with Islam as it is usually practised. If we are to win this, I suggest we shall need better weapons than the equivalent of that cartoon.

I repeat that the cultural leftists at Charlie Hebdo did not deserve to be murdered. Even so, they make thoroughly disreputable martyrs to free speech – a cause, by the way, in which they do not appear to have believed in any general sense.

Hot Air and the Paris Atrocities (2015), by Sean Gabb

Michigan Standard

Hot Air and the Paris Atrocities
By Sean Gabb
(The Michigan Standard, 10th January 2015)

For the avoidance of doubt, I will begin by saying that the murders this week at Charlie Hebdo were a barbarous crime, and deserve the strongest punishment allowed by law. This being said, the smug chanting of the politicians and media people is getting on my nerves. Here, without further introduction, are the more objectionable mantras:

Je suis Charlie

I will repeat that this was a barbarous crime. But there seem to be barbarous crimes and barbarous crimes. Suppose the attack had not been on a cultural leftist magazine, but on the headquarters of the Front National, and the victims had been Francine le Pen and the party leadership. Would all those city squares have filled with people reciting Je suis le Front National? I hardly think so. Nor would the media have given blanket and uncritical coverage.

Indeed, we had our answer before the gunmen had opened fire. When Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh and Lee Rigby were murdered no less barbarously, we were all urged to moderate our response. In the first two cases, we were told, with more than the occasional nod and wink, that the victims had brought things on themselves. As for the third, the protest demonstrations were broken up by the police.

Cultural leftists have the same right not to be murdered as the rest of us. So far as the present lamentations indicate, they are seen by the directors of public opinion as having a greater right.

We will Never Give up Our Right to Freedom of Speech

The continuing hymn of praise to freedom of speech would sound better if it were seriously meant. I believe that the writers and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo had the moral right to say whatever they pleased about Islam, or anything else. But I also believe that Luke O’Farrell and Garron Helm should not have been sent to prison for being rude to or about Jews. Nick Griffin should not have been prosecuted for saying less against Islam than was published in Charlie Hebdo. The Reverend Alan Clifford should not have been threatened with prosecution in 2013, when he handed out leaflets at a gay pride march in Norwich. Almost every day, in England alone, someone gets into trouble for opening his mouth. Where for them are the defenders of freedom of speech, now more fashionably than bravely holding up pencils or waving candles?

I and my colleagues at the Libertarian Alliance can praise freedom of speech, because we are there for the people mentioned above. Just about everyone else I have seen on the television is a hypocrite. In general, we are free to say only what the authorities want to hear. Even when the law does not cover dissent, there are administrative or economic punishments. See, for example, the UKIP members who were denied the right to foster children, or the difficulty that dissident writers have to find paid work.

These were Cowardly Crimes

The men who shot up the Charlie Hebdo offices are not cowards. They took a considerable risk, and it is generally believed that they will not let themselves be taken alive. This is part of what makes them and their like so dangerous. The Sinn Fein/IRA terrorists were cowards. Their speciality was to plant time bombs in shop toilets, and then run away before they went off. These killers seem to regard themselves as already half way to the company of the seventy two virgins they were promised. There is nowhere they will not go, and nothing they will not do – they and those like them. To call them cowards is a comforting falsehood.

These were Senseless Crimes

The only senseless crime is one that has no evident purpose, or is unlikely to achieve it. The purpose of the Charlie Hebdo killings was to punish outrages against Moslem sensibilities, and to deter their repetition. Can anyone say they failed, or will fail? Some outlets of the mainstream media have republished some of the less offensive cartoons. But it was difficult not to, and there is safety in numbers. From now on, Moslems abroad and in Europe can expect a still more delicate handing of their sensibilities than is already the case. No one wants to be murdered, and one of the surest ways to avoid being murdered will be not to say anything untoward about Mohammed or his alleged teachings.

I now feel obliged to comment on mass-immigration from the Third World. Anyone who said this would be other than a disaster must have been a fool or a villain. It has forced down working class incomes. It has raised housing costs for everyone. It has increased crime and welfare dependency. It has Balkanised politics and administration and law. It has been the excuse for a police state. I am not a violent or an uncharitable man. I am committed to an abstract and universalist ideology. I do not object to a certain porosity of borders. But, like most Jews in Israel, or most Chinese in China – or like most people in all times and places – I regard every square inch of my country as the birthright of my people, and do not look favourably on levels of immigration that seem likely, within the next few generations, to dispossess us of that birthright. Yet this is where we now are, in England, in France, and in many other European and European-settled countries. I have no convincing answers to the problem we face. All I can do is predict one of two outcomes:

First, present trends will continue, and growing weight of numbers, and a greater willingness to resort to violence, will bring about the transformation of our societies in the image of the newcomers;

Second, there will be a nativist reaction, attended by expulsion and the removal of citizenship rights for those allowed to stay, and an authoritarian political settlement.

I do not look forward to either outcome. But, thanks to the conscious or negligent treason of our rulers, it seems likely to be one or the other of these. Anyone who can suggest a less unpleasant outcome that is other than wishful thinking will have at least my gratitude.

The question now outstanding is whether these killings will only contribute to the breakdown of the multicultural illusion, or whether they will be seen, by future historians, as one of its key events. Are they in the same dividing category as the defenstrations in Prague or the Oath in the Tennis Court? Or will the continued chanting of the mantras discussed above keep everything under control? Does the continuing uproar in France mean that something has begun there of wider significance than the murder of a dozen cultural leftists?

The Joys of Poetry (2015), by Sean Gabb

Many years ago, when I was a young man, I was asked by one of the sneering thugs set over me in the office where I worked what was the use of poetry. I thought the answer I gave was no more than good-natured badinage. Sadly everyone else thought otherwise. I didn't work there much longer.

Young professional, straining
Through bulging haemorrhoid
The solids of your business lunch
Painfully to void;

Discontented, how to get
Back to your car unsure,
Staring at a dirty invite
Scribbled on the door;

Time to ask and time to say,
Now you sit alone,
Whether so many thousand pounds
Are worth so many stone.

Farewell to Dennis O’Keeffe (2014), by Sean Gabb

Farewell to Dennis O’Keeffe
Sean Gabb

Yesterday, which was Monday the 29th December 2014, about sixty of those who knew him came together in Ealing Abbey to say farewell to Dennis O’Keeffe.

Life and death are mysteries that no scientific hypothesis can explain in other than functional terms. We were not. We are. We shall not be. While we are, the atoms that comprise our bodies maintain an apparently stable form. At last, through mechanical damage or the passing of time, the form is degraded, until its atoms go their separate ways. We can speak, with increasing sophistication, of this process in terms of cells and their division. We can, with increasing success, intervene in the process, to repair damage and hold off the effects of time. When confronted with the inevitable end of things, though, we are left by all our science with no greater understanding of where the person has gone than our earliest rational ancestors had.

Whether the Christian Faith is true is not a question I can answer. All I can say is that its truth is neither certain nor impossible. But, if we turn away from considerations of truth, I do not think there is any other religion so able to give meaning and hope to its believers. Yesterday, we were told to respect the mortal remains, because they had been made in the image of God and had once contained the soul of Dennis. We were told that Dennis had crossed the thin boundary dividing this world from the next, and that the pains of his long illness had been a gift sent to refine him for the new and glorious life into which he had now entered. It was a message reinforced by words and music and architecture, and supported by arguments of much subtlety, and by the long continuance of the Church. Unless to believe in some other, whoever doubts the truth of this message is more to be pitied than admired. Unless to attack some great evil that has been associated with it, whoever sets out to undermine the belief of others may be no friend of humanity.

I directed the funerals of Chris Tame and his mother. Both died in the belief that they were passing into eternal darkness. Despite my best efforts, the words I spoke over their bodies were devoid of comfort. Yesterday’s service was filled with comfort. It opened with Be Thou My Vision. It closed with He Who Would Valiant Be. Between these fine hymns, we had readings from Matthew and 1 Corinthians, and tributes and an inspiring homily, and the Lord’s Prayer. After this, while the family attended a private cremation, we sat down to a lunch of cheerful fellowship, which continued some while after the family returned.

It would have been better had Dennis not died before the work he set himself was done, and better had he not suffered his terrible accident. But what happened did happen. Such is the nature of things. So far as he may have planned his funeral service, and so far as he would have approved it, we had our last testimony to the greatness and goodness of Dennis O’Keeffe, and to his fitness never to be forgotten. Once more, my sympathies to Mary and Matthew and his other loved ones. And now also my thanks to them for being allowed to share in the farewell.

Ralph Cudworth v Thomas Hobbes on Witchcraft (2014), by Sean Gabb

Thanks to Google Books, I have just finished The True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678) by Ralph Cudworth (1617-88). This is an immense book. The 1837 edition that I read is well over a thousand pages of closely-packed text, and much of the argument is carried on by quotations in Greek and Latin, which I can read, and in Hebrew, which I cannot.

Its main purpose is to attack the revived atomic materialism of the Greeks. Cudworth believed, probably rightly, that this tended to atheism. Though he is hardly ever named, the most important target is Thomas Hobbes, by whose influence atomic materialism was introduced into English scientific and moral philosophy.

I will not deny Cudworth’s great learning. I say only that he shares fully in an uncritical approach to the remains of Antiquity that was common to his age; and that his point is carried more by verbal trickery and question-begging, and by arguments from dubious authority, than by the mode of reasoning one finds in the eighteenth century. I am not convinced by any of his specific claims.

For an example of his thought, I supply the key texts in his debate with Hobbes over the reality of witchcraft. There are, to any system of thought, internal and external opinions. In my own case, I believe that the Great War was regrettable and mistaken, and that the Falklands War was regrettable but necessary. These opinions are external to my general libertarianism. My belief in limited government and the rule of law would be unaffected if either was reversed. Equally, my musical and literary tastes are external. My belief in free speech, on the other hand, is internal to my general libertarianism.

Where Hobbes and Cudworth are concerned, their respective opinions about witchcraft are fully internal. Hobbes is a materialist. There is, for him, nothing but atoms in various kinds of motion. It follows from this that any claim of magical power is a lie or a delusion. To accept any such claims would, in itself, refute his general system. He does not deny that there are people who are called or call themselves witches, and he believes that they should be punished so far as their actions may tend to a breach of the peace. But he has no time for the existence of spiritual entities.

Cudworth is a Platonist. He believes that we are surrounded by invisible but powerful beings. Some of these are good, others bad; and it is possible for them to communicate with us and to exchange promises. From this, it follows that witchcraft and demonic possession are possible. They are also evidence for his general system. To deny their reality might not overturn his general system, but would bring it into serious doubt

For this reason, the opinions of Hobbes and Cudworth on witchcraft are relevant to any consideration of their wider views.

Here is Hobbes on witchcraft (from Chapter Two, “Of Imagination,” of Leviathan):

From this ignorance of how to distinguish dreams, and other strong fancies, from vision and sense, did arise the greatest part of the religion of the Gentiles in time past, that worshipped satyrs, fauns, nymphs, and the like; and nowadays the opinion that rude people have of fairies, ghosts, and goblins, and of the power of witches. For, as for witches, I think not that their witchcraft is any real power, but yet that they are justly punished for the false belief they have that they can do such mischief, joined with their purpose to do it if they can, their trade being nearer to a new religion than to a craft or science. And for fairies, and walking ghosts, the opinion of them has, I think, been on purpose either taught, or not confuted, to keep in credit the use of exorcism, of crosses, of holy water, and other such inventions of ghostly men. Nevertheless, there is no doubt but God can make unnatural apparitions: but that He does it so often as men need to fear such things more than they fear the stay, or change, of the course of Nature, which he also can stay, and change, is no point of Christian faith. But evil men, under pretext that God can do anything, are so bold as to say anything when it serves their turn, though they think it untrue; it is the part of a wise man to believe them no further than right reason makes that which they say appear credible. If this superstitious fear of spirits were taken away, and with it prognostics from dreams, false prophecies, and many other things depending thereon, by which crafty ambitious persons abuse the simple people, men would be would be much more fitted than they are for civil obedience.

