Category Archives: Law

Protecting Children, Enslaving Adults, by Sean Gabb

Protecting Children, Enslaving Adults:
Latest Case Study
By Sean Gabb

I have just heard about the existence of the Authority for Television On Demand (Atvod). This is yet another of those “independent” bodies that exercise powers of compulsion delegated by the British State. Its powers derive from the Communications Act 2003, and allow it to regulate the market in streaming video. Its latest act has been to announce that large numbers of children – which it seems to define as persons under the age of eighteen – are watching pornographic videos on the Internet. To deal with this alleged problem, it wants a law to stop British banks from handling payments to any pornographic video site, anywhere in the world, that does not check the age of all its visitors.

At the moment, British sex sites are required to check the age of their visitors, whether or not they buy anything, and to make their records available to the authorities. Because they are outside the jurisdiction, foreign sites cannot be directly forced to do the same. But the British market is large, and Atvod hopes that blocking payment to foreign sex sites, unless they comply, will close this loophole. Every act of watching a pornographic video, free or paid, will then be on the record.

Continue reading

Sean Gabb on The Moral Maze, 19th March 2014 Flash Animation

Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, contributing to BBC Radio 4 programme, The Moral Maze, the 19th March 2014.

The Panel were:

Claire Fox
Michael Portillo
Giles Fraser
Anne McElvoy

The Witnesses were:

Ian Driver - Green Party Councillor for Thanet District Council Dr Sean Gabb - Director of the Libertarian Alliance. Writer, broadcaster and academic Kathy Gyngell - Editor of the newly-launched ‘Conservative Woman’ website Dr Finn Mackay - The Centre for Gender & Violence Research at the University of Bristol

Answering questions from the Panel, Sean Gabb made these points: Continue reading

Philosophical Notes 90, Libertarian Paternalism’s Red Herring (2014), by Lamont Rodgers

‘Nudging’: Libertarian Paternalism’s Red Herring Lamont Rodgers

Philosophical Notes No. 90

ISBN: 9781856376662 ISSN 0267-7091 (print) ISSN 2042-2768 (online)
An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL
© 2014: Libertarian Alliance; Lamont Rodgers

Lamont Rodgers is professor of philosophy at San Jacinto College North Campus, in Houston, TX.  He has published in Reason Papers, Libertarian Papers, and Southwest Philosophical Studies.  He specializes in theories of justice and political legitimacy.


The error of seeking a foundation or justification

Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler endorse a version of paternalism that is alleged to be compatible with libertarian principles.1  Their version of paternalism aims to nudge people toward good choices without violating those people’s rights.  Accordingly, they call their version of paternalism ‘libertarian paternalism’.  This form of paternalism has been widely criticized on conceptual grounds.2  Libertarian paternalism might aim to square two incompatible notions.  This paper shows that the conceptual compatibility between libertarian principles and the nudges Sunstein and Thaler endorse is irrelevant to whether libertarians may oppose the political implementation of libertarian paternalism.  The problem is that Sunstein and Thaler focus on showing the conceptual compatibility between their goals and individual rights.  Goals must be pursued via through action.  Sunstein and Thaler ignore the fact that a principled opposition to the initiation of threats and violence, which this paper takes to be characteristic of libertarianism, will preclude the funding and enforcement of the apparatus necessary for the government to engage in libertarian paternalism.3  So even if Sunstein and Thaler’s goals are themselves compatible with libertarian principles, the real debate over the political implementation of libertarian paternalism violates libertarian principles. Continue reading

War and liberalism

David Davis

Statists and other varieties of socialist have more or less succeeded in making the planet as dangerous a place as the buggers can get away with. Liberal minimal-statism will never, ever be forgiven for causing useless pre-capitalist-barbarian intellectuals and poseurs to be fully redundant.

This article in the Torygraph caught my eye this morning, and filled me with forebodings concerning certain things that happened in Britain’s recent history. I regard event like WW2 as having happened “this morning”, sometimes, in the light of how I perceive the March Of Time.

It is in general not good to (as the late Osama-bin-Liner said about weak and strong horses) seem to be a weak horse. This is because that Man’s biological instincts and use of neo-English-social-rationality are not at all walking in step in the majority of populations, nations and races today, in contrast generally with how they are in populations inside the Anglosphere.

Modern “Democrat” US Presidents seem to be an exception, a sort of throwback to pre-settlement-primitivism, in which you Continue reading

Watch your arses (number-142a)

David Davis

A number of years ago, Richard Littlejohn wrote about the EU using this dreadful device in his novel “To Hell In A Handcart”. In his story, the people win. I’m not so sure about how reality will pan out.

Now, people, do you still want to remain in the EU after reading this? Expect the cars of all libertarian, classical-liberal and other anti-EU bloggers to be “remotely stopped” frequently.

Many years before this, in fact in about 1985, Bernard Adamczewski gave a talk at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, saying that the coming technological revolution (this was before the internet, remember) would free people from government tyranny. He seems to have become wrong about this.

(I know when it was, for I have a b/w photo of him and me talking there, on the wall of my Library. And I know which suits and tie I wore that year.)

