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Booze and burqas on the public streets – defend both

In France a group of MPs has said that France ought to investigate the possibility of banning the burqa.

In Britain, ‘More than 700 “controlled drinking zones” have been set up across England, giving police sweeping powers to confiscate beer and wine from anyone enjoying a quiet outdoor tipple.’

If you want to keep your freedom to drink what you please on the public street then fight for the freedom to wear what you please on the public street.

But what about public drunkeness, then, and the fear and misery of those whose nights are blighted by drunks fighting at their windows and pissing in their gardens? And what about the cloth-entombed women, projecting an image of both slavery and Islamic aggression, who may or may not have chosen to wear the black bag?

My answer is substantially the same to both social problems: as a society we have chosen to deny ourselves the very tools of private social action (no, that is not a contradiction in terms) that could make things better.

For decades we have denied ourselves disapproval. For decades we have denied ourselves property rights. For decades we have denied ourselves the right to free association, which necessarily includes the right not to associate.

These tools are the ones we have the right to use. They are also the right tools for the job. They, unlike the tools of coercion, will not turn in our hands and cut us.

Bad form to quote oneself, I know. However it saves writing time, so tough. Last time I wrote about this sort of thing I said:

In general, I would say that strong private institutions are a bulwark against the type of creeping Islamification – or capture by other minority groups – that concern many of the commenters to this thread … Contrast that with the position of state institutions, which includes state laws. These are a much more realistic target for capture by determined minorities. If, say 3% of the population feel really strongly about some issue and 97% are apathetic it is actually quite a realistic proposition for the 3% to get laws passed to steer things their way. Much easier than out-purchasing the other 97%, certainly.

And

However that brings me back to the main point of the article: the best (perhaps only?) long term defence against unfair treatment by “the authorities” is to keep the authorities out of our daily lives.

32 comments to Booze and burqas on the public streets – defend both

  • Vercingetorix

    If you want to keep your freedom to drink what you please on the public street then fight for the freedom to wear what you please on the public street.

    But the problem is not what you drink on the public street or what you wear on the public street. It is the abdication of the criminal courts to punish and then retain criminals that makes the streets so hostile – if you don’t punish the small crimes or the large crimes, expect more of all crimes – and of Islamic fanaticism.

    In both cases, the first failure is with the government, who handcuffs police officers first before they send them on their beat and then leaves a wide-swinging door for criminals on the way out of the courtroom, so they end up back on the street in no time, and who tolerate in the name of tolerance the intolerable.

    Banning hijabs or public drinking is topical. To me, I am apathetic on the former and outraged by the latter. But fighting this topical fight over style will lose you the entire damn war, because in no time the idiots will move on to some other trivial matter for more laws, which you will have to fight, ad absurdum. It’s a simple matter of initiative and you’ve (we’ve, though we Americans are not in exactly the same boat) long lost it.

    Your time would be better spent making a resounding case for freedom and hammering away at the social contract the state has failed to uphold: protect us and we’ll suffer your continued existence, for a little while longer, at least.

  • Nuke Gray!

    The rational given for banning burqas by Sarkozy was something about the French Republic being an open society, and burqas were symbols of repression. I think he also made the point that the state and religion are separate, but the burqa somehow intrudes into secular space!
    So if someone chooses to be modest, they are evil. Anyone wearing a veil is advocating jihadism, if not a mujihadiyya. I thought that the enlightenment was about ensuring that religions couldn’t dictate public policy, not that people couldn’t have consciences!
    Has France ever had freedom of expression as a basic ideal? Or have frenchies always accepted heavy-handed state intervention in the media?

  • permanentexpat

    Unbridled drunkenness on the streets is simply the result of a shattered society for which people of my age…& my son’s age are responsible. Tough problems need tough solutions.
    Ambulatory bin-liners would not be a problem if their owners had not had unbridled access to this country. Those responsible are the same as those cited above.

  • Nuke Gray!

    We tried bridled drunkenness, but that caused a new drinking problem- most of the drink was intercepted by the bridle and spilled onto the floor, weakening the floor of any structure you were in. And people didn’t like paying for the bridles as well as the drinks! And who do you give the reins to?
    Let’s stick to unbridled drinking!
    Anyone for some binge?

