by Richard North
These debts include council tax arrears, business rate arrears and parking fines, with councils claiming that bailiffs are only ever used as “a last resort”. Continue reading
by Richard North
These debts include council tax arrears, business rate arrears and parking fines, with councils claiming that bailiffs are only ever used as “a last resort”. Continue reading
by Rodney Atkinson
by Richard North
Local politics: an Orwellian inversion
One of the issues to which we devote insufficient space and time is local politics, and especially to the vexed subject of Council Tax.
Brought to our notice recently, though, was the especially Orwellian press release from East Hampshire District Council (EHDC), congratulating itself on its high level of collection, recovering 98.8 percent of its tax due, putting it in the top ten percent of councils in England for collection performance. Continue reading
David Davis (reblogged from The Last Ditch)
It’s interesting to see Tom’s personal discussion with himself, about the effectiveness (or otherwise) of what libertarian bloggers do.
Quite a few readers have kindly told me how much they missed my trip updates since I returned from the USA. Some of them however only started to read this blog to follow my American journey and would be surprised and perhaps even shocked if I returned to my old subjects.
I rather embarrassed myself at dinner at a friend’s house last week. Another guest was a retired senior civil servant and now a substantial London rentier on his savings from the money extorted for him over decades from taxpayers. Predictably, I laid into him about how out-of-control the British State has become.There was some Continue reading
President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to French film star and tax exile Gerard Depardieu, who is renouncing his French citizenship to search for an easier tax climate outside of his native country. Continue reading
An HMRC ‘Wise Guy’ Calls The oddest thing happened this morning.
Sitting at my desk, some woman just wandered in through our warehouse and asked to talk to a director. I replied that I’m one so how can I help. She tersely declared that she works for HMRC and demanded a payment of £15,000 for overdue corporation tax. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
Libertarians support low taxation on principle, in order to free people and the economy from the burden of the state. If the writings of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill are anything to go by, however, there is an important exception: land taxation. Land taxation is not just a necessary evil that affords the state some revenues with which to perform the very few necessary functions of government; it is a positive good, in that it tackles monopoly and speculation, and should ensure efficient use of land. If land taxation had remained the key source of government revenue in the UK, the current economic crisis would not have taken place. Continue reading
Actvists – probably lefties, but so what? – gatecrashing a dinner held to honour the retiring head of HMRC – a man who has personally let rich corporations off £25bn of tax, while making sure the rest of us are squeezed like grapes in a press.
“You will depart immediately, before we set the dogs on you” – a classic ruling class line!
Of course, the scumbag bureaucrat should be stripped of his cushy pension and left to find out what life is like for the superannuated serfs he and his sort have been milking. SIG
Thanks to D.J. Webb for bringing this to my attention.
And here’s an article from The Daily Mail, kindly supplied by Peter Watson: Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
Dear all, no time for a long post, but I was amazed, at a time of cuts, to read that clinical negligence payments by the NHS rose by £10bn over the past five years to total £16.6bn! [See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9353443/Comment-The-spiralling-cost-of-no-win-no-fee-lawyers.html%5D This is not a small amount of money. Continue reading
Council Tax and the Law:
The Off-White Though Still Very Sharp
Teeth of the British State
By David Webb
I sent a long email to a Conservative councillor about council tax summons – and the way they are automated by the council computer system without judicial oversight (a magistrate has to review the evidence before each summons is sent out – pretty impossible when 4m of these summons are being sent out a year – I don’t expect there is even a pro forma attempt at getting the summons signed off by the courts; I expect the courts have ‘agreed’ that the council computers should just send out summons letters without judicial oversight); the way in which council tax cases in magistrates courts are illegally conducted by council officials with no magistrates present; and the way in which £70 is charged for the summons although the summons costs £3 [NE Lincolnshire, a neighbouring area, made £174000 in half an hour from these £70 fees recently by summoning thousands of people to court for one hearing, and only 14 turned up - there is no indication that only 'reasonable costs' are charged]. Continue reading
by D.J. Webb
Until comparatively recently in this country, it was the assumption of most working-class people that the state would provide for their old age, and this assumption holds true insofar as the welfare state remains in place, although such provision as exists is far from lavish. The worst aspect of the welfare state is that everyone on the PAYE system has been taught that pensions are an entitlement: they have “paid in” for their pension through payment of taxes (including national insurance). Leaving aside the fact that many do not pay anything in, leading a life on welfare, the taxes low-income people pay do not cover the panoply of benefits they receive (pensions, education, healthcare, housing and much else), and as there is no investment of national insurance contributions in a sovereign wealth fund—as Nye Bevan said, “the great secret about the National Insurance fund is that there ain’t no fund”—nothing paid in has been accumulated anywhere to finance anyone’s retirement. Continue reading
Anyone fancy responding to this? An obvious response is to ask RH to define the laissez-faire religion he is attacking, and to distinguish this from corporatism, and then to ask if he knows anything about the economics of public choice and regulatory capture, or about the effects on business scale and morality brought about by infrastructure subsidies and the tax and regulatory burden….SIG
Free marketeers fancy themselves to be rational, calculating beasts. In reality, their adoration of the market is essentially religious. They believe that it will solve all economic ills, if not immediately, then in the medium to long term. Armed with this supposed objective truth, they proselytize about the moral evils and inefficiencies of public service and the wondrous efficiency and ethical outcomes of private enterprise regardless of the practical effects of their policies or the frequent misbehaviour of those in command of large private companies. Their approach is essentially that of the religious believer.
Like the majority of religious believers, “free marketeers and traders” are none too certain of the theology of their religion. (I am always struck by how many of them lack a grasp of even basic economic theory and are almost invariably wholly ignorant of economic history). They recite their economic catechism sublime in the concrete of their ignorance.
The religion has its roots in the first half of the 18th century when there were occasional attempts to suggest tariff reform, but the idea only became a serious political policy in the 1780s with the advent of Pitt the Younger as Prime Minister in 1784 who long toyed with “economical reform”.
The 18th century also provided the religion with its holy book, The Wealth of Nations by the Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith. This strongly argued for “free markets” and “free trade”, but Smith also recognised the demands of national security, the need for government to engage in social provision such as road building and maintenance which would not otherwise be done and, must importantly, the nature of a society and its economy. Here is Smith on the Navigation Acts: “…the Act of Navigation by diminishing the number of buyers; and we are thus likely not only to buy foreign goods dearer, but to sell our own cheaper, than if there were a more perfect freedom of trade. As defence, however, is of much more importance than opulence, the Act of Navigation is, perhaps, the wisest of all the commercial regulations of England.” (Wealth of Nations Bk IV. ch ii)
But Smith and his book suffered the fate of all those who found religions, secular or otherwise. As the decades passed Smith’s cautious approach was redrawn in the minds of his disciples to become a surgically “clean” mechanical ideology in which all that mattered was the pursuit of profit and the growth of trade and industry through the application of the “holy edicts” of open markets and comparative advantage. The disciples, like other religious believers, avidly quoted the passages from their holy book which suited their purposes and ignored those which did not. They also found a further holy text in Thomas Malthus’ Essay on Population of 1802, whose predictions, although unproven by events, could be used to demonstrate that economic expansion was vital if widespread starvation was not to occur.
The clinical, soulless and inhuman nature of the laissez faire idea as it evolved is exemplified by the English economist David Ricardo. Here is a flavour of his mindset:”Under a system of perfectly free commerce each country naturally devotes its capital and labour to such employments as are most beneficial to both. The pursuit of individual advantage is admirably connected with the universal good of the whole. By stimulating industry, and by using most efficaciously the peculiar powers bestowed by nature, it distributes labour most economically, while increasing the general mass of the production it diffuses general benefits, and binds together by one common tie of interest and intercourse the universal society of nations”. (David Ricardo in The fall of protection p 174).
The Napoleonic wars largely foiled Pitt’s wish for broad reform and placed “free trade” in suspended animation as a serious political idea until the 1820s, when cautious attempts at tariff reform again were made. But underneath the political elite was a radical class who were very much enamoured of wholesale economical reform. With the Great Reform Act of 1832 they were given their opportunity to become part of the political elite. They took it with both hands, their most notable and extreme proponents being John Bright and Richard Cobden backed by the intellectual power of David Ricardo – all three became MPs.
Within a dozen years of the first election under the Great Reform Act’s passing, Parliament had been captured by the disciples of Adam Smith and the pass on protection had been sold by of all people a Tory prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, an action which kept the Tories from power for most of the next 40 years.
Such was their religious credulity that the “free traders” advocated not merely opening up Britain’s markets, both at home and in the colonies, to nations who would allow Britain equivalent access to their markets, they advocated opening up Britain’s markets regardless of how other nations acted. The consequence was, as we have seen, disastrous for Britain.
Disraeli in a speech on 1st February 1849 cruelly dissected this insanity:” There are some who say that foreigners will not give us their production for nothing, and that therefore we have no occasion to concern ourselves as to the means and modes of repayment. There is no doubt that foreigners will not give us their goods without exchange for them; but the question is what are the terms of exchange most beneficial for us to adopt. You may glut markets, but the only effect of your attempt to struggle against the hostile tariffs by opening your ports is that you exchange more of your own labour each year for a less quantity of foreign labour, that you render British labour less efficient, that you degrade British labour, diminish profits, and, therefore, must lower wages; while philosophical enquirers have shown that you will finally effect a change in the distribution of the precious metals that must be pernicious and may be fatal to this country. It is for these reasons that all practical men are impressed with a conviction that you should adopt reciprocity as the principle of your tariff – not merely from practical experience, but as an abstract truth. This was the principle of the commercial negations at Utrecht – which were followed by Mr Pitt in his commercial negotiations at Paris – and which were wisely adopted and applied by the Cabinet of Lord Liverpool, but which were deserted flagrantly and unwisely in 1846″. (The fall of Protection pp 337/8″).
Ironically, the “free traders” make the same general errors as Marxists. They believe that everything stems from economics. For the neo-liberal the market has the same pseudo-mystical significance that the dialectic has for the Marxist. Just as the Marxist sees the dialectic working inexorably through history to an eventual state of communism (or a reversion to barbarism to be exact), so the neo-liberal believes that the market will solve any economic problem and most social ills. Neither ideology works because it ignores the reality of human nature and its sociological realisation.
The one track economic mentality of the early “free traders” is well represented by the father of J S Mill, James Mill:”The benefit which is derived from exchanging one commodity for another arises from the commodity received rather than the from the commodity given. When one country exchanges, or in other words, traffics with another, the whole of its advantage consists of the in the commodities imported. It benefits by the importation and by nothing else. A protecting duty which, if it acts at all, limits imports, must limit exports likewise, checking and restraining national industry, thus diminishing national wealth.” (The fall of protection p 174). And to Hell with any social or strategic consideration or changing economic circumstances.
After the Great War and the fall of “free trade” as public policy in 1931, the religion went underground for nearly fifty years. When it re-emerged as a political idea in the 1970s the politicians who fell under its spell were every bit as unquestioning and credulous as those of the 1840s. Tony Blair’ statement on Globalisation, ie, free trade, at the 2005 Labour Party Conference shows that it is alive and kicking today. Scorning any attempt to discuss Globalisation, Blair said of those who wished to oppose it “You might as well debate whether autumn should follow summer”. (Daily Telegraph 1 10 2005.)
None of this would matter very much now if those who believe in “free markets” and “free trade” were without political power. Unfortunately, theirs is the elite ideology of the moment and the past 25 years. In Britain, the Tories may be more fanatical in their devotion to the market as panacea, but Blairite Labour have caught more than a mild dose of the disease. A good example of this is their response to house price hyperinflation where they desperately and futilely attempt remedies within the constraints of what they perceive to be “free market” disciplines rather than opting for the obvious state generated remedies such as restricting immigration, building a great deal of social housing and forcing developers to release land for building.
Both the traditional Left and Right have been duped by globalisation. The Left initially welcomed globalisation as a dissolver of national sovereignty, but they are discovering by the day just how restrictive international treaties and membership of supra national groups can be. As things stand, through our membership of the EU and the World Trade Organisation treaties, no British government could introduce new socialist measures because they cannot nationalise companies, protect their own commerce and industry or even ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent in Britain with British firms. A British government can have any economic system they like provided it is largely free trade, free enterprise.
The Right are suffering the same sickness with different symptoms. They find that they are no longer masters in their own house and cannot meaningfully appeal to traditional national interests because treaties make that impossible.
But there is a significant difference between the position of the two sides. The traditional Right have simply been usurped by neo-Liberals in blue clothes: the traditional Left have been betrayed by a confusion in their ideology which has allowed their main political vehicles to be surreptitiously by the likes of Blair.
The left have historically objected to “free-trade” on the grounds that it destroys jobs and reduces wages. But what they (and especially the British Left) have rarely if ever done is walk upon the other two necessary planks in the anti-”free trade” platform: the maintenance of (1) national sovereignty and (2) a sense of national cohesion. The consequence is that the Left has been and are still struggling with two competing and mutually exclusive ends: internationalism and the material improvement of the mass of the people.
George Osborne’s emergency budget tomorrow will coincide with the anniversary of Hitler’s decision to invade Stalin’s Soviet Union in 1941.
Those of us who, on the one hand, grieve “New” Labour’s sovietization of British society and the UK economy, wait with some trepidation on the other for the new Chancellor’s pronouncements.
The coalition government is reportedly keen to raise income allowances but will at the same time penalise any attempt to translate this extra income into investment capital by slashing non-business CGT exemptions and raising CGT rates. Meanwhile, the combined result of reported plans to raise VAT with recent cuts in the number of tax inspectors is a subsidy of the so-called “black” economy. No doubt, this subsidy will be further enhanced by the usual rises in taxes on petrol, diesel, alcohol and tobacco.
When combined with ongoing efforts to artificially depress interest rates, the unmistakable end result will be to encourage people to keep spending as much or more than they earn, but to try to do so “off the books”. And no doubt any future reversal of the proposed war on capital gains will involve encouraging capital formation under the control of large financial institutions. I can think of no outcome more likely to disillusion coalition members and the wider electorate alike in the longer term.
In 1941, some people hoped that Operation Barbarossa could somehow result in both sides losing. Sadly, until control of the money supply (at the very least) is wrested from the political system’s cold dead hand, such a hope will again be too much to ask for.
All in all, it sounds to me like a good time to go long on gold, silver and ferry companies (the booze cruise boost), and short on the FTSE in general and off licence chains in particular.
Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 192
28th April 2010
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc192.htm
Available for debate on LA Blog at
“Wait for Us to Fail, Then Vote BNP!”
The Conservative Hidden Agenda?
By Sean Gabb
I think we can all agree that the Conservative campaign in this election has never been more than uninspiring. We have a Labour Government that has come close to bankrupting the country and to destroying it politically. It is run by a collection of unindicted war criminals and traitors, who have plainly been hard at work for the past decade enriching themselves on a scale unknown since the 18th century. All this, and the Conservatives are trying hard to avoid a hung parliament in which Labour may be able to carry on with Liberal Democrat support.
This could be the effect of incompetence and general dishonesty. In part, I am sure it is. However, there may be another explanation, and I feel the time has come for me to make my own small offering in the election campaign.
On Monday the 5th March 2007, I had coffee with someone I will call XYZ, and who was and still may be an associate of David Cameron. Why he wanted to see me, and why he thought it might be useful to tell me all this, I have never been able to explain. I can only say that the meeting did happen – it happened, I might add, in the hotel where Andrew Gilligan had his meetings with the unfortunate David Kelly! Afterwards, as is my custom, I made a record of the meeting in my diary.
Started in 1977, and kept since 1991 in various computer formats, this diary has become a confession of my doings as scandalous or simply bizarre as anything in the novels of Richard Blake. When he was alive, Chris Tame used to lecture me on the value of taking a tape recorder into such conversations. I always refused his advice. Taping conversations is dishonourable. Anyone of intelligence will know that he is being recorded. And recordings are actually less useful for any legitimate purpose than written accounts made shortly after the event. They are certainly less useful practice for the analytical faculties. You may respond that writing out private conversations is as dishonourable as taping them. You are welcome to your opinion, but I do not share it. Where would history be without such accounts of what was said? Or you might say that it is dishonourable to publish such accounts while the relevant parties are alive. You may be right here. On the other hand, where written accounts are concerned, it is always open to an embarrassed party to deny that the conversation took place, or to insist that he was seriously misrepresented.
But this is a digression brought on by the triumph of self-importance over the promptings of conscience. Without further attempts to justify myself, what I give below is the relevant diary entry, edited only to maintain a reasonable anonymity for the person I met.
The Diary Entry
Meeting with XYZ, The Charing Cross Hotel, Monday the 5th March 2007.
[After some small talk irrelevant to this entry, XYZ moves to an explanation of the Conservative strategy]
XYZ – The central fact of this nation is that its political and media classes are rotten to the core. These classes are made up of ageing radicals who’ve spent the past 30 years marching through the institutions, and of younger apparatchiks who don’t fully believe, but who accept the framework within which they operate. And it’s worse than this. A fish rots from the head down, and the rot in this nation has spread deep into the body. Key parts of the electorate may not consciously have embraced the statist and green and politically correct ideologies of the Establishment. But they have been desensitised to them. They regard any alternative as eccentric or even alarming.
SIG – This is, of course, your fault. You did nothing when you were in office about the capture of ideological hegemony by these people. You have certainly been the only political force able to make any serious challenge to it since 1997. You have entirely failed to do this. We are now a couple of years from yet another election in which you will take part as outsiders.
XYZ – You may be right, but that doesn’t change things now. What matters is that a Conservative Party that talks openly about a conservative agenda will be ruined by the Establishment. It will also not be believed even by the uncorrupted parts of the electorate – these have been lied to too often. Our only option is to announce a superficial acceptance of the new order of things. We must become as politically correct as everyone else. We must embrace blacks and gays and the public sector. We must give the Establishment no excuse for destroying us. This has succeeded so far as the Conservatives are now accepted as the next Government.
SIG – And you suppose that lying your way into office will give you a mandate for radical change? If you run as “Blue Labour”, that is how everyone will expect you to behave in office. Besides, I’ve seen no evidence that your friends are as clever as you doubtless are. Very few people can consistently say one thing while believing something else. The problem with any hidden agenda is that it gets forgotten. I saw this with all those Tory Boy politicians who drifted through the libertarian movement in the 1980s. Perhaps they did believe all their early protestations of libertarian purity. Long before they’d crawled their way over broken glass into Parliament, they’d come to believe all the authoritarian platitudes that had been the price of success. I don’t believe what you are saying is a credible strategy for doing more than getting yourself and your friends back into office.
XYZ – I’m not talking about a political coup. The next Conservative Government may do some of the necessary work of restoration. It will do this by undoing much of the centralisation of the past quarter century. [He refers at this point to a deeply unpleasant argument we had over dinner in May 1989. He accepts the critique of the centralisation and constitutional vandalism of the Thatcher and Major Governments, but tries to justify all this as a failed but honourable Leninist strategy of trying to smash the left. He accepts that this strategy was a failure and that it needs to be reversed.]
XYZ – Giving control of police forces to locally elected chiefs will ensure that some parts of the country will escape the political correctness of central government. There will be no scaling back of the police state, but it might be used more for its alleged purpose of fighting what everyone regards as actual crime. This means that safe Labour areas will continue their descent into the gutter. But places like Kent and Surrey will be allowed to save themselves to some extent.
XYZ – Taxes will be cut—but only by a division of the fruits of economic growth with continued high spending on health and education.
XYZ – All else will be done by engineering circumstances in which radical action will seem to have been forced on an unwilling Conservative Government. For example, the European issue will be settled by a strategy that beings with all the Majorite “heart of Europe” rhetoric. Our Government will make solidly Europhile noises, and will give way on matters that cause outrage within the wider Movement. However, we will then engineer a crisis in Brussels, where we are bullied into accepting what we say is unacceptable. The crisis will proceed to the point where we announce we have no choice but to call a referendum on continued membership. And there will be unacceptable demands from Brussels – that is how these things work. We can portray ourselves as forced by circumstances into actions that we find unwelcome but also unavoidable.
SIG – And suppose the people do not vote for withdrawal?
XYZ – Then we face facts. If we can’t engineer a vote for withdrawal – not even in our own carefully chosen circumstances – we’ve lost.
XYZ – We will tackle illegal immigration in the same way. Already, there are calls from within the Establishment for an amnesty of all the illegals. If granted, this will add at least ten million Labour voters to the electorate, and we shall be lost forever. In office, we will do nothing to check these calls. At last, we will give way to them – but only after calling a referendum. We will announce that a measure so bold and so unpredictable in its effect must be put to the people, not decided within the Establishment. We will then produce a ballot paper with a range of options. One of these will be for a complete amnesty. Another will be the rounding up and expulsion of all the illegals. Our Government will insist of having these options included on the ballot paper, and will then be scrupulously neutral during the campaign. We are sure that 80 per cent of the electorate will vote for expulsion. This will give the necessary mandate for getting them out. There will be room for exceptions so that the Establishment is not able to seize on the usual hard cases and discredit the whole policy. But that is our real policy on immigration.
XYZ – Again, we expect something like an 80 per cent vote for expulsion. That will give us the mandate to force the bureaucracy into ruthless action. It also gives us the excuse for ruthless action when the lefty complaints begin.
SIG – Even supposing I wanted any of this, I don’t believe a word you are saying. You forget everything Chris Tame and I were told in the 1980s about how the State could be scaled back by taking advantages of its own inner contradictions. All we got was a more efficient state. Why should I take any of what you are saying as more than self-delusion to lubricate a Tory sell-out to the ideological hegemony of the left?
XYZ – Look, it may fail. If, however, the next Conservative Government does nothing good, that still moves the argument forward. At the moment, most of our people are anaesthetised by a decade of prosperity and by the vague belief that all problems created by Labour can be sorted out by voting Conservative next time, or by voting UKIP. A Conservative failure will be a shot of cold water in the face. It will force people to make serious choices they don’t presently think are necessary.
SIG – The purpose of voting UKIP is mostly to put pressure on a Conservative leadership that understands no other argument than measuring the haemorrhage of its core vote. Indeed, it shows no sign of having understood that argument.
XYZ – Sean, UKIP has imploded. [He refers to an expenses dispute with the Electoral Commission that appeared set to bankrupt the UK Independence Party: this conversation took place two years before the UKIP victories in the 2009 European elections.] This attack was not wholly an outside job. The Electoral Commission bent over backwards to avoid taking the action it did. The problem is that the UKIP leadership is generally arrogant and shambolic. The party is not a serious alternative to the Tories – we never lose large numbers of votes to it in any election that matters. But the impending collapse of UKIP is to be welcomed in terms of short term electoral advantage. Our loss of votes to it is not critical, but is annoying. More importantly, that – plus your anticipated Tory failure in government – clears the way for what may be the next step in British politics.
SIG – This being another two decades of useless Conservative Governments?
XYZ – No. The UKIP collapse is good in the long term so far as it allows the BNP to move further into the political running. UKIP is a useful safety valve. But its leaders are too stupid – or too controlled – to present any serious threat to the Establishment. The [British National Party] is different. It can’t be smashed. The Establishment has tried and failed. Its leaders have known each other for decades, and are used to working together in ways the UKIP leadership and activists could never manage. It cannot advance far at the moment because the Conservatives stand in its way. If the next Conservative Government is the sort of failure you believe it will be, we shall be pushed aside, and the path will be clear for the BNP.
SIG – So that’s your argument. We keep our mouths shut while your people lie their way into office. If they mess up, the way is cleared for the BNP to do the job for you?
That is what XYZ told me. You can be sure this is not a verbatim record of our conversation. It is a summary, made on the same evening, of a long conversation that went back on itself and over itself, and covered several other issues. It is possible that I misunderstood what was said to me. It is possible that I missed something out, and that this is a seriously unbalanced account of what was said. But I have been keeping a diary since I was a boy; and several million words of narrative have given me the ability to record events and conversations with acknowledged accuracy. What I give above is the essence of what I was told.
Now, I will say nothing about the morality of what was said. The real question is what was its meaning? I do not believe I am, or was, a person of sufficient importance to deserve this kind of private briefing. All else aside, I am not sure why I should have been thought to require a promise of what amounts to ethnic cleansing. But, once we move into this sort of backroom intrigue, the range of explanations can be endless.
One possibility is that I was being used as a conduit for propaganda that the Conservative leadership was not able to make for itself. Perhaps I was supposed to publish all this at the time as part of an effort to reconcile the core vote to a strategy that has never been popular. Or perhaps I was supposed to publish it to further some private intrigue around David Cameron. Or perhaps XYZ wanted to spend an evening telling me falsehoods of which he hoped thereby to persuade himself. Was I simply the most convenient excuse for a guilty monologue? I could fill whole pages with speculations that go nowhere. I did not make the conversation public at the time. It was, indeed, the inspiration for my book Cultural Revolution, Culture War, published a few months later. This should be read as my extended response to the conversation.
All I can say now is that the Conservative leadership has spent the past three years of relentlessly accepting the present order of things. I think this conversation was before David Cameron’s embrace of Polly Toynbee. It was certainly before his announcements of – so far unrequited – love for the BBC and the National Health Service. This might really be the Conservative hidden agenda.
If, however, it is the hidden agenda, it is not working. As said, its principals may already have gone native: they may have come to believe their own propaganda. And it does seem that, even otherwise, it has failed. The proposed victims of the strategy have not been sufficiently lulled into acceptance of a Conservative victory; and the Conservative core vote has not held up in the manner required. The Conservatives are just over a week away from an election that they should win more convincingly than the Liberals won in 1906, and there is a serious chance that they will lose.
Why am I publishing this now? It may explain what the Conservatives are really about. Otherwise, though, the conversation did take place. XYZ was at the time a person of some importance in the Conservative leadership. This makes the conversation of some historical importance. I am not fully aware of the arguments that took place within the Conservative leadership before David Cameron had made himself entirely supreme. But, even if I cannot say anything of who was putting it or of its weight, what I recorded in 2007 may have been one of those arguments. Oh – and it may get me a footnote in one of the more scholarly histories of our age.
Of course, I refuse to discuss the identity of XYZ. I will ignore any private questions. If anyone puts names to me in public, my response will be “No comment”. And, of course, all the other many sensitive conversations I have recorded over the years will remain confidential. Some of them, after all, might be embarrassing to me!
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
Michael mentions “little shops” just below, but aside from the taxation-threats lined up by the GramscoFabiaNazi food-rationists against foods, of whatever kind, this caught my eye. Below is comment (just inside the 1,000 character limit) which I’ve posted on The Daily Wail:-
Modern supermarkets are the greatest boons to Mankind. If you didn’t want them, they’d not exist.
Admit it: you know you must, and you _/know in your heart/_ that these places exist because _/you/_ the customers want them to.
You, I, everyone here all know that we couldn’t function, in the post-modern, socialist hell-hole of frenetic slave-labour just to pay basic bills and taxation, that is “Britain, a Young Country” (remember that Tony Bliar gag?) without these convenient, cheap places.
Yes, “little local shops” are lovely. But Councils, which is to say “Soviets”, have ensured that you can’t either drive to them (pedestrianisation) or park near enough to enough of them to buy enough at one trip to make it worthwhile to try.
RIP UP all pedestrianisation schemes. (Wicked pernicious town-wrecking, on purpose by Stalinists.)
SAW OFF all parking meters and block in the holes.
SACK the “wardens” so they can go and serve you your fresh veggies at “little shops” instead.
Informers and Benefit Fraud:
A Libertarian View
By Sean Gabb
I have just been sent one of the most disgusting newspaper articles I have seen this year. It is from today’s issue of The Guardian, and describes how the British Government is considering a scheme to reward those who inform on benefit cheats. Astonishingly, the Ministers seem to think this will make people more inclined to vote Labour at the next general election. If they are right, I am not sure how much longer I want to live in this parody of a country.
But, now I have said enough about the proposed scheme, let me explain what I find so disgusting about it.
The first is that, while every respectable person has a duty to report crimes against life and property, and to bear witness if required, there is much difference between this and calling into being an army of paid spies and police informers. Such people are not needed to report genuine crimes. Their general use is to act as the eyes and ears of an oppressive state. Established for one purpose, their use inevitably spreads to other areas. There is a natural temptation for paid informers to become agents of provocation. There is an equally natural temptation for them to become blackmailers. The resulting culture is one in which friends drop their voices when discussing anything in public that might be overheard to their disadvantage – and where new acquaintances, and even old friends, are viewed with suspicion. My wife grew up in Communist Czechoslovakia, where all this was a fact of everyday life. It was this, far more than the police and security services, who were responsible for a collapse of trust between ordinary people that has outlived is cause by twenty years.
