Category Archives: LA Papers

Philosophical Notes 90, Libertarian Paternalism’s Red Herring (2014), by Lamont Rodgers


‘Nudging’: Libertarian Paternalism’s Red Herring Lamont Rodgers

Philosophical Notes No. 90

ISBN: 9781856376662 ISSN 0267-7091 (print) ISSN 2042-2768 (online)
An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL
© 2014: Libertarian Alliance; Lamont Rodgers

Lamont Rodgers is professor of philosophy at San Jacinto College North Campus, in Houston, TX.  He has published in Reason Papers, Libertarian Papers, and Southwest Philosophical Studies.  He specializes in theories of justice and political legitimacy.

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY

The error of seeking a foundation or justification

Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler endorse a version of paternalism that is alleged to be compatible with libertarian principles.1  Their version of paternalism aims to nudge people toward good choices without violating those people’s rights.  Accordingly, they call their version of paternalism ‘libertarian paternalism’.  This form of paternalism has been widely criticized on conceptual grounds.2  Libertarian paternalism might aim to square two incompatible notions.  This paper shows that the conceptual compatibility between libertarian principles and the nudges Sunstein and Thaler endorse is irrelevant to whether libertarians may oppose the political implementation of libertarian paternalism.  The problem is that Sunstein and Thaler focus on showing the conceptual compatibility between their goals and individual rights.  Goals must be pursued via through action.  Sunstein and Thaler ignore the fact that a principled opposition to the initiation of threats and violence, which this paper takes to be characteristic of libertarianism, will preclude the funding and enforcement of the apparatus necessary for the government to engage in libertarian paternalism.3  So even if Sunstein and Thaler’s goals are themselves compatible with libertarian principles, the real debate over the political implementation of libertarian paternalism violates libertarian principles. Continue reading

I think that few of us spotted this one coming. EU reintroduces death penalty via LISBON “in the case of war, riots, upheaval”


David Davis

http://www.archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.co.uk/2008/04/lisbon-treaty-introduces-eu-wide-death.html

I think it might be time to flag this one to The Faithful. Some of us may not have noticed it – I certainly didn’t. Do you read Eurotreaties? I do not, for I have not time.

And since it was in a footnote to a footnote to something that few if any normal people would be willing or able to spend the time reading through comprehensively, we all might be forgiven.

The entire notion now throws, into ever-sharper focus, this Nation’s relationship with the EU. I have nothing to add to that sentence for you may all have your own thoughts.

As we all know, I am not in favour of modern States being able to take life: this is because in all cases the right to do that to another human has been denied by the state’s law.

If I have not a right to end someone’s life who has wronged me and mine, and if my arms and guns and kitchen-knives and screwdrivers have been seized off me in that regard,  then I also have not the right to delegate that right to Continue reading

The Libertarian Alliance Christmas (sermon): I did want to say something positive, but I can’t. Sorry.


David Davis

Well, this is Christmas, I guess, and time goes around and comes around, and it seems like five minutes ago that I wrote the LA’s first Christmas Message on this blog, six or seven years ago. I’m not sure that there’s much else new to say from that time, but the Chimpanzee Type-Writors in the Blog’s freezing, damp Nissen-Hut must at least pretend to keep up appearances.

On every day and in every way, our rulers (do we need such people, really?) conspire to push us further and further down the outfall-pipe. It’s actually very depressing to be alive in Britain in 2013, knowing that one was being born some number of decades before, in a country which, while less blessed with the planet’s offerings, was at least less unfree in most ways.

All I’d really like to say to Libertarians this Christmas is that I think we are running out of time. It’s slipping by us all fast and I don’t know when there might be another time. I’m certain I said it before, possibly last year and the year before that and the year before that: it’s quite fortunate that statistNazis are rather inefficient and take longer than they might, to do what they need to do. Even Enoch Powell said once: “be of good cheer: for the rot has set in, but it will take quite some time”. There are some choices now open to us, as follows:-

(1) We can continue to try to “influence debate”, by publishing, by some of us (not enough to make a difference) going about having eggs and turned-off-mikes thrown at us in universities and on radio stations and in “Conservative” gatherings and meetings and stuff like that. We can continue to do that thing. But I don’t think anyone that matters, or is on our side, is listening. The ones not on our side will simply delete the file they got sent for airing, or turn off the mike when we get too near the truth.

(2) We can espouse “activism”, but all this will do is get us imprisoned, possibly for ever for we are right, and out families broken up, our computers “taken into local authority-care”, and our children “seized for hard-drive analysis”. As a strategy, this will therefore avail other people nought. The trouble is that we have been shown time and time again that “activism” pays, since people like Nelson Mandela, Gerry Adams, the dead pigs Castro and Stalin, the other dead leftist pig Hitler (he got lucky while young) and Ho Chi Mhinh “got into government”. But I don’t think any living Libertarian conservatives are willing to pay the price or are even young enough to see it redeemed.

(3) Each of us can build an “armoured library”. How you all do this is entirely up to you. It needn’t even be armoured, so long as you didn’t tell policemen, who’d of course tip off scumbag mobsters to come and accidentally burn it as soon as it was convenient for (them).

Sorry to be so depressing this year. It’s no use getting excited that “over 145 people” got to see the lecture at (somewhere or other) by “Dr Human Hope”, the really really articulate and perspicacious founder of the “freedom free thingy”, at some place or other, and which several hundred Libertarians from at least “20″ countries attended. Nor, even, that his lecture got “published on the internet.

Merry Christmas: the time has come to face reality. Nobody’s really interested enough in liberty – either for themselves or for others, and certainly not for others – for us to make a difference any more.

I’m not saying we should give up and die. Just that we must not expect victory, for we shall not get it.

Armoured Libraries and survival of culture and law


David Davis

Various prominent British libertarians seem now agreed that The Endarkenment approaches. The signs have been increasingly clear for some time. The fact that liberty is the mother of order and not its daughter is inconvenient for those that mean to boot the vast majority of Mankind – except themselves – backwards, cruelly, painfully and hard into pre-enlightenment misery, starvation, disease and servitude.

Being a scientist myself by training and thought-modes, and therefore by definition not an intellectual -  I have never figured out why humans get to want to bring about – and worse, specifically for others than themselves – what I described above.

It always seems after careful analysis of their plans, that they would like to visit upon the whole of humanity what Churchill described as “the torments that Dante reserved for the damned”.

[Incidentally, I think that "intellectual" (the noun) is is a mere imaginary literary concept, applied by primitive pre-scientific mystics to themselves and their friends who still work according to neolithic non-tribe-male-skull-crashing theories of how to behave towards others, and are driven by emotion and wishful thinking. This may become the subject of another discussion, but perhaps I may accidentally have defined "conservatives" as definitely not these people. We shall have to see, when I have time to try to write something again.]

Various commenters on recent postings here have said things like this, and this, and this. In the darkness however, someone said this, and Continue reading

How English Liberalism was Created by Accident and Custom, and then Destroyed by Liberals


How English Liberalism was Created by Accident and Custom, and then Destroyed by Liberals(1)
Sean Gabb
Published in 1998 as Historical Notes No. 31
ISBN 1 85637 410 6
by the Libertarian Alliance, London

Contents

One: The Question Stated
Two: The Seventeenth Century Origins of Liberal England
Three: The Administrative Vacuum of the Eighteenth Century
Four: The Decline and Fall of English Liberty
Conclusion: The Prospects for Liberty Notes

Continue reading

The Marxian Theory of Exploitation: A Critique


The Marxian Theory of Exploitation:
A Critique

Richard Garner

Economic Notes No. 115

ISBN 9781856376631
ISSN 0267-7164 (print)
ISSN 2042-2547 (online)

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL.

© 2013: Libertarian Alliance; Richard Garner

Richard Garner was a libertarian philosopher and a frequent contributor to the Libertarian Alliance and the Society for Individual Freedom until his premature death in 2011 at the age of 33. This pamphlet is an edited version of one that appeared on his personal blog on the 6th March 2008 and which first appeared in hardcopy in the September 2013 issue of The Individual, the journal of the SIF.

The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee, Advisory Council or subscribers.

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY

Marxian “exploitation” versus reality

Socialists have railed against the market economy as inherently exploitative. One of the most well known and influential examples of this is in the writings of Karl Marx. This theory was developed most completely in his massive three-volume economics treatise Capital, but is neatly summarised by Arthur P. Mendel:

The entire argument in Capital rests on the labor theory of value. As was the case with virtually all the parts that Marx fused into his system, this concept was borrowed from earlier writers, in this case from the ‘classical’ economists such as Adam Smith and, especially, David Ricardo. It is primarily a price theory, according to which ‘commodities’ should exchange on the basis of the ‘socially necessary’ labor time devoted to their production. In other words, the amount of time a laborer works to produce a particular item determines its “exchange value”: two products of equal labor value would thus be exchanged for one another.

Continue reading

Would a libertarian society deprive individuals of cultural roots and collective identity?


by Robert Henderson
http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/would-a-libertarian-society-deprive-individuals-of-cultural-roots-and-collective-identity/
Would a libertarian society deprive individuals of cultural roots and collective identity?

Robert Henderson

There are many rooms in the libertarian ideological house. That fact often derails rational discussion of libertarian issues, but it need not be a problem in this instance because the question being asked is most efficiently examined by testing it against the flintiest wing of libertarian thought. If that pristine, uncompromising form of libertarianism is incompatible with the maintenance of cultural roots and collective identity, then all other shades of libertarianism will be incompatible to some degree. Continue reading

The Three Great Errors of Most Libertarians: A Concise Philosophical Analysis, J. C. Lester


The Three Great Errors of Most Libertarians: A Concise Philosophical Analysis1
J. C. Lester

Philosophical Notes No. 89

ISBN: 9781856376624
ISSN 0267-7091 (print)
ISSN 2042-2768 (online)

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL

© 2013: Libertarian Alliance; J.C. Lester

J. C. Lester is a Senior Fellow with the Libertarian Alliance.
He is a libertarian philosopher and author of Arguments for Liberty: a Libertarian Miscellany (University of Buckingham Press, 2011)
and Escape from Leviathan: Libertarianism Without Justificationism, paperback (University of Buckingham Press, 2012).
His magnum opus is A Dictionary of Anti-Politics: Liberty Expounded and Defended (forthcoming).

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY

The error of seeking a foundation or justification

Assumptions are unsupported propositions. All observations and arguments require assumptions, and thereby remain ultimately unsupported. Similarly, all theories—whether empirical, or a priori, or moral, or whatever else—require assumptions, and thereby also remain unsupported. Any attempt to support a theory beyond assumption would require an infinite regress (defending any assumption involves making more unsupported assumptions) or infinite evidence (which involves more unsupported theories, in any case). It’s not merely that there’s always a risk of error: no epistemological support is possible (even probability theories rest on assumptions). And because we face a universe of infinite unknown facts and infinite unknown theories with our finite and fallible minds, we cannot know what potential refutations of our theories we might have overlooked. Therefore, it’s an error to think that a theory can be given a genuine foundation or justification that takes it beyond assumption or conjecture. Continue reading

A Response to Matt Zwolinski’s “Libertarianism and Liberty” Essays on Libertarianism .org, J. C. Lester


A Response to Matt Zwolinski’s “Libertarianism and Liberty” Essays on Libertarianism.org
J. C. Lester

Philosophical Notes No. 88

ISBN: 9781856376617
ISSN 0267-7091 (print)
ISSN 2042-2768 (online)

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL

© 2013: Libertarian Alliance; J.C. Lester

J. C. Lester is a Senior Fellow with the Libertarian Alliance.
He is a libertarian philosopher and author of Arguments for Liberty: a Libertarian Miscellany (University of Buckingham Press, 2011)
and Escape from Leviathan: Libertarianism Without Justificationism, paperback (University of Buckingham Press, 2012).
His magnum opus is A Dictionary of Anti-Politics: Liberty Expounded and Defended (forthcoming).

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY

Abstract

Matt Zwolinski’s “libertarianism and liberty” essays are argued to have the following problems: taking libertarianism to be a “commitment” to the view that “liberty is the highest political value”; examining and rejecting the maximization of liberty without a libertarian theory of liberty; accepting a persuasive sense of “coercion”; misunderstanding liberty in the work place; conflating, to varying degrees, freedom of action and freedom from aggression and justice/rights/morals; focusing on logically possible clashes instead of practically possible congruence among utility, liberty, and justice—in particular, that “rule (preference-)utilitarianism” fits “rule libertarianism”; failing to distinguish liberty from license (and power) concerning slavery, and so-called “civil and democratic liberties” (and everything else); the idea that any coherent reference to a quantity of liberty requires precise cardinality; failing to see that the quantity of liberty has an inherently qualitative aspect; misunderstanding property as about limiting freedom; mistaking clashing Hobbesian freedom for non-clashing Lockean liberty; adopting G. A. Cohen’s confusion about freedom as the libertarian conception of freedom; assuming the—illogical—epistemology of “justification”; not realizing that both allowing and prohibiting pollution “aggresses” and so “aggressions” need to be minimized; the failure of all six of his reasons for rejecting the non-aggression principle. Continue reading

Talkin’-’bout my Generation


David Davis

In the late afternoons of our lives, various thoughts occur. I had a cyberchat with my colleague, the Dear Leader of the Libertarian Alliance, Dr Sean Gabb, at some indeterminate time overnight last night. We both agreed on some things:- Continue reading

More on the Persecution of the BNP


More on the Persecution of the BNP
by Sean Gabb
(3rd January 2007)

One of my duties as Director of the Libertarian Alliance is to defend the right to free expression of people whose views I do not share. I do not perform this duty as often or as effectively as I might wish. But I begin the new year with another of my comments on the persecution of the British National Party. Continue reading

Sean Gabb on the Thatcher Police State (May 1989)


The Full Coercive Apparatus of a Police State:
Thoughts on the Dark Side of the Thatcher Decade

Sean Gabb

3rd May 1989, Published as Legal Notes No. 6, by the Libertarian Alliance,
London, 1989, ISBN 1 870614 39 9

Ten years ago (1979) I gave way to one of my rare bursts of enthusiasm. I was at the time, I’ll grant, still a schoolboy; and these things are always more permissible in them than in others. But, even for a schoolboy, it was a very great burst of enthusiasm. I seriously thought that, along with Mrs Thatcher, the second dawn of classical liberalism had arrived. This was it, I thought. No more socialism. No more national decline. No more Road to Serfdom. Oh, even as lads of my age went, I was naïve. Continue reading

Some Critical Comments on Roderick T. Long’s “Why Libertarians Believe There Is Only One Right”,J. C. Lester


http://www.libertarian.co.uk/?q=node/778

Some Critical Comments on Roderick T. Long’s “Why Libertarians Believe There Is Only One Right”

J. C. Lester

Philosophical Notes No. 86

ISBN: 9781856376570
ISSN 0267-7091 (print)
ISSN 2042-2768 (online)

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL

© 2013: Libertarian Alliance; J.C. Lester

J. C. Lester is a Senior Fellow with the Libertarian Alliance.
He is a libertarian philosopher and author of Arguments for Liberty: a Libertarian Miscellany (University of Buckingham Press, 2011)
and Escape from Leviathan: Libertarianism Without Justificationism, paperback (University of Buckingham Press, 2012).
His magnum opus is A Dictionary of Anti-Politics: Liberty Expounded and Defended (forthcoming).

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY

Abstract

This article explains various imprecisions and clear errors concerning libertarianism in Roderick T. Long’s essay.1Contra Long, I argue as follows.Non-aggression is not the fundamental libertarian right—liberty is.There are non-libertarian rights, but they don’t override liberty.Assumptions are inevitable because justifications are impossible.Rights should not be “defined” but, rather, morally and metaphysically theorized.Moral and legal permissibility need to be clearly distinguished.Long has unwittingly adopted libertarian, normative conceptions of “aggression” and “force”.It is possible to accept the right to liberty on no grounds whatsoever, and also conjecture that liberty/deontologism and welfare/consequentialism are systematically compatible for conceptual and causal reasons.Long’s rejection of positive rights is privileging and not conceptual.Property needs to be derived from an explicit, non-normative, theory of libertarian liberty.Long’s overall account is “mysterious” and “one-sided.” Continue reading

Jury Nullification: A Barrister Writes


by Howard R. Gray

Juries have a duty to try the case according to the law: this is trite. The judge is the tribunal of law, and the jury is the tribunal of fact: that is the simple rule of how criminal law works, and also just as trite. Judges in England are allowed broad scope to direct juries on the law and often put forward their views of the facts usually pre-seasoned with the exhortation that it is “up to you ladies and gentlemen of the jury” about any particular point they deem in need of comment.

That being said, there is a plethora of rules that they must use to put to a jury about particular points of law and about the standard of proof that must always be there in their directions. For example the “you must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt” and “satisfied so that you are sure”, then they go on to give examples. There are the Turnbull directions on corroboration of witness testimony and so on. Each factual element that has a contentious nature must be directed upon in the judge’s homily to the jury at the end of the trial. Failure to adequately direct a jury can result in the verdict being set aside on appeal. Jurors needn’t be too worried that justice will be denied; appeals are often successful. Continue reading

Vox Populi, Vox D.E.I.: Division, Derision, and the Death of Free Speech


Vox Populi, Vox D.E.I.: Division, Derision, and the Death of Free Speech
Prunella Jordaine

Cultural Notes No. 58

ISBN 9781856376556
ISSN 0267-677X (print)
ISSN 2042-2539 (online)

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London, W1J 6HL.

© 2012: Libertarian Alliance; Prunella Jordaine.

Prunella Jordaine works in the private sector in the London area

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY!

 

What We Have Lost

“Happy is he,” said the Roman poet Virgil, “who knows the causes of things.”1  Let’s put him to the test.  Here’s a thing: the steady and accelerating loss of free speech in Britain.  Speak your mind on certain topics and at best you’ll face social opprobrium and questioning by the police.  At worst, you’ll lose your job and end up in jail.  Our supposed liberal democracy more and more resembles a communist dictatorship in which citizens self-censor for fear of the state – and of other citizens, who will eagerly report speech-criminals on sites like Twitter.  Why has this happened?  Well, what are the certain topics that send people to jail?  Race is one.  Homosexuality is another.  Religion is a third.  In every case, the justification for a repressive law is simple: the benevolent paternal state says it wants to protect a minority.  And the minority in question is happy to be protected.  Muslims have marched to demand the banning of a book called The Satanic Verses; they have never marched to demand the repeal of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006.  And they never will. Continue reading

Epicurus: Father of the Enlightenment


Epicurus: Father of the Enlightenment[1]
by Sean Gabb

 Epicurus (341-270 BC) was, with Plato and Aristotle, one of the three great philosophers of the ancient world. He developed an integrated system of ethics and natural philosophy that, he claimed and many accepted, showed everyone the way to a life of the greatest happiness. The school that he founded remained open for 798 years after his death. While it lost place during the last 200 of these years, his philosophy held until then a wide and often decisive hold on the ancient mind.

The revival of Epicureanism in the 17th century coincided with the growth of scientific rationalism and classical liberalism. There can be no doubt these facts are connected. It may, indeed, be argued that the first was a leading cause of the second two, and that we are now living in a world shaped, in every worthwhile sense, by the ideas of Epicurus. Continue reading

Algernon Sidney, by Peter Richards


http://www.libertarian.co.uk/?q=node/723

Algernon Sidney (1623-1683): A Martyr to Liberty Peter Richards

Libertarian Heritage No. 29

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London, W1J 6HL.

ISBN: 9781856376549 ISSN: 0959-566X (print) ISSN: 2042-2733 (online)

© 2012: Libertarian Alliance, Peter Richards

Peter Richards is a Hampshire businessman and writer. Besides being a supporter of the LA, he is a member of the Rationalist Association, the Society for Individual Freedom and the Freedom Association. He has also contributed to The Freethinker, Right Now! and The Individual. In 2011, the Book Guild published Free-born John Lilburne: English Libertarian: And Other Essays on Liberty, many of the chapters of which were first published by the LA or SIF.

The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee, Advisory Council or subscribers.

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY Continue reading

What’s Wrong with Libertarianism? (2012), by J.C. Lester


What’s Wrong with ‘What’s Wrong with Libertarianism’:
A Reply to Jeffrey Friedman
J. C. Lester

Philosophical Notes No. 85

ISBN: 9781856376532
ISSN 0267-7091 (print)
ISSN 2042-2768 (online)

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL

© 2012: Libertarian Alliance; J.C. Lester

J. C. Lester is a Senior Fellow with the Libertarian Alliance.
He is a libertarian philosopher and author of Arguments for Liberty: a Libertarian Miscellany (University of Buckingham Press, 2011)
and Escape from Leviathan: Libertarianism Without Justificationism, paperback (University of Buckingham Press, 2012).
His magnum opus is A Dictionary of Anti-Politics: Liberty Expounded and Defended (forthcoming).

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY Continue reading

Vallentyne and Zwolinski on “Libertarianism” (2012), by J.C. Lester


Vallentyne and Zwolinski on “Libertarianism”:
Some Philosophical Responses to Their Encyclopedia Entries
J. C. Lester

Philosophical Notes No. 84

ISBN: 9781856376518
ISSN 0267-7091 (print)

ISSN 2042-2768 (online)

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL

© 2012: Libertarian Alliance; J.C. Lester

J. C. Lester is a Senior Fellow with the Libertarian Alliance.
He is a libertarian philosopher and author of Arguments for Liberty: a Libertarian Miscellany (University of Buckingham Press, 2011)
and Escape from Leviathan: Libertarianism Without Justificationism, paperback (University of Buckingham Press, 2012).
His magnum opus is A Dictionary of Anti-Politics: Liberty Expounded and Defended (forthcoming).

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY Continue reading

Thomas Jefferson: Libertarian Wordsmith


Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826):  Libertarian Wordsmith
Peter Richards

Libertarian Heritage No. 28

http://www.libertarian.co.uk/?q=node/688

Introduction

A letter from you calls up recollections very dear to my mind.  It carries me back to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow-laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right of self-government.1 Continue reading

Spiked: Falsely Claiming to Oppose the Race Relations Industry


Spiked: Falsely Claiming to Oppose the Race Relations Industry
David Webb

Cultural Notes No. 57

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London, W1J 6HL.

ISBN 9781856376440

ISSN 0267-677X (print)
ISSN 2042-2539 (online)

© 2012: Libertarian Alliance, David Webb

David Webb studied Chinese and Russian at Leeds University, where he was involved in Marxist politics. He has since become a conservative writer, contributing to The Salisbury Review and Right Now!, and more recently contributing extensively to the Libertarian Alliance blog. He lived for four years in China (Tianjin, Kunming and Chengdu) and now writes freelance on Chinese politics and economics.

The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee, Advisory Council or subscribers.

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY Continue reading

Sean Gabb: On Defending “The Indefensible”


Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 217
12th January 2012

On Defending “The Indefensible”
by Sean Gabb

During the past month, I have spent much of my time as Director of the Libertarian Alliance speaking up for the rights of Emma West – theSouth London“Tram Lady” – and of the alleged murderers of Stephen Lawrence. Because of this, I have received several e-mails of denunciation. I normally ignore criticism. However, since I may spend at least the next few years defending the rights of people who are regarded as unspeakably evil by the ruling class and all who stand in awe of the ruling class, it may be useful if I say something in my own defence. Continue reading

Economic Notes 112, Free Enterprise: The Antidote to Corporate Plutocracy (2009), by Keith Preston


This essay is a very slightly edited version of the winner of the Libertarian Alliance’s 2008 Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize: “Can a Libertarian Society be Described as ‘Tesco minus the State’?”

via Economic Notes 112, Free Enterprise: The Antidote to Corporate Plutocracy (2009), by Keith Preston.

Ayn Rand, Objectivism and Anarchism


The Facts Of Reality: Logic And History In Objectivist Debates About Government
Nicholas Dykes
Philosophical Notes No. 79
ISSN 0267-7091 1 85637 609 5

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL.

© 2007: Libertarian Alliance; Nicholas Dykes.

Nicholas Dykes is a British-Canadian writer currently living in England. He is married, with two grown-up children. Besides numerous pieces for the Libertarian Alliance and journals such as Reason Papers, he is the author of Fed Up With Government? (Hereford, UK, Four Nations, 1991), the 300-page manifesto for a putative British ‘Libertarian Party’. This current essay was previously published in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 7, no. 1 (Fall 2005): pp. 79-140.

The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee, Advisory Council or subscribers.

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY Continue reading

New Book by Chris R. Tame


http://www.amazon.co.uk/Question-Classical-Contribution-Liberalism-ebook/dp/B005IZWNDO/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1316026166&sr=1-6

CoverThe Land Question in Classical Liberal Thought And the “Georgist” Contribution to Classical Liberalism: A Bibliography by Chris R. Tame, Edited with an Introduction by Sean Gabb

The purpose of this Bibliography is manifold. It aims to provide a wide ranging guide to Henry George’s work, to that of Georgist writers in the English language (i.e., primarily American and British), to the “precursors” of Georgism, and to its principal critics. It also offers a selective listing of the competing Land Nationalisation school. In addition it provides an extensive listing of the broader literature on the land question, emanating from liberal, radical, conservative and socialist writers. The relatively small body of secondary scholarship regarding land issues is also featured.

Historical Notes 052, Understanding the Chinese (2011), by John Derbyshire | www2.libertarian.co.uk


 

Here are some remarks I delivered to the sixth annual meeting of Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Property and Freedom Society, held at the Karia Princess Hotel in Bodrum, Turkey, May 26-30, 2011.

The subject of my address was “Understanding China and the Chinese.” The conference organizers meant it to form part of a set, with Jared Taylor following me on the topic “Understanding Japan and the Japanese,” then John O’Sullivan on “Understanding Europe and its Bureaucrats,” then Professor Norman Stone on “Understanding Turkey and the Turks.”

As things turned out, the set was unfortunately incomplete, as the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC, with very un-Japanese inefficiency, lost Jared’s passport a few days before the conference, leaving him no time to sort the problem out and so unable to embark for Turkey.

