Then and Now: The Thatcherite Legacy of Totalitarian Plutocracy


Note: Since Mrs Thatcher came in with her lying promise of a national revival, British “prosperity” has been achieved as follows:

The banks, enabled by the political wing of the ruling class, create huge amounts of money. Some of this is lent to politicians to secure their client base, some of it to the well-connected to spend on themselves or their business ventures. Those who have first spending of the money are able to appropriate resources from everyone else in ways that look like ordinary purchase, and not the theft that they really are.

This process enables and requires a bloated financial services sector. This is further enlarged when inflation and heavy taxes push the rest of us to hope for any return at all on our savings by putting it in the hands of coke-fuelled gamblers.

Productive activity is taxed and regulated into decline. This has the effect of destroying economically secure and politically engaged middle and working classes that would otherwise protest at the looting. Because, at however basic a level, industrial workers have daily experience of applied science and of the underlying rationality of things, the decline of industry turns people back into superstitious sheep, addicted to astrology and in awe of lying statistics. The working classes are further immiserised by state-sponsored mass immigration. This reduces wage levels, and promotes further deskilling, and makes the kind of solidarity of dissent last seen in the miners strike impossible, and justifies a police state to deal with any remaining dissent.

The result is an overclass of very rich people, who splash money round places like London, and who legitimise their wealth by hiring intellectuals to argue that it has been acquired through the “free enterprise system.” Go outside these enclaves, and you see growing impoverishment, disguised for the moment by debt.

I can just remember the 1960s, when most ordinary people had secure employment and could look forward to real increases in their standard of living. Dave Barnby is luckier, in that he benefitted from the old order of things.

Saying this doesn’t mean that I approve of nationalised industries and overmighty trade unions. However, when I compare the liberal social democracy that ended c1980 with the increasingly totalitarian plutocracy that is the real legacy of Margaret Thatcher, I know which I prefer. SIG

Becky Barrow writes in The Daily Mail: Young UK workers lack get up and go to beat foreigners to jobs, employment minister warns

Dave Barnby responds:

Why should UK’s youth have to compete with unrestricted immigration from countries where often wage levels are rock bottom where there are any jobs.

When I was in final year sixth form in 1956, employers were flocking to schools (well my Grammar) desperately looking for people to come and work for them.

I was offered a three day visit to English Electric Stafford (where they made tranformers and electricity generators for export) to see whether or not I would like to join an engineering apprentice. After 3 days they asked me what I though.

I told them I would prefer to work in something less dirty and less overwhelming, so they arranged for me to visit their radio electronics group at Marconi Chelmsford, where I was offered a five year graduate apprentice training job (two years at Marconi and two years at university). This lead to a forty year career where I latterly started my own very successful telecommunications consultancy.

Today Marconi no longer exists having been gambled away by Lord Simpson (who left with a massive payoff) and there is very little in the way of worthwhile jobs as they have mostly been exported and we have instead imported unemployment from abroad. So much for the global economy and the European Union which promised much and delivered what we’ve got – low wages, dead end jobs and despair.

If I was in the predicament of the poor school and university leavers today, I would have no interest in what is on offer. as it is these lads and lassies are joining the army to fight Tony Blair’s and David Cameron’s wars rather than stack shelves in Waitrose (that’s a quote).

So rather than make it seem like young British people’s fault, why don’t you look to the real causes.

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52 responses to “Then and Now: The Thatcherite Legacy of Totalitarian Plutocracy

  1. This is very sound in general, but I’m not quite sure I agree with Dr Sean Gabb totally, _if_ he is implying that Thatcher (herself) was primarily responsible for the degradation, so focussed and so ordered that it must indeed have been deliberate, that he describes.

    I prefer to see it as the post-war GramscoFabiaNazi Political Enemy-Class’s fault, it having to be left largely in place by Thatcher because she could not in a more or less peaceful democracy do everything needful at once. Remember also that it was these very GramscoFabiaNazis, such as Heseltine, Howe and others with them, who got rid of Thatcher in their anger at finding at last that she was a “liberal”. This really really got up their noses, specially after she’d handbagged their chums the GramscoStaliNazis in Brussels – and then…horror of horrors….she proposed the poll tax….that would never do, and would finally expose the nazis’ dangerous isolation and lack of support – so she had to be got rid of.

    They wree probably also mortally afraid she’d get Enoch Powell on the telephone and get him back instead of one of them, like the foul Nazi pig Ted Heath (still sitting about and scowling in the background with his scumbag fascist friends and his 30-Euro-Pieces-of-Silver, got for betraying a few little who people he gauged didn’t matter a monkey’s f*** to hm or his stratospheric prospects and Charlemagne Prize.

    When I’m Principal-Secretary-of-State-for-War, all Charlemagne-Prize-Money ever awarded will have to be refound and remitted to the requisite specific European and British taxpayers, together with 8% interest. It’ll be taken from whichever Eurocrats happen to be in employment at their jobs at the time, before they Leave The Building….and if they can’t raise it in cash then….they’ll have to stay in the building until…..

    Let’s stop pissing about. Exciting retribution, of amusing and crowd-friendly kinds, ought to be advertised by serious Libertarian philosophers: it should be indeed advertised as what awaits the perpetrators of the Dantean Hades which has been visited upon ordinary innocent Bourgeois individuals, who have only been, for decades and more, trying to go about their private business.

  2. I don’t know what Mrs Thatcher herself intended. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt by noting that she was stabbed in the back the moment it seemed she might believe her own rhetoric. But it’s a shame the trash she gathered round her is now dead or too old to put on trial for treason.

  3. There would have been more interesting things to “offer to” them, than putting them on trial for treason. What, anyway, is treason? As Talleyrand said: “it is a mere matter of dates”. To them, we are committing treason now by typing this stuff: to us, they have been doing it for years. They could have been “placed” on South Georgia, which is still ours I think, with a penknife and a change of shoes each, and told to “survive.” For some excitingly long period of time.

  4. Sean, have you noticed the trend to praise Geoffrey Howe for his fiscal tightening budget of 1980 or 1981? I always thought MT held a gun to his head and made him get the finances back on track, but now he is being praised to high heaven for it himself!

  5. I always thought GH was a ball of slime – lefty wife, too.

  6. The Poll Tax was an attempt to price Labour voters off the Electoral Rolls.

    It was the infamous John Selwyn Gummer who persuaded Thatcher to step down by telling her they could not bear the humiliation of her losing the Tory leadership contest.

