Posted by Sean Gabb
|London Local Authorities Act 2007 (c. ii)|
|PART 5 Miscellaneous|
he shall be guilty of an offence.
until the council issues a certificate under subsection (2) above or the application is withdrawn.
Posted by Sean Gabb
|London Local Authorities Act 2007 (c. ii)|
|PART 5 Miscellaneous|
he shall be guilty of an offence.
until the council issues a certificate under subsection (2) above or the application is withdrawn.
By way of intro, der Überblogmeister writes:-
For the benefit of overseas readers, English people have been in the habit of being able to trade in – and buy/sell in (legally) “imperial” measures for as long as these have been commonly understood, which in some cases such as “a Pound” (weight) is about fourteen centuries. These measures were indeed widely used in Europe and other places in the Known World, until the advent of the Metric System, statutorily enforced throughout conquered Europe by Napoleon. Just doing that thing on its own did not make Napoleon a fascist pig, but a fascist pig is what he was all the same, for integrated reasons.
Indeed, it has ALWAYS been legal in the UK to buy/sell/manufacture ot trade in metric measures of any kind. Scientists almost universally use the MKS (and understand the cgs) systems, both of which are metric, and this is logical as it makes the use of Standard Form Numbers much easier, in conjunction with any metric unit.
The ZanuLaborg British Stalinist fascist political parties, including the Tory party, here have all colluded in the forced metrication of all aspects of British life and thought, whether this was asked for, beneficial, or not.
it is advantageous to be fluent in both the “Imperial” and the Metric systems, but libertarians do not see this as a justifiable area for compulsion or legislation, so long as the standards in each are defines and known.
Here follows a sad story:-
Permanent link at: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc063.htm
Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet
Issue Number 63
21st February 2002
The “Metric Martyrs” and the Constitution
On Monday the 18th February 2002, judgment was given in the Court of
Appeal on the “Metric Martyrs” case (Thoburn v Sunderland City Council.)
These were appeals from four men who had in different ways been told by
lower courts that it was no longer legal for them to use the English
system of weights and measures for any purpose of trade.
The grounds of their appeal were that the relevant laws had been made
further to powers contained in the European Communities Act 1972, whereas
it appeared that their right to continued use of the English system had
been protected by the Weights and Measures Act 1985. According to the
doctrine of implied repeal, an earlier Act cannot be used to amend or
repeal a later Act. Instead, where any conflict arises between Acts of
Parliament that cannot be smoothed by judicial interpretation, the later
one always takes precedence: leges posteriores priores contrarias
What made this case so important was that it was brought to clarify the
constitutional status of our membership of the European Union. Either the
Judges could apply the doctrine of implied repeal, in which case, our
membership of the European Union was compromised to whatever degree the
European Communities Act had been repealed, or they could announce that
Parliament was no longer sovereign, and that we were now unambiguously
under the rule of a centralising, Roman Law despotism based outside this
country. In the judgment given last Monday, the four men lost their case.
According to Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Crane, the 1972 Act was
protected against implied repeal by the 1985 Act, and the English system
of weights and measures has been legally abolished to the degree stated
in the disputed laws.
Now, looking at the superficial aspects of the case, it is a defeat. As a
conservative, I deplore the legal suppression of weights and measures
which are an integral part of our culture. Whatever its merits considered
purely in themselves-and these are probably not so great as is usually
claimed-the metric system is an alien thing. Its imposition cuts us off
from part of our history, and makes it harder for us to enjoy that
intimate communion with the past that is part of any nation’s strength
and cohesion. As a libertarian, I deplore the imposition of anything. If
greengrocers want to sell bananas by the pound or the kilogramme-or
indeed by the ancient Athenian mina-that is a matter for them and their
customers, not for the authorities. However, if we look beneath the
surface, we can see that the judgment was not so much a defeat as a great
if conditional victory for both conservatives and libertarians. For while
it would not have been politically conceivable for the Judges to strike
down any part of the European Communities Act, they did preserve
parliamentary sovereignty to the extent that a majority of the House of
Commons will be able in due course to repeal that Act by positive
legislation; and that is, let us face reality, how we shall eventually
withdraw from the European Union-not by some clever legalistic trick, but
by full public debate followed by parliamentary repeal. And of equally
great importance for us, when the Judges squared the apparent circle
given to them, they did so by reviving the ancient doctrine of
This is a mediaeval doctrine that last flourished in the rather strange
legal soil of the 17th century. Its most famous statement is in Lord
Chief Justice Coke’s judgment in the case of Dr Bonham (1610). Bonham had
been fined for practising medicine without a licence from the Royal
College of Physicians. The charter under which he was fined had been
confirmed by Act of Parliament. In giving judgment for Bonham, Coke CJ
“And it appears in our books that in many cases the common law will
controul acts of parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly
void: for when an act of parliament is against common right and reason,
or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will controul
it, and adjudge such act to be void” (8 Coke’s Reports, 117-18).
By the end of that century, though, the whole notion of a fundamental law
that could be used to judge the validity of Acts of Parliament was in
decline. In the American colonies, the notion retained its hold among the
lawyers, and is preserved in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. But in
this country, the very different notion emerged of the absolute
legislative sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament. Our rulers were
restrained by their sense of right and wrong-or more often by their
caution-in exercising power, but were under no legal restraint so long as
they could rely on Parliament to pass whatever Acts they wanted.
Parliament was sovereign. Its Acts could be interpreted by the courts-and
frequently have been into senses that no Member of Parliament might have
recognised in the division lobbies-but could not be called in question.
The doctrine as a whole was elaborated to its full logical conclusions by
A.V. Dicey in his Law of the Constitution (1885). It was fully accepted
by the courts. “For us an Act of Parliament duly passed by Lords and
Commons and assented to by the King, is supreme, and we are bound to give
effect to its terms” said Lord Dunedin in 1906 (Mortensen v Peters, 8
The only limitation of sovereignty was its protection. It was held that
no Parliament could bind itself. Parliament could do anything, except
preserve its own Acts from repeal. An Act from the time of Henry VII, for
example, states that it cannot be repealed. An early 19th century
annotator of the State Trials refers to this as a void provision. A later
Act would always override an earlier one-and do so regardless of whether
that had been the intention of Parliament. Repeal could be intended or
simply implied. “The Legislature cannot, according to our constitution”
said Lord Justice Maugham, “bind itself as to the form of subsequent
legislation, and it is impossible for Parliament to enact that in a
subsequent statute dealing with the same subject-matter there can be no
implied repeal” (Ellen Street Estates Ltd v Minister of Health  1
King’s Bench Reports , 753. 14.).
Now, suddenly, the notion of fundamental law has been pulled out of the
legal grave in which it had been rotting for three hundred years, and
declared part of the law of our Constitution. In one sense, it was the
only way out of the paradox that the “Metric Martyrs” case had apparently
raised. By announcing that there was a “hierarchy of Acts of Parliament”
- “ordinary” and above them “constitutional”, the Judges were able to
save the European Communities Act from implied repeal. Undoubtedly, they
emphasised, European Union law is supreme in this country-but only to the
extent given by the European Communities Act, which can be repealed
should Parliament explicitly decide to do. Even so, short of explicit
repeal, it is immune from any implied repeal.
But in another sense, the judgment is only an extension of the growing
impatience that Judges have felt for a very long time with the
constraints imposed on them by the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty.
And, in spite of the status given for the moment to the European
Communities Act, these are constraints that should be regarded with
impatience by everyone who values freedom in this country.
“The sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament” is a nice set of words. The
phrase rolls off the tongue and carries the mind back to earlier ages in
our history. But the phrase no longer describes what is at all a
desirable state of affairs. We are ruled by people who get an almost
sexual thrill from messing up our lives. Because they run the two main
parties, they are able to pack the House of Commons with a combination of
sheep who would vote black white and white black if ordered, and of
weaklings who know that something is wrong, but are controlled by bribes
and blackmail. Every so often, a few decent people get elected. But that
is because the control is not yet perfect; and its main effect, sadly, is
to keep alive in some minds the delusion that parliamentary democracy
still actually exists. The general result is tyranny mitigated by
recollections of a better time.
The Judges have been worried by this for generations. According to Lord
Wright in 1942,
“Parliament is supreme. It can enact extraordinary powers of interfering
with personal liberty. If an Act of Parliament… is alleged to limit or
curtail the liberty of the subject or vest in the executive extraordinary
powers…, the only question is what is the precise extent of the powers
given” (Liversidge v Anderson , Appeal Cases, 106).
Since then, things have grown worse. Bad laws pour out in a continual
stream. A well funded interest group only has to demand, or a media
campaign to start, and the politicians reach for their legislative
hammer. In the 1960s, the insurance companies complained about the level
of awards in civil cases where they were known to stand behind a
defendant; and so the politicians virtually abolished the right to trial
by jury in the civil courts. In 1987, there were complaints when some
defendants in a criminal case pooled their right of peremptory challenge
to secure a more sympathetic jury; and so the politicians abolished that
right. Around the same time, the authorities wanted to raise the
conviction rate or financial crimes; and so the politicians created the
Serious Fraud Office, and gave it the right to compel self-incrimination.
In 1991, a few children were bitten by dogs; and so the politicians
brought in a law that almost everyone now regards as mad. Arguments about
the rule of law drew at best a blank stare, at worst an exultant sneer.
Nor is it just that Parliament is churning out bad laws-though many are
very bad. It is that Parliament is churning out thousands of pages of new
law every year, supplemented by thousands more of statutory instruments.
No one has read or can read all of these. No one is co-ordinating the
process of their manufacture. Quite often, no one knows what the laws are
on an issue from one day to another. Not surprisingly, they frequently
contradict each other. This is what led to the challenge to the
metrication laws. The Weights and Measures Act does contradict the
European Communities Act. No one intended this to happen. No one noticed
it had happened for about 15 years. But it did happen.
Now, the politicians are being brought under control. Let me quote from
the relevant sections of the judgment:
“In the present state of its maturity the common law has come to
recognise that there exist rights which should properly be classified as
constitutional or fundamental…. And from this a further insight
follows. We should recognise a hierarchy of Acts of Parliament: as it
were “ordinary” statutes and “constitutional” statutes. The two
categories must be distinguished on a principled basis. In my opinion a
constitutional statute is one which (a) conditions the legal relationship
between citizen and State in some general, overarching manner, or (b)
enlarges or diminishes the scope of what we would now regard as
fundamental constitutional rights. (a) and (b) are of necessity closely
related: it is difficult to think of an instance of (a) that is not also
an instance of (b). The special status of constitutional statutes follows
the special status of constitutional rights. Examples are the Magna
Carta, the Bill of Rights 1689, the Act of Union, the Reform Acts which
distributed and enlarged the franchise, the [Human Rights Act 1998], the
Scotland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 1998. The [European
Communities Act] clearly belongs in this family…. The ECA is, by force
of the common law, a constitutional statute.
“Ordinary statutes may be impliedly repealed. Constitutional statutes may
not. For the repeal of a constitutional Act or the abrogation of a
fundamental right to be effected by statute, the court would apply this
test: is it shown that the legislature’s actual not imputed, constructive
or presumed intention was to effect the repeal or abrogation? I think the
test could only be met by express words in the later statute, or by words
so specific that the inference of an actual determination to effect the
result contended for was irresistible. The ordinary rule of implied
repeal does not satisfy this test. Accordingly, it has no application to
constitutional statutes. I should add that in my judgment general words
could not be supplemented, so as to effect a repeal or significant
amendment to a constitutional statute, by reference to what was said in
Parliament by the minister promoting the Bill pursuant to Pepper v Hart
 AC 593. A constitutional statute can only be repealed, or amended
in a way which significantly affects its provisions touching fundamental
rights or otherwise the relation between citizen and State, by
unambiguous words on the face of the later statute.
