In Defence of the British Empire, Sean Gabb, 3rd August 2010

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from the Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 196
3rd August 2010

In Defence of the British Empire
by Sean Gabb

Note: In this article, I make a number of sharp comments about Abhilash Nambiar. Since writing it, however, Abhilaish and I have struck up a long and friendly correspondence, and we find outselves in agreement on a wide range of issues. I therefore wish to apologise for the sharpness of my comments. They were made in the heat of debate – as, indeed, were his.

On Friday the 29th July 2010, I saw a BBC report of David Cameron’s tour of India. Several Indians, it seems, had demanded the return of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond. This has been property of the British Crown for the past century and a half, and now forms part of the Crown Jewels. To say that the inconvenience and humiliation of breaking up the Crown Jewels had not crossed the minds of those making the demand is to credit them with too little intelligence. The Diamond itself, we can have no doubt, was worth far less to these people than the joy of having humiliated their former masters. This was confirmed within the report by some relative of the famous Gandhi, who urged return of the Diamond as an act of “atonement” for our imperial past.

Mr Cameron, I am glad to say, refused the demand. His refusal, however, was less firm than it should have been. He merely observed that return of the Diamond would set an unwelcome precedent. And so, having nothing more enjoyable to do with the five minutes of my time it took, I made my own response on the Libertarian Alliance Blog. It went thus:

Gross Indian Ingratitude
by Sean Gabb

So the Indian ruling class is asking for the Koh-i-Noor Diamond to be shipped off to them.

Some flatulent grandson of Gandhi is demanding the diamond as some kind of “atonement“.

Atonement for what? I ask.

I think the world would be a much better place if the wretched Gandhi had drunk a bad pint of his own urine c1910. But since he didn’t, the Indians might at least have the grace to thank us for having saved them from the barbarism in which we found them. But for us, they’d still be burning widows, and the country districts would still be swarming with Thugees. Thanks to us, they now have a space programme.

Yes, rather than asking for one diamond back, they should be grubbing about to see if they can find another one to send over. And, while doing that, they could put all those statues back up of Queen Victoria, and set up a few new ones of T.B. Macaulay.

Sadly, this posting has unaccountably vanished from the LA Blog, taking with it all the comments. But it provoked a firestorm of debate that has continued to burn on one of the supplemental postings that did survive. I drove several Indians into a frenzy, and got a stern ticking off from various self-appointed “libertarian purists”. In a private message to some of my friends, one of the Indians accused me of cowardice and dishonesty. Another of them, one Sudha Amit, has decided for the moment to call me an “imperialist racist pig” in the comment section of every other posting I make to the LA Blog. Since I presently have limited access to the Internet, I shall not see until tomorrow what the effect has been of calling her a “silly little woman”. If she has responded with better sense than I expect, I will confine myself to sneering at her bad English until she goes away.

I suppose I could have made my comment a little less bluntly. But I stand wholly by its substance.  I feel no shame whatever about my country’s imperial past. I am even rather proud of it. Indeed, I really do think that the inhabitants of those places lucky enough to have been conquered by England should display a little more gratitude than is currently the fashion. If they cannot do this, they should at least stop whining about it.

But, dear me – here I go again! Never mind my poor Indian readers, I can almost hear the muscles tighten in the faces of my “libertarian purist” critics. And so, rather than go into the details of why I feel so pleased to have been born an Englishman, I will explain how, as a libertarian, I can possibly think well of an institution so essentially statist as the British Empire.

There are two points of view from which the Empire should be regarded – that of the English and that of everyone else. I will begin with the English. For us – I am not, by the way, discussing the colonies of white settlement – the Empire was a mistake that ultimately destroyed us. This is particularly the case with India. There were Englishmen who gained from the conquest of India. But these were a small minority. They were shareholders in the East India Company, and politicians who took bribes from the Company, and various members of the ruling elite who found wider opportunities for employment as soldiers and administrators than would otherwise have existed in a liberal state. For the rest of us, India was a waste of our national effort. It was not a place to settle. It was less important as a trading and investment partner than the United States. Together with Burma and the East Indies, that control of India enabled us to conquer, the Raj brought us into disputes with Russia and Japan that led directly or indirectly to both great wars of the twentieth century.

I might add to this the corrupting effect that governing India had on the British ruling class. This was not so extreme as the effect that empire had on the Roman aristocracy. Even so, I think much of the paternalism one sees in British government after about 1870 was inspired by the example of despotic control over several hundred million Indians. Or I might add further unanticipated effects on England of our association with India and the other non-white colonies – Iam pridem Syrus in Tiberim defluxit Orontes, etc. But this takes us away from the present argument.

Therefore, as a libertarian who looks at it from the English point of view, I can see nothing good in our conquest of India. It raised our taxes above what they would otherwise have been. It raised up wealthy special interest groups that were not particularly liberal. It involved us in otherwise unnecessary – even unimaginable – overseas entanglements. Had I been alive and writing in the nineteenth century, I would have been on the extreme radical wing of the Liberal Party, arguing for an immediate departure from India.