It may be argued, that unlike drugs and prostitution, benefit fraud is not a victimless crime, but is theft from the taxpayers – but that, while they may be expected to report burglaries, individual taxpayers have no incentive to turn in someone who is claiming while working on the side. This is true, but needs to be seen in perspective. No one knows how much benefit fraud actually costs – the figure of £1 billion is believed to be a gross underestimate. However, even if the cost were five or ten times this figure, it would still amount to barely two per cent of total government spending. Most of this goes on paying for services that, where not useless, are harmful to life, liberty and property. Look, for example, at Trevor Phillips. In 2006, he was appointed Chairman of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights at a salary of £160,000. Doubtless, this has since gone up. Even so, his initial salary was equal to more than 2,488 weekly payment of jobseeker’s allowance at the maximum single rate of £64.30. In return for this, his most famous achievement to date has been to hound the British National Party into not insisting that its members should be white – while doing nothing to stop the various Black Police Associations from insisting that their members should be black. As if his published salary were not enough, Mr Phillips was revealed in 2008 to be the majority shareholder in Equate Organisation, which offers a “discreet, customised service” on how to handle the sort of equality issues that are investigated by his Commission. Oh, and the man who is employed to make then nearest things acceptable in public to puking sounds every time the name Nick Griffin is mentioned apparently keeps a bust of Lenin on his desk.
But if more loathsome and better paid than most of the others, Mr Phillips is just one among hundreds of thousands of New Labour apparatchiks given our bread to eat in return for oppressing us. I have no doubt these people collectively earn more than the £116 billion that is paid out every year on benefits. According to the probably fake statistics that attended the informer proposal, benefit fraud may cost every taxpayer in this country £35 a year. Well, I for one, can live with that. Once all the excise duties are paid, it is much less than a single tank of diesel for my car. The New Labour State costs me upwards of half my income, plus my liberty and my sense of nationality.
The only people who are really harmed by benefit fraud are those committing it. They lose yet more of their self-respect. This being said, the benefit rates are so awful that I fail to see how anyone can feed himself and his children without some cheating. Certainly, those on public welfare should not be able to buy cars and flat screen televisions. But they should be able to pay their heating bills and afford Christmas presents for their children without putting themselves into the hands of loan sharks.
And I do not believe that this sort of benefit cheat costs me anything approaching £35 a year. Everyone knows that the benefits system is being systematically milked by gangs of – usually foreign – criminals. Everyone knows that key parts of the system have recently been captured from the inside by organised criminals. Twenty years ago, a friend mine worked behind the counter of a Post Office in South London. He told me at the time how workers from the local benefit office used to come round to cash cheques they had written out to each other. I shall be most surprised if this turns out now to be the worst manner of inside fraud. And these are frauds that can and should be detected by ordinary policing. They do not require the machinery of a police state.
This brings me back to the informer scheme. I cannot help mentioning that it has been by Jim Reid, the Scottish Secretary. He is said once to have been a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Trust a Labour politician to have dropped all his proclaimed ends of raising up the poor – but not the police state means these ends were supposed to justify. I hate everyone of my generation who went into politics. Thirty years ago, they sneered at me and people like me as “selfish” and “abhorrent”. They spent the next twenty years insisting to each other and anyone who was stupid enough to listen to them that, when they came into their own, ordinary people would live in dignity and want for nothing. They have since then matured into the worst ruling class this country has seen since the Normans assimilated. The expenses scandal is nothing compared with how they have governed the country in public.
Now, I suppose I should offer some positive recommendations of my own for dealing with benefit fraud. I doubt anyone important is listening to me. But let it be supposed that some political party were to consult me on welfare reform – what would I suggest?
In the short term, I would set the police on catching the organised gangs of benefit cheats. Once these were in prison or deported to their countries of origin, much of the problem would have been solved. For the rest, I would advise looking the other way unless some minor fraud came to the attention of the authorities in the normal scheme of enforcement.
In the longer term, I would try to make most of the state welfare system redundant by lifting the tax and regulatory burden that stops the poorest people in this country from looking after themselves. And this is not – let me say at once – some soft version of the neo-liberal gloating about forcing welfare recipients into work by cutting their already pitiful benefits. Though it may always exist in a free society, the wage system as we have known it during the past few centuries is neither natural nor desirable. It is a cleaned up version of the bottom end of the feudal system, transmitted to industrial society via the management of domestic servants.
Middle class people often moan about the surly attitude of the working classes – about their unwillingness to do as they are told unless they are banned from union membership, or unless their unions can be taken over by middle class bureaucrats who then sell their members out. But I can think of no middle class person who would like working class conditions of work. I remember reading some years ago of a B&Q warehouse in Bristol. The casual workers employed there were electronically tagged. If anyone stopped moving for more than ten minutes, a computer shouted a message into his earpiece to report to the management office. No one does this sort of work unless he is desperate. No one who does it can have any pretensions to dignity. To say people have a choice whether to work for B&Q is a patronising joke. It is B&Q or Tesco, or some other demeaning job. It is like saying a man has a choice of meals if the menu shoved under his nose offers turd sandwich or snot pizza.
What I have in mind is letting poor people start their own micro-businesses in the manner described by Kevin Carson. Let someone start a coffee shop in the front room of his house. Let a family brew beer and sell it. Let people open little schools to teach reading and writing. Let them look after other people’s children. These things are currently not permitted. Or they are prevented by taxes and regulations that raise the fixed costs of doing business to the point where unreasonably large revenues must be generated year after year. Some people may get rich from doing this. Most will not. But enrichment is not the purpose. The real purpose is to give people the ability to survive without having to rely for all their income on salaried work.
It goes without saying that all subsidies to existing large businesses should be cut off at once – no more transport subsidies that allow goods to be moved about at less than full cost; no more interventions abroad to stabilise export markets, or secure access to artificially cheap goods and labour; no more taxes and regulations that can be carried by big business as cartellised costs, while flattening new entrants to the market; above all, no more limited liability laws that foster the growth of huge joint stock enterprises that are little more than the economic wing of the ruling class.
Where welfare is concerned, people should be enabled to join together in free mutual societies, accepting members and offering such benefits as may be agreeable to the relevant parties. This means no more taxes and financial regulation, and no more money laundering laws that, again, are little more than state cartellisation.
One of the failings of libertarianism – and I do not exempt myself from past guilt – is that we have too often argued as if actually existing capitalism was the free market. We may have conceded that business was too highly taxed and regulated, and that this frequently was turned to the advantage of the bigger firms in any market. But the assumption has too often been that a free market is effectively Tesco minus the state – that the wage system and big business were both natural and desirable institutions. As said, they are neither. The state capitalism that, in the 1980s and 1990s, we called Thatcherism or Reaganism was nothing approaching a free market. It was better than state socialism. But that is not saying very much. It has to some extent been our fault if ordinary people have been offered an apparent choice between a system in which a lucky few grow gigantically rich through connections and the ability to shuffle paper in the accepted ways, and ordinary people cannot buy houses and have children without going head over heels into debt – and sometimes not even then – and the present system of shadow boxing between multinational corporations and a huge superstructure of at best intrusive and at worst corrupt officials.
I might end by accusing the present Government of moral and intellectual bankruptcy. But this would be to absolve the equally if differently useless Tories. It would also be to concede that any of these people ever had anything good to offer. They are evil. Never mind the ideals they still sometimes ritualistically claim to guide their actions. All they have ever had to offer is a land fit for police spies and agents of provocation. They must all be destroyed – politically and financially.
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
NEWS RELEASE FROM THE LIBERTARIAN ALLIANCE
In Association with the Libertarian International
Release Date: Tuesday 19th January 2010
Release Time: Immediate
Dr Sean Gabb, 07956 472 199, email@example.com
For other contact and link details, see the foot of this message
Release url: http://www.libertarian.co.uk/news/nr079.htm
“ALCOHOL CONTROL: BETTER ENGLAND FREE THAN ENGLAND SOBER,” SAYS FREE MARKET AND CIVIL LIBERTIES THINK TANK
The Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties institute, today condemns proposals to make it harder for poor people to buy alcohol. The proposals include higher taxes, compulsory minimum prices for drink, further controls on advertising, and power to close down retailers. The only disagreement between the three main parities is how far they wish to go.
Speaking today in London, Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, comments:
“These measures, if adopted, amount to an attack on the poor. The ruling class politicians who continually whine about alcohol will not be affected by minimum pricing or the abolition of special offers. I might add that none of them can be affected by such laws. Income aside, anyone who lies his way into Parliament can look forward to round the clock drinking in the Palace of Westminster of untaxed alcohol.
“But the measures will hurt poor people, for whom alcohol will become cripplingly expensive and hard to find. They have the same right to drink as the rest of us. Bearing in mind the problems willed on them by our exploitative ruling class, they often have a greater need to drink.
“The claim that drinking ’causes’ public disorder is nonsense. Alcohol does not run about the streets. People do. If people are making nuisances of themselves, the police should be instructed to stop behaving like New Labour’s equivalent of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and to start protecting life and property again.
“The claim that drinking makes people unhealthy is irrelevant, where not a lie. People must be regarded as responsible for their own mistakes. Anyone who bleats about increased cost to the National Health Service should consider that drinkers already pay more in taxes than the alleged cost of treating their specific illnesses.
“We oppose all controls on the availability of alcohol to adults. Better England free than England sober.”
The Libertarian Alliance believes:
* That all the licensing laws should be repealed;
* That all controls on the marketing of alcohol should be repealed;
* That alcohol taxes should be reduced to the same level as the lowest in the European Union, and that there should be no increase in other taxes;
* That not a penny of the taxpayers’ money should be given to any organisation arguing against the above.
END OF COPY
Note(s) to Editors
Dr Sean Gabb is the Director of the Libertarian Alliance. His latest book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, may be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3. It may also be bought. His other books are available from Hampden Press at http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk.He can be contacted for further comment on 07956 472 199 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Extended Contact Details:
The Libertarian Alliance is Britain’s most radical free market and civil liberties policy institute. It has published over 700 articles, pamphlets and books in support of freedom and against statism in all its forms. These are freely available at http://www.libertarian.co.uk
Our postal address is
The Libertarian Alliance
2 Lansdowne Row
Tel: 07956 472 199
The Libertarian International – http://www.libertarian.to – is a sister organisation to the Libertarian Alliance. Its mission is to coordinate various initiatives in the defence of individual liberty throughout the world.
Sean Gabb’s personal website – http://www.seangabb.co.uk – contains about a million words of writings on themes interesting to libertarians and conservatives.
Hampden Press – http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk.- the publishing house of the Libertarian Alliance.
Liberalia – http://www.liberalia.com – maintained by by LA Executive member Christian Michel, Liberalia publishes in-depth papers in French and English on libertarianism and free enterprise. It is a prime source of documentation on these issues for students and scholars
Pretending that this government is “inept”, “out of touch”, “has lost it”, has “given up governing”, that “Gordon Brown has no idea…”…and the like. Even Benedict Brogan thinks that all it’s able to do is Scorch the Earth in advance of a (probable) Tory win in 2010.
Wrong. Everything, and I mean everything, that it has done since 1990, and likely before that, was directed towards the outcome we now face. I would go further, and take the start-point back to the synthesis of the evil called British Fabianism.
Brown, with Blair’s connivance, actively ran the UK’s credit into the buffers, so he could _destroy a future Tory administration charged with the impossible task of clearing up_ . It didn’t matter, and won’t matter, if the Labour Party was/is/will be fiscally bankrupt after the next election, for the British masses /will/ vote out the unsuccessful Tories (or whoever) and put back “the people who know how to get on with the job”. Their friends in the media will ensure it.
Nothing will be done to break this cycle. Not until a revolution comes: and the sad thing is that there are not enough people left alive here who know how to make a successful one happen. That is why my post of yesterday was so pessimistic.
The Conservative Challenge
By Sean Gabb
(Text of a Speech Given to a Conservative Association
On Friday the 16th October 2009)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
by Sean Gabb
The National Health Service:
A Libertarian Perspective
by Sean Gabb
During the past week, much of the English speaking world has been drawn into a debate on the merits of the National Health Service. For those unaware of this debate or its subject matter, I will say that the NHS, established in 1948, provides health care free at the point of use for everyone legally in the United Kingdom. It is paid for by the British State out of general taxation, and no account is taken, in treating patients, of how much they have paid or are likely to pay in taxes. The new American Government has proposed changes in the provision of health care that will move the American system to some extent in the direction of the British. This has been denounced by many Americans as a step towards an inherently sinister and inefficient system.
The debate has been joined by Daniel Hannan, one of the Conservative members of the European Parliament for the region in which I live. Speaking in America, he has said that to copy the British system would lead America towards bankruptcy “where we are now.”. He said further: “We have a system where the most salient facts of it you get huge waiting lists, you have bad survival rates and you would much rather fall ill in the US…. How amazing to me that a free people. . . should be contemplating, in peacetime, burdening themselves with a system like this that puts the power of life and death in a state bureaucracy.” ["Conservatives turn on MEP Daniel Hannan for anti-NHS tour in America”, The Times, London, 14th August 2009]
These comments have, with some mild dissent, united the British political media and political classes in denunciation. The Labour Government of Gordon Brown has leapt to defence of the NHS. The Conservatives have joined in. Mr Hannan finds himself an isolated figure, facing accusations that range from a lack of patriotism to something that approaches blasphemy. Indeed, except no one has yet issued a fatwa, he is almost the secular equivalent of Salman Rusdie in his gleeful sneering at what many in this country regard as an object of veneration. Now, I am sure that he can do without my support. Even so, the scandal that his behaviour has raised in this country gives me the opportunity for speaking, as a libertarian, on the legitimacy and on the merits of the NHS.
At the most fundamental level of analysis, legitimacy and merits have no connection with each other. The NHS is funded by compulsion. I am forced, as a taxpayer, to contribute to a system that provides health care of a kind and at costings that, given any choice in the matter, I would never accept for myself and those who look to me. I am also forced to pay towards the health care of strangers. I have no objection to charity. I try to be generous to those I know. I am prepared to be moderately generous even to those I do not know, and whom I might dislike if I did know them. But so far as I am compelled, paying for the health care of others cannot be described as charitable. It is as much an act of theft as if I were to be robbed in the street. The whole present system, therefore, is illegitimate. If it were, as we are continually assured, the “envy of the world”,my opinion would not alter. It is in itself unjust. I resent its existence in my country. I join with Mr Hannan in warning the Americans not to accept it for themselves.
