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The big evil does not justify the small good

The following was posted as a Samizdata comment by the pseudonymous ‘Jaded Libertarian’, but it deserved to be an article in my not so humble opinion, and so…

I read in the paper today that after subjecting 500,000 people to mandatory face to face interviews, the government denied passports to eight for fraud.

This is the thing that most do not get. The big evil does not justify, never justifies, the small good. Causing inconvenience, misery and transgressing the privacy of half a million people in order to catch eight fraudsters is absurd.

And our society is full of such absurdities. Millions of adults are denied the “gift of giving” into their children’s lives by “child protection” policies. There is this assumption that any adult watching children swim is potentially sexually aroused, for example.

I would contend that the people who make such laws have dirty minds. I find it nobler and better to live life as though perverted degenerates do not even exist, for they are thankfully rare. And on the rare occasions where monsters abuse society’s trust, why, we should quickly and simply hang them in the town square and then return to life as before.

This is the model for transgressing only the liberties of the lawless, and not those of society at large. If you have to tread on the freedoms of innocent people to catch the lawless you’re doing it wrong.

“If it stops one fraudster, if it saves one life and if it protects one child it will all be worth it” the statists cry. These thoughts are supposed to make us feel warm inside as we queue to be inspected by the passports office, as security cameras follow us down the street and as police demand to know what we are doing for no particular reason. We are to lay our personal freedom on the alter of society in the name of the common good, and feel heartened by our sacrifice. As bizarre as it may sound, there are “true believers” in this cult – I see them all the time.

Down that road lies 24 hour policing of the entire population, and lives that are not worth living for all but the party elite. Basically 1984 made real.

And it all began when we passed that first law that mildly inconvenienced many in order to wheedle out the wicked few…

21 comments to The big evil does not justify the small good

  • I couldn’t agree more! Sadly, it seems that far too few get this truth, but it’s still absolutely and continually so virtually without exception.

    I have said for much of the last thirteen years that the “1984” scenario had arrived – it was just a little late turning up.

  • Max van Horn

    ”quis custodiet ipsos custodes”….disengage from the notional social contract.Do not sanction their actions.

  • Laird

    OK, Max. How, precisely?

  • A big evil is seldom justified by a big good, either.

  • Nick Timms

    Spot on. I was a child in the 60’s and a teenager in the 70’s and compared to today we were free. Nasty people existed then too, and we knew it, but we lived our lives as if these people were irrelevant as, statistically, they are.

    We have sacrificed our freedom for a faux security.

    We all live with dangers but we could enjoy our lives more without the constant nagging of the ones who seek to control everything.

  • JadedLibertarian

    Well thank you for “blogifying” my comment.

  • JadedLibertarian

    …although I think I may have phrased my propositions rather clumsily, which I would have paid more attention to if I knew it would be on the front page.

    “The big evil is not excused by the small good” would have been a better way to phrase it.

    Also, as others have pointed out, even big goods would excuse even small evils.

  • JadedLibertarian

    “would NOT excuse even small evils” that should read!

    Now you see why I am a commenter and not a blogger!

  • Jessica Boxer

    What I find interesting is that in the surveillance society the one group that seem to be exempt from the prying eye of the camera are the watchers themselves.

    Here in the USA there is a growing consensus amongst the legal profession and the law making bodies that it is appropriate to pass laws making it illegal to video police officers performing their jobs. This seems entirely the opposite of what it should be.

    It seems to me that if the population is to be watched, then there should first be a camera in every government office and on every policeman and bailiff. And those videos publicly archived and made searchable for everyone to see.

    “You first”, seems an appropriate sentiment to direct to any authority who wishes to impose their solutions on the rest of us.

    Wait, let me hold my breath until it happens.