Here is Cudworth on witchcraft. He is much more diffuse than Hobbes, and his opinion fills up dozens of pages, and is not continuously expressed. But it includes an endorsement of the death penalty – by hanging or burning – for those who communicate with evil spirits. Here are three passages from Book III, Chapter VI:

As for wizards and magicians, persons who associate and confederate themselves in a peculiar manner with these evil spirits, for the gratification of their own revenge, lust, ambition, and other passions; besides the Scriptures, there hath been so full an  attestation given to them by persons unconcerned in all ages, that  those our  so confident exploders of them, in this present age, can hardly escape the suspicion of having some hankering towards Atheism….

I shall not discourse here, of that power also which evil genii, spirits, may possibly have upon those that have either mancipated themselves unto them, or otherwise forfeited that ordinary protection which divine providence commonly affordeth to all, by acting immediately upon the spirits of the brain, and thereby endeavour to give an account of those phenomena of wizards and witches vulgarly talked of, their seeming transportations in the air, nocturnal conventicles and junketings, and other such like things, as seem plainly contradictions and unreconcilable to philosophy. But we have already said enough to prove that sense is nothing but seeming and appearance….

To  conclude ; all  these  extraordinary   phenomena  of  apparitions, witchcraft,  possessions, miracles, and  prophecies, do evince that spirits, angels or demons, though  invisible  to  us, are no fancies, but real and substantial  inhabitants of  the  world;  which  favours not  the  atheistic hypothesis : but some of them, as the higher kind of miracles and predictions, do also immediately enforce the acknowledgement of a Deity; a being superior to nature,  which  therefore can check  and control  it; and which comprehending the whole, foreknows the most remotely distant and contingent events.

We should not necessarily incline to Hobbism because Hobbes held what we now regard as a reasonable opinion of witchcraft. But anyone who is firmly convinced that witchcraft is a real danger that must be put down by the most revolting punishments is probably not to be followed in any of his other opinions. Anyone who does choose to follow him has probably not read him in full, but only in some modern abridgement or, what is more likely, in a footnote.

Ralph Cudworth v Thomas Hobbes on Witchcraft

Thanks to Google Books, I have just read The True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678) by  Ralph Cudworth (1617-88). This is an immense book. The 1837 edition that I read is well over a thousand pages of closely-packed text, and much of the argument is carried on by quotations in Greek and Latin, which I can read, and in Hebrew, which I cannot.

Its main purpose is to attack the revived atomic materialism of the Greeks. Cudworth believed, probably rightly, that this tended to atheism. Though he is hardly ever named, the most important target is Thomas Hobbes, by whose influence atomic materialism was introduced into English scientific and moral philosophy.

I will not deny Cudworth’s immense learning. I say only that he shares fully in an uncritical approach to the remains of Antiquity that was common to his age; and that his point is carried more by verbal trickery and question-begging, and by arguments from dubious authority, than by the mode of reasoning one finds in the eighteenth century. I am not convinced by any of his specific claims.

For an example of his thought, I supply the key texts in his debate with Hobbes over the reality of witchcraft. There are, to any system of thought, internal and external opinions. In my own case, I believe that the Great War was regrettable and mistaken, and that the Falklands War was regrettable but necessary. These opinions are external to my general libertarianism. My belief in limited government and the rule of law would be unaffected if either was reversed. Equally, my musical and literary tastes are external. My belief in free speech, on the other hand, is internal to my general libertarianism.

Where Hobbes and Cudworth are concerned, their respective opinions about witchcraft are fully internal. Hobbes is a materialist. There is, for him, nothing but atoms in various kinds of motion. It follows from this that any claim of magical power is a lie or a delusion. To accept any such claims would, in itself, refute his general system. He does not deny that there are people who are called or call themselves witches, and he believes that they should be punished so far as their actions may tend to a breach of the peace. But he has no time for the existence of spiritual entities.

Cudworth is a Platonist. He believes that we are surrounded by invisible but powerful beings. Some of these are good, others bad; and it is possible for them to communicate with us and to exchange promises. From this, it follows that witchcraft and demonic possession are possible. They are also evidence for his general system. To deny their reality might not overturn his general system, but would bring it into serious doubt

For this reason, the opinions of Hobbes and Cudworth on witchcraft are relevant to any consideration of their wider views.

Here is Hobbes on witchcraft (from Chapter Two, “Of Imagination,” of Leviathan):

From this ignorance of how to distinguish dreams, and other strong fancies, from vision and sense, did arise the greatest part of the religion of the Gentiles in time past, that worshipped satyrs, fauns, nymphs, and the like; and nowadays the opinion that rude people have of fairies, ghosts, and goblins, and of the power of witches. For, as for witches, I think not that their witchcraft is any real power, but yet that they are justly punished for the false belief they have that they can do such mischief, joined with their purpose to do it if they can, their trade being nearer to a new religion than to a craft or science. And for fairies, and walking ghosts, the opinion of them has, I think, been on purpose either taught, or not confuted, to keep in credit the use of exorcism, of crosses, of holy water, and other such inventions of ghostly men. Nevertheless, there is no doubt but God can make unnatural apparitions: but that He does it so often as men need to fear such things more than they fear the stay, or change, of the course of Nature, which he also can stay, and change, is no point of Christian faith. But evil men, under pretext that God can do anything, are so bold as to say anything when it serves their turn, though they think it untrue; it is the part of a wise man to believe them no further than right reason makes that which they say appear credible. If this superstitious fear of spirits were taken away, and with it prognostics from dreams, false prophecies, and many other things depending thereon, by which crafty ambitious persons abuse the simple people, men would be would be much more fitted than they are for civil obedience.

Here is Cudworth on witchcraft. He is much more diffuse than Hobbes, and his opinion fills up dozens of pages, and is not continuously expressed. But it includes an endorsement of the death penalty – by hanging or burning – for those who communicate with evil spirits. Here are three passages from Book III, Chapter VI:

As for wizards and magicians, persons who associate and confederate themselves in a peculiar manner with these evil spirits, for the gratification of their own revenge, lust, ambition, and other passions; besides the Scriptures, there hath been so full an  attestation given to them by persons unconcerned in all ages, that  those our  so confident exploders of them, in this present age, can hardly escape the suspicion of having some hankering towards Atheism….

I shall not discourse here, of that power also which evil genii, spirits, may possibly have upon those that have either mancipated themselves unto them, or otherwise forfeited that ordinary protection which divine providence commonly affordeth to all, by acting immediately upon the spirits of the brain, and thereby endeavour to give an account of those phenomena of wizards and witches vulgarly talked of, their seeming transportations in the air, nocturnal conventicles and junketings, and other such like things, as seem plainly contradictions and unreconcilable to philosophy. But we have already said enough to prove that sense is nothing but seeming and appearance….

To  conclude ; all  these  extraordinary   phenomena  of  apparitions, witchcraft,  possessions, miracles, and  prophecies, do evince that spirits, angels or demons, though  invisible  to  us, are no fancies, but real and substantial  inhabitants of  the  world;  which  favours not  the  atheistic hypothesis : but some of them, as the higher kind of miracles and predictions, do also immediately enforce the acknowledgement of a Deity; a being superior to nature,  which  therefore can check  and control  it; and which comprehending the whole, foreknows the most remotely distant and contingent events.

We should not necessarily incline to Hobbism because Hobbes held what we now regard as a reasonable opinion of witchcraft. But anyone who is firmly convinced that witchcraft is a real danger that must be put down by the most revolting punishments is probably not to be followed in any of his other opinions. Anyone who does choose to follow him has probably not read him in full, but only in some modern abridgement or, what is more likely, in a footnote.

Ralph Cudworth v Thomas Hobbes on Witchcraft

Thanks to Google Books, I have just read The True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678) by  Ralph Cudworth (1617-88). This is an immense book. The 1837 edition that I read is well over a thousand pages of closely-packed text, and much of the argument is carried on by quotations in Greek and Latin, which I can read, and in Hebrew, which I cannot.

Its main purpose is to attack the revived atomic materialism of the Greeks. Cudworth believed, probably rightly, that this tended to atheism. Though he is hardly ever named, the most important target is Thomas Hobbes, by whose influence atomic materialism was introduced into English scientific and moral philosophy.

I will not deny Cudworth’s immense learning. I say only that he shares fully in an uncritical approach to the remains of Antiquity that was common to his age; and that his point is carried more by verbal trickery and question-begging, and by arguments from dubious authority, than by the mode of reasoning one finds in the eighteenth century. I am not convinced by any of his specific claims.

For an example of his thought, I supply the key texts in his debate with Hobbes over the reality of witchcraft. There are, to any system of thought, internal and external opinions. In my own case, I believe that the Great War was regrettable and mistaken, and that the Falklands War was regrettable but necessary. These opinions are external to my general libertarianism. My belief in limited government and the rule of law would be unaffected if either was reversed. Equally, my musical and literary tastes are external. My belief in free speech, on the other hand, is internal to my general libertarianism.

Where Hobbes and Cudworth are concerned, their respective opinions about witchcraft are fully internal. Hobbes is a materialist. There is, for him, nothing but atoms in various kinds of motion. It follows from this that any claim of magical power is a lie or a delusion. To accept any such claims would, in itself, refute his general system. He does not deny that there are people who are called or call themselves witches, and he believes that they should be punished so far as their actions may tend to a breach of the peace. But he has no time for the existence of spiritual entities.

Cudworth is a Platonist. He believes that we are surrounded by invisible but powerful beings. Some of these are good, others bad; and it is possible for them to communicate with us and to exchange promises. From this, it follows that witchcraft and demonic possession are possible. They are also evidence for his general system. To deny their reality might not overturn his general system, but would bring it into serious doubt

For this reason, the opinions of Hobbes and Cudworth on witchcraft are relevant to any consideration of their wider views.

Here is Hobbes on witchcraft (from Chapter Two, “Of Imagination,” of Leviathan):

From this ignorance of how to distinguish dreams, and other strong fancies, from vision and sense, did arise the greatest part of the religion of the Gentiles in time past, that worshipped satyrs, fauns, nymphs, and the like; and nowadays the opinion that rude people have of fairies, ghosts, and goblins, and of the power of witches. For, as for witches, I think not that their witchcraft is any real power, but yet that they are justly punished for the false belief they have that they can do such mischief, joined with their purpose to do it if they can, their trade being nearer to a new religion than to a craft or science. And for fairies, and walking ghosts, the opinion of them has, I think, been on purpose either taught, or not confuted, to keep in credit the use of exorcism, of crosses, of holy water, and other such inventions of ghostly men. Nevertheless, there is no doubt but God can make unnatural apparitions: but that He does it so often as men need to fear such things more than they fear the stay, or change, of the course of Nature, which he also can stay, and change, is no point of Christian faith. But evil men, under pretext that God can do anything, are so bold as to say anything when it serves their turn, though they think it untrue; it is the part of a wise man to believe them no further than right reason makes that which they say appear credible. If this superstitious fear of spirits were taken away, and with it prognostics from dreams, false prophecies, and many other things depending thereon, by which crafty ambitious persons abuse the simple people, men would be would be much more fitted than they are for civil obedience.

Here is Cudworth on witchcraft. He is much more diffuse than Hobbes, and his opinion fills up dozens of pages, and is not continuously expressed. But it includes an endorsement of the death penalty – by hanging or burning – for those who communicate with evil spirits. Here are three passages from Book III, Chapter VI:

As for wizards and magicians, persons who associate and confederate themselves in a peculiar manner with these evil spirits, for the gratification of their own revenge, lust, ambition, and other passions; besides the Scriptures, there hath been so full an  attestation given to them by persons unconcerned in all ages, that  those our  so confident exploders of them, in this present age, can hardly escape the suspicion of having some hankering towards Atheism….

I shall not discourse here, of that power also which evil genii, spirits, may possibly have upon those that have either mancipated themselves unto them, or otherwise forfeited that ordinary protection which divine providence commonly affordeth to all, by acting immediately upon the spirits of the brain, and thereby endeavour to give an account of those phenomena of wizards and witches vulgarly talked of, their seeming transportations in the air, nocturnal conventicles and junketings, and other such like things, as seem plainly contradictions and unreconcilable to philosophy. But we have already said enough to prove that sense is nothing but seeming and appearance….

