Category Archives: Minimal-Statism

Meanwhile, in the half-light – to the left of and behind the enemies in front…


David Davis

It’s all very well to hail a small UKIP victory against the outer barbed-wire-entanglements of the British-Political EnemyClass. We know how to fight these people now, and in the fullness of time a regaining of a semblance of liberty is possible. Things can never be the same as they were, before the 20th/21st-century-Endarkenment irretrievably marred many things that were good.

But we might get them back to be better than now, although changed and glued together.

In the meantime there are some other really dangerous and wicked people out there, like this “Lierre Keith” impersonation of an evil droid in androgynous form from the Planet Tharg. It’s probabl that most of you people here know what’s going on in most Universities in the Anglosphere. For example, even in one famous and ancient Scottish University, about as far from London as it’s possible to get without falling off, there’s a module in the B.Mus. honours course covering “Music and Gender in contemporary society”.

A ray of dull sunshine is that this nonsense is probably not going on in universities in ChindoJapanIndonesIndoBrazilia: therefore it’s possible that some slight remnant  epiphanic  image of what Western Liberal Civilisation might have been like will be preserved.

Privacy 2014: Scroogled?


by Thomas Knapp
http://c4ss.org/content/23344

Privacy 2014: Scroogled?

Tech aficionados and privacy advocates took notice in late 2013 when Microsoft rolled out an attack on Google’s Chrome OS computers.

For one thing, it’s unusual for any company to spend its advertising dollars attacking its competitors rather than promoting its own products. For another, Microsoft’s position atop the computer operating systems market is such that if its execs feel a need to go on the offensive, they obviously fear their market share is genuinely threatened (as was the case in 2002 or so when they finally deigned to take public notice of Linux). Continue reading

Bureaucracy


by Spandrell
https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/bureaucracy/
Bureaucracy

Isegoria linked to an interview of Frank Herbert, author of the Dune series. I don’t need to explain how great the books are, and how amazing a writer Frank Herbert is. You could feel that the man is Darkly Enlightened just by reading his fiction, in the same way you can feel that Isaac Asimov is an establishment technocrat when reading Foundation. This interview confirms my feeling. Continue reading

I was reminded of “The Final Solution”


David Davis

Driving near Bootle this morning, I spotted a van of “some firm or other” (I can’t remember sadly what – and there was a police car nearby so I couldn’t lift my phone and photograph it) that said on its side:-

WORKING  WITH  COMMUNITIES  TO  DELIVER  SOLUTIONS

Since we have “Fake Charities”, whose site is at http://www.fakecharities.org ,

then perhaps someone should set up a site called

http://www.fakecompanies.org

I bet you all 5p that “WORKING  WITH  COMMUNITIES  TO  DELIVER  SOLUTIONS” gets about 100% of its revenue, to a first approximation, from the State.

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

Is Property Theft?


by James Tuttle
http://c4ss.org/content/13144

Is Property Theft? was originally written by Less Antman and published on his blog, Anarchy Without Bombs, March 7th, 2010. The following is an updated version that Antman has graciously provided for C4SS.

“Property is Theft!” was the battle cry of one prominent French anarchist in the 19th century. “Au contraire, mon frère,” retorted another. “Property is Liberty!” “You’re both wrong,” said a third. “Property is Impossible!” How such people got along with each other is amazing. More so, since it was the same man, Pierre Proudhon, who said all three. Continue reading

Democracy Does Not Equal Freedom


by Dick Puddlecote
http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/DickPuddlecote/~3/ZfkoVvopOqw/democracy-does-not-equal-freedom.html

Note: I agree with every word of this. England was a much freer country when it was ruled by a committee of hereditary landlords. The old ruling class would turn nasty about protection of their game, and were perhaps overly protective of the Church of England. They never tried telling us what to smoke or drink, and only interfered in what we did so far as they could be prodded by middle class busybodies who had to collect their own funds and never got control of the enforcement agencies. Letting everyone vote has allowed the emergence of a new ruling class of totalitarian puritans. Since we can’t go back to the good old days, I suppose the only answer is radical decentralisation and appointment of all representatives and most officials by sortition – oh, and possibly frequent referenda for the actual making of laws. SIG Continue reading

Mill on Liberty – Old Review


I wrote this in 1994. I still more or less agree with it. SIG

On Liberty
John Stuart Mill
Prepared by dell from the Harvard Classics edition,
published by P.F. Collier & Son, Massachusetts, 1909
Available from gopher://gopher.panix.com/misc/referencelibrary/classicsofliterature/
First published 1859, published on-line September 1993, 281.53kb, public domain Continue reading

End War by Ending the State


by David D’Amato
http://c4ss.org/?p=9610

Much has been made of last Thursday’s announcement that, as reported by the New York Times, the US Department of Defense will take its “first major step toward shrinking its budget after a decade of war.” The plan represents only a minor modification (if even that), but has been presented — by both its proponents and detractors in the US political establishment — as a veritable sea change. Continue reading

Justin Raimondo on Libertarian Strategy


by Justin Raimondo
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2012/01/libertarianism-political-action-cultural-change/#comments

To begin with, the idea that you and the rest of the “bleeding heart libertarians” on this blog are libertarians is the result of a misunderstanding. Are we really supposed to take seriously a “libertarian” who proposes licensing parents by the State? Puh-leeze.

Secondly, your “argument” in favor of the “trickle down” theory — that libertarians must convert “the intellectuals” in order to make any long lasting change — is dishonest, self-serving, and just plain false. After all, since jobs in the realm of ideas are rare and much sought after, and since most of these coveted positions are financed by money-bags with an agenda of their own (often in conflict with libertarianism), “intellectuals” are easily bribed, and the majority naturally tend to act as apologists for power. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Third, your argument is incredibly self-serving: since you are doubtless the recipient of financial largesse from IHS, what you’re saying is: “Please don’t give any money to the Paul campaign: instead, you should give it to me.” That is your argument, boiled down to its essentials: why not come out and say it?

What has your panties in a bunch is the indisputable fact that Paul’s success is due precisely to the incredible success of the Rothbardian-Rockwellian “right wing populist” strategy which you and your fellow “bleeding hearts” despise: all those “yahoos” snot-nose Jeffrey Friedman hates are rallying around Paul’s libertarian banner! Horrors! Well, isn’t that just tough: you and your “left-libertarian” cronies don’t own the libertarian label, and never did.

“Bleeding heart libertarianism” is a device whereby a bunch of spoiled Kochotopus-funded nonentities hope to get tenure by convincing your commie colleagues in the faculty lounge that libertarianism is just another form of leftism. Well, good luck with that, because you’ll need it. In the meantime, you’ll pardon the rest of us as we ignore IHS and give our support to the Paul camaign.

Oh, and by the way: your efforts to reach out to the “left” are being surpassed by the Paul campaign, as progressives like Tom Hayden, Glen Greenwald, John Walsh, and a host of others defend Paul from the vicious attacks you and your ilk are promoting. So please

Marriage: The State v Contract and Religion


by Thomas Knapp
http://c4ss.org/?p=9447

2012′s Republican US presidential candidates are, to a man, opposed to legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Continue reading

Ayn Rand, Objectivism and Anarchism


The Facts Of Reality: Logic And History In Objectivist Debates About Government
Nicholas Dykes
Philosophical Notes No. 79
ISSN 0267-7091 1 85637 609 5

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

© 2007: Libertarian Alliance; Nicholas Dykes.

Nicholas Dykes is a British-Canadian writer currently living in England. He is married, with two grown-up children. Besides numerous pieces for the Libertarian Alliance and journals such as Reason Papers, he is the author of Fed Up With Government? (Hereford, UK, Four Nations, 1991), the 300-page manifesto for a putative British ‘Libertarian Party’. This current essay was previously published in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 7, no. 1 (Fall 2005): pp. 79-140.

The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee, Advisory Council or subscribers.

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY Continue reading

A Bleeding Heart History of Libertarian Thought – Herbert Spencer


Article by Matt Zwolinski.

If you’re like most people, then the one thing you probably think you know about Herbert Spencer is that he was a “Social Darwinist.” And that one thing is wrong. Continue reading

From the Arab Spring to the Fall Revolution?


by Kevin Carson
http://c4ss.org/?p=8518

Let’s start with a recap. In Summer 2010 Wikileaks published a cache of tens of thousands of top-secret State Department cables, much to the outrage and chagrin of the American national security establishment and its Amen Corner. The documents included embarrassing details on the internal corruption of a number of Arab regimes, and helped to spark a “Facebook/Twitter Revolution” in Tunisia that ended in the overthrow of the government. From there the grass-roots revolutions, in which social networking technologies played an important role, spread to Egypt and Libya and brought down those regimes. And the fires are still burning in Bahrain and Syria. Continue reading

Tactical Notes 032, How Radical Is Too Radical? Anarchism as a Practical Guide to Advancing Liberty (2011), Isaac M. Morehouse and Christopher J. Nelson


Libertarians want less government. Yet many libertarians think it is fruitless to dwell for any length of time on just how limited the state should be. Even more libertarians dismiss the idea of anarchism – the ultimate limit on government – out of hand. Not only does anarchism deserve a fair hearing on theoretical, practical, and moral grounds, but it deserves to be a serious part of strategic discussions if liberty is to be advanced at all. Libertarians can disagree with statelessness as the best or logical direction of a free society, but they cannot afford to ignore it. Right or wrong, the radical idea of anarchism is an incredibly valuable tool for advancing liberty and should not be dismissed.

via Tactical Notes 032, How Radical Is Too Radical? Anarchism as a Practical Guide to Advancing Liberty (2011), Isaac M. Morehouse and Christopher J. Nelson.

“Free markets” and “free trade” as a religion, by Robert Henderson – Replies, Anyone?


Anyone fancy responding to this? An obvious response is to ask RH to define the laissez-faire religion he is attacking, and to distinguish this from corporatism, and then to ask if he knows anything about the economics of public choice and regulatory capture, or about the effects on business scale and morality brought about by infrastructure subsidies and the tax and regulatory burden….SIG

http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/?p=590

Free marketeers fancy themselves to be rational, calculating beasts. In reality, their adoration of the market is essentially religious. They believe that it will solve all economic ills, if not immediately, then in the medium to long term. Armed with this supposed objective truth, they proselytize about the moral evils and inefficiencies of public service and the wondrous efficiency and ethical outcomes of private enterprise regardless of the practical effects of their policies or the frequent misbehaviour of those in command of large private companies. Their approach is essentially that of the religious believer.

Like the majority of religious believers, “free marketeers and traders” are none too certain of the theology of their religion. (I am always struck by how many of them lack a grasp of even basic economic theory and are almost invariably wholly ignorant of economic history). They recite their economic catechism sublime in the concrete of their ignorance.

The religion has its roots in the first half of the 18th century when there were occasional attempts to suggest tariff reform, but the idea only became a serious political policy in the 1780s with the advent of Pitt the Younger as Prime Minister in 1784 who long toyed with “economical reform”.

The 18th century also provided the religion with its holy book, The Wealth of Nations by the Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith. This strongly argued for “free markets” and “free trade”, but Smith also recognised the demands of national security, the need for government to engage in social provision such as road building and maintenance which would not otherwise be done and, must importantly, the nature of a society and its economy. Here is Smith on the Navigation Acts: “…the Act of Navigation by diminishing the number of buyers; and we are thus likely not only to buy foreign goods dearer, but to sell our own cheaper, than if there were a more perfect freedom of trade. As defence, however, is of much more importance than opulence, the Act of Navigation is, perhaps, the wisest of all the commercial regulations of England.” (Wealth of Nations Bk IV. ch ii)

But Smith and his book suffered the fate of all those who found religions, secular or otherwise. As the decades passed Smith’s cautious approach was redrawn in the minds of his disciples to become a surgically “clean” mechanical ideology in which all that mattered was the pursuit of profit and the growth of trade and industry through the application of the “holy edicts” of open markets and comparative advantage. The disciples, like other religious believers, avidly quoted the passages from their holy book which suited their purposes and ignored those which did not. They also found a further holy text in Thomas Malthus’ Essay on Population of 1802, whose predictions, although unproven by events, could be used to demonstrate that economic expansion was vital if widespread starvation was not to occur.

The clinical, soulless and inhuman nature of the laissez faire idea as it evolved is exemplified by the English economist David Ricardo. Here is a flavour of his mindset:”Under a system of perfectly free commerce each country naturally devotes its capital and labour to such employments as are most beneficial to both. The pursuit of individual advantage is admirably connected with the universal good of the whole. By stimulating industry, and by using most efficaciously the peculiar powers bestowed by nature, it distributes labour most economically, while increasing the general mass of the production it diffuses general benefits, and binds together by one common tie of interest and intercourse the universal society of nations”. (David Ricardo in The fall of protection p 174).

The Napoleonic wars largely foiled Pitt’s wish for broad reform and placed “free trade” in suspended animation as a serious political idea until the 1820s, when cautious attempts at tariff reform again were made. But underneath the political elite was a radical class who were very much enamoured of wholesale economical reform. With the Great Reform Act of 1832 they were given their opportunity to become part of the political elite. They took it with both hands, their most notable and extreme proponents being John Bright and Richard Cobden backed by the intellectual power of David Ricardo – all three became MPs.

Within a dozen years of the first election under the Great Reform Act’s passing, Parliament had been captured by the disciples of Adam Smith and the pass on protection had been sold by of all people a Tory prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, an action which kept the Tories from power for most of the next 40 years.

Such was their religious credulity that the “free traders” advocated not merely opening up Britain’s markets, both at home and in the colonies, to nations who would allow Britain equivalent access to their markets, they advocated opening up Britain’s markets regardless of how other nations acted. The consequence was, as we have seen, disastrous for Britain.

Disraeli in a speech on 1st February 1849 cruelly dissected this insanity:” There are some who say that foreigners will not give us their production for nothing, and that therefore we have no occasion to concern ourselves as to the means and modes of repayment. There is no doubt that foreigners will not give us their goods without exchange for them; but the question is what are the terms of exchange most beneficial for us to adopt. You may glut markets, but the only effect of your attempt to struggle against the hostile tariffs by opening your ports is that you exchange more of your own labour each year for a less quantity of foreign labour, that you render British labour less efficient, that you degrade British labour, diminish profits, and, therefore, must lower wages; while philosophical enquirers have shown that you will finally effect a change in the distribution of the precious metals that must be pernicious and may be fatal to this country. It is for these reasons that all practical men are impressed with a conviction that you should adopt reciprocity as the principle of your tariff – not merely from practical experience, but as an abstract truth. This was the principle of the commercial negations at Utrecht – which were followed by Mr Pitt in his commercial negotiations at Paris – and which were wisely adopted and applied by the Cabinet of Lord Liverpool, but which were deserted flagrantly and unwisely in 1846″. (The fall of Protection pp 337/8″).

Ironically, the “free traders” make the same general errors as Marxists. They believe that everything stems from economics. For the neo-liberal the market has the same pseudo-mystical significance that the dialectic has for the Marxist. Just as the Marxist sees the dialectic working inexorably through history to an eventual state of communism (or a reversion to barbarism to be exact), so the neo-liberal believes that the market will solve any economic problem and most social ills. Neither ideology works because it ignores the reality of human nature and its sociological realisation.

The one track economic mentality of the early “free traders” is well represented by the father of J S Mill, James Mill:”The benefit which is derived from exchanging one commodity for another arises from the commodity received rather than the from the commodity given. When one country exchanges, or in other words, traffics with another, the whole of its advantage consists of the in the commodities imported. It benefits by the importation and by nothing else. A protecting duty which, if it acts at all, limits imports, must limit exports likewise, checking and restraining national industry, thus diminishing national wealth.” (The fall of protection p 174). And to Hell with any social or strategic consideration or changing economic circumstances.

After the Great War and the fall of “free trade” as public policy in 1931, the religion went underground for nearly fifty years. When it re-emerged as a political idea in the 1970s the politicians who fell under its spell were every bit as unquestioning and credulous as those of the 1840s. Tony Blair’ statement on Globalisation, ie, free trade, at the 2005 Labour Party Conference shows that it is alive and kicking today. Scorning any attempt to discuss Globalisation, Blair said of those who wished to oppose it “You might as well debate whether autumn should follow summer”. (Daily Telegraph 1 10 2005.)

None of this would matter very much now if those who believe in “free markets” and “free trade” were without political power. Unfortunately, theirs is the elite ideology of the moment and the past 25 years. In Britain, the Tories may be more fanatical in their devotion to the market as panacea, but Blairite Labour have caught more than a mild dose of the disease. A good example of this is their response to house price hyperinflation where they desperately and futilely attempt remedies within the constraints of what they perceive to be “free market” disciplines rather than opting for the obvious state generated remedies such as restricting immigration, building a great deal of social housing and forcing developers to release land for building.

Both the traditional Left and Right have been duped by globalisation. The Left initially welcomed globalisation as a dissolver of national sovereignty, but they are discovering by the day just how restrictive international treaties and membership of supra national groups can be. As things stand, through our membership of the EU and the World Trade Organisation treaties, no British government could introduce new socialist measures because they cannot nationalise companies, protect their own commerce and industry or even ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent in Britain with British firms. A British government can have any economic system they like provided it is largely free trade, free enterprise.

The Right are suffering the same sickness with different symptoms. They find that they are no longer masters in their own house and cannot meaningfully appeal to traditional national interests because treaties make that impossible.

But there is a significant difference between the position of the two sides. The traditional Right have simply been usurped by neo-Liberals in blue clothes: the traditional Left have been betrayed by a confusion in their ideology which has allowed their main political vehicles to be surreptitiously by the likes of Blair.

The left have historically objected to “free-trade” on the grounds that it destroys jobs and reduces wages. But what they (and especially the British Left) have rarely if ever done is walk upon the other two necessary planks in the anti-”free trade” platform: the maintenance of (1) national sovereignty and (2) a sense of national cohesion. The consequence is that the Left has been and are still struggling with two competing and mutually exclusive ends: internationalism and the material improvement of the mass of the people.

Libertarian Alliance Christmas Message 2010


What is liberty for, and why should people be free?

David Davis

Merry Christmas, ladies and gentlemen. May God rest you merry, and perhaps tight this year. Get tight while you can still afford it – for governments, specially this one, would like to think they can “combat drinking” by over-taxation, freely and cheerfully admitted to.

Well, this year, among other things, the awful and totally-unelected Gordon Brown zeppelin-thing-in-the-ether, foisted on us by Tony Blair and possibly his worst single act, imploded finally. We voted, and guess what? Nobody won, and the Government got in, again. This may be a good thing in the short term, in that the coalition can’t actually do anything to hinder people much more, let alone help. But strategically in the battle for universal individual freedom, we here are certainly no better off than before.

In fact, a little worse, for some of us like me and Sean see the Clock ticking…. We know that however relatively more slowly than before we are being marched to the living-gas-chambers of sustainable socialist greenery, and to the concentration-camps of more intricate and closer repression, the available decades of living people’s lifetimes in which they might do something to reverse The Big Modern Managerial State, are slipping away like sand in a glass. Time, literally, is running out for liberty in the UK for sure, and so it would seem also for other Anglosphere nations. I gather that you can get fined for speeding in Australia, if you are tracked by a police helicopter…I thought helicopters were foreign-policy-war-winning-weapons, for machine-gunning GramscoStaliNazi “freedom-fighters”, until I researched Australian Policing.

So, what’s wrong with liberty? Why exactly are we under assault? And given the seeming consensus ranged against individual freedom, not only among the governing Enemy-Classes of the world, but also among populations who you think should know better, what is the point of freedom? Why should people be free?

If slavery seems to make so many people happy, why should bother to resist? Why continue to accept the nonplussed opinions of our contemporaries? Why bother any more to bear their frank uncomprehension at our persistent criticism of statist ideas and outcomes? Why should we endure the perpetual status of outsiders and deranged wierdos?

We do have the comfort of course, of knowing that everyone else is mistaken. We know we are right: we also know there is objective truth, about why liberty is good, and all the alternatives are evil.

But, why is it that in the presence of large measures of individual liberty, Men seem to advance and the nett sum of human comfort – not to mention the absolute amounts of energy able to be deployed – go up? Along with life-expectancy, freedom from hunger and want for more people than before, and the like? And that the converse is true: tyrannies actually produce cars, such as the Trabant, whose specification actually _declined_ as the years went on?

The world must thus divide between those who think as we do, and those who think that progress is a zero-sum-game. We know that market-based co-operation of Men produces absolutely more wealth, able to be spread by trading and money. To do this fairly, money must be “sound”, which is to say: unable to be corrupted and debased by outsiders and agencies (such as monopoly government issuers, which see a way to “have more” to spend, on “projects” or on themselves.) We also know that we think the Enemy-Class knows that for one man to succeed, many must fail. That’s why they have abolished failure in education, schools, and increasingly, non-Olympic Sport. (They like the medals, you see, “for the People”….)

What’s wrong with liberty, as seen by our Enemy-Classes the world over, is exactly that it makes Enemy-Classes redundant. There can be no purpose in such a Class, so long as individuals can sink or swim by their own efforts and forge, or fail to forge, their own destinies, by their own considered efforts and also while happy to accept the outcomes as they fall. Furthermore, many of the Enemy-Class are against what they call “religion”. Specifically this means Judeo-Christianity, for they do not seem to be against other ones although I bet you 5p this will change, before too long, say about 5-15 years. And they’re only “against the Jews” because the “Palestinians” being exotic and phantasmal have captured the imagination of those that shape public perceptions, and also because the Holocaust has now almost faded from living memory, and Europe is returning to its traditional 16-century-old let-out of Jew-hating.

I give British Muslims until about 2025 before they suddenly find themselves physically inside real enclosures looking out, rather than outside the hegemonic-discourse-enclosure looking in. And it won’t be liberals and libertarians who put them there, it will be their erstwhile friends in the Political Enemy-Class, and they will cry “foul!” and there will be nobody left to speak for them.

As for Christmas? I always like to make the point that Liberty is not the daughter of order but its mother. For those libertarians who believe there is a God, well that’s fine, and I just remind the others that He gave Man free will, as a gift. OK, OK. We all know the concept evolved along with an ever-increasingly-ramified brain and the ability to comprehend self-hood, accumulate Memory, and use Learning, in the fulfilment of the brain’s biological brief, which is to “do what you think best in the next seconds of time, all the time, to keep us other cells alive, using what you know”.

As in 1.John i:- In the beginning was Order. Order was God, (which means God exemplified Order), and Order was “with” (which is to say “by” or “created by”) God. In other words, Order pre-existed everything observable in the Universe, which of course makes perfect sense to any good scientist. (The “science” is settled! Ha ha…) Now, we say that Liberty is Order’s mother, which is logical in a political sense and is always and everywhere shown to be true in history. This makes liberty the greatest of all gifts. So, all Men should be free, for in that state a civilisation founded on Order, freely arrived at, not needing “police”, or “cameras” or DNA datatbases, or other such low stuff, can arise.

 

I don’t like it….it’s too quiet…


Michael Winning

Not much about poor Ireland right now, perhaps the journos are all stuck in the snow.

It says over at Conservative Home blog (HOward Flight, he of the comments about paying the underclass to beget more labour voters) that Germany might leave the Euro. I can’t see a problem myself, the Merkel-Hilda just has to say the word. I think most of “her” people are baying quietly for he to do it.

Conservatives ought to know better by now


David Davis

Over at Guido’s place, someone called Tim Yeo, described as a “Conservative”, writes in the Guardian about increasing spending on “green” projects, such as windfarms and the like.

There is nothhing intrinsically bad about writing pieces for the Guardian, if that gets your rocks off for you. However, most liberals in the classical sense are more like classical conservatives than Guardian readers and contributors tend to be: they are also more skeptical than not, about the next neopastoralist-fad-religion such as GreeNazism.

Yeo of course, as you shall see, takes  one position where the placing of wind-farms is concerned if it benefits his pocket, and quite another where it will affect him personally regarding a particular one. This is standard GramscoStaliNazi behaviour and has been seen on countless occasions to date, in others.

I do not view these people while wearing quite the same charity-tinted glasses through which dear Sean Gabb looks, when he talks of the Enemy-Class. The extent of his magnanimity towards them astonishes me. To my mind, there can be no really useful place for many of the “top people” in this group, once an approximately libertarian civilisation emerges and becomes self-sustaining.

Perhaps the British State wants pubs to close


David Davis

h/t VelvetGloveIronFist

I’m not a conspiracy-theorist – really, honest, guv! But you wonder about the juxtaposition of the increasing rate of pub closures, coupled with a nationwide smoking ban in buildings used by the public and also with the feeling that “they” don’t want you to be able to plot gainst them and whinge about them to your friends, in places where “they” can’t bug you easily.

The pub closure stats make astonishing reading.

Here’s even more statistics from the same place.

Should libertarians be anti-capitalist today? « Cork Irish


 by David Webb

Should libertarians be anti-capitalist today?

Filed under: conservative politics — admin @ 9:37 pm

I am a convinced supporter of Dr Sean Gabb’s Libertarian Alliance, and will remain so. But I am not sure he is right to argue that libertarians should reposition themselves as opponents of capitalism, in particular, opposing limited liability companies, and the preferential advantages the limited company format gives to big business. It strikes me as a wheeze, an attempt to strike a left-wing pose, or what would be seen as one, in a context where many libertarian views are seen as either right-wing, or a cover for those who are right-wing.

Firstly, the UK in particular does well out of large companies. BP would have been a good example a while ago, but appears likely to fall foul of the US administration’s interpretation of US laws in such a way that BP, a limited liability company, is unable to pay what had appeared to be the maximum of US$75m in liability for oil companies beset by an oil spill. The City of London and large pharmaceutical, financial services and defence companies form the mainstay of British Big Business–to a large extent, we are still living off our former imperial glory (sadly one with Nineveh and Tyre these days), and the advent of a era of cottage industry small businesses would be profoundly negative for the medium-term outlook of the UK economy. Second, I would react with alarm to the idea that I should be held personally responsible for losses of a company I held shares in–another related point that Dr Gabb has encouraged discussion on. The joint-stock company format has allowed millions of small private investors to piggyback on the growth of the larger companies and make provision for their futures, and I think libertarians should see that as positive. The alternative is dependence on state pensions financed out of taxation.