We missed Jared and commiserate with him on what seems to have been an exceptionally bad year for him so far, marred by misfortunes and indignities at the hands of various state apparatuses, by no means only the Japanese.1 He did manage to bring out a book, though.2

The rest of us went ahead with our presentations anyway. Here is mine.

Historical Notes 052, Understanding the Chinese (2011), by John Derbyshire | www2.libertarian.co.uk

Tactical Notes 032, How Radical Is Too Radical? Anarchism as a Practical Guide to Advancing Liberty (2011), Isaac M. Morehouse and Christopher J. Nelson


Libertarians want less government. Yet many libertarians think it is fruitless to dwell for any length of time on just how limited the state should be. Even more libertarians dismiss the idea of anarchism – the ultimate limit on government – out of hand. Not only does anarchism deserve a fair hearing on theoretical, practical, and moral grounds, but it deserves to be a serious part of strategic discussions if liberty is to be advanced at all. Libertarians can disagree with statelessness as the best or logical direction of a free society, but they cannot afford to ignore it. Right or wrong, the radical idea of anarchism is an incredibly valuable tool for advancing liberty and should not be dismissed.

via Tactical Notes 032, How Radical Is Too Radical? Anarchism as a Practical Guide to Advancing Liberty (2011), Isaac M. Morehouse and Christopher J. Nelson.

Legal Notes 52, Transnational Law: An Essay in Definition with a Polemic Addendum (2011), by Allen Porter Mendenhall


Transnational Law: An Essay in Definition with a Polemic Addendum Allen Porter Mendenhall Legal Notes No. 52 ISBN 978185637633 ISSN 0267-7083 (print) ISSN 2042-258X (online) An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL.

via Legal Notes 52, Transnational Law: An Essay in Definition with a Polemic Addendum (2011), by Allen Porter Mendenhall.

Nations and Liberalism, by David McDonagh


This is the text of a talk given by David McDonagh to a meeting of the other Libertarian Alliance.

Nations and Liberalism

Milton Friedman once said that whatever the state can do, the market can do better. However, the state beats the market in producing wars and also in producing propaganda. Let us take the latter first, contrary to the outlook of many, like the late J.K. Galbraith or the current propagandist against the market, Naomi Klein, the market is not so good at producing propagandists. Adverts merely call our attention to what is on offer. They do not convert us, or persuade us to buy, what we do not want. Nor does the greater effort of entrepreneurship. Instead, it guesses what the public want and if it guesses wrong then, contra daft Galbraith, no amount of mere advertising can hope to shift the goods.

If the market cannot outpace the state then what can? How is pristine liberalism to make any headway? The solution is that what is needed is an amateur propaganda group, such as is the LA is, to get for nothing what money can never quite buy: love.

What about war? My answer to this will be spread out below, but, in short, the state needs to be cut back, or to be totally cut out, in order to get rid of this very wasteful problem. The problem of war was the main reason that Cobden and Bright became liberal propagandists.

The problem of war is also why many become Marxists. They ironically put it as being down to capitalism, by which they, basically, mean the market system. They think the that state is used by the merchant class to rig the market, but, while the clever merchant might try this on, the state will generally rule over the merchants in any case. The Marxists did not think that the state could ever quite rule the market, of course, but that it did apply itself as best it could to the interests of the capitalist class.  Some amongst the wider LA are Romantics who rather like a class analysis related to a conspiracy theory that is not quite Marxist as it supposes way more success than Marx would have ever supposed from a system that allows the anarchy of  money,  but both remain utterly unrealistic.

The Marxists never understood nations, nationality or nationalism. They thought it was somewhat unreal. They posed classes as being more like reality but that was exactly wrong, as their particular idea of class has nothing to do with any reality, even though logic allows us to classify as we wish. It is the supposed facts to match their assumptions of objective economic interest groups that was lacking in reality, there was no facts out there to match their assumptions. We can assume whatever we like, but we cannot always match our assumptions to the external facts.

What about the much-eulogised libertarian class analysis? Is there not a clash of interests between the state gainers and the state taxed, between Peter who is taxed and Paul, who is not truly taxed at all? Well, I admit it is way more realistic than is the Marxist class analysis but it is not some form of struggle but rather a willingness to support those who seem to need it and in addition a believed social need to support the state.

This sort of liberal propaganda is maybe harmless enough but I think it is inferior to the Enlightenment outlook that sees no need to bother much about differing economic interests as the state damages the interests of all. The case the class paradigm tends to make against big business also seems to pander to silly ideas not dissimilar to these of the Greens for small-scale production, and even for protectionism. Many of this school think that big business could never arise on a free market but my guess is that it is likely to be the norm.

Even with the state, the market tends to crowd out war. In the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan feared that the problem of defence had been neglected. A successful commercial society always will see any spending on defence as a waste of money. It will often be thought that the money spent on it might otherwise bring some tangible utility. Spending on the armed forces seems to be, at best, like money spent on a sort of insurance scheme.

There has always been this tendency to neglect the need to defend the state against rival states but the commercial society tends to be even more drudging than is the normal state. That the problem of defence can seem like a wasteful bugbear even to a non-commercial state can be seen from the Ming dynasty inChinabefore they decided to spend money on improving and fortifying the great wall. The wealth they saved made them look very attractive to the Mongols who wanted to raid them to grab some of it.

So it was the same before the court saw the need to improve the great wall in China, they thought that spending on the army was a waste of money and  as a result they  were invaded by the Mongols such that the people had to flee for their lives, the authorities  had to let as many into the Forbidden City as they could squeeze in, but many were shamefully left to perish at the hands of the invading Oirat Mongol hordes.

The Great Wall had dated from the Qin dynasty of the fifth century BC but it was rebuilt the wake of that humiliating defeat by the Oirats at the battle of Tumu in 1449.  The Chinese replaced the rammed earth wall with one of large heavy bricks and stone, an improved wall that could be manned. The problem seen by the young general, Che-che Wong, was that to pursue the Oirats, or other invading Mongol tribes, into their own lands would be to overstretch the supply lines resulting, almost invariably, in the Chinese being cut off from supplies and thereby consequently beaten.  He wanted to take the invaders on away from their homelands but not to allow them to supply themselves by raidingChina, so the wall would enable them to be seen, to then stop their plundering on the Chinese side and hit them when the Chinese defenders were fresh in well supplied from their own homelands.

This solution worked, but it was so expensive that one wonders whether the cure was less costly that the disease, for it eventually took more than three quarters of the state’s total revenue. It took some 20 000 men from all over China, who had to work around the clock to get the wall finished in the allotted 5 years. Many of them later repo9rted that felt more like slaves away from home rather than as troops defending their homelands. So many died in the rushed re-construction of the wall that it was said to be one long drawn out cemetery. Unrest arose, and Che-che saw the need to make a community of the construction project. He did so by planting apricot trees and encouraging the solders to settle on the completed parts of the wall expanding into the continuing construction site. The troops settled there with their wives rather than to think of it as a barracks far away from their home. The army had been part time farmers before Che took over but he had made them professional full timers even before the wall reconstruction began, whilst he was training them in the south where they were first mustered to fight against Japan. That campaign was won by Che’s reforms before he began on the wall.

The peace and security that followed the success of the wall soon brought a protest against its high cost, as it was still taking up to three quarters of the state’s revenue, at times, and it was very far from complete. It was held, by a fraction at the Emperor’s court, that it was a means to power for Che to become the new ruler. The Emperor, on seeing that this could be the case with ease, thought it best to remove that possible danger by sacking Che. That also ended his quest to push on from the 1200 towers he had accomplished to the 3000 result that he thought was needed.  So the project was never completed.   

A major aim, maybe the major aim, of liberalism has been free trade but neo-conservatism thinks that international law and order is more important. Most classical liberals will hold that the state is needed for the problem of defence, both domestically and against rival states. Anarcho-liberals have held that the market might be better at defence in both realms but they also look forward to the day when all the states ebb, for many anarchists feel that the whole problem of defence is caused by the mere existence of rival states, so that when the state ebbs the problem of defence also ebbs with it. The classical liberals thought that even the limited state would no longer pose the problem of defence.

But there are many others who think that the initiative needs to be taken in the problem, that attack is the best means of defence. They seem to thereby leave liberalism behind. Such are the neo-cons.

We need to look at the actual distinction between classical liberalism and the neo conservative position that it has influenced in the USA for so many opponents of the free market attempt to fuse the two together.

Neo-conservatism is a warmonger paradigm with the avowed aim to spread democracy to lands that lack it. Part of this is the meme form Kant that holds that democracies, or republics, do not go to war, written up recently as a book by Spencer Weart, so that this warmongering policy s might result in a more peaceful world if it only it can first set up all those new democracies.

However, wars have, so far, been quite popular with the masses, so there seems to be no reason, on the face of things, to think that the idea that Kant had was a realistic insight. Rather, it would seem to merely an ignorant idea of what is popular with the masses.   In any case, the outlook of fighting to obtain this end seems to ensure war in the short run in order to set up the supposedly peace loving democracy in the long run, so the outlook is illiberal in its means, if not in its long run aims. It seems that the difference between this outlook and pristine liberalism can be summed up in a single word: nationalism. Liberalism is lax on the nation whilst neo-conservatism is keen to use the nation state as a means of spreading democracy and as a basis for it too.

In theUSA, classical liberalism was seen as a form of conservatism. I am too innocent of the history of the USA to be sure that my explanation for this is historically apt but it still seems to me that it might be the case, so it is worth me putting it here. The breaking away of 1776 to form theUSAwas a Whig affair thereby making the version of classical liberalism influenced by John Locke into establishment thought, or  conservative thought. In addition to that, a lot of very superficial authors, from the 1870s on, all over the world, or at least in the English speaking world, have tended to see the march of state reform, and even socialism, as progressive. Any opposition to this statist movement, or to this fashion, a fashion that was wittingly or unwittingly, aiming at an almost obviously stagnant society, was said, with some irony, to be conservative. However, there is no real reason why liberalism cannot be conservative as an ideology, despite its opposition to stagnant statism, but it will need to be so by supporting the market, that many people actually fear, just because it is not one whit stagnant but rather a society of personal responsibility and high risk. But it is true that socialism or nationalism is better fitted to stopping progress. Presumably, the Luddite ideas were the acme of protectionism, even if futile.  Socialism is an aim to dodge the risk, or at least to collectively share it, or bear it. So is nationalism, if to a lesser extent.

Before the rise of Reagan they used to call classical liberals conservatives in theUSAand it seemed unobjectionable to many classical liberals, named as such, as it meant support for a relatively free market, or at least a freer market that the supposed radicals wanted.  Similarly, many classical liberals in theUKhave seen the Conservative Party as being nearer to the pristine liberalism they support than the post-1910 Liberal Party, as it was clear that that party was keener on restrictive and re-distributive state policies than on liberty.  That party had drifted towards what the general public had come to mean by liberalism in theUSA. A leading author of neo-conservatism in the USA, Irving Kristol remarked that a neoconservative is a “liberal mugged by reality” but he seems to have meant the type that in the UK were the welfare state neo-liberals that arose in the Liberal party after Gladstone, whose main leader was Joseph Chamberlain.   The neo-cons are way more at home with the welfare state and with the statist  Keynes from 1036 on than are most classical liberals.  Keynes thought he saw a red under the bed problem at the Universiity of Cambridge of the 1020s and 30s, that endagered the market and that is a line of thought that the neo-cons think was very realistic. They too think that there might be a big danger afoot that is well worth coutering today.

 To add to the confusion, quite a few Marxists of various hues went over from their adolescent outlook to become conservatives and they retained a radical element that rather liked the warmongering mission to spread democracy that the neo-cons favoured.

Liberalism upholds the right to follow any religion as long as it is not going to illiberally victimise others. But most neo-conservatives seem to have Christianity as part of the deal. 9/11 boosted neo-conservatism greatly. They came up with the axis of evil idea from the backroom boy, David Frum, whom Bush used in his State of the Union speech in January 2002. The idea that a pre-emptive war was good idealism, that only cynics would ever oppose, was also introduced. All that is contrary to the political isolationism with free trade paradigm of Cobden and Bright, an outlook that always was widespread in theUSA, and one that Bush had also endorsed as his foreign policy in his campaign to be elected prior to 9/11. After 9/11, Bush dropped that classical liberal outlook. It might have been dropped anyway. But it is still popular with the masses.

The new neo-con idea that replaced liberalism asUSAforeign policy after 9/11 was that nation building might get rid of the threat from Islamic terrorism from places likeIraqandAfghanistan. Yet in all this, it was oddly overlooked that there was no such threat fromIraq, or even fromAfghanistan, despite it actually harbouring Al Qaeda, for it was way too far away to be an effective base for an attack on theUSA. The 9/11 attacks were from a base inside theUSAand a lot of the training was done inGermany. When this lack of a threat was told to neo-cons on Internet mailing lists before the Iraqi invasion, they usually said that their critic was naïve. They often attempted to make out a case that Saddam was keen on Al Qaeda after all. They sometimes might even admit that the case they had mustered was flimsy but, like the case of Saddam’s WMD, it would become abundantly evident in the future.  When no WMD turned up they claimed that it was impossible to have known that before the Iraqi invasion but they did claim that they knew they were there.

As there is no clearUKorUSAnational interest in invadingIraq, orAfghanistan, many have supposed that it is the Israeli national interest that the neo-cons really favour but though that may look more plausible,IranandAfghanistanare a fair distance away fromIsraeltoo.

One marked feature of the neo-conservative paradigm is the idea that there are enemies out there that are best dealt with by war. This is a Romantic outlook that contrasts shapely with the Enlightenment outlook, which holds that we have no enemies at all but rather that liberalism is in the interests of one and all. The major Romantic paradigm today is still Marxism, that sees a class struggle and there are even many Romantics in the LA who think there might be a liberal version of the class struggle, that MPs ought to be executed and the like. I certainly have close LA friends who flirt with sheer Romance. But they are not warmongers. Nor could they be mistaken for neo-conservatives or libertoryans  [if I may rudely pinch a term from one of them] of any kind.

Liberalism sees power politics as a silly mistake and the attempt to gain influence around the world made by ambitious politicians as sheer folly. Cobden and Bright were against having embassies around the world, or any international meeting of politicians of any kind, for they saw that as risking war. Political isolationism and free trade was their outlook and their foreign policy was near to being one that had no content. By contrast, the neo-conservatives in the USA were exceeding proud of its hegemony and very keen to maintain it against anything that might replace the defunct USSR as a new rival, presumably China, but it would be the EU if only the tradition of all those languages, and other cultural handicaps, did not prevent them from rapidly organising the very slowly arising super-state so effectively.

Irving Kristol wrote: “If there is any one thing that the neoconservatives are unanimous about, it is their dislike of the counterculture; by which he seems to have meant teenaged fads like being beatniks or hippies or maybe, more sensibly, the Politically Correct totalitarian movement to outlaw 1950s conservatism.  Many libertarians have also thought that culture matters, but what they mean by culture is way too wide to have any clear reference. The nation is certainly cultural but saying that there are cultural differences when one means national differences is to be obscurantist.   

Kristol, his son and their neo-conservative friends tend to think in the traditional conservative fears associated in the twentieth century with the phrase “reds under the bed” but rampant in the time of the French Revolution and fanned by the Romantic writings of Edmund Burke. This outlook does foster a traditional way of life, it makes, maybe, a fight back uniform ideology to protect the 1950s norm that can react to the rather daft ideology of Political Correctness but it runs the risk of joining them in their crass intolerance rather than beating them.    

The Romantic fear that society is about to collapse some time soon, or that there is something that we might call a revolution, as opposed to a mere riot likeFranceexperienced in 1789. Adam Smith replied to a correspondent on the break away of theUSAsome ten, or so, years earlier that there was a great deal of ruin in a nation. This is a bit of corrective realism for the Romantics. Like David Hume, Smith benefited from the writings of Joseph Butler that were a corrective of Hobbes on the war of all against all, as was Locke’s revision of the idea of pristine anarchy or the state of nature prior to the rise of the state.

Many neo-cons are actually imperialist. They think that isolationism is not adequate for the modern world and that the liberal opposition to it, a meme that survived from pristine liberalism, still permeates the political culture of theUSAtoday, as does isolationism. The modern statist liberalism, that replaced classical liberalism, though lacking the economic analysis of Adam Smith and his epigones like Cobden and Bright, indeed, the modern liberals generally think that the empire enrichedBritain, still opposes imperialism. The neo-cons think their anti-imperialist outlook is naïve. They lament the void left by the ebbing of the British and other empires and they feel that something like that needs to rule today. This seems to them to be merely realistic but it fails for the reasons that Cobden said back in the 1830s. TheBritish Empiredid not always do so badly by the natives but they might have done the work it did just as well for themselves and it did tax the mother country more than was good for it.  But the neo-cons doubt that they ever can. So there is a large element of neo-imperialism in neo-conservatism.

Hoppe

Some among us have thought that the problem of free immigration causing strife might well be settled by free discrimination and rejection. This seems logically possible given a uniform rejection of the alien phenotypes in any nation, such as might be possible in Japan or China today but even in those two places there will be the usual Bell Curve of reactions to foreigners rather than a uniform reaction, thus this logical possibility remains remote. Females are less likely to be completely unsympathetic to the immigrant than will be the average male, thin even though there will be overlaps there. Indeed we will get a Bell Curve for each sex but one showing more sympathy to be with the females, I expect.

Similarly, the old more tolerant of immigrants than the young will be. Political Correctness holds otherwise, as it naively holds that time is with it and that what it opposes will eventually die out.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is the leading exponent of this solution, so I will criticize a 2002 paper of his on the topic that was published in the Journal of Libertarian Studies Volume 16, No.1 (Winter 2002) entitled “Natural Order, the state, and the immigration problem”  (pp 75-97).

Mises is quoted on holding that if it was not for the positive sum game of trade then men would have been enemies. That looks unlikely, as even in the negative sum game of war we can still have friends. Moreover, the mutual gains of trade do not automatically make for friendship.  Free trade crowds out war as it crowds out politics, i.e. the sole cause of modern war, not because we like those we trade with.

Mises was as daft as was Hobbes to think that society ever could be a war of all against all. Though John Locke seems to have hit on the idea of revision late in his studies of Hobbes in his preparations for his books, Locke did outline a way more realistic view of pristine anarchy, or of a state of nature, than did Hobbes. Aristotle was clearly right to say that man is a social animal. The human race always was socialized into society, which always was artificial. We most likely inherited some culture from pre-man. It is not likely that the long parenting of humans could be done free of human society.  Individualism is a social philosophy.

So the idea that there could be a society utterly devoid of sympathy looks far-fetched.  Hoppe cites Mises’ Human Action  [(1949) 1998 edition] (p 144) to this end. Let me see what he says in my own 1966 edition. We are told there that we are born into a socially organized environment (p143) such that society came before the individual. Mises sees that the individual is an agent and that society is not.  He says that society is just the interaction of individuals. Society cannot be found free of individuals.  To take it literally that it can, is a recipe for many errors.  Only man can act. [This usage of “man” no more excludes women than the suffix in the word “women” excludes them].

Going over to the next the page, Mises says that friendship arises from society rather than the other way round. Society makes us human. That seems to be fine, but then we come to Hoppe’s quotation that the division of labour aided this. Unless we count that to include the natural one between the sexes, one that all animals have, for Engels once said that that is where the division of labour sprung from, then this would seem to be false.  Trade expands the domain of society but it does not create it. Mises seems to exaggerate here. He grants that if not the family, then sexual attraction, that often results in it, are biological. But modern man could not rear himself free of a tribe even if no tribe is biologically determined.   It seems clear that a tribal society could exist free of progress but it is true that trade makes society easier and that it greatly boosts progress.

Hoppe (p76) feels that this insight of Mises helps to explain why the modern neighbourhood is homogeneous, why it is usually confined to one tribe wherein each person own whatever they own separately, in an equal way to others, but that anyone may own more or less than others, that people may be in relationships, such as father and son, landlord and tenant and the like. Such relationships form communities that may well get on peacefully with alien communities, says Hoppe. Trade works well between those that do not like each other, either physically or behaviourally. Hoppe says in a footnote that Mises notes that would be the case even if we postulated that intense hatred was inborn between alien phenotypes, and all that seems to be the case.

Hoppe tends to embrace the old adage that “birds of a feather flock together” for he holds that distinct ethno-cultures will segregate out. Likes like to associate with likes, based on race, language, or other cultural differences like religion. They tend to separate themselves from unlikes.  There will be some overlap, he says, but he seems to think it will not amount to much. The in-groups remain largely uniform. Despite all the multicultural propaganda by the state, the result is still largely one of separate groups. Most would seem to prefer to trade with each other from afar, says Hoppe.

If there were to be no state property at all, not anywhere on earth, then there would be no leeway for mass immigration. Immigrants would then need to know those they visited, as there would be no public space to move in otherwise, says Hoppe (p78). But contrary to this, private property supplies any amount of public space in shops, airports, ships and the like. Why will they cease to exist?

Hoppe thinks any immigrants or visitors will need to be invited into any area they travel into and that this will restrict immigration, as the immigrants are not likely to ever be invited in, but it is not clear that, in fact, the public spaces will be lacking for them to arrive in on uninvited in a completely free society. He thinks that the immigrants will always be dependent on the person who invites them in, but why should we expect public places to vanish?

Hoppe admits that there will be lots of movement in free trade, as there is a need for it, but he thinks there is also a need to be selective. Most inclusive will be roads, railway stations, harbours and airports.  He admits that they will be willing to let people in. It is their trade to do so. But they do reject trespassers, drunks and others today, says Hoppe.

Shops, hotels and restaurants are similar in their keenness to welcome people in. But hotels will be more concerned about how the locals will react to their guests. Similarly, shops might fear a boycott of locals if they serve people whom are unacceptable.  They may discriminate owing to the potential loss of good will amongst the locals.

Hoppe thinks that local employers will think along the same lines. They may fear that a mixed workforce may lower productivity through the strife that is likely to thereby arise (p79). In any case, immigrant workers will require housing and there discrimination is strong. Residents do not like foreigners. Residential property in a whole area might fall in value if aliens are let in.  It is the difficulty of finding anywhere to settle that Hoppe seems to think will stop any significant immigration in a free society.

That is not too bad but it is always a bit risky saying how things may turn out if they are free for we do not know what the people will want in the future.

But if we have a state then things might be different, says Hope.  He claims to have a distinct idea as to what the state is so I will cite his idea here:

“Let us now introduce the institution of a State. The definition of a State assumed here is rather uncontroversial: A State is an agency which possesses the exclusive monopoly of ultimate decision-making and conflict arbitration within a given territory. In particular, a State can insist that all conflicts involving itself be adjudicated by itself or its agents. Implied in the power to exclude all others from acting as ultimate judge, as the second defining element of a State, is its power to tax: to unilaterally determine the price justice seekers must pay to the State for its services as the monopolistic provider of law and order” (p80).

Hoppe holds that mass immigration is a state phenomenon.  The state is not for the common good or owing to the public fear that anarchy would not produce a stable order but so it can be used for selfish ends of an elite, says Hoppe (p81), but that does not seem plausible to me. It is clearly there owing to the current common sense idea that it is needed for good order; though it is maybe even more secure owing to the fact that people think that it must serve some end, even though we may not know what that end is. This Hayekian idea is also a widespread common-sense idea. .

Though taxation, a ruling class can enrich themselves from the work of others is Hoppe’s idea.  That may be a logical possibility but love of power seems to be a far greater motive for the ambitious politician. It is often the case that one might earn way more elsewhere than in office but many have, like Joseph Kennedy, sunk a lot of money on the aim of getting his sons into power as an end rather than a mere means of getting money. In most cases, political power looks more like an end aim than like a mere means to getting rich.

With the state and set boarders, immigration takes on particular character, says Hoppe. Instead of a person moving from one place to another, we have a foreigner doing so. It is the state that decides who can settle. Force decides it rather than free buying and selling or fee association. It is either that the state forces the immigrant to be accepted or to not be allowed in (p81). This allows mass immigration that might be seen as forced integration, though that could not emerge if the state allowed truly free immigration, as then all immigrants would need to be invited in (p82). He says we then get macro rather than just micro immigration.  The state will want to maximise tax revenues. Hoppe says they will not be so interested in dong what many think it is their job to do, viz. to provide domestic or national security. He holds this is typical of a monopoly service and the state always imposes a monopoly.

Because the state may need to maintain its rule, it needs all private land to be surrounded by state owned land, so that it can get access to anyone who rebels against state rule or against taxation. So we get many parks and openly public roads so that  no one can resist the rule or coercive powers of the state. This is why the state wants to own the roads. It is not a market failure, says Hoppe.  Public roads being over supplied, as they are with the state, also pushes people who would sooner dodge each other into unwanted contact, he adds (p83). As the state will be keen on redistribution, this is almost bound to be done on racial, tribal or linguistic criteria.    A diverse mix in society gives the state an excuse to push its rules, though its ever-increasing Politically Correct affirmative action and anti-discrimination measures (p84), says Hoppe.  Seeing the public unarmed and unable to reject those they want to reject is all part of facilitating state rule, according to Hoppe. Employers can no longer hire or fire as they wish. Landlords can no longer refuse to let rooms when they might wish to do so.

All this allows the immigrant to enter and settle in state residential areas with the protection of the state (p85). Why would immigration ever be a problem for a state?  Hoppe oddly assumes there is a free market area from which they might immigrate and suggests that they would not, that emigration might be the problem there as only those who want to go on welfare would go from free trade to a state. The state then would have emigration as the problem, he says. But it is not likely that the state would provide welfare under those circumstances. He seems to think that welfare claimants are no problem for a state and that the clash of races in the multi-racial society is not either. He tends to suggest that those two social problems aid the state in some way. Hoppe takes this idea that the politicians are in it only for themselves a bit too unrealistically. We might say to Hoppe as Hume said to Rousseau, there is something in what you say but not as much as you think there is.