“This development of the common law regarding constitutional rights, and
as I would say constitutional statutes, is highly beneficial. It gives us
most of the benefits of a written constitution, in which fundamental
rights are accorded special respect. But it preserves the sovereignty of
the legislature and the flexibility of our uncodified constitution. It
accepts the relation between legislative supremacy and fundamental rights
is not fixed or brittle: rather the courts (in interpreting statutes, and
now, applying the HRA) will pay more or less deference to the
legislature, or other public decision-maker, according to the subject in
hand. Nothing is plainer than that this benign development involves, as I
have said, the recognition of the ECA as a constitutional statute.”
Some people, I know, are angry that the European Communities Act has been
given this special status. However, its protection against implied repeal
comes not-as the Sunderland City Council lawyers argued-because on
entering the European Union, we accepted a new legal order in which our
own constitutional arrangements were reduced to the status of a town
council, but because the Common Law now recognises a whole class of
special Acts of which the European Communities Act is presently one. If
we ever repeal the European Communities Act by explicit Act of
Parliament, it will drop out of this special class, but the special class
And we can repeal the European Communities Act. That much is now certain.
The various judgments in the Factortame legislation left the position of
European Union law highly ambiguous-was it or Parliament supreme?. This
judgment make it clear that the laws of the European Union enjoy a
borrowed primacy in England. Parliament may have chosen to indulge a
foreign authority, but cannot subordinate itself to it:
“there is nothing in the ECA which allows the Court of Justice, or any
other institutions of the EU, to touch or qualify the conditions of
Parliament’s legislative supremacy in the United Kingdom. Not because the
legislature chose not to allow it; because by our law it could not allow
This is not the outcome that the supporters of the “Metric Martyrs” were
hoping for. It is not an outcome, I think, that anyone was expecting. The
point of fundamental law was not raised in any of the hearings, and it is
highly unusual for Judges to go beyond the points raised in a case except
for giving obiter dicta , which have no binding force as precedent. But
it is a not a judgment that the Government was hoping for. Its general
implications have yet to be revealed. But it seems reasonable that a vast
mass of bad laws can now be set aside as inconsistent with fundamental
laws that they have not explicitly repealed.
Therefore, the sections of the Road Traffic Act 1982, that allow the
Police to impose fines on motorists without going to court, may be
inconsistent with the guarantee of due process in Magna Carta. The
various Firearms Acts-especially the most recent ones, which are intended
to criminalise rather than regulate the possession of guns-may be
inconsistent with the Bill of Rights. The Government’s proposed
Confiscation Agency, which will import the American doctrine of civil
asset forfeiture, will require the explicit repeal of Magna Carta and
parts of the Human Rights Act.
At a stroke, the Judges have put the politicians under a restraint that
may be as severe in practice as that imposed by the Supreme Court in
America. It means that they can carry on their game of stealing our
freedoms-but they must do so in the open, by spelling out what they are
doing in words that cannot be ignored by the courts. I have no doubt that
if they had known in advance the outcome of this case, the authorities
would quietly have connived at breaches of their metrication laws.
We have lost the right to use our traditional weights and measures. But
we may have gained the vast benefit of living again under a Constitution
that protects our fundamental rights. I feel sorry for the four men who
have taken on the considerable legal costs of getting this case into
court, and I hope that the public appeal will be sufficient to pay these
costs. But it was, most emphatically, a case worth getting into court. It
has given us, I repeat, a great and unexpected, if conditional, victory.
Director, The Libertarian Alliance
Tel: 07956 472 199
FREE download of my book – “Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How
Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back” -
Wikipedia Entry: http://tinyurl.com/23jvoz
The Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties
policy institute, today announces the title for its 2008 Chris R. Tame
Memorial Essay Prize competition.
This Prize is funded by a generous grant from The PROMIS Unit of Primary
Care and is in honour of Chris R. Tame (1949-2006) Founder and first
Director of the Libertarian Alliance. The Prize is worth £1000.
The essay title for 2008 is:
“Can a Libertarian Society be Described as ‘Tesco minus the State’?”
Essay Length: 3,000 words excluding notes and bibliography
Submission Date: 10th October 2008
The purpose of this year’s essay title is to draw wider attention to a
debate that has been taking place within the libertarian movement for
over a century, and that is now more relevant than ever: is big business
really part of the free market in which libertarians believe? Or is it
just the “third way” between free enterprise and socialism?
Many socialists and conservatives regard libertarians as cheerleaders for
big business. Our belief in free enterprise is understood as support for
the bigger, and therefore the more successful, corporations – General
Motors, Microsoft, HSBC, Tesco, and so forth – and for an international
financial system centred on the City of London.
Some libertarians are happy to be so regarded. They dislike the way in
which big government provides opportunities for big business to acquire
privileges that shelter it from competition. Even so, they believe that a
world without government, or a world with much less government, would be
broadly similar in its patterns of enterprise to the world that we now
have. It would be much improved, but not fundamentally dissimilar.
Other libertarians disagree. They regard big business as fundamentally a
creation of big government. Incorporation laws free entrepreneurs from
personal risk and personal responsibility, and allow the growth of large
business organisations that are bureaucratically managed. These
organisations then cartellise their markets and externalise many of their
costs. The result is systematic distortion of market behaviour from the
forms it would take without government intervention. These libertarians
often go further in their analysis by denying the legitimacy of
intellectual property rights and ownership rights in land beyond what any
individual can directly use.
Where do you stand in this debate? Are you broadly comfortable with a
global capitalism that is raising billions of people from starvation
towards affluence. Or are you a radical with a vision of a society that
has never yet been tried and is as alien and even frightening to most
people as anything promised by the Marxists.
The winner of the 2008 competition will be announced at the London
conference of the Libertarian Alliance, on Saturday the 25th October at
the National Liberal Club.
Full details of the Prize at
Full details of the Conference at
END OF COPY
Note(s) to Editors
Dr Sean Gabb is the Director of the Libertarian Alliance. His latest
book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England,
and How to Get It Back, may be downloaded for free from
http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3. It may also be bought. His other books are
available from Hampden Press at http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk.
He can be contacted for further comment on 07956 472 199 or by email at
Extended Contact Details:
The Libertarian Alliance is Britain’s most radical free market and civil
liberties policy institute. It has published over 800 articles, pamphlets
and books in support of freedom and against statism in all its forms.
These are freely available at http://www.libertarian.co.uk
Our postal address is
The Libertarian Alliance
2 Lansdowne Row
London W1J 6HL
Tel: 07956 472 199
The Libertarian International – http://www.libertarian.to – is a sister
organisation to the Libertarian Alliance. Its mission is to coordinate
various initiatives in the defence of individual liberty throughout the
Sean Gabb’s personal website – http://www.seangabb.co.uk – contains about
a million words of writings on themes interesting to libertarians and
Hampden Press – http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk.- the publishing house of
the Libertarian Alliance.
Liberalia – http://www.liberalia.com – maintained by by LA Executive
member Christian Michel, Liberalia publishes in-depth papers in French
and English on libertarianism and free enterprise. It is a prime source
of documentation on these issues for students and scholars.
Perhaps we should all pay more attention to Private Eye. Boatang and Demetriou have just admitted to so doing.
I have to confess that, in my (relative) youth as a 20-to-30-something London businessman, and libertarian, who kind of thought he knew what the world was about, I got riled regularly by young chaps with acne, such as Harry Phibbs* and Andrew Roberts*, who would accost me at drinkspotties or in the IEA, saying things like “now Dave, as you will have just (yeh? Me? :-O Yeh!!! (wha’-?) ) read in your Eye….” something-or-other……….
So I consciously did the opposite, and never even opened the flyleaf of any copy of it, from 1969 up to, well, soon now.
*Don’t get me wrong, squire! They’re perfectly normal guys and very rich too! Just that I didn’t think they were at the time, recommending _sotto-voce_ a strange mag printed on what seemed like bog-paper, with bad typesetting and only erratically available at WH Smith/Waterloo Station in the evenings. Perhaps it was I that was at fault.
Have a look at this here. (The Libertarian Alliance gets a rating…)
My machine now thinks it has no battery, so whenever anybody trips over the mains wire, I go right off and shut down. So you’ll all have to work out what the link is about for yourselves, as I now have other stuff to do.
According to The Independent, Britain seeks to expand its empire with 77,000 square miles of Atlantic seabed.
Splendid news. I propose Tony Blair as Governor General. We could give him a nice plumed helmet – and a pair of lead-soled boots to help his descent to this latest territory to be painted red on the map.
THE BLOGMASTER ADDS:-
This is actually a very important point raised here by Sean. If Libertarians care about property rights and what they are and what they are for, (and many of us do,) then there ought to be an agreed legal method, which everybody respects (that’s the point of Law after all, no?) to define what entitiy or “corporate person” or individual, owns what parts of the seabed.
We ought to care about who’s administering such “Law” – in case it is a bunch of “authoritarian-nationalists” (a great term, which I picked up on a newsgroup just this morning, as a description of the government of the USSR Russia today in 2008.)
MUCH MUCH better, than the crass, sad term “nazi” which gets liberals into so much trouble when used by them to describe ordinary socialists accurately.
We here do not care whether there is stuff on or under the seabed round Ascenscion Island or not. Naturally, the inhabitants, of which there are several thousand, will. It’s their life, not ours. But we think that the general point that’s being made in the article is a vital issue for the next 100-200 years, while the Earth is still the primary source of New Property Rights.
Comments please, pronto! (There will be a short written test on 31st August, to see who’s paying attention.)
4.15pm-5.30pm Session 4
“Future Imperfect”: Tech Revolutions That Might
Happen and Their Consequences…
Speaker: David Friedman (Professor of Law at Santa Clara University;
author, The Machinery of Freedom)
Moderator: Dr. Sean Gabb (Director, Libertarian Alliance)
[Floating (time to be arranged): The Great British Road Pricing
Debate:Free Market Incrementalism or Just More State Control?
LA Film Launch: Britain at the Cross Roads: An Introduction to Road
Pricing and the Privatisation of Public Space
Speaker: Dr. Richard Wellings (Deputy Editorial Director, Institute of
Moderator: Patrick Crozier (Transport Spokesman, Libertarian Alliance)]
The 2008 Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize
£1,000 to be Won
In honour of Dr Chris R. Tame (1949-2006), The PROMIS Unit of Primary Care has established a yearly prize of £1,000 for an essay on a subject to be announced by Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance.
By the 10th October 2008, contestants are invited to submit essays to Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance.
Essay Title: “Can a Libertarian Society be Described as ‘Tesco minus the State’?“
Essay Length: 3,000 words excluding notes and bibliography
Many socialists and conservatives regard libertarians as cheerleaders for big business. Our belief in free enterprise is understood as support for the bigger, and therefore the more successful, corporations – General Motors, Microsoft, HSBC, Tesco, and so forth – and for an international financial system centred on the City of London.
Some libertarians are happy to be so regarded. They dislike the way in which big government provides opportunities for big business to acquire privileges that shelter it from competition. Even so, they believe that a world without government, or a world with much less government, would be broadly similar in its patterns of enterprise to the world that we now have. It would be much improved, but not fundamentally dissimilar.
Other libertarians disagree. They regard big business as fundamentally a creation of big government. Incorporation laws free entrepreneurs from personal risk and personal responsibility, and allow the growth of large business organisations that are bureaucratically managed. These organisations then cartellise their markets and externalise many of their costs. The result is systematic distortion of market behaviour from the forms it would take without government intervention. These libertarians often go further in their analysis by denying the legitimacy of intellectual property rights and ownership rights in land beyond what any individual can directly use.
