Various prominent British libertarians seem now agreed that The Endarkenment approaches. The signs have been increasingly clear for some time. The fact that liberty is the mother of order and not its daughter is inconvenient for those that mean to boot the vast majority of Mankind – except themselves – backwards, cruelly, painfully and hard into pre-enlightenment misery, starvation, disease and servitude.
Being a scientist myself by training and thought-modes, and therefore by definition not an intellectual - I have never figured out why humans get to want to bring about – and worse, specifically for others than themselves – what I described above.
It always seems after careful analysis of their plans, that they would like to visit upon the whole of humanity what Churchill described as “the torments that Dante reserved for the damned”.
[Incidentally, I think that "intellectual" (the noun) is is a mere imaginary literary concept, applied by primitive pre-scientific mystics to themselves and their friends who still work according to neolithic non-tribe-male-skull-crashing theories of how to behave towards others, and are driven by emotion and wishful thinking. This may become the subject of another discussion, but perhaps I may accidentally have defined "conservatives" as definitely not these people. We shall have to see, when I have time to try to write something again.]
Various commenters on recent postings here have said things like this, and this, and this. In the darkness however, someone said this, and Continue reading
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by D.J. Webb
After reading unpleasant news today, I have to say the first thing I would do if I were in power is to release the Marine framed for a “crime” in Afghanistan and sentenced to life imprisonment today . I have clarified repeatedly that libertarianism has nothing to do with the idea there should be no nations and no borders. There need to be borders so we can defend our nation and its culture. Freedom can only be realised as part of a free society, not a ragbag of individuals, and so that society needs to be defended. There are going to be foreign opponents of the UK that our soldiers confront in battle – it is irrelevant for my purposes that the stated objective of bringing democracy, sweetness and light to Afghanistan was unachievable from the outset and had no connection to our national interests.
By D. J. Webb
I haven’t had much time to write on politics recently, for which I apologise to readers of the LA blog.
I want to address a problem today that I see frequently. You can call it the Daily Mail mentality, or big-C conservatism, or the smug middle class. This mentality is even exhibited in some of the pro-free market think-tanks that rail against the fecklessness of the benefits scroungers and the young in general, hoping that, by cracking down on benefits, a tax cut for the well heeled can thereby be afforded. This sort of thing can often pass for libertarianism.
Let me use the example of my mother to illustrate the problem. She condemns her grandchildren for not getting jobs and running up payday loans. Apparently, the young people today don’t want to get on the hard way, by working for your living. They want it all now, handed to them on a plate, without having to work for it. I think many readers of this blog will recognise the theme, which appears to be a regurgitation of some of the worst articles on the Daily Mail website. Warming to her topic, she has been known to wax lyrical on the social obligation to pay the council tax. Is she a budding libertarian? Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
We have seen a spate of accusations of sexual assault, and even rape, against people in the public eye. It seems clear that celebrities are often surrounded by groupies, people who expect to be subject to some kind of sexual contact, and it also seems clear that, even where such contact is unwelcome, accusations made many years after the fact contravene any possible concept of justice. There is no way to prove any of any individual historical accusations. Instead what we have is a “weight of evidence” approach, where accusations from 100 people claiming to have been groped in the 1970s are considered to more or less prove the case, although none of the individual claims can be proved or disproved. This removes the burden of proof from one of “beyond all reasonable doubt” to the one of the “balance of probabilities” accepted in civil cases. In many cases, the balance of probabilities is that some kind of repellent behaviour did go on, but that does not mean that our criminal justice system should find people guilty of serious crimes on the basis of such “evidence”. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
Steve Davies constantly intervenes in public debate to argue for what he sees as free markets. However, in the absence of wider economic reforms, some of his arguments may end up, however inadvertently, supporting skewed markets, markets skewed by government intervention, rather than genuinely free markets. As Education Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), he may represent the views of the IEA more broadly, and the IEA is an organisation with a reputation for libertarianism. But it is important that libertarians argue for a wholesale restructuring of the economy, to remove existing distortions, and not simply oppose further intervention while retaining existing distortions, because otherwise we may unintentionally end up supporting government intervention that currently works to deliver unearned gains to the well-heeled. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
We were told today by the Office for Budget Responsibility that rising longevity will mean another blow-out in the public finances by 2062. Health, pension and social care spending will all rise rapidly.
