Director’s Bulletin, 3rd November 2011
by Sean Gabb
We had quite a busy summer at the Libertarian Alliance – articles in the home and foreign press, radio and television broadcasts, a stream of original and syndicated material on our blog, changes to our website, and so on and so on. Since then, I’ve gone rather quiet.
One reason for this is that I’ve been doing other things and am worn out from it. In the past two years, I’ve written four biggish novels back to back, and three or four other books concurrently with the novels. Add to this the usual stream of articles and essays and news releases, and I suspect the word count is pushing 600,000. If you’ve ever written prose on this industrial scale, you’ll know how tiring it can be. Since I’m already booked to write another 300,000 words next year, I’m planning to skive off everything that isn’t already booked or immediately needed this side of Christmas.
The other reason, though, is that I’ve been too idle and disorganised to publicise the things that the Libertarian Alliance as a whole has been doing. So, here goes a brief account of our doings.
1. Libertarian Alliance Website
Last March, we started the switchover from an amateurish and antiquated html/css website to something more modern. This led to a state of affairs in which we were running old and new websites side by side. We have now ended this state of affairs. There is only one website for the Libertarian Alliance, and this is at our usual address – www.libertarian.co.uk. Every file uploaded to our old website is still in place, and so all the thousands of links built up since 2000 remain active. And all the links made this year to www2.libertarian.co.uk urls remain active. Our website is by no means finished. But everything is now available there, even if there is still scaffolding to be seen round every corner.
2. Latest Libertarian Alliance Publication
Here is our newest publication: Busoni’s Garden: A Plea for a New Concept of Contemporary Music, by Eduard de Boer. I sent this out in full a couple of weeks ago, and had a few responses from people who failed to understand why we were publishing essays about musical eschatology. The reason is simple. Since about the time of Wagner – and perhaps even Beethoven – music has been seen as a progressive art in much the same way as chemistry is a progressive science. In this view of things, Weber is accepted as worthwhile in himself, but is also valued as a link in chain of musical development between Beethoven and Wagner. Or Elektra is seen as a great work in itself, but is also notable as a work almost on the border between floating tonality and atonality.
This is a game that leads to much harmless fun if played with any composer between Monteverdi and Richard Strauss. The problem is that the view of music as progressive has led to disaster since about 1910. For a few generations, people could say that the composers of the SecondVienneseSchool were ahead of their time. When Mahler was finally discovered in the 1960s, many were excited not just because a great composer had been recognised, but also because it suggested that Schoenberg and Webern and all the others were about to come into fashion. Well, they didn’t and they won’t. Nor will Stockhausen or Boulez, or any other noise merchant.
Schoenberg at least was a good composer. Unfortunately, he and his admirers fell into the trap of regarding the special circumstances of European music between about 1600 and 1900 as general – they believed that originality was an attribute of greatness. This caused them to stop writing what most people would regard as music. But, according to Dr de Boer, a composer should aim for beauty rather than originality. Beauty in music has objective standards that were revealed by the great composers of the three centuries before the 20th, but were not exhausted by them.
A modern composer, then, should not feel ashamed or second rate if he decides to write music in an early 19th century style, or even to imitate the style of a particular composer. Once we drop the idea of music as a linear progression, we also lose the ideas of “advanced” and “reactionary” in music.
Now, why is this important? I suppose it matters to me, because I like music. It also matters, though, because the 20th century saw a departure from common sense in almost every area not subject to immediate empirical testing or consumer satisfaction. One of the effects of this was to discredit individual judgements of truth or beauty. Beauty in the arts became something to be declared by a cartel of intellectuals, not something perceived by all, if articulated by the educated. Truth in the sciences became equally obscure. And so we had art that was the equivalent of the Emperor’s New Clothes. We had scientific claims that made the most bizarre superstitions rational by comparison. We had economists telling us how to spend ourselves rich, or borrow ourselves out of debt. We had legal and medical authorities telling us that, since crime was often evidence of mental illness, justice could be less about due process than about therapy. And so it went on and on. Any attack on the musical establishment is a blow for common sense in general. So I think, at any rate. Er….
3. Drug Legalisation Debate
On Thursday the 6th October 2011, I went to the Anglo-EuropeanSchool, which is a big comprehensive in Essex, to debate drug legalisation with Paul Hannaford. Both the school and I were supposed to record the debate. Sadly, we each had technical problems on the day, and assumed the other would do the job.
I did very well. I went first. Speaking to 300 young adults, I made these points:
I don’t like the phrase “drug legalisation.” Bearing in mind that recreational drugs were freely on sale in this country until 1920, and many until quite recently, I prefer the phrase “drug relelgalisation.”
The State has no right to tell us what to do with our bodies. This is not to say that I advocate the use of recreational drugs, or deny that they can be dangerous. I just say that it is our own business whether or not to take drugs.
Where the dangers of drugs are concerned, these divide between those that are inherent to the drugs themselves, and those that are consequent on drug prohibition. The inherent dangers are various risks of dependency and of individual adverse reactions. How great these dangers are I will not discuss, because generations of propaganda have made it difficult to find reliable information. But, if there are dangers, I do not think they are usually as great as we have been told.
