Every little girl and boy, that's born into the world alive,Is either a little Liberal or else a little Conservative
Every little girl and boy, that's born into the world alive,Is either a little Liberal or else a little Conservative
I thought some of you might like to watch in full the talk at the IEA's "Think" conference last year that was referenced in my previous post. Dr Stephen Davis, the IEA's Director of Education, talks about driverless cars, 800 year life-spans and (which I forgot to mention, but is fascinating in its own right) "vertical farming".
Apparently, and here's a fact to confuse a libertarian, the war on drugs has led to advances in horticulture. Driven underground, those cultivating illegal drugs have developed techniques that could lead, if more widely applied, to mankind feeding itself using 10% of the land currently being farmed. Great areas of the planet could be returned to prairie, steppe or forest. Of course it's also possible that we will simply feed ten times the number of humans from the same land and/or (I suppose, deviating imaginatively from Dr Davis's script) use these techniques to colonise other planets.
Libertarians foxed by the idea that suppressing an activity can enhance its efficiency will take cheer from the fact that these advances have only become available because several US states have legalised cannabis – at least as "medical marijuana". As the marijuana farms become public, other growers can both marvel at and copy the innovations the former criminals made in secret.
islands of repression in a sea of freedom
Much of what they say is relevant to the current storm on social media in the wake of Brexit. I suggest it may partly account for the division between "educated" and "uneducated" in the referendum vote. I would love to see a breakdown of the Remain vote (but no academic will research it and no productive person would waste the time or money) between what Americans call "liberal arts" graduates and those from harder disciplines such as STEM, law and accountancy. Most of our "education", particularly since Blair forced up the numbers attending "uni" (as those on whom it was wasted always call it) is actively damaging to its victims' intelligence. They come out stupider than they went in.
"In comparison", as Hoff Sommers puts it, "to what?!"
Thou shalt teach both sides of the argument
My Sunday Times today has an article about the booze culture of Westminster. It's an interesting enough piece but what struck me most was the title; "Drunk in charge of the nation". Are our political leaders — drunk or sober — really in charge? Does the government "run the economy?"
The Executive and its minions in the Civil Service run the state. The Legislature determines (directly, or by delegation to Quangos or treaty organisations) the extent of that state's rôle in the affairs of the nation. The Judiciary adjudicates disputes both between citizens and between citizen and state. But the state and the nation are not the same thing.
The British state is undoubtedly too big, too costly, too intrusive, too wasteful, too stupid and generally too big for its boots but we, the more or less willingly governed, are the nation. The state and its employees are our — more or less humble — servants. The money they mostly squander comes from (or in the case of its drunken sailor borrowings is underwritten by) the private sector in the broadest sense of the term. Everyone who pays taxes from earnings *not* paid to them by taxpayers funds the state.
The state is to some extent a necessary cost to the nation. In Britain, as in the rest of the free world, political debate largely turns upon the "someness" of that extent.
In that crucial debate, confusing the ideas of "state" and "nation" helps statists. It allows them to brand as disloyal any opposition to state projects. I certainly saw that during my days in Russia where the ruling kleptocracy allows no such distinction. Though the Russian nation is as cultured, enterprising and lovable as the Russian state is vile, vulgar and putrid the fallacy that to oppose the state is unpatriotic prevents rational debate. In truth, as Edward Abbey (and not, as mistakenly suggested on the Internet, my illustrious namesake) said
We anti-statists don't help clarify this state/nation confusion by constantly focussing on the centrality of the state. Almost everything that's good about our nation; its culture, its wealth, its inventiveness, its civil society, its philanthropy, its charity, even its sport flourishes in spite, not because, of the great bloated parasite that hectors, lectures, condescends to and tyrannises us.
In our darkest moments perhaps we should remind each other that our nation may not flourish as it deserves because of our defective state, but that it still flourishes. Only a healthy beast could gambol on with such an enormous bloodsucking parasite draining its vitality. Certainly not one that was "run" or "controlled" by it.
I agree with Harriet Harman that she is being smeared, but I struggle to feel as sorry for her as I should. She who lives by the sword shall, with a bit of luck approximating to karmic justice, perish by it. It is simply delicious that a women who has worked so tirelessly to undermine liberty and the rule of law is now in need of both. She doesn't seem as keen on 'the court of public opinion' now that she faces 'trial' herself.