Part of what Sean Gabb seems to be getting at is that the joint-stock corporation means that bourgeois capitalism is no longer with us. This fact complicates a lot of arguments that libertarians make: for example, where libertarians support freedom of association and therefore the right of a business to refuse the custom of anyone, for any reason (including race, sexual orientation, etc), what if the managers of the business do not personally own the business? What right is it of them to pursue these kinds of agenda when they do not even own the business concerned? If we supported freedom of association only where a business was owner-managed, as with a corner shop or a bed-and-breakfast guesthouse, we could end up supporting freedom only in certain circumstances, only at the margins of society.

I was impressed by the arguments of the late Sam Francis in the US, that a new managerial elite had effectively replaced the former bourgeoisie. In a development not anticipated by Karl Marx, the progression from feudalism to capitalism has been succeeded, not by a progression from capitalism to communism, but from capitalism to managerialism, obviating much of the Marxian doctrines. As corporations grew larger, owner management became rarer, and in fact impossible. Even where a business remains in the hands of the original family founders, they require personnel directors and many other similar managers to run the business for them. The joint-stock company further diluted the control of the original entrepreneurs, who in most cases sold up, to the extent that individual entrepreneurs no longer control significant parts of the economy today. There are no capitalists left.

With ownership so diffuse, managers control the economy today. This answers the essential question that Lenin asked of political economy, “Who, Whom?” The key point of political analysis is to work out who the elite is and who the governed are. The capitalist-style analyses of the socialist left are simply wrong, in that they give the wrong answer to “Who, Whom?” as there are no capitalists. What there are are managers in a technocratic economy-state. Sam Francis pointed out that all institutions are run by the same people today. A civil servant can leave for the private sector and take up a managerial job, and then move on to a managerial job in the church, and then move on to a similar job in the defence industry, and then into politics. The public sector, the private sector, the churches, the charities–these are run by a mobile elite flitting between them. Church finance directors are not deeply religious people who do the job out of faith, but rather finance directors who have had a number of posts elsewhere and demand six-figure salaries for running the finances of a church. Personnel directors of charities are not people who are seeking to work with the disadvantaged, but personnel directors who have worked elsewhere and demand large salaries and pensions, to be paid directly from sums raised ostensibly for charitable deeds. The same type of people are doing everything.

The bureaucratisation of the economy is aided by causes such as “anti-racism”, “multi-culturalism”, “health and safety” and “the environment”. These causes are the justification for the employment of technocrats. Even private companies have to employ large phalanxes of people whose jobs are essentially political. (In fact, abolishing limited liability would simply diminish risk-taking, and lead to the development of more technocratic jobs in the area of risk management. Whole departments of functionaries handling risk would be born in every private enterprise.) It seems that a large proportion of the private sector is directly dependent on government policy (not just companies that benefit from government contracts, but the semi-quangoized charities that depend on public handouts, and many other niche technocratic roles–think of the people who produce the Energy Performance Certificates for houses being sold or the people whose jobs depend on the exorbitant fees charged to check the criminal records of teachers and nursery nurses: their roles have been invented as an act of public policy, although performing no useful role).

It is worth asking what we can do about the managerial elite. Opposing limited liability seems to position libertarians as anti-capitalists, without addressing the argument that a new public-private managerial elite has replaced those capitalists. There are big businesses around today, but the problem is not that they are big, or even particularly predatory in behaviour, but that they have been captured by functionaries, technocrats who staff layers of middle and upper management that are strictly unnecessary. Big business needs to survive, because otherwise we would not be able to invest in these companies, and the average person would remain dependent on the state to provide for his long-term future. We need instead to think of anti-technocratic policies to cut down on the bureaucratic behaviour of functionaries in both public and private sectors.

I would like to severely cut down on the numbers going to university, as the universities have largely been remade as factories producing pro-managerial wannabe technocrats. The promotion of cultural agendas such as anti-racism and multi-culturalism should be criminalised–in the private sector as well as the public sector. It should simply be a criminal offence for companies to spend any money on political propaganda on cultural issues to their workers. There should be no public financial support for charities. There should be a clear distinction between the public and private sectors: I would argue that anyone whose livelihood depends on the public purse should not have the right to vote or stand for Parliament. This would severely cut down the pro-managerial electorate, and clarify that people who work in the public sector are our servants, and not the other way round. All consultancy work for the public sector should be banned, as should advertising by public-sector bodies. All public-sector workers should be limited to maximum salary of £50K. While consultants in the NHS and others should earn more–this should be facilitated by the privatisation of the health sector. If headteachers of failing schools hope to earn sixfigure salaries, they should do so in the private sector, where they would have to work to attract pupils. We could reintroduce annual parliaments (the norm in the Middle Ages) and ban political parties from funding candidates’ election campaigns. All policies should be designed with an eye on preventing control by the managerial elite.

The easy part is cutting down the public sector. The difficulty comes with the private sector: once the owner-managers of the bourgeois era have gone, are we condemned to technocratic management for ever? I would argue that many of the technocratic posts in the private sector have been created by government regulation, and by eliminating the regulation and reducing the availability of graduates, we could reverse the quangoization of the private sector. Countries like Japan and China have big businesses and limited liability, but have not seen the cultural trends of the Western countries, such as multi-culturalism, simply because there has been no attempt to delegitimize national identity in those countries–and if we economically disarm ourselves by opposing big business, we will find that the Far Eastern countries end up becoming our new masters. However, given that we have the cultural problem of self-righteousness among the middle class, and the Far Eastern countries do not, something has to be done to try to counteract it. Could we introduce compulsory John Lewis-style workers’ democracy into joint-stock companies, seeing as their managers do not actually own the companies? Maybe managers adopting a technocratic style could be “recalled” by their staff members? Ultimately, a society’s culture is not just a function of the size of its businesses or something like limited liability, but a product of political discussion, the broadcast media, the schools and the churches. It is these that are driving trends in the private business sector today and not the other way round, and so the restoration of our culture can only begin by sorting out the political parties, the media, schools and churches.

 

Should libertarians be anti-capitalist today? « Cork Irish

101 Years Ago – G.K. Chesterton on Home Rule


Christopher Houseman

Although he wrote the following passage in 1909 about the United Kingdom and the question of Irish Home Rule, G.K. Chesterton might just as well have written it about the EU and UKIP. Enjoy:

union is no more a good thing in itself than separation is a good thing in itself. To have a party in favour of union and a party in favour of separation, is as absurd as to have a party in favour of going upstairs and a party in favour of going downstairs. The question is not whether we go up or down stairs, but where we are going to, and what we are going for? Union is strength; union is also weakness. It is a good thing to harness two horses to a cart; but it is not a good thing to try and turn two hansom cabs into one four-wheeler. Turning ten nations into one empire may happen to be as feasible as turning ten shillings into one half-sovereign. Also it may happen to be as preposterous as turning ten terriers into one mastiff. The question in all cases is not a question of union or absence of union, but of identity or absence of identity.
Chesterton, G. K. (2010). Heretics (255). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Chesterton wrote the above in the context of correcting the idea that older politicians like Gladstone were idealists whereas newer ones like Joseph Chamberlain were materialists. In fact, he noted, the real difference between them was that Gladstone thought of his ideals as things he would like to change reality to resemble, whereas Chamberlain thought his ideals simply described the way things were in any case.

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

…that GCSE stuff’s not a “science paper”…THIS is a Science paper!


David Davis

A little time ago I published a recommended High School Science test paper, designed to better prepare those who were planning to pursue Natural Sciences of all kinds at a “University”. It’s been revisedf a little:-

Improved science paper for GCSE, devised by David Davis for the Libertarian Alliance, a free-market, civil liberties and Classical liberal education think-tank and publishing house in London, originally issued in Sept 2009.

PAPER ONE

TIME ALLOWED: THREE HOURS

1                                            Estimate the DC current, flowing in a one-turn copper coil which follows the earth’s equator, which would cancel the Earth’s magnetic field at either pole. (Take the horizontal component of field at lat 86o 30` N and longitude approx 30o W to be 0.18 gauss: vertical component = 0.9 gauss. State the relationship between the c.g.s Gauss unit and the MKS Telsa unit.)

2                                            Calculate the cross-sectional area of a square copper turn, smoothed and unblacked but not polished, and fully suspended, whose surface temperature will not exceed 800 K in dry air temperature of 310 K. Assume the specific conductivity of the supports to ground as being 0.2 Joule m-2 sec-1. If the young’s Modulus of the supporting material is 50GPa, calculate the minimum cross-sectional area of each support assuming you place one every five metres of copper conductor. State how many supports will need to be ordered to circle the Earth at your designated line, and, in still air, their minimum height to prevent the ground temperature rising more than 5 K.

3                                            Calculate the gravitational field strength existing between the Milky Way and a hypothetical galaxy 13 billion LY away. Use 2E42 Kg for the mass of the Milky Way: make an informed estimate of the mass of your further galaxy, stating clearly any assumptions you have made. Using your figures thus obtained, and your informed estimate of the mass of Galaxy M31 whose data regarding mass, position and relative speed you already will know, decide where approximately to place your spacecraft so that the resultant vector of gravitational forces from the three galaxies on it is zero, assuming no other interactions.

4                                            Estimate the cross-sectional area of each of two Duct-tape fixtures, (tape is of 48mm width and 0.5mm thickness) applied always parallel to the direction of force, which would be required to separate reliably two opposite charges of 1C each at a distance of one meter in free Space. (Young’s Modulus of Duck Tape is assumed to be 4E9 Pa.)

5                                            Estimate the number of moles of human DNA on the Earth as of now, its total estimated mass, and the molar mass of human DNA. (Assume that one haploid human genome, complete, = 1 molecule. Also assume that the mean volume of all human cells is about 1.9 picoLitres.)

Ignore human gametes in this answer, but also estimate the total number of human gametes present on the planet at any moment. Use your knowledge of human population trends and age-band-statistics to derive as accurate an estimate for this number as possible, differentiating male from female gametes. State the assumptions you have made about the relative frequency of each gamete.

6                                            Calculate the reduction in heat capacity of the Gulf Stream over a calendar year, caused by a wind farm of 10,000 turbines directly in the path of the airstreams above it at latitude 55oN, each turbine having an installed generating output of 100Kw, at a height of 100M and operating at a 16% duty cycle. Use your own knowledge of geography, natural climate movements, astronomy, the heat capacities of water and moist air. (You may assume that the Sun’s radiated power output is about 3.92E26 Watts and is deemed for this question to be constant.) Estimate the extra mass, surface area and volume of North Polar ice that would build up in the Barents, Norwegian and Greenland Seas in one year, assuming that no other areas are affected, as a result of this set of turbines. (For quickness of solution, assume polar ice above latitude 65 radiates IR into space at 25 Watts/M2 at all temperatures above 230K.) Specific heat capacity of water in liquid phase = 4.18KJ per Kg per degree K.

7                                            You are to deliver a shell weighing 1.5 imperial tons, at a range of 60 miles, from a barrel of diameter 460mm, at a target at the same elevation as the emplacement. (g = 9.81m/s2) Devise a suitable mathematical model from which the answers could be derived, and then calculate, in no particular order:

(a)   The barrel length

(b)  The time of flight

(c)  The maximum height reached by the projectile

(d)  The required muzzle velocity at 40o barrel elevation

(e)   The mean gas pressure (assume uniform) in the barrel

(f)    The acceleration of the projectile in the barrel

(g)  The muzzle velocity (you may neglect air resistance for this question.)

8                                            Calculate the number of 25Kg sacks of rice that would be required, and also the total volume of rice grains in cubic miles, if the Great King had been able to grant the wish of the Resident-Court-Mathematician who had invented Chess for him. The inventor asked for “one grain of rice on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, eight on the fourth, sixteen on the fifth…..”. Assume a grain of rice is a cylinder of length 7mm and diameter 1.25mm and that they pack approximately efficiently. State your grain-packing-density assumptions in your answer.

If the sacks used above are made of polythene, and must be 850 microns thick, estimate the area of film to be manufactured including excess cutting-flash needed on the packing lines, this amount’s mass, and the number of barrels of Saudi Heavy Crude that may have been used to make it. Use your knowledge of thermal cracking procedures, the mean composition of linear alkanes in Saudi heavy Crude, and also of the average mass of a “barrel” and how much of this is realistically convertible into monomers for this question’s use. Density of polythene (MDPE type) is about 0.932 g/cm3.

9   Calculate the rate of change of mean global temperature, stating in which direction it will move, if unbroken polar ice caps cover the Earth down to latitudes 50 North and 50 South. Assume the boundary is a straight line in both cases. State what percentage (to 3sf) of the earth’s current land area would have to be moved by tectonic drifting to be below latitudes 50N/50S, to bring about the cooling you have calculated.

Govt deficits – prevention is cheaper than repetition


Christopher Houseman

Courtesy of the Blazing Torches blog, I notice that the Germans are less than happy to be faced with the latest pay-as-you-go instalment to rent Greek membership of the Euro – and I can’t say I blame them.

The following is reproduced in an expanded form courtesy of a Facebook poster.

Given that the majority of my countrymen still can’t bear the thought of life without a “democratic” state to pick everybody else’s pockets on their behalf, I suggest a simple solution to prevent a repetition of this crisis once we’re out of the current mess.

A new law which stipulates that if, in any given year in peacetime, government debt exceeds 35 per cent of national income in the previous year, the following sanctions will apply. [Apparently, British governments consistently fail to raise more than about 38 per cent of national income in taxes regardless of who they are or what laws they pass].

- MP’s to face loss of pension rights, expulsion from parliament, and personal hereditary financial liability for voting in excess spending and/or failing to initiate and support a vote of no confidence in the government of the day. MP’s liability shall be limited to the excess over the debt ceiling, divided by the total number of MPs who voted in favour of the offending expenditure.

- Govt ministers to face the above plus charges of treason for carrying out such reckless borrowing.

- MP’s and ministers to face the Govt ministerial penalties described above if they try to provoke or vote for a war in order to evade the provisions of this law. Guilt to be established by publication of diaries, emails, letters, state documents, phone call transcripts, etc. followed by a referendum. Since they claim to speak for the nation in such matters, MP’s can likewise answer to the entire nation by this means. What could be more “democratic”?

By hereditary liability I mean that MPs’ descendants will inherit any outstanding financial liability on the death of any political leader convicted under the above law. Our children will all inherit these debts atm, so why shouldn’t theirs?

Doesn’t clean up the current mess, but would certainly discourage any attempt to repeat it… and any attempt to repeal such a law would result in the currency getting hammered in the markets. Likewise, I suppose any realistic attempt to lower the debt ceiling over time by means of amendments to the law would be rewarded in the markets.

Sadly, I don’t think anyone will have the guts to really tighten personal accountability of MPs and ministers in any form.

A friend of the original Facebook poster of this comment agreed, with the words “Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas”.

All too true with regard to our glorious leaders – but remind me, why did so many people vote in the recent elections? Perhaps somebody told them to pay no attention to the man in Number 10 in the Bernard Matthews mask…

Libertarian Alliance Comment on Election Result


Sean Gabb, Director, Libertarian Alliance

This was not a general election in which a distinctively libertarian force was likely to win power. There was also no chance of a win for traditionalist conservatives. We were not seriously consulted on the European Union, the American alliance, immigration, multiculturalism, drugs, due process civil liberties, the response to alleged man-made climate change, the dominance of big business corporatism, and many other issues of great importance. Instead, given the electoral system we have, we had a choice between difference emphases within a single consensus.

I chose to vote Conservative because, on balance, I believed that the Labour Party was the most likely to turn the country into a naked police state. I am glad that Labour lost. At the same time, I am glad that the Conservatives did not win an overall majority. Given that anything short of a huge and unmanageable majority would have given David Cameron all reason to suppose he was the Anointed One, a hung Parliament is the best outcome.

A Con-Lib pact or whatever sort will not address the issues mentioned above. But it probably will abolish identity cards and the database state that it fronts. It will probably not “regulate” home education. It may rein in the Police and the bureaucracy. Even if the country does not become a better place, it may not grow worse as fast as it would under a Labour Government.

Above all, a majority Labour Government would have fixed the system to keep itself in power forever. It would have used its own creatures in the Police and the bureaucracy to harass and perhaps even to murder its opponents. A Con-Lib pact will do none of these things. It will allow a free and fair election at the end of its term, in which some distinctively libertarian or traditionalist force may have a better chance of making its voice heard.

Richard Littlejohn understands the GramscoFabiaNazi mind


David Davis

He has to: he must attend more than one drinks-potty a week with the bastards. But it does shine through.

“Wait for Us to Fail, Then Vote BNP” The Conservative Hidden Agenda?


Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 192
28th April 2010
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc192.htm
Available for debate on LA Blog at  
“Wait for Us to Fail, Then Vote BNP!”
The Conservative Hidden Agenda?
By Sean Gabb
 

I think we can all agree that the Conservative campaign in this election has never been more than uninspiring. We have a Labour Government that has come close to bankrupting the country and to destroying it politically. It is run by a collection of unindicted war criminals and traitors, who have plainly been hard at work for the past decade enriching themselves on a scale unknown since the 18th century. All this, and the Conservatives are trying hard to avoid a hung parliament in which Labour may be able to carry on with Liberal Democrat support. 

This could be the effect of incompetence and general dishonesty. In part, I am sure it is. However, there may be another explanation, and I feel the time has come for me to make my own small offering in the election campaign. 

On Monday the 5th March 2007, I had coffee with someone I will call XYZ, and who was and still may be an associate of David Cameron. Why he wanted to see me, and why he thought it might be useful to tell me all this, I have never been able to explain. I can only say that the meeting did happen – it happened, I might add, in the hotel where Andrew Gilligan had his meetings with the unfortunate David Kelly! Afterwards, as is my custom, I made a record of the meeting in my diary. 

Started in 1977, and kept since 1991 in various computer formats, this diary has become a confession of my doings as scandalous or simply bizarre as anything in the novels of Richard Blake. When he was alive, Chris Tame used to lecture me on the value of taking a tape recorder into such conversations. I always refused his advice. Taping conversations is dishonourable. Anyone of intelligence will know that he is being recorded. And recordings are actually less useful for any legitimate purpose than written accounts made shortly after the event. They are certainly less useful practice for the analytical faculties. You may respond that writing out private conversations is as dishonourable as taping them. You are welcome to your opinion, but I do not share it. Where would history be without such accounts of what was said? Or you might say that it is dishonourable to publish such accounts while the relevant parties are alive. You may be right here. On the other hand, where written accounts are concerned, it is always open to an embarrassed party to deny that the conversation took place, or to insist that he was seriously misrepresented. 

But this is a digression brought on by the triumph of self-importance over the promptings of conscience. Without further attempts to justify myself, what I give below is the relevant diary entry, edited only to maintain a reasonable anonymity for the person I met. 

The Diary Entry 

Meeting with XYZ, The Charing Cross Hotel, Monday the 5th March 2007. 

[After some small talk irrelevant to this entry, XYZ moves to an explanation of the Conservative strategy] 

XYZ – The central fact of this nation is that its political and media classes are rotten to the core. These classes are made up of ageing radicals who’ve spent the past 30 years marching through the institutions, and of younger apparatchiks who don’t fully believe, but who accept the framework within which they operate. And it’s worse than this. A fish rots from the head down, and the rot in this nation has spread deep into the body. Key parts of the electorate may not consciously have embraced the statist and green and politically correct ideologies of the Establishment. But they have been desensitised to them. They regard any alternative as eccentric or even alarming. 

SIG – This is, of course, your fault. You did nothing when you were in office about the capture of ideological hegemony by these people. You have certainly been the only political force able to make any serious challenge to it since 1997. You have entirely failed to do this. We are now a couple of years from yet another election in which you will take part as outsiders. 

XYZ – You may be right, but that doesn’t change things now. What matters is that a Conservative Party that talks openly about a conservative agenda will be ruined by the Establishment. It will also not be believed even by the uncorrupted parts of the electorate – these have been lied to too often. Our only option is to announce a superficial acceptance of the new order of things. We must become as politically correct as everyone else. We must embrace blacks and gays and the public sector. We must give the Establishment no excuse for destroying us. This has succeeded so far as the Conservatives are now accepted as the next Government. 

SIG – And you suppose that lying your way into office will give you a mandate for radical change? If you run as “Blue Labour”, that is how everyone will expect you to behave in office. Besides, I’ve seen no evidence that your friends are as clever as you doubtless are. Very few people can consistently say one thing while believing something else. The problem with any hidden agenda is that it gets forgotten. I saw this with all those Tory Boy politicians who drifted through the libertarian movement in the 1980s. Perhaps they did believe all their early protestations of libertarian purity. Long before they’d crawled their way over broken glass into Parliament, they’d come to believe all the authoritarian platitudes that had been the price of success. I don’t believe what you are saying is a credible strategy for doing more than getting yourself and your friends back into office. 

XYZ – I’m not talking about a political coup. The next Conservative Government may do some of the necessary work of restoration. It will do this by undoing much of the centralisation of the past quarter century. [He refers at this point to a deeply unpleasant argument we had over dinner in May 1989. He accepts the critique of the centralisation and constitutional vandalism of the Thatcher and Major Governments, but tries to justify all this as a failed but honourable Leninist strategy of trying to smash the left. He accepts that this strategy was a failure and that it needs to be reversed.] 

XYZ – Giving control of police forces to locally elected chiefs will ensure that some parts of the country will escape the political correctness of central government. There will be no scaling back of the police state, but it might be used more for its alleged purpose of fighting what everyone regards as actual crime. This means that safe Labour areas will continue their descent into the gutter. But places like Kent and Surrey will be allowed to save themselves to some extent. 

XYZ – Taxes will be cut—but only by a division of the fruits of economic growth with continued high spending on health and education. 

XYZ – All else will be done by engineering circumstances in which radical action will seem to have been forced on an unwilling Conservative Government. For example, the European issue will be settled by a strategy that beings with all the Majorite “heart of Europe” rhetoric. Our Government will make solidly Europhile noises, and will give way on matters that cause outrage within the wider Movement. However, we will then engineer a crisis in Brussels, where we are bullied into accepting what we say is unacceptable. The crisis will proceed to the point where we announce we have no choice but to call a referendum on continued membership. And there will be unacceptable demands from Brussels – that is how these things work. We can portray ourselves as forced by circumstances into actions that we find unwelcome but also unavoidable. 

SIG – And suppose the people do not vote for withdrawal? 

XYZ – Then we face facts. If we can’t engineer a vote for withdrawal – not even in our own carefully chosen circumstances – we’ve lost. 

XYZ – We will tackle illegal immigration in the same way. Already, there are calls from within the Establishment for an amnesty of all the illegals. If granted, this will add at least ten million Labour voters to the electorate, and we shall be lost forever. In office, we will do nothing to check these calls. At last, we will give way to them – but only after calling a referendum. We will announce that a measure so bold and so unpredictable in its effect must be put to the people, not decided within the Establishment. We will then produce a ballot paper with a range of options. One of these will be for a complete amnesty. Another will be the rounding up and expulsion of all the illegals. Our Government will insist of having these options included on the ballot paper, and will then be scrupulously neutral during the campaign. We are sure that 80 per cent of the electorate will vote for expulsion. This will give the necessary mandate for getting them out. There will be room for exceptions so that the Establishment is not able to seize on the usual hard cases and discredit the whole policy. But that is our real policy on immigration. 

XYZ – Again, we expect something like an 80 per cent vote for expulsion. That will give us the mandate to force the bureaucracy into ruthless action. It also gives us the excuse for ruthless action when the lefty complaints begin. 

SIG – Even supposing I wanted any of this, I don’t believe a word you are saying. You forget everything Chris Tame and I were told in the 1980s about how the State could be scaled back by taking advantages of its own inner contradictions. All we got was a more efficient state. Why should I take any of what you are saying as more than self-delusion to lubricate a Tory sell-out to the ideological hegemony of the left? 

XYZ – Look, it may fail. If, however, the next Conservative Government does nothing good, that still moves the argument forward. At the moment, most of our people are anaesthetised by a decade of prosperity and by the vague belief that all problems created by Labour can be sorted out by voting Conservative next time, or by voting UKIP. A Conservative failure will be a shot of cold water in the face. It will force people to make serious choices they don’t presently think are necessary. 

SIG – The purpose of voting UKIP is mostly to put pressure on a Conservative leadership that understands no other argument than measuring the haemorrhage of its core vote. Indeed, it shows no sign of having understood that argument. 

XYZ – Sean, UKIP has imploded. [He refers to an expenses dispute with the Electoral Commission that appeared set to bankrupt the UK Independence Party: this conversation took place two years before the UKIP victories in the 2009 European elections.] This attack was not wholly an outside job. The Electoral Commission bent over backwards to avoid taking the action it did. The problem is that the UKIP leadership is generally arrogant and shambolic. The party is not a serious alternative to the Tories – we never lose large numbers of votes to it in any election that matters. But the impending collapse of UKIP is to be welcomed in terms of short term electoral advantage. Our loss of votes to it is not critical, but is annoying. More importantly, that – plus your anticipated Tory failure in government – clears the way for what may be the next step in British politics. 

SIG – This being another two decades of useless Conservative Governments? 

XYZ – No. The UKIP collapse is good in the long term so far as it allows the BNP to move further into the political running. UKIP is a useful safety valve. But its leaders are too stupid – or too controlled – to present any serious threat to the Establishment. The [British National Party] is different. It can’t be smashed. The Establishment has tried and failed. Its leaders have known each other for decades, and are used to working together in ways the UKIP leadership and activists could never manage. It cannot advance far at the moment because the Conservatives stand in its way. If the next Conservative Government is the sort of failure you believe it will be, we shall be pushed aside, and the path will be clear for the BNP. 

SIG – So that’s your argument. We keep our mouths shut while your people lie their way into office. If they mess up, the way is cleared for the BNP to do the job for you? 

