FREE LIFE
A Journal of Classical Liberal and Libertarian Thought
Issue 44, 27th March 2003


Free Life ISSN: 0260 5112 Published on the Internet by Sean Gabb for the Libertarian Alliance
25 Chapter Chambers, Esterbrooke Street, London SW1P 4NN, Tel: 07956 472 199
E-mail: sean@libertarian.co.uk, Web: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/freelife/, LA Web: http://www.libertarian.co.uk/
Free Life Editor: Dr Sean Gabb, LA Director: Dr Chris R. Tame
All material © the Libertarian Alliance and the respective authors. All rights reserved.
The views expressed in articles in Free Life are not necessarily those of the Editor, the Libertarian Alliance, its Directors, Committee, Advisory Council, subscribers, or other authors.

Contents

With Sorrow and with Anger - by Sean Gabb
Tony Blair: An Appreciation - by Sean Gabb
Sean Gabb on the War: A Comment from the Left - by Thersites
Sean Gabb on the War: An Internationalist Comment - by Roy Millar
Sean Gabb on the War: A Comment - by Glen Brown
Sean Gabb on the War: A Comment - by David Davies
Sean Gabb on the War: Various Short Comments
The Iraq War and Israel - by David Carr
In Defence of Blair's Aggression - by Jeremy Stanford
What's Wrong with the Conservatives? - by Mark Westcott
The Conservative Party and the New Geography of British Politics - by Sean Gabb
The Cure for Socialism - Andy Duncan

Editorial:
With Sorrow and with Anger
Sean Gabb

Whatever we may think of this war with Iraq, I think, now it has started, that I can agree with all my readers in hoping it will be as short and as bloodless as we have been promised. Our thoughts must be for the safety of our men fighting in the Persian Gulf, and also, if in lesser degree, for the unfortunate Iraqis whom they have been sent out variously to kill or to liberate.

I see that Tony Blair has already started to benefit from this natural and expected stilling of criticism. Except in areas settled by unassimilated immigrants, the peace demonstrations have so far been less numerous and impassioned than was predicted. Elsewhere, opinion is moving steadily in support of the Government. If the war can be substantially over by the weekend after next, perhaps we shall see Mr Blair walking about again with some of his old self-assurance.

But while we must do nothing to endanger the lives of our men in the Persian Gulf, that is no reason to forget by what course of excuses and lies and gross diplomatic blunders they have been sent into danger - or to ignore any atrocities in which they may by their circumstances be required to participate.

I leave Mr Bush to his own people. The villain for us is Mr Blair. He has not given one shred of justification for this war. He has in no sense made out that Iraq is even a remote danger to the security of this country. Even on his stated - though shifting - grounds, of the need to uphold United Nations resolutions, or to bring peace to the world, or to free the Iraqi people from a tyrant, or to destroy the alleged funding of much Islamic terrorism, he has miserably failed to carry with him public opinion of any kind. If it is now moving towards him, that is purely the effect of an autonomous desire to make the best of things. He has treated all of us with shameless contempt. He has sent our armed forces into danger of their lives and honour with as much consideration as if they had been hired out by some 18th century German prince.

As I have repeatedly said, I am not concerned about the harm he is doing to the credibility of bodies like the European Union and the United Nations. Indeed, I regard this harm as a collateral good. But it is a good largely offset by the unnecessary hatred and ridicule into which he has brought this country, and the damaging of relations with wealthy and powerful countries with which it may not be useful to have too close alliances, but with which it is certainly not useful for us to be on terms of positive enmity.

Then there are the longer consequences of this war. If London is now to become a place of Islamic terrorist attacks, this will because of our joining in the war. So too with any attacks on British people and interests throughout the world. Nor may we reasonably complain if this happens. According to the newspapers I have seen today, much of the bombing in Iraq has been for the express purpose of killing the Iraqi President. Bearing in mind his past actions, his death is not one in itself to be contemplated with regret; and it might shorten the suffering of his wretched people. It is the wider consequences that are to be regretted. If it is acceptable for us to engage in political assassination, how on earth can we think it outrageous if others now follow our example?

Unless the war is longer and bloodier than promised, Mr Blair will have his respite from domestic criticism. But, while I cannot speak for others, I will not forget who has got us into this war, and with what shoddy reasons. This man is a warmonger. He is danger to the world and to us. There can be no rest in what must be regarded, once this war is over, as the main issue in British politics - which is to separate Mr Blair from the ability to use weapons of mass destruction, and to bring him to account if possible for his use of them to date.

Tony Blair: An Appreciation
Sean Gabb
(First Published as Free Life Commentary,
issue 94, 13th March 2003

I may, during the past six years, have let my readers believe that I regarded Tony Blair with the utmost loathing and contempt. This is unfortunate, I now realise, and I wish here to pay full respect to his many great achievements as our Prime Minister. To be specific, Mr Blair has achieved the following:

He has made it permanently unlikely that we shall ever join the Euro - indeed, that we shall long retain our membership of the European Union. If we do not leave out of disappointment at the lack of French and German support for our efforts in the Persian Gulf, we may find ourselves ejected on the quite proper grounds that we are not nor ever can be good Europeans.

He may have ended our "special relationship" with the United States. Whatever shall be the outcome of this present one, I am not sure if the Americans will ever again so implicitly count on our support in their various military adventures, or we on what some regard as their friendship.

He has helped to destroy the unity and credibility of NATO. It may have been the French who refused to allow the dispatch of military aid to Turkey, but it was Mr Blair who wanted the war with Iraq to be conducted at least in part through NATO.

He has helped make the United Nations into a joke. Again, it has been the French who have paralysed that body, but it was Mr Blair who wanted action to be taken through it, and it was then he who declared that its veto would be ignored if it did not vote exactly as required. Few institutions can survive that sort of blow to their moral authority.

He has split his government and his party, turning Labour from an unassailable electoral force into a rump of terrified loyalists and a mob shouting for his head.

In short, he may have achieved just about all the foreign policy objectives of any government that I might form. Some people, I know, regard British isolation in world affairs as a misfortune and a bitter humiliation. I regard it, however, as a thoroughly desirable state of affairs. The United Nations, NATO, and the European Union are all parts of a frightening New World Order run by bureaucrats and police chiefs. As for the Government of the United States, it is not our friend, and we shall be better off to have with it the same closeness of relationship as we have with the Government of Peru.

Had I been Prime Minister in his place, I might have achieved all this in ways more friendly than Mr Blair has. I should certainly have preserved better relations with the European countries, and not so greatly have disappointed the Americans. But let praise be given where due. He seems at the moment to be detaching us from a set of generally inconvenient entanglements. To call forth my praise for him as the best Prime Minister in foreign affairs since Lord Salisbury, he only needs now to withdraw all our forces from the Persian Gulf and then resign before he can do anything in his domestic politics to make me change my mind.

Here ends my rather feeble attempt at irony. Mr Blair may have achieved these things - certainly, I hope he has - but none of them has been by act of deliberate policy. All is instead the effect of his own reckless miscalculation. He seems to have thought a war with Iraq would be just like his war with Serbia. He never thought he would fail to carry opinion with him at home or abroad. He is like a gambler whose run of luck ends just before the biggest bet of all.

The crisis is not over, and he may yet pull off a nasty surprise. But this does not seem likely at the moment. The main question being discussed in the railway carriage around me is how long he can survive. Will he resign in simple disgrace? Or will he be effectively sacked by the Queen? In the next week or so, she is needed to sign certain Orders in Council. In all previous wars since the emergence of cabinet government, the Monarch has signed these as a matter of course. But will Her Majesty feel bound to accept the advice of a Prime Minister who has an approval rating in the country of 15 per cent for his war, who cannot count on a majority of his own followers in Parliament, and whose Cabinet is visibly disintegrating around him? She could easily claim constitutional licence for refusing his advice - just as she did in February 1974 when she refused to let Edward Heath negotiate a coalition with the Liberals, and in October 1992 when she refused to let John Major threaten his Maastricht rebels with a second general election in six months. That would finish him.

One of the nice things about the British Constitution is that its working is purely conventional, and these conventions can be set aside when circumstances require. Perhaps she will refrain from delivering the killing blow, in the reasonably expectation that events will do the work for her. But it would be at least entertaining to see the man who so famously declared war on "the forces of conservatism" destroyed by their greatest embodiment.

As said, the crisis is not yet over. But if only Mr Blair can be somehow prevented from getting this country into an unnecessary and therefore an unjust war, I shall be content and more than content with the turn that events have taken since the end of last year. As I look at Mr Blair's sagging, frightened face on the television, and when I review all his acts over the past nine years since he became leader of his party, I am reminded of a passage from Chateaubriand:

There are two consequences in history: one immediate and instantaneously recognized; the other distant and unperceived at first. These consequences often contradict each other; the former comes from our short-run wisdom, the latter from our long-run wisdom. The providential event appears after the human event. Behind men rises God. Deny as much as you wish the Supreme Wisdom, do not believe in its action, dispute over words, call what the common man calls Providence 'the force of circumstances' or 'reason'; but look to the end of an accomplished fact, and you will see that it has always produced the opposite of what was expected when it has not been founded from the first on morality and justice

Sean Gabb on the War
A Comment from the Left
Thersites

I think this assessment is broadly accurate.

The Anglo-Saxon intelligence and security community operates as a collaborative hawkish liberal bloc primarily concerned with containing China and dealing with upstart regional powers that threaten free trade and informal empire.

The UN, EU and NATO are, to these people, "useful idiots" or "assets" and their position appeals to very small states (the East Europeans and the smaller Gulf states) who now feel safer under a liberal nuclear umbrella than under a neutered UN.  Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was a sort of wake-up call - it wasn't the UN but the Yanko-Brits who saved the dynasty.

