Remember all those business folk who spoke out so strongly for the "Remain" campaign; predicting economic collapse in the wake of their threatened withdrawal of investment? Remember how they retreated from their threats when the result was for "Leave?"
I said at the time that the fix was in and that all would be revealed in Cameron's first post-referendum honours list. The list is not yet official because the Civil Service is making ethical objections but the leaked names already tell the shameful story.
The British people have been called everything but good for their decision in the referendum. We have been accused of ignorance and contempt for our betters; the "experts" who told us so clearly what to think. But we were smarter than our political "masters" thought us to be. We saw through them at last.
There is no "honour" involved in this Resignation Honours List. It is mainly useful as a list of people never to be trusted. Pity them if you can for they sold their souls for nothing. An over mighty state is a well of corruption because nothing funded by force can be pure.
The Metropolitan Police crime map makes for interesting viewing, particularly when you drill down to the more specific data. My own manor shows as "Low or no crime" for burglary and violence (hurrah!) but "High" for thefts from vehicles. I am puzzled why that should be, but happy that Speranza has her own secure parking space away from brick-wielding opportunists.
Overall I live (as do most Londoners) in an area with "average" levels of crime. In fact it's striking just how "average" most of London is. Only one borough – Westminster – suffers "high" levels of crime. Hammersmith & Fulham and Camden are "above average". Only three outer boroughs are "below average".
The white spot in the middle of the map is the City of London, where the Met's writ does not run. The specialist force there is reputed to be the best in the world at solving complex frauds, but rubbish (as hardly anyone actually lives in the City) at solving burglaries.
The City of London's crime map is here.
If you find yourself in a dark and dangerous place and you need to find your way to safety, there is usually more than one route. Once you have set out on one of the possible paths, however, that's easy to forget. History consists of looking back at the one path that was chosen as if that choice had been inevitable.
Yes, the "European Project" was conceived as a way out of the dark historical place in which European fascism had thrived. Other paths could have been chosen. There was more than one way to the sunlit uplands of peace, prosperity and freedom. This is human history we are talking about, not a fantasy novel. Mount Doom is not around the next corner and even if it were – looking at his own dark and violent political history – Fischer is more Gollum than Frodo. If not actually an Orc.
Even if we believe Europe chose the most promising course in the beginning, that's doesn't mean that all its choices since have been correct. Still less that all its future choices must be. It's important not to be blind to the fact that there are other dark, scary places we might stumble into if we always navigate looking over our shoulders. Fischer reminds me of Sir Cloudesley Shovell, the British Admiral who – legend has it – led his fleet onto the rocks after hanging the humble sailor who had dared to warn him of his navigational error.
I tire of the implication that those of us who voted for Brexit are mindless nationalists hostile to European cooperation. We were only hostile to Britain's participation in a particular set of flawed, corrupt institutions. Institutions that have attracted to their service some of the least impressive specimens humanity can muster; people who would need a charisma transplant to rise to the inspirational level of a damp dishcloth.
The supreme proof of the mediocrity of the apparatus of the Soviet Union was the rise of Stalin. The supreme proof of the mediocrity of the apparatus of the European Union is the rise of Neil Kinnock.
One proof of the European Union's flawed nature is that it engenders no loyalty in anyone but such mediocrities as Kinnock and Juncker. Even the poorest, weakest, least historically and culturally-significant European nation (and we don't have to agree for this purpose which one holds that heavily-contested title) engenders more affection in its people than this sterile, corrupt and self-serving body.
As Joschka Fischer, that living monument to political judgement , himself admits;
the “Remain” side often sounded like accountants. The bloodless bean counters didn’t stand a chance
Surely, if the EU had any moral value, someone somewhere whose personal wealth did not depend upon working for it, would love it? Not favour it like a bloodless bean counter, but actually love it? I spent most of my working life on mainland Europe and never met such a person. Not even amongst the sneering people who deride the democratic choice of the British people and take pride in denying such choice to their own citizens.
