Fifteen years ago today I uploaded the first post to this blog. The link above will take you to it. Almost no-one read it then and you may well think they were wise! I had fewer than 25 hits and remember being rather miffed. In truth, I completely missed the point of "social media"at that stage. Just as many MSM journalists still do, I made the mistake of thinking a blog was direct competition for them. Months later, a reader gently explained to me that it was far more like a conversation in the pub than a leader column in The Times. He advised me to engage humbly with other sites and to ask questions on my own blog – to join in the conversation rather than just "pontificate" like a golf club bore.
Fifteen years on, I have written the equivalent of a novel or two on these pages. I have found my modest place in the information eco-system. This is a backwater of the internet's great flow but my circle of online friends means a lot to me. The Last Ditch is all I could reasonably have hoped it to be fifteen years ago (had I understood what I was embarking upon). It is my internet home.
Years ago, the British Library contacted me and asked for permission to archive my posts for the benefit of future historians who won't have letters or diaries to read. They'll have so much other data online, however, that they'll need a lot of AI to sift it! If the worst happens, at least future historians can say there were a few of us warning against the legal, economic and societal wrong steps that were leading our civilisation to potential disaster.
I began blogging because I was angry about the assault on liberty in Britain by a Labour government led by a third-rate lawyer who didn't understand the key principles of the Common Law. Specifically the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2005 had upset me hugely. The MSM didn't seem to "get it" either and hundreds of editorials positing a false dichotomy between liberty and safety had exasperated me so much that I felt I had to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. Over the years, I began to blog about a wider range of subjects, but Liberty is always the theme.
It proved great therapy, if nothing else. It made the late Mrs P. a little happier. "You've found someone to share your concerns with other than me and that's great" was her take on it. I have missed her as my proof-reader and editor since she passed on. She was good at deflating a tendency to pomposity that my readers are too gentle to take on.
It's odd that, with all the leisure retirement brought 9 years ago, I have posted so little. When I was a Stakhanovite labouring on the front lines of international capitalism, I found time to post every day. Now it's once or twice a month at best. "If you want something done, ask a busy man" they say, and perhaps they have a point.
It's not that I care less than I did. I still worry that the Rule of Law, habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence (the "Golden Thread that runs through English Law" as Rumpole said at every fictitious opportunity) are little understood by the narcissistic, rent-seeking wretches inevitably drawn to power. I simply know that, at 63 years old (as I shall be next week) the responsibility has passed to the next generation. At best I can offer the odd word of advice, but if they take our society to constitutional and economic Hell, it's now their shout.
I worry, but I certainly don't despair. The next generations are no more a single unit than mine was. For every mouthy "woke" person there are 99 or more hard-working youngsters taking care of business and looking after themselves, the people they love and their communities. One of my daughter's school-friends has dedicated her working life to free market think tanks, for example. She's young but she's already done more to educate people about free market principles that I – who have lived my entire life by them – have ever done. The Misses Paine themselves, educated to the gills at the greatest single expense of my life – are contributing to the economy. Their generation certainly has a lot of leftists and identarian idiots in it, but so did ours. The number of idiots amongst them will wane as their lives progress. I was a young Maoist before I became first Chairman of my University Conservatives and then a Classical Liberal. I was a Welsh Nationalist before I came to despise people who attack others because of their prehistoric ancestry. I have been all kinds of idiot in my youth and have no locus standi to judge youthful fools now. I believe in the human spirit and its essential aspiration to be free, even if it doesn't always immediately understand the best path to that freedom.
The more young people have to conserve (not just economically but in their key social relationships) the more conservative they tend to become. Even the Leftest of the Left (e.g. Diane Abbott) make conservative choices about their own children's' education. We can view that cynically, or (as I prefer to do) we can smile at how the market works – not by force but by the gentle persuasion of Smith's "invisible hand". In the end, wisdom is at least partly the ability to reconcile our past idiocies, errors and hypocrisies with the reality of our lives.
Thank you to all of you, my gentle readers, in the past decade and a half. You have educated, inspired and encouraged me far more than I have been able to do for you. I am fond of you all (even my pet hostile who seems to have deserted me lately). Today, I have repeated my original error by pontificating rather than conversing. Despite that, please feel free to share in the comments what blogging, tweeting etc. has meant to you.