THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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October 2013

It is possible to be a good public servant


You may have noticed that the URL for my last post about press regulation was a bit odd. That's because, tired of the constant negativity of my own postings, I wanted to balance my criticisms of government's latest idiocies with an example of a good public servant at work. In the end the post got away from my original intentions, as they sometimes do.

I am no friend of the Bloomberg administration in New York City. The man himself intervened in the details of his citizens' lives to an indefensible degree. His transport chief however, who had an engineering background in the real world before entering public service, is setting an example in this video (though I can't speak for the rest of her career) of how public servants should think.

Watch and marvel. Imagine a Soviet British aparatchik boasting about doubling the rents on a public square by enhancing it with shopkeepers in mind. Imagine a pampered British bureaucrat being so concerned about costs to the taxpayer or public approval.

h/t Jeremy Jacobs

Our Rubicon

Cameron warned against crossing the Rubicon of state control of the press. His Government is now preparing to cross it. | Conservative Home.
We are approaching a decisive moment. David Cameron nervously described Leveson's proposals to 'regulate' the British press as 'crossing the Rubicon' but as Paul Goodman says in the linked article his government is about to do it anyway. If people accept that government has a role in controlling commercial media (and 'regulate' is merely a statist euphemism for 'control'), then we are a blink away from wider controls. Already the daily fake 'scandals' about 'Twittter trolls' and 'Facebook bullies' are setting the scene.

Alea iacta est for freedom of thought in Britain. It seems the police are already more interested in what we say than what we do. Barely a day goes by without some schmuck on Twitter being interrogated by the police and it's already a worse crime to beat up or kill someone if thinking certain thoughts at the time.

The Left have been making 'social' excuses for non thought-crime for generations. Our judges, educated in our solidly left-wing universities, now routinely spout sociological clap-trap while handing out derisory sentences. The notion of personal responsibility is dead. In a telling moment for me an academic at a conference last year (he claimed not to be a Marxist, but admitted most of his colleagues were) told me that my personal achievements were 'pure luck' and that I was not morally entitled to the proceeds.

It's the flip side of the same coin. The evil that criminals do is 'society's fault' and the state must address not their conduct, but the 'social problems' that 'cause' it. The success of honest citizens however is to the state's credit and it is entitled to the proceeds. Socialism, despite the abject failure of the greatest political experiment in history, with more than half of humanity ruled by Socialists in the last century, is back. Watch out, because this time the Leftists have learned guile.

The leader of HM Opposition feels it aids his electoral cause to use 'the S word' openly and to dog-whistle even worse by defending the reputation of his proudly-Marxist father. Ironically, given the Left's fixation on 'hate speech' and 'hate crime' Socialism is a doctrine based on hatred; class-hatred and envy-driven hatred of success. It should provoke exactly the same revulsion as its cousin; race-hate-based National Socialism. That it doesn't is because the Left has infiltrated our education system and our state broadcaster (tell me again why a free society needs one of those) so successfully. Now it's coming for the rest of us.

The consequence will be just as it was in the Soviet Union. The more talented or industrious will either contribute less for lack of incentive, or will become the criminals these idiots already think they are. This phenomenon was illustrated by two Communist-era proverbs I learned in my years in Poland;
"Standing up or lying down, it's a zloty an hour" and "You are stealing from your family if you're not stealing from the State." 
Though I am sure the Labour Party will get most of the extra votes when we finally obey the ECHR order to restore the ballot to prisoners, that's not what the Left is up to. Nor are they claiming the credit for business-peoples' work just to damage our self-esteem. They are establishing as a 'given' in all political thought and policy-making the Marxist notion that individuals are mere flotsam on the tides of historical inevitability. They can only treat us as eggs to be callously cracked in their great steaming omelette of statism if they can convince themselves that we are trivial; that what we think, say and do and the choices we make don't matter. In short, that we are nothing in their great scheme of things.

To achieve the kind of sociopathic vileness that led their hero Hobsbawm (close family friend of the Millibands) to believe that twenty million deaths under Soviet rule would have been justified had the proposed communist utopia been created, or that it was sensible to drop a nuclear bomb on Israel (there's no anti-semite to rival a Marxist Jew) you need to reduce humans to ciphers. And to convince men and women that this is acceptable; that they really are mere pawns in a game that matters far more than the sacrifices made of them, you need to control their thoughts. It is no coincidence that the Left cannot abide the expression of non-Left views. It is not for nothing that they actively seek to make people fearful of non-Left thoughts. It is a Marxist necessity.

If our free will is irrelevant, our achievements mere luck and our wickedness attributable to our circumstances, then they are fully justified in using the immense power of the state to shape 'social forces', regardless of the human cost.

It is a short step from 'hate speech' to 'thought crime' and it's about to be taken. 'Regulation' of the press is just another brick in the wall.

Say it ain't so

Britons more likely to support a party committed to public ownership | Liberal Conspiracy.
Given that the poll was commissioned by a socialist campaign group for more state gangsterism, let's not get too gloomy too fast. It's amazing how consistently polls commissioned by people who believe X tend to find the public agrees. On the most charitable interpretation of this phenomenon, when the public answers "Y", the poll is not published.

Still, it amazes me that there are people outside psychiatric wards who still believe 'public ownership' to be superior to anything. It's almost as if the history of the twentieth century's lethal global experiment with socialism was taught dishonestly by Marxists in academia.