The best the "bloodless bean counters" could say was "Yes, we know it's rubbish but let's stay in so we can fix it". Even Mr Fischer, whose blood is febrile enough to have been heated by some of the most contemptible and violent notions in the history of politics, can't manage to speak warmly of the EU he excoriates us for deciding to leave;
Differences over strategy and tactics between the key members of the currency union, especially Germany and France, and between the eurozone’s northern and southern members, simply run too deep. Everyone is aware of what needs to be done: find a new compromise within the currency union between the stubborn German-led focus on austerity and the Mediterranean countries’ need for increased spending to restore growth and boost competitiveness. But Europe’s political leaders seem to lack the courage to pursue this.
Which is why this article resorts to the old, tired, pathetic smear against its opponents. Support our shambolism or be seen as closet Nazis.
If Brexit and Trump are, as Comrade Fischer alleges, part of a pattern it has far less to do with nationalism and far more to do with their supporters' common aversion to being smeared. If the smug contemptuous elite Fischer represents would like to start winning some political arguments, maybe it should consider listening to, rather than denigrating, the European demos.
I agree with almost every word of Brother Puddlecote's critique of David Aaronovitch's article on the obesity "epidemic". I only question his focus on "lefties" and their "belief in the weakness of all humans". Quite a lot of "righties" believe in that too. Almost every politician became one because he believed he knew better how people should live.
Mr Trump, for example, who proposes to "make" America great again, when all that requires is for parasitical politicians to leave Americans be. Not to mention Mrs May, who uttered the vile words "social justice" on the doorstep of Number Ten the first time she entered as Prime Minister. "Social Justice" is a euphemism for "collective punishment" or for setting one group against another by framing one as oppressor and the other as oppressed. It's a traditionally leftist phrase now used by authoritarians of all hues to justify the extension of state power to line their parasitical pockets while they right imaginary wrongs.
Brother P. may rightly say I am an hypocrite. I have used my modest pulpit here to berate "the Left" for over a decade. However, I sense that the Left/Right divide is breaking down. Once Gilbert & Sullivan could write that
Every little girl and boy, that's born into the world alive,Is either a little Liberal or else a little Conservative
Then the Labour Party came along and those Liberals who did not politically zombify fled to either side of the new binary. Left/Right, Labour/Tory, became the lens through which we saw our political world. Now, however, the Labour Party has already died in Scotland and seems mortally wounded in England and Wales. A new binary may be about to emerge. The political spectrum within the Conservative Party – home of paternalistic knights of the shires, Thatcherite Hayekians and everything in between – has always been far wider than the divide between relatively sane Labour and the relatively unsound Tory Wets.
If Labour had not united the Conservatives in opposition to its constant demands for a more powerful state, they could easily have broken into a range of parties offering a rich, nutritious (and far less fattening) political menu. The Tory spectrum was certainly far wider than that within the Labour Movement. There the only real difference of opinion was not about how much socialism is needed, but how much can be slipped past an electorate in a single parliament. Their ideal society is identical, whether they are for Corbyn or Blair. Their only differences are presentational; whether to be open wolves or wear the Fabian sheepskin.
A new political balance, if there is really a seismic shift in progress, may make us Classical Liberals no happier. Trump's supporters are tired of being triangulated, ignored and sneered at by a Washington elite with a narrow spectrum of poltically-correct opinion and a disdain for regular folk, but they seem (with the honourable exception of Milo Yiannopolous) to be quite authoritarian by inclination. Corbyn's bespectacled hordes are similarly over-triangulated, but are crying not for freedom but more of the ideological lash. Tired of the corrupt, the dishonourable and the undemocratic, a disgruntled populace may yet develop the old yearning for that most dangerous of creatures, a political "strong man" (or woman). May, Erdogan, Trump, Putin; let's hope it's not a trend.
My point, if I have one (and I am not sure why I am making it to the amiable and admirable Brother Puddlecote) is that perhaps we should stop reinforcing the left/right distinction that seems to be breaking down. Free market classical liberals are open to all kinds of societal arrangements as long as they are voluntary. I can better handle a democratic socialist prepared to argue openly for a more communitarian society that a Teresa May singing of the rule of law while quietly building a police state.
