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The Indefensible pursuing the Inedible

I shall miss the fuss in London on Thursday because of a prior engagement in Brussels, but I will spare a thought for the demonstration of collectivists versus the protectionist.

Mr Bush is in the unlikely position of being a villain during this visit to London because he is defending tariffs on steel imports, and I can hardly praise a man for making the European Commission appear like the good guys!

Some of his opponents will actually be protesting against protectionism on the grounds that opening trade is the best hope for greater prosperity worldwide, with the handy by-product of reducing the number of layabout juveniles dreaming of doing something spectacular and violent: they are too busy doing MBAs or training to become plastic surgeons.

I could even support the demonstration if there were a chance that the message would be received in Washington DC that protectionism is an abomination and a great source of warfare (I believe it even triggered the US Civil War, and in that respect the wrong side won).

As for the occupation of Iraq: I continue to despair at the difficulty that anglosphere writers have in comprehending the humiliation of occupation. Admittedly this is for the best of reasons: Washington DC was last under foreign armed occupation in 1812, London in 1066. The dislike of foreign occupation is neither entirely rational nor without ambivalence. Of course the occupying troops in Iraq overthrew a dictator who committed atrocities against his neigbouring countries, his own people, even his own family.

British soldiers may know that when their predecessors first patrolled the streets of Belfast in 1969 (I don’t remember the precise date, I was about 4 years old at the time), the Catholic inhabitants cheered them, offered them cups of tea, etc. The welcome did not last.

If the purpose of allied occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq is as cynical as attracting potential Islamic fundamentalist terrorists to those countries and fight them (and kill many of them) away from Western cities, it could be a good plan. There is a certain logic to persuading the extremists to make their way to Jalalabad and Tikrit and face professional troops instead of Manhattan or the City of London and kill civilians.

If I thought the ‘War on Terrorism’ were being fought so capably I would be far more confident. But I do not, and I am not.

So let ‘the indefensible pursue the inedible': I went on the Countryside marches in support of the right of hunters to chase foxes. I shall be in the Grande Place enjoying my Trappist beer with mussels and frites whilst following the sport on the streets of London. Tally Ho!

33 comments to The Indefensible pursuing the Inedible

  • ed

    1. I noticed you didn’t mention anything concerning the EU’s rather hysterical ban on GM foods. After all just because hundreds of millions of people have been eating GM foods for 20+ years is no reason, I suppose, not to be hysterical. And since the ban protects European farmers from cheaper American imports, that makes it all good right?

    2. Ahh yes. The Protectionism of Steel. Wonder when you’ll get around to the Protectionism of Farming.

    3. Really? There are actually people going to protest protectionism? How strange. I thought that the only thing being protested was the end of kidnappings, torture, murder and rape. Evidently some people have their eye on higher things.

    Europe. The civilization of the banal.

    ed

  • R. C. Dean

    There are actually people going to protest protectionism?

    Well, only incidentally, if not accidentally. I suspect that many protestors are only against it because it is Bush’s protectionist policy. Many others will be protesting Bush’s free trade policies, I am sure, as such protests are staples of anti-globo hatefests. The common thread isn’t the policy being protested, it is Bush’s fingerprints on the policy.

    I mean, come on, if you are willing to protest the removal of one of the most psychotic, bloodstained dictators on the planet because it was done by Bush, then you will protest anything because it was done by Bush.

  • JH

    Protectionism triggered the Civil War?

    I used to think that,too – for 10 seconds worth at least.But reading further on the matter,I came to realise that any ‘alternative’ theory of the Civil War would have to,and indeed does ignore the gargantuan amount of evidence in favor of slavery as the primary cause.To use an analogy,it is as if one blamed the shaking of the living room on the mouse sitting in the corner,while simultaneously ignoring the elephant in the middle.

    To make a long story short,the South seceded because of the threat to the continuance of slavery – real or perceived – posed by the abolitionists and the federal government.
    Any case to the contrary – such as in favor of the tariff theory – can not avoid the evidence in the popular discourse of the day.In the newspapers,political speeches,private correspondence,contemporary commentary,you name it,the prevalent view at that time,on both sides was that the issue of slavery was the root of division between the North and the South.