Hoppe then says that the state is also the cause of emigration. Presumably he means that if it tends to depress economic progress in many places to a greater extent than do other states then people will want to leave. Again, there is something in that but it is way more to the point to say that it is capital accumulation that tends to attract immigrants. A worker moving fromIndiatoEnglandcan expect to get better pay for almost any job that he does owing to greater capital accumulation inEnglandthan inIndia, and similarly with an immigrant fromEnglandto theUSA. There are there other factors but that seems to be the main cause of mass immigration today. But Hoppe instead wants to say:

“In fact, the institution of a State is a cause of emigration; indeed, it is the most important or even the sole cause of modern mass migrations (more powerful and devastating in its effects than any hurricane, earthquake or flood and comparable only to the effects on migration of the various ice-ages) (p85).”

This is clearly hyperbole from Hoppe and by that I do not mean that the damage Hoppe feels is done by immigration is but rather for him to say that the state is the main push of emigration or the main pull of immigration, that it in on par with or more significant than capital accumulation as the pull and relative poverty as the push. As for the supposed damage, it is likely that it is as subjectively as bad as Hoppe imagines it is for some natives or even worse than that for a few but on the other side some natives of the land that the immigrants go to will welcome the immigrants and they will see their arrival as a boon.  Political Correctness only flourishes today, as it seems fine to many people, even if Hoppe’s case gets a bit stronger when we consider that it is mainly popular in amongst the state supporting elite.

Hoppe goes on:

“What has been missing in this reconstruction is the assumption of a multitude of states partitioning the entire globe (the absence of natural orders anywhere). Then, as one state causes mass emigration, another state will be confronted with the problem of mass immigration; and the general direction of mass migration movements will be from territories where states exploit (legislatively expropriate and tax) their subjects more (and wealth accordingly tends to be lower) to territories where states exploit less (and wealth is higher) (p85)”

No mention of the pull of better pay in the lands where there is capital accumulation, yet Hoppe is an economist. He often cites Mises but Mises would soon have told him that the pull of immigration was capital accumulation. Moreover. We might note that Hoppe has noticed that immigration can pose problems for the state.  He admits that “another state will be confronted with the problem of mass immigration;” in contradistinction to his suggestion that it can never pose problems for the state as it gives only a wider tax base.

Hoppe follows on:

“We have finally arrived in the present, when the Western world —Western Europe, North America, andAustralia—is faced with the specter of State-caused mass immigration from all over the rest of the world. What can and is being done about this situation?

 Out of sheer self-interest States will not adopt an “open border” policy. If they did, the influx of immigrants would quickly assume such proportions that the domestic state-welfare system would collapse. On the other hand, the Western welfare states do not prevent tens or even hundreds of thousands (and in the case of theUnited Stateswell in excess of a million) of uninvited foreigners per year from entering and settling their territories. Moreover, as far as legal of open borders that exists de facto in the U.S. really amounts to a compulsory opening by the central state, the state in charge of all streets and public land areas, and does not genuinely reflect the wishes of the proprietors” (p85)

Hoppe holds that the state sets immigration limits that it then flouts as it sees fit and all this is usually unpopular with the natives so he asks why is it done (p86). It is not difficult to find a rationale, he says, as forced racial integration breaks up many institutions in society such as the family or the clan. In a broken society it is easier for the state to get rid of people who cause them trouble.  Socialist dictators use this ploy. They can flee easier if toppled. TheUSAhas favoured Jewish immigrants from the formerUSSRautomatically. They tended to get jobs in the public or state sector. InIsrael, some ninety two percent of the land is owned by the state. They will not allow the natives to leave but allow Jews from all places to enter. Non –Jews are not allowed to rent from Jews (p86). Hoppe continues: 

“In the “logic” of the state, a hefty dose of foreign invasion, especially if it comes from strange and far-away places, is reckoned to further strengthen this tendency. And the present situation offers a particularly opportune time to do so, for in accordance with the inherently centralizing tendency of States and statism generally and promoted here and now in particular by the U.S. as the world’s only remaining superpower, the Western world—or more precisely the neoconservative-social democratic elites controlling the state governments in the U.S. and Western Europe—is committed to the establishment of supra-national states (such as the European Union) and ultimately one world state. National, regional or communal attachments are the main stumbling blocks on the way to this goal. A good measure of uninvited foreigners and government imposed multiculturalism is calculated to further weaken and ultimately destroy national, regional, and communal identities and thus promote the goal of a One World Order, led by the U.S., and a new ‘universal man’ (p87).”

This aim of world government may be a common aim in government circles, for it is not so uncommon in the few amongst the public that show any interest in politics but it is idealistic rather than based on self interest. It was way more popular in 1945 than it is today if we judge by the number of books that can be found from that decade that advocate the aim.

Hoppe sees that a completely open boarder today would soon see many immigrant groups becoming a majority in many places, as there are so many who might gain from leaving from places that have large populations like India and Nigeria and not many natives in Switzerland, or Austria or even in greater populated Germany or Italy by comparison with the massive indigents in the two lands cited (p88). This would most likely cause the welfare state to collapse but Hoppe is not worried about that consequence but he thinks that it is a mistake to assume that the anarcho-liberal order would emerge from this sort of collapse.  This is because the immigrants are not like they might be if they were natives but have the culture of the lands they have come from rather that the knowledge needed to be part of the market order. Proper assimilation can only arise when the immigration is on a small scale and it cannot cope with large-scale immigration, says Hoppe. Only the very naïve would expect a market society to emerge from the assorted enclaves or ghettos of the various immigrant areas. Indeed, Hope feels that any sociological insight would lead on to expect only a civil war from such diversity. It will begin with plundering and people squatting in houses such that capital will soon be consumed and society will ebb. The natives will soon be a minority. The Alps will still be inSwitzerlandandAustriabut not any Swiss or Austrians (p88).

Hoppe feels that the libertarians who advocate open borders are not only ignorant of sociology but they also fail on basic ethics (p89). The assumption it makes is that foreigners have a right to live wherever they want to, but he says that they have no such right. They might have that right if the property they were moving to were not already owned territory, but it is not. Hoppe feels that the evidence of conflict along ethnic and religious lines is rife, fromUlstertoSouth Africa, fromYugoslaviato theLebanon, from the Soviet Union of 1917 toIndiain 1948. IsSwitzerlandwith its cantons of French, Germans Italians and Romansh an exception? No says Hoppe, as the cantons allow them a lot of independence.  Of the twenty-six cantons only three are bilingual (p89).

Many advocates of the open boarders hold that the state property is unowned, like the frontier was, but it is not like that (p90) says Hoppe, as it is largely confiscated property.  It basically still belongs to the taxpayers from whom it was taken from and who have continued to be taxed to maintain it, he thinks. This seems far-fetched. It clearly belongs to the state. But Hoppe feels that the ones that had it taken off them remain the rightful owners. Many nationalists do feel that taxes remain theirs, in some way, but that seems to be a falsehood. But like them, Hoppe feels they have a right to a say in how taxes are used, and that gives them rights over the foreigners. It looks like a democratic and a nationalist position that Hoppe basically adopts here. The fact that all the state has is really still truly the property of those who have had it taken from them means that the foreigners do not have the same rights and it also makes affirmative action also morally outrageous

Many say that immigrants work their own way and thereby make for greater prosperity. Maybe, but that does not make it any the less immoral says Hoppe. For him, immigration is a matter of right and wrong, not of economics.

The state is supposed to protect the natives both from invasion and from domestic crime, so it is ironic that it tolerates, or even encourages, masses of aliens in to occupy its homelands It is not the case that immigrant invited in do no damage, according to Hoppe, as he feels that they do impose on the natives. Only in a completely company owned town can the full cost be met by the employer of the immigrants he invites in as workers.  As things are, the immigrants not only impose on the natives but also are privileged against normal social discrimination (p91). By being able to externalise the cost of immigrant workers, some firms can bring in low quality people in regardless of how they fit in (p92). 

Hoppe feels that the open border stance is bankrupt (p92). He feels it might owe something to the idea that businessmen are heroes, an idea that Ayn Rand had. What can be wrong with such a hero hiring an immigrant worker? But if she had read a bit of history, says Hoppe, then she might have realised that big business is a big offender against private property rights. They use the state to get privileges like importing immigrant workers at other people’s expense, he says. They also export capital and get the state to bail them out when the investments fail.

Hoppe thinks that many libertarians who argue for an open door policy are egalitarians also. They liked the tolerance of various lifestyles and the anti-authoritarianism of liberalism.   But they are sensitive on free discrimination. They even think the state is right to be against racism and sexism. Some of such libertarians are often even Politically Correct [PC]. Like normal PC adherents, they might ironically say that civil rights are important whilst pushing privileged suppression of normal social discrimination. They simply do not see that they are calling for a privileged position at others expense. Discrimination and exclusion is the normal price for many new lifestyles but they like to see the state criminalize this reaction (p92).

Hoppe seems to be a bit weak on logic. He says:

“A State is a contradiction in terms: it is a property protector who may expropriate the property of the protected through legislation and taxation. Predictably, a State will be interested in maximizing its tax revenues and power (its range of legislative interference with private property rights) and disinterested in protecting anything except itself. What we experience in the area of immigration is only one aspect of a general problem. States are also supposed to protect their citizen from domestic intrusion and invasion, yet as we have seen, they actually disarm them, encircle them, tax them, and strip them of their right to exclusion, thus rendering them helpless” (p95).

But we do not get any contradictions in reality but only in accounts of reality. What Hoppe seems to mean is that the state does not always protect private property, but that is no contradiction. He means that the suppositions that he is criticising are inept not that they are strictly absurd.

Hoppe feels that to solve the immigrant problem is to solve many others. He says that a return to natural order will be part of it, and by that he seems to mean liberal anarchy. He thinks the means to this is by devolution and succession (p93).  He thinks by this process the state will ebb, but it seems more likely that common sense, or the common outlook that the public have, will change resulting in privatisation rather than devolution, whereby the state is rolled back first and later dissolved. Hoppe also says that privatisation will be also needed  (p94). Within a page he declares that devolution is not enough. But it has no use at all. It can only hope to achieve its aim of getting people to love the local state, but that is hardly a liberal aim.

Hoppe want to make a detailed fuss of who has paid the most taxes, or who might have owned the property to begin with (p94) but all that is to create problems rather than to solve them. The thing to do is to privatise, and to do so as quickly as possible and let bygones be bygones. Hoppe admits to some problems with privatisation but they seem to be all around his fuss about the process but, of course, he is right to make explicit that anyone who gets the sometime state property will need to be able to sell it to those who will be able to manage it well. Any fool needs to allow the market to part him from his money. This polycentric public regulation by the price system is all the regulation that is needed, and all that is socially functional.

Hoppe concludes:

“With the central state withered away and the privatisation of public property complete, the right to exclusion inherent in private property and essential for personal security and protection is returned into the hands of a multitude of independent private decision-making units. Immigration once again becomes a micro-phenomenon and disappears as a social “problem” (p95).

This will aid the problem, or ease it, but it might not get rid of it altogether. Hoppe seems to assume that the likes of the BNP is in the middle of the Bell Curve rather than at one of the edges of it. That may be the case, or it may not be. Political Correctness has obfuscated how things are with the public by its intolerance of free speech.

 A fond friend replies to all this above thus:

“It is ironic that Hoppe seems to feel immigration and alternative non-traditional life styles will not be broadly tolerated on the market when he, a German national, has himself, lived in Las Vegas for twenty years and then divorced his wife of long standing and abandoned his children in order to take up with and then to marry a Turkish woman, and live in Turkey with her running a hotel.” 
 
We can expect the general public to be equally lax.

New LA Pamphlet: Robert Henderson on What to Do if Arrested


I think we’ve already published a version of this. Here it is as revised for the Libertarian Alliance:

Over the past twenty-five years fundamental safeguards have been removed or are in danger of being removed from our legal system through measures such as the Serious Crime and Disorder Act, various anti-terrorism laws, the retention of the fingerprints and DNA of those not found guilty of a crime and the breach of the convention that no one is placed in “double jeopardy” by being tried twice for the same offence.  At the same time, the whole thrust of government policy and behaviour is ever more authoritarian, vide the neutering of Parliament, the series of gratuitous and aggressive wars and the increasingly intolerant treatment of protestors.  In such circumstances the chances of becoming involved with the criminal law are increasing even for the law abiding.  That being so it pays to be prepared to deal with the police, lawyers and the courts.  This is what the guide is designed to do.

More: http://www2.libertarian.co.uk/?q=node/292

Scientific Notes 18, Saving a Symbol in Social Anthropology: Why Libertarians Should Care About ‘Culture Shock’ (2011), by Edward Dutton | www2.libertarian.co.uk


 

This article will chart the rise and fall of the phrase ‘culture shock’ and its central component ‘culture’ in social anthropology.  It will argue that the term is ‘culture shock’ and the way it has been treated symbolizes the dominance of irrational ideologies in anthropology.  This can be noted in part of the well-known stage model but more significantly in the way that ‘contemporary anthropologists’ have been rejecting it.  The article will argue that they are not philosophically justified in their rejection and that their arguments are fallacious.  It will show that this rejection of ‘culture shock’ is ultimately underpinned by a form of anti-freedom historicism which aims to displace critical thinking with dogma and it will argue that continuing to use ‘culture shock’ is thus confronting this anti-freedom movement.

Scientific Notes 18, Saving a Symbol in Social Anthropology: Why Libertarians Should Care About ‘Culture Shock’ (2011), by Edward Dutton | www2.libertarian.co.uk

Reclaiming Anthropology for Science: A Libertarian Approach, Edward Dutton


Reclaiming Anthropology for Science: A Libertarian Approach
By Dr Edward Dutton

http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/scien/scien017.htm


Abstract

Scientific anthropologists tend to argue for the veracity of their approach and assume that the most logical approach will ultimately reclaim the discipline from postmodernists and extreme-naturalists.  This article advocates scientific anthropology but stresses that being logically coherent is only part of the process of scientific revolutions.  It demonstrates that anthropology is broadly in the grip of those who are implicitly religious—not rational—and then presents a libertarian manifesto on how anthropology—in practical terms—might be returned to the scientific fold.

Introduction

The aim of this research report is to look at how scientists might begin to reclaim social anthropology from the anti-positivist and especially the postmodern tradition which has risen to some prominence within it.  The article is, I fully concede, a series of suggestions and possibilities but I think that advancing such possibilities is useful in setting-off what I see as an important debate abut anthropology’s future.  The arguments advanced are suggestions but they are justified because they attempt to answer a significant question asked—but as yet not satisfactorily answered—by scientific anthropologists.  Persuaded of the veracity of scientific anthropology, ‘Where do we go from here?’

Accordingly, this article is an exercise in practical philosophy.  Based on the premises that anthropology should be scientific—as we will discuss—in order to meaningfully assist in developing more nuanced theories of human nature and that it is potentially useful in this regard, and, moreover, the premise that civilization is required for science to flourish (see Popper 1966a/b, 1963, Sandall 2001), what practical action should be taken to return anthropology to the realm of science?

Anthropology and Science

Physical anthropology is the study of the evolutionary origins of humans.  To a great extent, this remains a science.  Social—or cultural—anthropology grew out of physical anthropology in the nineteenth century.  Beginning with tribes or folk life, it attempted to record and to scientifically understand what are commonly called ‘cultures’, often underpinned by a belief in at least partial biological determinism.  This discipline began by drawing upon sources—‘armchair anthropology’—but by the 1920s it was becoming accepted that anthropologists should engage in fieldwork (‘participant observation’) and so produce ‘ethnographies’ (see Gellner 1995, Ch. 1).  But it has moved away from its scientific origins.  From the 1920s, scholars such as Margaret Mead (1928) began to argue that all cultures are equal, can only be understood through their own terms (cultural relativism), there is almost no hereditary influence on personality (cultural determinism) and so the anthropologist’s duty is to describe and preserve the culture.  Cultural determinism was pulled apart by Derek Freeman’s (1983) refutation of Mead’s shoddy research in Western Samoa, which purported to show a ‘negative instance’ in terms of teenage angst.  This shattering of anthropological orthodoxy—by a ‘scientific’ outsider—plunged anthropology into crisis but, even by 1983, Mead’s form of anthropology was being criticised from the postmodern perspective as well.

Accordingly, there has developed a divide in social anthropology between those who believe that social anthropology should be ultimately underpinned by science—and so evolution—and the ‘naturalists’, who do not.  American anthropologist Lawrence Kuznar (1997, 176) argues that the discipline of social anthropology—even more so than other social sciences—has been drawn away from science and towards being a form of replacement religiosity.  ‘Anthropology must be seen to be thoroughly rent at this point,’ he laments, ‘with its own practitioners deconstructing it in an intellectual civil war which threatens to balkanize, if not totally destroy, the discipline forever . . .  Scientific anthropologists seem holed-up in defensive citadels while postmodern and critical factions have taken the field and are beginning to snipe at one another’ (211).

In his book, Reclaiming a Scientific Anthropology (Kuznar 1997), he provides ample evidence for this summary.  A ‘crisis of representation’ began, in social anthropology in around the 1970s in which all of anthropology’s fundamental assumptions came to be questioned and some have insisted that anthropology remains in this state of crisis (e.g. Rees 2010a).  Hymes (1974) criticised anthropologists for imposing ‘Western categories’—such as Western measurement—on those they study, arguing that this was a form of domination.  Asad (1973) criticised field-work based anthropology for ultimately being indebted to colonialism and it has been argued (e.g. Sandall 2001) that this has led some anthropologists to focussing on their own psychologies, and their fallibility as scientific instruments, more than their observations.  Andreski (1974, 109) might counter that this reflects ‘methodological perfectionism’ as does the essentialist1 demand that anthropological concepts be dissected in detail to the neglect of actual analysis.2  The instruments of physical science are also fallible as is a zoologist in relation to that which he observes.  Others drew upon the postmodern deconstruction of texts to argue that anthropology was ultimately composed of ‘texts’—ethnographies—which can be deconstructed (e.g. Marcus and Cushman 1982).  By extension, as all texts—including scientific texts—could be deconstructed, some anthropologists began to accept that reality itself was tenuous and only ‘within the text.’  Indeed, for anthropologists such as Wagner (1981) there is, in effect, no objective truth.  All attempts at constructing reality are subjective responses to the ‘culture shock’ caused by the cultural ‘other.’  Watson (1991, 79) is explicit that there is no objective reality.  Anthropological accounts are ‘constitutive of reality.’

Other scholars have pursued postmodern deconstruction by questioning anthropological categories.  For example, Rees (2010a) is sceptical of ‘culture’ because it has a starting point in history, plays down nuance, is static, and imposes a Western category on the other . . . but this is, of course, true of all categories of apprehension.  In the nominalist tradition, they are to be used cautiously if they are helpful (see Dennett 1995, 95) and to term such categories ‘reified’ or ‘essentialist’ is really a straw-man argument.  Equally to suggest that the changes since the 1980s have been so radical that culture is no longer useful fails to understand the broad anthropological definition of the word and that, for a nominalist, words can be malleable and employed as and when useful.  Some argue that ‘representation’ and ‘theory’ are problematic (e.g. Rees 2010a) but fail to appreciate that any description is inherently an act of representing and even language is underpinned by some kind of theory (see Gentner 1982).  They may counter that understanding arrives ex nihilo, in the break-down of fieldwork, but this seems closer to religious understanding than scientific (see Wiebe 1999).  And Denis Dutton (1999) observes that other social scientists reflect postmodern influence with scholarship that says very little but is verbose and makes use of intellectual-sounding jargon such as, in anthropology, ‘reified,’ ‘emergent,’ ‘problematised,’ ‘discontinuities’, ‘agency’ and so on3 as well as fallacious arguments, such as that ‘culture’ should be dismissed because it is old-fashioned or too popular (e.g. Barth 2002).

The problems with postmodern anthropology are fairly clear as Gellner (1992) observes.  Its cultural relativism is hypocritical, best summarised by Richard Dawkins (2003, 15) with the lines: ‘Show me a cultural relativist at 3000 feet and I’ll show you a hypocrite . . . If you are flying to an international conference of anthropologists . . . the reason you will probably get there, the reason you won’t plummet into the ploughed field is that a lot of Western, scientifically trained engineers have got their sums right.’  It is also inconsistent because it attempts to use the logic of Western science to question the usefulness of logical reasoning itself.  Its extreme essentialism—in radically deconstructing categories of apprehension—leads us to a situation where we cannot begin to understand anything so postmodernism, as Scruton (2000) puts it, takes us into a void of Nothing where we can understand nothing.  It is epistemologically pessimistic.  And as Bruce (2002) argues it makes many ideological assumptions; for example that all cultures are equal or that colonialism is inherently wrong.

Edward Wilson (1998) argues, in my view persuasively, for Consilience of the various academic disciplines.  In summary, he maintains that knowledge is reached both by fragmentation—in the sense of reductionism in order to gain purchase on an object of study—but also, crucially, by reconstruction.  We are witnessing an ‘ongoing fragmentation of knowledge’ (8) as we divide into innumerable subdisciplines and ‘consilence’ would consequently be positive for scholarship.  Consilence is metaphysical but the ‘success’ of science provides a strong case for its veracity and, indeed, Kuznar (1997, Ch. 3) gives examples of the proven success of scientific anthropology above its naturalist competitors.

Wilson (1998) notes that ethics, social policy, environmental policy and social science are clearly closely related domains yet they stand apart with separate practitioners, modes of analysis, language and standards.  The result is confusion with regard to the areas of overlap yet it is here ‘where most real world problems exist’ (10).  Wilson therefore argues that these specialists must, and can, reach an agreement on standards of abstract principles and evidentiary proof.  He then proceeds to prove how humanity and social science explanations are ultimately question-begging (and, in some cases, simply ideological) and fully make sense only with ‘consilience’ into biology and psychology.  Wilson’s idea has been criticised with critics citing a belief that a ‘rational society’ is not the same as a ‘scientific society’ but it has been countered that these critics then use ‘science’ as their ultimate model for a rational society.  Wilson has also been criticised for an idiosyncratic view of ‘the Enlightenment quest’ but this does not undermine the logic of consilience (Segerstråle 2000, 360-361).

Consilience characterizes scientific enquiry.  It must be possible to reduce research in a particular discipline down to the discipline which ultimately underpins it.  This is an important sign that a discipline is scientific.  ‘Science’ must also involve certain agreed characteristics.  Lawrence Kuznar (1997, 22) argues that these are the following:

  1. It must be solely empirical.  If a discipline is based on unprovable or inconsistent dogmas it is not scientific and if it places something—such as ‘empathy for informants’—above the pursuit of truth it is not science.
  2. It must be systematic and exploratory.
  3. It must be logical.  This means, in particular, that fallacious arguments, such as appeal ad hominem, appeal to motive or any other form of rhetoric must be avoided.  It also means that the research and arguments must be consistent.
  4. It must be theoretical, it must attempt to explain, to answer questions and, where possible, predict.  In this regard, it engages in nominalism and only cautious essentialism.
  5. It must be self-critical, prepared to abandon long-held models as new information arises.
  6. Its propositions must be open to testing and falsification.
  7. As it wishes to be falsified and as anybody can, in theory, do so; science should be a public activity.
  8. It should assume that reality is actually real and can be understood; it should be epistemologically optimistic.  Accordingly, it must accept that there is an objectively correct understanding of how the world works which can be discovered.

Rees (2010b, 900) has defined science as ‘thoughtful, sincere research’ but this is so broad that it would not distinguish science from art.4  If we accept Kuznar’s model of science and that anthropology, to be logically coherent, must be part of it then it is reasonable to ask ‘Where do we go from here?’ and this is how Kuznar (1997, 11) ends his book.

Religion, Science and Paradigms

Kuznar accepts that social anthropology has become dominated by what he terms the latter-day ‘religious’—those who fervently hold to inconsistent, illogical views, what Bailey (1997) terms the ‘implicitly religious’.  Despite the veracity of scientific anthropology, it has been pushed to the sidelines and, indeed, Kuznar observes that Kuhn’s (1963) model of scientific revolutions accepts that being scientifically correct is only part of a successful scientific revolution.  Once a new paradigm is widely accepted, a form of tribalism will rear its head and there will be a reactionary and irrational response—by those who have built their careers on the new paradigm – to those who attempt to logically challenge it, as observed in the reaction to Derek Freeman’s (1983, 1999) critique of Margaret Mead (1928) (see Freeman 1996).  Andreski (1974) and many others (e.g. Jenkins 2009) have observed the parallels between scientific practice and religion.  Andeski (1974, 249) argues that scientists should be ‘iconoclastic’—relentlessly tearing down that which is widely accepted in pursuit of the truth.  But iconoclastic scientists soon gain a cult-like following of scientists who wish to preserve the new status quo, ironically rejecting the very kind of iconoclastic scientist whom they have originally followed.

Kuznar makes various suggestions on what should be done but this involves little more than repeating that anthropology should be scientific.  This may persuade thinking, critical anthropologists who have only ever been exposed to naturalist or postmodern anthropology.  Kuznar may have rescued anthropology intellectually but he is not being practical.  Anthropology’s takeover by cultural relativists was a kind of revolution.  If Kuhn is right, it may take a counter-revolution to return it to science.  And if Kuznar (1997, 211) is correct then social anthropology is in a state of crisis induced by the postmodern critique.  This ‘crisis’ is, as is widely acknowledged, the most auspicious circumstance for a revolution (see Kuhn 1963, Goldstone 1980), whereby anthropology is brought back into the scientific-fold.  What can be done to hasten it in practical terms?

How to Create a Revolution

Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramsci diverged from Marx’s view that only if revolutionaries take hold of the means of production and distribution can they take power from the ruling class and thence take their place.  Instead, the ‘ruling class’ posit a ‘hegemonic’ ideology which ‘legitimises’ their position.  They then impose this ideology on the populace through their control of the ‘ideological state apparatus’—legal and political administration, schools, universities, churches, the media, the family and the underlying assumptions of popular culture (Giddens 1997, 583).  In general, the revolutionary wants to bring about ‘manufactured consent’ (Gramsci 1971, 215).  The revolution has been truly successful when the ideology ceases to be controversial but, instead, becomes regarded as common sense, as something that no reasonable person would question.  In such a situation, counter-revolutionaries do not—usually—need to be actively persecuted by the state.  Most citizens will regard them as at best laughable and at worst dangerous and treat them accordingly.

