England: The Classic Home of Civil Liberty!

Andrew Linley says on FaceBook:

“While our news media has been focussing on the (admittedly disproportionate) jailing of some young Russian women for breaking into a cathedral, it has become increasingly clear that this is now a country where one can be jailed merely for something one says. There is no longer even an attempt to muddy the waters by referring to ‘incitement’ or ‘racism’; people are given substantial jail terms simply for writing something which some people deem ‘offensive’. Wake up, the British Sheeple, to your enslavement! You are fortunate indeed that the laws of economics will ultimately deliver you from serfdom; certainly you have done little to save yourselves.”

Depressing to think a post-Soviet slag heap, presided over by a former KGB apparatchik and an oligarchy of the dodgiest rich since Gaius Verres, is not much less liberal than modern England.

60 responses to “England: The Classic Home of Civil Liberty!

  1. Concerned Briton

    In the last 6 to 12 months or so, there have been numerous cases of this. It has become very heightened.

    I don’t know whether it is just that people do not care anymore, or whether they have become infantilised by so much nanny state and ‘political correctness’ brainwashing that they are returning to the days of witch-hunts and burning people at the stake for heresy, but this phenomena of people being jailed for speech and written content is being expressed all over the news and nobody is really batting an eyelid – some even say they “deserve it”.

    That latter thing perhaps frightens me even more than a repressive state apparatus which is designed to squash dissent and to narrow the margin of acceptable thinking.

    At least if that was the case, the folks imposing and pushing these kinds of acts could one day be overthrown…….but when the general population is now so inverted to being outraged about it, to the point they support these crackpots who are sending them to jail, then it really does disturb me.

    Maybe it is just my age (mid 30’s) and what happens to most people as they get older……but there is an unbearable stench of civilisational collapse, decay, and dystopia filling my nostrils that gets more pungent for every year that passes by.

    This country no longer even looks or feels like my own. Societally, attitudinally, culturally, demographically, etc. Things are changing (and nosediving) pretty fast. These kinds of creeping events, such as jailing people for “offensive” outbursts, only furthers the feeling that the future is not going to be bright.

    It is an often said line…..but maybe people really have learnt to love Big Brother?

  2. some even say they “deserve it”

    This is the normal human response to “bad” people – which is not just people who commit real crimes (murder, assault, theft, etc) but also people who offend against the particular mores or taboos of the particular society. Think of how you feel about “racists” or “anti-semites”, perhaps, or “homophobes”. (Assuming you are a “normal” member of modern British society).

    The hierarchy wants to suppress these people because their views are politically inconvenient or even dangerous, and in order to guard against the natural authoritarian tendency to support punishment of such people merely for exercising their natural freedom to be assholes, there has to be a popular structure of widely recognised concepts such as “free speech” which popularise the basic concepts of natural rights.

    Crucially, those concepts need to be widely enough understood on a sufficiently sophisticated level for a critical mass of people to understand that it means, for instance, protecting speech we don’t like or tolerating behaviour we don’t like, without necessarily approving of it. This is actually quite a difficult concept for people to fully accept in practice, I think.

  3. I have been dismayed by trying to get my friends upset about this, but they tend to have sympathy for the victim* and support ‘not upsetting families in their time of grief’. They even argue that my ‘free speech’ in public should be limited by both time and, in a free country, location.

    The public wants what the public gets…

    *Person who may not even have heard the message but others are taking offense on their behalf!

  4. I think there is a general confusion between “things one disapproves of” and “things that should be against the law”. In a sense, the very definition of a Moralist State is one that treats those two things as synonymous.

  5. Ian B has got hold of the crux-or-nub of it, as is usual.

  6. Stephen Moriarty

    I suppose a paradox of this is that we had a culture of free speech – I remember being told as a child what a great tradition it was that anyone could say what they liked at “Speakers’ Corner” – but we have ended up where we are now; i.e. free speech is not an effective advocate for itself.
    The case for these “public order” laws is that they civilise public life. I have sat on “football trains” and squirmed at the vile language used and wouldn’t miss such behaviour, and I have few illusions about the evil that exists in some people and that such evil may express itself in verbal abuse that is a real wrong to its target(s).
    However I believe that abuse must be shown to be of sufficient persistence as to merit the term harassment before the law should intervene; similarly I think that “incitement” and threats must be shown to be credible in some degree. These conditions would not seem to me to be particularly difficult for a court to ascertain: was the false abuse repeated over a sufficient length of time to be more than an error of judgement, an argument, or a bad day? Did the speaker intend to incite violence? Would the frail man on the Clapham Omnibus have cause to be alarmed at the utterance of the threat in question? This is what courts do, decide issues such as these.
    What is alarming about some of these recent cases is that they seem to be an effort to enforce a morality rather than to protect citizens from harm. If a “ranter” screamed threats in the face of a frail individual, or a student persistently maliciously insulted anyone, I can see a case for the law to intervene – the Pilkington case should serve as an example of the genuine harm that harassment can cause – but many of the recent cases are clearly one-offs and/or only unpleasing from the point of view of the alleged victims.

  7. Incitment is bogus. It is a wedge by which control creeps in. Suggesting that somebody kill somebody does not remove the free will of the suggestee. They have the choice to yea or nay the course of action put to them. Saying incitment is a special case allows the bastards to claim words carry a danger within and that is the opening the tyrant needs.

  8. Ian B (and the others are correct). This is a confusion (a deliberate confusion) between “things one disapproves of” and “crimes”. And, yes, the rot set in with the “incitement to racial hatred” concept.

    The test for freedom of speech is not freedom to say things one likes (for example “Wells and Ely and nice places”) the test for freedom of speech is freedom to say (and write) things one does not approve of.

    For example I regard eat-the-rich social justice stuff as offensive – deeply offensive. And such propaganda is responsible for at least 150 million murders over the last century (see “The Black Book of Communism” and many other works).

    Does this mean that speech and writings designed to whip up hatred of “the rich”, “the capitalists”, “the corporations” should be banned? No it should not be banned.

    And nor should “hate speech” be banned against Jews, or police officers, or people with ginger hair.

  9. I just found this blog, and I’m happy to have made the discovery. I’m a proud member of the U.S. Libertarian Party.

    In the States, political correctness runs amok. I’m tired of being coddled by “progressives” who think that I, as a gay woman, have such tender feelings I need to be protected from every potentially upsetting remark.

    I’m not sure many Americans realize there are libertarians anywhere else in the world. I consider it tremendously reassuring to learn that you exist, and are speaking out robustly on your convictions, in the land from which my mother’s side of the family comes — and where the very concept of civil liberty was born.

  10. I suppose a paradox of this is that we had a culture of free speech – I remember being told as a child what a great tradition it was that anyone could say what they liked at “Speakers’ Corner” – but we have ended up where we are now; i.e. free speech is not an effective advocate for itself.

    Another exemplifier of that culture was the oft-repeated misquote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

    As you say, this culture ultimately (as seems likely as of the present moment, anyway) proved ineffective in defending freedom of speech.

    The case for these “public order” laws is that they civilise public life

    Although I accept that this is true in theory, my personal experience inclines me to see them in practice as politically motivated. I grew up opposing mass immigration from a nationalist rather than a racist point of view, and I watched what seemed to be the deliberate conflating of that opposition in the popular mind with the racist opposition, along with the simultaneous creation of a social taboo against racism.

    A similar process (deliberate taboo creation) seemed to me to occur over the opposition to the normalisation of homosexual activity.

    The enforcement of these taboos by law is just the inevitable culmination of the process.

    • Or perhaps, with regard to the “normalization” of homosexual activity — if by that is meant simply leaving us the hell alone and not treating us as if we just landed from Mars and have two heads — it may simply be a process of actually getting to know us.

      Before gays felt safe identifiying ourselves as gay, nobody knew they knew us. They thought we all had two heads, that we were monsters. Now that they know they have neighbors, coworkers, longtime friends, siblings and children who are gay, they adjust to reality.

