THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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October 2012

The BBC is a worker's co-operative

A-JIMMY-SAVILE-640x468I applaud the BBC's decision to allow Panorama to investigate what it knew about Jimmy Savile's misconduct and why the Newsnight story about his alleged paedophilia was pulled. The video is available for a while to UK residents on the BBC iPlayer here:

Any organisation that is not dependent upon its customers, whether a state or private monopoly, will eventually become self-serving. During my career I was party to many conversations about how to maximise profit for the owners of our businesses and provide attractive employment terms for our staff, but they all turned in the end to what our customers would want, or at least accept. We spent much more time worrying how to please customers than please ourselves. Satisfied customers who choose to come back are the only guarantee for owners, managers and workers in the private sector that they can achieve their personal goals.

As will all state enterprises funded by taxation, the BBC has become, in effect, a worker's co-operative. The "customers" have to pay regardless, so they become irrelevant and the focus turns to the interests of its own people. No private business would survive the shit storm that is heading the BBC's way. The share price would now be collapsing as investors tried to get out before the lawsuits begin. I confidently and sadly predict however that the BBC will survive. It has the coercive power of the state behind it and will simply take your money to settle the cases. It is the left establishment's propaganda arm and they will rally to restore its reputation.

We are about to have an instructive, but depressing, demonstration of the realities of modern Britain. We will be able to compare and contrast the BBC news and current affairs teams' handling of this story with their campaign against News International. Just imagine if the phone-hackers had worked for Newsnight and Savile had worked for Sky News!

Predictable though it all was, it was still disturbing to follow Panorama's account of the decision-making process within the Corporation. There was lots of high-falutin' stuff about editorial independence and a clear concern for the BBC's reputation. There was also some po-faced nonsense about depending on the trust of a public that, trusting or not, it will continue to plunder by use of state force. Not one person (apart from those making official statements once the story was out and the lady reporter from Newsnight who will no doubt pay for it when the storm has passed) expressed any convincing concern for their customers-by-force. Some of whom have, it seems, been abused by members of the collective and friends under their protection.

I watched the faces of the people making the allegations and it brought back another memory from the days of watching Jim'll Fix It. I found a girl from my school in a drunken heap at the side of the road on my way home from a date with my girlfriend one night. I tried to help her to go home. It turned out she was in social services care and lived in a nearby childrens' home. When I offered to take her there she begged me not to. She offered sex if I would take her somewhere, anywhere, else. Indeed, "offered" is something of a euphemism. If I had a victim mentality, I would say she attempted rape. I was able to restrain her and decline her offer.

I asked if she had relatives and she told me about an uncle who lived in the area. In retrospect, I worry that she made him up or that her relationship with him was rather different, but I was a naive teenager. I took her to a nearby pub and gave her the money to call him. I left her in the care of the publican, once assured her uncle was on his way.

I later found out that she lived in one of the homes at the centre of a notorious scandal. It rather explained both her reluctance to go there and her use of sex as a currency. I now dread to think what she was going through while I was enjoying a safe and happy childhood. I am ashamed to have ever thought myself hard done to by my strict parents, when I consider what that girl had been put through by the "caring" state professionals paid to look after her.

Here is the fatal flaw in all collectivist thinking; the reason why public service organisations are all more or less corrupt and can never fully be trusted. Here is the reason why Britain's public intellectuals are not merely gullible, idealistic, fools but a serious threat to our welfare.

All organisations funded by force are essentially immoral.

In their detachment from the relentless reality of having to satisfy customers and in their assurance that livelihoods do not depend upon that satisfaction, selfish, abusive behaviours will grow among their staff. Whether in care homes for the elderly, childrens homes, the Parliamentary expenses office, army barracks or police stations bad things will happen not by accident but flawed design. To be clear, I am not saying that public sector workers are all, or even mostly, evil or ill-intentioned. I am just saying that a disproportionate number of the lazy, greedy and wicked in any society will be attracted, as Savile was, to positions they are able to abuse. Nor am I saying there should be no public sector. I am not an anarchist. I accept the need for a state. But here is a strong argument for it to be kept to an absolute minimum.

