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A resonant meme

Recently a commenter here on Samizdata.net used a term that I think sums up modern regulatory statism in the Western World rather well.

Populist Authoritarianism

Whilst Google shows that the term is not exactly new, it does seem both little used and particularly apt. The banning of smoking on private commercial property seems a classic example of this in action. Let’s start calling a spade a spade and stop letting the statists of all stripes hide behind euphemisms.

Spread the word.

69 comments to A resonant meme

  • Doug Collins

    Resonant indeed.

    As something more than an inchoate angst, I think this meme goes back to Thomas Hobbs. He was apparently traumatized in his childhood by the Cromwellian wars in England. His whole philosophy was based on fear of his fellow man. That fear was so severe that he turned to the State as his protector. (Lord Protector?) His idea of a libertarian society is very unlike ours: A society with mimimal governmental control would be “A war of all against all” where life would be “Nasty, mean, brutish and short”. Unfortunately these are memorable phrases. They aptly describe the mindset of Hobb’s heirs today when they consider the effects of decreased State control.

    I think much of the motivation for populist authoritarianism is not physical fear, but instead a peculiar sort of economic insecurity. It is the idea that: “I am living very well. I do not really know why. I have very little confidence in my own abilities. I don’t believe that I could regain my current situation were I to lose it.”

    The alternative view is that: “I have great confidence in my own abilities. However, I believe that there are institutional obstacles to my using them for my own benefit.” With this outlook, one will see the State and not his fellow man as the greatest threat to his well being. One will find Hobbs and populist authoritarianism both terrifying.

  • Brock

    The alternative view is that: “I have great confidence in my own abilities. However, I believe that there are institutional obstacles to my using them for my own benefit.” With this outlook, one will see the State and not his fellow man as the greatest threat to his well being. One will find Hobbs and populist authoritarianism both terrifying.

    Another view could be “I have great confidence in my own abilities. However, I believe that there people who would prevent me from using them for my own benefit. People like muggers, thieves, rapists and psychopathic Communist dictators.”

    When you have this outlook, one will see your fellow men can be as dangerous as any State, and even more dangerous when they control a State, and that they can be the greatest threat to his your being at any given time. One will find Hobbs may have been on to something.

    Remember people, there are no States – only your fellow men. States, parties and unions are figments of our collective imaginations, and at the end of the day there is only the other guy – blood, sweat and guts. If you don’t want to be his lunch, carry a gun. But what do you do if he’s got 150 million people following his orders? What’s your .45 gonna do for you then?

    As long as ‘the other guys’ got States, we need ’em too. To date they are the only system which can sort out the preferences of their citizens AND protect them from foriegn aggression. Not all States perform this function, but the good ones do.

  • Cobden Bright

    On a BBS I frequent, utterly apolitical by the way, and most members of whom are of the distinctly non-killjoy, fairly individualistic, good blokes to chat with down the pub variety, a distinct majority was in favour of the recent Irish ban on “smoking in the workplace” – which of course includes the “workplace” that is the publican’s privately owned house, otherwise known as a pub.

    I asked these fairly normal and decent chaps what they thought gave them the right to dictate how consenting adults should decide to behave towards each other, so long as no innocent party was harmed. The response was basically non-existent – the default assumption was that, if the person in question did not like smoking or its effects, that it would therefore be legitimate to ban it. The argument that people have an intrinsic right to any behaviour, so long as it does not harm others against their will, found traction with almost no one except – surprise, surprise – the resident forum left-wing Guardian reader, who found it an affront to civil liberties. To be fair, he is of the “honest lefty” type – wrong, but for the right reasons (i.e. ignorance rather than malice). My only other supporter was a stoutly individualist (by nature, not politics) Jock biker and sports car fanatic. I found it rather worrying that my only supporters on this issue were basically loners and outcasts – not socially, but ideologically. The mainstream of “normal” apolitical society basically accepts the idea that it is perfectly ok to “ban” things (i.e. forcibly throw people who do non-crimes behind bars for years, or steal their property), merely on the grounds that the activity in question is disapproved of by the person in question. The idea that something the person *disagrees* with, still ought to be protected from criminalisation, seemed utterly beyond their comprehension.

    I have basically come to the conclusion that, although core libertarian beliefs have a strong appeal to most people, a certain level of self-reflection and moral/philosophilcal inquiry is needed before the average joe realises the potential inconsistency in their beliefs. Some people make that inquiry and still reject our beliefs – fair enough, at least they have given them a hearing. But it is worrying to see joe public reject our core tenets out of hand, not because they necessarily disagree with our core moral principles, but simply because they *haven’t thought about them* in any detail, and thus remain in a utilitarian/consequentialist mode of thinking. I put it to my internet friends how they would feel if a pastime dear to their heart were to be legislated out of existence – I will report back the consensus reponse.

    In a way, you can see their thought processes. Do any of you remember when either you or your friends or relatives thought “oh, no one NEEDS an automatic weapon”, or “no one NEEDS download hardcore pornography” or “no one NEEDS to earn £1 million a year”? Or “the world would be better off if smoking were banned”, or “compulsory seatbelts will save lives”, or “taxing people to pay for foreign aid will stop people starving to death”? How about “I think the NHS is a magnificent institution”, or “Privatisation has just made the trains run late whilst fat cats get rich”. They seem so reasonable on the surface, to the average member of the public – it is only upon examination of the non-superficial kind that the fallacy is revealed. In fact, a friend of mine who is otherwise very pro-freedom, very educated and reasonable, when debating gun ownership asked “But what do you need a machine gun for?” The idea that something should be a criminal offence, merely because you cannot prove a *need* to do it, is absurd – who *needs* to paint, to sing, to play sport, to buy a porn mag, to fart in public? Should these land one in jail, merely because they are unnecessary? Watch out – even the very intelligent mainstream buy into this “but you don’t *need* to do it, and it could be bad – therefore we are entitled to imprison you in a cage like a chimpanzee in a zoo, for as long as we like” bollocks. Shame on the unthinking bastards.

    Let’s face it folks, the fact is that 90% of the population basically do not give a damn about the liberty of people they disapprove of or do not care about. How could slavery have existed for millenia if this were not the case? How else could one of Western Civilisation’s most advanced societies exterminate 6 million Jews, along with 4 million gays, gypsies, political dissidents, and so on? We should just accept that mankind has an infinite capacity to ignore and/or rationalise outrageous and immoral behaviour. The struggle for liberty is not a “culture war”, because most cultures will simply reject liberty out of ignorance and prejudice. It is, rather, a real war. America, the only country founded on a remotely libertarian basis, had to do so by declaring an outrageously unbalanced war against – at the time – possibly the world’s freest and most powerful country. The Yanks rebelled against a tax rate of less than 1%. Oh, for such benign dictatorship nowadays! England itself only gained those freedoms when the Magna Carta was presented almost as a fait accompli to the King by disgruntled Barons. Whilst peaceful and non-confrontational efforts can achieve incremental gains, true liberty is won by force, not by consensus. What’s more, it is won *over* the unthinking objections of the conservative “silent majority”. The sooner we realise this, the better.

  • Doug Collins


    In the same comment, you write:

    “Remember people, there are no States – only your fellow men. States, parties and unions are figments of our collective imaginations”


    “As long as ‘the other guys’ got States, we need ’em too. To date they are the only system which can sort out the preferences of their citizens AND protect them from foriegn aggression”

    But they are figments of our imaginations… You said so!

    Actually, I think we may be mostly in agreement, if a distinction can be made between our fellow man acting in concert with others and our fellow men who, like the “muggers, thieves, rapists” you mentioned, tend to preserve their amateur status by acting alone. (I am not sure about psychopathic communist dictators. I have known far more of them than I have muggers, thieves etc. Most are socially disfunctional people who are only likely to be a threat to puppies and kittens. It is only in the rare cases when they get control of one of those ‘imaginary’ states that they become dangerous.)