On the other side are all those who feel "contained" unfairly and who interpret (I think quite rightly) the new hegemony as less benign than its propagandists claim.  The Washington neo-conservatives are not nice people - they are the fanatic ideologues of the New World Order and they will kill to bring their utopia into being.

The new hegemonists are really imperialists with some serious economic and cultural-economic (such as intellectual property) concerns that are now running up against the "historic" self-perceptions of a number of major cultures - France, Russia, "Islam" and China, all of whom see themselves as culturally threatened and would prefer to hang together now rather than singly in the years to come.

The position of the UK (Middle Earth) is fascinating in this because it is not obvious that the national and the State interest are any longer the same thing.  The main client-states of the US are ourselves, Israel (or perhaps the US is Israel's client-state) and Saudi Arabia and it is no accident that the two Kingdoms are in most political turmoil from these new developments.

The UK and the Kingdom both did historic deals as vulnerable but important states for US military and intelligence cover and the peoples of both states are now questioning the utility of these deals except as means of sustaining their political elites in the power to which they have been accustomed.

The New Cold War is thus between the new liberal fundamentalist imperialism and anything culturally older than the Churchill-Truman "free world" settlement of 1947.  

Some might say that this would include the peoples of these islands on one side and the liberal cosmopolitan British Establishment on the other - Greeks who sold out to Republican Rome long ago, only to find out that they have tied themselves to Caligula and cannot go back.

It is no accident that the imperialists were originally from the Left - not only the most obvious example in Blair himself and former liberals but also the neo-conservatives who were once Democrats and define themselves as conservative social democrats and come from the hard-line anti-communist tradition that you might find in the old AEEU machines.

My Republican friends in Washington feel that their Party has been captured by entryists, much as some of us feel that the Labour Party was captured in a similar coup by an ideological faction in the mid-1990s.

Osama bin Laden merely brought the imperium out into the open from where it has been operating covertly for many decades.  He and Al-Qa'eda are now as irrelevant to the fate of the Anglo-Saxon empire as the Mujahedin were to the subsequent post-Afghan War course of the collapse of the Soviet Empire.  But something started in 9/11 which may prove him right about the long term prospects for the US.

You can see that I do not assume that the hyperpower is the long term winner here - especially as I read my e-mails from New York and California where anti-war feeling is hardening and radicalising amongst otherwise mainstream Democrats.

The determination and depth of feeling of the "conservative" Coalition of the Unwilling has clearly surprised the Anglo-Saxons - Straw's reference to the French in the context of "poison" and the vicious anti-French xenophobia orchestrated by the Murdoch Press (an essential soft power component of the new imperialism) indicates the sheer nastiness of "our side" when it is thwarted.

In the end, we are all going to have to choose one side or the other in the new game, especially in the UK - State or People, liberal imperialism or conservative populism, alliances or nation.  Mordor or heimat.

I've chosen already on the basis of the illegality of this war, the cavalier communist-like attitude to the lives of the innocent, the xenophobic and manipulative reaction to dissent, the treatment of captives, the a-historicism and the deceit and lies of those who are certainly going to win the war. Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

It's easy for me, I'm a democratic socialist and so, paradoxically, conservative of culture and community - but those of you who are liberals and who cheered the Kossovo adventure (as Germans once cheered the Anschluss), what dark alleys you are now going to go down.

Thersites was a common little man in The Iliad who, even so, often made sense in argument with the psychopathic warmongers who directed the Greek strategy.

Sean Gabb on the War
An Internationalist Comment
Roy Millar <moulin@Millstream.ednet.co.uk>

Dear Dr. Gabb,

As usual, I find your comments interesting.

However I question whether it is possible for a small country like the UK to retain much independence nowadays.

They talk about the '4th largest economy in the world', but I see ever-less high tech or indeed any kind of manufacturing, so I don't know what it consists of. Unless of hiring others to manufacture for us items which they will soon be manufacturing for themselves, and will then sell to us at their price not ours.

Blair seems as you say to have achieved the opposite of what he may perhaps have intended.

I found his toadying disgusting - Bush would say something, then a week later an echo would emanate from Downing Street. I didn't and wouldn't vote for his party, nor for the sharks who surrounded Major (though it would ordinarily have been my inclination to vote Conservative), and I think of Blair as the sort of 'honorary Englishman' many Scots despise, even if they like the English in general (most seem to, jokes and a few lingering traces of ancient resentment aside).

But how much was under Blair's control, and how much the result of powerful string-pulling from elsewhere?

It was reported that Major at one stage told the Americans 'if I do that, the government will fall'. And it eventually did, perhaps in part because Murdoch controls much of the media and takes the American line in most respects. And seems as unstoppable in his course as Bush.

Not long ago, Blair made an exceedingly short visit, amounting to a few hours only, to meet Bush. It was reported as being a 'whistle-stop visit', but it seems to me more likely that he was given the bum's rush, in the American vernacular, because he tried for once to convince them of something they didn't want to hear.

To my mind, Suez proved that we couldn't go to war if the Americans didn't want us to, the Falklands proved that we could if they didn't greatly care, and Iraq proves that we must go to war if they insist, no doubt with grievous financial penalties for non-compliance.

The port of Halifax in Nova Scotia was once a bustling commercial centre, but power and money moved west to Montreal and Toronto, leaving it as a small irrelevance noted mostly for its fishing and for vacation trips. I fear that Britain may suffer a similar fate, pulled between the EU on one side and the US on the other.

Far from disliking them, I like and admire ordinary Americans; I worked for much of my life for American subsidiaries in Canada, and found them to be excellent employers. But a powerful US government with little regard for the rest of the world, now that Russia is no longer a threat, is another matter. They are behaving as we once behaved, 'sending a gunboat' or embarking on a punitive expedition when the natives become restless. And in the view of the powerful in America, we also count as aforesaid natives, or that is the impression I gain.

Joining the EU may have been a way of postponing the day when we are (as a poster to a Usenet newsgroup gleefully said was already the case) an American colony, but with none of the rights an American would have.

If European companies and American companies both now pull the plug, where will we be? Corus is gone or going. Alcatel is selling its fibre optic plant here in Edinburgh. There has been talk that Boeing might take over BAe Systems (and then what?). Hewlett-Packard is simultaneously praising its employees for their efforts and closing their divisions. Digital Equipment developed its landmark Alpha chip in Queensferry but was then swallowed by Compaq, with the chip technology going to Intel (whose chips suddenly became very much faster). And Compaq in turn is now part of HP.

It sounds to me like a slippery slope to third-world status, with the Indians and Chinese soon surpassing us in modern technology. (Photographs of Chinese and Indonesian cities surprise me, and doubtless India isn't far behind).

Would we be better off as part of the EU, or as a little-considered American colony? Is there another course, one which is financially practicable? I don't believe anyone knows.

Sean Gabb on the War
A Comment by Glenn Brown <glennbrown@shaw.ca>

Honestly, Mr. Gabb, do you WANT your country to be an impotent vassal of the United States? I would presume the answer is no. I would hope you are not a total hypocrite, and that you see yourself as a brave patriot, fighting for your country's independence from foreign influence.

Is that why you would like to see multinational institutions like the UN, the European Union, and NATO weakened or destroyed? Because you see THEM as the major threat to your country's independence? If you really think that, I have to ask, what are you smoking?

Don't you realize that multinational institutions like these, that you hold in such contempt, are the only means currently existing by which the 96 per cent of humanity that is not American can hope to restrain the overwhelming military might of the United States?

You say you wish your country had the same relationship with the government of the United States that it does with the government of Peru? I think much of the human race might wish for the same decrease in American power, but wishing will not make it so. American military power can only be restrained for the foreseeable future by the development of organizations with enough power to balance America. Naturally, I agree with you that these institutions should not be undemocratic. That means, among other things, that I hope the European Union's so called 'democratic deficit' can be addressed. I would suggest that if you don't want unelected 'Eurocrats' telling the British people what to do, you should be working to increase the powers of the European Parliament, in which the British people have a voice and a vote.

Sean Gabb on the War
A Comment by David Davies <david@libertarian.co.uk>

I think I understand exactly why Sean thinks and writes as he does on this matter; it is to do with the man Blair himself, who started badly by;

(1) using the Labour Party as clothing for his (I suspect also his wife's) bid to be somebody important;

(2) Trying to please all the people for all the time, by being the sort of touchy-feely-post-cold-war-comfort-for-all "people's-PM";

(3) Telling each and every audience what he thought it wanted to hear (he didn't fool the Women's Institute heavies though, did he!)

(4) Going to war against Serbia, against whom I have now to agree that we had no possible national justification for. I was wrong about that one.

I do not mean to rubbish Sean's argument, which is basically sound, and I could go on; we all know Blair's failings by now, and his hitherto blind trust of and admiration for the ECSC, now thankfully in ruins and unlikely ever to be rebuilt entire, but until last week posturing as a nascent superstate. In his attempts to be seen as someone potentially important in the ECSC's future, and in other ways, Blair has not exactly covered himself in glory as a defender of the interests and traditions of English People, these last six years.

He has continued the process started by the hopeless John Major, his friend, of turning our country into an increasingly nasty and petty-bureaucratic Police State. Regulations of all kinds, and ever-more oppressive criminal law, beset us under him. Unlike the French People, we are as a race ill-fitted by nature openly to defy rulers whom we put there in good faith. (This will turn out to be a failing from now on, and the sad result will be our further corruption as individuals.) Bureaucrats of all kinds have multiplied daily under his rule. How they will be paid for is anyone's guess.