So, can such a theory be applied to ‘anthropology’?  With many nuances, I would argue it could be.  Anthropology (and many disciplines) is rendered far more complicated than a nation-state because it is increasingly international and beyond the control of individual nation states which are, in turn, influenced by transnational forces (e.g. Becher and Trowler 2001).  The ideological ‘apparatus’ takes the form of peer-reviewed journals and books, conferences, anthropology societies and anthropology departments.  In addition, the broader non-academic media is an important piece of the apparatus.  The way in which this apparatus works, in terms of power-dynamics, has been discussed, more broadly, by a number of scholars (see, for example, Andreski 1974, Martin 1999 or Welch 2009) and I will summarise their essential arguments.

Anthropologists can influence whether or not dissenting anthropology is published through the kind of peer-reviews which they write for journals or publishers.  As rhetoric-expert John Welch (2009) puts it, ‘Blind peer review can also be a way to abuse privilege.  Someone with a score to settle can do so by using the blind review process punitively.’  Or, if they are journal editors, influence is wielded through the ability to decide whether an article is peer-reviewed at all or whether, sometimes, to over-rule the reviews and this may even done for financial reasons.  As Welch (2009) suggests, ‘Malaria is more abundant today than it ever was, yet medical journals are more likely to publish works about Cialis or whatever other big-money drug funds the ads that keep that journal afloat.’

If they are asked to write books reviews, these can be used as attempts to smear and sink a book with which they disagree for ideological reasons.  Equally, conference organisers can control what kinds of papers are given at a conference.  Scholars will be nominated as reviewers, or editors, because of previous publishing success in journals and books and, indeed, academic positions which they hold, though they were may review papers only tangentially related to their area.  They will in turn be appointed to these positions because of their publishing success and will, if they ascend the academic ladder, be able to control who else works in their department, perhaps on ideological grounds if they wish.  In turn, they will be more likely to be published by academic publishers if they have published in the right journals, hold an academic position and, especially in the case of a PhD thesis, been funded by a prestigious funding body where funding distribution can itself be politically manipulated as can the process of the ‘PhD Defence’ or viva voce.  The distribution of funding is another piece of apparatus which can make or break research and influence.

Finally, a scholar is far more likely to be of interest to the media if he has published academic books and articles and holds an academic position or higher qualification, because these provide him with authority rendering any controversial statements he might make far more newsworthy.  Media coverage will, in turn, affect his academic reputation.

As Andreski (1974, Ch. 1) argues, a power structure is by its very nature conservative.  It is controlled by the dominant ideology and established academics and any challenge to this ideology, or the system involved, is likely to be a challenge to the life’s work, social position and even salary of those in control, a point which Westbrook (2008) makes about postmodern anthropology.  Accordingly, as Andreski (1974, 49) notes, the challenge may come from daring small publishers, less prestigious journals, scholars outside the discipline, popular academic writing and even from publishers and scholars in academically peripheral countries.5

Of course, in practice some pieces of the apparatus are far more important than others.  It is reviewers, writers and editors of the leading journals—and for the leading publishers and the most prestigious funding bodies—who have the real power over the most important parts of the apparatus.  Perhaps it is not unreasonable to argue that the real centres of power are journals published in the USA and Britain and especially American Anthropologist, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute and related journals.  The most significant publishers might include Oxford University Press and Harvard University Press and these might also be amongst the most important departments.

A counter-revolution involves advocates of scientific anthropology taking hold of these organs of influence by effective use of the influence they already have.  Scientific anthropologists should insist on teaching their undergraduates—as part of their courses—about the philosophy of science and be quite explicit with them about the implicitly religious nature of postmodern and cultural relativist anthropology, thus inculcating the next generation with scientific anthropology.  Equally, anthropologists could use their influence in departments to strongly argue against the appointment of potential colleagues who seem to advocate anti-scientific anthropology and employ their influence as reviewers to prevent the publication of anti-scientific anthropology literature and highlight the flaws of that which is published in letters to the editor, critical book reviews (specifically requesting to review books by postmodern anthropologists) and even articles for the popular press and on the internet.   

There are many possibilities for provocative articles in the press which could damage postmodern anthropology.  For example, all practicing anthropologists—or members of anthropological societies—could be invited to a sign a document from which no genuine scientist could possibly demure; stating that they accept scientific principles.  Failure to do so would then be publicly highlighted which would likely be damaging to the reputations of the scholars in question and their departments.  There may be philosophical objections to science but these are no more matters for anthropologists then they are for chemists if, indeed, social anthropology is genuinely a science.  In the Sokal Hoax (see Sokal and Bricmont 1998) American physicist Alan Sokal sent a lampoon of postmodern writing (Sokal 1996) to a postmodern cultural studies journal as a test to see whether they would publish it, which they duly did.  Similar lampoons could be sent to leading anthropology journals.  I suspect—and hope—that many would be rejected but some might not be and, if this occurred, media attention could be brought to this which would accordingly pressure the journals and highlight the fallacies of postmodern anthropology.

The Need for a Libertarian Society

But I would submit that the influence of postmodernism in anthropology is ultimately a reflection of the nature of the society in which the apparatus operate.  Andreski (1974) observes that the dominant discourse in social sciences tends to be the dominant discourse in society at large.  Though social science may influence society, in general it reflects the dominant ideology to a far greater extent than physical science because it is more difficult for physical sciences—with their greater degree of empirical rigour—to be hijacked by the implicitly religious.  Moreover, Gellner (1996, Ch. 1) notes that the various anthropological disciplines have been founded on implicitly religious ideas.  Nineteenth century Western anthropology drew upon the ‘Great Chain of Being’ to assert a racial and even religious hierarchy whereby the Northern European was, in every way, superior.  It was dominated by biological determinism, something which developed into a dogma.  Eastern anthropology developed in the context of small-nation nationalism, assuming that its purpose was to build a nation—accepting many elements of Romantic nationalism—and so preserve and document its folk culture.

Accordingly, postmodern anthropology is part of a broader cultural revolution where the apparatus of power—including politically significant university departments that relate to how we treat and understand people—has been taken over by those in the Gramscian tradition.  As such, scientific anthropologists should campaign, in all countries, for the form of government most conducive to science and I would submit that this would be one without a clear and lauded ‘ideology’ and so not a government in the implicitly religious Romantic traditions of socialism or nationalism (see Scruton 2000) let alone explicit religion.  This may be a form of moderate, libertarian conservatism and Kuznar (1997, 22) observes that science, by its very nature, is libertarian.  Nevertheless, a government of this kind – motivated by a desire for freedom—would not only defend the interests of science but would realise that postmodernists, cultural relativists and the like were ultimately a manifestation of the power of the opposition, of the displaced ‘ruling class.’  Intelligent lobbying would, therefore, be far more likely to persuade such a government that direct or indirect government-funding for research should be based on the degree to which the research is actually scientific.  Academics could be made to justify their research—according to the criteria outlined—and if it were not scientific (or broadly so by contributing to a civilization conducive to scientific practice)6 funding would be cut from the scholar and from the department until it would be financially very difficult to engage in unscientific research.

Moreover, any justification would have to include a summary—written in clear language—making clear the usefulness of the research for an academic in an entirely different area of study.  Evidence of verbosity and jargon would, accordingly, be extremely costly.

Libertarian philosopher Sean Gabb (2007) goes further in a broader manifesto on how to win back England from postmodernists.  He delineates in detail how to destroy—at great speed—what he sees as the semi-totalitarian state which has been constructed in England since World War II and especially under the New Labour Government of 1997 to 2010.  In terms of holding society together, he also implicitly argues in favour of some limited form of ethnicity-based identity (54).7  I would argue that his methods—such as abolishing almost all restrictions on free speech and association, guaranteeing these as unassailable rights and abolishing and destroying all the records of most government departments and commissions and generally making government insignificantly small by privatising almost everything—would aid such a revolution.  However, I would nuance his attitude to education.  He argues that once a libertarian government is elected—assuming it can be elected—all government funding should be withdrawn from universities.

‘. . . we should cut off all state-funding to the universities.  We might allow some separate, transitional support for a few science departments.  But we should be careful not to allow another penny of support for an Economics or Law or Sociology or Government and Politics Department . . . Doubtless, many students will be upset to lose their chance of getting a degree . . . bearing in mind the mixture of worthless knowledge and ruling class indoctrination from which we would be saving them, they would not suffer on balance’ (Gabb 2007, 58).

I would counter that lawyers are necessary in a society governed by the Rule of Law and this is the form of society which Gabb wants as opposed to totalitarian society where the law is enforced unfairly.  Also, all the departments he lists can make a contribution to civilization as long as they are scientific and this is why I suggest that funding should be withdrawn on a case-by-case basis in the manner which I have advocated, though as Gabb is suggesting action to avoid a counter-revolution perhaps such departments could be initially relieved of funding and the issue reassessed in less pressing times.  If universities were to receive no government-funding, then social science departments would be beholden to the interests of benevolent donors.  I would argue that this would only make them as corruptible as if they were beholden to the interests of the government of the day.  This is a problem, of course, but it must be understood in the context of the benefits to science of a relatively libertarian government.  It might be argued that if all government funding were withdrawn from universities then scientific research would likely gain funding from industry and the medical profession, paid for by the public, and so would continue.  There would always be a need for lawyers—so the Law would gain funding from the public and could be self-sustaining.  Such a situation might also see substantial cutbacks in higher education and a rise in ‘independent scholars,’ especially in history, philosophy and so on, whose research could not be corrupted by the desire for promotion and the like. 

And, of course, once anthropology is returned to science a counter-revolution must be prevented.  Welch (2009) argues for radical reform of the peer-review process such that scholarship is published online and continuously updated as it is constantly peer-reviewed.  The form of peer-review which is widely practiced, he argues, is slow, easily corruptible, reliant on a degree of good luck, most journals and publishers who employ it inherently restrict access to science (through expensive, jargon-filled publications which few people read); it is essentially a form of vanity publishing.  Replacing this kind of peer-review undermines the power-base of established scholars but it could only be done once the ‘revolution’ had occurred.  Prior to scientists taking control of anthropology’s major journals, scholars would be unlikely to follow Welch’s idea fearing their publications would lack impact and prestige.  As in my own case, they may also fear that they will not be read by other scholars and so fail to contribute to the debate or receive feedback allowing their ideas to be critiqued and further developed.  Accordingly, to introduce such an idea anthropologists would have to take over and shut down the competing journals.

But the problem is that—for the scheme to work—there would have to be some degree of ‘authority’ involved, such as that potential reviewers have PhDs (the provision of which is corruptible) or books published and that those that run the new system be respected experts.  And scholars will desire a way to sift through all the dross and academic books and journals provide such a means, if not a perfect means, of doing this.  They gain prestige by virtue of the calibre and influence of the people published in or by them and the extent and nature of their readership.  Perhaps this can be achieved by an initial insistence that any submitted article, no matter how bad, is anonymously reviewed in the traditional fashion by two or three recognised scholars, the suggestions at least responded to,8 re-reviewed and further responded to before publication which then occurs even if the reviews are broadly negative.  Once published, all scholars are invited to read it and anonymously send reviews continuously.  Following Welch’s vision, it might be difficult to find the best scholarship other than through a system whereby it was ‘liked’ or cited by eminent scholars, which would not be that dissimilar to what occurs now.  However, the system would make it far more difficult to abuse peer-review (by using it to prevent publication for ideological reasons) and would render a counter-revolution far more difficult.          

More than just ‘good luck’

Kuznar (1997, 224) ends his defence of scientific anthropology thus: ‘Anthropology should centre and orchestrate around a principle theme, the quest for understanding the human condition using scientific principles, yet be tolerant of the discordance that will, in the end, make it rich and meaningful.  I wish the best of luck to us all.’  I partly agree with Kuznar and admire his positive attitude and magnanimousness.  But he also seems to reflect the kind of implicit religiosity which I have highlighted.  Tolerating ‘discordance’ (by which he means postmodern anthropology, creation science and other shoddy research) may ‘in the end, make it rich and meaningful’—in that it forces scientists to be more self-aware and hone the expression of their arguments—but it may sink anthropology and science more broadly because some postmoderns are openly opposed to science.  So Kuznar’s assertion smacks of bien pensant prophecy.  And while anthropologists may need auspicious coincidences, wishing us ‘the best of luck’ doesn’t really help unless you believe in the genuine power of such blessings.

It may help in that it makes Kuznar and, perhaps by extension, other scientific anthropologists seem like very nice people and this, in turn, may make others more inclined to support them.  I’m sure Lawrence Kuznar is a very nice man and his book shows him to be an extremely thoughtful one.  But though being nice may help, I would suggest that the—albeit tentative and brief—manifesto I have suggested may help as well in ensuring that anthropology returns to a quest to understand the human condition and human nature through scientific means.

But, of course, it is tentative and I would welcome the suggestions of other scientific anthropologists on how it might be developed.  Perhaps one of the obvious problems is whether such action is in the spirit of caution and self-criticism which underpins critical rationalism.  Can scientists be sufficiently ‘sure’ to ‘act’ in such a decisive way?

Notes

(1) For Essentialists it is the task of science to describe the true nature of things and thus focus on the definitions of terms.  Nominalists are more interested in understanding how something behaves in different circumstances and they make use of a concept if it is helpful.

(2) As we will see below, this can be a useful means of suppressing dissident research.  A peer-reviewer can simply insist that a category that has been criticised by postmodernists (such as ‘culture’) must be ‘problematised’ in so much depth that there is no space—in the word limit of an article—to engage in actual analysis, forcing the scholar to either give-up on the article or the category which the reviewer dislikes.

(3) Interview with Denis Dutton (2010) with reference to Rasmussen (2008).

(4) This is a rejoinder to Dutton (2010).

(5) For example, Gellner was a philosopher before turning to anthropology.  Malinowski and Andreski were both from Poland but challenged British anthropology and sociology respectively.

(6) For a discussion of the necessity of civilization to science to Sandall (2001).

(7) A number of scholars (e.g. Salter 2006) have argued that some kind of hallowed worldview is required to hold civilization together in the face of those who would bring it down and the idea of a genetic extended family, and passing on one’s genes, is a prime motivator in any animal including humans.  This form, in effect, of ancestor-worship avoids stifling intellectual dissent—as in when society is held together with dogmas (see Benoist 2004)—but I appreciate there are difficulties with it.

(8) Of course, there is room for corruption here because the editor could insist that they have not responded even if they have so strict guidelines on what constitutes a ‘response’ would have to be drawn up and mutually accepted.

Bibliography

Andreski, Stanislav, (1974), Social Sciences as Sorcery, London: Penguin.

Asad, Talal, (1973), ‘Introduction’ in Talal Asad, (ed.), Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.

Bailey, Edward, (1997), Implicit Religion in Contemporary Society, Leuven: Peeters.

Barth, Frederik, (2002), ‘Towards a Richer Description of Analysis of Cultural Phenomena’ in Fox, Richard and King, Barbara, (eds), Anthropology Beyond Culture, Oxford: Berg.

Becher, Tony and Trowler, Paul, (2001), Academic Tribes and Territories: Intellectual Enquiry and the Culture of Disciplines, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Benoist, Alain de, (2004), On Being a Pagan, Atlanta: Ultra Press. 

Bruce, Steve, (2002), God is Dead: Secularization in the West, Oxford: Blackwell.

Dawkins, Richard, (2003), A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science and Love, New York: Basic Books. 

Dennett, Daniel, (1995), Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life, New York: Simon and Schuster.

Dutton, Denis. Interview with Author. August 2010.

Dutton, Denis, (5th February 1999), ‘Language Crimes: A Lesson in How Not to Write Courtesy of the Professoriate,’ in the Wall Street Journal.

Dutton, Edward, (2010), ‘Towards a Scientific Anthropology’ in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 16: 4.

Freeman, Derek, (1999), The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis of her Samoan Research, London: Basic Books.

Freeman, Derek, (1996), ‘Derek Freeman: Reflections of a Heretic’ in The Evolutionist, http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/darwin/evolutionist/freeman.htm 

Freeman, Derek, (1983), Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth, Harvard University Press.

Gabb, Sean, (2007), Culture Revolution, Culture War: How the Conservatives Lost England and How to Get it Back, London: Hampden Press. 

Gellner, Ernest, (1995), Anthropology and Politics: Revolutions in the Sacred Grove, Oxford: Blackwell.

Gellner, Ernest, (1992), Post-Modernism, Reason and Religion, London: Routledge.

Gentner, Dedre, (1982), ‘Are Scientific Analogies Metaphors?’ in Miall, David, (ed.), Metaphor: Problems and Perspectives, Brighton: Harvester Press.

Giddens, Anthony, (1997), Sociology, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Goldstone, Jack, (1980), ‘Theories of Revolutions: The Third Generation’ in World Politics, 32.  

Gramsci, Antonio, (1971), Selections From Prison Notebooks, London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Hymes, Dell, (1974), ‘The Use of Anthropology: Critical, Political, Personal’ in Dell Hymes, (ed.), Reinventing Anthropology, New York: Vintage Books. 

Jenkins, Timothy, (2009), ‘Faith and the Scientific Mind/ Faith in the Scientific Mind: The Implicit Religion of Science in Contemporary Britain’ in Implicit Religion, 12:3. 

Kuhn, Thomas, (1963), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kuznar, Lawrence, (1997), Reclaiming a Scientific Anthropology, Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.

Marcus, George and Cushman, Dick, (1974), ‘Ethnographies as Texts’ in Annual Review of Anthropology, 11: 25 – 69.

Martin, Brian, (1999), ‘Suppression of Dissent in Science’ in William Frudenberg and Ted Young, (eds), Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Stamford: JAI Press.  

Mead, Margaret, (1928), Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilization, London: Penguin.

Popper, Karl, (1966a), The Open Society and its Enemies I: The Spell of Plato, London: Routledge, Kegan and Paul.

Popper, Karl, (1966b), The Open Society and its Enemies II: The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel, Marx and the Aftermath, London: Routledge, Kegan and Paul.

Popper, Karl, (1963), Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, London: Routledge, Kegan and Paul.

Rasmussen, Susan, (2008), ‘The people of solitude: recalling and reinventing essuf (the wild) in traditional and emergent Tuareg cultural spaces’ in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 14: 3.

Rees, Tobias, (2010a), ‘To open up new spaces of thought: anthropology BSC (beyond society and culture)’ in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 16:1.

Rees, Tobias, (2010b), ‘On the challenge—and the beauty—of contemporary anthropological enquiry: a response to Edward Dutton’ in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 16: 4.

Sandall, Roger, (2001), The Culture Cult: On Designer Tribalism and Other Essays, Oxford: Westview Press.

Salter, Frank, (2006), On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethnicity and Humanity in an Age of Mass Migration, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Scruton, Roger, (2000), Modern Culture, London: Continuum.

Segerstråle, Ullica, (2000), Defenders of the Truth: The Sociobiology Debate, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sokal, Alan, (1996), ‘Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity’ in Social Text, 217-252.

Sokal, Alan, and Bricmont, Jean, (1998), Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science, New York: Picador Press. 

Wagner, Roy, (1981), The Invention of Culture, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Watson, Graham, (1991), ‘Rewriting Culture’ in Richard Fox, (ed.), Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present, Santa Fe: School of American Research.

Welch, John, (2009), Academic Evolution, http://www.academicevolution.com/2009/02/peer-review-is-vanity-publishing.html 

Westbrook, David, (2008), Navigators of the Contempory: Why Ethnography Matters, Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Wiebe, Donald, (1999), ‘Does understanding religion require a religious understanding?’ in McCutcheon, Russell T., (ed.), The Insider/Outsider Problem in the Study of Religion: A Reader, New York: Cassell.

Wilson, Edward O., (1998), Consilience: Towards the Unity of Knowledge, New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Thomas Jefferson on gun control


David Davis

I quote:-

Carrying of arms

Jefferson copied many excerpts from the various books he read into his “Legal Commonplace Book.”[82] One passage he copied which touches on gun control was from Cesare Beccaria‘s Essay on Crimes and Punishments. The passage, which is written in Italian, discusses the “false idea of utility” (false idee di utilità) which Beccaria saw as underlying some laws. It can be translated, in part, as:

A principal source of errors and injustice are false ideas of utility. For example: that legislator has false ideas of utility … who would deprive men of the use of fire for fear of their being burnt, and of water for fear of their being drowned; and who knows of no means of preventing evil but by destroying it.

The laws of this nature are those which forbid to wear arms, disarming those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent. … It certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse, and of the assailants better, and rather encourages than prevents murder, as it requires less courage to attack unarmed than armed persons.[83]

Jefferson’s only notation was, “False idee di utilità.”[83] It isn’t known whether Jefferson agreed with the example Beccaria used, or with the general idea, or if he had some other reason for copying the passage.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson

What an extraordinarily articulate and educated man this was: I never knew. You learn something new and exciting every day, as you get older and older – I only looked him up out of interest as I was arguing with a student about the exact contents of the USA’s Declaration of Independence.

Bradley Manning: One Soldier Who Really Did “Defend Our Freedom”, by Kevin Carson


Kevin Carson

http://c4ss.org/?p=5587

When I hear someone say that soldiers “defend our freedom,” my immediate response is to gag. I think the last time American soldiers actually fought for the freedom of Americans was probably the Revolutionary War — or maybe the War of 1812, if you want to be generous. Every war since then has been for nothing but to uphold a system of power, and to make the rich folks even richer.

But I can think of one exception. If there’s a soldier anywhere in the world who’s fought and suffered for my freedom, it’s Pfc. Bradley Manning.

Manning is frequently portrayed, among the knuckle-draggers on right-wing message boards, as some sort of spoiled brat or ingrate, acting on an adolescent whim. But that’s not quite what happened, according to Johann Hari (“The under-appreciated heroes of 2010,” The Independent, Dec. 24).

Manning, like many young soldiers, joined up in the naive belief that he was defending the freedom of his fellow Americans. When he got to Iraq, he found himself working under orders “to round up and hand over Iraqi civilians to America’s new Iraqi allies, who he could see were then torturing them with electrical drills and other implements.” The people he arrested, and handed over for torture, were guilty of such “crimes” as writing “scholarly critiques” of the U.S. occupation forces and its puppet government. When he expressed his moral reservations to his supervisor, Manning “was told to shut up and get back to herding up Iraqis.”

The people Manning saw tortured, by the way, were frequently the very same people who had been tortured by Saddam: trade unionists, members of the Iraqi Freedom Congress, and other freedom-loving people who had no more use for Halliburton and Blackwater than they had for the Baath Party.

For exposing his government’s crimes against humanity, Manning has spent seven months in solitary confinement – a torture deliberately calculated to break the human mind.

We see a lot of “serious thinkers” on the op-ed pages and talking head shows, people like David Gergen, Chris Matthews and Michael Kinsley, going on about all the stuff that Manning’s leaks have impaired the ability of “our government” to do.

He’s impaired the ability of the U.S. government to conduct diplomacy in pursuit of some fabled “national interest” that I supposedly have in common with Microsoft, Wal-Mart and Disney. He’s risked untold numbers of innocent lives, according to the very same people who have ordered the deaths of untold thousands of innocent people. According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Manning’s exposure of secret U.S. collusion with authoritarian governments in the Middle East, to promote policies that their peoples would find abhorrent, undermines America’s ability to promote “democracy, open government, and free and open societies.”

But I’ll tell you what Manning’s really impaired government’s ability to do.

He’s impaired the U.S. government’s ability to lie us into wars where thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of foreigners are murdered.

He’s impaired its ability to use such wars — under the guise of promoting “democracy” — to install puppet governments like the Coalition Provisional Authority, that will rubber stamp neoliberal “free trade” agreements (including harsh “intellectual property” provisions written by the proprietary content industries) and cut special deals with American crony capitalists.

He’s impaired its ability to seize good, decent people who — unlike most soldiers — really are fighting for freedom, and hand them over to thuggish governments for torture with power tools.

Let’s get something straight. Bradley Manning may be a criminal by the standards of the American state. But by all human standards of morality, the government and its functionaries that Manning exposed to the light of day are criminals. And Manning is a hero of freedom for doing it.

So if you’re one of the authoritarian state-worshippers, one of the grovelling sycophants of power, who are cheering on Manning’s punishment and calling for even harsher treatment, all I can say is that you’d probably have been there at the crucifixion urging Pontius Pilate to lay the lashes on a little harder. You’d have told the Nazis where Anne Frank was hiding. You’re unworthy of the freedoms which so many heroes and martyrs throughout history — heroes like Bradley Manning — have fought to give you.

Nigel Meek on Maurice Glasman (a New Labour “Peer”)


http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/econn/econn095.htm

The Nature of Christian Democracy: A Review and Critique of Maurice Glasman’s Unnecessary Suffering: Managing Market Utopia
Nigel Meek

Economic Notes No. 95

ISSN 0267-7164                   ISBN 1 85637 560 9 

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL.

© 2003: Libertarian Alliance; Nigel Meek.

Nigel Meek is the Editorial Director and Membership Director of both the Libertarian Alliance and the Society for Individual Freedom. He graduated as a mature student with a BSc in Psychology in 1996 followed by an MA in Applied Social & Market Research. He has most recently worked in market research and the support side of further education and is currently conducting further postgraduate research in political science.

The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and
not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee,
Advisory Council or subscribers.

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY

Preface

This essay, presented here with only minor revisions, was originally written in 2001 as an academic review of Dr Maurice Glasman’s (1996) Unnecessary Suffering: Managing Market Utopia. Its most important feature for Anglo-American readers is its description and analysis of that school of thought known as ‘Christian Democracy’, a largely continental European and Roman Catholic phenomenon little understood in the mainly Protestant, English-speaking world.

Although this issue is not specifically explored in the following, it is demonstrably true that most of the founding fathers of what has become the European Union were devout Roman Catholics; that the Vatican, the Catholic church generally, and senior lay Catholics in EU member states have been and continue to be amongst the EU’s main proponents; and that throughout the EU Catholics are both more supportive of European integration than Protestants and do so for cultural rather than economic reasons. (See, for example, Nelson et al (2001).) This, of course, is not in itself an argument against the UK’s engagement in the EU. However, it is another reason for more open and considered thought of the UK’s membership of, and, no doubt, eventual dissolution in, something that is alien and ill-understood.