Finding The Brake

by Roderick Long

Finding The Brake

In his 1815 Principles of Politics, French liberal author Benjamin Constant defended the monarch’s “right to dissolve representative assemblies.”

Constant’s position might seem surprising. Wasn’t securing the independence of parliaments from the royal will one of liberalism’s hard-won victories?

His reasoning ran as follows. The “tendency of assemblies to multiply indefinitely the number of laws” is the inevitable result of “two natural inclinations in the legislators, the need to act, and the pleasure of believing themselves necessary.” Hence it is only to be expected that legislators should “share out amongst themselves human existence, by right of conquest, in the same way as Alexander’s generals shared out the world.” The function of the monarch is to serve as a check against this tendency. This is why the political executive is customarily entrusted with the power of vetoing legislation; but, Constant maintains, the veto is not enough: Continue reading

I think that few of us spotted this one coming. EU reintroduces death penalty via LISBON “in the case of war, riots, upheaval”

David Davis

I think it might be time to flag this one to The Faithful. Some of us may not have noticed it – I certainly didn’t. Do you read Eurotreaties? I do not, for I have not time.

And since it was in a footnote to a footnote to something that few if any normal people would be willing or able to spend the time reading through comprehensively, we all might be forgiven.

The entire notion now throws, into ever-sharper focus, this Nation’s relationship with the EU. I have nothing to add to that sentence for you may all have your own thoughts.

As we all know, I am not in favour of modern States being able to take life: this is because in all cases the right to do that to another human has been denied by the state’s law.

If I have not a right to end someone’s life who has wronged me and mine, and if my arms and guns and kitchen-knives and screwdrivers have been seized off me in that regard,  then I also have not the right to delegate that right to Continue reading

Thinking about witch-burning

David Davis

It does not usually fall to me, to comment on such matters: this is because of today’s PuritaNazi “guilt by association” meme, as in what used to happen to people that even just _/looked at/_ Witches that were on their way to being burned.

I’m not sure that I ought even to be opening my mouth here, as any sort of comment can be so dangerous, and taken the wrong way can lead to death.

I’m hoping that I shan’t get dragged by the happily-screaming-mob into the fire-tumbril merely by referring obliquely to the bound-and-gagged man, as he is drawn past me on a ground-hurdle, spat on, and pelted with dogshit.

Being alive and a young man in the 1950s, 60 and 70s meant this thing, amoong others. You _knew_ (we all knew, we weren’t stupid you know) that to simply _be_ a disk-jockey, and (specially) _on the radio and the telly!_ was to be able to _get_ all the girls that you could possibly handle. They literally _threw themselves_ at these people. Being Men Of The World, we’d advise our teenage female counterparts “not to go with that fella” (I’m not implying here that it would have been Continue reading

Some Good news for 2013

by Chris M

I’ve just been trawling through some amendments to the law as part of a necessary evil known as CPD training for the year, and just came across a little amendment to the Public Order Act which I didn’t spot when it was tabled, but like the sound of the more I think about it. Taken together with a recent High Court decision about how magistrates should approach claims of an individual that they were ‘harassed alarmed or distressed’ I am happy to say this year is a definite upturn for the issue of robust free speech so I’ll put it up here. Continue reading

The Libertarian Alliance Christmas (sermon): I did want to say something positive, but I can’t. Sorry.

David Davis

Well, this is Christmas, I guess, and time goes around and comes around, and it seems like five minutes ago that I wrote the LA’s first Christmas Message on this blog, six or seven years ago. I’m not sure that there’s much else new to say from that time, but the Chimpanzee Type-Writors in the Blog’s freezing, damp Nissen-Hut must at least pretend to keep up appearances.

On every day and in every way, our rulers (do we need such people, really?) conspire to push us further and further down the outfall-pipe. It’s actually very depressing to be alive in Britain in 2013, knowing that one was being born some number of decades before, in a country which, while less blessed with the planet’s offerings, was at least less unfree in most ways.

All I’d really like to say to Libertarians this Christmas is that I think we are running out of time. It’s slipping by us all fast and I don’t know when there might be another time. I’m certain I said it before, possibly last year and the year before that and the year before that: it’s quite fortunate that statistNazis are rather inefficient and take longer than they might, to do what they need to do. Even Enoch Powell said once: “be of good cheer: for the rot has set in, but it will take quite some time”. There are some choices now open to us, as follows:-

(1) We can continue to try to “influence debate”, by publishing, by some of us (not enough to make a difference) going about having eggs and turned-off-mikes thrown at us in universities and on radio stations and in “Conservative” gatherings and meetings and stuff like that. We can continue to do that thing. But I don’t think anyone that matters, or is on our side, is listening. The ones not on our side will simply delete the file they got sent for airing, or turn off the mike when we get too near the truth.

(2) We can espouse “activism”, but all this will do is get us imprisoned, possibly for ever for we are right, and out families broken up, our computers “taken into local authority-care”, and our children “seized for hard-drive analysis”. As a strategy, this will therefore avail other people nought. The trouble is that we have been shown time and time again that “activism” pays, since people like Nelson Mandela, Gerry Adams, the dead pigs Castro and Stalin, the other dead leftist pig Hitler (he got lucky while young) and Ho Chi Mhinh “got into government”. But I don’t think any living Libertarian conservatives are willing to pay the price or are even young enough to see it redeemed.

