Me, Two Nudey Men, and a Theatre Full of Lefties
By Sean Gabb
19th June 2014
The London International Festival of Theatre is an enterprise funded by the Arts Council of England and by the Culture Programme of the European Union. If I ever come to power as the front man for a military coup, it will be on my list of things to shut down before breakfast. This being said, I was happy to take part, on Wednesday the 18th June 2014, in its “Change for a Tenner” evening at the Yard Theatre in Hackney. My main outreach of late, has been to explain libertarianism to schoolchildren and traditionalists. Here was my first chance in several years to address an audience of committed pro-state leftists. The fee offered, plus expenses, was nice, though not essential to my acceptance.
The programme was for eight people, one after the other, to go on stage, and to speak for five minutes in favour of some “radical” change. Each would then take questions, and all would take part at the end in a panel discussion. I was to be the last speaker. Of course, five minutes meant fifteen, and the questions took up another ten. After the first five speakers, I had to remind the organisers of my enslavement to the railway timetables, and was sent on stage early. This meant I was unable to see the other two speakers. Here, though, is a brief account of what I did see.
Ellie Harrison – “Bring Back British Rail”
I agree with Miss Harrison that the railways were privatised in a corrupt and incompetent manner. I used to know some of the people involved, and remain surprised that the railways still work at all. In general, privatisation is change from one mode of extraction to another more profitable to the ruling class. But her speech was a denunciation of the Conservative Party, with only a single, brief acknowledgement of who won the 1997, 2001 and 2005 general elections. She even managed to annoy several members of an audience made up, so far as I could tell, of state-funded “artists” and local government officers.
Colin Bex – “Independence for Wessex”
I dislike speeches read from a text – especially when the text seems to fill half a ream of paper. And Mr Bex has a talent for stripping the romance out of nationalism. As he spoke about structures of government, and the sinister restrictions he would place on the lives of his subjects, he showed all the charisma of someone speaking at a Liberal Democrat conference. He did manage one flash on interest, though, when someone asked about his immigration policy. He sneered at the idea of racism, and agreed that his independent Wessex would keep out undesirables.
Trenton Oldfield – “Elitism is Tyranny”
This was not a written speech, and it showed. Apparently, Mr Oldfield disrupted the Boat Race in 2012, by jumping into the Thames, and was sent to prison for six months. Exactly why he jumped in the river, and why he got so long inside for it, were not revealed. Instead, he gave a disjointed and repetitive speech of almost cartoonish political correctness. His main point, so far as he had one, was that we should challenge our “white privilege” by committing acts likely to get us put in prison. Search me how this would make life better for the “oppressed.”
Eric Mutch – “Give Us All a Basic Income of £11,375″
I am not sure why Mr Mutch fixed on so precise a sum for his basic income. But his idea was that everyone in the country would get it, and it would be funded by a 50 per cent tax on all income that anyone cared to earn. He avoided the question that someone asked about incentives to work. When asked how he would stop the entire human race from settling here to claim his basic income, he narrowed the bounty from all resident adults to all adult citizens.
Andrew Welch – “A Case for Nudism”
Eloquently and without notes, Mr Welch put an interesting case for nudism. He said there was nothing disreputable or eccentric in going about naked. Towards the end of his speech, he took of all his clothes, thereby showing why middle aged men generally prefer to keep them on. He invited the rest of us to do likewise. Another middle aged man who was sitting behind me did strip off, and they stood together during a very polite question and answer session.
Sean Gabb – “What is Libertarianism?”
Here is a summary of my speech:
If you are a libertarian, you will believe in three central propositions. First, you want to be left alone. Second, you want to leave others alone. Third, you want others to leave others alone. We believe in a society based on the interactions of consenting adults.
A libertarian society would be radically different from the present order of things. But there is no reason to suppose such a society would be without the good things of life. There would still be exchanges of goods and services. There would still be education and healthcare. There would still be roads and railways. It would not be worse than the present order of things, and could easily be much better.
The great difference between a libertarian society and the present order is the existence of the State – which is a shorthand term for a network of people who get their living at the expense of others, and whose other mission in life is to make others dance as they desire. We are systematically oppressed by the State. It steals tax money from us. It regulates every detail of our lives. Though its privileged and licensed media, it lies to us. It lies to us more profoundly through its regulated or directly-funded schools and universities. It also kills on our behalf. It may not kill us very often, but it does send off young men in uniform to commit atrocities abroad for reasons that are never honestly discussed with us. We are against the State.
In opposing the State, we are also against the various interest groups that cluster round it. Among these are big business. Because we believe in a society of consenting adults, we necessarily believe in markets and private enterprise. But big business is not a natural growth. It often exists because of incorporation laws, and limited liability laws, and transport and infrastructure subsidies, and regulations that keep little people from starting their own businesses.
In short, we believe in a world of voluntary interactions. If you believe in one too, then you are a libertarian. If you do not, I look forward to your questions.
It was my intention to speak slowly and without passion. Having listened to my recording of the speech, I feel I may have gone a little too far in the opposite direction from the previous speakers. I sound as if I had taken too much valium, or was losing a battle with terminal boredom. In my use of long and often complex sentences, I may even have fallen into self-parody. But I was clear, and the questions afterwards bordered on the explosive. I refer you for these to the recording.
This, by the way, is less satisfactory than I hoped it would be. At the last minute, I decided to put my mobile telephone into video mode and to set it up about fifteen feet away. Sadly, I placed it in an unstable equilibrium, and it moved me progressively out of frame. As for the sound, it just about works.
Some of you will say that I could have made more of an effort to reach out for common ground. I had no wish to. When I speak to traditionalists, we start from a shared belief that the country has gone badly wrong, and that something radical is needed to set things right. My contribution to the debate is to argue that liberty is no enemy of tradition, but that its real enemy is the modern British State. For most of my audience last night, this is already the best of possible worlds. There is no conceivable voluntary order in which they would have so easy a living. The best use of my time with them was very politely to call them authoritarian scum and to poke fun at their outrage.
Yes, I enjoyed my trip to London yesterday. If the London International Theatre Festival cares to invite me back, I will probably accept.