Harman was one of the puritanical Left's Witchfinders in the scandal surrounding the allegations of under-age sex (but not paedophilia in his case) involving Jimmy Savile and other 1970s celebrities. Yet as in-house lawyer at that time to the National Council of Civil Liberties (now Liberty) she saw no need to advise her client that it was a problem to have the Paedophile Information Exchange as an affiliate. Indeed she seems to have worked on some of the outrageous papers supporting some of PIE's positions that NCCL published at the time. One might wonder how a newly-qualified solicitor found herself in such a role, but that's another issue. NCCL was pretty much a captive of the Labour Party and young Harman was already firmly on the left, where ideology always takes priority over talent or expertise.
Mysteriously she won't accept that her failure to give such advice was a mistake. I didn't qualify until 1982, so she is senior to me in our profession but I would certainly have acted differently in her place. Nor do I know any colleagues of that vintage who would not. I don't think the sexual mores of Britain changed very much between the mid 1970s and the early 1980s, but that's irrelevant according to Ms Harman. She has loudly insisted - when it suited her political position - that they haven't changed in forty years.
That's hypocritical nonsense of course. We are talking of the era of The Little Red Schoolbook; an era of profound sexual upheaval. I still have my copy somewhere; a relic of my time as a teenage leftist in Harman's era at NCCL.
Not even the Daily Mail mentions now that PIE originated as a special interest group of Outright Scotland or that it merged with Paedophile Action for Liberation (itself an NCCL affiliate before the merger) - an offshoot of the South London branch of the Gay Liberation Front. It's not too surprising (if you are not an hypocrite who refuses to acknowledge that times change) that paedophiles, gay and straight, should have latched onto the gay movement's campaign to normalise what were then 'alternative' sexualities. Nor should a non-hypocrite seek to smear the gay movement for its failure - in those heady, underfunded, radical days, to differentiate as precisely between 'correct' and 'incorrect' attitudes as it now expects of others. It had not yet won the victory that now allows it to demonise those who fail to keep up with its ever-changing thought-crimes.
It really was a different world, in short, and the currently rather prudish Left have been foolish to intensify their attacks on the Catholic Church and Savile's showbiz circles by saying that it wasn't. As His Grace points out in the linked post;
The thing is, Pope Benedict XVI spent much of his pontificate issuing profuse expressions of remorse and repentance on behalf of his church for the heinous acts of paedophile priests and the post-conciliar hierarchical conspiracy of cover-up. And the BBC is still apologising over its 1970s "groupie" culture of misogynistic permissiveness and predatory paedophilia. Both institutions are horrified and appalled - 40 years on - that they did nothing to protect so many vulnerable victims over such a long period. But at least the perpetrators are now being held to account - one of them even post mortem.
These institutional apologies have not protected either, of course, from the relentless smears of the Left. Yet, for all their failings, neither the Catholic Church nor the BBC ever sought to justify the misconduct or, still less as the NCCL did, to argue that it should be normalised.
Conservative commentators are reacting to this story in a generally gentle and seemly way. Iain Dale is taking the Milliband line. The Spectator is magnanimously pointing out that
There is no continuity of between the positions Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt adopted in the 1980s and their thought today. In office, Harman led a group of Labour women politicians who worked to make the law friendlier towards rape victims. Hewitt, Harman and Harman’s husband Jack Dromey (who was at the NCCL at the time) have not campaigned to reduce the age of consent to 14 or 12, or to abolish it.
I am glad that the non-Left is being reasonable and refusing to make the kind of vicious demands for intemperate action that characterise 'righteous' leftists when they taste the blood of political opponents. It does them great credit and I hope voters notice. That said, the Daily Mail has really done no more than pick up Harman's and Dromey's own discarded grenades of hypocrisy and political dishonesty and lob them back into their trench.
I learned during my long-ago university days of the key historical change from 'status' to 'contract'. In a sense, modern civilisation began when, not only were rulers subject to the law, but your legal obligations depended not on who you were but what you had agreed.
No more jus primae noctis or knight service. Your obligations depended upon the contracts you entered into. Moderns might think themselves 'wage slaves' because of a real or perceived lack of job opportunities, but their employer had no claims over them qua employer, only by reference to their contract of employment. Their serfdom was therefore metaphorical at most.