To  conclude ; all  these  extraordinary   phenomena  of  apparitions, witchcraft,  possessions, miracles, and  prophecies, do evince that spirits, angels or demons, though  invisible  to  us, are no fancies, but real and substantial  inhabitants of  the  world;  which  favours not  the  atheistic hypothesis : but some of them, as the higher kind of miracles and predictions, do also immediately enforce the acknowledgement of a Deity; a being superior to nature,  which  therefore can check  and control  it; and which comprehending the whole, foreknows the most remotely distant and contingent events.

We should not necessarily incline to Hobbism because Hobbes held what we now regard as a reasonable opinion of witchcraft. But anyone who is firmly convinced that witchcraft is a real danger that must be put down by the most revolting punishments is probably not to be followed in any of his other opinions. Anyone who does choose to follow him has probably not read him in full, but only in some modern abridgement or, what is more likely, in a footnote.

The Death of Jeremy Thorpe: Rinka’s Revenge (2014), by Sean Gabb

I hear that Jeremy Thorpe is dead. He inspired my first poetic work of any substance. Written when I was still at school, The Trial of Jeremy Thorpe has joined the catalogue of my lost works. I conceived a strong prejudice against Mr Thorpe the first time I saw him on the telly. I was equally partial to Norman Scott, whose only fault, I would ever allow, was a certain resemblance to Hermann Goering. And I felt sorry for Rinka. Put me on the Jury, and I'd have found the wretch guilty for that alone – even if the prosecution evidence, I now have to admit, was less than compelling.

I had not the smallest doubt, as a schoolboy, that he was guilty as charged, and I set to work on my play during the trial itself. I hoped it would please my English teacher. I was so annoyed when he was acquitted that it nearly took the shine off  Margaret Thatcher's first election victory.

Of course, I never dared publish. I last saw the manuscript in 1983. All I can presently recall is part of a chorus of drunken journalists who accost the chief prosecution witness in the Old Bailey:

Jeremy, bold and ruthless,
Than leaders old and toothless,
Better by far, we heard
From Jeremy – how absurd!

Jeremy married a wife,
Then, [three lines deleted because I have acquired some decency with age]

[Whole verse deleted for same reason]

Jeremy butchered a hound,
Nor ever was uttered a sound
Within our English shores –
Oh, horrid libel laws!

Beware, O Male Model,
As murder's quite a doddle
For those to place elected,
Or rich and well-connected.

As I write, other fragments come to mind. Here is part of an antiphonal chorus:

Pillow-biting Norman, young and ignorant and poor,
Took his doggy, Rinka, for a walk on Porlock Moor….

Here is part of a soliloquy:

Three days has the Jury been out.
Three days have I watched and waited, waited and watched,
For some sign that my ordeal is over.
And, in this time, have I gone on sinning –
Sinning and partly-sinning –
In the hope that greater sins may cover lesser sins,
As lesser sins may cover tiny sins,
And so on till there are no sins at all….

And here is the end of a police officer's speech, in which he moves between English and Latin (excuse the false quantity):

Mendax es honestior,
Doloris donor cani:
Quam os tuum castior
Podex est Normani.

My sole talent as a poet, I regret to say, is for defamation. Forty years of scribbling, and I haven't produced anything memorable that isn't a gross insult.

Review of Book by Thomas Knapp (2014), by Sean Gabb

Review Article by Sean Gabb

KN@PPSTER's Big Freakin' Book of Stuff:
Essays, Articles, Rants and Ruminations, 1995-2014
Thomas L. Knapp
Various Formats and Prices

As its title indicates, this book is a collection of essays written during the past twenty years. Some of them are very short – often, in my opinion, too short for a proper discussion of the issues raised, or to show their author’s excellence as a writer. Some are longer. One or two show a measured firmness of mind that I hope will one day be more generally admired than is likely now to be the case. But all show a view of the world, as it is and as it ought to be, that is distinctively Thomas Knapp.

For a summary of what is distinctively Thomas Knapp, take this, from his essay on 3D printing and guns:

A new, free society is building itself in the shell of the dying authoritarian society. Technologies of abundance, with all those technologies imply, are an inescapable feature of that new, free society. The sooner you begin availing yourself of your continuously expanding options, the faster and less violent the transition will be. [p.382]

I take a less optimistic view of the future. But Thomas may be right. At the beginning of 1914, hardly anyone realised that the twentieth century had not yet properly begun, and that it would, over much of the world, be ghastly beyond imagining. Equally, it may be that the twenty first has not yet begun, and that this will flatten the assumptions of the twentieth just as the twentieth flattened those of the nineteenth.

And there are grounds for optimism. Fifty years ago, both in America and in England, being found in bed with another man could get you into prison. Women were legally inferior. Non-whites were decidedly unequal. For all we may deplore the excesses of the gay and feminist and black lobbies, and the legal privileges they are unwisely heaping up for themselves, we live in societies where people are far less despised than at any time in history for their innate differences. Perhaps the breakdown of the old centralised media, and the crisis of legitimacy this has created, will take us forward into a world where the newer forms of persecution – mostly of dissenting opinion and of freely-chosen lifestyle – will also be swept away.

In the meantime, there is much to be denounced, and Thomas thunders away like an Old Testament prophet reborn in the American mid-west. See him on the moves ot ban e-cigarettes:

When they're not banning tobacco they're banning trans-fats. When they're not banning trans-fats they're banning large soft drinks. And when their soft drink ban gets quashed, their next target is electronic cigarettes. ‘For the public health!’ is the new ‘I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Good Osburn with the devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!’ [p.373]

Or see him on the American national debt:

At no point have I authorized the Congress of the United States to borrow money in my name or on my behalf. Nor have I at any time co-signed said loans, guaranteed said loans, or agreed to repay any portion of said loans. [p.291]

Or see him on his government’s partiality for endless war:

From an anarchist standpoint, war (and preparation for war) is one of the primary instruments which the political class of every country, and their ‘transnational’ partners, use to savage the freedoms and empty the pocketbooks of their subjects for their own benefit. 99% of the time, that's its only purpose. The other 1% of the time is when one particular clique of the political class is in real existential danger from another clique or cliques, and wants their subjects to bail them out. So, get back to me if the war you’re selling is revolutionary. [p.293]

Now, whole Thomas is a friend, and while I wholeheartedly agree with the three quotations given above, and while I do earnestly ask that you should read his book, and even pay him for it, my general approval does not mean that I am in full agreement with all that I find in his book. Indeed, probably one of the reasons we are friends is that we have agreed on a whole range of issues not to agree, and not to think ill of each other for our disagreement.

What I believe, and I think Thomas agrees, is that libertarian is procedurally different from most other ideologies. Unlike with Marxism-Leninism, for example, or Roman Catholicism, or Sunni Islam, we have no orthodoxy. You are, for the most part, a libertarian if you call yourself one. I make the reservation only because there are some limits. You are expected to have some regard for life, liberty and property. If, to fight the war on “islamofascism,” you support biometric identity cards and the state abduction of children, you need to be deluded or lying if you say you are also a libertarian. But if you are for or against intellectual property rights, or big business corporations, or if you make a reasoned case for certain restraints on liberty in the short term – or if you deny the case for such restraints regardless of the likely consequences – you do not, in my view, place yourself outside the libertarian movement.

As Director of the Libertarian Alliance, of course, I might be expected to say this. But, if mine were a belief more widely shared in the movement, much of the time we give to anathematising each other could be put to making the various kinds of libertarian case.

I am not saying that we should avoid argument, when we find that we do not agree on something. Indeed, we are obliged – for the sake of reaching a better understanding of truth, and of advertising that we are a living movement – to argue out our disagreements to the best of our ability. What I do say is that we should avoid any temptation to fall out when we disagree, or to start trading accusations of bad faith or stupidity.

This being said, I will explain one of my points of disagreement with Thomas. He regards it as a mistake bordering on folly to have anything to do with what may be called the political right. As one of the directing minds of the Center for a Stateless Society, he is happy enough to reach out to “the left.” But he is suspicious of everything represented by the Ron Paul movement. He says:

I don't dispute the possibility that there might have been a point in time when the libertarian and paleoconservative ideological trains found themselves sharing a short section of political track. But that the putative heirs of Ludwig von Mises were possessed of such utter hubris as to attempt not only a long-term hitching together of those trains, but a fueling of the hypothetically resulting powerful locomotive with the worst material they could find … well, that just creeps me out. [pp.175-76]

Without endorsing anything that was said, or that may have been said, by Ron Paul and those round him, I disagree with Thomas. I will note that "left" and "right" are slippery words. For a long term, I tried to avoid using them, but they are embedded in our way of thinking about the world, and cannot easily be avoided.

As I see it, the “left” has four parts:

1. There are the more or less Orthodox Marxists. For the sake of brevity, I include the Trotskyites. Never mind what Karl Marx may himself have said – and there is some ambiguity here – these people are defined by their level of agreement with the practice of the Soviet Union. They are not coterminous with libertarians. Outreach to them is useful, so far as they are often clever, and they make good converts.

2. There are the old-fashioned state socialists. These are people like Douglas Jay, who was a Minister in the post-War Labour Government, and whose most quotable utterance was: “In the case of nutrition and health, just as in the case of education, the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves.” I rest my case.

3. There are the cultural leftists. These are people who have no objection to corporatism at home and militarism abroad, so long as the bombing is "humanitarian" and so long as the oligarchs wear pony tails and give their workers time off to attend gay weddings. They often look libertarian, and some of them can be turned. Also, the corporations they dominate – things like Apple, Google, FaceBook, etc – are essential for the promotion of libertarianism. But your hard core cultural leftist is politically a fan of people like Tony Blair and the two Clintons. He is not a libertarian.

4. There are the syndicalists, the anarcho-communists, the mutualists, and so on and so forth. I accept these are our people, or are potentially ours, and I admire the C4SS outreach to bring them to a better view of market relationships.

So far as I am correct, any outreach to the “left” must be to a small minority of leftists. It is worth trying, but is unlikely in itself to build the critical mass that we do not currently have.

The problem with the “right” is that it is, for anyone on the outside, one great Terra Incognita. But I have spent many years exploring it, and can speak with some authority on its geography. To drop the metaphor, its main common denominator is opposition to the "left" and to the established order. Beyond this, its main groupings may have little in common. We can easily do business with some of them.

We can expect nothing of the hard core anti-semitic or other conspiracy theorists. Giving people like David Duke the time of day will not bring him over in any meaningful sense, and will cover anyone who approaches him in terminal disrepute. Ditto the skinheads. But there are some traditionalists – a very loose term, I agree, and I am mostly thinking of English traditionalists – some mystics, some white separatists, some biblical fundamentalists, and many others, who are worth engaging in dialogue. The best line of argument with them is to show how the actually-existing State is inherently leftist, and that, while they might put themselves on top of this in some kind of electoral or violent coup, they cannot hope to run it. Therefore, they should embrace a conditional libertarianism. Since they have no hope of constructing the police state of their dreams, they might as well settle for a massive scaling back of the police state we have.

There are several benefits to this approach:

1. When people become conditional libertarians, they may eventually come to believe the propaganda they write – that is, they may be brought over.

2. When the current order of things does collapse, we may find them useful allies in making sure there is no further collapse into naked totalitarianism. Somewhere in his book, Thomas says that there may be only about a hundred thousand market anarchists in the whole world. We do need allies and fellow travellers.

3. Since there will be mystics and traditionalists and the like, some of them might as well be persuaded to incorporate some elements of libertarianism.

The danger to be avoided is that mixing with such people will pull us more in their direction than they are pulled in ours. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that our evangelists are secure in their own beliefs. I think that includes me. As a possible model of this approach, see the speech I gave last year to the Traditional Britain Group.