This, however, is the most fundamental analysis, and no discussion can be regarded as complete without some examination of its merits. And in examining these, I fell an obligation to be as fair as possible. I will begin with the quality of health care provided by the NHS.
Here, I must dissent from much of the American condemnation. There is no doubt that the NHS is inefficient, and that it rations health care by waiting list and by explicit refusal to provide certain kinds of treatment to anyone, or by refusal to provide certain kinds of treatment to those deemed unlikely to benefit from them given their cost. But rationing in one form or another is inevitable to any system of health care. The demand for health care is unlimited. There is almost no one so ill that his life could not be prolonged, or his condition while alive not improved, by some expensive treatment. The problem is always at what cost. In a broadly private system, demand will be rationed by price. In the British system, it must be rationed by cost and benefit analyses undertaken by the doctors. It is easy for American critics to point to how long someone over here must wait to have his haemorrhoids cut out, or that he may be denied some drug that will put off or ease his death from cancer. But their own system is hardly perfect.
In attacking the British system, these critics seem to argue that their own is based on individual choice and free from any taint of collectivism. I am not an expert on the American system, but it does strike me as so heavily regulated and cartellised as to have little connection to a free market. The professional associations have worked to limit the numbers of doctors and nurses, even as they have obtained the exclusion of the unqualified from the provision of medical services. The drug companies benefit from patent laws and trade protections that raise the price of medicines far higher than in neighbouring countries. The insurance companies are regulated in the interests of medical suppliers. I am told that forty million Americans cannot afford health insurance premiums, and that millions more cannot afford what most would regard as appropriate cover. These people, I accept, are not denied all treatment. But the treatment they receive is often rather poor. Even those who can afford to pay as they go find that it can take years for new medicines or medical procedures to be allowed by the authorities. In particular, I am told that many dying of cancer cannot obtain adequate pain relief. It is legal for opiates to be prescribed in America. But the regulatory framework is so ferocious that many doctors are frightened to write out the prescriptions they otherwise would.
If I contrast what I am told about the American system with what I know from personal experience about the British, the NHS is not really that bad. In December 2007, my wife needed an emergency caesarean. This was performed by the NHS. At all times, we were kept informed of our options and our legal rights. I was allowed to stand beside my wife in the operating theatre. I was then allowed to sit with my wife and daughter until gone midnight. My wife spent the next few days in a room of her own, and was left to make as many calls from her mobile telephone as her work and family duties required. While there were visiting hours, I was allowed to come and go as I pleased. The quality of treatment was first class. Apart from the flowers and chocolates and bottles of wine that I chose to lavish on the medical staff when we left, there was no final bill for any of this. About ten years ago, the father of my best friend died of cancer. There may be more effective cancer treatments than the medical establishment prefers to see provided. But within the terms set by the medical establishment, he had excellent treatment. When all else had failed, he was allowed to die in peace under a broad umbrella of opiates. Another of my friends was diagnosed with prostate cancer about seven years ago. He is a university lecturer with a good enough knowledge of statistics to discuss his chances on an equal basis with the doctors. He remains well and has no complaints about the NHS.
Perhaps these cases are exceptional. I am discussing the experience of articulate, middle class people. We know what we should ask for and how to ask for it, and we know how to show gratitude when we get it. Perhaps I should think of the newspaper reports of people suffering needlessly in filthy, open wards. On the other hand, perhaps not. Those who get bad treatment from the NHS are mostly poor and ignorant people. I pity them. But they are the sort of people who would also suffer in the American system. I do not think the American critics are comparing like with like. They are holding up the best aspects of their own system with the worst of ours. They also do not seem to have noticed that increasing numbers of middle class people over here do have private health insurance. This gives us the ability to switch back and forth to the NHS as we find convenient. I am writing this article on a railway train. If there is a crash and I must be cut from the wreckage, I shall be taken to an NHS hospital and be stitched up and reset as well as anywhere in the world. If, on the other hand, there is no crash, but, somewhere between Tonbridge and Charing Cross, I suspect the beginnings of heart disease , I can use my insurance and be looked at by an expert within two days. If it turns out that I need an operation, this can be arranged within a few days more. If, on the other hand, I need continuous medication, I can present myself and my private case notes to my NHS general practitioner, who will then prescribe the relevant drugs at a heavily subsidised price.
I will add that the NHS is probably not unsustainable in the long term. It costs about £90 billion a year to run. But this is about eight per cent of gross domestic product, and is about half the American level. There are more doctors per head of population in Britain than in America. British life expectancy is higher than American. [Facts: "The brutal truth about America's healthcare", The Independent, London, 15th August 2009] And much of this budget is spent in ways that even slightly better management could reduce. I recall attending a speech that Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute gave in 1986. For reasons that I no longer recall, but found convincing at the time, he predicted that the NHS would collapse under its own weight within three years. That was not far off a quarter of a century ago. And the NHS is with us still.
This should not be taken as a defence of the NHS. I am simply pointing out that is is no worse on balance than the American system. They are differently organised and differently funded. Each has specific advantages and disadvantages. neither has much connection with a free market. In both countries, however, the middle classes are able to get very good health care. In both, the poor and ignorant do not. The NHS is not a bad institution relative to the American system. It is bad for other reasons – and these may be bad reasons that apply in some degree to the American system.
What is so fundamentally bad about the British system – its compulsory principle aside – is that it nearly abolishes individual control over health care. Compared with the system with which we entered the twentieth century, all real power is centralised into the hands of the professional bodies. A hundred years ago in this country, the market in medical services was decentralised and diverse. The professions themselves were lightly regulated. Most doctors lived on the fringes of genteel poverty. Many sold their services directly to clients – rather as lawyers and accountants do still. Others worked for charitable institutions. A few worked for the State, looking after the inmates of the workhouses. These were the two extremes of the market. The British population of a hundred years ago was about thirty million. Those who could afford to buy medical services directly numbered a few million. Those who relied on private charity or the workhouse numbered perhaps another few million. Those in between relied on private insurance. This was provided sometimes by employers, but mostly by friendly societies and trade unions. These were strongly working class organisations. They were autonomous of the State, and prized their autonomy. Their elected officials had the job of picking and choosing among doctors and other health professionals, and stating the conditions on which they would do business. By modern standards, it was a very basic system. Most people died in their fifties, and of conditions that are often no longer listed in the medical textbooks. Then again, medicine itself was only just into its really scientific phase, and England was, by our standards, a very poor country. But the system worked and was improving.
The growing state involvement in medicine that began with the National Insurance Act 1911, and culminated in the establishment of the NHS forty seven years later, was largely a power grab by the medical professions. Doctors were relieved of having to do business with ordinary working class people, and could deal instead with officials and politicians of their own class. These officials and politicians had their own status enhanced by the ability to spend vast amounts of the taxpayers’ money. For the rich and for increasing numbers of middle class people, choice remained – if at a cartellised price. For ordinary working people, however, medicine became something that was doled out by their betters. This was attended by a great increase in the quality of health care – though this was improvement felt in all other countries regardless of how it was financed. But the result here was a growing apathy among the working classes. Where health care was concerned, they were no long active clients, able and willing to negotiate for what they wanted. They were passive recipients. They paid through their taxes for what they received. But their only input was to vote for politicians who promised better funding or better management of a system that was now insulated from direct pressure.
This contributed immensely, I think, to the decay of free institutions in England. Freedom owes much to historic evolution and to paper guarantees. It owes far more to a people who are accustomed to take responsibility for their own lives. The main difference between us and our free ancestors is that, unlike them, we find ourselves trapped within a system that provides the amenities of life but over which we have no personal control. If we want light or heat, we must rely on vast networks of energy distribution that interlock with other vast networks of energy extraction and transport. If we want our life and property to be secured, we must rely on agencies that claim a monopoly of force and that are only formally accountable to us. And for most people, it is the same with health care. Whether public or private – and there may be little real difference behind the names – these vast, impersonal networks do encourage passivity in the face of authority. When everything but housing and food shopping is provided in this way for most or all of a population, it is no surprise if these people stop being sturdy, self-sufficient individuals, suspicious of the claims of government.
Add to this the fact that the NHS employs over a million people. It is not the only bureaucratic mass-employer in this country. But it is the largest. These institutions impose values of hierarchy and obedience on those within them that are hostile to liberty. People who are regimented in their working lives – and who do not rebel against this – will tend to accept regimentation in their private lives. They will accept it for themselves. They will vote for politicians who promise it for everyone. They will spread these values directly to others so far as they have contact with the public as providers of services.
Paragraph here deleted. I don’t withdraw from the position advanced, but feel that it is irrelevant to the main point of the essay
Certainly, we are lied to and oppressed in ways that English men and women before about 1940 would have thought unimaginable. Let me return to the NHS. Last month, while in Slovakia, I was called by the BBC to comment on the case of a young man denied a liver transplant on account of his drinking. I was supposed to denounce this as more NHS fascism. When the details were explained to me, I had to give a less forthright response. Apparently, this young man needed a liver transplant if he was to live. However, the doctors had told him that the transplant would have little chance of success unless he could stop drinking for six months. Because he was not able to give satisfactory guarantees, the doctors decided to give the liver to someone else. Undoubtedly, this was not a pleasant choice. Even so, there is a shortage of organs for transplant. And given that the NHS does not ration health care by price, this was the most rational use of resources. For all I know, private insurance companies in America make similar choices by way of setting premiums or authorising treatment.
But this is not the limit of how the NHS is coming to ration health care. Superficially analogous arguments are being used to regulate general lifestyle. For a generation now, the anti-smokers have been arguing that smokers place heavy additional costs on the NHS. The reply has always been easy. Whatever inflated figures are fabricated to show how much smokers cost, they never match the amount of extra taxes paid by smokers. And there is the alleged fact that smokers die younger, and so save on pensions and long term care. But facts never get in the way of an argument for oppression. And what began as an argument for higher taxes on tobacco has insensibly changed into an argument for the creeping prohibition of cigarettes.
Smoking bans are being justified on the grounds of saving money. And assuming the facts are as we are told – they are not, but let us assume they are – the argument may be a valid one, given the system we have in this country. The NHS involves a coerced pooling of risk. Given that the costs of the NHS are high and rising – and assuming that costs cannot be controlled by better management – it makes sense for those who spend our tax money to insist that those most likely to call on large amounts of that money should be required to change their lifestyles. Of course, by the same argument, homosexual acts should be recriminalised to reduce the incidence of AIDS and hepatitis, and all women over the age of forty should be sterilised to save on the costs of treating pregnancy complications. Equally, the athletic should be prevented from taking vigorous exercise, and Asians should be forced to give up on spicy food. For the moment, political correctness stops these arguments from being put. But lifestyle regulation is a valid secondary principle to be derived from the primary principle of the NHS. Let there be a compulsory pooling of risk, and those who place themselves at higher than average risk become fair targets for oppression. Smokers and drinkers and the obese are current targets. It is only a matter of time before an increasingly degraded political culture allows other targets to be found.
I believe that similar calls for lifestyle regulations are being made in the United States. Many companies that contribute to the insurance premiums of their employees are already insisting on contractual agreements not to smoke or to drink excessively. Given that American political culture is hardly less degraded than our own – if for slightly different reasons and in different ways – this is a consideration for those Americans who oppose the changes currently proposed by their government.
Now, I have said what I, as a libertarian, dislike about the NHS. It should be plain what I am not proposing. But since misrepresentation of opinions is so common in any discussion of health care, let me be explicit. I believe that the NHS should be dismantled and replaced with a more diverse, private system. This does not mean that I want to cut off health care for millions of older people who have made no alternative arrangements. It also does not mean that I want to cut off state funding and leave the current system of cartellised and regulated health care otherwise unchanged. I believe in a radical attack on all state involvement in health care, and this includes an attack on all state-created and state-upheld monopoly in health care.
I believe that all drug patent laws should be repealed. These do nothing to encourage innovation, but are simply a means by which well-connected drug companies extract huge rents from the rest of us. I believe that there should be no controls on who can practise medicine. State regulation does less to weed out medical incompetence and fraud than to guarantee high incomes to middle class graduates who have learnt the approved techniques of medication. The common law of contract and torts is enough to deal with incompetence and fraud. I believe there should be no controls on the development and provision of medical products. The existing laws did not prevent Vioxx and Prozac from coming to market. Again, the common law is enough to ensure some standards of propriety. I believe there should be no controls on the advertising of medical products or services. The present restrictions simply prevent ordinary people from learning what options may be available to them. Again, the common law is all we need to deter inflated and fraudulent claims. I believe that everyone should have the right of self-medication. This means the right of any adult to walk into a pharmacy and, without showing any prescription, to buy whatever medical product he desires. If many people will buy and use recreational drugs, they can do that already if they know the right street corner – and it is not the business of the State to tell us how to live. Most people will have enough common sense to take some advice before swallowing or injecting their medications. The rest should have the right to experiment. If they fail, they will have themselves to blame. If they stumble across some truth so far unknown, they will deserve our thanks.
These reforms would bring down health care costs at once. They would also clear the way for the information technology revolution to transform the market in health care. I will not try to predict how all this will be funded, though it strikes me as reasonable that it will fall into the same pattern of direct payment, charity and voluntary mutual assurance as was common before the State took over. And when I speak of mutual assurance, I mean both for-profit insurers and not-for-profit organisations. The idea that only profit-seeking organisations are consistent with libertarianism is to take a shockingly arid view of the ideology. What libertarians should like about commerce is not its taste for profit but its distaste for compulsion. What legitimises markets, in libertarian terms, is that they are structures of voluntary association. This is what brings the friendly societies and much trade union activity, and so much of what in Victorian times was called “socialism” within the heritage of the modern libertarian movement. Health care reform should not be about providing yet more money-making opportunities for state-licensed professions and state-privileged corporations. It should be about disestablishing statist structures and allowing free people to associate for their mutual benefit. If some people make a lot of money from providing services that others want, good luck to them. But the key objective should be free association. Be assured – it will be the most solid foundation on which medical progress can rest.
I will repeat – cutting off state funding all at once, and leaving in place the present system of monopoly, would be cruelty and folly. It would easily result in a step away from liberty rather than towards it. But reducing this funding over several years, as part of a general attack on monopoly, would be a blessing, the fruits of which were plain even before it was complete.
And this would apply as much to America as to England. As said, the American system is hardly the sort of free market any libertarian would recognise. But if the Americans do follow our example, I agree with Mr Hannan that they would deserve to be pitied. Worse – we adopted our system before its faults had been fully realised. Anyone inclined to copy it now deserves as much contempt as pity.