I can certainly respect anyone who wants to live his ideals; set up a commune, "social enterprise" or cooperative business for example. Even if I confidently predict his ideas will make people poorer and sadder in the long run. What I can't live with is anyone – Left, Right, Religious fanatic, evangelistic atheist or whatever – who wants to boss his fellow-humans about when they are not offering others violence or committing fraud. And here's my point, Brother Puddlecote. A lot of Labour-voting people who think of themselves as "left" feel the same way. They like their pies, their pints and their ciggies and they instinctively dislike Jamie Oliver (my current litmus test for a decent human being).
It's a small, pedantic point, but I suspect your joyful approach to personal responsibility when it comes to food, drink and stimulants resonates just as well among soon-to-be-former Labour voters as Tory ones. So why drive them into Aaronovitch's arms by calling him a name they identify with?
Milo Yiannopolous is anathema to the authoritarian, control freak Left*. He is the man their "Free speech, but ..." line was made for. A flamboyant homosexual who wages war on political correctness by "triggering" leftist snowflakes, he is hard for them to handle because he belongs to one of their "protected species" and has a predilection for sexual intimacy with another. Call him a "racist" and he will smile and ask what kind of racist is intimate with black men. Except he will express it more saltily than that.
His "dangerous faggot" tour of America's college campuses has yielded some hilarious YouTube footage as he systematically provokes the inevitable protesters screaming that "Black Lives Matter" and calling for him to be banned. Inevitably they end up looking ridiculous and — as he gleefully pointed out in one video I watched — he enjoys them behaving this way because he hopes their parents will see them in action and stop wasting money on college courses that make them more stupid.
Twitter banned him permanently (his account has been suspended before but reinstated after lobbying) just twenty minutes before the start of the "Gays for Trump" rally he was scheduled to address yesterday. The pretext was his part in a stupid twitterstorm against a black actress in the new Ghostbusters movie. He had reviewed it negatively at Breitbart and she received abusive tweets. Twitter seems to be blaming him for that, even though his own tweets were not racist. He merely commented that she shouldn't be acting badly in blockbuster movies if she couldn't handle abuse and that "everyone" received abusive tweets. By which I guess he meant "everyone famous".
Milo, Trump, Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit are all straws in the wind of a new popular revolt against the theology of the Liberal (in the American sense) Establishment. This seems to have wrong footed Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets set up, consciously or otherwise, to serve it. I am an absolutist when it comes to (a) government having no right to restrict free speech and (b) the right of private individuals and companies to operate whatever censorship regime they like at their own sites and publications. I just marvel at the hypocrisy of companies that permit what would otherwise be called "hate speech" by Leftist protected species (such as militant Muslims or Black Power activists calling for cops to be killed) while jumping on mere teasing by their political opponents.
If there's one thing the Left (and its social media allies) hates more than a "privileged" opponent, it's a member of a protected species who is, as Milo says of himself "off the reservation". @Nero is no more on Twitter, but he's to be found at Breitbart.com and YouTube. I commend him to you. He's funny, clever and enormous value for money. It's suggested that he could be President Trump's press secretary, which would make Theresa May's appointment of Boris as Foreign Secretary seem like a diplomatic coup.
We live in dangerous, interesting times, but at least there is now a chance, as the tectonic plates of political division shift, of freer, more genuinely "liberal" societies emerging.
* I know this seems tautological but there may be remaining members of the John Mortimer school of libertarian Labourites somewhere and I don't want to tar such delightful creatures with the same brush.
I am all for the Acts of Union as long as they are practised consensually. If Ms Sturgeon really wants Scotland out of the UK but in the EU, we can help. At the time of the Scottish referendum, the EU Commission legal advisers confirmed that, had Scotland left the UK, it would have also left the EU as the UK is the Member State. Just as when the DDR (East Germany) merged with West Germany, it became part of a Member State and therefore the EU. So why don't England, Wales and (if it wishes) Northern Ireland now leave the UK? The Remaining UK (aka Scotland) can then ignore the referendum and continue as a Member State. Job done? You can thank me in whisky ma'am. A lifetime supply of Talisker please.
The linked article from the Mises Institute blog contains interesting statistics on police activity in the USA.
