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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Civitas – otherwise the most authoritative and radical of modern policy institutes… has published the longest petition of intellectual bankruptcy I have read in years. I do most strongly urge David Green to withdraw this book at once and remove it from the Civitas catalogue.

Sean Gabb, reviewing Danny Krueger’s new book On Fraternity: Politics beyond Liberty and Equality

5 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Johnathan Pearce

    It is a shame. I listened to Kruger opine about politics a few months ago and it was a mish-mash, confused, the sort of “conservatism needs to move beyond simplistic adherence to the market” sort of Big Government BS that is now staple Cameroonian fare. Ugh.

  • Freeman

    May I also applaud Dr Gabb for his fine demolition job on Krueger’s new book.

    Being a mere engineer, I lack a classical education though even I can see that a slave is not exactly as free as his master. Such a thesis might make for an interesting intellectual debate in the Oxford Union, but it is repugnant as an idea that could remotely have any benign relation to modern politics. The sole purpose of introducing it can only be to encourage the bizarre belief that a serf of the database state is better off than his political masters. Fortunately, few are likely to be convinced by this crackpot idea.

    There is just one point where I mildly disagree with Dr Gabb, and that is where he suggests that it should be withdrawn from the Civitas catalogue. Better to leave it there with a scathing footnote; composing a relevant one-sentence footnote might be an interesting challenge.

  • I recall one article by Kruger in the Telegraph not too long ago (perhaps as an editorial) where he complained that, with the transfer of so many powers to the EU, all we would be left with in the UK was the right to manage our waste collection policy.

    He had evidently forgotten (or never learnt) about the EU’s Waste Framework Directive (estimated to cost the UK around £10 billion) that set out all sorts of mandatory targets for recycling, landfill and the rest of it.

  • Paul Marks

    One does not have to go along with everything Dr Gabb says (attacking Mrs Thatcher for having dark motives and so on), to agree that when a Conservative party member such as D. Krueger starts using the language of the French Revolution (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) things are very wrong indeed.

    Even “liberty” is not really a concern of the government. Certainly government folk (indeed anyone) has a duty to free someone they see enslaved, a non criminal in chains being forced to work by being whipped (for “slavery” is, as Salmon P. Chase was fond of pointing out, a series of common law crimes – false imprisonment, assault and so on) – but “liberty” (in the sense used by the French Revolutionaries) is a more “positive” concept involving “rights to vote” and so on.

    Edmund Burke was right to point out that liberty, in the British tradition, is not being messed about (I hope he would he excuse my crude language) by the state – not having a say (a vote or whatever) in how the state messes other people about.

    As for “equality”. Equality of outcome is possible only in small communities (such as the ones that are breaking down in Israel, or the traditional small religious communities around the world) efforts to enforce it on a large scale lead to things like Lenin’s “War Communism”, Mao “Great Leap Forward” and “Cultural Revolution”, and Pol Pot’s “Year Zero”.

    However, “equality of opportunity” is not really any business of government either. I do not have the opportunities of someone born rich, there is nothing that goverment can do about this – without making things worse (overall) by its efforts.

    People who are born born poor, or who grow up short or whatever tend to have a harder time in life than people who are not. For people (such as conservatives) who understand that this world will never be Heaven on Earth (indeed that the desire that it should be is the oldest heresy) help the less fortunate as well as they can – but do not promise impossible dreams like “equality of opportunity”.

    The chances of some people (due to wealth, loving parents rather than uncaring ones, or whatever) will never be the same as the chances of other people and government efforts to, by spending and regulations, make things better just make things (overall) worse.

    As for “fraternity” (brotherly love) it should go without saying that this is no business of government (the Sword of State). Various religious (and “humanist”) institutions may encourage people to love each other if they wish to try and encourage this (although this is rather unEnglish), or at least to be more kindly than they are now – but it is not part of the duty of government.

    Indeed government being involved in such things can only do harm. For example, government “support” for voluntary groups undermines the voluntary principle itself (because the government did not get the money voluntarily) and the government does not tend to respect such groups principles (the very thing their “fraternity” is based upon).

    For example, Mr Cameron has talke much of the need to suppor voluntary groups – but he voted to force relgious adoption agencies to give children to people who engage in homosexual acts.

    Now there may be nothing wrong with homosexual acts, but that is not what these religious groups believe, and to force them to act against their basic beliefs (or close down) is to show total contempt for their “fraternity”.

    It reminds my of something that happened to me what I was very young (about seven years of age).

    The teachers at the school I went to asked us to “bring in some food to share with your friends”. I asked my parents for some food for this purpose and they agreed.

    However, the teachers then took the food (by violence) and gave it to my enemies. This also happened to other people.

    I suppose the idea was to make enemies friends – to “spread fraternity” perhaps. But, in reality, it just made the mutual hatred (between various people) far worse than it had been before.

  • That must be one of the most coruscating, splenetic reviews of a book I have read in ages. Sean Gabb is a national treasure.