Comment 

That is what XYZ told me. You can be sure this is not a verbatim record of our conversation. It is a summary, made on the same evening, of a long conversation that went back on itself and over itself, and covered several other issues. It is possible that I misunderstood what was said to me. It is possible that I missed something out, and that this is a seriously unbalanced account of what was said. But I have been keeping a diary since I was a boy; and several million words of narrative have given me the ability to record events and conversations with acknowledged accuracy. What I give above is the essence of what I was told. 

Now, I will say nothing about the morality of what was said. The real question is what was its meaning? I do not believe I am, or was, a person of sufficient importance to deserve this kind of private briefing. All else aside, I am not sure why I should have been thought to require a promise of what amounts to ethnic cleansing. But, once we move into this sort of backroom intrigue, the range of explanations can be endless. 

One possibility is that I was being used as a conduit for propaganda that the Conservative leadership was not able to make for itself. Perhaps I was supposed to publish all this at the time as part of an effort to reconcile the core vote to a strategy that has never been popular. Or perhaps I was supposed to publish it to further some private intrigue around David Cameron. Or perhaps XYZ wanted to spend an evening telling me falsehoods of which he hoped thereby to persuade himself. Was I simply the most convenient excuse for a guilty monologue? I could fill whole pages with speculations that go nowhere. I did not make the conversation public at the time. It was, indeed, the inspiration for my book Cultural Revolution, Culture War, published a few months later. This should be read as my extended response to the conversation. 

All I can say now is that the Conservative leadership has spent the past three years of relentlessly accepting the present order of things. I think this conversation was before David Cameron’s embrace of Polly Toynbee. It was certainly before his announcements of – so far unrequited – love for the BBC and the National Health Service. This might really be the Conservative hidden agenda. 

If, however, it is the hidden agenda, it is not working. As said, its principals may already have gone native: they may have come to believe their own propaganda. And it does seem that, even otherwise, it has failed. The proposed victims of the strategy have not been sufficiently lulled into acceptance of a Conservative victory; and the Conservative core vote has not held up in the manner required. The Conservatives are just over a week away from an election that they should win more convincingly than the Liberals won in 1906, and there is a serious chance that they will lose. 

Why am I publishing this now? It may explain what the Conservatives are really about. Otherwise, though, the conversation did take place. XYZ was at the time a person of some importance in the Conservative leadership. This makes the conversation of some historical importance. I am not fully aware of the arguments that took place within the Conservative leadership before David Cameron had made himself entirely supreme. But, even if I cannot say anything of who was putting it or of its weight, what I recorded in 2007 may have been one of those arguments. Oh – and it may get me a footnote in one of the more scholarly histories of our age. 

Of course, I refuse to discuss the identity of XYZ. I will ignore any private questions. If anyone puts names to me in public, my response will be “No comment”. And, of course, all the other many sensitive conversations I have recorded over the years will remain confidential. Some of them, after all, might be embarrassing to me! 

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/ya4pzuh

Sean Gabb et al, CIB Meeting, Birmingham, 17th April 2010


 

http://vimeo.com/11019202

How do I insert Vimeo videos?

Saturday 17th April 2010
2.30pm to 4.30pm 

CARRS LANE CHURCH CENTRE
Carrs Lane, Birmingham B4 7SX 

“WHO SPEAKS FOR THE PEOPLE OF BRITAIN”?

In the Chair

GEORGE WEST Chairman, Campaign for an Independent Britain

 Speakers

FIONA McEVOY The Taxpayers Alliance, West Midlands
“Our Money Under Our Control”

 Dr. SEAN GABB Director The Libertarian Alliance
“The Old Order Yielding Place to New”

 STUART NOTHOLT Vice-Chairman Campaign for an Independent Britain
“General Election “Candidate 2010”

 

DELE OGUN Solicitor in England & Wales
“Democracy Gone Wrong”

Libertarian Alliance Bulletin


Director’s Bulletin
26th March 2010

Greetings to all. Here are some of the latest doings of the Libertarian Alliance:

1. The third Annual Chris R. Tame Memorial Lecture and Drinks Reception

Date: Monday 10th May 2010 between 6.30pm and 9.00pm at the National Liberal Club, One Whitehall Place, London SW1 (nearest tube Embankment).
Subject: Public Goods and Private Action: How Voluntary Action Can Provide Law, Welfare and Infrastructure – and Build a Good Society
Speaker: Dr. Stephen Davies

The dress code for this event is lounge suit or smart casual.
To confirm your attendance please RSVP Dr. Helen Evans at hsevans@btinternet.com

Dr. Stephen Davies is Program Officer for the Institute of Humane Studies. He joined HIS from the UK where he was Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and Economic History at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has worked at IHS before, in 1991 and in 1992-93, as well as teaching at many Summer Seminars and events over the years. He has also been a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green. A historian, he graduated from St. Andrews University in Scotland in 1976 and grained his PhD from the same institution in 1984. He was co-editor with Dr. Nigel Ashford of The Dictionary of Conservative and Libertarian Thought (Routledge, 1991) and wrote several entries for The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism edited by Ronald Hamowy (Sage, 2008), including the general introduction. He is also the author of Empiricism and History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) and of several articles and essays on topics including the private provision of public goods and the history of crime and criminal justice. He has recently completed a book on the history of the world since 1250 and the origins of modernity. Among his other interests are science fiction and the fortunes of Manchester City. Dr. Davies works on many of the Institute’s educational programs, teaches at summer seminars, liaises with the HIS faculty network, and provides academic career advice and support to graduate students.

2.  Public CIB Meeting – Free Admission, Saturday 17th April 2010, 2.30pm to 4.30pm

CARRS LANE CHURCH CENTRE, Carrs Lane, Birmingham B4 7SX (10 minutes walk from city centre New Street station) See website www.carrslane.co.uk for directions

TIME FOR TRUTH: Who Speaks for the People of Britain?

In the Chair: GEORGE WEST – Chairman, Campaign for an Independent Britain

Speakers

Dr. SEAN GABB, Director The Libertarian Alliance
FIONA McEVOY, The Taxpayers Alliance, West Midlands
STUART NOTHOLT, Vice-Chairman Campaign for an Independent Britain & organiser of General Election “Candidate 2010”

Published by The Campaign for an Independent Britain www.eurosceptic.org.uk For 35 years, CIB has led efforts to safeguard our nation’s sovereignty. We are a democratic, independent and strictly remaining a non-party political pressure group, supported by membership subscriptions and donations from members of the public. Our objective is Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union whilst maintaining trading and friendly relations with other countries. Enquiries 07092 857684

3. Sean Gabb in The Daily Express

The front page headline in today’s issue of The Daily Express is “New EU Gestapo spies on Britons” (http://tinyurl.com/y85av9r). This is all about the latest outrage from the European Union, and carries a long quotation from the Thoughts of Director Gabb. He says: “It doesn’t surprise me that Europol has been handed these rather frightening powers,… We now live in a pan-European state so it was to be expected that it would have a federal police force with powers over us….There is a real danger that opposition to EU policies could make an individual liable to arrest…. For example, if Brussels adopts a hard-line stance on climate change, it’s conceivable that someone who broadcasts their scepticism of climate change may be accused of committing an environmental crime because they have undermined the EU’s efforts to save mankind.”

4. Sean Gabb in Vdare

I have written two articles this year for Peter Brimelow’s on-line journal VDare (http://vdare.com/gabb/index.htm). These are both about the persecution by the British State of the British National Party. I have had a few displeased comments on these. However, what is now being done to the BNP provides a good summary of how totalitarian England has become in the past few decades. It would all have been unthinkable back in the days when I used to amuse my friends with predictions of a police state. Another point worth making is that libertarians are allowed to defend the BNP, but only in this way: “I hate and deplore these evil men. I am myself Jewish/gay/transgendered/one-third-Tibetan. But, purely from a (possibly misguided) commitment to old-fashioned liberalism, I do beg you not to put them in prison.” To take this line is to concede moral hegemony to the left. You probably get away with defending the rights of the BNP in much the same way as camp entertainers like Liberace and Larry Grayson were seldom denounced as homosexuals. You do nothing to defend freedom of speech. A better defence is as follows: “Nick Griffin and his friends should have an absolute right to speak as they please on public issues. This was an unquestioned right in England before 1965. So far as it is no longer a right, we no longer live in a free country.”

5.Sean Gabb on Television

On the 7th March 2010, I went on the BBC1 television programme “The Big Questions”. My subject was whether voting should be made compulsory. The assumption behind the debate was that: voting is good, people are not voting in the right numbers, and so what should be done to raise the turnout? I disrupted proceedings by pointing out that people are not voting because the politicians are all scum. You can view my contribution here: http://www.vimeo.com/10010978

6. Speech on Libertarianism

On the 17th March 2010, I gave a speech to the Politics Society of The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School on libertarianism. I only had twenty minutes for may own speech, followed by twenty of questions, and this had to be a basic introduction. But I think I covered the main points. You can find the speech here: http://www.libertarian.co.uk/multimedia/2010-03-17-hbaske-sig.mp3

7. Libertarian Alliance Meetings

Our friends over at the other Libertarian Alliance continue with their monthly meetings. I can hardly ever get up to London to attend these. But they always look very interesting, and I receive endless reports of how interesting they have been. For details of the next meeting, contact David McDonagh for details: mcdonagh_d@yahoo.co.uk

8. Richard Blake Activities

Just before Christmas, my dear friend Mr Blake put the finishing touches to his masterpiece “Blood of Alexandria”. This is a sensitive account of land reform and mass-murder in late Byzantine Egypt. It will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in June 2010. You can pre-order copies from Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/yb4qvms He is now putting the last touches to his “Sword of Damascus”, which is a novel about Greek Fire and how the Arabs never laid hands on the secret. This will not be available until June 2011. But Mr Blake believes in having a long pipeline. Once “Sword of Damascus” is completed – probably in the next fortnight – he will settle properly to work on an as yet untitled thriller. It is set in the July of 2014. This is a world in which neither world wars happened. The map is still impressively red. The pound is worth a pound. The Triple Monarchy rules Central Europe with benign inefficiency. America, following the Second Civil War (1923-8), has become a nightmarish tyranny where a man can be shot on the spot for smoking. There is a serial sex killer on the prowl in London and Prague….

9. Sean Gabb on Facebook

I was nagged into joining this a few weeks ago. Unlike Linkedin, that was a complete waste of time, this has been most interesting. http://www.facebook.com/sean.gabb 

Best wishes to all.

Sean on Telly Yesterday


by Sean Gabb

Dear All,

I made a brief appearance yesterday on BBC1’s “The Big Question”, where I
argued that voting should not be made compulsory. Here is the relevant
footage: http://www.vimeo.com/10010978

On Saturday the 6th March 2010, I recorded a long interview with Al Gore’s
television station all about the decriminalisation of incest. Stand by for
news about where to find this.

Tomorrow morning, I shall be interviewed by BBC Radio Bristol about CCTV
cameras. I will upload the recording of this shortly after.

On the 17th March 2010, I shall be talking to Haberdashers’ Aske’s school
for boys all about libertarianism.

On the 24th April 2010, I shall be speaking at this event:

PUBLIC MEETING
FREE ADMISSION
Saturday 17th April 2010
2.30pm to 4.30pm

CARRS LANE CHURCH CENTRE
Carrs Lane, Birmingham B4 7SX
10 minutes walk from city centre New Street station.
See website http://www.carrslane.co.uk for directions

TIME FOR TRUTH
Who Speaks for the People of Britain?

In the Chair
GEORGE WEST
Chairman, Campaign for an Independent Britain

Speakers

Dr. SEAN GABB
Director The Libertarian Alliance

FIONA McEVOY
The Taxpayers Alliance, West Midlands

STUART NOTHOLT
Vice-Chairman Campaign for an Independent Britain & organiser of General
Election “Candidate 2010″

Published by The Campaign for an Independent Britain
http://www.eurosceptic.org.uk. For 35 years,CIB has led efforts to safeguard our
nation’s sovereignty. We are a democratic, independent and strictly
remaining a non-party political pressure group, supported by membership
subscriptions and donations from members of the public. Our objective is
Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union whilst maintaining trading
and friendly relations with other countries

. Enquiries 07092 857684

Sean Gabb: Should We Vote Conservative with Pinched Noses?


Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 190
23rd February 2010
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc190.htm

The 2010 General Election:
Advice on How to Vote
By Sean Gabb

There must, within the next few months, be a general election in England. I will not presume to advise my readers on how to vote. I will, instead, explain how I am at present inclined to vote, and will invite any comments that may arise.

My present inclination is to vote for the Conservative Party. I do not need to be told that these people are, for the most part, trash. I have been mixing in Conservative circles for thirty years now, and I have grown used to the idea of running home after most meetings for a bath. For the avoidance of doubt, let me admit what I think would be the nature of any Government led by David Cameron. It would not withdraw from the European Union. It would not roll back the multicultural elements of our police state. It would not require the police and other public bodies to behave with more humanity or common sense than they now do after thirteen years of Labour tyranny. It would not restore freedom of speech and association as they were understood in 1960. The identity card scheme might be cancelled – but not the national identity database that makes the scheme possible. Any cuts in government spending will fall on the services that are the excuse for such spending. None of the – often very well-paid – administrative and support jobs that are the real purpose will be cut. There will be no tax cuts. There will be no change to our external policy of slavish subservience to the United States. The “climate change” charate might even be become more scandalous.

This being so, why do I propose to vote Conservative? The answer is that a Conservative Government would probably continue with most of the suicidal or simply demented policies of the Blair and Brown Governments. But, at the end of five years, it would then allow a free election as these things have been commonly understood in England. A re-elected labour Government would not. When these beasts in human form lied their way to office back in 1997, they came in with the same assumptions as Hitler had in 1933. They did not regard themselves as having acquired a limited and renewable leasehold interest, but as having inherited the freehold. They and their clients would never again have to sell their services in any open market. They would reorder the State wholly to their own interest. No private sphere, no ancient and immemorial rights would stand in their way. 1997 was Year Zero of their Thousand Year Reich.

So long as it was reasonably plain that they could win the next few elections – if with a dwindling fraction of the total possible vote – they were willing to keep most of the old rules. Even so, they took steps to cartellise politics with party registration and “human rights” laws that now allow them, given courage, to shut down dissident organisations like the British National Party. For the past few years, however, they have lived in constant fear of losing the next election. And, if Labour does lose, that might cause the implosion of their Party. Therefore, if they do somehow win after all, we can be reasonably sure that they will never allow another free election. I doubt if they would go so far as abolishing elections, or openly rigging them. But they are already talking about schemes of “electoral reform” that would keep them permanently in office – even if office must be shared with the Liberal Democrats. They would also tighten the party registration laws, so that only those parties willing to guarantee the existing order would be allowed to run in elections. They might also extend their control over local politicians to Members of Parliament – setting up some system whereby Members who were too outspoken could be removed for “misconduct”.

For all their faults, the Conservatives would not do any of these things. Therefore, a vote for the Conservatives would be a vote for keeping the system open for a real party of national restoration – whatever that might be.

There is one other consideration. This is that, while a Cameron Government with a majority of less than fifty would be little different from Labour, a majority of more than a hundred would bring in new Members who had not been hand-picked for their willingness to obey. A big Conservative majority might force a Cameron Government to take a more liberal and patriotic line on the main issues.

Many of my friends assure me they will vote for the UK Independence Party or for the BNP – or, in one case, for an Islamic Party. I understand their frustration with the existing political arrangements. However, the main purpose of a general election is to send a majority into Parliament from which a Government will be drawn. Whatever individual chance Nigel Farage or Nick Griffin might have in their constituencies, the majority party after the next election must be either Labour or the Conservatives. I wish it were otherwise. But that is the choice we have to face. Do we want a pack of smirking hypocrites, who will leave office after another election? Or do we want what I have already called beasts in human form, who will never leave office thereafter, short of revolution?

Some of my friends insist that voting for minor parties will bring on a hung Parliament. This might be true. However, a hung Parliament would not give decisive weight to any of these minority parties. It would simply result in an auction between the two big parties for the Liberal Democrats. That would be about as bad as a Labour Majority. The choice remains Labour or Conservative.

Am I wrong? Is there some other viable option that I am overlooking? I look forward to hearing if there is. After all, if I do vote Conservative, it will be with forefinger and thumb clamped hard over my nose.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/ya4pzuh

Informers and Benefit Fraud: A Libertarian View. by Sean Gabb


Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 189
9th February 2010
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc189.htm

Informers and Benefit Fraud:
A Libertarian View
By Sean Gabb

I have just been sent one of the most disgusting newspaper articles I have seen this year. It is from today’s issue of The Guardian, and describes how the British Government is considering a scheme to reward those who inform on benefit cheats. Astonishingly, the Ministers seem to think this will make people more inclined to vote Labour at the next general election. If they are right, I am not sure how much longer I want to live in this parody of a country.

But, now I have said enough about the proposed scheme, let me explain what I find so disgusting about it.

The first is that, while every respectable person has a duty to report crimes against life and property, and to bear witness if required, there is much difference between this and calling into being an army of paid spies and police informers. Such people are not needed to report genuine crimes. Their general use is to act as the eyes and ears of an oppressive state. Established for one purpose, their use inevitably spreads to other areas. There is a natural temptation for paid informers to become agents of provocation. There is an equally natural temptation for them to become blackmailers. The resulting culture is one in which friends drop their voices when discussing anything in public that might be overheard to their disadvantage – and where new acquaintances, and even old friends, are viewed with suspicion. My wife grew up in Communist Czechoslovakia, where all this was a fact of everyday life. It was this, far more than the police and security services, who were responsible for a collapse of trust between ordinary people that has outlived is cause by twenty years.

It may be argued, that unlike drugs and prostitution, benefit fraud is not a victimless crime, but is theft from the taxpayers – but that, while they may be expected to report burglaries, individual taxpayers have no incentive to turn in someone who is claiming while working on the side. This is true, but needs to be seen in perspective. No one knows how much benefit fraud actually costs – the figure of £1 billion is believed to be a gross underestimate. However, even if the cost were five or ten times this figure, it would still amount to barely two per cent of total government spending. Most of this goes on paying for services that, where not useless, are harmful to life, liberty and property. Look, for example, at Trevor Phillips. In 2006, he was appointed Chairman of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights at a salary of £160,000. Doubtless, this has since gone up. Even so, his initial salary was equal to more than 2,488 weekly payment of jobseeker’s allowance at the maximum single rate of £64.30. In return for this, his most famous achievement to date has been to hound the British National Party into not insisting that its members should be white – while doing nothing to stop the various Black Police Associations from insisting that their members should be black. As if his published salary were not enough, Mr Phillips was revealed in 2008 to be the majority shareholder in Equate Organisation, which offers a “discreet, customised service” on how to handle the sort of equality issues that are investigated by his Commission. Oh, and the man who is employed to make then nearest things acceptable in public to puking sounds every time the name Nick Griffin is mentioned apparently keeps a bust of Lenin on his desk.

But if more loathsome and better paid than most of the others, Mr Phillips is just one among hundreds of thousands of New Labour apparatchiks given our bread to eat in return for oppressing us. I have no doubt these people collectively earn more than the £116 billion that is paid out every year on benefits. According to the probably fake statistics that attended the informer proposal, benefit fraud may cost every taxpayer in this country £35 a year. Well, I for one, can live with that. Once all the excise duties are paid, it is much less than a single tank of diesel for my car. The New Labour State costs me upwards of half my income, plus my liberty and my sense of nationality.

The only people who are really harmed by benefit fraud are those committing it. They lose yet more of their self-respect. This being said, the benefit rates are so awful that I fail to see how anyone can feed himself and his children without some cheating. Certainly, those on public welfare should not be able to buy cars and flat screen televisions. But they should be able to pay their heating bills and afford Christmas presents for their children without putting themselves into the hands of loan sharks.

And I do not believe that this sort of benefit cheat costs me anything approaching £35 a year. Everyone knows that the benefits system is being systematically milked by gangs of – usually foreign – criminals. Everyone knows that key parts of the system have recently been captured from the inside by organised criminals. Twenty years ago, a friend mine worked behind the counter of a Post Office in South London. He told me at the time how workers from the local benefit office used to come round to cash cheques they had written out to each other. I shall be most surprised if this turns out now to be the worst manner of inside fraud. And these are frauds that can and should be detected by ordinary policing. They do not require the machinery of a police state.

This brings me back to the informer scheme. I cannot help mentioning that it has been by Jim Reid, the Scottish Secretary. He is said once to have been a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Trust a Labour politician to have dropped all his proclaimed ends of raising up the poor – but not the police state means these ends were supposed to justify. I hate everyone of my generation who went into politics. Thirty years ago, they sneered at me and people like me as “selfish” and “abhorrent”. They spent the next twenty years insisting to each other and anyone who was stupid enough to listen to them that, when they came into their own, ordinary people would live in dignity and want for nothing. They have since then matured into the worst ruling class this country has seen since the Normans assimilated. The expenses scandal is nothing compared with how they have governed the country in public.

Now, I suppose I should offer some positive recommendations of my own for dealing with benefit fraud. I doubt anyone important is listening to me. But let it be supposed that some political party were to consult me on welfare reform – what would I suggest?

In the short term, I would set the police on catching the organised gangs of benefit cheats. Once these were in prison or deported to their countries of origin, much of the problem would have been solved. For the rest, I would advise looking the other way unless some minor fraud came to the attention of the authorities in the normal scheme of enforcement.

In the longer term, I would try to make most of the state welfare system redundant by lifting the tax and regulatory burden that stops the poorest people in this country from looking after themselves. And this is not – let me say at once – some soft version of the neo-liberal gloating about forcing welfare recipients into work by cutting their already pitiful benefits. Though it may always exist in a free society, the wage system as we have known it during the past few centuries is neither natural nor desirable. It is a cleaned up version of the bottom end of the feudal system, transmitted to industrial society via the management of domestic servants.

Middle class people often moan about the surly attitude of the working classes – about their unwillingness to do as they are told unless they are banned from union membership, or unless their unions can be taken over by middle class bureaucrats who then sell their members out. But I can think of no middle class person who would like working class conditions of work. I remember reading some years ago of a B&Q warehouse in Bristol. The casual workers employed there were electronically tagged. If anyone stopped moving for more than ten minutes, a computer shouted a message into his earpiece to report to the management office. No one does this sort of work unless he is desperate. No one who does it can have any pretensions to dignity. To say people have a choice whether to work for B&Q is a patronising joke. It is B&Q or Tesco, or some other demeaning job. It is like saying a man has a choice of meals if the menu shoved under his nose offers turd sandwich or snot pizza.

What I have in mind is letting poor people start their own micro-businesses in the manner described by Kevin Carson. Let someone start a coffee shop in the front room of his house. Let a family brew beer and sell it. Let people open little schools to teach reading and writing. Let them look after other people’s children. These things are currently not permitted. Or they are prevented by taxes and regulations that raise the fixed costs of doing business to the point where unreasonably large revenues must be generated year after year. Some people may get rich from doing this. Most will not. But enrichment is not the purpose. The real purpose is to give people the ability to survive without having to rely for all their income on salaried work.

It goes without saying that all subsidies to existing large businesses should be cut off at once – no more transport subsidies that allow goods to be moved about at less than full cost; no more interventions abroad to stabilise export markets, or secure access to artificially cheap goods and labour; no more taxes and regulations that can be carried by big business as cartellised costs, while flattening new entrants to the market; above all, no more limited liability laws that foster the growth of huge joint stock enterprises that are little more than the economic wing of the ruling class.

Where welfare is concerned, people should be enabled to join together in free mutual societies, accepting members and offering such benefits as may be agreeable to the relevant parties. This means no more taxes and financial regulation, and no more money laundering laws that, again, are little more than state cartellisation.

One of the failings of libertarianism – and I do not exempt myself from past guilt – is that we have too often argued as if actually existing capitalism was the free market. We may have conceded that business was too highly taxed and regulated, and that this frequently was turned to the advantage of the bigger firms in any market. But the assumption has too often been that a free market is effectively Tesco minus the state – that the wage system and big business were both natural and desirable institutions. As said, they are neither. The state capitalism that, in the 1980s and 1990s, we called Thatcherism or Reaganism was nothing approaching a free market. It was better than state socialism. But that is not saying very much. It has to some extent been our fault if ordinary people have been offered an apparent choice between a system in which a lucky few grow gigantically rich through connections and the ability to shuffle paper in the accepted ways, and ordinary people cannot buy houses and have children without going head over heels into debt – and sometimes not even then – and the present system of shadow boxing between multinational corporations and a huge superstructure of at best intrusive and at worst corrupt officials.

I might end by accusing the present Government of moral and intellectual bankruptcy. But this would be to absolve the equally if differently useless Tories. It would also be to concede that any of these people ever had anything good to offer. They are evil. Never mind the ideals they still sometimes ritualistically claim to guide their actions. All they have ever had to offer is a land fit for police spies and agents of provocation. They must all be destroyed – politically and financially.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/ya4pzuh

Let’s stop pretending…


…pretending what?

David Davis

Pretending that this government is “inept”, “out of touch”, “has lost it”, has “given up governing”, that “Gordon Brown has no idea…”…and the like. Even Benedict Brogan thinks that all it’s able to do is Scorch the Earth in advance of a (probable) Tory win in 2010.

Wrong. Everything, and I mean everything, that it has done since 1990, and likely before that, was directed towards the outcome we now face. I would go further, and take the start-point back to the synthesis of the evil called British Fabianism.

Brown, with Blair’s connivance, actively ran the UK’s credit into the buffers, so he could _destroy a future Tory administration charged with the impossible task of clearing up_ . It didn’t matter, and won’t matter, if the Labour Party was/is/will be fiscally bankrupt after the next election, for the British masses /will/ vote out the unsuccessful Tories (or whoever) and put back “the people who know how to get on with the job”. Their friends in the media will ensure it.

Nothing will be done to break this cycle. Not until a revolution comes: and the sad thing is that there are not enough people left alive here who know how to make a successful one happen. That is why my post of yesterday was so pessimistic.