Where do you stand in this debate? Are you broadly comfortable with a global capitalism that is raising billions of people from starvation towards affluence. Or are you a radical with a vision of a society that has never yet been tried and is as alien and even frightening to most people as anything promised by the Marxists.
You tell us.
Essays must be original and previously unpublished works.
Essays must be submitted in English and typed and in hard copy by sending to The Libertarian Alliance, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6H, United Kingdom.
Essays must also be submitted by e-mail and in MS Word format to Sean Gabb – firstname.lastname@example.org
Essays must bear the name and full address of the author, including his e-mail address. The name does not need to be genuine, but work submitted under what Sean Gabb considers an absurd pseudonym may be rejected. Certainly, the prize money will be by cheque, and so must be made out to a real person.
Essays must have been received ain both hard and soft copy no later than Monday the 13th October 2008.
The winner will be announced on the evening of Saturday the 25th October 2008, at the banquet of the Libertarian Alliance Conference, to be held at the National Liberal Club in London.
The winner will be required to make a ten minute acceptance speech on Saturday 25th October 2008, at the banquet of the Libertarian Alliance Conference, to be held at the National Liberal Club in London. This speech may be made in person, or by pre-recorded video, or may be read out by Sean Gabb.
The prize will be £1,000, made out to the winner and payable in Sterling by cheque drawn on one of the United Kingdom clearing banks. No other form of payment will be considered.
The winning essay will be published by the Libertarian Alliance. All essays submitted will be published by the Libertarian Alliance.
In all matters of deciding the winner of the Prize and in all associated matters, the decision of Sean Gabb shall be final.
The act of submitting an essay shall constitute full acceptance of these terms
This prize competition is not open to any Officer of the Libertarian Alliance.
For all questions, please contact Sean Gabb
Educational Notes, No. 39
ISSN 0953-7775 ISBN: 9781856376167
An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL.
© 2008: Libertarian Alliance; Dr Philip Bounds.
Philip Bounds holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Wales. He is the author of Orwell and Marxism (2008),
British Communism and Literary Theory (2008) and Cultural Studies (1999).
His essays, articles and reviews have appeared in a wide range of journals and newspapers.
The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and
not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee,
Advisory Council or subscribers.
FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY
Nicholas Kollerstrom and UCL
The universities of the free world have often employed some pretty unsavoury people. Even the most reputable academic departments occasionally play host to Holocaust deniers, apologists for Joseph Stalin or semi-fascist theoreticians who believe that Africans are genetically inferior to Europeans. The issue of how these intellectual mavericks should be treated excites a great deal of controversy. Should universities dismiss them from their posts as part of a righteous war against offensive beliefs, or should they be allowed to remain in situ in the name of free speech? Mild-mannered dons have been known to come to blows when questions like this are floated in the common room.
A recent case in a British university throws all the relevant issues into vivid relief. In April 2008 a sixty-one-year-old astronomer named Nicholas Kollerstrom was dismissed from an unpaid research fellowship in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London (UCL). His offence was to have published an online article claiming that the Holocaust never took place.1 In a brief and pompous announcement on its website, UCL said that it had terminated Dr Kollerstrom’s employment because his views are “diametrically opposed to [our] aims, objectives and ethos…such that we wish to have absolutely no association with them or their originator.”2 This was disapproval with a capital “D”.
UCL’s desire to be rid of Dr Kollerstrom is certainly understandable. His article on the Holocaust is an execrable piece of drivel, repeating most of the hoary old clich�s which Holocaust deniers have persistently passed off as evidence of independent thought. Moreover, Dr Kollerstrom’s intellectual lapses aren’t simply confined to fantasising about Hitler’s innocence. The man is a sort of walking compendium of what Damian Thompson scornfully calls “counterknowledge”.3 Quite apart from publishing credulous texts on astrology and crop circles (a relatively minor crime), he also believes that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and 7/7 were “inside jobs”. Defending him is not an easy task. Yet the fact remains that UCL’s decision to fire him is deeply unjust, not simply because it shows scant regard for the idea of personal liberty (though it certainly does that) but also because it has damaging implications for academic culture as a whole. Let me count the ways.4
Universities and Free Speech
Many of the people who support UCL’s decision invoke a purely negative conception of individual liberty. They argue that Dr Kollerstrom’s dismissal does not involve a violation of his right to free expression, since all societies necessarily impose what might be called contextual limitations on freedom of speech. No individual has the right to say exactly what he likes in whatever circumstances he likes, or so the argument goes. Free societies should avoid imposing unreasonable restrictions on the expression of opinion, but there is no obligation on any institution or organisation to provide an outlet for opinions with which it disagrees. As long as the individual has a legal right to speak his mind, he cannot expect anyone else to provide him with a megaphone.
Dr Kollerstrom’s critics tend to link this point about the contextual limits on free speech to a concern about his academic competence. Their argument is that UCL’s overriding obligation is to maintain high academic standards. Since Dr Kollerstrom’s article on the Holocaust was clearly the product of academic fraud, deliberately ignoring the vast amount of well-documented evidence that might have disproved its thesis, it follows that UCL could only protect its reputation by immediately dissociating itself from its author. The case for the prosecution was put with characteristic force by the writer Oliver Kamm, who argued on his blog that:
The issue is not one of personal liberty or academic freedom. It’s about the purpose of the academy. Holocaust denial is a demonstrably false claim about history. It can be promoted consistently only by ignoring or doctoring the evidence. Indeed, the two most prominent Holocaust deniers in the West, my reader David Irving and Robert Faurisson, have been found in courts of law (in the UK and France, respectively) to have engaged in fakery. By taking the stand that it has, UCL has properly insisted that its academics adhere not to a particular view but to a method, that of critical inquiry.5
Arguments like these are used whenever a university plays host to a controversial scholar or speaker (and sometimes even to a controversial student),6 so it is important to be clear where their weakness lies. The big problem with Dr Kollerstrom’s critics is that they state their case in far too inflexible a form. It is perfectly true that the majority of institutions should be free of any obligation to publicise beliefs they dislike. It would clearly be absurd to expect the Libertarian Alliance to publish articles by card-carrying fascists or the BNP to open its press to spokesmen for the Muslim Council of Britain. Yet the emphasis on the right to exclude opinions should not be taken too far. Most free societies have recognised that certain institutions, notably schools, universities and other places of learning, have a duty to conduct themselves along more pluralistic lines. The justification for this is a straightforwardly democratic one. Some people have an easier time getting their opinions heard than others. The columns of our leading newspapers are generally more accessible to the savants of the centre-right than to writers of the radical right or the left. The Conservative, Labour and Liberal parties can afford to produce as many party political broadcasts as they wish (subject to some fairly relaxed statutory limitations), whereas the Communist, Green and Libertarian parties enjoy no such privilege. If the right to free speech is to be made meaningful, it is therefore necessary (or at least desirable) for universities and related institutions to provide an outlet for as wide a range of opinions as possible. The community of scholars should never be mistaken for a confraternity of political soulmates.
If one accepts that universities should be as ideologically diverse as possible, it follows that their more controversial (or bigoted) employees should be treated with a certain tenderness. Administrators should proceed on the assumption that scholars have the right to say whatever they like, and that nothing short of a significant violation of professional standards should merit disciplinary action. This is not to say that no one should ever be sacked, only that universities should err at all times on the side of free speech. The fact that they no longer do so (or do so only intermittently) raises an awkward question about their legal status: Should universities be compelled to promote free speech? As unthinkable as it might seem to certain libertarians, there are times when the law can enhance the quality of public discourse rather than undermine it. The statutory obligation on British broadcasters to cover politics impartially has generally worked well, and many people now believe that a legal commitment to “pluralism” should be introduced to supplement it.7 A clause in the next Education Act to protect the rights of academic dissenters could arguably do a lot of good.
The Issue of Fraudulence
It goes without saying that no amount of enlightened chat about pluralism should protect the exponent of academic fraud. If an academic wilfully distorts or invents evidence in order to support his case, there can, in principle, be no realistic objection to his being fired, demoted or in some other way severely reprimanded. However, the issue is rarely as simple as it seems. Identifying fraud can sometimes be difficult. In the case of Dr Kollerstrom, whose article on the Holocaust undeniably reeks of shoddy scholarship, it cannot be said often enough that his work on non-scientific themes had nothing to do with his employment at UCL. His research fellowship was awarded for his work in the history of astronomy, an area in which his scholarly output is apparently unimpeachable. Anything he wrote on the Holocaust, crop circles or 9/11 was produced in his own time. What this means, as Brendan O’Neill pointed out in a fine piece on the Index on Censorship website, is that Dr Kollerstrom has effectively been sacked for expressing his “private beliefs and habits”.8 To support UCL’s decision is implicitly to back the idea that employers have a right to supervise their workers’ private lives.9
More generally, the hunt for academic fraudulence often gives rise to difficult and sometimes insuperable problems of definition. Those who call for people like Dr Kollerstrom to be sacked seem to regard the scholarly “cheat” as a sort of out-and-out rogue, persistently and deliberately distorting the truth for political ends. There is no doubt that unmitigated frauds exist (and that many of them have been drawn to Holocaust denial), but in truth they are rarely to be found in universities. The great majority of university teachers have demonstrated at least a basic command of academic research methods. The factual basis of what they write is likely to be reasonably sound, even when their interpretation of data arouses controversy. Scholars who offend against the academic proprieties usually only do so in comparatively minor ways, so that their writings are compromised at the level of the individual sentence or paragraph but rarely in toto. Moreover, their scholarly lapses are often the product not of dishonesty but of over-enthusiasm, naivet� or excessive faith in personal intuition. When a university accuses a man of fraudulence, it often ignores the fact that the bulk of his scholarship is sound and that his sins were unintentional. It is not clear that a robust academic culture can exist on this basis.
The War on Pluralism
There is one other reason why the sacking of Dr Kollerstrom was so regrettable. It has gone a long way towards reinforcing some of the most destructive academic trends of recent times. As we saw earlier, Western universities have done much in the modern age to foster the idea of intellectual tolerance. Recognising that ideological consensuses are always impermanent, they have seen it as their role to encourage open debate and to “keep large areas of past culture, if not alive, at least available.”10 However, the commitment to pluralism has come under enormous strain over the last thirty or forty years. Universities throughout the Western world have become hotbeds of political controversy, playing host to scholars of both the left and the right whose commitment to free speech has sometimes been negligible. Many observers trace the origins of the problem to the advent of the so-called soixante huitards, who entered the academy after the stirring events of the 1960s and openly pursued a “long march through the institutions” in the name of Marxism, feminism and other radical ideologies. Dismissing the established universities as little more than “ideological apparatuses of the capitalist state”,11 they sought to transform their respective disciplines into instruments of political agitation. This eventually provoked a violent backlash from scholars of the right, who have fought a vigorous rearguard action in defence of such things as “tradition”, “disinterested aesthetic values” and “hierarchy”. The battle between the two groups has rarely been pretty.