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
Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 168
19th February 2008
Are the non-Domiciled Rich and the City
Good for England?
by Sean Gabb
On my way out of the house this morning, I was called by a BBC researcher to discuss my opinion of non-domiciled tax status. As my opinions were not the ones expected, our conversation did not lead to any broadcast. But I was rather pleased with what I said, and I might as well spend the rest of my railway journey writing it down.
For my readers who live abroad, I should explain that resident foreigners in this country enjoy significant tax privileges. I, as a British citizen resident in the United Kingdom, pay tax on my income earned here and elsewhere in the world. A foreigner living here, who can persuade the authorities that his permanent residence is outside the United Kingdom, pays tax only on what income he earns in this country and on what income he brings in from abroad. Whatever he earns abroad and leaves abroad attracts no tax. That is why so many rich people have moved to London.
This privilege is now under attack. During the past eleven years, the British State has almost doubled in size. The Ministers have justified this by an endless chant of “investment in essential public services”. In truth—whether to a few white proles, or to Shopping Coordinators for Bearded Men with HIV, or to the various Tarquins and Jaspers who get the contracts to redesign logos and headed paper every time a Ministry name is changed—our tax money has gone on raising up an army of Labour voters. So far, most of us have not paid attention to the systematic looting required for this. Some of it was cleverly disguised. Much of it was enabled by an expansion of the world economy that brought in more revenue without increases in the rates of tax.
This may now change. If we go into recession, the amount of tax paid will fall at current rates. At the same time, there is no room left for imposing taxes that will not be noticed and felt. Therefore, if the payroll vote is to be kept on, let alone expanded, the Government must now openly increase taxes or inflate or both.
That is why the non-domiciled are to be hit with a poll tax of £30,000 per year. This will not put off the fiscal crisis. At £800 million, the sum projected is barely a fifth of one per cent of total government spending. Nor will it last very long. The non-domiciled are already threatening to leave. That means a farewell to Madonna and to Roman Abramovich. More importantly, it means a farewell to some of the most dynamic people in the City of London. To raise barely enough cash to run the National Health Service for a week, the Government is prepared to lose people who contribute billions in employment and indirect tax, and to damage a vast financial machine that generates more than a third of the national income.
But when a state is hungry, every little extra can look tasty. That it may not last beyond the next election is not something at all likely to worry our present set of politicians.
I think the lady from the BBC expected me to run out of breath as I denounced the scheme. She had me listed on her database as Director of the Libertarian Alliance, and took it for granted that I opposed taxes and supported the rich in general and the City of London in particular.
Well, I did denounce the taxes. They were bad, I said, because they stole the produce of a man’s labour: taxing is enslaving. They were bad, I added, because they enabled government spending that, even when not obviously wasteful or oppressive, tended to corrupt both direct and indirect recipients.
Her problem started when I moved to the rich and all those City people. Good riddance to the lot of them, I said. If it needed a tax to get them out of England, I might almost find something nice to say about taxes.
That was the end of our conversation. The BBC lady made her excuses and rang off. I imagine she then did a search in her database for Tory Boy Intellectual, and was soon hearing a lecture about London as “the Jewel in the Crown of the British Economy”.
I suppose I should explain myself. There are those who think libertarianism involves a defence of riches and of the rich. Some libertarians seem to agree. I do not. A libertarian is someone who wants to be left alone, and who wants to leave others alone, and who wants others to be left alone. People must be taken as the owners of their bodies and of what they create in or appropriate from the external world.
Given that all exchange and other association needs therefore to be voluntary, we move to an endorsement of what is called the free market. If some people do better in life in others, so much the better for them. If they contrive to pass on some part of their success to their children, so much the better again.
This is not, however, an endorsement of actually existing capitalism. A free society is not Tesco minus the State. It is a place of small craftsmen and farmers and traders, of artists and of unlicensed doctors and lawyers, and of others needed if individuals and free associations of individuals are to live well. We cannot say much more than this about the arrangements of a free society. But we can be sure it would have no place for big business as it now is found.
Big business corporatism, I would never seek to deny, is the best economic model humanity has known in over a century. It does generate vast amounts of wealth, and does ensure that much of this is distributed with some approximation of justice. Give me a choice between what we have and any of the state socialisms tried or recommended since Plato, and there is no doubt what I should choose. Nor is there any doubt, though, that the civilised nations made a big collective mistake around the middle of the 19th century. A system of scientific and industrial progress that might have grown into an unmixed blessing was partly hobbled and made into a new instrument of class domination by laws that allowed firms to incorporate and that gave shareholders limited liability for the debts of firms.
The result was a channelling of investment into firms that would never have been trusted had investors continued to face the risk of joint and several liability for debt. As these firms grew to enormous size, they monopolised or cartellised whole markets. They accepted and often quietly called for schemes of tax and regulation that harmed them, but harmed them less than their smaller competitors. In Britain and America, they demanded the underwriting by the State of their foreign expansions.
To ask whether big business bought or were colonised by the political class is irrelevant. All that matters is that we live in a world where political power and corporate wealth are possessed by different wings of the same ruling class. It is a ruling class that presides over whole nations of people transformed by brainwashing and mild but continuous discipline from human beings to human resources.
More than any other financial centre, the City of London stands as the heart and mind of the global corporate system. Every statistic the BBC lady was hoping I might drool on air—that there are more American banks in London than in New York, that German banks employ more people in London than in Frankfurt, that over a third of all currency conversions take place in London, and so on and so forth—is further condemnation for me.
Anyone who regards the City as identical with free market liberalism is deceived or trying to deceive. It is a place where markets clear, and where profit comes from working out returns in fractions of one per cent. It is one of the few places where reality and the textbook world of perfect competition nearly merge. It is, however, a place maintained in being by the scheme of state-granted privilege that is limited liability. At the very best, its activities are useful to protect us from high taxes. But in a world of free societies, there would be no City of London or anything like it.
A further evil of the City brings me back to the non-domiciled rich. Whatever their immunity from income tax, these are people who pay large amounts of indirect tax. They hand this over without much resistance or complaint, and they hand over large amounts. Political quietism plus great wealth is always dangerous to freedom. When the quiet rich are also foreigners, or at least highly mobile, is still worse. They will not protest at any use of their tax money to oppress other people than themselves. The moment their own freedom is infringed, they will retreat to somewhere more congenial.
For all the airs and graces they try to assume, this is what makes the non-domiciled rich different from the old landed aristocracy. Though tiresome in their defence of legal privilege and unearned wealth, these latter were incidentally useful in slowing the rise of big business corporatism. Like the rest of us, they had nowhere to run to, and were by training and inclination the natural leaders of resistance. Roman Abramovich and Madonna are none of these things. They live among us, but are in no sense with us. The same is true for the more anonymous bankers and fund managers who have for the past generation found this country useful as a trading platform. The same is true of the rich in general. Unlike the workers, who may have little else, the rich have no country.
Just about the only very rich foreigner possessed of any public spirit is Mohammed al-Fayed. He expresses that spirit in what may seem an eccentric cause. But he certainly cares something about this country. He is also domiciled here and is subject to the same taxes as the rest of us. Not surprisingly, he is hated and reviled by the establishment media, and has failed to obtain a British passport in an age when these are handed out to any parasite who can hold his place on the underside of a lorry.
In closing, Gordon Brown and his Ministers do not intend to do well by us. They are traitors to us in their external policies, and rapacious tyrants in all their internal dealings. But their desire for short term gain may set us on the path to a better world. And if they are not to be thanked for this, I am not inclined to join in the chorus of disapproval.
NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3. You can help by contributing to publishing and distribution costs
I quote a passage from the RM text:-
Why is it then that this vicious, self interested and, might I suggest inherently socially violent group are allowed to make this sort of contribution – as they do all over so many blogs where those with real concern for society, from across the mainstream political spectrum, seek to discuss issues in an open, rational and respectful fashion?
I would love, for example, to see far-right libertarians thrown off the Guardian bogs [sic] as a matter of course – which might improve their appeal to many others as a result.
[I wouldn't shit in a Guardian bog if you paid me.]
It is time we named these people for what they are – as being amongst the enemies of civilised society.
I am happy to do that. It would be good if others would do the same – and fight them as we do racists.
NB: Comments from known libertarian abusers will not be allowed on this blog entry, or any other on this site.
He is referring to libertarians, whom he dubs also “callous, self-interested“, and says:- They think that all tax is theft; all government activity is bad and those who win a mandate for government spending from democratic electorates are ‘statists’.
He is of course half-right about taxation and theft.
He is one to watch, in the coming ideological war as it gets properly serious.
This would be an interesting conference to attend, if exhausting.
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 523, June 14, 2009
Clearly, no nation with a Bill of Rights that includes
freedom of expression has any place anywhere for
anything even remotely like the FCC.
The Smoking Goons
by L. Neil Smith
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
I haven’t smoked a cigarette since 1993, when I had two mild heart attacks and had to quit. Before then, I had smoked two packs a day for thirty years, having started back when I was a freshman in college.
I had enjoyed smoking and was sorry I had to quit. In my time, starting in 1964, I’d happily consumed Winstons, Salems, Camels, Luckies, Pall Malls, English Ovals, Half & Half, Parliaments, Kools, Malboros, Gaulois, and Gitanes. Mostly it was Marlboros. I was smoking Nate Shermans in an attempt to cut down (because they’re extremely good but very expensive even then), when I experienced the first of my infarctions. I may be the last individual alive ever to smoke Sweet Caporals.
When I first came to CSU in 1964, a pack of Winstons cost 35 cents and there was a little store near campus where you could buy Mexican cigarettes (not that kind of Mexican cigarettes) in pinstriped brown paper for 20 cents. I hadn’t paid attention to prices for a while, so you can imagine my surprise and horror when I was in a liquor store the other day and discovered that the price of a pack of smokes is now $4.76!
Now we hear that the Obama Administration, thanks largely to a round-heeled congress greedily spreading its legs to the proposition, and like the sanctimonious, hypocritical, power-hungry, dogwhistles that they truly are, will call upon the federal Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products as if they were narcotics, when the fact is that the FDA shouldn’t be regulating narcotics—and shouldn’t really exist at all, under the United States Constitution as written.
So much for the Democrats’ sympathy for the working poor who do most of the smoking in this culture. You union guys, remember this day.
Another day will come, sooner than you believe, when you will have to go to a government store, stand in a line, and when you finally reach the window, surrender your money, signature, and Social Security number to some slovenly-dressed bureaucrat smelling of sour, unwashed clothing, in exchange for a ten-pack of horrible-tasting generic cigarettes manufactured under the close supervision of the federal government.
As time goes on, they’ll want your fingerprints, DNA, and retinal scans, as well. As the filtered part of your cigarette grows longer, the part with tobacco will grow shorter. Ever see what they smoke in Russia?
It says here 21 percent of the American public smokes cigarettes. (I’d bet almost anything that the real number is higher; I’ve seen the same pollster lie about guns and the Vietnam war.) There being about 300,000,000 Americans, that means at least 63,000,000 of them smoke, a number comparable to that of gun owners, and half again the number of blacks or Hispanics, two minorities politicians pay close attention to.
The same pollsters say smokers are "too diffuse" a group to be useful to any party or individual candidate, and besides, most smokers say they want to quit. (That much is true; I spent most of my thirty smoking years saying I wanted to quit, and occasionally trying to, but it took the poleaxe of a heart attack to make me do it for once and always.)
Another reason it’s hard to organize smokers is that government, media, and the schools have been making them feel guilty about their habit for three generations and now the Gang of Three has them by the nads. Guilt is a solitary affliction and keeps people apart from one another.
What smokers need is a smokers’ union—I’d join up in a minute, as a "smoker emeritus"—to identify their common interests , provide certain benefits, and put a finger on the disgusting politicians who prey on them. It might begin as a smokers’ caucus of the Libertarian Party.
However that turns out, if you smoke—if you ever smoked—I want you to pledge with me, right now, that you will never vote for another Democrat again, for as long as you live. They are the ones who did this to you—FDA regulation, $4.76 a pack, no smoking even in restaurants that would prefer to allow it, huddling in the broiling sun or freezing rain outside your office building trying to get a nicotine break—and they are the ones who must be forced to pay for it.
Vote for any Republicans or Libertarians who will treat you with respect. I’d be interested to see where Dr. Ron Paul stands on all this.
In the end, there can be only one resolution: abolish the Food and Drug Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, as well. Both have murdered more individuals than they claim to have saved. Neither is sanctioned by Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which makes them nothing but gangs of outlaws, bent on stealing our money and destroying the last tattered vestiges of our freedom.
Now if you’re gonna write to tell me smoking’s bad, or that people who do it—especially near kids and pets—should be castrated with a rusty chainsaw and baked in clay over a slow fire, save it. Better yet, stuff it. Having never been permitted to hear half of all the facts about tobacco, you are operating out of ignorance. Check out the connections it has historically with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and asthma. Whatever the truth may be, my life is none of the government’s business.
How about it, smokers? You can get it started in our letters column.
Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world’s foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at lneilsmith.org.
Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil’s 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at www.bigheadpress.com/lneilsmith/?page_id=53
Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on What Libertarians Believe with his daughter, Rylla.
See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at www.BigHeadPress.com Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at http://www.Amazon.com where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil’s earlier novels.
Video shot and edited and uploaded by Sean Gabb
What is the Ruling Class?
By Sean Gabb
A Paper Given on Sunday the 24th May 2009
to the Fourth Annual Conference
of the Property and Freedom Society
in the Hotel Karia Princess in Bodrum, Turkey
In giving this paper, I make no pretence to originality of thought. Everything I am saying today has been said already – usually better, and always in greater detail – by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, by Roderick Long, by Kevin Carson, by Christian Michel, and by many others. If I can contribute anything to the libertarian analysis of class, it is brevity alone.
Libertarians often define a ruling class as that group of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, businessmen, therapists, educators and media people who derive income and position from the State. By definition, so far as such people operate as members of a ruling class, they are parasitic on the efforts of ordinary people. Their position comes from forcing others to act as they would not freely choose, or by excluding them from activities they might freely choose. Their income is based on forced transfers of wealth.
The size and activities of a ruling class will be determined by the physical resources it can extract from the people, by the amount of force it can use against them, and by the nature and acceptance of the ideology that legitimises its existence. None of these determinants by itself will be decisive, but each is a necessary factor. Change any one, and the working of the other two will be limited or wholly checked.