  • Ivan

    And here is a new public service announcement from one of the brain centers of global nanny-statism:

    1 in 25 deaths worldwide linked to alcohol consumption, study finds
    The big message is treat alcohol like tobacco,” not as a substance that is relatively benign except for “those bad alcoholics,” he said.

  • I think this is well said. The ease with which a small concentrated interest can dump on a big dispersed one – enhancing the power of the Great Dumping Contractor in the process – is well known and almost as efficiently forgotten. Maybe this is because it is depressing. I decline to be depressed.

    Trying to mobilise the dispersed majority is notoriously a mug’s game. Undercutting the concentrated minority is a much nicer application of rhetorical force. You cast a good cloud on a three-percenter’s joy at co-opting the state to their cause, by reminding them that ninety-seven percent of the time they can expect to be on the nasty end of the stick in other capacities. That is one good reason to sit down, and favour civil society instead.

    Also, minority capture is not a one-way process. The minority in question is apt to be captured right back, and reduced to a dependent client of the ruler. This seldom works out well.

    And I think a mighty lot of people out there could stand to be reminded of these things, about now.

  • MarkE

    As usual the authorities aim for the easy target rather than addressing the real problem. I do not care whether my local high street os full of drunk or sober people when my daughters come home, but I care very deeply that it is full of agressive people. Agression is hard to define, but we all know it when we see it, and many of us fear it. Because it is hard to define the police tend not to act unless another (more easily defined) offence has been commited, so the high street can be a place law abiding people fear to walk. By making public drunkeness an offence the politicians believe they will give the police an easily defined offence they can act on, and thus make the high street safer. I believe the police will still decline to take action; it is risky to arrest a potentially violent youth on the high street when there is always something else to be done. Not all British policement are cowards (and as many fear the rule book as fear confrontation, but confrontation is what they are employed to do), but enough are that the public cannot rely on them for protection.

    In the same way, many people are afraid of public displays of Islam, because they have seen preachers calling for non Muslims to be beheaded etc. Acting against these preachers is difficult because they have well organised publicity and legal support, so it is easier to ban the public displays (ie the burka) than to take the action that is really needed.

    Eventually we will see further restrictions on every individual’s freedom, and they will be sold as protection against the threats, because action against just the threats is too difficult. This is not conspiracy, it is laziness and weakness.

    Politicians do what they do best, never what is for the best.

  • M

    When I read about what Sarkozy said about the burqa, I immediately thought ‘Vive la France!’

  • Johnathan Pearce

    This is a good point to make, Natalie. In a nutshell, the issue of drinking in public spaces should be solved by privatising those places. The owners of such places can then fix the rules.

    Until that time arrives, however, the police should focus their attention on clear-cut crimes and stop nannying us.

    As for the state regulating our dress-codes, that is madness. Unless there is clear evidence that a woman is being physically threatened in order to wear something like a Burkha – in which case existing laws can deal with this – there is no case for the state to act. When children are involved, the presumption should be that the parents know best unless there is overwhelming evidence that something is badly amiss.

  • Hmm

    The convoluted problem of the burkha is that the women wearing it will defend wearing it because not to do so has extremely serious consequences for them; also the more women they compel to wear it the more the burkha wearers get to feel as though they are in control. They get to wield a partial-power over others by the group fear and pressure tactics, even though they are simultaneously placing chains on themselves.

    The mere act of wearing a piece of clothing has become something that the government (and society as a whole) needs to defeat because those burkha wearers (and their enforcers) are actively seeking to terrorise, undermine and eventually overthrow our social and governmental structure.

    If the government doesn’t act against burkha wearing then it abdicates considerable power to an active enemy.

    There may be more than one way to skin a cat; but we need to find how many ways are there to get it out of its burkha?

  • Hmm

    Oops, meant to say- We should fight the stupidity of the excessive drink laws but if we connect that fight to the one against burkha wearing we risk tying the hands of the government on one topic (our security) were government action is a necessity.

    What we need are laws (and legal system) that are specific and not able to be extrapolated beyond their remit( and consequences for legal offices that do). That is something we can and should fight for.