    Tony

  7. Sean – Good to see you coming on board with the damage Thatcher did, Sean. She was responsible for these ills:
    1. Failed to get a grip on immigration after promising to do so before the 1978 election.
    2. Allowed political correctness to strengthen throughout her term of office, especially in schools and universities.
    3. Allowed the comprehensive educational disaster to continue and worsened matters by allowing O Levels to be destroyed, A Levels to be undermined and a massive increase in course work to take place. In addition, she undermined higher education by abolishing the University Grants Council -which allocated money to each of the universities – and making the money follow the student, thus turning the student from a someone simply to teach into a commodity universities needed.
    4. Began the undermining of the NHS by introducing bogus free enterprise concepts – the internal market – which had the same effect as the abolition of the UGC by making the money follow the patient and greatly increasing NHS bureaucracy.
    5. Made the single greatest breach in Britain’s sovereignty by signing up to the EU single market which meant that Britain could no longer control its borders within the EU or defend its business. Pushed for the expansion of the EU which aggravated these problems.
    6. Began the long march towards the present authoritarianism with the permitting of illegal controls on movement during the miners’ strike and the 1986 Public Order Act.
    7. The deliberate destruction of most of Britain’s heavy and extractive industries.
    8. The privatisation of that which should always be public, for example, the public utilities, a policy which has resulted in higher costs and worse service in every case bar BT. The privatisation of water is probably the worst example with no reservoir having been built in England since privatisation.
    But it was not only what she did in her time in office which matters. The governments which have followed have all pushed privatisation to ever more damaging and absurd limits – think PFI; become ever more authoritarian especially in the area of free expression; allowed immigration to completely get out of control ; enshrined the totalitarian creed which is political correctness in law and the British state and allowed the free market dogma to run so free that the banks were allowed to bring the country to its knees.
    Is Thatcher to blame personally? In the sense that she realised the damage she was doing and did it regardless, I would say no because I suspect she did not realise what the ends of her policies would be. That is because she was both in the grip of an ideology and because she had a very narrow intellect and next to no understanding of human nature or sociology. I think she honestly believed that what she was doing would have the outcome she wanted but in reality she was acting as a useful idiot in the cause of liberal internationalism.
    Years ago I wrote a piece for Right Now! on the subject It is now on my blog
    http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/margaret-thatcher-the-most-useful-of-idiots/

  8. Becky Barrow writes in The Daily Mail: Young UK workers lack get up and go to beat foreigners to jobs, employment minister warns

    Dave Barnby responds:

    WWhy should UK’s youth have to compete with unrestricted immigration from countries where often wage levels are rock bottom where there are any jobs….”

    The answer to those who call for immigration because we need the workers is simple: the country should only undertake those enterprises it can accomplish with its own people.

    Governments have a moral duty to attend to the needs of all their citizens. That means arranging things so that the vast majority of the population can make a living. As ten per cent of the UK population have IQs of 80 or less – 80 is the point at which most psychologists working in pyschometrics believe someone begins to struggle to live an independent life in a modern industrialised society – it is vital that the low skilled and unskilled jobs are available for such people. These are being largely taken by immigrants.

  9. Robert, we’ve known each other for well over a decade, and you should be aware that I’m hardly saying anything new.

    Our actual difference is over free markets. You seem to define any situation as “free market” or “laissez-faire,” so long as there is evidence of buying and selling – regardless of how corporatised or embedded in state privilege this may be. The banks are not free market entities. Much of the City exists only to churn money for the ruling class. The NHS internal market is not a free market. The privatised utilities are mostly second thoughts on how to exploit continued ruling class monopolies.

    As for MHT, I was never a Tory boy in the 1980s, and I made my disagreement plain with almost everything her government did.

  10. Much of what you say is true-but the context is lacking.

    In the ’70′s the West was losing the Cold War. The Soviet Union was expanding its sphere of influence greatly and the West was led by weak leaders. In the UK there was even a proposal that, bceause the trade unions represented so many millions of workers, they be granted reserved seats in Parliament. That would have been the end of any prospect of meaningful democracy in the UK. It was this background that Thatcher was fighting against-and she won!

    What she did not foresee, and no-one apart from the perpetrators did, was the suborning of freedom by the ubercapitalist class, and the state employed bureaucracy (whether EU inspired or otherwise). Thatcher won her battle-it is for us to win ours.

  11. 1. Yes, she failed to get a grip on immigration – but she did end primary immigration. The immigrants then surged into the asylum category – but she did try to do something.
    2. PC strengthened – yes. The Section 28 law was an attempt to prevent one kind of PC propaganda, but the race thing was continually increasing, albeit nothing like what we have today. I went to school in the 1980s – and the race issue was barely mentioned. I remember it being mentioned once and once only, where the teacher briefly alluded to “colour” prejudice. I did my O levels in 1985 – and so you can see in the early 1980s there was almost zero PC propaganda in school. I think it was taking off in the loony left London boroughs at the time – and seen as a bit of a joke – and MT did not prevent that.
    3. Yes, she allowed the destruction of O and A levels and universities.
    4. Well, yes, the NHS bureaucracy re: the internal market is a nightmare – the whole NHS should have been broken up and privatised.
    5. Yes – the EU Single Market Act etc was all bad.
    6. Illegal controls on movement – well, yes, you’re right here too.
    7. Destruction of heavy and extractive industry – Robert, these cannot survive unless they can pay their way in the global economy. This is a dud point.
    8. Privatisation of utilities – Robert these should never have been in public hands in the first place. Another dud point.

  12. “Governments have a moral duty to attend to the needs of all their citizens. That means arranging things so that the vast majority of the population can make a living. As ten per cent of the UK population have IQs of 80 or less – 80 is the point at which most psychologists working in pyschometrics believe someone begins to struggle to live an independent life in a modern industrialised society – it is vital that the low skilled and unskilled jobs are available for such people. These are being largely taken by immigrants.”

    I can take you to countless farms in the east of England where crops will literally rot in the field without labour from eastern Europe. 15 years ago, as a student, my summers were regularly spent in this line of work, and there was a serious labour shortage then. I could pick my work days / hours / temping agency, and be picked up at my door by minibus! There were no low-IQ workers, just students. Now, you have the minimum wage (no such thing in my day!), so as the employer who doesn’t want his/her income to rot in the ground, who would you pick; erratic students or hard-working, dedicated individuals from Poland?

    And if your assertion about unemployment among the low-IQ is valid, then my gut would say it is more due employment regulations and the minimum wage than immigration. These simply price low-ability people out of the market. Governments and their moral duty, eh? What a success!

  13. “as the employer who doesn’t want his/her income to rot in the ground, who would you pick; erratic students or hard-working, dedicated individuals from Poland?”