More specifically, looking at the European Parliament, it may also serve to illustrate the inherently highly ambiguous and often controversial membership of the British Conservative Party of the Christian Democrat-influenced European People’s Party and European Democrats group of MEPs.

Those interested in the historical mirror image of this phenomenon may care to consult the earlier chapters of DeLeon’s (1978) The American as Anarchist for a brief and clear description of the profound influence of Anglophone Protestantism on aspects of modern libertarian radicalism.

All references found below are from Unnecessary Suffering.

The Quest

Glasman’s starting point is the belief that there are two ways that society actively distinguishes between necessary and unnecessary suffering: establishing a justice-based common status for all, and people’s treatment at work. However, whereas in the former case – i.e. political liberalism – he optimistically contends that the idea of individual rights has substantially succeeded via the establishment of durable legal institutions, in the case of the economy this is not so (pxi). Glasman sets out to remedy this defect.

Unnecessary Suffering is Glasman’s attempt to identify and describe a – if not the – particular concept of the ‘third way’, that oft-sought road that combines the best of the two allegedly dominant ideologies since the 19th century: capitalism and socialism. Its purpose, however, is not to concur with much of modern politics that claims to abhor all ideology, but to describe the historical antecedents, theoretical arguments, and post-war operationalisation (or not) of something very specific: the siting of democracy within the workplace rather than the collectivist State or the individualist market (p5).

Specifically, Glasman sets out a thesis, based in particular on Roman Catholic doctrine, that, whilst accepting the institution of private property and market competition (and hence is apparently anti-socialist), nonetheless rejects unlimited managerial prerogative (which Glasman finds in both capitalist (p20-21) and communist (p133) forms), the commodification of labour, and profit maximisation as the driving force of economic decision-making, demanding instead worker participation and workplace democracy (and hence is apparently anti-capitalist).

In a number of chapters, Glasman looks in some detail at the post-war history of (West) Germany and Poland, examining in particular the changing fortunes of Christian Democracy, communism, and the New Right, and both the external and internal pressures brought to bear on these countries. This aspect of the book is not fully explored here, but in any case much of it is an analysis of the implementation or not of the theories set out in the earlier part of the book.

The Theoretical Core

Glasman freely draws on the work of a number of 19th and 20th century thinkers, the first of these chronologically, and who Glasman cites as of key importance in the development of Christian Democracy in Germany, being the 19th century Roman Catholic bishop, Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler.

One assertion of Ketteler’s that goes to the heart of Glasman’s view of the relation between the individual and the collective was that, in Glasman’s words, “The dilemma of Christian Democracy was that the principle of private property had led to the removal of people’s status as members of organisations” (p37). However, the implications of this are obvious and alarming: that one can only have true status as a member of an organisation and that individuals have little or no inherent worth.

Glasman goes on to note Ketteler’s claim that contracts between an employee and an employer who holds that latter’s means of subsistence are not voluntary but really a form of compulsion (p37). Aside from perhaps an Aristotelian objection to this definition of ‘compulsion’, there are a number of arguments against this. First, they are voluntary: the employee can always starve. This may well sound a shocking assertion to those schooled in modern positive-rights welfare liberalism, but the freedom of voluntary exit is ultimately the most basic freedom of all.

Secondly, in practice, people do manage to find alternative employment after having reached the seeming bottom. In any case, it is a matter of empirical fact that the immiseration hypothesis was and is wrong and that this picture of the destitute individual prostrate before ‘the boss’ is a marginal and decreasing one and certainly not an image on which to base and operationalise any social theory.

Thirdly, the fate of the dismissed or otherwise unemployed worker under economic liberalism seems better than the same individual who for some reason is excommunicated from his organisation or guild when, as is quite clear from Glasman’s overall thesis, the guild – ultimately through its relationship with, and use of, State coercion – really can make sure that he never works again. In the Ketteler/Glasman thesis, then, there seems little real place for the individual as an autonomous economic agent.

Ketteler also claimed that society was by then so complex that welfare needs could not be met by charity alone (p37). However, it can be strongly argued that the reason that the whole raft of possible non-State welfare provision available through commercial, not-for-profit, or charitable organisations can no longer cope, certainly now at the beginning of the 21st century, is because of their ‘crowding out’ by the State from the 19th century onwards with the latter’s power to fund through coercively expropriated taxation.

For Ketteler, the role of unions and artisans’ organisations was a positive one and to quote Glasman was “to ensure high quality craftsmanship, honesty in relation to other workers and the preservation of values within the economy” (p38). Some of this is no doubt often true, but when we examine, say, the medical profession, by maintaining unnecessarily high standards it limits supply thus raising prices and denying appropriate medical treatment in particular to the poor who cannot afford to pay twice for it (i.e. once through taxation and then again to the commercial medic). In any case, the supplier is here apparently sovereign. Also, in practice, it can be interpreted to mean that individual workers are not allowed if they wish to negotiate their own terms except via the union or similar organisation.

Ketteler also believed that the State should take steps to rectify the fact that “the market violated the capacity of the person to live an autonomous life” (p38). This is an odd assertion. If one is not ‘dependent’ upon the market – a polite fiction, of course, since it is not the impersonal market one is dependent upon but other real, people – then one must be either dependent upon others simply giving one money, surely a condition even less conducive to an autonomous life, or, excluding those acts traditionally considered criminal, dependent upon others being coerced into giving it by and via the State, no less unconducive to an autonomous life one would have thought, and certainly rather less moral.

Another key influence on Glasman is Karl Polanyi, and especially his book The Great Transformation. For Glasman, Polanyi’s two key propositions were that individuals are “… constitutively dependent upon a physical environment and other people for the satisfaction of needs” (p5), and that “the economy requires social institutions which disseminate skills, distribute knowledge and preserve the status of human beings and nature as something other than commodities” (p5-6). From this follows what Polanyi calls the ‘three commodity fictions’: labour, land, and money. These are not commodities at all since they are not produced for sale. Labour, for example, is “inseparable from the body and the life of a person and cannot, therefore, be stored up or reinvested.” Land is not a commodity since it is a “gift of geography and history” (p6).

However, it would be a serious blow to Glasman’s thesis if Polanyi’s commodity fictions were themselves fictitious: and I would argue that they are, and indeed self-evidentially so. First, one might argue that a commodity is anything upon which a subjective value can be put. Then Polanyi makes the attributive mistake of confusing labour with the person: when we sell our labour we do not sell ourselves. Next, if we wish to live as anything than the most primitive hunter-gatherers, productive land needs to be wrested from nature and by a ‘Lockeian’ mixing in with it of our labour – to use a well-known concept – becomes property and hence a commodity.

Regarding the third of these, money, Glasman also discusses further on in his book subsequent Christian Democrat demands for the ‘constraint’ of capital (p35). Polanyi, the Christian Democrats, and Glasman all seem to suffer from a straightforward misunderstanding of the nature of money in all its forms. Money is a good like any other, subject to subjective evaluation and the laws of supply and demand. To ‘constrain capital’ is nothing less than to constrain the most important form of non-constituted – i.e. not of the person’s body – private property of all, that which facilitates the voluntary transfer of goods and services, and hence an autonomous private sphere of activity, and therefore ultimately advanced liberal civilisation itself.

Anticipating his later discussion of Hayek, he sets out Polanyi’s argument that atomism – i.e. in practice market capitalism, I assume – and nationalism are linked in their mutual contempt for the range of intermediary institutions and traditions such as unions, churches, guilds, etc. which serve to sustain society (p7). However, whilst there is real truth in this in the latter case, and Glasman’s theoretical rejection of the leviathan State does him credit, in the former case we begin to see Polanyi’s, and hence Glasman’s, primary error in their misunderstanding of the market, again seen more clearly when he turns to Hayek.

Whilst accepting both the State and the market, Polanyi claims that “a substantive economy … requires a society based upon non-market institutions which plays a role in the provision of needs, the distribution of knowledge and the allocation of status” (p17). (A cynic might say that this emphasis on status is to protect those that have ‘paid their dues’ from free-market parvenus.) As a result, rather like Ketteler, he goes on to say that “Unmediated dependency on either the State for welfare or the market for wages leads logically to an unmediated dependency on the State as the protector of community” (8). This is certainly true in the case of the State, but again, unfortunately for Polanyi, there really are only two ways of getting money: through theft, fraud, or coercion, whether ‘privately and illegitimately’ through crime or ‘publicly and legitimately’ through State-expropriated taxation; or voluntaristically through wages, interest and rent received, inheritance, gift, or charity. To a true liberal, only the latter voluntary transfers are morally acceptable. Any other distinction or attempt to create a fictitious ‘third way’ in title transfer is illusory.

Glasman examines – and surprisingly, perhaps, for those expecting a thoroughgoing assault on the New Right, not entirely unfavourably – some of the work of Friedrich Hayek, and indeed this is possibly the most important section of Unnecessary Suffering (p24-27). He notes Hayek’s critique – e.g. in The Fatal Conceit – of constructivist rationalism his support for a spontaneous order, and thus his opposition to socialism on the grounds of its adherence to “hyper-rationalism in its administration and atavistic communitarianism in those matters concerning ethics and moral argument” (p25). Glasman shares Hayek’s views about the role of tradition in the preservation of knowledge and his critique of the centrally planned state. However, whilst he agrees with Hayek’s identification of an intermediary between instinct and reason, he says that Hayek failed to understand that the same was true of the economy, i.e. that there is an intermediary between the market and the collectivist State, these being represented by institutions such as “vocational organisations, public libraries, universities, artisan institutions and municipal government” (p26).

This is the core of Glasman’s theoretical argument, but I suggest that Glasman has fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the market: that rather than being the discrete entity that he assumes, it is but one species of a much larger type of social interaction characterised by voluntaristic relationships. In other words, that there are only two forms of societal relationships: coercive and voluntary, with the market being the directly wealth-creating element of the latter. Also, for all his acknowledgement of Hayekian criticisms of the limits of statism, it cannot but be noticed that many of the intermediary institutions that he so favours rely on the coercive half of societal relationships – i.e. the State – for either their funding and/or their special protection.

Glasman’s theory, then, is both flawed in its misunderstanding of the societal location of the market and also its conception of many of his favoured intermediary institutions which turn out to be deeply statist albeit of a second-hand, parasitic, and dishonest nature. His announcement of Hayek’s epistemological failure to account for the “institutional means through which substantive practices of practical knowledge have been protected from the rationality of the market as well as the rationalism of the state” (p27) is anyway doubtful given the inherently subjective nature of the market, but more importantly suffers from his failure to acknowledge that such practical knowledge – that is knowledge of subjective value to either the worker, entrepreneur, consumer, or hobbyist – can be and is protected and transmitted via the various elements – market and non-market – of the voluntary aspect of social relationships.

The New Right

Towards the end of the book, Glasman discusses the rise of the New Right in the 1970s and 1980s (p98-120). He offers an interesting view into the nature of ‘crisis’, a period during which the existing arrangements come to be perceived as unstable, and either collapse due to this instability or survive thus proving there was no crisis in the first place. Crises thus resolve themselves either way: there can be no permanent crisis (p98). However, there seems to be at least a third option missing from Glasman’s analysis: that crises can be detected and changes made towards a (sufficiently) new system before the old system actually collapses. Therefore, one analysis might argue that Britain was in crisis during the 1970s but did not actually collapse due to the Conservative Party’s victory in 1979 and the implementation of the necessary ‘Thatcherite’ policies.

He claims that the major crisis during this period was that the Keynesian paradigm – qua system of historical interpretation rather than moral philosophy – was discredited by its failure to any more accurately predict and explain events (p111-113). This caused a breakdown in trust for the paradigm and the answer to ‘what is to be done?’ could no longer be given since the ‘logically and conceptually prior’ consideration of ‘what’s going on?’ was no longer held to be reliably answered. The New Right, however, in a process which Glasman likens to a Kuhnian paradigm shift (p99), appeared to offer a new and better explanation.

Looking at it from the inside to some degree, one might question Glasman’s apparent view that the New Right came out of nowhere in the 1970s (p115). There had always been a classical liberal ‘underground opposition’ to the post-war settlement, but it had been ignored by the establishment and often actively suppressed – as it still is – by the universities and much of the intelligencia. Equally, however, Glasman is, for some at least, over-optimistic about the collapse in support for the post-war settlement (p119): it is difficult to recall it being true either at the time or, providing one allows for rhetorical and tactical changes, now.

A Miscellany of Interest

Glasman highlights some interesting and illuminating aspects of post-war and post-Cold War history. It is certainly an eye-opener to learn of the massive foreign debt accumulated in the 1970s by the supposedly communist Poland and owed to Western governments and banks (p89).

Staying with Poland, Glasman describes at some length the ideological roots of free union Solidarity and plausibly describes them as a mixture of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice and the Roman Catholic socio-economic thought that forms the core of Unnecessary Suffering (86-97). If so, it shows that the democratic Left in this country during the 1980s were, after all, more correct in saying that it was their model that Solidarity was pursuing, not the contemporary Thatcherite/Reaganite one. Some of us must stand corrected.

Glasman is given to making dubious – and sometimes distasteful – historical comparisons. To take just one example amongst many, discussing the inter-war years, he writes that “Each country, whether it was New Deal America or the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, or welfarist Britain, responded to the threat that market economies posed to the existence of society by releasing labour, land and money from the subordination to the price system alone.” (p15). To talk within a ‘liberal’ thesis about labour – i.e. human beings – being in any sense ‘released’ by Stalin or Hitler, other than millions of them being ‘released’ from the burden of breathing, is unnerving.

Dr Glasman’s Internal Struggle

Throughout the book, one is aware of the tension within Glasman’s thinking, and implicitly within Christian Democracy. On the one hand he frequently rejects socialism and the centralised State, and indeed specifically says that his intermediary institutions facilitate life in a capitalist economy (p78).

On the other hand, he is also critical of capitalism in terms that would make any socialist feel proud. For example, he argues against a straw man version of ‘market utopianism’ by describing a society in which self-interest is the only acceptable form of rationality (9). It certainly calls into question Glasman’s familiarity with the world of ‘actually existing commerce’ and the way that many of those engaged in business in fact spend a surprisingly large amount of their time not acting as economic profit-maximisers.

He also openly calls for a “society [which] could democratically organise the satisfaction of needs” (p142), but ‘happiness’, for example, is not an objectively verifiable ‘need’ and Glasman is, no doubt unconsciously, promoting despotic austerity. He also seems predisposed towards a rationalist interpretation of history, particularly when discussing the New Right (and especially paradoxically when considering his support for some of Hayek’s thinking), as though the key actors consciously envisaged all real-world political events and their outcomes.

If a crude judgement about Glasman’s ideological homeland is to be made, it is that he is a liberal-minded man of the Left who recognises that socialism is no longer an intellectually respectable cause. Instead, he has cast around for something which seems to offer the political liberalism that he seeks, whilst still allowing him an emotionally pleasing denunciation of ‘capital’.

(I should note here at the last that I know the immensely likeable Maurice Glasman personally. He once told me that, because of his support for the anti-socialist elements of Christian Democracy and (in part) thinkers such as Hayek, some of his students regard him as being definitely ‘of the Right’.)

The Wrong Tools for the Job

However, this ‘psycho-political’ analysis is likely to do him a disservice, for if nothing else it is to try to interpret and make some sense of Christian Democracy using inappropriate and inadequate conceptual tools. Yet this same error is very widely made in Britain when analysing the EU, particularly by its opponents. Critics from the ‘Left’ regard the EU as a ‘capitalist club’, and can point to elements such as the free movement of goods and capital and the acceptance of material inequality to justify their belief. Critics from the ‘Right’ liken it to the old Soviet Union or Yugoslavia, and can point to elements such as the Common Fisheries and Agricultural Policies and worker participation in management decisions to justify their belief.

However, they are both wrong. The crucial point is that, as noted in the Preface above, the EU is substantially founded on and driven by a Christian Democrat ideology of the sort described by Dr Glasman. Something that is not merely philosophically mistaken, but fundamentally alien to the liberal, Protestant, Anglophone political tradition.

References

DeLeon, David (1978) The American as Anarchist, Baltimore, MA: John Hopkins University Press.

Glasman, Maurice (1996) Unnecessary Suffering: Managing Market Utopia, London: Verso.

Nelson, Brent, James Guth, and Fraser Cleveland (2001) ‘Does Religion Matter?’, in European Union Politics, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp191-217.

This is a slightly revised version of an essay that first appeared in the May 2002 issue of The Individual, the journal of the Society for Individual Freedom (www.individualist.org.uk), pp6-10.


 

Libertarian Alliance home

Unravelling the confusion and impending tragedy: what are the objectives of University Education?


David Davis

In Simon Heffer’s piece today, there is a groping attempt at a solution. He’s still a bit bitty statist though, and he’s always totally wrong and unsound on drugs (not mentioned here, thank goodness.)

Talking to ourselves


Michael Winning

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know nobody round here who reads this blog, or any other libertarian or liberal blog. Not one. My nearest reader is DD I think, and Fred Bloggs who live about 40 miles away. I hear that Freds gone to 6th form college somewhere in Leicestershire so he wan’t be doing much here for a while.

yes there are maybe lots of libertarians out there. Some of them blog, some blog regularly, some get high traffic, like The Devil, Guido and Legiron and so on. The LA here even runs a famous conference, which I guess I won’t be able to go to as it’s busy pigs time. Got a breeding run set to go about then.

Ok so what to do? DD and Sean say that the Enemy Class has got hold of all the media outlets and more or less controls what is said and even thought by “the masses”. yes its true, you just ask my farmhands and their families. They can’t even get their heads round the idea of a smaller state, let alone none, they just shake their heads sadly and look at the ground and think I’m a [paranoid wingnut. Go to the Post Office 3 miles down the hill and the woman there who runs it says “but who’ll pay all the Girocheques if there’s no government?” Talk to the schoolmums at the local primary about free dinners and they’ll ask you “but what about those too poor to pay for their kids dinners?”

This bloggin lark is all very well. We can keep each other’s spirits up I suppose, while the world darkens. But there isn’t much time left, we have to get this out either before we are all stopped, likely if Labour got back in, or the damage has gone too far to be repaired whether they do or not. I tend to agree that all this what we complain and whinge about was deliberate. the socialists aways knoew what they were doing, on what plan and what would happen to what by when. Som of them even pretended to be stupid tearful welsh windbags like Neil Kinnock, and threw an election on purpose, now there’s a thought! Clever guy to end up rich like he did now. Some pretended to be sceptical about the USSR like Wislon, while coying up to it in private. One even pretended to be an autistic psychotic, there’s Brown for you!

The time for talking to ourselves is past. Time to get back to something like we remember this place to be is running out. The LPUK appears to be dying on its feet, sorry chaps, I don’t think it’ll recover from the pasting Andrew Neil gace the Devil a while ago.

I’d advocate civil disobedience if I didn’t think the State was now so powerful we’d all get rounded up. Does anybody of you have any ideas?

New LA Publications


Sean Gabb Actually, rather old ones, but made available on-line for the first time.

35. Alex Stanway, Privatising Foreign Policy, 2000, 2pp.
ISBN: 1 85637 480 7
(html) – (pdf)

34. Roderick Moore, Foreign Policy in the Post-Communist World: The case for Selective Intervention, 2000, 4pp.
ISBN: 1 85637 479 3
(html) – (pdf)

33. David Botsford, Misunderstanding Europe: A Reply to Mark Littlewood, 2000, 4pp.
ISBN: 1 85637 474 2
(html) – (pdf)

32. Mark Littlewood, Why Libertarians Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the European Union, 1999, 4pp.
ISBN: 1 85637 467 X
(html) – (pdf)

31. Nigel Meek, Libertarianism and War: A Personal War, 1999, 4pp.
ISBN: 1 85637 p:`6 450 5
(html) – (pdf)

30. David Botsford, Liberty and Language: Further Reflections on Why Britain Must Leave the European Union, 1997, 4pp.
ISBN: 1 85637 381 9
(html) – (pdf)

29. Dr. Nigel Ashford, Open Borders: The Morality of Free Trade, 1997, 4pp.
ISBN: 1 85637 360 6
(html) – (pdf)

Libertarian Alliance Statement on the New British Government


Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 193
16th May 2010
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc193.htm
Available for debate on LA Blog at  http://wp.me/p29oR-3p4

Two Cheers for the Coalition:
The Libertarian Alliance on the New British Government
By Sean Gabb

I have been asked, as Director of the Libertarian Alliance, to make a response to the forming of a coalition government last week in Britain by the Conservative and Liberal Parties. In making this response, I do not claim to speak in every detail for the other members of the Executive Committee. But what I will say is broadly the opinion of the majority.

Briefly put, we welcome the new Government. However dishonest the individual Ministers may be, however bad may be their ideological motivations, we believe that, in its overall effects, this Government may, by its own compound nature, be compelled to move the country in a more libertarian direction. We understand the dejection of our conservative friends. These regard the Coalition as a disaster. They were hoping for a Conservative Government led by conservatives. Instead, they have a coalition government that will not withdraw from the European Union, will be easily as politically correct as Labour, and that will push forward the Green agenda regardless of cost and regardless of the scientific evidence. This seems a fair assessment of how our new masters at least want to behave. Nevertheless, we believe that the Coalition – assuming it can hold together – is immeasurably an improvement on the Blair and Brown Governments that went before it, and that it may even be rather good. We may find much that is objectionable, and we have no doubt that there will be more. But there is no point in denying that we are quietly pleased.

The worst possible outcome of the general election would have been another Labour majority. The Blair and Brown Governments had created a police state at home, and had involved us abroad in at least three wars of military aggression. They had on their hands the blood of perhaps a million innocents. That had turned the police and most of the administration into arms of the Labour Party. They had doubled, or tripled, or quadrupled, the national debt – no one seems to be quite sure by how much, but the debt has undoubtedly exploded. Though lavishing huge taxpayer subsidies on the Celtic nations, they were far advanced to destroying England as any kind of recognisable nation. Their commitment to the European Union was solely for a procedural device for ruling by decree. They had abolished habeas corpus and the protections against double jeopardy. They were working to abolish trial by jury. It is impossible to find any other government in British – or, before then, in English – history that had destroyed so comprehensively and so deliberately in so short a time. When I saw that Labour had lost its majority, I rejoiced. When I thought it might cling to power in some coalition of the losers, I trembled. When Gordon Brown finally resigned, I opened a bottle of champagne

Nor, however, would we have welcomed a Conservative majority. David Cameron is – unless constrained – an arrogant and untrustworthy creature. Our conservative friends may have expected much of him. Or they may have thought they could extract much from him. But they were always deluding themselves. We knew, from the way he slithered out of his promise of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, that he had no intention of looking at British Membership of the European Union. We knew that he would never lift a finger against coercive multiculturalism, and that he would drive on the Green agenda. In these respects, a Conservative Government would have been no different in its actions – rhetoric being another matter – than the actual Coalition Government will be.

From our point of view, indeed, a Conservative majority would have been far worse than the Coalition. The Conservatives had promised to roll back much of the Labour police state. They promised to scrap identity cards and the national identity register. They promised to look at the thousands of new criminal offences created since 1997, and to restore many of the procedural rights taken away by Labour. We always regarded these promises as worthless. Conservatives – Thatcherite or Cameronian – have never had much commitment to civil liberties. They know something about economics, and have some regard for the national interest. But they have never been enthusiastic about substantive freedom and its procedural safeguards. If they denounce police states, it is usually because they think the wrong people are in control of them. The Labour police state, after all, was built on foundations laid down by the preceding Conservative Governments. The commitments on civil liberties were simply intended as bargaining counters between Mr Cameron and his traditionalist wing. He would deny his traditionalists any shift in European policy. He would buy them off by shelving the abolition of identity cards, and by cancelling any efforts to bring the police and bureaucracy back under the rule of law.

And an outright Conservative win would have strengthened Mr Cameron’s position within the Party, and the position of all the worthless young men and women who had attached themselves to him. They would have regarded this as a mandate for their own remodelling of the Conservative Party. The purges and centralised control that began when Mr Cameron took over would have been carried ruthlessly forward.

But, thanks to his general dishonesty and to the particular incompetence of his election campaign, Mr Cameron did not get his majority. Instead of being carried in shoulder high, he and his friends were forced to crawl naked on their bellies into Downing Street. He was forced to enter a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. These, to be sure, are not as liberal or democratic as they like to claim. Their belief in liberty is often little more than political correctness. Many of them are state socialists. Their cooperation with the Brown Government to deny us our promised referendum on the European Constitution shows what they think of voting when its result might not go their own way. No one can blame them for threatening Mr Cameron that they would go into coalition with Labour if he did not give them what they wanted. But we can doubt the sanity and goodness of those who continue regretting that there was no “progressive” coalition – a coalition, that is, with tyrants and murderers. Even so, the Coalition Government has now been formed; and there is some chance that it may compel each party to behave better than either might have by itself.

There probably will now be a considerable rolling back of the Labour police state. Identity cards and the national identity register will almost certainly go. We do not believe that the extension of detention without charge will be formally reversed. But we do believe that it will be surrounded with safeguards that effectively reverse it. We hope it will be the same with juryless trials and the DNA database, and with police powers in general. There will be at least a limited return to freedom of speech as it was enjoyed before 1997, and of the right to peaceful protest, and of security of our homes from arbitrary searches and seizures. As said, we never believed any of the Conservative assurances about civil liberties. But the Liberal Democrats will demand their full implementation – plus a little more. They will demand this to settle their own consciences for supporting cuts in government spending.

Turning to the economy, here as well the Coalition may do good work. The Labour Ministers never understood economics. They were fundamentally Marxists in expensive suits. Intellectually, they never appreciated the nexus of individual choices that is market freedom as other than some aggregated box called “The Economy” into which they could dip as they pleased. What they described as their promotion of enterprise never went beyond trading favours with big business.

The Conservatives and many of the Liberal Democrats do seem to understand economics. They know that taxes and government spending are both too high, and that the objects of government spending are often malign. They believe not only that the current nature and scale of government activity is unaffordable, but also that it is immoral. They will deregulate.