Dealing with violent crime constitutes only a small minority of what police deal with on a daily basis. For example, in 2014, out of 11,205,833 arrests made nationwide (in the US), 498,666 arrests were for violent crimes and 1,553,980 arrests were for property crime. That means 82 percent of arrests were made for something other than violent crime or property crime [my emphasis]I wonder what those numbers are in the UK? Most of us think of "real crime" as involving violence, theft, fraud or at least property damage. On reflection however, perhaps it's not surprising that 82% of police activity in the US relates to other matters. For all the fairy dust it blows in our eyes, the state is just another organisation shaped from the crooked timber of mankind. The people working for it – including police officers – have their own agenda, just like the rest of us. Unlike us however they face no competitive pressures to subordinate it to that of their customers.
Public servants in Britain earn more on average than those of us in the productive sector who pay their wages precisely because those operating the state's monopoly of force are not our moral superiors. Who among us, if we could set our own prices, fees or wages without jeopardising the demand for our services, would not earn more?
The earnings hierarchy of public servants reflects neither their merits nor the demand for their particular "service". Rather it is the product of a mathematical formula that factors in their power and their remoteness from public accountability. Once the importance of this second factor is grasped, it's no longer surprising how many public servants are "paid more than the Prime Minister". She has more power than them, but she's also more accountable. An increase in her pay would dominate tomorrow's news. The pay rises of local authority panjandrums, fake charity chairmen or civil service specialists however will usually pass unnoticed; lost in budget numbers so astronomical as to be incomprehensible to most.
More laws create more job opportunities in the public sector. We humans being no better than we should be, that is undoubtedly a factor both in the rate at which they are created and the rarity of their repeal. I suspect that many of the activities occupying 82% of the time of law enforcement officers in the USA involve – one way or another – maximising both the demand for their services and the resources from which public servants' wages are paid. As the article says
Contrary to un-serious and absurd claims that the police "enforce all laws," police use their discretion all the time as to what laws to enforce and which to not enforce. Those laws that are enforced are often laws that can lead to profit for the police department — such as drug laws which lead to asset forfeiture — or laws that can make for easy arrests — such as loitering and other small time laws — which improve a police officers' arrest record.
"Asset forfeiture" is a euphemism you may not be aware of. It began with laws permitting the confiscation of the proceeds of crime. These days it often involves confiscating assets merely suspected as such. In 2014, the cops stole more than the robbers in the good old liberty-loving, property rights-respecting US of A. I would love to know the corresponding figures in the liberty-despising, all-hail-the-Bitch-Goddess-State United Kingdom.
Reflecting on the current crisis in US identity politics the article concludes
If we want to be serious about scaling back the degree to which police interactions with the public can lead to violent escalations, we must first scale back the number of offenses that can lead to serious fines and imprisonment for members of the public, while shifting the concentration of police efforts to violent crime and property crime. The emphasis must return to crimes that have actual victims and which are reported by citizens looking for stolen property and violent criminals. Not only will this increase the value of policing, but will also improve relations with most of the public while reducing the footprint of the state in the lives of ordinary people.
People often ask how much law there would be in a libertarian state. Given that a libertarian US state would only prohibit the initiation of force or fraud, these statistics suggest it could manage with about 20% of its current criminal laws. Imagine how well they would be enforced if all current police officers diverted their efforts to them! The "War on Drugs" is is the most obvious example of how de-criminalisation would reduce crime, both directly and indirectly (by removing the incentive to commit crime to fund a drugs habit). I suspect it's just one example among thousands however. If we reverted to the model of a "fire service" police that only responded to public calls for assistance, we would also acquire a useful measure of whether a law was necessary. Any "crime" for which the police were never called out could be safely abolished!
Freedom of speech is only an issue as against a government, which in a free society must always be prevented from using its monopoly on initiating lawful violence to suppress dissent. Facebook is a private company and has as much right to censor its content as I have to censor the comments here. Not that I do, unless it's spam or might expose me to legal liability, but I could. My gaff my rules. Mr Zuckerberg's gaff, his rules.
It does seem quite extraordinary however that the conference agenda and papers for a conference on "Men's issues" should be closed down for breach of "community standards" while celebrations of, or even incitement to, the killing of police officers are apparently fine.