    In my own life I have had little damage from thieves and muggers. In each encounter the State did nothing to help me. In fifty six years, I have been mugged three times (One sportsman, with a concern for his customers, told me to: “tell the guy down the street that he had already got me.” I did so and passed on without further toll.) I have had one car stolen and have suffered two office burglaries. The police did nothing other than take a report each time, essentially to protect the insurance company from fraud on my part. I recovered the car on my own at some further cost, again without police help.
    My record is probably fairly average for an American. Britons may have worse experiences of crime and police inaction if Tony Martin is an indication of things to come.

    On the other hand, from the State, in addition to the constant hemorrhage of my income in taxes and fees, both national, state and local, I have had one city attempt to condemn my home and land for the benefit of a real estate developer, another attempt to assess ruinous fees to force me to sell another homesite, again for the benefit of other developers, a state government require large legal fees to be paid to satisfy various estate requirements above and beyond simple estate taxation, a state forced my wife and I to send our children to public schools or pay through the nose for unsatifactory private ones rather than teach them ourselves, (this last thankfully has now changed) and generally constrained my life in numerous ways that I don’t even want to think about. My record here is also probably about average for an American of my age.

    If both records are indeed average, then the threat from lone operators – thieves, muggers and rapists (haven’t had to deal with the last, I admit) is relatively small compared to the threat from the State. And frankly, I don’t care how you describe it. Obviously states are run by people, but when they get together, as you pointed out, you can’t just solve the problem with a concealed carry weapon. You seem alive to the threat of ‘other’ states. Hobbs was too. What you and he never mention is the threat of your own. To you.

    Hobbs was so frightened by these outside threats, and so oblivious to the threat of his own state – as you appear to be by your omission of it from your list – that he called for it to be an absolute dictatorship. King, Lord Protector – It made no difference to him as long as it was willing and able to exert iron control over the lives of his fellows. He didn’t care. Apparently he wasn’t doing much with his own life anyway other than quaking in fear.

  • Tedd McHenry

    Many very good points made here so far — even the ones I somewhat disagree with!

    Earlier today I read this article on space exploration, by Steven Weinberg. He argues that unmanned space exploration is vastly more cost effective than manned exploration, which I believe is unfortunate but probably true. However, this is the part of the article that stood out, to me.

    My training is in physics, so I hesitate to make pronouncements about economics; but it seems obvious to me that for the government to spend a dollar on public goods affects total economic activity and employment in just about the same way as for government to cut taxes by a dollar that will then be spent on private goods. The chief difference is in the kind of goods produced by the economy — public or private.

    Looked at from a strictly economic point of view, this isn’t too outrageous. But from a moral point of view it’s shocking! Weinberg seems completely unaware that private spending is decided by free choice, whereas public spending is coerced. Either unaware or, even more shocking, favourably inclined toward coersion, so long as it’s directed toward something he supports.

    So long as intellectual leaders such as Weinberg don’t make these politically important distinctions, I suspect it’s a lot to hope that “average” people will.

  • “Fear and I were born twins.”

    (Thomas Hobbes, referring to his premature birth on his mother’s hearing of the approach of the Spanish Armada in 1588, quoted by Richard S. Peters at p. 7 in his “Introduction” to the Collier Books edition of “Leviathan”, 1962.)

  • Doug Collins

    Whoops. Mea culpa. It’s Hobbes, not Hobbs.

  • Verity

    Let’s call a spade a spade. OK. Beverly Hughes is a liar. The minister in charge of immigration, of which there should be none for at least five years, routinely lies about how she is evading even the miliquetoast immigration laws that currently apply. David Blunkett is an authoritarian liar in every respect, including when he says that Hughes is honest. He is an impertinent liar when he says there’s no reason to sack her. He is lying and cheeking his bosses, the electorate. These serious infractions are undertaken with the approval of – and probably on the direction of – Toneboy Blair, who is busy dismantling Britain for his own freakish reasons.

  • Hobbes, eh? As every schoolboy knows, he was nasty, brutish and short 🙂

  • Tim Sturm

    My training is in physics, so I hesitate to make pronouncements about economics

    The guy should have stuck with physics.

    Firstly, $1 of expenditure in the public sphere costs probably three times that in terms of the bureaucracy required to get it there.

    Secondly, $1 of expenditure in the public sphere may not purchase $1 of value, and probably a lot less, since the price mechanism is absent in the public sphere and nobody has any idea what $1 is worth.

  • Tim,

    About eighteen months ago I heard a BBC Radio 4 Today interview of a Kiwi academic and statistician – can’t recall his name – who has specialised in assessing value in public health spending programmes.

    Originally, he had been hired by the NZ government to audit it’s own investment programme in public healthcare. This had been a flagship programme, inceasing the healthcare budget by a fifth. The academic found that the additionl funds produced a sobering 2% increase in delivery.

    This result was noticed around the world. Health Departments in other, developed countries sought his advice about auditing their own investments. He found that the existing methodologies were generally inept. His own, when applied, revealed markedly similar results in terms of input and delivery, although the actual healthcare systems varied considerably.

    In his radio interview he was asked the direct question, “So what outcome do you anticipate from Labour’s investment in the NHS?”

    “It will,” he replied, “produce the same result as everywhere else … a 2% increase in service delivery for a 20% increase in funding.”

    I believe that he has been proved right.

  • Verity

    I see David Blunkett has just responded to yet more devastating accusations against Beverly Hughes by saying he is ultimately responsible for the failures of Britain’s immigration progamme, if such it can be called. He is correct. He should go at the same time as the equally inept Hughes.

  • Jacob

    “populist authoritarianism ”

    Hobbes had a point. In societies where there is no functioning government (Somalia, most of Africa, etc.) life is indeed “Nasty, mean, brutish and short”.
    Anarchism doesn’t work.
    The trouble is – in such societies the individual has to spend a big chunk of his resources on self protection, instead of producing riches and enjoying them. And even after spending all that effort, the protection he gets is sub-optimal, mostly it is none, unless he associates in some family or tribe, i.e. stops being an individualist.

    Many times an authoritarian regime may be better than anarchy, and other options not realistically available. Think of Hobbes in the context of his times, not ours.

    How to define, philosophically and practically a Government that provides just the needed protection, and uses just the needed amount of coercion and at the same time refrains from oppresing it’s subjects ? That’s the big question.

    Banning smoking isn’t authoritarian, if that’s the wish of most people, it’s democratic, and none the less, unduly oppresive.

  • Tim Sturm


    Let me know if you do come across his name. As a New Zealander (albeit in London) and an economist I’m interested on two counts. Thanks very much.

  • Tim Sturm


    Let me know if you do come across his name. As a New Zealander (albeit in London) and an economist I’d be interested on two counts. Thanks very much.

  • The term seems to be a modern version of “tyranny of the majority”.

  • Authoritarian: Characterized by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom: an authoritarian regime

    Being democracy and being authoritarian are by no means exclusive. Civil interaction means ‘authority’ is dispersed and exersised mostly via civil interactions. Ever more codifying of the nature of personal interactions into politcally derived formulae is pretty much what underpins ‘authoritarian’, i.e. replacing civil interaction with legally mandated authority.

    Just because something which does this is sanctified by democratic politics, that does not make it in any way, shape or form less authoritarian that if it was imposed by non-democratic politics. Using political systems to impose authority on civil interactions is authoritarian, the political method used to get there is irrelevent, or more accuratly, a different question.

  • D Anghelone

    No offense but “populist authoritarianism” rings dissonant.

    Google reveals the term applied to Middle Eastern regimes such as Baathist and to Latin American regimes, generally rightist.

    There’s this from 1999:

    Like similar ideologies in Africa and Latin America, Nasirism, Ba`thism and other varieties of Middle Eastern populist authoritarianism rejected the notion of class struggle. When collective actions of workers and peasants exceeded authorized boundaries and challenged the regime, they were quashed.

