THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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July 2009

The right to die? Or the right to kill?

BBC NEWS | Health | Result due in right-to-die case.

Dreamstime_5186260 I follow the discussions on euthanasia with interest, but I am puzzled by the terminology favoured by the media. This lady's "right to die" is not in question, although the religious may say it's morally wrong. Suicide was legalised long since - and rightly so.

I have nothing but compassion for anyone who chooses to end a life they consider unbearable. It's that person's life and choice. But this is not about the "right to die". It's about the right to kill, or to be an accessory to a killing. It's about introducing a new defence to the crime of murder. The debate might be conducted more rationally, if more honest words were used.

The euthanasia laws in the Netherlands have resulted (that law of intended consequences again) in sick people refusing to go to hospital. They fear the convenience of euthanasia to medical staff who prefer to work on potentially positive cases rather than palliative care for those nearing the exit. In socialised healthcare systems, they fear being pressured to stop "bed-blocking;" consuming rationed resources that could be used by others. They may also fear the convenience of euthanasia to impatient heirs.

It's bad enough to be terminally-ill, without being pressured to get it over with for the good of others. Can it ever truly be selfish to want another moment of life? On the other hand, is it not enormously selfish of a dying person to blight the life of a surviving loved one by asking them to live with the memory of having killed?

The fundamental tenet of all libertarianism is that it is wrong to initiate violence. Much though I sympathise with the families of people in this terrible position, I do not believe it's right to legitimise pre-meditated, active involvement in another's death.

Political gratitude

BBC NEWS | UK | Porritt parting shot at ministers.

Time and again, outgoing government employees criticise the administration that employed them. Jonathon Porritt has sucked at the public teat for nine years, without ever a word of criticism, but now he has come over all brave. If the government had taken his advice, presumably it would now have a strong record (as it claims) on environmental policies. If it was not taking his advice, why did he continue to take our money from it? Why was he not principled enough, this paragon of the green virtues, to resign?

Porritt is one of those who claims that green issues are of paramount concern; that the end is nigh for the world if they are not addressed. Yet, for taxpayers' money, he was prepared to keep silent for nine precious years when - as he would now have us believe - the government was failing to address them. When he sneers that Britain is a " leader in green rhetoric..." and accuses the government of hypocrisy, does he not see the irony of that?

In a mildly indignant tone, a government spokesman is quoted as saying;
Jonathan Porritt last week praised our Low Carbon Transition Plan which is backed by active steps to make sure firms in the UK grab the growth and job opportunities in nuclear, renewable, electric car and other growth industries.
Ah but yes, dear boy, last week you were still paying him with money looted from us. Prime Minister Balladur of France once cynically observed;
In politics there is only gratitude for favours yet to be received

It seems the insufferable, holier-than-thou Greens are more like their political opponents than they pretend.

M'learned friend on social mobility

On the flight from Shanghai yesterday I almost cheered at the letters page of The Times, which was full of hostile responses to Milburn's odious report, as to which I blogged previously.  The best letter was from from a barrister of my own vintage, Nigel Tozzi QC. He wrote;

I was called to the Bar 29 years ago. My mother was a dinner lady; my father was a door to door collection agent for an insurance company. No one in my family had ever been to University.

I was given an opportunity to "realise aspirations", to quote Alan Milburn, as a result of receiving a grammar school education, a full local authority grant that enabled me to go to university and to study for the Bar, and scholarships from Gray's Inn that covered the cost of my training. Of these three facilitators, only the scholarships from Gray's Inn remain.

The professions cannot ensure greater social mobility on their own. We cannot re-educate those who have failed to receive a sufficiently challenging secondary education or who, in many cases, lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. We cannot fund every aspiring lawyer through university.

The root causes for the depressing statistics are government policy towards grammar schools and selective education, and the replacement of local authority grants with loans. It is unfortunate, but not altogether surprising, that a government committee chaired by Mr Milburn could not bring itself to be honest about this.

