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

The Human Rights Act as a constitution of liberty [no, really]

(This is the text of a talk I gave at the Adam Smith Institute last week. More than one person has asked me for it, so I make it available here.)

I am here to defend the Human Rights Act. It is not an idealistic defence but a pragmatic defence, rooted in historical context. Should classical liberals support the Human Rights Act against repeal? Do we need it? My answer is yes.

Our reactions to phrases become readily conditioned. And so it has been with “human rights”. Let us remember for a moment that the full title of the agreement that is under siege here is the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. If it were called the Fundamental Freedoms Act would it be as easy to undermine?

Sad to say ‘human rights’ do have a bad name, and they have that bad name for good reasons. Their strongest proponents often do the most harm to their reputation – not because of the legal content of what they say, but of their approach to the law.

This comes in two forms which sometimes overlap: the rarer is soft revolutionism from the far left – human rights as a transitional demand. This approach makes human rights a movement more than a doctrine or legal concept.… a means to control the terms of any political debate.

More common is a not entirely conscious belief that human rights and the Human Rights Act in particular embody the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth of how states should treat people. It’s a sort of human-rights fundamentalism, a desire for revealed wisdom in which “but that is contrary to Art 6″ is a morally conclusive statement.

→ Continue reading: The Human Rights Act as a constitution of liberty [no, really]

The EU cares! And you should too!

DanielEuro

Found on and duly pilfered from Raedwald :-D

Long live Guido!

I have always been a fan of Guido Fawkes… he writes about party politics in the UK so we don’t have to! Not joking, I literally do not bother 98% of the time because we have Guido. Whatever I would have said, Guido already said it. Samizdata does not even have a ‘politics’ category for articles. In the sidebar, he effectively has his own link category :-D

And he has been fighting the good flight for ten years.

Well done Guido!

Yeah, that always works

I could write for an hour on why this is logically unjustifiable, practically unenforceable, systemically corrupting, and morally wrong:

Northern Ireland ban on paying for sex is approved by Stormont assembly.

Then again, why bother? A brick wall is conveniently placed and sticking plasters are cheap.

Samizdata quote of the day

When nanny staters say ‘choice’, what they really mean is ‘less choice’.

Brendan O’Neill

Being beastly to jihadis is fear-mongering!

Hugh Muir is clearly a nice man, and the notion people might look askance as known salafists returning from Syria after fighting on behalf of the Islamic State bothers him. Although the Royal Air Force is currently bombing said Islamic State, worrying about these people is nothing more than fear-mongering.

Welcome to the United Kingdom of Perpetual Panic, where the crackpot ideas of silly backbenchers fuel our nightmares and sustain our enemies

I am strongly of the view that Hugh Muir should fly to the Middle East and make this very reasonable point to Islamic State members who hail from Britain himself, in person, in Raqqa. After all, we have nothing to fear from these people and this will prove it. How to get a head ahead in journalism in one easy step: I look forward to seeing the video of the encounter and no doubt he will look very fetching wearing red.

Another bout of indignation dysentery

Everyone is very, very cross. The welfare reform minister, Lord Freud, has caused outrage for saying that some disabled people are “not worth the minimum wage”.

Spoken without tact but with truth. Some of our fellow human beings are incapable of doing work that is worth anyone’s while to pay six pounds and fifty pence per hour to have done.

Freud had been responding to a question from David Scott, a Tory councillor from Tunbridge Wells. Scott had said: “The other area I’m really concerned about is obviously the disabled. I have a number of mentally damaged individuals, who to be quite frank aren’t worth the minimum wage, but want to work. And we have been trying to support them in work, but you can’t find people who are willing to pay the minimum wage.

While it is certainly true that many people with a disability also have abilities or dispositions that allow them equal or surpass as workers their able-bodied and able-minded colleagues – it is also certainly true that many others, sadly, don’t. This is particularly often the case for the mentally disabled. Long ago, I was a teacher. I saw some sad sights, few sadder than the dawning awareness in a child’s eyes that he or she would never be able to do all that “the others” could.

Still, people are resilient. Such a child might very well grow up to be quite capable of sharing and rejoicing in the dignity of work – real work for real employers, not charity – were it not illegal. Only those whose labour is worth more than £6.50 an hour are allowed to sell it. Those less able are compelled by law to be unemployed.