    The same as social authoritarianism in the UK?

    Too muddled for a meme, IMO.

  • toolkien

    I have a similar name for populist authortarianism – Tyranny of the Individual, meaning ‘individual’ rights as dispensed by the State. It is the State protecting a bar waitress’s ‘rights’ even though it trods directly over everyone else’s. Setting policy for all based on the one malcontent. Instead of leaving associations to be voluntary, one person can force a whole private association to its knees, all in the name of ‘individual’ (or ‘civil’ rights in the ACLU meaning) rights. It also parallels ‘human rights’ lingo of the UN. You know when the ‘human rights’ term is used, it’s to be dispensed to Do Gooder bureaucrats, and if its ‘individual rights’ it’s more likely to be a right libertarian form demanded from the State and each other.

    But of course it’s all a front. The bureaucrats who have hijacked the State already have their pet projects predetermined, they just need one person to be the poster child. So populist authortarianism, or Tyranny of the Individual, is true Authortarianism made palatable with a thin sugar coating.

  • Guy Herbert

    But, D.Angelhone, that is exactly the point. Populism is an appeal to the unreason of the mob that can be made from any point in the traditional political spectrum. It usually is authoritarian, because the crowd doesn’t brook alternative opinion. But because populism is popular, its vices need emphasis if it is to be fought.

  • D Anghelone


    In other words, this says nothing new? “Populism” implies all as is? It’s pomolinguistic to me as it may serve to obscure but not to clarify.

  • Harry Powell

    I think Lord Hailsham made this point first when he coined the phrase “elective dictatorship” to characterize the unchallenged soverignty of parliament. Thanks to the whipping system and the manipulation of party lists we know that this now means the unchecked power of the executive. But what happens when the only check or balance in our constitution, the electorate, can be herded and driven so easily by the threat of terrorism? “Populist Authoritarianism” sums it up nicely.

  • Guy Herbert

    “Pornolinguistic” – lumme, what’s that mean? The phrase authoritarian populism is useful for its oxymoronic effect. Political scientists may recognise authoritarianism as a trait of populist government. Never the less, the “populist” is associated in the popular mind with democratic values, which are often unthinkingly taken to be the same as liberal ones. Authoritarian populism is the political style of illiberal democracy.

    toolkien: I fear though the concept it stands for (often plugged by Anthony Daniels) is interesting, “Tyranny of the Individual” may be just the soundbite David Blunkett is looking for to attack any remaining civil liberties of those who have nothing to worry about if they have nothing to hide.

  • Verity

    Guy Herbert: David Blunkett can’t “look”. He’s blind. The ultimate insult to the British electorate: a blind man in charge of immigration and unable to see what damage to the face of Britain the immigrants have wrought. Of course, he didn’t know what Britain looked like before the immigrant dam broke, so he doesn’t know what all the fuss is about, save what the civil service, in the service of Tony the breakshop boy. Blair can’t see Beverly Hughes’s patronising, “we know best” face and her well padded bum.

    Blunkett may be clever or not. I don’t care. But he’s disabled, with the loss of perhaps the major sense. I don’t care whether he’s striven to rise above it. The Home Secretaryship of Britain isn’t a reward for being a brave chap.

    He shouldn’t be in national government and even local government is iffy if he can’t see the skips. Sorry, but David Blunkett is limited by his disability and is not suited for high office. Anyone who could see Beverly Hughes face to face would have seen she’s a liar.

  • Hobbes had a point. In societies where there is no functioning government (Somalia, most of Africa, etc.) life is indeed “Nasty, mean, brutish and short”.
    Anarchism doesn’t work.
    The trouble is – in such societies the individual has to spend a big chunk of his resources on self protection, instead of producing riches and enjoying them.

    What, like taxation, Jacob? Roughly a fifth of my income is taken from me to perform federal government functions, a great deal of that amount going to national defense. I can think of better ways to protect myself and the people & things I love with that money.

    People concerned for the safety and integrity of their propert are going to spend the money to protect it.

  • Verity

    Please make your own corrections in the above post. Especially substitute the name Blunkett for Blair. Apologies. Careless..

  • Euan

    Verity – Why does being blind make a man unsuited for high office? Sorry if I miss any irony in your remarks, but you need to remember I’m in America, where irony is a property of steel.

    Does this debate not simply confirm that democracy is the problem? I’d have thought that any reasonable form of government requires decisions being made on a rational basis by reasonably intelligent people.

    In a democracy, the aspirant politician can bribe the electorate with promises of “free” money, and of course it is well enough known that democracy cannot survive in the long term once (a) the people know they can vote themselves cash and (b) enough of the people are allowed to vote.

    Naturally enough, the language of the bribes will become more populist as traditional methods of bribery (“free” healthcare, “free” dole money, managed economies, etc) are perceived to have failed. Such failures may be blamed on bogeymen such as (in various places at various times) Jews, blacks, gypsies, Catholics, capitalistic free-traders and, contemporarily, Moslem immigrants, leading to yet further populism.

    As for the dictatorship, of course the administration of the system want to keep their jobs. Therefore, they will want to make sure that any serious questioning of the status quo doesn’t happen.

    An inevitable consequence of this insistence on democracy as an end in itself rather than a means to an end (sound limited government), and, I suspect, a major (possibly terminal) weakness of western society when faced with external threat.


  • Philip Chaston

    Rare for me to comment these days, but populist authoritarianism is probably descriptive of early Blairism.

    That is to say, authoritarian measures are taken, which through focus groups or opinion polls, are known to be popular, are implemented in order to maintain the government’s poll rating/electoral success and encroach upon civil liberties, property rights etc. whilst doing so.

    The regulatory state, and its authoritarian policies (in certain areas), are not usually motivated by populist politics. Indeed, most people have acquiesced in the growth of the state, but have not supported the increase in regulation, unless they wish to avert risks that directly affect them. Regulatory tools are used to publicly demonstrate solutions to problems that have become a public concern (ie. paedophiles) but this is a consequence, not a cause of regulatory growth.

    The best example of a regulatory framework that has outstripped the support of its citizens is the EU. This is now making noises about public participation in order to gain the support of Europeans, but even here, this has resulted in the Constitution, hardly a populist measure.

    Populism, harking back to Poujadism, probably remains the preserve of protest or nationalist parties, for now

  • Philip,

    I do not see Blair’s focus group phase as a search for policies resonant with the public but, rather, non-policies resonant with the public. He needs em to distract attention, that’s all.

    The real Blair project for Britain is by no means populist. It requires the dismantling of practically everything that the accreted wisdom of centuries has formed and, beyond that, the dismantling of Englishness itself as a national identity. He is a revolutionary. Furthermore, the authoritarianism for which he is now generally recognised flows not from his private person – he is not a political strongman – but from his radical zeal.

    None of this must be apparent to the electorate, however. Populism ensues. But tell me, can you name one significant, non-ponzi policy that all this so-called populism has produced?

  • Verity

    Euan – No irony whatsoever. High office requires not just the presence of all the senses, but that their use be keen. Blunkett cannot even see looks passing between individuals. He cannot pick up visual clues. In addition, he cannot see the smearing of many sections of Britain with grafitti. Graffiti is an occupation of immigrants, not indigenes. He cannot see the filthy town centres for himself. He cannot see what Saturday night looks like in them. As an example. He couldn’t seen the WTC being attacked, and the aftermath. He is dependent on what other people tell him, and those other people will doubtless have an agenda.

    Sorry, but a blind Home Secretary is a direct insult to the British people. The position requires a keen use of all the senses, besides intelligence and determination, both of which Mr Blunkett apparently has in abundance. It is part of Blair’s demonstration that they are the masters now and there’s not a damn’ thing we can do about it. He’s the boss and our country is his toy.

    Would you buy shares in, let’s say, a car company that had a blind chief executive? I doubt it.