The problem has never been one of scholarship. Both the soixante-huitard left and the traditionalist right have produced work of the highest quality. The real difficulty is the quasi-totalitarian spirit in which some (though by no means all) leading academics have conducted themselves. Too many people, some of them extremely influential, now take the view that scholars from the opposite end of the political spectrum should either be drummed out of the profession or never employed in the first place. To this end they leave promising candidates off shortlists on purely political grounds, start whispering campaigns against colleagues and collaborate with campus activists to have “unacceptable” speakers banned. Significantly enough, one of their deadliest weapons is the accusation of academic fraud. For men like Henry A. Turner and Norman Finkelstein, the former a member of the sullen right and the latter an ornament of the apoplectic left, it is no longer enough to express measured disagreement with work one finds objectionable.12 Instead its author must be dismissed as a charlatan and loudly upbraided for plagiarism, tendentiousness and wilful distortion of sources. Very fine scholars have had their careers destroyed or held in check as a consequence.
When UCL took the decision to dismiss Dr Kollerstrom, it showed that the most illiberal attitudes had finally penetrated to the highest reaches of the academy. The college authorities were not responding to a mass campaign but to an e-mail from a member of the public. Faced with a coarse and bovine opinion which cut against the grain, their immediate response was to demonise the rather ineffectual fantasist who had tried to disseminate it. In taking this action they conferred an air of official legitimacy on all the sordid little techniques, most of them perfected over forty years, by which individual scholars have sought to exclude their opponents from academic life. Once upon a time the most politically conscious students might have marched in Dr Kollerstrom’s defence. This time around their silence has been deafening. Having spent so much time in a system in which curiosity is invariably trumped by conformity, they seem to have accepted the view that certain opinions are simply too horrible to be aired in civilised company. This is a measure of just how effective the war on pluralism has been. The spectacle of students, teachers and administrators uniting in opposition to free speech is a travesty of everything a university should stand for. It will take a long time before matters can be put right.
(1) See Nicholas Kollerstrom, “The Auschwitz �Gas Chamber’ Illusion”, Website of The Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, 2008, http://www.codoh.com/newrevoices/nrillusion.html
(2) Website of University College London, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0804/08042202, April 22 2008.
(3) See Damian Thompson, Counterknowledge (London: Atlantic Books, 2008).
(4) Lest it be thought that I have a hidden agenda, I had better say the following: The author of this article is a libertarian socialist. He has no doubt that the Holocaust occurred and he regards it as one of history’s gravest crimes. He abhors fascism in all its forms and is reasonably sympathetic to the state of Israel.
(5) Oliver Kamm, “Points from the Blogs”, Oliver Kamm (website), May 4 2008, http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/page/4/
(6) Readers of a certain age will remember the deeply illiberal campaign in the 1980s to prevent Patrick Harrington, a member of the National Front, from studying at North London Polytechnic.
(7) See, for instance, James Curran and Jean Seaton, Power without Responsibility: The Press and Broadcasting in Britain, fifth edition (London: Routledge, 1997), p. 362.
(8) Brendan O’Neill, Contribution to “The Kollerstrom Question”, Index on Censorship (website), 2008, http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=359
(9) A more enlightened example has been set by Northwestern University in the USA, where the Holocaust denier Arthur Butz has been employed for more than thirty years. Recognising that Professor Butz’s expertise in electrical engineering (the subject he is employed to teach) is sound, Northwestern granted him tenure and turned a blind eye to such poisonous extracurricular outpourings as The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry (1976). If this sort of arrangement can exist in the USA, where sensitivity to anti-Semitism runs understandably high, it can surely be emulated in Britain.
(10) Raymond Williams, The Long Revolution (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984 ), p. 68.
(11) The phrase is that of the great Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. See Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (London: Monthly Review Press, 1971).
(12) For Henry A. Turner’s outrageous attempt to destroy the career of the gifted Marxist historian David Abraham, see Jon Wiener, “Footnotes to History: the David Abraham Case” in Professors, Politics and Pop (London: Verso, 1991). For Norman Finkelstein’s groundless attempt to level charges of plagiarism against the Harvard academic Alan Dershowitz, see Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict can be Resolved (New York: Wiley, 2006).
Tom Paine at the Last Ditch has a good roundup of thoughts about what to do about this unfortunate man Gary Glitter, and how “Jacqui” Smith’s thoughts affect general liberty. See Sean Gabb’s 1999 article about Glitter’s case earlier.
I;m not suggesting that “Jacqui” Smith ”wants to see” paedophiles burned at the stake in public, but perhaps if “New” “Labour” wants “an eye-catching initiative” with which “the Cabinet” can “be directly associated”, then this could be it.
Anyway, this is August, so let’s fill up the firewires with stuff about sex, porn, child abuse and the like. There’s nothing else happening, after all, since Russia is all about oil, and Georgia is a faraway country of which we know llittle..
This year’s Annual Conference, of the Libertarian International and the Libertarian Alliance, promises to be as grand as the last one in 2007. It will be hosted, as is usual, at the National Liberal Club, a stone’s throw from the Houses of Parliament, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, and many major attractions of Central London.
I have it on good authority that David Friedman, son of the eponymous Milton (“…if we take as a first approximation, the assumption that about 100% of all monies raised by taxation are then wasted…”) will be attending and will speak.
Topics of important seminars will be:-
“The defeat of ageing – our ultimate freedom?” – Dr Aubrey de Gray (Cambridge)
“Future Shock; three perspectives on freedom in the 21st century” – James Panton (Oxford), Dr Sean Gabb (LA) and Martin Summers
“The global rise of private education for the poor” – James Stansfield (Newcastle)
DEBATE:- “Road Pricing; free market incrementalism, or just more state control?”
LA FILM LAUNCH:- “Britain at the Cross-roads; An intro to road pricing and the privatisation of public space”.
Conference Annual Dinner and Awards, including after-dinner speech:- Reasons to be optimistic – why we are winning the battle for lower taxes” – Matthew Elliot (Chief Exec, taxpayers’ Alliance)
“Ban the Ban” – the human cost of prohibitions – Dr John Meadowcroft (King’s, London)
“The idea of a private law Society” – Prof. Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Nevada)
“The modern panopticon state versus freedom: why State ID cards are bad” – Guy Herbert, (gen. sec “No-2-ID-cards”)
“Post-modernity and liberty” – Marc-Henri Glendenning, Dr Sean Gabb
Attendance including the dinner costs a nugatory £85 sterling, or USD$ 170. you can pay by post, via the Libertarian International, or via Paypal on our own website. (All the details are there in full.)
People are well advised to book early, as places are limited ultimately by the “safety-Nazis and fire regulations.” So book now!
“Protection” will come only from draining the swamp, and not from imprisoning all the farm-animals indoors, until ther are all dead.
Reflections on the Gary Glitter Case
by Sean Gabb
Paul Gadd, performing under the name Gary Glitter, was a very popular British singer in the early to middle 1970s. Even as a child, I had no liking for rock music. But I did notice and like Gary Glitter. It was not for his songs, which were as unmemorable as all the others of his day. What made me notice him was the wild extravagance of his dress—all sequins and tight trousers—thrown carelessly over a figure that was always verging on the fat. What made me like him was the pleasant and self-deprecating manner in which he handled television interviews. He seemed surprised at his popularity, and even a little contemptuous of the public taste that had raised him so high.
I lost sight of him after about 1974, and gave him no more thought until I heard last year of his difficulties with the criminal law. Apparently, he had bought a computer from PC World, which is the largest computer retailer in the United Kingdom, had used this for a while, and then had taken it back to have its various faults put right. The repair engineer had discovered a number of pornographic images on the hard disk and called the police. Mr Gadd was charged with possession of child pornography under the Protection of Children Act as amended in 1988 and 1994. Sometime after this, a middle-aged woman came forward and accused Mr Gadd of having seduced her when she was fourteen and of having kept her as a “sex slave” for the next twelve years.
The case reached its end last Friday the 12th November. The Jury cleared Mr Gadd of all charges in connection with the middle-aged woman, but he had already pleaded guilty to the child pornography charges, and the Judge sentenced him to four months in prison. The radio journalist who reported all this to me gloatingly predicted that it meant the end of Gary Glitter. Bearing in mind the number of young and not so young women who danced and cheered in the public gallery and outside the court as the news of his partial acquittal, and his ability to survive all the changes of fashion in the past quarter century, I am not so sure. Gary Glitter will be banned from every radio station in the English-speaking world, but his live concerts will never be less than standing room only.
Now what I find so interesting about this case is not the personality of Gary Glitter, but how it illustrates the best and the worst about the British system of justice. Let me begin with the middle-aged woman.
It is absurd that charges of seduction can be brought so long after the alleged event. I do not wholly share Peter Tatchell’s belief that the age of consent should be lowered to fourteen, and I do believe that adults who have sex with young people under a certain age should have to face criminal charges. But there surely ought to be a time limitation on bringing such charges. To let them be brought without any limitation is an abuse of justice. A child who complains immediately after an alleged assault should at least be listened to. An adult who complains 20 or 30 years after the event should be laughed at. I would say that anyone who spends so long brooding over something that might at the time not have been so terrible, but which with the passing of years becomes increasingly trivial, should not be seen as a reliable witness. At the very best, dates and places and other facts become blurred in the memory of all parties. At worst, elaborate lies can be told against which there can be no easy defence.
The injustice is heightened by the anonymity guaranteed by law to the accuser. Someone who stood up in court three centuries ago and accused an old woman of cursing his sheep was known to the Jury and had his name reported in the newspapers and the court records of the day. The middle- aged woman who accused Mr Gadd was unknown to the Central London Jury who assessed her evidence, and her name cannot be published anywhere. I do not know if she was lying. But the fact that no one will ever know her name must have been an incentive not to tell the truth. Except she still had to give her evidence in person, the procedure was borrowed straight from the Inquisition. This corruption of process is an achievement of the feminist movement, aided by politicians and civil servants who instinctively hate the old notion of equality before the law. The next step – already demanded, though not yet granted—is to reverse the burden of proof, so that the defence will need to prove innocence.
Then there is the partiality with which the law is applied. If ever accused of legal oppression and wasting taxpayers’ money, the authorities will hide behind a wall of excuses about having had no choice but to prosecute. “The evidence was there” they will say. “There was a prima facie case against Mr Gadd. It was our legal duty to prosecute and let a Jury decide.” This is a lie. The authorities have almost unlimited discretion over what cases to drop and what to pursue. Look, for example, at a recent case in Lancashire. Eleven Asians were charged with the murder of a young white man. Just before the trial started, all the murder charges were dropped. This was not for want of evidence, but because “prosecution would not be in the public interest”. It would not be in the public interest because it would mean letting the media report that some parts of this country are sliding into a low intensity civil war between different ethnic groups. Mr Gadd was made to stand trial not because there was overwhelming evidence against him, but because the authorities do not approve of sexual pleasure—unless, of course, it is their own; and then puritanism melts instantly into hypocritical mewling about “diversity”, and the sanctity of private life.
Or look at the Mr Gadd’s accuser. She had accepted money from The News of the World for her story, and had been promised another £25,000 if Mr Gadd was found guilty. Will she be charged with contempt of court and sent to prison for two years? I doubt it. Her example will be used to justify further censorship of the media, but she will never be punished under the known, ancient laws against what she did.
I turn now to the pictures found on Mr Gadd’s computer. There is no certainty that these were of young persons under the age of sixteen. The police make it their habit to classify all pornographic images they find as of children, no matter how old the models appear to be. They then rely on threats of exposure in the newspapers and castration in prison to force a confession to something else. It may be that Mr Gadd held out too long. Or perhaps he really was guilty under the law. We shall never know, as he confessed to possession at the last minute, so the pictures were not shown in court. But let us assume that these pictures were of children. This being so, are there any credible reasons for why possessing them should be illegal? In asking this, I take the standard libertarian position that an act should be criminal only so far as it can be shown to have caused an identifiable individual harm that would be recognised as such by a reasonable person. What harm did Mr Gadd cause to anyone?