There is a reason socialist states have always had to resort to prison camps and shootings to maintain discipline and reduce corruption in the ranks. At least, that is, within limits that don't threaten the corrupt gains of their ruling elites. In the absence of Stalinist discipline, what happened at the BBC - the way the collective closed ranks to protect an insider - is not a sad exception to the rule. It is the rule.

Reform Section 5

It's a relief, after feeling so out of line with modern British thought during the last weekend, to hear a modern Brit express views that seem healthy and sane. Here's Rowan Atkinson on the subject of free speech and, more specifically, the campaign to reform section 5 of the Public Order Act.


And here's the PC Savage sketch he mentions.


It's instructive that the Public Order Act dates from 1986. The police have had the ability to charge people with public order offences for "insult" since then but have only begun to do so in recent years as the "outrage industry" has gained traction. When civil liberties issues are raised about new legislation and you think the concerns are over-stated, please remember this. You may see no immediate change in your life, but every new law adds to the stack of weaponry available to the authoritarians amongst us.

Like Mr Atkinson, I support the campaign to reform section 5. If you have a blog, please consider doing so there too. If you have a Twitter account, please tweet your support. If you have any friends, please tell them about it over a pint or a glass of wine.

h/t Velvet Glove, Iron Fist

Compulsion works

BOI Day 21
Rob Riemen, Nexus Institute

I attended three sessions on the second day of the Battle of Ideas 2012. The event helped me understand how Britain has changed during the twenty years I was away. My classical liberal views, as held by most enlightened people since, well, the Enlightenment are now considered to be not merely out of step but wicked. Today I heard them bracketed in all seriousness, with fascism. And not by some foaming-at-the-mouth student Trot, but by this eminent intellectual (photo, above)

I also heard him claim that Geert Wilders had attacked his right of free expression by trying to close down his institute. When I asked him later what Wilders had actually done, he explained that he had lobbied (unsuccessfully) for the institute's state funding to be withdrawn. Whatever you think of Wilders' views (and I hold no brief for him) he is a man who is in such danger for speaking freely that he has to sleep at a different location every night under armed guard. It is extremely dishonest to equate an attempt to stop money being extorted from taxpayers to finance the expression of a particular view to the suppression of free speech.

I also disliked Riemen's dishonest hijacking of the language of spirituality to argue that we must submit to a higher good. We don't need more wealth, he said (tell that to the Chinese and Indians) we need "true education" (i.e. indoctrination in his way of thinking) and "arts, culture, knowledge, wisdom, love". Those things are desirable, of course, but all except love need money to pursue. As someone who lived his working life as part of the engine of society, I get tired of hearing the wing mirrors and the pine-scented air freshener (however much I might like to have both) tell me snootily that they are more important.

BOI Day 24
Professor Frank Furedi

The only encouraging words I heard in the session at which Riemen spoke on The 21st Century Case for Freedom were from Frank Furedi, late leader of the the Revolutionary Communist Party and now emeritus professor of Sociology at the University of Kent. He told us Stalinists had said freedom was less important than poverty because how could you be free if you were hungry and that George W. Bush had said it was less important than security because how could you be free if you were afraid of terrorists. Both Right and Left used the same arguments to subvert freedom and he thought they were mere excuses. We needed to reassert that freedom was a primary good, not one to be subordinated to others at every turn. As he put it,

We need an unqualified endorsement of freedom. No ifs and no buts.

Wary though I am of the man himself, I could not agree with him more on this point. Furedi and the leader of the Institute of Ideas, Claire Fox (another RCP graduate) are denounced by the likes of George Monbiot as defectors from the left to the libertarian right for their defences of free speech and liberty. I am not sure whether they, or we true libertarians, should be more insulted. They both still claim to be leftists, and I believe them, but they are fulfilling a useful role. They are beaters who flush out the undoubted enemies of freedom from cover for us to shoot them down.

BOI Day 22
Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, reacts to the notion that Freedom is a primary good

Furedi certainly fulfilled that function in the session I attended. Both Riemen and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett were visibly disturbed by the notion of freedom as a primary good.

While advocating the execrable policy of a citizen's basic income whereby the productive are required to support anyone who decides to be idle (which she jokingly predicted will lead to lots of bad poetry) Bennett was laudably hostile to the coalition government's plans to hold more secret trials (euphemistically called closed material procedures) when the interests of the State are at stake. That was it though from her as far as civil liberties are concerned.