(3) Each of us can build an “armoured library”. How you all do this is entirely up to you. It needn’t even be armoured, so long as you didn’t tell policemen, who’d of course tip off scumbag mobsters to come and accidentally burn it as soon as it was convenient for (them).

Sorry to be so depressing this year. It’s no use getting excited that “over 145 people” got to see the lecture at (somewhere or other) by “Dr Human Hope”, the really really articulate and perspicacious founder of the “freedom free thingy”, at some place or other, and which several hundred Libertarians from at least “20″ countries attended. Nor, even, that his lecture got “published on the internet.

Merry Christmas: the time has come to face reality. Nobody’s really interested enough in liberty – either for themselves or for others, and certainly not for others – for us to make a difference any more.

I’m not saying we should give up and die. Just that we must not expect victory, for we shall not get it.

Armoured Libraries and survival of culture and law

David Davis

Various prominent British libertarians seem now agreed that The Endarkenment approaches. The signs have been increasingly clear for some time. The fact that liberty is the mother of order and not its daughter is inconvenient for those that mean to boot the vast majority of Mankind – except themselves – backwards, cruelly, painfully and hard into pre-enlightenment misery, starvation, disease and servitude.

Being a scientist myself by training and thought-modes, and therefore by definition not an intellectual -  I have never figured out why humans get to want to bring about – and worse, specifically for others than themselves – what I described above.

It always seems after careful analysis of their plans, that they would like to visit upon the whole of humanity what Churchill described as “the torments that Dante reserved for the damned”.

[Incidentally, I think that "intellectual" (the noun) is is a mere imaginary literary concept, applied by primitive pre-scientific mystics to themselves and their friends who still work according to neolithic non-tribe-male-skull-crashing theories of how to behave towards others, and are driven by emotion and wishful thinking. This may become the subject of another discussion, but perhaps I may accidentally have defined "conservatives" as definitely not these people. We shall have to see, when I have time to try to write something again.]

Various commenters on recent postings here have said things like this, and this, and this. In the darkness however, someone said this, and Continue reading

Lord Neuberger on Justice in an Age of Austerity

Note: I am pasting this from a pdf file on the Ministry of Justice website. It does not appear as well as I’d like. It is, however, a most interesting and important document. The state of our civil and criminal justice system is of obvious concern to libertarians. Lord Neuberger speaks from great authority. SIG

Continue reading

“Shouldn’t Artists Be Paid?” It Depends

by Kevin Carson
“Shouldn’t Artists Be Paid?” It Depends

Recently someone on an email discussion list I follow pointed out that authors or publishers of copyrighted pieces may be reliant on royalty income for their subsistence. The alternative to proprietary information might be that “only people with income from other sources (such as academic salaries) [would] be able to make their voices heard.” Continue reading

In 2010, we thought we’d bought a little time

David Davis

The disgusting Maria Miller is proposing state regulation of media, and, to cap it all, here in Britain. I have to admit that the only-narrow defeat of David Cameron in 2010 by the triumphant Gordon Brown – the real winner of that election – was seen by many of us as buying a little time, so that we’d not slide down quite so rapidly into the cesspool of socialism.

But it didn’t work out like that. I’d actually doubt whether even the foul Tony Blair would have put through such a measure. These sorts of things happen in Cuba and North Korea, not here.

I’ve not yet on this blog proposed my solution for people such as this. It is “voluntransportation”. It is for people that don’t like certain things the properties of free(ish) markets and free(ish) nations, and want to deprive others in those nations of the same things that they themselves disapprove of.

They are to be voluntransported to a place or places where there is nothing of what they don’t like and want to ban, regulate, ration or destroy. They can then be happy with each other. The first place suggested was the South Sandwich islands, where there is not much of anyting at all. So it would be very good and they’d have nothing to grumble about.

For mere regulators of the press, the penal-boats would set the voluntransportees adrift, about 100 yards off the “shoreline” (look at these) in boats made of newspaper. Preferably old unpulped copies of the News Of The World.

For GreeNazis, they’d be botted at gunpoint, off the gunwales of said boats, about 880 yards off (the boats will be very full and therefore large, and can’t “land” people in the full sense of the word there.) Some will make it, clinging to the frost-frozen corpses of those that didn’t.

Stephan Kinsella on Limited Liability: Notes of a Speech Made to the 2013 Meeting in Bodrum of the Property and Freedom Society

The Role of the Corporation and Limited Liability
in a Private Law Society
Speech by Stephan Kinsella to the Eighth Conference
of the Property and Freedom Society,
Held in Bodrum in September 2013
(Reported and with a Commentary by Sean Gabb)

Note: This is not a transcript of Stephan’s speech. It is a summary made as he spoke, that was at first intended purely for my own diary. However, since mine appears to be the only written account of the conference as a whole, and since this speech raises issues that are of particular interest to me, I have decided to publish it on the Libertarian Alliance Blog. If I give myself the best side of the argument, that may be the effect of bias – or it may be because I won the argument. Of course, by publishing, I make it possible for Stephan or others to correct my view of whether I won. SIG Continue reading

Tom Paine returns

David Davis (reblogged from The Last Ditch)

It’s interesting to see Tom’s personal discussion with himself, about the effectiveness (or otherwise) of what libertarian bloggers do.