  • Ian Bennett

    In a nutshell, the issue of drinking in public spaces should be solved by privatising those places. The owners of such places can then fix the rules. (Johnathan Pearce)

    Fine in theory. The rules regarding smoking in private places are certainly not fixed by the owners of those places.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so J.P. – you have written the comment I wanted to write.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Fine in theory. The rules regarding smoking in private places are certainly not fixed by the owners of those places

    That is why, Ian Bennett, I said that until that day arrives, the police should back off.

  • 1 in 25 deaths worldwide linked to alcohol consumption, study finds

    …The Telegraph have already upped the ante to one in ten.

    I must admit to feeling a sense of weariness with it all. We know what’s happening. We know what’s going to happen. And the stupid idiots (yes I know, breaking my own rule here) just go along with it and put up with it and believe the propaganda and have their normal shifted in the direction of the activists and freedom dies one drink at a time.

    A while ago I came upon a woman in Northampton Town Centre campaigning for a ban on glasses in nightclubs, to be replaced by plastic beakers. She was a type species of one of that most activism-prone and dangerous class- the angry mother. Her son had been injured in a fight in a nightclub, so she was now campaigning to have glasses in nightclubs banned. Normally I would have passed by on the other side, but on this one occasion I decided I would engage her in a debate.

    She seemed a nice enough woman, but on this issue was of course entirely dogmatic, unswervable from the idea that anyone not supporting a ban is in favour of her son being injured. At one point, a middle aged man trotted up- not, from the look of him, a regular nightclub goer but, I suspected, someone who drinks a beer or two- and signed her petition. “It’s the innocents who suffer!” he proclaimed with puffed chest and moral certainty, enjoying the pithy slogan.

    So I said, “if they do this to nightclubs, they’ll make you drink out of a plastic beaker in pubs as well”. Fear burst into his eyes and he implored the lady, “it’s just nightclubs, isn’t it? Not pubs?”

    “Oh yes,” she assured him, “just nightclubs”. He smiled, and trotted off.

    It is always very easy to demand rules that affect other people and not oneself. To convince people that liberty for others is required to maintain their own liberty may be the hardest argument to win in the world.

    I don’t know if the ban was brought in. I hope that man has to drink out of a beaker down the Dog And Duck too. I hardly drink these days. Doesn’t bother me.

  • wearily

    I feel there are two quite separate issues here being squeezed together under the usual (and often flawed) umbrella of libertarianism.

    As usual with the drinkers among us we get stuff like “enjoying a quiet outdoor tipple.” Shades of “It washn’t me Osifer,” comes the reply. Well, there are lots of people who don’t think drinking on the streets is a good idea; it often isn’t quiet and it can get nasty. Should it be banned? Perhaps not if people could behave but until they show they can behave and not turn it into a urinating running fight with possible unwanted pregnancies, then maybe it would be wise to prevent the young in particular from doing it.

    Oh that’s awful, how anti-libertarian. Okay, I agree. So get the kids to piss up your front door and show them love and understanding. Mind you, it isn’t just kids; it’s probably way more scary when shaven headed forty year olds lurch round your way. Men, too.

    As for the Burqa. Sure, people can dress as they want. It may even help some of them to hide their faces so the bruises don’t show. Even better if they walk behind their badly dressed husbands as well. You know, one rule for women, another for the men. Now that is very libertarian.

    The problem here is entirely different to those enjoying their supposed quiet drinkypoos. The people who like Burqas are often those who want all women to wear Burqas. Not all muslims, but all females. All the time.

    But still, if they got their way (and apparently they can outbreed us, Islamists say) there would definitely be no drinking on the streets or in private, unless you count those hypocritical Saudis.

    Dream on, liberty lovers. Allowing public drinking and black body sacks isn’t excitingly free at all.

  • Oh that’s awful, how anti-libertarian. Okay, I agree. So get the kids to piss up your front door and show them love and understanding. [...] Dream on, liberty lovers. Allowing public drinking and black body sacks isn’t excitingly free at all.

    Wrong on so many levels, but useful as a typical example of the lazy way these arguments get framed by politicians aiming at an audience harrumphing over their cornflakes as they read the Daily Mail.