He has actively tried to diminish the status of the Commons and the Lords; he had even become bored with appearing there, by all accounts, preferring the Television.

He has actively not controlled those who want to ban hunting. He has actively sought the loss of British, even of English, sovereignty in subsumation to the ECSC.

He would not have stopped us from having to have the Eurine, had not the pig Chirac just shot himself, and his country's future international reputation, in the foot.

If I was France's Foreign Minister, frankly I would resign in shame.

However, what about Blair and this war? Personally I have always been in favour of war a outrance against the self-confessed and self-revealed enemies of liberalism, who have been allowed to insult Western civilisation and culture with impunity, who use the cover given them by our own values of fairness and debate and liberty in order to hurt us, and murder people in the name of what they profess, for long enough. (To show that oil was not the reason for revenge, I would have lightly nuked all of the Saudis' oilfields on the morning of 9/12 simply to close them down for a long number of years. Probably also the entire fields of any other producing country that complained about this. "Arab" oil is Western oil anyway, for our firms paid for the finding and developing of it, and the Victorian scientists who predicted its presence were not desert nomads whose culture had not advanced the state of their people for a thousand years. Polar Alaska can more than make up, and Caribou or whatever can walk about if they choose.) The scale of what our enemies attempted on 9/11, let alone what they actually achieved, if achievement is not the wrong word, defied belief. It also exposed the unfathomable contempt that they clearly have for our values, which, since everyone - including those in thralldom in all other countries - wants to share in these, first through the medium of popular Western culture (Coca-Cola and MacDonald's) then through the medium of being able to buy anything they like through the Market, and then finally to be able to freely appoint and dismiss a government with impunity (political liberty) indicates that we are right and the Saddams are wrong.

What Blair has done, almost too late to save his soul although he might yet do it, is to fight for an actual idea in which he not only thinks that a lot of people who voted for him might believe, but one in which possibly even he himself believes.

This could be a first, and he might even find it exhilarating, and a relief from the perpetual burden of finding out what to say next in order to please; having at last a principle up for which to stand, might be the making of a good and at least competent Prime Minister, who is in no sense an unintelligent man.

Blair may, in time, get the taste for doing what is right and good. All Men can be saved by the recognition of their past wrongs, and their efforts to improve. Blair even claims to be a devout Christian, so he ought to be able to see this simple Pelagian truth.

Also, I can think of no reason why people should be forced to put up with a barbarian (who incidentally also menaces those around his back yard, simply by existing) just because we try to pretend that their culture is somehow different from and irreconcilable with ours.

David Davies is a science teacher in the north of England. He also sits on the Executive Committee of the Libertarian Alliance.

Sean Gabb on the War
Various Short Comments

Editor's Note: My various writings on this war have provoked many responses. Here, I publish a sample of them. Though a couple are from people apparently unlucky in their education or natural endowments, I make no effort to correct defects of grammar and spelling.

Comment by Ric Curtis <rcurtis@quixnet.net>

Great article! While I take a different view of whether or not this war is necessary, you are right on target about hitching your national wagon to an unruly horse. There is a saying that one should never go into business with someone who has nothing to lose. Many of us in the US have felt that way about the UN for years.

I am glad to see that you in Britain are sensing the folly of the EU. All organization whether League of Nations or NATO have lifespans dependent upon their mutual usefulness.

I would love to see as many US forces as possible removed from foreign countries. People who don't have to defend themselves just don't get it.

Ric Curtis
Glendale
Arizona

Comment by Donald Crowhurst <donaldfc@telusplanet.net>

Rubbish. Could Britain have called on Peru for major assistance in World War II. The USA, Canada, and Australia are Britain's best friends. Tony Blair has admirers and supporters world-wide. Time will support his wisdom.

Gabb's gab needs to be shorn like an overpuffed sheep.

Donald Crowhurst
Canada

Comment by Donald R. Dunnam <Ddunnam945@aol.com>

Perhaps you will have your way. Perhaps some of the missing bio and chemical weapons will find their way to your neighborhood. Perhaps with a clear conscience you can ignore the war crimes committed by Iraq's government.

After all, what does it count that a bunch of women were raped and murdered outside of your back yard? What does it matter that as many would choose to turn away from evil, it only allows it to sneak up behind them? What does it matter that as the evil perpetuates, those who would destroy all nations sovereignty gain a little more ground? The UN was given the chance to act as decent body. They refused because they are and have been since the beginning a cancer. From their start in backstabbing General MacArthur over North Korea, he warned about the blackmailing that would come from North Korea because of the actions of the UN. Now they wish to protect a murderer who has the ability to do more damage than Hitler. He can be stopped now, or we may well soon face WW3. You cannot buy friends or force people to be your friend.

You can show honor in returning the friendship that has been there when it was needed.

Donald R. Dunnam
Quitman
Ms

Comment by Sheryl Miller <smiller@luminet.net>

you are a total asshole

Comment by Chris Lenegar <talichem@direcpc.com>

Most likely because I do not understand the Queen's English, I cannot make a spot of sense of your article on Blair. Being American, and as you describe, no friend to the British, I realize I am immediately disqualified by the lense through which I am viewed, or the filter through which I am passed. Nevertheless, I will take what little intellect this savage inbred nation has given me and attempt to at least raise my brow higher than yours.

After reading your divergent list of rabbit trails, I detect no real ponderance of facts but rather a laundry list of pet peeves tailored to reflect negatively on your own Blair. Regardless of my own position (and I must say, that comparison with being friends with Peru really hurts, ouch, in fact I, and a vast majority of conservative Americans, even during the Clinton/Blair love in, were pro Blair and pro Britain) you need to lay down on the leather couch and "let it flow, get it off your chest". If you don't do it soon, even an ultra high fiber diet will not squeeze an ounce of sense out of you.

Comment by Mary T. Edinger <pastoredinger@earthlink.net>

Question: What is the definition of a Libertarian?

Answer: One who is spewed out of God's mouth.

Sean Gabb is a pompous ideologue and an ungodly man to boot. To say that a war against Sadam Hussein is unjust is to say that the war against Hitler and His Nazis was unjust. Mr Gabb would do well to go live in Iraq and live under the repressive rule of Sadam and his murderous bunch. Perhaps that would instill a bit of humility in him. As for his political persuasion, Libertarian is just another word for I am not hot or cold.

Those of us who know God's word know how God feels about the likes of him. Mr. Gabb should have one inch of Tony Blair's courage. After all the mark of a true hero is one who goes against the tide of public opinion and does the right thing anyway.

Mr. Gabb, you are a bore, Yawn, Yawn!

Comment by Andrew Whitehead <A.J.Whitehead@Verizon.net>

Mr. Gabb,

You say, "One of the nice things about the British Constitution is that its working is purely conventional, and these conventions can be set aside when circumstances require." The purpose of a constitution is to set forth the God-given (in the case of the United States) rights of the people that must be followed by the political class.

In the United States, the political class is employed by the people. When you say that the Constitution in Great Britain allows the "setting aside" of conventions "when circumstances require", what you are saying is that the Constitution of Great Britain says whatever you wish it, conforming to the needs of the day.

This begs the question: "If the British Constitution can be so cavalierly disregarded, why have it?" What purpose does it serve if its intent can be disregarded on a whim? Why do you not just scrap your Constitution as mere words on paper, devoid of meaning or purpose? What possible purpose can there be for it?

How sad for the British peoples to be ruled by such a system.

Andrew Whitehead
Virginia Beach
VA

Comment by Marjorie Morini <grammarini@msn.com>

Mr. Gab: I just read your article and I would like to tell you that you are a real jerk. Mr. Blair has more guts than you will ever have. I don't know where your head is stuck but I will venture to guess it is near the brains you are sitting on if you have any.

Mr. Blair is more of a friend and the British are more of a friend to the US than you think. I for one am very grateful to him because the other countries have has much guts as you have. Is that where you are from? In fact a good portion of Americans do not like the UN and they have no right to tell us what to do when we are protecting our country.

Get a real job and get a life.

Comment by Donald F Lewis <dflewis@adelphia.net>

One thing I was puzzled about your stating haveing a change of mind. It has never been established that you even have a MIND!

Comment by Jaynes Memorial Chapel <jaynesmc@swbell.net>

I hope the pressure that the brave government officials of the United States is applying on Saddam & Iraq works and there is no war.  But, we must defend ourselves.  If Saddam does abdicate, maybe you and others who so believe in him will open your homes for him when he is exiled.

Comment by Mike Scirocco <mscir@hotmail.com>

I read 'Tony Blair: An Appreciation' on your website. I liked the article and found it informative. I hope you keep publishing these types of articles.

Mike Scirocco

Comment by MC <cgirlblues@kc.rr.com>

"Mr Blair's sagging, frightened face"... God be with you Mr. Blair. I pray for Mr Blair everyday to keep steady. He at least (other than some of his confortable countryman) has compassion for humans who deserve at least the right to provide a living for their families. I hope the Iraq people are given a chance to show that they may be poor... but they are vital to the world. Give Iraqi people a chance. Let them live.

The Iraq War and Israel
David Carr <carr@libertarian.co.uk>

The Middle-East, and in particular the Israeli-Arab conflict, has the quality of being able to ignite furious passions in the West in the way that other conflicts in, say, Africa or Central Asia do not.

Similarly, and probably as a corollary, there exists a blizzard of extraordinary (and often conflicting) conspiracy theories about the causes and origins of the conflict itself and the purpose and function of US foreign policy as it is applied to the region.