    Witness the bitter debates – that raged over several years – on whether the new western states were to be admitted as free or slave states.There were battles fought in Kansas between pro- and anti-slavery militants.There was the John Brown’s raid.The Dred Scott case.Lincoln’s ‘House Divided’ speech.Jefferson Davis’s speech on the new Southern constitution.Etc,etc,etc.One can’t just sweep all this under a rug.

  • I am far from persuaded that steel tariffs rate very high on the piercenik agenda. Does anybody imagine that the streets of Central London are going to be awash with banners demanding ‘Free Trade Now’?

  • ed

    Yes. Protectionism wasn’t a cause of the American Civil War.

    What were the primary issues:

    1. The South was almost entirely an agricultural economy. This required an enormous amount of manpower to to achieve economy of scale that would make it profitable. Slavery offered that manpower and abolishing slavery would just about ruin every single landowner of any significance.

    2. The balance between States Rights and Federal authority was still somewhat unsettled. Many people still believed that the Union was composed of semi-independent States rather than an all powerful Federal system.

    3. Fear of marginalization.
    This is a major element in the Civil War. I believe that many people in the South feared that, with the abolition of slavery, former slaves would then be eligible to vote. This would have completely overturned the existing political balance of the South.

    There were many other reasons of course. The Civil War was an extremely complex one involving many political factions. But I think these reasons are far more apt than Protectionism.

    ** Please note that I am not a proponent of slavery. I find adding this to be irritating but much less so than having to defend myself from ridiculous charges.

    ed

  • Guy Herbert

    ed comes perilously close to defening slavery as an adjunct to agricultural protectionism…

    Of course, on his point 3, the southerners who feared former slaves might “disturb the political balance” by voting were correct. There was a window in the reconstruction era when there were black congressmen and a black senator. It soon stopped after the Federal troops left the south to its own devices.

    Those contemplating a rapid withdrawal from Iraq might profitably reflect on Reconstruction: transplanting institutions is hard and can take a long time, even given similar culture and ready communication.

  • Re: causes of the Civil War.

    Jeff Hummel’s excellent book Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men makes an excellent case for the argument that the South seceded primarily over slavery (there were other contributing factors, but this was the major one), but that the North prosecuted the war, not to free the slaves, but to preserve the Union.

  • I am not a huge fan of President Bush, I have to admit. His lack of free trade instincts depresses me, and his expansion of the size of the US federal government and the mess he is making of the budget strikes me as deeply unimpressive.

    But, I still feel like going and waving a US flag in London on Thursday, simply because I have great admiration for America, and I hate with a fiery passion the “anti-war” fuckers who will be shouting their inane slogans. To me this seems a good enough reason.

  • Simon Jester

    At the risk of putting words into Antoine Clarke’s mouth: he said that protectionism “triggered” the Civil War, not that it caused it.

    By the same token, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand “triggered” World War I. It wasn’t one of the root causes.

  • Steve Bowles

    ed

    You seem to be missing the point that a large part of the gm debate in europe concerns the environmental impact of growing gm crops. Much to the annoyance of the seed companies, the trials are showing a much higher environmental impact than first thought, both in terms of biodiversity and cross-polination over much larger distances.

    As this website is of a libertatian bent you may like to ponder one of the important problems with gm farming. Consider the scenario that farmer A wants to plant a gm crop, yet next door farmer B is an organic farmer growing the same crop. Given that exclusion zones around gm crops look like being 4km to avoid cross-polination, the actions of farmer A eliminate the ‘organic’ status of farmer B, thus hugely impacting his freedom to farm as he chooses. This issue needs to be resolved before any commercial gm crops are allowed in europe. You are obviously pro gm, how do you resolve this issue ?

  • Quite so, Steve… the issue is not “Are GM crops good or bad?” but “I want to choose if I eat GM crops or not!”… It is just a matter of several choice.

  • R. C. Dean

    Given that exclusion zones around gm crops look like being 4km to avoid cross-polination, the actions of farmer A eliminate the ‘organic’ status of farmer B

    How so? Pollen shouldn’t violate bans on artificial fertilizer, herbicides, or pesticides.

    I don’t believe anyone raising most crops for seed would engage in open-air, natural pollination anyway, because this is a good way to wreck your breeding programs and seed types. If I am raising Roma tomatoes for seed, I make damn sure that I control the pollination of those plants with only Roma pollen, or I am going to get a bunch of useless hybrid seed.