Of these determinants, the ideological are the most open to control and change. In the short term, resources are fixed in quantity. At any time, the amount of force available will be limited. What will always interest ruling classes, therefore, is the nature and acceptance of its legitimising ideology. This will vary according to circumstances that are not fully within the control of any ruling class. It may involve averting the Divine Wrath, or promoting acceptance of the True Faith, or protecting the nation from external or external enemies, or raising the condition of the poor, or making us healthier, or saving the planet from us. The claims of the ideology may, in other times and places, seem unfounded or insane. What they generally have in common is the need for an active state directed by the right sort of people.
Since the function of these ideologies is to justify theft or murder or both, they need to be promoted by endless repetition – which is a valid form of argument if truth is less important than winning – and by at least the discouragement of dissent. Efficient promotion will produce a discourse – this being the acceptance of a language and of habits of thought in which dissent cannot be expressed without also conceding its immorality. Efficient promotion will also produce a state of almost universal false consciousness – in which ordinary people are brought to accept ideological claims as true that are opposed to their own interests as these might be reasonably considered.
Now, to speak of ruling classes, and in these terms, will often produce a strongly hostile reaction from libertarians and from conservatives. In the first place, it sounds like Marxism. Indeed, in summarising my own beliefs about a ruling class, I have deliberately borrowed terms from the Marxist theory of class – “discourse”, “false consciousness”, “class consciousness”. This is sure to disturb many – and perhaps many in this room. For at least three generations, our movement was at ideological war with Marxism. We did all we could to refute its claims and to spread the truth about its consequences wherever it was tried. To use its language to express broadly similar concepts will appear to be making concessions that amount to intellectual surrender.
In the second place, many libertarians deny that the concept of a ruling class has any meaning in our own world. In 1605, for example, Guy Fawks and his fellow conspirators tried to blow up Parliament while it was being opened by the King. If they had succeeded, they would have killed the King and the whole of the senior aristocracy and the leaders of the Established Church and – give or take a few nominees – the leading men of every shire and town in England. At one stroke, they would have killed around seven hundred men, and this would have snuffed out the whole of the English ruling class.
And this was a ruling class. Its members were largely there by virtue of birth. They were often related to each other. They shared a common education. They dressed differently and spoke differently from those over whom they ruled. Generally, they were cleaner. They were committed to the Protestant faith and to the land settlement of Henry VIII. Their class consciousness was expressed in countless ways, and was reflected in their language. They spoke of “persons of quality” or “persons of gentle birth” or of “gentlemen”.
In England or America today, whatever I call the ruling class is far larger and has far less apparent unity. I have defined it as a group of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, businessmen, therapists, educators and media and business people. Perhaps I should just call these a gathering of groups, united only in their competition for power and income via the State, and each with a different legitimising ideology. Perhaps they are best compared not to the undoubted ruling class of Jacobean England, but to the members of a French bus queue. The common defining characteristic of these latter is that they all want to get on the bus. But it plainly serves no analytical or propagandistic purpose to define them on these grounds as a class.
Then there is the problem of collective action. Members of a supposed ruling class, for example – just as of a cartel – have personal interests as well as group interests. The former will often be more pressing than the latter; and the tendency over time will be for the rich and powerful to preach class solidarity while undermining it in their behaviour.
I will deal with the second of these objections in a moment. The first is easily answered. There is nothing specifically Marxist about the analysis of class and of class conflict. The Wealth of Nations is largely an exercise in class analysis. In France, J.B. Say was the father of a whole school of classical liberal class theory that was developed by, among others, Charles Compte, Charles Dunoyer and Augustin Thierry. In England, Cobden and Bright conceived their struggles against the corn laws and against war in terms of a class struggle. Marxian class theory, when it emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century, was one theory among many, and not at all the most prominent or most widely accepted.
This being said, Marxian class theory has, since then, received by far the most attention, and has been most fully developed. It is natural for many of us to feel uncomfortable about accepting any parts of this theory. But, if understandable, this is to be regretted. Marxism is false as a theory of human behaviour. But it has been developed by men of sometimes considerable talent and insight. To reject the incidental truths found by these men is rather like denouncing motorways because the first person to build them was Hitler. Astrology and alchemy were false sciences. Their claims about prediction and transformation were long ago falsified. Even so, the real sciences of astronomy and chemistry owe many incidental debts that no chemist or astronomer is ashamed to admit.
It should be the same with libertarians and conservatives in their view of Marxian class theory. Marx himself, together with Marxists like Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser and even Michel Foucoult, have much to tell us, and I am not ashamed to use Marxist terminology when I think it suits the needs of a libertarian class theory.
The main difference between Marxist and libertarian theories of class is in where each side locates the source of class power. For the Marxists, class power derives from ownership of the means of production. Standing in the tradition of Rousseau, Marx and his followers believe that mankind lived at first in a state of primitive communism, in which the means of production were held in common. This ended with the rise of a class that was able to take the means of production into its own possession. This class then set up the State as an executive committee to assist in its domination of everyone else. Since then, there have been successive revolutions as changes in the means of production have raised other classes to wealth, and these classes have then consolidated their own leading position by taking over the State.
According to this theory, therefore, the source of class power lies in wealth, and political power follows from wealth. This explains the Marxist belief that a communist revolution, by abolishing class domination, will rid the State of its oppressive nature. The State may then be dispensed from the liberal requirements of limitation and due process, and can be safely used as an instrument for ending such class power as remained. It will then, of itself, wither away.
This theory is manifestly false. Even without the thirty or fifty million corpses piled up by Marxist tyrannies in the twentieth century, it shows a terrible ignorance of human nature. Whether we dismiss the Marxists, in their main theory, as idiots or as villains depends on who is being discussed. But this is not to deny the incidental truths uncovered by Marx and his followers.
And these can be fitted into a libertarian class theory that locates the source of ruling class power in the State. For us, the State is not something created by the already powerful. It is, instead, something captured by those who want to become powerful – and who cannot become powerful by any other means. Without a state, there can be no exploitation. Without a state, the only transactions would be exchanges of value between free individuals from which all parties benefit according to their own conceptions of their interests. It is the State that can steal and kill. It is the State that raises up or calls into being groups that hope to benefit from the use of these powers, and that then constitute a ruling class. Abolish the State – or severely limit its size and power – and class domination will fall to the ground. The groups that comprise the ruling class will either die like tapeworms in a dead rat, or will be forced to offer their services on terms attractive to willing buyers.
I will now deal with the second libertarian objection to the concept of a ruling class. I accept that there is a problem of collective action. But this does not make an absolute refutation. For some purposes, group solidarity may be weaker than the pursuit of individual interests – but not always. Anyone who doubts this has only to look at the large number of young men in every generation who allow themselves – or volunteer – to be put into uniform and sent out to die for their country. Cartels are generally accepted to be conspiracies against the public interest. Class solidarity – so long as based on a legitimising ideology that is as firmly accepted by rulers as by ruled – can generally underpin collective action for many purposes and over long periods. Indeed, one of the sure signs that a ruling class has lost its will to rule is when significant numbers of those within it make fun of their legitimising ideology, or merely cease in private to believe in its truth. It is then that class solidarity becomes a sham, and the rulers begin to act like members of a cartel.
I also accept that ruling classes are, in our societies, much larger and more diverse than in the past. But accepting its size and diversity does not refute the claim that there is a ruling class. It is not necessary for the various groups I have mentioned to agree with each other in all respects. There is no reason for the ruling class to be monolithic. The medical establishment and tax gathering bureaucrats do not agree about state policy on smoking. Big business may disagree with the education establishment about what and how children are taught. Just a few years ago in England, the Government and the state-owned BBC fell out very bitterly over the Iraq War. During such disputes, different groups within the ruling class may even turn for physical or moral support to groups far outside the ruling class. They may even, from time to time, recast themselves – by accepting newly attractive groups, or expelling groups that no longer contribute to the class as a whole, or that endanger the continued existence of the class as a whole.
Even so, there is a general solidarity of interest that holds an effective ruling class together. No matter how they argue over the details of what the State is to do, its constituent groups will extend each other a mutual recognition of legitimacy. They agree that the State is a force for good, and that they are the right people to direct it. Their disputes will not be carried to the point where they knowingly undermine their overall legitimacy as a class – or the legitimacy of any of the constituent groups. Roderick Long has likened modern ruling classes to Church and State in old Europe. For the better part of a millennium, these institutions fought – and often bitterly – over which should be the predominant force in their societies. They hardly ever lost sight of the fact that they had a common interest in keeping the rest of the population subject to authority.
Sot it is now. Anyone who has ever taken money from big business will surely have noticed how his paymasters have been willing to use weakened forms of libertarian ideology to make specific points – but have never shown interest in promoting libertarianism as a full agenda of attack. In all cases, libertarian defenders are brought in to argue for concessions from the taxing and regulatory groups of the ruling class. They are never permitted to argue against the general legitimacy of taxes or regulations. That would risk undermining the system from which all groups –even if they might lose out in the short term – derive income and position in the long term.
This may be the common defining characteristic of a modern ruling class – a belief in the State and in the right and fitness of the groups I have described to direct it, and to gain income and status from their positions within the State. And, as in the past, class consciousness is reinforced by more than commonality of interest. I grant that, in America and to a lesser but similar extent in England, individual position is no longer rigidly fixed by birth, and it is common for people, wherever they start in life, to rise or sink according to their abilities. Nevertheless, we can still see families and networks of families that, in generation after generation, turn out individuals who occupy positions within the ruling class. Remember names like Toynbee and Gore and Kennedy and Cecil.
Otherwise, members of the British and American ruling classes share a common outlook on the world that is gained by attending the same schools and universities, and that is maintained by small but significant movements from one group to another that comprise the ruling class. In England, for example, it is common for politicians to begin or to end their careers in the more privileged big business corporations or in other agencies that look for their existence to the State. And it is fairly common for people from these groups to be recruited into senior political or administrative positions. There may be cultural differences between these groups. But these are not so great as to endanger close cooperation between them in the common project of exploiting ordinary people.
I agree that this is not an entirely satisfactory account of the ruling class. If I were a Marxist, it would be much easier. A member of the ruling class is someone who owns the means of production. I cannot supply an equally clear common defining characteristic. I cannot even put too much emphasis on the parasitic nature of a ruling class. The groups comprising a modern ruling class are parasites so far as they act as a ruling class. But they will often act both as members of a ruling class and as members of the productive class.
Companies like Wallmart and Tesco, for example, are privileged organisations. They benefit from incorporation laws that let them exist in the first place, from transport subsidies that externalise their diseconomies of scale, from taxes and regulations that disproportionately harm their smaller competitors, and in many other ways. At the same time, they provide cheaper and better food than their customers might once have thought possible. The media may be a producer or and conduit for propaganda. At the same time, it provides entertainment that people appear to enjoy. The medical establishment wants to coerce us into giving up probably harmful things like tobacco and probably beneficial things like vitamin pills, and procures laws that limit patient choice. At the same time, it does appear to be encouraging rapid medical progress in at least some areas.
Western ruling classes are not like the Soviet Nomenklatura. Many of the groups within these ruling classes have double functions inside and outside reasonably functioning market systems. Their activities are illegitimate only so far as they take place outside the market.
And so, while I do believe that the concept of a ruling class has meaning in our societies, I cannot dispute that it has problems. Nevertheless, in spite of all reservations, I do believe that the concept of a ruling class is not wholly useless, and I do suggest that those of us who have so far paid it little attention might do well to give it some thought.
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’s true. I lie awake at night sometimes. During this time one cogitates, and one wonders about the sort of people that want to become in charge of bullying others, via what they call “laws” or “statutes” , but which mostly bear no resemblance to Natural Law at all. The bullying is ostensibly promoted as being for “your own good”, but as J S Mill stated, this is “not good and sufficient reason”. But what motivates a human being to be a Statist, and then, worse an employee of the same? And then, n the end, what ought we do do to deter this kind of behaviour afterwards?
One day, far in the future but sadly not now and not in the waning afternoon of my life, some country’s electorate somewhere will elect a reasonable libertarian administration. I don’t think it will be here. This is of course despite the youthful ardour and enthusiasm shown by the admirable LPUK, which is eminently worthy of your support. Perhaps it will be somewhere in Chindia: I do not know. Or even Argentina or Brazil, or parhaps Iraq or even Russia? (A long shot, that last one.) Miracles have been known to happen.
But there remains the problem of what to do about people, probably a large number, who consciously and on purpose believed, and will continue to believe, in the role of a State being large and powerful. Many of these will not be persuaded in the slightest by the evidence around them of the superiority of Classical liberalism. Obviously, many if not all departments of State will be closed down, their rcords all destroyed, the buildings sold or demolished, and the “staff” turned out into the street to survive or starve as destiny dictates. But you can’t change the minds of some of these people overnight: they will suffer “We Wuzz Robbed” moments.
One would be willing I suppose, as Sean Gabb always advocates, the forgiveness of many – mostly those in very minor positions – who may well decide to publicly abjure their former beliefs, or as will often be the case, recognise their failure to self-articulate the case to themselves for what they were previously doing to others. But To save trouble later, the non-return of fascism as a meme has to be ensured. It must be associated with personal shame, deep perversion, unfathomable wickedness and shocking deviancy, for so long into the future that there should be no memory of it or wish to re-adopt it.
Here’s a draft list of measures to be appplied to the recusants:
(1) No appearance in public without a bright yellow, high-visibility-jacket of the type beloved of |Statists, which says on the back “Former Bureaucrat”.
(2) Must carry an approved form of identity at all times, which may be demanded summarily by anybody at all who’s not obliged to wear one of the above jackets. Approved identity can only be obtained by not having been a bureaucrat previously.
(3) Must be made to sign the Bureaufenders’ Register for varying periods to be decided (Brown will be on it for life. Castro will sign the list posthumously, which can be done now.)
(4) Will not be allowed to venture within 150 feet of ordinary human individuals.
(5) Will have to inform the Police of any address change on pain of a fine (oh, sorry, I’ve just realised the Police won’t have such a range of powers any more…)
(5) Non-statist individuals will have the right to demand the addresses of former bureaucrats who live locally (for the children.)
(6) No puchases allowed without the presentation of approved identity. Special shops more than 150 feet from where people are present will have to be set up (see (4) above.)
(7) Any travel will have to be on “integrated public transport systems”, which of course will be not required, and must be applied for in advance in triplicate stating reason for journey. No cars, bicycles, motor bicycles or any air transport whatsoever will be allowed. They’ll have to go on the bus, but not with other people.