    Far from showing some fucker pissing on your doorstep ‘love and understanding’, the libertarian solution is to either use force to eject them (the only liberty that matters here is that of the property owner), or quite reasonably see a third party do it for you (cops, private or public ones). There is nothing whatsoever un-libertarian about applying a boot to the bollocks of a trespasser in defence of your property.

    The problem is not drinking in public, it is decoupling consequences from actions, and also from preventing people defending their property either directly or even via third parties. But that of course requires a rather more sophisticated approach to the problem than the one-size-fits-all simplicity of collective punishment ‘wearily’ prefers.

    The issue of burqas is even easier… if the law defending a muslim woman’s right to be secure in her own body was enforced without care for ‘ethnic and religious sensibilities’… i.e. jailing any muslim man who uses force to coerce a woman just as a non-muslim man would be… and if then a woman *still* submits to walking around in a bag, well, who the hell are you to say she cannot?

    People make fucked up decisions about how to live their lives all the time. ‘wearily’ on the other hand likes to make fucked up decisions about other people’s lives, which makes him a threat too, rather like those nasty anti-liberty Muslims.

  • Paul Marks

    I refer people to J.P.s original comment – it should be up to the owner of the street.

    I doubt someone who wanted to attract people to buy or rent houses in his street would allow vomiting in his street.

  • Kim du Toit

    “As for the state regulating our dress-codes, that is madness.”

    Brits and Europeans already surrendered that freedom when the public wearing of Nazi insignia was banned. If swastikas are so terrible (and, by the way, I think they are), then burqas (a potent symbol of dispossession and submission) are just as horrible for society at large.

    The problem with any ideology is that it stumbles when faced by an implacable polar opposite.

    This is one of those issues which ties libertarians (and conservatives, for that matter) in knots. On the one hand, we decry the heavy hand of government when it intrudes on our freedom of expression. But when that freedom is allowed to encompass something so manifestly wrong as swastikas and burqas, we get queasy, and rightfully so.

    Look: I have no problem with women choosing to wear modest clothing — even something as drastic as the burqa — but it’s impossible to know whether she’s wearing it out of personal conviction, or through coercion by an old-fashioned husband and/or tyrannical religious diktat. We know that both reasons are true; many women prefer to hide their femininity, and many are forced into doing so.

    So where, in this instance, do we decide that intrusion is better than laissez-faire?

    Me, I think that if the State can decide that public nudity is a nuisance, it can equally determine that complete blanketing is likewise. If extremist Muslims want to force their women to cover up, then they should be offered the opportunity to do so in a country where such behavior is part of the legal system. But it’s not so in the Western democracies, and if these Muslims want to live in our society and enjoy the freedoms that such a life brings, then they should be forced to give up some of their repressive shibboleths in return.

  • Alisa

    This is one of those issues which ties libertarians (and conservatives, for that matter) in knots.

    No it doesn’t: they can wear their swastikas and burqas and what have you all they like, or wear nothing at all for all I care – that is, provided I am not being forced to associate with them.

  • Me, I think that if the State can decide that public nudity is a nuisance, it can equally determine that complete blanketing is likewise.

    Well honestly, I don’t think the State can decide that about nudity, regardless of the appalling consequences one may imagine. In practical terms, near nudity is legal (a bikini) and on the wrong figure that can be a pretty damnably awful sight. Luckily, most people have a pragmatic awareness of their physical limitations and dress accordingly. But I really don’t know if a fat old man in teeny speedos is really that much worse than one without, to be honest, and it’s very debatable indeed whether that’s a matter for the state. I’m not at all clear what a law against nudity is protecting us from, other than the shocking revelation that human beings have genitalia (and, even more shocking, that women have nipples).

    On the original issue- it really cannot be a matter for the state. How does one define when citizens can cover their faces? Below a certain temperature? When it’s snowing? It’s not as if you can really define what a burka is. It’s just a piece of cloth, over the face.

  • > I’m not at all clear what a law against nudity is protecting us from

    Distraction, obviously.

    Anyway.

    I thought my disagreeing with Natalie was an unusual enough event to blog about it, if anyone gives a damn.