Like so many at the event, Bennett claimed to be concerned about the state's freedom of operation in the face of powerful corporate interests. She cited the SuperPACs in the US elections, corporate lobbying and advertising as evidence that the state, God help us, is weak in the face of the business world.

I wanted to tell her that everyone in the room was several trillion pounds richer than the UK government, but that doesn't mean they are a threat. The idea that a state with a total monopoly on the use of force, control over the national curriculum, control through state funding of a huge proportion of academic research, the ability to propagandise constantly at taxpayer expense etc. is weak in the face of companies only interested in selling goods and services is too ludicrous for words. Nonetheless, it was a constant theme at the event and I cannot tell if those arguing it are genuinely stupid or dishonestly justifying more state control. I suspect the latter. I know Orwell's point that some things are so stupid only intellectuals can believe them, but this just goes too far.

As did Bennett's complaint that the people of Totnes are getting a branch of Costa Coffee they don't want because the planning system is too weak to protect their "freedom". If the people of Totnes don't want their new coffee shop, it will be gone in months. Opening it is a bet the company is making that they do want it. All the residents have to do is not show up. The idea that planning control promotes freedom, when it actually limits the use by an owner of his own property, destroying value in the process, is again, too ridiculous to be anything but sinister. 

Freedom had to be constrained, she said predictably, by the physical limits on the Earth's resources. Uncontroversial enough, but however pessimistic you are about the environmental limits of economic development, there are traditional approaches to making people pay for their externalities, rather than demanding centralised control of production and, as Bennett did, rationing of carbon outputs. Those approaches are consistent with both free markets and the exercise of personal choice. Even without getting into the debate about whether, in Furedi's terms, Anthropogenic Global Warming is another moral panic/excuse to limit freedom, environmental factors need not make freedom an unaffordable luxury.

The second session I attended was called Risk, regulation and red tape. I am sorry to tell you it was even more depressing. Professor Nick Butler of Kings College and more relevantly the Fabian Society actually said from a public platform with a straight face;

All the regulations of the last 50 years were necessary and are effective.

I noted it carefully because I could not believe my ears. There was a good discussion in the session of the costs of over- or mis-regulation. I strongly argued that the greatest cost of all was in the businesses that never begin. The costs of entry of compliance with regulations prepared for (and sometimes lobbied for by) big business prevent many startups. Simon Nixon of the Wall Street journal laid the blame for increasing regulation at the door of citizens who are simply not prepared to accept risk as their fathers and grandfathers did. If we demand the government insure us against all harm, then it's inevitable, he argued, that government must regulate fiercely to limit its own liability. 

This sounds like a good excuse, but does not apply to regulations sponsored by big business to block competition. There is no pressure from the people for government to rig the market, surely? Submitting to such pressure is criminally corrupt and the people are more likely to relish Ministers going to gaol for it, than applaud them. The only point on which Professor Butler and I agreed was that all regulations (I suggested all statutes too) should have a "sunset clause" so that they expire automatically unless renewed after, say, 10 years. I don't think one generation has a right to bind the next and time-limited laws would have the benefit of preventing archaic rules from silting up the legal system. They would have the subsidiary benefit of keeping politicians busy ensuring their favourite laws stayed in force, rather than justifying their existence by constantly creating new ones. The devil has found lots of work for those idle hands.

I took pleasure in making in public my oft-repeated point here that the state's workforce is bigger than it appears because so many people in the private sector are engaged in tax collection (VAT and PAYE) and compliance, which is of no benefit to the customers or owners of the business. I pointed out that the HR department of the large law firm I retired from was bigger than the whole medium-sized firm I trained in - most of them engaged on ensuring compliance with employment law. When these secret civil servants are counted, I strongly suspect the proportion of people engaged on the state's business in Britain today is higher than it was in Poland or Czechoslovakia immediately before the fall of Communism.

