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Can we please redefine our political terms?

An obscure Danish "comedian", resident in London, has made a small stir on Twitter by announcing she has auto-blocked more than 500,000 "Nazis". I am one of the blocked Twitter users so she has, in effect, publicly called me a Nazi. I consider that to be defamatory, but she's probably not worth suing, alas.

This was a silly stunt on her part. I very much doubt there are as many as 500,000 neo-Nazis in the world at large, let alone on Twitter. Most of the world's authoritarians are now motivated, directly or indirectly, by Marxism or religious fundamentalism. As a libertarian, I could scarcely be further from being an authoritarian, nationalist, socialist and believer in Aryan supremacy. A state as small as the one I want would be of very little interest to authoritarians of any stripe. The non aggression principle (NAP) that is the basis of Libertarian thought leaves no scope for their bullying instincts. They could achieve more of what they want (control over the details of their fellow-humans' conduct and the ability to live by others' work) by running a reality TV show than by working in such a government. One of the great advantages of a libertarian government is that it would not attract the kind of parasitical busybodies into its ranks who are drawn like flies to shit to a modern welfare state.

So what does the word "Nazi" – freely banded about as a term of abuse by "antifa" and others on the Left – really mean these days, if anything? For that matter, what do all the other political descriptors mean? In Britain, we have a "Conservative" government that embraces identity politics, setting one group against another in society. It is as far from "One Nation" Conservatism as could be imagined, adopts policies (e.g. price controls on certain products) that it formerly denounced (accurately) as "Marxist" and seeks constantly to increase Britain's already unacceptable controls on freedom of speech. We have a "Labour" Opposition that despises those who labour and rewards the idle to such an extent as to distort the market and draw in new workers from poor countries to depress the wages of its traditional voters. And we have a Liberal Democrat party whose name is two lies.

I have to call myself by the ugly name "libertarian" because in America the word "liberal" has been usurped by the most illiberal political forces; people who never stop seeking to bring more of GDP under the control of government and to micromanage conduct and speech. They call themselves the "Democratic Party", while undermining the equality before the law that is the essence of a liberal democracy; setting one identity group against another in order to create tensions that will justify a bigger government and more parasitical "jobs" for them. Then there is a "Republican Party" that increases the national debt just as much when it is in office. Both are for bigger government and more parasites, but at least the Democrats are honest about it.

On the Facebook feed linked to this blog, Andrew Allison of The Freedom Association asked yesterday

We have an anti-libertarian, nanny state, anti-free market government. Can anyone tell me why I should remain a member of the Conservative Party?

A fair question one might think. After all, where is someone who wants smaller government and less tax to place his or her "X" on the ballot at a British General Election? I am reduced to asking myself which candidate proposes to do less damage to my country, holding my nose and voting accordingly. And yet the first response to his question (in a group of Facebook users that must be one of the least authoritarian on the platform) was from someone called Rob Champion who said (my emphases);

This is why all the talk about setting-up a new centre party is so much nonsense. There is no gap in the centre ground - thats the Tory party. There is, however, a gap on the right as your post proves.

"On the right?" Is what Andrew wants (less government interference and freer markets) "right-wing?" Really?! What then, does "right-wing" mean any more?

The classically liberal view on which our civilisation was built consists of various elements. First and most important is the Rule of Law. "Be you never so high, the law is above you". The laws apply equally to everyone, including those who currently get to make new laws. New laws can only be made (and later enforced) in predictable, consistent and public ways, with everyone having the right to have their say beforehand. Second comes equality before the law. Third comes political equality i.e. "One person one vote". Within this framework, no-one can lose their liberty or property rights except as explicitly provided for by law and subject to due process. The basic unit of Western society is the individual and both law and government should therefore be blind to ethnic, class or other interest groups. The state's employees and the political bosses are "public servants" and should conduct themselves accordingly, being both respectful and even-handed in dealing with their masters - the public. Lobbying happens, but should be viewed with suspicion as democracy is undermined when the electorate believes there is conspiracy between interest groups and government agencies.

There's a lot of talk of "equality" in there, but none of it economic because in a free society economic outcomes are not for the government to determine. If the 20th Century taught us anything (and it was the most viciously educational century in history) it was that, given the variation in skills, effort, daring and, yes, luck between real life humans, any attempt to enforce economic equality will lead to violence and poverty for everyone outside the political ruling class.

In such a society I suggest the spectrum of opinion from Left to Right should be correctly understood as follows;

  • Far Left: Maximum state power over all matters, political and economic. All units of production in state ownership or control. No free speech.
  • Left: Private ownership of economic units permitted, but subject to heavy regulation to promote more equal outcomes. Free speech.
  • Centre-Left: As Left, but with lighter regulation. Free speech.
  • Centre-Right: As Right but with more regulation. Free speech.
  • Right: A presumption in favour of private ownership of economic units. Free speech.
  • Far-Right: Maximum state power over all matters, political and economic. All units of production in state ownership or control. No free speech.

This political rainbow, like an actual one, looks like an arc with two ends but is in fact a circle. If you ignore the hatreds that motivate them (class hatred and envy on the Far Left / Race hatred and envy on the Far Right) the extremes are actually identical. As the Labour Party is currently demonstrating, those hatreds sometimes bleed into each other. A small government classical liberal like me really doesn't fit anywhere on that circle. I regard myself as sitting in the middle, clinging to the values that made the West and crying "A pox on all their houses". So our Danish comedienne friend, while I am sure she is no more a Nazi than I am, is far closer to one than I will ever be.

The identity politics merchants; the race-baiters and inciters to gender-hatred of the Left constantly tell us that "words matter". They undermine free speech by claiming words – contrary to the wisdom of our elders – can hurt us. Yet they constantly seek to bend the meanings of words like "liberal", "right-wing" and now "Nazi" until they mean little and offer no useful ways to discuss political and economic issues. If you object to members of certain ethnic groups being privileged in law (i.e. you defend the classic principle of equality before the law) they call you a "white supremacist". It is a meaningless term of abuse.

While I don't believe an insult can do real harm to a healthy, balanced individual and so don't really think individual words matter that much, language matters a lot. If the Left continues on its path towards Newspeak – making it impossible to discuss opposition to their ideas by poisoning the well of language itself – then we will all meet a tragic political end.


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David Bishop

I know I'm in a good place when JuliaM comments ;)

Seriously though, I'm puzzled as to why there are so few comments to your pieces, Tom (if I may presume to use your first name). Please don't let that put you off writing them, for you have an ability to capture matters of the day with a rare eloquence and erudition.

Thomas Sowell says that he is pessimistic about the future of the culture which grew out of the enlightenment, but hopes that he is wrong. Candace Owens, on the other hand, is a clear optimist, and speaks with exceptional verve. I hope that she is right.


" I am one of the blocked Twitter users ..."

Astoundingly, I'm not! Must try harder.

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