    Finally, I thought most of genetically engineered varieties were manufactured to be sterile, both to alleviate environmental concerns, and to ensure that the farmer keeps buying his seed from the seed company. BTW, most farmers buy their seed every year anyway, because they want to raise a specific type, and they know that any seed from their fields will be a “wild” hybrid.

  • Steve Bowles

    Part of the definition of ‘organic’ farming includes being non-gm. Field tests have proven conclusively that a non-gm crop planted nearby to a gm crop will end up having a non-neglible proportion of gm seeds. The two studies that gave the most startling results were for gm soybeans and rape seed. If the gm markers are found within the normal crop it cannot be considered ‘organic’

    i will try and digup links to the research papers. The innocent organic farmer is no longer able to market his produce as ‘organic’ because of the actions of the gm farmer.

  • Guy Herbert

    Quite. The “organic” label is a purely arbitrary, magical standard. If the shamen in charge say GM is bad, then any trace of GM makes a crop polluted and non-organic.

    … Whereas organic crops may happily be grown using varieties randomly generated using chemical and radioactive mutagens, ‘cos greeny counter-science didn’t take over the organic movement from vitalist pseudo-science till quite recently.

  • steve

    The “organic” label is a purely arbitrary

    So what? If I can sell my crops for more by conforming to an arbitrary standard that the consumer demands why shouldn’t I be able to? How arbitrary the “organic” label is is neither here nor there.

  • ed

    Hmmm.

    1. All food crops are GM.
    It’s just that some have taken a couple thousand years of experimentation. Corn, maize for you continental types, is a prime example. So there’s no example, or very few at least, of any staple food that hasn’t been genetically modified.

    2. Organic is nonsense.
    There’s no scientific evidence that organic food is better for you. None that I know of at least. The general argument is based on taste, but that’s a very finicky standard to judge by. Most opinions based on taste are also largely based on perceptions. If you go to a swanky restaurant that’s gotten 3 stars from Zagats then you’re basing things on a different set of perceptions from a roadside eatery. Even though the food at the roadside eatery is probably tastier.

    The biggest factor that differentiates how food tastes, other than perceptions, is freshness. Corn in particular is affect hugely by freshness. Corn, once picked, starts turning it’s sugars into starch. So corn that’s fresher will tastes sweeter. “old” corn will taste less sweet and more starchy. Much of the taste that is attributed to “organic” foods is based entirely on the fact that they are simply fresher. And that is almost entirely due to the higher costs and customer expectations.

    Otherwise, no real difference.

    3. We live in an soup of DNA.
    Genetic modification goes on all the time and everywhere. We all live in a soup of DNA and RNA. These snippets, called “free radicals”, sometimes get inserted into the DNA chain. This causes mutations and results in …. evolution.

    All GM foods are simply more evolved versions. The same exact process that makes GM foods goes on all the time. Sometimes by pollination. Sometimes by cross species pollination. Sometimes by interaction of free radicals.

    Honestly folks. The whole GM/non-GM thing is frank nonsense.

    BTW Natural or Organic vitamins aren’t better than manufactured vitamins either. It’s all marketing.

    ed

  • Eric Jablow

    Let us return to the original source material, as written by someone who should know:

    On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it—all sought to avert it. While the inaugeral [sic] address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissole [sic] the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

    One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. …

    Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugaral Address, 4 March 1865.

    By the way, what is inorganic food? Salt?

  • ed, you miss the point entirely. As it happens I agree it is mostly a load of horse hockey, but that changes nothing. What I think or you think or the state thinks should not be the issue. It is a matter of people deciding what they want to eat, even if that is inconvienent for a bunch of large corporations.

  • Steve Bowles

    Ed

    The claim that all food crops are gm is pure nonsense. There is a world of difference between selective breeding/hybridisation and genetic engineering. What makes GM crops so controversial is the insertion of genetic material from totally unrelated organisms that it would be impossible to mutate with in nature. For example inserting frog, mouse or human dna into wheat or soybeans. This is where your gm foods come from, not from saving the seed from the most productive plants.

    To point out the difference even more clearly you may be interested to know that inorder to make sure the inserted gene do their job they are the promoters and vectors used. These are chosen for their invasive qualities and are often cut down versions of the Cauliflower mosaic virus and e-coli.