BO1 Day 2 - 2
The panel on the "Risk, Regulation and Red Tape" session. L-R Littlewood, Nixon, Fox, Appleton, Amitrano and Professor "No bad regulations" Butler
Mark Littlewood of the IEA floated the interesting idea that, if regulations are so beneficial to consumers, the government could commercialise the system by allowing unregulated businesses to operate if they branded their goods with a suitable warning. This could permit people to choose between, say, a cheaper cola with no lists of ingredients on the can and more expensive "safer" stuff they would presumably prefer. This foxed his opponents because of its novelty and the slowness of their unused-to-being-challenged thought processes. I am fairly sure their answer when they regroup will be that this will expose the "vulnerable in society", obviously too stupid to understand the benefits of regulation, to exploitation.

As so often the most alarming views came from the floor. One shrill lady took exception to the ridiculing of Health & Safety, darkly assuring us that employers were ready, if we dropped our guard, to start inflicting pain, injury and death on their workers. In thirty years in commercial law, I can't say I ever met a business person with such aspirations, but perhaps I was just lucky?

The final session I attended yesterday was called Drink, Smoke, Eat; Prohibition Today. This was by far the liveliest, but also the least satisfactory. The health fascists on the panel refused to engage, saying there was no plan for prohibition, while declining to set any limits on future restrictions on the sale, marketing and use of legal products such as tobacco. Pressed, the One Show Doctor, Sarah Jarvis said that there was a difference between tobacco and alcohol because there was a safe limit to which alcohol could be used, while any smoking was dangerous. She was a personable lady whom I would be happy to have as my GP and whose advice I would try to take. She simply didn't grasp, in her backed-by-state-force arrogance, that there was a difference between being an advisor and a boss.

When we nationalised medical services in Britain (a mistake in my view, but that's for another time) we did not give the medical profession a promotion. We still expect them to serve us, not direct us. Nor do we expect them to describe us as a "cost" to the NHS, when the NHS is a cost to us. It may sound a bit Downton Abbey (the sneering leftists at the Barbican and their overt contempt for the plebs - though of course they would never use the word - may perhaps have infected me) but this woman simply does not know her place.

On the cost point, the excellent Chris Snowden (author of The Spirit Level Delusion for which contribution to society I was delighted to have chance to buy him a thank you pint later) pointed out that, if the Health Lobby's arguments were true, the smokers, drinkers and over-eaters were saving the NHS a fortune by dying before they became a burden. The laugh this got from the health fascists rather gave the lie to their "caring" stance.

BO1 Day 2 - 4
The winner of my "worst person at the Battle of Ideas" award, Dr Michael "Fun" Nelson

Which brings me my award for the all-round worst person at the Battle of Ideas. This is a great honour for someone from the dark side of statism, given the hundreds of Marxists, busybodies and all-out fascists present. My choice is Dr Michael Nelson, director of research and nutrition at the Children's Food Trust (a "social business" working with the "charity" the Schools Food Trust).

Again, it wasn't the advice he would give parents as to what their children should eat but his contempt for their ability to make choices and their right to do so that was the problem. He gave this post its title when he complained that parents (as witness the contents of packed lunches they sent with their children to school) could not be trusted to make good choices for their childrens health. Government attempts to improve nutrition by requiring catering contractors to offer healthy choices had failed because those choices were simply not taken up. If we care about "our children" he said (oddly as he and I have no children together) then we must help parents who; 

...we know from experience do not themselves have the the power of executive decision when it comes to their own diet...

I asked myself (but did not dare to articulate the suggestion unless it gave him ideas) why he stopped short of taking all British children into care. After all, their parents are too stupid to raise them properly and are jeopardising their health irresponsibly.

I don't doubt the good doctor's sincere desire to make children healthier, but fear he lacks understanding of the consequences of what he says. Yes "compulsion works", just as when soldiers are taught to accept orders without question. But people trained to obedience find it hard to fit back into society as autonomous individuals. Since returning to Britain I find my fellow-citizens, on average, rather irritating. I have realised in the last couple of days it's because they don't behave as adults any more. They are spoiled children assuming that mummy and daddy (the state) will make any problem they face go away. They are resistant to the idea they are responsible for their own lives and simply demand that the productive minority - through the agency of the state's monopoly of force - be compelled to pay for whatever the hell they want.

