Jim Carver is a libertarian UKIP umbrella-maker from the West Midlands who aims to be elected to the European Parliament in 2014 and then to make himself redundant as soon as possible. ‘If you take liberties with a market trader, you can expect a fight,’ he says, ‘And these buggers aim to take all the liberties we’ve got.’
Nasty things are just nasty. You know where you are with a tetchy shark. It’s the nice ones which give me the heebie-jeebies. Dolls, wide-eyed children, psychopathic blondes and slavering kittens are far scarier than more obviously menacing monsters.
Let me introduce you to a tooth-achingly nice but totally terrifying new document entitled A European Framework National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance.
It is intended to be enacted as law in every member state of the European Union. It will probably be enshrined in British law. Shudder at the thought. It is such a sweet document. Its purpose is to ‘Promote tolerance within society… condemn all manifestations of intolerance based on bias, bigotry and prejudice…’
So far, so missionary tract, but these are missionaries with power. They will ‘take concrete action to combat intolerance, in particular with a view to eliminating racism, colour bias, ethnic discrimination, religious intolerance, totalitarian ideologies, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-feminism and homophobia.’
There is no attempt to define these enemies.
Feminism, just to take one example, can be the radical Dworkinesque wing, which considers sex-workers and the sexually active to be traitors (and victims), and all sexual allure to be demeaning. It can also be ‘riot grrrl’ or ‘lipstick’ feminism which reclaims traditional gender symbols and sexuality and respects the rights of women to win autonomy by these means.
The former – being nutters – are the more politically active. They consider the others to be ‘anti-feminist’. They abuse and deride them in a most intolerant manner, yet I warrant that it will be they who impose tolerance by force on their dissenting sisters once this statute has force of law.
Many nominalists doubt that homosexuality as a state of being rather than as an incidental preference actually exists. Many Britons oppose the open-door immigration policy forced upon them by Brussels. They are immediately therefore branded ‘xenophobes’. Will all such heretics find themselves debarred from expressing their views in the name of tolerance?
Here, however, comes good news: All groups will be guaranteed ‘freedom of expression, including freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas… to manifest… religion or belief in worship, observance, rituals, rites, practice and teaching…’
Does this mean, then, that devout Catholics who disapprove of homosexuality (and, more consistently, of all non-procreative sex) will be permitted to express their views?
Er, no. ‘There is no need to be tolerant to the intolerant. This is especially important as far as freedom of expression is concerned: that freedom must not be abused to defame other groups.’
→ Continue reading: Tolerance… or else!
In August, I spent some time in my native land of Australia visiting family and friends. One Sunday morning I found myself wandering around the inner west of Sydney. I used to live in the area. If certain things in my life had gone slightly differently, I might still live in the area.
That’s life, though. I don’t regret moving to London in 2002. For one thing, if I had not done so, I might not now be writing for this blog.
In any event, I was thirsty. I nipped into a convenience store to buy a Coke. Anyone who has ever lived in a city will know the type of store. A selection groceries for people who have not managed to get to the supermarket. Drinks. Snack foods. Possibly a few pots and pans and other household goods. Cigarettes. In cities full of immigrants such as London and Sydney, these stores are normally owned and run by first generation immigrants. In the UK, this often means south Asians. In Australia, the owners of such shops are more often Chinese people, in some sense. (Often this can mean ethnically Chinese immigrants from Malaysia, Vietnam, or various other places).
People reading carefully may thing I am being careless in leaving alcoholic drinks and newspapers out of the list of things that such stores sell. After all, in London these things would make up a large portion of the business of such a store. Surely this is the same in Australia?
Well, no, actually. Australian convenience stores do have vast amounts of shelf space devoted to sunscreen and insect repellant, but this hardly makes up for it.
Australia loves to regulate to protect vested interests. Laws vary according to state, but in Sydney an area will have a single newsagent, which will have a monopoly over the sale of newspapers in that area. This newsagent will be free to sub-licence other stores in the area to sell newspapers, but this normally only happens for Sunday papers, as the owner of the local monopoly will (or at least might) take the day off. In theory, the holder of the newsagent monopoly guarantees that he will provide local delivery of newspapers in the morning in return for being granted this monopoly. This may have once made sense, although I doubt it. Now though, most people who read newspapers at home do so over the internet. The monopoly remains, though. It’s about vested interests being protected from competition. This means, amongst other things, that convenience stores run by recent immigrants are not going to be allowed to sell newspapers.
→ Continue reading: Loving the Aussies slightly less
The latest addition to my family takes up more room in the car than expected, and the old car is dying more quickly than expected, so I want to buy a new car sooner than expected. To do this I took out a small loan, and shopping around for loans I found Zopa. The feature of their loans that attracted me was the ability to repay early without penalty.