But this is the case only when I look at things from the English point of view. When I look at them from the Indian point of view, they appear wholly different. By liberal English standards, India was barbarous or, at best, semi-barbarous. It was a jolly enough place to live for those with money and power – and I can understand why many of its early English rulers went native. But for everyone else – that is, about ninety nine point nine something of the people of India – it was a hellish place. It was a place of rigid caste boundaries, of destructively rapacious landlords and tax collectors, of extreme and arbitrary injustice, of suttee and thuggee, of forced castration and forced prostitution, of outright slavery.

Until the death of Aurangzebe in 1707, India was at least reasonably united and reasonably at peace. After 1707, however, it fell into a growing chaos – a chaos that impacted most on those at the bottom – that was only terminated by the rise of the East India Company.

India never knew the really lunatic parasitism shown in Mel Gibson’s film Apocalypto. But it was, before the English conquest, similar in many respects to our own ancient world. These similarities, though, extended only to the evils of antiquity. India had no equivalent of those arts and sciences that redeem the ancients and that have made the study of their civilisation so enduringly profitable. When, in the 1830s, he looked at what sort of popular education the East India Company should encourage, Macaulay saw no alternative to an entirely English curriculum. He was advised that the vernacular languages were, as they then stood, deficient as vehicles of instruction. He was willing to accept that the classical languages of Arabic and Sanscrit might be respectable in themselves, but had nothing but contempt for the “wisdom” their literatures offered to the Indian mind. This “wisdom” was made up of

medical doctrines which would disgrace an English farrier, astronomy which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school, history abounding with kings thirty feet high and reigns thirty thousand years long, and geography made of seas of treacle and seas of butter.

It would be far better, he said, to let the Indians learn English and become as English in their thinking and outlook as their circumstances allowed. And, so far as circumstances allowed, it was English and English ways that, during the century that followed, were given to the Indians. They were given English science and administration. They were given a rational and humane penal code based on English principles. They got due process of law and trial by jury and freedom of religion and the press. Slavery and sacrificial murder were put down.

That all this was given at gunpoint is no valid objection. Let us, for the sake of argument, accept that all states are evil. It does not follow that all states are equally evil. It may not be to the benefit of one nation to conquer another. But it will be to the benefit of one nation to be conquered by another when the state directing that conquest is more liberal. The English State was more liberal than any Indian alternative, and so the result of conquest was beneficial to all those classes of Indians outside the ruling elites. The main use of English power in India was to stop the Indians from being quite so beastly to each other as they would have been left to their own ways. The whining of some modern Indians about “colonialism” and “oppression” tries but cannot obscure this fact.

Nor is it valid to cry up the examples of real brutality by the English in India – for example, the blowing apart of Sepoys after suppression of the Mutiny. Though it is never right, it is the nature of the strong to tyrannise over the weak. There is nothing unusual about English brutality. It is regrettable, but common to all powerful nations. What is notable about English rule of India is its settled benevolence. And I suspect this is what so outrages the modern Hindu nationalist. If we had behaved in India as the Belgians had in the Congo, he might actually think better of us today. Atrocities are more easily forgiven than benevolence from a position of overwhelming physical and moral superiority.

There is one point in my original blog posting that I might withdraw. This is my suggestion that the Indians should put back up all their statues of Queen Victoria. On the one hand, she was their lawfully-proclaimed and accepted Empress. On the other, she was a foreigner. And, while they might have learned a few more English ways than they did, the Indians have had all the English lessons they really needed to become a fairly respectable people. They are no more obliged to set up statues of Queen Victoria than they are not to change the names of cities like Calcutta and Bombay and Madras to whatever they please in their own languages – so long, that is, as they do not come scowling to me or mine to change our own usages.

As for Macaulay, he needs no statues in England or in India. His writings are the only memorial he requires.

Let me pass now to some of the specific objections to my case that I feel are in need of separate answers. The first is the emphasis that one of my Indian critics placed on the Bengal famine of 1943 – as if this was somehow an indictment of English rule. It might be an indictment if there had never before been Indian famines. But to claim this would be manifest nonsense. Famine has haunted India since time out of mind. The reason we know so little of it before English rule is that the native chroniclers of India were always more interested in reporting court intrigues than the condition of the people. But take this by Fernand Braudel:

The cataclysms were often irremediable, such as the terrible and almost general famine in India in 1630-1. A Dutch merchant left an appalling description of it: ‘People wandered hither and thither,’ he wrote, ‘helpless, having abandoned their towns or villages. Their condition could be recognised immediately: sunken eyes, wan faces, lips flecked with foam, lower jaw projecting, bones protruding through skin, stomach hanging like an empty sack, some of them howling with hunger, begging alms.’ The customary drama ensued: wives and children abandoned, children sold by parents, who either abandoned them or sold themselves in order to survive, collective suicides…. Then came the stage when the starving split open the stomachs of the dead or dying to ‘eat their entrails’. ‘Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people died,’ the merchant continued, ‘to the point where the country was entirely covered with corpses which stayed unburied, and such a stink arose that the air was filled with it and pestilential.’ [Capitalism and Material Life, 1400-1800, Harper & Row, New York, 1975, p.41]

The problem with India under English rule was that every improvement in circumstances was attended by an increase in numbers among the lowest classes. Because these Indians would consider no limits to their own fecundity, they faced the same Malthusian checks in 1943 as in 1630. Those Indians who blame England for this are as pitiable as the Irish who blame England for the blight that killed so many of their potatoes in 1845.