I suppose the most widespread is the allegation that US foreign policy (and specifically the attack on Iraq) is 'all about oil'. This is a charge most favoured by those on the left and dovetails perfectly with their broader conviction that all conflicts are caused by capitalism. It is a theory which is eminently debunkable but that is not the purpose of this essay.

The other widespread belief is that US foreign policy in the region is both formulated and dictated by a powerful 'Jewish lobby' in Washington which utilises American economic and military power to advance the cause of Israel's national interest. This idea is so popular among National Socialists and Muslims that it is practically a central plank of their worldview. There are even a number of Jews who believe (erroneously) that Israel's security is underwritten by the American Jewish vote.

Given the consistent pattern of American political and economic support for Israel it is easy to see why many would seek to explain this by the alleged need of all American officials to court the Jewish vote in order to stay in power. It follows then, that in order to present an easily digestible motive for the US attack on Iraq, the 'Jewish/Zionist lobby' brigade offer up the explanation that it is being done in order to benefit Israel by destroying one of its most committed and dangerous protagonists. They offer, as proof of this, the influence of 'Jewish neo-conservatives' such as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle who enjoy high-ranking positions in the Bush Administration.

Despite their repetition these simplistic assertions do not actually bear scrutiny.

First of all, it is necessary to put the 'Jewish vote' into perspective. Jews represent about 2-3 per cent of the US electorate and are heavily concentrated in urban centres such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Outside of these conurbations the Jewish vote is statistically insignificant. Furthermore, it is an almost bloc Democratic vote. In the 2000 Presidential elections some 85 per cent of Jewish voters cast their vote for Al Gore.

Such is the reliably 'liberal' outlook of American Jews that, in the early 1990's, when George Bush (senior) expressed concern that his Middle-East policies could cost him support among Jews, his Secretary of State James Baker famously replied "Fuck 'em, they don't vote for us anyway".

The Republicans are now in power again and I am at a complete loss to understand how anyone could reasonably postulate that their policies are being formulated to curry favour with the Jews. George Bush (junior) may be beholden to a lot of constituencies but the Jews are not among them.

That said, the Jewish demographic and the pro-Zionist lobby is far from being the same thing. Sympathy with Israel is markedly higher in the US than it is in either Britain or Europe, especially in the Christian Mid-West. Church fund-raisers for the 'Holy State of Israel' are not at all uncommon and elected officials often campaign on stridently pro-Israel positions in Counties where there is barely a Jew to be found.

There is also such a thing as a 'pro-Zionist lobby'. There are a number of organisations that campaign on behalf of Israel, the biggest of which is the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC is both well-funded and very well organised and whilst it does enjoy representation at high level its influence is often greatly exaggerated. Indeed, the very reason why AIPAC has to lobby so energetically is because they do not enjoy anywhere near the influence on foreign policy that they would like. Its work is offset by an equally well-organised and well-funded Arab-American lobby and it was unable to do anything to prevent both George Bush (senior) and then Bill Clinton putting enormous pressure on the recalcitrant Israelis to come to the negotiating table with Palestinians in the 1990's and make concessions that many American pro-Zionists and right-wing Israelis bitterly opposed.

The 'Zionist-lobby' conspiracy theorists also point to the regularity and extent of US economic aid to Israel as evidence of that lobby's influence. But US subsidies to Israel (which run at about $3 billion per annum) are not entirely a one-way street. In return the Americans get access to all Israeli intelligence on the region and the US military benefits from the products of Israel's cutting edge military research and development. Similarly, the European Union grants an enormous sum of money annually to the Palestinian Authority but nobody suggests that this is because of an 'Arab lobby' and the US itself also channels about $2 billion in annual aid to Egypt but not once have I heard mention of an 'Egyptian lobby'.

The fact is that US support for Israel was non-existent before 1967 when Israel successfully defeated Soviet-supplied Arab armies of Egypt and Syria and thus prevented Soviet control of the region. As such, Israel became a pawn in the Cold War chess-game. Thus did the Israelis and Americans forge a relationship that persists to this day.

People who look to the influence of special interest groups in US foreign policy are simply unable or unwilling to come to terms with the fact that, to some extent, US foreign policy to date has been driven by high-minded ideals. Rightly or wrongly the Americans see themselves as being a force for democracy and stability in the world. There is a deep-seated desire in Washington to 'do the right thing'. This policy may be unwise but that doesn't make in untrue. I clearly remember identical 'Zionist lobby' accusations being made in order to explain the NATO attack on Serbia. The evidence offered was the number of Jews in Bill Clinton's administration (far more than in the current one) and their passionate desire to head off a 'holocaust' to make up for the failure to head off the Nazi holocaust of European Jewry.

The fact is that, again for right or wrong, the Americans attacked the Serbs because they felt it was the right thing to do in order to prevent an ethnic bloodbath. The Americans have some 37,000 troops stationed in South Korea in order to protect a democratic, capitalist country from an insane Stalinist prison state in the North, not because of any 'Korean lobby'. Similarly, America has supported Israel because it is the only pro-Western state in the region and a reliable ally and the Americans believe that the Israelis will be overrun without that support. It is for precisely the same reason that they committed themselves to the defence of Western Europe that was facing the threat of the Red Army.

However, to extrapolate from this, that the Americans are taking the enormous political and security risk of invading Iraq at the direction of pro-Zionists in Washington and for the benefit of Israel, is not just wrong but idiotic. It is borne out of an inability to see US policy as anything but cynical and (it also has to be said) by a degree of anti-semitism of the kind that seeks to explain every unfortunate turn of world events to 'Jewish conspiracies'.

Certainly the imminent destruction of the Iraqi regime will be viewed with no small amount of satisfaction in Israel. The missile attack by the Iraqis during the 1991 Gulf War still rankles the Israelis (who were only dissuaded from responding in kind by Washington). In addition Saddam Hussein has actively encouraged and financed the suicide-bombers who have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians and there can be no doubt that, in the event that Hussein did manage to acquire a nuclear warhead and means of delivery, Tel Aviv or Haifa would be high on his list of targets.

Israeli relief is, however, likely to be short-term at best. The attack on Iraq has not been conducted for their benefit and the longer-term plan (of which the occupation of Iraq is Stage One) may well lead to national disaster for the Israelis.

In order to understand why this is the likely case, one must first understand the crux of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation and the sea change in American policy since the WTC attacks.

The real stumbling block to settling the war between the Israelis and the Arabs is not actually Palestinian self-determination. Even the Israeli Right (especially Sharon himself) has accepted the need for this. The problem is that Palestinian strategy has changed. Self-determination is not the goal anymore. The goal now is the eradication of the 'Zionist entity'. The rise of Islamism among the Palestinians has also seen a dramatic radicalisation of their polity to the extent that mere co-existence with Israel is no longer tolerable for them. Not being able to overcome the Israelis militarily, the Palestinians have instead opted to overwhelm them demographically and in stages.

The means of doing this is by demanding not just the establishment of an independent Palestinian state but coupling it with a 'Right of Return' i.e. a right for the descendants of anyone displaced in 1948 from what is now Israel, to return to Israel and reclaim their former land together with full citizenship.

If the Israelis were to agree to this, they would face catastrophe. Within a decade, the Jews would be a minority in Israel and then it is only a matter of time before they were ejected altogether through a combination of political pressure and sectarian violence.

The famous 'Barak Peace Offer' made at Camp David (Palestinian autonomy over 95 per cent of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) was rejected by Arafat because Barak would not agree to this 'Right of Palestinian Return'.

However, this problem is not generally acknowledged. The orthodox view in Europe and elsewhere is that the Israeli-Palestinian question will only be resolved by the establishment of a Palestinian state. This will not resolve the question. Far from it. There is a widespread failure to recognise the changed reality or, alternatively, a wilful refusal to take it into account.

Turning to the issue of Iraq, the reason for the invasion lies in the tectonic change in US foreign policy since the attacks of 11th September 2001. The primary concern, indeed only concern, is to prevent any more apocalyptic attacks on US cities. The Americans have recognised that, whilst the Middle-East remains a cauldron of seething anti-Western hate under the dubious stewardship of terrorist-sponsoring governments, the chances of another '9/11' remain high.

The solution that the Americans have opted for is to engage in a massive effort to de-fang, de-radicalise and democratise the entire Middle-East. Starting with Iraq. Once Hussein is gone, the Americans will use Iraq as a base to remould the political and social fabric of the region, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon. This ambition may prove to be impossible to fulfil, but, nonetheless, that is the task the Americans have set themselves.

It will not be possible to even commence this process without doing something (and being seen to do something) about the running sore that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Once the dust has settled on Baghdad, the cry will go up from the Islamic world and Europe that the Americans must now 'even up the score' and go to bat for the Palestinians. The Americans will be desperate to appear even-handed in their quest for democracy and human rights and prove to the world that theirs is not a war against Islam or Arabs per se and they will therefore strong-arm the Israelis to give ground as never before.

The Americans have probably calculated that they can effect institutional and cultural change among the Palestinians sufficient to enable them to accept co-existence with Israel. They will likely fail. The recent election of a new Palestinian Prime Minister in the form of Mahmoud Abbass is really nothing more than a potemkin effort aimed at convincing the world that the days of Arafat and Hamas are over.

Once Hussein has been done away with, there is only a limited pressure that the Americans will be able to put on the Palestinians and Israeli objections will fall on deaf ears. Conversely, by dint of their very victim status and the US need to retain cooperation from other Arabs in the region, the Palestinians will have been handed more bargaining power than they have ever had.