Therefore, we need a double strategy of outreach. Reaching out to the “right” is just as legitimate as reaching out to the “left.” Again, I do not align myself with anything that he may have said, or that was said in his name. But the broad strategy of Ron Paul is no less legitimate than that of the C4SS.

I should say that I have had this argument in private with Thomas, and his response was that libertarianism is itself a leftist ideology, and all socialists not amenable to libertarian arguments are on the “right.” I find this an unhelpful use of taxonomy; and it avoids a response to the substantive points that I made.

Doubtless, this argument will continue. Rather, however, than say more here, I will end by repeating that this is a fine book, and that you should click on the link at the head of my review and buy a copy.

Sean Gabb on “The European Right (2014)

Audio File Here

The European Right
by Sean Gabb
A Speech Given in Washington
on Friday the 31st October 2014
to the Seventh Annual Meeting of the H.L. Mencken Club

When I was invited to address this gathering on the subject of “The European Right,” I rather think I was expected to bring with me a note of cheer. The various, and mutually hostile movements that may be described as the European Right had just done well in the elections to the European Parliament, and you were living through the fifth year of what you doubtless call the Obama Tyranny. If I could be brought over, to tell you how clean and brave things were turning in the Great European Motherland, what a fine dinner this would be.

Well, that was then, and we are now. Since there are people in this room who were in Budapest earlier this month, and since you have all read at least as much about what happened there as I have, I will spend no time on the details of the conference of the National Policy Institute. I will only say that, of all the countries in Europe, Hungary seemed the most appropriate for this conference. It was still banned by a government that the mainstream media regards as semi-fascist, and disowned by a party that is regarded as fascist without qualification.

Or there is Mr Putin’s Russia. I have no doubt there are people in this room who will argue that this is the last and greatest hope for traditionalist civilisation. Even so, its authorities prevented Alexander Dugin from travelling to Hungary, and joined in the general denunciation of the conference. This, however, should not be a surprise. For about a quarter of a millennium, Western conservatives and anti-conservatives have taken turns at falling in love with Russia. First it was Diderot, then de Maistre. Then it was a whole run of twentieth century leftists who thought the Bolshevik regime was going in broadly the right direction. Nowadays, it is conservatives and nationalists again. All have been, or will be, disappointed. Diderot went looking for enlightened despotism. He found only despotism. De Maistre was put off by the persecutions of Western Christianity, and even by the daily facts of serfdom. The more honest leftists of the last century had to give up first on denying, then on defending, the industrial mass-murders. Mr Putin’s fan club is facing a similar disappointment. I freely admit that he is a useful counterweight to the military and ideological power of our masters. He may have prevented a general war in the Middle East. His interference in the Ukraine may not in itself be unreasonable, and I believe, or hope, that a deal can be struck to prevent further instability on the eastern borders of our civilisation. But, from any Western point of view, there never has been, and never may be, anything positive to be said about Russia.

I turn to my own country, where the UK Independence Party (UKIP) not only won the European elections, but has also now won a seat in our own Parliament. I spoke with someone earlier today who dismissed UKIP as a party of soft-core libertarians. This is broadly right as a description, and, since I am a hard-core libertarian, I take it more as a compliment than a criticism. I will also go back to my opening comments. I said that the European Right is a variety of movements. Each nation has its own traditions. In some of these nations, the local tradition is validly expressed by young men in uniforms who like to recite Friedrich Nietzsche and Julius Evola. The English tradition, on the other hand, is liberalism. You may not like this any more than I like those young men in uniforms. But if, as I do, you want to see a traditionalist revival in England, you cannot despise our taste for trial by jury and freedom of the press and some form of parliamentary government and free market economics, and all the other manifestations of a national turn of thought that can be traced back into the mists of time.

This being said, I do not expect UKIP to continue its present run of good luck. As in America, the British electoral system gives power to whichever party can get a simple majority of the votes in a majority of the constituencies. The present effect of this is that, if we want to avoid being ruled by the party we fear, we must vote for the party we despise. In the European and local elections, I gladly vote UKIP. In next year’s general election, I will almost certainly vote Conservative. There are just enough differences between the Conservative and Labour Parties for me not to want another Labour Government. So it is with many other UKIP supporters. I shall be surprised if UKIP keeps its present seat in Parliament. I shall be astonished if it makes actual gains next year.

So much, then, for the European Right. You may wish to believe that the revolution against the present order of things will begin in Europe, and that you can benefit by the example of our exertions. The truth, however, is that – define it as you will – the centre of power in our civilisation is inside the United States. So long as America remains what it currently is, there can be no meaningful change in Europe. You cannot look to us for salvation. We must look to you.

I do not and cannot have the inside details of what happened earlier this month in Budapest. But I think it reasonable to believe that some kind of American influence was placed on the Hungarian authorities to disrupt the NPI conference. Undoubtedly, the American Government made none of the protests it would have made at the arrest and deportation of American citizens had they been in Budapest to call for the legalisation of homosexual marriage, or for higher welfare spending on the Gypsies.

But, rather than try guessing the motivations of people whose language and culture I do not know, let me say what I believe to be the case in my own country. I and many of my friends in UKIP want radical change in England. We do not want our armed forces sent out to make violent fools of themselves in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. We want no trouble with Russia. How and when we leave the European Union are matters to be discussed, but we want the laws under which we live to be made in our own country, and by men who are fully accountable to us. We want to legalise all drugs. We want to end the financial police state imposed on us in the name of the war on money laundering. We want a currency based in some degree on gold. We do not want our fellow citizens to be extradited, on the word of a foreign prosecutor, to face charges, in alien and usually corrupt jurisdictions, of offences that do not exist, or ought not to exist, in our own laws. We want to end the lunatic pretence that membership of our nation is something that can be conferred by a sheet of paper issued by the State. Though, in this matter, we do not know exactly how to proceed, we do not look kindly on the growth in our own land of alien and hostile enclaves. In short, we want our country back.

Yet any government we might somehow find that was committed to giving us our country back would face immediate, and perhaps decisive, opposition from the American Government. You may object that the wish list I have just announced is not only shared by large sections of the American people, but is even inspired by the American conservative and libertarian movements. This may be the case. It is also the case that the American Government is neither conservative nor libertarian, and that it presides over a New World Order that it does not wish to see shaken by the defection of its most important foreign satellite.

Your Government may have leaned on the Hungarians to make life hard for Richard Spencer. Undoubtedly, in 1956, it stopped a British invasion of Egypt, because this pursuit of what the British Government regarded as the British national interest was not congruent with the perceived interests of the American Government. In 1982, a British war with Argentina was only allowed to proceed after a furious debate within the American ruling class. In 1979, it is widely believed that the CIA murdered Airey Neave, a British politician whose policy on Ulster did not suit American policy on Ireland. In 2003, David Kelly, a British civil servant who was an expert on Iraq, may have been murdered by the CIA. It is at least in accord with the known facts that, in 2001 and 2005, the Conservative Party was leaned on to lose the general elections of those years – Tony Blair being seen as Washington’s man in London.

When the relevant archives are finally opened, some of my suppositions may be shown to be false. But, considering what is undoubtedly true of relations between the British and American Governments at least since 1940, I have no doubt that other scandalous transactions will come to light. More to the point, I have no doubt that no British Government committed to anything approaching my wish list in its dissent from the New World Order would be tolerated.

I may, so far, have said nothing disagreeable to this audience. Some of you are nodding. Some of you are probably thinking of the wicked Feds in Washington, or the neo-conservatives, or perhaps of some other group that is to be blamed for having made America into the policeman of the New World Order. As an outsider looking in, however, I do not see anything in America’s current status as Evil Empire that is not wholly in keeping with the development of the American mind over the past four centuries. Europe is being smothered not because America has been captured by a sinister minority, but because the self-destruction, during the twentieth century, of every other force that might have opposed it has left America free to remake the world in its own historic image.

The story of America begins in England at the time of the Protestant Reformation. I have said that the English tradition is liberalism. This is a great but a partial truth. The modern world began in England. It was an Englishman who said “The poorest he that is in England hath a live to live as the richest he.” It is in England that limited government under the rule of law first became an established fact. It is in England, indeed, where respect for the Common Law was so unquestioned that slavery could be abolished by a judgment of the courts, and where, at the height of the panic over the French Revolution, suspected and probable traitors had to be let go because a jury, operating under due process of law, could not be persuaded that they had committed any offence known to the law.

But this soft-core libertarian ascendency was always challenged, and was sometimes displaced, by an alternative tradition, which my friend on the Libertarian Alliance Blog, Ian Bland, summarises as “puritanism.” A puritan does not believe in “live and let live.” He does not agree with A.E. Housman:

And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?
Please yourselves, say I, and they
Need only look the other way.

Instead:

But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbour to their will,
And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.

A puritan is someone who believes so passionately in his own rightness and goodness that nothing must stand in the way of his ability to make others dance as he desires. Laws are to restrain the evil. The good need no restraint.

The first notable contest in England between libertarians and puritans took place in the middle decades of the seventeenth century. We should not see this as primarily a religious dispute. Calvinism did not make men into puritans. Puritans became Calvinists because Calvinism, in the mental furniture of that age, was the most appropriate expression of their pre-existing urge to control others. We should also put aside the historical accident of an accompanying dispute over the relative powers of the Crown and Parliament, in which the puritans found themselves arguing against an expanded central government. The key point to be kept in mind is that the puritan victory in the Civil War of the 1640s enabled the brief flowering of a moral totalitarianism that saw Catholics and suspected witches, and anyone else not seen as morally correct hunted down with grim hysteria. During the brief puritan ascendency in England, the theatres were closed, sinful pictures were defaced, Christmas was banned, and adultery carried the death penalty.

The good news for England is that this ascendency collapsed in 1660, and was followed by two centuries of rule by a broadly libertarian aristocracy. The bad news for America is that many of the disappointed puritans came over here to create their Shining City on the Hill.

The idea of American exceptionalism is entirely puritan in its origin. We see it in the strategy followed by the North in the War between the States. Since the United States were an expression of absolute good, anyone who wanted to disunite them was absolutely evil, and therefore deserved neither justice nor common humanity. Therefore, the atrocities that attended the conquest of the South. Therefore, the deviations from the rule of law in the treatment of dissenters in the North. Therefore, the illiberality of the Reconstruction of the South.

Or we see it in the civil politics of America. During the nineteenth century, religion faded here, as everywhere else, as a legitimising ideology. And so religious puritanism was supplemented by various ideologies of “social purity.” In England, this was moderated by the diminished but continuing rule of the aristocracy. Not so in America, where the only check on the puritans was the ability of people to run beyond a frontier that kept chasing them until, in 1896, there was nowhere left to run. This is the country where, before about 1960, the war against licentious books and films and theatrical displays was carried to a degree unknown in England. It is the country where beer was banned, and where, in many States, smoking came close to being banned. It is the country where, in one place, Bizet’s opera Carmen could only be put on after the first act was resited from outside a cigarette factory to outside a dairy. It is the country whose government gave the world its present War on Drugs and money laundering. It is the country where, at least until a time in living memory, there were criminal laws to be found against adultery and “oral sodomy.”

Many conservatives, when they look at the revolutionary changes of the 1960s, confuse two separate forces. The first is the collapse of the old ideologies that had legitimised Anglo-American puritanism. God was either dead or redefined as love. Ideas of social control were falling apart under the combined assault of sex and drugs and orgiastic music. The second force was the growth of a new legitimising ideology for a puritanism that remained inherent in part of the Anglo-American – or mainly now in the American – character, and had only lost its language of control.

Cultural Marxism – that is, the loose bag of ideas put together by men like Gramsci and Adorno and Marcuse and Althusser and Foucault – is largely a Jewish movement. The more sinister commissars of political correctness do tend to be Jewish. But this is not at all to say that America, since the 1960s or before, has been subverted by Jews. In terms of its intellectual cohesion and logical force, Classical Marxism was far more powerful than Cultural Marxism. This also was largely Jewish. But, in England and America, bird watchers and train spotters have probably had more practical influence than the Classical Marxists. What has made Cultural Marxism so hegemonic, first in America, and then in its political and cultural satellites, is that it provides the same ideology of legitimisation to the puritans in our own age as Calvinism did in the seventeenth century.