      It may not be wise to simply gather everything that troubles you into one convenient bucket and flush it mindlessly away. I’ve been an Anglo-Saxon, Christian American all my life, and don’t especially regard it as rational when not setting me afire and dragging me behind a pickup truck is lumped together with accommodating immigrants by accepting Sharia law.

      To one person, it seems inevitable. The sky is falling and our hair is on fire. To another, it simply seems irrational.

  11. I’ve been an Anglo-Saxon, Christian American all my life, and don’t especially regard it as rational when not setting me afire and dragging me behind a pickup truck is lumped together with accommodating immigrants by accepting Sharia law.

    As far as I am concerned homosexual activity is simply an unpleasant perversion in which a few individuals like to engage. As such I believe it was correct to oppose the state prohibiting it (when consenting adults are involved), just as the state should not be prohibiting adults from choosing to use harmful recreational drugs, or from engaging in other consensual sexual perversions.

    But I now live in a society in which school children are taught that homosexual activity is merely a legitimate life choice, in which adoption agencies are forced to pretend that homosexual “couples” are no different from normal couples, and in which practising homosexuals can use the law to compel Christian people who run a bed and breakfast in their home to allow them to have a double room. Opposition to these developments has been hamstrung at every point by the imposition of an elite taboo against criticism of homosexual activity and its practitioners, heavily propagandised for in the dominant state broadcaster and enabled by “anti-discrimination” laws, and now enforced by open speech suppression laws.

    Those who argued at the time that the (technically correct) decision to lift prohibition on homosexual activity was the start of a “slippery slope” were, it turns out, correct.

    And the reality is that I could not even write the above in many mainstream media outlets because if it were to come to the attention of the site moderators it would probably be censored.

    In my lifetime I have seen the same approach in operation on both race and on sexual activity.

    • Your complaints about the ramifications of political correctness run amok are quite understandable and perfectly legitimate. But if you are trying to hang that around my neck, your thinking is muddy.

      No individual gay or lesbian person — from your country or mine — waved a wand and made all these things happen. If you are a true conservative of any sort, you will treat me as an individual instead of attempting to lump me in with some hivemind with which you can easily dispose.

      I don’t care that you consider homosexuality a “perversion.” If you are a libertarian, then you are content to express your opinion and leave it at that. If you stop to think rationally, you will realize that another libertarian — even a gay one — does not support the abuses of which you complain.

      Come to think of it, I might not approve of your morality any more than you do mine. As a libertarian, I don’t concern myself with how you live your private life. But I hope that when I seek to tackle a political problem, I spend my time more rationally and constructively than to attack someone about whom I know next to nothing, based on thoughtless stereotype.

      If you have no consideration for other human beings if they happen to be gay, I suppose I should be glad that someone with such a mentality is a libertarian. It’s the statists with whom I prefer to quarrel.

  12. Lori, what do you have against Martian bi-cranials? Are you bigoted?

    Randal: “As far as I am concerned inter-racial sexual activity is simply an unpleasant perversion in which a few individuals like to engage. As such I believe it was correct to oppose the state prohibiting it (when consenting adults are involved), just as the state should not be prohibiting adults from choosing to use harmful recreational drugs, or from engaging in other consensual sexual perversions.

    But I now live in a society in which school children are taught that inter-racial sexual activity is merely a legitimate life choice, in which adoption agencies are forced to pretend that inter-racial sexual “couples” are no different from normal couples, and in which practising adults with inter-racial sexual attraction can use the law to compel white Christian people who run a bed and breakfast in their home to allow them to have a double room. Opposition to these developments has been hamstrung at every point by the imposition of an elite taboo against criticism of inter-racial sexual activity and its practitioners, heavily propagandised for in the dominant state broadcaster and enabled by “anti-discrimination” laws, and now enforced by open speech suppression laws.

    Those who argued at the time that the (technically correct) decision to lift prohibition on inter-racial sexual activity was the start of a “slippery slope” were, it turns out, correct.”

    So the ‘technically correct’ decision was the start of a libertarian slippery slope and you’re against it? Weird…

    • Actually, Keddaw, I am very fond of Martians of every sort. I’m one of those nerdy people who Google-images the latest photos from the Rover every time they come in. I keep hoping to see a bi-cranial or two in the background, waving hello.

  13. I thought that Randal was saying that he regarded homosexual relations as a perversion (not that it should be illegal – but that it was imoral, a very different thing) – the standard position of the Christian, Islamic and Jewish faiths (not that makes the position correct of course – but it is hardly freakish).

    I do not remember him saying anything about “inter-racial” sex.

    • It may be the “standard” position, but it is hardly the only one. As a devout Episcopalian, whose church blesses same-sex unions, I’m one of those who disagrees.

      That, however, was not my reason for commenting on what he said. He seemed to suggest that the ONLY reason for “normalizing homosexuality” was that the dark forces of political correctness had exercised some dastardly influence over everyone. I merely pointed out that there was another reason — clearly also at work. That when people actually got to know gays and lesbians as real human beings, they began to accept them instead of considering them freaks or aliens.

      A straw man was then constructed to insinuate I had to agree with the dark forces conspiring to ruin his life by keeping him from speaking out against homosexual activity (which, as his brain seems lodged in his shorts, he defines solely as involving sexual activity). As I do not agree that governmental pressure should ever be placed on what people can or cannot say, I blew his straw man away.

      Whoever Randal is, I find it difficult to believe libertarianism is so radically different across the pond that he is a libertarian. In addition to his tendency to lump everybody together according to some easily-categorizable trait — a statist impulse, if there ever was one — he seems to believe that a thing can be made real only by governmental fiat. According to libertarian philosophy, there is always a strong organic component in societal change — something beyond the State’s power to dictate, however hard (in any direction) it might try.

      It was just that organic component to which I wanted to call attention here.

  14. My apologies for over simplification.

    There is a dissenting minority of Christians who argue that homosexual acts are not sinful – this minority has emerged in recent decades (the 1960s?).

    The thing is that one can find people who call themselves Christians who dissent from just about any Christian doctrine.

    Homosexual acts are certainly not (repeat not) the most extreme case. There are even people who call themselves Christian who see nothing wrong with abortion (a vastly more important matter than homosexual acts and also were we leave the world of “just” alleged sin, and enter the world of actual crime – in the sense of action designed to kill another human being whom one is not at war with and who has committed no crime).

    This would have astonished the ancient world – were one of the defining features of Christians is that (like Jews and unlike pagans) they did not throw unwanted babies into town rubbish heaps. They tried to look after an “accidental” or “unwanted” baby as best they could.

    Of course in P.C. Ontario (Canada) there is a move to try and forbid Catholic schools even teaching that abortion is wrong (the doctrine of Political Correctness since the Frankfurt School of “cultural” Marxism invented this road to totalitarianism back in the 1920s).

    As the Cardinal ArchBishop of Chicago said a couple of years ago….

    “I expect to die in bed – but I expect my successor to die in prison, and his successor to die a martyr in the public square”.

    By the way I do not claims of authority of the Pope (or Bishop of Rome) and, therefore, I am not a Roman Catholic.

    Nor do I see any reason for the clergy (the parish clergy – not the regulars, the monks and nuns) to be celebate.

    After all even the last two Popes have said that this is a “matter of church discipline not of church doctrine”.

    “not church doctrine”. An acceptance that, historically, insisting that parish priests by celebate was actually about keeping church property from being handed on to widows or to children.

    • I appreciate what you’re saying. But there are also — surprise! — gay and lesbian Christians (and those who support their full inclusion in the churches) who are just as doctrinally and morally conservative on every other issue as many heterosexual believers.

      Those of us who have known since early childhood that we are attracted to the same sex must live as best we can and try — just as everyone else does — to be happy. Many of us see our sexual orientation as more broadly affectional — having to do with whom we may connect on a uniquely deep emotional level, and to whom we may commit and make homes and lives. It cannot help but strike us as odd that so many of those who spend their time obsessing over what we do with our private parts — and who fancy themselves so pure of heart — think a hell of a lot more about sex than we do.