At the very least, the Israelis will be forced to withdraw Jewish settlements and recognise a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza. As far as the Palestinians are concerned that is merely a successful first stage. The sporadic shootings and bombings of Israeli civilians will continue and probably be stepped up as part of a long-term and determined war of attrition. The presence of US forces in the region will prove of little avail while Israeli retaliation will be strictly curtailed by the need not to inflame Arab and wider Islamic opinion.

At worst, and depending on how desperate the Americans are to force a deal, the Israelis will be pressured to accept some form of Palestinian 'Right of Return' as well as a hostile sovereign state on their borders. As much as the Americans believe that they will be able to manage this process peacefully, the Death Warrant of the Israeli State will have been sealed.

The Americans almost certainly have no intention of undermining Israel's continued existence. Indeed, quite the opposite. But they will be unable to resist the pressure to give the Palestinians as much as they want. They probably genuinely believe that reform of the Palestinian polity is possible but, as with their ambitious ideals for the region, the reality may prove resistant to the dream.

In a conflict between American and Israeli security, not even the pro-Israel sympathies of the American public are going to stop the former prevailing over the latter.

The attack on Iraq and the American War on Terror may be bring benefits to America by rendering the prospect of further terrorist attacks on their cities less likely. It may benefit Britain by reminding the Europeans that we are not trustworthy as far as they are concerned and by reminding the British that they are not European. It may benefit the Europeans by eradicating the inspiration and funding of the murderous radicalism among their increasing Muslim minorities. It may benefit the Arabs by bringing them the stability of American suzerainty that will prove vastly more benevolent than their customary rule by kleptocratic thugs. However, the one party that will not benefit is the Israelis whose national project may well be put to the sword.

David Carr is a Lawyer and businessman who lives in London. He sits on the Executive Committee of the Libertarian Alliance

In Defence of Blair's Aggression
Jeremy Stanford <js@copyfit.fsnet.co.uk>

It is my view that Tony Blair has made the right decision to ally British military forces with those of the US in the invasion of Iraq.

I believe I can say this without regard to whether taking this military action is wise, or even correct in terms of international law or respect for the sovereignty of states.

Whether or not Blair realises it (and I believe he probably does) since September 11, 2002, the world has faced a reordering of geo-political alliances and strength. The "coalition of the willing" against international terrorism - engendered by George Bush and promulgated by Tony Blair - was the first step towards this change. The invasion of Iraq is the first concrete manifestation of this "new order" in action.

As is self-evident, it is the United States that lies at the heart of this new world policy. The US, under the Bush administration, is writing the rules. And as far as the administration is concerned, it will also be responsible for putting the policy into practice. Since September 11, the overriding concern of both US international and US domestic (or homeland) policy has been the protection of US interests and citizens from physical attack. This policy has such primacy that mere defence has been rejected as an option. The US is ready and willing to go on the attack to protect its national and global interests.

The US now has such overwhelming military strength, especially in the high-tech field, it appears inconceivable that even an alliance of forces could have the ability to overcome it. Yet the US has learned already in Iraq that high-tech systems cannot be relied on entirely when fighting unconventional forces. It is learning that, for practical rather than diplomatic reasons, it also needs allies with skills in on-the-ground close-quarter warfare. Step up British forces and the alliance with the US forged by Tony Blair.

Tony Blair is clearly deeply concerned about future global security. The British public have found it hard to square themselves with Blair's views, yet few doubt his sincerity. Blair's present attitude was probably formed as he watched the collapse of the World Trade Centre twin towers. It was confirmed in his subsequent meetings with the US administration over the need for a global approach to defeat terrorism and the threats to peaceful civilisation.

Just as in the US administration, the importance of this issue for Blair has given it a primacy in his mind that supersedes all other political considerations. Blair has shown himself willing to risk all the political gains he has made for himself, and for the realignment of domestic British politics he has achieved, in order to create an alliance with US foreign policy that could not be less unequivocal or more binding - forged in a shared battlefield of war.

Why has he chosen to follow such a high risk and, thus far, domestically unrewarding policy? Is he simply consumed by the need to alleviate the suffering of others - whether the Iraqi people under the loathsome Saddam dictatorship, or potential future victims of terrorists and evil regimes? Or is Blair more level-headed, more prescient and perhaps more statesmanlike than his political adversaries, and many of his government colleagues, can conceive?

I cannot say whether Blair has come by his policy by accident, through a vision, or by looking into the eyes of members of the US administration and Congress and seeing the outrage and determination that invasions of security and civilisation as witnessed on September 11 should never occur again. For a role in history for Blair as one of the greater British leaders, it would be best that his reasoning follows from the last.

What it may be that Blair has seen, before many others, is that the early decades of the 21st Century will be the age of American dominance. Dominance that does not even require the will of US administrations to make it so. The economic power and resilience of the US will remain streets ahead of others for many decades. The international dimension to US economic power is already well defined; global markets are irresistible to US entrepreneurs and corporates. But it is US military power and its effect on global relations that can have the greatest impact on the future world order.

The present US administration shows no compunction in using its military forces to achieve selected political aims. While there is much doubt around the world about the justification for US aims in Iraq, Tony Blair has never doubted the use of force as a legitimate means of intervention to overcome dictators, to prevent regional destabilisation and to suppress greater perceived threats to the world.

For the US, there are no longer any national rivals that can ultimately threaten its military omnipotence. For Britain, there are no other realistic military allies with the skills, hardware and will to undertake missions that may be deemed necessary to address future global security.

Whether or not you believe Tony Blair is right to pursue 'pre-emptive defence' to secure regime change in Iraq, he has made his decision. We should view his decision not in terms of the current action, but in relation to Britain's alliances and allegiances in the next half century. His decision, clear and unequivocal, has been to ally Britain with the nation that, by design or inevitability, will be dominant in the global geo-politics of the next decades.

US administrations and British governments will change, but the decision by Blair will not be forgotten. Blair's own aims will be satisfied by a chance to influence US global policy. In future years, US administrations may be more aggressive or, perhaps, more withdrawn. But Britain's relationship as an ally and foreign policy advisor to the world's most influential nation has today been secured.

Does this mean Britain will say goodbye to the European Union? Probably not for some while. Our relationship with the present EU may be holed below the water line, but the present EU itself is already sinking. It would be folly for the EU to continue on its present integrationist course while trying to admit so many recalcitrant new nations. But what else is the EU but Une Grande Follie? If it decides to establish itself as an antagonistic policy counter to the US, then it will do so with fewer countries than it has imagined. We may be grateful to Tony Blair for so clearly drawing in the Iraqi sand the policy divisions and divergence of national interests that lie between Britain and the European Union.

In the new world, Britain's greatest ally and friend will be the nation with which our soldiers today are fighting and dying: the United States - for better or worse, the most powerful and influential nation on the globe.

Jeremy Stanford spent an extended youth absorbing Sanskrit philosophy. He has studied Arabic and has practised advertising and public relations in several Muslim countries of the Middle East, as well as in London and The City. He has been publisher of the EU-critical website, Eurocritic Magazine; and he retains membership of the Conservative Association he joined in 1989. When not engaged in editing, copywriting or designing, he writes occasionally on political and economic affairs.

What's Wrong with the Conservatives?
Mark Westcott

More than eighteen months into "New Labour's" second term, we are now reaching that mid-point of a parliament where support for the government traditionally begins to fall away - to the benefit of the opposition. And there are plenty of reasons why it should do so: despite all the bluster and the extra money, the NHS is not noticeably better; the railways are a national disgrace; education is bumping along from crisis to crisis, crime is growing and business is being steadily stifled by rising taxes.

And yet with all these government failures and more, the Conservatives find themselves quite unable to make any impact. Although few figures in the party openly speak about it, there seems to be little doubt that the next general election is already lost - and perhaps even the one after that as well. Indeed, so parlous is the state of the party that even the Liberal Democrats are talking of replacing them as the official opposition, highly naive though this notion may be.

Perhaps inevitably in the soundbite-led world of British politics, attention is now focusing on the role and personality of the party leader, Mr Duncan Smith, as pundits speculate on what is going wrong. He is certainly a far from impressive figure. Since he took over the leadership in September 2001, his dull speeches and bland statements have signally failed to catch the attention of the many voters that polls show are disillusioned with Mr Blair, and who one might expect to be receptive to Conservative ideas.

For an ex-army officer, he has also proved a surprisingly lacklustre tactician. Consistently, he has failed to seize the initiative as the government's propagandists have tied themselves in knots and its second rate ministers have contradicted each other. During the firemen's strikes late in 2002, his interventions were often late (or entirely absent) and curiously lacking in incisiveness. When, quite reasonably, interviewers questioned what he would do in the government's position, too often he merely observed that he was not in their position - an answer that looked evasive at best.

More recently, despite the potential party political benefits to be derived from questioning the US driven moves towards a new war in the Gulf - irrespective of the venture's essential immorality - the best that Conservative spokesmen have come up with is a few quibbling points that few have even noticed. On the central issue, the party has adopted the absurd position of being even more gung ho than Mr Blair himself.

And Mr Duncan Smith has been little helped by his team of shadow ministers. Some, like Michael Ancram, the shadow foreign secretary, have the attitude and bearing of fussy local authority officials rather than leaders; others, like his shadow chancellor, Michael Howard, are still tainted by their dismal record in government as members of the disastrous Major administration. Still others, like the supposedly highly intelligent Oliver Letwin, merely convey the impression of hesitant members of a sixth-form debating society. In short, it is hard to avoid the impression of a "second eleven".

It would be easy, then, to ascribe the party's failure - for that is what it is - to having the wrong leadership. No doubt it is this analysis that accounts for the febrile stories that surface after a particularly bad poll of plots and "men in grey suits". But easy - and appealing - though it is, such a facile analysis would be wrong.