For the largely Jewish fathers of Cultural Marxism, racism and sexism and the persecution of sexual minorities were products of capitalism. Their Heaven on Earth was to be brought about by the achievement of a socialism that would avoid the compromises that had led them to reject the Soviet experiment as a decayed workers’ state. Actually existing Cultural Marxism has no fixed opinion on who should own the means of production. Undoubtedly, the means of production should be controlled. But the object of control is not to bring about any mistaken idea of economic rationality, or to raise up the working masses. The object of control is twofold. First, it is to make sure that people shall not be allowed to drink or smoke or eat whatever food is currently disapproved. Second, it is to deprive people of any space outside ruling class control in which they can think and speak and live as they please. Let this double object be achieved, and enterprise and profit are almost as much to be celebrated by the politically correct as they are in the works of Ayn Rand.

What I am saying is that the current order of things that all of us in this room variously deplore is nothing but a new puritanism for the twenty first century. Racism and sexism and other “inappropriate speech and conduct” are the modern sins that a ruling class, itself morally pure, is not to be restrained in putting down. And it follows from what I am saying that what happened earlier this month in Budapest, so far as it was encouraged, or merely approved, by the American Government, is as much part of the American Way, as evidenced from the first arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers, as Sherman’s March to the Sea, or the resiting of the first act of Carmen, or the banning, under American pressure, by the French Government of brothels in 1946.

I say, then, that your country is the problem. Though you personally may oppose it, your government is an organic expression of your country as it has developed. So long as your country remains supreme in the world, do not look to a gaggle of European nationalists for any kind of salvation.

Though I could easily say more than I have, there is a time limit to my speech, and I regard it as good manners to keep to that limit. And so the question of how to remove America from its current eminence in the world is not one that I will discuss in the detail that it needs. I will only say that I have no faith in the two main initiatives of the American Right. The first involves a constitutional reaction that will shrink the American State at home and abroad. Since most dissent over Federal policy on gun control and affirmative action and the like takes place against a shared background of belief in American exceptionalism, I see at best only a marginal shift in American control. The second initiative is to break up the United States by establishing a white ethno-state in the north west of your continent. Bearing in mind how your ruling class dealt with the last serious attempt at secession, and bearing in mind the continuing power of the present legitimising ideology, and bearing also in mind the manifest oddity of many of the advocates of this ethno-state, I really see no need here for speaking at length.

If at all in the foreseeable future, the most likely cause of American decline in the world is the policies of your own ruling class. Out of control state spending has already placed a limit to the military projection of American power. It is also making the dollar increasingly useless as an international currency. I could make a joke about how your equal opportunities approach to military recruitment will eventually open the Marines to paraplegic lesbians – only I suspect this is already on the agenda. Above all, displacement levels of immigration from the third world will, sooner or later, weaken the puritan element in American politics. The attendant degradation of the business environment may even bring about a transfer of economic primacy to somewhere else in the world where the ruling class is less immoderate in its urge to make others dance as they desire. On the other hand, I do worry that whichever new power takes over from America will be even worse, if in different ways.

This gathering is named in honour of H.L. Mencken, a man who devoted his career to provoking outrage in his audience. But I fear that even you will think ill of me if I hurry to the logical conclusion of my speech, which is a panegyric on Mr Obama and all his efforts, and those of his friends, in recent years to bring about an end to the United States as we have always known it. Instead, I will end by telling you, once again, not to expect anything you may regard as good news from the European Right.

Did Christ Exist? (2014), by Sean Gabb

More reason to suppose The Daily Mail is written and edited by imbeciles. On the 1st October 2014, the following article was published: Jesus NEVER existed’: Writer finds no mention of Christ in 126 historical texts and says he was a ‘mythical character It reports the following claims:

  • Writer Michael Paulkovich has claimed that there is a little evidence for a person known as Jesus existing in history
  • Jesus is thought to have lived from about 7BC to 33AD in the Roman Empire
  • However Paulkovich says he found little to no mention of the supposed messiah in 126 texts written in the first to third centuries
  • Only one mention of Jesus was present, in a book by Roman historian Josephus Flavius, but he says this was added by later editors
  • He says this is surprising despite the ‘alleged worldwide fame’ of Jesus
  • And this has led him to believe that Jesus was a ‘mythical character’

This is piffling. Though Mr Paulkovich denies it, there are mentions of Christ in Suetonius and Tacitus and Pliny the Younger – all writing about 70 years after the Crucifixion. The Gospels themselves have a ring of truth in their historical particulars. As for the alleged mistranslation of τέκτων, the Greek Fathers seem to have had no doubt regarding Joseph’s occupation.

This is not to say that Jesus was the Son of God. But it does strike me that the evidence for his existence as a real person is established beyond reasonable doubt.

Oh, and here are a couple of the relevant passages this crank says are not there.

Tacitus, Annals 14:44:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.

Suetonius, Claudius 25:

Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.

These also have a ring of authenticity. If there had been a Stalinesque programme of interpolation into the Latin classics, there would have been protests right through to the end of Antiquity. There should have been more interpolations. They should have been less casual but more devout.

Yes the man is a crank. How did he get into a mainstream newspaper? Or have I already answered this?

How to Learn Greek and Latin (2014) by Sean Gabb

How to Learn Greek and Latin
by Sean Gabb (October 2014)

I have been invited to teach Latin to the older children at a local primary school. Since the Latin taught will be very basic, and since I have already agreed what textbook I am to use, I will take the same approach as I might if teaching French or Spanish to children. The fact of the engagement, though, has prompted me to various thoughts on how adults can most efficiently learn either or both of the classical languages.

Now, the first point to discuss is why anyone should learn them. Perhaps the only language nowadays worth learning is English. This is the language of science and technology and the main language of communication. It is also the language of two wealthy and powerful nations, with a shared great literature and with separate but equally instructive histories. If you are not a native, this is the only foreign language you need to learn or perfect. If you are a native, you may find it useful to learn another language to live or do business in a foreign country. But why bother with Latin or Greek?

There are three main answers to this question. The first is that learning either language immerses you in the only civilisation comparable in its achievements to our own. Indeed, in several respects, it was superior to our own. It is worth studying purely for itself. Second, that civilisation is the basis of our own. We cannot fully understand who we are, and where we are, without a close knowledge of the Ancients. Third, there is a practical value for those of us whose first language is English. Our language is deficient in the obvious distinctions of grammar. Most nouns have only singular and plural forms. Most verbs have only four or five distinct forms. The present participle, the gerund and gerundive all share the suffix –ing. All tenses beyond the present and past perfect are formed by compounding with auxiliaries. It is the same with the various moods. For this reason, English grammar is best learned by comparing it with that of a more inflected language. German has shed many of its inflections. Greek uses a different alphabet. That leaves us with Latin.

This being so, I pass to the question of how to learn the ancient languages. Until recently in England, the custom was to give boys in the better kind of school a text by Julius Caesar or Cornelius Nepos, and to have them go through it sentence by sentence. In class, they would take turns to construe the text, and the teacher would explain the grammar and syntax of the language. Class preparation involved memorising the declensions and conjugations and using a dictionary to make sense of the text. It was the same with Greek, only the boys were expected to know Latin, and the preferred text was by Xenophon. The first five years of a traditional course could be difficult. A few hundred years of experience had shown that the best way to keep the boys attentive and willing to learn was to threaten them with violence.

It was not an ideal mode of instruction, and our modern softness of our manners has removed the chief incentive to learn. It is also not suited to girls or to adult learners. It has nowadays been replaced by giving students specially-composed passages, and providing each of these with a full vocabulary and just enough grammatical explanation to make sense of them. These passages run in complexity from something like Amelia est puella…, to simplified extracts from the classics.

This is the method I shall be using in my class. It works with children. Even a few months will give them some Latin and improve their English. The problem is that, unless the ascent is very steep, it can take years before a student is able to read a classical text. And it is still not suited to adult learners. If you want to learn Latin, how long will you put up with stories about trips to Eboracum to buy brooches and waxed tablets?

I have no training in linguistics, and am at best only an occasional teacher of Latin. But my suggestion is to ignore every instruction course presently on the market. If there are some that cannot be avoided, many of the difficulties involved in learning a language can be avoided or reduced. In saying this, I speak from experience.

I decided when I was eight that I wanted to learn Greek. I had come across the Roger Lancelyn Green retelling of the Iliad and Odyssey, and begun my love affair with the Greeks. So I hurried off to the local library and took out a self-instruction course. Having been taught no grammar, I found it hard to understand. I did learn the alphabet, but got no further. Instead, I found a text of The Odyssey and pored over it all afternoon with a dictionary and a translation. I did puzzle out the meaning of 

ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ
πλάγχθη…
.

There, however, I stopped. I failed to see that ἄνδρα πολύτροπον were an accusative noun and adjective, and that, in an inflected language, there was no reason for them not to be separated, or that μοι was the dative of ἐγὼ. This is a shame, as I had nearly got to the right way of learning Greek. But I took my difficulties to my teacher at school. Her response was a patronising lecture in front of the other boys, who now were given another reason to be horrid to me. So I stopped.

When I was twelve, I decided I wanted to learn Latin. That involved another trip to the library and another self-instruction course. This time, I told no one else, and got about half way through the course, and learnt more grammar than I got in the whole time I served in a dreadful comprehensive school in South London. By the time I ran out of steam, I was able to follow some of the Latin in the Loeb classical texts. I should have finished the course. But I was worn down by the silliness of the made up texts I had to read. I did not entirely stop, but I became more desultory in my study of the language.

Then, before I went to university, I found a copy of the Latin Vulgate in a second hand bookshop. I could read it. The Latin was mostly simple. I often knew the text in English. Otherwise, it was easy to look up the English equivalents. I now had the key to success that I had nearly found ten years earlier. Indeed, this was a better key. The pagan classics are always loosely translated. You will not get far as a beginner by comparing the original with a translation. The Bible is different. It is invariably translated out of the original tongues by men who believe it is the revealed Word of God, and that the original must be followed absolutely. St Jerome made as literal a translation from Greek and Hebrew as his language allowed. So did the commissioners appointed by King James. Each version corresponds with the original. Leave aside slight variations between the originals, and each version corresponds with the other. And I had no need of a dictionary – often more confusing than useful for looking up meanings in a language of multiple and often irregular inflections and compounds.

In a few weeks, I read through Matthew and Acts and both Corinthians. From there, it was still a long jump into the classics. But I got there. I did it by memorising one poem of Catullus at a time, and thinking out its meaning as I went about my business. When I was done with Catullus, I moved to the Sixth Book of The Aeneid, and from there to the Imperial Biographies of Suetonius.

None of this was without effort. Even with The Bible, I still had to spend hours with Kennedy’s Latin Primer. But the mass of declensions and conjugations, and all those rules of syntax were much easier to digest when taken in small chunks, and when they related to practical difficulties. Yes, I taught myself Latin.

After university, I decided to take up Greek again. This went badly at first. With letters after my name, I sneered at the chaotic approach I had taken to Latin, and I decided I would learn Greek “properly.” So I passed several weeks of construing apparently random sentences about youths dancing in a village, or how soldiers loved their horses while sailors loved their ship. By now, I had a full time job, and it was more enjoyable to sit down in the evening with Cicero or Gibbon or Macaulay.

Then, once again in a second hand bookshop, I found a copy of the New Testament in Greek. Once again, I found I could more or less follow the text. This time, a light came on in my mind, and never went out. I spent the next six months going one verse at a time though Acts of the Apostles in Latin and Greek. I could have used the Authorised Version again, but I knew Latin, which is structurally similar to Greek. Each is much closer to the other than English.

Take, for example, the end of Acts 26. St Paul has been examined before Festus and Herod Agrippa. He thinks he has talked his way out of trouble. However, once they are in private,

Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.