The future

Quite a few readers have kindly told me how much they missed my trip updates since I returned from the USA. Some of them however only started to read this blog to follow my American journey and would be surprised and perhaps even shocked if I returned to my old subjects.

I rather embarrassed myself at dinner at a friend’s house last week. Another guest was a retired senior civil servant and now a substantial London rentier on his savings from the money extorted for him over decades from taxpayers. Predictably, I laid into him about how out-of-control the British State has become.There was some Continue reading

Legality & Justice Are Not Identical – Criminalizing Dissent

by Grant Mincy
Legality & Justice Are Not Identical – Criminalizing Dissent

Expected and official – the global surveillance state. Edward Snowden’s leak to The Guardian blew wide open just how far the United States has gone in the name of “national security”. What has been revealed by the leaks is a government outside the limits of its constitution, dedicated to intelligence, and incredibly intrusive. With in the halls of centralized power and private security firms, intelligence is being gathered on us all.

Why though? Such intelligence gathering is certainly not necessary to conduct the never ending “War on Terror.” The US civilian population and those of US Allies are not all in a secrete terrorist plot to wage war against western nation states. No, this is rather an extension of the Corporation State. The Guardian notes that since the financial crash of 2008 surveillance has expanded due to concerns over political unrest. Political activism needed to be monitored, to protect state and corporate interests. Indeed, the Pentagon now has extraordinary powers to intervene in a domestic “emergency” or “civil disturbance”. Continue reading

Another Step Towards the Big Brother State

Another Surveillance Law:
One More Step towards the Big Brother State
By Sean Gabb
(Published in The Barrister, May 2012)

At the beginning of April 2012, the BBC and a couple of newspapers reported that the British Government was considering a new surveillance law. This would allow it to monitor the telephone calls, text messages, e-mails and website visits of everyone in the United Kingdom. There was a flurry of debate about civil rights and the need to protect us all against terrorists. There was a side argument between those who said the law was required by the European Union, and those who said it would be in breach of European Union law. Since then, the various debates have gone quiet. Possibly, the Ministers have decided to drop the matter. More likely, the initial leak was to soften us up for something less ambitious to be announced in the Queen’s Speech. The Ministers will say they have “listened” to our concerns – and will use the lesser measure they had in mind all the time as a precedent for moving to the full measure in later stages. This being so, whether greater or lesser, another step will have been taken to a Big Brother police state. Continue reading

Making Sense of English Law Enforcement in the 18th Century

( original by David Friedman)

Note: I’ve always greatly admired this essay. Indeed, now that he’s read it, my friend Richard Blake is writing a novel set in the London of 1696 that involves a criminal trial. SIG

[This is based on the version of the article on my hard disk, and so may differ in detail from the published version. It is published here with the permission of the University of Chicago Roundtable, where it originally appeared.]

Making Sense of English Law Enforcement in the 18th Century

David Friedman

The criminal justice system of England in the 18th century presents a curious spectacle to an observer more familiar with modern institutions. The two most striking anomalies are the institutions for prosecuting offenders and the range of punishments. Prosecution of almost all criminal offenses was private, usually by the victim. Intermediate punishments for serious offenses were strikingly absent. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that, in the early years of the century, English courts imposed only two sentences on convicted felons. Either they turned them loose or they hanged them.[1] Continue reading

Emma West in Court Today – 23rd May 2013

According to “Jeff Bean,” posting to some of the comments sections of this Blog: “I have just seen Croydon Crown court listings and it shows 23rd May 2013 Emma Louise West is appearing now. She has well and truly been slipped under the radar.”

I’ve just checked the listings too. Though I can’t find a permanent url for linking, the name certainly appears. She was in Court 4. Whether she will be there again tomorrow I’m not able to say.

Whither consent?

Writing in spiked! recently, barrister Barbara Hewson suggests that the age of consent for sexual activity should be restored to its pre-1885 position of 13.

Reducing the age of consent to 13 for all sexual acts would bring the UK in line with Spain, although Spain has a legal caveat that allows for prosecution where sexual consent is obtained by deception in the case of a person aged between 13 and 16. Until 1995, the age of consent in Spain was 12. Indeed, Britain’s age of consent is high by the standards of European countries, many of which have an age of consent for heterosexual acts of 14 or 15, although the age of consent for homosexual acts is not necessarily the same. Among other developed nations, Japan has an age of consent of 13, although this is subject to further restrictions.

An interesting note to this matter is that until 1993, English common law held that a boy under the age of 14 could not commit rape as a principal offender because he was irrebuttably presumed to be incapable of sexual intercourse. That a boy of that age is indeed so capable has been the subject of some publicity.

While there is some merit in arguing about the moral, physiological, emotional and cultural import of an age of consent, and the extent to which children need to be protected both from the attentions of adults and their peers, we should also consider all this in the context of what consent has come to mean in the implementation of the law. Consent is not, and never was, the same as a contract, whereby terms are mutually agreed and non-performance brings with it an entitlement to compensation. Rather, consent is a highly complex concept which is changing rapidly in its meaning. Continue reading

Everyone said “You can’t unseat the Political EnemyClass by voting them out. Well, I say: “it has never been tried before, and we shall have to see.”