When Mr Blair swept away 18 years of Tory rule in May 1997 - admittedly with somewhat less popular support than the tally of Westminster seats would suggest - it was on the basis that he was offering the country an alternative vision to that of Mr Major's party. Fraudulent though it has proved to be, the essence of "New Labour" was that the widely perceived "sleaze" of the Conservatives - as personified by Neil Hamilton and others - would be replaced by a new probity, tired public services would be revitalised and the guerrilla warfare on Europe that had debilitated the government for years would come to an end.

Contrast that with the position today. When one looks beyond the day to day bickering of opposition politics, it is hard to discern any coherent alternative to Labour in Conservative statements. After nearly six years in opposition, there is not one area in which the party is attempting to articulate a genuinely different philosophy to Labour's suffocating - and often simply laughable - statism.

Occasional off-stage europhobic rumblings aside, Tory ideas on foreign policy are indistinguishable from Labour, with not the remotest suggestion that Britain's status as a US satellite might not be for the best. The picture is little different in the area of civil liberties, where their response to a virtually unprecedented series of attacks on individual privacy and freedom has been muted to the point of irrelevance. One can only imagine that shadow ministers are simply looking forward to wielding all the new state powers when they eventually displace Labour - although the mechanism for this remains unclear.

And on economic issues, the picture is no more encouraging. Despite ample evidence that high taxes are quite unable to guarantee effective performance from inherently inefficient public services - aka state run industries - party spokesmen shy away from any idea of letting people decide for themselves how to spend their money. All we get is an apparently endless series of gimmicks to somehow make these organisations more efficient without fundamentally altering their status.

Indeed, where Tory spokesmen are concerned, the phrase "tax cuts" appears to be one that is not to be used in polite conversation. There seems to be no recognition that tax revenues are not derived from some bottomless pit, but are raised by coercive means from mainly hard working people... One could go on. But this is not the place to analyse the spectrum of Conservative policies, such as it is.

So, what in practice should the Tories do? As the tenor of the foregoing comments suggests, I believe that they should put forward a radically anti-statist programme in which individual freedom plays a central role. From this position, would be relatively easy to derive a coherent range of policies that are both mutually supportive and intellectually defensible.

At the centre of these plans would naturally be a state radically reduced in both scope and power. It would go without saying that private enterprise would be promoted at every opportunity and every tax would be under the harshest scrutiny - as would every government post. Such a programme would serve notice on scores of superfluous organisations, ranging from the Commission for Racial Equality to English Heritage; it would also end the waste of the Common Agricultural Policy and the indirect subsidy to gangsters that Britain's drugs laws represent.

Of course, it might be argued that such a programme would be a gift to socialists and crypto-socialists all across the political spectrum. Doubters would no doubt argue that Labour spokesmen would delight in asking Tories just which hospital or school they were going to close or which vulnerable person would be thrown out on the street next.

But there are, however, two powerful arguments against this analysis. For one thing, it ignores just how realistic voters have become over the past few years of "New Labour" as to the real ability of the state to provide the services they require.

In any social gathering, it is increasingly common to hear stories of how even the most unlikely people have been forced to resort to private medicine by deplorable delays in our state-run health service - or worse, the lack of even the promise of treatment. Only recently, I listened to a lady in her mid eighties recounting how she had been given 15 months to wait for an eye operation - and had therefore decided to have it done privately.

One can find the same levels of frustration with other services too. I suspect that the average voter is ahead of the debate here in a way that few politicians are prepared to give them credit for.

For another thing, just think how awkward it would actually be for "Labour" and its hangers on to oppose a programme that was overtly based on promoting individual freedom. Would they say they were against freedom, against putting people in control of their own lives...?

It would also be unwise to discount the number of would-be Conservative voters in the country who have become disillusioned with all the current parties' socialist and semi-socialist offerings. Although little serious research seems to have been done on this group, it seems fair to assume that they account for a fair proportion of that growing slice of people who have taken to giving elections a miss in recent years.

The problem for the Tories is that they appear to be afraid of promoting an agenda of the type sketched out above. At their last party rally, one could hardly fail to notice that most participants went out of their way to distance themselves from even the half-hearted - and very partial - reforms of the Thatcher period. An idea that gained considerable currency was that the Tories had been the "nasty party" in those days, and would have to become a "nice party" - implicitly aping "New Labour" before they stood much chance of winning again.

That phrase, "nasty party" encapsulates an important reason why the party has made such little progress. It implies a view of liberal policies that sees them as some kind of bitter medicine to be taken in extremis only when socialist remedies have overwhelmingly been seen to fail. Even when such policies are promoted, they are too often couched in the negative language of cutting back government "services" and "reducing waste" rather than the positive language of individual freedom.

And even if they manage to articulate the occasional liberal idea, when socialists attack them for promoting inequality, all they can do is splutter around evasively, trying to deny the charge, when it would be far better to go on the offensive. After all, what is so praiseworthy in everyone being equal? And in any case, who decides at what level this equality is to be pegged ... surely not someone more equal than the rest?

Fortunately for "New Labour", however, there seems to be little chance in the immediate future of the Conservatives even returning to the ideas of the 1980s, let alone embracing a new liberal agenda. The reckoning at Central Office seems to be that the best chance of regaining power lies in not rocking the boat and waiting for things to improve.

On the current showing, they may be in for a long wait.

The Conservative Party
and the New Geography of British Politics
Sean Gabb
(First Published as Free Life Commentary,
issue 93, 11th March 2003)

During the past few months, Steve Davies and I have been discussing the future of the Conservative Party. I use the word "discuss" advisedly, for what I thought was a debate has turned out simply to be an exploration of different emphases within a position that we happen to share. Steve thinks that my concentrating on personalities is often at the expense of realising that the ground has shifted on which politics in this country take place. I think that personalities are perhaps more important than he does. But it seems we are agreed on fundamentals. He accepts that all the political parties are dominated by unimaginative blockheads, and I that the geography of debate has shifted so that much inherited from the recent past is no longer relevant.

Now, it may be that I have read Steve's very persuasive analysis, accepted it, and then insisted that it was mine all along. Anyone suspecting this I refer to a Free Life editorial from 1998 - "Thoughts on the New Geography of British Politics", issue No.28, September 1998. A paragraph from this reads:

Some time around 1990, there was an earthquake in political terms. It had something to do with the collapse of the Soviet Empire - though I suspect that this was just as much an effect of some deeper cause as it was a cause in its own right. It was not like the tremors of 1917 or 1945, that threw down ancient structures and swept away multitudes of their inhabitants. It was rather a great violent upheaval that changed the appearance of the land on which the structures had been raised. Mountains were levelled, and valleys raised up. Rivers were diverted from their course. New barriers appeared between peoples who had for generations lived peacefully as neighbours, cutting them off from one another, cutting ties of common interest, even confronting them with issues that divided them. Other barriers were smashed down, forcing new neighbours together, requiring them to lay aside previous differences and to develop habits of cooperation in the defence of newly common interests.

Since then, without forgetting or retracting any of this, I have tended to focus on the personalities in the Conservative leadership. But my discussion with Steve has brought it back into active thought, and I will now write more on it. I have no doubt that Steve will produce his own essay on the subject, and that this will reflect his own interests and show much greater attention to matters of statistical fact. But what I now say, even if prompted by it, is not just a development of what he has been saying in the last two issues of Free Life.

It is, I think, insufficient to compare what is happening now in British politics with the upheavals of the 1920s. Those were undoubtedly profound. They tore the Liberal Party into at least three fragments, and established Labour as one of the two parties of government, and greatly strengthened the Conservative Party. But, while profound, these did not sweep away all the landmarks of debate. They are better seen as the completion of a set of changes that began in the 1870s - when Disraeli and Salisbury first defined their party as the defender of established order against an increasingly statist Liberal Party. The effect of the Great War was mainly to hurry the changes, and to replace the Liberals with Labour as the main vehicle of destruction, and to substitute arguments over economic socialism for the land controversies of the 1900s. But any politically aware Englishman who had fallen asleep in 1900 would not have been astonished beyond comprehending had he woken in 1930 and read the newspapers. Much had changed in the interval, but much else had not. There was a new party with a new challenge, but there were still two main parties - one for and one against the established order. The changes we are now facing in the geography of debate are astonishing beyond everyday comprehension. It is a collapse of the entire party system, and with it of the old grammar and vocabulary of political debate.

We cannot compare this with the changes that took place between about 1910 and 1930, or even with those between 1846 and 1867. The nearest precedent I can call to mind is the political revolution of 1760.

For 70 years before then, English politics had been dominated by a single issue - whether the Hanoverian succession should hold or the Stuarts be restored. With this apparently simple dynastic issue stood the legitimacy of the Revolution Settlement of 1689 - which had brought changes in the whole political, social and financial structure of the nation. Whigs and Tories defined themselves by what they thought of this Settlement. It was not an issue debated every day in or outside Parliament, but it provided the framework within which all other debate was constructed. For example, both Tories and radical Whigs opposed the Walpole Government's proposed excise. In general, they hated the corruption, the sinecures, the lack of official passion for anything, the frequent mediocrity of the Ministers. They voted together, and often used the same language of opposition. But they could never combine. For all they agreed on the everyday issues of politics, they were divided on the most important question of all - and were that even if they tried not to discuss it.

Then in 1745, a Stuart restoration was shown to be impossible. Then in 1760, it was shown to be unnecessary. Except for the occasional trip, the King across the water would always stay there; and now the King here both spoke English without an accent and "gloried in the name of Briton". No one seems to have expected what happened next. The Whigs were soon out of office and old Jacobites in.