One answer is that if Mr Gadd had taken them himself, they would be evidence of a crime. It would be the same if he had procured somebody else to take them. That would make him an accessory to a crime. But the crime here would not be possession: possession would be no more than evidence of a crime. In any event, there is no claim that he ever knew the models or the photographers. He appears simply to have downloaded them from the Internet.
Another answer is that looking at such pictures somehow encourages attacks on children. There is a vast literature on the alleged inflammatory nature of pornography, and I will not refer to it beyond saying that I have yet to be shown a causal connection between pornography of any kind and sexual violence. But I will observe that if Mr Gadd, as we are told, spend up to twelve hours a day downloading his pictures, he can have had little time for doing much else. And I will observe that if possession of child pornography is to be banned because it might provoke attacks on children, possession of all pornography ought to be banned for the protection of everyone else. And once we have done this with pornography, we should extend the ban to most kinds of religious and political literature. I have no idea how many sexual murders there have been in the past five centuries, but I doubt if they amount to even a thousandth of one per cent of those committed for the greater glory of God or the welfare of the masses. To imprison Mr Gadd because he had some smutty pictures, and let others go for having copies of The Bible or The Communist Manifesto, is at the very least inconsistent.
An answer still less convincing is that by downloading the pictures, he was somehow encouraging their production. This might be the case had he been paying for them. But I am not aware that he paid for anything. So far as I am aware, he downloaded from various newsgroups and open access web sites. And even if he had paid for some of the pictures, it is hard to see why there should be laws against possession of what he had bought. I have numerous objects in my home that I strongly suspect were made with child labour. This computer is running on electricity that I am sure was generated from coal mined at least partly by Colombian children. In a sense, therefore, I am encouraging the exploitation of children. But I stand no chance of being arrested and put on trial. What is the difference between Mr Gadd—assuming he paid for the pictures—and any of us who pay for children to be treated in a manner that we regard, perhaps rightly, as criminal? Indeed, it can be argued that it is less harmful for a child to be photographed in a warm studio over several hours than to be worked day after day in a factory with unguarded machinery all around. The real difference between Mr Gadd and the rest of us is that the exploitation he may have encouraged gave him sexual pleasure, and the pleasure we derive is not sexual. It is not harm to children, therefore, that is the real object of prohibition, but the nature of the enjoyment that others derive from it.
And so that law has no justification. Its only consistent purpose is to make a crime of certain fantasies. Its most likely effect is to give the police unlimited power to destroy anyone they do not like by planting evidence. If I am accused of murder, a body must be produced. If I am accused of even a victimless crime like selling drugs or pornography, some objective evidence must be produced in court—either witnesses or a paper trail showing payment of suppliers and laundering of the proceeds. But a law against possession of certain images makes it ridiculously easy to get convictions on the basis of planted evidence. Let the police “find” the wrong sort of image on my hard disk or among my books, and there is no need to prove how it got there. And so we have another law that moves us further away from the ideals of the old Common Law and towards the practice of the Inquisition.
I did say that I would mention what is good about the British system of criminal justice. This is Trial by Jury. So long as twelve ordinary people have the unrestricted right to find someone not guilty even in the face of the evidence, we still live in a reasonably free country. The authorities in this country have turned democratic accountability into a joke, and can make whatever laws take their fancy. But the enforcement of these laws will always be partly restrained by the need to persuade a Jury that they should be enforced. I did not follow Mr Gadd’s trial with close attention, but I am ready to believe that the Jury acquitted him of the charges brought before it partly because of the oppression involved in laying such charges so long after the alleged event and because of the evident corruption of the only prosecution witness.
I will not say more about Trial by Jury, however, as it is on the way to abolition. The Government is about to bring in a Bill to limit the right to no more than a few hundred cases a year; and this last remnant will be swept away as soon as the Government introduces the Corpus Juris—that is, full harmonisation with European criminal law: no Trial by Jury, no habeas corpus, no presumption of innocence, no rule against double jeopardy, and so forth.
But let us enjoy it while we have it. Paul Gadd is a victim of injustice. But things might have gone worse for him had his computer not broken down until after the abolition of the Common Law. Perhaps he should even be grateful that PC World sells such rotten, unreliable products to its customers. Of course, if he had bothered to learn a little more about wiping and deleting data from his hard disk, he might still be at liberty. But that is another matter entirely!
1. The law has been created as follows:
Section 1 of the Protection Act 1978 reads:
It is an offence for a person -
(a) to take, or permit to be taken, any indecent photograph of a child (meaning in this Act a person under the age of 16); or
(b) to distribute or show such indecent photographs; or
(c) to have in his possession such indecent photographs, with a view to their being distributed or shown by himself or others; or
(d) to publish or cause to be published any advertisement likely to be understood as conveying that the advertiser distributes or shows such indecent photographs, or intends to do so.
Section 160(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 amends this Section by adding that
It is an offence for a person to have any indecent photograph of a child (meaning in this section a person under the age of 16) in his possession.
Section 84(2) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 further amends the 1978 Act as follows:
In section 1 (which penalises the taking and indecent photographs of children and related acts) -
(a) in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) -
(i) after the word “taken” there shall be inserted the words “or to make”, and the words following “child” shall be omitted;
(ii) after the word “photograph” there shall be inserted the words “or pseudo- photograph….
The wording of the other paragraphs of the 1978 and 1988 Acts is similarly changed to reflect the creation of the new offence.
Section 7(5) of the 1978 Act is amended to read as follows:
(6) “Child”, subject to subsection (8), means a person under the age of 16.(7) “Pseudo-photograph” means an image, whether made by computer-graphics or otherwise howsoever, which appears to be a photograph.
(8) If the impression conveyed by a pseudo- photograph is that the person shown is a child, the pseudo- photograph shall be treated for all purposes of this Act as showing a child and so shall a pseudo-photograph where the predominant impression conveyed is that the person shown is a child notwithstanding that some of the physical characteristics shown are those of an adult.
In this section the laws of Scotland and Ulster are also amended to the same effect.
2 . As an aside, I can say that most girls I knew when I was fourteen would have been deeply honoured to take their knickers off for Gary Glitter. To become his “sex slave” for an entire twelve years would have seemed very heaven.
3. The case was reported BBC Radio 5′s Drive programme on the 3rd November 1999. The interviewer was Peter Allen. Robert Henderson, who told me about the case, checked The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, and The Mirror. Not one carried a single word about the story.
Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet
Issue Number 146
4th May 2006
The Daily Mail, Forgery, and the Corruption of Debate
by Sean Gabb
The first is that, while several hundred of my readers did take up my invitation to write to The Dover Express, not one letter by anyone whose name I know was published the following week or the one after that. There was one letter that did not make complete sense, and that looked as if written by someone trying to conceal his approval of the British National Party. So much, I suppose, for the idea of an open media.
The second is a confession of error. In my article, I said that Dover District Council was run by the Labour Party, and that this helped to explain why a local newspaper should be acting as an organ of Labour propaganda. This is not so. One of my readers, who lives, I discover, just a mile down the road, assures me that the Council is run by the Conservatives. What this does to the force of my article I leave to my readers. I will say, however, that if some of the facts on which it depends are, on this occasion, are wrong, my argument remains correct—that the formally private media in this country are in fact vital to the manufacture of consent to the tyranny of our new ruling class. But some of my facts, I must confess, were wrong.
Now, this brings me to the principal theme of my present article, which is the need to base opposition to that ruling class wholly on the truth. Yesterday, I found a copy on my railway train—I never buy newspapers unless I am in them—of The Daily Mail from the 2nd May 2006 On page 54, allegedly written by Joan Leggett of Bognor Regis, is this letter:
ON MARCH 4, 1899, the editorial of the Daily Messenger included this comment: ‘With no more than months left until the beginning of the new century, the focus of our concerns must be the signs we see around us of a deterioration in the national character.
‘There is a degeneration of a once moral people, careering down in a headlong descent to barbarism. This not only alarms decent men and women, but emphasises the ever greater divide between the haves and have-nots, with the feckless poor being encouraged by anarchists and the continual threat of violence in our once safe land.
‘Everywhere we see evidence of an underclass, creatures whose lives are dominated by crime, loutishness and sexual licence. Brutes made more brutish by their daily diet of cheap, popular entertainment, alcohol and drugs. Lives lived in gaudy imitation of the less edifying aspects of the U.S.A.
‘These individuals, many of them homeless, some openly unmarried but still with children, others begging on the streets, complain of lack of opportunity and unemployment, but we all know there are jobs to be had, and places to stay, for any who choose or can be bothered to look for them. It isn’t only the unsightly presence of these lowlifes which make our streets unsafe for decent people. There is now the increasingly unavoidable menace of motor cars congesting our roads and choking out children.
‘What, we ask, are the police doing to protect us from all of this? They are more concerned with harassing honest citizens over petty rule-keeping than the real criminals, leaving them to carry on with their nefarious activities.
‘This is Great Britain, our country, the centre of an Empire of which we could once be proud. Let us act before it is too late.’ This was from over 100 years ago, and nothing much has changed.
During the last two years of his life, Chris Tame persuaded me to a fuller appreciation of The Daily Mail. Leaving aside the petty-minded authoritarianism of many who write for it, this is the only newspaper that has made any principled attack on the doings of the Blair Government. It has consistently opposed the shredding of the Constitution since 1997 and the wars of aggression fought since then. It has revealed and opposed the hypocrisy of our masters, who talk softly of human rights and diversity while setting up a politically correct police state. In exchange for this, putting up with Melanie Phillips and all that whining about women who get pregnant at the age of 63 or whatever is a price worth paying.
The publication of forged evidence, though, is another matter. I have no idea if there is a Joan Leggett in Bognor, and, there being one, I should never dream of imputing to her any wish to deceive. Even so, what she claims to be an extract from an 1899 editorial is an obvious forgery.
Take the mention of The Daily Messenger. There was no national newspaper in England of that title. There may have been local newspapers, but the lack of any locational adjective is suspicious. It indicates a fabricated title. The 4th March 1899 was a Saturday—but, even choosing dates at random, a forger has a six in seven chance of avoiding a Sunday.
Take next the reference to “the new century”. There has always been some popular confusion over the change from one century to another. But the Victorian media were reasonably united in their insistence that the 20th century should begin on the 1st January 1901. Nor was this just chronological pedantry. Because there was no year zero, and because the transition from one century to another marks a further progress from the Birth to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, any believer of reasonable devoutness and education will insist that the transition should be marked at the proper time. This is then a mistake unlikely to have been made in a newspaper editorial before the late 20th century.
Take next the language. Look at the reference to “haves and have-nots”, or to an “underclass”, or to “loutishness”, or to “sexual licence”, or to “unemployment”. The first and third of these would not have been used in the stately prose of a newspaper editorial. the fourth would have been replaced by something less open in its description of the sexual act. the second is a word that may have existed before Charles Murray brought it into common use in the 1980s, but is unlikely to have been used with exactly the same meaning. The last word might have been used—the first reference to it in The Oxford English Dictionary is from 1888. Even so, the word “unemployment” retained something of a technical feel at least until the social conflicts that preceded the Great War and possibly until the 1920s. As for the use of “isn’t”, contracted negatives are barely tolerated now in formal prose. They would not have been tolerated in a newspaper editorial of 1899. Nor would verbless sentences like “Lives lived in gaudy imitation of the less edifying aspects of the U.S.A.”. This is a corruption introduced, I think, by American journalists, and taken up in this country by politicians during the late 1980s. And I am not aware that anyone in England would in 1899 have called America “the U.S.A.”
