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Two hours of his life Sean Gabb will never get back

Sean Gabb is in blistering and delightfully acerbic form in an article titled Two Wasted Hours in Doughty Street. I had a similar experience surrounded by Tories at an otherwise interesting Adam Smith Institute event once, so Sean, I feel for you old chum.

The article reminded me of an old and not particularly distinguished movie with the line: “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

15 comments to Two hours of his life Sean Gabb will never get back

  • Bruce Hoult

    “Would you like to play … a game?”

    Ah, good old WarGames. At least it was better than Tron.

  • stuart

    Why am I not surprised? Britain has been a soviet style Markist state for over ten years; the personality cult is part and parcel of all that, along with the five year plan.

    The only things missing are the giant posters of the Leader in public squares (we British still don’t quite do that), and credible (at least in quantity) military forces.

    I wonder how long it will be before comrade Blair, like Stalin before him, is denounced and subsequently rehabilitated……….

  • Perry

    I don’t see how calling all British politicians useless and demanding the abolishment of the BBC does much to advance the libertarian movement.

    I know there are many who are content to see its share capped at 0.5% of the electorate, but i, for one, am not. The incompetence of Cameron, and the statism of Brown, present those of us who favour free markets and less interference with a golden opportunity. Gabb is knocking the ball over the crossbar from a yard.

  • Hey, come on, Perry! Time at the Adam Smith Institute is never wasted. When we put libertarians and Tories (or others) together you know who we’re trying to get to influence whom.

    The UK needs people like you and Sean (and us) to spread the pro-freedom message among the political classes. It may be hard work: sometimes dispiriting, given the self-absorption of the latter. But it’s never time wasted.

  • I always greatly enjoy my invites to the Adam Smith Institute (grovel, grovel, hoping for another soonish….)

  • “I don’t see how calling all British politicians useless and demanding the abolishment of the BBC does much to advance the libertarian movement.”

    I disagree.

    There was a very telling moment when the panelists unanimously denounced Sean for having the temerity to suggest that a better Cabinet could be produced by picking one at random from the catering staff at the Palace of Westminster. The subtext of their response was:

    “You cannot be seriously suggesting that stupid dirty lower-class people could possibly do such important work….”

    In that brief moment their true elitist colours shone through.


  • Eamonn, the ASI event was, as always, interesting… the surreal bit came from the gaggle of Tories who I was surrounded by. They were saying all sorts of free market things whilst praising Dave Cameron as if he was Hayek reborn… and the more I pointed out the disconnect between their rhetoric and the actual pronouncements of their Beloved Leader, the more I found myself being talked though as if I was not there.

  • Steph

    Am I the obly one who thinks we need a good does of sortition to keep the politicial class under control.

  • Well, if we ignore them they just ramp up their persecutions in order to attract our attention.
    They’re like something from StarTrek; they need to be seen all the time, otherwise their fake egos have nothing with which to connect(having lost any internal reality a long time ago).
    After all, look at those shite-gobbling Hamiltons.

  • Greg

    Wargames is a classic. Although I do have a couple of questions. How did the mainframe ‘Joshua’ manage to call back the protagonist? Why did NORAD (or whatever it was called) have a twenty quid voice synth in its control room?

  • Paul Marks


    Ending tax money (including T.V. “licence” tax money) to broadcasters is a basic libertarian point.

    If it is not a libertarian point for you, what definition of “libertarian” are you using?

    If we can not even convince people to end the tax subsidy of the B.B.C. we are harldy going to convince people about anything else (health, education, welfare and so on).

    Of course another basic libertarian point is to end the regulations (the British version of the “fairness doctrine” – i.e. the domination by the left doctrine, for the “fairness doctrine” would never help close down P.B.S., N.B.C., or C.B.S.) that make privately owned broadcasters almost as bad as the B.B.C. (I.T.V. news has the same liberal-left view of the world as the B.B.C. – and even radio broacasters like Classic F.M. put on newsbroadcasts that are much the same as the B.B.C.).

