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

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Truth, morals and democracy

Democracy does not determine right and wrong. Democratic outcomes are not necessarily correct. If you live in an unfettered democracy like that of the United Kingdom, you will often find yourself on the wrong side of majority decisions that are misguided at best and quite often wicked. Classical liberals must be careful of crowing about "the will of the People" when they find themselves on the right side of a vote, because we are far more often on the wrong side. 

Opinion polls suggest that relatively few Britons support free-market economics, freedom of expression or even (apart from their own) private property. A majority of "Conservative" voters, for example, seem to support Labour's new policy of issuing unpaid-for shares to employees and appointing trade-union directors to company boards. Those shares will not be "free." Their issue will dilute the value of existing shares. The value they represent will have been taken by force from the company's owners. Also, when investors find companies with employee shareholders less attractive, the value of the company will be further reduced. Appointing employees whose interests conflict with theirs will have negative consequences to the shareholders who own those companies. If they wanted such directors, they could have appointed them at any time. It is said that Labour intends to have employee directors trained by the Leftists of the Trade Union movement, so they will (like the party under its current leadership) be hostile to the very concept of capitalism.

No amount of democratic perfume can make such theft and economic vandalism fragrant. It's immoral. It's wrong. And yet the national debate is not about ethics but practicalities. If a mugger steals your watch at gunpoint, you don't reserve judgement on the morality of his actions until you know what motivated his crime or what it will do to the reputation of the neighbourhood. Yet, when the BBC news reported on Labour's new policy, its "expert" merely commented that Britain's status as one of the world's top destinations for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) may be adversely affected. The rights of pensioners, life assurance policy-holders or people like me living in retirement on my investments count for nothing – unless we are foreigners with other choices who might take our money elsewhere.

A democratic vote is not a sacrament. It is just an alternative to violence as a way of settling societal differences. When we are on its losing side, we had best remind ourselves of that. To oppose a democratic outcome is to encourage a return to violence. That is what the Remainers in Parliament are risking. I was for Leave but if the vote had gone the other way I would have respected it. Our unity as a nation is more important to me than having my own way – even on a subject as to which I have been passionate, angry and frustrated for decades. It seems I was naive. Neither the unity of our nation nor favouring non-violent ways to resolve disagreements means anything to some prominent Remainers.

My grandfather returned from his military service in World War II as a cripple. His country's reward was to "nationalise" (i.e. confiscate) the trucking business he and his brothers had built pre-war with their own sweat and their savings from working as boys, teenagers and young men down a coal mine. Elected on a manifesto that promised the "nationalisation," the Labour government had appointed the only local valuer they could find who was a party member to fix compensation as low as possible. Successive governments then took decades to pay it, in ever more debased coin as inflation eroded the already-rigged value. I asked him years later how that had felt. He told me this.

My friends and some of my family voted for it. Labour people sincerely believed the government could run my business better than I could. I knew they were wrong and time proved me right but at the time what was I to do? I could have been angry with my neighbours and miserable for the rest of my life. Or I could accept the democratic vote, get on with my life and do the best I could.

I loved, admired and (for all his faults) respected my grandfather. Never more so than at that moment. 

This week I visited the "I Object" exhibition at the British Museum co-curated by Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye. His co-curator Tom Huckenhall talked me and other members through the displays at a private viewing. One of the subversive pieces is an image of Egypt's last Pharaoh, Queen Cleopatra, copulating with a crocodile. Tom commented that "sexual slander" has always been used as a political weapon. Interestingly he also said that this was one of several pieces in the exhibition that had not been created by or for dissidents but had instead been commissioned by a political opponent. It was part of a slanderous campaign by Octavian (later Caesar Augustus) to strengthen his claim to be Emperor over that of Cleopatra's lover, Antony.

I cannot have been the only person present who thought of the US Democratic Party's campaign to discredit Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court. Sexual slander is indeed a potent political weapon, now as in 30BC. Its being perpetrated by democratically-elected politicians does not make it any less vile and rotten than when committed by a would-be tyrant of the ancient world. As I watch my beloved America torn apart by a politically-motivated sham as far from the truths so self-evident to the Founding Fathers as could be conceived, I remind myself again that democracy is not an ethic. It's just a very human, practical but flawed device to avoid violence.