The vicious ideology of our Leftist establishment is denying opportunity to millions. Both my learned friend and I would be malcontents in unsatisfying jobs if the world had been ordered as it is now when we were young. Labour - and the Leftist establishment in education - are the greatest enemies of the educational aspirations of working people. Such people need a champion now and - if he is an Old Etonian and former member of the Bullingdon Club - so what? Step forward Mr Cameron. Give the lie to Milburn. Not for the sake of your fellow Etonians, but for all the hundreds of thousands of would-be Nigel Tozzi QCs and Tom Paines mired helplessly in the swamps of our education system.

Why the Left doesn't argue honestly

Obama says recovery depends on healthcare | Markets | US Markets | Reuters.

For the sake of argument, let's accept people on the political Left are sincere. Let's forget for the moment our suspicions that many of them use politics to win wealth, power and privilege their meagre talents could never otherwise secure. So why are they so dishonest in their arguments? For example, President Obama (story linked above) is no fool. He knows full well that his reform of America's healthcare system (however desirable) has nothing to do with economic recovery. Still less is it "critical" to that recovery.

I had a discussion yesterday with senior colleagues in China, triggered by someone jestingly calling us "the Gang of Four." I joked about "taking the capitalist road" and an earnest colleague began a debate about whether Chiang Ching and chums were really "capitalist roaders" or "ultra leftists". As someone who was a Maoist during the "Gang of Four" episode, I tried to explain how this missed the point. The Gang became Mao's enemies. As a consummate leftist politician, the Great Helmsman therefore blackened them with every bad name (before having them killed).

To a practical Leftist, the words "capitalist", "racist", "sexist", "islamophobe", "Tory" or whatever are simply useful insults. They use such words to associate their enemies with bad things in order to neutralise them. To engage rationally by debating their choice of words is to miss the point. Similarly, when a Leftist wants something, he associates it with things he thinks the masses will like, such as "fairness", "investment", "economic recovery", "an end to boom and bust", "stability" or whatever. You waste breath in challenging the rational basis for that. It's just agitprop.

So when President Obama says his healthcare reforms are "critical to US economic recovery", he just means he wants them. Like my political opponent at university who argued that "there could be no proper sex until the revolution", he is associating things he wants with things you like. To counter him, you must associate the thing he wants with things people won't like (like working much of the year as government serfs to fund them). Disputing his logic goes over the heads of the masses, as he well knows.

Much of the frustration in the non-left, anti-statist political blogosphere is precisely because we are trying to engage on rational terms. Language to the non-academic Left is not a vehicle for communication or analysis. It is - like everything else - a political weapon. As for the academic Left, their job is to fabricate new agitprop constructs. They are their arms manufacturers.

Speaking in China Daily today about the People's Liberation Army's website, a spokesman commented that "In war, Mao Zedong placed as much value on posters as guns". Quite so. Propaganda wins wars. The Left is permanently at war with capitalism and is rational to that extent. The "virtuous" end justifies the dishonest means. Analysing or "fisking" the Left's arguments is mere displacement activity for counter-revolution. The apolitical voter (who is only half-listening anyway) hears the exchange as follows:

Leftist "Bad man, bad thing"

Anti-leftist: "Man they say is bad says difficult words"

If our society is ever to return to a rational path, the liberty-minded must learn dark arts. The challenge is not to be consumed by them.

Another Labour lie

Top professions 'operate closed shop to exclude the poor' - Times Online.

A government "report" on access to the professions has just been published. It shows that in the last 30 years law, medicine and other professions have become more socially exclusive. So I have blogged myself, from personal observation. However, The Times reports;

The report on access to the professions was commissioned by Gordon Brown and written by Alan Milburn, the former Health Secretary. He said traditional and modern professions had a “closed shop” mentality, blocking mobility and shutting their doors to children from poorer backgrounds.