Director’s Bulletin, 9th November 2009


 

Director’s Bulletin
9th November 2009

I would have written this Bulletin several weeks ago. However, I can supply many excuses for not having lifted a finger. The most convincing – and perhaps the truest – is that I have been installing Windows 7 Professional 64 bit. Mr Gates wrote to me at the beginning of October, offering me a copy of his latest operating software at the hard to refuse price of £30. So I paid him and downloaded the software. Installing it went like a dream. I didn’t have to download a single driver. It then took several weeks to get the whole system working as I wanted. But I have now been able to fit 8Gb of RAM and give myself what may be more computing power than NASA had in 1969. Many of my friends are hostile to the idea of intellectual property rights. So, for that matter, am I. No doubt, though, Mr Gates does make exceedingly good software. On this occasion, he well deserved his £30. So here goes with the Bulletin.

The LA Conference

Our London conference went off very well. As usual, we were solidly booked, and we had to turn away a few last minute arrivals. The speeches were uniformly good. Guido Fawkes gave an interesting and entertaining speech at the dinner. This year, moreover, we seem to have got the video recording right. I bought a Canon HG10 high definition video camera late last year. This gave me something like television quality video footage. As with all cheapish video cameras, however, the sound quality was rather drossy. So, a few weeks back, I bought a Rode external microphone. This perked the sound up no end. I didn’t get round to hiring the builders’ lights that I kept promising myself. Even so, I think the quality of the video footage is remarkably good. Many thanks to Mario Huet for manning the camera.

You can see the video footage for yourselves by going here: http://vimeo.com/channels/65328

Other Video Files

Now that I can process high definition video at better than real time speeds, I’ve decided to start taking full advantage of the Vimeo account I bought earlier this year, and to upload much better versions of stuff I first made available via Google Video. So please keep an eye on my Vimeo account – http://www.vimeo.com/seangabb. I plan to upload 5Gb a week of video. This will include the celebrated Botsford Archive.

The Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize

You may recall that this year’s title was “Can a Libertarian also be a Conservative?” I had a number of interesting submissions. After much thought, I decided to award the prize to Antoine Clarke. I thought his submission was the best. What most impressed me was that he went beyond the reading matter that I suggested, and he used a quotation from Lord Acton in a most relevant way. We shall publish his essay just as soon as our Editorial Director has found the time to set to work.

Personal Message

At the Conference, I met two people who turned out to be neighbours of mine here in Deal. One of them must walk past my front door every time he goes to the chip shop. Well, with the Baby Bear now jabbering away and insisting on endless viewings of Eddie Cantor in Keep Young and Beautiful and Melina Mercouri in τα παιδιά του Πειραιά (both courtesy of YouTube), Mrs Gabb and I aren’t up to much entertaining. But we can certainly offer coffee. So do please get in touch.

Libertarian Outreach

In the past month, I have written articles for Gay Times and for VDare. The first was about drug legalisation. Sadly, Gay Times doesn’t put it stuff on-line. So, if you want to read my case, you’ll have to put on dark glasses and brave the giggles of Miss Patel in her school uniform as you shamble round your local newsagent – unless, of course, you already subscribe. The second you can read here: http://www.vdare.com/gabb/index.htm

I’m rather pleased with this and with my other articles for VDare. What I’m trying to do is to make a case against the British National Party that doesn’t rely on smears. I don’t believe the BNP is nowadays a national socialist party. Much of what it says – and almost certainly believes – is attractive to millions of people in this country. I admire Nick Griffin for his courage for standing his ground in our post-modern police state. I doubt if I’d be half so brave were Libertarianism to become as unpopular with the authorities as white nationalism is. This being said, he and the entire leadership of the BNP are tainted by what they used to believe. It would be a shame if they were to become the only alternative to the political cartel that now governs England. And I am able to say this to an audience that has not so far been exposed to honest criticism of the BNP.

Other than this, I’ve done quite a lot of radio. And I do promise, now my computer is so wonderfully powerful, to start recording and uploading all this again.

Libertarian Alliance Meetings

Our friends over at the other Libertarian Alliance continue with their monthly meetings. I can hardly ever get up to London to attend these. But they always look very interesting, and I receive endless reports of how interesting they have been.

The next meetings are:

On Monday, 9 November David McDonagh will talk on “Why Classical Liberalism faded after 1860.”
On Monday 14 December, Kristian Niemietz will talk on “20 Years After: The Fall and Rise of Socialism in East Germany”
On Monday 11 January 2010 Antoine Clarke will talk on “The Wisdom of Crowds”.

Contact David McDonagh for details: mcdonagh_d@yahoo.co.uk

Libertarian Holidays

With my two women, I went on holiday in September to Crete. This was my own fifth time there, and Mrs Gabb’s second. This was the first time we had a child with us, and that would always have made it a more difficult time. However, the Baby Bear behaved herself remarkably well. Our problem was the Greeks. They joined the Euro on the basis of massive false accounting, and an optimistic rate of exchange, and then allowed an inflation of costs to continue that has now made their price level into a joke. A result of this was that Crete was almost empty of tourists. Most of the coastal resorts were almost empty. The historical and archaeological sites were abandoned. Unfortunately, rather than cut prices in an attempt to attract the remaining business, the response of the taverna proprietors has been to rip off every foreigner who steps through the door. We spent a fortnight paying about three times more for indifferent kebabs than the Turks round the corner charge here in Deal.

Also, I find myself increasingly dismissive of the modern Greeks. When I was first out there in 1987, I found that they could mostly understand me if I spoke slowly in their strange pronunciation. Nowadays, they seem so pleased with the ugly patois they call Greek that they cannot even follow quotations from the New Testament. Indeed, on our second Sunday, I insisted on attending a church service. The church was empty except for some German tourists. The priest responded to my carefully phrased greeting with the sort of stare you get from a caged animal. He and his deacon raced through the service as if they were trying for a record, then ran out of the church. Mrs Gabb and I stayed awhile to look at some decidedly sub-Byzantine icons and much evidence of mind-rotting superstition. Then we went shopping.

No, my dear readers, if you want a holiday in the Mediterranean, my advice is to avoid Greece. The people nowadays are too degenerate and the prices too high. A better place by far is Bodrum in Turkey. The Turks in general are a fine people – proud and clean and brave. Bodrum in particular is a superb holiday resort. Within a five hour radius of the places, you have Ephesus, Miletus, Hierapolis, Laodicea and Aphrodisias, and many other places of note. There are golf courses, shops, watersports, bars, restaurants, and at least two branches of the Migros supermarket. The moderately Islamic government there has decided to squeeze the taxpayers with high duties on drink. But cigarettes are still a pound a packet, and the Turkish police usually leave foreign tourists alone who break the Euro-style public smoking ban.

And the jewel of Bodrum, in my view, is the Hotel Karia Princess. Owned and run by libertarians, this is a five star establishment, boasting a swimming pool, gymnasium, Turkish bath and some of the best cuisine in the Eastern Mediterranean: http://www.kariaprincess.com

The summer season in Bodrum can be rather oppressive, wherever you choose to stay. But, outside the summer season, I can think of no better place to stay than the Hotel Karia Princess. Try it out. If you haven’t been there already – and I have stayed there four times now – you will be astonished and delighted. My friend Mr Blake even tells me that, once his Blood of Alexandria has made him filthy rich, he will become a permanent guest there.

Any Other Business?

I think the Libertarian Alliance is holding a Christmas reception in December. Stand by for announcements on this. I shall be speaking to some undergraduates at Warwick University on the 19th November. My subject will be something like “Libertarianism: Left or Right?” I plan, between now and Christmas, to convert twenty audio tapes of interviews that Chris Tame conducted with Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon and upload these to the Web. I will give much moral support to Mr Blake while he works on The Sword of Damascus, which is a long novel about weapons of mass destruction during the early wars between Byzantium and the Caliphate. Like everything else he writes, this will all be in the best possible taste.

Oh – and is there anyone out there who has a socket 775 quad core processor he no longer wants? Donate this to me, and Mr Blake will send you an autographed copy of his Terror of Constantinople. You may recall that this received a most flattering review in The Daily Telegraph:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Terror-Constantinople-Richard-Blake/dp/0340951141

Best wishes to all,

Sean

Sean Gabb
Director, The Libertarian Alliance
sean@libertarian.co.uk
Tel:  07956 472 199  07956 472 199
http://www.libertarian.co.uk
http://www.seangabb.co.uk
http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk
http://libertarianalliance.wordpress.com
FREE download of my book – Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back
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Director’s Bulletin, 9th November 2009

The Conservative Challenge, by Sean Gabb


Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 187
20th October 2009
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc187.htm

The Conservative Challenge
By Sean Gabb
(Text of a Speech Given to a Conservative Association
On Friday the 16th October 2009)

Introduction

On Friday the 16th October 2009, I spoke to a Conservative Association in the South East of England. Though I did not video the event, and though –  on account of the heated and not always good natured debate the followed my speech – I was asked not to identify the particular Association to which I spoke, I think what I said is worth recording. Therefore, I will write down my words as best I can recall them. I have suppressed all the questions, but carried some of the answers into the main text. Otherwise, I will try to keep the flavour of the original.

The Speech

Because of transport difficulties that prevented many people in this room from arriving on time, I am beginning my speech an hour later than expected. I am honoured by the Chairman’s apology for the delay. However, the series of conversations and arguments with which those of us who were here entertained ourselves while waiting have given me the idea for a speech that is still on my stated theme, but that I think will be more interesting than the one I had in mind. Now, this theme – “The Conservative Challenge” – has been routinely given to speakers at Conservative gatherings since at least the 1880s. The question that must always be answered is how we can remain the free citizens of an independent country in ages that have been progressively hostile both to individual freedom and to national independence. I did have a plan loosely worked out in my head. What I will do instead, though, is take some of our bar room discussions and summarise or expand on them as seems appropriate. I will do this by giving short statements of what was said to me, and then by giving my responses.

1. This has been a bad Government

I disagree. Oh, if you want a government that defends the country and provides common services while keeping so far as possible out of your way, the Labour Government elected in 1997 has been a disappointment. This does not mean, however, that the Blair and Brown Governments have been a failure in their own terms. They have, on the contrary, been very successful.

The purpose of the Government that took power in 1997 was to bring about a revolutionary transformation of this country – a transformation from which there could be no return to what had been before. The English Constitution has never been set down in a written document, and there has never been any statement of fundamental rights and liberties that was protected from change by ordinary legislation. Instead, these rights and liberties were protected by a set of customs and institutions that, being legitimised by antiquity, served the same purpose as formal entrenchment. It can be hard, in every specific case, to justify trial by jury, or the rule against double jeopardy, or the idea that imprisonment should be for a specified time and no longer, or the right to speak freely on matters in the public domain. There are principled arguments that satisfy in the absence of strong passions. But, strong passions being granted, the best argument has always so far been that these things have always been in England, and that to change them would be to break the threads that tie us to the past.

It would be childish to argue that the Ancient Constitution was in good health until 1997, when it was suddenly overturned. Unless there is an catastrophic foreign invasion, constitutions are not destroyed in this way. Ours had been sapped long before 1997. To say when the tipping point was reached, and by what means, would take me far beyond my stated theme. However, what remained of the Constitution has, since 1997, been dismissed as a set of “outmoded” relics, and large parts of it have been swept away. Those that remain have been transformed beyond recognition.

Let me give myself as an example. My first degree was in History. Much of this was taken up with a study of late antiquity and the early middle ages. But some of it was given to English history between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Of course, the Constitution changed within these periods, and had changed much since then. But I could take up the debates of the Cavalier Parliament, or a pamphlet written during the American War, or a case published in the State Trials, and find myself within a conversation of the English people. I was not in the same position as a French undergraduate, who, for anything published before 1791, would find himself in a world of institutions, and territorial names, and weights and measures, and monetary units, and general assumptions, as alien as those of a foreign country.

This has now changed. Anyone who, this month, has started a degree in History or Law or Politics will find himself in the same position as that French undergraduate. We have new legislative bodies all over the country, and new principles of administration, and new courts with new procedures and languages, and new lines of authority terminating in bodies outside the country. The work is not yet complete. But already, the conversation of the English people has been made largely incomprehensible to those born since I was an undergraduate.

Whether the changes can be justified as improvements – or whether they could have been made with more regard for economy and consistency – is beside the point. The main purpose of change has been to seal off the past. That past has been delegitimized in order to strip rights and liberties of the associations that used to protect them. Not surprisingly, we find ourselves in a country with a Potemkin democracy, where speech and publication are censored, where the police are feared, where we are continuously spied on as we go about our business, where we can be imprisoned without trial or charge for a month, and generally where we find ourselves having to deal every day with administrative bodies given powers that others who have not yet had felt them still cannot believe possible.

On any normal assumptions, the country has been governed very badly since 1997. On the assumptions of the Government, things have gone very well indeed.

2. This country is ruled by people who have been corrupted by bad ideas.

Again, I disagree. For centuries now, England has been governed by people rather like ourselves. Sometimes, they have governed well, sometimes badly. But we have never had to doubt their fundamental good faith. This has changed. The people who now rule this country have not been led astray by bad ideas. Rather, they are bad people who choose ideologies to justify their behaviour.

There are ideologies of the left – mutualism, for example, or Georgism, or syndicalism – that may often be silly or impracticable, but that are perfectly consistent with the dignity and independence of ordinary people. These are not ideologies, however, of which those who rule us have ever taken the smallest notice. These people began as state socialists. When this became electorally embarrassing, they switched to politically correct multiculturalism. Now this too is becoming an embarrassment, they are moving towards totalitarian environmentalism. Whether in local or in national government, their proclaimed ideologies have never prevented them from working smoothly with multinational big business, or with unaccountable multinational governing bodies.

It is reasonable to assume that, with these people, ideas are nothing more than a series of justifications for building a social and economic and political order within which they and theirs can have great wealth and unchallengeable power.

They tell us they want to end “child poverty” and “build a more equal society”. In fact, they have employed an army of social workers to terrorise every working class family in the country – an army of social workers backed by closed and secretive courts, and that may even be selecting children for legal kidnap and sale to barren middle class couples. They have pauperised millions with policies that keep them from achieving any reasonable independence and subject them to the bullying of credentialed bureaucracies.

They tell us they want a more “inclusive” and “diverse” society. They have certainly welcomed the mass immigration that they enabled the moment they came into office. It has been useful for impoverishing the working classes – in their attitudes and behaviour once perhaps the most conservative people in the country. It has also provided much evidence for their claim that the old England into which we were born has passed away, and that we need a new constitutional settlement – a settlement much in need of censorship and endless meddling in private choices. Even so, they make sure to live in white enclaves and to send their children to private schools where class photographs look much as they did in 1960.

They tell us they want to save the planet from “climate change”. If they have made Phillips and Siemens rich from their light bulb ban, they still fly everywhere and drive everywhere, and light up their own houses and offices like Christmas trees.

These are bad people. They must be regarded as such in everything they do. And we must hope that they will one day be punished as such.

3. The country is misgoverned.

Let me go back to my first point. There is no doubt that everything done by these people has involved huge cost for little of the promised benefit. We have computer systems that do not work. We have new bureaucracies that do not achieve their stated purpose. The National Health Service, for example, has had its budget doubled or trebled in the past twelve years. Yet the waiting lists are as long as ever, and the hospitals are dirtier than ever. Medical incompetence and even corruption and oppression are now everyday stories in the newspapers.

Again, however, these are failures only on the assumption that money has been laid out for the purpose of improving services. It has not. The real purpose of washing a tidal wave of our money over the public services has been partly to raise up an army of clients more likely to vote Labour than anything else, and partly to give these clients powers that tell everyone else who are the masters now. On this assumption, the money has not been wasted at all. It has indeed been an “investment in the future”.

What is to be done?

I often speak about an electoral coup in which a genuinely conservative government came to power and set about undoing the revolution. This involves shutting down most of the public sector. I am not saying that poor people would no longer receive their benefits or medical attention free at the point of use. These are not in themselves expensive. They may have undesirable consequences in terms of smothering personal responsibility and voluntary initiative. But these are problems to be addressed over a long period during which no settled expectation need be denied. What I do say is that the bureaucratic machine that bleeds us white in taxes and grinds us into obedient uniformity should be smashed to pieces that cannot easily be put back together. It should be smashed because we cannot afford it. It should be smashed because it oppresses us. It should be smashed because it is an agent of national destruction.

I once wrote a book about why this should be done and how to do it. Sadly, it will not be done in the foreseeable future. We shall probably have a Conservative Government within the next nine months. But this will not be a government of conservatives. If we want a preview of the Cameron Government, we need only look at what Boris Johnson has achieved during the past year as Mayor of London. He has not closed down one of the bureaucracies set up by Ken Livingstone and his Trotskyite friends. The race equality enforcers are still collecting their salaries. The war on the private motorist continues. Rather than cut the number of New and Old Labour apparatchiks, he is currently putting up taxes. David Cameron will be no better. He may be forced to make some changes and to slow the speed of the transformation. The transformation will continue nevertheless.

We need to speculate on the purpose and nature of counter-revolution. It is useful to know what ought to be our long term purpose. It inspires us to action in an otherwise bleak present. But we need also to know what present actions are to be inspired. My advice is that we need, in all our thoughts and in whatever of our behaviour is prudent, to withhold our sanction.

Any system of oppression that does not rely on immediate and overwhelming – and usually foreign – violence requires the sanction of its victims. We cannot all have guns put to our heads all day and every day. We therefore need to believe, in some degree, that what is done to us is legitimate. We must believe this if we are to obey. We must believe it if those who oppress us are to keep their good opinion of themselves. I suggest that we should withhold that sanction. I do not say that, without our sanction, the illegitimate power that now constrains our lives will fall immediately to the ground. I do suggest, however, that it will be insensibly undermined, and that it may therefore collapse suddenly in the event of some unexpected shock. This is how Communism died in Eastern Europe. It may be how the New Labour Revolution will die here.

The Police

One of the myths, endlessly repeated through what is called “Middle England”, is that the Police are among the victims of Labour rule – that they have been forced to act in ways that they find abhorrent or absurd. But this is only a myth. The Police are no friends to respectable people in any class or race. When I was a small boy, I was reduced to tears by what seemed a gigantic policeman in a tall helmet. One glare of his bearded face, and I was straight off the municipal flower bed where I had thrown my ball. He spoke to my grandmother before moving to other business, and that was the end of my transgression.

His sort retired decades ago. They have been replaced by undersized, shaven headed thugs – frequently with criminal records – who take delight in harassing the respectable. If you are robbed or beaten in the street, they will be nowhere in sight. If you approach them to complain, they will record the crime and send you on your way. If, on the other hand, you try defending yourself or your loved ones, they will prosecute you. They will do nothing about drugged, aggressive beggars, but they will jump on you if they see you smoking under a bus shelter. These people have been given powers that move them closer to the East German Stasi than to the uniformed civilians many of us can still remember. They can arrest you for dropping a toffee wrapper in the street. Once arrested, you may be charged, but you will more likely be released after being fingerprinted and having DNA samples taken and stored. We do not know what other body or government will be given your DNA. We do not know what future oppressions it may enable. Regardless of any littering charge, you will have been punished already.

We should not regard the Police in any sense as our friends. They are not. This does not mean that we should have no dealings with them. There are times – insurance claims, for example, where things must be reported. There are times when the Police are needed, and when they may give some limited assistance. Even so, we should on no account behave to them as if they were uniformed civilians. They are an armed, increasingly out of control pro-Labour militia.

The Law

We were all of us born in a country where the phrase “The Law is the Law: it must always be obeyed” did not seem absurd. Yes, it may not have been quite as we were told. By and large, however, it was a law made by our representatives and with our loose consent – or it was made by Judges rationalising honestly from assumptions grounded in common sense notions of justice. It is that no longer. For all its blemishes, the old laws of England were there to stop us from knocking into each other too hard as we went about our business. Its function was reactive. The function of law nowadays is transformational. It is there to change the ways in which we think and live. So far as this is the case, the law has been delegitimised.

And this is how we are to regard uses of the law. At the moment, The UK Independence Party is being edged towards bankruptcy over some matter of a political donation. It seems not to have complied with the requirements of a law made in the year 2000 that effectively nationalises all political parties – and that may one day be used to control what policies they advocate and how they oppose measures with which they disagree. Again, there are complaints about how the BBC has invited the Leader of the British National Party to appear on Question Time. It is said that the BNP is currently an illegal organisation because of its internal rules. The alleged illegality is based on a novel interpretation of a 1976 law, as amended in 2000, that is itself illegitimate.

There was a time when it was enough for us to be told that someone had broken the law for us to think ill of that person. But times are altered. When the laws themselves are corrupt, they lose moral force. It is no longer enough for us to be told that someone is a law breaker. Whatever we may think of these parties for what they advocate, they are to be seen not as law breakers but victims of political oppression. To think ill of them purely for their disregard of the law is rather like calling Alexander Solzhenitsyn a jailbird on account of his time in the Gulag.

The Law is no longer the Law. It is a set of politicised commands made for our destruction as a free people. It no longer deserves our automatic respect. Yes, the laws that protect life and property are still to be respected. But it is now rational to inspect every law thrown at us to see which do bind in conscience and which do not. I know that this is a dangerous principle to announce. There are many people for whom the law is a unified thing: say that one part has no binding force, and all parts are weakened. But this is not our fault. We have not made the law disreputable. We are simply facing a state of affairs that has been called into being by others.

The Constitution

I have already mentioned the remodelling of the Constitution. As a people, we have long amused foreigners with our respect for titles and old forms of government. I once chaired a meeting addressed by a Member of the House of Lords. This was before the Internet, and I spent nearly an hour in a library clarifying that he should be introduced as – let me change the name – John, Lord Smith of Wilmington, rather than Lord John Smith or Lord Wilmington. This was all good fun. It also had a serious point. I was helping maintain one of those innumerable and seemingly absurd customs that among were the outer defences of our rights and liberties. Our Ancient Constitution may have struck outsiders as a gigantic fancy dress ball. But it covered a serious and very important fact. This was an imperfect acceptance of Colonel Rainsborough’s claim that “the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he”.

But, again, times are altered. The more gorgeous events of the fancy dress ball have been retained. But the underlying substance – the protection of rights and liberties – has been stripped out. This being so, all obligation of deference has lapsed. I will not defer to the man whose name has been changed by a sheet of parchment sealed with wax to Baron Kinnock of Bedwellty. Nor will I call Peter Mandelson other than “Mr Mandelson. Nor, unless I am in his court, and he is likely to take more against me than he naturally would, will I address the former Communist Stephen Sedley as “My Lord”. Nor will I acknowledge his Knighthood out of court. I am not yet sure if it is appropriate to stop recognising hereditary honours, or those granted before 1997. But I certainly regard all honours granted since 1997 as void. They have the same legitimacy as those conferred by Cromwell during the Interregnum. No – Cromwell was a great man who did honour to this country and who deserves his statue outside Parliament. Recent honours have the same status as those conferred by James II after he ran away to France. They are to be seen as a badge of ridicule and disgrace on those who have accepted them.

Now, this may seem a pedantic and self-indulgent point. But it is not. These people should not be allowed to wrap themselves in any remnant of the associations that once bound us to the past. And they evidently enjoy playing at nobility. I once did a radio debate with a police chief who had been recommended for a Peerage by Tony Blair. He was annoyed by my substantive arguments. He was reduced to spluttering rage when I addressed him as plain “Mister” and sneered that his title was a sham. Bearing in mind that it is not illegal to drop their titles, and how it upsets them, I think it worth doing on every convenient occasion.

And it is part of what I would see as a more general approach. Conservatives often denounce what is being done to us as a “breach of the Constitution”. It is really no such thing, because the Ancient Constitution has been abolished. As said, the fancy dress ball continues in something like full swing. But “the poorest he that is in England” has been stuffed. We do have a constitution in the sense that every organised community has one. Ours says that whoever can frogmarch a majority of placemen through the lobbies of the House of Commons can do whatever he pleases. I did hope, earlier in the present decade, that the Judges would intervene to limit parliamentary sovereignty. The Labour response, however, was to pack the bench with their own people. Therefore, since it has been destroyed, or has been suspended, we are in no position to claim that the Constitution has been breached. The obvious result is that we should not regard ourselves as morally bound to recognise any of the authority that is claimed and exercised over us.

And if our people ever get into power through the electoral coup that I mentioned earlier, I see no reason for recognising any purely “constitutional” limits to the nature and speed of our counter-revolution. For example, regardless of the withdrawal mechanism in the Lisbon Treaty, I would be for just repealing the European Communities Act 1972 as amended. That would be complete and immediate withdrawal. If any Judges tried to block this, I would have them removed. I might also be for passing an Act voiding every previous law made since the first session of the 1997 Parliament. Otherwise, I would prefer to declare a state of Emergency under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, and then repeal hundreds of laws by decree. A slow revolution can take place when those at the top have the numbers and staying power to take it slowly. When there has been a revolutionary or counter-revolutionary seizure of power, change must be swift and determined if it is to be a success.

There must be a return to constitutional norms – and the extraordinary measures that may enable this return must not be allowed to set any precedents of their own. Nor – let me emphasise – do I hope that our reaction will involve violence. But if conservatives are to bring about a reaction, so that we can again be a free people in an independent nation, we have little positive to learn from Burke’s Reflections. There comes a point beyond which a constitution cannot be rescued. I think we have reached that point. There can be no patching up this time, as happened at the Restoration in 1660, or after the Revolution of 1688. By all means, we should not innovate just for the sake of neatness. But we shall need to innovate. We shall need to create new safeguards for our rights and liberties that take into account the country in which we live.

The Monarchy

This means, I increasingly believe, a republican constitution. There is nothing wrong with the principle of hereditary monarchy. I suspect that the division of authority and power that took place between 1660 and 1714 contributed much to the freedom and stability of England during our classical period. The problem is not the institution of monarchy, but the person of the Monarch.