Conversely, when Dr Sarah complains that the "same few names" cropped up as causing drunken trouble in her Shepherd's Bush surgery on a Friday afternoon, it never occurs to her to suggest action against those problematic individuals. No, she sees it as a reason to impose restrictions on us all, even though most of us will never (however much her thoughtless authoritarianism might infuriate us) rampage through her waiting room.

I must now seriously consider if it's worth wasting my life supporting ideas that are, as far as our ruling class is concerned, dead. Hearing our public intellectuals expound the new orthodoxy, it's clear that nothing short of economic collapse or armed revolution will change their minds. As I desire neither and will certainly do nothing to promote them, perhaps I should just shut up? God knows a weekend spent listening to them discuss how best to command and control a population they despise for its stupidity and ignorance was not my idea of fun. Given their creepy authoritarianism, it may also be unwise to provide them with an online public archive of my "wicked" views.

I have taken the event at face value and applaud what it attempted. While I am fully aware of the shady background of the Institute of Ideas and its founders, I think they genuinely attempted to assemble the full range of British intellectual opinion. That range is simply neither very wide, nor very intellectual.

I was left with the impression that the British Establishment, and particularly academia, is so thoughtlessly leftist that our public intellectuals have descended into lazy complacency. They face no challenge to their stale ideas. As someone who spent two decades in post-Communist countries trying to build on economic, social and political ruins wrought by indistinguishable ideas, I find that incredible. Not to mention rather disgusting.

To hear them talk, state control of public commerce and private behaviour for the greater good of "society" (as defined by an authoritarian elite) is a radical new idea that has never been tried. The global suffering of Marxism's 20th Century guinea pigs is forgotten and they are looking to fill their lab's cages with new ones.

Our nation is already run on their principles under their guidance. What they would call in other contexts "hate speech" against the business people who generate the wealth to sustain them in their parasitical existence is the common currency of the political class, whether Labour, LibDem or "Conservative". Yet still they rail against unnamed "elites" who plunder our "collective assets" for private gain. I wanted to cry out "When will you bloody tyrants stop playing the victim?" As a fellow-libertarian who did rather lose it in one of the sessions found out, it would have earned only uncomprehending looks.

Their view of corporations is as nuanced as the portrayal of super-villains in a comic book or Bond film. Frankly the Joker or Blofeld are more fully-developed characters, with more believable motivations than their image of a business man or woman. They wield the state's monopoly of violence to shape our everyday lives. Yet they expect us to fear those whose only motivation is to make money by selling us things we want.

Our children come home indoctrinated from schools where they have shaped the curriculum. They go to universities where a leftist professor setting an essay on Plato can announce "Anyone who quotes Popper with approval will be marked down". A professor I shocked in conversation during the weekend accepted that British academia is riddled with Marxists. Yet still the left expect us to believe that commercial advertising is so powerful as to make a nonsense of free will.

I understand the motivations of the business people they despise, whereas theirs strike me as pathological. My mistakes have given me the humility to understand that it's really hard to get one's own life right. To believe you have the wisdom to shape the lives of your fellow-citizens better than they could themselves is, to my mind, insane. What is the point of engaging lunatics in discussion?

A Guardianista gets it, up to a point

It's elementary - I'm not a racist | Comment is free | The Observer.

It's remarkable how clearly all Guardianisti understand the concept of free speech, when it's their own right to opine at stake. Speak up, speak up they say. Let a thousand flowers blossom, let a hundred schools of thought contend. Until they use one of their free speech safewords, such as "racist", "islamophobe", "sexist", "homophobe", "climate change denier", "smoker*" or, of course, "right wing".

Victoria Coren, however, is to be commended this once for getting it absolutely correct;

Last week, a caller to the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 said that Andrew Mitchell should be jailed for swearing at the police because "there is too little respect for them".

As someone who remembers from childhood the timid, furtive voices of east European cousins on the phone – those few who had survived the concentration camps – who dared not speak freely from behind the Iron Curtain because they feared being tapped and followed, I am extremely offended by the suggestion that my own beautiful British society should become a police state, in which rudeness to these authority figures is punished by incarceration. But do I think the caller should be jailed for offending me? No, I think there should be no such thing as a speech crime. However foul a thing you want to say, you can say it freely as far as I'm concerned. And I'm including the skinheads who shouted "Yid" at me during my grandfather's funeral.

