In most ways the Pollyverse is a place where the rules of our continuum do not apply. She worships strange gods and that which she fears causes Earth-humans to rejoice.
But could she be right to fear the new lobbying bill?
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations publishes a report from a human rights QC warning that the bill could breach the right to freedom of speech. Lawyers for many charities warn of a legal minefield for trustees: if they trip into electoral law they must send weekly reports of all their spending during the electoral period, when any slip risks criminal charges. The government denies the bill will silence campaigners, but a letter of protest representing swaths of charities – from the British Legion to Citizens Advice – crosses the political divide. The campaign group 38 Degrees says the “proposed gagging law would have a chilling effect on British democracy”. The Taxpayers’ Alliance agrees: “The bill is a serious threat to independent politics that will stifle free and open democratic debate.”
Ironically, the bill seems to my uneducated eye to resemble the attempt to stifle free speech in the US that was defeated by the Citizens United decision, a ruling demonized by the Left. That irony might be fun to point out but the consequences are not reassuring. We in the UK do not have the protection of the First Amendment.
No one was killed, no one was injured. Do not excite yourselves.
From Adrian Hilton in the Spectator: Revd Dr Alan Clifford’s ‘homophobic’ comments referred to the CPS
The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 contains the offence of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. Anyone using threatening words or behaviour, or anyone displaying, publishing or distributing any written material which is threatening, is liable for prosecution. Former Conservative Home Secretary Lord Waddington won an amendment to an earlier version of the law, which established that no one might be prosecuted for stating their belief that homosexuality is sinful or wrong. It read: ‘For the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.’
But that protection will be illusory for as long as homophobia is defined and understood by the police as ‘any incident which is perceived to be homophobic by the victim or any other person’. Against that background, all mission-orientated Christians will need to temper their proselytism – especially on Gay Pride marches.
Dr Clifford tells me that Huguenot Calvinists are not easily intimidated, and that his faith in God is sustaining him: ‘I am not in deep shock: I enjoy perfect peace,’ he said. Others, of course, may not be so robust and may indeed prefer to pay a £90 fine. Much may depend on the tone and manner of the interrogating police officer.
From Damien Gayle in the Daily Mail via Tim Worstall: Armed police turn up at family home with a battering ram to seize their children after they defy Germany’s ban on home schooling
A team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed the home of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich because they refused to send their children to state schools. The youngsters were taken to unknown locations after officials allegedly ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing them again ‘any time soon’.
The only legal grounds for the removal of the children, aged from seven to 14, were the family’s insistence on home schooling their children, with no other allegations of abuse or neglect.
Tomorrow evening I have another of my last Friday of the month meetings at my home in London SW1. Recent Samizdata acquisition, and a friend of mine from way back, Patrick Crozier, will be the speaker. Regular readers of Samizdata will not be surprised to learn that Patrick will be talking about what life was like in Britain one hundred years ago, this being a regular theme of his postings on this blog.
In my email to Patrick about about what I hoped he might be talking about, I wrote this:
What I have in mind is: Were They Libertarians? Any more than now? At all? Or had Germanism by then done its stuff and turned everyone into rabid statists? That kind of thing.
In addition to attempting to answer your question I am going to try to give a picture of what life was like: unemployment, inflation, transport etc., as well as how people viewed the prospect of war.
Which is hardly a change of subject away from the libertarianism that is the ongoing agenda of all these evenings. Opinions are opinions, but events and existing arrangements and experiences shape opinions. Unemployment, inflation, transport and war are all regular objects of libertarian contemplation. So: excellent. I look forward to it all.
I am particularly looking forward to learning more about that last bit, about how people viewed the possibility of war. Did the sort of people whose opinions were reported by or published in The Times realise what they were about to unleash, or what was about to hit them? If they did think war was coming, what sort of war did they think it would be? And did they realise what a shot in the arm the Great War would be for the power of the state?
This time next year, Patrick’s postings here about events exactly a century ago will surely get very dramatic.
If you want to be told more about this and/or subsequent Last Friday of the Month meetings, email me, by going here and clicking where it says “Contact” (top left).
“No matter how much the government controls the economic system, any problem will be blamed on whatever small zone of freedom that remains.”
- Sheldon Richman
After the My Lai massacre, only one person, William Calley, was charged, and then only after enormous public outcry. He ultimately served 3.5 years in house arrest for ordering and participating in the murder of at least 347 and possibly as many as 504 Vietnamese civilians, presuming he had no knowledge of the gang rapes and mutilations of bodies, which seems unlikely given eyewitness accounts.
The events of My Lai were initially covered up, itself a crime, but no one was ever charged for participating in the coverup.
