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Good work, citizen

Attention all petty, vindictive snitches everywhere, your country needs you:

New powers effectively criminalising smoking in public were announced by the Government yesterday, with the minister in charge promising an “intelligence-led approach to enforcing the law”.

Informers will be encouraged to report breaches of sweeping bans on the habit, in which company smoking rooms will be outlawed and places such as bus shelters and the outsides of office blocks made no-smoking areas.

Very little encouragement will be required as there will be no shortage of willing and zealous ‘informers’.

What a horrible place this country is becoming.

50 comments to Good work, citizen

  • guy herbert

    The punishment freaks and moralitarian enforcers just don’t grasp how human institutions (and licensing authorities are human, if not humane, institutions) work in practice, or how to balance the pressures that they create. Though perhaps they don’t care.

    A system of informers and “community controlled” justice (I’m waiting for the street committees) works very well with a “risk-based approach” to regulatory enforcement. Round up the usual suspects, anyone who’s a ‘known trouble-maker’ or otherwise not favoured by the relevant authorities.

    A better recipe for inflating corruption and extortion cannot be imagined. If you value the (relatively) impersonal, impartial state that Britain has enjoyed for 100 years or so, and an universalist conception of the rule of law, then cherish the scattered remnants while there’s anything left.

  • Michael Taylor

    Does anyone have any ideas about what we can actually do to stop this never-ending stampede to authoritarianism?

    I remember when Singapore was an international joke for having laws on chewing gum and peeing in lifts.

    I’d have little thought we’d have the same thing here within a decade.

    Yet I’ve no idea what we can actually do to stop it. Rather, we comfort ourselves with the knowledge that the sheer unpleasantness and absurdity of it will ensure its downfall. Well, maybe it will . . . but the last time I looked, Singapore was pretty much unchanged.

    What can we do? Ideas anyone.

    BTW, in case anyone is interested, I’m not a smoker, and don’t particularly like it, but I’ll be damned if that justifies a snitches’ republic to enforce others’ prejudices.

  • Julian Taylor

    Caroline Flint, the public health minister, confirmed that the policy would be vigorously enforced with the assistance of informers from the public.

    As much as I hate to agree with Melanie Phillips’ article, as put up by Verity in the “Let’s not be beastly to the French” post, isn’t it now quite obvious to everyone that Blair is now firmly embarked upon some orgy of Gramsci-ist eradication of individual rights in the UK?

    In addition to yesterday’s announcement of the smoking ban Blunkett (yes, like bad broccoli he has resurfaced yet again) and the distinctly unpleasant Yvette Cooper have announced plans(apologies if you get one of those Flash adverts) to control second home ownership. I wonder what joys of further individual repression today has in store for us …

  • This country is becoming more and more authoritarian by the day. What happened to the concept of individual liberty, a socially tolerant (if not exactly liberal) society and the rule of law?

    What have we had so far under this Government? Let me think… erosion of trial-by-jury; indefinite detention without charge or trial; ‘control orders'; the excessive misuse of ASBOs; ‘ID cards’ and the database state and other nasty surprises.

    I am losing more and more willingness to live in Britain by the day.

  • Johnathan

    It is enough to drive one to tobacco.

  • Derek Buxton

    I said some years ago that we were headed for a police state, but so soon! What did phoney Toney study? I was sure someone said it was law, obviously it was too common for him.

  • mike

    This increasing authoritarianism in the UK is disgusting. Today I was killing time in a bookstore in Hong Kong – which is a far more beautiful city than Edinburgh – reading John Sergeant’s book on Margaret Thatcher. Apparently she has been privately advising and supporting Blair during the Kosovo and Iraq conflicts. If only she had had a word or two to say to him on why it is the defence of liberty that gives those conflicts their moral justification… At any rate, this sort of thing (the smoking ban) – trumped in today’s Asian edition of the Observer as a ‘crucial’ part of Blair’s legacy – makes me glad I have given up the UK for life in the far east.