Second, there is the claim by Kevin Carson – made on the Libertarian Alliance discussion forum – that European colonial rule damaged native civil society, and made it inevitable that these countries, once independent, should fall under kleptocratic rule. He says:

I’m afraid I agree with Burke rather than the “liberal” imperialists. One might have said similar things of England ca. 1214 or so. But the constitutional framework of liberal democratic Britain was gradually built, over centuries, from that crooked timber. I think Third World countries are overrun with kleptocracies is, in part, because their civil societies were so nearly liquidated by “progressive” foreign powers, leaving a vacuum when those powers withdrew. Gandhi’s movement was as much a reformist movement against the most barbarous aspects of authoritarian Hinduism, including the caste system and the burning of widows, as it was against British rule. The contest for power in post-independence Indian national politics, conducted by people like Nehru, detracted from what was most valuable in Gandhi’s thought: the promotion of a decentralized, federal, village-based anarchism.

Now, I do have the greatest respect for Mr Carson. Nevertheless, I am not at all persuaded by this claim. Outside Europe, and those parts of the world settled from Europe, there has never been anything worth calling civil society. This is true of those places that were only lightly colonised – Ethiopia, for example – or that early threw out their colonial masters – that is, Haiti. India may not be so stark an instance as China – where no room for stable association has ever existed between the family and the State. But I do not see, when I survey what little we know of Indian history before the English conquest, any of those associations that, in Europe, repeatedly checked, and even partly humanised, the rule of the parasitic classes. The only difference between pre-colonial and post-colonial governments, in India and in the much less fortunate Africa, is that the latter have modern technology to assist their oppressions – but also the often fading impression of English ways to limit their oppressions.

To say that, but for western conquest, most of Asia and Africa today would have strong and vibrant civil societies, in which individuals were protected by mutual guarantees from misgovernment and the misfortunes of life, is a romantic fiction. More realistically, the only time in their histories that most parts of Asia and Africa were not governed tyrannically was when they were governed despotically from Europe.

I come now to the repeated accusation of all my Indian critics that I am not a “real” libertarian. Since libertarianism – unlike Roman Catholicism or Islam or Orthodox Marxist-Leninism – has no core texts and fixed catechisms, I could ignore these accusations. However, those making them have annoyed me by their bitterness and often by their private correspondence with third parties, and therefore deserve some attention. So let us look at the specific claims.

They all claim that nations do not really exist, and that to speak of them is to engage in “group-think”. There are only individuals, they say, and no true libertarian ever talks of other than individual interests. According to one Abhilash Nambiar, “What does such terms mean anyway? “Interests of England”, “interests of those subjected to British rule” etc., Nations do not have interests, people do. What is called national interests are merely meaning that people attach to interests as expressed by certain persons who where at certain position during certain times.” He adds: “Sean you need to shake off your collectivist mentality and apply methodological individualism when performing your analysis”. He further adds: “You cannot have your two feet in two boats. Sooner or later you will have to choose. Libertarianism and nationalism is as compatible as oil and water.” Again, he says: “The environment [in America] is more receptive to libertarianism. Here I see conservatives wearing different clothes. I do not expect things to change in England any time soon tough. The English won’t imitate the Americans even if their life depended on it.”

According to one Jayant Bhandari, “Dr Gabb has now himself taken the path of bigotry and irrationality.”

Of course, only individuals exist in the tangible sense. And there is no doubt that much social science is improved so far as it studies individuals as opposed to reifications. However, the idea that nations do not in any sense exist strikes me as ludicrous. It might as easily be said that my family does not exist – but that we should instead speak only of individuals with names like Sean, Andrea and Philippa. And I do not think that von Mises, or any of the other most eminent economists of the Austrian School, has ever denied the existence – and even the importance – of national groupings as reasonably conceived. Nations are communities based on perceived commonality of blood, or on language or religion, or on some other unifying cause or combination of causes. Certainly, so far as individuals believe in them, and so far as individuals are willing to act on their belief, nations must be taken into account.

My Indian critics are united in denouncing me for my supposed lapses from methodological individualism. But I really wonder how committed they themselves are to methodological individualism. Some years ago, I wrote an essay on the Elgin Marbles, in which I sprayed vicious abuse all over the Greeks. Every few months, I take it into my head to say very hateful things about the Americans. Yet my Indian critics only thought to turn up and start preaching at me when I was less than flattering about the Indians.

Notice, moreover, how Mr Nambiar, as quoted above, passes pretty fast from telling me to shake off my “collective mentality” to showing one of his own: “The English won’t imitate the Americans,“ he says, ascribing one characteristic to about fifty million people, “even if their life depended on it.”

I would never dream of denouncing my Indian critics for arguing in bad faith. That would – on the basis, at least, of what information I have on them – be a most wicked accusation to make. Even so, is it not possible that, even as they try to lecture me on my own alleged shortcomings, they are unconsciously motivated by a Hindu nationalism as ardent as my English nationalism? As said, I make no allegations of bad faith. I only ask what I feel to be a reasonable question.