    It is the insertion of this totally foreign genetic material that identifies GM foods, natural evolution has nothing to do with it.

    The key issue about ‘organic’ from a libertarian perspective should be freedom of choice

  • Russ Goble

    Wow, this comment board has gone all over the place.

    1. On this whole GM-non-GM thing, the science of it is quite over my head. But it seems that if the organic label is arbitrary (as is the GM label I suppose), then it’s important to note WHOSE doing the labeling. It would appear that it is some government body with the power to regulate who is making the decision on how it is labeled.

    Steve Bowles makes a valid point regarding the pollination issue I suppose. But he also makes another that is quite telling: “This issue needs to be resolved before any commercial gm crops are allowed in europe”. Whose going to do the resolving and the allowing in? If, as Steve implies, it is a property issue, couldn’t a simple civil suit bring the issue to the head? The plantiff argues that the person making a GM crop is hurting their own crops ability to be purely “organic.” Has this been tried? If a government is defining arbitrarily what is organic or not, it would seem to be an easily discoverable issue as to wether some outside source is “damaging” the crop.

    Again, I don’t really know that much about the issue other than it’s a big sticking point between the US & Europe. But, as this is a libertarian site, a bothersome part of the issue at hand is that the government is the one doing the defining of both the definitions used and wether or not they should even be allowed or not. I mean, should the government had dones a bunch of studies and “resolved” all the issues before allowing cigerette sells? Or what about McDonalds cheeseburgers? It seems the private market and a free press have done a great deal towards allowing people to decide on what they want to put in their bodies.

    We do know this: GM foods are just as good as organic foods at preventing starvation. And since we put all sorts of natural things in our body every day that are harmful, the fact that a food that is considered unnatural (again using the government definition) and is being nearly prevented from ever being a choice seems like a serious overreach of the powers that be. But, again, I’m a layman, I could be talking out of my ass on that one.

    2. Michael Jennings said: “[Mr. Bush’s] lack of free trade instincts depresses me”. Bush doesn’t really lack free trade instincts. In fact, for most of his career and his policy goals have had free trade principles at the core. He recently proposed a global free trade regime that could revolutionize the world economy if it ever saw the light of day. But, it certainly is true however, that he hasn’t followed through on a lot of this stuff. Granted, he’s been kind of busy.

    It is really important though, that we not get too hung up on Bush as being anti-free trade. He’s not. But, he is a politician. He’s a politician who very much wants to get reelected. And, unfortunately, that has led him to selling out some of his principles in order to buy votes. This is nothing new of course, but in the case of the steel tariffs it’s particularly annoying since it’s totally opposite of principles he’d previously laid down. Of course, I believe the administration tried to make an obscure national security argument out of it rather than a trade issue, but either way, it didn’t convince me. It was pandering, pure and simple. Pennsylvania (and a handful of other rustbelt states) are swing states in the next election. Moreover, they had Senators who were in play during the Iraq pre-war debate (which is when the steel tariffs came down). So, he did it to buy votes. Pure and simple. Granted, it’s not much of a defense, but it’s still important to be mad at Bush for the right reasons. He sold out. That’s the story where that’s concerned.

    It’d be refreshing if Tony Blair and company would say this publicly (since they undoubtedly know the story behind the tariffs) and try to shame Bush into reversing these tariffs. Of course, they have and would play the same games if the shoe was on the other foot. I suspect that’s why they try to talk about free trade, since the conventional wisdom dictates that free trade has to be negotiated by governments and we all know that when governments talk to each other, utopia is just around the corner.

    3. As for the Civil War, anyway you slice it, slavery was a key point. It was not THE issue per se, but it was the biggest reason for it. It was at the root of all the other issues usually put forth. Economic differences is often cited as a big issue. Yes, and what was the primary reason for those economic differences? The south was more agricultural than the north. The north used machinery and paid skilled labor. The south used slaves. This led to economic differnces. The South was a class based society, one where class was often determined by how many slaves one owned. This class difference was foreign to northerners. Thus their were cultural and political differences. And on and on. No, slavery didn’t “trigger” the war, but it certainly helped cause the war.