  • Barry Arrowsmith

    Shakespeare has been quoted under another subject heading on the blog – here’s a bit more. it’s from John O’Gaunts speech in Henry II part II – the “jewel set in a silver sea” bit. It comes at the end and doesn’t get quoted much, but seems apposite to me.

    “This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
    Dear for her reputation through the world,
    Is now leas’d out-I die pronouncing it-
    Like to a tenement or pelting farm.
    England, bound in with the triumphant sea,
    Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
    Of wat’ry Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
    With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds;
    That England, that was wont to conquer others,
    Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
    Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
    How happy then were my ensuing death!”

  • Remember, if you are going to inform on your competitor for supposedly allowing employees to smoke, to time it so the enforcement raid occurs when most disruptive to their operations.

  • Michael Taylor

    So far no-one’s come back to me with any ideas of what can be done, practically, to maintain liberty. It’s all very well using the site to air our disgust at what’s happening, but given that New Labour are in for at least another four years, and that there seems little sympathy for liberty from the Conservatives, we’ve got to get thinking practically now about how we can fight back.

    Here’s one idea – pitifully feeble though it is. The best defence must be to bolster democracy and articulated shared purpose at local community level. Thus, to take two examples: if libertarians could win power at a local government level, be it ne’er so humble, they could at least bring the power of the ballot box back at local level in a way which woudl be difficult to ignore. I’m lucky in that I live in one of the two counties in England where the local police force has decided not to introduce speed cameras. Any attempt by any benighted successor to our splended chief constable to alter this stage of affairs could be met by a local referendum at least articulating local opposition, and making it clear that centralising tendencies are unpopular.

    Second thought: with libertarians in control of local councils, they could at least discourage the efforts of the anti-smoking snitches by an ironic local publication of their names “with grateful thanks”.

    Third thought: transparency and accountilibity are the only innoculation against covert centralizers. And perhaps that might be best achieved at local level.

    Well, those are some of my thoughts, which I believe might be the start of some practical response. Anyone got any better ideas?

  • One of the reasons I have been known to have an occasional cigar in a bar is because I know it winds up the anti-tobacco loons so badly. I know several YR women who started smoking cigars after smoking bans in their cities. I suggest people do the same here.

  • Verity

    Look, Michael Taylor and others: there is to be no opposition. It has all been thought out. Be clear on this. It is not that Tony Blair is misguided or hasn’t realised the effects or that his diktats haven’t been properly thought through or whatever.

    This is part of the plan.

    How long is it going to take you to see it?

    Please, please go to Melanie Phillips’s site, linked to above by Julian Taylor and read it carefully. It is called “The Agenda for Britain”. Melanie Phillips has a brilliant, logical, calm mind and she writes with great clarity. I have never seen the whole Blair project encapsulated better or more tragically.

    I do not know what can be done to stop it, but none of it is happening by mistake. Have you noticed? It’s accelerating.

    Could you take the government to court? I don’t know, but the ultimate court is the “court of human rights” (I do not capitalise it) in Brussels, and they are part of the project.

    This has exercised me for years and I still keep coming back to the same solution, although I don’t know how it would be managed: petition to become a state (or four states) of the United States. How this would be done to pull the country out from under Blair and his minions, I do not know.

    Please read the article referred to, because it encapsulates the whole thing and concentrates the mind.

  • mr. lungs

    I, for one, welcome the enforcement of a ban on harmful voluntary public air polution. Smokers DO NOT have a right to pollute my lungs.

  • Verity

    Mr Lungs – you are deeply stupid.

  • Richard Thomas

    The only real way to maintain liberty and oppose autoritarianism is not to recognise it and not submit to it.

    Unfortunately, this leads to some hard choices, probably imprisonment and possibly even death. However, that’s pretty much the bottom line.

    As libertarians, we tend to stress (not enough) the idea of personal responsibility. By acquiesing to overreaching authority, we not only permit it but encourage it.