      I would like to caution, again, against mindless (or at least uninformed) lumping. People are individuals, and as nice as it might be to be able to classify those who behave in ways in which you do not approve as part of some crowd of one-dimensional riff-raff, that is inaccurate and unjust.

      It also strikes me that so many of the same biblical “literalists” who cherry-pick random snippets from the Old Testament Holiness Code (something none of them make the slightest attempt to follow), when those New Testament words in red so clearly quote Jesus as having said we will be judged by the very standard we use to judge others — and that we should treat others as we’d want to be treated. I very much doubt that Bible publishers printed those words in red to indicate which passages we should ignore.

  15. Lori Heine – there is a distiction to be made between inclinations and actions.

    For example, someone may want (want very much) to steal – but they do not have to do so. As we are beings – agents (i.e. have free will) we can choose not to steal (“compatibleism” is just a word, and the “argument” for compatiblism is just an “argument-from-authority”, – in reality determinism and moral responsbilty are not compatible).

    So someone may have a great desire to engage in homosexual acts (or hetrosexual acts) and choose not do so.

    However, I must confess, that to me the matter of homosexual acts is a trivial one.

    Real issues of moral horror (such as abortion) get lost, with the obsession with the homosexual acts issue.

    As for happiness – I regard happiness as a poor guide to policy (to put it mildly).

    I can think of many actions that would make me happy – that is not a reason for doing them.

    I gave a graphic example of one such action – and got hit by Sean Gabb with a classic “quote out of context” post (still that is politics).

    If someone tells me that “doing X makes me happy” my first thought is “so what?” After all life is a process of physical and mental decay, happiness (in this world) would seem to be a sign of some form of confusion. We tolerate life, and do our duty, or we do not – pleasure is a brief and passing (although, yes, the word “happiness” can have other, more important, meanings – such as the quiet satisfaction of having done the right thing, even though doing so will lead to death, after all not doing the right thing does not mean that one avoids death it just prolongs the process of dying).

    However, I repeat, homosexual acts are (to me) simply not an issue, I am not interested in whether people engage in them or not.

    Having gone this far I might as well go further (being in a hole has never stopped me digging).

    I also believe that athiests (if they are decent people who try and do the right thing) go to heaven.

    “Then what is the point of believing in, and worshipping, God?”.

    I do not see this as connected to some form of “reward”.

    • I do not happen to see the most profound experience a human being will ever have on this earth — falling in love and making a life with someone — as a simple “act” that can be dismissed as evil. On the contrary, I believe that it is sacred.

      But I didn’t come here to argue theology. I’m enjoying reading the posts and the comments, and I’m happy to make your acquaintance. This is a very interesting blog. I feel a bit silly that, until now, I barely knew British libertarians existed.

      How are you generally received in your country? Do people tend to understand your perspective, or do they think libertarians are people who go around naked or eat vegetables all the time? The level of public ignorance about libertarianism, in the U.S., is astounding. Even very good friends of mine — people I generally regard as intelligent — say the darnedest things.

      I’m a writer, casting about for an idea for an essay on British libertarianism. Two of my essays appear currently among the Ten Most Read in Liberty magazine and I recently contributed a chapter to a book just out: Why We Left the Left.

      Americans get a very insular view of things, and I’m apparently no exception. I’m surprised it took me this long to find you, but I’m glad I did.

  16. After all life is a process of physical and mental decay, happiness (in this world) would seem to be a sign of some form of confusion. We tolerate life, and do our duty, or we do not – pleasure is a brief and passing (although, yes, the word “happiness” can have other, more important, meanings – such as the quiet satisfaction of having done the right thing, even though doing so will lead to death, after all not doing the right thing does not mean that one avoids death it just prolongs the process of dying).

    That’s a bit grim, Paul!

  17. Ian – I am grim minded (I just choose to hide it most of the time).

    Lori – love and sex are different things.

    As for politics in the U.K.

    In my part of England politics are tribal (as they are in Ireland – both the Republic and Northern Ireland).

    I am part of the Tory (Conservative Party) tribe – I have been since I was a boy (in the Republic I would, most likely, be part of the FG tribe, as opposed to the FF tribe – even though if you asked me in what way their policies are different….).

    In my part of England being part of the Tory tribe does not mean liking the leader of the Conservative Party (Mr David Cameron) indeed I do not know a single Conservative Association member who likes him – or the present Con/Lib administration.

    People know I am a libertarian – I have been telling them so for more than 30 years (indeed 33 years – my first general election campaign, we won the general election but did not take this particular seat), but it is not considered important. What tribe I am is considered the important thing – and has been since my youth (fighting off those saber toothed tigers on the way back to my cave).

    “Oh libertarianians – they would like to go back to Victorian times when the churches ran the schools and you could buy opium at the corner shop” (which is just about accurate – after all there was no School Board in Kettering till 1891), but it is not considered a practical matter.

    Even my Labour tribe opponents do not consider my “reactionary fantasies” worth attacking – after all they are about as “relevant” as my old habit of role playing (I am as likely to close the government schools, a County responsbility anyway [since 1902] as I am to actually turn into a Paladin with a Holy Sword).

    To the council staff I am “that fat, bald councillor who is obsessed with saving money” (never listen to people when you are on the toilet – they are bound to be talkng about you, and every …… word the ……. say is likely to be true), but I am sure they would say that even if I was not a libertarian (indeed I think the “libertarian factor” has no impact at all).

    In America libertarians may be despised – here we are just ignored.

    After all politics is even more deluded here than in the United States.

    For example, there have been “savage cuts” in government spending in recent years – the media denounce it and government ministers admit it (indeed they make speeches boasting about it – in order to impress the markets).

    And after the “savage cuts” government spending is higher (yes higher) than it was before.

    Even on specific things the entire political atmosphere is counterfactual.

    For example, in the last budget government increased taxation of the wealthy – I sat in this room with a calculator and even I could see they had done it.

    And after the budget the entire discussion was over whether the “cut in taxation on the rich” by the government was a good thing or a bad thing.

    Do you see why I find it hard to take British poltics seriously?

    • Paul, that is a depressing situation. I don’t suppose it’s very comforting, but I don’t take U.S. politics too seriously (anymore) either.

      We can’t wait, here, for the election to end. The second presidential debate was last night, and I couldn’t endure more than fifteen minutes of it. It’s become a sporting event — sort of like the World Series or the Super Bowl, only dragged out for a much longer duration.

      I became a libertarian because I got tired of being exploited by the Left because I’m a woman, and gay, and therefore automatically expected to fall in line with every cynical and manipulative scheme the “progressives” devise to get their hands on more power. I don’t want what they want. I don’t want people to be punished by the State, for example, if they express opinions that “progressives” don’t like.

      That doesn’t make libertarian or conservative gays (or women) any friends. It generates a lot of heat, and no light. I find it also makes conservatives automatically assume that I must agree with my self-appointed Leftist benefactors. I can understand why the assumption is made, but it happens to be untrue.

      Sarah Palin is a good example of a conservative woman who is ridiculed, even savaged, for her political views. Condi Rice is another. It seems to be okay for Leftists to say sexist things about both of them, and very viciously racist things about Condi Rice and other conservative women of color. If a gay person of either sex runs for office as either a libertarian or a conservative, he or she has strayed from the Leftist reservation and is subjected to homophobic slurs — as well as called wonderful names like “Jewish Nazi.”

      So things are interesting here, too. But I am still hopeful they might get better. A libertarian unsurge of some sort does seem to be in the making. Perhaps the Obama Administration has proved to be the final straw.

  18. In the United States – individual State politics makes some sense to me.

    For example, Governor Palin was against a State wide building code in Alaska – the people who forced her out (by endless groundless legal cases, which they could bring under the warped legal system) wanted one. And they got it – it was one of the conditions for getting the “Stimulus” money under the vile 2009 Act.

    But Federal politics is senseless.

    There is a a Federal deficit of one trillion Dollars.

    True “only” an American trillion (a thousand billion) – but a rather large sum of money.

    What are the proposals of the two candidates (the two candidates with any chance) to make the savings needed to balance the budget?