David Davis

Clown or fruitcake?

(from Matt at the DT)

Today, for the first time a rather historically large number of British voters get to be able to elect, if they like, candidates for “Council Seats” (this to say in honest countries – “socialist Soviets”) from the United Kingdom Independence Party. Now, the Libertarian Alliance goes out of its way to be perennially nasty to all the parties extant in the UK, from time to time, and sometimes all at once. But it’s natural that a little more of our ire and frustration is reserved for those which are more truly socialist than others: for I at least can’t figure out how it might be possible to be what some people call themselves, which is “libertarian socialists” (yes I have heard that one) or even “left libertarians”, although that might just be possible.

This round of elections for regional soviets councils is notable for the frantic and public attempts by other parties, particularly the Tories, to make direct and sometimes ad-hominem attacks on the reputations and backgrounds of rather a lot of UKIP candidates. I’ve been watching British elections since 1959, more or less, and haven’t noticed any such thing on this scale ever before. If they occurred, such assaults tended to come from the socialist left.

The entire British political-class, ably egged on by the BBC, appears to have taken fright at the idea that, for once, letting people vote for who they’d like might actually change things, and not to that class’s liking. As I type, there are no results yet from vote-counting, but the morning may be interesting.

I want to continue by offering a libertarian-based policy position document for a party such as UKIP, were it to, let us say, win a majority in a regional soviet, or even a general election. But as rheumatoid arthritis is making my elbows increasingly non-functional tonight, typing is a little strenuous and exciting. So I’ll save that for a post in the next couple of days or so when the painkillers have kicked in.  Meanwhile, commenters might like to add their own suggestions.


(Incidentally, the headline owes a little credit to Air Marshall Arthur “Bomber” Harris”, who used a similar expression when someone suggested that “you can’t win a war by bombing the enemy alone”.)


Proof that Evil Traitor Heath Infected with Evil Paedo Virus by Evil Shape-shifting Lizard Jimothy Saveloy

Oh, but I’m getting so bored by the paedo witchhunt that I can barely feel alarmed by the latest turns in its lunacy. A Coronation Street actor is now being done for an alleged assault 46 years ago – the complainant is now 61! I suggest that anyone who waits this long before making a complaint should be ignored without further investigation. There should be a limitation on child sex prosecutions of three years from the date of the alleged offence, or one year from the complainant’s reaching the age of 18, whichever is longer.

This isn’t because I think well of people who have sex with persons under the age of consent – I don’t – but because the present law is almost self-evidently unjust, and will eventually bring the criminal justice system into ridicule and contempt.

You can no longer be sacked for your political beliefs

The recent case of Arthur Redfearn has proved to be of some significance in establishing a firmer basis for freedom of association within employment law.

Mr Redfearn, a bus driver, was considered a “first class employee” and had neither attracted complaints from his employers, West Yorkshire Transport Services (a subsidiary of Serco), nor from service users, during the short period of his employment. Not long after starting work with WYTS in December 2003, Mr Redfearn won a seat on Bradford Council representing the British National Party. He was featured in an article in the local newspaper and this prompted a trade union and other employees to make representations to WYTS. WYTS’s response to this pressure was summarily to dismiss Mr Redfearn on 30 June 2004. Because he had worked for them for six months only, which was less than the statutory minimum period, he was unable to bring a case for unfair dismissal against them. Instead, he was compelled to claim racial discrimination (on the basis that the BNP was, at the time of the case, a “whites-only organization”) – an ironic position given the BNP’s longstanding opposition to racial discrimination legislation. Continue reading

The New Defamation Act: An Overview

Note: Anything is to be welcomed that makes it harder to bring and win a libel action. Many of the new law’s provisions – ie the serious harm test – may codify recent decisions of the courts. Even so, it is nice to see these set in stone, rather than subject to judicial drift. Also, it does seem as if Parliament has taken these decisions on their most liberal interpretation. Certainly, the single publication rule makes life easier for anyone who runs a blog or a website, as does the widening of the innocent dissemination rule. I’m glad to see that corporate bodies will be effectively barred from bringing libel actions, and that scientific and academic journals can no longer be scared by threats from wealthy interest groups.

I don’t like the abolition of trial by jury in libel actions. On the other hand, trial by jury is plainly being abolished in this country. Since all cases soon will by tried by judges sitting alone, or by panels of judges, we might as well have laws for them to apply that are not grossly oppressive.

Our Blogmaster and I will need to keep an eye on the meaning of the changed innocent dissemination rule. This will probably allow us to host more outspoken comments than we have so far welcomed. However, we might also have to require all members of our community to identify themselves to us. We shan’t welcome this, if it does become a requirement, and our compliance will be the absolute legal minimum. But we shall comply with what is required.