Just to be clear, I am fine with both kinds of content. As I have written here before, I think incitement is a misguided concept that undermines personal responsibility. If you want to tell me in the comments that you are happy for people to kill white US police officers I will find that useful data about you and will not call the police. In general I want to know if people have vicious opinions; the better to counter or at least avoid them. I have been assaulted by a drunken gentleman calling me "an English bastard" and found only the assault troublesome. The insult was actually useful as it gave warning of the imminent violence and permitted evasive action. I have been called "a son of a bitch" in a professional context when I was a transaction lawyer and – detecting no physical threat – smiled, remarking "I am obviously doing my job".
So I am grateful to Facebook for making it so obvious that it is systematically biased to the Left and its zoo of protected identity groups in their ideological cages. It's useful data. I enjoy using Mr Zuckerberg's platform for social purposes and don't much care what passes for ideology in his mind. Just as I do when watching the BBC, I shall now apply a credibility discount of about 85% to everything I encounter there that is not actually originated by a trusted "friend". Given that Mr Zuckerberg's business model depends on his "customers" trusting him (unlike the BBC which extorts its licence fee by state violence) that's probably more of a problem for him than it is for Auntie.
I thought some of you might like to watch in full the talk at the IEA's "Think" conference last year that was referenced in my previous post. Dr Stephen Davis, the IEA's Director of Education, talks about driverless cars, 800 year life-spans and (which I forgot to mention, but is fascinating in its own right) "vertical farming".
Apparently, and here's a fact to confuse a libertarian, the war on drugs has led to advances in horticulture. Driven underground, those cultivating illegal drugs have developed techniques that could lead, if more widely applied, to mankind feeding itself using 10% of the land currently being farmed. Great areas of the planet could be returned to prairie, steppe or forest. Of course it's also possible that we will simply feed ten times the number of humans from the same land and/or (I suppose, deviating imaginatively from Dr Davis's script) use these techniques to colonise other planets.
Libertarians foxed by the idea that suppressing an activity can enhance its efficiency will take cheer from the fact that these advances have only become available because several US states have legalised cannabis – at least as "medical marijuana". As the marijuana farms become public, other growers can both marvel at and copy the innovations the former criminals made in secret.
It has been an astonishing few weeks in British politics and – while I believe our events are specific to our circumstances – there does seem to be a pattern emerging in the affairs of Mankind as a whole. So let's take pause and summarise where we stand. I will state matters as best I can and ask you, gentle readers, to tell me where I am at fault.
- The "capitalist" system is working well on a global scale. One hundred million people came out of poverty in the last decade. Most of them were in China. Almost all of them were in Asia, living under regimes that are openly anti-democratic. How well capitalism functions seems to depend on the extent to which markets are allowed to work unimpeded. People living under an authoritarian state that, for whatever reason, decides to allow free-ish markets, can make just as much economic progress as those living in a democracy. And MORE progress than those living in a democracy that – at the peoples lawful bidding – decides to "manage" its markets.
- The myth of socialism is still powerful. Even though tested to the destruction of tens of millions of human lives and the impoverishment of billions more in the 20th Century, the ideas of "equality" and "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" are still attractive to many who ought to know better. Look at Venezuela. Not only were the people there fooled by Chavez, but many of our own leftist leaders sang his praises and spoke of the great future to come. Here that future now is; shorn of life's essentials and with crowds of women forcing their way past border guards to buy food and toilet rolls from the "inferior" state next door. As always.
- Democracy seems to be in crisis. There is a widespread sense that self-serving elites are in control of government and state institutions in the Western World. Whereas Churchill, Attlee and most recently Thatcher had admiring followers, modern politicians have no "fans". A healthy cynicism is all very well, but we seem to have reached a stage where "they are all the same" is our only political thought. The danger is that, if we believe all politicians to be bad, only bad people will run for office. Another danger is that any demagogue who can present convincingly as NOT being "the same" seems able now to get a hearing, regardless of merit or even sanity.
- The identity politics practised by the modern left for so long seems to be breaking down. The "Black lives matter" movement in the United States may well prove to be its last hurrah. It's not as easy as it was only a year ago to silence a political enemy by calling him names. Over 17 million of us were called "racists" during the referendum campaign and still live to tell the tale. Some real nastiness may emerge as actual racists act illegally on their hatreds but that can and should be managed without reverting to suppression of free speech.