    This may sound like revolutionary talk but I’m not encouraging anyone to revolt, simply stating how I see it. We can try and fix things through “the system”, it might even be possible to slow things a little. But sooner or later, someone has to make a stand and say “no more”.

    Or not

    Rich

  • Smokers DO NOT have a right to pollute my lungs.

    Then I suggest that you move upwind.

  • Julian Taylor

    Jonathan Pearce wrote,

    “It is enough to drive one to tobacco.”

    Ah, but surely that’s the intention – the more people are driven to tobacco thus the more people are encouraged to call the 0960 DOBINYOURMATES telephone line (calls costs £1.50 minimum, please check with billpayer first) to report them. I wonder what comes next, breathalysers in hospitals to make sure they’re not treating a smoker, nicotine drug tests at work or a “community” secret police whose duty will be to check on the possession of ashtrays?

  • Verity

    Julian Taylor, a facetious post making a joke of this latest encroachment is exactly what they predict. That way, you deflate its importance nicely, and everyone can “move on”.

    This is the problem. You are all lulled into a false sense of security because you think you can joke it away.

    One more outrage and all the Samizdata regulars jump on it – either making fun of it (the desired response from the government’s point of view because it lightens the atmosphere) or writing indignant posts along the lines of: “Don’t they realise that these things need to be balanced …” or similar. Yes. They realise it. That’s why they’re not doing it.

    David posts a new outrage and we all jump on it, focussing on it intensely. We pick apart that one minute piece of the jigsaw, missing entirely that that bit is one of hundreds. But our attention is directed to that one item, and we miss, yet again, the entire jigsaw clicking into place, and the big picture emerging …

  • Michael Taylor

    Verity, I think you are wrong: I imagine at least 90% of the people reading this site have a keen and accurate perception of the bigger picture. The question I’ve raised, and which I think we need to put our minds to is not “how has this dreadful project got this far” but “what practically can we do to reverse it.” Simply saying “there is to be no opposition” is spineless. Similarly, Richard Thomas’s opinion that there’s nothing to do except “suffer imprisonment and possibly even death” sounds like nothing so much as an attack of the vapours.

    Libertarians must be optimists, in the sense of having something very similar to . . . . faith. And there’s abundant evidence to justify this faith – hey, even the French came through!

    So, the question remains, how do we take this libertarian faith from the website and into the world to help people re-grasp what is theirs by right – their freedom – in the face of very real-world opposition. My tentative answer is that much can be achieved by helping communities achieve their shared and often libertarian goals. Yes, the family may be the toughest and most common source of resistance (which is why it’s under such concerted attack – cf “Kelly Hours”), but local councils could be a very public platform.

    So here’s the challenge: is it possible for libertarians to get involved in local democracy and demonstrate the value of freedom in action?

  • Julian Taylor

    Verity, maybe joking about it helps to conceal whatever feelings we have of desperation at seeing what, at least for some of us, is one the world’s greatest countries being smashed to pieces by a cryptocommunist like Blair, simply because he wishes to hear the pretty noise it will make when it hits the ground.

  • Verity

    No, Julian Taylor, he is not smashing Britain for fun. He is dismantling our country in the cause of an international Gramscian power structure. Power comes with chaos. Didn’t you read Melanie Phillips’s piece?

  • Across the river from my beloved Wisconsin is the socialist people’s republic of Minnesota – where some companies already test your pee for nicotine & refuse to hire those who smoke tobacco (or fire those who refuse to quit). Julian’s comment is no joke.

  • Fealty

    I read the Melanie Phillips article linked and referenced above and I fail to be at all convinced.

    Both of these are linked: the particular form of the western family, the monogamous married couple, is the bedrock of the democratic nation state.

    Erm… Democratic nations emerge if we all live in neat family units? The ‘traditional’ family unit itself is deeply undemocratic – the Wife takes the orders of the Husband as he’s the one with the money.

    I guess that democracy in India is due to fail because they generally have extended families and they are’t part of the plan at all.

    The family has been attacked by the doctrine that alternative lifestyles are of equal value to heterosexual marriage.