On balance – no, probably very much so – the new Defamation Act is an oddly liberalising law for the country and age in which we live. Of course, freedom of speech on public issues is more constrained than ever by the laws against “hate” speech; and we need to see what scheme of censorship will emerge from debates over the Levenson Report. But the Defamation Act is the first law I can remember for many years that does not merit our usual denunciation. SIG

Continue reading

Libertarian Alliance Statement on an Earlier Defamation Act

From Free Life, Issue 26, December 1996
ISSN: 0260 5112

Defamation Act 1996
HMSO, London, 1996, 19pp, £4.30 (pbk)
(ISBN 0 10 543196 6)

This may loosely be called “the Hamilton Act”, as its most famous provision is the one allowing Neil Hamilton MP to continue his libel action against The Guardian. Before looking at this, however, we will examine the other, equally important, sections of the Act.

These are on the whole excellent. We believe that there should be no laws whatever against defamation. People should be free to publish whatever they like about each other; and public opinion should be the only arbiter of truth where any dispute arises. At the least, a plaintiff should be required to prove damage before winning a libel action; and perhaps should be required to prove malice as well. Certainly, the existing law gives no protection to those who cannot afford the £20,000 that the average libel action now costs, but serves mostly to protect rich or well-connected villains like Robert Maxwell, Jeremy Thorpe, and others whose names we currently dare not mention. There is no chance that our belief will ever be accepted by the rulers of this country. Even so, the present Act does reform the law in a more liberal direction. Continue reading

The good is oft-interr-ed with their bones

David Davis

Since Margaret Thatcher is to be in-terr-ed tomorrow, I just thought we’d throw one last punch at her enemies and ours. I found this wonderful piece on The Last Ditch the other day, and one para deserves to be highlighted in our usual way:-

“If you want to know who freedom’s enemies are, mention her with approval. Mad eyes will light up all around you and foul sentiments will fill the air. Note their names and never leave them alone with anything you value; material, spiritual or ethical.”

Yes of course, I _know_ that we object to her having

(a) made the British State more efficient – as a recipe for disaster one would recommend this since the British-Political-Enemyclass is efficient already at making a powerful tyrannical state, and

(b) because she failed to absolutely destroy socialism at home and in the world, before members of that same EnemyClass destroyed her.

But I think that Tom Paine’s paragraph sums up who we are up against, whatever we as classical liberals think of Thatcher herself. I think we can lay her to rest now. May The Iron Lady Rust In Peace.

Sean Gabb on the Thatcher Police State (May 1989)

The Full Coercive Apparatus of a Police State:
Thoughts on the Dark Side of the Thatcher Decade

Sean Gabb

3rd May 1989, Published as Legal Notes No. 6, by the Libertarian Alliance,
London, 1989, ISBN 1 870614 39 9

Ten years ago (1979) I gave way to one of my rare bursts of enthusiasm. I was at the time, I’ll grant, still a schoolboy; and these things are always more permissible in them than in others. But, even for a schoolboy, it was a very great burst of enthusiasm. I seriously thought that, along with Mrs Thatcher, the second dawn of classical liberalism had arrived. This was it, I thought. No more socialism. No more national decline. No more Road to Serfdom. Oh, even as lads of my age went, I was naïve. Continue reading

Any (Good) Thing the State Can Do, We Can Do Better

Any (Good) Thing the State Can Do, We Can Do Better

The following article was written by Gary Chartier and published on his blog, Liberalaw, June 7th, 2010.

The question whether people in a stateless society could respond satisfactorily to a disaster like the BP oil spill is really just a special case of the general question whether people without the state can do the things people attempt to do through the state. It seems to me that the answer is “yes.” Continue reading

Freemen of the Land: A Barrister Writes

Note: I do not think the Freemen of the Land should be dismissed out of hand. They are the only semi-libertarians around prepared to gather and make a fuss. Even so, their legal arguments are, to put it mildly, in need of development. Here is a comment on an earlier posting about the FotL. I think everyone will agree that it is important enough to move to the front page. SIG Continue reading

Jury Nullification: A Barrister Writes

by Howard R. Gray

Juries have a duty to try the case according to the law: this is trite. The judge is the tribunal of law, and the jury is the tribunal of fact: that is the simple rule of how criminal law works, and also just as trite. Judges in England are allowed broad scope to direct juries on the law and often put forward their views of the facts usually pre-seasoned with the exhortation that it is “up to you ladies and gentlemen of the jury” about any particular point they deem in need of comment.

That being said, there is a plethora of rules that they must use to put to a jury about particular points of law and about the standard of proof that must always be there in their directions. For example the “you must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt” and “satisfied so that you are sure”, then they go on to give examples. There are the Turnbull directions on corroboration of witness testimony and so on. Each factual element that has a contentious nature must be directed upon in the judge’s homily to the jury at the end of the trial. Failure to adequately direct a jury can result in the verdict being set aside on appeal. Jurors needn’t be too worried that justice will be denied; appeals are often successful. Continue reading

Jury Nullification

by D.J. Webb

I think there is an important point to be made about jury trials. Of course, the recent collapse of the jury trial of Vicky Price is partly down to the stupidity of the jurors and the removal of the property franchise for serving on a jury — and well-to-do people should never be able to evade their duty in serving on a jury simply because they feel they have other things to do with their time. Continue reading

“Intellectual Property”: This Land was Made for You an … er, for Monsanto

by Thomas Knapp

Note: “Whether it’s Monsanto’s genetic “patent” claim, or the “copyright” demand of a novelist that once he’s strung some words together in a certain order nobody else may do likewise without coughing up, or Ron Paul’s plea to the United Nations to seize an Internet domain name he wants, “intellectual property” is, simply put, an attempt to turn the world into one big antebellum plantation, with the state as indispensable overseer.”