    The answer is that I might pick the hardworking Poles if I were an employer but we need to look at the whole economy rather than the profit motive of one employer. You claim that the only British people who could pick fruit are students, but that assumes that welfarism should continue unabated. Quite simply, if jobs are there, the unemployed should fill them, and if they don’t want to do so, they shouldn’t have the alternative of a llife lived on benefits.

    The employers don’t want them, but they are thereby palming off a problem onto the taxpayer. I’m all for the free market and for the individual profit motive, but if this is done in a way that thrusts higher costs onto the public, then it is not a genuine free market solution at all, as all taxes rise as a result.

    We have plentiful unskilled labour – we are drowning in it, although the unskilled are not actually applying for jobs – we don’t need the Poles (whose behaviour outside of the workplace is not always exemplary) at all. What we need to do is employ our own people and thus move to a new economi model of low taxation an high employment and virtually zero immigration. The current economic crisis shows we cannot carry on the way we are going – we can’t afford to.

  14. I agree with you on welfare. However, I think we all benefit from a free market. Your nationalism is simply a trade-tariff on labour. To enforce it you need all the coercive force of the state and all the waste that goes with it. And without a welfare state, an immigrant who cannot be sure of being a net benefit to the economy is unlikely come. Without govt interference the market will set the wage price and I’m sure all natives who want / require the work will get it. Immigration will be set at stable levels by the market.

  15. Sean – Of course I understand that you have long been opposed to aspects of corporate capitalism, but I think this is takes you to a new place: “However, when I compare the liberal social democracy that ended c1980 with the increasingly totalitarian plutocracy that is the real legacy of Margaret Thatcher, I know which I prefer. ”

    As for what I think laissez faire or free markets are, if you still have a copy of my Free market + free trade = elite propaganda that covers my position in great detail. The primary difficulty with the concept of laissez faire is that it is even by its own proponents generally hedged around with exceptions such as limited liability, patents, copyright and less naked interferences such as differential tax rates between countries or regions, that it is intellectually incoherent as an ideology – and , yes, I do realise that you are against many of these types of market distortion.

    If I had to summarise my own position I would do it so thus : judiciously protected home markets with a clear distinction between what is public and what is private and, for the private part of the economy, considerable freedom, far more than presently obtains. I am also in some respects much drier economically than many of so-called rock-hard dries, for example, I am utterly against quantitative easing because it merely pushes inflation into the economy and distorts normal lending and saving. The way to deal with the present recession (while we are within the EU) would be to nationalise the banks and ensure that people are provided for until the recession comes to its natural end. If we left the EU, we could do much better by protecting our home market and reserving jobs for our own people.

    When I get the time I will post Free market + free trade = elite propaganda in its entirety on the Living in a Madhouse Blog – I cannot do it immediately because I shall have to reformat it line by line as it was written on a very old wp.

  16. OK. I have loaded Free markets +free trade = elite propaganda onto Living IN a Madhouse blog:

    http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/free-markets-and-free-trade-elite-propaganda/

    The contents list will give you an idea of the material covered :

    1. Unquestioned ideas

    2. The “Free Market” is a state regulated market

    3. The “free market” as its proponents conceive it

    4. How effective is anti-monopoly legislation?

    5. Microsoft and Windows – a natural monopoly

    6. The historical trend towards contraction of competition

    7. “Free trade”

    8. Has “free trade” ever been practised?

    9. “Free trade” today

    10. Does “free trade” deliver? The lessons of economic history

    11. Is society materially enriched by “free markets” and “free trade?

    12. What is meant by material enrichment?

    13. How the market fails to provide what the customer wants

    14. Relative poverty and wealth and happiness

    15. Man does not live by bread alone

    16. Geopolitics

    17. The democratic deficit

    18. Does “free trade” increase competition and choice in the long run?

    19. The reality of our economic circumstances

    20. Why elites are so keen on “free markets” and “free trade”

    21. A sane alternative to globalism

    22. Free trade as a religion

    23. An elite ideology

  17. Robert, I haven’t read the whole thing, but you go wrong from the get-go-

    There is a splendid irony in the objection of the self-defined “free marketeers’” and “free traders” to state intervention for the natural end of a truly free market is monopoly – or at least greatly reduced competition resulting in oligopoly and the rule of cartels. All so-called “free market” societies recognise this by passing anti-monopoly laws.

    Any “free marketeer” opposes anti-monopoly laws. There is an extensive literature dating back to Menger explaining why such laws are unnecessary and harmful. Market domination is transient and moderated by the consumer interest. Menger’s basic point, very much simplified, is that a “monopolist” can only set either the volume of goods or the price per unit. He can’t fix both. Thus, the monopolist who fixes a high price fixes a low volume and risks competition. Anti-monopoly laws are a fixation of statists, particularly of the American anglo-sociliast type. They are certainly no support for them among free marketeers, and thus no contradiction in our theoretical position.

    The only dangerous monopoly is the original meaning of the word- a license granted by the State. E.g. The East India Company, the Brewers’ Guild, which prevent competition. But the answer to that is for the State to not grant such favours.

    IBM once dominated the computer business. Microsoft knocked them off their perch. Now Apple appears to be doing the same to Microsoft. That’s a free market in operation.

    Basically, throughout what I’ve read of the article, you keep persistently making the naive error of preferring the producer interest over the consumer interest. Bastiat is perhaps the best explainer of why this is a fundamental error.

  18. The 1960s did not end in 1980 – they ended in 1970.
    Mrs Thatcher did not become Prime Minister till 1979 (not 1970).

    The 1970s were not marked by “full employment” or by robust manufacturing. Actually they were a time of such things as black outs, the three day week, the winter-of-discontent and so on.

    Even in the 1960s British manufacturing had been falling behind that of other manufacturing nations (that was also true in 1950s and late 1940s), but in the 1970s Britain became an economic joke.

    The real tragic mistake of Mrs Thatcher in 1979 was to fail to tackle union power and government spending at once. Contrary to propagana about “cuts” – government spending went up after 1979 (due to the incomming govenrment honouring the outgoing Labour govenrment’s promises on government sector pay), also there was no real trade union reform for several years. Both these choices (the choice to allow government spending to rise, and the choice to go along with Jim Prior and not tackle the unions at once) cost Britain very dearly – unemployment (already one and half million and rising) went up to three million, and was only gradually brought down after 1982.

    Still it is the word “plutocracy” that catches my eye most in Dr Gabb’s piece – “plutocracy” rule of the rich. In relation to Britain that is leftist propaganda – indeed hard left propaganda (whatever modern Britain is, it is NOT a “plutocracy”, indeed many rich people are actually leaving this country – and with good reason).