When young, I used to half-joke, but only half joke, about this. It was that whereas “Tories” were always found with their trousers down while shagging the wrong girls (and resigned promptly) and “Liberals” did boys (and sort of half-resigned), socialists on the other hand had other interests. They were always found with their hands in the till, and didn’t resign. (Remember people like Lord Kagan, Poulson etc?)
It seems they still don’t resign. Instead, they “fight for their political life” (I bet they do) and are said to be “doing a good job in government”.
Makes you wonder what the course of British politics would have been if, say, John Profumo, Lord Lambton or Cecil Parkinson had “fought for their political lives”. Personally, I’d have shagged a young Christine Keeler within about 90 seconds if she’d been offered, and probably continued to keep quiet about it, since in those days tarts didn’t understand how to go to the dead-tree-press and kiss-and-tell, and Max Clifford had not been invented. I have no clue whether Profumo was a “good” “secretary for war” or not: perhaps someone could enlighten me here. But he was probably no worse than any of the other various incompetent nonentities we’ve had, and all he got was sex, and a public drubbing for admitting it.
Sean Gabb is inclined to be lenient with NewLabour expenses-shysters. He thinks there should be a “committee of truth and reconciliation”, at which, if all these lefty buggers freely admit what they’ve pinched, and apologise publicly, they will be allowed to keep their pensions, and possibly the money and houses too.
I’m not so sure, me. Being lenient with these people “sends the wrong message”: we must show, to the whole world, that socialism, like crime, does not pay, and that their sins will find them out. we don’t want after all, to keep having to go through these periodic generational torments, in which we think we’ve expunged socialism as a credible meme, only to find it’s got back worse than before, like Ground Elder.
For the children, literally.
The start of this week was very quiet, it was hard to find anything decent to blog out, Politics wise. Obviously Dan Hannan was a hot topic but apart from that, not a lot appeared to be happening. I reckon I have figured out why.
The Government and Gordo have been drip feeding the MSM lots of scaremongering stories about possible riots at this week ends marches. As the week went on more and more time was devoted to covering and speculating what was going to happen in London. The MSM have been willing poodles in this propoganda, only because there wasn’t much else to write about.
Gordo sat in some country (not sure where) and rubbed his hands with glee. As far as Gordo was concerned he couldn’t lose. Riots, civil unrest etc was just what he needed. He could use it to invoke the Civil Contingencies Act if it got too bad, but more importantly he could use it to slip a whole wedge of bad news. Another Banking Bailout, JaqBoots hubby claiming porn on expenses, UK’s debt increasing at a F1 type speed,G20 Countries appearing to be doing a whole lot better that the UK etc, etc, etc.
Only there were no riots. 35,000 people from quango’s, fake charities and wagons of Righteousness decended upon London and only 1 person was arrested. Leaving nothing for Gordo to hide behind. He has had to hastily retract the Banking Bailout and hope for a sale on Monday (I still reckon the Bailout will go ahead – it will be announced on the 1st). Gordo should be presiding over the G20 summit next week from a position of authority, unfortunately, due to his and his Governments total incompetency he is going to be presiding over a very slow, prolonged, drawn out car crash of a summit.
I notice that after all the talk by the Police at the start of the week about how many thousands of officers had been drafted in to cover these protests, all the talk that intelligence led them to believe that some factions were planning violence and unrest, the Police are now changing their story a little. Now they are intimating that their presence was very low key. What a crock. And of course the propoganda is starting again.
But there are fears that trouble could flare when further protests take place as world leaders gather in the capital next week.
I for one am greatly relieved that yesterdays protests went off quietly. As we all know, The Righteous have no problem in turning to violence when the want to get their point across, and they could have easily given Gordo and The Government exactly what they were after. For once they kept a lid on it, which means next weeks real protest can go ahead. As one person said “We don’t think our protest will change the world, but if every unhappy person in Britain realises they are part of a larger group it gives the individual and the group much more power to try and effect change”. And that is the truth.
I hope next weeks protests are peaceful. Violence is not a solution to the troubles we face. It is easy to throw stones at a bankers house. It is easy to start a riot. It will not change anything. It will give more power to those we oppose. Gordo, The Government and the rest of the world must be shown how unhappy this country is. We cannot get The Government out any other way. Gordo will not call an early election. He has no need. He knows his party is doomed. All he can do is hang on long enough to ensure that who ever gets in after him, i.e David Cameron will have the most almighty struggle on their hands.
I don’t know too much about politics. I don’t know how a vote of no confidence in a Leader or a Party can be bought about. All I can hope is that next weeks protests demonstrate to all 646 members of Parliament how much this country wants Labour out. They will not be able to hide from the protests, they will not be able to ignore them. G20 is going to be a disaster for Gordo, and the press will be all over it, so all Gordo and Labour can hope for, is that the protests turn nasty. It will be very interesting to see what other Government disasters await us on the 1st.
To all those attending the protests I ask you, don’t give them what they want. Don’t give them something to hide behind. They need a riot more than anything else at the moment.
In the face of the current economic crisis (some might say fiscal armageddon) the goverment has devised a plan, which consists of, briefly, giving themselves a 60% pay rise. No doubt this “plan” will solve all the economic problems in the world, feed all the starving Africans, raise Atlantis, and with all its well-crafted majesty, scare the Russians so shitless they’ll give Lenin a haircut. Or, well, maybe not.
Apart from the Atlantis bit.
Find out more Here.
This is the Second Chris R. Tame Memorial Lecture. It was given at the National Liberal Club in London on the 17th March 2009, and sets out a libertarian response to the financial crises of the past year. A full text of the speech will be published in the next week or so. In the meantime, here is the video. A better quality video file on DVD is available on request from Sean Gabb <email@example.com>for £5.
I’m currently sitting in the National Liberal Club in London, getting ready for the second of our annual lectures. Tim and I did think we’d have about fifty people. In the event, we have over a hundred. Once again, therefore, we’ve had to close the list. The fire regulations do not allow any flexibility above a certain number. Unless you have told us you are coming, therefore, we cannot take any more names.
The lesson of this, if you are disappointed, is that you should not expect that you can just turn up at Libertarian Alliance events without warning. Despite the looming recession, we can still pack out the Liberal Club, and must still be strict with latecomers.
We shall publish a written text of the lecture by Kevin Dowd – which is to be all about the financial crisis and the recession, and how these were brought on by a useless, state-regulated banking system – and I will video the whole event and make this available on the Internet.
I hope for an interesting and enjoyable evening.
Best wishes to all,
How the internet will be regulated and throttled, at an ISP near you, and soon.
I am not in the pay of Tesco – really I am not – honest, guv. But it deserves two cheers or at least its CEO Sir Terry does (not three - for reasons I will explain, and which Sean Gabb has explained below) for his spirited defence of Markets discovering the best way to allocate resources, as opposed to governments decreeing (see Sean again.)
I expect this piece by him was absolutely as far as his own “in-house” Communications Department apparatchiks would allow the poor bugger to go. Everyone knows of course that, to a first approximation, 99% of all “communications executives”, which is to say PR girls people, are left-leaning graduates of things currently called “universities”, who have studied “journal-ism” or “media studies”. There will be enough exceptions to prove me almost not quite totally right, so I await brickbats, but I feel that Sir Terry’s private views on these matters are stronger than he was allowed to express.
Because Tesco, and its plans for giving people what they want to buy, is the prime target for assaults by greenies and anti-shopping Stalinists (who like “local” shops and “car free town centres” – an oxymoronic position if ever I saw one) it falls to poor Sir Terry to do the defence. I urge you all of you who appreciate crypto-Stalinist circumlocution, to read the whole thing here about why the local Stalinists bureaucrats don’t want Tesco to expand an already successful store where parking is free – but want it to take a site nobody wants (it’s been empty for three years!) in a town centre nobody can park in except for money to the Soviet.
Sir Terry does not get the full three cheers, for he tries to defend Government’s action in propping up a gasping banking system, which, like Hitler’s Generals who first shunned him – then lauded him – then were in hock to him, ought to have seen through this government’s debauchment of money earlier. Then, they should of course have opposed it in the first instance – but they didn’t, so here we now are. (Like Hitler’s generals in the Bunker.)
The Car Industry Bail Out:
Are There no Politicians Now Who Understand Economics?
by Sean Gabb
The British Government has just announced what may be £2,000 million of subsidies for the car industry in this country. Responses to the announcement range from gratitude that jobs and manufacturing capacity are to be saved to complaints that the subsidies do not go far enough. My reading and viewing may not be comprehensive, but I have seen nothing in the mainstream media denouncing the subsidies as at best politically motivated – much of the car industry being located in constituencies held by Labour – and at worst economically illiterate. Since the first grounds of denunciation ought, after nearly twelve years of these people, to be self-evident, I will devote myself here to the second.
We are continually told at present – which is somewhat more than usual – how government spending had created, or will create, so many jobs. Therefore, the immense expansion of the British State since 1997 has created three hundred thousand jobs or whatever. Some deplore this because most of those employed can be expected to vote Labour. Hardly anyone denies there has been a net addition to the number of employed. The same reasoning underlies all discussion of how we are to get through the recession on which we have now started.
The truth is, however, that government spending does not so much create as displace employment. Every pound spent by the Government must first be taken from the people, who cannot then spend it for themselves. If the money is taken is taken through taxes, it exactly reduces the ability of the people to spend or invest it for themselves as they wish, or to save it for transfer, via the banking system, for others to spend or invest as they wish. If the money is borrowed, it again exactly reduces the amount of money that the people can borrow to spend or invest.
It is more complex if the money is printed by the Government – or, more likely nowadays, borrowed from the banks in a fractional reserve system. But if its effects are often hard to trace until after the event, inflation is no less a tax than any other means of providing money to governments. It may reduce the actual purchasing power of money left in the hands of the people. Given the downward pressure on manufacturing costs we have seen during the past generation, inflation will at best reduce the potential purchasing power of money that already exists.
This being so, the argument that government spending creates employment relies on a blindness to the concept of opportunity cost – that every pound spent on paying one salary is a pound less to spend on another salary. Put more simply, it is a case of what Bastiat described as “what is seen and what is not seen”. We see the jobs created by the Government in it “regeneration” projects. We do not see the jobs that would otherwise have been created to supply things that people actually would have bought had the money been left in their own pockets.
For the past six months, the argument has been reinforced by the claim that government spending is needed to make up for a disinclination by others to spend or invest. This being so, it will not be a zero sum game, but will create net employment. There is no doubt that there has been a deflation. People are borrowing less and saving more. The banks have been increasing their financial reserves. But it does not follow from this admission that government spending is needed to make up the deficiency. The fall in spending is not the cause of the problems we face, but is a symptom.
For perhaps the past decade, many central banks in the rich world have kept interest rates below the level needed to balance the supply of savings and the demand for loans. When other prices are forced below their equilibrium – rent control, for example – the result is shortages. In the fractional reserve system that we nowadays have, however, pushing interest rates below their equilibrium has simply enabled the commercial banks to create money out of nothing. In the past, this would have led almost at once to price increases. This time, with most consumer goods made in countries where supply curves are very elastic, and with exchange rates only loosely related in the short term to the financing of foreign trade, and with financial and property markets able to absorb what long seemed to be limitless amounts of money, the result was a speculative bubble, in which consumer prices hardly rose, and in which most of us were persuaded that we were growing richer.
These bubbles never last. The new money is brought into being through bank lending that cannot continue forever. There comes a point where people have taken as much debt as they can service, or where they have invested on the basis of trends that stop rising. It is then that some event that would otherwise have been overlooked becomes the excuse for a panic. The bubble bursts. Net borrowing turns negative. Prices of overbid assets fall. Prices of securities fall to the value of their underlying assets – assuming there are any that can be identified. Much investment in new capacity is shown to have been unwise.
On this reasoning, the present fall in spending is not an event in itself that needs to be and can be cured by higher government spending. What we now have is really part of a cycle that began with the artificial lowering of interest rates, and that will end with the liquidation of the unwise investments and the correction in asset prices. The British Government’s policy of trying to halt the deflation with higher spending and even lower interest rates cannot do better than lengthen the cycle during its unpleasant phase. It also increases the size of the State – which already takes far too much of our money and spends it on things we would never buy given a free choice.
But I return to the bail out of the car industry. This is not a case of limiting collateral damage. The car industry is not a fundamentally sound victim of circumstances. It is instead one of those sectors in which unwise investments were made. There is no shortage of finance for businesses that really are considered sound. Even I still receive one or two pre-approved loan offers from banks I never knew existed. If the car companies cannot borrow to maintain their working capital, it is because no one believes in their fundamental soundness. Even at the height of the boom, it was claimed that there were too many car makers, given present and future demand for cars. There will now be several years when hardly anyone with an ounce of common sense will spend money unless he must on a new car. No one seems to care if estate agents all over the country are losing their jobs. If car workers are now to lose their jobs, it is for the same reason.
Of course, there are things the Government could do and ought to do to help the car industry. These are all negative. For the past twelve years, it has been running propaganda campaigns and piling taxes and regulations that have tended to make driving less attractive than it might otherwise have been. These propaganda campaigns should be ended. The road excise and petrol duties should be cut. The cameras and yellow and red lines should be taken away. The police officers now deployed to harass drivers should be dismissed – there being, in any event, more policemen than needed to enforce the laws of a free country.
I move back now to the general difficulties we face. With increasing desperation, Gordon Brown is denouncing anyone who questions his policy of inflation as wanting to do nothing. Well, doing nothing at all would be an improvement on what he has been doing. However, there are things the Government could do. None of it would take us back straightaway to the prosperity we have lost. But it would shorten and moderate the pain that stands between us and recovery. I suggest the following:
I could go on, making more and more claims unlikely ever to be conceded by the British Government or any other. But the first two, plus a few cuts, would go far to shortening the recession. Sadly, even these will not be tried – not at least until the Keynesian remedies everyone wants have been tested to destruction.
Murray Rothbard, America’s Great Depression
Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson
Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Credit Creation or Financial Intermediation?: Fractional-reserve Banking in a Growing Economy
…..as Old Labour chancellor Denis Healey has realised, through experience.
In this DT interview, Healey says several things about personal wealth, and about progressive taxation, calculated to upset Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling. I don’t think hes’ just sayin’ it to make the Quisling-Graph happy: who the f*** cares about it anyway? It’s becoming dead-tree-press just like the rest, only more slowly, being nominally conservative.
Nah. the poor old bugger – God bless him – towards the evening of his life, has realised which way is up.