Finally, take the substance of the letter. Complaints about the degrading nature of American popular culture only became common on the eve of the Great War. Until the end of the 19th century, American culture at all levels tended to follow trends established in England or in Europe. There was much concern at the time about the effect of alcohol on the working classes. But there was almost no concern about the use of other recreational substances. And, returning to issues of language, these were not called “drugs” without some adjective to describe their effects. I am not sure if motor cars were yet known by that name. I do know, however, that there were not enough of them until a good decade later to be perceived as more than a curiosity. There was no suspicion that they could, in any numbers, threaten harm to the lungs of children. And, once again returning to language, whether or not there might have been enough motor cars in 1899 to fill the roads, I cannot believe that the word “congestion” had yet been extended to describe the problem.
Given time and access to a dictionary, I could do the same for this alleged letter as Lorenzo Valla did for the Donation of Constantine. But there is no need. It is a forgery that needs little unmasking. In general, its tone is that of someone with limited historical understanding and few writing skills who has set out to fabricate past evidence to support present opinions. It dwells on issues that were not then regarded as problems. It ignores others that were. Anyone with the slightest feel for the English language and English social history must know at once that nothing like this could have been produced before perhaps 1999. Because of references to transition from one century to another that would have no relevance before our own millennium, I think it reasonable to say that it was fabricated then.
But let us leave aside the matter of whether Joan Leggett exists or whether she knew when this quotation was produced. If she does exist, she probably pulled it unawares from the Internet. What, I ask, was the Letters Editor of The Daily Mail thinking when he accepted this for publication. We can forgive any degree of ignorance in those who write letters to newspapers. We cannot forgive such ignorance in those paid to edit them. I feel still more outraged by this trash than even by plagiarism by my students from the Internet.
Regardless of politeness, however, the use of fabricated evidence is a dangerous tactic in debate. Unless done skilfully, it is too easily detected. Look at the evidence produced by the Blair Government in support of the Iraq War. This was discovered as lies within a few hours. More importantly, look at the poor scholarship and consequent low reputation of the American conservative movement. There is a forged quotation from a certain “Adolphe” Hitler about the benefits of gun control. There are forged quotations from Cicero and I think Benjamin Franklin about the the corrosive effects of inflation.. Michel Foucault might have got away with the use of fabricated source material, or of no source material at all, for his various statements. But he seems to have had a theory of knowledge that relieved him of any need to tell the truth. We are supposed to be rather better than that.
If we in the libertarian and conservative movement are ever to defeat the enemies of our civilisation, it will be because we have won the battle of ideas – because reflecting people will have decided the balance of truth to be on our side. We cannot even begin to win that battle if we countenance fabrications of evidence.
This is, I begin to feel, an extended diversion from the fact that I have not been as careful as I should have been about checking my facts. So I will end here. Even so, the Letters Editor of The Daily Mail should at least consider resigning in disgrace.
Various matters arise from my last issue of Free Life Commentary. The most important I have no time to discuss at the moment. This is the request, made by several readers, that I should explain why is is right to tolerate those with whom we disagree beyond the mere avoidance of coercion. I will give an answer when I have more time. for the moment, I will deal with matters of secondary, though still considerable, importance.
Readers of this blog will now be pleased that the vast and currently-employed-phalanxes, of retained-Libertarian-Alliance-Blogging-Staff, and their massed rooms full of diligent and industrious Lady Type Writers, now have the ability to upload all sorts of file types (such as .wmv, .mov, .avi. .ogg (whatever that might be?) , .doc, .pdf, .gif (I do know what they are at least) and the like, directly into wordpress.
As a test, I have put up an edited set of clips of about 16Mb, of what The Remittance Man would call “plane pron”.
Sorry. It’s a nice afternoon here and we are just doing flippant stuff today. This from Newsbiscuit gave me a quick chortle.
Apparently, ignorance begets confidence, statistically, according to a report found on Kerplunk. He makes the point specifically in regard to the golbal-warm-mongering-scam. Perhpas Prince Charles should read it wrt GM seeds etc.
Maybe, when I know more, I will be less confident about suggesting liberatian solutions to problems such as the USSR…
As far as I know, mere possession will not (yet) be construed as an offence. That will come later, as with guns.
David Davis (as if you had not guessed.)
Better to be dead that red “socialised”.
I od hope everybody notices this one, since it it now getting serious (as Stalin would have said.)
Civilised nations DO NOT GO ABOUT defining in public, or otherwise, other nations as “Nuclear Targets”. Specially in a time when OUR companies are enriching, by YOUR PM’s leave, YOUR oligarchs who own OUR Foot Ball Clubs.
Sorry General! You shall have to go. If I ever meet you, even at a Chatham House Symposium, at the Royal Institute (for) (of?) (who cares a f*** which!) International Affairs (or whatever the thingy is called) I, a Lancashire Bumpkin, will have to kill you.
How can we sit here on our arses, and say that “what goes on in Georgia is not our concern and _does not affect our vital interests_ … “, when unsocialised, pre-capitalist barbarians say this? “THIS” is a USSR General Officer in the DT, describing what his government would do to Poland, a nation in NATO, because it has decided to have some American missiles, a good move I would have thought in view of the coming war, which crept up on us while we were asleep.
I have to return, to entrench the necessarily hawkish position that I have been taking here. I know that many libertarians are rightly suspicious of statist aggression. I am also. But the present most crying need, as far as libertarianism is concerned, is to defend what’s left of roughly-liberal-western-democratic nations, so as to keep fertile ground for libertarianism itself.
It’s much harder if we are starting out from the Gulag itself, or from the face of a firing-squad, than from London or Liverpool, be they ever so trodden-under by local stalinists.
It’s no use to carry on, if we are all 100% dead, or enslaved. The wicked will then have won.
I repeat: “Russia”, while it continues to be socialoist and to behave as though it can direct events and regimes in other nations, must be regarded as having no “near abroad”.
WE have a near abroad – it is called “the world”. Governments that behave like the current one in the USSR, are making messes in OUR backyard. It is OUR job to clear it up, kick their butts, take names, and impose detentions.
Can’t all you buggers get it into your heads that there is Good, and there is Evil, and that both are objectively definable? A war may come: You have to know how to decide which side you are on.
… at Kerplunk, tuesday 12th August. Very good analysis, worth reading in full.
I perhaps did not make myself quite as clear as I ought to have done in my very hawkish statements about this conflict that is developing. Because we (the West) have done nothing on account of not really being able to do anything, it will get worse – not necessarily today or in Georgia, but elsewhere. It is my sad prediction that we shall eventually be forced to intervene, somewhere. I do not think we will raise a finger for the Baltic States, should they come under some pressure, nor the Ukraine, USSR passports having previously been issued in large numbers.
I am afraid that I do not really accept the diplomatic notion of a “near abroad”, in relation to neo-tyrannical powers, such as the USSR Russia. Rather as militant Islamists and Wahhabis view the world, where there is the Ummah-Wahida and the Dhimma. There is, logally for me, no “near abroad” in which the USSR Russia is allowed to behave as an occupying power.
This notion is an illusion, fostered by intellectual sympathisers with socialism, who live in the West, have never grown up and had real jobs, and who can afford to send their servants to queue at “little local shops” for organic food, served to them by a jovial grocer in a brown labcoat, in line.
Now, through all this Georgian hoo-hah, I have realised something. It has come to my notice that I honestly and sincerely view tyrants (such as Putin) – all of whom are leftists in the end – as Dhimmis. Thus they are seen by me as living on borrowed time, not with us but somewhere else: also, for now, at our pleasure, in “our” (“our” is not accurate: it is more accurate to say, other sovereign individuals’) lands, and to be dealt with as soon as possible, and they and their actions and beliefs are to be consigned to the dustbin of ideas.
The people they enslave, which is to say, mostly ”their” own that they have elcosed in a “Reich”, are there to be liberated (by us.)
Conversely, libertarianism does not, ot me, encompass the concept of a “near abroad”, in which the writ of individual liberty runs, and not tyranny. Everywhere in the Universe is meet to be rid of collectivism. Why? Because is it inherently bad, and that’s the end of the matter.
In this respect, I really am a jihadist turned upside down. I want the West to actively stand up for liberty, without any regard for national self-interest or cost. I believe this on principle. I do not think that it disqualifies me from being a minimal-statist-libertarian with Old Whig tinges.
But we won’t, will we.
Another Neocon Farce?
by Sean Gabb
Foreign policy is an open issue among libertarians. Some of us are isolationists. Others are pacifists. Others take a more belligerent line, believing that there are threats to the admittedly imperfect liberal democracies of the West that must be countered, and even that the intelligent use of force can increase the amount of freedom in the world.
I am an isolationist. Though I incline to anarchist, I accept that for the moment, the world is ruled by various states, and that there will always be disputes between states, some leading to war. This being so, I believe that the best way to minimise the threat of war is to have our own state keep out of any dispute that does not immediately concern the integrity of its own territory.
I am a citizen of a country that was a principal actor in the two big wars of the twentieth century. I believe that these wars were unnecessary for the security of my country and killed unimaginable numbers of people. They also destroyed British primacy in the world and were the means of transforming Britain from genuine liberal democracy to politically correct corporatism. That is why I was so opposed to to our role in the wars of the past decade in the Balkans, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And that is why I am now opposed to any intervention in the war between Russia and Georgia.
I am told that Russia is an aggressive power that must be resisted in the Caucasus before it is able to threaten other places. The newspapers are filled with the usual talk of Munich and appeasement, together with claims that a new Cold War is beginning. I deny this.
Russia may be an aggressor in this war. Or it may not be. I will not enter into the details of who moved first, or with what provocation. But, even assuming that Russia is the aggressor, I fail to see what business this war is of the British or American Governments. The implied deal at the end of the 1980s was that the Soviet Union would evacuate its European colonies, in return for which Russian security would be respected. Every former republic of the Soviet Union, with the exception of the Baltic States, were to be regarded as part of the Russian sphere of interest. That included the Ukraine and Georgia.
It was unwise to recruit the former East European colonies of the Soviet Empire into NATO, and to move Western armed forces right up to the old Soviet border. But that was something the Russians at the time were in no position to resist, and that they might, given intelligent diplomacy, be brought to accept was no threat to them. Now that Russia is again a first class power, it would be madness to intervene in what used to be a core part of the Soviet Union.
Yes – Russia is again a first class power. This may be founded on the high price of oil and gas. The demographic trends in Russia may point to a longer term weakness. But Russia will for perhaps the next decade be again a first class power. This is no threat to the west. I was against fighting the Cold War. But it was then arguable that the Soviet Union was a danger to the west. What we had then was the largest country in the world, with the largest armed forces, both at the disposal of a murderous and expansionist ideology with intellectual sympathisers in every country in the world.
First class or otherwise, Russia today is a normal power. It is no longer interested in conquering France and Australia and Argentina. The present ruling class in Russia legitimises itself and its efforts in terms of Russian nationalism and Orthodox Christianity. This makes Russia a danger to some of its immediate neighbours, but not to us. It is rightly annoying to the British Government that Mr Putin seems willing to have his political enemies murdered in London.
In the longer term, indeed, Russia is at least a potential ally of the West, if not part of the West. If there is to be a contest in this century – and I hope there will not be – between the West and Islam, or the West and China, Russia must reasonably be counted as on our side. With two lost wars in the Islamic world, and growing American impotence in East Asia, now is not the time to antagonise Russia.
I have, in the past day, read statements by David Milliband, the British foreign Secretary, and by the Conservative leader, David Cameron, that strike me as almost childish in their failure to understand the realities of international politics. There is nothing we should do to help the Georgians. There is nothing we can do. Russia is not an enemy of Britain.
