Attack Tyranny at Its Weakest Link — Enforcement, by Kevin Carson

Liberal goo-goos and “good citizens” of all stripes are fond of saying that “We must continue to obey the law while we work to change it.” Every day I become more convinced that this approach gets things precisely backwards. Each day’s news demonstrates the futility of attempts at legislative reform, compared to direct action to make the laws unenforceable.

The principle was stated most effectively by Charles Johnson, one of the more prominent writers on the libertarian Left (“Counter-economic Optimism,” Rad Geek People’s Daily, Feb. 7, 2009):

“If you put all your hope for social change in legal reform … then … you will find yourself outmaneuvered at every turn by those who have the deepest pockets and the best media access and the tightest connections. There is no hope for turning this system against them; because, after all, the system was made for them and the system was made by them. Reformist political campaigns inevitably turn out to suck a lot of time and money into the politics—with just about none of the reform coming out on the other end.”

Far greater success can be achieved, at a tiny fraction of the cost, by “bypassing those laws and making them irrelevant to your life.”

Johnson wrote in the immediate context of copyright law. In response to an anti-copyright blogger who closed up shop in despair over the increasingly draconian nature of copyright law, he pointed to the state’s imploding ability to enforce such laws. The DRM of popular music and movie content is typically cracked within hours of its release, and it becomes freely available for torrent download. Ever harsher surveillance by ISPs in collusion with content “owners” is countered by the use of anonymizers and proxies. And the all-pervasive “anti-songlifting” curriculum in the publik skools, in today’s youth culture, is met with the same incredulous hilarity as a showing of “Reefer Madness” to a bunch of potheads.

The weakest link in any legal regime, no matter how repressive on paper, is its enforcement.

I saw a couple of heartening news items this past week that illustrate the same principle. First, a judge in Missoula County Montana complained that it would soon likely become almost impossible to enforce anti-marijuana laws because of the increasing difficulty of seating juries. In a recent drug case, so many potential jurors in the voir dire process declared their unwillingness to enforce the pot laws that the prosecution chose to work out a plea deal instead. The defendant’s attorney stated that public opinion “is not supportive of the state’s marijuana law and appeared to prevent any conviction from being obtained simply because an unbiased jury did not appear available under any circumstances …” The same thing happened in about sixty percent of alcohol cases under Prohibition.

Public agitation against a law may be very fruitful indeed — but not so much by creating pressure to change the law as by creating a climate of public opinion such that it becomes a dead letter.

Another morale booster is the rapidly improving technology for recording cops, which Radley Balko (a journalist whose chief bailiwick is police misbehavior) describes in the January issue of Reason Magazine (“How to Record the Cops“). Miniaturized, unobtrusive video cameras with upload capability can instantly transmit images for storage offsite or stream content directly to the Internet — which means that the all-too-frequent tendency of thuggish cops to seize or destroy cameras will result only in video of the very act of seizure or destruction itself being widely distributed on the Internet. “Smile, Officer Friendly — you’re on Candid Camera!”

The practical implication, according to Balko, is this:

“Prior to this technology, prosecutors and the courts nearly always deferred to the police narrative. Now that narrative has to be consistent with independently recorded evidence. And as examples of police reports contradicted by video become increasingly common, a couple of things are likely to happen: Prosecutors and courts will be less inclined to uncritically accept police testimony, even in cases where there is no video, and bad cops will be deterred by the knowledge that their misconduct is apt to be recorded.”

As such technology becomes cheap and ubiquitous, police will increasingly operate in an atmosphere where such monitoring is expected — and feared — as a routine part of their job. Even the most stupid and brutal of cops will always carry, in the backs of their minds, the significant possibility that this might be one of the times they’ve got an audience.

New technology, empowering the individual, will soon deter cops in a way that decades of civilian review boards and police commissions failed to achieve.

So the goo-goos have it backwards. Don’t waste time trying to change the law. Just disobey it.

41 responses to “Attack Tyranny at Its Weakest Link — Enforcement, by Kevin Carson

  1. When enough people withdraw their consent then there is nothing the State can do.

    In Britain we have a very deep rooted tradition of obedience to the Law, even when we disagree with the law in question. With its contempt for tradition and the traditional limits of government, the State risks losing that ingrained respect for authority and law.

    It will miss that tradition when it loses it and it will find it extremely hard and slow work to reestablish it. For evidence i refer to the attitude of people to the State in Southern Europe.

    At the moment, when the State bans something, such as smoking in pubs, people may grumble, but they obey. That habit of obedience is deep and strong but it can be broken and if that happens, will not be repairable.