I deal with the dangers consequent from prohibition. Because drugs are illegal, they are of uncertain quality – therefore much overdosing and poisoning from adulterations. Because drugs are illegal, they are expensive – importing heroin in swallowed condoms, or packed into lorry tyres, raises the cost of supply. Because drugs are expensive, users are more inclined than they otherwise would be to steal the means of buying them. Because drugs are expensive, they justify long chains of criminal enterprise that may then pollute the whole of a country’s life. In this country, turf wars between drug dealers have helped make our inner cities dangerous in ways I’d once never have thought possible. There is also much evidence of corruption in every agency set up to enforce the drug laws. And I will add that the War on Drugs has been at least made an excuse for stop and search laws and money laundering laws that have turned this country into a police state.
And that is this country. If you look at Columbia and Mexico, or Afghanistan, you can see how the attempt to criminalise the supply of recreational drugs has led to civil war.
All this, and the attempts at prohibition have been a failure. I’ll bet everyone in this room has taken drugs, or watched someone else take them. You can no more stop people from taking drugs than you can stop them from having sex with each other – or from having sex with themselves!
I agree that ending the prohibition would encourage more people to try recreational drugs. Some of these, I am sure, will thereby ruin their lives. But anyone who tries selling you a cost-free policy is lying. We need to look beyond an increase in harm from the inherent dangers of drugs, to a reduction in harm from the consequent dangers of prohibition. These are fewer deaths from overdose or other poisoning, less petty crime, less murder, less public corruption, and less state oppression.
Don’t ask me to quantify these. But I do strongly believe that ending prohibition would bring about an immense reduction in harm. And I will end as I began – with the claim that it is not the business of the State to tell us how to live. For reasons of abstract right and of social utility, I argue for the relegalisation of recreational drugs.
That is roughly what I said. Since no one recorded it, and I didn’t write it down until just now, it is an abridgement. But I knew I’d won the debate when I got to the joke about masturbation. Paul Hannaford may have thought he was giving himself an advantage when he insisted I should go first. But his own speech was a sotto voce whine about how he started with shandy and worked his way up to crack cocaine, and how he’d now be dead if he’d been able to buy all the drugs he’d wanted to consume. The still-weeping ulcers on his legs that he’d got from dirty needles were interesting to look at, but didn’t help his case.
I was grabbed afterwards by a few dozen of the students, and had to be rescued by the staff. I accepted at least two further invitations to speak there – though some of these may have been from different officers of the same society.
4. Debate on the British Empire
On Friday the 4th November 2011, which is tomorrow, I shall go over to Exeter University to speak in debate about the British Empire. I am to second a Conservative MP, whose name I currently forget, in arguing that the Empire was a force for good. I feel inclined to say that the following:
- Though not perhaps desirable, it is the nature of the strong to dominate the weak.
- The strong invariably behave badly towards those they dominate.
- Therefore, the evils of British imperialism were part of human nature, and cannot be singled out for greater blame than is given to the evils of Assyrian, Turkish, Mongol or Spanish imperialism, among all the others.
- What distinguishes British imperialism from the other varieties is the sharing of the greatest and most noble civilisation that ever existed with peoples who, by themselves, would have remained barbarous.
- This being so, everyone in the room who is not a native-born Briton, but whose ancestors were once ruled from London, should join in prayers of thanks to saintly humanitarians like Robert Clive and Warren Hastings and Lord Kitchener. They should do that, or go and find a statue of Queen Victoria to adorn with bunches of flowers. There are two statues of her in Exeter, though reaching one of them might need unreasonable determination….
5. Debate on the European Union
I shall be arguing for withdrawal from the European Union at a grammar school in Kent on the 18th November 2011. Because it might attract some of the paedophiles who lurk in deadly silence all over the Internet, I’m not allowed to say in advance which school this will be. And I shall not be allowed to record the debate. But I suppose I shall make all the usual points.
6. Speech to the UKLiberty League
This will be in Manchester on Friday the 29th November 2011. I have no idea what I shall say, but do hope this time to record it.
7. Radio and Television
I’ve done more of this in the past few months than I can remember. I know I keep promising to make a note of everything, and to record and upload it, I still haven’t managed to do this. I will put it on my list of resolutions for next year.
8. Richard Blake
My friend Richard Blake, the critically-acclaimed and internationally best-selling novelist, has had a third translation published in Slovakia. You can buy your copies of Krv Alexandriehere. Mr Blake hasn’t yet seen a copy, but was delighted with what Marian Pochyly did for the two earlier books.
What better present, I ask, could any reasonable man or woman desire than a book by me or my friend Mr Blake? Whether in hard copy or in Kindle format, there really is something for everyone. You can find a reasonably complete pictorial listing of our combined output here. In particular, I will mention Mr Blake’s Sword of Damascus, which has been described as “a blazing masterpiece, without compare in English or any other language.” Otherwise, there is my own Churchill Memorandum, which Tony Benn is currently reading to see what I have said about him in my alternative 1959.
And that’s all for now.