    Sadly Dr Gabb has become a puppet of Kevin Carson (and other leftists). He no longer sees the world as it is – but only the distorted (radically distorted) image of the world that the left want him to see.

    I am reminded of two characters from Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”.

    King Theoden – under the influence of Grima Wormtongue.

    And Steward Denethor – in his final madness.

  19. On the specific point of monetary policy….

    It should be remembered that the central error of believeing that an increase in the money supply (whether the credit-money of the commercial banks or direct action by Central Banks such as the Federal Reserve and Bank of England) is O.K. as long as the “price level” is stable is NOT just Keynesian.

    Fisher (of Yale) is really to blame for this false theory. The events of 1920-1921 (the credit money bubble bust) did not lead him to doubt his theory, and neither did the 1929 bust. But then people hold their own theories dear.

    What is harder to explain is why other economists, such as Milton Friedman, regarded Fisher as a great economist. Indeed Milton Friedman specifically (and repeatedly) praised Ben Strong (Governor of the New York Fed in the late 1920s) the very man who did more than any other to create the credit-money bubble that INEVITABLY led to the bust of 1929.

    It is like someone praseing Alan Greenspan – the pusher of the credit money bubble that led to the current crises (see Thomas Wood’s “Meltdown” – and for how the credit money went into housing due to government policy see Thomas Sowell’s “Housing: Boom and Bust”).

    I remember watching Nigel Lawson (a man with the best of intentions) making this mistake (on a smaller scale) in the late 1980s – the “price level” was not going up much, so there was no “inflation” (because he had been taught a false definition of what “inflation” meant). Thus a boom-bust was created.

    Nor can one really just say that this was the mistake of “choosing Chicago over Vienna”.

    As many of the OLD Chicago School (that of the 1930s) understood these matters fairly well.

    It is the new Chicago School (that of Milton Friedman and co) that is to blame – or rather their choice to follow the ideas of Irving Fisher, indeed even some of the ideas of Lord Keynes (the conflict between the new Chicago and Cambridge was much overstressed in the popular mind – they actually shared certain fundemental, and fundementally false, ideas).

    Even in my youth this choice by Friedman (again a man with the best of intentions) and so on, baffled me.

    Now I am getting on in years I have given up hope of working out what led Milton Friedman (and so many others) down this false road.

  20. Now I am getting on in years I have given up hope of working out what led Milton Friedman (and so many others) down this false road

    Frank Knight?

  21. I tend to think there was more “bad” than “good”. There’s a video somewhere on Yotube of Joe Salerno ripping Knight to shreds that’s well worth a watch.

    Maybe one mistake we’ve made as Libertarians is insufficiently emphasising the difference between Chicago and Vienna. I do agree that Friedman is something of a paradox; it is a little mystifying why he fell into the trap of believing the economy can be “run” with money supply manipulations. But the fallacy is quite common. I keep trying to come up with a short, sound-bitey explanation of why it is fallacious, but can never quite put my finger on one.

    • Ian B.

      I have not seen the Joe S.youtube thing. I would like to see a good refutation of Knight/

      I will look it up – but not just now (I have to be at Wicky park at 0530).

      Just had a telephone call from Australia.

      The Speaker is in trouble – and so the Labour government there is one step closer to falling.

      “Does it matter Paul?”.

      Actually it does – unlike our own political parties, the Australian Liberals (especially under the current leadership) are actually in favour of national independence.

      “World Governance” (one must not say “World Government” – because that is “paranoid”) is one of the most important threats to liberty.

      By its stranglehold on education and on the media, international elite thinking can lead to governments turning on their own counties. For example, the Swiss governmnt which is both planning to destroy the private investment industry with regulations – and giving truly vast sums of money to the IMF, because the Swiss chapter of the international elite appears to be horrified by the idea that Switzerland might not go down with the E.U. and so on (the Swiss Central Bank has been acting against the interests of Switzerland for years – the top people there even boast that the “interests of the international community” come first). The elite in Swtizerland might as well be chanting “death to Switzerland”, “Switzerland must die”. Still the people of Switzerland keep resisting – something their political system allows, and our political system does not.

      Although they have many faults, the leadership of the Australian Liberal party are not consumed by a fanatical desire to destroy their own country. And by the low standards of modern times, that makes them good.

    • Ian B. is the Youtube film you are pointing me towards “Chicago School: Free Market or Jacobin?”

      I suspect it is – and it is a good lecture (I have now watched it).

      Following Rousseau (in the very definition of “justice”) is a terrible place to start from if one is a supporter of the free market, as such a philosophy does not naturally lead to free market ideas.

      Nor does it lead to socially conservative ones – not in the sense of an order (cultural insitutions) evolving over time.

      It does indeed lead to statism – both in economic and social matters (not that, at this level, there is a great divide between the two).

      The idea of “Perfect Competition” (and the folly it supposedly justifes – such as “anti trust”) has other fathers than Frank Knight (Pareto springs to mind). But, yes, he pushed this false idea – and it is interesting to see the PHILOSOPHICAL reasons he did so (and why Milton Friedman tried to cover up this philosophy with the mask of “science”).

      Aristotle was no libertarian (his hostility to Lycrophon shows that), but his philosphy was grounded in reality (and, thus, can lead to free market conclusions) – but with Rousseau and the “democratic” (of course if most voters have “reactionary” opinions this is just “the will of all” and can be ignored by the enlightened elite – who know what the masses should truly believe even if they say they do not believe it) General Will, we are lost in madness.

      Of course Frank Knight did not want to bake people in ovens – indeed, compared to the Communists of the 1930s (or any other time), he was “one of the good guys”. But it is indeed true that an unsound foundation means an unsound house.

      And the philosophical foundations that Knight built for the Chicago School are deeply unsound.

  22. I’ve been busy for the past few days, so have not been following this debate. I’ll make these brief points:

    1. Ian B has answered Robert’s main argument. I’d just add that Robert’s big failing in his critique of libertarianism is that he just hasn’t read the literature. Many of his claimed “incoherencies” are the result of his having conflated different traditions without any awareness that they are different traditions. Many of his claims of what we have said are without foundation. He should read some von Mises and Rothbard and Hoppe. He should look at the Lew Rockwell sites. For an alternative view, he should try C4SS. Above all, he should realise that there is no central orthodoxy in libertarianism.

    2. Robert adds that I have endorsed the pre1979 social democracy. I have not. I say it is better than what followed. If I say the Weimar Republic was a better place than the Third Reich, I’m not making any positive claims about Weimar! Indeed, in both cases, the later period grew almost naturally out of the earlier. By 1979, we had a dangerously big and empowered state. Margaret Thatcher empowered it further, and did nothing as it was made into an instrument of totalitarian control.