    How would the State cope if millions of people simply stopped paying their BBC television licence?

  2. States also benefit from making examples. If a million people feel inclined not to buy a television licence, the authorities only need to prosecute a few dozen to get everyone else back in line. Do remember that, in the short term, doing John Hampden through the courts was a success. Nearly everyone else paid up.

  3. That is what I think. We should forget trying to reform the state from within the system. It has never worked and will never work.

    People just need to start ignoring the state, because the power of the state in western democracies mostly comes from the willingness of the people to accept the state as authority. If that were to change, strategies like making an example would just make more people believe that state authorities are not legitimate and would ultimately let the state either turn into a military dictatorship or disappear.

    It certainly is a very long process, but ultimately the only one that will be successful. If we cannot manage to crush the believe in state authorities, we will always end up making one step forward and three steps backward.

  4. As a note of caution though, we should remember that just because the mob “can” it doesn’t mean it “should”. Many laws can be overwhelmed by force of numbers; but most libertarians, if not Mr Carson, believe in a legal framework of property rights and should continue to respect property rights, surely.

    A mob can destroy businessses, homes, entire districts, with little chance of arrest. That is not a blow for freedom. If your business was looted, it was a loss of freedom. The communists started up the Ramblers Association entirely to destroy land property rights (and had considerable success, as with the State recently confiscating the entire coastland of Britain for a “ramblers path”). For instance, Mr Carson apparently doesn’t like intellectual property, and thus applauds the mob violating it. He might think differently if he’d spent 200 million dollars making a movie and hoped to recoup his investment, or if he were a young musician eager to escape poverty and the ghetto with his music, only for smug well to do persons to steal it all in the name of “freedom”.

    All property rights are arbitrary. Some people don’t want land to be property. It should be a commons, they say. All property rights provide a “monopoly” of something; some land, some goods, a song or a movie, which say, “this belongs to X and if anyone else wants it they must obtain it with X’s consent”. Sean Gabb has recently written a novel, for instance. It is only his to sell because the law says it is. That is a Good Thing. I hope Sean does well from his novel. Under Carsonism, he would have it taken away and handed to the mob. That is not liberty.

    So let us resist tyranny, but let us not do so by repudiating that most basic principle of ours, the principle of property. Without it, there is no liberty to fight for.

  5. Ian B, the example you use, of the Ramblers Association, is an example of attempting to extert power by influencing the State, in such matters as ‘right to roam’ legislation and the coastal path. That is not the same as people withdrawing their consent and cooperation from the State.

    Riot and theft can be commited by a mob. That is an entirely different thing from a people choosing to withdraw their consent and cooperation from the State. There is a major and vital distinction.

    Dr Gabb, you point out that the State can respond by making examples of individuals. that is quite correct, the State has many ways of fighting to enforce itself on the people. However, ultimately, if enough people simply say ‘no’ then there is nothing whatsoever even the most powerful State can do. For examples, se the collapse of the Berlin wall, or more domestically, the unenforcibility of the Poll Tax.

    At the moment there is little mass discontent against the BBC licence fee which is why the State can make examples of individuals. If millions of Britons were to cease paying the fee there would be nothing the State could do. As the ingrained habits of obedience and respect fade the State will (does) respond with greater severity to enforce its will. This will lead to further loss of legitimacy and greater resistance against its activities.

  6. The dividing line is blurred. The “mass trespasses” of the Ramblers Ass in their early years were specifically designed as a repudiation of property rights. They were attempting to change the law, but so are licence fee refuseniks. So there isn’t a clear distinction.

  7. Incidentially, in some American States ‘anti wiretapping’ laws are invoked by the police to arrest and criminally charge people with the ‘crime’ of recording police with their camera phones. As the police have been repeatedly caught out lying and commiting illegal acts the ‘Youtubeing’ of their actions has been extremely embarassing.

    This is a perfect example of a repressive law that can and will be unenforcible. The kneejerk anti liberty response from the State is very illuminating and it will simply provoke yet more careful watching of the activitives of the State and its minions.

  8. Dr Gabb, if it’s not too rude, i quote your own words to you.

    ”What we should do now, therefore, is to work out exactly how much inconvenience we can take before we must give in and accept the cards. We should also take action to stop the cards from being smoothly introduced. Most obviously, if they are more than a few years old, we should “lose” our passports and apply for new ones before the Passport Agency is co-opted into handing out the identity cards. If we are to be given these things, let it be made as administratively difficult and expensive as we can.

    We may not be able to stop the Identity Cards Bill from becoming law. But we can stop it from being easily implemented in fact.”