    As far as I can tell (and I have observed closely) – neither Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is making any proposals that would save anything remotely like this sum of money.

    Some people in the United States Senate are (Senator Jim De Mint and Sentator Rand Paul spring to mind) but the main candidates for President are not. And a Senator or Congressman can not lead the charge to make real savings – only a President can.

    So who is going to save the Res-Publica from (de facto) bankruptcy?

    Nobody is.

    P.S. My friends tell me that Governor Romney will make real proposals to save large amounts of money once he is safely elected President.

    However, I see no evidence of that – none at all.

    And a comment by a Fox News person today – that Romney was trying to show he was “more moderate” than Bush (less, less, conservative than the wild spending waste-of-space George Walker Bush?) had me almost hiding behind the chair (I do not own a couch) this morning.

  19. Lori, “How are you generally received in your country? Do people tend to understand your perspective”[?]

    Received as eccentrics, selfish, privileged, immoral/amoral, contrarians, sometimes racists and/or sexists (since we tend to be white males), idealists, dreamers.

    People who listen tend to intellectually understand but are emotionally unable to accept (virtually) any point due to pre-conditioning, social momentum, fear of something different, and supposed pragmatism.

    The responses can range from shock to wide-eyed wonder to outright hostility. For example, I said that the NHS (a much beloved institution with no room for criticism apparently…) was too large, that it employed too many inefficient, expensive public sector workers, that perhaps privatising cleaners, caterers, ambulance drivers etc. would actually save money which could be spent on curing the sick and was met with a barrage of criticism asking if I wanted to see people dying in the streets because I wasn’t willing to pay a little to save their lives. Not a rational response, but certainly an emotional one.

    When we discuss libertarian ideals it tends to be in hushed terms, trying to chip away at the monolithic state rather than destroy it wholesale. This allows us to enter ideas into the public discourse that would otherwise be dismissed as crazy (e.g. public spending has exceedingly large diminishing returns, is very wasteful and leads to perverse incentives).

    But at least our libertarians aren’t religious nutters.

  20. P.S. My friends tell me that Governor Romney will make real proposals to save large amounts of money once he is safely elected President. However, I see no evidence of that – none at all.

    That seems to be similar to those libertarian/conservatives here who held onto the pipe dream that Davey Cameron was only pretending to be a Proggie to get elected, then once in office he would suddenly transform into this new Thatcher who would undo all the evils of the Labour administration. I did myself say at the time that this was not going to happen. Such unjustified optimism seems to me to be a form ot justifying voting for the (marginally) lesser evil.

    Romney seems to me to be a mediocre candidate. The whole Republican field (the unelectable idealist Ron Paul excepted) were a terribly mediocre bunch. But then, candidates of “the right” seem that way generally to me these days. It may be because the Left at least are trying to go somewhere, even if that somewhere is a terrible prospect for us. The mainstream parties of the notional “right” these days are basically going to the same place, just with a bit more reluctance and in a way they can persuade their core voters to accept. Being a follower like that is not likely to produce particularly meritous candidates.

  21. “Religious nutters” – the vast majority of human beings believe in a God and a future existence. It is quite possible that we are wrong (totally wrong), but that does not mean we are insane.

    The Republican field – a mixed bunch. Ron Paul (an anti abortion “religious nutter” by the way, just as the late Christopher Hitchens was an anti abortion “athiest nutter”) seemed unwilling to talk about domestic policy (“ask him about farm subsidies and he will talk about Afghanistan” as the joke went – accept it was not a joke).

    Michelle Bachmann was hit over the head for her husband (because, like most mainstream medics not so long ago, he claimed that homosexuality was treatable) and for some quite small mistakes (such as claiming that John Wayne was from her home town – in reality his parents were, he was born in a nearby town). Not really fair on someone (Michelle Bachmann) who reads “Human Action” on the beach.

    More seriously the lady had an odd habit of staring at people as if she could not see them clearly – this was put down to her being a “nutter” (later it came out that she has an eye problem – too vain to admit it?).

    Rick Perry could not debate (although being high as a kite on pain killers for his back operation did not help him).

    Rick Santorum said that he was not running on social issues – and then would not shut up about them.

    Pawlenty seemed weak (because he is weak – as was shown when he let the Democrats rig a U.S. Senate election in 2008 and just looked shocked and sad).

    Jon Huntsman (the much praised moderate) also seemed weak – and is weak (as was proved when he later said that the fight to try and repeal Obamacare should be given up).

    Mitt Daniels (the highly competent Governor of Indiana – who has defeated the Progressives on everything) was astonished when he was told that he had no chance because he is short and bald.

    However, that is the (disgusting) truth – Presidential politics really is that shallow.

    And on and on,

    Mitt Romney had been campaigning in places like Iowa and New Hampshire since 2006 (when his term as Governor of Mass ended) and it was said that “the only way to make him go away was to vote for him”.

    Well at least he has pledged to get rid of the government subsidy for NPR and PBS.

    If only Mr Cameron could be convinced to end the BBC “licensing fee”.

    Instead we have the “right wing” Mr Hunt (ex Sec of State for “media, culture and sport” – now there is a department that be closed down at once) saying that the BBC is “the gold standard of broadcasting”.

    Pass the sickbag Alice.

  22. Paul, I did not mean to imply that all people of a religious persuasion were nutters, many have not thought deeply about the matter and yet more accept certain things as possible (resurrections, afterlife) and ignore or explain away as allegory the stupid (flood, revelations).

    Ron Paul has doubted evolution which is much more disconcerting than his anti-abortion stance. However as he does not seek to make his religious ideas Federal law, it’s less of an issue than the others. And you’re slightly off about Hitchens’ views, he was accepting of the humanity and potential rights of a foetus, but not for overturning Roe v Wade.

    Perry had a prayer rally for rain – he’s a religious nutter.
    Bachmann: “I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.” Religious nutter.
    Santorum continually compared gay sex to bestiality, child abuse and necrophilia purely based on the unthinking things his religion taught him. Wants Intelligent Design taught in schools. Talks about the ‘dangers of contraception’. Religious nutter.
    Pawlenty enthuses about teaching the controversy over evolution. Playing the religious nutter card.
    Huntsman Borderline sane, but still a Mormon…

    But these are the Republican candidates, not libertarians. I’d still rank the typical American libertarian as much more religious than their UK counterpart. But the US is religiously religious.

  23. keddaw,

    In the Bachmann quote above, it’s very hard to know how metaphorical she is being. America is drenched in an Old Testament religiosity that is quite alien to the more civilised world; they are a curious nation, with their high technological advancement while retaining a relatively primitive mindset, like barbarians who captured a steam engine. Fundamentally, the wave of millennialism that swept across the protestant world (particularly the Anglosphere) as a wave of Awakenings and Revivals afflicted them by far the most severely. The result is that apocalypticism is woven into their thoughts and speech, even among those on the supposedly more secular side of things (it is thus easily understood why the apocalyptic form of environmentalism is of American origin. As a people, they have never stopped peering fearfully at the sky looking for omens of divine retribution).

    It’s hard to imagine a British or European politician, caught having had a tawdry affair, declaring in the tones of the touring tabernacle tent that it “is between me and my God”. In America, such modes of speech, declarations of faith and metaphors are quite normal. As I said, they are a very strange people. So in that American context, it is really quite unexceptional for Bachmann to invoke the punishment of the Old Testament God for the sin of, um, high government spending.

  24. Keddaw

    That Bachmann quote was at the Convention – in reply to Democrat claims that hurricane was directed by God against Republicans. Both sides were doing something called “making a polticial speech”.

    Rick Perry – Governors (Republican and Democrat) have always done the standard pray for rain thing. FDR used to pray on public radio broadcasts (the leftist histories leave that out) It is more a statement of the seriousness of a situation than anything else.

    Jon Huntsman is a Mormon – born one like his father before him.

    And, of course, the silly Mormon Jon Huntsman Senior has done more good than anyone who reads this blog – or than all of us put together (by a vast margin).

    I was born in Britain and have lived my life here – but this rabid intolerance for religion, among the intellectual classes, is something I have never understood.