Yet, even if you believe that offensive remarks should be proscribed by law, what about remarks that are misunderstood as offensive? It's nigh impossible to speak without any risk of misinterpretation, especially when mobs are out there looking to be outraged.

You don't have to support the campaign to reform Section 5. But one day, your teasing dig in a colleague's leaving card will be taken the wrong way; or your mobile phone comment will be misheard by passers-by in a crowded street; and then they will come for you.

Well said, comrade. As I pass my weekend ruefully at the Battle of Ideas, I wish I had a time machine to take so many of your readers for a little holiday in the old Soviet Union. Or even to my time in Warsaw or Moscow in the years that followed Communism's collapse to meet so many of those I knew there with clear memories of the old days and deep contempt for the truly racist idea that socialism can be made to work by superior Westerners, without a KGB or Stasi emerging.

h/t Tim Worstall

*usually rendered as "tool of Big Tobacco"

More skirmishes in the Battle of Ideas

To be honest, the event today was better than the first session had augured. I guess it's just what you have to expect if you go to a debate about "equality" in Britain, but if I had heard just one more person say that "obviously" we were all in favour of it, I think I would have needed a sick bag. Most of the time (except, notably, for equality before the law and - as far as can be engineered - equality of educational opportunity) equality is not merely undesirable but unjust. Lots of different economic, social and judicial outcomes are appropriate according to an individual's talent, effort and compliance with relevant law.

Even one of the leftist speakers,  Professor Thomas Eriksen from Norway, suggested that the Left might have overplayed its hand with category discrimination. Too right, professor. Not least because the social categories at least, far from being fixed forever by destiny, are fluid. As Sir Keith Joseph said to me at university when I told him (recent ex-Marxist as I then was) that I still had a problem with inherited wealth;

Clogs to clogs in three generations.

My late wife and I would have qualified for positive discrimination on access to university according to current thinking. Our admissions tutor should have moved our grades up to account for the poor performance of our bog-standard comprehensive school and the social deprivation of its pupils. Our daughters however should have been discriminated against on such logic as the privileged, private-school educated children of a then partner in a City of London law firm. As I listened to speaker Joyce McMillan dismiss all such students as my daughters as drunken yahoos who only made it to university because they were "coached to the nth degree", I wept inwardly for her. Such pathetic hate-warped ignorance and prejudice is more to be pitied than feared. Come on Alex Salmond. Take these archaic class warrior despisers of excellence off our hands forever.
BoI1The highlight of that first session for me however was provided by that oxygen thief Trevor Phillips, a lifelong shallow-witted student politician who has learned nothing since I first knew of him in his NUS days. He expressed puzzlement as to why, when he researched educational attainment in Britain's schools, he found that children of Chinese ethnic origin outperformed all other groups. I asked him from the audience if that didn't prove that the logic of the Left had been at fault for twenty or more years. After all, whatever precise mechanism explained their performance, it proved that they were not doomed to fail by racism or social deprivation. it was clearly within the power of any group in society to change educational outcomes if its members chose to do so. Unsurprisingly, he didn't reply to that. The Chinese community in Britain has proved that race has bugger all to do with educational attainment. Nor of course have any of the other "protected characteristics" in the ridiculous Equalities Acts. The true racists, sexists and classists are those who pronounce a false doom on victims who need never be victims at all.

BoI2The session on "Social Media: good or bad?" tended rather to the latter alas. Dr Norman Lewis suggested that they were replacing - for the West's cosseted children - the opportunities they used to have for spending unsupervised time with friends. Andrew Keen, digital entrepreneur and author, advised potential investors in social media to forget about open platforms and to focus instead on closed, subscription-model privacy. "Darkness is the new sexy", apparently, and "the internet needs to be taught to forget", if necessary by government diktat.

Dr Lewis said we should be focussing on the positive applications of social media in business, rather than worrying constantly about the threat to privacy. When I suggested that we needn't worry much about the anonymised information collected by social sites as the price for their "free" services, but that the State was the real threat, Keen was dismissive. The State, he opined, is not the threat it was. Big Brother has become "lots of little brothers." He has a way with a soundbite, I have to confess, but I am damned if I can extract any actual meaning from that one.