In closing, I will pass to the accusation of inconsistency that Sudha Amit made against me when she noticed that I was opposed to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. She says:

Lol, Why are you so inconsistent?

Don’t you believe that the Tony/Brown Junta is doing great things to Afghanistan the same way EIC did to India for which you want every Indian to e grateful to you?

You need to be consistent, otherwise change the blog’s name to Musings of an imperialist racist pig with some fits of Libertarianism

I have little respect for Miss Amit’s reasoning faculties. But I will answer her question.

I was against invading Iraq and Afghanistan because these wars involved killing large numbers of civilians without what I saw as good reason. Though I do not regard wars and their incidental atrocities as absolutely illegitimate, I do require the projectors of a war to show reasonable grounds that it is defensive and that some regard will be paid to the lives and properties of civilians. Alternatively, as argued above, I am willing to accept the outcome of a war when it can be shown that there has been some compensating advantage to the people of the losing side. I would never insist that the English conquest of India was achieved without bloodshed. But the restoration of India to internal peace following the conquest led to an overall economy of bloodshed. And English rule was to the advantage of the great majority of Indians.

There has been no economy of bloodshed in either Iraq or Afghanistan, nor is there likely to be. And no one with a straight face can possibly claim that the conquests were in any sense to the long term advantage of the conquered. These were looting expeditions, bought by a coalition of corporate and other interest groups, in which the interests of both conquerors and conquered were of zero importance.

Now, if this is not all that I can say on the relationship between England and India, it is certainly all that I will say. I have no doubt that my various critics will let up one great wail of horror at what I have just said. But that is their concern – and they must let up their wail without any hope of further comment from me.

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10 thoughts on “In Defence of the British Empire, Sean Gabb, 3rd August 2010

  1. Billy Christmas

    Dr Gabb, I do not accuse you of anything as absurd as racism, fascism or pig-ism as I have the highest regard for your views, publications and organisation, however….

    Granted that the great majority of Indians did benefit from the instllation of something resembling English Liberalism and internal peace, that perhaps ofutweighed the harm done by certain agencies of the Empire (if I am understanding you correctly). Could one not still argue that the death of civillians in Iraq and Afghanistan outweighs their alleviation from the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, assuming the democracy installed by armed forces is less evil than the regimes that predeeded them? You cite the causes of the current wars as illigitemate and coming from the ruling class, but can we vouch for the intentions of Indian colonisation?

    So that you do not misinterpret my question, as a point of reference let me say that I have been against the current wars in the Middle East since their start, and I am undecided on the subject of imperialism in India. Though I find your post above persuasive, the concerns I’ve written still remain.

    1. seangabb Post author

      And this is a brief reply.

      Regarding Iraq, there is no reason to suppose that the destruction of a semi-secular despotism has resulted in a more stable or even temporarily more liberal regime. Iraq is a failed state. It may be that some benefit will emerge, but it will be unforseen and the projectors of the US/UK attack will not deserve any thanks.

      Regarding Afghanistan, same as above, with the exception that this is a country that has no viable alternative ruling class to the Taliban.

  2. seangabb Post author

    Here is the whole comment thread from the Libertarian Alliance Blog:

    150 Responses to Sean Gabb: In Defence of the British Empire

    1. Yes, I enjoyed your article above, but that is not the article I thought you were going to write. It is just a defence of your recent blog. What about the much more important issue of UK’s relations with India in an era of declining British and Western power? I thought that was going to be the subject of your article.

    2. Dr Sean Gabb

      But that does not interest me. My own view of present Anglo-Indian relations is that there should be none at the government level – that is, no more foreign aid, no more guit trips, and so forth. How individual English and Indian people choose to behave to each other is of no account.

    3. when you say there should be no relations at the government level – that sounds interesting. I have long thought there are far too many foreign trips. It’s as if leaders feel they are more imposing when they are strutting round the globe.

      Surely, we should just trade with the Indians -and nothing else? Does it actually require state visits? Taiwan has hardly any embassies abroad, owing to its not being recognised as a state, although it does have trade offices abroad – and manages to have trade and investment flows with the outside world. Is that what you mean?

    4. Dr Sean Gabb

      When I come to power as the front man for a military coup, one of my first acts will be to shut down the Foreign Office and break off diplomatic relations with the rest of the world. Can I count on your support when I eventually call an election?

    5. Well, yes, you could count on my support in an election, but I think after your Indian comments above, you are going for the benevolent despotism role – no elections required :-)

    6. I do agree, there is something like nations. They do exist in the minds of the people. One may argue about the idea whether this is a good or bad thing, but I think it is in any case a fact that they exist. Acknowledging this itself does not make anyone a collectivist, just like acknowledging the existence of states does not automatically make anyone a statist.

      But what does make you a collectivist and a statist is that you but these intellectual constructions in the centre of your morality. According to you, it is alright when the British commit atrocities as long as they commit it in the name of spreading English glory to the world. And of course, that strong people commit violence against weak has always been the case and therefore it is alright. With this kind of mindset, how can you possibly argue against the idea that it is alright when a majority exploits a minority. As long as most people benefit from it that should not be a problem.