    Value? Financially, a family contributes far less tax revenue than two childless singles. Socially, in this day and age, a family is almost guaranteed to have two full-time working parents so the child is raised entirely by teachers and other carers – so any social values imparted come from them, not from the parents. ‘Structurally’ a family is less mobile than childless singles so is more vulnerable to government interference – childless singles just leave the country or their jobs if they get too annoyed, families can rarely afford that option.

    She makes a few points that are reasonable: we are being encouraged to believe that making judgements is incorrect, whereas I believe that most people are capable of making a reasonable judgement.

    values of that society could be replaced by the transgressive values of those who lived on its margins

    ‘Transgressive values of those that lived on its margins?’ Like thinking that having the freedom to not liev in neat little family packages is unreasonable?

    It is not reasonable to promote brain damage and addiction among young people by reclassifying cannabis as a less dangerous drug. It is not reasonable, in short, for a political party to promote or condone lifestyles which damage the vulnerable and leave a trail of personal damage and social chaos.

    It is therefore perfectly reasonable to enact all sorts of laws that prevent people from getting stoned, being gay, being promiscuous etcetera. Remember, it’s all for your own good.

    This woman seems to rate ‘enshrining personal freedoms’ as slightly lower priority than ‘legalising gang rape.’ Verity is probably only expounding it because she makes veiled references to the evils of Homosexuality, and we all know Verity’s stance when it comes to that little ‘unfortunate freedom’ people in this ‘decadent’ country have been granted.

    *spit*

  • Verity

    Fealty – you seem to have a similar address to the moronic Mr Lungs.

    I am not going to be put on the defensive by the likes of you, but I do challenge you to find one word I have ever written that is negative about homosexuality. I have constantly said gay people have been part of the human condition in every society throughout history and that it is a condition of birth, not lifestyle choice.

    Even apart from your silly slander of me, your post reeks of the quick and slovenly composition of offended vanity.

  • A Taoist said, “Of the 67 ways of getting out of trouble, the best one is to leave.” Wouldn’t it make more sense to relocate to a place where one had a chance to bring rationality to government rather than to dash one’s head against the brick wall of the Euro-socialist state? That’s what my father did eighty years ago, leaving Scotland for the US. Now I just have to remind myself to stay away from Minnesota. And if Minnesota-style collectivism spreads to Florida, next stop Fiji or somewhere. Individuals CAN protect their lives and freedoms. But only if they don’t waste effort trying to make the whole world right.

  • guy herbert

    Verity: Could you take the government to court? I don’t know, but the ultimate court is the “court of human rights” (I do not capitalise it) in Brussels, and they are part of the project.

    You are confusing, as do many, the European Court of Justice which rules in EU Law, and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is the latter which is the final court of appeal in cases brought under the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and has been such for British citizens since the 1950s. It wasn’t Blair what done that!

    What Blair did do, was, much more subtly, to remove the independence (of his New British state) and finality of human rights jurisdiction by getting it received into the UK legal systems under the Human Rights Act. Since human rights causes can now be heard directly in domestic courts, it has become more difficult to exhaust domestic jurisdiction. There is now domestic case-law and there are fewer appeals to Strasbourg. So, though the Convention is more invoked, it is in effect subordinated to public policy and should be expected to be more so as control of the judiciary and justice system is established and consolidated within the administration.

    Whether or not one approves of the fundamental conceptions of “human rights” in the old sense–and I don’t–Strasbourg is part of a different, to my mind more respectable, project. It is an obstacle to The Project, and has been bypassed.

  • Verity

    Thank you, Guy. Actually, suing the government was a pretty feeble idea, anyway. What would one sue them for?

  • guy herbert

    Every day I get loonies with a strange conception of jurisdiction and prerogative writing to me suggesting ministers ought to be prosecuted for treason.

  • Richard Thomas

    The French did not come through in support of personal liberty, they came through in support of protectionism and undiluted statism.