The session on "Capitalism: kill or cure" however was so relentlessly sensible that some time traveler from the 1970s was moved to cry,

But you are all in favour of it and no-one has uttered the 's' word... Socialism!

As even the anti-capitalists in the audience were not offering any alternative, but rather proposing to 'improve' it by forcing companies to ignore all market signals (e.g. a desire for Prada handbags) that contradicted their views, his outburst was duly ignored.

BoI3Had I been called upon to speak from the floor in that session, I would have pointed out that the "global crisis" they kept mentioning was actually only a crisis of the West. The Chinese Communist Party's (highly tentative) unleashing of market forces has already raised 100 million people from poverty. When their peoples' average income passes that of India (as it will in the next decade) we can expect a similar unleashing in that corrupt nation. We can then hope for perhaps a half billion people a decade to escape poverty in the East while the West pays the price, not for capitalism, but for an imprudent affection for public and private debt. Of course, the typical Guardian-reading attendee of the Battle of Ideas would probably then pity the newly unimpoverished Easterners for their resulting "enslavement to materialism." The rest of us, however, will duly note the arrival of more customers for our businesses and rejoice.

I enjoyed my final session today on "Can the Law make us Equal". The speakers were mainly lawyers and even the Leftist on the panel, blogger Jack of Kent, expressed the sensible (and to leftists in the audience, surprising) view that we need to be aware of the law's limitations. There is nothing like the practice of law, no doubt, to educate one about those. He did not quite adhere to the wisdom of Montesquieu that;

Quand il n'est pas nécessaire de faire une loi, il est nécessaire de ne pas en faire

but he came closer than any leftist of my recent acquaintance. I wanted, but did not get the chance, to observe that the "magic" of law is much undermined by its use to impose unpopular views on the people. The trick is to secure compliance with minimal violence and this requires those bound by the laws, in general, to consent to them. The more we accustom people to being in conflict with the law, the less they will respect it in general.

In fairness, the panelists generally were skeptical about the the Law's usefulness as an educational tool. Sometimes it gets ahead of public opinion, they thought, but generally it should reflect it. As for the audience members, there were some sensible ideas expressed but - again - they seemed to be in a forlorn minority. The Battle of Ideas may continue, fitfully, but in England the War seems lost. I sat open-mouthed, for example, as a speaker from the audience said to liberal-minded panel member Alex Deane;

We don't want freedom any more Alex. We want regulation. We want control

I waited for the laughter as I first assumed he was joking. Then I realised he was serious and waited for the jeers. Reaction was there none. This sentiment, in modern London, was completely uncontroversial. Ouch.

The pillow fight of ideas

I am spending this weekend at the Battle of Ideas at the Barbican. It got off to a bad start for me with a session on equality that was more like the deep graveyard peace of a single idea than a battle. Four leftists set out possible views of equality, all favourable, and concluded that "everyone" agreed it was good and we needed more of it for the sake of our mental health because envy apparently drives them mad. Who knew?

A token non-Leftist offered a slightly different view and the chairman declared (with no hint of irony) that every possible idea had been expressed. I was ready to throw myself off one of the Barbican's ugly balconies in despair for the future of my ideologically-blinkered nation, but later sessions on social media and lobbying (while tainted by the usual Downton Abbey snobbery about "trade" expressed in fake Estuary English) were marginally more interesting.

More posts will follow. If any of you are here come over and say "hi" to the two metre tall guy in the blue jacket with a big camera case on his shoulder and an iPad in his hand.

One Europe for all, including murderers

You thought the whole 'EUSSR' thing was over the top? Have a look at this poster – Telegraph Blogs.

Europeans should be every bit as shocked to see the hammer and sickle on the above EU propaganda as they would be to see the swastika. Tellingly, their leaders don't think they will be. I wonder why?
When will people get it into their heads that this Communist_star.svgsymbol
represents every bit as vile an ideology as this one? 4886894-chrome-swastika-symbol-isolated-on-the-black-computer-generated-3d-photo-rendering

Not yet, apparently. At least not in the EU's corridors of power.