This wonderfully ominous line in Greek is:

' Ἀγρίππας  δὲ  τῷ  Φήστῳ  ἔφη  Ἀπολελύσθαι  ἐδύνατο  ὁ  ἄνθρωπος  οὗτος  εἰ  μὴ  ἐπεκέκλητο  Καίσαρα. 

St Jerome translates this as:

Agrippa autem Festo dixit: dimitti poterat homo hic si non appellasset Caesarem.

 We have here the same order of words and the same case endings, and a close similarity of moods. If you have trouble recognising Ἀπολελύσθαι as the perfect passive infinitive of ἀπολύω, you have the more easily recognised dimitti as a guide.

The jump from St Luke to the Attic masters is far wider than from St Jerome to Cicero. Even today, I struggle with Thucydides. But, so long as you have a student’s commentary on the text, Homer is surprisingly easy. Lines like 

ἦμος δ' ἠριγένεια φάνη ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς 

present no difficulty. I really wish I had pressed on when I was eight.

So my advice, if you want to learn either of the classical languages is to put away any instruction courses you may have bought, and to start with The Bible. If you are Jewish, you may prefer one of the narrative books of the Old Testament rather than something from the New Testament. You will not need a dictionary. If you have any prior knowledge of your chosen language, you will be able to work out most of the grammar for yourself. Some years ago, one of my universities decided to go up market by offering its undergraduates an evening course in Latin taught by me. I used Acts of the Apostles with my students. It worked for me. It worked for them. It will work for you.

I wish I could claim I had made an original discovery. Until recently, I thought I had. I now find, however, that it is a discovery repeatedly made and used to advantage in the past. Most notably, it was recommended by John Locke. In his Thoughts Concerning Education, he says that, if a teacher cannot be found,

…the next best is to have [your son] taught as near this way as may be, which is by taking some easy and pleasant book, such as Æsop’s Fables, and writing the English translation (made as literal as it can be) in one line, and the Latin words which answer each of them, just over it in another. These let him read every day over and over again, till he perfectly understands the Latin; and then go on to another fable, till he be also perfect in that, not omitting what he is already perfect in, but sometimes reviewing that, to keep it in his memory. And when he comes to write, let these be set him for copies, which with the exercise of his hand will also advance him to Latin. This being a more imperfect way than by talking Latin unto him; the formation of the verbs first, and afterwards the declensions of the nouns and pronouns perfectly learned by heart, may facilitate his acquaintance with the genius and manner of the Latin tongue, which varies the signification of verbs and nouns, not as the modern languages do by particles prefix’d, but by changing the last syllables. More than this of grammar, I think he need not have, till he can read himself Sanctii Minerva, with Scioppius and Perizonius’s notes. [s167]

Also, it was a popular method with adults in the nineteenth century. If you dig around on Google Books, you will find any number of editions of the pagan classics with literal interlinear translations. You start by reading the English line, and move to trying to understand the original. After a while, you place a sheet of paper over the English and try to understand the original by yourself. Sometimes, there are extensive footnotes on grammar and complexities of language. I still prefer The Bible for its simplicity of language. But I see nothing wrong in itself with interlinear editions.

To conclude, if you want to learn the classical languages, but have always thought they were beyond your ability, here is the proper way to go about learning them. Of course, if you believe that the ability to read Greek and Latin is a worthless accomplishment, you will probably not have read this far. Otherwise, there are Greek and Latin Bibles all over the Internet, and today is a better time to start than tomorrow.

Sean Gabb on Scottish Independence, The EU and The Future of The UK (2014)

We welcome Sean back to the show for a very interesting conversation about the recent Scottish independence referendum, secession, recent violence in Glasgow, the EU, the British empire, history, the current mood in Scotland and England, the position of the major UK political parties and what their prospects are for the future and the future of the UK.
 

The Scottish Referendum: A Win for England (2014), by Sean Gabb

The Scottish Referendum: A Win for England
by Sean Gabb

Last week, in Bodrum, I wrote my Thoughts on Scottish Independence. In this, I made three points:

  1. That the issue was a nuisance, and I regretted the need to discuss it;
  2. That a narrow vote against independence would allow Scottish politicians to continue demanding English money with menaces until they could find an excuse for another referendum;
  3. That a vote for independence would at least save England from the Labour Party.

Well, the votes are now counted, and the result was rather close. Yet, rather than gloomy, I feel increasingly pleased. The difference between then and now is that I could not be aware of two important facts.

The first of these facts was the promise, made last Monday, that, if the Scottish voted to stay in the United Kingdom, they could have nearly full domestic autonomy and an eternity of English subsidies. I saw this in the newspapers at Gatwick Airport, and it threw me into a rage. That swinish fool Cameron had sold us out, I told myself. He should have told the Scottish to vote for the Union or to get stuffed – preferably the latter.

The second fact, however, was only revealed this morning. David Cameron stood in Downing Street to confirm his promise of greater autonomy. He then added:

“It is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by a new and fair settlement that applies to all parts of our United Kingdom….

“We have heard the voice of Scotland – and now the millions of voices of England must also be heard.

“The question of English votes for English laws – the so-called West Lothian question -requires a decisive answer.

“So, just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues and all this must take place in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland….

“We will set up a Cabinet Committee right away and proposals will also be ready to the same timetable”

So, there it is. Letting the northern half of our island fall under the sway of a pack of embittered Anglophobes would have been inconvenient. They might have started a civil war among themselves. They might have opened their borders in the reasonable knowledge that Scotland would only be a corridor into England. They might have done any number of things that required us to build an electric fence at the border, or to hand out endless bribes in Edinburgh. We now have all the benefits of Scottish independence without the costs. The only cost I can identify is the continuing subsidies. But these are petty cash, bearing in mind how much else of our money the Government wastes.

The Scottish seats return 59 members to Parliament. Only one of these is a Conservative. They others are leftists and Anglophobes. Many are in the Labour Party. Cut this number to six, and there will not be another Labour Government. Simply keep all 59, but exclude them from voting on English affairs, and a Labour Government, if conceivable, is not very practicable. It could win confidence votes, but would not be able to get its programme through the Commons.

And this will now be an election issue. The necessary legislation cannot be drafted and put through this Parliament. The Conservatives will go into the 2015 general election, promising English votes on English laws. If Labour and the Liberal Democrats agree, they stand to lose their Scottish strongholds in the election after that. If they disagree, they will lose dozens of their seats in England on account of English indignation. Even if they do agree, they can be credibly accused, on the basis of their most obvious self-interest, of planning to defraud the English.

I therefore predict – and will run off to the nearest betting shop first thing tomorrow morning to stake £50 on it – that the Conservatives will win the next election. On balance, this is a good thing. In the longer term, of course, a neutered Labour Party will allow us to sack the Conservatives, or their present leadership. So, it looks as if the referendum is a win for England.

Was this plotted by Mr Cameron from the beginning? It may have been. Ask them to do something about immigration, or political correctness, or even the law of land registration – certainly, allow them to take us into a war – and these people will make a mess of things. But, since it is all they ever think about, they can often be good at stuffing their opponents. That would explain why Mr Cameron was so willing to give Alex Salmond his referendum when he wanted it, and why he appeared to panic when there was little chance the Scottish would vote to leave. On the other hand, he might have come to his current position only by a process of unfolding revelation. Whatever the case, this may have been an excellent result for England.

Enoch Powell: The Man and His Politics (2014), by Sean Gabb

Enoch Powell: The Man and his Politics
by Sean Gabb
Speech to the Conference
of the Property and Freedom Society
Bodrum, Saturday, 13th September 2014

As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

I may have fellow countrymen who cannot identify these words. If so, I have yet to meet them. The words are from the speech that Enoch Powell (1912-98) gave on the 20th April 1968 to the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre – a work best known as “The Rivers of Blood Speech.” It is, beyond any doubt, the most notable political speech given in England during my lifetime. It may be the most notable of the twentieth century. It made its author both the most loved and the most hated politician in the country. Shortly after the speech, dockworkers marched in his support through the centre of London. Thirty years later, at his memorial service in Westminster Abbey, the space outside was filled with a great crowd of those who had come to pay their respects.

If, on the other hand, you want to commit professional suicide in virtually any occupation, not excluding sport or driving a taxi, the surest and shortest mode of self-dispatch is to be overheard muttering that “Enoch was right.” He was never forgiven by those who now have power, and never has been or will be forgiven. And the more he is proved right, the louder and more grim grows the chorus of execration.

I could easily make this speech into an account of what Powell thought and said about immigration. I could pull out statistics to show that, if anything, his projections of the “immigrant and immigrant-descended populations” of my country were too modest. I could probably give you a more entertaining half hour by simply reading out his Rivers of Blood Speech. Like all else he said or wrote, it is a masterpiece of English prose. But I have been asked to speak about “Enoch Powell: The Man and his Politics,” and there is more to him than the debate over immigration. Yes, immigration is part of the story. It is a large part, and I will return to it. But, of all British politicians in my lifetime, he was the most systematic and consistent, and what he said about immigration draws its full meaning only from a consideration of the whole system.

Powell Before Politics

Now, to join the phrases “systematic and consistent” and “British politician” may seem pretentious. But Powell was no ordinary British politician. Not for him a PPE at Oxford, accompanied by much toadying of those already in Parliament, and followed straightaway by a job in Westminster. He came late to politics. His degree was in Classics at Cambridge, where he studied under A.E. Housman and was awarded a starred double first. Even before, at the age of 25, he became the youngest Professor of Greek in the British Empire, he was seen as the most brilliant classical scholar of his generation. He re-edited Thucydides for the Oxford University Press. His Lexicon to Herodotus (1938) remains a standard work on a man who, after all the changes of 2,500 years, is honoured with a statue here in the place of his birth. He wrote poetry. As well as in the classical languages, he was fluent in German, French, Italian and Urdu. He knew Russian and Welsh and Syriac and Aramaic. He was deeply read in German philosophy. He was more than competent in Economics. As learning and subtlety of thought are measured, he would, in the politics of 19th century England, have rivalled, and might have outshone, Gladstone and Macaulay. In British politics of the mid-20th century, he was plainly in a class of his own.

I say he came late to politics. He was in his thirties when he joined the Conservative Research Department. But his immense talents carried him upwards through the Party like a bubble through water, and he was elected to Parliament in 1950. It would be several years still before he arrived fully at the set of views we now call “Powellite.” But to call him systematic and consistent cannot be regarded at all as pretentious.

The Transition to World Empire

I think the best key to understanding Enoch Powell’s thought is to dwell on the years 1760 and 1947. Before the earlier of these years, Britain had been a European nation state – an oddity among its neighbours in its domestic arrangements, and unusually rich and powerful, but a European nation state. It then became a world empire. It would be some while – perhaps a century, or more than a century – before the nature of this change was fully understood. But the governance of the country now had to take into account far wider concerns than those that had filled the thoughts of Walpole and Bolingbroke. Because we ruled India, we had to involve ourselves in the disputes between Turkey and Russia. Because of the long route to India, we had to control Southern Africa. Once the Suez Canal had opened a shorter route, we had to take Cyprus from the Turks, and become the dominant naval power in the Eastern Mediterranean; and it became as great a crisis in our politics as disaffection in Ireland or Church tithes when the King of Egypt refused to pay his debts, and control of the Canal became an open question. Alongside India and its consequent acquisitions, there grew up immense colonies of mainly British settlement, in North America and in the South Western Pacific.

Yet even as, in the later years of Queen Victoria, its full magnificence finally took hold of the British imagination, this achievement was coming under strain. Powell described British India as a strange and improbable dream. As for the colonies of settlement, their possession of British institutions made it inevitable that they would eventually become free standing nations. The rise, towards the end of the 19th century, of other great industrial powers led to calls in Britain for some kind of Imperial Federation, with a common tariff and a common defence. For Powell, the idea was an obvious nonsense. For Powell, the Empire was a phase, terminating in itself, not the first step to a world state capable of staring down the United States.