    As John Witherspoon put it (before he left Scotland to become President of what is now called Princeton – he was bored with arguements such as “miracles violate scientific law, scienfitic law can not be violated, therefore miracles can not happen”) – the intellectuals will believe anything and teach anything “apart from two things – Holy Scripture and the opinions of the common people”. He helped create something called the American Revolution – based on things that were already laughed at in enlightened Europe (centuries before the Vennia Circle) such things as individual (as opposed to collective) rights – derived from nature and nature’s God (although, as Suarez and so many others put it – going way back into the Middle Ages, for the idea that Hobbes brought in the notion of rights is total nonsense, if God did not exist natural law and the rights from it would be exactly the same).

    Sadly the last of the old style Presidents of Princeton was James McCosh (1811 – 1894) after him came Woodrow Wilson and the Europe worshipping intellectuals won (and Common Sense and the Common People were, from then on, held in equal contempt).

    On evolution I agree with you – although so did the original “fundementalists” (the authors of the essays on the “fundementals” that they presented against their foes – the “social gospel” people). The original “fundementalists” were not anti science – indeed many of them were scientists.

    It was only in the 1920s (interestingly in response to the vicious racism of “Darwinists” of the day – which, wildly different from Charles Darwin himself, taugh that whole races should be exterminated) that “fundementalism” became associated with an anti evolution stance.

    Hayek (in his time in the United States) argued (I believe correctly) that the association with Darwinism such things as racial genocide, abortion, moral releativism (and so on) was unwarrented (that it was an historical coincidence rather than a logical outcome of the theory), but his own ethical system (or lack of one) just further aliented people.


    About half of all conservative Protestants (a much lower figure for conservative Catholics) reject biological evolution.

    And, inspite of the arugements (really high class debating tricks) that someone like Ann Coulter can present (and present very well – a biology academic who is not also a trained debater is likely to be destroyed by someone like Coulter) I believe the rejection is really for cultural and political reasons – not scientific ones.

    It is a classic mistaken argument “X leads to terrible things – therefore X is wrong”.

    I would argue that the Iowa Caucus events (where even a small group of committed people can sway the whole thing) are a key problem.

    No one can through these events if they stand up for evolution.

    Someone like Mitch (sorry about “Mitt” above) Daniels would not stand a chance.

    So it is not really the “hair and the height”.

    I am of the opinion that the process should start with the New Hampshire primary.

    As for the theology involved – someone is going to have to take this on, defeat it.

    But it has to be a major figure from inside the culture – some Pelagian heretic (like me) will not do.

  25. I was born in Britain and have lived my life here – but this rabid intolerance for religion, among the intellectual classes, is something I have never understood.

    *deletes long rambling comment in feeble attempt at concise reply*

    If you follow my argument that the Progressives are the ideological continuance of Protestant extremism, it then becomes convincingly arguable that it is simply the secularised version of the old hatred of Catholics. Listening to a militant atheist like Richard Dawkins rage against “old men in dresses”, it’s hard not to hear the echo of the fierce Puritan rage regarding vestments.

  26. Oh by the way – on some of the other Progressive talking points you came out with. Or rather, repeated (I am not claiming you made them up – there is a Progressive monopoly in Britain, all radio and television is Progressive).

    Santorum will not shut up, but you have to listen to one of lectures (they are lectures – not poltical speeches) in full to understand that just saying “he compared homosexual acts to beastiality” is a rabid oversimplification. These are very complex arguments were quotes out of context are very easy. By the way to say that any Catholic theologian would repeat any social teaching just because “that is what his religion taught him” shows you have not got a clue what a Roman Catholic is. No Catholic theologian would just cite scripture (that is not how they work).

    Start with some “Father Brown” stories (Chesterton) and go on from there – in the unlikely event you actually want to find out what a Catholic thinker is (rather than just repeat the standard BBC- Guardian newpaper line).

    By the way – I am not a Roman Catholic.

    Still perhaps now Santorum will take a post at a Catholic university (perhaps the University of Dallas) and we need not hear from him again.

    State education is always going to trip up people – if people are going to be taxed, why should not their basic beliefs be taught (taught as an option – neither Pawlenty or Perry opposed teaching evolution, they just wanted the option of Design as well).

    Of course we would say that the way round this is to get a big axe and take the State education system behind the woodshed and…..

    However, that is a rather radical solution to the “you are taxing me but you will not teach, even as an option, stuff that I can produce lots of scientists to support” problem (of course whilst highly intelligent these scientists do not tend to be biologists – a little “detail” that is left out).

    Nor does it help that the main popularisers of evoultion tend to have Progressive (i.e. rabidly antiAmerican, “social justice” type) political opinions – thus backing up the “biological evolution = evil” myth.

    One thing I do not understand.

    Your statement that Christopher Hitchens accepted that an unborn baby was a person – but still supported Roe V Wade.

    I know that Hitchens was often confused – hence his support for the Iraq war and the entitlement programs.

    But this does not make any logical sense.

    Not only is Roe V Wade legally baseless (only a moron, or a deeply dishonest person [a crook – an “intellectual”], could pretend that abortion is a Federal matter – other than in Washington D.C. or in a Federal base or warship) if one believes that a baby is human (which Hitchens seems to have done) then Roe V Wade is “legal” murder.

    By the way. I repeat, there is no way that anyone can (whatever their view of abortion) can honestly support Roe V Wade.

    There are two ways of dealing with a contract.

    One can look at the words on the page – the English Common Law way.

    Or one can seek the intentions of the author or authors (the Roman or Scots law way).

    Roe V Wade is based on neither.

    Roe V Wade is based upon the political and cultural opinions of the judges who rules that way – and their “chattering classes” (as we say in Britain) friends. Nothing more.

    One might as well say that FDR had the right to steal privately owned gold and void private gold cause contracts – as the Supreme Court actually did say (in 1935 – five to four).

    Absurd judges do not change legal principles. Or the term “legal principle” is not worth spit.

    “What about the contraception case of 1962”.

    Again very simple – contraception is not a Federal matter (it is nothing to do with the Feds).

    By they way – please do not play the media game of pretending that means I want to ban contraception.

  27. I was not talking about you Ian.

    But I am sorry you could not see the total amazing, ultra wonderfulness of my comment.

    By the way that is an interesting way of looking at Dawkins.

    The Puritans end up (over generations) as athiests.

  28. “The Puritans end up (over generations) as athiests.”

    I have no hard statistics to back this up, but the region of the U.S. in which the Puritans once held the greatest sway — New England — now seems to be the least-pious portion of the country. So Paul, your statement may be true.

    I am woefully ignorant of politics across the pond. But I’m beginning to bone up on them (this blog is my starting point), and they seem fascinating.

    My only exposure thus far, has been C-SPAN’s coverage of sessions of Parliament. I found these fairly informative, but mostly entertaining — even amazing. They really shout at each other a lot. Other than the green upholstery on their seats — which is very pretty — I don’t know how much of it I would want to import over here.

    We’re loony enough as it is. If those Martian bi-cranials mentioned earlier in this thread ever come to visit us, they will probably fly home, blow up the Rover and increase their interplanetary defense budget.

  29. “rabid intolerance for religion”

    Actually, it’s “rabid intolerance for religious beliefs affecting public policy with no regard for actual evidence” that’s the issue.

    I think horoscopes are just as silly as religion, but if my Parliament or Congress don’t make laws based on the position of the planets and stars then I don’t care if members are believers or not. Unfortunately, when it comes to religion, they do.

  30. “No Catholic theologian would just cite scripture (that is not how they work).”

    Indeed, but they have a perturbing habit of saying you know F-all about Catholicism and make you go all the way to the Catechism to show them what Catholic belief/opinion on a given topic actually is! (e.g. Matthew 27:52 and the zombie uprising.)

  31. “Your statement that Christopher Hitchens accepted that an unborn baby was a person – but still supported Roe V Wade.”

    Supported… Well, he opposed overturning it at least.