When she came to the throne, Elizabeth had what seems to have been almost the universal regard of the people. She has spent the past 57 years betraying the people. Whatever the constitutional lawyers may claim, there is a contract between Monarch and people. We pretend to treat whoever wears the Crown as the Lord’s Anointed. The wearer of the Crown agrees in turn to act as a defence of last resort against tyrannical politicians. That is the truth behind the phrases of the coronation oath. The Queen could, without bringing on a crisis, have blocked the law in the early 1960s that removed juries from most civil trials. She could have blocked the subsequent changes that abolished the unanimity rule and the right of peremptory challenge. She should have risked a crisis, and refused her assent to the European Communities Bill, or demanded a fair referendum first. She could have harried the politicians of the past two generations, reminding them of the forms and substance of the Ancient Constitution. She had the moral and legal authority to do this. Had she spoken to us like adults, she would have had popular support. She did nothing. I believe she bullied Margaret Thatcher into handing Rhodesia over to a communist mass-murderer, and made repeated noises about South African sanctions. And that was it.

Whatever her failings in the past, she had every legal right to demand a referendum over the Lisbon Treaty. This had been promised by every party at the 2005 general election. When the promise was withdrawn, she would have had public opinion and much of the media behind her in refusing to give assent to the Treaty’s Enabling Act. Again, she did nothing.

We are continually told about the Queen’s sense of duty. All I see is much scurrying about the country to open leisure centres – and otherwise a total disregard of her essential duties. If the Constitution was in decay before she was even born, she has spent her reign watching all that was left of it slip between her fingers.

It may be argued that she is now very old and will not remain much longer on the throne. The problem is that her son will be worse. She has been lazier than she has been stupid. He is simply stupid. So far as he insists on using his powers, it will be to drive forward the destruction of England. His own eldest son might easily be an improvement – but he could be decades away from the Crown. We are in no position to wait on what is in any event uncertain. The Queen has broken the contract between her and us. Her son will do nothing to repair the breach. We live in an age where hereditary monarchy must be strictly hereditary or nothing at all, and so we cannot waste our time with new Exclusion Bills or Acts of Settlement. If, therefore, we are ever in a position to bring about a counter-revolution, we shall need to find a head of state who can be trusted to do the job of looking after our new constitution.

Closing thoughts

I could go further on this theme. I know that many conservatives – and a few Conservatives – have lost faith in democracy. Undoubtedly, representative democracy has thrown up a political class that is separate from the people, and that is increasingly hostile to the rights and liberties of the people. But I cannot think of a lasting new settlement based on Caesaristic dictatorship or a limitation of the franchise. My own suggestion would be to select most positions in the executive by sortition – to choose rulers, that is, by a lottery – as in ancient Athens, and to settle all legislative matters by local or national referendum. Most judicial business that had any bearing on the Constitution could be put before juries of several hundred people, chosen by the same random process as criminal juries now are.

But, you will agree that this takes me far, far beyond my stated theme. It would make what has been a long speech longer still. I will close by observing that if you want to be a conservative in an England broken by revolution, you need to look beyond a rearguard defence of forms from which all substance was long since drained.. The conservative tradition may have been dominated since the 1970s by Edmund Burke. But it does also contain the radicals of the seventeenth century. And – yes – it also has a place even for Tom Paine. If you want to preserve this nation, you must be prepared for a radical jettisoning of what is no longer merely old, but also dead. The conservative challenge is to look beneath the plumage and save the dying bird.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3

Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize 2009


The 2009 Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize
£1,000 to be Won

In honour of Dr Chris R. Tame (1949-2006), The Libertarian Alliance offers a yearly prize of £1,000 for an essay on a subject to be announced by Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance. This year, the Prize has been most generously sponsored by Teresa Gorman, long-term conservative and libertarian activist and formerly Conservative Member of Parliament for Billericay.

By the 16th October 2009, contestants are invited to submit essays to Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance.
Essay Title: “Can a Libertarian also be a Conservative?”
Essay Length: 3,000 words excluding notes and bibliography

Explanatory Note

Do libertarians believe, almost by definition, is a society so radically different from anything that has so far existed that they have nothing in common with conservatives? Is it the case that the working relationship between libertarians and conservatives during the 20th century was never more than an alliance of necessity against state socialism? Was that relationship even a terrible mistake? Are the natural allies of libertarians the anti-state socialists rather than defenders of an old order that was happy to kill and oppress when it was able? Is libertarianism, as Roderick Long believes, the real “proletarian revolution”? Or, on the other hand, does liberty, if it is to last for any reasonable time, require conservative institutions? Is it wise to discard past experience as irrelevant to the future? Is there an argument for putting up with imperfect but broadly libertarian institutions, on the grounds that to change them involves the risk of losing all freedom? If most European types of conservatism are incompatible with libertarianism, is it the same with English conservatism?

These are some of the themes that might usefully be explored in answering my question. Please note, however, that this is not an exhaustive list. I am looking for something original and interesting – not a set of answers to each of the above sub-questions thrown into essay form. I am also not looking for detailed analyses of Mr Cameron or the Conservative Party. My questions is more about conservatives than Conservatives.

Reading

You may find these works useful:

F.A. Hayek, “Freedom, Reason, and Tradition“; Chapter Four, The Constitution of Liberty ISBN 0-226-32084-7, University of Chicago Press, 1960

Murray N. Rothbard, Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty

Rules

  • Essays must be original and previously unpublished works.
  • Essays must be submitted in English and typed and in hard copy by sending to The Libertarian Alliance, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6H, United Kingdom.
  • Essays  must also be submitted by e-mail and in MS Word format to Sean Gabb – sean@libertarian.co.uk .
  • Essays must bear the name and full address of the author, including his e-mail address. The name does not need to be genuine, but work submitted under what Sean Gabb considers an absurd pseudonym may be rejected. Certainly, the prize money will be by cheque, and so must be made out to a real person.
  • Essays must have been received ain both hard and soft copy no later than Friday the 16th October 2009.
  • The winner will be announced on the evening of Saturday the 25th October 2008, at the banquet of the Libertarian Alliance Conference, to be held at the National Liberal Club in London.
  • The winner will be required to make a ten minute acceptance speech on Saturday the 24th October 2009, at the banquet of the Libertarian Alliance Conference, to be held at the National Liberal Club in London. This speech may be made in person, or by pre-recorded video, or may be read out by Sean Gabb, .
  • The prize will be £1,000, made out to the winner and payable in Sterling by cheque drawn on one of the United Kingdom clearing banks. No other form of payment will be considered.
  • The winning essay will be published by the Libertarian Alliance. All essays submitted will be published by the Libertarian Alliance.
  • In all matters of deciding the winner of the Prize and in all associated matters, the decision of Sean Gabb shall be final.
  • The act of submitting an essay shall constitute full acceptance of these terms
  • This prize competition is not open to any Officer of the Libertarian Alliance or of the Libertarian International, or to any previous winner of the competition.

For all questions, please contact Sean Gabb, though be prepared to wait for an answer.

Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize 2008

David McDonagh on Keynes


The Keynesian “Revolution”
By David McDonagh

(This is the lightly revised text of a talk given to the Other LA)

We face the problem of “mind set” on this topic, as we haply do on all topics, where people tend to see what they expect to see. But note that this idea is quite distinct from seeing what we want to see, which is not humanly possible in any case at all, for we always see what seems to us to be the case.

Mark Blaug once retorted to Keynes’ statement that Ricardo had conquered England to a greater extent than had the Spanish Inquisition conquered Spain by saying that Keynes had conquered the economics profession even more successfully than Ricardo ever did.

Why did the Keynesian memes win out and how did they survive their rather clear refutation by the occurrence of stagflation during the 1970s? That is, the main problem I intend to consider below, but note that false theories are rather like human lives in that they may be very vulnerable to diseases at the infant stage, but once that is over, they can withstand attacks quite well up till old age when they, once again, seem to have weak defences. Similarly, false theories may not gain currency when they are first formed, but once a theory becomes popular, mere common sense objections will not matter much in science, or in wider academic study. This privilege against common sense is a major reason why Keynes’ theory survived the refutation of stagflation. Such objections become very potent, again, when the theory is on the decline, which can happen as a result a change in fashion, or if it is seen as being refuted by a rival paradigm, or by the external facts, –which is rather like a fatal accident.

Free, or freer, trade and state management or protectionism is often contrasted, with the latter often called socialism. Keynes favours management, never socialism, though his ideas were to a large extent shared with people like G.B. Shaw, who thought of himself as a socialist. Keynes preferred state management rather than the free market and thus belonged to the Radical-Joe-Chamberlain tradition of liberalism as opposed to that of the classical liberals, whom ebbed after Gladstone. But this means that for Keynes, as for Marx, it is really the lack of management or overall planning on the market that tends to irritate, rather than mass poverty, the problem of war [Marx] or mass unemployment [Keynes] that others thought were their main concern, though they did think they had solutions to those problems.. Keynes feels that the elite, the politicians, and others, have something to offer and he does not like the way economics has tended to be hostile towards politics or the civil service. He feels there should be some inequality in pay, but not much, and certainly not to the extent common in his own day. He admires the slow growth of taxation to curb the differences in income.

On the first page of the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936), Keynes’ main book, and the book I set out to criticise, as well as a partial critique of here, the author, oddly, openly confesses to “a solecism” (p3) but, instead of correcting it, he leaves it in the text. Has he set out to scotch grammar? That would be a very odd thing for any author to deliberately do. This solecism is (p3) that he sees the classical economists, not as Marx saw them, [viz. the authors who upheld the labour theory of value as against the ones who thought that supply and demand
were enough. Marx called the latter “the vulgar economists” as they settled for surface appearance rather than going to deep reality, which Marx took to be the proper job of any science.] but way more inclusive. Keynes sees the classical economists as being all the earlier economists. Many of those lived up to forty years after Keynes died [e.g. Hayek died in 1992 but Keynes in 1946].

The pristine classics were thrown out by “the Marginal Revolution”, which took place in the 1870s, when marginal theory replaced the labour theory of value paradigm. A few “vulgar economists”, Jevons, Menger and Walras, applied Ockham’s razor to the labour theory of value and marginal theory dispensed with the underlying reality. Keynes lets us know that he is to make a new revolution against those he terms “the classics” and he hopes it will be as complete as the one in the 1870s was.

The reader might realise that this is not a solecism at all, but an anachronism, i.e. an error of history rather than of grammar. The reader still might think it mighty odd that the author sees an error of any kind, but still leaves it in. But is it an error of any kind? After all, Plato seems to have been quite right when he says that no one can deliberately err. Is it not, rather, a clever and deliberate ploy that Keynes is here using, a device similar to the use that Nelson made of his blind eye? He is going to use this “solecism” device to pretend to see only what he wants to see. But no one can ever quite do that, if they remain sane.

Here we can see what sort of an author we are dealing with in Keynes. Richard Whately once said that “it makes all the difference in the world whether a man puts the truth in the first place or in the second place” and Keynes openly puts the truth in the service of his aims, and he aims to be revolutionary in theory even if he wants to remain Fabian and gradual in practice. But this “revolutionary” ploy does not mean that Keynes was insincere in what he wanted to say, but only that he was impatient to say it and that he also sought to dismiss the opposition; permanently.

It is fairly clear from reading the book that Keynes is largely attacking only one author, Arthur Cecil Pigou (1877-1959), and only others economists in so far as they agree with Pigou, so he has no need for an anachronism at all to do that. But Keynes clearly wants to say it is “the classics” that he rejects –he wants a revolution in theory to render his variously differing forerunners utterly defunct. And what he says, even of Pigou, ignores many things that Pigou says, even in the main book, _The Theory of Unemployment_ (1933), that Keynes, repeatedly, cites in this 1936 book.

Pigou repeatedly mentions the term “involuntary unemployment” in that 1933 book, for example, but Keynes, repeatedly, says that none before him even thought of that concept. Many authors conclude that Keynes had not read much, owing to him saying that “the classics” did not say this, or did not say that; when they so very clearly did. My guess is that he was quite well read in economics; even though he had values that were always in complete opposition to what he saw as the anarchy that the economists, though usually unwittingly, embraced. He rightly saw that economics was largely biased against politics and state planning. Marx with the same objection,
set out to be not only a hostile critic of economics, but also a supposed revolutionary to replace the market with moneyless communism. Keynes thought that money was vital and he was content with political demand management by means of inflation. He rather hoped that most of bourgeois society would go on much as before, but with the civil servants taking the place of the capitalist class in organising savings by taxation and so dealing with the problem of investment whilst unemployment might be cured by the stimulus of extra money in demand management. His epigones, in true Tory hyperbole, claimed that he saved the market from the Marxist threat, a brutum fulmen if ever there was one, rather like the imaginary wrath of God.

In any case, inflation is not really a stimulus, no more than is alcohol, though both may feel like it, for it destroys the power of money to relate to the real economy thus, ironically, destroying effective demand overall. This is the main fault in the Keynesian outlook; its main idea is false.

The ploy worked. Almost the whole of economics adopted the results of this “solecism” after 1936. This was “the Keynesian Revolution”, though Keynes did develop new terms in the theory of demand management, though little of the substance was unknown in the 150 years before Keynes, even if it was given a modern guise. But Keynes thought his forerunners, like Malthus, were misunderstood.

Oddly, the result in the textbooks fell out of Keynes’ hands and retained a few ideas he most hated, like equilibrium, as it owed almost as much to John Hicks, and others, many of whom did not fully comprehend Keynes.

Using his “solecism” ploy, Keynes said that the classics had no idea of the possibility of mass unemployment owing to Say’s Law, itself also redefined by Keynes. He described Say’s Law as maintaining that there was nothing for the entrepreneur to do, as supply exactly created its own demand automatically rather than merely boosting general demand with the coordination problem being the task of the entrepreneur, as Say, and most others before 1936, had it. Keynes also held that David Ricardo certainly had no knowledge of trade cycles, or of mass unemployment. Every economist after 1936, or very nearly everyone, took all this as the gospel truth, which it ironically was, for the Christian gospels, also, were more concerned with the message than with the truth, and they too were mere make believe. But their adherents were sincere, or at least convinced.

An illustration of the “mind set” that resulted after 1936 is shown by Thomas Sowell in _Black Education: Myth and Tragedies (1972). Sowell had copies of Robert Heilbroner’s _The Worldly Philosophers (1953), one of the many economists who adopted most, if not all, of the Keynesian outlook, on every desk, opened where Heilbroner says that Ricardo says nothing about the trade cycle, together with Ricardo’s _Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817) opened on the page where Ricardo begins his discussion of that topic. Sowell asked the class to read a bit of both books before asking them if what Heilbroner said about Ricardo was true. To his astonishment, they all replied that what Heilbroner said was true. When Sowell, flabbergasted, asked them why, he was told, in reply, that Heilbroner would not have written so if it is was not indeed the case.

I will say a bit about the myth of “revolution” in general. The word “revolution” is today a bit of romance jargon, and Keynes realised this, but he felt a dire need to make “the classics” defunct. He saw economic theory as part of the problem, not only of mass unemployment but also of the barbaric anarchy of modern times. Keynes knew there could be no actual fresh beginning, but something like one seemed to be needed. “Revolution” is actually just empty jargon, a constituted blank, which is often imposed on an account of the facts by the historians. When the vicar finds out that a couple indulges in sex before marriage he feels he has discovered yet another instance of
sin, but the idea that it is a sin is part of his ideology rather than the facts he has discovered about the couple in question.

The jargon word “revolution” clearly has a history and it was first used by the Whigs in 1688. It was taken from geometry, and it was, back then, used in the exact opposite of how it was used in 1789 by the Romantics and as how it is still largely used today. It was used to mean a return to the beginning of the drawing of a circle, to complete the revolution, and this meant exactly the same as “reactionary”, a reaction against recent innovation and an attempted return to the status quo ante. The idea was that James II had gone one half of a revolution away from how things should be, and that they needed to go back to how things were before he reigned, back before 1685. But in 1789 in France, the idea emerged with the new meaning being more like going off on a tangent than in
completing the revolution, for it introduced the current meaning of going on to a new epoch and leaving the past completely behind. But Keynes was right to think that gradualism was the case and that no event makes for a completely new beginning. At least he got one idea right.

Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize 2009


tamelalogo

The 2009 Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize
£1,000 to be Won

by Sean Gabb

In honour of Dr Chris R. Tame (1949-2006), The Libertarian Alliance offers a yearly prize of £1,000 for an essay on a subject to be announced by Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance. This year, the Prize has been most generously sponsored by Teresa Gorman, long-term conservative and libertarian activist and formerly Conservative Member of Parliament for Billericay.

By the 16th October 2009, contestants are invited to submit essays to Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance.
Essay Title: “Can a Libertarian also be a Conservative?”
Essay Length: 3,000 words (+ or – 10%)  excluding notes and bibliography

Explanatory Note for briefing applicants

(1) Do libertarians believe, almost by definition, that there  could be a society so radically different from anything that has so far existed, that they have nothing in common with conservatives?

(2) Is it the case that the working relationship between libertarians and conservatives during the 20th century was never more than an alliance of necessity against state socialism?

(3) Was that relationship even a terrible mistake? Are the natural allies of libertarians the anti-state socialists rather than defenders of an old order that was happy to kill and oppress when it was able?

(4) Is libertarianism, as Roderick Long believes, the real “proletarian revolution”?

(5) Or, on the other hand, does liberty, if it is to last for any reasonable time, require conservative institutions? Is it wise to discard past experience as irrelevant to the future?

(6) Is there an argument for putting up with imperfect but broadly libertarian institutions, on the grounds that to change them involves the risk of losing all freedom?

(7) If most European types of conservatism are incompatible with libertarianism, is it the same with English conservatism?

These are some of the themes that might usefully be explored in answering my question. Please note, however, that this is not an exhaustive list. I am looking for something original and interesting – not a set of answers to each of the above sub-questions thrown into essay form.

I am also  //not//  looking for detailed analyses of Mr Cameron or the Conservative Party.

My questions is more about conservatives than Conservatives.

Rules

  • Essays must be original and previously unpublished works.
  • Essays must be submitted in English and typed and in hard copy by sending to The Libertarian Alliance, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6H, United Kingdom.
  • Essays  must also be submitted by e-mail and in MS Word format to Sean Gabb – sean@libertarian.co.uk .
  • Essays must bear the name and full address of the author, including his e-mail address. The name does not need to be genuine, but work submitted under what Sean Gabb considers an absurd pseudonym may be rejected. Certainly, the prize money will be by cheque, and so must be made out to a real person.
  • Essays must have been received in both hard and soft copy no later than Friday the 16th October 2009.
  • The winner will be announced on the evening of Saturday the 24th October 2009, at the banquet of the Libertarian Alliance Conference, to be held at the National Liberal Club in London.
  • The winner will be required to make a ten minute acceptance speech on Saturday the 24th October 2009, at the banquet of the Libertarian Alliance Conference, to be held at the National Liberal Club in London. This speech may be made in person, or by pre-recorded video, or may be read out by Sean Gabb, .
  • The prize will be £1,000, made out to the winner and payable in Sterling by cheque drawn on one of the United Kingdom’s clearing banks, even if nationalised. No other form of payment will be considered.
  • The winning essay will be published by the Libertarian Alliance. All essays submitted will be published by the Libertarian Alliance.
  • In all matters of deciding the winner of the Prize and in all associated matters, the decision of Sean Gabb shall be final.
  • The act of submitting an essay shall constitute full acceptance of these terms
  • This prize competition is not open to any Officer of the Libertarian Alliance or of the Libertarian International.

For all questions, please contact Sean Gabb, though be prepared to wait for an answer.

Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize 2009

A Libertarian Perspective on the National Health Service


by Sean Gabb

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 185
18th August 2009
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc185.htm
|

The National Health Service:
A Libertarian Perspective
by Sean Gabb

 

 

 

During the past week, much of the English speaking world has been drawn into a debate on the merits of the National Health Service. For those unaware of this debate or its subject matter, I will say that the NHS, established in 1948, provides health care free at the point of use for everyone legally in the United Kingdom. It is paid for by the British State out of general taxation, and no account is taken, in treating patients, of how much they have paid or are likely to pay in taxes. The new American Government has proposed changes in the provision of health care that will move the American system to some extent in the direction of the British. This has been denounced by many Americans as a step towards an inherently sinister and inefficient system.

The debate has been joined by Daniel Hannan, one of the Conservative members of the European Parliament for the region in which I live. Speaking in America, he has said that to copy the British system would lead America towards bankruptcy “where we are now.”. He said further: “We have a system where the most salient facts of it you get huge waiting lists, you have bad survival rates and you would much rather fall ill in the US…. How amazing to me that a free people. . . should be contemplating, in peacetime, burdening themselves with a system like this that puts the power of life and death in a state bureaucracy.” ["Conservatives turn on MEP Daniel Hannan for anti-NHS tour in America, The Times, London, 14th August 2009]

These comments have, with some mild dissent, united the British political media and political classes in denunciation. The Labour Government of Gordon Brown has leapt to defence of the NHS. The Conservatives have joined in. Mr Hannan finds himself an isolated figure, facing accusations that range from a lack of patriotism to something that approaches blasphemy. Indeed, except no one has yet issued a fatwa, he is almost the secular equivalent of Salman Rusdie in his gleeful sneering at what many in this country regard as an object of veneration. Now, I am sure that he can do without my support. Even so, the scandal that his behaviour has raised in this country gives me the opportunity for speaking, as a libertarian, on the legitimacy and on the merits of the NHS.

At the most fundamental level of analysis, legitimacy and merits have no connection with each other. The NHS is funded by compulsion. I am forced, as a taxpayer, to contribute to a system that provides health care of a kind and at costings that, given any choice in the matter, I would never accept for myself and those who look to me. I am also forced to pay towards the health care of strangers. I have no objection to charity. I try to be generous to those I know. I am prepared to be moderately generous even to those I do not know, and whom I might dislike if I did know them. But so far as I am compelled, paying for the health care of others cannot be described as charitable. It is as much an act of theft as if I were to be robbed in the street. The whole present system, therefore, is illegitimate. If it were, as we are continually assured, the “envy of the world”,my opinion would not alter. It is in itself unjust. I resent its existence in my country. I join with Mr Hannan in warning the Americans not to accept it for themselves.

This, however, is the most fundamental analysis, and no discussion can be regarded as complete without some examination of its merits. And in examining these, I fell an obligation to be as fair as possible. I will begin with the quality of health care provided by the NHS.

Here, I must dissent from much of the American condemnation. There is no doubt that the NHS is inefficient, and that it rations health care by waiting list and by explicit refusal to provide certain kinds of treatment to anyone, or by refusal to provide certain kinds of treatment to those deemed unlikely to benefit from them given their cost. But rationing in one form or another is inevitable to any system of health care. The demand for health care is unlimited. There is almost no one so ill that his life could not be prolonged, or his condition while alive not improved, by some expensive treatment. The problem is always at what cost. In a broadly private system, demand will be rationed by price. In the British system, it must be rationed by cost and benefit analyses undertaken by the doctors. It is easy for American critics to point to how long someone over here must wait to have his haemorrhoids cut out, or that he may be denied some drug that will put off or ease his death from cancer. But their own system is hardly perfect.

In attacking the British system, these critics seem to argue that their own is based on individual choice and free from any taint of collectivism. I am not an expert on the American system, but it does strike me as so heavily regulated and cartellised as to have little connection to a free market. The professional associations have worked to limit the numbers of doctors and nurses, even as they have obtained the exclusion of the unqualified from the provision of medical services. The drug companies benefit from patent laws and trade protections that raise the price of medicines far higher than in neighbouring countries. The insurance companies are regulated in the interests of medical suppliers. I am told that forty million Americans cannot afford health insurance premiums, and that millions more cannot afford what most would regard as appropriate cover. These people, I accept, are not denied all treatment. But the treatment they receive is often rather poor. Even those who can afford to pay as they go find that it can take years for new medicines or medical procedures to be allowed by the authorities. In particular, I am told that many dying of cancer cannot obtain adequate pain relief. It is legal for opiates to be prescribed in America. But the regulatory framework is so ferocious that many doctors are frightened to write out the prescriptions they otherwise would.

If I contrast what I am told about the American system with what I know from personal experience about the British, the NHS is not really that bad. In December 2007, my wife needed an emergency caesarean. This was performed by the NHS. At all times, we were kept informed of our options and our legal rights. I was allowed to stand beside my wife in the operating theatre. I was then allowed to sit with my wife and daughter until gone midnight. My wife spent the next few days in a room of her own, and was left to make as many calls from her mobile telephone as her work and family duties required. While there were visiting hours, I was allowed to come and go as I pleased. The quality of treatment was first class. Apart from the flowers and chocolates and bottles of wine that I chose to lavish on the medical staff when we left, there was no final bill for any of this. About ten years ago, the father of my best friend died of cancer. There may be more effective cancer treatments than the medical establishment prefers to see provided. But within the terms set by the medical establishment, he had excellent treatment. When all else had failed, he was allowed to die in peace under a broad umbrella of opiates. Another of my friends was diagnosed with prostate cancer about seven years ago. He is a university lecturer with a good enough knowledge of statistics to discuss his chances on an equal basis with the doctors. He remains well and has no complaints about the NHS.

Perhaps these cases are exceptional. I am discussing the experience of articulate, middle class people. We know what we should ask for and how to ask for it, and we know how to show gratitude when we get it. Perhaps I should think of the newspaper reports of people suffering needlessly in filthy, open wards. On the other hand, perhaps not. Those who get bad treatment from the NHS are mostly poor and ignorant people. I pity them. But they are the sort of people who would also suffer in the American system. I do not think the American critics are comparing like with like. They are holding up the best aspects of their own system with the worst of ours. They also do not seem to have noticed that increasing numbers of middle class people over here do have private health insurance. This gives us the ability to switch back and forth to the NHS as we find convenient. I am writing this article on a railway train. If there is a crash and I must be cut from the wreckage, I shall be taken to an NHS hospital and be stitched up and reset as well as anywhere in the world. If, on the other hand, there is no crash, but, somewhere between Tonbridge and Charing Cross, I suspect the beginnings of heart disease , I can use my insurance and be looked at by an expert within two days. If it turns out that I need an operation, this can be arranged within a few days more. If, on the other hand, I need continuous medication, I can present myself and my private case notes to my NHS general practitioner, who will then prescribe the relevant drugs at a heavily subsidised price.