    Excellent advice on how people can obstruct and block the enforcement and implementation of State impositions.

  9. Andrew Withers (LPUK)

    “Do remember that, in the short term, doing John Hampden through the courts was a success. Nearly everyone else paid up”

    But they did not pay up with a smile on their face, for every Hampden there was a brother, cousin, brother in Law who saw the injustice and started to get organised to the extent when Charles raised his standard at Nottingham, the ‘Country Party’ had already closed the gates of Hull and seized the county magazines. We are in much the same state as the 1630’s, but without the organisation and discipline. An ant can be crushed, an army of ants will sting and bite.

    Fabians pass a Law in response ‘to do something’. The State either has to grow bigger to enforce the Law, or accept unenforcibility thus rendering the Law a ‘Bad Law’. The Courts are already overwhelmed at present, with the ‘cuts’ this will lead to longer cases or ‘summary justice’ being dispensed by the State.

    I am all in favour of civil disobedience of bad law and ‘oppressive Fabian Law’ in particular, but we run the risk of bringing all Law into disrepute, but it is a risk that needs to be asessed.

  10. The most successful mass action against bad law so far has been conducted by the fox hunting fraternity. Even the (left-leaning) police have accepted that it is almost unenforcable … and it is sure to be repealed. Like them or loathe them, their determination should be respected and adopted in other matters.

  11. We need to distinguish things like what kind of a “law” something is. This is where I think IanB’s point comes in regarding property, whose identity and status is described in Common Law, versus other “laws”, which are in effect “statutes”.

    These could be, say, about “not smoking at-all-at-all in a “public” venue such as an office or restaurant – where the venue concerned is in reality _/private/_ – and thus where the State has intervened directly by force to abate the property rights of the owner.

    The problem about mobs is that their violence implicit in their name is undirected, and cannot be predictable. Personally, I am pessimistic, and I don’t think we are anywhere near the point where a “mob” of any sort, directable or otherwise, could be raised in the name of anything like an abstract concept like /”individual liberty and freedom from State interference and coercion in any way”/.

    Mobs are all for abolishing things (such as, er, guns), or for bringing about some repressive measure or other (like, er, removing (all) guns from (all) people. Look at the anti-gun-lobby, both here and in the USA. In the day-nursery where my dear wife works, not only are no “gun toys” permitted to exist, even in 2-D representation, let alon as 3-D “idols”, but the actual _/word/_ “GUN” is not allowed to be said…..

    You will not get a British mob any time soon to strive for the epistemological reduction of the State in an absolute sense – and certainly not for the rather nice and theoretical concept of deliberately frustrating “bad laws” because they are anti-liberal. I am afraid, rather, that the Endarkenment is upon us.

    No, I can’t see a civil war starting here, in the name of liberty.

  12. David Davis, i think we are discussing two seperate things here.

    On the one hand, mob activity which will often be destructive and is generally unlikely to be a force for freedom.

    On the other hand, the withdrawal of consent and cooperation by an increasing number of people from the impositions of the State.

    As many of the activities of the State depend on the cooperation of the people, the gradual withdrawal of that cooperation will act as a more effective limitation of State impositions than any legal or constitutional constraints. Not civil war, not mob violence, just a simple withdrawal of consent.

  13. @CH
    By what means are we to get enough people (however many that may be) to withdraw their consent to comply with (whatever list of) laws is regarded as oppressive and therefore unfit to be enforced?

    We as British libertarians have been talking, and publishing (that increasingly) for 40+ years now. The cause of individual liberty is in worse state than it was when we started off. For about 25 years we sat in cold echoing rooms talking to each other. More recently some have come out openly. Sean regularly goes on the radio (and even sometimes the TV) to bravely battle and scrag lefties (mostly) , and does not fear these people at all, as is right. Guido, more conservative in a less-minial-statist sense, is often broadcast by the MSM, who almost regard him as one of their own. But the cause of oppression seems yet to advance, statute by statute.

    We have, today, a population that broadly is uncurious and rather lacking in the critical skills needed to be able to make these kinds of decisions. The existence of this massive group of millions of people who can be trusted to not react, is deliberate as it has been created on purpose throught the state education system. The “private schools” have been forced also to comply more or less with the same process of “education” by default, and under dire threats to their taxation-status.

