THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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January 2010

Does the internet show who we really are?

This TED talk makes the audience (and the speaker) laugh at times. They are so conditioned to the statist view of humanity as evil, that its manifold examples of voluntary cooperation seen naive to them. As I listened to "social theorist" Jonathan Zittrain's interesting speech, the thought that came to me was this; he is describing the world as it was before the state took command and control.

He mocks the people who "police" Wikipedia (always 45 minutes from destruction by spambots without their unpaid work). If there was a really big Star Trek convention, he sneers, "...who would be minding the store?" But those diligent nerds are doing what their ancestors did in meatspace, before Sir Robert Peel gave us our professional law enforcers. The hue and cry roused by a simple cry of "Stop, thief" was the only policing until then.

Libertarians are so often portrayed as cruel and heartless, but nothing could be more wrong. We believe in people. We trust them. The statists of right and left do not. They see humans as fundamentally evil; to be controlled at all costs. We see evidence everywhere (despite the odious exceptions on whom they focus) of humanity's essential goodness. This talk gives many examples and the laughter of the people in the audience only reveals how much the modern state has corrupted them.

That's why today's piece by Alan Travis in the Guardian about Margaret Thatcher's 1979 papers, released to the public this week, is so wrong-headed. Anxious to traduce her for the "There is no such thing as society" sound-bite (so often taken out of context) he quotes disapprovingly the following lines from a draft speech;

Morality is personal. There is no such thing as collective conscience, collective kindness, collective gentleness, collective freedom. To talk of social justice, social responsibility, a new world order, may be easy and make us feel good, but it does not absolve each of us from personal responsibility.

That such words could ever be regarded as controversial is evidence of how far the statists have led us from the paths of virtue. As anyone who has lived in a municipal block of flats knows, when "the collective" is responsible, nobody is and the tragedy of the commons ensues.

Be of good cheer though. Jonathan's Zittrain's speech illustrates that the deeply human instinct to take personal responsibility for our fellow men is still there. Government just needs to get out of its way.

Bloggers; take the day off

underdogs bite upwards: So many queens

If you are conservative, old-school liberal, or libertarian spare yourself the trouble of trawling the blogs today. If you are a blogger of that persuasion, spare yourself the trouble of posting. Just link, as I have, to today's post on Underdogs Bite Upwards.

Leg-iron of that parish is the blogger who brought us the term "the Righteous" to describe those modern Britons whose demented certainty brings them, endlessly interfering, into every corner of others' lives. Not for the first time, he has told it like it is. So much so that, frankly, the rest of us can take the day off. Do go read the whole of the passionate piece leading to this peroration

"The true coward is the one who will take no risk at all. The one who will not desert but who will hide behind others when the fighting starts. Those are the weaklings who run the country now.

If you vote Labour, you are one of them. "

And, by the way, if you recognise yourself in this description then, as Leg-iron robustly says,

...if any passing Righteous wish to take offence, be my guest. I don't like you anyway

It's not working. Let's do it more!

BBC News - Rich-poor divide 'wider than 40 years ago'

This doesn't surprise me. The portrayal of the Thatcherite times of my youth by the left-wing establishment has long been ridiculous. It's amusing that it takes such statistics to give the lie to their distortion of history. It's more than amusing that, having acknowledged without thinking that things were (in their terms) better in the Thatcher era, they will now propose more of everything that made matters "worse".

Inequality is not a bug, it's a feature. Like a young man I once knew whose whole career was propelled by one ride in a Ferrari, young people need fuel for ambition. They need to aspire to things that they can't have if they don't make an effort with their education and career. People are different. They don't all have to want the same things. Maybe other youngsters would be inspired to create wealth for the chance it could bring to cure AIDS or cancer. Maybe they just want financial independence to enjoy quiet leisure. The fact remains that if the equality Labour bangs on about so much were actually ever to be achieved, few except saints and sadists would put in much effort.

Every government intervention to create equality will make things "worse". Consider the extreme level of "intervention" adopted in Soviet times. It resulted in huge inequalities between the lifestyle of shop floor or agricultural workers and the Party bosses. Arguably they were far greater than in capitalist countries, where the biggest bosses of the most powerful companies did not enjoy anything like such power over their fellow men.

My driver in post-communist Poland was the son of the General Director of a State Enterprise. They used to fly to their family holidays on the Black Sea in his personal helicopter. Worse, he was offered a place at medical school on the basis of his father's status. Thankfully, he was responsible enough to decline, knowing he was not smart enough. Every time I met a Polish doctor of a certain age, I wondered how responsible he had been when offered such a chance. Every time I hear a Labour politician propose to force universities to take account of the class background of applicants, I remember that story.