We have these spasms every few years. Allow me to recycle my post from the last one, in which the speaker of inconvenient truth was Philip Davies MP who said,

“Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, can’t be as productive in their work as somebody who hasn’t got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that given that the employer was going to have to pay them both the same they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk, and that was doing those people a huge disservice.”

And I said then and repeat now:

Within hours so much outraged commentary flowed out of newspaper columnists, charity representatives and politicians of all parties, including Mr Davies’ own, that you’d think there’d been an outbreak of indignation dysentery.

[…]

Not one response of all the many I read even tried to argue that Mr Davies was factually wrong. They were outraged, disgusted. They asserted what no one denies: that mentally disabled people are equal citizens and often prove to be hardworking employees, valued by their employers. But I could not find one article that argued that Davies’ description of the way things go when a person with an IQ of 60 or a history of insanity seeks a job was inaccurate, or gave reasons to believe his proposal would not increase their chances of landing one.

[…]

A quote from Charles Murray: “It seems that those who legislate and administer and write about social policy can tolerate any increase in actual suffering so long as the system does not explicitly permit it.”

How the UK’s Conservative Party could cease to exist

Here’s how:

1. There is a crash in the stock market this autumn (there has already been a large fall).

2. A recession starts. Businesses start to close, others start to lay off workers. Either way there is a large increase in unemployment and the fear of unemployment.

3. The public see that as far as Cameron and Osborne are concerned the emperor has no clothes. The mirage of economic recovery they have concocted over the last four years is seen for what it is: a mirage.

4. As the Conservatives start to fall in the polls, UKIP and Labour start to rise. Eurosceptic Conservative MPs realise they have nothing to lose by defecting to UKIP. A hundred do so.

5. The defection of such a large number of Conservative MPs makes UKIP seem a lot more credible as a party of government.

6. In the election, Labour get a plurality but not a majority. UKIP are only a few seats behind. The leader of the Conservative Party, now with 30 seats becomes known as Kim Cameron.

UKIP gains a Member of Parliament, but…

…that is not the really interesting political story.

I rarely write about party politics, but today is an exception. UKIP took a seat from the Tories, with a very popular defector winning a crushing victory. And the newspapers are agog naturally.

And UKIP also came within a hairs breadth of taking a Labour seat, loosing by only 617 votes. Now THAT is the interesting political story today.

So next time someone says “Vote UKIP, get Labour”, tell them, ever so politely, that the facts suggest otherwise. Or just tell them to get stuffed, up to you. It looks increasingly like the truth is: Vote UKIP, get UKIP. That is not an endorsement, simply an observation.

Samizdata quote of the day

What is it about being Home Secretary that turns people into fucking fascists?

– Tim Worstall, apropos this. Though it might equally apply to this or most of this. It is time the Home Office was renamed in accordance with its actual mission. Bureau of State Security (BOSS) would do nicely, now there’s no chance of confusion.

Repainting the stable purple after the horse has bolted

Some future historian, in search of a telling detail to exemplify the primitive superstition of early twenty-first century thought, will seize upon this:

“Savile Dr Who show removed by BBC chiefs,” reports the Times.

The BBC has withdrawn an episode of Doctor Who from its DVD collection because of a link with Jimmy Savile.
The disgraced television presenter appeared in the introduction to a ten-minute special episode entitled A Fix with Sontarans and again at the end to interview Colin Baker, the sixth actor to portray the title character. BBC Worldwide, the BBC’s commercial arm, decided to remove the recording in its entirety rather than cut Savile’s appearance.

The unannounced removal of the episode from The Two Doctors, a DVD featuring episodes starring Baker and Patrick Troughton, means that it is the only Doctor Who story that is not officially available. All other episodes, including early ones for which only the audio recording survives, are currently on DVD release.

Tom Spilsbury, editor of Doctor Who magazine, said that the reissue of the DVD will irritate completist fans of the science fiction stories. “It doesn’t really include Jimmy Savile — he just introduces it and appears at the very end — so it would be very easy to just present it without the bits with Jimmy Savile. I don’t know why they’ve not tried to do it that way.”

Samizdata quote of the day

This was sixth form socialism of the most uninspiring kind. It is lazy and dangerous to implement populist measures that won’t raise the money politicians promise. Windfall taxes will hurt pensioners who rely on stable returns for a comfortable retirement, sin taxes hit the poorest hardest, and a Mansion Tax would be a vindictive gesture that will eventually find its way down the property ladder to hit much less expensive homes, too.

Jonathan Isaby