As recently as the 1970s then, this was seen as progress in itself and as a key enabler of progress. It was a thoroughly civilised way of organising human relations. Modern society was not possible without it. Indeed my legal history lecturer (leftist though he was) presented it as a key enabling factor of the industrial revolution and therefore of all modern prosperity.
Yet the drift back to status was already well underway. English law, for example, limited an employer's response to the breach of contract involved in refusing to work if it was in the context of a protected strike lawfully organised by a trade union. The status of being under the protection of a trade union (a modern descendant of a medieval guild) alters your employer's legal rights and - in a certain sense - justifies your breach of contract.
For a long time the police operated with the same power of arrest as any other citizen. If someone commited a felony (now an 'arrestable offence') you or I could arrest them and so could a copper. The only difference was that he was paid, trained and expected to do it. I always thought that was a wonderful check and balance on police power. It's a dangerous thing to have a professional police force because, among the honest decent people attracted to such work, there is bound to be a higher-than-average proportion of thugs and bullies. Bossing people around attracts bossy people.
Now the status of being a police officer or enjoying one of a large number of other state-granted statuses, confers special powers of arrest, search, seizure and forced entry. Even, as we have seen in recent days, forced entry to a mother's womb.
Landlord and tenant law tends to assume (ridiculously in the modern era when he might be Google or Microsoft and his landlord might be your mother's pension fund) that a tenant is a weaker party entitled to special protection by virtue of his status.
Similarly consumer legislation operates on the basis of a cartoon caricature of a buyer like Wile E Coyote; endlessly supplied with disappointingly non-lethal-to-road-runners goods by ACME.
The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 specifically prevents people from entering into, or at least from being bound by, contractual obligations, based on their status as 'a person dealing as a consumer.'
The notion of 'positive discrimination' confers for the first time in law an actual right to be racist (if you ignore, as I do with utter contempt, the socialist claptrap about racism being by definition a problem exclusive to white people).
The concept of 'hate crime' makes it more serious to insult, hurt or kill people enjoying a specially protected status. Current law thinks some deaths diminish me more than others. I disrespectfully disagree.
Your status as a citizen imposes all kinds of obligations on you. For example you must surrender a percentage of your earnings to the state, pay your local council for the privilege of living in your own home and hand over 45% of your parents' wealth above a certain value on inheritance.
It would be amusing if it were not so sad that modern 'progressives' have for decades been busily restoring a key concept of feudalism and systematically undermining a key legal foundation of post-feudal prosperity. Their labels may not openly be 'lord' and 'vassal' but their world view is founded just as much on different rights and duties for different classes of human.
she was deemed to have had no "capacity" to instruct lawyers
...even if the council had been acting in the woman’s best interests, officials should have consulted her family beforehand and also involved Italian social services, who would be better-placed to look after the child.
I often wonder how different my view of today's Britain would be if I had not lived abroad for 20 years. Expats often find it hard to resettle in their home country. Sometimes they are not "comparing apples with apples" when reviewing their life in a low-wage country against that in the capital-intensive UK. I went to a retirement party this week at a law firm where I was a partner until 1997. I had not seen some of the people there since before I left the UK in 1992, and almost none of them since I changed firms while abroad. So they were an interesting 'control group' for this question.
Most were initially surprised by my comments about changes in the UK during my absence. The changes had crept up on them over time and had not struck them so forcefully. When they thought about them however, they agreed they didn't like them much. They did not like 'political correctness' and felt particularly uncomfortable with its translation into law.
Someone recalled that twenty or so years ago, the firm's first-ever Muslim partner had asked an Orthodox Jewish job applicant how he would handle closing an urgent deal on a Friday with sunset approaching. The applicant did not get the job and complained - ludicrously - that this then predominantly Jewish firm was anti-semitic. The management had responded by issuing a grovelling apology and taking the Muslim partner off the recruitment panel.
No law was broken at the time. Indeed many of the Jewish partners asked similar questions when recruiting and were both surprised and disappointed by the firm's response. Today HR would have a fit if a partner asked such a question, just as they would if one asked a female applicant of child-bearing age how she intended to fit her career around any plans for a family. There would almost certainly be a claim under equality legislation.