I am not trying to play devil’s advocate in the Libertarian Alliance here, but to flag up a necessary discussion. All libertarian analyses so far have tended to just affirm that privatising everything will solve this problem. True, if health, retirement provision and social care provision are all privatised, and presumably income tax and national insurance abolished, it would remove the implications for the **public** finances of demographic ageing.
But the implications are still there for the economy as a whole. The difference is that, after privatisation, it becomes a private financial problem. However these matters are handled – this is the key point – spending in these areas will have to rise as a proportion of GDP. Even if that spending is purely privately undertaken, it will still need to rise as an overall percentage of UK GDP. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
Personally, I do take cash. I love it. I wish I had sacks of it. Unlike those shops that refuse £50 notes, I would take bags stuffed full of them. No one has ever given me bags of £50 notes, but it is not for want of my trying to persuade them. Cash is king, for me, at any rate.
What is this nonsense about money laundering? Such laws are a nuisance for the law-abiding. If the authorities really wanted to check into money laundering, all transactions over £1 million in the London market involving Greek, Russian, Chinese or Arab money could be looked into. It seems absurd for smallish transactions to require reams of documentation, under the pretext of anti-money laundering, and my presumption is that the authorities are really interested in preventing us from collapsing fiat money by keeping our money under the bed. Continue reading
D. J. Webb
Some cultures are positive and upbeat; others lay undue stress on negative things and consequently create higher levels of personal stress. This is worth the consideration of libertarians, because a free society can only really take off in a society that is positive. In a negative culture, people will be depressed and fearful, and will look to the government to protect them from life itself and even from themselves. The English are known for their love of a good moan. One way of looking at this is that they are thereby letting off steam. Even if that is so, however, people who focus on the negative aspects of everything are ill-equipped to take advantage of the opportunities in life and in the economy. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
Libertarians have generally been concerned about the development of a police state. While I am concerned over the behaviour of the police—and in particular, what Sam Francis in the US called anarcho-tyranny [“we refuse to control real criminals (that’s the anarchy) so we control the innocent (that’s the tyranny)”; see here]—there is a good deal of evidence that it is the courts that are driving the creation in our society of the miasma of state control. So I am more worried about living in a judicial state. A police state could be a state where laws passed by Parliament are enforced in an overbearing manner; a judicial state is one where the laws aren’t even drawn up by Parliament in the first place. There is a connection between the two, of course, because in the absence of judicial tyranny, high-handed actions by the police and other officials could be combated. Once the judges are committed to unaccountable rule, it is harder to discern a path out of the maze we’re in. Continue reading
by D.J Webb
I have umm’d and aah’d for a long time over how to approach this issue, because it often seems that libertarianism is an ideological reflex of personal interests. For example, Allister Heath at City AM, generally fairly free-market in his approach, called recently for tax reform, but a “reform” that would retain taxes on income and profits and avoid imposing any levies on the occupation of land. On this very LA blog, many people otherwise libertarian in their general views have seemed vituperatively to oppose shifting taxation from income and profits onto property. Such people are often vocal in decrying any attempt to talk about the “fairness” of the free market, while happy to accept state intervention to skew economic opportunities in the interests of those who already have wealth and property. It is likely that most people who are “free-market” in their view of economics are simply expressing their own interests in the economy. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
An intriguing article on the Telegraph website claims that the Royal family are regularly vetoing new laws, although the article appears sloppily written, and in particular the writer doesn’t appear to know the difference between the formal casting of a veto and the registering of some kind of objection to a law in advance. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
Women are forced out to work by house prices. This is the real subtext to absurd plans for the state to pay £2,000 to each working woman for childminding. With high taxes and council tax, high transport fees and high childminding bills, it is hard for women to make work pay — and the only result of their trying to do so is to push up the income on which mortgage loans are calculated, thus supporting the property Ponzi scheme. Continue reading
by David J. Webb