Sadly, London, just like Washington, has been captured by the neoconservatives. These are not conservatives, new or old. They are simply warmongers. They have misread the history of the twentieth century. For them, national greatness is measured by military power. They are allied to business and other interests that benefit from war. They had a fine time during the Cold War. They were disappointed when this abruptly ended. They have since then been lying us into smaller wars all over the world. They want a permanent war with Islam. They look forward to a cold war with China. Of course, now that Vladimir Putin is in charge of Russia, they are in love with the idea that the original Cold War never really ended, and that the warm certainties of their youth can now be revived.
I could say more. But I think I have said enough. I hope the Russians and Georgians will come to terms before too many more people are killed. In the meantime, I am resolutely opposed to any intervention of any kind in the dispute by the British Government. And, since Britain is regrettably for the moment part of the American Empire, I oppose involvement by the Americans.
NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3
Here. Yes, I know I said “USSR”. This was on purpose. There is, now, no difference of any substance between today’s “Russia”, and yesterday’s “USSR”. The latter behaved like a pre-capitalist barbarian imperium, with guns, and the former is currently behaving like the same thing but with satnavs, phones and plasma-TVs in people’s houses. Plus Western commercial investors, cringeing with terror, grinning inanely in the business pages, and pretending that nothing that’s terribly bad is going on.
I propose to continue to take a rather firm line on this matter of the USSR, for as long as it takes to enforce regime change there. It is indescribably derelict of the West not to have dealt with this rogue fascist leftist regime in either 1945, or 1989-91, when, at both instants, we had the world at our feet, and Western Leftoid nazi journos were conspicuous by their strange absence.
However, you will all be relieved to know that I will not be so aggressive as to say “USSR delenda est” every day. Now and then, just to show the buggers that we here have not forgotten about them.
However, there are no two libertarians who agree totally on all things, so I welcome dissent, and will not be invading and annexing others’ column-inches who disagree. (I don’t want a visit from Nicholas Sarkozy. Please.)
If you too want to be like Al Gore, then you have to do all this big stuff. I never said that it should not be done, à-propos of Global warm-mongering: merely that I don’t think your average Patagonian, or Alaskan smallholder, can afford it – and it’s not a lot of use in Nigeria either.
It’s anyway a nice little video, quite well made by a chum of mine.
Excellent exposé by Bishop Hill, about the carefully-diguised but fraudulent manipulation of data and preocessing, used to convince gullible people or those with little free time and a lot to do. Lots of useful embedded links to primary sources. Hat tip Samizdata, courtesy of Brian Mickelthwait, and I think the Englishman’s got his teeth into its ankle also. (Useful but slightly irrelevant, although amusing, links to all about Richard Dawkins included free if you see him.) You’ll all be pleased to see that The Devil has picked it up, too, and is somewhat less amused by the scale of the fraud even than I am!
And for some real dunking in proper coloured graphs and all that stuff, go to John Daly, here.
NEWS RELEASE FROM THE LIBERTARIAN ALLIANCE
In Association with the Libertarian International
Release Date: Tuesday 12th August 2008
Release Time: Immediate
Dr Sean Gabb on 07956 472 199 or via email@example.com
For other contact and link details, see the foot of this message
Release url: http://www.libertarian.co.uk/news/nr070.htm
STATEMENT BY THE LIBERTARIAN ALLIANCE ON A PROPOSED NEW “BILL OF RIGHTS” FOR BRITAIN
The Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties policy institute, today issues the following statement on the legitimacy of the proposed new “Bill of Rights” for Britain.
[Note: The British Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights has called for a new Bill of Rights, to supplement or replace the Human Rights Act 1998. This new Bill would contain social and economic "rights", including the "right" to health, housing, education and an adequate standard of living, as well as a "healthy" environment. It would also contain such "rights" as international human rights treaties may in future decide.]
Libertarian Alliance Director, Dr Sean Gabb, says:
“The most fundamental right within the western liberal tradition is the right of individuals to be left alone in the enjoyment of life, liberty and justly-acquired property. The most fundamental obligation is to leave others alone in their enjoyment of the same.
“The sole function of a bill of rights is to protect this fundamental right from violation by the State, which in every time and place has been the foremost threat to life, liberty and property. Therefore, bills of rights have generally enumerated aspects of the right to be left alone, together with promises of due process in all areas where state and individual are brought together.
“Some bills of rights have been more technically comprehensive than others. Some have been more effective than others. But, historically, it has been fear of the State that has lain behind calls for any bill of rights.
“The effect – and probably the intention – of this proposed bill of rights is to weaken protection of genuine rights by the enumeration of non-rights.
“We have a right to freedom of speech. We have a right to freedom of association. We have a right to fair trials in which the State is at a procedural disadvantage. We have no right whatever to education or healthcare that go beyond what we have freely contracted to obtain. We have no right not to be poor that goes beyond our right not to be deprived of our justly-acquired property.
“It may be politically expedient, in some times and places, for the tax payers to be forced to subsidise the education and healthcare and general support of the poor. But the expectations thereby created cannot be described as rights. These expectations can only be met by the violation of the right of the tax payers to their property.
“And the right to a ‘healthy’ environment is an expectation that legitimises wholesale violations of life, liberty and property.
“Nothing in the news reports we have seen suggests that this proposed new bill of rights will contain prohibitions of racial, religious or sexual “discrimination”. But we find it unlikely, given the current state of ruling class opinion, that these will not be there. They also are not rights, and involve the systematic violation of genuine rights. No one has a right not to be hated or despised. No one has a right to force anyone to associate with him. No one has an obligation to remain silent on matters of politics, religion, science or history, among much else.
“Nor is anything said about the supposed need to balance rights against responsibilities. Again, it is unlikely that this will be left out. The European concept of “abus de droit” has been in practice a means of limiting the exercise of rights in any way found inconvenient by the State. It has never so far had any place in English law. The proper place for setting out the details of our obligation to leave others alone is the civil and criminal law.
“The Human Rights Act 1998 is imperfect in its protection of rights. Even so, it is a document that recognises the rights of the western liberal tradition. Until it can be replaced by a more perfectly liberal document, it should be left in place. If any change is required, it should only be to give the courts power to strike down any subsequent law explicitly as well as implicitly reducing its protections.”
END OF COPY
Note(s) to Editors
Dr Sean Gabb is the Director of the Libertarian Alliance. His latest book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, may be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3. It may also be bought. His other books are available from Hampden Press at http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk.
He can be contacted for further comment on 07956 472 199 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Extended Contact Details:
The Libertarian Alliance is Britain’s most radical free market and civil liberties policy institute. It has published over 800 articles, pamphlets and books in support of freedom and against statism in all its forms. These are freely available at http://www.libertarian.co.uk
Our postal address is
The Libertarian Alliance
2 Lansdowne Row
London W1J 6HL
Tel: 07956 472 199
The Libertarian International – http://www.libertarian.to – is a sister organisation to the Libertarian Alliance. Its mission is to coordinate various initiatives in the defence of individual liberty throughout the world.
Sean Gabb’s personal website – http://www.seangabb.co.uk – contains about a million words of writings on themes interesting to libertarians and conservatives.
Hampden Press – http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk.- the publishing house of the Libertarian Alliance.
Liberalia – http://www.liberalia.com – maintained by by LA Executive member Christian Michel, Liberalia publishes in-depth papers in French and English on libertarianism and free enterprise. It is a prime source of documentation on these issues for students and scholars.
This news release will also be placed on the Libertarian Alliance blog – http://libertarianalliance.wordpress.com/
Libertarians often disagree on foreign policy. With all deference to our Blogmaster, here is my view on events in Georgia:
It is none of our business. The tacit deal in 1989 was that Central and Eastern Europe were to be set free, in return for which Russia was to be left alone within its own sphere. We’ve broken the spirit of the deal by
getting Poland etc into NATO. If we make a fuss about Georgia, it will really annoy the Russians and do no good for the Georgians.
Besides, what happens in Georgia is no concern of ours.
A possible eve-of-war message from the Libertarian alliance.
David Davis (not that one)
What is life?
Even Alfred the Great, arguably England’s most important King, could not answer that one. But if we are sentient creatures, then we can’t but use time given to make the lot of us and ours better. If Adam Smith and Hayek are right, then we should do it because it enhances our own conditions – self-interest. If the racism industry and its socialist chums are right, then we should do it because we have stuff and others don’t (they call it “fairness”.) Either way, we should act, libertarian non-intervention-opinions or no.
Libertarians ought to be revolted by what’s going on in Georgia. This is of course courtesy of the Soviet Russian government and its wretched, downtrodden people whom it commands – just like the Communists and their Czarist forebears – as a human resource. If it was not for the existence of Big States, and if State power was not delightful for the wielders thereof, most of the ghastly bloodbaths of the past four or five millennia would not have occurred.
Perhaps all of them, and human history will surely have been richer and more full of true progress than it has, even despite the burdens we have endured, placed with force on us by Utopians and pre-capitalists with guns and swords.
Why are we here?
Nevertheless, we in the West live in a still-fortunate civilisation, relative to all others without exception that have existed. Fortunate, relative also to those of which we can conceive – except for full Libertarian or practical-liberal-minimal-statist ones, the realisation of which which we still fervently hope will lie somewhere in the future, and that they are not unachievable mirages, forbidden to us by our current masters.
It’s true that our enemies, of which much the most powerful lurk menacingly at home, diabolically smiling the anodyne, sedative smiles of the Enemy-Media-Class, are doing their level Fabian best to drug us into a Politically-Correct stupor. They have subverted the universities, the Schools (with the exception of most of the Private Sector, which they also intend to terminate) and the main media channels. By this means they hope to enchain us in a Police State while our back is turned, so that never more can we, the inventors and then the guardians of true individual liberty, frustrate their return of the whole of humankind to a state of miserable enslavement. You have only to sample the outputs of their Wireless Tele Vision channels, and the content, depth and average slant of the “Television News Programmes”, to see that this is so. The mass-circulation-parts of the Dead Tree Press also bear this observation out.
In his life, Chris tame always thought that Libertarianism would succeed in the end by influence of the think-tank type. He wanted to subvert the Conservative Party, but this was in the years when it was fairly liberal and therefore amenable to takeover by peaceful means. This has not happened and probably will not now happen: things came this year to such a pass that there is now as we know a UK Libertarian Party, and we wish it well. But to have any hope of succeeding at all, in the end-times, Libertarians must now get their hands dirty in the rough and tough of comment on dreadful statist affairs, and perhaps take somewhat statist positions on the action appropriate to the disasters that states go about causing.
What, then, must we do?
In the possibly interesting times that may soon come, “we” must be “The West”. Why? Because the Libertarian Alliance is a powerless soap-box, only for superannuated demagogues to stand on, shakily at the best of times, and hoot into cyberspace, occasionally receiving the odd squashed tomato, or egg, in return. Occasionally, someone says something nice about us, or maybe throws us a sixpence, which is better. There is no possible reason for anyone to listen to us, excepting that all others might be mistaken, and that every one of us is a MASTERLESS MAN.
History shows us all that the price of not standing up to pre-capitalists who do evil to third parties, gets bigger and bigger, the more we let the buggers get away with. Initially, it does not seem to matter to us if a bystander in the middle-distance is felled by a bullet, and his body carted away. He is a “faraway country of which we know little”. We may have had pressure put on us by the assassin-thug and his men, many of whom are uncomfortably close to us, or even under our floorboards, to look the other way.