    Since the “populace” is conditioned to accept governance by parties that campaign on one manifesto and then implement another totally different one, such as Labour and the Coalition, one solution would be to campaign politically while pretending to be a sort of “real Tory” party, committed to a referendum on the EU (for example) plus the “death penalty for child-killers” (specifially child-killers, to get the masses on-side. I’d have no intention at all of honouring that commitment, not for one moment, without also restoring the “right to arm bears” and the right to terminally-scrag an intruder in your home. Then you can delegate it (the right, that is…))

    Then, having got in, we’ll also have the Armed Forces on-side for squaddies will viscerally-side with us, and there are more squaddies than officers. So we’ll be able to lock-down and close-up the offices of all sorts of scumbag-state-agencies, destroying all the departmental records, and turning their staff onto the street with binliners of their labelled private property and porn-mags.

    This would be a constructive start to the Revolution.

  14. David Davis, i agree with your analysis of the state of public opinion, the relentless bias of the media and the lack of obvious progress of Libertarian ideas. As such i am not suggesting that people be organised into constructive anti State activities. I am not that optimistic.

    What i am suggesting is that the British people have a very deep ingrained instinct to obey the Law. If the Law says ‘don’t smoke in pubs’ then people may grumble but they will not smoke in pubs. If the Law says ‘don’t hunt foxes with hounds’ then people will not hunt foxes with hounds. If the law says ‘pay a licence fee to fund the BBC’ then that is what people will do.

    Now, that instinctive obedience is being stretched increasingly thin by the relentless increase in State intrusiveness. At some point increasing numbers of people will simply stop paying attention. At some point people will just stop paying some fee or applying for some licence or permission to carry out private activities. And at that point there will be nothing the State will be able to do about it.

    No number of enforcement officers, summons or threats will be enough to physically compel a recalcitrant population. Ultimately, the State absolutely depends on the consent and cooperation of the population. When that consent is withdrawn the mightest, most arrogant representatives of the State will be powerless.

    I must admit that when the government no smoking legislation meant that Vicars had to put up bright plastic ‘no smoking’ signs in Medieval Churches that people would move from the grumbling stage to the disobedience stage. It appears that people are more cowed and accultured to passive docility than i had realised, but at some point there will be a straw that breaks the camels back. Compare the attitude of the people of Italy to the orders of the State to the attitude of the British people. After a certain point, the moral authority is lost.

  15. Italians are volatile Southern Europeans: they are genetically halfway to being Barbary-Corsairs. They even look a bit like them unless they are blond Northern-Italians from Cisalpine-Gaul.

    They have shorter fuses. We have no fuse at all now, to be lit, it having been de-educated out of us, in the broad mass.

  16. I hope you are wrong. In my darker moments i fear that you are right.

    Somewhere, that spark of irreverent, boisterous independence must still survive in the British soul. It can not have been completely ground out.

  17. Well, the British society certainly is one of the most statist societies on the planet. Remember, the modern state was invented in the enlightened world and it was exported from here to the whole rest of the world. And now it is covering the world like a skin disease.

    But the export was not very successful. In most societies there is still a very strong differentiation between law and legislature. This possibility of this differentiation has become so absurd in our societies that many even believe all they need to do is implement the right governments in the states of the world and everything will be fine. And then they find out although there is now a western controlled government in Afganisthan, women are still not free, how could that happen.

    Anyway, I really ask myself whether there is an inherent conflict between a modern society and the rule of law (not legislature!). After all I rather live here in this utterly statist society than in the more anarchic Afghan society. But I think we still had a real rule of law when the west became great. We just lost it since we have declared equality as the highest value. And I still think we can get it back. It will be a very long process, and it wont happen by exchanging governments, but by de-legitimating governments in general. Nothing will be won with a libertarian government, when people still believe in governments. As long as people believe in the state, any libertarian government would very soon be replaced by a socialist one. We once again would have made one step forward and three steps backward. I like the new motto of Opt out of the state!

  18. Well, the British society certainly is one of the most statist societies on the planet. Remember, the modern state was invented in the enlightened world and it was exported from here to the whole rest of the world. And now it is covering the world like a skin disease.

    Indeed. This is why it is imperative for Libertarians to reject “conservative” narratives, which postulate an exogenous threat, and recognise that the problem is endogenous. Indigenous. Whatever. There are widespread narratives, which seem to be increasing in popularity, that our current statism is some kind of foreign invasion; particularly noteworthy is the “cultural marxism hypothesis” which blames everything on German Jews of the Frankfurt School.

    Conservatives need an exogenous narrative because they predicate their worldview on the presumption of a prior worthy state which has been corrupted; the corruption has to come from outside, because to see it as internal would mean that the problem arose out of our own national philosophies. These narratives are simply wrong. And while we stick to wrong narratives, we will never understand the problem, and thus never understand how to solve it.