Oh wait, I forgot to count the entirely self-interested opinions of those who live on public funds; whether employees of our bloated state and their direct dependents, the recipients of welfare payments or the big corporations who rely upon state employees spending other peoples' money to be the stupidest shoppers imaginable.

Maybe it's not about "people before profit" after all? More like '"our profits before yours, suckers."

I wish I had said that...

Spare Me – and Walter Williams – Your Self-Serving and Insulting Sermonizing

...because I have often thought it.

I respect ordinary thieves much more than I respect politicians. Ordinary thieves take my money without pretense. Unlike typical politicians, these thieves don’t bore me with silly explanations of why their thievery is for the greater good. Nor do ordinary thieves insult my intelligence by proclaiming that they’ll use the money that they steal from me to make my life better than I would have made my life had my money not been swiped from me.
Don't get Professor Williams or me wrong. For my part, I hate criminals. I want fewer laws partly because the ones that matter - against violence and fraud - could then be enforced more vigorously. Criminals have stolen from us not just our property, but the sense of personal security I remember growing up. No-one locked their doors in our street, because no-one had to. How many of us feel as safe in our own homes today?

But at least, as Professor Williams points out (and as I experienced directly when I practised criminal law) thieves don't ask to be respected by their victims. In this respect, they are more honest than politicians.

It is possible to be a decent politician if you go into it to get the state off people's backs and are able - in the face of all the temptations on offer to the masters of a state spending half what its citizens earn, to remain true to that purpose. Margaret Thatcher was one such, but then look what a revealing rage she inspired in regular politicians.

h/t the most excellent Café Hayek

What libertarianism isn't

H.L. Mencken said that "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." The human tendency to fall for such answers probably accounts for most religions and political ideologies. We can't accept that, while it's noble and fine to seek answers, they are almost certainly so complex and difficult that most of us must live our lives without them.

Now that libertarianism is - at least in the USA - fashionable enough to be attacked, the Left are rubbishing it as an example of a 'clear, simple and wrong' answer. Let's pass over for the moment the sheer hilarity of this 'line' from the purveyors of the most simple-minded failed idea in history.

Libertarianism is very far from an answer to everything. Indeed it's not an answer as much as a method. We say that life is too complex and people too varied for any universal solution to work. One of the hallmarks of any attempt at a 'one size fits all' solution to humanity's problems is the massive use of force. If you don't fit the only mould, you must be 're-educated' until you do or discarded as defective. Socialism/Fascism needs the idea of a 'New Man' because it doesn't work for the kind we have.

Thus the comic book portrayal of libertarians tells you more about our opponents than about us. Just as their belief in the savagery that will ensue if Mother State's power is ever weakened tells you more about their natures than ours.

We don't categorise our fellow men into classes, masses, races or castes. The only human unit for us is the human. We understand each will make different use of the liberty we advocate. It's possible to be a Libertarian and a Catholic, Buddhist, atheist or Jain. It's possible for a libertarian to approve or disapprove of abortion at various different stages because libertarianism doesn't give a trite answer to the difficult question of when life begins. A libertarian convinced that life begins at conception may even want abortion to be seen in law as murder. I haven't met one of those libertarians, but I would not deny his libertarianism if I did.

The only ideologies inconsistent with libertarianism are those that expect laws to shape men's minds to their aims. If you are happy to rely on persuasion to change your opponent's view, you can be a libertarian - no matter what shape your ideal society might take. If you are happy to let your God enforce His own laws, then you can be libertarian too. After all, what kind of omnipotent God would need puny men to enforce His divine will? What purpose would it serve? If you don't 'sin' only because man's laws forbid it, your omniscient God will know you for a sinner anyway.

Libertarianism is only about setting functional limits to Man's laws. It has a moral basis, to be sure, in that we view force and fraud as wrong per se and are prepared to accept the necessary evil of a modest state in order to proscribe them. But it has nothing to say about other moral issues, save that men and women should be free to find the right path as best they can.

It is a common error in modern political discourse to assume that we approve of anything we are not prepared to suppress. You don't think that 'the war on drugs' is working? You don't think it's preventing young people from hurting themselves? You think it's enriching existing criminals and driving some to crime who might never have gone there else? Then you are clearly 'pro-drugs'. I have been accused of this myself though I have never even seen a narcotic outside a hospital ward and have no desire to use one.

This is the warped psychology of the witch-hunt. If you don't cry 'Witch!!' with sufficient ferocity, then you are one yourself. It is stupid, dangerous thinking and it's now how our politics seem to work. Yes, there are libertarian drug-users. There may even be drug-users who are attracted to libertarianism because it would remove the legal constraints on their chemical recreation. But it's far too simplistic in a Menckian sense to assume that knowing someone is a libertarian tells you anything about his moral stance on drugs or, for that matter, the other two elements of the post-Sixties trinity; sex and rock 'n' roll.

I support campaigns against the smoking ban not because I favour smoking but because I disfavour bans. I don't want to smoke any more than I want to climb Mount Everest, ski or do any other crazy thing (except perhaps go into Space, or attempt the world speed record) that exposes me to greater risk of death or injury. I simply want my fellow-men to be free to choose their paths and am humble enough to know that they will often choose better than me - advancing humanity in ways I could never have foreseen.

What the anti-libertarians simply can't grasp is that - unlike theirs - our ideology is not a road map for others to follow. It's a blank sheet, a pencil and good wishes for successful exploration.