It is not, has never been and never will be a means to divine truth, justice or morality.


Hope's funeral

Margaret-Thatcher-and-the-order-of-service-for-her-funeralI promised myself long ago that, just as my grandfather stood in the rainy streets of London to honour Sir Winston Churchill as his funeral procession passed, so I would for Margaret's. He loved Churchill for much the same reason that I loved her. Hope. In dark days, when our country seemed likely to fail, they both persuaded us to buckle down, do our best and look to the future. They promised us that Britain could be great again.

Both promises failed. The Second World War delivered the Poles for whom we declared it to one of only two regimes on Earth worse than Hitler's. It left the Soviet Union stronger. It saved few Jews. It crippled Britain's economy and left us in massive debt to the Americans. Those Americans gave post-war aid to the Germans on such a scale that they rapidly overtook our war-damaged industries. A German who married one of my wife's relatives visited my home town in the 1950's, while rationing and post-war austerity was still in force. "Did you people really win?" she asked. "It doesn't look like it". The war left the US dollar as the world's reserve currency and it left us in, at best, the second division of nations. And in 1946, having delivered ourselves, as we thought, of Germany's National Socialists, we elected British Socialists to run the "commanding heights" of the economy for the nation.

When the post-war consensus between the barons of the landed aristocracy and the labour aristocracy brought us to our economic knees; when the bailiffs' men of the IMF came in to dictate terms; when rubbish swamped the streets and the dead went unburied; when my wife's family burned shoes to keep warm during power cuts and when families everywhere tightened their belts because their supporting wage-earners' working days were cut to three, we lacked hope again. Managed decline seemed our destiny. We told ourselves that our past successes were only to do with the wickedness of Empire and that a slide into poverty was now inevitable - and even deserved. It was a dark hour to be alive even if, like me, you were a young, optimistic graduate setting out promisingly on his life's work.

Thatcher brought hope and promised us a new Britain of opportunity. She promised to liberate the lives and resources tied up in non-jobs and fake industries. She promised us that Britain could be something again; not the old something but a new, vibrant place. And those of us who were not on the take from a corrupt Socialist state or living as parasites on the workers as trade union officials welcomed it. We set about working hard; doing well by doing good.

And for a while it seemed real. If when Neil Kinnock dies, he goes to Hell, the demons need not raise a sweat tormenting him. All they need do is play, on an infinite loop, the moment this week when a TV interviewer asked him if Britain was better or worse after 11 years of Thatcher. His tormented face told the truth even as his twisted lips mouthed the necessary lie. Necessary because without it he would have had to confess that his whole life has been a self-serving fraud. Without that lie, his career can only be explained as duping the working class to raise his talent-free family to undeserved wealth.

Yet Thatcher's promise too was like VE day. It was briefly, gloriously real, but then a sadder reality kicked in. The post-war consensus resumed. The British State moved steadily back to its pre-1979 position as the most important force in the country and the British people resumed their willing dependence. For all practical purposes, democracy is suspended because three out of four families in this still-rich nation are in receipt of money taken by force by that state from their fellow-citizens. David Cameron is far more like Macmillan or Hume than he is like Heath, let alone Thatcher. Ed Milliband, for all the contentious talk, is essentially as in favour of a "mixed economy" (and buttering up corrupt and destructive union leaders) as any post-war leader of his party.

So Margaret's career, in the end, was a waste of her talents and our time. Were it not for her, we might have hit bottom by now and be rebuilding a civilisation on the ruins of our decadence.

Yet I respect her because like Winston, she was sincere. She believed, probably to her death, that she had led us towards a better future. She certainly tried. No Prime Minister ever worked so hard or took so much flak in the process. That she failed is not her fault. It is ours. And that is why I will stand, head bowed, as her gun carriage rolls by tomorrow. She was the best of us and, all-too-briefly, gave us hope. I am grateful for the memory of that.


The people who should be our puppets use their puppets to make puppets of us

Euro Puppets: The European Commission’s remaking of civil society | Institute of Economic Affairs.

