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

Learning to love public servants

Should Romney Seek the Public Sector Vote? — The American Magazine.

This is one of the more interesting posts I have read on the US elections and I wonder how similar the statistics would be in the UK. Libertarians and small state conservatives tend to generalise about public servants in negative terms, but the author Pete Peterson makes the point that: might serve Republicans better to take a “don’t hate the player, hate the game” approach to their attacks on government spending. The attention should move from the personal to the systemic—to bureaucracy—and its naturally problematic qualities.
It's fair enough to complain about useless, pointless jobs in the public sector, and even more so about "public service" jobs that actually harm the public. That doesn't mean our fellow-citizens who do them are themselves useless, pointless or deliberately harmful.

Some public sector jobs actually attract people with conservative, if not libertarian, values. Think of policemen, soldiers and - well there must be a third category even if it doesn't immediately spring to mind. While joining the judiciary sadly appeals to some busybodies and even authoritarians, the role of judge is - especially in a Common Law system where the law did not originate as a tool of government - a public service job that suits libertarians. Indeed the role of the judges in upholding the Rule of Law against the over-mighty in government and business should attract them.

The statistics in the linked post even suggest that American public servants are not as pro-Big Government as their own self-interest might seem to dictate.
61 percent of the government employees surveyed ... agreed with the statement that “the federal government has become a special interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests.” While not as high as the response by private sector respondents (74 percent agreed) this is still a revealing admission.
Even more encouragingly:
...more than half of both public and private sector workers “believe government and big business work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors.” And 59 percent of government employees surveyed agreed that they “trust the judgment of the American people over political leaders.”
What results would a similar poll in Britain produce?

Less surprisingly, American public servants are more likely to vote than their private sector counterparts. Some of this can be accounted for by demographics. Public servants there tend (wastefully) to be better educated than the general population and the more educated an American is, the more likely he is to vote. The rest may be accounted for by a desire to influence government to spend more, but America's public sector vote at least is not uniformly leftist. President Obama's lead among the 21.7 million American public servants is only one million. If Romney stopped bashing bureaucrats, who knows how that might change?

When the glad day dawns on which the state begins to downsize, we can confidently expect the attitudes of public servants to harden. Until the benefits for employment of setting the people free become clear, people will be understandably afraid of losing their jobs. Still, if we are to persuade our fellow-citizens along that path (and as libertarians we have no resort to our opponents' beloved violence, so persuasion is our only weapon) we might do well to play the ball not the man when it comes to discussing the public sector.

This is the dawning of the Age of Mockery, apparently.

 Muslims protest 'age of mockery' as thousands descend on Google HQ - Telegraph.

I applaud the stance of Google and its subsidiary YouTube in response to the demands of the mob outside their offices in London yesterday. I worry that their stance might be less tough if they were headquartered anywhere but in the United States, where the constitution strongly protects free speech. Or for that matter if Google had not been founded by a Russian who knows from family experience what totalitarianism feels like. If Google were run by woolly-minded Old Etonians with more manners than ethics, who knows how it might have reacted?

Of course I respect the rights of primitive and backward people with no concept of the importance of free speech to call for films to be banned. All I ask from them in return is that they respect my right to call them primitive and backward for doing so, without whingeing about "hate speech" or (ludicrously) equating my stance with "terrorism." I can't help but be ashamed of them when they are my fellow citizens however. Nor can I help being even more ashamed of the fellow-member of the legal profession speaking for them. How did such a sorry creature ever obtain admission to the Bar?

Most of all though I am worried that my country's constitution does not protect such vital rights. They can be so easily lost at any time by politicians pandering to such people. Politicians, perhaps, with more manners - or more ideology - than ethics.

Wrong on every level?

Stumbling and Mumbling: In defence of idleness.

Is our bias in favour of industry and thrift out-dated? Do we need to adapt to a new paradigm? Chris Dillow of the blog Stumbling and Mumbling, who bills himself as "an extremist, not a fanatic", believes so. He even arranges English words in plausible patterns to advance his argument. Does work, as he argues, really now come down to a matter of taste? Should those who like it really be grateful for those to whom it is unappealing? And therefore ready to subsidise them as they, for example, go fishing?