      Besides I still consider it to be a very arrogant and wrong argument if you argue from an ethnocentric viewpoint. The idea that the English way of doing things is somehow superior to others is very subjective. And especially because nations exist, one should have a little bit more respect for different cultures. They need to come up with their own solutions for their problems. That is why I pretty much agree with what Kevin Carson said about this.

    7. Dr Sean Gabb

      “The idea that the English way of doing things is somehow superior to others is very subjective.”

      And true, of course.

    8. Abhilash Nambiar

      So I am important enough to make it into your mega rant, nice.

      Happy to note that you found only one supposed inconsistency with my argument. Everything else you have noted without comment. I was not trying to ascribe one character to 50 million people. It was just a linguistic short cut.

      To quote Mises from Human Action, “If a Canadian who never tried skating says, “We are the world’s foremost ice hockey players,” or if an Italian boor proudly contends, “We are the world’s most eminent painters,” nobody is fooled, except maybe Sean Gabb. Ok, I added the last bit.

      But how about you? Macaulay’s judgement on India is accepted uncritically. And one Dutch merchant’s anecdote from 1630 describes all of India.

      “I was against invading Iraq and Afghanistan because these wars involved killing large numbers of civilians without what I saw as good reason.”

      Well the same arguments hold here too does it not? You have a two internally oppressive societies. There is the lack of Malthusian checks. Political checks and balances where totally absent. There is a liberal empire which will leave things relatively better off at least in our point of view.

      There is nothing unusual about American brutality as we already know from the English brutality right? It is regrettable, but common to all powerful nations. What is notable about American rule of Afghanistan and Iraq is its settled benevolence. Right?

      I am using your words here Sean. It is that easier to expose your hypocrisy that way.

      You say “Nations are communities based on perceived commonality of blood, or on language or religion, or on some other unifying cause or combination of causes”. I say “nations are instruments of oppression that tap into perceived or actual commonality.” Since we are on the subject of imperialism, I think my case is plainly evident.

      It is not possible to say that families do not exist. Family members are after all related by blood. There are other relations not based on blood. But even they have their basis on real feelings that real people feel for each other rather than perceived beings.

      Nations rest on a myth. The myth of the English Nation being the Queen’s divine right to rule. I do agree with you that so far as individuals believe in them, nations must be taken into account. But only in the sense that so far as children believe in Santa Claus, it should be taken into account. It is not real just because people believe in it.

      Your readers can compare your essay on Elgin Marbles to your rant on Kohinoor and decide for themselves if you deserved the backlash that you have received for your Kohinoor rant.

      I will be fair to you Sean. I will put it succinctly. I think the cause for individual liberty has been better served by the British colonialism in Europe and American occupation in the Middle East.
      Nevertheless your pride over what you yourself describe as regrettable acts of tyranny is a bit troubling. That you expect gratitude for it is, well now that I think about it a bit funny.

    9. Dr Sean Gabb

      Abhilash – “Linguistic short cut” eh? How about this, then, from one of your later comments:

      “Do you know who gate-crashed into India? The British. And where else did they gate-crash? Pretty much the known world is in not? The British are the villains in the game called colonialism and the Indians they civilized will inform it to them, in English. So would the Americans who kicked them out with real guns.”

      You may have trouble seeing it, but all I see peeping through the libertarian sloganising is a Hindu nationalist who hates England. You are, of course, welcome to your opinion. But do at least have the intellectual honesty to acknowledge its true underlying assumptions.

    10. Dr Sean Gabb

      Time to sign off for today. I must go and give a talk about libertarianism and culture.

    11. Abilash – nations are related by blood – they can be described as extended families. It is a fact of science that English people are more closely related to each other than to Indians – see the charts on the subject in Luigi Cavallo-Svorzi’s book on human genes.

      Culture is not all in the mind either. Dealing with English people, Chinese, Indians, Nigerians etc – you would notice differences in behaviour. These come from the national culture. So nations are not just in the mind – they are groups of people who have the same cultural instincts.

      Dealing with Germans, the difference can be striking – even the left-wing Germans can be very “strict” and unbending, and easy to anger if things are not handled in an organised way. Companies handling tour groups of Chinese need to provide special training for the staff to deal with people who spit on the floor and act in a loud and boorish way everywhere. I lived in China for years, and I learned to avoid restaurants at meal times because of the way adult Chinese screamed and shouted like little children – I prefer my peace and quiet.

    12. Abhilash Nambiar

      Hindu Nationalist who hates England? Yes I do have trouble seeing it. Especially since I know and despise the games that the Hindu nationalists play.

      Do you honestly believe that when I say the British gate crashed into India I am referring to 50 million people? Or that by Americans I am talking about all Americans, even the ones to be born? And does reality somehow has a Hindu Nationalistic bias. If that was the case, it would have been so easy for me.

      Did the Hindu Nationalist come up with the phrase ‘The sun never sets in the British Empire?’ I had never known that. Thanks for letting me know Sean.