Speaking as an entirely disinterested party in this matter, what other legitimate function has the State but to ensure that a novelist gets his royalties? Writing a novel is no more stringing a few words together than growing food is making a few scratches in the earth. Monsanto, on the other hand, can get stuffed. SIG Continue reading

Why Does Justice Have Good Consequences?

by Roderick Long
Why Does Justice Have Good Consequences?

The following article was written by Roderick T. Long and presented to the Alabama Philosophical Society, October 26th, 2002.

1. The Problem Stated

Today I’m hoping to make you puzzled about a problem that has puzzled me on and off over the years. Misery loves company, I suppose — though the problem doesn’t actually puzzle me at the moment, because at the moment I think I’ve got a solution to it. But I’ve thought this before, and found myself deceived; so I’m not breaking out the champagne just yet.

The problem is this: why does justice have good consequences? Continue reading


by Rad Geek

Note: Since I earn most of my income from copyright, and hope to make a great deal more to come, I’m not inclined to accept this argument. However, I do accept that intellectual property in its present forms would not survive in the absence of a state to enforce it, and I accept that this raises at least a rebuttable presumption against its legitimacy. I also agree that there are other ways for historical novelists to earn a living that don’t involve calling on the power of the State. On the other hand, with much effort, and at much opportunity cost, I have created a large body of fiction that other people want to read. I don’t accept that this is other than my own property; and, if I feel uncertain about the legitimacy of the legal devices by which my publisher keeps the royalty checks drifting in, I certainly think ill of anyone who dares pirate my work. SIG Continue reading

Sean Gabb on Drinking and Driving: A Police Officer Writes

Note: I have removed the officer’s name, but this e-mail is reproduced here on the LA Blog exactly as received. I think he is inaccurate in several of his factual claims, especially since I know people who have been subject to random breath testing around the Christmas period. I have also encountered any number of police officers who struck me as either mad or high on drugs. However, since he has taken the trouble to write at such length, and so politely, I do require that those who wish to respond should do so in a calm and factual manner. The officer will, I am sure, be following your comments. It would be useful if he were to go away with a better idea than he appears to have of the objections that we have to police powers and to the frequent use and misuse of these powers. SIG Continue reading

Who wields the Royal veto?

by D.J. Webb

An intriguing article on the Telegraph website claims that the Royal family are regularly vetoing new laws, although the article appears sloppily written, and in particular the writer doesn’t appear to know the difference between the formal casting of a veto and the registering of some kind of objection to a law in advance. Continue reading

Neigh More Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

by Matt Wardman
Neigh More Don’t Ask Don’t Tell


It is official.

Section 5 is changing.

It will soon no longer be a criminal offence to enquire as to the sexuality of a horse if that is deemed ‘insulting’ to a random third party.

But I want to ignore the funny cases, saying woof to dogs and ‘scientology is dodgy‘ to the public, and examine changes that will actually be made to legislation. Here the picture is depressing.

Theresa May has said in Hansard that the Government will remove the word “insulting” from Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986: Continue reading

Competition – The Policeman’s Bawl…

by Anna Raccoon

Note: The police should be abolished, and we should return to the old system of private prosecutions. Until then, every law passed since the Protection of Constables Act 1750, that raises these people above the rest of us, should be repealed. SIG Continue reading

Why is the State Involved in Childcare?

by D.J. Webb

Women are forced out to work by house prices. This is the real subtext to absurd plans for the state to pay £2,000 to each working woman for childminding. With high taxes and council tax, high transport fees and high childminding bills, it is hard for women to make work pay — and the only result of their trying to do so is to push up the income on which mortgage loans are calculated, thus supporting the property Ponzi scheme. Continue reading

Parliamentary Sovereignty and the Common Law

Note: I am republishing this, because the case in question is under discussion in another thread. SIG

The “Metric Martyrs” and the Constitution
Sean Gabb
(February 2002)

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 abrogant . Continue reading

Is English Common Law Libertarian?

by Stephan Kinsella

Is English Common Law Libertarian?

In a fascinating blogpost, Michael McConkey asks Is English Common Law Libertarian? Many libertarians tend to view the common law as being quasi- or proto-libertarian. McConkey argues, relying largely on Harold Berman’s classic Law and Revolution, II: The Impact of the Protestant Reformations on the Western Legal Tradition (v. 2), that, Continue reading


Note: I’d rather be ruled by people like Lord Dyson than by the trash who win elections. SIG


Between at least the early part of the 20th century and about 1990, it had been generally understood that there was no right of recovery in restitution of money paid pursuant to an ultra vires demand by a public authority. This state of the law was overturned by the House of Lords in the great case of Woolwich Building Society v Inland Revenue Commissioners [1992] 3 WLR 366. One argument advanced against the recognition of such a principle was that to do so would overstep the boundary that we traditionally set for ourselves, separating the legitimate development of the law from legislation. As to this objection, Lord Goff said: Continue reading

“The Last Ditch” ventures inside The Door Of Hell, and manages to return

David Davis

The grand-challenge-cup award for brave man of the week is to go toTom Paine.