All this was happening while at the same time production was being driven into the ground because, in the words of the proverb of those times, for the ordinary worker; 

"Standing up or lying down it's still five zloties an hour"

Why has inequality increased since the 1970s in Britain? Because Labour destroyed (and the Conservatives did not stop them) the grammar schools. If you are born today into the sort of community where I grew up, your only educational option (unless your family is already very wealthy) is a shabby comprehensive school with an appalling academic record and a bad attitude to the very idea of achievement. If you dare to aspire academically, the negative peer pressure from a proudly ignorant community will be reinforced, rather than balanced, by left-wing teaching staff. They will sneer at your "elitism". Your time will be wasted on political indoctrination, and on staff dealing with kids who should never be in the same classroom with you.

If you are black, female or gay you will be told that you are doomed by racism, male chauvinism and homophobia (all of which exist, and none of which have ever prevented anyone from achieving who had talent and actually made an effort). What effect do you expect such teachings to have? Would any sports coach tell his players they have no chance? So, if you are a good boy or girl and believe your teachers, you will actually do less well than if you rebel.

You may well be better off leaving school early and starting a business, provided you are not stupid enough to grow it to the point where it creates employment, thus attracting the attention of the regulators. How many of our glut of cardboard graduates earn enough more than non-graduates to justify their investment? Education doesn't increase equality of opportunity across society as a whole unless, paradoxically perhaps, it gives opportunities to individuals to rise above their peers, whether financially or otherwise.

A rational society strives for quality, not equality. It strives to give those who have talent the maximum incentive to deploy it. A vibrant society that efficiently harnesses the energies of its most talented members is a richer society overall. The creations of the creative and the output of the industrious may fill their bank accounts more than others, but their effort benefits all. The corollary of that is that the idleness of others, costs everyone. A rational society therefore incentivises effort and never rewards idleness. In pursuit of the chimera of "equality" Britain has adopted precisely the opposite approach. Now we can see that, even in its own terms, it doesn't work.

Go on then. You explain it

Hutton inquiry closed David Kelly medical reports for 70 years | Politics | The Guardian.

I have resisted speculating about the death of Dr David Kelly. Largely because I am generally a sceptic when it comes to conspiracy theories. If I ever find myself considering one, I am usually put off by the wild-eyed company in which I find myself. So, I am still not suggesting that anyone in government ordered his murder. I have no evidence to substantiate such an accusation and, to be honest, I don't want to believe such things could happen in my country.

I am racking my brains, however, to conceive of a good alternative explanation as to why all records pertaining to Kelly's death have been sealed for 70 years. What legitimate purpose could such an order possibly serve? I really can't imagine.

Help a struggling patriot retain his faith. Come up with a plausible explanation as to why such an order should have been made. Please.

The campaign against people's justice continues...

Is the internet destroying juries? | UK news | The Guardian.

This is a frothy enough piece for the po-faced Guardian. But it's another foul-smelling drip in an insidious campaign to erode confidence in jury trial. It has all the Guardian's most odious characteristics; purported concern for the little guy, wrapped up in snobbish condescension. Jurors, it seems, are ordinary flawed people who can't be trusted to understand a case, follow simple instructions or even care about doing justice. So who can be trusted? The journalist is sophisticated enough not to say it openly (knowing the roars of contemptuous laughter that would ensue) but the article implies that only a paid functionary of the state will do.

Such people, in the alternative universe inhabited by the Guardian and its readers, are above corruption, free of all personal agendas, unbiased, all-wise and all-knowing. They can be trusted to do justice.The people cannot. Yeah, right.

The internet is not "destroying" anything. It's just a quicker way to access and exchange information. Had the Guardian already existed when the printing press was discovered, one imagines members of the Scribes' Guild protesting the jeopardy to their ancient craft and quilling their fears that information would spread too quickly to be properly explained to the most vulnerable members of society.


The real spirit of the Guardian peeps through in this passage;

"...the ever-more unrestrained behaviour of jurors, compared with their more obedient counterparts of yesteryear, continues to cause concern..."

Obedience. That's what the Guardianistas truly hanker for, like the most stereotypical Colonel Blimp of old. At the masthead of this foul authoritarian rag, should be a banner that reads "Do what you're told; we know better."

A juror without the internet could stop at the public library on his way home and do the same research. It would be harder work, yes. But he could do it. It would be in breach of the rules and against the judge's explicit directions. Juries are no more compromised by the internet making it easier to break the rules than they were when jurors exchanged their bikes for cars and so could get to the library quicker. Why are print journalists such Luddites? It couldn't be perceived self-interest, could it? Surely not from the selfless, right-on journalists of the Guardian at least. Or is it just that anything that makes citizens more difficult to control is a threat to their political agenda? Rather like jury trial, in fact. Or public inquests.