    I agree with Guessedworker’s comments above. “The Project”, which always sounded sinister, is indeed sinister and it is being run with the iron fist of an authoritarian maniac. His government is one of total incompetence, but it doesn’t matter. He needs people who he can control. Independence of thought is not welcomed.

    Appointing someone to high office who is not qualified because he is missing the ability to pick up visual clues is all part of the demonstration of iron-fisted control. All these signs were evident before he got elected the first time, but for some reason – probably an overriding dislike of the weak John Major and all his works – the voters didn’t pick up on it in sufficient numbers to keep him out. But we should remember that only a very small proportion of people voted for Blair. Something like 50% stayed home, and the other votes were split between the Tories and the Lib Dems. If I remember correctly, he only got 27% of the votes. He got in by default.

    Blunkett may be a worthy person, but he is not qualified to be Home Secretary of a powerful country.

  • Guy Herbert

    Verity: Blunkett… blind. I know. Am I not permitted two oxymorons in the same comment?

    In fact, though I think his blindness may be relevant to his character, I do not think he is incompetent because of it, or at all. (Nor did Heseltine’s dyslexia, nor Clinton’s/Kennedy’s priapic distraction, make for bad management.) The whole administration is far from incompetent–at what it is trying to do. If New Labour is really attempting stewardship of a constitutional democracy, to govern Britain, but leave it essentially unchanged, moderating the minor free-market swing of Thatcherism with some old-fashioned Butskellism, then they are indeed wildly adrift.

    I did mean Blunkett, BTW. The precise application of the soundbite to his specific political problems I’ll leave to your imagination. I don’t see why I should write speeches for him any more than I’d disclose other criminal techniques en clair.

    Philip Chaston:

    It isn’t exclusively a Blairite phenomenon, but endemic in modern politics. Thatcher and Major had a string streak, as does Bush. The people may not like that fraction of regulation that’s applied to them, but they do like other people controlled–and that’s the heart of populist authoritarianism. Every new regulatory regime has a populist pretext.


    Could be a very long list. You want one, so here are two:

    * Tsarism; supplying personally identified authority figures to strike down the bad guys.

    * Two dozen criminal justice and police powers bills in a decade, without (as far as I can remember, except for some sensible tidying of rape laws in 1994) troubling with any thoughtful, unspectacular, Law Commission recommendations.

  • Verity

    Guy – OK. Sorry. But, with respect, I think some of your arguments are wildly off. What has Heseltine’s dyslexia got to do with anything? I’m not saying Blunkett can’t read. Of course, he can. But he cannot pick up clues with his eyes. He can’t see a glance of understanding pass between two individuals. He can’t read body language. He can’t see a look of ill-concealed displeasure on a colleague’s face.

    Sight is critical to being able to make rational judgements. If you encounter a large strange dog while out walking, you look immediately for signs of hostility or a hail fellow well met attitude. You look at its eyes for signs of aggression. You read its body language and use your experience of having encountered aggressive dogs and friendly dogs to make your judgement.

    Kennedy was taking some kind of hormone treatment for his Hodgkins’ Disease. This caused the priapic behaviour you refer to. I believe it was the hormones, hidden from the public at the time, which led to the absurd aggression of the Bay of Pigs and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Fortunately, Krushchev wasn’t on male hormone pills and had the sense to back down. So Kennedy was a bad example of a statesman with a “condition” that didn’t affect his ability to govern.

    Blunkett, however ambitious, is limited by a major disabilty. You need all your senses to be in high office, not just some. I didn’t say he is an incompetent individual. I said his disability precludes him from operating in the upper echelons of diplomacy and government.

  • Hello Guy,

    Your suggestions only confirm my view. Tsarism is, I think, in toto nothing but Blairite fluff. The only Tsar who penetrated the public’s disinterest was Keith Halliwell, and he packed in soon enough.

    As for suggestion no.2, the “tough on crime” meme, which has given birth to all these Home Office bills, was a typical piece of Blair double-talk … OK, lock up the criminals to keep Joe Public sweet but don’t build prisons as though you really meant it. Talk tough on Sangatte and asylum but wave through everyone you can and, for heavens sake, don’t run too hard after any who outstay their welcome.

    The truth is that it would require genuine political will and cost real money to do the job in a meaningful way. But the tax take is fully dedicated to the commitment inherent in the second part of that famous Blair bon mot … removing the inequality that is supposed to cause people to take up criminality in the first place. And here we are back to the great Project of transforming Britain. That’s where Blair’s real political will – radical zealm, to be more accurate – resides.

  • toolkien

    toolkien: I fear though the concept it stands for (often plugged by Anthony Daniels) is interesting, “Tyranny of the Individual” may be just the soundbite David Blunkett is looking for to attack any remaining civil liberties of those who have nothing to worry about if they have nothing to hide.

    In an effort to make my previous comment brief, I did not clarify the point that the meaning Individual in the statement Tyranny of the Individual is how we, as libertarians, would view the State’s definition of Individual, i.e. a state that is handed out by the State and not claimed by the individual. I can see that, taken the other way, meaning our definition of individual, and the unacceptable state of ‘chaos’ it represents to those who need to control and dictate.

    It all comes down to the idea that everyone wants what is best for all, as best as it can be contrived, we believe individualism is a right claimed at the source, and the Statist sees ‘individualism’ as something eminating from them, in a sense. It is the underlying illogic inherent in Statism.

  • Euan

    Verity – I don’t think it matters whether Blunkett is blind or not. One can be fully sighted and yet hopeless at interpreting body language.

    It is not so much physically seeing the symptoms of a problem that is important, but understanding that the problem exists and deciding upon a rational solution. IMHO, Blunkett is heavy-handed and authoritarian, but that is nothing to do with whether or not he can see.

    Remember, the graffiti and the chaos of some inner city Saturday nights are NOT the problems, they are rather the symptoms of the real problem – social decay, abdication of personal responsibility, national self-loathing, and a culture of self first, last and always.

    So, once this is understood to be the problem, a whole different set of potential solutions present themselves. After a whole four minutes of reflection, here are a couple of alternatives that spring to my diseased and Machiavellian mind:

    One is an authoritarian approach to wiping out the symptoms, and this I think is what Blunkett et al are trying – but it won’t work, in the same way that treating the symptoms of cancer won’t kill the tumour.

    Another is to let people do what they will and to hell with the consequences. This doesn’t work. Like Communism, it’s a great idea in theory but in practice it really sucks. People are naturally indolent, selfish and venal, and when you allow this to run unchecked you will inevitably end up with de facto control by narrow selfish interests. Basically the strongest will rule, because like or not someone HAS to rule.

    A third solution is a somewhat authoritarian approach to social structure. I said before in another thread that the common people need religion, or at any rate a form of moral guidance they can accept without too much thought. It doesn’t have to be religion, but that’s probably the most practical way to do it – the average Joe is either incapable or unwilling to derive his own morality from first principles.

    Larger, more complex societies need rules, however unpleasant the concept may be in this forum. Those rules need to be enforced, and the enforcement needs to be rigorous, impartial and universal. They need someone or some group to do this. I’m not a fan of democracy as a be-all and end-all, and certainly don’t approve of universal suffrage unless there are very strong restrictions on what exactly the government can do in respect of doling cash out to the plebs.

    So, a limited government of some sort of qualified democracy operating in a strict constitution under a rigorously upheld rule of law would appear to be the answer. I suppose this is authoritarian to a greater or lesser degree, but I am so often reminded of Kent Brockman’s immortal line in The Simpsons – “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – democracy just doesn’t work.”


  • Euan,

    You missed out the best one. If you are the government and the society you govern doesn’t meet your requirements, change the society. This is actually what we’ve got now.

  • Verity

    Guessed – sinister and true.

  • Euan

    Guessedworker – I suppose we do have that to an extent (a pretty feeble extent, IMO). It was also present in the USSR and other Communist states after the government realised that Soviet Man was no more than an abstract Utopian concept.