I did not look kindly on him for stating on live Wireless Tele Vision, that Margaret Thatcher “glories in slaughter” – (wikiquote Guardian Newspaper 2nd June 1983) – re the Falklands War, and I think in particular regarding our sinking of the old American cruiser renemed “General Belgrano“. But if he’s repented of both that and also of socialism, then he deserves a peaceful old age.
NEWS RELEASE FROM THE LIBERTARIAN ALLIANCE
In Association with the Libertarian International
Release Date: Monday 19th January 2009
Release Time: Immediate
Dr Sean Gabb on 07956 472 199 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
For other contact and link details, see the foot of this message
Release url: http://www.libertarian.co.uk/news/nr073.htm
“NO BAIL OUT OF THE BRITISH FINANCIAL SYSTEM” SAYS LIBERTARIAN ALLIANCE: “LET FAILED BANKS FAIL”
The British Government’s latest proposed rescue of the financial system is a fraud on the taxpayers and will fail, says the Libertarian Alliance, Britain’s most radical free market and civil liberties policy institute.
[The British Government proposes to spend up to £200 billion of the taxpayers' money on lending to the commercial banks in an effort to end the alleged liquidity crisis. This is in addition to the £600 billion already handed over.Full story at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7836259.stm.]
According to Sean Gabb, Director of the LA:
“Final responsibility for this crisis rests with the authorities. For at least ten years, the Bank of England – and the central banks in most other countries – has kept interest rates below the market equilibrium. The result has been an frenzy of credit creation by the commercial banks. This led to an asset price bubble that has now burst.
“The recession we now face cannot be avoided by pseudo-scientific manipulations of ‘aggregate demand’ It is the natural result of malinvestment and general speculation. A return to prosperity is best achieved not by trying to reflate the speculative bubble, but by allowing the liquidation of bad investments to proceed as quickly as possible.
“We agree that this will be painful to those who lose money or livelihoods. But there is no avoiding the aftereffects of an inflationary boom.
“Governments can stand back and let weak institutions fail. This will bring on the worst financial collapse since 1931, and be followed by a nasty recession. Or they can spray vast amounts of our tax money into the financial markets, which might briefly delay the worst financial collapse since 1931 and a nasty recession to follow.
“The only real beneficiaries of this rescue will be those working in the financial markets. They have spent the past decade stuffing our savings up their noses while telling us they were invested. Now their friends in government have come up with a scheme to use our tax money to pay next year’s bonuses.
“The Libertarian Alliance denounces this proposed rescue and predicts bad times for years to come.”
END OF COPY
Note(s) to Editors
Dr Sean Gabb is the Director of the Libertarian Alliance. His latest book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, may be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3. It may also be bought. His other books are available from Hampden Press at http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk.
He can be contacted for further comment on 07956 472 199 or by email at email@example.com
Extended Contact Details:
The Libertarian Alliance is Britain’s most radical free market and civil liberties policy institute. It has published over 800 articles, pamphlets and books in support of freedom and against statism in all its forms. These are freely available at http://www.libertarian.co.uk
Our postal address is
The Libertarian Alliance
2 Lansdowne Row
London W1J 6HL
Tel: 07956 472 199
The Libertarian International – http://www.libertarian.to – is a sister organisation to the Libertarian Alliance. Its mission is to coordinate various initiatives in the defence of individual liberty throughout the world.
Sean Gabb’s personal website – http://www.seangabb.co.uk – contains about a million words of writings on themes interesting to libertarians and conservatives.
Hampden Press – http://www.hampdenpress.co.uk.- the publishing house of the Libertarian Alliance.
Liberalia – http://www.liberalia.com – maintained by by LA Executive member Christian Michel, Liberalia publishes in-depth papers in French and English on libertarianism and free enterprise. It is a prime source of documentation on these issues for students and scholars.
This news release will also be placed on the Libertarian Alliance blog – http://libertarianalliance.wordpress.com/
Well, well, well. What a surprise. And I thought trade Unions were to help the low-paid against their faces being ground by “wicked capitalist running-dogs and lackeys of the Boss Class”.
So who’s in the “Boss Class” now, eh, Derek? And what about your members losing their jobs then?
We stand aghast, at the possibility of “military intervention by the USA” against – of all places – Mexico. We know that, since “drugs” are grown in Latin America, and since Mexico is in the way of their transfer to “Film Stars” and wannabes in British North America, where these things are officially illegal to have or trade, that therefore mexico will be on the road of transfer.
This is all very well and ought not to matter. Cars and lorries carrying cocaine and other stuff whose names I can’t remember ought to be able to cross Mexico as though it was anywhere. The problem arises because – and only because - it is locally illegal to have, sell or use these substances, in the points of destination.
This has several effects:-
(1) It makes the substances themselves more desirable in the eyes of certain people. They will want it more because “The State” says they shouldn’t have any at all at all at all, for their own good at all at all at all . Nsty useless Hollywood delinquents film stars will leak details of their use of it, and because they are pretty and shaggable (and that’s just the men) you will want to do it too, as you are sheeple because the liberals Stalinists have told you to become so.
(2) It makes it risky and unprofitable and demoralising, for legitimate businesses to supply the stuff. If you wozz an off-licence, would YOU want to supply cocaine to any willing buyer, if you got raided every week by the rozzers for doing it, and had your shop smashed up by them (rozzers) and were put in jug?
(3) It makes the risks of supplying it worthwhile, for shysters and hoods, who don’t mind having to shoulder the boring business of killing people including police and soldiers, in the course of securing their hold on the distribution of of their stuff, to you. The £5-a-day habit, if the stuff was legally sold through chemists even including the impost of State Taxation, becomes the £100-a-day habit if you have to buy it through hoods who have to insure themselves – at your cost - for their own risk against both the State and against other hoods who want to compete, for what is really a rather small niche sector.
(4) it makes jobs for Police rozzers. Rozzers are inherently tormented people, who ought not to have got like that; they need psychiatric help, and quickly. Just as you ought not to want to be a criminal, also you ought not to want to be a policeman in the 21st century: what does that desire say about you, and your morals, and world-view, as a person?
So the way forward is quite clear. ALL drugs have to be legalised, in all jurisdictions, preferably by yesterday. This will have a number of good effects:-
(1A) The “Police”, currently a pantomime collection of gamma-minus droids unfortunately increasingly supplied with real guns as opposed to things that shoot out a flag which says “bang”, and who are “employed” by their “states” not in chasing real muggers, robbers, burglars and killers but in harrassing “drug dealers”, “motorists”, “paedophiles”, “racists”, “terrorists”, “non-payers of council tax”, “TV-license-evaders” and “climate-change-deniers”, will find that their workload is decreased alarmingly. We will “need” fewer of them. Good.
The main solution to civilisation’s ills is
and more and better people.
There may even be “calls for” “FEWER POLICE ON THE STREETS”. I think that in a civilised society, the police ought to be invisible: see poll below.
(2A) The use of “drugs”, which is to say substances currently classified as drugs”, by all people, will fall dramatically. or it may not: I do not know. But I think it will fall.
(3A) The legalisation of “drugs” will mean that Galxo-Smith-Klein, Schering-Plough, Ciba-Geigy, and all the others, will be abot to compete legally for whatever market they think they can get. Adverttisisng will be allowed. Advertising is the best way to garotte bad stuff fast. The purity and quality of products will thus rise, and the price will fall to the point where the “State” will come in.
(4A) The “State” will take a take. Where GSK wants to sell you your Ecstasy for 50p a go, via the chemist down the road in Shaky-street (PR8 . . . ) , the State will take £4 or so, making it about the price of 20 fags. What’s the point of going and doing crime, if it’s only that much? You can get it from your dosh you that get “on the sick”.
OK so the “State” wins, win-win in the short run. But it’s got to justify how it needs to spend so much less on policing, since there’s so much much less less petty crime going on down.
That in itself will be tremendous fun to watch.
Sometimes we here, on whichever of the duty-typwriting squadrons is on “watch”, are tempted to emulate the language of Obnoxio The Clown, or the Devil himself. (He’s uncovered a previously unstudied State-Bogus-Charity in that one…Obnoxio’s latest just refers to some bureucrat or other as a c*** . )
But this is a family blog, so, apart from saying shit and crap which is rather weak playground stuff now, we only go so far as to merely write f*** (sometimes even c*** these days.) And also we only show pictures of Keeley Hazell wearing bras (until we get bored with her and we go and get someone else. Possibly Lucy Pinder – anybody got any preferences? See poll below. If in doubt, go here and select someone else.)
To get back to the point, the government is bust, the main world’s private banks have feverishly bought themselves into virtual bankruptcy by queuing for 15 years to buy each others “securitised” pigs-in-pokes, Gordon Brown is printing money….and then they all go and spend it on what? Food-police. Here’s an exerpt:-
Home cooks will also be told what size portions to prepare, taught to understand “best before” dates and urged to make more use of their freezers.
The door-to-door campaign, which starts tomorrow, will be funded by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a Government agency charged with reducing household waste.
The officials will be called “food champions”. However, they were dismissed last night as “food police” by critics who called the scheme an example of “excessive government nannying”.
WE MUST ALSO BEAR IN MIND THAT THIS IS ! “ALL ABOUT PROPERTY RIGHTS” ! People who have purchased food are entitled to dispose of it how it pleases them. The bought food DOES NOT become State Property: it belongs to the householder.
No bureaucrats yet come round to tell you not to throw a brick at your Wireless Tele Vision, thus rendering it at least partially if not fully unserviceable, whenever Jonathan Ross come on screen: why should they come and tell you what to do with food whiche displeases you?
It’s all very sad: it’s as if the poor government buggers just can’t kick the gravy-train (sorry) habit, even when there’s really no money, as opposed to just the appearance of no money.
They will. I bet you 3p.
The only thing Libertarians ought to be concerned about here is the property rights of the people – and there will be a number, inevitably – whose homes and land will be taken and who will have to be displaced. This is the only issue of importance.
All that the Greenazis are concerned about is that Britain, a land which they hate and want dead, for showing the up to be the hideous and obscene people-murderers which they are and have always been, should not be able to profit from what the next century’s people will all want to do.
I expect Tony Hollick will oppose me in the comments, on some jurisprudential pretext or other….if you do not, Tony, I take it all back!
The problem of London is that it’s in the probably least-bad place it could be. Imagine if it was in Birmingham, or Liverpool. Geography, mountains and landforms would be against it. Then imagine a slightly less police-statist Britain emerging from the recession.
The next problem is where do you put the seven or eight or ten airports that, Al Gore’s demise willing, it will need. If not that many, then which ones do you expand?
The only issue we should worry about is property rights. And that does NOT include “film” “stars” and “pop” “singers” who abuse the notion of personal property on purpse, because the MSM will let them get away with it, and they can afford expensive (lefty) lawyers. (Why are most lawyers socialists? Discuss.)
From the Daily Mirror, of all places. But I know for a fact that “securitisation” of mortgages went on before 1997. I was written to by the Bank of America (I wonder what became of that?) while living in London with one of their mortgages, sometime in the early 1990s, to say that I was “to be securitised” and sold to some other bank, and did I object?
Not having a blinking clue what it meant, I simply nodded….”whatever”….
So I do think that some ” enhanced financial product development initiative manager” in some bank or other, probably invented the process.
…and ensure the right kind of permanent majority. (UPDATE:- It will also save a very very large sum, many millions, in “MPs’ expenses”… HAH !! )
HOW TO build a minimal-statist Britain from the bottom up: part 3,142A/5 :-
The first thing you have to do is abolish the concept of “safe” Labour seats in “inner cities” and the “Celtic Fringe”. I expect the Scotsnats can be relied on to demolish Labour in Scotland eventually, and then we can cut the place adrift unless it wants also to leave the EU with us - but we can help by amalgamating small slum seats with few voters and lots of “constituency activists” who forge ballot papers and rig postal votes, into large slum seats with the same original number of activists, some of whom will get demoralised and piss off onto the dole (which we may stop) and so whose remainder will have less proportional effect. The voters will be less proportionally-well-represented, but for the time being most of them will not give a f***. They will still have their Foot Ball, and their flat screen wireless tele visions.
In line of course with “progressive” policies, while doing the above, you could get your Tory activists to “encourage” individual voters to “engage with the defining issues of Modern Britain today“, thus “individually aiding their ability to focus on the delivery of appropriate franchise policy“.
In the Bedford Conservative Association - many, many years ago, we just called this “collecting old ladies and driving them to and from the Polling Station“, but the policy could be extended creatively.
You could also vote for the LPUK, wherever it stands in forthcoming elections. It is making a pretty good stab at formulating a minimal-statist manifesto that makes sense. It is also the nearest thing we will get, being practical and realistic, to a limited-statist government in the next couple of hundred years.
The whole of this post from Junkfood Science is worth reading, for it perspectivises the more or less articulate refutations which a lot of us have suspected and been trying to focus for all you lot, over the last couple of years.
If libertarians are at all serious, then I’m not suggesting that we should shoot all State-food-bansturbators immediately – in the way Stalin accused an obsequious IRA delegation of not being “serious” because the IRA “had not shot any bishops yet”. But…..we ought to make more of the point that if a human being owns his own body, then it’s surely axiomatic that he can place whatever foodstuffs – or anything else whatever for that matter - that he chooses, inside it. If certain foods are to be “banned”, then this negates that principle and we have become the State’s Farm Animals in very truth. Cigarettes, (any) alcohol, tobacco and (all) drugs, too, are part of the same argument.
Part of the problem of course is that modern pithed people do not understand the economy of, the present dynamics of, and the ultimate reason for, the DHSS. They think that “it costs” the DHSS money to treat people. No analysis is done of where the money has arrived from. Of course, if you are a DHSS bureaucrat, then it “costs” you some of your ultimate yearly bonus if you have to irritatingly spend some of it on some doctors or beds or medicines, to treat the people who supplied the taxation-take in the first place. But if you pith the population, employing techniques such as “good television”, then they won’t realise the conjuring trick you have performed. Furthermore, they will go about supporting you, saying that “smokers are selfish ‘coz they cost the NHS money” and other similar witticisms which televise well on the Wireless Tele Vision thingy machine.
I am afraid I can find no use for this machine at all these days, except to view videos of The Lord Of The Rings, a couple of times a year – that’s quite enough too. Or perhaps as a source for weird electronic parts suddenly needed to complete a project, and Maplin’s closed. Can anybody illuminate my problem please?
Might be interesting. Here it is.