But there is more to it than that. They are a peer to peer lender. Savers can save money with Zopa, and the money is divided into £10 chunks and spread between a large number of borrowers. I can visit a web page that shows a list of the people who have lent me money. For instance, I owe £20 to John Owen in Brighton. I get a cheaper loan, and they get higher returns on their savings than could be had from a conventional savings account.
Of course, though the credit reference checks are quite stringent, there are risks. The web site Money Saving Expert points out:
With normal UK savings, the Government-backed Financial Services Compensation Scheme promises it’d pay the first £85,000 per person, per financial institution if the institution goes kaput. Peer-to-peer lenders don’t have this.
Well, good! Peer to peer lending is about as Samizdata as it gets. Individuals are voluntarily lending their money to each other for mutual benefit, bearing the costs of their own risks. There is not even any fractional reserve banking to worry those who worry about such things. The interest rates are properly Austrian, being set by a market and not by the government. And the company called Zopa is making a profit doing the very valuable middleman job of dividing the labour by taking care of the paperwork and matching borrowers to lenders.
Zopa is a founder member of the Peer-to-Peer Financial Association, “a UK trade body set up primarily to ensure this innovative and fast growing sector maintains high minimum standards of protection for consumers and business customers”. A worthy idea: a voluntary membership organisation that enforces high standards among members thereby helping consumers decide who to trust.
On 24th October the Peer-to-Peer Financial Association issued a press release.
Christine Farnish, Chair of the Peer-to-Peer Financial Association (P2PFA) said:
“We welcome today’s consultation by the FCA on the new regulatory regime for peer to peer lending and crowd funding.”
“Peer-to-peer lenders have been pressing for regulation for some time and believe it is important that all firms entering this important new market behave responsibly, treat their customers fairly and manage their risks.”
So now they want to take all this beautiful voluntary activity and introduce state backed violence. And they think this is a good idea. I give up.
The Guardian is nothing if not dependably incoherent. They rightly decry their freedom of the press being threatened by politicians…
… and then support the asinine Royal Charter that creates the tools for politicians, and anyone else, who wants the Press to STFU by making it harder for the Press to actually do their job.
I really hope many publication tell the state where to stick their ‘Royal Charter’. But then the history of these isles has many chapters featuring the struggle against state control of the media.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday his government was likely to act to stop newspapers publishing what he called damaging leaks from former U.S. intelligence operative Edward Snowden unless they began to behave more responsibly.
“If they (newspapers) don’t demonstrate some social responsibility it will be very difficult for government to stand back and not to act,” Cameron told parliament, saying Britain’s Guardian newspaper had “gone on” to print damaging material after initially agreeing to destroy other sensitive data.
- from Reuters
So now it seems even the pretence that the likes of Cameron do not wish the UK to be a police state is felt unnecessary. I may dislike the Guardian for oh so many reasons but I hope they tell the state that they will indeed do the ‘responsible’ thing… which is to say they will continue to publish Snowden’s revelations. And for added kudos, they should invite Cameron to stick his ‘action’ somewhere dark and damp.
If we had state regulation of the press, the BBC would be free to carry on recycling its establishment clichés. But newspapers would find themselves having to answer to the same sort of grandees that preside over the BBC. Is that really what we want to see?
- Douglas Carswell
Lisa Longstaff is a spokesperson for a group called Women Against Rape. She and and Lisa Avalos, assistant professor of law at the University of Kansas, wrote this article for the Guardian: Michael Le Vell’s acquittal is no reason to give rape defendants anonymity.
If you want to read my views on the anonymity issue, see here. The discussion of that was not what shocked me. This was:
But the prosecution of women for alleged false reports strengthens the myth that women frequently lie about being raped and discourages victims from coming forward. It diverts law enforcement away from thoroughly investigating rape and lets rapists loose on the public. It is not in the public interest, and must be stopped.
The writers literally believe that no woman ever should be prosecuted for making a false report of rape. Not that the decision to prosecute should be weighed carefully, that it should never be made. Effectively that it should be legal to knowingly and maliciously make a false report of rape. This cannot be put down to careless phrasing; as pointed out by commenter snoozeofreason, Ms Longstaff has made the same demand at greater length here.
I was relieved to see the response from Guardian commenters, particularly StVitusGerulaitis and EllisWyatt, but that relief could not overcome my disgust that a law professor could be so utterly indifferent to any notion of justice, or that a representative of a group that claims to want to help real rape victims could lobby in favour of those who are parasitical upon them.
The Guardian has been talking about Islamic dress for woman and I keep waiting to see someone frame this as more than just either “the state needs to ban it” or “it is a matter of freedom of choice for individuals”.