    It would be just as present in a libertarian state, I believe, when the libertarian government realises that, contrary to expectation, people in the mass tend to be slow, stupid, lazy, gullible and very selfish. People don’t seem to want to be free above all else, what they really want is an easy and predictable life without too much personal inconvenience. This is why people quite happily accept increasing tax burdens and sluggish economies, because the payoff for them is that they don’t need to work as hard as they would otherwise and more decisions are made for them.

    Abstract political theory, utopian schemes and grand visions of ideal societies only work for revolutionaries, academics and the more intellectually able members of society. For hoi polloi, the basic question is “how much will it cost me, what do I get out of it and will it involve me in extra effort?” They want to hear respectively nothing, lots, and no.

    Of course, this doesn’t work either, but people swallow it and, for the aspirant governor, this is sufficient.


  • Dr Eric

    ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ The ‘people’ now have the power, so the corruption of power in their/our hands is entirely unsurprising. Bullying by a ‘democratic’ majority is still bullying, as any Northern Irish Catholic, or Sri Lankan Tamil, etc. etc. etc. could tell us.

    But these are at least easily identifiable religious/ethnic minorities. And they fight back. Most bullied minorities in the modern state are more diffuse so their rights are trampled on with even less concern. ‘Majority opinion’, manipulated by populist politicians and their jackals in the media, couldn’t give a toss!

    Let me out of here, I’m a human being!

  • Well, doctor, on my planet it’s the majority that is bullied (and not at all feebly, Euan).

  • Euan

    Guessed – if the generality of the people are happy to accept increasing regulation and taxation as the price of what they see as an easier life, and if they cannot be bothered to get off their backsides to vote for someone different (or start a new party if none suits), then are they really being bullied or are they just being lazy and ignorant?

    Unsurprisingly, I tend to the more cynical view.

    Since pretty much anyone who wants to can start a political party, and since in the west we generally have universal suffrage, anyone who wants to bemoan the current situation can either vote for someone else or launch a new party and encourage the supposedly oppressed masses to vote for change.

    Since this doesn’t seem to happen to any great extent, perhaps it is not unjustified to assert that the people are not being bullied but are in fact getting pretty much what they asked for. Maybe they are being bullied and only a few folks see it – but in that case, those few folks are also lazy and complacent because they don’t seem to be doing a lot about it.

    The current situation may be economically unsound, it may be morally dubious, and it may be the cause of more social division than healing. However, that most emphatically does NOT mean it is not more or less acceptable to the mass of the people.

    Basically, if you think the people are being bullied, start a party to point this out to them and offer a solution.


  • Euan,

    That’s tosh, though, isn’t it. Just a cop out

    In the real world there are two wings of (broad) political thought, and only two. At the moment, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the liberal left dominates the public agenda. This dominance has, over the last two or three decades, transmogrified into soviet-style authoritarianism. Certain, highly insidious ideas have been imported into domestic political discourse, the effect of which has been to severely restrict our rights of free association and free speech. As Sean Gabb noted in his recently curtailed World Service broadcast, we have acquired many aspects of a police state.

    No one launched a political party arguing for restrictions of this kind (though I grant that New Labour could count at a pinch). No one trailed them in a manifesto. We were never asked if we wanted them. But we got them anyway, and along with them we got a social, racial and political revolution that aims to sweep away all that you, Euan, know of England, and do it permanently.

    Now, if you, me and the feisty and wonderful Verity want to get shot of all this we have to stiffen the backbone of the only opposition worthy of the name – that boring Party of pin-stripes and WI jam-making. It would be a complete dereliction of our communal responsibilities to try instead to row the Atlantic in a puny, homemade single-issue corracle. We will simply sink and bequeath the future to Blair.

    I have argued before that Libertarians should set aside their distaste of the Tories, of government and even of voting itself and bend their backs to end The Project. It is possible to influence fellow believers in freedom. Indeed they are the only people one can influence. But first the ones that can never be influenced must somehow be wrested from their positions of power.

  • Frank P


    In your response to Euan you say:

    ‘Now, if you, me and the feisty and wonderful Verity want to get shot of all this we have to stiffen the backbone of the only opposition worthy of the name – that boring Party of pin-stripes and WI jam-making. It would be a complete dereliction of our communal responsibilities to try instead to row the Atlantic in a puny, homemade single-issue corracle. We will simply sink and bequeath the future to Blair.’

    Bravo! And count me in as far as the stiffening backbones – but how? They don’t seem to be listening.
    They’re too busy trying to build up the ‘inclusive’ agenda (rallying support among the gender benders). Some of them are already doing their own stiffey-ing in that regard 🙂

  • Verity

    Guessed – I think as a propagator of robust opinions, you have considerably more muscle than me, but I agree with you that we should be putting our weight behind the jettisoning of the destructive and vicious Tony Blair. The rest of them are as nothing without him. He has made himself into a one-man party and a one-man government, which is fine, because it means there’s only one man to get rid of.

    I see that, at yesterday’s PMQ, when Michael Howard took him to task over the roughshod way they had driven a horse and carriage through their own criminally inadequate immigration laws, Blair turned like a viper and accused (in words trimmed carefully so he didn’t get a reprimand from the Speaker) Mr Howard of racism. This dreary old equivocation may still resonate with the legally brain dead who voted for him, but the public commentators seem to be beginning to wise up. Even Boris had a strong piece in The Telegraph today (Thursday).

    Now that he has taken the Crown off the Treasury and away from the police forces – thus slyly amputating the Queen’s Peace from our civil society – I am certain that next will be the armed forces.

    So, Guessed, yes, the first step is getting rid of the current infestation in the Petit Trianon, aka Downing St. That, I think will involve forcing a referendum on Blair. The arrogance of denying a referendum on their sovereignty to one of the only four genuine democracies in Europe (Denmark, Holland and Sweden – all four, incidentally, with the monarchy as the head of state), when democratic-deficit countries like Portugal, Greece and France are getting one as a matter of course, is simply breathtaking.

    Once he’s flattened in a referendum, if the British manage to force one, he will be weakened and the Tories will be strengthened. I agree that we should give the Tories unalloyed support, at least until normality is restored to our government.

    BTW – has anyone else noticed that the pace of the radical destruction of Britain has picked up lately? He’s getting reckless. I wonder why.

  • Verity

    I see the foul and corrupt Beverly Hughes has gone (ahead of a press conference for Tony today – can’t have Tony put on the spot outside Parliament, where he’s protected by Parliamentary privilege). She didn’t manage to cling on as long as Stephen Byers, after he continually lied to Parliament, and then told lies that he was not lying. Demonstrates that Howard is a more seasoned and more robust fighter than IDS or Hague.

    Next stop: David Blunkett. After that, Blair.

  • Frank P


    Bad press though it often gets on Samizdata, do you not think that the Daily Mail orchestration on the immigration scandals yesterday, particularly the lead trumpet solo from Melanie Phillips, may have hastened the ministerial demise of the lone Beverley Sister? (Hughes afraid of the big-bad she-wolf?) I’d really like to think so, Melanie does strive so hard. How can we get her to re-open her blog commentary?

  • Frank,

    “And count me in as far as the stiffening backbones – but how? They don’t seem to be listening.”

    All the same, it is about the battle of ideas, Frank.

    I’ve told the story of Eagleton the Worm before. I shan’t repeat it. But it shows that even in their finest, Thatcherite hour the Tories were unaware and, so, utterly unprepared for the emergence of a culturally radical, liberal-left establishment. The Long March through the Institutions meant nothing to them, didn’t ring a single warning bell.

    As the cultural milieu has, today, been marxised beyond the point where even the Tories can fail to notice it, they have indeed reacted. But that reaction demonstrates nothing beyond a desire to ingratiate themselves with the New Britain of single mothers and black council estates, as you correctly infer. It is electorally expedient and no more. A real understanding of the CM roots and Gramscian methodology of it all remains absent. The best they can manage is to take each minority issue on its merits, then concede it with a self-abnegatory, “me-too” shrug.