Being arrested is no small matter in England any more

by Robert Henderson

Robert Henderson

There was a time when being arrested in England did not matter very much. Before digital technology came of age your fingerprints and mug shot might be taken, but if no charges were laid or, if you were brought to trial, a conviction was not obtained for the alleged offence which had caused your arrest, the chances of the ordinary law abiding person being inconvenienced in the future by the fact that those details were held by the police were small. There was no Police National Computer (PNC) until 1974 and the widespread use of personal computers was almost two decades after that. Continue reading

The Oaths and Vows That Bind Our Society Together

The Oaths and Vows That Bind Our Society Together
David J. Webb

Legal Notes No. 53

ISBN 9781856376563
ISSN 0267-7083 (print)
ISSN 2042-258X (online)

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL

© 2012: Libertarian Alliance; David Webb


David Webb studied Chinese and Russian at Leeds University, where he was involved in Marxist politics.  He has since become a conservative writer, contributing to The Salisbury Review and Right Now!, and more recently contributing extensively to the Libertarian Alliance.  He lived for four years in China (Tianjin, Kunming and Chengdu) and now writes freelance on Chinese politics and economics.  He is also a student of the Cork dialect of Irish and runs the Cork Irish website at  This essay is a slightly revised version of one that first appeared in the August 2012 issue of The Individual, the journal of the Society for Individual Freedom (



The purpose of oaths

The penchant for discussion of the Queen’s Coronation Oath on conservative websites, and also the habit of the ‘Freemen on the Land’ of asking to see judicial oaths of office, have recently reminded me of the Christian basis of our Anglo-Saxon civilisation.  Our constitution is held together by a series of oaths, oaths that mean something to people because they are solemn vows in the sight of God and before the people of this country to perform various duties.  I am not sure how seriously an oath can be regarded in the days when religion is scoffed at.  It may be that conservatives could still favour the retention of unshakeable, unshirkable and unretractable vows, regardless of any views on the existence of a Supreme Being, seeing such oaths as a foundation stone of our civilisation.  Nevertheless, it is clear that most people who make oaths today are not expecting to have to fulfil them and break them with impunity.  Is it any wonder that the fabric of our society has become less secure? Continue reading

Vox Populi, Vox D.E.I.: Division, Derision, and the Death of Free Speech

Vox Populi, Vox D.E.I.: Division, Derision, and the Death of Free Speech
Prunella Jordaine

Cultural Notes No. 58

ISBN 9781856376556
ISSN 0267-677X (print)
ISSN 2042-2539 (online)

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London, W1J 6HL.

© 2012: Libertarian Alliance; Prunella Jordaine.

Prunella Jordaine works in the private sector in the London area



What We Have Lost

“Happy is he,” said the Roman poet Virgil, “who knows the causes of things.”1  Let’s put him to the test.  Here’s a thing: the steady and accelerating loss of free speech in Britain.  Speak your mind on certain topics and at best you’ll face social opprobrium and questioning by the police.  At worst, you’ll lose your job and end up in jail.  Our supposed liberal democracy more and more resembles a communist dictatorship in which citizens self-censor for fear of the state – and of other citizens, who will eagerly report speech-criminals on sites like Twitter.  Why has this happened?  Well, what are the certain topics that send people to jail?  Race is one.  Homosexuality is another.  Religion is a third.  In every case, the justification for a repressive law is simple: the benevolent paternal state says it wants to protect a minority.  And the minority in question is happy to be protected.  Muslims have marched to demand the banning of a book called The Satanic Verses; they have never marched to demand the repeal of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006.  And they never will. Continue reading

NCROPA on “Obscenity”

Note: Here is another document from NCROPA. The Libertarian Alliance sometimes does these responses to Government consultations, though never in such depth. I don’t think the past tweleve years have made the response obsolete. SIG Continue reading


Note: I have acquired a large number of unpublished writings from the late David Webb’s NCROPA (National Campaign for the Reform of the Obscene Publications Acts). I will upload these as often as I have time to spare. Here is a draft Bill from 1986. The schedule of repeal would need to be rather longer nowadays. But the Bill is a good template for anyone interested. SIG Continue reading

Political speech and action in Britain: What is legally permitted ?

by Robert Henderson

Political speech and action in Britain: What is legally permitted ?
Robert Henderson

Free speech is a very simple concept: you either have it or a range of permitted opinion, the scope of which can be altered at any time ( Sadly and dangerously, not only is free expression in Britain unavailable, but the range of permitted opinion is becoming ever narrower . This is a consequence of the totalitarian ideology that is political correctness becoming embedded ever deeper into the British power structure through laws both criminal and civil and the control of the mass media by the politically correct. Great swathes of political opinion are deemed criminal or at least grounds for excluding their holder from not only mainstream politics but public debate. It is no longer possible to engage in political activity without fear of prosecution, loss of employment (especially in publicly funded jobs) or being the subject of a media hate campaign. Continue reading