I will add that the NHS is probably not unsustainable in the long term. It costs about £90 billion a year to run. But this is about eight per cent of gross domestic product, and is about half the American level. There are more doctors per head of population in Britain than in America. British life expectancy is higher than American. [Facts: "The brutal truth about America's healthcare", The Independent, London, 15th August 2009] And much of this budget is spent in ways that even slightly better management could reduce. I recall attending a speech that Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute gave in 1986. For reasons that I no longer recall, but found convincing at the time, he predicted that the NHS would collapse under its own weight within three years. That was not far off a quarter of a century ago. And the NHS is with us still.

This should not be taken as a defence of the NHS. I am simply pointing out that is is no worse on balance than the American system. They are differently organised and differently funded. Each has specific advantages and disadvantages. neither has much connection with a free market. In both countries, however, the middle classes are able to get very good health care. In both, the poor and ignorant do not. The NHS is not a bad institution relative to the American system. It is bad for other reasons – and these may be bad reasons that apply in some degree to the American system.

What is so fundamentally bad about the British system – its compulsory principle aside – is that it nearly abolishes individual control over health care. Compared with the system with which we entered the twentieth century, all real power is centralised into the hands of the professional bodies. A hundred years ago in this country, the market in medical services was decentralised and diverse. The professions themselves were lightly regulated. Most doctors lived on the fringes of genteel poverty. Many sold their services directly to clients – rather as lawyers and accountants do still. Others worked for charitable institutions. A few worked for the State, looking after the inmates of the workhouses. These were the two extremes of the market. The British population of a hundred years ago was about thirty million. Those who could afford to buy medical services directly numbered a few million. Those who relied on private charity or the workhouse numbered perhaps another few million. Those in between relied on private insurance. This was provided sometimes by employers, but mostly by friendly societies and trade unions. These were strongly working class organisations. They were autonomous of the State, and prized their autonomy. Their elected officials had the job of picking and choosing among doctors and other health professionals, and stating the conditions on which they would do business. By modern standards, it was a very basic system. Most people died in their fifties, and of conditions that are often no longer listed in the medical textbooks. Then again, medicine itself was only just into its really scientific phase, and England was, by our standards, a very poor country. But the system worked and was improving.

The growing state involvement in medicine that began with the National Insurance Act 1911, and culminated in the establishment of the NHS forty seven years later, was largely a power grab by the medical professions. Doctors were relieved of having to do business with ordinary working class people, and could deal instead with officials and politicians of their own class. These officials and politicians had their own status enhanced by the ability to spend vast amounts of the taxpayers’ money. For the rich and for increasing numbers of middle class people, choice remained – if at a cartellised price. For ordinary working people, however, medicine became something that was doled out by their betters. This was attended by a great increase in the quality of health care – though this was improvement felt in all other countries regardless of how it was financed. But the result here was a growing apathy among the working classes. Where health care was concerned, they were no long active clients, able and willing to negotiate for what they wanted. They were passive recipients. They paid through their taxes for what they received. But their only input was to vote for politicians who promised better funding or better management of a system that was now insulated from direct pressure.

This contributed immensely, I think, to the decay of free institutions in England. Freedom owes much to historic evolution and to paper guarantees. It owes far more to a people who are accustomed to take responsibility for their own lives. The main difference between us and our free ancestors is that, unlike them, we find ourselves trapped within a system that provides the amenities of life but over which we have no personal control. If we want light or heat, we must rely on vast networks of energy distribution that interlock with other vast networks of energy extraction and transport. If we want our life and property to be secured, we must rely on agencies that claim a monopoly of force and that are only formally accountable to us. And for most people, it is the same with health care. Whether public or private – and there may be little real difference behind the names – these vast, impersonal networks do encourage passivity in the face of authority. When everything but housing and food shopping is provided in this way for most or all of a population, it is no surprise if these people stop being sturdy, self-sufficient individuals, suspicious of the claims of government.

Add to this the fact that the NHS employs over a million people. It is not the only bureaucratic mass-employer in this country. But it is the largest. These institutions impose values of hierarchy and obedience on those within them that are hostile to liberty. People who are regimented in their working lives – and who do not rebel against this – will tend to accept regimentation in their private lives. They will accept it for themselves. They will vote for politicians who promise it for everyone. They will spread these values directly to others so far as they have contact with the public as providers of services.

Paragraph here deleted. I don’t withdraw from the position advanced, but feel that it is irrelevant to the main point of the essay

Certainly, we are lied to and oppressed in ways that English men and women before about 1940 would have thought unimaginable. Let me return to the NHS. Last month, while in Slovakia, I was called by the BBC to comment on the case of a young man denied a liver transplant on account of his drinking. I was supposed to denounce this as more NHS fascism. When the details were explained to me, I had to give a less forthright response. Apparently, this young man needed a liver transplant if he was to live. However, the doctors had told him that the transplant would have little chance of success unless he could stop drinking for six months. Because he was not able to give satisfactory guarantees, the doctors decided to give the liver to someone else. Undoubtedly, this was not a pleasant choice. Even so, there is a shortage of organs for transplant. And given that the NHS does not ration health care by price, this was the most rational use of resources. For all I know, private insurance companies in America make similar choices by way of setting premiums or authorising treatment.

But this is not the limit of how the NHS is coming to ration health care. Superficially analogous arguments are being used to regulate general lifestyle. For a generation now, the anti-smokers have been arguing that smokers place heavy additional costs on the NHS. The reply has always been easy. Whatever inflated figures are fabricated to show how much smokers cost, they never match the amount of extra taxes paid by smokers. And there is the alleged fact that smokers die younger, and so save on pensions and long term care. But facts never get in the way of an argument for oppression. And what began as an argument for higher taxes on tobacco has insensibly changed into an argument for the creeping prohibition of cigarettes.

Smoking bans are being justified on the grounds of saving money. And assuming the facts are as we are told – they are not, but let us assume they are – the argument may be a valid one, given the system we have in this country. The NHS involves a coerced pooling of risk. Given that the costs of the NHS are high and rising – and assuming that costs cannot be controlled by better management – it makes sense for those who spend our tax money to insist that those most likely to call on large amounts of that money should be required to change their lifestyles. Of course, by the same argument, homosexual acts should be recriminalised to reduce the incidence of AIDS and hepatitis, and all women over the age of forty should be sterilised to save on the costs of treating pregnancy complications. Equally, the athletic should be prevented from taking vigorous exercise, and  Asians should be forced to give up on spicy food. For the moment, political correctness stops these arguments from being put. But lifestyle regulation is a valid secondary principle to be derived from the primary principle of the NHS. Let there be a compulsory pooling of risk, and those who place themselves at higher than average risk become fair targets for oppression. Smokers and drinkers and the obese are current targets. It is only a matter of time before an increasingly degraded political culture allows other targets to be found.

I believe that similar calls for lifestyle regulations are being made in the United States. Many companies that contribute to the insurance premiums of their employees are already insisting on contractual agreements not to smoke or to drink excessively. Given that American political culture is hardly less degraded than our own – if for slightly different reasons and in different ways – this is a consideration for those Americans who oppose the changes currently proposed by their government.

Now, I have said what I, as a libertarian, dislike about the NHS. It should be plain what I am not proposing. But since misrepresentation of opinions is so common in any discussion of health care, let me be explicit. I believe that the NHS should be dismantled and replaced with a more diverse, private system. This does not mean that I want to cut off health care for millions of older people who have made no alternative arrangements. It also does not mean that I want to cut off state funding and leave the current system of cartellised and regulated health care otherwise unchanged. I believe in a radical attack on all state involvement in health care, and this includes an attack on all state-created and state-upheld monopoly in health care.

I believe that all drug patent laws should be repealed. These do nothing to encourage innovation, but are simply a means by which well-connected drug companies extract huge rents from the rest of us. I believe that there should be no controls on who can practise medicine. State regulation does less to weed out medical incompetence and fraud than to guarantee high incomes to middle class graduates who have learnt the approved techniques of medication. The common law of contract and torts is enough to deal with incompetence and fraud. I believe there should be no controls on the development and provision of medical products. The existing laws did not prevent Vioxx and Prozac from coming to market. Again, the common law is enough to ensure some standards of propriety. I believe there should be no controls on the advertising of medical products or services. The present restrictions simply prevent ordinary people from learning what options may be available to them. Again, the common law is all we need to deter inflated and fraudulent claims. I believe that everyone should have the right of self-medication. This means the right of any adult to walk into a pharmacy and, without showing any prescription, to buy whatever medical product he desires. If many people will buy and use recreational drugs, they can do that already if they know the right street corner – and it is not the business of the State to tell us how to live. Most people will have enough common sense to take some advice before swallowing or injecting their medications. The rest should have the right to experiment. If they fail, they will have themselves to blame. If they stumble across some truth so far unknown, they will deserve our thanks.

These reforms would bring down health care costs at once. They would also clear the way for the information technology revolution to transform the market in health care. I will not try to predict how all this will be funded, though it strikes me as reasonable that it will fall into the same pattern of direct payment, charity and voluntary mutual assurance as was common before the State took over. And when I speak of mutual assurance, I mean both for-profit insurers and not-for-profit organisations. The idea that only profit-seeking organisations are consistent with libertarianism is to take a shockingly arid view of the ideology. What libertarians should like about commerce is not its taste for profit but its distaste for compulsion. What legitimises markets, in libertarian terms, is that they are structures of voluntary association. This is what brings the friendly societies and much trade union activity, and so much of what in Victorian times was called “socialism” within the heritage of the modern libertarian movement. Health care reform should not be about providing yet more money-making opportunities for state-licensed professions and state-privileged corporations. It should be about disestablishing statist structures and allowing free people to associate for their mutual benefit. If some people make a lot of money from providing services that others want, good luck to them. But the key objective should be free association. Be assured – it will be the most solid foundation on which medical progress can rest.

I will repeat – cutting off state funding all at once, and leaving in place the present system of monopoly, would be cruelty and folly. It would easily result in a step away from liberty rather than towards it. But reducing this funding over several years, as part of a general attack on monopoly, would be a blessing, the fruits of which were plain even before it was complete.

And this would apply as much to America as to England. As said, the American system is hardly the sort of free market any libertarian would recognise. But if the Americans do follow our example, I agree with Mr Hannan that they would deserve to be pitied. Worse – we adopted our system before its faults had been fully realised. Anyone inclined to copy it now deserves as much contempt as pity.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3

 

 

Birthday Greetings to Hans-Hermann Hoppe


Sean Gabb

Professor Hoppe was sixty on the 29th July. At a private celebration of this occasion in America, he was presented with a Festschrift – that is, a book of essays by those he has influenced. One of these essays is by me, and I republish it here. The whole book can be found here: http://www.stephankinsella.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/hulsmann-kinsella_property-freedom-society-2009.pdf

On behalf of the Libertarian Alliance, I wish Professor Hoppe a happy birthday, and many more years of happiness and of creative activity.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe
And the Political Equivalent of Nuclear Fusion
By Sean Gabb

I have been invited to contribute a chapter to this book of appreciations of Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Now, he is a person of forbidding achievements. He has made important contributions to economics, to political theory, to law, and to epistemology, among much else. He is also a person of much organisational ability, and the conferences he runs at Bodrum for his Property and Freedom Society have rapidly established themselves as one of the high points in the libertarian calendar.

This makes it difficult to know where to start when it comes to writing a single chapter about his achievements. What I have decided to do, however, is to try and show how what he might regard as one of his minor achievements is contributing to a new and potentially significant consensus within the libertarian and conservative movements.

The End of the Cold War: A Victory Denied

In the ideological sense, the Cold War was fought between the defenders of liberty and tradition and their most open and comprehensive enemies. Yet in the settlement that followed the defeat of Communism, the main losers have been libertarians and conservatives.

Those who still regard this defeat as one for the enemies of liberty and tradition have failed to see beneath the surface of things to the underlying reality. Orthodox Marxism-Leninism, together with its numerous heresies, was mostly important not in its own terms, but as an excuse. In every generation, there are people who want to live at the expense of others, or to make them unhappy, or both. Unless they are able to be predators by act of conquest—the Assyrians, for example, or the Mongols—these people always need arguments to persuade their victims that being robbed or murdered will make the world a better place. Most of them need themselves to believe these arguments.

Long before the Berlin Wall came down, Marxism had become an embarrassment. Its historical and economic underpinnings had crumbled. Its predictions had all been falsified. Its promises were all broken. Its body count and the poverty of its survivors could no longer be denied. It no longer served to justify the actions or the existence of the Soviet state. Its disestablishment after 1989 was less a defeat for the enemies of liberty and tradition than a release.

The accelerated rise of politically correct multiculturalism since then, and the rise from almost nothing of environmentalism, should not, therefore, be seen as ideologies of asylum for dispossessed Marxists. Rather, they are ideologies of transformation and control more in keeping with the spirit of the present age. Just as Marxism once did, each provides a shared narrative, a shared terminology, and shared feeling of doing good for those whose objects are anything but good.

They are, moreover, better than Marxism, so far as they are less threatening to the powers that be in the West. Diversity and sustainability requirements raise up bureaucracies that allow a cartelisation of costs that privilege established wealth against the competition of new entrants. They otherwise provide jobs and status in organisations that look reassuringly like conventional businesses.

The New World Order

The result has been the emergence since 1989 of a new order in which broadly liberal and democratic institutions are being transformed into the agencies of a police state, and in which traditional ways of life and real diversities are being swept aside in favour of centrally-directed homogeneity.

There is nothing unusual about what is happening. There is nothing that should not have been at least dimly perceived back in 1989. At the end of every real war, the winning alliance tends to break up, as the often radically different interest groups that comprised it find that what brought them together no longer exists to hold them together. New alliances then form between interest groups on the winning and losing sides.

This happened at the end of the Napoleonic wars, when Britain and France found themselves increasingly on the same side against the Central European powers. It happened again at the end of the Second World War, when the Americans and Russians fell out, and both recruited their zones of occupied Germany as allies in the new struggle. It has now happened with the new ideological that emerged at the end of the Cold War.

Whether or not this was to be expected, libertarians and conservatives have reason to feel aggrieved. They were perhaps the two most prominent ideological groups in the battle against Communism. Libertarian economists provided the most devastating weapons of attack. Conservatives did most to articulate the revulsion that ordinary people felt when confronted with the kleptocracy and mass-murder at the heart of Communism. They are now jointly surplus to requirements in a world where ex-Trotskyites and even former Communist Party members have put on suits and become government ministers, and now sit happily at dinner with the heads of global corporations.

There are three possible responses to this state of affairs. Libertarians and conservatives can whine piteously about the unfairness of things. Or they can carry on, as if nothing had changed after 1989, addressing arguments to the same allies and against the same enemies. Or they can recognise that the world has changed, and that promoting the same values requires differences of approach.

New Times, New Ways

Let me now drop the impersonal tone. I will not speak directly for the conservatives. But I will speak for the general libertarian movement. There is no orthodoxy here. Libertarians disagree with each other almost as much as we disagree with our various opponents. Even so, it is possible to see an emerging consensus—first that there is need of a new approach, and second of its nature.

In explaining this, the logical place to start is with our thoughts on the free market.

Limited Liability: The Worm in the Free Market Bud

Everyone knows that libertarians believe in free markets. Something we have not always made sufficiently plain—something that we may not always have been clear about ourselves—is that when we talk about free markets, what we mean is markets of free people. It does not mean that we endorse markets simply because they are efficient, or even because they are creative. In particular, we have no affection for big business.

Though there can be no doubt they have enriched the world, companies like Microsoft and General Motors and ICI are not natural institutions. They are creatures of the State. They came into being and are sustained by incorporation laws. These laws permit individuals and groups of individuals to act not as themselves, but as servants of a fictitious entity. The directors and shareholders are not legally responsible for the debts of the entity. Nor need they feel morally responsible for their actions or inaction on its behalf.

Because of limited liability, business corporations can attract large amounts of investment. Because they are not natural persons, they need not follow the cycle of growth and decline normal to unincorporated businesses. Instead, one generation of directors and shareholders can give way to another. These devices allow business corporations to grow much larger than unincorporated businesses.

It might be argued that incorporation laws are similar to marriage laws—that is, that they gather what would otherwise be a number of complex agreements into a single act. If there were no state, people would still cohabit. Each partner could still make the other next of kin. There would be agreements or customary rules to regulate the management of common property and the rearing of children.

But this is not the case with incorporation. Certainly, the owners of any business could agree with their suppliers and customers that they are servants of a fictitious entity, and that their liability for debt is limited to their investment in the entity. But they could not contract out of liability in tort. This fact alone would put off any investor who was not able to buy a controlling interest. I and countless millions of people like me own shares in companies of which I know nothing. If we knew that we were to be regarded, in the event of a large award of damages, as jointly and severally liable for payment, hardly any of us would risk being shareholders.

Now, except for anarchists, to say that something could not exist without the state does not make it in itself illegitimate. But it is a reasonable presumption.that whatever cannot exist naturally needs a strong justification in terms of utility. It is not enough to point to the achievements of big business. Libertarians have faced similar arguments for centuries now about the state. In most countries, the state provides education. In my country, the state provides most healthcare. Obviously, this does not mean that education and healthcare would not be provided without the state. It is the same with business corporations. All pharmaceuticals and most computer software have been developed by big business corporations. But there is no reason to suppose they cannot be otherwise provided.

And even if it could be shown that there would be fewer of these things in a world without incorporation, the costs of incorporation must be weighed against the benefits.

Crony Capitalism

When the number and size of business corporations grows beyond a certain limit, they tend to become part of the ruling class. To create a new business and make it grow large requires entrepreneurship, which is most often a quality of outsiders. To administer what is already established and make it bigger require skills similar to those required by politics and state administration. Between the state and the larger business corporations, therefore, there will be an overlap or a continual exchange of personnel.

This will make it possible for business corporations to externalise some of their costs of growth. They will, as political insiders, press for state involvement in the building of roads and railways and other transport infrastructure that allows them to enjoy greater economies of scale than would otherwise be possible. They will press for the political control of foreign markets. They will be best placed for securing government contracts—often to provide things that they themselves insist are necessary.

Given an ideological climate favourable to active intervention, they will fashion the tax and regulatory system to the disadvantage of smaller competitors.

There are then the cultural costs. Anyone who works for any length of time in a large business corporation tends to become just another “human resource”—all his important life decisions made for him by others, and encouraged into political and cultural passivity. To do well here, he needs to become a receiver and transmitter of orders, to accept authority and avoid arguments with superiors, and to regard success in terms of steady income punctuated by steady advances. He must essentially be a bureaucrat. He will know nothing of how real business is transacted. He will care nothing about laws and taxes that stop others from transacting real business. He will not be inclined to resist paternalism in the political arrangements of his country.

An End to Compromise

As said, this rejection of what may be called “actually existing capitalism” is only an emerging consensus. There are still many libertarians who see nothing wrong with business corporations in themselves. And until quite recently, people like me were on the fringe of the libertarian movement. But, then, until recently, it was not unreasonable for libertarians to look favourably on business corporations.

Until 1989, all politics were shaped by the great ideological tug of war over socialism. We had little choice about joining that tug of war, and none in which direction we would be pulling—and none about with whom we would be pulling. The Communists wanted to destroy business corporations as well as market freedom. Even corrupted markets are better than no markets. And it should never be forgotten that “actually existing capitalism” works. It may constrain both markets and the human spirit. But it has been better than any other system of economic organisation offered in the last hundred years. It has been fantastically productive. It has raised, and is raising, billions from poverty to prosperity. A libertarian world of small and unprivileged business units would be better. But what we has was pretty good, and was to be defended against all its mainstream rivals.

But times are altered. Business corporations have become increasingly global since the end of the Cold War. They have been moving steadily out of their entrepreneurial phase into the bureaucratic. They are increasingly demanding naked privilege. They are demanding intellectual property rights laws that go far beyond what any ordinary person might think reasonable. Through what are called “free trade” agreements, they are promoting regulatory cartelisation at the world level. Nobody of consequence wants to nationalise the corporations. They work happily with governments of every apparent persuasion. Their leading personnel are, more than ever, members of the ruling class.

The more libertarians doubt the legitimacy of the business corporation, more we reconnect or connect with other traditions of resistance to state power. There is nothing anti-libertarian about strong working class organisations. So long as there is no grant of legal privilege, libertarians can have no objection to trade unions, or cooperatives, or other institutions. We might have nothing against the break up of large landed estates—country and town.

Big business no longer needs or deserves our support. We can now safely emphasise the radical elements of our ideology. We are no longer in danger of supporting alternative institutions that may turn out to be Communist front organisations.[1]

Outreach to Conservatives: Old Friends in New Times

So much for the first part of our emerging strategy of resistance. But there is now the matter of our relationship with the conservatives. I do not mean by this the neo-conservatives. Generally speaking, the prefix “neo” has a negative meaning. And these people are less interested in tradition than in keeping up a military-industrial complex that may have been necessary to face down Soviet Communism, but which now is simply a standing danger to freedom at home and peace abroad.

No—what I mean is real conservatives in the English-speaking sense. Their defence of tradition is necessarily a defence of limited government, of due process, of civil liberty, and of market freedom. They were natural allies in the past. There is no reason why they should not continue to be in the future.

The problem so far has been that there are certain differences between libertarians and conservatives that have prevented full-hearted cooperation. With the ending of the Communist threat, it did seem for a while as if we might go our separate ways. Even now, it is not commonly accepted that there is a new threat just as deadly and just as much in need of co-ordinated resistance.

The main difference is one of vision. The libertarian utopia is one of maximum choice in a world of rapid technological progress. What we ultimately want is an order not wholly based on this planet, in which people live for at least a very long time. We are not very interested in keeping up old ways of life simply because they are old.

Conservatives, of course, are interested in keeping up these old ways. They hated socialism as an attack on their ideal order. They sometimes regard libertarianism as barely less of an attack. In particular, they do not believe in mass immigration, which they perceive as a threat to their organic nation state. And they are dubious about a freedom of trade that may prevent their country from feeding itself or from producing its own manufactures.

Here we come at last to what I see as the main achievement of Hans-Hermann Hoppe. I am not ualified to assess his economic work. Because my own philosophical outlook is bounded by the Greek sceptics and by Epicurus and the British empiricists, his epistemology does not really answer any of the questions that I have ever asked. Nor will I claim that he agrees with my own dislike of business corporations. But his clarification of what a libertarian order might be is something that I can appreciate. And it is this that I think his greatest contribution to the joint cause of liberty and tradition.

The Problem of Immigration

Let us consider his work on immigration. Until the end of the twentieth century, there was a libertarian consensus over immigration that had emerged during earlier concerns about the entry of Jews and Irish Catholics to England or of the southern and eastern races of Europe to America. Libertarians insisted, and gained agreement over time, that the problems raised by these immigrations were either imaginary or short term; and that policies of benign neglect would turn strangers into citizens.

With the rise of mass immigration from outside the European world, this opinion has had to come under review. If every Jew in Eastern Europe had moved to England before 1906, it would have raised the population by perhaps three million. If every Slovak in Europe had moved to America before 1920, it would have raised the population also by three million. These were peoples whose appearance and values were reasonably similar to those of the native population, and who could be expected in time to become largely indistinguishable from the native population.

It may be different with non-European immigrants. These look different. Their values are often radically different, and even hostile. There are potentially unlimited numbers of them. Their simple presence seems likely to displace cultural patterns that have long been vaguely favourable to freedom, and to place a strong downward pressure on the incomes of the poor. They are, moreover, being used as an excuse to create an order in which freedom of speech and contract and in which democratic accountability are being set aside in the supposed interests of public order.

The mainstream libertarian response has been to deny that there is in itself any problem at all, and that the experience of past immigrations will simply be repeated. Their only policy recommendations are to raise louder objections to the multicultural police state that was already growing before the quickening of non-European immigration. They also point out that much dispute between newcomers and natives takes place within areas controlled or influenced by the state. Let there be no state education, and there need be no argument over whether some schools should allow teachers to wear veils and others should teach the inerrancy of the Bible or the non-existence of God. Let there be no welfare state, and there need be no argument over taxes on natives to maintain the children of strangers or over taxes on strangers to pay the pensions of natives.

As for the argument over falling wage rates, this is countered by the observation that greater market freedom would after a while check or even reverse this trend, or by denying the legitimacy of any state concern with the living standards of the poor.

What Professor Hoppe does is to ignore the polarity of the debate as it has been set up. Those who want an anarchist order have so far had to accept the legitimacy of mass-immigration. Those who have been worried about mass-immigration have had to accept the need of a state to control the border. Professor Hoppe walks straight through this debate.

The State; Not Guardian but Traitor at the Gate

He regards the mass immigration of the past half century into western countries as an instance not of libertarian open borders, but of “forced integration”. It is different from free trade in goods and services so far as it is not a free choice of individuals to associate as they please. Instead, it is a product of anti-discrimination laws and state welfare policies.

In a democracy, politicians will have an interest in importing those most likely to vote for big government, or those most likely to lend themselves to an electoral balkanisation that puts an end to the accountability of rulers to ruled. Given enough pressure by the majority, these politicians will make immigration laws that look tough. But these will lead at best to random acts of oppression against the sorts of immigrant who, in any rational order, might be welcomed. The policies of indiscriminate welfare that attract paupers into the country, and of political correctness and multiculturalism that prevent the majority from resisting, will continue unchecked.

But let us imagine a society in which there is no state. Obviously, there would be no welfare provided by the tax payers. Nor would it be possible to frighten the natives into passivity. Nor, though, would there be unchecked immigration.

Professor Hoppe says:

“[L]et us…assume an anarcho-capitalist society…..All land is privately owned, including all streets, rivers, airports, harbors, etc.. With respect to some pieces of land, the property title may be unrestricted; that is, the owner is permitted to do with his property whatever he pleases as long as he does not physically damage the property owned by others. With respect to other territories, the property title may be more or less severely restricted. As is currently the case in some housing developments, the owner may be bound by contractual limitations on what he can do with his property (voluntary zoning), which might include residential vs. commercial use, no buildings more than four stories high, no sale or rent to Jews, Germans, Catholics, homosexuals, Haitians, families with or without children, or smokers, for example.