    The form of Statism currently sweeping the world is a specifically anglospheric invention. To try to boil it down to a soundbite, it is a secularised form of the Calvinist philosophy adopted by the English puritans, which was exported around the anglosphere on waves of religious revivalism.

    This is thus really important. We are not fighting to save ourselves from an invasive philosophy. It isn’t marxism, or fascism. WE ARE THE SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM. The USA, the UK. It is our secular calvinists attempting (and apparently succeeding) to create a worldwide moral structure.

    You can call it “state pietism”, or something similar. In the early C19, the social and industrial transformations were accompanied by a radical religious revival led by Methodists, Quakers, Evangelicals. This created “Victorian Values”. The key element was the remodelling of the State as an agent of piety; the job of the State and all its citizens being to promote “goodness”. This is what anglo states have set themselves to achieving ever since. It is what destroyed liberty; Liberalism is by definition a philosophy of individual choice which is fundamentally incompatible with pious moralism, which declares that in any and all things there is only one possible choice, the “good” one.

    So this is the thing, for us; for citizens of the UK and the USA anyway. Our countries are the source of the infection. Our missionaries are determined to impose goodness upon us, and upon the entire world. We have to stop them. But we’re not going to even start stopping them until we understand that we’re not up against communism, we’re up against moralism.

    This is why England is consistently (as I remember somebody memorable describing us on the internets) “the Iran of Europe”. Our loss of liberty is not due to Marx, or Mussolini, or Antonio Gramsci. The finger points instead at the likes of Wesley and Wilberforce and Ruskin.

    The entire globe is descending into the most ghastly globalised tyranny and, sad to say, we invented it.

  19. Ian B, we also invented the concept of Individual Liberty and equality before the Law.

    Anyway, blaming all the tyranny in the world on Britain is just plain ridiculous exaggeration.

  20. C.H. Ingoldby – Thanks for reminding me of what I wrote about identity cards. I had forgotten. And I took the advice. I reported my passport as lost and got a new one before it became a total badge of slavery. And I do generally agree with Kevin Carson that making laws unenforceable is often better than trying to change them. At the same time, we mustn’t overlook the ability of the authorities to single people out and crush them as an example to everyone else. It usually works. And I refuse to blame someone who refused to become a martyr.
    Ian B – You don’t like the “Cultural Revolution, Cultural War” thesis. I obviously do. However, you do make the point, that I would never deny – which is that there is a native authoritarian tradition that might have been enough without any lessons from Antonio Gramsci. One day, I will answer your continual sneers against conservatism. I may roll it up with the friendly critique of Kevin Carson I’ve been turning over in my head.

  21. austrolibertarian

    I dare say that large portion of the British populace that was less deferential to authority and more libertarian in its leanings fled to America a long time ago (though the process has continued to the present). The same can be said for most of the rest of Europe, and the more docile obedient populations stayed behind bearing and raising ever more docile broods of children. I think this probably goes a lot farther to explain the ideological rift that separates the cultures than the explicit ideological traits, though here to there are differences.

  22. I find the bizarre accusation of “sneering at conservatives” from a man who continually characterises Britain’s greatest conservative icon as a monstrous warmongering dictator somewhat ludicrous.

    I remember at the time of the last census, there was a very unintentionally funny letter to the Metro newspaper, from a man complaining that he and his family were being discriminated against, because you were only allowed to tick one religion box. “My family,” he said, “are Christians and Buddhists”. Over the following days were a number of letters pointing out how ludicrous this is. One cannot believe that Jesus is the doorway to heaven, and in the Resurrection, and believe in the eternal wheel of reincarnation. They are incompatible. You can be a Christian or a Buddhist. You can’t be both.

    Likewise, Conservatism and Libertarianism have different names because they are different, and incompatible, things. You can be one or the other, you cannot be both. There is no liberal past to return to. Britain once had, at best, incapable and somewhat socially disinterested government, but that is not liberalism, any more than a parent who cannot be bothered to feed and clothe their children is running a liberal household. They are just neglectful. That is a different thing.

    Britain was home to many liberal philosophers. But that philosophy was never hegemonic. By the end of the nineteenth century, any hope of liberal governance was entirely dead in Britain, as in the USA. To find something approaching liberalism, you have to head so far back into history, into a time of aristocracy and an agrarian pre-modern economy, that it is useless to even consider a return, even if anyone would want to go back to that “system”.