    3. Since he turns rancorous at the drop of a hat, I won’t bother arguing with Paul Marks. I will note, however, that his spelling and grammar are for the moment much improved. I will add that, unlike on certain other blogs, he is welcome to speak as he will. He is probably as mistaken as Robert about my opinions. But he is at perfect liberty to make his case.

    • The United Kingdom was just as social democratic (i.e. just as much a Welfare State) after 1979 as it was before – indeed the Welfare State got bigger (not just in money terms – but as a percentage of the economy).

      Presently the Welfare State is vastly bigger than it ever has been in history.

      I have never been interested in spelling or grammar – but I am interested in tellng the truth about history and economics.

      On the decline of the rule of law – that is real (so the use of the word “totalitarian” is bad – as it makes people who complain about the decline of the rule of law seem like tin foil hat wearers).

      Such works as “The New Despotism” (1929) have been shown to be fundementally correct. And certainly Mrs Thatcher’s time in office did nothing to reverse the trend – in fat it continued.

      Dr Gabb’s weird use of language (which, I suppose, does not interest him any more than my spelling or grammar interests me) should not blind people to the fact that his fundemental claims in this are TRUE – i.e. that the rule of law has been in decline, that this decline is a bad thing, and that the decline continued under Mrs Thatcher, and is continuing right now.

      For example, Mr Osbourne openly stating that he would not hesitate to take retrospective action if he thought people were not paying “enough” tax.

      “So you have obeyed all the regulations – well I am going to hit you anyway”.

      That was the real message – and even a few years ago that would have been understood to be the statement of a would-be despot.

      Nor (and here again Dr Gabb scores) are such things as “freedom of speech” and “freedom of contract” and “freedom of association” only for nice people saying nice things.

      If the racist is not allowed to say racist things, or only employ or trade with people of his own skin colour (till he bankrupts himself because of his own bigoted stupidty) then freedom of speech and freedom of contract (which is really part of freedom of association) has been violated. It is simply dishonest to pretend otherwise.

      This also “shows up” modern “human rights” conventions and declarations.

      Firstly they do not include the right to keep and bear arms – which all political philosphers (right back in the days of spears and swords) understood to be the mark of a free man.

      But they do not even include what they pretend to include.

      Such things as freedom of speech and freedom of association.

      It is, freedom of speech – as long as you say nice things we agree with.

      And freedom of association – as long as you associate (trade with) the people we want you to.

      The thing is a farce.

      Still back to banking……

      It must be remembere that getting the rich bankers (or bank executives) out of the picture solves nothing.

      After all that is what Peron did in Argentina.

      No Jamie Dimons (and so on) in Argentina under Peron.

      And the economy was destroyed.

      Not because Mr Dimon (J.P. Morgan Chase) and co do anything useful (they do not), but because they are not really the problem either (they just skim a bit off the top – the real problem is the thing they are taking a bit from).

      The real problem is monetary expansion itself.

      The idea that there can be loans without real savings.

      The fool’s gold of “prosperity” via the printing press (or, these days, via computer book keeping tricks). This is the problem.

      Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America….. they could all be nationalized tomorrow and their managers put on the minimum wage – and it would make no difference (other than to make things even worse).

      Because it is the basic PRINCIPLE of modern policy that is wrong.

      In the absurd series “A Story of England” the presenter (Dr Woods – supposedly a trained historian) got into some trouble for such claims as ….;.

      The Victorian Poor Law of 1834 established the principle that taxation, rather than just charity, should maintain the poor…..

      Victoria was not Queen in 1834, the principle of using local tax money to maintain the poor was established under the Tudors, the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was about ROLLING BACK the cost of support
      not extending it – and on and on.

      However, it was the wonderful start that Dr Woods made to the series that springs to mind.

      The Roman Empire (we are told by Dr Woods) collapsed because of “imperial expansion” (in reality the Empire had been on the defensive for centuries), “climate change” (Dr Woods walked past burned out motor cars as he say this – is he really expecting his viewers to belive that the Romans had the internal combustion engine and were undermined by C02 emissions?), and “greedy bankers”.

      “Sound familar?” winks Dr Woods at the camera.

      Of course! Why did I not think of it?

      The United Kingdom is in terrible trouble because the top people in Lloyds, RBS (and on and on) became more “greedy” than bankers had been before.

      No question of POLICY to be understood.

      No – we can just blame “greedy people” and go back to sleep.

      By the way (for people who do not know) – the Roman Empire did not even have fractional reserve banking (indeed the practice would have been illegal under the Roman law of the time), let alone a Central Bank leading the banks further and further into folly (although folly dressed up in supposedly “scientific” language).

  23. Of course (in spite of the high minded stuff above) I will not pretend that I was not rather irritated (to put in mildly) to see the corrupt long time head of government backed Fannie Mae continue to be on the board of (surprise, suprise) Goldman Sachs.

    Should the “Occupy” movement (i.e. the leftists that, in various forms, Goldman Sachs types and other such have subsidized for so many years) got to position where they could tear the top bankers (of course Goldman’s never used to be a bank – but the top people noticed, to their horror, that they would not be eligible for certain subsidies unless they declared themselves to be bank) to bits – would I really spring to their defence?

    Well I am old and fat, and have breathing problems, and I really need a nap……

    And I am sure I can think up a few more excuses…..

  24. Ian B – Your problem is simple: the supporters of laissez faire overwhelmingly support my interpretation of laissez faire. For example, there will of course be mavericks who support or have supported the idea of no anti-monopoly interventions but they, like Jews who oppose the existence of Israel, are very thin on the ground.

    The other thing I would say is economic theory is worthless. Concentrate on economic history and you will find it a much more reliable guide.

    Sean G- Fear not, I have not put support for social democracy on your shoulders. All I did was respond to your idea that social democracy pre- 1979 was preferable to Thatcherism. We agree on that. I would add that I was far from being an uncritical admirer of social-democracy as practised 1945-1979. It was simply a better bet than what followed.

    As for the question of what Libertarianism is, what I try to do, as with every other ideology, is examine the logical implications of the ideology and then see if they meet the tests of coherence as an ideology and whether, coherent or not, the ideology accords with reality.

    As I I have made clear before, the term libertarian covers a very wide range of beliefs, many of which are contradictory, for example, the placing of property in suchn an exalted position the consequence is the rapid creation of a plutocracy, probably the most enduring of societies in which freedom is seriously constrained.