The Whig publicists after 1760 were right that there had been a sort of Stuart restoration. But it was not the sort they had feared. There were no Catholic priests slipping in and out of the Palace, no loss of religious toleration, no repudiation of the national debt. Denouncing Ministers like Sir Francis Dashwood as former Jacobites was an irrelevance. Nothing once said for or against the Protestant succession now meant anything. Bonds that once united now had vanished, together with old causes of division. The immediate result was political chaos. With its defining issue gone, the party system had collapsed. In its place, we see something like the politics of personal connection described by Sir Lewis Namier. I think his analysis somewhat overdone. Undoubtedly, though, the old connecting threads of ideology had gone. The arguments that soon arose over the powers of the Crown gave our literature some of its greatest political oratory. But, looking back, Dunning's famous motion - "that the power of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished" - seems to miss the point. What we now see during the period is the increasing growth of cabinet government. Even the American War, for all its passion and cost in blood and money, was a dispute less over what the King could do than between the relative status of the various parliamentary bodies within his dominions: there might have been no Declaration of Independence had George III overruled his Ministers in London and accepted the legislative equality of the colonial assemblies with the Westminster Parliament.

It may be writing off three decades of fruitful political experience, but political debate as it has been normal in England at least since the 1670s - and perhaps even the 1540s - seems to have jumped from the 1750s to the 1790s across a great chasm. From arguments over the Glorious Revolution to those over the French Revolution we move through a political wilderness without the landmarks of party. Only in the 1790s was there a new defining issue, around which the parties could reform with new meanings given to the old names of Whig and Tory.

Even then, by the way, the old mental categories may have died slowly. When I was an undergraduate browsing in my university library, I came across an early edition of the Vindicia Galliae of Sir James Mackintosh. This was the most able, though not perhaps the most interesting, reply to Burke's Reflections. There was an errata inserted at the front, showing that the typesetters and proofreaders in the 1790s had several times let "Jacobite" stand when the author had wanted to say "Jacobin".

Since about 1990, we have faced a similar dislocation of party debate. Until then, we all knew where we stood. I, for example, could turn out regular polemics, denouncing the Thatcher Government for its police state laws, and could have friendly discussions with civil libertarians of the left. But we always knew what side we had taken. Our discussions, however friendly, always took place across a clear political boundary. I always voted Conservative, and they Labour. What divided us was our different positions on socialism. Yes, many Conservative politicians were decidedly "wet" on economic policy. Some Labour politicians were feeling their way to a greater acceptance of the market. But we all knew who was on one side and who on the other; and this fact gave a settled shape to our political life.

All this has now gone. We are still using the old terminology of abuse - throwing words at each other like "lefty" and "right wing extremist". But these have lost whatever meaning they once had. Using them now is like calling someone a Jacobite in 1795: they retain some pejorative force in the mind of the user, but do not connect with the real debate that others are having or feeling their way toward. It is relevant that Peter Mandelson and Stephen Byers are unpleasant and untrustworthy men, but not at all that the former used to belong to the Communist Party or the other to some Trotskyite sect. It is relevant that I and Perry de Havilland of the Samizdata blog are reasonably decent people and get along quite well personally. But it is no longer relevant that we used to be on the same side in the 1980s. On most of the issues that matter nowadays, we seem to be on opposite sides. The Libertarian Alliance was never more of an alliance than it must be today. At the same time, though, we can afford to be an alliance. We are not trying to stand for office on a united programme.

Though disorienting, the party collapse after 1760 was not so bad as the one we are now facing. Parties in those days were loose coalitions, and politics were more often local than national. Politics could still carry on after a manner with parties replaced by shifting connections based around personalities like the elder Pitt or Lord Rockingham or the King. But our whole modern Constitution and all our habits of political thought are based on the assumption of two great parties divided by some overriding issue. Without such an issue, little wonder politics has become a matter of corrupt place hunting relieved by obsessions with frequently trivial single issues.

This is the problem now faced by both main political parties. It has been harder so far for the Conservatives than for Labour. They are out of government, with no jobs or pleas of administrative need to hold them together. The biggest issue of the day, this being the European Union, has divided them within themselves rather than from Labour. Above all, their leaders have not the flexibility of mind to let them know what has happened. Iain Duncan Smith might have been a decent leader of the Party in the 1960s - he might easily have been better than those who did lead the Party. But his mind is still set in the past - his mind and those of all around him, not excluding his "modernising" opponents. He is the equivalent of some Newcastle Whig in the 1760s calling on the dwindling band of his faithful to beware of the Pretender.

Labour, we can presently see, is in hardly better shape. Since 1997, the Party has been held together by a combination of opportunism and a careful balancing of now incompatible ideologies. Time and the growing fact of economic failure and, of course, this projected war with Iraq are pulling it apart just as surely.

So, what is to be done? Steve and I are agreed that the answer is for at least the Conservatives to remake themselves so that they stand on one side of some clear and overriding division in this new century. We seem to agree that this division is between those who want a free and independent nation and those who do not. But, as I keep saying, ideas need to be perceived and then articulated before they can have any positive effect. I do not think we can wait 30 years for a new generation of political leaders to reshape the parties. The ideas are there, and so probably are the votes. All we lack are the politicians. Is there anyone in or near the Conservative leadership with the imagination to see what has happened, and with the courage to take advantage of it? The answer so far appears to be not.

The Cure for Socialism
Andy Duncan <andy_j_duncan@yahoo.com

So, you're a socialist, and you're reading Free Life magazine? Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. For I too was once a socialist. But then I began to suspect the Third Way had serious flaws. The first clear symptom was the culture of spin. Then taxes started rising. Then borrowing started rising. And finally, public anger has started rising. So how did this happen? In 1997, after 200 years, the philosopher's stone of balancing social justice against competitive struggle had surely been found? But I'm afraid it has all been a mirage. You may like to find out why, and then cure yourself of your anti-capitalist religion. Or you may like to stay in your cave? It' s up to you, but if want to join the rest of us out here in the light, then come with me and let the following literature be your medicine. You'll be cured forever. The first step is Henry Hazlitt's classic book, Economics in One Lesson. It took some finding in my personal quest for both short books and enlightenment, but it's a 214-page masterpiece. First written in 1946 and continuously updated over the next three decades, it's the book they don't want you to read. It destroys every socialist myth you've ever heard spouted from Gordon Brown's mouth, in the clearest possible English. Hazlitt describes the two central flaws in socialist economics. The first is a constant caving in to the pleading of special interest groups (teachers, unions etc). The second is a regular failure to see beyond the immediate effects of any economic policy. For instance, the press may love to photograph a smiling Mr. Brown handing over £500 to the inner city child of his choice. What they never show you is the £1,000 being stolen from my son to pay for it, via my tax bill, with £500 of that being wasted on the bureaucratic transfer process. Or the effect this has on my motivation to earn the money in the first place.

After rooting out the fallacies, Hazlitt examines how they affect our daily lives by moving through topics as diverse as "Minimum Wage Laws", "The Assault on Saving" and "The Fetish of Full Employment". Sound familiar? Even after 50 years, it's almost as if Brown has read this book in a fury, and then deliberately inverted every one of its chapters into his own core policies despite Hazlitt's explicit descriptions of how they will lead to ruin. Hazlitt also explodes the zero sum game of socialists, like Charles Kennedy, who assume no matter how much you raise tax, the economy will continue unaffected even though 98 per cent taxes left this country in need of the IMF. Higher taxes always depress economies, with only technological innovations left to expand them (more on this later). Hazlitt's book could be enough on its own to bring you over to our side. But if you need it, there's more. Despite Keynes prodigious hoop-jumping, wealth cannot be created on government printing presses. To find out why, our second chisel is the 310-page Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman. This was the sequel to Friedman's earlier work, Capitalism and Freedom, a lone 1960s voice in a US desert of Democrat socialism. Friedman's manifesto of liberal freedom grew in stature, proclaiming as it did the virtues of small government, personal freedom and choice. By 1980 it had become the clarion call for Reaganomics and Thatcherism, and the nemesis of stagflation, the hidden tax of 1970s socialism. As well as all the topics you might have expected, such as "The Power of the Market", "The Tyranny of Controls" and "The Cure for Inflation", it also covers welfare state delusions and why raising taxes is the least effective way of improving public services. The key is Friedman's theory of money. He explains four types: your own money you spend on yourself; your own money you spend on other people; other people's money spent on yourself and other people's money spent on other people. I won't bore you with the details, when Friedman writes it so much better, but the basic premise is if you spend your own private money on yourself, you're careful with it. You get good value for money and only buy what you would truly like to have (even if it's a PlayStation). If you're spending other people's tax money on yourself, and your annual budget is cut if you don't spend up to the limit, you're much more likely to waste it. Witness any political fact-finding mission to the Caribbean. However, this isn't the worst kind of money, as at least politicians get the cocktails they want. If you're spending other people's money on other people, it's even more wasteful as you don't care what it's spent on, because you're not benefiting directly. Witness the Millennium Dome. Needless to say, all government spending is either type three or type four. This is why 1980s privatization generated so much wealth, which had previously been locked up in waste.

If you accept Friedman, it takes about £3 of public spending to create £1 of private benefit. This is why throwing money into the NHS swamp is going to be such a disaster over the next two years, with most of it being sucked into bureaucracy, and why introducing type one provision, as in every other western country, would have been far more efficient. In Friedman's overall bid to convince you that liberals trust the people and simply want a civilized community in which all are free within the Rule of Law, he also describes a superb scheme to completely avoid poverty traps with minimum incomes for everyone based on negative income taxes. I wouldn't be surprised if Gordon Brown had stolen this idea to drive his tax credit system, though of course in typical Brownian fashion he's complicated it so much no sane person can understand it.