I cringe at his every word. I can't help feeling that it's all a bit Woosterish, with simply a new cast of characters camped out in the Drones Club, but he seems sincere. Work is bad and leisure is good. Therefore the more leisure the better and such work as remains necessary should be left, rather like military service, to underpaid volunteers. Am I just old-fashioned? Conditioned by centuries of necessary graft? Or is there something wrong with his vision? Not to mention something creepy about the way that he imagines these are matters to be arranged centrally, with some higher authority moving us omnisciently around on a metaphorical chessboard?

A Conservative Woman’s Manifesto

A Conservative Woman’s Manifesto.

I feel the need to share the linked post with you. It is dignified, funny and true. It is amusing that it should end up on one of President Obama's campaign websites in response to the usual leftist nastiness about their opponents. I wonder how long it will be allowed to remain.

I would only add that the Left's condescension to women is matched by that to every group it seeks to badge as victims. I know there is always a chance that fate will make a victim of us but I don't see any reason to waste our precious time on thie Earth by volunteering for victimhood.

h/t Old South

Socialism's popularity - not quite explained

The Commentator.

I am conscious that I have yet to make good on my promise to explain the continued political success of Socialism, despite its core ideas having been so thoroughly and bloodily discredited. Every time I try to write the promised post, something easier comes up to distract me. To be honest, it's hard to write anything the executive summary of which is not that "my fellow citizens are incredibly stupid." I know, on average, that's not true so I keep binning drafts tending that way.

Douglas Carswell MP has however made a contribution to this field of study in the linked post.

...government in many Western states started to grow soon after the introduction of unequal taxation. In the first decade of the twentieth century, in Britain, America, Australia and elsewhere, so-called progressive taxes were introduced. Government has grown in every decade since.

His thesis seems to be that while the original justification for "progressive" taxation (higher rates for those with higher incomes) was Socialist redistribution of wealth, it persists not because voters believe in that.  Rather it's because it makes it easier, selfishly, for them to vote themselves more benefits at the imagined expense of others. I am not sure that saying "my fellow citizens are incredibly greedy" is much more appealing than the way my binned posts were leaning, but he might have a point.

The first comment on Mr Carswell's post is also rather interesting. It has some potential for explaining why the state's "redistribution of wealh" so often seems to be from the poor to the middle class - a sort of national microcosm of the old saw about foreign aid amounting to poor people in rich countries giving money to rich people in poor countries.

The increase in government increases the employment of middle and upper middle class well educated people who lack the drive, technical skills and initiative to run their own businesses. These people have the ability to understand complex procedures and enjoy the fact that following rules will provide a relatively well paid, safe and secure employment.

Might this at least account for the popularity of Socialism with the middle class Guardianisti? Delightfully, if true, it would mean that they are effectively higher-paid welfare scroungers, which might account also for their indignant defence of those worthies. Of course that's perhaps adequately explained by their making a living from farming the underclass, rather than belonging to its saloon bar version.

What do you think? Did the concept of unequal taxation lead us to our present bind? Is the real motivation for big government not the discredited Socialist ideas used to justify it, but the sinecure jobs it provides to educated idlers?

Shrewsbury pickets seek to edit history the Hobsbawn way

BBC News - Shrewsbury 24 pickets' plea over 1973 convictions.

I thank the reader who drew this story to my attention. Some of you may recall I have personal experience of the conduct of the Shrewsbury Pickets and blogged about it here.

Coincidentally, I was driving a member of my family past the housing development where the incident happened last week. I mentioned the story to him and this led later to a discussion with my father. He confirmed, as I carefully did not in my original post (as I did not know him from Adam at the time) that it was Ricky Tomlinson who led the "pickets" that day.

This campaign is a dishonest disgrace. It is a slur on the jury that convicted Tomlinson on specimen charges involving conduct on other building sites such as my father and I witnessed on his. I therefore confidently expect the Labour Party to support it. After all, as its warm eulogies for Hobsbawn demonstrate, it values the Marxist perspective much more than mere truth.

Protect your Freedom – Please retweet and respond!

Protect your Freedom – Please retweet and respond! — Anna Raccoon.

I refer my gentle readers to Anna's linked post today. It is important. The state is seeking extended powers to interfere in personal relationships between citizens with legal capacity to make their own decisions. Telling social workers to "get lost" will result, if such powers are granted, in actions incompatible with a free society. Telling self-selected statist busybodies to "get lost" is often, of course, the first duty of a free citizen.

Most responses to the Department of Health's consultation will be, in the natural course of things, from the aforementioned self-selected statist busybodies - either those serving the state or their political cheerleaders.

