THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Previous month:
December 2012
Next month:
February 2013

January 2013

US Tour souvenirs

TPUT1 TPUT2I am hoping to meet several of my American, and a couple of my Canadian✱, readers in the course of my upcoming tour of the Lower 48. As coffee shops and diners are the most likely venues, I thought a commemorative coffee mug might be in order. 

The prototype worked out well (pictured after rigorous personal testing) and so I shall have a dozen made to load into Speranza's boot (trunk, if you prefer) before she's shipped to New York. I look forward to handing them over to those of you I am lucky enough to meet.

My shipping agents have confirmed that I can leave and re-enter the US under the terms of the temporary import permit for my car.

The Great River Road

GRRContextMapMy route planning for US Tour 2013 has reached New Orleans. I plan to get there by following the Mississipi River from its source in Minnesota to the sea. The route is known as "the Great River Road" and involves a lot of by-ways. It should help me engage with "the real America" (whatever that may prove to be).

The locked post at the top of the home page (which will stay there until the tour begins on April 29th) provides a link to a Google Map showing the route in stages. You will need to scroll down the the bottom of the driving directions and click NEXT to follow my planned route.

This drive alone would justify the whole expedition, taking in - as it does - wilderness, industry, fading towns, tourist traps, plantation houses, historical sites and - of course - Graceland. I also propose to divert to Des Moines, Iowa and Springfield Illinois en route.

Speranza's passage to the New World is about to be booked. The private sector will take eight days actually to move her. The public sector will add 10 days to that to "clear" her out of the UK and into the USA. The shippers charges for customs clearances add about two thirds to the cost.

The state, as usual, gets in the way of an honest citizen going about his lawful business, while adding a chunk of unnecessary expense for its payroll voters to tool about inefficiently. There. And you thought this post would have no political content.

Dog bites man

Dave Denies Debt Truth - Guy Fawkes' blog.
Old fashioned conservatives continue to be disappointed with Dodgy Dave Cameron; the ethics-free Etonian. Guido has said what needs to be said in the linked post but every blog in Britain should re-post the graph he sourced from the Office of National Statistics.

There is no question, ladies and gentlemen. Our Prime Minister is a liar. Does Eton have a mechanism to disown its alumni?

Can a libertarian be a Socialist?

My only grave objections to socialism are the force involved in establishing it and the (usually far greater) force involved in maintaining it. If all the Socialists in Britain want to pool their assets and share their joint earnings equally in a sort of virtual commune, that's absolutely fine by me. Actually, it would be great if that were a condition of joining the Labour Party. I am sure the multi-millionaire Milliband brothers and the even better-heeled Tony Blair would have no problem with it. Polly Toynbee would no doubt contribute both her homes in a heartbeat. I, for one, would follow their experiment with interest and would take their views far more seriously in future. I try hard to live my life in accordance with my principles and would admire and respect them for - for the first time in their lives - doing the same.

I just don't think they should be allowed to force anyone to join their commune or, having joined, to prevent them from leaving in accordance with the contractual terms. Not only would I think better of them for putting their money where their mouths are, I would also consider them libertarians from that point onward, no matter how restrictive and illiberal the rules under which they agreed to live.

This last may seem an odd observation to offer on a Thursday morning but then I had an odd response on Twitter to my recent post about whether libertarians can be social conservatives. Mr Leo Klinkers, who tweets as @europafederatie, told me firmly that:

A true libertarian is neither conservative nor progressive. He is a Libertarian.

It's not the worst view I have encountered from a non-libertarian as to what it means to be one. I am resignedly accustomed, for example, to those who think our beliefs reveal a personal desire to live a wild life of drug-fuelled libertinage. Still his observation puzzles me. As far as I am concerned libertarians are just as free to join a socialist commune as they are a monastery. They are perfectly free to campaign for voluntary arrangements to create any type of society they desire. Libertarianism can by definition have nothing to say about what people should do with their freedom, provided they don't use force or fraud on others. Individual libertarians, on the other hand can and do have firm, and widely divergent, views on how best to live a good life.

I am happy to embrace as libertarian brothers and sisters all those who would do far different things with their political and economic freedom than me. Pace Mr Klinkers, social conservative though I may be, I think that does make me a true libertarian.

Boycott the Marxist roaders!

Can I just say that I will never buy from any store displaying this smug, stupid sign? It is an attempt to befriend the cretinous anti-capitalists who are attacking businesses who have so structured their affairs as lawfully to minimise their taxes. The cretins are attacking not merely capitalism but the Rule of Law itself - the very basis of civilisation. If you don't support the principle that the law is more than just whatever the rulers say, you are a barbarian and no friend of mine. I will defend to the death your right to hold that wicked view - and mine to shun you for it.


Boycott the Marxist roaders!

Can a libertarian be socially conservative?

The controversy about Suzanne Moore's "Brazilian transsexual" article is typical of much civil (and uncivil) discourse in Britain today. I have little to add to that discussion directly, but it set me thinking about the wider problems of tolerance in Britain and the way our political system now works.

It's hilarious to see Suzanne Moore, a thought policewoman par excellence, made to do the ideological perp walk by others of her authoritarian ilk, but there is also a serious issue. As a libertarian, my stance on this, as on every other, issue is "whatever works for you," provided you don't use force or fraud to get it and that you don't therefore hurt anyone else in any meaningful way. In this weak and lily-livered age, it is sadly necessary to add here that "meaningful hurt" does not include causing offence or, more precisely (as the offended always have a choice) presenting an opportunity for others to take offence. It might horrify your former spouse, for example, that you want to be surgically altered to approximate the same sex as him or her, but - sorry though I might feel for them in their injured pride - they have no right not to be horrified.