    Accepting, as one logically must, that a foetus is human is not the same as accepting that it is A human, a person or an individual. Rights, whatever rabid libertarians or religious people might think, are granted to people BY people. There is no other source, there is no outside observer. So it is by our* say so that redheads, Orientals or Arians are human and deserving of the rights we decide are universal to humans. This is a fairly modern development – and a good one in my opinion, for many reasons, not least of which is that it is logical and consistent with other rules and rights.

    Children are always problematic when it comes to rights as they have a different set of rights than adults – less autonomy but more protection.

    In terms of Hitchens’ view, I can’t say, but I also hold what appears to be a contradictory view so allow me to present it and you may understand why it is possible to hold Hitchens’ position (even if my reasons actually differ from his.)

    Rights require sentience. Lifeforms without sentience require no care since they cannot be harmed in a way that matters to us (e.g. plants). Animals with sentience, or an ability to be harmed in a way that matters to us (usually to suffer) have very limited rights such as the right not to be tortured. A single human cell matters not a jot. Just because it is a fertilized egg doesn’t change that unless you are of the opinion that magic occurs and the fertilised egg is infused with some ineffable spirit that is undetectable and has no influence but fills the cell with ‘dignity’ and gives it inherent rights. Regardless of the idiocy of this opinion, even if it was true there is still a strong argument that it doesn’t get the right to residency in a woman’s womb or access to her blood supply and to impose the inherent health risks associated with pregnancy. Moving away from ‘magic’, as the egg develops it begins to be able to be harmed in ways that (should) matter to us and become more sentient hence the rights it has will (or should) increase as it matures. The law currently has a very rough version of this through abortion cut off dates and when foetal abuse can be committed by the mother by, for example, taking drugs.

    Taking this view, certain current versions of abortion violate the foetus’ rights, all abortions post-brain stem should be done as painlessly as possible, and as soon as the foetus nears viability it should be extracted not aborted and everything medically possible done to keep it alive, assuming it’s not suffering horrifically.

    *By the end of that sentence ‘our’ included redheads, Orientals and Arians – I wasn’t setting my particular age, gender, sexuality, colour or whatever apart.

  32. Richard Carey

    @ keddaw,

    “Rights, whatever rabid libertarians or religious people might think, are granted to people BY people. There is no other source, there is no outside observer. So it is by our* say so that redheads, Orientals or Arians are human and deserving of the rights we decide are universal to humans.”

    It strikes me that your opinion is that no one has any rights, unless bestowed upon us by some kind of collectivist ‘we’. Thus, according to you, a redhead, for example, can be held in bondage to you, if you and your collectivist pals decide to deny him his humanity. This may be the case in fact, but it’s hardly an ethical position. My rights are not dependent on you or anyone else granting them to me.

  33. Really Richard?

    Then care to tell me from what mystical realm you derive the list of rights inherent in you as a being and why if there is some supernatural rights giver it doesn’t seem to give a shit when those rights are violated.

    It is no “collectivist we”. It is a simple fact of nature that humans are free until other humans* tell them they’re not. Whether that’s the law of the land, the state, or a group of ruffians nearby.

    *In certain circumstances our freedom can also be curtailed by other animals, but they don’t really count as ethical actors in this discussion.

  34. Richard Carey


    I derive my liberty from reason, nature and God Almighty, all of which out-rank you!

  35. You lost me keddaw – on the moral philosophy.

    That does not mean you are not correct (and I am wrong) – as I actually mean “you have lost me” not “I have considered your argument and consider it mistaken for the following reasons….” I do not follow it – so I am unable to say “it is wrong”.

    Anyway the moral philosophy argument does not influence Roe V Wade – it is legally baseless.

    The habit of bringing in nonrelevant stuff is really a 20th century thing, Justice Brandeis seems to have started it, bringing in hundreds of pages of “evidence” that were in no way relevant to the case under discussion – or rather to the Supreme Court’s job, which is to decide whether X statute is constitutional or not. Not (as Justice Pound seems to have thought) whether X statute is a good idea or not.

    That is not to say that Supreme Court cases in the 19th century were not sometimes decided wrongly – they were (Dredd Scott and the Second Greenback Case are two cases that spring to mind), but at least one could physically read the papers.

    Today one can not (unless one devotes one’s life to it) – because there are thousands of pages of documents for each important case.

    My own belief is that the whole thing is a scam – an effort by the (mostly Harvard Law School trained) elite to keep the public away from the Constitution.

    “Sure you can look at this case – here are a thousand pages of documents to read” is the elite way of saying “f….. off”.

  36. Lori.

    Yes New England is mixed (I hear Country music is getting popular in areas of New Hampshire – these cultural things are oddly important) – but places like Mass are strongly secular (at least among the nominal Protestants). However, how many are really secular and how many have a new religion (the worship of the collective) is a moot point.

    The United Kingdom Parliament – do not judge it on “Question Time” which is like feeding time in the zoo.

    There are members (of both the Commons and the “Lords” – just to confuse things most real Lords are not in the “House of Lords” any more) who actually have principles – and sometimes they show this in what they say.

    A good test is to see if someone is prepared to stand up and denounce British membership of the European Union.

    Logically if every whim of the E.U. trumps the United Kingdom Parliament there is no point in having a Parliament – but most M.P.s are too stupid (or too corrupt) to say this.

    But there are some M.P.s who do say it.

    Of course one could say the same thing about the United States.

    If there are no limits on what the Feds can spend money on (with “the common defence and general welfare” being defined not as the purpose of the specific spending powers that are then listed in Article One, Section Eight, but as a “general welfare spending power”) and if “regulate interstate commerce” carries on being defined as it has been since World War II (when the striking down of the National Recovery Administration in 1935 was, de facto, reversed) then there is little point in having States.

    Still there are still differences (both in the E.U. and in the U.S.) – California is going bankrupt (in terms of government spending and State regulations – on top of Federal ones) and places like South Dakota are not.

    The lowest government spending(as a proportion of the economy) full E.U. member is actually Luxemburg – but I do not see the Grand Dutchy leaving (it benefits, or the government there thinks it does, from E.U. offices and so on – at least for the present).

    By the way – places like Greece are “not in danger of going banbkrupt” (as the media report) they are already are bankrupt. the Greek government de facto defaulted on most of its private (nongovernment) debts some time ago – this is called “giving the private creditors a haircut”.

    Some “haircut” – they end up looking like me.

    Of course the banks do not seem to care – as they are counting on (yet another) bailout.

    The whole thing is vomit inducing.

  37. I derive my liberty from reason, nature and God Almighty, all of which out-rank you!

    The problem is, David Hume demonstrated a long time ago that you can’t derive a moral philosophy from nature, and reason is only any use when you’ve derived it from somewhere. God seems like a good jump out of the system to get an answer, but you’re then simply stuck with where God gets His moral philosophy from (a moral version of the Creationist problem) and you’re no further forward.

    The basic problem with the “natural rights” position is that it never explains where these natural rights come from, it simply presumes that they are somehow imbedded in reality without saying precisely where. No amount of believing in them will conjure them into existence.

    The harsh reality is that rights are really just agreed rules of conduct, or limitations on conduct. Robinson Crusoe alone on his island has no rights and needs none. Once Friday turns up, we have a collective who have to decide on such things, but ultimately whatever rights they decide they have can only come from a common agreement between them. They may for instance decide that they will apportion the land of the island 50/50 between them, and draw a map of who owns what. And that’s their property rights. And then a Royal Navy ship turns up, the Captian strides ashore and claims the island for the King. And Robinson and Friday say, “hey this is our island!” and the Captian says, “that’s funny, it’s not registered with us as being owned by you. And we have guns.” And that is that, even if Robinson and Friday start making very wordy arguments about homesteading, and how they’ve mixed their labour with the land, and whatnot.

    Your rights are what you can get everyone else to agree to. That’s intellectually disatisfying, but it is all there is.

  38. Ian B,

    I’m not going to argue it, as all I would be doing is giving you a less eloquent version of natural rights principles, which you can find better expressed by others, but I think you should keep an open mind on such matters, as your viewpoint lacks any kind of ethical basis, as far as I can tell.