These are both useful points but they actually miss the real issue, which is allowing civil society to actually function.
Yes, I agree the state has no business telling people what they can or cannot wear other than in the most limited utilitarian circumstances (for example you should have to show your face when giving evidence in court and similar situations where identity and personal reactions to question need to be judged by a jury). So if someone wants to wear a burqua or pink rabbit slippers and a tutu or a Nazi arm band, that should be entirely up to them in almost every circumstance.
But that leads us to the real question: I support the right of people to wear whatever they wish. But I also support the right of people to react to that decision as they wish, as long as it does not involve violence or threats thereof.
The reason I mentioned a Nazi arm band in the above examples is that it is an item of clothing that is likely to produce a very negative reaction from many observers. People refusing to do business with, or offering a job to, or actively criticising someone, for wearing a Nazi arm band would strike many as acting perfectly reasonably and within their rights. Hopefully things are not yet so bad that an employer refusing to hire someone who turns up to a job interview wearing a Nazi arm band would find themselves in trouble with the law (but hey, anything is possible these days).
A ‘reasonable man’ on most juries would accept that as a Nazi arm band strongly implies that person supports Nazi values and ideology, it is perfectly reasonable to discriminate against such a person if you find those valued abhorrent, and not want such a person to represent you in the marketplace. After all, that Nazi arm band represents an ideology steeped in collectivist violence, irrational prejudice, misogyny, the complete replacement of civil society with ideologically directed interactions… in short, the totalitarian imposition of certain ways of life on everyone.
Now what else does that remind you of?
In other words, a Nazi arm band is very much like a burqua in the eyes of a great many people.
So yes, I demand that people be able to wear whatever they want without being threatened by the state. And I demand that other people be allowed to infer certain things from what others wear, and treat them accordingly, without the law preventing them from doing so.
That is right, I am in favour of people’s right to discriminate on the basis of another person’s views.
David Heaton is, or rather was, a UK government tax adviser. And he has just resigned after being filmed explaining how the tax rules work and therefore how to work the system and minimise how much you get taxed.
And moreover he had the temerity to use the phrase keeping your money “out of the Chancellor’s grubby mitts”.
In truth, I suspect this is what most annoyed the powers-that-be: not acting as it the act of taxation was somehow a self evident moral thing rather than a threat based appropriation, and refusing to accept the notion that paying as little tax as legally possible is someone immoral. There are few things states hate more than people acting as it the state does not have morality on its side.
So yes, the Chancellor’s mitts are indeed grubby.
And although I am delighted David Heaton was pointing out ways to indeed keep money out of said grubby mitts, I am less glad he was suggesting milking the system to profit at the expense of other taxpayers rather than just avoiding the rapacious hands of the state… and as he made his money from HMRC, I will lose no sleep over him having to give up his taxpayer funded job.
What follows is based on a talk I gave at the end of August at one of Brian’s Fridays. See also Parts I, II, III, V & VI.
Drugs. When I was preparing this piece I was under the illusion that drugs were legal. That’s not quite the case. Since as long ago as 1868, only pharmacists could sell opium. In 1908 cocaine was put onto a similar footing. As far as I am aware there are no restrictions on cannabis. At the 1912 International Opium Convention most European states agreed to end the trade although Germany, Austria and Turkey dissented. The Convention was eventually incorporated into the Versailles Treaty.
When I started delving into the pages of the Times my assumption was that there was very little regulation. The more I read the more I realise this isn’t really true. Every train crash prompts a government-led investigation. Companies must submit returns on how many accidents there have been on their premises. Back-to-back housing has been banned. In 2000, the Telegraph reprinted and edition from 1 January 1900. Sure enough, there was a little article reminding readers that a regulation had come into force on the availability of stools for female shop workers. Having said that a few years ago I was reading up on the Regulation of the Railways Act from the 1880s. This made various demands on companies but it turned out that most companies had put these measures into place well before the law was even thought of. In other words regulation was following existing practice. It would be interesting to know if this was still a common feature in the 1910s.
In an editorial in part on the topic of drug regulation the Times of March 18 1913 had this to say. Some of the sentiments may seem familiar:
There is an increasing body of nursery legislation which treats us all as if we were little boys to whom the contents of the cupboard must be doled out by the governess. However deplorable it may be, we are driven to confess from time to time that a strong case has been made out for some additional restriction. The thing has gone so far that there is a section of the public in love with restriction for its own sake. They are always looking for an excuse to forbid something or other, and naturally take the most sensational view of any evil that can be discovered. They would be unhappy in the perfect world which they think they desire, because they would have nothing to forbid. They would rather leave a man with a depraved appetite and forbid him to indulge it, than educate the man out of the appetite altogether. That is diametrically opposed to all that makes for true freedom and progressive citizenship. But, if men and women will not master and obey the laws of life, no political arrangements can make them free, and there is nothing for it but the locked cupboard and the policeman.