    Where do your “conservative” instincts impel you to return to, Sean? 1950 seems popular. Of course, you’d have to ignore mass nationalisation of the economy to choose that year, even if you get back the Utopia of men in trilbies and obedient wives and Enid Blyton. Maybe then we could go back to 1850, the golden age of mercantilist imperialism and, oh, the start of the great social engineering programmes and, oh, they nationalised the telegraph system just a few years later in 1868, those great libertarians of the past and, there were the contagious diseases acts that gave the State the right to snatch any woman off the streets and…

    Come on Sean, when was this great Libertarian society located in our history, precisely?

  23. I don’t think Churchill counts as a conservative. He was at best a Conservative. As for your continual denial of our more liberal past, neglectful government strikes me as a pretty good approximation. I have never claimed there was a libertarian utopia in the past. But governments before 1914 made fewer demands on the people, and there were better means of escape from those that were made.

  24. This is how you end up tying yourself in knots. Anyone who isn’t a “conservative” in your view- which bears little resemblance to either organised political conservatism or grass-roots conservatism- “isn’t really a conservative”. You have to create this imaginary “quisling right” who keep betraying the “real” conservatives. Honestly, it’s no better than a bunch of SWP trots huddled together about how Labour, the Fabians, et al aren’t “real socialists”. It’s just making shit up, frankly.

    I remember a while back you rather stridently took Paul Marks to task over his membership of the Conservative Party. One of the barbs you used was, “do you support legalisation of incest, Paul?”- quite rightly pointing out that a libertarian would, but a Conservative wouldn’t. But the problem here is that conservatives, big C or small C, wouldn’t. That is because conservatives are not liberals. How many grass-roots “non-quisling” conservatives are chomping at the bit to legalise incest? I’ll tell you Sean; it’s nada, zilch, zero. The same is true of liberalism and libertarianism in general. We are different movements.

    As for your continual denial of our more liberal past, neglectful government strikes me as a pretty good approximation. I have never claimed there was a libertarian utopia in the past. But governments before 1914 made fewer demands on the people, and there were better means of escape from those that were made.

    A man jumps out of an aeroplane. At 10,000 feet, he reaches for the ripcord and realises he has not put on his parachute. At 5,000 feet, he looks upward into the blue and say, “Oh, I wish I were still at t0,000 feet. How much better things were then!”

    And then at 2,000 feet, he looks back at 5,000 feet and say’s “Oh, how much better things were at 5,000 feet! I wish I were still at 5,000 feet! Weren’t things grand back then?!”

    At 1,000 feet, there was a flash of light and Jesus appeared. “Hi,” said Jesus, “I’ve been a bit quiet for a millennium or two, but I’ve decided to appear and grant somebody a wish. And that somebody is you! You can have anything you want, anything at all.”

    The man thought for a second or two, and said, “I’ve thought a lot about this and I’d like to be back at 10,000 feet, please, when things were so much better.”

    “Are you sure?” asked Jesus, “wouldn’t you prefer that I..?”

    “No no,” said the man, “I’m quite sure. 10,000 feet, please”.

    Jesus shrugged, and complied, and disappeared. The man’s subsequent happiness was rather short lived.

  25. erratum-

    “The same is true of liberalism and libertarianism in general.”

    Should have been “The same is true of liberalism/libertarianism and conservatism in general”.

  26. I disagree. If you can’t see the difference between Conservatism and the various strands of conservatism, I shall be disappointed. As for conservatives and incest, it was conservatives in the Lords who opposed the Punishment of Incest Bill back in 1907 – not because they wanted to celebrate diversity, but because it was unnecessary to protect children and would allow oppression of adults.
    I have never claimed that libertarianism and conservatism are identical. But there is a signficant overlap. And much of the Old Constitution that conservatives tried hard to defend against modernity allowed more freedom than anything we now have.

  27. Sean, you’ve ignored the parable of the falling man. All states- largely on the British model- have been expanding for the past 200 years. Anyone looking back will apparently see more “freedom” because of course anything expanding was smaller in the past. And, one has to be careful about what one looks at in this freer past. It always cracks me up when Americans bang on about being the Land Of The Free and so on, and I always say, “what, the country that banned beer coast to coast? It was freer was it?” Who else has ever done that? Oh yes, the eternal ghastly despotism of Islam.

    (And on the subject of the tedious flag-wavers, it’s also of note how most of them- loudly being “Conservatives” all- are careful to distinguish the Federal level from the State level. Prohibition was possible because beer was already banned in many States. Most American Conservatives just want the Feds out the way so they can run local tyrannies- often on a theocratic model- without interference. But I digress.)

    This “Old Constitution” that was so grand. What was it? Magna Carta? Repealed. The Bill Of Rights. Ignored and mostly repealed. Was it the grand free nation of the Six Acts, of the Corn Laws, of Peterloo, of Walpole’s arbitrary censorship of the theatre to prevent criticism of his glorious self? When was this great old constitution that no fucker ever bothered to write down, let alone place above a Parliament with absolute power over every subject, defending our liberties?