    For this reason I conclude that the immediate future does indeed belong to the other side if things are left as they are. Even if the Tories win an election they do not have the intellectual armoury or the consent of the people to roll back the marxian state.

    This raises an interesting scenario. It took fifty years from the Education Act of 1944, the first paving stone of the progressive age, to produce Scargillism and the death-throes of the age of class warfare. If one adopts the same time-scale for the longevity of cultural marxism, and assumes a Long March start date of around 1970 (when numbers of graduates of the Birmingham School found public sector employment), we are looking at 2020 as the moment of overload. By the same token, we are just now entering upon the long declension that, in our historical parallel (if such it is), preceded Scargillism. Think of the union abuses that confronted the Heath government … the 3-day week … rampant wage inflation.

    The frightening thing in this is that 2020 will be, at the current rate of change, a different world to today. The Blair government and his Project is a driver of this. But the real impetus lies, as it has all along, with the executive and the liberal-left establishment. So if the progressive political consensus still obtains in 2020 and no majority for fundamental political change emerges, pressures will build in other, infinitely more hazzardous ways.

    This is the “why”, Frank, and not the “how”. As I explained to Verity last week, I don’t do hows. I do, though, think that the right desperately needs an intellectual foundation from which the urgency for permanent change can be pressaged. Anyone can make a contribution to that. And why not, it’s good to be in at the ground floor.

  • Frank P


    Very thought provoking, unanswerable and, I fear, beyond the hearing, or the understanding, or the Howard cabal. But at least we can keep spreading the manure here to help the seeds that blow on the wind. Unfortunately the only degree I ever obtained was in shit-disturbing, a sine qua non in the law enforcement game. I’ll apply it whereever and whenever I can.

  • Verity

    Previewing your Comment

    Guessed, your analysis was intriguing, as your thoughts usually are. I am not sure I agree with the presumptions behind the diagnosis, though.

    I think the current leader of the Tories is very well aware of the Gramscian thought control that has been allowed to inch its way into public life and civil society over the past 40 years or so. (I’ll give you that Hague was a “me too-er”. He was young enough to have been indoctrinated. Howard is in his early sixties.)

    I think – guessing – that Howard has a visceral dislike for Tony Blair personally as well as for what he is imposing by force on the country. He has had to tone himself down in order to keep the stupid Tories who don’t understand that there’s strength in unity, from going public with all their twerpy little grudges. On the NuLab front, he is aware that they are alert for any signs of dissension within and he has had to tamp his party’s vocal opposition to the EU down. In other words, Mr Howard is focussed on getting the Tories back into office.

    I think Blair, who is a typical smartass loudmouth, made a mistake in Parliament yesterday for only just stopping short of calling Mr Howard a racist when he called Blair to account for the shambles of Britain’s immigration “controls”. Mr Howard is Jewish, and from an immigrant family himself, and I feel this would have angered him – although he is too shrewd a fighter to let it show. But I have a feeling that Mr Howard is a good hater.

    Blair was stupid to run off at the mouth because Michael Howard is his intellectual superior and won’t forget this; in fact, it may spur him into action early. Second, Blair was stupid because most of his own backbenchers are also in shock about the government’s so-called immigration policy. By trying to degrade Mr Howard’s efforts to get answers, he dissed his own team as well. Frankly, I wouldn’t want Michael Howard for an enemy, and we know that Blair is frightened of him.

    Can Mr Howard turn the ship of state round or will Tony Blair ram a suicide pact with Europe through without the consent of the British people?

    If, as you think, Guessed, it will be the latter, then I believe Britain will be finished for good. I’ve said for 10 years that the continent of Europe is dead, gone and sidelined. Of absolutely no consequence to the world today. If Britain joins it, then that’s that.

    You rightly note that the world will have changed hugely by 2020, the date you cite as a possible turning point. And let’s say another 10 years for rethinks to start to take effect.

    It will be too late. There won’t be any room for us to come back. We will be a small weak country – one of many – of no consequence. We’ve already exported everything that made us great: our common law and our language.

    The United States, India and China will dominate militarily and they will be rich and powerful and will control, albeit it with a benign eye, three large segments of the world. Yurrop will probably fall to the US to keep an amiable eye on, although it won’t be an intense watch as the EU will have absolutely no military power. But fortunately for them, no one will want to conquer a landmass which works a – by then – 25 hour week, closes for two hours for lunch, has a three month annual vacation entitlement and a burgeoning Muslim population.

    Britain no longer has an Empire or a manufacturing base. There will probably be little worldwide demand for call centres. Britain will be just one more weak little failing European country on the sidelines of history. Finished. Actually, we’ve had a long run for our money.

    Guessed, I’d be interested in reading your thoughts, if any.

  • Euan

    Verity – Is it relevant that the UK has no empire or manufacturing base?

    The empire was a drain on resources rather than an asset, and did little other than provide captive markets for UK manufactures and bases for the protection of trade routes. Manufacturing will go where labour is cheap, and it isn’t cheap in Britain.

    As I have said before, I do not believe the British people would knowingly vote for a more libertarian system of government unless there is no credible alternative (as in 1983 and 1987). Credible, of course, means able to be swallowed by the people, not necessarily logically consistent.

    A more libertarian state will mean the people are deprived of some, much or all of their welfare goodies, which they will not stand for. They will also have to accept more personal responsibility, which they are loath to do. And they will have to work harder, which again they don’t want to do.

    Since the dominance of the welfare philosophy is fairly easy and emotionally attractive to support, it will be supported as an easy way to gain votes.

    Guessedworker – you said that it is electorally expedient for the Tories to side with the Britain of single parents and black council estates – it’s electorally expedient because (obviously) that’s what people vote for, which rather dents your assessment of my identical opinion as “tosh”.

    I’m not sure I absolutely agree with the 30 year destruct cycle, but I would say that although history does not repeat, broad historical trends do. Sadly, this forum is just as devoid of people with a sense of history as any other (like the pro-Americans asserting continuing unchallenged dominance for decades or centuries ahead). It doesn’t matter so much what type of government you have, nor the makeup of your people (black, white, single parents, whatever), although these things are factors, but what is REALLY important is marginal advantage. What, if anything, is there that Britain has, does or can do better than anyone else? That is the key. If the answer is little or nothing, then that is what will consign Britain to the historical sidelines, try as you might to change it.

    Now, as for influencing those who might be able to change things, I think you have the sequence out. You suggest that first those with their hands on the levers of power must be removed from their position, only then an alternative group must be influenced. So, how exactly to you intend to remove the existing control freaks unless you have an alternative already lined up and with the people persuaded it will work?

    First, persuade the potential alternative crew that there is merit in your position. Then make that position the dominant one in the crew. Then submit it for the verdict of the people. If it is rejected, tough – that’s democracy. I suspect it would indeed be rejected.

    How do you persuade the people, given that they are generally economically illiterate and have no desire to be otherwise? In my experience, people don’t like the degree of control, taxation and regulation currently exercised over them, BUT when they realise that the alternative is less or no welfare, harder work and personal responsibility, they generally shrug their shoulders and accept things the way they are. This is the reality you will be fighting against.


  • Verity

    Ok Euan, we’ll do that by 9 o’clock tomorrow morning.

    Have you been paying attention? “First, persuade the potential alternative crew that there is merit in your position.” Oh, gosh, Euan, no one ever thought of that before! Thanks so much!

  • From an analytical standpoint you’re wearing a good pair of reading glasses, Verity. I don’t dispute a word you’ve said about Blair and Howard. I’m gawping at the horizon through a telescope and perhaps don’t pay enough attention to objects close at hand, like Howard. So, no, as yet I haven’t placed as much faith as you in the new leader saving our bacon, pardon the pun. I’d better expand on that.