The Recessional

And then, almost as quickly as a light is turned off, it was over. The wars with Germany were more expensive than had been expected. By 1945, Britain was on the edge of bankruptcy. India could not be held, and, in 1947, became independent. For Powell, this was the end. To use a different simile, it was as if the magnet beneath a sheet of paper covered with iron filings had been shifted. Because India was gone, we no longer had any interest in whether China went Communist or Fascist. Without any border between us, Soviet Russia itself was no longer a threat. Control of the Suez Canal no longer mattered. We had no reason to hold Cyprus as or for a naval base, nor any reason to buy influence in Arabia, or to garrison Aden and Mombassa.

By all means, let the liquidation be dignified, and carried out with some regard for the interests of the formerly subject peoples. But the logic of 1947 was that 1760 was undone. No longer directing a world empire, the British political class was required to think again like Walpole and Bolingbroke. Its whole concern now was to defend our home islands, and to attend to our commerce and industry, and generally to the rights and welfare of the British people.

Yet, if the Empire was only a phase in our history, its loss did not mean our end as a nation. In the life of nations as of individuals, one phase is followed by another; and, until the very end of things, no one can say which one was the more interesting or productive. Speaking in 1961, Powell told his audience:

And yet England is not as Nineveh and Tyre, nor as Rome, nor as Spain. Herodotus relates how the Athenians, returning to their city after it had been sacked and burnt by Xerxes and the Persian army, were astonished to find, alive and flourishing in the blackened ruins, the sacred olive tree, the native symbol of their country.

So we today, at the heart of a vanished empire, amid the fragments of demolished glory, seem to find, like one of her own oak trees, standing and growing, the sap still rising from her ancient roots to meet the spring, England herself.

The Long Delusion

Sadly, his view of the logic of our position was not shared by the British ruling class. No doubt, we had been a world empire for nearly two hundred years – longer than the entire life of the United States to that time. By men of second and third rate minds, the assumptions and habits of Empire could not be thrown off overnight – nor, perhaps, in twenty years. But, rather than allow themselves to be led, however slowly and reluctantly, to an understanding of the new logic, our rulers took refuge in a vast and pernicious delusion. The Empire had not fallen, they told each other. It had merely evolved into the Commonwealth. No less organically united than the Empire had been, it remained one of the three great powers in the world, and its unique goodness both entitled and allowed it to act as arbiter between the other two powers.

In this, our rulers were like a man who has lost his job, but who continues, every morning, to put on a suit and buy a railway ticket to his former place of work. And, when the cost of travel exhausts his own means, he turns to borrowing and begging from anyone who may feel inclined to listen to him. So it was in 1950, and in 1960, and in 1970 and 1980 and 1990. So, sixteen years after Powell’s death, it remains. The delusion has become less reasonable since 1950. Its justifications have changed in ways that Churchill and Eden would not have liked. But nerve yourself to attend to the speeches written today for David Cameron to read out: you will eventually hear that we “punch above our weight,” or that “the eyes of the world are upon us.” Or look only at our involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Sierra Leone, and our nagging of Iran and Nigeria and Zimbabwe, and our fussing over aircraft carriers and nuclear missiles and other weapons inappropriate for control of our own sea approaches.

I have said that Powell was a systematic and a consistent thinker. His view of what happened in 1947 connects the whole of his thought – his denunciations of inflation and socialism and his firm defence of the Union of the Kingdoms and the ancient rights of its people, and his resistance to our membership of the European Union. But this is a half hour speech, and I will not put myself on your indulgence by going beyond my time. Let me, then, look at just two of the positions he took during his career.

Powell and America

The first is his suspicion of the United States. By the 1950s, it was clear that the delusion of British world power rested on the sufferance or the active subsidy of the United States. We could fight Communism in Malaya because the Americans wanted us to. When we tried to take back the Suez Canal, they told us to stop, and we did stop. I am not aware that Powell set out his thoughts at any length on the United States, and I am here interpolating my own opinion. But I do not think it inconsistent with what I have read by Powell.

Leave aside the evil and insanity of the American ruling class – something, I think, on which all in this room can agree. The problem for us is that every American, unless he denies his own birthright, must resent the survival of England since 1776. It is possible for one nation to speak a language that evolved in another nation, and to study a literature and to possess a legal tradition both of which are truly organic only to that other nation. But success in such an effort requires that other nation to be dead or insignificant. The Byzantines managed it. So have the Brazilians. When that other nation is rich and powerful, and in some degree a rival, the effort will, of necessity, lead to feelings of inferiority.

In 1917, and, again, after 1940, the Americans were given their chance. They helped Britain to victory, and did so with a lavish hand. But, if the fruit of this help was pulled beyond their grasp after the Great War, they took full possession in the 1940s. The price of helping Britain was the reduction of Britain to the status of a satellite. Even a firmly Powellite Britain, after 1950, would have had to take account of American power. But every grand gesture of the rulers we had was underwritten by the United States. To go back to my last simile, the Americans lent the railway fare money – and the price, each time, was entanglement in an American foreign policy that made no sense in terms of our own interests, and that led us into continual and corrosive national humiliation.

Enoch Powell was as hostile to NATO as he was to the European Union – perhaps more so. He never blamed the French or Germans for wholesale bribery of our rulers, or for the occasional murder of dissenting politicians. He went to the grave convinced that Airey Neave had been murdered, in 1979, by the CIA because his policy on Northern Ireland was inconvenient to an American Government that wanted the Irish Republic to join NATO.

Powell and Immigration

Now to immigration, and I hope that his views on that make more sense than perhaps they did before this morning. He never had time for rather American views of white superiority, or for the moral infirmity of the coloured races. You do not become fluent in Urdu, and a scholar of its poetry, when you believe its speakers are a lesser breed. He would probably have been indifferent to the opinions of Jared Taylor and Richard Spencer – not that I think it appropriate to denigrate either of these men thereby. His whole objection to mass-immigration was that the newcomers – regardless of their inherent quality as human beings – were  not our people. Small numbers of immigrants – perhaps a few hundred thousand, concentrated in a few well-marked districts – might be accommodated. But the millions who did come, and their children and grandchildren, were in the nation, but not of the nation. Their physical presence displaced and otherwise inconvenienced the natives. The moral effects of their presence were to make the country ungovernable according to its ancient ways.

We can agree that the second, and greater burst of mass-immigration to Britain that began in the 1990s was part of the Cultural Marxist assault on Western Civilisation. But the first wave, beginning in the late 1940s, was entirely an effect of the delusion I have explained. The British Empire had a common citizenship. If the pretence of the Commonwealth as a continuation of Empire was to be maintained, it too needed a common citizenship. For this reason, British Governments refused, until the partial, and unwilling, withdrawal from delusion in the Commonwealth Immigration Act 1961, to give up on insisting that every citizen of the Indian and Pakistani Republics, and of every other territory coloured red on the map in 1947, had the same right to settle and live in the United Kingdom as my own parents, and the same right to vote and to benefit from the various welfare services that, wisely or unwisely, had been made available to the British people.

I began by quoting two sentences from his Rivers of Blood Speech. I will approach my end with another: “It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre” Powell said this of British immigration policy. But he could have said it of every other failure of the British ruling class to understand and act upon the logic of what happened in 1947.

Bearing in mind the nature and tone of what I have said, my closing may superfluous. Even so, I will give it. I met Enoch Powell and heard him speak less often than I wish I had. I wish I had known him better than I did. But I can say, with not the smallest doubt, that he was the greatest Englishman of my lifetime. I am proud to say that the Libertarian Alliance frequently invited him to speak at its meetings in the 1980s and 1990s, and that we published several articles by him. Of particular importance among these articles is the attack that he made in 1984 on the Drug Trafficking Offences Bill and the principle that it brought into English law of asset forfeiture without conviction.

I regret that I was unable to stand outside his memorial service. But my late friend, Chris R. Tame, made a point of being there. A hundred years from now, no one will remember the corrupt nonentities who fall over each other to denounce Enoch Powell. Equally, a hundred years from now, men will still be reading Enoch Powell for pleasure and instruction. And, by then, it may not be an informal crime to stand up and say “Enoch was right.”

A Case Against Product Regulation (2014), by Sean Gabb

A Case Against Product Regulation
By Sean Gabb

There is currently much protest in the British media against proposals to regulate the consumption of home electrical appliances. For example, it is claimed that washing machines and kettles use more electricity than they need, and that limits should somehow be set to their wattage.

These protests have been given a European dimension. Since they come from the European Commission, the proposals have generated headlines almost as bad as “Now Brussels wants us to wear smelly knickers.” This is a pity. According to Richard North, the same proposals have been made in America and elsewhere in the world, and they come to Britain via Brussels only so far as the European Union is the means by which global regulations are implemented in Europe. Pretending otherwise devalues the case for British withdrawal from the European Union. Still more importantly, reporting them as another scare story about Brussels moves the argument away from the principle of product regulation.

Regardless of who is making them, I deny that product regulation is necessary. Here are some brief objections:

First, it may be that modern electrical appliances need less electricity to do their job than we are in the habit of believing. If this makes appliances noticeably cheaper – either to buy or over their whole lifecycle – consumers will tend to choose them. All it needs is normal product advertising, or the urging of private advocacy groups. If, for whatever reason, people remain indifferent to noticeable savings, that is their concern. People surely have a right to waste their own money. Or, looking from a “green” point of view, every extra penny spent on boiling a kettle means one penny less to spend on petrol.

Second, it may be that the savings from lower wattage appliances are not significant at the individual level, but add up, at the collective level, to the saving of several new power stations. This is more likely to be the case, and here is an argument for what the economists call “external cost” or “market failure.” In such cases, the balance of cost and benefit to each individual produces outcomes that most individuals do not think desirable. The standard answer is regulation by the State.

On full examination, however, most alleged cases of external cost turn out to be other than they seem. Rather than a failure of unregulated markets to tend towards an optimal use of resources, they are evidence of state-imposed distortions in some other market. Here, the distortion is in the electricity market. Ever since the nationalisation of domestic gas supply in the 19th century, the ruling assumption has been that utilities should be provided through centralised networks at least underwritten by the State. This generally means that not all costs of supply are reflected in retail prices. Some of these costs – control of foreign supplies, for example – are loaded onto the people as taxpayers. Others – compulsory purchase laws for land, or privileged rights of way – are loaded onto specific property owners.

If this complex shuffling of costs were ended, it might be that a higher retail price for electricity would encourage the desired savings. Or it might be that the present system would be shown up as less efficient than some other way of generating or distributing electricity. Before pointing at one spot on the picture and crying “Market Failure!” we should try looking at the whole picture.

Third, product regulations are hardly ever made by disinterested experts. Mostly, they emerge from a dirty mix of bureaucratic sloth and ignorance, and capture of decision-making bodies by special interest groups, and outright corruption. That is how the ratios were set for automatic gear boxes in the American car market. That is how they are being set for electric light bulbs throughout the world. If products are safer or cheaper as a result, that is at best an accidental side effect of the process.

Fourth, even supposing a regulation achieves its stated purpose, it should be resisted. States rely on legitimation ideologies. Most of these ideologies include the claim that state regulation works in the public interest. Being able to show a regulation that does this is useful propaganda for a system that, as a whole, is both exploitative and inefficient.

Let me give a famous example. There is reason to believe that, had the British Government taken an active interest, during the 1840s, in telling the railway companies where to build their lines, we could have had a better network than we did in fact get. There is a continuous literature of cost benefit analyses of the burdens imposed by having two spines to connect London to the industrial cities of the North, and flowing from the largely accidental emergence of the railway gauge that we still use.

This being granted, the propaganda value of successful state direction would have offset any gains from efficiency by giving us a bigger State by 1870 than we had. The officials and the relevant interest groups would have ruthlessly used the precedent of successful regulation of the railways to justify regulating everything else.

It would be the same now. Let it be shown that cutting the consumption of vacuum cleaners from 2KW to 700W had saved the cost of building three new power stations, and that would not the end of the matter. The cry would go up for linking refrigerators to the Internet, so their temperatures could be turned up or down according to some agenda by the authorities, or for built-in motion detectors on electric lights to turn them off in probably empty rooms. Where regulation by the State is concerned, nothing ever ends in itself. Everything that works is made a precedent for something else. Anything that fails becomes an argument for something else.