Mind you they’re not always banning things. In 1910, an explosion at the Pretoria Pit near Bolton killed over 300 miners. While there was a great deal of sympathy expressed there was very little suggestion that this was a problem to which the solution was more state regulation.
There is an organisation called the Liberty and Property Defence League – incidentally, based just around the corner from the current-day Adam Smith Institute – which occasionally gets letters into the papers and another called the Cobden Club which mainly aims at preserving peace.
It is legal to own a gun so long as you have a licence to do so. The licences themselves cost 10 shillings. And guns get used. Ex-lovers, ex-wives, scab labourers and people hanging around having a quiet drink in a hotel bar have all become victims of 1910s gun crime. In another incident, an actor managed to get himself killed while on stage when a fellow actor, as part of the play, fired on him with blanks. Incidents like this would be shocking today and yet the murder rate was about half what it is now.
In December 1910, the police were called to a burglary in progress in Houndsditch. The burglars opened fire killing three policemen and sparking a manhunt. In what became known as the Siege of Sidney Street some of the perpetrators, believed to be East European anarchists, were tracked down. The army were called in and in an exchange of fire a bullet narrowly missed the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill.
What, exactly, the policemen think they are going to achieve with those shotguns is anyone’s guess. From here.
He’s not the only person to have had shots aimed at him. Edward Henry, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was shot by a man he’d turned down for a taxi licence. Leopold de Rothschild had shots fired at him. But the real fun is abroad. In the years leading up to the First World War, the King of Serbia, the King of Greece, the Russian Prime Minister, the Grand Vizier of Turkey, a French President, an American President and (famously) the heir presumptive to the Austrian throne will all be assassinated. On the eve of the First World War the wife of an ex-French Prime Minister will be on trial for the shooting of a newspaper editor.
In the years following the 1905 Russian Revolution something like 2000 Tsarist officials were assassinated.
Mind you, the great and the good were just as susceptible to natural causes. In the years leading up to the First World War a US ambassador to London, a German Foreign Minister and an Austrian Foreign Minister will all die in office. The Russian ambassador to Serbia will die during the July Crisis and a British general, Grierson, will die on his way to the front. A Fortnum’s hamper was found by his side.
Court cases of all kinds tend to be over quickly and juries usually make up their minds within the hour. I suspect the fact that they aren’t paid for their time plays a large part in this. Punishments include hanging and flogging. Flogging takes two forms: the cat if they’re up to it and the birch if they are not.
One thing that still surprises me is access to these courts. Ordinary people, for instance, can and do bring libel cases.
Homosexuality is illegal but it appears to be rarely prosecuted. The word “homosexual” appears once in ten years and that is in relation to a libel case in Germany. I recently read about a blackmail case. A mother accused a merchant of “ruining” her son. I assume this is a euphemism for buggery. The merchant paid her £150 which in those days would buy you 40 ounces of gold – about £35,000 at today’s prices. A few months later the mother made further demands at which point the merchant went to the police and the mother and son were prosecuted for blackmail. At no point is there any question of the merchant being prosecuted for a criminal offence despite the fact that by his actions he’s effectively admitted to it. Could it be, that so long as you were discreet the state wasn’t that bothered?
I won’t name the guy – he was talking to me in a private setting and such things should remain private – but a friend of mine came up with this rather bizarre defence of the recent fact, as unearthed by Snowden et al, that the US and other powers engage in massive, unauthorised spying on their citizens:
Governments have always done this, so why the fuss now? Accept it and pour yourself a beer.
The world is “massively overpopulated, so with all these ghastly people infesting the planet, governments need to, and will find it easier to, spy on them.
Spying on people, even in ways we find scary, is inevitable, so relax and stop getting oxidised about it.
The second of the arguments interests me because it blends the Malthusian panic about too many humans (and begging the question of what “should be done” about them), pessimism about the inevitability of spying and other outrages, and a sort of world-wearying acceptance of big government. Quite an achievement.
Of course, it maybe that the person making this argument was just trying to be a knob and wind me up (he is familiar with my libertarian views and regards them, patronisingly, as a sort of jolly enthusiasm). But his opinions are probably quite wildely held out there among people who consider themselves to be “realists” and “sophisticated”.
Browsing Instapundit this morning, I found this link to this video…
Commenter Alisa contributed a link that includes a pointer to the Homeland Security Grant Application (PDF) by the Concord police department.
Section 1 B begins:
It would be interesting to hear the specifics of what kind of “active and present daily challenges” the Free Staters constitute.