The high proportion of Jewish and female partners in those long-ago days rather suggested there were acceptable answers to be given to these now-taboo questions. An Orthodox Jew might propose to involve a Gentile or less Orthodox colleague in his deal in order to cover for holy days. A female lawyer might say she had a house-husband or other family support, planned to hire a nanny or intended to give priority to child-rearing over competing for partnership. Or she might say she wasn't interested in having children so the issue didn't arise.
Now that the question cannot be asked, the temptation (though no-one would ever admit it) is to assume the worst-possible reply. This cannot be to the candidate's advantage. No-one believes a Jewish, Muslim or female lawyer is intrinsically inferior, so the only question is how to respect their different needs without compromising client service. That requires an honest and open discussion on both sides; now no longer permitted. It's a similar unintended outcome to that created by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. As offenders are legally-entitled to lie about their convictions (and employers are not allowed to check) HR departments everywhere bin any CV that has gaps that might represent time spent in prison.
Honesty really is the best policy. The best way to deal with concerns about race or sex prejudice is to give its 'victims' every chance to show - as I am absolutely certain is true - that it is not a useful guide to performance. I worked in jurisdictions with no such legal restrictions and honestly never asked myself any question about a candidate that did not go directly to the issue of better service to clients. Because that's what I cared about - and what was in the best interests of my business.
There was one person present at the party who strongly disagreed with my views. He denied there had been any chilling of free speech. He was entirely happy with the Equalities Act and with all changes in employment law. Nor had he any problem with the discriminatory concept of 'hate crime.' He felt just as free as ever he had and said I was making 'a ridiculous fuss'. It was a happy occasion so (I am gradually learning to fit in) I passed it off lightly.
When he had moved on, someone commented wryly that this scion of an illustrious legal dynasty (a leading City firm bears his family name) must mainly read his Guardian on the deck of his yacht. Apparently he now spends much of his time cruising the Aegean. It's odd that the Toynbee-ite rich have the most left-wing views, isn't it? But then in this paradoxical country of ours, nothing is as one would expect. The main health problem of our poor is obesity and the main problem of our rich is befuddled Marxism.
Engels and Marx - longtime expatriates in England - never predicted that.
I spent the weekend pleasantly at the southern stronghold of Clan Paine; a fifteenth-century coaching inn in Berkshire owned by my cousin. It is built partly of oak reclaimed from Royal Navy warships of the Age of Sail. No more English place could be imagined. It has been in her branch of our family all my life and it was there her father - then the owner - made the teenaged me a tifoso and today's me a Ferrarista.
Elders visiting from the North told of a rare visit to London. Two ladies dressed in what they called a burka (but more likely an abaya or chador combined with a headscarf) got into a lift with them. They admitted to feelings of fear and were concerned this reaction might be 'racist'.
I feel sorry for older Britons. Most have strived their whole lives to be decent, kind and polite but now live in danger of being told they are wicked because they have not grasped the latest sociological nuance.
In our culture, I told them, fear is a normal psychological response to masks. Long ago, rehearsing a youth theatre production, my drama coach warned me that I must be careful where I fixed my masked gaze. People, she said, find it 'disturbing'. Another masked actor and I (there being nothing crueller than male teenagers) would stand in the wings during each performance selecting the prettiest girl in the audience. During a scene in which we stood for twenty minutes, masked and immobile, we would fix our gazes on her. She always cried. She always left. None lasted more than five minutes.
In other cultures things are different. I assured them that the ladies in their lift had not meant to scare them. I said their reaction was not 'racist', but a cultural response that the routine presence of ladies in hijab would eventually change. They were reassured. They had not thought they were 'racist' and had not wanted to be misperceived.
Someone else suggested Britain should follow the lead of France and ban the hijab. I jokingly replied that if they chose to dress in public as Superman or Wonder Woman they could expect strangers to laugh, neighbours to think them barmy and their friends to tell them so. But, very properly in a free and tolerant society, they would not expect the police to intervene. A lady dressed in hijab was entitled to expect the same reactions from her non-cosplay neighbours; no more and no less.
On my daily constitutional today I wondered how a hijab-wearing Muslim would view my advice to these elderly relatives so keen to respect her culture. Does she know that in our culture her mask inspires fear? Does she care? If she is not prepared to respect the cultural sensitivities of her neighbours, is it fair to expect them to work so hard and so fearfully to respect hers?
"Standing up or lying down, it's a zloty an hour" and "You are stealing from your family if you're not stealing from the State."