      You have not been fair to me the way I have been fair to you Sean. You are trying to stick the saffron label on me to dimiss what I have said without addressing it fully. So far at least I have resisted calling you BNP.

      What you need is a good does of common sense. And no Hindu Nationalist can provide that to you.

      dj, I do not take you seriously enough to try answer your question. Suffice to say that not all Indians or all Chinese for that matter belong to the same gene pool. But it does not surprise me that you want to redraw national boundaries on ethnic lines.

    13. I will leave others to argue the convoluted points, and restrict myself to but two simple observations.

      Firstly, Sean, your entire piece — and, apparently, outlook — can be summed up in the phrase ‘for the greater good’. I am genuinely at a loss to understand how you square such a (necessarily) collectivist approach with the basic libertarian tenet of individualism. Or do you not see the individual as central to libertarian theory?

      Secondly, I must pick you up on this quote: “Nations are communities based on perceived commonality of blood, or on language or religion, or on some other unifying cause or combination of causes. ” Whilst you have allowed yourself some wriggle room, the tenor of your definition implies a voluntary and communally shared aspect to the creation of nations states. This is palpably false: nation states arose/arise through the military activities of a minority to secure territory, who then declare that any existing (and future) inhabitants of that land are citizens/subjects of that state. There is no voluntarism — excepting that of future immigrants — about the creation of nation states.

    14. Thank you, Dr Gabb, for another excellent piece. I enjoyed it immensely.

    15. WAKE UP: Muslims use a ‘trick’ to get reach a demographic advantage: The suppression of the rights of the women!…

      Call spread in the INTERNET:
      – Unmarried fathers in traditionally monogamous societies!!!
      {Sexual education without Taboos or Neo-Taboos: Artificial wombs – a scientific priority research}

      There are still dumb people, who believe in fairy-tales,… but we must look reality into the eyes:
      – In traditionally polygamous societies, only the strongest males have children.
      – However, to be able to survive, many companies had the need to mobilize/motivate the weaker males in the way, that they were interested in the fight for the protection of their identity!… In fact, the analysis of the sex taboo, (in traditionally monogamous societies), we see that the real purpose of the sex taboo was the social integration of sexually weaker males.
      {See THE ORIGIN OF SEX TABOO blog}

      In traditionally polygamous societies is it natural, that only the strongest men have children, NEVERTHELESS the traditionally monogamenen societies must accept their history! That is, these societies can´t treat the sexually weaker males like the trash cans of society! This means, that men (with good health) rejected by females should have the legitimate right to an ARTIFICIAL womb…

      COMMENT: Sexual incompetence doesn’t mean to be useless… in fact, the weaker males already showed their value: the technologically advanced societies… are traditionally monogamous societies!

      COMMENT 2: Nowadays, on one hand many women are looking for men with a bigger sexual competence, specially men from traditionally polygamous societies: in these societies, only the stronger men have children, they choose them and refine the quality of the men.
      On the other hand, nowadays many men from traditionally monogamous societies look for females from other societies, that are economically weakened [soft]…

    16. Paul Marks

      On balance, inspite of some terrible blunders, such as keeping the salt tax (Philip Francis was right about that) and not promoting Indian officers (as Queen Victoria kept asking “where are the Indian officers”) the Raj was a “good thing”.

      There was less warfare and bloodsoaked chaos that there was in the period before British domination.

      “But there was famine from time to time in Bengal” – there always was before modern times (it was the nature of subsitance farming).

    17. The “Indians were worse to each other than the British were to the Indians” argument is like justifying breaking up an abusive marriage, taking the wife captive, and raping her for the rest of your life, while saying that you don’t beat her as badly as her ex-husband did. IOW, the continued oppression of a person is not justified by having rescued that person from even worse oppression. That is why I do not make that my primary argument in favor of the US liberations of Afghanistan & Iraq. My primary argument for those is self-defense.

      Yes, nations exist, but Gabb’s problem is that the place of nationalism in his value hierarchy is above that of liberty, and thus he lets his nationalism filter out facts of reality which conflict with it (but are either no problem for liberty, or actually beneficial to the case for liberty). E.g., he completely overlooks Indian contributions in the sciences of mathematics, metallurgy, and architecture, just to name three rather obvious examples. (“Arabic” numerals are actually from India, “Damascus” steel came from India, and there are Hindu temples in southern India today built out of granite stones so big they still can’t be transported today with the help of modern trucks.) It was only due to English bigotry that these accomplishments were overlooked by MacCaulay (and prudery, due to the conflict between the sexual carvings on the Hindu temples and Victorian sensibilities; the sexless Muslim architecture of the North was far more congenial to them). That Gabb continues this bigotry is merely sad.

      Americans don’t bother getting upset when we get insulted by the English. We rule the world now, and merely find it cute that a tiny few of our former colonial masters still resent losing the battle of Yorktown.