For me, this is as far as politics goes on this or any other subject. That there are legal issues to be decided on how to treat post-op transsexuals is merely a consequence of unnecessary legal distinctions between men and women. If our laws made no such distinctions, there would be no need to write "M" or "F" on birth certificates or other official forms. Transsexuals and even those unable to decide to which sex they really belong would then present no legal difficulties. As politics, properly understood, is just a debate about what our laws should say and how our institutions should apply them, there would then be no political issue either.

Many seem to feel that this is not enough. Not only should we tolerate others different needs and choices, we must actively approve them or face legal penalties. Conversely if others make choices we would never make ourselves, we should seek to change the law to penalise them. Worst of all, if we don't seek the enactment of such laws, we shall be deemed to approve their "wrong" choices. To me, this is the central error at the heart of modern politics. It seeks to deny the importance of everything in society except law, which is a fundamental mistake.

Law is a modest tool of limited application. Most good things in human society are the product of voluntary behaviours. If we are not assaulted as we walk down the street, it is not because there are laws against it. If that were so, it would never happen - and of course it sometimes does. We are usually safe because most people freely choose not to assault us; indeed have no desire to do so. Criminal laws are really only addressed to the nasty, violent minority who generally ignore them. Remove the relevant laws and crime would rise, not because more people would choose to be criminals, but because we would lose the basis to take criminals - the only true "causes of crime" - off the streets. As witness the results when, as in modern Britain, you leave the crimes on the statute book but fail to apply the penalties.

Social constraints, morality and intrinsic human goodness mostly make society work. The law is just there to pick up the pieces when they fail. Which brings me to my final point. Just because I don't think something should be illegal, does not by any means suggest that I approve of it. There are many behaviours that would exclude people from my social circle; many that would make me dislike someone and refuse to socialise, work with them or give them my custom. I choose mostly to associate with people who live their lives in a way that I find comfortable, safe and - ideally - pleasant. The fact that I tolerate people who live in other ways and decry any attempt to penalise them does not make me their friend.

I am a Libertarian. I am also a social conservative. But I am not a Social Conservative. Social conservatives live their own lives by traditional values and encourage their family and friends to do so, whereas Social Conservatives try to force others to do so. It is the Right's version of the Left's standard authoritarianism and is just as obnoxious. The relentless encroachment of law in our lives is because too many of us, regardless of our politics, are failing to distinguish between tolerance and approval and intolerance and disapproval. If you approve of my way of life, that's fine but it's also optional. You are free to disapprove, say so, and shun me. However you have no moral right to force me to change unless my way of life involves using force or fraud against you.

To put it another way, you are unlikely to become my friend if you don't approve of my way of life, but you will only become my enemy if you seek to use force to change it. All I ask of you is that you reciprocate.

The British welfare state has created more invalids than the Great War


The video is a little ropey but please persist and view the whole thing. As ever, Dr Anthony Daniels (aka Theodore Dalrymple) is both interesting and darkly amusing.

He reports that, under a threat of violence (50% of doctors have been assaulted in the last 12 months) most general practitioners in Britain are routinely filling out fraudulent certificates enabling fit individuals to go "on the sick" where benefits are 60% higher than for unemployment and there is no need to pretend to seek work. More than 2.5 million people have such certificates and he claims that "the great majority of them are fraudulent or at least untruthful." More than a million people have them for "depression and anxiety" alone. He comments wrily that it is an achievement of the British welfare state that it has "created more invalids than the First World War".

Another achievement of the British welfare state is an enormous growth in heroin use. In the 1950s, when heroin addicts were registered with the Home Office, there were known to be about 60 in the whole country. It is now thought that there are about 300,000. He describes an official ideology that heroin addiction is a sickness beyond the addicts' control, which renders them unable to work and drives them to crime. An ideology he says is "completely and obviously wrong."

Every user chose freely to take heroin the first time and most use it intermittently for up to a year before beginning to take it regularly. Most users live in a sub-culture in which the consequences of taking heroin are far better known, as he puts it, than "the dates of the Second World War".

He says it's untrue that medical or other support is necessary to give up heroin. He jokingly calls Mao Zedong "the greatest drug therapist in history" because he told China's heroin addicts that if they didn't give it up he would shoot them. 20 million duly did. Without recommending such a radical approach, he points out that this clearly proves a "conceptual difference between, say, rheumatoid arthritis and drug addiction." Mao's approach, after all, would not have "cured" the former.

For so long as users don't give up heroin he says that's no reason for them not to work. Research shows that in the fifties most American addicts worked normally and indeed most of our own users now lead very active working lives - except that their "work" is burglary.

The growth in heroin use is therefore driven, he seems to suggest, by the needs of the "bureaucracy of care" serving the addicts. Its members need a passive population that takes no personal responsibility in order to secure their jobs. He believes that "at some level" these public employees know full well that they are playing games. In his words;

I would say the addiction services need the addicts more than the addicts need the services.

That's a more shocking critique of welfarism from an insider that I would ever have dared to offer from the outside. To suggest that an army of "carers" has, in effect, steadily built heroin use from 60 to 300,000 to give themselves jobs seems so wicked as to be scarcely believable. But then who would have thought the learned members of our medical profession could be recruited to knowing, if not willing, participation in frauds worth billions of pounds?

For all that its servants justify their jobs by droning on about the supposed immorality and greed of their bogeymen in business, only the state, ladies and gentlemen, can corrupt on such a massive scale.