During the massacre, Hugh Thompson, Jr. saved countless lives by ordering his helicopter crew to protect innocent civilians from execution. For his trouble, he was initially given a medal for a non-existent event in an attempt to shut him up, then condemned in public once the true events were revealed. The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Mendel Rivers, went so far as to say that Thompson was the only person in the incident worthy of punishment.
Has the world changed much?
Today, it was announced that Bradley Manning, whose chief de facto offense was providing the US public with evidence of multiple war crimes, will be serving ten times the length of William Calley’s punishment, 35 years, and in a real prison rather than house arrest. The people who committed the war crimes he revealed evidence of will never be charged.
(On the latter, if you have any doubts that he revealed criminal activity, compare, as just one example, the video of the helicopter machine gunning of two Reuters reporters in Baghdad with the official DoD investigation report of the incident, which had full access to said video. Even if one can bring oneself to believe that the incident itself was not a crime (although it almost certainly was), the subsequent investigation was a fabricated tissue of lies. The events in the video and those described in the investigation report are manifestly not the same. Presumably those engaging in this coverup believed they could never be caught because the video was improperly classified to aid in the coverup, itself a crime. The coverup itself was a felony — but no one was charged but the messenger.)
The State protects its own. It cannot be trusted to police itself.
Recently, I’ve seen much hubbub to the effect that the US Republican Party must adopt libertarian views to retain its popularity. For example, see this article which, in spite of its title, mostly discusses why the Republicans will fail if they don’t abandon “conservatism” for libertarianism.
As other examples, NPR had an extended segment on the news with a very similar topic about a day ago, and I’ve seen friends posting on similar themes.
I should like to take a radically orthogonal view.
I honestly don’t care what will or will not “save” either the Republican Party, or any other party for that matter. Political parties generally disgust me, being organized for much the same purpose as a gang of looters or a crime syndicate, and if only they could all go out of business and their members be sent to prison where they belong I would be pleased beyond measure.
What I do know is this, though: just as the Democrats keep talking about things like “civil liberties” while running Guantanamo and a surveillance state, and talk about “peace” while growing the military and intervening around the world, your odds will be excellent if you bet that a GOP that adopts “libertarianism” so it can win elections will give the ideas lip service while implementing entirely non-libertarian policies to serve their real goals: power and money for themselves and their cronies.
Many people will not understand this distinction between rhetoric and action. After all, few seem to notice it right now. If the rebranding is successful and the Republicans start winning elections, I fear that the public will start blaming “libertarianism” for increased government spending, foreign intervention, business regulation, torture, and whatever else they implement under the pretense of spending cuts, non-intervention, deregulation, civil liberties, and the like.
I suppose that is not really something I can help, though. The underlying problem is that people do not yet widely understand that the higher the political office, the more likely it is that the electoral contest is between two sociopathic con men.
Indeed, the US Presidential election is a sort of quadrennial Olympics for con men. The odds of of a randomly selected untrained amateur winning the Olympic 500m race are poor when hundreds or thousands of professionals train for years for the event. The probability of a decent human being winning the White House when competing against hordes of amoral grifters whose skills are honed to a razors edge by years of competition are even lower.
Worse, people do not understand that even if a decent human being by some astounding accident wins high political office, they are almost inevitably both thwarted and corrupted. The system is built to derail reform, not to enable it, and it holds temptations that few normal people can resist. One is faced with (to name but a few things) the powerful financial interests of the Military-Industrial Complex, blackmail by the intelligence community, lobbyists more numerous than locusts, fellow politicians who do not want their sustenance to end, a press almost as interested in preserving the status quo as the pigs at the trough, Sir Humphrey Appleby‘s spiritual kin, constant luxuries from banquets to private jets to soften one’s moral resistance, and an endless series of instances where one might bend the rules just this once, for the common good.
I would not even trust myself with the power of the Presidency — it should be no surprise that I trust no one else with it either.
I have been asked by some, “then what do you propose we should do, if electoral politics will not work? Surely you must work within the system you have, not the one you wish you had.” This viewpoint reminds me of a political cartoon featuring a pair of Aztec priests removing the heart from a victim. One says to the other, “it isn’t the best possible system, but it’s the one we’ve got.”
I think that until one thinks beyond the current system and its failures, one cannot get away from those failures. You cannot become celibate by increasing your frequency of sexual intercourse, shoot your way to nonviolence, gorge your way to weight loss, or vote your way to a system that respects inalienable rights not subject to the whims of the electorate.
The US’s founding fathers conducted an interesting experiment in whether a strong constitution could restrain the worst defects of democracy. (That was literally their intent, as the Federalist Papers reveal.) We would be fools to ignore the result of that experiment. To be sure, it was a partial success for a time, but it did not last. The rot began almost immediately.
(I have acquaintances who are attorneys who believe in a “living constitution.” They laugh at me when I say things like “but the plain intent of the words `Congress shall make no law[...] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press’ is that Congress isn’t allowed to make laws on that topic.” Apparently a belief that words can have plain meanings is the height of naïveté and shows exactly how stupid I am.)