    18. I have considerable differences in my political outlook compared with Sean Gabb, but I want to say this. To think that Dr Gabb, or anyone, should be ideologically and morally committed to an abstract idea, such as libertarianism, throughout his life would make a cardboard cut-out figure of the man. As if he only existed to serve individualistic ideas (and individualism taken to extremes is not the same thing as libertarianism, unless all libertarians are anarchists). As a REAL man of flesh and blood, he exists in a real society, is the product of a real culture, is not a purely dispassionate supporter of any particular theory. Why should he be? Why shouldn’t he be an English nationalist? It is almost as if you would like him to be disembodied, a being of pure spirit, instead of the product of a particular human culture. This is part of my problem with political correctness: it makes bland cardboard cut-outs of all of its followers. It removes real passions and motivations from its supporters, and leaves them as simply mouthpieces for certain supposedly liberal views. In fact libertarianism is also the product of Anglo-Saxon culture, and it makes more sense for those ideas to be discussed in the context of England’s recovering its traditional values–as traditionalism has at least some purchase on the English imagination–than to view those ideas as some kind of socially unconnected and chance thoughts that could potentially transform any society. I personally don’t care if India has a large state and high taxation — but I do care about it in the context of England, because that is not our original cultural settlement in England.

      It is quite wrong–and here I probably disagree with Dr Gabb, although I have no way of knowing for certain–of viewing freedom as an ethereal ideology, not thrown up by any society, and capable of equal implementation in any society. If his idea that libertarians and conservatives can find much in common, it must surely be because freedom is our historic culture. As Wordsworth wrote:

      It is not to be thought of that the Flood

      Of British freedom, which, to the open sea

      Of the world’s praise, from dark antiquity

      Hath flowed, “with pomp of waters, unwithstood,”

      Roused though it be full often to a mood

      Which spurns the check of salutary bands,

      That this most famous Stream in bogs and sands

      Should perish; and to evil and to good

      Be lost for ever. In our halls is hung

      Armoury of the invincible Knights of old:

      We must be free or die, who speak the tongue

      That Shakespeare spake; the faith and morals hold

      Which Milton held.-In every thing we are sprung

      Of Earth’s first blood, have titles manifold.

    19. Roger Thornhill

      The British came to the Subcontinent (as we should all know, “India” did not exist) to make and take wealth.

      Later the State arrived.

      Many bad things happened. Some good things.

      Fact is, though, the British were not asked.

      Though there was a form of “consent”, it was more a breaking in, as a horse might consent, i.e. not truly, if we are honest with ourselves.

      The British are currently being “broken in” by the Fabians etc. Is that right? No. Is that good? No. It was not asked for, it was not consented to. Even if some “good things” might happen – say, high speed rail – is that good enough to compensate the loss of sovereignty? Hell no.

    20. Abhilash Nambiar

      I see most of Sean’s rants get anywhere from zero to ten votes But see this one get 74 and the other one

      get 55 and think to myself. Very interesting.

    21. Jayant Bhandari


      While Dr Gabb calls you a Hindu fanatic, I have never known you and have seen nothing in what you have written that tells me anything about your beliefs. So, I don’t know if you are even an Indian. You could be a blonde, Swedish Christian. You have written only one language, that of reason.

      In two of the earlier blogs, you wrote extremely rational, thorough, thought-provoking and objective comments on everything. There was nothing that I saw that smelled of any emotions or any religious or national affiliations. Only a total dimwit would claim otherwise.

      So scared was Dr Gabb with your comments in the first blog that he conveniently deleted it. Then he took on the job of writing this article in his bigoted and irrational style.

      I am one of the “Indians” Sean Gabb mentions. I had in the blog written about how useful English rule was for India. Dr Gabb conveniently ignored that, for it did not suit his purpose. I wrote in the earlier blog because Dr Gabb had started the first blog and then sent an email to a group that I belonged to. When I challenged him on some of his assertions, he manipulated access to the group email and instead sent two of his own to make it look as if I was agreeing with his assertions. Honesty… I doubt if Dr Gabb knows that word.

      The problem is that backward people like Dr Gabb wallow in the past and in the greatness of their ancestors. Indeed, England has given the world a lot, perhaps more than any other society. I have a huge respect for the English legacy and its intellectual contribution to humanity. But that was the work of certain people who live(d) in that area. The rationality and intellectual honesty that those great people have/had did not pass on to Dr Gabb and those of his kinds but to people like Abhilash.

      With his ethno-centric affiliations, Dr Gabb will have a tough time understanding that such intellectual inheritance can pass from an English person to someone who is probably not English (assuming Abhilash is not English).

      And I must say that England continues to be a country of great people. But it is on a slippery slope. On one hand there are more and more people now becoming socialist. On the other are a minority of arrogant, neo-conservatives of the sort like Dr Gabb.

      I have no respect for socialists, but they look quite good when compared with Dr Gabb and those of his kinds.

      A sane person looks at the future not backward, except to learn. It is here that Dr Gabb and Stephan Kinsella (in the earlier blog), with their ethno-centric eyes, do not recognize the achievements of the Asians in the recent times. The true test of the cake is in the eating. It is China that now provides cash and goods to the West. It is in the emerging markets that the world’s growth comes from. Even Africa has now mostly started to grow. Dr Gabb etc are indeed in for a rude shock, going forward, as they continue to become nobodies.