- There is a trend to division. To those of us who enjoy history and Star Trek, this is worrying. Most European history, in particular, is of nasty little statelets bickering and fighting over what (with hindsight) seems to have been precious little. That had its benefits in driving the technological advances that placed Europe and its now-independent colonies in the "first world", but it made for an uncomfortable life for the citizenry. There was hope that the whole world might follow the pattern set in the pre-history of our own islands, with tiny nations merging into greater ones. At some level perhaps most of us imagined we were heading towards a Star Trek universe in which a United Earth would sit at the heart of an interplanetary Federation of nice guys. Scotland failing to gel with England & Wales, the Catalonians failing to get along with the other Spanish and the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union may suggest to pessimists that the Star Wars universe is a more accurate prediction.
- Technology is changing our world in unpredictable but mostly positive ways. At an IEA conference in London last year I heard a futurologist predict the imminent end of ageing and the cure of most killer diseases. He said that most of the younger people in the room could expect to live 800 years. And not 800 doddery miserable years but most of them youthful and healthy. The economic consequences of that prediction would take us into whole new realms of complication! As someone who enjoys being around children, I am rather happy I won't live to be on a planet where people have to put off having them until they are 700 or so! Nor do I fancy the idea of the teenage years going on for centuries! Less dramatically, such mundane tech as "driverless cars" will solve many everyday problems, such as traffic congestion and road accidents. Communications technology is simultaneously raising and lowering the level of civic discourse at present but many believe it is also enabling a more participatory democracy that may be a solution to the crisis of cynicism mentioned above.
However it is organised, I believe that democracy is a better way of selecting a government than any other, but it is no guarantee of success. Bad governments are often elected by free peoples because we are no wiser than the unfree. In some ways we may be more naive than them. I am willing to bet that if North Korea became free, it would take a couple of generations before any of its citizens were prepared to believe a more powerful state was the answer to their problems.
In my ideal world the ship of state would be so small that it would not make much difference who was at its helm. We would not be electing bosses, but trustees; people whose job is was to keep our few laws up to date to reflect changing circumstances and ensure that the modest taxes raised to fund the state were honestly and appropriately spent on such practical, boring things as public infrastructure, law enforcement and an independent judiciary. We are very far from that and even if things go reasonably well from this moment (which I have no particular reason to assume) most of us will be dead (except for young readers with 800 year life expectancies) by the time such a state could be achieved.
This may be why I fear the trend to division less than others. I would rather see lots of micro-states experimenting with different approaches. Terrible though it may be for the citizens concerned, we probably need many more Venezuelas before the scales finally fall from the eyes of such idiots as Owen Jones – a young man whose very existence made me weep even before I knew he might live 800 years. More positively we need some micro states to practise Austrian economics and strike envy into the hearts of the citizens of the failing states around them. Sentimentally attached as I am to Scotland and hard though it would be to abandon my good Scottish friends to the horrors of a cold, wet Venezuela, I would pay that price to set England on the path to true freedom.
Given that many of us hunger for the soft option of socialism to such an extent that we are blind to its oft-proved hard consequences, any progress towards my ideal is likely to be two steps forward and one back. Democracy is a weary business because so many contradictory things are so blindingly obvious (despite being demonstrably wrong) to so many. I fear that those in control of what is taught in our schools and colleges will continue to have a disproportionate and negative effect on our political future. For so long as those institutions are state funded and controlled teachers and lecturers are almost bound to be statists and leftists. Honest classical liberals would find it hard to face such a parasitical existence. I told a retired Permanent Secretary at dinner a couple of years ago that I didn't know how he could sleep at night knowing that every penny he had ever "earned" was taken by state violence from his fellow men. Even as I said it (and enjoyed his slapped-in-the-face-with-a-wet-fish reaction) I realised that there was the problem. If people with my views won't go into government service how can it ever be shaped by our views?
Life being as complex as it is, you can find evidence to support pretty much any point of view you want to advance. Especially if, like most people engaged in political debate, you systematically select the data that supports your case. So, select away gentles and let me know how wrong I am. Is the above a fair assessment of where the world stands today?