  39. Richard,

    Your conception that rights should have an ethical basis requires some further explanation. I see nothing in the literature or your statements that have this as a central premise. It sounds good though.

    You then have to go further to explain the basis of those ethics, which, unfortunately, is a fools errand until you say …

    “I derive my liberty from reason”
    Awesome, I love reason.
    Fantastic, we’re proving Hume wrong with something that is empirically testable.
    and God Almighty

  40. Richard Carey


    these truths of mine are self-evident!

  41. Richard,

    Self-evident? Like the existent of God Almighty?

  42. On Sunday evening coming, I will have a serious discussion with two old Oxford colleagues who are coming to stay for the weekend. I shall be showing them this thread, for they are not professional libertarians – although they can, professionally, read complex stuff really rather jolly fast like the rest of us here.

    This will be concerned with a debate which I want to have with them, about the roots of libertarian philosophy and how these can (or might not be) reconciled with Christian Doctrine as it is (officially) preached.

    They are both History graduates originally, One is now a philosopher and writer of speeches for the Lib-Dems, and the other gave it all up in 1982 to be a banker, making a lot of money and then deciding to train as a Catholic Priest, giving that up after most of the training to go back to banking. He is now retired, but did not make quite such a pile as you might expect.

    It will be interesting. I will report the results.

  43. This will of course occur, over the Port, after my dear wife has angrily gone to bed. She cannot stand any of this stuff at all: and she thinks we are all seriously autistic and “very very badly deranged and very sad people, whom nobody likes” (her phrase, not mine.)

    I think that the right response after the discussion should be…
    “Shall we join the ladies?”

    WHY are there so few female libertarians? Is this where we shall unlimately fail?

  44. Richard Carey

    check this speech by Laurence Vance:

  45. keddaw – “self evident” is from Thomas Reid (Scots Common Sense philospher – although one might trace it back to Ralph Cudworth the English philospher) and was admired by Thomas Jefferson.

    Reid was a Christian (although of the Moderate party in Church of Scotland circles) – but that had nothing much to do with this specific point. And Jefferson (although he clearly believed in God) had a lot of problems with Christian doctrine.

    As for the religious background of Natural Rights – will are back to people like Hugo Grotius and before him to the Catholics.

    For more see Brian Tierney “The Idea of Natural Rights” (Emory University Press 1997).

    Actually I have some big problems with the book,but it is the only one I can think of right now. I am dog tired (having gone without sleep for a day or so) and I am in a vile temper – having read a lot of nonrelevant social justice and down-with-corporations stuff (on this very site).

    I suspect I would not be so irritated by it all if was not over tried.

  46. Richard, Laurence Vance seems to completely ignore the fact that some religions (Islam for example, and most versions of Christianity) make strong claims about how society should organise and functions – not least of which are the severe penalties for usury, homosexuality, adultery etc. It would require a serious re-think by religions to try to NOT enforce their morality on a society of free individuals – after all, what reduction in someone’s liberty is not a price worth paying to save their eternal soul from damnation?

    Paul, Reid is seriously mistaken on lots of things and has rightly been virtually forgotten in favour of Hume.

    I am confused how there can be a religious background for human rights when Islam tells people to be slaves to Allah and Christians are taught that they are worthless sinners and are imperfect and need to devote their life to Jesus to be saved. But hey, to each their own.

    However, and this is really something that annoys me, Jefferson was categorically not a believer in ‘God’. He was a deist, and believed in perhaps some non-interventionalist ‘god’ but definitely not a God and all the baggage that comes with it.

  47. keddaw – I think the difference between sins and crimes (vital to Christianity – if not to Islam) needs to be kept in mind.

    All crimes are sins (“crime” being defined as a violation of natural law – not law in the “Positivist” sense of a whim of the Emperor, or of God, if “law” is simply the whims of the ruler then “law” is of no importance).

    But all sins are not (not) crimes.

    For example, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that artificial contraception is a sin (so did the Anglican Church before the Lambeth conference of the 1930s), but the Roman Catholic Church certainly does not teach that articial contraception is a crime. This is a point the media appear totally unable to understand.

    It can not be a crime – because there is no victim. A potential victim will not do – one must be able to show a real victim (for example the dead body of a baby – or evidence that such a body has been destroyed).

    Turning to secular philosophy.

    I do not agree that the Hume replaced Reid.

    Indeed I do not believe that Hume taught a system at all.

    I believe (as Hume did himself) that he was asking questions – not (not) teaching a system.

    For example, David Hume questions the existance of the reasoning “I” (the mind), and he questions the objective existance of the external world.

    Now, if Hume was a system builder, he could not question both things – as he would have to base his system on one or the other (either on the mind – as the Idealists do) or the objective phyical universe (as the materialists do).

    But Hume is not a system builder, he is a questioner (a sceptic) – so he is quite free to legitimately question both.

    Treating Hume as if he was a system builder (as the Logical Positivists imply – see Joad “Logical Positivism”, 1950, for them) is just wrong.

    So Hume can not replace Reid (or anyone else). Hume has no system (deliberatly has no system) with which to replace anything.

    Thomas Reid tried to anser Hume’s questions – you make think T.R. did a bad job, but even if he totally failed Humeism can not replace Common Sense (or anything else) because there is no such thing as “Humeism” – just a series of questions and sceptical attacks (on just about everything).

    So if Humeism (which does not exist) did not replace Common Sense what did?

    Here the history is straightforwarded.

    What replaced Comon Sense was Germanic collectivism – spread into American academia by such intellectuals as Richard Ely (the mentor of both Woodrow Wilson and “Teddy” Roosevelt).

    Indeed Woodrow Wilson became President of Princeton. James McCosh (1811-1894) having gone (by the way – for Reid and the others see James McCosh “The Scottish Philosophy” 1877).

    Woodrow Wilson did not “refute” James McCosh in philosophy or history or politics. Any more than Richard Ely (Social Gospel man and founder of the Interventionist “American Economics Association” and all round bad guy) “refuted” Arthur Latham Perry (the best selling free trader and pro free market economist in the United States).

    That is not how academia works. For example “compatiblists” (those who believe that moral responsibilty and determinism) did not “refute” their critics – they just made sure their critics were not appointed to many academic posts, and fail students who take an anti determinist line at examination time. They could hardl “refute” their crirtics, as moral responsibilty and determinism are radically incompatible by definition, so de facto “argument from authority” was their only option (if they wanted power).

    Just as in economics the Keynesians did not “refute” anyone – as the late W.H. Hutt responded when asked “how did the Keynesians win the debate”.

    “There was no debate, the Keynesians did not want a debate – they just made sure they controlled who was appointed, and the setting and marking of examinations, and that was that.”

    I might love to blame David Hume for the collapse of Western academia – but it would be a lie to do so. Richard Ely and Woodrow Wilson (and so on) were not really followers of his (they were system builders – not sceptics). They were no more followers of Hume in philosophy than modern statists (such as Paul Krugman and co) are followers of Hume in economics.

    “But if the liberal arts in universities are a world determined by power not argument – then why should the taxpayer be forced to back student loans and so on?”

    Someone might legitmately ask this question – to which the answer is, of course, that no taxpayer funding should be given to these playpens of the left (not directly or indirectly).

    Such as universities as Hillsdale survice without government backed student loans and so on (Hillsdale, the first university to treat blacks as equals back in the 19th century, refused to play the modern government’s racial data games, thus it gets no government funding) – and so should Princeton and the rest.

    “But then the poor could not get on the ladder of social mobility”.

    Before World War II being a “college boy” was not an advantage in American business – it was only when going to college became so common that it started to be expected……

    Also the really poor do not have much of a chance now.

    For example, Michelle Obama (forget about Barack – he is too easy a target) presents herself as a poor girl from Chicago who worked her way into Princeton.

    Actually her father was not just a city employee – he was a Ward Captain in the Daley Machine (so his “unofficial” income would have been quite large – it is the “Chicago Way”), nor was any “work” involved.