    There is no choice in broadcasting in Britain, all the radio and television stations take much the same political view of the world.

    “But leftist stations sometimes have nonleftists on” – pointless. Either these “nonleftists” are not nonleftists at all (for example they are liberal left establishment people sent by the leadership of the Conservative party). Or there is just an angry “debate”.

    Nothing is acheived by such “debates” nor are they “fun” (as a white haired man with a false smile claims on Fox in the United States). Having people with different political points of view making debating points at each other (as the seconds tick away) achieves nothing. What is needed is time for a person to explain what he believes about a matter of policy and WHY (this can make very interesting broadcasting and can get high ratings).

    It is only by getting a foot-in-the-door in broadcasting that non leftists stand much chance of convincing the British people about anything.

    As for all British polticians being useless.

    All the major British political parties ARE lead by useless people.

    Mr Cameron is no more likely to reduce the size of government (in either government spending or regulations – most of which come from the E.U.) than Mr Brown is.

    Indeed under Mr Cameron or Mr Brown (or under the Liberal Democrats) the government will continue to grow – in both size and scope.

    Explaining this is called “telling the truth”.

    Surely this is what libertarians should be doing.

    Eamonn Butler:

    Nice to see you hear Sir.

  • Paul

    You misunderstand my point.

    As you can see from this post i wrote a month or so ago, i am a firm believer in privatising the BBC and ending taxpayer subsidies. It is inevitable that the BBC is biased – all large organisations are – as like hires like. It would be far more efficient to let a biased BBC compete in the open market against CNN and Fox et al for viewers’ attention.

    But abolishing it? For all its faults, it is still highly regarded and trusted by the vast majority of the population. Frankly, this is a crackpot suggestion that reflects poorly on the Lib Alliance.

    Secondly, my own personal opinion is similar to Gabb’s in that most politicians are next to useless (i notice not one of Gordon Brown’s Cabinet has ever run a business). But i strongly believe that sniping from the sides is an ineffective way of getting the small govt/less regulation ideas of the libertarian movement across.

  • Paul Marks

    On the B.B.C.

    My apologies pommygranate.

    However, getting rid of the television tax would be the end of the B.B.C. – in the sense of things that people actually like about it (no ads and a big budget to make expensive nature shows and so on).

    If it took ads it would be no different from I.T.V. or C4 (which is not privately owned and gets a subsidy that the I.T.V. companies are forced to pay – although virtually no one seems to know these things, and I have a hard job convincing people that I am not making them up).

    Of course the people who bleat on about “public service broadcasting” (this would include “Eastenders” on the B.B.C. and “Big Brother” on C4?) could finance the thing by donation – but they will not.

    Just as P.B.S. in the United States gets taxpayers money (why no “fairness doctrine” for P.B.S.? – well we know why) so the supporters of the B.B.C. demand a television license and/other taxpayer subsidies (the B.B.C. “World Service” already gets other taxpayer support).

    Still I see your P.R. point.

    “We are not asking for the end of the B.B.C. – we are simply asking that its supporters finance via voluntary donation”.

    It amounts to the same thing (death to the B.B.C.) but it sounds better. And if they really do love the wildlife shows (and so on) – why not subscription? (It would not work, the B.B.C. would collapse – but as P.R……)

    On politicians, they vary.

    But it is quite true that most have no interest in reducing the size and scope of government.

    For example, the problem with the British Conservative party is not just the leader Mr Cameron – if it were he would not be leader.

    The typical Conservative party member of Parliament or even local councilor does not burn with the thought “how can I reduce taxes and regulations”. And the pressure to conform is intense.

    Sometimes it is not even moral pressure – it is close to legal pressure.

    It is very difficult to operate even in a local council outside a political group (Independents have to be rather wealthy to be in any way effective – as the system has changed), and groups have meetings.