The next thing we know is that the thug actually does plan to perform an act which will do one of two things. It is either fatal for our own honour (Belgium 1914, Poland 1939) because we did actually make an undertaking to help someone, however foolish it was. It is right and good to discharge public obligations, made even for poor reasons, since this links back to the second part of this essay which is why we are here.
Or else it will directly affect us finally. Not necessarily today, but it will at some time. This latter is what Sean Gabb calls going to war over a vital interest. He is quite right that in an ideal world this should be the only reason for a war, and I can envisage Libertarian States – a tautology? – declaring war over something of this kind. If all states were Libertarian, then there ought then to be no wars, but since the scenario is entirely theoretical, I can’t give you a prediction. (But I’d bet you 3p there’d be less conflict.)
In a post yesterday, I stated that Russia has no tradition of liberal pluralist democracy, or of widespread free institutions of any kind. This is precisely the situation that we found ourselves in with Hitler and pre-WW2 Germany. The Weimar Republic took a huge, huge back-of-envelope-leap-into-the-unknown, in 1918, the results of which may have been to leave the German people vulnerable: the development of liberal pluralist structures (likely to be favourable to the use of ordinary diplomacy – not the Bismarckian model, and likely to hinder rather than help aggressive nationalist demagoguery) went ahead, although nobody knew how to use them properly, and the NSDAP cleverly subverted them, until it could abolish them. (See die Ermachtigungsgezetz, of 1933, almost the first thing the bugger did.) The point is that no german-speaking state of 1918 has much more experience of real liberal participation than the people of Russia do now.
So are we going to let the USSR’s Russian govt get away with buggering about inside foreign countries, or not?
If we are here to make planets that we occupy into better places, then we have already taken the wrong action (and I’m not even thinking about the great global warming lie that has engulfed humanity in expensive and unnecessary further burdens.) We have expressed “displeasure”. We have used words such as “unacceptable”, and the like. We have alluded, obliquely, to “measures”, and to “Russia’s standing in the world”. Would Hitler have backed down in the face of this terrible onslaught? I think not.
“Self-determination” was a very bad concept for Woodrow Wilson to bandy about in a world in flames, as he did. It was probably the least bad-seeming-solution at the time, seem from the position of a well-meaning onlooker. But it did enable a few real nations, themselves the products of the beliefs of millions of individuals, to come into existence, and which were undeniably suppressed by the pre-capitalist, pre-liberal structures before them, which force and terror had made persist long after it was time for them to go. The main problems he left us with arose from the specific decisions about these nations that were entirely arbitrary, and thus the product of “planners” (in itself a socialist concept) such as the “Polish Corridor”.
South Ossetia, we are told, wants to go, from Georgia. Perhaps Abkhazia does also: I don’t know. But if they do, then there is therefore also no excuse for the USSR Russia to wade in and pretend that it’s protecting the interests of South Ossetians, or Abkhazians. It’s a matter for Georgia and South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This is therefore a classic example of a scenario in which the Anglosphere ought to commit warlike acts against, not the first and second parties, with whom it has no quarrel, but the third-party which seeks to profit and do a grab (in order to fulfil a pre-capitalist barbarian fantasy) which is the USSR Russia.
If, say, South Ossetia really truly madly deeply wanted to leave Georgia, over, say, taxation policy, or some other injustice, then if that’s the outcome we should allow it. It’s none of our business. But don’t you just get suspicious when the great big heavily-armed (not even a) neighbour jumps in shooting, saying that “SO is being prevented from going, and by the way, we gave lots of them our passports! So we’re going to invade you thoroughly while we are about it, and not go away when you ask us to!”
Western civilisation is the best. It is. Yes. 100%. We not only have nothing to apologise about, to anyone, but, more importantly, we MUST NOT apologise. Ever, ever, ever, to anyone. That includes behaving apologetically towards wicked people, and those who do not share our beliefs. 9/11 would never have happened if the West had not lost its psychological bottle.
Our role, as civilisers, in the grand scheme of human betterment (an idea which WE invented – the hideousness of all other failed branches testifies to this fact) is to teach, and to socialise. Libertarianism, almost a detail – but unachieveable without classical Western civilisation and attitudes and politics- is the logical conclusion of the entire process. It incidentally takes us a tiny bit nearer towards understanding God’s mind. We have known for centuries, maybe longer, how to socialise children, that they can become sovereign individuals who behave well towards each other as adults, and agree democratically to co-operate in free institutions. What was this all for? Nothing? Is that why the Fabian Gramsco-Marxians took away our ability to do what worked, by statutory means? (You can’t beat even your own child now – you will be arrested, and the State will abuse take away your child.)
States such as the USSR Russia are unsocialised children. (There are many others, most indeed of the UN, but let’s start somewhere, and the balloon is going up just there.) They must be taken in hand, firmly, and treated the same way as wayward, naughty children whom we want to turn into responsible adults, for their own good. It is not only in a third party’s interest for us to do good (since it directly affects someone else vulnerable and the fate of the Russian people, so heavily abused, past, present, and future if we do not act now at our last chance) but Russia’s that we must take it in hand. Positively. Now. Before it’s too late.
An astonishingly poor response. His cringeing manner leaves me nothing to add. The point of the West, as the inventor and guardian of liberal classical morality and of all that is good in the world, is now lost.
To find out more, go to the Devil. Good genral roundup about the coming war with the expansionist Imperialist USSR expansionist Imperialist Russia, whether you wanted to believe it would come, or not.
What appears below is the substance of a riposte that I have just placed on an anti-EU newsgroups called “eurorealist”. This was in response to a slightly shallowly-thought-out question about what quarrel we have with somethng called the “Russian People”. The point I try, inexpertly, to make, is that there is no such quarrel: the problem lies within the institutionalised Russian State – and there is no solution except revolution…what I think we in the Anglosphere call euphemistically, “Regime Change”. Here goes…
First. we should make the DISTINCTION between the People of (poor, oppressed) Russia, and its GOVERNMENT. Russia, wretched, ground-down country, has no tradition of secular liberal political democracy. None. None whatever – not even folk-memory of it.
The Russian Administration (and I said this in the Torygraph comments on the article (front page) yesterday) behaves no differently from its medieval, Czarist and Communist forebears. Why ought it to? What advantage is there for it? The Russian people are there for it as a “human resource”, often turned by it into “human remains”, but as Stalin said, “one death does not matter very much”. As the unspeakable pig Yezhov said in 1938, “if we shoot 1,000 people too many in any monthly plan, it’s no big deal”. (I’m not making this up, by the way.)
WE are fighting Russia, because we want a world in which such tyrannical, pre-capitalist/barbarian/sub-human attitudes to other people and their wishes, have no place. Russia’s present governmental structures are savage and pre-capitalist/barbarian, and they have NO place in the world that we and Ahmet want.
Russia’s regime will HAVE TO GO. Just that, very simple. The Russian Foreign Monster said in today’s torygraph that “Regime Change is a Western concept that we do not use…..” I bet you mean that, mate, but not in the way you thought.
If we do not do, in the West, at least some warlike things, over Georgia, the following things will happen:- (i don’t care about the oil or gas anyway – we should not buy oil from tyrants, nor give them money for theyr services. we invented nuclear power, let’s just Do The Right Thing and USE IT.)
(1) Georgia will disappear, rent apart piece by piece, just like Czechoslovakia in 1938. This incident is a virtual re-run of the Hitler-Henlein-Sudetenland script.
(2) Putin will then go after the other Caucasian republics which are “faraway counteis of which we know little”. these have less firepower than georgia could even muster.
(3) Putin will then dismember Ukraine by hoovering up the Trans-Dniester.
Of course we will do nothing – what do you think we now are? We are the modern West, trained by home-grown, wicked and ingrate internal Gramsco-Marxians to take weak relativist positions on everything that reflects well on our past absolute moral greatness and rightness: these days, we now must glorify and salute the betrayal of our friends, by our masters who arrived while we slept, and betrayal of those who see right and would emulate us, but for now need our strong arms against evil ones who would expunge them.
It always has been, is now, and will be, the job and duty of Anglosphere nations to go to war not for their own interests, but for simple principles of right and wrong. For example, Britain had no possible or conceivable foreign policy interest in defendingeither of the following:-
(1) Belgium’s neutrality (we only undertook to because we signed a 19th century treaty that said we would – the Imperial General Staff excuse that we could not allow the French Coast to fall into German hands is more plausible, I admit)
(2) Poland’s territorial integrity in 1939. Again, we had merely given our word (is not that something?) that we would do so. I am publicly on record, seven times in 19 years, as saying that we could no more defend Poland by force that land soldiers on mars, but that’s not the point. The point is to Do The Right Thing, as described by example in the Gospels (specific and empirical) and positively enjoined (as generalities for modelling) in the Mosaic decalogue.
Of course we will blink first if it comes to a standoff with Russia. Don’t worry, You can sleep easy in your beds for a few….months?….years? What difference does it make? So yes it WILL get worse, because we did not react correctly (for the defence of Good against the machinations of the Wicked) before it was too late. It was too late before this South ossetian nonsense.
Why do you all think Bismarck sprayed Imperial German passports all over Schleswig-Holstein, before marching in and chopping it off Denmark? Look at what the Russian State (not the Russian people!) did all over South Ossetia.
It’s too late to do anything but “declare solidarity with Georgia”. That’s honourable, but insufficent to save it. By not preparing for war, you will all now get it. not now, but when it’s almost too late and you’ll have to hope to survive by the skin of your teeth.
Much, much more should have been done, by the West, INSIDE RUSSIA, in 1991. That was the time, and we could do no wrong in the eyes of the world. The moment was lost, and we let all the vile fascist left spiders and their friends crawl surreptitiously out of the woodwork, and slime back into almost their original positions.
Yep, the moment was lost. We were so drunk with rejoicing over the Berlin Wall and Gorbachev and Yeltsin, that we forgot to look under the flagstones in the cellar, and shoot anything that moved, before moving in with the bulldozers.
Look, WE KNOW how to build libral pluralist civilisations with Free Institutions. Having taken 15 centuries to learn it the hard way, we ought now to be able to do it the easy way. What we propound accords with Human Nature: socialism does not – it is the specific and major difference, which is why its experiments always and invariably fail bloodily, with colateral damage. WE SHOULD have “done” Russia while we could do it for no cost in either blood or treasure…..but we didn’t, and so you will all pay now.
Well, there you are. Who’s next after Abkhazia, Armenia, Ukraine….The Baltinc States? Or…Poland again, anyone?
In a message dated 11/08/2008 13:26:42 GMT Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
[eurorealist] Re: [Fwd: WAR ALERT!!!]
Date:11/08/2008 13:26:42 GMT Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet
Given that they aren’t commies any more, why are we still fighting Russia?
Of course this sums up the whole problem.
When Russia abandoned the Warsaw Pact, it was on the understanding that
NATO would not move in. Why should it? It had always claimed that
Communism was the threat; not the Russian people.
What happened next? The German Wall came down as requested by the US.
Then NATO moved into East Germany. “Well why not”? “It’s all one
country now” they said. After that it was Poland et al.
No bloody wonder Russia’s worried.
— In firstname.lastname@example.org, “vtam370″ <vtam370@…> wrote:
> Even if Georgia WERE a Nato member, I am sure their
> European allies would find many excuses for not going
> to its rescue. Remember what happened in the Falklands
> The Russians appear to think that the Georgians were
> egged by America and Turkey because those two countries
> had been training Georgia’s army and supplying weapons.
> They issued some paranoic-sounding warnings in the past
> few days. They don’t want either Georgia or Ukraine to
> be considered for Nato membership. Frankly, I have
> greater respect for Russia than our former allies in
> Europe. Given that they aren’t commies any more, why
are we still fighting Russia?