    On drinking in public: Banned in Glasgow in ’96. Has sorted out public violent drunkenness not even slightly, but the polis have made great strides in defeating the scourge of people having a glass of wine with their picnic.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Kim, I am aware that some forms of clothing are banned in Britain: I certainly was not arguing that the UK state has been consistent, rather, that it should leave things alone unless there is clear proof that a person has been forced and threatened into wearing something, in which case, it is a matter for existing law.

  • Sunfish

    Oops, meant to say- We should fight the stupidity of the excessive drink laws but if we connect that fight to the one against burkha wearing we risk tying the hands of the government on one topic (our security) were government action is a necessity.

    How is crappy fashion sense and an inability to determine appropriate clothing for the weather, a matter of security?

    If people want to wear tents over their heads, BFD.

  • Laird

    Oh, sh*t. I’m now going to argue against both Perry and Sunfish? This probably won’t end well, but, well, Excelsior!

    On the issue of burkas (not public drinking; I’m with you there), we’re dancing around the crucial issue: Islam. Only the most extreme forms of Islam require that garb, and it is these which are the source of all the problems the West has with the Muslim world. Perhaps banning the wearing of burkas is a small, tentative step in the direction of reining (i.e., deporting) in the radical, hate-spewing mullahs and terrorist enablers/sympathizers.

    I know, I know, that’s not a libertarian attitude; we’re supposed to tolerate all religious viewpoints. OK, I’m unworthy. But it seems to me that it is perfectly legitimate for a functioning society to exclude those who would destroy it. How long can you tolerate a tapeworm in your intestines? Sooner or later it will kill you unless you flush it out. One cannot take a “live and let live” attitude toward a tapeworm, because it doesn’t reciprocate. The heck with whether the burka hides bruises; it discloses an attitude which shouldn’t be tolerated.

    I’m ready for my smackdown now.

  • Midwesterner

    Sunfish, serious question here. Is it legal (in most states) to, on a warm day, walk into a bank, police station, court house or whatever wearing a pair of cheap sunglasses under a balaclava that covers the nose? Are there exceptions?

    Is it legal to wear face cover and drive? I had a friend who wore sunglasses on his cycle at night since eye protection is required. He got a ticket. His date in the throes of a helpless giggle-fit didn’t help his case any.

    If religious garb is an exception that government and private property managers are required under discrimination laws to permit without qualification, is there any truth to the story that the Church of the Lumbering Linguine Monster (a splinter sect of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) is requiring its members to wear Nixon masks everywhere they go in public?

    I am being silly but my question is a serious one. I don’t care about why people wear masks, only that they do. How do I know it’s really a fat lady under the burkha? How do I know it is’nt a pick-pocket? Or a skinny man wearing cemtex body armor. Or for that matter, a dalek?

  • Midwesterner

    (a splinter sect of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster)

    Should that have been “a splatter sect”?

  • MarkE makes excellent points at 0954 on 26th June:

    As usual the authorities aim for the easy target rather than addressing the real problem. … Eventually we will see further restrictions on every individual’s freedom, and they will be sold as protection against the threats, because action against just the threats is too difficult. This is not conspiracy, it is laziness and weakness.

    I have thought the same thing about many aspects of: road speed limits, bans on firearms and knives, airport security searches, and (availability and quantity) restrictions on pharmaceutical drugs.

    Those in government believe they are making the world a better place when, on such things, they are deluding themselves into believing they have power beyond anyone’s ability (let alone their own). When too many things are criminalised, the world becomes populated only by criminals. This leads not to a better world controlled by justice and common sense but to one dominated by petty-minded or over-zealous officials, with lack of respect for them making, often, more of the decision to penalise than is the ‘crime’ actually committed.

    Solutions, in so far as there are any, include fewer laws in totality. Also, when such laws are made, their underlying purpose should be specified, and it should be adequate defence to show no infringement against the underlying purpose rather than just the precise wording of the law. Thus a law intending to reduce drunk and disorderly behaviour should not prevent drinking alcohol in moderation at a picnic in the park. There also need to be fewer laws made by central government; local government can decide much better on restrictions in certain places and at certain times. The handing out of punishment should be restricted to courts of law, with a removal of all those fixed fines and other penalties issued, now and increasingly, by just about any branch of government that feels like it. The Crown Prosecution Service should be done away with, or much cut back in scope of operation. Most criminal cases should be brought by those appointed by locally elected councils (or possibly be directly elected). Finally, the same should apply to nearly all policing, with local police forces responsible to a single elected body (eg a county or borough council) and not to central government.