Now, economics was always the Conservative strong point, and it may be thought that the Liberal Democrats have nothing of their own to offer. However, we in the Libertarian Alliance have never liked the Conservative approach to economic reform. Their tax cuts favoured the rich. Their deregulations turned those at the bottom into casualised serfs. Their privatisations turned state monopolies into income streams for their friends in big business. They were better in all these respects than Labour. But we are interested to see what the Liberal Democrats will now be able to contribute with their belief in raising tax thresholds for the poor at the expense of the rich, and their belief in mutual institutions to provide public services in place both of the State and of big business.

As for political reform, we hear the complaints of our conservative friends that the Constitution will be overthrown if the electoral system is changed, or if the lifetime of a Parliament is fixed. We are also astonished at these complaints. We are not about to suffer a revolution. We have already had a revolution. Since 1997, Labour has come close to destroying the whole constitutional settlement of this country as it emerged after 1688. However unwise or evil it may have been to do this, it has been done, and there is no going back to the old order. We need a thorough reform of our political institutions to safeguard such liberty as we retain, or such liberty as may be returned to us. We see nothing wrong with any of the changes so far suggested.

Our conservative friends defend the current electoral system as ensuring “strong government”. We know what they really mean. Their fantasy is that they can stage some coup within the Conservative Party and then get a majority in Parliament on about a quarter of the total possible vote. We are still waiting for them to take over the Conservative Party. While waiting, we have endured thirty one years of strong – and usually disastrously bad – government. If neither the Conservative not Labour Parties had got a majority since 1983, it is hard to see how this country would be worse off than it is. It might easily be better.

Another objection we hear to electoral reform is that it would put the Liberal Democrats permanently into government. This claim is based on the assumption that the three main parties would continue in being. In truth, all of these parties are diverse coalitions brought together by history and kept together by the iron logic of the first-past-the-post system. Give us some less random – or perhaps less biased – correlation of seats in Parliament to votes cast, and all these parities will be gradually pulled apart, and their parts may then be recombined into more natural groupings.

We will not comment on the proposed fixed term to the current Parliament, or on the enhanced majority needed to bring down the Coalition. We understand that these proposals extend to this Parliament alone. If they are found to be convenient, they may continue by statute or by convention. If not, they will not continue. But these are not libertarian issues.

In conclusion, the Libertarian Alliance wants more – much more – than all this. We want the full relegalisation of drugs. We want the right to keep and bear arms for self-defence. We want complete freedom of speech and association, and this includes the right of consenting adults to free expression of their sexuality. We want the removal of all corporate privilege from the rich and well-connected. We want the poor to be given free opportunity to make themselves independent of both state welfare and wage labour. We want taxes and government spending cut back to where they stood before the Great War – and that is only a beginning. We believe in freedom in the fullest sense. The Coalition will not come close to giving us what we want.

Nevertheless, we do welcome what we have so far seen of the Coalition. Its nature may force both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to do better than either would have done given complete freedom. The Conservatives may be compelled to deliver on their civil liberties promises. The Liberal Democrats may be forced to think seriously about their mutualist leanings now that their preferred state socialist option is off the table. The British electorate is not a single creature. It is only a singular noun that describes several dozen million individuals and a system that allocates votes to seats almost randomly. But we can understand those who claim that the British people, in all their wisdom, have stood up at last and given themselves the very best government that was on offer.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/ya4pzuh

Libertarian Alliance quote of the day…a rave from the grave…blast from the past…now and for ever.


From our own comment thread on here.

David Davis

Stuff was in red, because at the time when the Nissen-Hut-chimps lifted stuff bodily from what people other than they themselves had typed, the supervisor-chimpanzee insisted that it ought to be highlighted. Chimps, while being ever so politically-savvy, are not – by socialit-Nazi-standards very intelligent: and so it was merelydecided that the colour of the text would be altered to show external authorship – a rather simple solution. All the chimps agreed, and gyrated about in return for bananas, so it just sort of, er, happened.

Ian B // 7 April, 2010 at 2:42 am (edit)

Sean, I don’t think voting makes much difference at this stage, but as I said before, better to vote counter-hegemonic (UKIP, LPUK, even BNP) than pro-hegemonic. Cameron’s entirely a creature of the Enemy- indeed his plan for 5000 state activists, funded via the Proggie Network, will just broaden and deepen their power. A Tory government certainly won’t help us a single jot. A Tory lose however may throw that useless bunch of quislings into terminal disarray.

I also don’t think Chris Tame’s worthy plan- of influencing the ideological hegemony- is going to ever work. It simply isn’t in their class interest to listen to us, even if the occasional maverick does. The reality is that the Gramscian methodoloy works for people seeking to expand state power, in their own interests. We need a better political strategy that will work for people trying to abolish the ruling class.

So one way of looking at it is, we have to achieve what the Marxists failed to achieve, which is the mobilisation of the proleteriat- in our case, our proleteriat being everyone outside the government, rich or poor. The big problem is that over the past century the state has expanded into every area of life. It’s not going to be easy.

One thing in particular libertarians have to stop doing is attacking weak people. You mentioned in your book the political error of banging on about welfare recipients, and I entirely agree. The Enemy succeed because they always, always, ally themselves with some perceived weak group (the poor, blacks, gays, etc) so that even when they’re doing something ghastly, it’s “in a good cause”. Attacking poor people etc is equivalent to being seen kicking a cripple in the head. Even when you explain he stole your wallet, people will still think you’re a bastard. No wonder the “right”, or the non-left, or whatnot, have consistently lost with such dunderheaded ignorance of human nature.

We may need to rebrand ourselves. We certainly need to start working under non-libertarian banners. Greenpeace may be a socialist group, but they don’t call themselves that. We need to pump out philosophy and propaganda, we need to make whatever alliances we can, and we need to pull together realistic programmes that show how a society can transfer from state dependence to liberty without millions collapsing into poverty, rather than the libertarian habit of arguing constantly about what the Glorious End State will be after some miraculous transformation. We’re in the position of wanting to free some poor desperate population from a ghastly Victorian institution. But the fact is, they’ve lived there their whole lives. They don’t know how to cook, or get a home, or go to the shops. If we threaten to fling the doors open and turf them out onto the streets, we’ll just get terror, not gratitude.

Five more years of Labour, or five of the Tories, it makes no real difference. Whichever we get, things will be more desperate and ghastly in 2015 than they are now. But, things are better for us than they were five or ten years ago. The message is getting out. The Methodist State is reaching its apotheosis, the political class become more transparently fascist and disconnected with every day.

And, we must always remember that the State we’re in is not the inevitable consequence of government. It has the form it has because of specific politicking by specific groups that stretch back a century and a half or even two- kicked into gear by evangelists from nutty sects (Methodists, Quakers etc here, Yankees in the USA (Rothbard wrote a lot on this without quite following it through)). They are our enemies, and they have to be rooted out of the nests they’ve built. The dumb politicians who do their bidding are barely of consequence. Their grotesque schemes nearly fell to bits in the twentieth century, and it was only the marxists who saved them. Well, the marxists are gone now. Once people have lived a while under the new progressive puritanism, that’ll start collapsing too (it’s cracking in places already) and this time there are no marxists left. This time, it must be us who are waiting to take the opportunity.

We can win this thing.

1959 conviction still haunts gay man seeking work – Yahoo! News


Sean Gabb says:

This is disgusting. No one should ever be punished for consensual activity. And a bad law is only half repealed when convictions under it are allowed to stay on the record.

John Crawford, 70,  poses for photograph at his home in central London, Tuesday,

AP – John Crawford, 70, poses for photograph at his home in central London, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010. Crawford …

By GREGORY KATZ, Associated Press Writer

Tue Feb 16, 12:51 pm ET

LONDON – He was convicted of a crime more than half a century ago, but what he did in 1959 — have consensual sex with another man — would be perfectly legal today.

So John Crawford, 70, wants his criminal record cleaned up for good, so that he doesn’t have to disclose his conviction when he seeks volunteer work, and because of a deeply held belief that he should not be punished for his sexual orientation.

“I came into this world without a criminal record and I’d like to leave this world without one,” said Crawford, a retired butler. “The police beat me and beat me and forced me to confess to being gay, but I know in my heart I did nothing wrong.”

Crawford’s bid to clean up his record is backed by gay organizations looking to help others who were convicted under Britain’s once draconian anti-homosexuality laws, which only began to be eased in 1967, as social values changed, and sex acts between consenting adults began to be decriminalized.

“These laws were homophobic in the first place: that’s why they were rescinded, but the laws are still penalizing people,” said Deborah Gold, director of Galop, a gay rights group that has helped Crawford. “We’ve always had a regular trickle of people asking about it, how to get their records cleaned up.”

She said Crawford suffered horrific treatment from the police and should not have to disclose his criminal conviction when seeking employment or volunteer work.

His lawyers wrote to Justice Secretary Jack Straw last week asking that the law be changed so that Crawford and others in his position would not have to disclose their convictions during the job interview process.

If no action is taken by March 12, attorneys will seek a formal judicial review because the policy is not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, said lawyer Anna Mazzola.

“John Crawford wants to do it, to change the law for other people,” she said. “Others are in exactly the same position. The justice secretary has the power to do this, without going through Parliament.”

Mazzola’s firm has also filed a freedom of information request for data about the number of people convicted of consensual sexual offenses that would now be legal.

“I think there are quite a lot,” she said.

Crawford’s legal campaign has already been productive. In response to a letter from his lawyers, police have removed the record of his conviction from the criminal database, meaning it will not turn up during a computerized criminal records search.

“We are very sympathetic to Mr. Crawford’s concerns,” said a Hampshire police spokesman, who asked not to be identified under department policy. “We recognize that this is an exceptional case and have acted quickly to resolve it.”

The spokesman said the conviction is no longer relevant and has been taken out of the Police National Computer database. The special ruling applies only to Crawford, however, not to other gay or bisexual men with similar offenses in their past.

This welcome decision removes one substantial obstacle Crawford faces in his retirement as he pursues voluntary positions, such as hospital work where he would be helping to feed ill people.

He is not satisfied, however, because he is still legally required to reveal the 1959 episode when asked if he has ever been convicted of any criminal offence. This happens frequently on questionnaires when applying for volunteer work with vulnerable persons.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Crawford said.

His lingering anger comes in part from the humiliation he suffered at the hands of police officers in 1959. He said they abused him physically and harassed him with vulgar taunts, then coerced him into pleading guilty by threatening to continue beating him if he did not cooperate.

As a result of that plea, he said he was saddled with a conviction that would not have been possible otherwise, especially since he was not accused of having sex in public.

“I wanted to plead not guilty, and the case would have been thrown out and I wouldn’t be talking about it now,” Crawford said. “Until the police drop it completely, I won’t be happy. I’ve got to be able to put my hand on my heart and say to the world, I haven’t got a criminal record, and I can’t say that now.”

1959 conviction still haunts gay man seeking work – Yahoo! News

Antoine Clarke: Can a Libertarian also be a Conservative?


Can a Libertarian Also be a Conservative?
Antoine Clarke

Political Notes No. 195

ISSN 0267-7059 (print)
ISSN 2042-2776 (online)
     ISBN: 9781856376228

An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL.

© 2010: Libertarian Alliance; Antoine Clarke.

Antoine Clarke graduated in Philosophy from Birkbeck College, University of London, and completed his Baccalauréat in Economics and Social Sciences at the French Lyçée Charles de Gaulle in London.  He is currently studying for a Masters in Business Administration at The Open University.  Has written about currency competition and free banking for the Libertarian Alliance and the Adam Smith Institute.  He is a former member of the Slovak Republic Prime Minister’s Policy Unit in Bratislava and economic and political advisor to the Finance Minister of the Slovak Republic in 1991.  A journalist and communications expert, he has worked for media outlets in the UK, France and Spain, and is fluent in English and French.  This essay is a slightly edited version of the winner of the Libertarian Alliance’s 2009 Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize: “Can a Libertarian also be a Conservative?”

The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and
not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee,
Advisory Council or subscribers.

FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY

“At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has sometimes been disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition.”

Lord Acton, cited by F.A. Hayek1

INTRODUCTION: THE COLD WAR ALLIANCE

An informal alliance between conservatives and libertarians, especially in the United Kingdom, can be said to have started with Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech in March 1946, and ended with the abolition of the Federation of Conservative Students in 1986 because of its take over by libertarian activists and the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989 to 1991.  The abolition of the FCS marked the moment when the Thatcherite part of the Conservative Party preferred to abort its own intellectual future, rather than continue what had been a fairly successful alliance against the idea of big government, at home and abroad.

The alliance, as often in history, was based on the perception of a common external enemy, Soviet imperialism, as well as the internal threat of socialist economic policies of nationalization and central planning.  There was also the sense in the United Kingdom at least, that the social engineering experiment of the welfare state was an assault on freedom, whether liberty was valued for being ancient and traditional, or for being the expression of individual freedom of self-actualisation.

There was some disagreement on what to do about the Cold War.  The British Conservatives were often more opposed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation because of the subservient position that the UK was placed in relation to the United States of America.  British libertarians, in stark contrast with most of their US counterparts, tended to be more favourable to fighting a global crusade against communism.

On the welfare state, conservative paternalism was reluctant to “abandon” the poor to their own initiative.  Chris R Tame, the Libertarian Alliance’s founder put the conservative view of libertarianism thus:

“The average classical-liberal sympathising conservative puts our ideology in a liberty versus order straightjacket, where freedom is seen to be achieved at a cost in social order and security, and where those values can only be achieved at the price of liberty.  This is a typically conservative viewpoint in which freedom and order are in tension with one another, and the remedy for social chaos is the state.”  2

In the USA, the experiences of isolationism, the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7th 1941 and the Vietnam War exerted diverging pressures on any libertarian/conservative alliance on foreign policy.  However, a coalition of what two British commentators termed “Sun Belt conservatism” and a religious opposition to the secularist/welfarist “liberalism” from the 1930s’ New Deal to the 1960s’ Great Society, gathered pace from the dynamic but electorally unsuccessful 1964 Barry Goldwater campaign, to what became known as “The Right Nation.”3

GOD, THE ENLIGHTENMENT AND HOBBES: IS THERE COMMON GROUND FOR LIBERTARIANS AND CONSERVATIVES?

The modern libertarian movement is a fusion of several historic intellectual traditions, with a style that generally embraces human progress and the liberating aspects of technology.  Traditionally, conservatism could be seen as the long struggle against the enlightenment, taking a sceptical view of human nature which is either explained in terms of Original Sin or a distrust of rationalism.  Dr Tame, in an interview with the current LA President, Tim Evans, expressed the optimism of the libertarian position as: “We’re extreme rationalists…  Death and Taxes, we’re against BOTH of them!”4  The libertarian tends to oppose God’s plan, sees the Enlightenment and its economic outcome—the Industrial Revolution—as the most tremendous liberating force in 2,000 years, and flatly rejects Thomas Hobbes’ scepticism about what free individuals will get up to without a night-watchman state to keep them in line.

Roger Scruton, formerly the editor of the Salisbury Review and Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, the University of London, set out the conservative objection to the Enlightenment’s humanism in a Wall Street Journal article in 1996, titled “Godless Conservatism.”5

Professor Scruton wrote:

“There is a growing tendency among American conservatives to blame society’s present condition not merely on liberals but on the secular and skeptical philosophy of the Enlightenment, from which modern liberalism descends.  As conservatives see it, the constant questioning of established beliefs and authorities has set us upon a path that has anarchy as its only destination.  Many conservatives therefore suggest that we must repudiate the Enlightenment and reaffirm the thing against which the Enlightenment stood: organized religion.”

He added:

“it is not hard to sympathize.  Religious belief fills our world with an authority that cannot be questioned and from which all our duties flow.  Yet there is something despondent in the search for a religious solution to the problems of secular society.  All too often the search is conducted in a spirit of despair by people who are as infected by the surrounding nihilism as those whose behavior they wish to rectify.  Their message is simple: ‘God is dead—but don’t spread it around.’  Such words can be whispered among friends but not broadcast to the multitude.”6

Professor Scruton and Dr Tame would have agreed on almost every issue of significance during the 1970s and 1980s: the economy, the harm caused by socialism, the Cold War, the “battle of ideas,” yet the philosophical underpinning of their positions was almost entirely opposite.  This would not matter so long as the target for their attention was the same and the solution, if only by coincidence, was broadly the same: to support the underground civil society of Soviet colonies, to oppose socialism performed by Conservative politicians, the importance of the statement of ideas and their debate.

Yet as with such coalition projects as the French Revolution, harmonious relations would struggle to  last beyond the achievement of power or the disappearance of the common enemy.  Here, one of the striking differences between the British and US coalitions can be found.  According to John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge, in philosophical terms, classical conservatism, as formulated by Edmund Burke, “might be crudely reduced to six principles.”

These are:

  • a deep suspicion of the power of the state;
  • a preference for liberty over equality;
  • patriotism;
  • a belief in established institutions and hierarchies;
  • scepticism about the idea of progress; and
  • elitism.

Micklethwait and Woolbridge argue that:

“to simplify a little, the exceptionalism of modern American conservatism lies in its exaggeration of the first three of Burke’s principles and contradiction of the last three.  The American Right exhibits a far deeper hostility toward the state than any other modern conservative party.  How many European conservatives would display bumper stickers saying ‘I love my country but I hate my government’?”7

The result is that American conservatives tend to display more openness to human progress, making an alliance with some libertarians possible (it may also help to explain the poor performance of the US Libertarian Party since 1972).  The American conservative movement tends to take a classical liberal approach to Burke’s last three principles: hierarchy, pessimism and elitism.  The heroes of modern American conservatism tend to be the same as for libertarians: rugged individualists who don’t know their place and defer to class status, the self-made businessman, or settlers on the Western frontier.

As Mickeltwait and Woolbridge put it:

“the geography of conservatism also helps to explain its optimism rather than pessimism.  In the war between the Dynamo and the Virgin, as Henry Adams characterized the battle between progress and tradition, most American conservatives are on the side of the Dynamo.  They think that the world offers all sorts of wonderful possibilities.  And they feel that the only thing that is preventing people from attaining these possibilities is the dead liberal hand of the past.”8

A more modern representation of this cleavage can be found in the writings of Virginia Postrel, especially her best-selling work, The Future and Its Enemies.9  She replaces the left-right cleavage with one based on the notions of people as either “dynamists” or “stasists.”

Sean Gabb, the Libertarian Alliance’s Director, is perhaps the best known British advocate of “libertarian conservatism,” a body of beliefs that consists of harking back to the days when a British subject could spend virtually his or her entire life with no contact with government or its services except when visiting a Post Office.  Although he did not use the term in his 1974 book, The Offshore Islanders,10 Paul Johnson remarked that English history can be seen as a succession of conservative revolutions, largely attempting to restore ancient liberties, in marked contrast with the French Revolution of 1789 for example, which aimed to create a new order, to the point of creating a decimal calendar with 10-day weeks and 10-hour days with new names for the months.11  The contrast between the ancient liberties of Englishmen (a near approximation of the libertarian ideal) is defended in the name of both its liberalism and its rooting in history.

One example of how these forces are fused in Dr Gabb’s activism has been the 15-year campaign against national identity cards, which has in no way been deflected according to which political party (Conservative or Labour) has held office in the UK.12

Dr Gabb wrote:

“I believe, however, that there is more to ‘rolling back the frontiers of the State’ than paying regard to economic indicators alone.  It is not enough to control the money supply and deregulate the unemployed back into work.  It is necessary to roll back the frontiers in social and political matters as well.  My ideal England—the England that largely existed before 1914—is one in which individuals and groups of individuals are free to pursue their ends, constrained only by a minimal framework of laws.”

“I have no doubt that an identity card scheme would be absolutely fatal to the realising of this ideal—even the ‘voluntary’ scheme that Mr [Michael] Howard proposes for the moment.  It would undermine the half-open society in which we now live.  Given the technology that will soon be available, it would allow the erection of the most complete despotism that ever existed in these islands.  I am astonished that such a scheme could be put forward by a government that dares call itself Conservative.  It is a betrayal not merely of the libertarian and classical liberal wings of the Party, but also of the most reactionary High Toryism.  I will not argue whether this is socialism by other means.  But it is undoubtedly collectivist.”

The problem appears to be that there is a type of modern Conservative who really does not believe in God, natural rights, the virtue of ancient customs, or spontaneous order.  I came across this position in 2002, in a series of discussions on-line with Peter Cuthbertson, who at least has the credit of being one the very early pioneers of conservative blogging in the UK.  One could argue that this was a continuation of the debate between a Lockean and a Hobbesian in the 17th century.  Under the title ‘Is there an Act of Parliament for Table Manners?’13  I wrote:

“I don’t normally respond publicly to comments, but I will make an exception.  Peter Cutbertson has a blog called Conservative Commentary, it is certainly better than the Conservative Party’s website.  He thinks that this conclusion I made makes me insane:

‘The problem for British libertarians is that they aren’t really used to the idea that the state really is our enemy.  This is one reason why I don’t think that the UK withdrawing from the European Union is an automatic recipe for joy.’

In the exchange which follows he appears to believe that ‘without law or government’ society cannot function, and those who disagree with him are ‘insane’ or follow ‘an incoherent, warped political philosophy’.”

I continued

“However, it amazes me that Mr Cuthbertson cannot see that law doesn’t necessarily derive from government.  For a start, any conservative who believes in God ought to consider the possibility that there is a higher authority than the State.  Assuming atheism (which isn’t very conservative, but hey, who’s being coherent?), I should have hoped that a conservative might believe in the organic, spontaneous order of common law.  Assuming God doesn’t exist, and the common law is a fiction (sounds more like a French Jacobin!), what has Mr Cuthbertson done with civil society?  Is it true that members of the Carlton Club only behave because of the fear of being arrested by the police?  Does the members’ code of conduct depend on the State for its existence and enforcement?  Is there an Act of Parliament for table manners?”

TRIBAL POLITICS: IS THERE COMMON GROUND FOR LIBERTARIANS OR CONSERVATIVES?

In presenting the major philosophical differences between conservatism and libertarianism, I am conscious of one potential fallacy to the negative prognosis: a marriage doesn’t have to be perfect to be successful.  Within each of the tribes, conservative and libertarian, there are numerous differences of opinion, often underpinned by a complete opposite fundamental principle.

There is the obvious problem of abortion.  To one school of libertarian, the woman’s right to choose is absolute and rooted in the idea of self-ownership of our bodies.  Surely no one could argue against that!  But other libertarians argue that there is a point at which a foetus is more than merely a type of cancer tumour, to be charged rent or evicted.  They may root their argument in the concept of a natural right to life from the moment or conception, or 10 weeks, or 20 weeks of pregnancy.  If it is wrong to kill someone who is in a temporary coma, or remove their organs without consent, and also wrong to do the same to a mute or a child who has not yet developed speech, why is it acceptable for a being that has some degree of consciousness and would surely develop all the human attributes of sentience and free will?

Another issue is the transitional state.  Even if all libertarians were anarchists, and many are not, what of the national debt?  Should it be defaulted in full at once?  Should government promises of pensions be treated as the promises of extortionists and therefore have no contractual force?  Are Bank of England notes to be rejected in the Libertarian Year Zero?  Or collaborators with the “bureaucrato-feudalist régime”shot?

One starts doubting whether one can even properly speak of a libertarian position, given the multitude of factions (which have a tendency to denounce each other as “deviant” in a not always deliberate self-parody of the Popular Judean Front of Monty Python’s Life of Brian).  However, it should be noted that the same cleavages exist in any ideological school, whether it be socialism, conservatism or liberalism, so it would be wrong to worry too much about libertarianism’s diverse origins and blueprints for a good society.

Conservatism can mean the support of a theocratic society, the restoration of absolutist monarchy, opposition to post-Leninist reforms in the Soviet Union, support for the use of tanks against student protestors, opposition to homosexuality, the support for free trade, protectionism, the abolition of drug prohibition or its resolute enforcement.  Conservatives are split on abortion, taxes, the National Health Service and whether London should have got the 2012 Olympic Games.

CONCLUSIONS

Libertarians and conservatives have many vehement (not violent) disagreements and it is fair to say that each side’s vision of heaven on Earth could be considered hellish to the other.  Yet within each tribe, there are people who have as much in common with each other as with their own tribes.  One thinks of prostitution, abortion and the death penalty, to name just three examples.

Because both a conservative and a libertarian have a degree of scepticism about the power of the State “to make things right,” it is very likely that opportunities for defensive joint action will emerge from time to time.  Conservatives will tend to see their role as reigning in the enthusiasm of libertarians for technology as a liberating force for humanity.  Libertarians will see their role as giving the conservatives a kick up the backside for their passive acceptance of inevitable defeat.

However, it is probably worth keeping in mind the words of Lord Acton, concerning the challenge of ideological alliances which opened this essay:

“At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has sometimes been disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition.”

Each party to the alliance, libertarian and conservative, regards the other as a sometimes embarrassing auxiliary.

NOTES

(1)F.A. Hayek, ‘Why I Am Not a Conservative’, in The Constitution of Liberty, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1960.

(2) Chris Tame & Gerry Frost, Libertarianism Versus Conservatism: A Debate, Libertarian Alliance Pamphlet No. 14, 1989, retrieved 1st December 2009, http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/lapam/lapam014.pdf

(3)John Micklethwait & Adrian Wooldridge, The Right Nation: Why America is Different, Penguin, 2005.

(4)Tim Evans, Maggies’s Militants, video produced as part of a PhD thesis, published as Conservative radicalism: A Sociology of Conservative Party Youth Structures and Libertarianism 1970-1992, Berghahn Books, Oxford, 1995.

(5)Roger Scruton, ‘Godless Conservatism’, The Wall Street Journal, Friday, April 5th 1996, p. 8.

(6)Ibid.

(7)Micklethwait & Woodridge, op cit.

(8)Ibid.

(9)Virginia Postrel, The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise and Progress, The Free Press, 1998.

(10)Paul Johnson, The Offshore Islanders: England’s People from Roman Occupation to the Present, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1972.