    It never did. The State has grown, and grown in Britain, wielding its monarchic power. We have never been anything other than subjects. Sure, it didn’t nationalise the telegraphs and the wireless in 1700 because there weren’t any. It didn’t try to control what we eat and drink and smoke because it had not the power to do so-

    -but take a look at Cromwell’s regime and see the blueprint for our current state. Cromwell’s Puritans decreeed that the State would legislate goodness. No theatres, no maypoles, no dancing, you may only attend church, sing hyms and read the Bible on a sunday.

    And it is that model that triumphed in Victorian times. It is now being imposed upon the world. The current incarnation is syncretic; a little Prussianism here, a little marxism there. But the driving force is the Moral State; invented in Britain, taken up with gusto and finely developed in the USA the State that banned beer.

    And what did this Grand Old Constitution do to stop it? Nothing. Nothing at all. Because our “Constitution” has never been any more than the oligarchs in Parliament choose it to be and, once they chose to become a Parliament Of Saints, that was that.

  28. Ian B, if you make the decriminalisation of incest as the test of whether someone is a Libertarian, then i am afraid you are going to be politically very lonely.

    As for the assertion that Britain somehow invented something called the ‘Moral State’ which is responsible for all growth of the State and the retreat of individual liberty. That claim is so at odds with reality that it seems likely that you are a crank.

    If you really think that Cromwell was the first to ever legislate on moral matters then you are sadly ignorant of Confucian rule, let alone Augustus’s moral legislation. States have ruled on moral matters since time immemorial, this was neither invented in England or Britain nor developed in any exceptional way there.

  29. CH, as stated, it was not I who brought up incest, it was Sean. Nonetheless he was right. If you believe it should be illegal, you’re not a libertarian.

    As to the rest of your post, it is indicative of the state of denial that blinds most people to understanding their own society. It is the hardest thing in the world to stand back from one’s own culture and recognise its nature, because it is all just “normal”. Anything that extends as far back as one’s grandparents is “traditional”.

    Most of the “traditions” cleaved to by conservatives are innovations of the Victorian Period, in which the modern system was constructed in a cultural revolution which radically changed our national character. One of these innovations was the deployment of the State as a moral force. It is certainly true that all civilisations have to some degree implemented “moral” rules with varying degrees of success (Augustus for instance tried, but it appears was largely ignored beyond his immediate circle).

    But that is not what I am talking about. The difference is that the Victorian innovation was to make moralism the purpose of the State. It has continued in that vein ever since; a decision is made on every damned thing- whether it is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing, and then it is, by the State, either promoted or suppressed. And in economic terms, the Anglo state does not redistribute as a prelude to Communism; it does so as an act of nationalised charity.

    Unfortunately conservatives are largely incapable of comprehending this, because that which we call conservatism is itself a product of that Victorian statist/progressive revolution. That is why conservatism is, and always will be, a statist creed. Conservatives believe, like the Left, that society requires a central moralising force. They disagree only with the left about the particular morals that should be enforced (though less, upon examination, than one initially thinks), and the mechanics of repression; for instance in general they yearn for the days when the Church ruled men with the terror of damnation. Those who seek to call themselves libertarian then use the “get out clause” that that’s fine because it’s not the State doing it. As if that matters; a population terrified for their immortal souls are ruled far more thoroughly than any “State” can achieve. I’ve noticed that the other general strategy/hope of conservatives is for a return to intense social peer pressure moderated by gossip etc; so that people can be kept in line by the threat of social ruin. None of this is the least libertarian in nature.

    As I said above, there can be no individual liberty under hegemonic moralism. Since conservatives are hegemonic moralists, they cannot be libertarians, any more than nominal “socialists” can be. Either you want people to be free, or you don’t; and the simple fact of the matter is that conservatives don’t.

  30. So, what are we going to do then?

  31. Everyone convert to Roman Catholicism, haha! :)

    Simple answer is to argue for the State to get out of the Goodness business, and as a society adopt a policy that everyone be free to follow that morality which they divine from their faith, from nature, from reason, or from that nice Cheryl Cole off the X Factor. Have the State return to a simple definition of crime as violations of other persons or their property.

    I call this radical new idea, “Libertarianism”.

  32. Well that’s quite right Ian, but we have stuck ourselves with the business of selling it, and nobody wants to buy. We do, but as Lenin realised, we are only 300-odd (and also seen as really odd) people, and they are 6.9 billion. “They” even have 646 people in the Commons hen-coop working for them (and for whom “they” seem to be willing to pay the earth) which is about twice as many as there are libertarians in the whole of the Western Hemisphere.