The only rational way forward I see is to try to build the world I want directly, and to leave the political mechanism, which I wish to see eliminated anyway, behind.
My message, and sadly the best path I have to offer (for it is not an easy one) is this: work on ways to achieve the world you want that do not involve politics, and work on letting others know that this is the only long term path to make the world a better place.
In other words, if you want to see people fed, work on ways to feed them — one Norman Borlaug beats a million “food security activists” begging for stolen money. If you want to see people better able to communicate in privacy or avoid censorship when they wish to speak in public, build computer protocols and software to help them do that regardless of the desires of bureaucrats. (The people who built Tor, PGP and the like did not wait to be given “permission” to do so, they simply built what they felt the world needed. You can, too.) If you want to help people live longer and healthier lives, do medical research or open a clinic.
So, if you want to be free, live as freely as you can right now, and help others to be free as well. Build the institutions and technologies you wish existed to support freedom today, not someday after “they” have given you permission to be free. “They” will never grant their permission, so you will be waiting forever. Besides, waiting for “them” to throw you crumbs of freedom is servile. Not only will the things you build improve your own life here and now, those things will also undermine the power of those who would enslave you. (“They” would prefer that you believe yourself to be powerless and dependent on what “they” choose to do. Ignore “them”.)
Most of all, do not believe the con men, do not join them, and do not aid them. (Try to help other people understand that they should not believe or aid them either.) The con men are not your friends. The last several millennia of experience with elections are not a fluke to be dismissed as mere experimental error. The next politician and the next election will not be different than all their predecessors. The next politician will not usher in “change”, or “hope”. The next politician will, if experience is any guide, care mostly about self-maximization. It doesn’t matter how hard they pander to your prejudices, they don’t care about what you want, they’re in it for what they want. If you want a better world to live in, build it yourself instead.
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.
So here we have a newspaper proprietor that declines to spend company money on non-commercial activity, that is entrepreneurial, likes to legally avoid tax, invests in space, and is accused of being a libertarian. This is, I think, very good news.
- Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home writes about the news that Jeff Bezos has just bought the Washington Post. I hope Simon is right about Bezos. Is he?
The first problem I have when I read of ‘austerity’, meaning less state spending… is that the amount the state is spending is not really going down at all, it is just getting moved around a bit.
But there is a second definitional problem I have with this term ‘austerity’ as it is being used.
When I see members of the kleptocratic classes, the receivers of appropriated state largess, describe less public spending as ‘austerity’, I often wonder if such people regard the steadily lessening rates of burglary in the UK as also being a long term trend towards ‘austerity’.
Look at it this way: people are (allegedly) having less of their property appropriated by burglars, which means the burglars have less of your money to spend. So clearly this means society is experiencing ‘austerity’, as you, in your un-burgled household, get to keep more of your own property and spend more of your own money, rather than having it spent by someone else.
So… less people having their stuff taken away from them by the state, and by burglars (but I repeat myself)…. that is ‘austerity’, right?
Yes, tomorrow night at the Rose and Crown in Southwark, Aiden Gregg will be giving a talk entitled Sax and Violence, hosted by Libertarian Home.
Aiden Gregg already did an earlier version of this same presentation, at my home on May 31st. The second half of his talk that night was him reading out this essay, which concerns a country called Equistan. Attenders tomorrow night are asked to acquaint themselves with this interesting and thoughtful text.
Equistan is afflicted by extreme sexual inequality between different men, caused by there being many more men in Equistan than women. Luckily for Equistan, however, it has a government which addresses this issue by imposing sexual justice, of a sort that redistributes some of the sexual favours bestowed by women upon appealing men to less appealing men. Most Equistanians understand that these arrangements are both fair and necessary. A few sexual libertarians (such as the so-called “Liberty Belles”) grumble about them, but such malcontents are an extremist fringe, whose arguments are briefly described and refuted.
The talk at my place was not recorded, but this one at the Rose and Crown, assuming nothing goes wrong, will be. Highly recommended.
LATER: Libertarian Home has more.
In his ‘Seen Elsewhere’ section, top right, Guido is today linking to a piece entitled An Anarcho-Capitalist Defence of the Royal Family. Sounds like fun, and it is.
For me, the most amazing bit is not any bit in this piece, but the bit at the bottom where it says who wrote it:
Christina Annesley is a 21 year old anarcho-capitalist and the founder of Leeds Liberty League. She has a BA in History from the University of Leeds and is currently writing a dystopian fantasy novel.
There are just so many things that are great about that.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
- from a document that may soon be given a security classification the way things are going. Simply following that link could brand you as a potential terrorist. Not to mention get you in trouble with the IRS.