For those who hunger for more background, the next stop is Todd G. Buchholz's New Ideas from Dead Economists, where he introduces the central tenets of all the famous economists of the last three centuries. These include Adam Smith, still the greatest of them all; the ecological (and mistaken) prophet of doom, Malthus; David Ricardo and his free trade fight against the Corn Laws; John Stuart Mill; Karl Marx; Alfred Marshall and finally Keynes and Galbraith, and their immense war with the Friedman-led monetarists. Buchholz is particularly refreshing on Marx. To paraphrase; the reason most old Marxists, including myself, never actually bothered to read much Marx, was because it was a load of old monkeys. Buchholz explains why. By the way, if by now you're contemplating Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations make sure you get an edition which includes Book V on taxes. Most modern editions cut this out, which is a bit like Marie Antoinette without the line on cake.

Smith's radical book, first published in 1776, remains the axis around which the American dream and all other economists revolve, including Marx and Brown. It is still surprisingly readable after all these years, just like his friend Gibbon's classic on the Roman Empire, though plenty of iced gin is recommended to get you through the rough bits. And hot towels. To start arguing back to your old socialist friends, however, you may need three more short paperbacks. The first is How the West Grew Rich (Nathan Rosenberg et al), which explains how the rise of technology in the western world allowed us to overtake the economies of Asia, despite the Arabs having given us mathematics. Central control contracts economies and technology expands them. This is the trick Gordon Brown half-learned, relying upon Hi-Tech to grow the FTSE index to 7000 in the web-boom years. He then failed to realize his stealth taxes, regulations and crippling 3-G charges would drag this back under 4000 just three years later. Rosenberg postulates it is both small government and the freedom to earn profits from innovation which gives us the technological edge to keep our economies growing year after year. When power centralizes, the profit motive becomes withdrawn and personal dangers arise from challenging the scientific orthodoxy (or Access Regulators). Initiative then crumbles and economies disintegrate. Witness the failure of Soviet industry, despite Russia possessing arguably the finest intellectuals of the 20th century. Would you have told Stalin he was wrong about genetics? Incidentally, you may also want to consider Nicholas Eberstadt's The Tyranny of Numbers If you've ever suspected all that cobblers from Millbank about NHS waiting lists and the like was suspect, Eberstadt explains why. Remember, if targets and centralized control were so good, we'd all be flocking to live in the world's richest country, the Soviet Union.

The socialist idea of self-appointed demagogues choosing a Utopian perfection and then forcing us plebs to behave ideally within it, rather than allowing individual freedom, leads us towards our centrepiece, which is F.A.Hayek's The Road to Serfdom Hayek witnessed the mutation of German socialism into National Socialism, and in 1944 warned us how to avoid a similar disaster in the UK by analysing the rival systems of central planning and the market. I believe this 178-page gem, along with George Orwell's work, saved the western world from communism, socialism's other ugly child. It's tough going, but if you can force yourself from cover to cover you may agree with me. It describes the inevitable process whereby socialism always starts out with the best of intentions, but always ends up as a murderous Gulag. This is because the demagogues always try to engineer the plebs into working against their own personal welfare. Thankfully, when the 1945 Labour government toyed with the idea of designating particular people to particular jobs, on their own road to serfdom, the British people woke up in time and threw them out. A section which particularly shook me was on page 31:

If we are nevertheless rapidly moving towards such a [centralized] state this is largely because most people still believe that it must be possible to find some Middle Way between 'atomistic' competition and central direction. Both competition and central direction become poor and inefficient tools if they are incomplete; they are alternative principles used to solve the same problem, and a mixture of the two means that neither will really work and that the result will be worse than if either system had been consistently relied upon."

Breathtaking. In 1944 Hayek both invents the Third Way and then consigns it to the dustbin in a single paragraph. Thank God for Hayek. Let him be our inspiration as we attempt to do the same. Two further Hayek books you may want to explore are The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism and Margaret Thatcher's cornerstone, The Constitution of Liberty The first of these sheds light, over 156 pages, on why we became socialists in the first place. This is a mixture of rational conceit where we think we're clever enough to tackle all of humanity's problems, and an instinctive reversion to Stone Age thinking, where we'd like everyone to revert to a tribal existence with one pot we're compelled to fill, and the single chief deciding what everyone deserves, from this pot. There's also much on the evolution of tradition, and how civilisation and the free market arose from this Stone Age poverty, enabling far greater populations and infinitely greater wealth. The second is a complete statement of Hayek's philosophy for freedom, and life, though you may prefer to come back to this 568-page masterpiece once you're cured, and you have quite a number of reading days free.

By now, you may be ready for a fix of liberty heroine, Ayn Rand, and Austrian giant, Ludwig von Mises. As a doubting socialist you may fear philosophical crucifixion by your anti-capitalist friends when you make your escape bid. In our cure so far we've acquired materialistic reasons as to why socialism never works, but its core ideology, based upon Plato, Kant, Hegel and Marx, still needs to be taken down.

Socialists often deride Adam Smith for his invisible hand and Hayek for his unknowable traditionalism, and thus claim the intellectual high ground. But they have never yet refuted Von Mises. In his seminal work, Human Action he uncloaks the invisible hand by explaining its market pricing mechanism and how this shadows ever-changing human needs. There are billions of men on Earth, and each of us has a fluid set of needs. Our rational actions must change continuously, as we aim at varying goals; I need to get a meal, get a job, get a house. When you're hungry, you'll pay a high price for a meal. But the minute you've eaten, your valuation on food drops, and so does the price you'd pay. If you multiply billions of people, by tens of daily decisions, by hundreds of ever-changing valuations, you create an unplannable system; there is just too much information. The best way to manage this is the market. Just as evolution blindly produced creatures well suited to changing environments, markets blindly use prices driven by the entire world population's needs to create a wealth of nations. It's never absolutely perfect, just as the Dodo's evolution was out of tune with hungry sailors, but it's never far behind when left alone. This is why Tescos runs out of fresh bread sometimes, but always has plenty of flour. The price mechanism fails when governments try to rig it. This is why North Koreans starve.

The old saw of capitalists knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing is thus reversed. Successful capitalists work out other people's values and then change their prices accordingly. This is why you get happy hours under capitalism, and equalised misery under socialism. Indeed, the absolute key to economic success is value calculation. Imagine 100 capitalists competing to run 10 different factories. What is each factory worth? It depends on 1,000 profit evaluations (10 by each bidder), and the credit worthiness of each bidder. Market prices are quickly settled, and every time a factory is taken off the market all relative valuations adjust instantly. Compare this to the socialist plan. There are 10 factories but just one buyer, the state, who can fix all prices. But on which factory should the state concentrate the most resources, and in which order? Which factory is worth the most, and what should the prices be? It is impossible to say. Without the market's self-balancing valuations, the state planner relies on political whim, and because he's unaffected by decision consequences, these changing whims cause unbalanced chaos. This is why the visible hand of socialism can flood a dry country with umbrellas, when its barefoot people need shoes.

You should also try Von Mises' 89-page, The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality Socialists often ascribe their own failure in life, as compared to stupid people like successful entrepreneurs, to society's deliberate unfairness. "I'm clever, and wonderful, but I'm being held back by an evil system." I used to think like this too. But Von Mises cleared my mind of such envious poison. Life is unfair. Get used to it, and shape up. But life is not deliberately unfair, unlike persecution under the socialist jackboot. The world just has limited resources and everyone else is trying to live too, and you're bottom of their concern list. If you'd rather write poetry than manage a supermarket, yet bemoan your lack of material goods that's called wanting to have your cake and eat it. If you want more wealth, go out there and start providing other people with goods and services they want. Profits are your reward for innovatively providing people with the things they want better than anyone else. Stop just cruising on your own needs. For more in this vein, buy the book, and re-read it every week for six months. Which brings us to Ayn Rand. I won't say too much here as even amongst libertarians her work is controversial, with many of her devotees labelled as Ayn-droids, but my advice is get the entire Ayn Rand library. Start with the novels, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and Anthem and then start on the non-fiction, particularly The Return of the Primitive The last of the novels is my favourite, as it details a Socialist Utopia ringing all too true in these politically correct days, but I won't spoil the ending. And then when you're done with Ayn Rand, try her disciple Leonard Peikoff's book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand . This will shield you from all of those Kantian-Hegelian-Marxists you're going to have to fight off, if you can fight through its necessarily tough sentences. But by the time you're over this last hurdle, you'll not only want to escape from socialism's evil, you'll want to help the rest of us destroy it too. Best of British.

Andy Duncan is the author of two books for American IT publisher, O'Reilly Press; Oracle and Open Source and Perl for Oracle DBAs. He's also an independent consultant for clients such as Oracle Corporation, Sun Microsystems, British Telecom, Vodafone and Orange, and lectures for the American IT training company, Learning Tree. His ambitions include creating an original Libertarian Sci-Fi novel, which Robert Heinlein hasn't already written, and learning how not to fall in the water all the time, when windsurfing. As an ex-socialist, the scales finally fell from his eyes when, in 2001, Andy wrote an article for The Spectator magazine entitled "Why I No Longer Love Tony"; this described the intricate horror of Gordon Brown's IR35 stealth tax. Andy then embarked on a book-worm mission to learn how to cure himself from socialism. Now fully healed, he would like to short-circuit this process for other sufferers, by sign-posting the subterranean route he discovered through the mountain range of possible book options.