Tell a statist that the government spends too much of GDP; that the state should be scaled down and taxes reduced and the response is highly predictable. He will start talking about doctors and nurses, teachers and policemen. Within minutes, unless we are battle-hardened by many years of political debate, he will have established an apparent moral ascendency. Onlookers will wonder how we could be so cruel.

But that's not just, or even mainly, how tax money gets spent. For example, I was horrified to learn from Chris Snowden's linked report for the Institute of Economic Affairs that an estimated €1 billion of the EU's budget is handed over to "sock puppet" charities, NGOs and other fake "civil society" actors in order to promote the political objectives of the EU Commission.

Most of these "civil society" organisations would not exist at all if it were not for EU funding. So far from being genuine expressions of voluntary, non-governmental and non-corporate opinion, they are mere political creatures. It is astro-turfing on a massive scale. The table below (from Chris's report) takes the list of the EU Civil Society Contact Group's members from its own site and shows both the income each receives from the European taxpayer and the percentage of its funding that represents. 

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 08.50.43
Nota bene that much of the remaining funding for supposedly independent "civil society" groups is received from taxpayers at the national level! For example
Women in Europe for a Common Future received an EC grant of €1,219,213 in 2011, with a further €135,247 coming from national governments. This statutory funding made up 93 per cent of its total income while private donations contributed €2,441 (0.2 per cent) and member contributions just €825 (0.06 per cent). 
In what universe can even the most dewy-eyed believer in the essential goodness of the state justify such a monstrous lie? If an organisation raises just 0.06% of its funding from its membership dues, it is not independent. If it gets 93% of its money from the state, it is the state's creature. This is taking money by force from the masses to tell them what to think - most notably about money being taken from them by force!

This is not about being pro- or anti-EU. It is not even on this occasion about being pro- or anti-state. Democracy is supposed to be about the people agreeing what they want done by state bodies and appointing public servants to get on with it. The servants are not supposed to steal their masters' money in order to promote their own objectives. That they do so is corruption, pure and simple.

Come on, statist readers. Justify this gangsterism if you can. And spare us the "doctors and nurses" bullshit for once.

Political gratitude

BBC NEWS | UK | Porritt parting shot at ministers.

Time and again, outgoing government employees criticise the administration that employed them. Jonathon Porritt has sucked at the public teat for nine years, without ever a word of criticism, but now he has come over all brave. If the government had taken his advice, presumably it would now have a strong record (as it claims) on environmental policies. If it was not taking his advice, why did he continue to take our money from it? Why was he not principled enough, this paragon of the green virtues, to resign?

Porritt is one of those who claims that green issues are of paramount concern; that the end is nigh for the world if they are not addressed. Yet, for taxpayers' money, he was prepared to keep silent for nine precious years when - as he would now have us believe - the government was failing to address them. When he sneers that Britain is a "...world leader in green rhetoric..." and accuses the government of hypocrisy, does he not see the irony of that?

In a mildly indignant tone, a government spokesman is quoted as saying;
Jonathan Porritt last week praised our Low Carbon Transition Plan which is backed by active steps to make sure firms in the UK grab the growth and job opportunities in nuclear, renewable, electric car and other growth industries.
Ah but yes, dear boy, last week you were still paying him with money looted from us. Prime Minister Balladur of France once cynically observed;
In politics there is only gratitude for favours yet to be received

It seems the insufferable, holier-than-thou Greens are more like their political opponents than they pretend.


Mr Eugenides: MP's pay scandal

Link: Mr Eugenides: MP's pay scandal.

I have nothing to add to this, which made me spill my evening drink. Thanks, Mr. Eugenides. I could never have believed that such a story could make me laugh.

It really is scandalous that our elected representatives are so poorly remunerated for their 160 days' work every year. Not only should they be paid more, but on Fridays they should be transported back to their constituencies with great pomp and dignity on litters carried by lucky constituents randomly selected from the national ID database, with cheering crowds lining their routes and a train of elephants and peacocks following in their wake. Once back among their people, they should be sent the fairest virgins of the town to give them oral pleasure (non-virgins may be suitable substitutes for Essex MPs) and their bedchambers strewn with rose petals to ensure a sound and restful night.

Even these modest proposals would hardly constitute proper recognition for their selfless public service, but they would be a powerful reminder to our masters of the gratitude and quiet goodwill that millions of us bear in our hearts.