    Rich

  • The places where they will not be able to ban smoking are prisons,if they try they will have riots on their hands. Criminals are notorious for disobeying the law and what is the ultimate the Blairistas can do,jail them?
    There are some areas where reporting smokers will earn a kneecapping,would anyone want to try to stop a drunken bunch of chavs with cigarettes.The police cannot fulfill their duties as it is.
    We are then faced with a situation where some areas,certainly in big cities will be subject to a different standard of law.

  • A good point has been made that,the majority of so called public places are actually private property,that the Government is banning smoking from pubs and restaurants which they manifestly do not own.

  • rosignol

    So far no-one’s come back to me with any ideas of what can be done, practically, to maintain liberty.

    The words you should be thinking of are “Civil Disobedience”.

    However, Richard Thomas is quite correct that there will be consequences.

    If you are unwilling to experience those consequences, I suggest emigration.

  • Michael Taylor

    Revealing: no-one has yet come up with any practical proposals how to roll back the attack on liberty, except for the suggestion that I leave Britain. Well, I did that for 18 years, and I’m back of my own volition, so that one’s out for me. Besides, a short look at British history soon show you that leaving Britain in pursuit of expanded personal freedom seems almost to be a compulsion among us. Sometimes it leads to the US, sometimes to Empire.

    And these days, sometimes to Nick Leeson.

    I’m still rolling my eyes at Richard Thomas’ heroic “imprisonment or possibly even death” histrionics – I bet if he lived in Britain, he’d be paying his BBC licence like the rest of us.

    But I’m still puzzled as to the apathy / lack of imagination/ lack of faith revealed by the silence on what to do. I’d have thought that an instinct towards individual freedom wouldn’t be too difficult to mobilise. In the last 20 years, Asians have pretty much fought or protested their way to expanded freedom relentlessly – it’s only in the benighted EU that things have been going the other way.

    So think practically. Local politics as the next unit up (from the family) for resistance.

    And, after that, how about embracing micro-generation projects in all their forms? Those of you who have read Danny Yergin’s “The Prize” will easily realise the role that the provision and safeguarding of “power” – be it oil or electricity – has had on entrenching the power of the state itself. For this reason alone, microgeneration should be a major cause for libertarians. What’s more, think of the appeal: would you a) prefer your taxes to subsidise Big Nuclear Power or b) subsidize your solar panels? You could run on that and win at local level. . .

  • Julian Morrison

    Read the lyrics of “The Smoke police” by “the Intended” (credit to ASI)

  • rosignol

    And, after that, how about embracing micro-generation projects in all their forms?

    Microgeneration is uneconomical.

    Think about it. If small-scale generators were cost-effective, the producers would use them instead of the huge ones- the reason the huge generators are used is because they are more efficient, and greater efficiencey allows them to provide the product at lower cost.

    As far as subsidies are concerned, it’s much more libertarian to expect people to pay their own way- at least for the US usage of the word. Damned if I know what it means on that side of the Atlantic- anything to the right of socialism, apparently…

  • Andrew: Stateside, I’ve tried cigars, but the reefer appears to be having, uhm, ‘sporting’ effects on my spatio-relationalizing so’s I keeps losing the bleedin’ knife, which the goddamned TSA was taking away from me all the time, anyway. It won’t do to hawk sodden stogie-bits all around where peeps is hoofing through the magnetazers in their socks, so I just said, “Fuck it.”

    Lawd knows: “I’m packin’ my bags, for the misty mountains…”

  • Michael Taylor

    Thanks, Rosignol, for that corrective. I’ve no doubt that big generation ops are more efficient/economic. I guess my point is that there may be relevant external costs to be taken into account – eg, the costs of running a centralized state “needed” to secure uinterrupted supplies of gas, oil, coal, uranium etc. And those costs (and much, much more) are extracted from you via your tax dollars. The appeal of micro-generation is that, if adopted, it strips away some of the raison d’etre for that big centralized government.

    As for subsidies – you’ve got me bang to philosophical rights. But from a practical point of view, until you can stop them robbing you, you might as well try and rob them back.