“Clearly, under this scenario there exists no such thing as freedom of immigration. Rather, there exists the freedom of many independent private property owners to admit or exclude others from their own property in accordance with their own unrestricted or restricted property titles. Admission to some territories might be easy, while to others it might be nearly impossible. In any case, however, admission to the property of the admitting person does not imply a ‘freedom to move around,’ unless other property owners consent to such movements. There will be as much immigration or non-immigration, inclusivity or exclusivity, desegregation or segregation, non-discrimination or discrimination based on racial, ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural or whatever other grounds as individual owners or associations of individual owners allow.

“Note that none of this, not even the most exclusive form of segregationism, has anything to do with a rejection of free trade and the adoption of protectionism. From the fact that one does not want to associate with or live in the neighborhood of Blacks, Turks, Catholics or Hindus, etc., it does not follow that one does not want to trade with them from a distance. To the contrary, it is precisely the absolute voluntariness of human association and separation—the absence of any form of forced integration—that makes peaceful relationships—free trade—between culturally, racially, ethnically, or religiously distinct people possible.”[2]

Indeed, he does not stop with immigration. He argues that a libertarian world would have room for highly traditional communities in which conservative views of morality would be the norm.

Now, I repeat, this may be a theoretical contribution that Professor Hoppe rates lower than his work on Austrian economic theory. For me and for anyone else who wants a fusion of libertarian and conservative movements, it is a contribution of first class importance.

Resisting the New World Order: The End of the Beginning?

Conservatives might not be wholly pleased by such a world. Their organic ideal has room for a powerful state. But the answer to this at the moment—and for some time to come—is that any state able to intervene in matters of personal morality will necessarily be run by the kind of people who now run the state that we have. This will not be a conservative state. Therefore, libertarianism must, for the foreseeable future, be a strategy for conservatives.

We are talking here about a debate that is taking place between a few hundred people, and that is ignored by almost everyone else. There is no chance, either in England or in America, of a libertarian or even of a really conservative electoral victory.

But, if regrettable, this is not necessarily important. What is important is that two groups of intellectuals should arrive at the truth and agree between themselves on that truth and how it should be promoted. If what they decide is the truth, it will eventually have its effect.

I have said that those who enjoy living at the expense of others hardly ever argue honestly about what they want. They hardly ever admit to themselves what they want. Instead, they operate from behind the most presently convenient ideology of legitimisation. Attack these ideologies hard enough, and they will crumble. That may provoke the oppressed to stand up and demand their rights. More likely, it will confuse and weaken those who benefit from such ideologies so that they eventually give in to less violent demands.

Libertarians and conservatives may have lost the Cold War. But the battle continues. And, thanks in part to the work of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, what just a few years ago might have seemed a futile last stand may be the prelude to a dazzling counter-attack.


[1] [1] None of the above should be regarded as original. There is a large, though mostly American, literature on this point. See, for example, Murray Rothbard: “Every element in the New Deal program: central planning, creation of a network of compulsory cartels for industry and agriculture, inflation and credit expansion, artificial raising of wage rates and promotion of unions within the overall monopoly structure, government regulation and ownership, all this had been anticipated and adumbrated during the previous two decades. And this program, with its privileging of various big business interests at the top of the collectivist heap, was in no sense reminiscent of socialism or leftism; there was nothing smacking of the egalitarian or the proletarian here. No, the kinship of this burgeoning collectivism was not at all with socialism-communism but with fascism, or socialism-of-the-right, a kinship which many big businessmen of the twenties expressed openly in their yearning for abandonment of a quasi-laissez-faire system for a collectivism which they could control…. Both left and right have been persistently misled by the notion that intervention by the government is ipso facto leftish and antibusiness.” (Murray N. Rothbard, “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty,” Left & Right 1, no. 1, Spring 1965.

For further discussions, see: Gabriel S. Kolko, Railroads and Regulation, 1877-1916, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1965 and The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916, Free Press, New York, 1965; Murray N. Rothbard, “War Collectivism in World War I” in Ronald Radosh and Murray N. Rothbard, eds., A New History of Leviathan, Dutton, New York, 1972; Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1987; Paul Weaver, The Suicidal Corporation: How Big Business Fails America, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1988; Butler Shaffer, In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918-1938, Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg, 1997; John T. Flynn, As We Go Marching, Free Life, New York, 1973; Roy Childs, Big Business and the Rise of American Statism, unnamed publisher, 1971; Joseph Stromberg, “Political Economy of Liberal Corporatism” and “The Role of State Monopoly Capitalism in the American Empire”, both from the Center for Libertarian Studies, New York, 1978; Kevin A. Carson, The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand : Corporate Capitalism as a System of State-Guaranteed Privilege, Red Lion Press, Montreal, 2001; Kevin A. Carson, Austrian and Marxist Theories of Monopoly-Capital: A Mutualist Synthesis, Economic Notes 102, The Libertarian Alliance, London, 2004.

I particularly commend the works of Kevin Carson. See also Appendix Two for a more extended discussion of these matters.

[2] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, On Free Immigration and Forced Integration, 1999—available at: http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/hermann-hoppe1.html (checked September 2008)

Are the non-Domiciled Rich and the City Good for England?


Sean Gabb

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 168
19th February 2008

Are the non-Domiciled Rich and the City
Good for England?
by Sean Gabb

On my way out of the house this morning, I was called by a BBC researcher to discuss my opinion of non-domiciled tax status. As my opinions were not the ones expected, our conversation did not lead to any broadcast. But I was rather pleased with what I said, and I might as well spend the rest of my railway journey writing it down.

For my readers who live abroad, I should explain that resident foreigners in this country enjoy significant tax privileges. I, as a British citizen resident in the United Kingdom, pay tax on my income earned here and elsewhere in the world. A foreigner living here, who can persuade the authorities that his permanent residence is outside the United Kingdom, pays tax only on what income he earns in this country and on what income he brings in from abroad. Whatever he earns abroad and leaves abroad attracts no tax. That is why so many rich people have moved to London.

This privilege is now under attack. During the past eleven years, the British State has almost doubled in size. The Ministers have justified this by an endless chant of “investment in essential public services”. In truth—whether to a few white proles, or to Shopping Coordinators for Bearded Men with HIV, or to the various Tarquins and Jaspers who get the contracts to redesign logos and headed paper every time a Ministry name is changed—our tax money has gone on raising up an army of Labour voters. So far, most of us have not paid attention to the systematic looting required for this. Some of it was cleverly disguised. Much of it was enabled by an expansion of the world economy that brought in more revenue without increases in the rates of tax.

This may now change. If we go into recession, the amount of tax paid will fall at current rates. At the same time, there is no room left for imposing taxes that will not be noticed and felt. Therefore, if the payroll vote is to be kept on, let alone expanded, the Government must now openly increase taxes or inflate or both.

That is why the non-domiciled are to be hit with a poll tax of £30,000 per year. This will not put off the fiscal crisis. At £800 million, the sum projected is barely a fifth of one per cent of total government spending. Nor will it last very long. The non-domiciled are already threatening to leave. That means a farewell to Madonna and to Roman Abramovich. More importantly, it means a farewell to some of the most dynamic people in the City of London. To raise barely enough cash to run the National Health Service for a week, the Government is prepared to lose people who contribute billions in employment and indirect tax, and to damage a vast financial machine that generates more than a third of the national income.

But when a state is hungry, every little extra can look tasty. That it may not last beyond the next election is not something at all likely to worry our present set of politicians.

I think the lady from the BBC expected me to run out of breath as I denounced the scheme. She had me listed on her database as Director of the Libertarian Alliance, and took it for granted that I opposed taxes and supported the rich in general and the City of London in particular.

Well, I did denounce the taxes. They were bad, I said, because they stole the produce of a man’s labour: taxing is enslaving. They were bad, I added, because they enabled government spending that, even when not obviously wasteful or oppressive, tended to corrupt both direct and indirect recipients.

Her problem started when I moved to the rich and all those City people. Good riddance to the lot of them, I said. If it needed a tax to get them out of England, I might almost find something nice to say about taxes.

That was the end of our conversation. The BBC lady made her excuses and rang off. I imagine she then did a search in her database for Tory Boy Intellectual, and was soon hearing a lecture about London as “the Jewel in the Crown of the British Economy”.

I suppose I should explain myself. There are those who think libertarianism involves a defence of riches and of the rich. Some libertarians seem to agree. I do not. A libertarian is someone who wants to be left alone, and who wants to leave others alone, and who wants others to be left alone. People must be taken as the owners of their bodies and of what they create in or appropriate from the external world.

Given that all exchange and other association needs therefore to be voluntary, we move to an endorsement of what is called the free market. If some people do better in life in others, so much the better for them. If they contrive to pass on some part of their success to their children, so much the better again.

This is not, however, an endorsement of actually existing capitalism. A free society is not Tesco minus the State. It is a place of small craftsmen and farmers and traders, of artists and of unlicensed doctors and lawyers, and of others needed if individuals and free associations of individuals are to live well. We cannot say much more than this about the arrangements of a free society. But we can be sure it would have no place for big business as it now is found.

Big business corporatism, I would never seek to deny, is the best economic model humanity has known in over a century. It does generate vast amounts of wealth, and does ensure that much of this is distributed with some approximation of justice. Give me a choice between what we have and any of the state socialisms tried or recommended since Plato, and there is no doubt what I should choose. Nor is there any doubt, though, that the civilised nations made a big collective mistake around the middle of the 19th century. A system of scientific and industrial progress that might have grown into an unmixed blessing was partly hobbled and made into a new instrument of class domination by laws that allowed firms to incorporate and that gave shareholders limited liability for the debts of firms.

The result was a channelling of investment into firms that would never have been trusted had investors continued to face the risk of joint and several liability for debt. As these firms grew to enormous size, they monopolised or cartellised whole markets. They accepted and often quietly called for schemes of tax and regulation that harmed them, but harmed them less than their smaller competitors. In Britain and America, they demanded the underwriting by the State of their foreign expansions.

To ask whether big business bought or were colonised by the political class is irrelevant. All that matters is that we live in a world where political power and corporate wealth are possessed by different wings of the same ruling class. It is a ruling class that presides over whole nations of people transformed by brainwashing and mild but continuous discipline from human beings to human resources.

More than any other financial centre, the City of London stands as the heart and mind of the global corporate system. Every statistic the BBC lady was hoping I might drool on air—that there are more American banks in London than in New York, that German banks employ more people in London than in Frankfurt, that over a third of all currency conversions take place in London, and so on and so forth—is further condemnation for me.

Anyone who regards the City as identical with free market liberalism is deceived or trying to deceive. It is a place where markets clear, and where profit comes from working out returns in fractions of one per cent. It is one of the few places where reality and the textbook world of perfect competition nearly merge. It is, however, a place maintained in being by the scheme of state-granted privilege that is limited liability. At the very best, its activities are useful to protect us from high taxes. But in a world of free societies, there would be no City of London or anything like it.

A further evil of the City brings me back to the non-domiciled rich. Whatever their immunity from income tax, these are people who pay large amounts of indirect tax. They hand this over without much resistance or complaint, and they hand over large amounts. Political quietism plus great wealth is always dangerous to freedom. When the quiet rich are also foreigners, or at least highly mobile, is still worse. They will not protest at any use of their tax money to oppress other people than themselves. The moment their own freedom is infringed, they will retreat to somewhere more congenial.

For all the airs and graces they try to assume, this is what makes the non-domiciled rich different from the old landed aristocracy. Though tiresome in their defence of legal privilege and unearned wealth, these latter were incidentally useful in slowing the rise of big business corporatism. Like the rest of us, they had nowhere to run to, and were by training and inclination the natural leaders of resistance. Roman Abramovich and Madonna are none of these things. They live among us, but are in no sense with us. The same is true for the more anonymous bankers and fund managers who have for the past generation found this country useful as a trading platform. The same is true of the rich in general. Unlike the workers, who may have little else, the rich have no country.

Just about the only very rich foreigner possessed of any public spirit is Mohammed al-Fayed. He expresses that spirit in what may seem an eccentric cause. But he certainly cares something about this country. He is also domiciled here and is subject to the same taxes as the rest of us. Not surprisingly, he is hated and reviled by the establishment media, and has failed to obtain a British passport in an age when these are handed out to any parasite who can hold his place on the underside of a lorry.

In closing, Gordon Brown and his Ministers do not intend to do well by us. They are traitors to us in their external policies, and rapacious tyrants in all their internal dealings. But their desire for short term gain may set us on the path to a better world. And if they are not to be thanked for this, I am not inclined to join in the chorus of disapproval.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3. You can help by contributing to publishing and distribution costs

Free Life Commentary No 168, 19th February 2008

The Backlash Campaign: Defending S&M is Defending Individual Freedom, by Nigel Meek


Sean Gabb

The Backlash Campaign: Defending S&M is Defending Individual Freedom
Nigel Meek

Cultural Notes No. 53
ISSN 0267-677X                   ISBN 1 85637 647 8
An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL.
© 2007: Libertarian Alliance; Nigel Meek

Nigel Meek is the Editorial and Membership Director of the Libertarian Alliance and the Society for Individual Freedom and the Editor of the Campaign Against Censorship.  This essay first appeared in the February 2006 issue of The Individual, the journal of the Society for Individual Freedom.  Thanks to Ted Goodman (CAC) and Christian Michel (LA) for their comments on a draft of that essay.
.
The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee,
Advisory Council or subscribers.
FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY

An Introduction to Backlash

On behalf of a number of organisations—the Society for Individual Freedom (SIF), the Libertarian Alliance (LA) and the Campaign Against Censorship (CAC)—in the latter half of 2005 I became involved in the Backlash campaign.  This was formed in response to a joint Home Office and Scottish Executive consultation document On the possession of extreme pornographic material (to quote from the document) “proposing to strengthen the criminal law in respect of possession of a limited category of extreme material featuring adults.”  Primarily, if not exclusively, “extreme material” refers to pornographic images of a sado-masochistic (S&M) nature.

Nominally at least, these proposals came as a result of a campaign led by the mother of a woman who had been murdered by a man who had visited websites featuring asphyxiation.  This was an appalling crime.  However, what we have seen is a knee-jerk reaction of “something must be done” allied with the mistaken beliefs that (a) people are not and cannot be personally responsible for their actions and (b) if only we have enough laws we can legislate away the wickedness of this world.

S&M is not my cup of tea, although I am sufficiently worldly-wise to have a genuine knowledge of what is sometimes involved.  In any case, as a libertarian I utterly condemn any restrictions on the creation, distribution and possession by willing adults for willing adults of “extreme pornographic material”.  What consenting adult men and women, in any combination of sex, sexuality and numbers, get up to in private is none of my business.  And it is none of yours.  And it is certainly none of the state’s.  Furthermore, if we accept this, then logically there cannot be anything wrong in photographing or videoing such activities and then passing them on to other consenting adults whether free or commercially.

As the Backlash mission statement says, “Law enforcement agencies around the world already have powers to prevent and punish actual crimes…  We condemn any acts where the participants did not give their consent.  Viewers should not be penalised for looking at… images of consenting actors.”  Quite.

Formal responses to the consultation document such as the one prepared by the CAC were constrained by the document itself.  However, going into a little more detail, there are numerous reasons why I support the Backlash campaign and why I believe that other members of the SIF should do so too.  Here are some of them.

The Ongoing Assault on Freedom of Speech

I would support the Backlash campaign even if it stood alone.  But it does not.  2005 witnessed a frenzy of censoriousness from the Labour government.  Even before the proposals that sparked off Backlash there was the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.  Whatever its alleged aims, in reality it was a transparent attempt by Labour to recapture “the Moslem vote” that may have been lost due to aspects of the government’s foreign policy.  However, it also means the prospect of individuals being convicted—or cowed into silence by the risk of being convicted—for pointing out that some religious beliefs and practices are vile and wholly incompatible with the mores of Western society.  Ask Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film-maker who was murdered in November 2004 after his film Submission highlighted the abuse of women in Islamic society.

We also had the Terrorism Bill which has, as but one of its proposals, the ludicrous aim of outlawing “glorifying terrorism”.  This could mean that almost any strongly expressed ideological view would be illegal if anyone else anywhere in the world uses violence in support on that ideology: democracy in Zimbabwe, for example.

But we should not be surprised.  After all, “New” Labour is the party that made the fascistic claim in its 1997 general election manifesto that it was “the political arm of none other than the British people as a whole”.  Having won on such a terrifying platform, nearly a decade down the line we live in a country where “insulting” the Prime Minister by wearing an admittedly childish “Bollocks to Blair” t-shirt can get you arrested.

Having mentioned the relevant provisions of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill and the Terrorism Bill, there is the obvious point about consistency.  It is intellectually and tactically right and more persuasive to oppose

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National Libertarian Front: Libertarianism 6. The British Movement


Sean Gabb

The resurgence of the Libertarian movement in Britain occurred in the late 1970s under the direction of Chris Thame who’s life was tragically cut short in 2006. During his life he was the key person in organising the Libertarian Alliance, which aimed not to repeat what it saw as the errors of American Libertarianism. Firstly it would not contest elections believing these to be a waste of time and effort serving only to divide the movement and exhaust the movement over matters of triviality. Secondly, the Libertarian Alliance sought to avoid the conflict endemic in the Libertarian movement such as the conflict between Objectivists and Austrians and provide a forum for genteel debate.
The Libertarian Alliance saw its role as not engaging with the masses but in targeting the intellectuals – the 5% of the population that were interested in political ideas. Taking its cue from the Fabian Society, it published scholarly articles, organised conferences, spoke at University and appeared on radio debates in the expectation that these ideas would eventually be picked up by the political classes and implemented, much like the ideas behind the Institute of Economic Affairs were eventually picked up and became the template of thatcherism.
Needless to say it didn’t, the Libertarian movement in Britain which peaked in the early 1990s has been in decline ever since with its aging membership not being replaced with young members, to the point where the pessimistic amongst them predict that eventually there will be too few living libertarians to sustain a movement and it might die just as Libertarian ideas were dead through much of the twentieth century. This decline prompted Sean Gabb in conjunction with Chris Thame to resurrect class analysis, which for many has been regarded as the preserve of marxism. They concluded that Libertarian ideas whilst true were not being given the light of the day because they were a threat to the wealth, power and status of the class of individuals who draw, wealth, power and status from an activist state.
The Libertarian Alliance, in spite of this analysis continues its strategy of courting the intellectuals even though their ideas is not in the self-interest of the many statist intellectuals suckling at the states teat. The National Libertarian Front argues that radical political change cannot be achieved by publishing a few more pamphlets rather it must engage in the sorts of visible activism traditionally associated with the ‘far right’ and ‘far left’.

Posted by KJ at 10:43

2 comments:
Jock Coats said…
The National Libertarian Front argues that radical political change cannot be achieved by publishing a few more pamphlets rather it must engage in the sorts of visible activism traditionally associated with the ‘far right’ and ‘far left’.
I think it’s fair to say that this is slowly happening here. Many are realizing that we need real life examples of doing without the state. You will probably appreciate that we don’t go in much for “revolutionary” agitation here!
So my focus, for example, is in creating a local “sterling free” trading network for business-to-business and business-to-customer use in my county, and market based affordable housing projects without state subsidy, as a visible example of ways in which people can work fre of the state.
In that, it’s much more of a “mutualist” (see your article on Kevin Carson later) approach of building the institutions that will one day replace the state “organically” rather than trying to persuade a naturally not very revolutionary or activist population to decide on one big momentous change (at the ballot box or otherwise).
Time will tell – people do say that gradualism is a recipe for failure, but equally, our “Overton Window” approach is well enough established.

11 July 2009 18:01
Sean Gabb said…
An interesting analysis. A brief correction: the correct spelling is Tame, not Thame.
On the matter of our strategy, we still see our purpose as providing the intellectual underpinnings for any mass movement that may one day emerge.

National Libertarian Front: Libertarianism 6. The British Movement

Attack the System » Blog Archive » Program for a fictional ARV-ATS Scholars Conference


Attack the System » Blog Archive » Program for a fictional ARV-ATS Scholars Conference

Sean Gabb

This would be an interesting conference to attend, if exhausting.

Review by Sean Gabb of Kevin Carson’s “Organization Theory”


Free Life Commentary

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 184
18th June 2009
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc184.htm
Book Review by Sean Gabb

Organization Theory
Kevin A. Carson
Booksurge, 2009, 642pp, $39.99
(ISBN 9781439221990)
Available from Amazon

(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1439221995/ref=nosim/kayetechsystems)

I will begin my review by stating its main conclusions. These are that Kevin Carson has written one of the most significant books the libertarian movement has seen in many years. I do not agree with everything he says here. I do not suppose any libertarian will unreservedly accept what is said. Even so, I doubt if there is a libertarian who can read this book and not, in some degree, have his vision of a free society enriched and even transformed by it.

Summarising an argument that is worked out over more than six hundred pages is not easy. However, Mr Carson begins by observing that, while economic theory seeks to analyse the behaviour of individuals and small groups within a market system, the economic reality is a world dominated by large corporations within which prices are largely administered and there is an absence of competition.

He asks why this should be so. Why is there so much substitution of hierarchy for individual contracts? The standard answer, provided by Ronald Coase, among others, is that large firms are more efficient than small firms. The further the division of labour is carried, the larger the potential economies of scale. In an open market, however, the division of labour involves transaction costs – these being the costs of negotiating exchanges between many different suppliers of goods and services. Within a firm, these costs are not abolished, but are much reduced. Therefore, a firm will expand to the point where the cost of organising one more transaction within itself is equal to the cost of letting that transaction be made on the open market.

According to this analysis, firms grow large so far as their lower internal transaction costs make them more efficient than their smaller competitors. And there is an obvious temptation to regard size in a market economy as evidence of greater efficiency.

Against this analysis and its conclusions, Mr Carson argues that the point at which internal transaction costs become equal to the costs of transactions via the market has been artificially raised by state intervention. There are few objective benefits in size. Lowest long run average cost is often achieved by rather small scale production methods. There is little evidence that large factories are more efficient than small factories. There is little evidence that large firms are more innovative than small firms. Anyone who looks inside a large firm will see information and management and resource allocation problems similar to those described by Hayek and von Mises in their work on socialist calculation.

For two hundred years, economists have been content to repeat and elaborate on the example of the pin factory described by Adam Smith – in which the operations of making a pin are divided among many workers, thereby raising average output. In fact, these efficiencies can be realised just as easily by dividing the operations so that individual workers perform them one after the other.

If large firms predominate, it is not because they are the outcome of free market forces. Rather, they are called into being by systematic distortions of the market that amount to a subsidy on size. These distortions include the following:

First, there is subsidised transport and communication infrastructure. According to Mr Carson,

[i]t’s… important to remember that whatever reductions in unit production cost results from internal economies of large-scale production is to some extent offset by the dis-economies of large-scale distribution.[p.34]

The British and American railway networks, for example, were built in the nineteenth century by private companies. However, investment was only made profitable by

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The Libertarian Alliance, Home Education, and Liberty: a strategic perspective


Sean Gabb

The Libertarian Alliance believes absolutely in the right of people to educate their children in their own values – whether these be of their family, their faith, their community or themselves. So far, the British State has not interfered with this right, and Britain is one of the most liberal environments on Earth for home education. In this respect, we are much luckier than Germany – where home education was outlawed by Hitler in 1938, or even many American jurisdictions.

This liberal environment may be about to change, with the acceptance of the Badman Report by the British Government. This will bring in compulsory registration of all home educators, together with inspection and control. These will not at first be very burdensome. But they will form a precedent for more and more burdensome regulation, until the right is effectively abolished. Action now means not negotiating a compromise with the authorities. This will simply concede the principle of regulation and buy a little time before effective abolition. We must oppose the very principle of regulation, and raise such a storm of opposition that the authorities back away from this attempt and are forced to wait at least a decade before trying again.

For this reason, WE MUST ACT NOW. The Libertarian Alliance makes no claim to leadership in this campaign. As said, we believe absolutely in the right to home education. The President and Director do have children of their own, and are interested in home education as an option. But we have limited resources, and there are home education movements in the United Kingdom with far greater organisational abilities in this area.

This being said, we do wish to make our own contribution. Here, then, are some of our writings on home education.

1. Our news release of the 11th June 2009. This sets out the nature of the threat, gives our summary response, and provides names and addresses of the politicians concerned for those who wish to write to them.

http://www.libertarian.co.uk/news/nr075.htm

2. An essay by Sean Gabb from 2004, which sets out the main arguments for home education.

http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc129.htm

3. “Home Schooling: A British Perspective” by Sean Gabb. Written in 2004, this was published in an American book in 2005. It explains at some length the present legal status of home education, and looks sympathetically at the arguments in favour of home education.

http://www.seangabb.co.uk/academic/homeschooling.htm

4. Professor John Kersey, “The Belgian State versus Home Schooling: The Persecution of Dr Alexandra Colen and Dr Paul Belien”, 2006. This provides an interesting and chilling case study on what happens in a country where home education is formally legal, but subject to state regulation.

http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/educn/educn038.pdf

5. David Botsford, “Compulsion Versus Liberty in Education, X: Home Education in Britain”. Published in 1993, this sets out another case for home education, written from a libertarian perspective.

http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/educn/educn024.pdf

6. David Botsford, “Ivan Illich and the Deschooling Movement”. Also from 1993, this continues the case against forcing children to attend schools, whether state or private.

http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/educn/educn013.pdf

7. As background to libertarian views on education in general, w e would recommend all the essays in our “Educational Notes” series.

http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/educn/edcindex.htm

Whether or not you are a parent with children of school age, whether or not you live in the United Kingdom, our New Labour Government – even when shambling round like the political equivalent of George A, Romero’s zombies – is set on destroying yet another ancient freedom in this country. If that attempt is successful, it will form a precedent for attacks in other countries. Please do take this matter seriously.