    And as someone noted above, the North didn’t fight to free the slaves but rather to preserve the union. While, this was a noble reason to fight the war(in this sotherner’s view), the north really didn’t care all that much about the plight of slaves. Oh, they cared more than the average southerner, but not enough to really treat blacks as equals. Racism, after all, was (and is) a problem in the north as much as in the south, it merely manifested itself differently.

  • Steve Bowles

    Russ

    There is I believe a case pending where an organic honey producer was unable to market the honey as organic and fulfill his supply contracts due to contamination by gm pollen from one of the governments recent test plots. He is now suing the government and farmer involved for damages. I dont believe the case has come to court yet.

    The reason I would prefer these issues were addressed in advance is because I dont believe the structure of existing property laws can adeqautely cope. This is purely a case of practicality, not as you imply some desire of mine for more government interference.

  • So, we are worried about the impact that the GM farmer might have on his “organic” neighbors crops, and worry that we are preventing him from farming “the way he wants”.

    But, isn’t the organic farmer doing exactly the same thing? Using an arbitrary standard to prevent the GM farmer from doing what he wants?

    And, while I certainly believe that there are some people who “choose” not to eat GM foods, I don’t for a second believe that as a reason for the EU embargo – that is protectionism at its finest. If you wanted people to have the ability to choose for themselves, then shouldn’t all alternatives be available – especially those that just happen to result in superior crop yields and subsequent lower prices?

  • Andy Freeman

    > If I can sell my crops for more by conforming to an arbitrary standard that the consumer demands why shouldn’t I be able to?

    Does a farmer who wants to conform to “My crop was grown at least 1000 yards from the nearest paved road” have the right to stop his neighbor from putting in a paved road on said neighbor’s property? (Unlike the GM and organic stuff, there’s actually a legit reason for some paved road standard.)

  • Steve Bowles

    Neal and Andy

    You are both missing the point here, it is ‘pollution’ from the gm farmers crop that impinges on the freedom and livelihood of the organic farmer next door. The gm farmer knowingly pollutes his neighbours crop, decreasing its value. the road analogy is stupid.

    To Neal, I agree that consumers should be free to choose gm or not gm foods (totally different arguement to growing the crop) however it was actually protests from the USA that stopped european consumers being given that choice. There was a well supported proposal to allow gm foods, as long as they are clearly labelled as gm, and thus let consumers decide. The US protested as they do not want consumers given that information. The ‘trade war’ on gm is a bit more complicated than many pundits make out.

  • Russ Goble

    Steve, you make a fair point and It’ll be interesting to see the results of the case you mentioned. You maybe right that property rights may be not be prepared to deal with the implications of pollination in this debate. However, I’m still hesitant to say that GM foods need to be banned UNTIL it’s resolved. First off, from what I gather, Europe is dealing with the issue on a multilateral level. That can only end badly. I’d be much more interested in allowing a market solution or one that is resolved through local governments tending to their own needs. It seems that some zoning restrictions and/or definitions could resolve the issue you put forth. I know some libertarians have problems with zoning laws but I’m not one of them (at least in principle, zoning laws in PRACTICE certainly can have bad consequences). Still, a federalist solution (where smaller decentralized governments figure this out) running side by side with a free market and free press would still probably “solve” this issue better than a bunch of Eurocrats sitting around big tables hashing it out over caviar.

    In the U.S., for example, the organic market is booming. Most big grocery chains have an organic section and even some big players like Frito Lay (a huge company owned by Pepsi who specialize in snacks) has even come out with a natural line that is free of trans fatty acids (a synthetic that may turn out to be worse than the natural agent it was often replacing: saturated fat). Transfats are being recognized as a potential health hazard in certain foods. But, it has been because of a free press working with a relatively free medical and scientific profession that has raised public awareness (the market is way ahead of the government on this) and educated consumers like my wife are taking action and voting with their feet and their money.

    A free market and a free press (and a free medical establishment) works best far more often than not (or in the case of trans fatty acids, it fixes it’s own mistakes).

    Of course, as Neal says, it’s probably really a protectionist issue and all the supposed health hazards of the GM-Organic debate is probably just a smoke screen. Par for the course I suppose.

  • Steve Bowles

    Russ

    Sorry I didnt really mean UNTILL, bit of a slip of the mind. I do however think the property issue is one of critical importantce that must be addressed. The other is a register of where gm crops are grown. Early tests have shown that some gm crops have unexpected consequences. One of the gm soybean plants was found to be releasing a toxin via its roots into the soil that was killing the micro-organisms, impacting the ability of the soil to breakdown material and nutrients, thus lowering long term yields. In a purely mkt solution its going to be tough for buyers of land to fully understand its health.