    Howard is the right leader for the Tories, to be sure. But his Party has a dire philosophical deficit for which no amount of heavyweight Westminster know-how will compensate. It’s been like that since the days of the hopelessly insouciant Harold Macmillan. Supermac presided over a Party forced to define itself against a foe on the move. In or out of government, the left proposed and the right, most ungodlike, disposed in a rubber stamp sort of way.

    This process was immensely corrosive to the common understanding of what Conservatism was and from whence it drew its defining inspirations. Ian Macleod shamelessly invented One Nation Toryism to appease an alienated electorate, a stratagem no less craven than Mandelson, Campbell and Blair cooking up New Labour. But the Tories were IN power, for God’s sake! No clearer indication could there be that they were, by then, hollowed out philosophically and divorced from their true nature WHICH WAS THEIR HISTORIC CONNECTION TO THE BRITISH PEOPLE.

    This debilitating process did not stop with the wet/dry, not-for-turing era of Thatcherism. Maggie was very special, a high-roller gambling everything on each throw of the dice. She was a winner. But that style of politics is not sustainable indefinitely. Being pulled through political hedges backwards, one after another, just proved too exhausting. The desire to win makes moderation the default setting for moderately gifted politicians. And you can’t get more moderately gifted than John Major (or IDS for that matter).

    From this potted history it should be fairly clear – I hope it’s clear – that the Party lost itself fearing it would loose its electability. Its failing, though, was not that its heart and soul belonged to yesterday but that it allowed the left to shape society in a direction it could not reverse yet looked craven and ridiculous following.

    So here we are again. The left, via radical, culturally-focussed and socially liberal politics, is once more engineering with a will. Their methodology and projected outcome are unknowns – and quite invisible – to constituency Tories and, I’ll wager, most Tory MPs. How, Verity, do you expect them to lead the people to green pastures? How do you expect them to have that sense of directon? From where in themselves will they summon the wisdom for that?

    And who are the people? That’s a question every Conservative once would have been able to answer instinctively. We need to revive that instinct and shape our people to the answer it supplies, and away from the proscription of the left.

    I wonder if the enormity of that idea is too much for modern political minds. I hope not, since I believe it is the only guarantee of civil peace over perhaps the next two to five decades.

  • Euan,

    I’ll let you off the “tosh” remark, not because I’m wrong about the naffness of single issue politics, of course – much too stubborn to admit that – but because I think you’re one of us and we need sure need you! I will, though, offer the key thought that electorates are suggestible if you have the critical mass to address them.

    Sequence-wise I leave the matter to others to pontificate. I have just posted to the effect that getting rid of Blair is only half of it. A very important half, for sure. But it’s what you do with your power, and why, that really matters.

    In my foolish way I sometimes credit myself with a few incomplete thoughts about such things, especially the why. That is the area I believe needs to be worked upon. It doesn’t matter electorally too much. In-coming radical governments never reveal their full intentions in a manifesto. They couldn’t risk scaring the horses. Better to bide your time and believe in the dictum that governments lose elections anyway.

  • Frank P


    David Cameron, the spokesman the Tories delegated for Martha Carney’s opening segment about Beverley Hughes’s resignation on Newsnight tonight seems to be one of the sharpest knives in their drawer. Very articulate, looks intelligent, smart and has a very measured delivery. I know you have your somewhat long lens in play at the moment, but whence did he suddenly hail from to get stuck into the forward line. Hadn’t seen him before, looks like goal scorer to me. Should appeal to the ladies, too.

  • Euan

    Verity – the point was that it’s hard to remove the incumbents without first having a rational alternative to present, and what I suggested was the sequence. You need to have the alternative worked out and sold to a party first, which I thought had been overlooked.

    GW – I have always thought that the Conservatives lost in 1997 because (a) the people wanted a change, (b) Labour had become electable and (c) the ERM fiasco destroyed the popular idea that the Conservative party is sane with the economy.

    I am “one of us” to an extent. Out-and-out libertarianism is to me as Utopian and unworkable as Communism. A liberal economic policy coupled with some degree of social regulation (note, SOME degree) is for me the most workable solution. I suppose if I must have a label it would be “pragmatic minarchist”, with the emphasis on the pragmatic part.

    I also support armed intervention in other countries where and when required. I don’t think the idea of liberty necessarily spreads without “assistance”, and of course sometimes you need to break the heads of those who would deprive people of their liberties.

    Maybe I’m the populist dictator?


  • Verity

    Guessed, I agree with everything you wrote. Which means there is no hope for Britain, barring a miracle.

    What is the problem with the Tories? Do they not believe in their own message? What kind of suicidal instinct was it that caused them to name John Major their leader? Did his hopeless ineptitude only become apparent after he was PM? The Tories are being held back by their own people – people like fat, lazy, self-indulgent Ken Clarke – and Howard has to indulge him or risk getting the Tory party reviled for internal squabbling.

    I suspect once he has his feet more comfortably under his desk, Howard may have the bottle to expel trouble makers from the party.

    Someone I know is right now preparing a letter to send to all the trades union magazines, putting forward the point that Blair’s dismissive justification for jettisoning border controls is that “skilled immigrants are required to do jobs that are necessary but would otherwise not be filled. In reality, the market should decide these issues – if necessary jobs are unfilled, then the pay offered has to increase until people are tempted to take the jobs … So the alternative to mass immigration is a little bit of wage inflation.” Very few editors of trades union magazines are going to ignore a letter that calls for higher wages! And it illustrates the naked, insulting mendacity of Blair’s “reasoning”. Blair’s intention is to flood Britain with people from alien cultures in an attempt to destroy the British identity, which he loathes.

    People with ravenous egos are always transparent. As in Blair. More opaque is the chancellor. What does Gordon Brown actually believe, if anything? He’s an old style redistributive socialist, but is he complicit in Blair’s determination to destroy Britain and feed it, chunk by chunk, into the giant maw of Europe?

    Despite what I’ve written above, I don’t think there’s any hope for Britain unless the Tories shed their fear of being called names. We’re drinking in the Last Chance Saloon. The Tories have some clever, articulate people who can actually marry thoughts to sentences rather than a stream of disconnected emotive words. They have no reason to fear anyone in the Labour party. Since Howard became leader, even Blair’s beginning to sweat under his stage makeup.

  • Euan,

    Thanks for the reply. Your local reasons for the ’97 disaster are perfectly correct. In terms of regaining control of the levers of state it was only real politik for the Tories to take the lessons on board and respond accordingly. I don’t deny or decry that. Politicians are by their nature ambitious for power.

    But there is a fateful element of snapshot thinking in this sort of thing. It is reactive in precisely the way that in the longer run does terrible harm to the Party and thence to the national political discourse.

    Snapshots are only momentarily informative. Societies are dynamic. It is the nature and direction of the dynamic and of the political disposition that informs it which really matter. So you can have all the Conservative government you want, but if you don’t have a conservative philosophy informing the general dynamic you will still have a marxian outcome. A deep and subtle understanding of that is the the core of Gramscianism.

    As I have endeavoured to explain in my preceding comment, there is no extanct Conservative philosophy with which to oppose the cultural philosophy of the left. Via Gramscianism the latter has proven to be remarkable actionable. Our social dynamic IS culturally marxist.

    This leaves the right with this choice:-

    1) Blunder on as now, fighting the politics of expediency, sometimes in power, sometimes out but never daring to challenge the fundamentals of broadly marxian cultural change, or

    2) Philosophise an actionable Conservative and conservative vision of society and take one’s courage in both hands.

    But consider what will eventually come to pass if route 1 continues to be the Party choice. By 2020 – or sometime around then anyway – the Gramscian dynamic will faulter. We have grown accustomed to the comforting and, of course,”correct” assumption that ethnicity has ceased to divide us, that modern, tolerant society has effected a change to human nature (Perry just told us so at the top of the page). But Nature is a restless force always jealous of the little corners man clears for his temporary convenience. Perry’s assumption, for all its glossy modernity and urban chic, assumes that we English will acquiesce in our own deracination and dispossession. When cultural marxism has run its course we shall, as the blind man once said, see.