(11) ‘French Republican Calendar’, 26th November 2009, retrieved 2nd December 2009, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Republican_Calendar

(12)Sean Gabb, A Libertarian Conservative Case

Against identity Cards, Libertarian Alliance Political Notes No. 98, 1994, http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/polin/polin098.htm

(13)Antoine Clarke, ‘Is there an Act of Parliament for Table Manners?’, Samizdata blog, 30th November 2002, retrieved 1st December 2009, http://www.samizdata.net/blog/archives/2002/11/is_there_an_act_of_parliament.html

Director’s Bulletin, 9th November 2009


 

Director’s Bulletin
9th November 2009

I would have written this Bulletin several weeks ago. However, I can supply many excuses for not having lifted a finger. The most convincing – and perhaps the truest – is that I have been installing Windows 7 Professional 64 bit. Mr Gates wrote to me at the beginning of October, offering me a copy of his latest operating software at the hard to refuse price of £30. So I paid him and downloaded the software. Installing it went like a dream. I didn’t have to download a single driver. It then took several weeks to get the whole system working as I wanted. But I have now been able to fit 8Gb of RAM and give myself what may be more computing power than NASA had in 1969. Many of my friends are hostile to the idea of intellectual property rights. So, for that matter, am I. No doubt, though, Mr Gates does make exceedingly good software. On this occasion, he well deserved his £30. So here goes with the Bulletin.

The LA Conference

Our London conference went off very well. As usual, we were solidly booked, and we had to turn away a few last minute arrivals. The speeches were uniformly good. Guido Fawkes gave an interesting and entertaining speech at the dinner. This year, moreover, we seem to have got the video recording right. I bought a Canon HG10 high definition video camera late last year. This gave me something like television quality video footage. As with all cheapish video cameras, however, the sound quality was rather drossy. So, a few weeks back, I bought a Rode external microphone. This perked the sound up no end. I didn’t get round to hiring the builders’ lights that I kept promising myself. Even so, I think the quality of the video footage is remarkably good. Many thanks to Mario Huet for manning the camera.

You can see the video footage for yourselves by going here: http://vimeo.com/channels/65328

Other Video Files

Now that I can process high definition video at better than real time speeds, I’ve decided to start taking full advantage of the Vimeo account I bought earlier this year, and to upload much better versions of stuff I first made available via Google Video. So please keep an eye on my Vimeo account – http://www.vimeo.com/seangabb. I plan to upload 5Gb a week of video. This will include the celebrated Botsford Archive.

The Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize

You may recall that this year’s title was “Can a Libertarian also be a Conservative?” I had a number of interesting submissions. After much thought, I decided to award the prize to Antoine Clarke. I thought his submission was the best. What most impressed me was that he went beyond the reading matter that I suggested, and he used a quotation from Lord Acton in a most relevant way. We shall publish his essay just as soon as our Editorial Director has found the time to set to work.

Personal Message

At the Conference, I met two people who turned out to be neighbours of mine here in Deal. One of them must walk past my front door every time he goes to the chip shop. Well, with the Baby Bear now jabbering away and insisting on endless viewings of Eddie Cantor in Keep Young and Beautiful and Melina Mercouri in τα παιδιά του Πειραιά (both courtesy of YouTube), Mrs Gabb and I aren’t up to much entertaining. But we can certainly offer coffee. So do please get in touch.

Libertarian Outreach

In the past month, I have written articles for Gay Times and for VDare. The first was about drug legalisation. Sadly, Gay Times doesn’t put it stuff on-line. So, if you want to read my case, you’ll have to put on dark glasses and brave the giggles of Miss Patel in her school uniform as you shamble round your local newsagent – unless, of course, you already subscribe. The second you can read here: http://www.vdare.com/gabb/index.htm

I’m rather pleased with this and with my other articles for VDare. What I’m trying to do is to make a case against the British National Party that doesn’t rely on smears. I don’t believe the BNP is nowadays a national socialist party. Much of what it says – and almost certainly believes – is attractive to millions of people in this country. I admire Nick Griffin for his courage for standing his ground in our post-modern police state. I doubt if I’d be half so brave were Libertarianism to become as unpopular with the authorities as white nationalism is. This being said, he and the entire leadership of the BNP are tainted by what they used to believe. It would be a shame if they were to become the only alternative to the political cartel that now governs England. And I am able to say this to an audience that has not so far been exposed to honest criticism of the BNP.

Other than this, I’ve done quite a lot of radio. And I do promise, now my computer is so wonderfully powerful, to start recording and uploading all this again.

Libertarian Alliance Meetings

Our friends over at the other Libertarian Alliance continue with their monthly meetings. I can hardly ever get up to London to attend these. But they always look very interesting, and I receive endless reports of how interesting they have been.

The next meetings are:

On Monday, 9 November David McDonagh will talk on “Why Classical Liberalism faded after 1860.”
On Monday 14 December, Kristian Niemietz will talk on “20 Years After: The Fall and Rise of Socialism in East Germany”
On Monday 11 January 2010 Antoine Clarke will talk on “The Wisdom of Crowds”.

Contact David McDonagh for details: mcdonagh_d@yahoo.co.uk

Libertarian Holidays

With my two women, I went on holiday in September to Crete. This was my own fifth time there, and Mrs Gabb’s second. This was the first time we had a child with us, and that would always have made it a more difficult time. However, the Baby Bear behaved herself remarkably well. Our problem was the Greeks. They joined the Euro on the basis of massive false accounting, and an optimistic rate of exchange, and then allowed an inflation of costs to continue that has now made their price level into a joke. A result of this was that Crete was almost empty of tourists. Most of the coastal resorts were almost empty. The historical and archaeological sites were abandoned. Unfortunately, rather than cut prices in an attempt to attract the remaining business, the response of the taverna proprietors has been to rip off every foreigner who steps through the door. We spent a fortnight paying about three times more for indifferent kebabs than the Turks round the corner charge here in Deal.

Also, I find myself increasingly dismissive of the modern Greeks. When I was first out there in 1987, I found that they could mostly understand me if I spoke slowly in their strange pronunciation. Nowadays, they seem so pleased with the ugly patois they call Greek that they cannot even follow quotations from the New Testament. Indeed, on our second Sunday, I insisted on attending a church service. The church was empty except for some German tourists. The priest responded to my carefully phrased greeting with the sort of stare you get from a caged animal. He and his deacon raced through the service as if they were trying for a record, then ran out of the church. Mrs Gabb and I stayed awhile to look at some decidedly sub-Byzantine icons and much evidence of mind-rotting superstition. Then we went shopping.

No, my dear readers, if you want a holiday in the Mediterranean, my advice is to avoid Greece. The people nowadays are too degenerate and the prices too high. A better place by far is Bodrum in Turkey. The Turks in general are a fine people – proud and clean and brave. Bodrum in particular is a superb holiday resort. Within a five hour radius of the places, you have Ephesus, Miletus, Hierapolis, Laodicea and Aphrodisias, and many other places of note. There are golf courses, shops, watersports, bars, restaurants, and at least two branches of the Migros supermarket. The moderately Islamic government there has decided to squeeze the taxpayers with high duties on drink. But cigarettes are still a pound a packet, and the Turkish police usually leave foreign tourists alone who break the Euro-style public smoking ban.

And the jewel of Bodrum, in my view, is the Hotel Karia Princess. Owned and run by libertarians, this is a five star establishment, boasting a swimming pool, gymnasium, Turkish bath and some of the best cuisine in the Eastern Mediterranean: http://www.kariaprincess.com

The summer season in Bodrum can be rather oppressive, wherever you choose to stay. But, outside the summer season, I can think of no better place to stay than the Hotel Karia Princess. Try it out. If you haven’t been there already – and I have stayed there four times now – you will be astonished and delighted. My friend Mr Blake even tells me that, once his Blood of Alexandria has made him filthy rich, he will become a permanent guest there.

Any Other Business?

I think the Libertarian Alliance is holding a Christmas reception in December. Stand by for announcements on this. I shall be speaking to some undergraduates at Warwick University on the 19th November. My subject will be something like “Libertarianism: Left or Right?” I plan, between now and Christmas, to convert twenty audio tapes of interviews that Chris Tame conducted with Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon and upload these to the Web. I will give much moral support to Mr Blake while he works on The Sword of Damascus, which is a long novel about weapons of mass destruction during the early wars between Byzantium and the Caliphate. Like everything else he writes, this will all be in the best possible taste.

Oh – and is there anyone out there who has a socket 775 quad core processor he no longer wants? Donate this to me, and Mr Blake will send you an autographed copy of his Terror of Constantinople. You may recall that this received a most flattering review in The Daily Telegraph:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Terror-Constantinople-Richard-Blake/dp/0340951141

Best wishes to all,

Sean

Sean Gabb
Director, The Libertarian Alliance
sean@libertarian.co.uk
Tel:  07956 472 199  07956 472 199
http://www.libertarian.co.uk
http://www.seangabb.co.uk
http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk
https://libertarianalliance.wordpress.com
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Director’s Bulletin, 9th November 2009

England’s lost liberty


 

England’s lost liberty
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Written by Tom Clougherty

Saturday, 31 October 2009 06:02

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A couple of weekends ago I read an old paper I found on the Libertarian Alliance’s website – ‘How English liberty was created by accident and custom – and then destroyed by liberals’, which was written by Sean Gabb in 1998. I found its thesis fascinating.

To simplify somewhat, Sean contends that even as English liberalism reached its zenith in the Victorian era, it was being undermined from within. The reason for this was that English liberalism was not based on liberal philosophy so much as it was the fortunate result of a historical and cultural accident – the ‘administrative vacuum’ of the 18th Century, which followed the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

During this period, any growth of government was severely hindered by strict adherence to traditional customs and the rule of law, which allowed for no administrative discretion, and no assertion of administrative necessity. As Sean points out, England did not, at this stage, even have a professional civil service. Certainly, plenty of people were granted sinecures and fancy titles – but they didn’t actually do anything. It was, he says, close to ‘administrative anarchy’. The English people have never been freer.

The thing that brought an end to all this was that the late 19th Century liberals, in rationalizing and harmonizing the laws and administration of England, effectively undermining the reverence of common law and custom and the absence of administration that had sustained liberty for so long. In a sense, they created government as we know it today, and in doing so they unleashed “the greatest illustration that history affords of public choice economics”. Government, once it had the means to do so at its disposal, started to grow. It hasn’t stopped since.

This error, Sean says, was compounded by three defects in the liberals’ reasoning: (1) they relied too much on economic arguments, and thus allowed liberalism to be caricatured as heartless and calculating; (2) the labour theory of value that Smith and Ricardo subscribed to played straight into collectivist hands; and (3) they were too quick to make exceptions to the general rule of laissez-faire.

I’m not a historian, so I’m not in a position to critically assess Sean’s analysis of 18th and 19th Century political history. Suffice it to say that I found his arguments convincing as I encountered them. I’d certainly recommend reading the whole paper.

England’s lost liberty

The Conservative Challenge, by Sean Gabb


Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 187
20th October 2009
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc187.htm

The Conservative Challenge
By Sean Gabb
(Text of a Speech Given to a Conservative Association
On Friday the 16th October 2009)

Introduction

On Friday the 16th October 2009, I spoke to a Conservative Association in the South East of England. Though I did not video the event, and though –  on account of the heated and not always good natured debate the followed my speech – I was asked not to identify the particular Association to which I spoke, I think what I said is worth recording. Therefore, I will write down my words as best I can recall them. I have suppressed all the questions, but carried some of the answers into the main text. Otherwise, I will try to keep the flavour of the original.

The Speech

Because of transport difficulties that prevented many people in this room from arriving on time, I am beginning my speech an hour later than expected. I am honoured by the Chairman’s apology for the delay. However, the series of conversations and arguments with which those of us who were here entertained ourselves while waiting have given me the idea for a speech that is still on my stated theme, but that I think will be more interesting than the one I had in mind. Now, this theme – “The Conservative Challenge” – has been routinely given to speakers at Conservative gatherings since at least the 1880s. The question that must always be answered is how we can remain the free citizens of an independent country in ages that have been progressively hostile both to individual freedom and to national independence. I did have a plan loosely worked out in my head. What I will do instead, though, is take some of our bar room discussions and summarise or expand on them as seems appropriate. I will do this by giving short statements of what was said to me, and then by giving my responses.

1. This has been a bad Government

I disagree. Oh, if you want a government that defends the country and provides common services while keeping so far as possible out of your way, the Labour Government elected in 1997 has been a disappointment. This does not mean, however, that the Blair and Brown Governments have been a failure in their own terms. They have, on the contrary, been very successful.

The purpose of the Government that took power in 1997 was to bring about a revolutionary transformation of this country – a transformation from which there could be no return to what had been before. The English Constitution has never been set down in a written document, and there has never been any statement of fundamental rights and liberties that was protected from change by ordinary legislation. Instead, these rights and liberties were protected by a set of customs and institutions that, being legitimised by antiquity, served the same purpose as formal entrenchment. It can be hard, in every specific case, to justify trial by jury, or the rule against double jeopardy, or the idea that imprisonment should be for a specified time and no longer, or the right to speak freely on matters in the public domain. There are principled arguments that satisfy in the absence of strong passions. But, strong passions being granted, the best argument has always so far been that these things have always been in England, and that to change them would be to break the threads that tie us to the past.

It would be childish to argue that the Ancient Constitution was in good health until 1997, when it was suddenly overturned. Unless there is an catastrophic foreign invasion, constitutions are not destroyed in this way. Ours had been sapped long before 1997. To say when the tipping point was reached, and by what means, would take me far beyond my stated theme. However, what remained of the Constitution has, since 1997, been dismissed as a set of “outmoded” relics, and large parts of it have been swept away. Those that remain have been transformed beyond recognition.

Let me give myself as an example. My first degree was in History. Much of this was taken up with a study of late antiquity and the early middle ages. But some of it was given to English history between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Of course, the Constitution changed within these periods, and had changed much since then. But I could take up the debates of the Cavalier Parliament, or a pamphlet written during the American War, or a case published in the State Trials, and find myself within a conversation of the English people. I was not in the same position as a French undergraduate, who, for anything published before 1791, would find himself in a world of institutions, and territorial names, and weights and measures, and monetary units, and general assumptions, as alien as those of a foreign country.

This has now changed. Anyone who, this month, has started a degree in History or Law or Politics will find himself in the same position as that French undergraduate. We have new legislative bodies all over the country, and new principles of administration, and new courts with new procedures and languages, and new lines of authority terminating in bodies outside the country. The work is not yet complete. But already, the conversation of the English people has been made largely incomprehensible to those born since I was an undergraduate.

Whether the changes can be justified as improvements – or whether they could have been made with more regard for economy and consistency – is beside the point. The main purpose of change has been to seal off the past. That past has been delegitimized in order to strip rights and liberties of the associations that used to protect them. Not surprisingly, we find ourselves in a country with a Potemkin democracy, where speech and publication are censored, where the police are feared, where we are continuously spied on as we go about our business, where we can be imprisoned without trial or charge for a month, and generally where we find ourselves having to deal every day with administrative bodies given powers that others who have not yet had felt them still cannot believe possible.

On any normal assumptions, the country has been governed very badly since 1997. On the assumptions of the Government, things have gone very well indeed.

2. This country is ruled by people who have been corrupted by bad ideas.

Again, I disagree. For centuries now, England has been governed by people rather like ourselves. Sometimes, they have governed well, sometimes badly. But we have never had to doubt their fundamental good faith. This has changed. The people who now rule this country have not been led astray by bad ideas. Rather, they are bad people who choose ideologies to justify their behaviour.

There are ideologies of the left – mutualism, for example, or Georgism, or syndicalism – that may often be silly or impracticable, but that are perfectly consistent with the dignity and independence of ordinary people. These are not ideologies, however, of which those who rule us have ever taken the smallest notice. These people began as state socialists. When this became electorally embarrassing, they switched to politically correct multiculturalism. Now this too is becoming an embarrassment, they are moving towards totalitarian environmentalism. Whether in local or in national government, their proclaimed ideologies have never prevented them from working smoothly with multinational big business, or with unaccountable multinational governing bodies.

It is reasonable to assume that, with these people, ideas are nothing more than a series of justifications for building a social and economic and political order within which they and theirs can have great wealth and unchallengeable power.

They tell us they want to end “child poverty” and “build a more equal society”. In fact, they have employed an army of social workers to terrorise every working class family in the country – an army of social workers backed by closed and secretive courts, and that may even be selecting children for legal kidnap and sale to barren middle class couples. They have pauperised millions with policies that keep them from achieving any reasonable independence and subject them to the bullying of credentialed bureaucracies.

They tell us they want a more “inclusive” and “diverse” society. They have certainly welcomed the mass immigration that they enabled the moment they came into office. It has been useful for impoverishing the working classes – in their attitudes and behaviour once perhaps the most conservative people in the country. It has also provided much evidence for their claim that the old England into which we were born has passed away, and that we need a new constitutional settlement – a settlement much in need of censorship and endless meddling in private choices. Even so, they make sure to live in white enclaves and to send their children to private schools where class photographs look much as they did in 1960.

They tell us they want to save the planet from “climate change”. If they have made Phillips and Siemens rich from their light bulb ban, they still fly everywhere and drive everywhere, and light up their own houses and offices like Christmas trees.

These are bad people. They must be regarded as such in everything they do. And we must hope that they will one day be punished as such.

3. The country is misgoverned.

Let me go back to my first point. There is no doubt that everything done by these people has involved huge cost for little of the promised benefit. We have computer systems that do not work. We have new bureaucracies that do not achieve their stated purpose. The National Health Service, for example, has had its budget doubled or trebled in the past twelve years. Yet the waiting lists are as long as ever, and the hospitals are dirtier than ever. Medical incompetence and even corruption and oppression are now everyday stories in the newspapers.

Again, however, these are failures only on the assumption that money has been laid out for the purpose of improving services. It has not. The real purpose of washing a tidal wave of our money over the public services has been partly to raise up an army of clients more likely to vote Labour than anything else, and partly to give these clients powers that tell everyone else who are the masters now. On this assumption, the money has not been wasted at all. It has indeed been an “investment in the future”.

What is to be done?

I often speak about an electoral coup in which a genuinely conservative government came to power and set about undoing the revolution. This involves shutting down most of the public sector. I am not saying that poor people would no longer receive their benefits or medical attention free at the point of use. These are not in themselves expensive. They may have undesirable consequences in terms of smothering personal responsibility and voluntary initiative. But these are problems to be addressed over a long period during which no settled expectation need be denied. What I do say is that the bureaucratic machine that bleeds us white in taxes and grinds us into obedient uniformity should be smashed to pieces that cannot easily be put back together. It should be smashed because we cannot afford it. It should be smashed because it oppresses us. It should be smashed because it is an agent of national destruction.

I once wrote a book about why this should be done and how to do it. Sadly, it will not be done in the foreseeable future. We shall probably have a Conservative Government within the next nine months. But this will not be a government of conservatives. If we want a preview of the Cameron Government, we need only look at what Boris Johnson has achieved during the past year as Mayor of London. He has not closed down one of the bureaucracies set up by Ken Livingstone and his Trotskyite friends. The race equality enforcers are still collecting their salaries. The war on the private motorist continues. Rather than cut the number of New and Old Labour apparatchiks, he is currently putting up taxes. David Cameron will be no better. He may be forced to make some changes and to slow the speed of the transformation. The transformation will continue nevertheless.

We need to speculate on the purpose and nature of counter-revolution. It is useful to know what ought to be our long term purpose. It inspires us to action in an otherwise bleak present. But we need also to know what present actions are to be inspired. My advice is that we need, in all our thoughts and in whatever of our behaviour is prudent, to withhold our sanction.

Any system of oppression that does not rely on immediate and overwhelming – and usually foreign – violence requires the sanction of its victims. We cannot all have guns put to our heads all day and every day. We therefore need to believe, in some degree, that what is done to us is legitimate. We must believe this if we are to obey. We must believe it if those who oppress us are to keep their good opinion of themselves. I suggest that we should withhold that sanction. I do not say that, without our sanction, the illegitimate power that now constrains our lives will fall immediately to the ground. I do suggest, however, that it will be insensibly undermined, and that it may therefore collapse suddenly in the event of some unexpected shock. This is how Communism died in Eastern Europe. It may be how the New Labour Revolution will die here.

The Police

One of the myths, endlessly repeated through what is called “Middle England”, is that the Police are among the victims of Labour rule – that they have been forced to act in ways that they find abhorrent or absurd. But this is only a myth. The Police are no friends to respectable people in any class or race. When I was a small boy, I was reduced to tears by what seemed a gigantic policeman in a tall helmet. One glare of his bearded face, and I was straight off the municipal flower bed where I had thrown my ball. He spoke to my grandmother before moving to other business, and that was the end of my transgression.

His sort retired decades ago. They have been replaced by undersized, shaven headed thugs – frequently with criminal records – who take delight in harassing the respectable. If you are robbed or beaten in the street, they will be nowhere in sight. If you approach them to complain, they will record the crime and send you on your way. If, on the other hand, you try defending yourself or your loved ones, they will prosecute you. They will do nothing about drugged, aggressive beggars, but they will jump on you if they see you smoking under a bus shelter. These people have been given powers that move them closer to the East German Stasi than to the uniformed civilians many of us can still remember. They can arrest you for dropping a toffee wrapper in the street. Once arrested, you may be charged, but you will more likely be released after being fingerprinted and having DNA samples taken and stored. We do not know what other body or government will be given your DNA. We do not know what future oppressions it may enable. Regardless of any littering charge, you will have been punished already.

We should not regard the Police in any sense as our friends. They are not. This does not mean that we should have no dealings with them. There are times – insurance claims, for example, where things must be reported. There are times when the Police are needed, and when they may give some limited assistance. Even so, we should on no account behave to them as if they were uniformed civilians. They are an armed, increasingly out of control pro-Labour militia.

The Law

We were all of us born in a country where the phrase “The Law is the Law: it must always be obeyed” did not seem absurd. Yes, it may not have been quite as we were told. By and large, however, it was a law made by our representatives and with our loose consent – or it was made by Judges rationalising honestly from assumptions grounded in common sense notions of justice. It is that no longer. For all its blemishes, the old laws of England were there to stop us from knocking into each other too hard as we went about our business. Its function was reactive. The function of law nowadays is transformational. It is there to change the ways in which we think and live. So far as this is the case, the law has been delegitimised.

And this is how we are to regard uses of the law. At the moment, The UK Independence Party is being edged towards bankruptcy over some matter of a political donation. It seems not to have complied with the requirements of a law made in the year 2000 that effectively nationalises all political parties – and that may one day be used to control what policies they advocate and how they oppose measures with which they disagree. Again, there are complaints about how the BBC has invited the Leader of the British National Party to appear on Question Time. It is said that the BNP is currently an illegal organisation because of its internal rules. The alleged illegality is based on a novel interpretation of a 1976 law, as amended in 2000, that is itself illegitimate.

There was a time when it was enough for us to be told that someone had broken the law for us to think ill of that person. But times are altered. When the laws themselves are corrupt, they lose moral force. It is no longer enough for us to be told that someone is a law breaker. Whatever we may think of these parties for what they advocate, they are to be seen not as law breakers but victims of political oppression. To think ill of them purely for their disregard of the law is rather like calling Alexander Solzhenitsyn a jailbird on account of his time in the Gulag.

The Law is no longer the Law. It is a set of politicised commands made for our destruction as a free people. It no longer deserves our automatic respect. Yes, the laws that protect life and property are still to be respected. But it is now rational to inspect every law thrown at us to see which do bind in conscience and which do not. I know that this is a dangerous principle to announce. There are many people for whom the law is a unified thing: say that one part has no binding force, and all parts are weakened. But this is not our fault. We have not made the law disreputable. We are simply facing a state of affairs that has been called into being by others.

The Constitution

I have already mentioned the remodelling of the Constitution. As a people, we have long amused foreigners with our respect for titles and old forms of government. I once chaired a meeting addressed by a Member of the House of Lords. This was before the Internet, and I spent nearly an hour in a library clarifying that he should be introduced as – let me change the name – John, Lord Smith of Wilmington, rather than Lord John Smith or Lord Wilmington. This was all good fun. It also had a serious point. I was helping maintain one of those innumerable and seemingly absurd customs that among were the outer defences of our rights and liberties. Our Ancient Constitution may have struck outsiders as a gigantic fancy dress ball. But it covered a serious and very important fact. This was an imperfect acceptance of Colonel Rainsborough’s claim that “the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he”.

But, again, times are altered. The more gorgeous events of the fancy dress ball have been retained. But the underlying substance – the protection of rights and liberties – has been stripped out. This being so, all obligation of deference has lapsed. I will not defer to the man whose name has been changed by a sheet of parchment sealed with wax to Baron Kinnock of Bedwellty. Nor will I call Peter Mandelson other than “Mr Mandelson. Nor, unless I am in his court, and he is likely to take more against me than he naturally would, will I address the former Communist Stephen Sedley as “My Lord”. Nor will I acknowledge his Knighthood out of court. I am not yet sure if it is appropriate to stop recognising hereditary honours, or those granted before 1997. But I certainly regard all honours granted since 1997 as void. They have the same legitimacy as those conferred by Cromwell during the Interregnum. No – Cromwell was a great man who did honour to this country and who deserves his statue outside Parliament. Recent honours have the same status as those conferred by James II after he ran away to France. They are to be seen as a badge of ridicule and disgrace on those who have accepted them.

Now, this may seem a pedantic and self-indulgent point. But it is not. These people should not be allowed to wrap themselves in any remnant of the associations that once bound us to the past. And they evidently enjoy playing at nobility. I once did a radio debate with a police chief who had been recommended for a Peerage by Tony Blair. He was annoyed by my substantive arguments. He was reduced to spluttering rage when I addressed him as plain “Mister” and sneered that his title was a sham. Bearing in mind that it is not illegal to drop their titles, and how it upsets them, I think it worth doing on every convenient occasion.

And it is part of what I would see as a more general approach. Conservatives often denounce what is being done to us as a “breach of the Constitution”. It is really no such thing, because the Ancient Constitution has been abolished. As said, the fancy dress ball continues in something like full swing. But “the poorest he that is in England” has been stuffed. We do have a constitution in the sense that every organised community has one. Ours says that whoever can frogmarch a majority of placemen through the lobbies of the House of Commons can do whatever he pleases. I did hope, earlier in the present decade, that the Judges would intervene to limit parliamentary sovereignty. The Labour response, however, was to pack the bench with their own people. Therefore, since it has been destroyed, or has been suspended, we are in no position to claim that the Constitution has been breached. The obvious result is that we should not regard ourselves as morally bound to recognise any of the authority that is claimed and exercised over us.