    Michelle’s school grades were not wonderful – and even her thesis at Princeton (with which she had endless help) is just a hate filled mixture of socialism and black racism (Barack has spent millions of Dollars making sure that no one gets to see his Columbia thesis – so I do not know what is in it).

    Now would some “Redneck” with grades like (or considerably higher) those of Barack or Michelle have got into Princeton (of Columbia, or Harvard or…..)?

    Of course not.

    Although, to be fair, “Redneck” (Scots-Irish in American context) culture does not favour formal education (even among those whose intelligence levels turn out to be very high) other things, such as military service (either government – or private such as at King’s Mountain during the War of Independence, or in the endless fighting against the Indian tribes from the 16th century onwards, in many ways a continuation of the culture of “the feud” in Ulster Scots culture). There is a reason that the “Rednecks” have taken the worst burden of actual fighting in every war America has faught (indeed even when America is not officially at war) – they do the fighting (fundementaly) because that is what they want to do. Although there may be a cultural part of that – as Andrew Jackson’s mother shouted as she was beating him for crying (a British officer had slashed him across the face with a sabre for refusing to shine his boots) “boys do not cry – boys fight!”, mothers from other cultures might be less likely to do that.

    If the Puritan lives with the “deep dark fear that someone, somewhere, might be happy”. The “Redneck” (a very different culture) lives with the deep dark fear that someone, somewhere, needs killing (really needs it) and he has not killed them yet.

    So whereas some American cultures (such as the Jewish) are obsessed with book learning, the “Redneck” culture is more interested in practial skills – as peaceful as repairing a motor car (very difficult actually) or as brutal as how to cut a throat without leaving a blood trail. Although, of course, only enemies should be killed – killing without a moral purpose is despised. But how the culture defines moral purpose may be a bit broad.

    By the way – this does not mean “Rednecks” are bad people, for example Kit Carson (I have often wondered if he is a relation of Kevin) was a nice man and highly intelligent (although he had trouble with reading and so on – if one meant reading books, rather than reading a trail), but he also was a hardened killer. There is no contradiction.

    Still let us leave my grand tangent aside (I find it very hard to resist telling a story), and return to the subject of government subsidies to universities……

    So the idea that government support for universities (now a trillion [yes a trillion] Dollars in government backed student loans alone – plus endless other subsidies…) somehow puts the poor, generally, on this so called “ladder of social mobity” is just a great big shining lie.

  48. Paul, I don’t know what your job or passion is (history and story telling would likely be high on my guesses) but you simply can’t get away with, “[a]ll crimes are sins (“crime” being defined as a violation of natural law “ defining terms from their common meaning to turn it into a tautology from which you then go on to make a point about is bad reasoning, and bad form.

    So while you mention contraception (contrary to your statement Christians actually do want it outlawed, but we’ll let that pass since you specifically mention the Catholic church) you ignore the other things that I mentioned: usury, homosexuality (a crime even by your specific definition), and adultery.

    Reid’s views, while reasonable for their time, are unfortunately, like much great thinking, products of their time and woefully outpaced by the increase in knowledge, hence any appeal to Common Sense is rendered useless when it comes to high speed, high acceleration, high mass, high/low temperature, large/small scales etc. The fact it seems to still have a place in philosophy is due to the paucity of philosophical progress rather than any inherent utility and may be shown to be such by the progress of neuroscience rather than philosophy itself.

    As interesting as the rest of your university spiel was, it was not really related to anything anyone has said in this thread…

  49. keddaw your last comment is wrong – just about all of it (from the desired legal status of contracteption, the idea that the R.C.s want a legal ban on contraception is nonsense, to the stuff about philosophy), but you have reminded me of a big error I made – in allowing myself to be side tracked (I love to chase the rabbits – if a tangent involves a story, that tangent is likely to get explored).

    The mistake I made was to leave out the Aristotelians.

    These were the other great enemy of the Progressives – and, by the way, there is nothing automatically modern about the Progressives they, and their Social Justice ideology, are as old as Plato (indeed a lot older than Plato).

    The defeat of the Aristotelians (in academia and wider society) was as vital for the success of the Progressive project (the war on civil society – the war on the West) as the defeat of the Common Sense school.

    The defeat of the Aristotelians was made less difficult by their association with the Roman Catholic Church (at least the pre Vatican II Roman Catholic Church) – although there were many Protestant Aristotelians (for example Oxford had a long tradition of them).

    We must be careful what we mean by “Aristotelian” – it does not mean slavish follower of Aristotle.

    For example, even in the Middle Ages the scientific ideas of Aristotle were not followed, they were opposed (in spite of nearly every school text book insisting they were followed – and slavishly).

    Aristotle taught that the world was eternal (rejected) that it could not fundementally change (rejected) and he seemed (this is contested) to teach about inanimate objects in terms of purposes and causes (thus contracting the basic principle that only these things with a soul a “reasoning I” can have purposes and so on).

    The treating of the physical world as physical – is a central part of where the scholastics ended up (again contrary to the myth – there was a lot of free debate over the centuries).

    So does it make sense to talk of “Aristotelianism” at all?

    It does – if one confines it to a few principles.

    That the universe is objective – that it is not subject to our whims and that even God does not operate by whims. “Even God can not make 1+1 = anything other than 2” as the Scholastics put it) – this is in total contradiction to where (for example) Islamic thought ended up.

    Human beings really exist – we do not “think we exist” (as with the fictional book Ayn Rand attacks in her Atlas Shrugged – “So You Think That You Think” or real books such as the “Thinking: Fast and Slow” that the collectivists are pushing right now). Humans really are beings – each of us is a “reasoning I” who can (with an effort – and sometimes it needs a very great effort) choose between good and evil.

    Thirdly – that good and evil actually exist. That they are not just “cheer and boo words” for things we like and dislikie.

    For example, I might like to cut someone’s throat (que Sean Gabb jumping in with his words-out-of-context tapdance and his vague threats of the “Public Order Act” which I have not read and do not care about), but that does not make cutting someone’s throat a good (as opposed to a bad) thing to do.

    These three principles are also, of course, the basis of the Common Sense School (as well as the Aristotelian Schools) – drive them from the public square (as stated above – the collectivists do not refute them) and there is no wall against the Progressives.

    Civilisation (the nonaggression principle based civil society) is open for them to destroy.

  50. Oh you asked me my job. Gate person – looking after a car park. Before that?

    20 years (on and off) as a security guard – a bit like Kevin I am told.

    Indeed I have had similar feelings to him over the years (“why should that rich drunk have ….. and I have nothing”), but unlike Kevin I made a choice not to go over to the Dark Side.

    Although that does not mean I am a nice person.

  51. Paul, a job that allows you time to think, and possibly read, and you have done so.

    However, you still miss the argument that religions would have real trouble in a free state controlling their impulse to ban usury, homosexuality and adultery using the power of the state since it is so fundamental to their founding documents.

    What about blasphemy? It strikes me that most religions want blasphemy to be illegal since their own god appears quite impotent to sort it out himself. In fact, do most religions/religious people not revere the 10 Commandments? Are they not claimed to be the foundational values for western civilisation? In spite of only two of them actually being illegal…

    As for contraception: It was not until 1972 that the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law making it illegal to distribute birth control to single people.

    “Personhood amendments” are billed as abortion bans, but their definition of life would also make it a crime to use popular forms of birth control, including the IUD, and perhaps the pill.

    From: http://ideas.time.com/2012/01/30/birth-control-could-it-be-illegal-again/#ixzz2A2rJEb9C

    Phil Lawler (director of CatholicCulture.org) wants contraception to be illegal.

    And the Church doesn’t speak out against anyone who does make it illegal, or harder to access: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/population/la-fg-population-matters5-20120729-html,0,5897961.htmlstory

    No, I think it is fair to say that religion can be compatible with libertarianism, but that it generally isn’t, no matter how much BS people come up with about ‘human dignity’.

  52. More time to read as a security guard than in my current job.

    And more physical exercise also.

    I am thinking of going back to it – of course that would mean giving up the Council stuff (does not fit with 12 hour security shifts).

    But am I really do any good with the Council stuff?

    I doubt it.