    I really must get round to finishing my essay on social libertarianism.

    • Britiain has never had laissez faire. For example, unlike most American States in the 19th century, it was not legal here for someone to just offer their services to represent people in court (which is how the railhand Abe Lincoln became a lawyer), one had to be accepted into the legal guild first….. The white collar unions (guilds) that control such things as medical practice and the law are certainly not part of laissez faire. Of course organizations would be allowed to advertise saying “only use the services of our members”, but they would not be allowed to legally forbid other people (without the correct “qualifcations”) competing with them.

      However it is true that government in Britain was farirly limited up to the First World War – indeed it was still possible (just about) to talk of limited government (in some ways) up to the Second World War. But since then…. Britain has been sort of a half way house between socialism and a free market civil society.

      Even compared with 1964 government today is vastly bigger (in both spending, even as a percentage of the economy, and regulations).

      As for the specific claim that Britain was “social democratric” (i.e. a Welfare State) before 1979 and not afterwards…..

      This claim is utterly absurd – indeed the Welfare State is vastly bigger now (however measured) than it was in 1978-1979.

      On “anti monopoly”, or “competition policy” interventions.

      Such interventions cause great HARM.

      The idea that wise government protects comumers from naughty private monopolies and cartels (which, otherwise, would dominate everything) shows a total lack of understanding of reality.

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  26. The two great threats to Western Civilization (to civil society) are…..

    The credit bubble financial system – i.e. not the “greed of plutocrats”, but the “Progressive” doctrine that there can be large scale lending (borrowing) over and above real SAVINGS. This borrowing to financed by a credit-money bubble.

    And….

    The Welfare State – i.e. the government take over of education, health, and income support.

    In most Western countries (including Britain) government spending has now reached the level of about half the entire economy.

    And the vast majority of this spending is on the Welfare State – which is both economically unsupportable, and SOCIALLY horrific (in that it undermines all the basic institutions of civil society – such as the family).

    The present situation is often compared to Ancient Rome – but this is very misleading.

    The Romans did not have vast borrowing without saving – they did not have a credit bubble economy.

    And the “bread and games” of the Romans was confined to the city of Rome and other major cities.

    The average person (a peasant in the country) did not get benefits from the state. The idea that MOST people (in the entire Empire) could have all their basic needs met by the State would have struck Romans as absurd – because it is absurd. As absurd as thinking there can be borrowing without real saving (the assumption our present financial system is based upon).

    So whilst it took Rome centuries to decline and fall – the fall of the modern West will be faster (dramatically faster). As will be seen from 2013 onwards.

    However…….

    Whilst the above are the main reasons for the crises of the West – the failure to understand markets hardly helps.

    And it is not confined to the false idea that the state (the ultimate monopoly man) can be the guardian against private monopolies and cartels. An idea based as much on false history (for example a totally false understanding of the history of the Standard Oil corporation) as it is on false economics.

    For example, most Western nations have detailed labour market regulations – covering such things as minimum wages, conditions of work, and (even) “hireing and fireing”.

    All these regulations are presented as being for the protection of “the worker” (just as the regulations on the sale of goods and services are presented as being for the protection of “the consumer”).

    Regulations on the sale of goods and services have the result of prices being much higher than would otherwise be the case (and do NOT, overall, improve the quality of goods and services).

    But regulations on the labour market have a much more dramatic result.

    Mass unemployment.

    The very ill that the fools gold of credit-money expansion is supposed to cure.

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  28. Yes Paul, that’s the video. Sorry I didn’t provide a link, glad you found it. I’m a big fan of Salerno, he’s a good exlainer and populariser.

    Robert Henderson, you could do with finding some of his videos on Youtube. As Sean said above, your problem is that your characterisation of free marketeers is simply wrong, because you haven’t really read the literature. So much has been written over the years by libertarians and marketeers and is all available on the internet that it would be surely a waste of effort for me to type a great deal here explaining the basics of free market economic theory, especially as, as you’ve said, you’re not interested in theory.

    The problem with that approach is that if you don’t understand economic theory, you can’t interpret economic history. It is like trying to do military history, while eschewing knowledge of military strategy and tactics. You won’t understand why the armies are doing what they are doing.

    So what you instead end up with is cherrypicking bits of history that seem to support your preconceived notions, which are naively protectionist. It is extremely easy to understand why protectionism leads to general impoverishment. The argument was won all the way back with teh Corn Laws; protectionism protected the farmers and impoverished the consumers of bread, whcih was everybody else. There’s some economic history, heh.

    Anyway, basic point is, if you can’t be bothered with theory, you’re not going to be taken seriously; you end up like one of those cranks who insists they’ve disproved Einstein, but have never bothered to study Physics. It’s not a plausible position to take.

    ***

    Paul again, I’m not really replying to your comments, solely because I’m an argumentative sod and I can’t find anything to disagree with :)

    • Ah Ian – I am sure we will find lots to have savage arguments about. After all it is not natural for a man from Northampton and a man from Kettering not to be argueing. Although how sincere some of the arguments are is another matter…..

  29. Well Paul, I was born in Kettering, so sometimes we’re allowed an armistice :)

  30. Ian B – All you offer are the thoughts of others. Why not give me your own thoughts on what I write?

    What matters, Ian, is not how this political theorist or that economist thinks, but how the mass of people following an ideology perceive the ideology. The general perception of laissez faire by its practitioners is how I envisage it.

    • Mr Henderson what “practitioners” of laissez faire? No government of a major Western country claims to follow this policy of nonintervention. Indeed as government tends to take up about half the economy in spending and regulates every aspect of life it does not directly control, it would be odd for such governments to claim to be following “laissez faire”.

      As for how people who “follow” (i.e. support) laissez faire “perceive the ideology”. How would you know? You do do NOT support laissez faire – I do, and Ian B, does – and we have both told you how we “perceive” it.

  31. I agree with Paul. Before we can decide whether the advocates of laissez-faire think as Robert claims, we need to know some names. It would also be useful to know how governments that take at least half our incomes, and regulate everything, from what light bulbs we can buy to how mediums can advertise, are to be described as slaves to free market ideology. They are corporatists. They are part of a system of control that involves leftist intellectuals and big business leaders. But it really strains the definitions of words to call them free marketeers.

  32. Sean Gabb said-

    I agree with Paul.

    I presume the first trump of the Apocalypse will be sounding out shortly :)

  33. Not so. If I agree with him, it’s surely for Paul to hurry off and rething his premises.

    • Sean – if does no good for me to assume that if I disagree (strongly disagree) with someone on some things, I am going to disagree with them on everything. It would be a less complicated and and irritating world if I could assume that if someone says something that is wrong (even evil) on X matter, they are going to do the same on everything else. But the world is not like that.