    One can raise Hell in a group meeting (and even convince a few people to change their position and come over to one’s side) – but once one has lost the vote, one sits and votes in the full council for things one knows are terrible.

    “Then vote with the opposition” – that would show a misunderstanding.

    Opposition counter proposals tend to be even worse (you are not spending ENOUGH money – and so on).

    The best one can hope for (it seems) is to be tossed bones once in a while.

    “We will cut this” or “we will not do that” in order to “keep HIM quiet”.

    This is what I have been told for many years by people in politics, and it is my own experience.

    It is the same in the United States.

    I hate some of the Ron Paul has been saying (“we gave them the gas” and so on), but I admire his voting record against various spending programs (and he is also correct that they are unconstitutional). But he tends to vote in the minority.

    As Tom Tancredo put it (when asked what it was like to now be in the minority in the House of Representatives) “I have been in the minority since I got here”, in that most Republicans in the House were not really interested in reducing government spending or regulations.

    Barry Goldwater was once asked what, in all his years in the Senate, he had ever done for the people of Arizonia – he replied “nothing, and I am very proud of that” (a reply the media person asking the question did not understand).

    It was like his proudest moment in the Senate (when he was the one in a 99 to 1 vote – about union regulations I believe, the government wishing to get more involved in the internal elections of unions).

    It is a Cato the Younger view of politics. With the honest politician existing – but being doomed to defeat.

    However, victory is possible:

    David Crockett did not win the vote against Congress voting taxpayers money for the relief of the victims of such things as fires and earthquakes), but government spending fell greatly (as a percentage of the economy) in this period.

    Andrew Jackson (not favoured by Crockett in Tennessee politics) was not that bad – after all he not only balanced the budget, he paid off the entire national debt (and abolished the central bank). The fact that the face of Andrew Jackson is on the government (and the Fed is government – it is “private” in the same way that Fannie Mae is “private”) money shows that government people have a sense of humour – he hated fiat money.

    Just as Thomas Jefferson abolished all internal taxes (inculding duties on spirits) in the early 1800’s.

    Even in the 1920’s Warren Harding not only cut government spending as a percentage of the ecomomy, he cut it government spending in money terms as well (that is the real reason that establishment historians hate him, his successful non statism in the face of the bust of 1921 [so different from the reaction in 1929], – Harding’s Administration was certainly no more corrupt than F.D.R.s or Harry Truman’s was, and the establishment historians like them).

    “But how do we roll back government in the modern Entitlement Program Welfare State”?

    Well that is the big question.

    Not suitable to be tacked on to a comment here.

  • Paul

    That’s a great Barry Goldwater quote. I must make a mental note to remember that one.

  • Paul Marks

    I liked the story Perry tells above about trying to reason with young Conservative party activists and finding himself treated as if he were not there.

    Partly this is the lack of respect the young have for anyone who is not young. We are not quite up to speed with the latest youth fads (and, let us be honest, may not think as fast as they do) – therefore we are fat old fools (not worth paying attention to).

    However, it is more than just the smug superiority of youth (people who never have to worry about their waist size, or about a failing memory, or getting in the killer line), it is also the special smugness of the young “political”.

    They are “insiders” you see. People who know important people (such as Mr Cameron) and who one day will be important themselves (if they keep in with these important people) – therefore other people (outside the magic circle of influence) are not worth noticing. Even if what these, outside the magic circle, people are saying happens to be TRUE.

    One thing that might comfort you Perry.

    My father told me that one thing remains to us in age (everything else goes) – the ability to hit people, he argued strongly, remains as good as ever (“I would be no good in a long fight, but I can still knock them down – and once they are down I make sure they do not get up”).

    So I suggest that the next time a young Conservative activist is rude (by ignoring your words and talking as if you were not there) you respond by hitting them in the face.

    You will find it is as easy to break their nose (jaw and so on) as it was when you were 18.

    Even the most smug political carreerist finds it difficult to ignore a punch in the face.