  • Guy Herbert

    “Philosophise an actionable Conservative and conservative vision of society and take one’s courage in both hands.”

    That’s not quite right. The Gramscian point is that rather the you need to action a philosophisable vision that praxis shapes the thought of the society. It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it–and that’s what gets results.

    Whether a Conservative vision need be a conservative one is a whole other question: “conservative” in any case covers a very wide range of possible motives, attiudes, arguments and policies. I’m probably not alone among readers of this blog in being able to conceive of supporting a nominally Conservative party, and agreeing that conservatism in institutional arrangements is wise, while at the same time feeling revulsion for many widespread conservative beliefs.

  • Guy Herbert

    … including those espoused by Blair/Brown in their pandering to the populist authoritarianism of the Daily Mail audience.

  • Morning Guy,

    You know, I suppose, that the phrase in question was originally coined by Stuart Hall!

    I’m not commending some form of counter-Gramscian methodology, nothing covert. My point is a simple one:-

    Only the Conservative Party has the critical mass to effect a meaningful change in the social dynamic. But there ain’t no Conservative vision, and without one the Party of Freedom cannot perform this noble and necessary deed.

    As for “small c” conservatism, I’m afraid your sensibilities might be, as they used to say in the Student Union Debating Society, part of the problem rather than part of the solution. What aspect of, say, pre-war English conservatism do you find so revolting?

  • Frank P


    ‘ … including those espoused by Blair/Brown in their pandering to the populist authoritarianism of the Daily Mail audience. ‘

    Is Blair pandering to anyone at the moment? He seems to have deliberately alienated most of his own party, Brown in particular; the electorate; his Gramscian string-pullers; his European counterparts; his wife (I suspect) and by now he must have really pissed off the Bushies by his bizarre behaviour. He’s certainly going to have shit-can Blunkett quite soon. I would have thought that the one Blairite left was Tony Blair. He seems to gravitate between zealotry and pathetic self-pity. When he next visits the cardiac consultant he should book a consecutive appointment with the Mental Health Department for a quick once over.

  • The Daily Mail audience is part of the solution.

  • Frank P



  • Verity

    Euan – Having gone back and read your posts again, yes, I see your points, although I missed them the first time.

    Guessed – Then we really are drinking in the Last Chance Saloon.

    Frank P – I agree, per Richard Littlejohn (did you know The Sun editor, Rebekka Wade, has no power to change anything he writes? This must be per Rupert Murdoch personally) when the crap starts nudging against Tony’s raft, he throws someone overboard. I wrote at Samizdata yesterday, ol’ Bev was due for the ol’ heave-ho, and after Bev, it would be Blunkett.

    So, I agree with you, Blunkett will be the next human sacrifice. When any scandal gets close to Tony, there is the sudden diversion of Man Overboard!

    The Tories are beginning to flex their muscles and are finding that they don’t get struck down if they go for Blair’s throat. There’s no one easier to bully than a bully. And I think Blair’s panicky, and we know that he gets all kinds of physical ailments when the world is not spinning as he has commanded.

    I agree with you, Frank, that he alternates between zealotry and self-pity. And I would add, self-righteousness. Only Toneboy understands the truth.

    Euan is also right. Unless we have something to offer the world that the world needs and that we can provide better or cheaper – or, like the Americans, invent something new the world wants – we’re doomed anyway. So perhaps after all those thousands of years of staying separate, we are doomed to sink along with the Europeans into an insignificant state. It will have no military to speak of, but that won’t matter, because other countries won’t be interested in overcoming it. Especially if, by that time, it’s 50% Muslim.

  • Frank P


    ‘I agree with you, Frank, that he alternates between zealotry and self-pity. And I would add, self-righteousness. Only Toneboy understands the truth.’

    Well, I was sort dispersing the self-righteousness bit equally between the two other traits, as there is an element of self-righteousness in both zealtory and self-pity, is there not? 🙂

    And you’re absolutely right, Tony’s truth is whatever he choses to believe, or what he thinks we should believe. But his ‘night of the long knives’ is nigh, methinks.

    As ‘their’ only shining political asset and saviour has transmogrified into ‘their’ biggest political liability and potential vote loser, I suspect he will be told what he must do for ‘the sake of the party’. If they install either dour Gordie or that watery eyed, hursuit little Scottish garden gnome, Rorbin shit-bag Kooke, it may create a sufficient diversion to convince the already pacifist-pliant-proletariat to go for another trial socialist stint come election time. From my conversations with the younger generation, they do seem to have fallen for the anti-war waffle, particularly those of your gender, who don’t seem to like young men ‘going to war for oil’. Even if that were true, which of course it isn’t, I’m not sure what they think we would do without it!

    I hope the the Tories don’t rest on their Laurels and though no-one seemed interested in my comments about David Cameron he does seem to have what it takes to form a spearhead. Good web-page too.

    Excellent three way exchange between you, GW and Euan, enjoyed the crack (forgotten how to spell that in Gaelic) immensely.

  • To put a number on things, Frank, we are probably still looking at, say, Spring 2010 for the next Conservative government. David Cameron has plenty of time. And so have the social engineers.

  • Verity

    Guessed – A chilling comment.

    Frank P – We have a curious dichotomy at the moment. Tony Blair is unquestionably now a liability to his party. But on the other hand, his party is a liability to him. Most bizarre. He can’t shed them fast enough. I’m predicting another man overboard very soon. David Davis seems to have the bit between his teeth and is relishing a good long canter. And when the pressure’s on Toneboy, he tries to divert attention from the issue by firing someone.

    Yes, polls show that more women were against the war than men. I cannot for the life of me understand why. And I don’t understand why they don’t realise they’re being manipulated when they bleat out the slogans NION and ANSWER have told them to bleat. Both NION and ANSWER are funded by a strange but effective partnership of Marxists and Islamic terrorists.

  • Frank P


    There sure are some weird holy and unholy alliances emerging at the moment and because it’s difficult to discern a catalyst, despite our assertions about the Gramscian cancer and its metastisis, the general movement seems to be, as always, evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, and therefore haphazard. “Event’s dear girl, events!”

    Therefore to some degree it is currently more destructive to the Left through internescine strife than to the Howardista thrust – if it is is definitive and sustained. It’s the only hope we have, warts and all. It could happen quite quickly if the public mood really takes against the government vis-a-vis unfettered immigration and concomitant subversive infiltration. The questions of ‘stolen jobs’, cheap labour and welfare sponging by incomers, are already rife among the underclass (of which I have always been a fully unpaidup member). Those are powerful triggers if you can get them out to vote, which is still doubtful. So if we are left with the educated traditionalist vote versus the arti-farti multi-culti tranzi, etc.etc vote, (can’t we coin one word to encompass all that) what are the numbers?


    If your pessimistic prognosication is plausible, that probably means ‘not in my lifetime’. Thanks buddy! But I’ll pass the message on to my heirs and successors; I have bugger all else to pass on.

    Incidentally, would it not be nice to think that Trevor Phillips keeps an eye on Samizdata and that today’s reported confused agonising (still yet to be fully assimilated and analysed, by me, anyway!) has been prompted by what he has read both here and on his sister Melanie’s blog. The heat is on!

    One other issue that should raise another thread: the prolific Afghan poppy. A difficult one for Samizdatistas, perhaps, but as the British have it as their bag, the Yanks are probably justifiably putting the squeeze on Tony. A bit rich considering their failure with the Coca crops South of the Border, but that’s life …

  • Frank,

    One must think on the timescale of one’s enemy or the scale of his plan remains uncertain and its progress unknowable.

    Don’t suppose I’ll live to hear the rolling thunder either. Trevor Phillips might.


    It’s the Last Chance Shebeen. But there are few more good, old-fashioned pubs to crawl to yet.