The real key to understanding politics in a country like the UK is that the élite long ago tired of the nation-state. It is not that the concept of a self-governing nation lacked support among the wider population—after all, the opinions of the wider population are heavily influenced by the “opinion-formers”—no, it is that the élite themselves no longer believed in the concept, and so set about trying to move on to more cosmopolitan territory. I would argue that the real reasons for our membership of the EU, our promotion of multiculturalism and our encouragement of mass immigration are political or cultural—our élite wants to change the look and feel of the country—and not economic. Yet these policies are “sold” to us in economic terms, as if dropping these policies would lead to a collapse of the economy. Even people who are opposed to the EU and immigration on political/cultural grounds have to pause for breath while considering the economic impact of a policy change, as we all depend on the economy for our livelihoods. Most people simply don’t know whether the economic arguments are true or not, and so a large section of the population is hoodwinked by bogus economic arguments. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
Libertarians support low taxation on principle, in order to free people and the economy from the burden of the state. If the writings of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill are anything to go by, however, there is an important exception: land taxation. Land taxation is not just a necessary evil that affords the state some revenues with which to perform the very few necessary functions of government; it is a positive good, in that it tackles monopoly and speculation, and should ensure efficient use of land. If land taxation had remained the key source of government revenue in the UK, the current economic crisis would not have taken place. Continue reading
by DJ Webb
My thoughts wandered for a while after I read that Boris Johnson had taken part in discussions to find him a safe seat by means of which he could be propelled into Parliament. Mr Johnson has made a name for himself as a eurosceptic, although I fancy this is just clever positioning. I doubt he really gives two figs for our ancient constitution—and as Mayor of London, he has made clear his support for mass immigration to displace the majority population of England. For various reasons, therefore, I doubt his true political convictions are much more conservative than David Cameron’s, although he might be able to promise a little bit more “true blue water” between the Conservatives and Labour, although not so much as to restore our country’s constitution. Nevertheless, my subconscious filled in the blanks in my rêverie and this is what I dreamt of as I suspended belief for a few minutes: Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
Libertarians have traditionally stressed the need for freedom, rather than democracy. There is a good reason for this: democracy is a way of selecting legislators, but contains no guarantee that legislators will not seek to become ever more intrusive in the lives of citizens. Furthermore, democracy, if interpreted as indicating widespread popular support for the political élite, may be used to justify state interventionism. A democracy can be a manipulated democracy and not a free society. Consequently, freedom and democracy are not equivalents, and are not necessarily even mutually supporting concepts. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
1. Privatise the whole education system
2. All teachers’ salaries set by the schools
3. A voucher system instituted allowing parents choice, but the vouchers set at a level that does not cover the full cost of education (e.g. requiring a top-up co-payment averaging 10% of the cost of attending an unglamorous school from the parents, and much larger top-ups to attend better schools). Unmarried mothers with five children would still have to find a certain sum for their children’s education. Continue reading
Note: Because this has attracted nearly a hundred comments, and is one of our most active threads, we have decided to stick it back to the front page. SIG
by D.J. Webb
Homosexuality is in many ways an awkward subject to write about. In the old days, such things were not mentioned in polite conversation. Even today, the continual discussion of sexual orientation can grate: surely such things are meant to be intimate and private? However, conservatives do not set the tone of public debate, and for good or ill homosexuality has become a high-profile topic of political discussion. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
Accountable government is not the same as democratic government. We have seen in recent years how we are still able to vote for governing parties, and yet still see the business of government largely conducted behind closed doors in Brussels and in Whitehall. The democratic electoral mechanism is still in place, but it doesn’t appear to make any difference any more. The reverse could also be true: a government could be accountable, while not being fully democratic. Before the advent of full democracy in the late 19th century, for example, the British government was accountable, in law and to Parliament, a consideration aided by the fact that government was still relatively small in scope and objectives. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
Are Unflappable Englishmen Actually Just Complacent?
England, and especially the political élite, has long cultivated a rather admirable cultural style. I call it unflappability. It is a kind of sang froid that dates back to the days when England ruled the waves. Our current prime minister, David Cameron, exudes unflappability partly because of his upper-class, Eton and Oxford roots. His class were born to rule—to rule one-quarter of the earth, and not just England—and many members of his class retain a serene cultural style, which means that he performs well in a crisis, debates well in Parliament and gives a good account of himself in front of a television camera. Continue reading
British-Irish Relations: “Not Entirely Benign”? David J. Webb
Historical Notes No. 53
ISBN 9781856376501 ISSN 0267-7105 (print) ISSN 2042-2571 (online)
An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London, W1J 6HL.