  33. Indeed David, and that’s one reason I think we need to distance ourselves from conservatism. We can’t create a mass radical movement for change out of crusty old men and blue rinsed old ladies.

    Here’s the thing; in my philosophy, the current Gramscian revolution (c1975-???) is the second major phase of Victorianism. The period in between was a reaction against Phase I characterised by demands for social liberalism and, unfortunately, communism. So now we have to wait for a season while the second Victorian Period becomes every bit as unbearable as the first one. And then there will be a new reactionary generation who want to have fun again; tired of the stultifying morality we call “political correctness” and “greenism” and whatnot.

    We do not know how soon this will be, but history moves fast these days. We have to do everything we can to ensure that those future young radicals cleave to liberty, not yet another tiresome variation on leftism and collectivism. We have to show that to be a collectivist is the most old fashioned, backwardist thing you can be. We’ve got to show that liberty is about moving forwards, not backwards. John Locke was a radical. Adam Smith was a radical. We are radicals. We’re only going to win by saying so.

  34. That’s one reason why I repeatedly brand our enemies as “pre-capitalist-barbarians”. One thing Ian we have to do: it’s to rescue certain words from the lynching they have had over the last 100-odd-years…..

    Like “liberal”, “capitalist”, “entrepreneur”, “trader”, freedom”, “liberty”, “banking” and “bankers” (yes that too, and it’s one of the more crucial ones, which the moochers and looters have got hold of and are trashing like wild dogs trash a kitten), “property” (even more important, for without it there can be no banking system, and therefore no golbal liberal civilisation), and you can add the rest.

    “Profit” is a good honest word, positively radiating intellectual honesty as it does, like a God, to get back off the effing bastards as well.

  35. “MONEY” needs to be wrested back from the stealers and squealers and slairs, also.

  36. Oh and real money too. WE might as well charge the bastards for the damage they’ve done, so far as it can be computed in a concrete way. Tame is all we have, and that’s what they’ve really squandered from the lives of honest and innocent people, and Time can never be repaid.

    But we might as well take all their money. It’ll help to cheer up the rest of the humans.

  37. I’d like to abolish the word “capitalist”. It’s always been a perjorative, and it implies that the economy is based on “capital” (or “kapital”) when in fact it’s based on production of goods and mutual trade. Horrible word.

  38. But I think if I were to be asked whether I would prefer to live in a country directed by either Franco or Ian B, I would rather accept Franco. It might be feerer?
    Perhaps that moral enforcement you refer to goes deeper into the psyche than you think, Ian.
    Converting to Catholicism would not help either, I am afraid. The strength of the southern nations is not their religion but their attitude and ability to laugh with love.
    The weakness of the north is its mean spiritedness, lack of love, rejoicing in the misfortune of others, spitefulness. It’s satisfaction in telling other people what to do and think. Especially think.
    I think a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus could actually help you, Ian.
    The best for 2011!!

  39. Why, John? I don’t want to be a dictator. I am merely arguing against the dictatorialism of others, either by State coercion, religious coercion or peer networks. I believe the best society is that in which we all live and let live. And from that, you conclude you would prefer Franco? Bizarre!

    I also wonder why you continually post these provocative evangelical messages. You know full well that my view is that it imossible to encounter, let alone “personally” a fictional character and that, as a non-believer in your imaginary friend, I can only conclude that your belief that you have “personally encountered” him is delusional.

    But you are free to believe what you wish, and I will fight for your right to do so. Sadly, many of your fellow believers spent much of history using all manner of coercion and violence against anyone who does not share their belief. And yet, despite not being a Christian, I can forgive you.

    Happy New Year :)

  40. Thanks Ian.

    I thought your comments regarding matters relating to the eternal needed a bit of adjustment. Not exactly being evangelical. Just a reply.
    Like you I am concerned with reality, and for good reasons I do see that as being real.
    I realise England has been educated to have a fairly rigid mindset about matters eternal as being real but, well, one can but see what one sees. Hey?
    We respect each others views, know that the other is wrong and that is not a problem.
    But not to get too much off topic!

    Regarding which I do think if one could effectively communicate the facts to people so that they see it is the truth, that they understand the simplicity of individual freedom and individual responsibility, they will respond positively to that.
    Yes, ignoring the state, the whole system, is a good idea insofar as one can.
    But to do anything that will cause or tend towards chaos is downright irresponsible.
    I think one can change things by getting facts across.

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