      Already on this thread I have praised your stand against Political Correctness. Your position has always been that if the principle of freedom of speech and freedom or association is not upheld for nasty people, then it the principle has fallen. I agree with that position – and it would be dishonest of me to pretend to disagree.

      For example, the National Socialists murdered some of my father’s family (I say “my father’s family” because I did not personally know the people murdered). Yet if someone wants to deny that they were murdered (indeed to deny that any Jews were murdered at all) that is their right under the principle of speech. Just as it is my right (under the principle of freedom of association) to refuse to employ them, or even trade with them (if I so choose).

      What I do not have the right to do is to fine them or lock them up – not whether they say “the Marks family were not murdered” or “the Marks family were murdered – jolly good!”.

      And if I have no right to do this (and I do not), then neither does the state have the right to do it. Ditto just about everything else……

      However, there are other matters of principle (not tactics – principle) where we are on opposite sides.

  34. Ian B and Sean G

    The problem with citing names is simple: any popular ideology inevitably suffers the blight of revisionism. To take two great laissez faire heroes, Adam Smith and Hayek, as an example of how ideologies are adapted and vary.

    Smith was far from being a non-interventionist, recognising that there were things such as road building and maintenance which the state should undertake because they were socially useful and beyond the natural inclinations of private enterprise and things which the state should undertake out of prudence such as manufacturing its own military equipment.

    Hayek was in favour of a the state providing the means to sustain a life where someone was unemployed regardless of why they were unemployed.

    To argue that what exists is not laissez faire but corporatism really does not get you far, because few if any serious economists have argued for no state intervention in economic affairs, a circumstance which would be next door to anarchism.

    To argue that because the pristine, unblemished ideal of a market does not exist laissez faire does not exist places in the same position of Marxists who always claim communism never failed because it was never tried. All the followers of any political ideology can hope for is that as much of the ideology can be realised as is practical.

    The problem with laissez faire is that while it is an ideology its adherents treat it as a scientific theory,

    • Mr Henderson – you are quite correct, neither Adam Smith or F.A. Hayek supported laissez faire. Indeed Hayek repeatedly stated that he did not support laissez faire.

      However, both Adam Smith and Hayek (although, yes, neither supported laissez faire) argued for a vastly smaller (in size and scope) government than exists in most of the Western world.

      For example, the modern practice of the state financeing the education, medical care, old age (and so on) of MOST people (to Hayek it is only sustainable if we are talking about a minority of people – indeed a small minority).

      As for the Scotland of Adam Smith well (if my memory serves) he died in 1790.

      Most of Scotland did not have a compulsory Poor Rate till 1845 (Chalmers in Glasgow had stood for the cause of voluntarism and thus held up Scotland following the English example), and (contrary to the myth) did not really have compulsory state education til the 1870s (my own English town of Kettering, like many English towns, held out against having a School Board till the Act of 1891). Back in the time of Smith there were indeed Education Acts (dateing back to the time of the Scots Parliament – long abolished in his day), but they were really about giveing the local Kirk (the Church of Scotland – organized on a local basis) the right to run a school and get money for doing so.

      Why am I going on about Scots history?

      Simple reason – Smith was not known for arguing that the state in his time was too SMALL (rather the contrary).

      And if the state in Scotland in the late 18th century was too big for the taste of Adam Smith, I hardly think he would be in favour of the state that exists there (and in England) now.

      The modern state makes Louis XIV and Frederick the Great look like free market folk.

      By the way I believe (Dr Gabb will correct me if I have the history wrong in what follows) that Frederic the Great was the first statist to be popular in England (few thought that Louis XIV had done good for France, or that Philip II had done good for Spain – but Frederick the Great had, supposedly, done great good for Prussia).

      Indeed I suspect that “the state” started to be used as a positive term in Britain after the time of Frederick the Great.

      Certainly Scots (and to a lesser extent English) thinkers (from Sir William Hamilton in the late 1700s and early 1800s, to N. Fergie now) seem to be in love with Frederick the Butcher. And not just because he won wars – I repeat, in their eyes, he did great things for Prussia.

      I know that Edmund Burke despised the new Prussia (that is clear from the Annual Register and from other evidence), in spite of it being an ally of Britain.

      But I am not sure what Adam Smith’s view of the matter was.

      By the way – American education history is similar to Scotland.

      There were all sorts of Education Acts in Mass (and other States) – going right back to colonial times (indeed the 17th century in the case of Mass).

      However, they were not really a compulsory or free education system – not at all.

      It was only in the 19th century that such a system was built (in most States – Tenn held out till the 20th century, at least in the matter of compulsion, “Volunteer State” that it is).

      Not for nothing is H. Mann known as the “Father of American Education” and like almost all of the major figures of American statism, Mann was influnced (overwhelmingly influened) by Prussian practices, and the tradition of Germanic thought that can be traced all the way back to Samual Pufendorf.

      That is not to say that American statists did not have a “love-hate” abusive relationship with Germany – indeed many of them were eager to make war and destroy the old Germany. Partly because they viewed it as a rival – but also because what remained of the old institutions in Imperial Germany (the autonomy of Kingdoms, and Free Cites, indeed having ancient cultural institutions such as monarchies and so on, at all) were a bar (in they eyes of American Progressives) to Germany truly following the “best” in German political philosophy. They hated such things as the United States Constitution for the same reason.

      And, of course, those pesky local school boards (as opposed to State or city-wide ones) with their one room school houses and parents having control over the school (as all the parents could fit in a fair sized building to elect the School Board – and get rid of them, if need be).

      According the Progressives these little School Boards had frustrated their dreams, in relation to education, for half a century (and they were right).

      Hence the move to “consolidate” School Boards in the 20th century – and turn teaching into a licensed profession (and on and on) with “tenure” and “scientific management of the school system”.

      I.E. the influence of parents being clubbed to death.

    • Oh by the way…

      The big road (and other such) projects in Scotland were an economic failure.

      The reason that (unlike England – with the Turnpike trusts) private people could not be found to bare the cost of roads in such areas as the Highlands (i,e, most of Scotland) was that there was no economic case for such things. No more than the absurd “roads from nowhere to nowhere” the government built in Ireland (do not get me started on early 19th century statism in Ireland).

      Indeed those Scots landlords who supported the state projects (in roads, and in the building of ports and so on) lost their shirts – even though the start (i.e, the taxpayer) was picking up most of the bill.

      It was not that the stuff was badly built (Telford built well) – it was just that “infrastructure” does not produce the economic development that its supporters think it will.