  • Steve

    “So far no-one’s come back to me with any ideas of what can be done, practically, to maintain liberty.”

    Isn’t the point of liberty to allow people to do their own thing, without unnecessary interference or pressure, within a set of clear (usually obvious and self-evident) guidelines – on the basis they will allow us the same privilege?

    The problem then with achieving or maintaining liberty is the way we as individuals, tribes, states or cults continue to give power or authority to people who do not have any concept of the original notion – or believe it should only exist to benefit themselves and their approved kind.

  • Steve

    “So far no-one’s come back to me with any ideas of what can be done, practically, to maintain liberty.”

    Isn’t the point of liberty to allow people to do their own thing, without unnecessary interference or pressure, within a set of clear (usually obvious and self-evident) guidelines – on the basis they will allow us the same privilege?

    The problem then with achieving or maintaining liberty is the way we as individuals, tribes, states or cults continue to give power or authority to people who do not have any concept of the original notion – or believe it should only exist to benefit themselves and their approved kind.

  • Pubs are NOT private property though in the strictest sense because they have to be LICENSED to sell alcohol – and then there’s the name: Pub, as in PUBLIC HOUSE. If they gave the alcohol away it would be different. Maybe there’s a new business model there? Give beer and food away and people can smoke.

    A bit like the strip clubs in Florida that had to resort to staging Shakespeare in the nude.

    As for people having a right to smoke. Get over yourselves. The definition of individual liberty as best I can define it is the right to do ANYTHING as long as it doesn’t harm others – in which case you can do it with consent [hence I am against drugs being banned and think we need to remove or drastically reduce most of our age restrictions on sex, smoking, drinking..].
    I do not inherently bless people the consent to smoke next to me at a bus stop or blow their poison into my face in a pub. And I am being harmed. Banning smoking in a non-consensual environment is a DEFENCE of individual liberty. Banning smoking would be authoritarianism.

    I mean let’s pretend 5 women and 18 guys wished to partake in a mass gang-bang romp in a Pub. Who does it harm? If you don’t want to be around it why not just leave the pub? Oh right sex in public places isn’t really legal and we all benefit from that rule. But sex is not banned and nor are gang-bangs, orgies, romps or any form of sexual deviancy (where all participants are over 16!! or 18 if it is being filmed). If it works for sex, the same law can work for smoking.

    Of course, I do not think the government should encourage people to ‘grass’. No-one likes a rat. Plus I think watching sex in a pub would be great Saturday night entertainment.

  • pommygranate

    Michael has raised an interesting point. The lack of ideas is worrying.
    Are libertarians doormats?

  • Richard Thomas

    I’m still rolling my eyes at Richard Thomas’ heroic “imprisonment or possibly even death” histrionics – I bet if he lived in Britain, he’d be paying his BBC licence like the rest of us.

    And indeed, when I did, I did. I could offer up that at the time, I was fairly statist as an excuse but I would probably do the same.

    The question was not “what are you doing to try to preserve liberty” but “what can be done to preserve liberty”. By choosing not to draw a line in the sand, I am just as complicit as anyone else in allowing the authoritarianism to progress.

    The simple truth is that based on past performance, the state will always continue to expand its power. To believe that it can somehow be changed from within shows as much doey eyed idealism as any utopian socialist. The only time the state has ever been turned is when people come out from their comfortable existences and make a stand.

    I applaud anyone who does try and work from within, they may be able to slow the rot some and put off the day when things get confrontational but when push comes to shove, you have to show the state that there is a price for what they are trying to take from you.

    I only hope that the next time around, an even more restricted state can be created. On that I am optimistic. It takes the state longer to backslide each time.

    Rich

  • Verity

    Richard Thomas – I agree with you completely. There is no such thing as changing governments and political structures “from within”. It is a foolish, unrealistic notion.

    The only thing that stands a chance of working is confrontation from without, preferably with a large number of people at your side, and good media coverage to disseminate information about your intentions.