© 2012: Libertarian Alliance; David Webb.
David Webb studied Chinese and Russian at Leeds University, where he was involved in Marxist politics. He has since become a conservative writer, contributing to The Salisbury Review and Right Now!, and more recently contributing extensively to the Libertarian Allianceblog. He lived for four years in China (Tianjin, Kunming and Chengdu) and now writes freelance on Chinese politics and economics. He is also a student of the Cork dialect of Irish and runs the Cork Irish website at http://www.corkirish.com.
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
I took the UK Citizenship Test at http://www.ukcitizenshiptest.co.uk/ to see what questions they ask. I got 14 of 24 questions right. I wonder if that means my passport will be revoked. 45 minutes are allowed for a test that takes 3 minutes. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
I have commented on Peter Oborne’s blog on the budget, where he says “the decision to educate ordinary citizens about how their taxes are spent is inspired: it is one of those apparently small innovations which over time can generate profound cultural changes”. I don’t regard this as a positive thing, and this is the comment thereon that I left on his blog: Continue reading
by David Webb
Occasionally you read something that makes clear to you that there is no going back to the old culture, which had undesirable elements to it, otherwise the current cultural revolution would not have been embarked on in the first place. Was our old culture rotten? Not entirely, and in fact in many respects the modern culture with the seizure of children for no reason and prosecution for Twitter comments is just as rotten in its own right. Continue reading
Mortgages and Repossessions
by D.J. Webb
Traditionally in England it was considered disgraceful not to pay your debts. Yet with the current financial crisis apparently running and running the way in which financial products are rigged against the consumer—and the way in which property prices have been fuelled over decades by a number of government policies—has introduced the notion of the lenders’ responsibility into the debate surrounding the property market. I welcome this development. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
A MINIMUM WAGE OR A FREE ECONOMY?
The Conservative and Liberal Democrat halves of our ruling coalition government are engaged in a debate over employment legislation, with some Conservatives calling for less regulation of employment and also for smaller companies to be exempt from minimum-wage legislation. Libertarians oppose state regulation, although I think it would be fair to say that libertarians are seeking a more holistic, workable approach than simply deleting minimum-wage laws. The reason for this is that, in the absence of welfare reform, abolishing the minimum wage will have the result of decreasing yet further any incentive for the unemployed to find work. I am not convinced that removing the minimum wage—especially one set at current rates—will have a significant positive impact on the employment market in the absence of a broader package of measures to free the economy. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
I read a story in the Daily Telegraph today that reminded me somewhat of my experience in Gatwick airport last year. A man who, incidentally happened to be the creator of the Fireman Sam children’s character, made a comment while going through security checks about a Muslim woman in a veil who had not been subject to the same level of checks that he had. His comment was not a racial attack, or a diatribe on the subject of immigration or multiculturalism, but the following: “if I was wearing this scarf over my face, I wonder what would happen.” Continue reading
An undeniable problem…
It is difficult to deny that obesity is a problem in England today. An apparent inability to control one’s body size and shape is cited by millions as something that diminishes their enjoyment in life. We only live once, and a life spent battling “flab” can only be described as a wasted life. It is clearly far from ideal to look back in one’s 40s or 50s, as many do, on what should have been the best years of one’s life, knowing that one’s own lifestyle choices spoiled those years. For this reason, propaganda by the government and healthcare professionals on obesity and lifestyles is undeniably relevant, albeit objectionable from the point of view of individual freedom. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
A nation in decline
England is a nation in decline, and as much as conservatives hope for the leadership to emerge that could stem the decline and encourage a cultural renaissance, we know in our bones that this will not, or cannot, happen. Patriotism seems to contain the seeds of its own antidote: revulsion—revulsion against what England has become. Just like Winston Smith in George Orwell’s novel 1984, who dreamt of the ‘Golden Country’,England is for us an image far removed from the country around us. If we love that image, we have to recoil from the Real England that surrounds us in our daily lives. We feel less and less confidence that there is any real thread of connection between the Golden Country and the Real England of today. Would a conservative be prepared to fight for a country such asEngland today? And if so, why? Out of nostalgia? Or confusion? Continue reading