      There are hundreds of leftist websites. I don’t care to comment on those. Worse than left-liberals are the irrational, cultish, neo-conservatives of Libertarian Alliance. Now that I have recognized this, I can only suggest ignoring Libertarian Alliance. I just hope they remove “libertarian” from their name; at least they should use proper English.

      Finally, this article of Dr Gabb was intended to serve no libertarian purpose. But, as Abhilash, rightly alludes to, this was perhaps his only way to get some readership, for he does not seem to have much. Thanks England for marginalizing people like him.

    22. Abhilash Nambiar

      I suspect that Sean had himself deleted his original rant, but there is no way of being sure. Anyway if he did, it is debatable whether it has worked to his advantage. Of course there are admirable aspects to English tradition. Sean may not know what they are, but they are most certainly there. Stealing diamonds are not it though. Sorry Sean.

      Time will tell what skin tone the ideological descends of British civilization will have. I am a patient man. So I will wait. Not that it bothers me. But something tells me that it bothers Sean and of course dj.

      I must say Stephan Kinsella’s position surprised me. He is actually a very smart guy. Every time I posed a significant challenge he backtracked. I am not sure about the extent of his ethno-centric bias. He just seems to have chosen to defend his friend unconditionally.

    23. Dr Sean Gabb

      I am not in the habit of deleting my own posts – especially when I then repeat them word for word in another post. Nor am I aware of having censored any postings to anyone. I have intermittent access to the Internet and am using unfamiliar software. If I copied one thing and not another, it would at worst have been carelessness. But since I still fail to see what I am supposed to have done, I will not comment further.

      So far as Tim Starr is concerned, I am really astonished that someone who gloried in the Iraq and Afghan bloodbaths could dare comment on the Raj. I do recall being assured by Tim that the Iraq war could be made to pay for itself out of plunder.

      I have more respect for the Indians in this discussion than for sordid neo-cons like Tim Starr. All else aside, they do not seem to regard Moslem blood as a kind of cure for their bad lungs.

    24. Abhilash Nambiar

      Correction Sean – at worst you would be censoring, at best you could be careless. I am more than willing to settle for careless, all things considered.

      But still I do not understand your pride in British colonialism, but your opposition for the Iraq and Afghan wars. The numbers of civilian deaths in these wars are minuscule compared to those that died as a part of Britain’s colonial ambitions. Do you know how many Indian villages full of people where burnt down British soldiers to quell the 1857 uprising?

      And take the case of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iraqis and Afghans where conquered by liberal empire. And those that survive the present onslaught will certainly enjoy more freedoms than people of those parts ever have in their history.

      Nevertheless it would be unthinkable for you to write a rant entitled ‘The Gross Ingratitude of the Iraqis’ or ‘The Gross Ingratitude of the Afghanis’.

      You seem to hold to the notion of a blessed past that can never be recovered. But when it comes to the present you are more intimately familiar with and so do not hold to any mythical notions of glory.

      I can easily imagine an equivalent of Sean Gabb living in the 1850s speaking about the glory days of Queen Elizabeth I but fed up with Queen Victoria.

    25. Well, yes, I am proud of the Empire, including the suppression of the Indian Mutiny, which I am not about to condemn. To maintain an Empire, you have to keep order. But Iraq and Afghanistan are something different – they are illconceived ventures, because they are trying to make the Iraqis and Afghans walk before they can run, hoping they will take to democracy instantly. In the Empire of India, there was no intention to transplant our democratic system to India; merely to rule it benignly but despotically. The Empire was good for Britain. The Empire of India was self-financing – the money required to defend it was raised in taxes on India and not Britain – and Britain gained markets and natural resources as a result of the Empire. That is not the aim of the Iraqi and Afghan adventures today.

    26. Abhilash Nambiar

      My bad, I had forgotten that stupid dj was still around. I would not dignify his nonsense with a response. I was not addressing to dj. I was talking to Sean.

      I would not be surprised if dj condoned the Jallianwala Bagh massacre next.

    27. I once came up with a set of rules for predicting wars that Gabb would support:

      1) They must involve the defense of those who are ethnically English;
      2) They may not involve the killing of German civilians;
      3) They must include the killing of Celtic civilians.

      I see now that I need to revise #3:

      3) They must include the killing of either Celtic or Indian civilians.

    28. Jayant Bhandari

      “I have more respect for the Indians in this discussion than for…”

      Dr Gabb, are you trying to patronize the “lowly” Indians?

    1. Mukherjee

      The Japanese as fellow-Asians would have done a much better job ruling India than the British. Ask any Korean or Vietnamese.
      The wise Bengali Indian national hero Chandra Bose after whom the airport at Kolkata is named could see this which is why he went to Tokyo in World War II and raised the Indian National Liberation Army from POWs. They fought alongside the Japanese at Imphal and but for the perfidy of the two million Indians fighting on the British side would have made Bose the Viceroy of the Emperor of Japan. Banzai dai Nippon !

  3. David Davis

    When you and I force the Diamond down the understandably-interested and also simultaneously faintly-confused proverbial throats of the recipients, you will see that I shall have choergraphed its very very very public return “to its rightful owners”, in a way that will gain notice. I shall discuss it with you later.