Stuff and nonsense. I can't speak for the medics but I will tell you quite plainly what the "mentality" of the legal profession is. We want to provide excellent service with a view to maximum profit. Our major problem in this is the "war for talent." For most of my career, able candidates have been at a premium, as witness the absurd heights to which entry level salaries have risen. In more than 20 years of being involved in hiring lawyers, I have never heard social criteria considered. Never. Not even once. If they had, I would never have been advanced myself and I can assure you my humble background was never once a problem.

If candidates can serve our clients well and make us money in the process, we will hire them. If they can't we won't. Many senior members of my firm are state educated, but they are of course from the grammar school era. Social mobility *is* undoubtedly decreasing, but Labour has a bloody nerve to seek to blame us for that. Personally, I despair to see so few candidates who remind me of myself as a keen young man from nowhere. If I were ever to discriminate unfairly, it would be in favour of such a person.

Labour's education policy for the last 30 years is the problem, as is the fact that it is still unchallenged by the lily-livered Cameron. Our "mentality" is the very opposite of a problem. Make the state education system work, and we will hire its best and brightest without hesitation.

You Milburn, and your odious cohorts, are to blame for this wasteful, deplorable situation. You have blighted the lives of millions and left the learned professions with a limited choice of suitable people to work with. Your class war has damaged the people you purport to serve but still you want more of it, you blinkered fool.

Of course your "report" blames us, rather than you. That was what it was for. Your lies are lies, even when the word "report" is printed on their cover.

Such a rich nation

Schoolchildren021aIn the Labour heartlands in Manchester is "The People's' History Museum," the disingenuous trading name of the National Museum of Labour History. Liberty-minded readers need know no more than that the word "People's" here is used as in "People's Republic".

While, as a registered charity, it must purport to be politically-neutral, the most cursory examination of its website will reveal its true colours. It began as the collection of the Trade Union, Labour and Co-operative History Society and holds the archives of the Communist and Labour Parties.

Since 1990, it has been funded by Manchester's local tax payers. They deserve no better. They have proved they would vote for a bacterium if it were the Labour Party candidate. The "museum" has recently secured another £7.18 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Nothing could better support the view of those who see the National Lottery as "a tax on stupidity". How amazing that - deep in the greatest debt in history - we have money to spare for such stuff.

An employee of the "museum" wrote to me about an upcoming exhibition to be called "Carried Away", which will illustrate the "history of protest" with photographs of demonstrators being forcibly removed by the authorities:

One of the images we are including is dated 17th May 1972 and shows a protest by the Schools Action Union in London...

I am trying to trace any of the children in the photograph (or anyone that participated in the demonstration).  Your blog came up when I googled “Schools Action Union” so I was wondering if you or anyone you know was there that day.

... it’d be great if you could share any memories you have of that day with us, as it would really bring the exhibition to life if we could include first-hand accounts...

Boy, is she barking up the wrong tree. I disclosed my misguided youthful involvement in the SAU in this post, which partly explains how my journey from teenage Maoist to adult libertarian began. Somehow I doubt it is an account of Labour movement history that could ever feature in this politically-neutral "museum".

A famous trade union poster showed a mine-owning "toff" on a miner's back with some such slogan as "a miner carries enough burdens". After 63 years of Socialism in Britain, productive workers are now an exploited minority. The heavy burden they carry includes much such nonsense as this propaganda tool disguised as a "museum".

In the dark again

This morning saw the first total eclipse of the Sun over Shanghai since (apparently) 1575. Sadly, after days of bright sunshine, the weather was overcast. One moment it was the light of morning, the next night. Drivers sounded their horns and people stopped to look up. Then the life of the city resumed.

Apparently some travelled to China just to see it. The clouds must have disappointed them. For me, it was one of those interesting bonuses my travelling life sometimes confers.

I took the pictures from my hotel window, with an iPhone held flat to the glass to steady it at 0936 and 0938.