    Thus much of the problem is excessive centralisation of government, too much ‘one size fits all’, and often just too much government for the sake of governing rather than for effectiveness.

    Best regards

  • Alisa

    Mid, you are just being silly here: there are numerous ways for people to disguise their true identity appearance. Burqa is just the most obvious of them all, which is a plus, IMO.

    Laird:

    Perhaps banning the wearing of burkas is a small, tentative step in the direction of reining (i.e., deporting) in the radical, hate-spewing mullahs and terrorist enablers/sympathizers.

    Why not just deport/lock up the troublemakers, instead of telling their women what to wear?

    I know, I know, that’s not a libertarian attitude; we’re supposed to tolerate all religious viewpoints.

    No we are not. Who told you this?

  • Sunfish

    Mid-
    I can really only talk about one state’s laws.

    In general, there’s no law here against wearing face coverings, regardless of the weather. A shopkeeper or banker or property manager of a public building is free to make his own rules. Most of the 7-11s have banned them, and you’ve hinted at the reason. But the only way that becomes a police matter is when someone is ordered to comply leave and refuses, making it a matter of trespassing.

    In public, if I have some reason to detain and identify someone then any face coverings are coming off. ‘Some reason’ meaning reasonable suspicion that the person is involved in criminal activity, per a whole bunch of 4th Amendment case law. Absent such reasonable suspicion, they can wear bandannas, burkas, the aforementioned Richard Nixon masks (obviously a sign that you’ve been falsely lead astray from the righteous path of Mustacciolian Orthodoxy), or custom rhinestone-encrusted Toyota RAV4 floor mats over their heads.

    Laird says:

    One cannot take a “live and let live” attitude toward a tapeworm, because it doesn’t reciprocate. The heck with whether the burka hides bruises; it discloses an attitude which shouldn’t be tolerated.

    Attitudes don’t kill people. People with crap attitudes kill people.

    Tolerance is not acceptance, as is known by everybody who saw the “Tolerance Camp” episode of the finest television show ever made. Tolerance is shaking your head and saying “That boy ain’t right” when he runs off to Argentina for a week. Acceptance is saying “Oh, Buenos Aires is so lovely this time of year! And she’s even hotter than your actual wife!”[1]

    (And that’s the most dangerous thing that’s happened to America: apparently, to roll your eyes and mutter ‘what a f—ing goof’ under your breath is the moral equivalent of dragging people to death behind a loud underpowered machine from Milwaukee. But I digress.)

    Criminalizing one form of religious expression because it shows a crap attitude IMHO opens a door best left closed.

    [1] Yes, I had to go there. And I wish my own governor would also go there, and stay.

  • Midwesterner

    Alisa,

    I don’t care the least about identifying them. I care about reading them. Us great apes have for millennia squared relied on reading each other’s faces to access our own safety. Human faces are highly nuanced to betray our internal state. A disconnect between one’s social self and one’s facial expression is so rare as to be considered a marker for psychopaths.

    As long a property owners are not required to tolerate facial masking and the government does not nationalize what should be private property (ie mass transit) there is no problem. But those are both problematic.

    Frankly all I really care about is facial masking by others in places where I must be without my consent. I consider government owned property to be one of those places. I also utterly abhor even the possibility that governments may begin to use computerized facial pattern recognition software to identify and track people in public places. I do realize there is a potential conflict between those two opinions.

    Sunfish,

    . . . the righteous path of Mustacciolian Orthodoxy), or custom rhinestone-encrusted Toyota RAV4 floor mats over their heads.

    I admit to being unaware of this cult sect and its strange practices as I am of course on the side of the Angels Hair Pastafarians, myself.

  • The Guerilla

    Heading ever further toward georges nightmare.

    You were right Mr Orwell !!!!!

    http://guerillathoughts.blogs.ie/