And if our people ever get into power through the electoral coup that I mentioned earlier, I see no reason for recognising any purely “constitutional” limits to the nature and speed of our counter-revolution. For example, regardless of the withdrawal mechanism in the Lisbon Treaty, I would be for just repealing the European Communities Act 1972 as amended. That would be complete and immediate withdrawal. If any Judges tried to block this, I would have them removed. I might also be for passing an Act voiding every previous law made since the first session of the 1997 Parliament. Otherwise, I would prefer to declare a state of Emergency under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, and then repeal hundreds of laws by decree. A slow revolution can take place when those at the top have the numbers and staying power to take it slowly. When there has been a revolutionary or counter-revolutionary seizure of power, change must be swift and determined if it is to be a success.

There must be a return to constitutional norms – and the extraordinary measures that may enable this return must not be allowed to set any precedents of their own. Nor – let me emphasise – do I hope that our reaction will involve violence. But if conservatives are to bring about a reaction, so that we can again be a free people in an independent nation, we have little positive to learn from Burke’s Reflections. There comes a point beyond which a constitution cannot be rescued. I think we have reached that point. There can be no patching up this time, as happened at the Restoration in 1660, or after the Revolution of 1688. By all means, we should not innovate just for the sake of neatness. But we shall need to innovate. We shall need to create new safeguards for our rights and liberties that take into account the country in which we live.

The Monarchy

This means, I increasingly believe, a republican constitution. There is nothing wrong with the principle of hereditary monarchy. I suspect that the division of authority and power that took place between 1660 and 1714 contributed much to the freedom and stability of England during our classical period. The problem is not the institution of monarchy, but the person of the Monarch.

When she came to the throne, Elizabeth had what seems to have been almost the universal regard of the people. She has spent the past 57 years betraying the people. Whatever the constitutional lawyers may claim, there is a contract between Monarch and people. We pretend to treat whoever wears the Crown as the Lord’s Anointed. The wearer of the Crown agrees in turn to act as a defence of last resort against tyrannical politicians. That is the truth behind the phrases of the coronation oath. The Queen could, without bringing on a crisis, have blocked the law in the early 1960s that removed juries from most civil trials. She could have blocked the subsequent changes that abolished the unanimity rule and the right of peremptory challenge. She should have risked a crisis, and refused her assent to the European Communities Bill, or demanded a fair referendum first. She could have harried the politicians of the past two generations, reminding them of the forms and substance of the Ancient Constitution. She had the moral and legal authority to do this. Had she spoken to us like adults, she would have had popular support. She did nothing. I believe she bullied Margaret Thatcher into handing Rhodesia over to a communist mass-murderer, and made repeated noises about South African sanctions. And that was it.

Whatever her failings in the past, she had every legal right to demand a referendum over the Lisbon Treaty. This had been promised by every party at the 2005 general election. When the promise was withdrawn, she would have had public opinion and much of the media behind her in refusing to give assent to the Treaty’s Enabling Act. Again, she did nothing.

We are continually told about the Queen’s sense of duty. All I see is much scurrying about the country to open leisure centres – and otherwise a total disregard of her essential duties. If the Constitution was in decay before she was even born, she has spent her reign watching all that was left of it slip between her fingers.

It may be argued that she is now very old and will not remain much longer on the throne. The problem is that her son will be worse. She has been lazier than she has been stupid. He is simply stupid. So far as he insists on using his powers, it will be to drive forward the destruction of England. His own eldest son might easily be an improvement – but he could be decades away from the Crown. We are in no position to wait on what is in any event uncertain. The Queen has broken the contract between her and us. Her son will do nothing to repair the breach. We live in an age where hereditary monarchy must be strictly hereditary or nothing at all, and so we cannot waste our time with new Exclusion Bills or Acts of Settlement. If, therefore, we are ever in a position to bring about a counter-revolution, we shall need to find a head of state who can be trusted to do the job of looking after our new constitution.

Closing thoughts

I could go further on this theme. I know that many conservatives – and a few Conservatives – have lost faith in democracy. Undoubtedly, representative democracy has thrown up a political class that is separate from the people, and that is increasingly hostile to the rights and liberties of the people. But I cannot think of a lasting new settlement based on Caesaristic dictatorship or a limitation of the franchise. My own suggestion would be to select most positions in the executive by sortition – to choose rulers, that is, by a lottery – as in ancient Athens, and to settle all legislative matters by local or national referendum. Most judicial business that had any bearing on the Constitution could be put before juries of several hundred people, chosen by the same random process as criminal juries now are.

But, you will agree that this takes me far, far beyond my stated theme. It would make what has been a long speech longer still. I will close by observing that if you want to be a conservative in an England broken by revolution, you need to look beyond a rearguard defence of forms from which all substance was long since drained.. The conservative tradition may have been dominated since the 1970s by Edmund Burke. But it does also contain the radicals of the seventeenth century. And – yes – it also has a place even for Tom Paine. If you want to preserve this nation, you must be prepared for a radical jettisoning of what is no longer merely old, but also dead. The conservative challenge is to look beneath the plumage and save the dying bird.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3

It does not matter….


that there is no “distributor” for this film, in the USA.

David Davis

Why do I say that? Because, with today’s internet-thingy attached to you, as you can do now, anyone with any mind so to do can view any prog, watch any film, see any page, find anything,  if he has a mind to and knows what to type.

The USA is what Tony Blair referred to (a-propos of us here in the UK) as a “YOUNG COUNTRY”. As with teenagers in all time and everywhere, opinions in this straneg place called a “young country” are often strongly-held. The disagreement about them if any engenders strong feelings, and the logical basis for the more emotional ones, in particlar, is potentially – although not always – unsound. The tragically-mistaken hypothesis of “creationism” is one such. In young nations and young civilisations, people who know what they believe will believe it with ferocity. Especially in places where there is a lot of space around you physically – coming across strangers who will disagree intellectually (and with evidence to support them which they have about their persons) will be rarer than, say, in London.

That said, I do not believe that the creationist error tendency, in the USA, is or would be as strong in opposing the screening of a movie, a mere movie, as is feared. I do not think that cinemas would be burned down, for example. Nor do I think that the great movie-making installations of Hollywood over there, or Pinewood over here, nor the actual location-sets as used, would be assaulted by enraged bands of creationist Christians, or even Moslems – they too have a creationist religious legend, insofar as they might be termed a religion. Furthermore, history has shown, in particular recently, that it is physically safe to insult and offend Christians. This also is an innately bad thing, but it is a fact.

To me as a scientist (who believes in a God who represents and probably did conceive the indescribable level of Order and Logic observable in all the Universe) the creationist diversion is a tragic travesty of science, and indeed even a perversion thereof. It tragically deflects Man’s mind and inquisitiveness away from things that badly need understanding and rationalisting. If God “was Order”, and “in the beginning there was Order” (Λογος) as it says in the least-bad translation of 1. John (i) that we possess, then there is no requirement whatsoever for Him to have voluntarily sat down to “create” anything at all. He just “was” (and is, and will be always) and what was in His Mind would simply come into being in the same way.

For a scientist, to associate poor devout and fairly-far-seeing Darwin with Eugenicists, Nazis, sterilisers, Stalinists, people like Houston Stuart Chamberlain, creators of Frankensteinian monsters and the like, is a travesty of real science. Darwin was a kind, gentle and humane man, who did not even want to hurt worms if he could help it, and who never used the phrase “survival of the fittest”. If that is the implication of what eugenic socialists said he said, it is unjust.

Libertarians no more want to harm people who are perhaps less able to compete in a civilisation than others, than darwin wanted to harm living creatures. Indeed, Sean Gabb and I often say that it will be necessary to continue a publicly-funded NHS for example, for some time which might be long, even if a libertarian government were to come to power in the UK.

Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize 2009


The 2009 Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize
£1,000 to be Won

In honour of Dr Chris R. Tame (1949-2006), The Libertarian Alliance offers a yearly prize of £1,000 for an essay on a subject to be announced by Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance. This year, the Prize has been most generously sponsored by Teresa Gorman, long-term conservative and libertarian activist and formerly Conservative Member of Parliament for Billericay.

By the 16th October 2009, contestants are invited to submit essays to Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance.
Essay Title: “Can a Libertarian also be a Conservative?”
Essay Length: 3,000 words excluding notes and bibliography

Explanatory Note

Do libertarians believe, almost by definition, is a society so radically different from anything that has so far existed that they have nothing in common with conservatives? Is it the case that the working relationship between libertarians and conservatives during the 20th century was never more than an alliance of necessity against state socialism? Was that relationship even a terrible mistake? Are the natural allies of libertarians the anti-state socialists rather than defenders of an old order that was happy to kill and oppress when it was able? Is libertarianism, as Roderick Long believes, the real “proletarian revolution”? Or, on the other hand, does liberty, if it is to last for any reasonable time, require conservative institutions? Is it wise to discard past experience as irrelevant to the future? Is there an argument for putting up with imperfect but broadly libertarian institutions, on the grounds that to change them involves the risk of losing all freedom? If most European types of conservatism are incompatible with libertarianism, is it the same with English conservatism?

These are some of the themes that might usefully be explored in answering my question. Please note, however, that this is not an exhaustive list. I am looking for something original and interesting – not a set of answers to each of the above sub-questions thrown into essay form. I am also not looking for detailed analyses of Mr Cameron or the Conservative Party. My questions is more about conservatives than Conservatives.

Reading

You may find these works useful:

F.A. Hayek, “Freedom, Reason, and Tradition“; Chapter Four, The Constitution of Liberty ISBN 0-226-32084-7, University of Chicago Press, 1960

Murray N. Rothbard, Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty

Rules

  • Essays must be original and previously unpublished works.
  • Essays must be submitted in English and typed and in hard copy by sending to The Libertarian Alliance, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6H, United Kingdom.
  • Essays  must also be submitted by e-mail and in MS Word format to Sean Gabb – sean@libertarian.co.uk .
  • Essays must bear the name and full address of the author, including his e-mail address. The name does not need to be genuine, but work submitted under what Sean Gabb considers an absurd pseudonym may be rejected. Certainly, the prize money will be by cheque, and so must be made out to a real person.
  • Essays must have been received ain both hard and soft copy no later than Friday the 16th October 2009.
  • The winner will be announced on the evening of Saturday the 25th October 2008, at the banquet of the Libertarian Alliance Conference, to be held at the National Liberal Club in London.
  • The winner will be required to make a ten minute acceptance speech on Saturday the 24th October 2009, at the banquet of the Libertarian Alliance Conference, to be held at the National Liberal Club in London. This speech may be made in person, or by pre-recorded video, or may be read out by Sean Gabb, .
  • The prize will be £1,000, made out to the winner and payable in Sterling by cheque drawn on one of the United Kingdom clearing banks. No other form of payment will be considered.
  • The winning essay will be published by the Libertarian Alliance. All essays submitted will be published by the Libertarian Alliance.
  • In all matters of deciding the winner of the Prize and in all associated matters, the decision of Sean Gabb shall be final.
  • The act of submitting an essay shall constitute full acceptance of these terms
  • This prize competition is not open to any Officer of the Libertarian Alliance or of the Libertarian International, or to any previous winner of the competition.

For all questions, please contact Sean Gabb, though be prepared to wait for an answer.

Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize 2008

Libertarian Alliance Examination Board: a sample Science Paper


Fred Bloggs.

Here Is a newly issued paper from the LAEB (Libertarian Alliance Exams Board)

Appreciate or Die (Quote from Socialist art gallery).

Image4

Please only use a black ballpoint pen in this examination, as our exam marking                                                                                                                                                                                     monkeys are colour blind.

Time allowed : 3.278×10-29 sec

  • The maximum mark for this exam is 34.7
  • Show some of your working, but not all, if you do so marks will be deducted.
  • You will be awarded extra marks for answering these questions in a specific different language, but we’re not going to tell you which, if you answer in the wrong language you will automatically fail.

Any injuries sustained during this exam are the fault of the person taking the exam and not the LAEB (Libertarian Alliance Exams Board)

Sign Here: ________________________

Questions Start

1  Estimate the DC current, flowing in a one-turn copper coil which follows the earth’s equator, which would cancel the Earth’s magnetic field at either pole. (Horizontal component of field at lat 86o 30` N = 0.18 gauss, vertical component = 0.9 gauss. I gauss = 1E-5 Tesla.)

Answer:_______________________

______________________________

______________________________

______________________________

Maximum Mark: 2.3

2   Calculate the cross-sectional area of a square copper turn, polished and unblacked, and fully suspended, whose surface temperature will not exceed 800 K in dry air temperature of 320 K.

Answer:_________________________

_______________________________

_______________________________

_______________________________

Maximum Mark: 6.1

3   Calculate the gravitational field strength existing between the Milky Way and a hypothetical galaxy 13 billion LY away. Use 2E42 Kg for the mass of the Milky Way and 9E41 for the other galaxy.

Answer:_______________________

_____________________________

_____________________________

_____________________________

Maximum Mark: 7

4   Estimate the cross-sectional area of each of two Duct-tape fixtures, of 48mm width and 0.5mm thickness, applied always parallel to the direction of force, which would be required to separate reliably two opposite charges of 1C each at a distance of one meter in free Space. (Young’s Modulus of Duck Tape is assumed to be 4E9 Pa.)

Answer:______________________

_____________________________

______________________________

______________________________

Maximum Mark:2.4

5   Estimate the number of moles of human DNA on the Earth as of now, its total estimated mass, and the molar mass of human DNA. (Assume that one haploid human genome, complete, = 1 molecule. Also assume that the mean volume of all human cells is about 1.9 picoLitres.

Ignore human gametes in this answer, but also estimate the total number of these present on the planet at any moment. Use your knowledge of human population trends and age-band-statistics to derive as accurate an estimate for this number as possible, differentiating male form female gametes.

Answer:_______________________

_____________________________

_____________________________

_____________________________

Maximum Mark: 0.6

6   Calculate the reduction in heat capacity of the Gulf Stream over a calendar year, caused by a wind farm of 10,000 turbines directly in the path of the airstreams above it at latitude 55oN, each turbine having an installed generating output of 100Kw, at a height of 100M and operating at a 16% duty cycle. Use your own knowledge of geography, natural climate movements, astronomy, the heat capacities of water and moist air. The Sun’s radiated power output is about 3.92E26 Watts.

Estimate the extra mass, surface area and volume of North Polar ice that would build up in the Barents, Norwegian and Greenland Seas in one year, assuming that no other areas are affected, as a result of this set of turbines. (For quickness of solution, assume polar ice above latitude 65 radiates IR into space at 25 Watts/M2 at all temperatures above 240K.)

Answer:_______________________

______________________________

______________________________

______________________________

Maximum Mark: 1.6

7   You are to deliver a shell weighing about 1.5 imperial tons, at a range of 60 miles, from a barrel of diameter 460mm, at a target at the same elevation as the emplacement. (g = 9.81m/s2) Devise a suitable mathematical model from which the answers could be derived, and then calculate, in no particular order:

(a)  The barrel length

(b)  The time of flight

(c)   The maximum height reached by the projectile

(d)  The required muzzle velocity at 40o barrel elevation

(e)  The mean gas pressure (assume uniform)

(f)    The acceleration in the barrel

(g)  The muzzle velocity

Answer:___________________________

__________________________________

__________________________________

__________________________________

Maximum Mark: 4.7

8   Calculate the number of 25Kg sacks of rice that would be required, and the total volume of rice grains in cubic miles, if the Great King had been able to grant the wish of the Resident-Court-Mathematician who had invented Chess for him. The inventor asked for “one grain of rice on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, eight on the fourth, sixteen on the fifth…..”. Assume a grain of rice is a cylinder of length 6mm and diameter 1.25mm and that they pack approximately efficiently. State your packing density assumptions in your answer.

If the sacks used above are made of polythene, and must be 0.8mm thick, estimate the area of film to be manufactured, its mass, and the number of barrels of Saudi Heavy Crude that may have been used to make it. Use your knowledge of thermal cracking procedures and also of the average mass of a “barrel” and how much of this is realistically convertible into monomers for this question’s use. Density of polythene (MDPE type) is about 0.932 g/cm3.

Answer:____________________________________

___________________________________________

____________________________________________

____________________________________________

Maximum Mark:10

End Of Questions.

Afghanistan: If I was Gordon Brown and considering my policy of fostering a Taleban to take people’s eye off what I’m up to here, then I wonder how Wootton Bassett will vote in an election.


David Davis

[It seems that The Ranting Penguin already agrees with what I'm about to say.]

I don’t think I know what a “Taleban” is. Is it some kind of yoghurt? If so, why are we dying? Or is some “friendly power” secretly arming these buggers? We need to be told.

[In Lebanon, "Laban" is Greek yoghurt, and "Lebni" is a sort of slightly tart soft cheese (it's very nice, on a hot day, on a cheese-biscuit or something. With a biggish glass of Chateau Musar from the Bek'aa Valley vineyards.)]

A “Taleban” ought to be easy to eliminate in theory, faced with the theoretically-sufficiently-armed and armoured specialists of a First-World military power…..

Now, this town has the sad destiny, currently, to be where The Men Whose Names Live On These Walls and who have fallen in Afghanistan, pass through most days now, on their way to rest.

(That’s not in Wootton Bassett, it’s here.)

It is beginning to dawn on me, after years, that I am a curious sort of libertarian. I am in fact a Marxist-Leninist turned upside down. This is getting quite comfortable for me these days, and I will develop my ire further in this regard.

Thus for now: I do not object to foreign wars at all, if fought by a minimalist State based on Classical liberalism, which knows it has an obligated, indeed actually a divine, mission to supress wickednesses elsewhere, such as Statism, fabian-subverted-pre-capitalist-barbarian-survival-guide-warlordism-masquerading-as-religion, general slavery of all kinds (still going on in countries about 3,681 miles from you), “communism” (getting to be old hat now as Chè, Castro, that Sendero-Luminoso-droid, Kim-Jong-Il and Hugo Chavez, Jimmy Carter, and the fascist-pig Mitterand all died physically years ago) and the like.

Indeed, an emergent British – or more possibly English, “state”  having withdrawn from both the UK and the EU – libertarian government, may find itself with a variety of post-Bandung kleptocracies arrayed against it, with erstwhile “friends”, such as “France”, and perhaps even “Belgium”, eagerly selling modern armaments to our new potential enemies, speciifically to threaten us.

But in these wars which we now seem ot be fighting, I believe that we do //not// have to have what Sean Gabb calls a “vital national interest”, in my opinion. The very fact that terrible evils and unfathomable wickednesses are being done to humans in the name of “unity”, in the name of “progress”, and in the name of “people’s democracy”, is the justification to act to stop this nonsense and blood, if we have the power. We are in favour of Natural Rights, which human beings all possess by definition. If we do not have the power to act in these situations, then it is //our problem, and our failing//, and thus I am moving rapidly to the belief that it is [imho] our obligation to acquire the needed power – and to use it in such fashion. Sean knows quite well that he and I disagree in general terms although not necessarily specific ones on this matter and it is quite friendly: we argue about it from time to time in his sojourns up here, and thus reports of the death of the Libertarian Alliance are very premature.

The problem for GramscoFabiaNazis such as Gordon Brown, who like all socialists wants to be seen as “hard” and “warfighting” [it's in their genes sadly] while also crooning pacifistically to the post-modern British neo-CND left, is that he can’t sit on two toilets at once, like John Prescott that unexpectedly clever fellow, can. He can’t both shit and get off the pot simultaneously in two places. He wants to be seen as an important chappie in three ways: “supressing the supply of heroine and cocaine”, fighting the “War On Terror” [a contradiction in terms] and also cosying up to people like ShootinPutin187 whose gas and oil he thinks he needs and who got bloodied in Afghanistan 20-odd years ago. And yet at the same time he has also to appease his Enemy-Class-Paymasters who hate all things British (especially English) and who especially hate the Armed Forces, who of course /won’t/ cosy up to the ZanuLieBorg “Project”, and consist mostly of people either disregarded or despised and hated by the “New Labour Project”.

So where does poor little Wootton Bassett come into this terrible story? You will already all know how very, very deeply I despise and excoriate synchronised public grieving. I have never failed to bore you, year after year, with my hatred of the emotional incontinence which overtook this strong and gripped nation, at the death of the horrible Diana.

But this is different. [If the lefties can say such things, so can I.] Nobody told these poor people, sad at what was happening, to turn out. Not like the mafia-instructions to close all our shops [or else] on the day of Diana’s funeral. They just turned out.

A casualty list of eight chaps in a day, in 2009, is a disaster in today’s terms. This is not 1916, when we were locked in an insoluble battle against an equally-technologically-advanced set of enemies – this is 2009 and we are again fighting what used to pass for [pre-1914] small colonial wars against people that we called “towelheads”, in which we expected to take small but ongoing casualties while yet assuring victory. But our priorities and our perception of the deaths of soldiers in wars today has changed, while our supposed ability to deal with modern battlefields has increased.

This sort of misfortune ought not to be happening to a First-World-Economy’s armed forces, against pre-medieval barbarians [OK they are individual humans, but they "chose poorly" , as the old mailed knight said in the end-scene of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade".]

Gordon Brown clearly wants and needs a war in Afghanistan. That’s why he has both flagged an increase in the number of our solders there (currently about four brigades) and also a decrease at the same time. He wants to please all his paymasters at once, and thinks we don’t listen. Either he wants “victory”, to destroy all the cocaine and heroin, please ShootinPutin187 and look hard, or else he does not, through not giving our chaps any kit at all that works, so that he puts them all off from joining the Army [a GramscoFabiaNazi medium-term-objective] and thus pleasing the neo-Harold-Pinters of this planet.

But the people of Wootton Bassett are trying to tell him something. I can’t think it will be to his advantage as a Prime-Mentalist.

The Backlash Campaign: Defending S&M is Defending Individual Freedom, by Nigel Meek


Sean Gabb

The Backlash Campaign: Defending S&M is Defending Individual Freedom
Nigel Meek

Cultural Notes No. 53
ISSN 0267-677X                   ISBN 1 85637 647 8
An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL.
© 2007: Libertarian Alliance; Nigel Meek

Nigel Meek is the Editorial and Membership Director of the Libertarian Alliance and the Society for Individual Freedom and the Editor of the Campaign Against Censorship.  This essay first appeared in the February 2006 issue of The Individual, the journal of the Society for Individual Freedom.  Thanks to Ted Goodman (CAC) and Christian Michel (LA) for their comments on a draft of that essay.
.
The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee,
Advisory Council or subscribers.
FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY

An Introduction to Backlash

On behalf of a number of organisations—the Society for Individual Freedom (SIF), the Libertarian Alliance (LA) and the Campaign Against Censorship (CAC)—in the latter half of 2005 I became involved in the Backlash campaign.  This was formed in response to a joint Home Office and Scottish Executive consultation document On the possession of extreme pornographic material (to quote from the document) “proposing to strengthen the criminal law in respect of possession of a limited category of extreme material featuring adults.”  Primarily, if not exclusively, “extreme material” refers to pornographic images of a sado-masochistic (S&M) nature.

Nominally at least, these proposals came as a result of a campaign led by the mother of a woman who had been murdered by a man who had visited websites featuring asphyxiation.  This was an appalling crime.  However, what we have seen is a knee-jerk reaction of “something must be done” allied with the mistaken beliefs that (a) people are not and cannot be personally responsible for their actions and (b) if only we have enough laws we can legislate away the wickedness of this world.

S&M is not my cup of tea, although I am sufficiently worldly-wise to have a genuine knowledge of what is sometimes involved.  In any case, as a libertarian I utterly condemn any restrictions on the creation, distribution and possession by willing adults for willing adults of “extreme pornographic material”.  What consenting adult men and women, in any combination of sex, sexuality and numbers, get up to in private is none of my business.  And it is none of yours.  And it is certainly none of the state’s.  Furthermore, if we accept this, then logically there cannot be anything wrong in photographing or videoing such activities and then passing them on to other consenting adults whether free or commercially.

As the Backlash mission statement says, “Law enforcement agencies around the world already have powers to prevent and punish actual crimes…  We condemn any acts where the participants did not give their consent.  Viewers should not be penalised for looking at… images of consenting actors.”  Quite.

Formal responses to the consultation document such as the one prepared by the CAC were constrained by the document itself.  However, going into a little more detail, there are numerous reasons why I support the Backlash campaign and why I believe that other members of the SIF should do so too.  Here are some of them.

The Ongoing Assault on Freedom of Speech

I would support the Backlash campaign even if it stood alone.  But it does not.  2005 witnessed a frenzy of censoriousness from the Labour government.  Even before the proposals that sparked off Backlash there was the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.  Whatever its alleged aims, in reality it was a transparent attempt by Labour to recapture “the Moslem vote” that may have been lost due to aspects of the government’s foreign policy.  However, it also means the prospect of individuals being convicted—or cowed into silence by the risk of being convicted—for pointing out that some religious beliefs and practices are vile and wholly incompatible with the mores of Western society.  Ask Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film-maker who was murdered in November 2004 after his film Submission highlighted the abuse of women in Islamic society.

We also had the Terrorism Bill which has, as but one of its proposals, the ludicrous aim of outlawing “glorifying terrorism”.  This could mean that almost any strongly expressed ideological view would be illegal if anyone else anywhere in the world uses violence in support on that ideology: democracy in Zimbabwe, for example.

But we should not be surprised.  After all, “New” Labour is the party that made the fascistic claim in its 1997 general election manifesto that it was “the political arm of none other than the British people as a whole”.  Having won on such a terrifying platform, nearly a decade down the line we live in a country where “insulting” the Prime Minister by wearing an admittedly childish “Bollocks to Blair” t-shirt can get you arrested.

Having mentioned the relevant provisions of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill and the Terrorism Bill, there is the obvious point about consistency.  It is intellectually and tactically right and more persuasive to oppose

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