In summary, governments impose greater costs on a country than washing machines and kettles that may use up more electricity than they technically require. State failure is more pervasive than market failure. This, not European scare stories, should be the case against the proposed regulations.

Sean Gabb is Director of the Libertarian Alliance and, writing as Richard Blake, the author of six historical novels published by Hodder & Stoughton. His latest novel, The Break, has been nominated for the 2015 Prometheus Award.

Thoughts on Scottish Independence (2014), by Sean Gabb

Thoughts on Scottish independence
By Sean Gabb
(9th September 2014)

On the 18th September 2014, which is now just over a week away, the Scottish people will be asked if they wish to end the union of their country with England, and therefore to break up the United Kingdom. Though, as an Englishman, I have no vote in this matter, I have the obvious right to an opinion, and I will try briefly here to express it.

On the whole, I wish the matter had not been raised. The past hundred years in Britain have been a time of great political and institutional change. I have no doubt that good intentions lay behind many of these changes, and that some looked a good idea at the time. But I do not think more than a few of them had beneficial effects. Now the dissolution of the country itself is on the agenda, it is worth asking why, things being as bad as they are, anyone in his right might could want more change.

The question is easily answered. The Union is already finished. If next week’s vote goes catastrophically against the separatists – say, by more than 90 per cent on a high turnout – that will be the end of the matter. But, while the Scottish seem likely to vote for the Union, it will be by a close margin. If as few as a third, again on a high turnout, vote for dissolution, there will be demands for another vote within five or ten years. In the meantime, the game of unreasonable demands and unwise concessions will continue to play between London and Edinburgh. We might as well hope for a clean break now, rather than wait for a messier coming of the inevitable. And, since it may be inevitable – and since it is not we who have put it on the agenda – it strikes me as reasonable to consider what benefits may flow to the English in the event of dissolution. Of these, there are three most worth considering.

First, the Scottish political class, through its weight in the Labour Party, has, at least since the 1990s, been a hostile elite among the English. I do not blame these people for all that has been done. England has its own forces of radical change. But it was they, in the Blair and Brown Governments, who did most to abolish the forms of the Ancient Constitution. They were of critical importance in destroying that sense of organic continuity with the past which, in the absence of a written constitution – and perhaps better than a written constitution – kept England reasonably free. Without the sense that things had always been so, and therefore should always be so, the procedural safeguards of the criminal law, and the general belief in government restraint, became so much rubble from the past – rubble that could then be cleared away by tidy-minded and highly authoritarian radicals.

Dissolving the United Kingdom cannot bring back the Ancient Constitution. But it would end the power of the Scottish political class in England. Set these people on the high road home, and there is some chance that the conservative liberalism that, in every change of the past century, has remained the default prejudice of the English might reassert itself.

Second, and following from the first benefit, dissolution might end the hegemony of the Conservative Party in England. It is hard to say when this party was last meaningfully conservative. In the 1980s and 90s, it did much to prepare the way for the triumph of the Scottish political class. Since 2010, it has left the fruits of that triumph untouched. Nevertheless, conservative Englishmen feel no choice but to vote Conservative if they want to avoid the greater evil of a Labour Government with much of its moral and electoral base in Scotland. We vote for the party we despise to try keeping out the party we fear.

Take Scotland out of our electoral politics, and Labour would become largely the party of the ethnic minorities and the public sector. These interest groups are unlikely yet to secure it victory in a general election. We could, then, for the first time, think seriously about voting for a party we actually liked. I repeat that England has its own authoritarian radicals. But I also repeat that, without the Scottish political class and its client vote in the Scottish cities, the native enemies of our ways would lose much of their hold.

Third, dissolution would, of necessity, end the pernicious delusion of Britain as a great power in the world. We lost our hegemonic position in the 1940s. But our rulers have never lost their belief that, if we only suck up hard enough to the Americans, and keep up our membership dues to the right international bodies, we can somehow “punch above our weight.” A rational policy after 1945 would have focussed all effort on the defence of our home islands and the maintenance of our commercial and industrial position. No longer what we became after 1760, we needed to relearn how we had conducted ourselves before then. Instead, our ruling class chose three generations of self-deception. The results can still be seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, and all those other faraway places where we try – with a lack of success that would be risible but for the corresponding bloodshed – to impose our will as if Lord Curzon were still Viceroy of India and the line of our battle fleets still vanished into the mist off Spithead.

Ending the United Kingdom will end this. England by itself will remain both rich and powerful. But there will be no more playing the ghost of the British Empire sitting enthroned on the grave thereof. It will be an end welcome to us and to those elsewhere in the world we remain able to hurt without being able to rule.

But I have not mentioned the effect on Scotland. How will its people fare under Alex Salmond? Who will pay their welfare benefits? How will they feed themselves? And how, in their own small state, will they balance internal tensions that English power after 1745 flattened without ending, and that have been added to by Irish and non-white immigration?

My answer is that, so far as they do not require us to militarise the border, these are not questions an Englishman should presume to ask. While the Scottish people are also our people, their welfare is bound up with our welfare. Let them vote – as they eventually will – to become their own people, and our whole duty lies in giving them a pat on the back and our best wishes for a future in which they will stand or fall by their own efforts. If they stand, so much the better. If they fall, so much the worse. In either case, it will no longer be our concern. As before 1707, it will be our destiny alone that must be our concern.

The Future of the Printed book (2014), by Sean Gabb

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The Future of the Printed Book in the Digital Age
By Sean Gabb
(Published in The Phuket Gazette, August 2014)

Early in 2003, I took my camera for servicing to a shop in Dover. While collecting it, I suggested to the old man who ran the shop that my camera would soon be obsolete, and that the future would be digital.

“Oh, film won’t ever be replaced,” he said confidently. He went into a learned explanation of how 35mm film had an assured future, and that digital would take at best a small bite from the bottom end of the market. I was less sure, but had no answer to what he said. I got my answer later in the year. I read in a newspaper report that Fuji was ending all film manufacture in the European Union, and that falling demand was its reason. By then, I had my first digital camera. Another few years, and the camera that I had paid £50 to service was fetching pennies on E-Bay. Today, 35mm film can still be bought, but high street developing shops have been replaced by printing machines with media card inputs. If people are taking more photographs than ever before, an entire technology has gone the way of the steam locomotive and the typewriter.

We live in an age of revolution. Political structures are as yet little affected. But all about them is in flux. It is a revolution driven by technological change. One after another, technologies that evolved in the twentieth century, and that seemed, by about 1980, to have reached their fullest development, have been swept away. Vinyl and tape were killed by the CD. This was in turn killed by MP3, and we cannot be sure how long this format will maintain its dominance. Videotape is dead. Fixed line telephony is dying. So too copper wire. Radio and television are trembling on the edge of democratisation. Hollywood is being eaten alive by piracy. E-mails have replaced letters. Who now buys filing cabinets? In short, the Internet and the digital technologies it has enabled are remaking the world in a form we can as yet only dimly perceive.

What, then, about the printed book? Will this survive? Why should it survive? No doubt there are bibliophiles as committed to paper as that old man in the camera shop was to film. “The printed book won’t ever be replaced,” I can hear them say. But why should the printed book be different? No doubt, we shall continue reading – just as we continue taking photographs and listening to music. But is there any reason why the printed book should survive? Let us review the main arguments in favour of print.

First, the printed book is different. To see why, compare it with sound recording. This emerged towards the end of the nineteenth century, and its history has been one of discontinuous leaps. Edison’s phonograph cylinders were an invention of genius. But they were defective, so far as they took up storage space and were hard to reproduce. They were replaced by the gramophone record. This was transformed by the development of electrical recording, and then reinvented as vinyl, and further transformed by stereophonic recording. By the time CDs came on the market, in the early 1980s, there had not been a single generation of stability for recorded music. If we look at any twenty year period between 1900 and 1980, the best recording quality at the beginning was thought unacceptable at the end; and the reproduction technology was generally obsolete. We are lucky to be able to hear Caruso and Tetrazzini sing so long after they died. There is much value in being able to know what orchestral playing was like when musicians who had known Brahms and Wagner were still working. On the whole, however, we judge sound recording by its fidelity to the original. Newer is better; and few of us regretted the chance, in the late 1980s, to dump our collections of scratched and dust-embedded vinyl into the nearest charity shop.

The printed book is different. It is part of our civilisation. In my civilisation, indeed, there have been only two discontinuous leaps since the birth of Christ. In the first century, a book was a papyrus roll. Sheets of papyrus, about eighteen inches by twelve, were written on one side and glued together into a strip of not more than twenty feet. The strip was then wound about a wooden spine, and a second spine was stuck at the outside end. The result was as cheap at the technology allowed, but was defective in itself. Papyrus can last for thousands of years in Egypt, but falls apart after about a hundred years in any damper climate. Also, the rolls were difficult to search through, and they took up storage space.

The book as we know it was not invented by the Christians, but they seem to have made it fashionable – perhaps because they were less culturally committed than the pagans to an inferior technology. Though expensive, parchment lasts longer than papyrus, and books stitched between covers are easier to read and to store. Whatever the case, the book as we know it had triumphed by about the fifth century, and virtually the whole surviving body of ancient literature can be traced back to the recopying choices made by librarians and readers at the end of antiquity.

During the next thousand years, the main change to the book was the replacement of parchment by paper. Then, from about the end of the fifteenth century, hand copying gave way to printing. In terms of intellectual history, this was a greater change than the switch from papyrus rolls. The unlimited reproduction and cheapening of books enabled the Reformation and the Enlightenment, and the emergence of a world of mass-literacy and scientific rationalism.

For us, the printed book is a sacred object. A CD is merely something that must be ripped to MP3 so it can be played on a mobile telephone. An LP is an object of curiosity to the young. But anyone who thinks of learning will imagine books. A library is a place of silence and concentration. Readers hunched over their books will frequently be in communion with the finest minds of the ages. The Nazis were evil because they killed people. Before they did that, they burned books. It is the same with the Inquisition and with every other coercive institution. The printed book is special. Anyone who thinks it can become obsolete is surely drunk on a technology that did not exist when most of us were born.

Second, E-books are inferior. You need electricity to read them. What can you do when the battery runs out? What if our advanced civilisation collapses? Printed books work perfectly well with a little daylight or a candle. E-books are inflexible. They cannot be skimmed. If they are made up of text rather than photographed pages, they can be searched, but only if a word or phrase is already known. Often a printed book can be searched by recollection of where in it something was previously seen. A further problem is that printed books go through an elaborate process of proofing. They are faithful to the original text. E-books books, unless they are released by a mainstream publisher, are often riddled with typing errors. Every Kindle edition of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, for example, is worthless for scholarly use. Why give up something that works for something that does not?

Third, nobody can say how long an e-book will last. We have a text of Virgil written while there was still a Senate in Rome, and a text of the Gospels commissioned by Constantine the Great. We have books printed by Caxton in the fifteenth century, and first editions of Shakespeare. Trying to read a book stored on floppy disk takes a prior search on E-Bay for obsolete equipment, and may be a worthless attempt, bearing in mind how quickly magnetic impressions fade. Even commercial CDs can lose data within a few years. Hard disks are unreliable. Memory sticks are of unknown stability Anyone who trusts current storage technologies to keep a text readable more than a dozen years is engaging in a continuous act of faith.

These are all valid points. Indeed, I have no answer to the second and third, other than to speak piously about improvements in technology that I cannot clearly imagine. But, rather than try for an answer, I can think of two offsetting arguments.

First, there is the great convenience of e-books. During the past few years, Google and Microsoft, and the Gutenberg Project and the Liberty Fund, among others, have been photographing and digitising millions of books published before ninety years ago. They have made these freely available. Because of this, anyone can possess books that used to be available only to scholars with access to a few major research libraries. This may bring about as great a democratisation of learning as the invention of printing.

There are, moreover, books that it is not convenient to print. Every law book is a work in progress. It is enormously expensive, and a single Act of Parliament or judgment of the Supreme Court can make it obsolete in