Far more telling than the predictable guff that makes up most of the article is the section headed "...a young juror writes..." The criticisms of the facilities and atmosphere in England's courts ring true. Yes, they are "in the dark ages" and provide "government-issue pie, chips and beans" in a (God help us) "canteen". That is because they are run by the state, young juror! The lesson you should take from your experience is not that justice itself (an ancient concept, it's true) is old-fashioned and primitive, but that those would be the best adjectives for everything in Britain (except police surveillance equipment and weaponry) if the Guardian ever gets its way.

A tragedy in one act

Edlington case is symptom of 'broken society', says David Cameron | UK news |

The local authority began this drama by apologising for its failings. This was both a political statement and an exoneration of every other human being who touched the lives of the young sadists' family. If the reliably incompetent state is responsible for their conduct, then no-one else is. Never mind that "the local community" is tough enough to run them out of town now. They were not tough enough to intervene in the horrors of the boys' upbringing. No, that was up to Social Services, as the council sadly confirms.

Enter David Cameron, stage right. Beneath the fresh, fabric softened woolliness of his lines is the muffled echo of a standard right-wing point. These boys were the inevitable products of welfarism. Bred merely to maximise state benefits, they were unwanted and unloved. No care was taken over their welfare or education nor even to screen them from their parents' vile lives. They grew up, poor creatures, looking on. And they learned, as children will, from their role models. Their outré, Tarantino-like violence is therefore really no surprise.

The left-wing characters in this drama have yet to make their entrances. But there are noises off. The BBC and Guardian accounts mention the horror movies and the pornography meaningfully, without yet seeking to blame them directly. One account (from the BBC) says;

"...the two brothers made their own horror movie..."

Ho hum. Perhaps the trendy QT, purveyor of amusing violence to the intelligentsia, will have a job for them on their release? Once the initial horror has abated, however, a dancing line of Guardianistas will take to the footlights for the finale. And the prescience of a slave in ancient Greece will be proved once again. 

A great city was besieged and its inhabitants were called together to consider the best means of protecting it from the enemy. A bricklayer earnestly recommended bricks as affording the best material for an effective resistance. A carpenter, with equal enthusiasm, proposed timber... Upon which a currier stood up and said, "Sirs, I differ from you altogether; there is no material for resistance equal to a covering of hides; and nothing so good as leather.

The Tory solution will be less welfare. The Labour solution will be more. The Tories will tell us the social workers failed. Labour will tell us that if they were better paid, more expensively trained and more numerous, such horrors could be avoided. The puritans on both sides will blame the likes of Quentin Tarantino for de-sensitising children never sensitised in the first place. The right will seek to ban violent movies and the left (if intellectually consistent) will seek to set a minimum price for horror movie rentals so that only the rich (already lost to morality) can be exposed to their sickening influence.

Finally a chorus of legislators will tell us that new laws will prevent a recurrence. And the curtain will go down on the whole cast bowing before a backdrop of the gleaming city of our collective conscience. Encircled, of course, by a useless leather wall. The drama will have been satisfying though, and the political classes will conceal behind masks of impeccably concerned sadness, just how much they enjoyed their own performances.

Labour; the elite of hypocrisy

Top professions must be less elitist, warn ministers | Society | The Observer.

Once again the oaf Milburn is lecturing the professions on elitism. Once again, I tell him there were more state educated lawyers in firms like mine when I first entered the legal profession than now, 26 years later. Once again, I tell him that it's Labour's fault. Labour introduced and has consistently championed non-selective education. Labour, for its own ideological reasons, destroyed the bottom rungs of the best educational ladder of social mobility this country ever knew. Labour corrupted the once-glorious profession of teaching into a dispirited, unionised rabble of second-class social workers, wasting their precious time on political indoctrination and bureaucracy.

Don't you dare tell us to lower our standards to accommodate yours. Don't you dare ask academic institutions to make allowance for the "contextual information" that you have trashed the educational opportunities of the majority of our young people. We have businesses to run and clients to satisfy. We do not exist to cover up your failings. Instead, why don't you act yourself on the "contextual information" that your apparatchiks in the Colleges of Education are training teachers to believe that achievement = elitism and that ambition is a social disease?

Fix state education. Fix it now or get out of the schools business entirely and let someone else do it. And until you have fixed it, shut up!

An afternoon walk in Shanghai

It's nice and cold (though not by Moscow standards!) Good walking weather so I began to explore my new home. If you think Oxford Street at Christmas is crowded, you would not like Shanghai. I began to get claustrophobic at being in such constant physical contact. Or is that just my English reserve? It didn't seem to bother the Chinese. In a European city, every brush and jostle would feel like an attempted pick-pocketing. It seems not to be such a worry here. The sky was overcast and the light poor but I took some shots I quite liked (click to enlarge).