Please therefore consider following the links in Anna's post or this one to obtain the consultation questions and then file your own responses by email or post. I have reproduced my own responses (submitted in my real name) below but please respond in your own words. You might like to consider not picking up the civil servants' poor use of English, for example, as I failed to resist doing. Your objective is to persuade, after all. Good luck with that.

Question 1: Do you agree that there is a gap in the proposed legislative framework for people with mental capacity, which this power would address?


Question 2: What are your views on the proposal that there should be a new power of entry, enabling the local authority to speak to someone with mental capacity who they think could be at risk of abuse and neglect, if a third party prevents them from doing so?

I strenuously object to the creation of any such power. In fact I would welcome the abolition of most existing such powers.

Question 3 (for care and support professionals working in adult safeguarding): How many times in the last 12 months, have you been aware of a situation where, had this power existed, it would have been appropriate to use it? What were the circumstances?


Question 4: What safeguards would we need to ensure local authorities use such a power effectively and appropriately?

Any such safeguards would merely raise the question "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" There is no appropriate use of such a power. A person with legal capacity should never have his or her choices second-guessed by the state. This is a dangerous, immoral (perhaps even amoral) proposal incapable of being ameliorated by safeguards.

For example, would the following provide adequate safeguards?

• A warrant would be applied for from a Circuit Judge (e.g. a nominated judge of the Court of Protection).

This would only help if the legislation granting the powers was clear (as it could not by definition be) that the state has no right to interfere in the life choices of those with legal capacity. Since the intent of the proposed legislation is precisely to create such a right, the judge would have no ability to restrict such action and the warrant would merely use the judiciary as camouflage, further soiling its reputation for independence in the process.

• The local authority would present the court with evidence of the need for the warrant.

See above.

• The local authority would ensure that there is a process by which the occupiers of the premises understand that they can complain about the way in which a power has been used. The local authority would have to verbally inform the affected persons how they might access that process

See above. There is no point in a right to complain about such a loss of liberty, if it is backed by law. One wonders, by the way, how they would inform anyone other than "verbally". Draw them a picture, perhaps?

Question 5: Do you have any other comments?

The British State is too powerful. After decades of growth to the point where it now consumes the majority of national resources and is strangling to economic death the nation it purports to serve, it is unsurprising that it attracts employees who have no sympathy with personal liberty. In my view, no-one who respects our right to live life as we please would wish to be part of such an aggressive apparatus. Once the state is staffed by substantial numbers of such people, proposals like these are to be expected and it is the job of government, as the people's representative, to oppose not promote them.

No further extension of the state's already-excessive power can possibly be justified. Any government worthy of the names "conservative" or "liberal" or "democrat" would be slashing its powers in order to set the British people free not listening to calls to authorise meddling in the lives of those with legal capacity.

The love that dare not speak its name

The Commentator - 50 shades of black

In the linked article, former Ambassador Charles Crawford writes these damning words of the Guardianistis' late darling Hobsbawn;

The Labour Party loved him.

This is no smear. The leader of that party spoke warmly of him as a family friend and good man. How can either Mr MIlliband or his organisation speak for us as "one nation" while not merely excusing but loving such wickedness? Do not their eulogies reveal the truth that the late Professor merely spoke aloud what they believe in their hearts? Their praise of him certainly seems to me a dispiriting echo of their toadying to the Soviets in the years before the Wall fell.

My fear is that their vision of the ideal future remains the Soviet Union, but with better Ladas by virtue of the incorruptibility and superior administrative skills of the bureaucracy in Britain. You may laugh but they have believed stranger things in their time.

An evil influence

Eric Hobsbawm dies, aged 95 | Books |

When friends doubted my assertion that Britain's establishment is more Marxist than Russia's ever was, Hobsbawn was always the name I mentioned. If you were educated in a British school or read history at a British university, you have almost certainly studied from one of his texts. If you have read British newspapers, listened to or viewed BBC programmes you have encountered his pervasive influence.
He became a fellow of the British Academy in 1978 and was awarded the companion of honour in 1998.

What kind of country gives its highest honours to a man dedicated to the destruction of its free society? To the destruction of the economic system that made it capable of sustaining him in a life of contemplation? A man who supported the Soviet Union even after it crushed the Hungarian Uprising? A man who remained a member of the British Communist Party until its collapse - long after all with any decency had resigned? A man so monumentally misguided as to support to his end an ideology that had led directly to the slaughter of millions and the impoverishment of billions?

You tell me.