Regards,

Sean Gabb

Director

The Libertarian Alliance

Free Life Commentary No 129, 27th November 2004


 

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Comments| Trackback Issue Number 129
27th November 2004

Home Education: Do It Yourself, Do It Better
Sean Gabb

Education in this country is a mess. The complaints roll in. The children are taught less than their grandparents were, but are more pressured by tests and the meeting of other arbitrary targets. They play truant. They are bullied—around 20 children every year commit suicide because of this. They take too many drugs and have too much sex. They are force-fed political correctness. For the past month, the politicians have been issuing competing promises to sort out the mess—as if they had not made it in the first place. We can be sure of one thing: nothing will improve. Of course, if you can move to the right catchment area, or join the right religion, your children may get a semi-decent education. If you have the money, you can go private and get them a good education. For everyone else, though, it is a matter of what the Prime Minister, with uncharacteristic honesty, calls the "bog standard comprehensive".

Or is that it? The answer is no. There is an alternative.

The law on education in this country is clear. Parents have a legal duty to educate their children, but no duty to send them to school. Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 reads: "The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable: (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special education needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise." The meaning of this is that you can educate your children at home.

Until quite recently, home education was a common alternative to school. Noel Coward, for example, was educated almost wholly at home, briefly attending the Chapel Royal Choir School. Agatha Christie had no formal schooling before the age of 16. She later wrote that her mother believed "the best way to bring up girls was to let them run wild as much as possible; to give them food, fresh air and not to force their minds in any way". C.S. Lewis had only two years of formal schooling as a child—part of this at Wynyard School in Watford—a place he later called "Belsen".

By the middle of the last century, home education seems largely to have died out. Recently—partly because of the collapse of standards in the state sector, and partly following the American example, where the home schooling movement is huge—there has been a revival of interest. No one knows how many children in England are being educated a home. The estimates range between 84,000 and 150,000. The only agreement is that the numbers are growing fast. They include children who have been bullied or otherwise harmed at school, the children of the devoutly religious, and the children of parents who simply do not like what formal schooling has to offer. They are from all social, educational, ethnic and religious backgrounds.

One reason why we cannot know the numbers is because the law is so astonishingly liberal. You do not have to seek permission from the Local Education Authority to educate "otherwise"; nor inform the Local Education Authority that you have children of school age; nor have regular contact with the Local Education Authority; nor have premises equipped to any specified standard; nor have any teaching or other educational qualifications of your own; nor cover any specific syllabus; nor have any fixed timetable; nor prepare lesson plans of any kind; nor observe normal school hours or terms; nor give formal lessons; nor allow your children to mix with others. The only requirement is that children receive a "suitable" education. In a landmark decision from 1981, this is defined "one such as to prepare the children in life for modern civilised society, and to enable them to achieve their full potential". And that is it. You can sit your children down in a room full of books and maps and reproduce a school at home. Or you can tell them Bible stories as they help make bread. Or you can let them run about, picking up whatever learning takes their fancy. There are no controls.

You might suppose that children not committed to the care of professional teachers would become illiterate barbarians. There is no evidence at all that they do. Indeed, what evidence there is shows that children educated at home do significantly better. In 2002, Dr Paula Rothermel of Durham University published the largest study ever made in the United Kingdom. She found that 64 per cent of such children scored over 75 per cent in standard tests, as opposed to only 5.1 children nationally. Other achievement levels were far above the national average. She found that "home educated children were socially adept and without behavioural problems. Overall, the home educated children demonstrated high levels of attainment and good social skills".

She also notes that the children of working class, poorly-educated parents were doing better than middle class children. While five and six year old children from middle class backgrounds scored only 55.2 per cent in the test, they scored 71 per cent.

Of course, just because it appears to work is no reason for the authorities to approve of it. The law remains unchanged in England. But there is pressure for change. We can be sure the teachers hate anything that shows them in a comparatively poor light. In June this year, one of the main teaching unions heard calls for regulation. Apparently children educated at home were "the only group… who have no consistent level of monitoring or inspection yet are the only group taught in the main by those with no qualifications". One can almost hear the nervous shuffling of bottoms.

If this were not enough, we live in an age where the authorities just cannot let anything alone. During the ten years to the beginning of October 2004, the phrase "completely unregulated" occurs 153 times in the British newspaper press. In all cases, unless used satirically, the phrase is part of a condemnation of some activity. We are told that the advertising of food to children, residential lettings agents, funeral directors, rock climbing, alleged communication with the dead, salons and tanning shops, contracts for extended warranties on home appliances, and anything to do with the Internet—that these are all "almost completely unregulated" or just "completely unregulated", and that the authorities had better do something about the fact.

Then there is the ideological agenda. Schooling is only partly about teaching children to read and write and do basic sums. It is mainly about teaching them to think and do as the Establishment desires. When the Establishment was broadly conservative, children were taught how sweet and fitting it was to die for the country: would ten million young men have marched semi willingly to their death in the Great War without the prior conditioning of state education? Nowadays, the Establishment is almost solidly of the left. Children now are taught how guilty they must feel if they happen to be white or male or middle class, and how they must accept the anti-western, anti-rational, anti-Enlightenment values of political correctness. And this is even thought a basic human right. In its own draft bill of rights, the National Council for Civil Liberties asserts the "right to an education that prepares them… to respect diversity and human rights".

Given this fact, the Establishment sees home education as a challenge to its ideological hegemony. The academic literature is filled with denunciations of "neoliberals, neoconservatives, and authoritarian populists" who seek to frustrate the noble efforts of teachers. Home education is seen as an example of "individualized behaviour" that "threatens to undermine the quality of public education".

There has been no concerted attack in England There are ugly stories to be found in the newspapers. It seems that some authorities are trying to conflate home schooling with truancy. Individual officials have been accused of threatening parents known to be educating their children at home—saying that their children would be put on the "at-risk" register. There is one story of a school that informed a mother that it was illegal for her to take one child out of school following the suicide of another who had been bullied there. But none of this yet reflects official policy.

There has, however, been an official attempt in Scotland to make home education less easy for parents. In 2002, the Scottish Executive, proposed that local authorities should be able to use details from the United Kingdom Census, from birth registers, from medical records, and from other confidential sources, to identify those children being educated at home. These proposals were bitterly fought by the home education movement—not just in Scotland, but also in the United Kingdom as a whole, and also from America. The law remains unchanged, but the proposals have not gone away.

But, for the moment, home education is perfectly legal in this country. It is expensive: at least one parent must be at home at least some of the time to look after things. On the other hand, it can be brilliantly successful. So if you are really think your children are not getting the best at school, stop looking to the politicians. They either have no idea how to make things better, or are planning how to make them still worse. Do it yourself—and almost certainly do it better.

Free Life Commentary No 129, 27th November 2004

LA … The News Release on Home Education Proposals


Sean Gabb

(UPDATE1:- I see that Blogdial has picked this up – well done, please tell everyone asap. There are a lot of other outgoing links in Blogdial about this matter, which later you may care to follow. UKIP (and here too): Renegade Parent: old Gerald Warner: the Quisling-Graph for once is good and right, and this editorial too. plus links to the usual GramscoFabiaNazi Maoist lefty stuff as well, for entertainment if it were not so sinister and if the buggers did not really mean it, as they do.)

(UPDATE2:- And here’s Daniel Hannan, on how Thatcher saved Britain. That’ll get the Ballses, Ed and Yvette (she a chav or summat?) ranting.)

NEWS RELEASE FROM THE LIBERTARIAN ALLIANCE
In Association with the Libertarian International

Release Date: Thursday 11th June 2009
Release Time: Immediate

Contact Details:
Dr Sean Gabb on 07956 472 199 or via sean@libertarian.co.uk

For other contact and link details, see the foot of this message
Release url: http://www.libertarian.co.uk/news/nr075.htm

“HOME  EDUCATION  AND  THE  BRITISH  STATE :

KEEP  YOUR  HANDS  OFF  OUR  CHILDREN”

The Libertarian Alliance today denounces Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families in the British Government, for taking the first steps towards what will be the outlawing of home education.

[Mr Balls has accepted a report recommending that all home educating families in England will have to register annually and demonstrate they are providing a suitable education. It further recommends that children should be forced into state schools if parents do not meet certain standards set by the education bureaucrats. See here for further information: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/pns/DisplayPN.cgi?pn_id=2009_0105 ]

According to Sean Gabb, Director of the LA:

“The right of people to educate their children within the values of their family, their faith or their community has always been respected by the British State. Parents have been legally obliged to proved their children with an education – but have never been obliged to send them to school, or even to notify the authorities of what they intend.

“The current proposals sound moderate. The talk is of giving support, not of forbidding. But they are the first step to outlawing home education. Registration will, for the first time, let the authorities know who is educating their children at home. Once these parents are known, they will be visited and inspected to ensure that they are providing a ‘suitable’ education. What this means – though not all at once: it will take several years of salami slicing – is that parents will be hit with impossible and ever-changing health and safety rules. They will be forced to keep records in rigidly prescribed formats – records that will almost certainly demand disclosure of the race and probable sexuality of the children, and that will (if not first lost on a railway train) be shared with foreign governments and private companies. paper qualifications may be required from parents. They will eventually be forced to teach the feared and discredited National Curriculum.

“At no point will home education be made into a criminal offence – as it is in Germany and Belgium, among other European countries. Instead, it will be surrounded by so many rules and by so much supervision, that most parents who now educate at home will give up. Many who carry on will be picked off one at a time – their children conscripted into a state school for some trifling infraction of deliberately conflicting and arbitrary rules. In extreme cases, parents will have their children taken into ‘care’.

“The motive for regulation is not the safety of children or to provide them with a decent education. State schools do not – and are not intended to – provide children with a decent education. Their purpose is to indoctrinate children with the values of the Establishment. These values used to be love of Queen and Country and a perceived obligation to go and be shot at when rounded up and put into uniform. Nowadays, the values are politically correct multiculturalism.

“As for regulation as a guarantor of safety, we only need look at the nursery worker arrested this week for sexual assaults on children. Since this is a matter before the courts we make no comment on the woman’s guilt or innocence. We do note, however, that she will have been closely examined by Ofsted, and checked against all the relevant databases, and judged officially safe with children. Anyone who thinks regulation makes children safe needs his head examined.

“This current proposals will lead ultimately to a state of affairs in which children can be torn from their homes and forced into schools where they will be brainwashed into values that their parents find abhorrent – and where they will probably be kept illiterate and innumerate as these things were once measured, and where they might also be bullied into suicide or lifelong depression.

“Ed Balls, the Minister concerned, wants all this because his Government has turned Britain into a soft totalitarian state. No child – except, of course, of the rich, who can always buy their way out – must be permitted to escape the ideological apparatus of the New Labour State. Home educators are the equivalent of the Kulaks in the Soviet Union. They show too much independence. They must be destroyed.

“The Libertarian Alliance denounces Mr Balls and the Government in which he is a Minister, and calls on people everywhere – British or not, parents or not – to write to him expressing their own contempt of and opposition to this attempted mass kidnapping of our children.”

The address details for Mr Balls are as follows:

The Rt Hon Edward Michael Balls MP
Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
Sanctuary Buildings
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BT
dcfs.ministers@dcfs.gsi.gov.uk

His Deputy, Delyth Morgan, can be reached as follows:

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin
Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
Sanctuary Buildings
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BT
dcfs.ministers@dcfs.gsi.gov.uk

For those who think these things still matter, Mrs Morgan should be addressed in correspondence as “My Lady”

Letters should be brief. They should refer to the report “Review of Elective Home Education in England (June 2009)”
(available at http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/_download/?id=6080 )

Points worth making are:

  • Home education is a fundamental human right. In a free country, people are left alone to bring their children up in the values and traditions of their own communities or faith. This right has always so far been respected in Britain.
  • The mainstream of research into home education is unanimous that children educated at home receive a better education than at school – even when the parents have little formal education of their own.
  • The current proposals are the thin end of a wedge that will make home education impossible in practice for any but the best-educated or best-connected.
  • The current proposals open homes to inspection by probably hostile officials. These officials will inevitably discriminate on the basis or race or religion or class or sex.
  • Parents will be made to teach subjects that they may find abhorrent in ways that may be inappropriate to their own circumstances.
  • The regulatory system will be expensive and bureaucratic. It will put children at risk by gathering information on them and then losing it.

END OF COPY

Note(s) to Editors

Dr Sean Gabb is the Director of the Libertarian Alliance. He is regarded as one of the most prominent British writers on home education. He is co-author of “Homeschooling in Full View: A Reader“, 1995. His “Home Schooling: A British Perspective” can be read at http://www.seangabb.co.uk/academic/homeschooling.htm

He can be contacted for further comment on 07956 472 199 or by email at sean@libertarian.co.uk

Extended Contact Details:

The Libertarian Alliance is Britain’s most radical free market and civil liberties policy institute. It has published over 800 articles, pamphlets and books in support of freedom and against statism in all its forms. These are freely available at http://www.libertarian.co.uk

Our postal address is

The Libertarian Alliance
Suite 35
2 Lansdowne Row
Mayfair
London W1J 6HL
Tel: 07956 472 199

Associated Organisations

The Libertarian International – http://www.libertarian.to – is a sister organisation to the Libertarian Alliance. Its mission is to coordinate various initiatives in the defence of individual liberty throughout the world.

Sean Gabb’s personal website – http://www.seangabb.co.uk – contains about a million words of writings on themes interesting to libertarians and conservatives.

Hampden Press – http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk.- the publishing house of the Libertarian Alliance.

Liberalia – http://www.liberalia.com – maintained by by LA Executive member Christian Michel, Liberalia publishes in-depth papers in French and English on libertarianism and free enterprise. It is a prime source of documentation on these issues for students and scholars.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe: “From the Malthusian Trap to the Industrial Revolution”


Video shot and edited and uploaded by Sean Gabb

PFS 09 Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “From the Malthusian Trap to the Industrial Revolution” from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.

What is the Ruling Class? by Sean Gabb


Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 183
28th May 2009
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc183.htm

What is the Ruling Class?
By Sean Gabb
A Paper Given on Sunday the 24th May 2009
to the Fourth Annual Conference
of the Property and Freedom Society
in the Hotel Karia Princess in Bodrum, Turkey

In giving this paper, I make no pretence to originality of thought. Everything I am saying today has been said already – usually better, and always in greater detail – by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, by Roderick Long, by Kevin Carson, by Christian Michel, and by many others. If I can contribute anything to the libertarian analysis of class, it is brevity alone.

Libertarians often define a ruling class as that group of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, businessmen, therapists, educators and media people who derive income and position from the State. By definition, so far as such people operate as members of a ruling class, they are parasitic on the efforts of ordinary people. Their position comes from forcing others to act as they would not freely choose, or by excluding them from activities they might freely choose. Their income is based on forced transfers of wealth.

The size and activities of a ruling class will be determined by the physical resources it can extract from the people, by the amount of force it can use against them, and by the nature and acceptance of the ideology that legitimises its existence. None of these determinants by itself will be decisive, but each is a necessary factor. Change any one, and the working of the other two will be limited or wholly checked.

Of these determinants, the ideological are the most open to control and change. In the short term, resources are fixed in quantity. At any time, the amount of force available will be limited. What will always interest ruling classes, therefore, is the nature and acceptance of its legitimising ideology. This will vary according to circumstances that are not fully within the control of any ruling class. It may involve averting the Divine Wrath, or promoting acceptance of the True Faith, or protecting the nation from external or external enemies, or raising the condition of the poor, or making us healthier, or saving the planet from us. The claims of the ideology may, in other times and places, seem unfounded or insane. What they generally have in common is the need for an active state directed by the right sort of people.

Since the function of these ideologies is to justify theft or murder or both, they need to be promoted by endless repetition – which is a valid form of argument if truth is less important than winning – and by at least the discouragement of dissent. Efficient promotion will produce a discourse – this being the acceptance of a language and of habits of thought in which dissent cannot be expressed without also conceding its immorality. Efficient promotion will also produce a state of almost universal false consciousness – in which ordinary people are brought to accept ideological claims as true that are opposed to their own interests as these might be reasonably considered.

Now, to speak of ruling classes, and in these terms, will often produce a strongly hostile reaction from libertarians and from conservatives. In the first place, it sounds like Marxism. Indeed, in summarising my own beliefs about a ruling class, I have deliberately borrowed terms from the Marxist theory of class – “discourse”, “false consciousness”, “class consciousness”. This is sure to disturb many – and perhaps many in this room. For at least three generations, our movement was at ideological war with Marxism. We did all we could to refute its claims and to spread the truth about its consequences wherever it was tried. To use its language to express broadly similar concepts will appear to be making concessions that amount to intellectual surrender.

In the second place, many libertarians deny that the concept of a ruling class has any meaning in our own world. In 1605, for example, Guy Fawks and his fellow conspirators tried to blow up Parliament while it was being opened by the King. If they had succeeded, they would have killed the King and the whole of the senior aristocracy and the leaders of the Established Church and – give or take a few nominees – the leading men of every shire and town in England. At one stroke, they would have killed around seven hundred men, and this would have snuffed out the whole of the English ruling class.

And this was a ruling class. Its members were largely there by virtue of birth. They were often related to each other. They shared a common education. They dressed differently and spoke differently from those over whom they ruled. Generally, they were cleaner. They were committed to the Protestant faith and to the land settlement of Henry VIII. Their class consciousness was expressed in countless ways, and was reflected in their language. They spoke of “persons of quality” or “persons of gentle birth” or of “gentlemen”.

In England or America today, whatever I call the ruling class is far larger and has far less apparent unity. I have defined it as a group of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, businessmen, therapists, educators and media and business people. Perhaps I should just call these a gathering of groups, united only in their competition for power and income via the State, and each with a different legitimising ideology. Perhaps they are best compared not to the undoubted ruling class of Jacobean England, but to the members of a French bus queue. The common defining characteristic of these latter is that they all want to get on the bus. But it plainly serves no analytical or propagandistic purpose to define them on these grounds as a class.

Then there is the problem of collective action. Members of a supposed ruling class, for example – just as of a cartel – have personal interests as well as group interests. The former will often be more pressing than the latter; and the tendency over time will be for the rich and powerful to preach class solidarity while undermining it in their behaviour.

I will deal with the second of these objections in a moment. The first is easily answered. There is nothing specifically Marxist about the analysis of class and of class conflict. The Wealth of Nations is largely an exercise in class analysis. In France, J.B. Say was the father of a whole school of classical liberal class theory that was developed by, among others, Charles Compte, Charles Dunoyer and Augustin Thierry. In England, Cobden and Bright conceived their struggles against the corn laws and against war in terms of a class struggle. Marxian class theory, when it emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century, was one theory among many, and not at all the most prominent or most widely accepted.

This being said, Marxian class theory has, since then, received by far the most attention, and has been most fully developed. It is natural for many of us to feel uncomfortable about accepting any parts of this theory. But, if understandable, this is to be regretted. Marxism is false as a theory of human behaviour. But it has been developed by men of sometimes considerable talent and insight. To reject the incidental truths found by these men is rather like denouncing motorways because the first person to build them was Hitler. Astrology and alchemy were false sciences. Their claims about prediction and transformation were long ago falsified. Even so, the real sciences of astronomy and chemistry owe many incidental debts that no chemist or astronomer is ashamed to admit.

It should be the same with libertarians and conservatives in their view of Marxian class theory. Marx himself, together with Marxists like Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser and even Michel Foucoult, have much to tell us, and I am not ashamed to use Marxist terminology when I think it suits the needs of a libertarian class theory.

The main difference between Marxist and libertarian theories of class is in where each side locates the source of class power. For the Marxists, class power derives from ownership of the means of production. Standing in the tradition of Rousseau, Marx and his followers believe that mankind lived at first in a state of primitive communism, in which the means of production were held in common. This ended with the rise of a class that was able to take the means of production into its own possession. This class then set up the State as an executive committee to assist in its domination of everyone else. Since then, there have been successive revolutions as changes in the means of production have raised other classes to wealth, and these classes have then consolidated their own leading position by taking over the State.

According to this theory, therefore, the source of class power lies in wealth, and political power follows from wealth. This explains the Marxist belief that a communist revolution, by abolishing class domination, will rid the State of its oppressive nature. The State may then be dispensed from the liberal requirements of limitation and due process, and can be safely used as an instrument for ending such class power as remained. It will then, of itself, wither away.

This theory is manifestly false. Even without the thirty or fifty million corpses piled up by Marxist tyrannies in the twentieth century, it shows a terrible ignorance of human nature. Whether we dismiss the Marxists, in their main theory, as idiots or as villains depends on who is being discussed. But this is not to deny the incidental truths uncovered by Marx and his followers.

And these can be fitted into a libertarian class theory that locates the source of ruling class power in the State. For us, the State is not something created by the already powerful. It is, instead, something captured by those who want to become powerful – and who cannot become powerful by any other means. Without a state, there can be no exploitation. Without a state, the only transactions would be exchanges of value between free individuals from which all parties benefit according to their own conceptions of their interests. It is the State that can steal and kill. It is the State that raises up or calls into being groups that hope to benefit from the use of these powers, and that then constitute a ruling class. Abolish the State – or severely limit its size and power – and class domination will fall to the ground. The groups that comprise the ruling class will either die like tapeworms in a dead rat, or will be forced to offer their services on terms attractive to willing buyers.

I will now deal with the second libertarian objection to the concept of a ruling class. I accept that there is a problem of collective action. But this does not make an absolute refutation. For some purposes, group solidarity may be weaker than the pursuit of individual interests – but not always. Anyone who doubts this has only to look at the large number of young men in every generation who allow themselves – or volunteer – to be put into uniform and sent out to die for their country. Cartels are generally accepted to be conspiracies against the public interest. Class solidarity – so long as based on a legitimising ideology that is as firmly accepted by rulers as by ruled – can generally underpin collective action for many purposes and over long periods. Indeed, one of the sure signs that a ruling class has lost its will to rule is when significant numbers of those within it make fun of their legitimising ideology, or merely cease in private to believe in its truth. It is then that class solidarity becomes a sham, and the rulers begin to act like members of a cartel.

I also accept that ruling classes are, in our societies, much larger and more diverse than in the past. But accepting its size and diversity does not refute the claim that there is a ruling class. It is not necessary for the various groups I have mentioned to agree with each other in all respects. There is no reason for the ruling class to be monolithic. The medical establishment and tax gathering bureaucrats do not agree about state policy on smoking. Big business may disagree with the education establishment about what and how children are taught. Just a few years ago in England, the Government and the state-owned BBC fell out very bitterly over the Iraq War. During such disputes, different groups within the ruling class may even turn for physical or moral support to groups far outside the ruling class. They may even, from time to time, recast themselves – by accepting newly attractive groups, or expelling groups that no longer contribute to the class as a whole, or that endanger the continued existence of the class as a whole.

Even so, there is a general solidarity of interest that holds an effective ruling class together. No matter how they argue over the details of what the State is to do, its constituent groups will extend each other a mutual recognition of legitimacy. They agree that the State is a force for good, and that they are the right people to direct it. Their disputes will not be carried to the point where they knowingly undermine their overall legitimacy as a class – or the legitimacy of any of the constituent groups. Roderick Long has likened modern ruling classes to Church and State in old Europe. For the better part of a millennium, these institutions fought – and often bitterly – over which should be the predominant force in their societies. They hardly ever lost sight of the fact that they had a common interest in keeping the rest of the population subject to authority.

Sot it is now. Anyone who has ever taken money from big business will surely have noticed how his paymasters have been willing to use weakened forms of libertarian ideology to make specific points – but have never shown interest in promoting libertarianism as a full agenda of attack. In all cases, libertarian defenders are brought in to argue for concessions from the taxing and regulatory groups of the ruling class. They are never permitted to argue against the general legitimacy of taxes or regulations. That would risk undermining the system from which all groups –even if they might lose out in the short term – derive income and position in the long term.

This may be the common defining characteristic of a modern ruling class – a belief in the State and in the right and fitness of the groups I have described to direct it, and to gain income and status from their positions within the State. And, as in the past, class consciousness is reinforced by more than commonality of interest. I grant that, in America and to a lesser but similar extent in England, individual position is no longer rigidly fixed by birth, and it is common for people, wherever they start in life, to rise or sink according to their abilities. Nevertheless, we can still see families and networks of families that, in generation after generation, turn out individuals who occupy positions within the ruling class. Remember names like Toynbee and Gore and Kennedy and Cecil.

Otherwise, members of the British and American ruling classes share a common outlook on the world that is gained by attending the same schools and universities, and that is maintained by small but significant movements from one group to another that comprise the ruling class. In England, for example, it is common for politicians to begin or to end their careers in the more privileged big business corporations or in other agencies that look for their existence to the State. And it is fairly common for people from these groups to be recruited into senior political or administrative positions. There may be cultural differences between these groups. But these are not so great as to endanger close cooperation between them in the common project of exploiting ordinary people.

I agree that this is not an entirely satisfactory account of the ruling class. If I were a Marxist, it would be much easier. A member of the ruling class is someone who owns the means of production. I cannot supply an equally clear common defining characteristic. I cannot even put too much emphasis on the parasitic nature of a ruling class. The groups comprising a modern ruling class are parasites so far as they act as a ruling class. But they will often act both as members of a ruling class and as members of the productive class.

Companies like Wallmart and Tesco, for example, are privileged organisations. They benefit from incorporation laws that let them exist in the first place, from transport subsidies that externalise their diseconomies of scale, from taxes and regulations that disproportionately harm their smaller competitors, and in many other ways. At the same time, they provide cheaper and better food than their customers might once have thought possible. The media may be a producer or and conduit for propaganda. At the same time, it provides entertainment that people appear to enjoy. The medical establishment wants to coerce us into giving up probably harmful things like tobacco and probably beneficial things like vitamin pills, and procures laws that limit patient choice. At the same time, it does appear to be encouraging rapid medical progress in at least some areas.

Western ruling classes are not like the Soviet Nomenklatura. Many of the groups within these ruling classes have double functions inside and outside reasonably functioning market systems. Their activities are illegitimate only so far as they take place outside the market.

And so, while I do believe that the concept of a ruling class has meaning in our societies, I cannot dispute that it has problems. Nevertheless, in spite of all reservations, I do believe that the concept of a ruling class is not wholly useless, and I do suggest that those of us who have so far paid it little attention might do well to give it some thought.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3