    I agree that the likelihood of any decision from the Eu being a complete cockup. Decentralisation to local councils/zones is an interesting concept. I believe back in Australia, most states are looking to approve gm crops, yet tasmania is looking to ban them. Seems a decent idea letting each region decide according to its own priorities.

  • Yes, let’s go to Lincoln’s own words:

    “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.”

    – Letter to Horace Greeley, Editor of the New York Tribune, August 22 1862.

    Aint no way Lincoln was fighting to end slavery.

  • jk

    I reject the idea that any more than .001% of the protesters will be devoted to free trade. I’m a big W fan — and I’d join a protest against protectionism.

    The protesters will instead decry his stand against totalitarianism in Iraq. I enjoyed the post, Antoine, but think you give the rabble too much credit.

  • steve

    Does a farmer who wants to conform to “My crop was grown at least 1000 yards from the nearest paved road” have the right to stop his neighbor from putting in a paved road on said neighbor’s property?

    If building the road could be demonstrated to be reducing the value of the farmer’s crops I’d say that there’s a case to answer at least – I think you could argue that the farmer’s property rights are being impinged.

  • Andy Freeman

    > If building the road could be demonstrated to be reducing the value of the farmer’s crops I’d say that there’s a case to answer at least – I think you could argue that the farmer’s property rights are being impinged.

    Can I insist that my neighbor not rent to “those people”? I can clearly show that such renting will reduce the value of my property….

    Actually – you’ve got it backwards. The farmer OWES me for making it possible for him to meet a standard that he couldn’t meet without my cooperation. And, I don’t have any obligation to help him meet it.

    Some of you folks are awfully quick to take other people’s property….

  • steve

    Some of you folks are awfully quick to take other people’s property….

    No, I’m suggesting that the freedom to use one’s property as one wishes be constrained by consideration of those who will suffer the consequences of those actions.

    What if the organic farmer, ruined by next door’s GM crops took to growing some super kudzu weed that would, inevitably but incidentally, begin to colonise neighbouring farms, rapidly taking over their fields and rendering them useless for growing crops. Would that be ok? Should all farmers pay the kudzu farmer not to grow the weed? How is that different from blackmail?

  • ed

    1. “For example inserting frog, mouse or human dna into wheat or soybeans. This is where your gm foods come from, not from saving the seed from the most productive plants.”

    And you can guarantee that your “organic” food cannot be in any way contaminated by free floating sections of DNA whose origins are either completely unknown or suspect?

    I really don’t think so. It seems that these free floating particles of DNA are fairly important to the process of mutation and evolution. How important I can’t say I know as I haven’t kept up. But the logic seems worthwhile to pursue.

    So if a piece of random frog DNA ends up accidently incorporated into some wheat, and thereby making a very interesting new strain of wheat, is that wheat considered still “organic”? Or is the fact the end result, if not the basic process, determine that wheat to be GM?

  • Abby

    Steve says: “The reason I would prefer these issues were addressed in advance is because I dont believe the structure of existing property laws can adeqautely cope.”

    I’m not sure to which property laws you refer, but I can tell you that the English common law settled this question centuries ago. The common law rule, sic utere tue ut alienum non laedas, is deeply imbedded in our shared law.

    Under the right of reasonable use, or nuisance, an owner will not be permitted to make an unreasonable use of his property to the material annoyance of his neighbor if the latter’s enjoyment of life or property is materially lessened thereby.

    If the hippy farmer can show a material harm to his crop, caused by the techno farmer’s pollen, then hippy is entitled to full tort damages. Yet techno farmer is protected by the rule’s exception: if he was there first, then hippy would have “come to a nuisance”, and thus could not complain of his discomfort.

    In the US this doctrine is a bedrock principle of property law. If Britain has jettisoned such a fundamental principle of common law, then trial by jury cannot be far behind. If the EU constitution is adopted, depending on how you parse it, the UK and EU would “share” the judicial power.

    I dread the steady creep of civil law into Britain. The common law is one of Britain’s great gifts to the world: does it now reject that gift for itself? Why?