      Scotland was a country of few people, thin soil, and terrible weather (short growing season).

      Thinking that (with state help) they could turn Scotland into England was folly.

      It was a mad dream (like Darian a century before) and it led to bankrupt landowners turning on their own tenants (the Highland Clearances).

      Of course introducing sheep was just another effort to copy England (or what Scots, official and unofficial, THOUGHT England was like).

      The sheep farming failed – Scotland was not really suitable for sheep farming on this scale.

      Indeed some of the tenants kicked out of the Hightlands ended up sheep farmers themselves – but not in Scotland.

      But they we only too happy to export sheep products back to Scotland – to help bankrupt their exlandlords. Not that I am saying that was their intention – but I doubt they were very upset about it.

  35. Is laissez faire a “scientific theory”?

    If you mean a natural science (such as physics) then the answer is NO.

    However, if you mean the old definition of “science” as a body-of-knowledge, the the answer is YES.

    As show by Bastiat and the rest of the “French Liberal School”.

    Or (keeping to economics) to those Austrian School economists that followed Mises – rather than Hayek.

    In their struggles with socialists and Keynesians Mises and Hayek look the same (people in battle against the same foes often do).

    However, there are important differences.

  36. Paul Marks – You are unwittingly making my point for me by denying that Smith and Hayek are supporters of laissez faire.

    Laissez faire is simply a rag-bag of ideas, many of them contradictory, which supporters adapt to their own uses. It is incoherent.

    As for laissez faire being a scientific theory, I quite agree that it is not a science. The trouble is that its adherents have treated it as one. A better word for it is religion.

    • Paul Marks

      Laissez Faire is not a “ragbag” of ideas – it has a specific meaning (which you have already been told).

      F.H. Hayek specifically stated (many times) that he did not support the minimal state (laissez faire).

      You also miss my point about the word “science”.

      Mr Henderson, you know nothing about this subject and you are obviously not interested in learning anything.

      Have a nice day.

  37. Paul Marks – It is not even a case that the practice and the theory differ: the theory is heavily subject to revisionism.

    As for being a rage bag of ideas, how do you square, for example, limited liability, patents, copyright and trade marks with a free market?

    • Laissez faire is essentially one idea – the non aggression principle.

      How this is applied in practice (for example whether one supports the “minimal state” or the “anarcho capitalist” position – or whether or one believes in patents and copyrights) is a matter for much debate.

      The major attack upon anarcho capitalism is the claim that anarcho capitialst thinkers have failed to solve the “defence problem” (in Adam Smith language – defence is more important than opulence, the belief that militia or security companies could not stand up against a ruthless invader).

      The major attack on the minimal state position is that such states never STAY limited – the state grows, making a mockery both of conventions and customs (what was supposed to limit statism in Britain) and formal constitutions (what was supposed to limit statism in the United States).

      As for I.P.

      An obvious attack upon it would be “why for X number of years?”

      Why do patents and copyrights last for an arbitrary number of years – and a number determined by the state?

      This does not sound like private property.

      Yet few defenders of IP sugges that patents and copyrights should last for ever.

      Of course from a practical point of view the matter is of less importance than might be thought.

      As the Chinese regime (although it makes a show of dragging people through the streets and executing them – from time to time) is not really serious about enforcing the IP of Western companies and individuals.

      Why should they be?

      So an economy that depends on bits of paper saying “you may not produce X good without my permission” is a economy based (in the end) on nothing much.

      Production goes to where it is cheapest to produce – not always the place of lowest wages (afrter all first Britain and the United States became the leading manufacturing nation when their wages were the HIGHEST in the world), but where costs (in terms of what is produced) are the lowest generally (all factors being considered and having full weight).

      So waving bits of paper (patents and copyrights) is not going to save an economy that has become STRUCTUALLY UNCOMPETITIVE (due to taxation, regulations and so on).

      Indeed companies and individuals will move out themselves – partly out of fear that if they do not base their production in China (and other places) local producers will just produce their goods instead.

      Patents, copyrights and trademarks – or no patents, copyrights and trademarks.

      I repeat that often it is not wages that are the main concern – it is many other factors.

  38. By the way, for those actually interested in lassire faire – I think the works of Bastiat are a good place to start. Not because no important work has been done since his time (of course it has), but because Bastiat sets things out very clearly.

    And not just Bastiat’s works on economics (the fallacy of the broken window and so on), but works such as “The Law”.

  39. Richard Carey

    @ Paul, you really ought to be more succinct. It’s like turning up to a duck shoot with an AA12. No doubt, you’ll hit the most ducks, but you won’t endear yourself to your fellow hunters.

    @ Robert Henderson,

    “The problem with citing names is simple: any popular ideology inevitably suffers the blight of revisionism. To take two great laissez faire heroes, Adam Smith and Hayek, as an example of how ideologies are adapted and vary. ”

    Economics is not an ideology, but a science. Not a natural science but a science no less. Therefore it is quite natural for people to take the good from someone’s work and reject the rest, to build on earlier discoveries. Laissez faire is a political position based on sound economic theory, and wholly borne out in a study of economic history.

    “The other thing I would say is economic theory is worthless. Concentrate on economic history and you will find it a much more reliable guide. ”

    Right. And how are you going to approach economic history without any theoretical starting point? And what about, say, every book out there on the subject of economic history? Do you not think the writer had any theoretical position?

    “As for laissez faire being a scientific theory, I quite agree that it is not a science. The trouble is that its adherents have treated it as one. A better word for it is religion.”

    Considering you reject theory – i.e. the use of reason and logic, in favour of history, you are in no position to judge.

    “the theory is heavily subject to revisionism.

    As for being a rage bag of ideas, how do you square, for example, limited liability, patents, copyright and trade marks with a free market?”

    You keep confusing economics and laissez-faire. Economics is a science. Laissez-faire is a policy, the meaning of which is clear by the words. Limited liability is not contrary to a free market, as long as its stated up front. Patents are government-granted monopolies, which infringe other people’s liberty, so they are contrary. Copyright and trade marks are are subjects of contract law, and i don’t see a problem vis a vis free trade. The fact that people who support free trade and laissez-faire disagree on such matters does not invalidate the economics upon which it is based, it merely shows you that people don’t all think the same, because contrary to what you may believe, it’s not a religion, and even if it were a religion, there will always be different interpretations of the sacred scriptures. But it’s not a religion, that is why, if I am going to argue with Sean Gabb or Paul Marks on such matters I will employ reason and logic.

    PS Paul, I now recognise it’s not so easy to be succinct!