    There will be no changing the EU “from within”. No changing the socialists “from within”. (Tony Blair is much more radically left than most other people in his party, although he disguises it well enough to fool those who want to believe.)

  • Michael Taylor

    I’m going to speak up for doey-eyed idealism, which Richard Thomas has (rightly or wrongly) spotted lurking in the background of my comments.

    And I’m going to speak up for it because I believe doey-eyed idealism usually wins. Truth almost universally ousts falsehood if you wait around long enough. Oppressive states always fail, if you wait around long enough. That’s partly the enormous political power of truth and right: lies are just so expensive in every way. But it’s also partly because truth and right have a unique power to motivate and sustain people over long periods of great difficulty and danger. And quite often, during these trying periods they are derided as doey-eyed idealists.

    Here are two other ways of putting it:
    First, doey-eyed idealists aren’t necessarily ill-informed or stupid (or, heaven help us, utopian socialists. Europeans are only a relatively small portion of humanity). Indeed, they can quite naturally be expected to lean towards the libertarian way of thinking.

    Second, libertarians should, because of this tendency for truth to win, be temperamentally optimistic. They should, in short, have faith.

    Now, what about the alternative: “clear-eyed realism”. My worry is that the pose of clear-eyed realism can often mask a lack of curiosity, or even intellectual laziness.

    And worse, it can degenerate into the pose of easy cynicism which so often masks personal insecurity – think how even some people’s irony is ironic. (Richard Thomas, this doesn’t necessarily mean you).

    Finally, Verity . . . have a little faith. The future is what we make it: governments, political structures, the whole lot – they’re all up for grabs, and never more so than now.

    After all, these things we know: the EU project is failing/will fail; the Blair project is failing/will fail; the assault on personal liberty in Britain will be rolled back. Things needn’t get worse before they get better. The likelihood of them doing so, is increased if we just sit on the sidelines consoling ourselves that nothing can be done.

    To arms!

  • Richard Thomas

    Michael, states *do* fail but it’s usually because people stand up to them and risk imprisonment and/or death.

    Unfortunately, the nature of politics is compromise. And that compromise is usuall between where we stand and an overbearing level of state control. Like Xeno’s paradox, we may never reach total control (both because it becomes unbearable and because its unworkability tends to cause it to tear itelf apart) but we are always moving that much closer.

    Let me append a piece of Heinlein’s writing that has caused me to do some of my deepest thinking recently. To consider that freedom does not come from casting a vote or complaining on blogs but is something far more fundamental

    “I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

  • Verity

    Michael Taylor – Oh, the brave music of a distant drum.

    Not one practical suggestion for an actual fight.

  • pommygranate

    Here’s one.

    Everyone go out and buy a copy of J.G Ballard’s Millenium People.

  • Michael has raised an interesting point. The lack of ideas is worrying. Are libertarians doormats?

    Yes, many of them spout off and do nothing about it. Pontificating is very easy; making things happen is a far different animal.

  • Julian Taylor

    I’d be interested to know exactly how “making things happen is a far different animal” could be implemented in regard to this topic of conversation. Groups of smokers hanging around outside their offices and refusing to not smoke? Or possibly taking over the King’s Road UGC Cinema by force and showing repeated free screenings of Blowing Smoke, interspersed with those amazing Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut adverts from the 1970s?

    If the government was serious about such measures I’m sure they would have taken steps to either restrict the sale of tobacco and cigarettes or, as has been shown in the past to be far more effective, add a substantial top up to the duty already imposed on a packet of cigarettes.

    It looks as though this law is exactly the sort of thing that a minor bureaucrat has brought out since he/she does not smoke and obviously resents other work colleagues getting about 10 minutes break per hour to go outside and have a cigarette. No doubt it will be treated with the derision it so well deserves, in much the same way as the law regarding using a mobile in a car seems to have been discarded by the police.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Hrm. Small gripe of a non-smoker – it does rankle a teensy bit when one is working in a workplace that allows smokers to have extraordinary breaks.