  • I had to undergo one of these passport interviews myself a couple of years ago, as I had just been naturalised and was applying for my first British passport. The interview centre was very big on the whole “No cameras. No laptops. No electronic devices” think, and there were various threatening looking guards and officials and the whole process was rather Orwellian and totally humourless. (“Please spell out your forenames”. “Er, my what?”). The interview itself was completely stupid. I was simply asked questions for which the answers were the same information that I had supplied on the passport application form. Any fraudster who was not completely stupid could pass the interview, and honest people who were completely stupid could probably fail it.

  • The statist would respond – reasonably on the face of it – that the checks are a disincentive to fraud, and that in their absence the ratio of fraudulent to genuine applications would be much, much higher.

    And then I would point to the Safety Theatre Of Your Choice, and ask why in that case the government gives so much weight to making sure everybody is intrusively checked, and so little weight to making the check particularly relevant to the purpose.

    Evildoers who are also eejits are undoubtedly a problem, but perhaps our whole society ought not to be wrapped around the terror of them. Anticipating every possible action of evildoers who are not also eejits can probably be only achieved by shooting all and sundry on suspicion of Original Sin: even for radical reformers, this is a bit draconian.

    Our present system, whereby one is effectually barred from blowing up buildings or going all Gary Glitter unless one has passed a sort of impromptu practical GCSE in the subject, is a happy compromise. Evil is still done, but only by qualified evildoers who have demonstrated familiarity with the appropriate government regulations. Thus, a more professional quality of evil is achieved – and though we must all make serious sacrifices for it, at least we will be able to sleep unsoundly in our beds in consequence.

    You know it makes sense!

  • guy herbert

    Guest Writer falls into the same trap as the Telegraph journalist. He follows the Home Office logic of: we did it, therefore it was justifiable.

    The facts are interviews resulted in 8 passport refusals, not 8 passport refusals for fraud. The ‘for fraud’ is actually an unsupported assertion, rather like the one where the Home Office says CRB checks prevented X thousand ‘unsuitable people’ from working with children. The only evidence that they were ‘unsuitable’ is that the CRB check resulted in their barring. This is the solipsistic character of many Home Office stats.

    Eight people failed to satisfy the bureaucracy at their passport interview.How many of those were unable to answer questions? How many refused to answer questions? Is an inability to say when and where your parents were born, for example, evidence of fraud?

  • Max Van Horn

    Laird..change your perception.Do you agree with the action being demanded of you ? Whose rules are you obeying and why ? Do you want to be a tax slave ?Unfortunately,.. you have to think like a criminal….yes, bin every form not mandatory, think before answering every question..why do they want to know this, are they entitled to know ? Civil disobedience should become second nature.Your personal philosophy is important.Happy slaving for a state that demands two incomes to support one family ? You don’t keep what you earn..you are returned pocket money. Just remember the State is not your friend , act as such.

  • Chuckles

    Ah, but think how many new jobs as Passport Interview Officers were created for the faithful and the camp followers?

  • One wonders how much this cost vs the price of just properly checking applications or, as is hinted above, reviewing the application process/content to make it more effective and robust/leak-proof.

  • Paul Marks

    This stuff was brought home to me when I went to the Isle of Man, some years ago now.

    I had to arrive over an hour early and go through all sorts of nonsense.

    All because (supposedly) their might be an attack on the ship taking me to the island.

    There was no evidence of any such attack you understand – it was ANY ship going anywhere (and any aircraft and …….).

    Of course a determined terrorist will get round such checks with ease. The checks basically rely on people playing along. I spotted all sorts of ways to cheat – as I did on my recent air trip to Ulster, I could have got on that aircraft with just about anything. I did not cheat – but I could have, and a terrorist would.

    It is not really about catching terrorists and preventing attacks – it is about being seen to “do something” and an excuse for yet more state involvement in life.

  • Laird

    Max, you might enjoy this book.

  • John Galt


    Love Claire Wolfe’s book “179 Things to Do ’til The Revolution”:

    America is at that awkward stage, it’s too late to work within the system, but it’s too early to shoot the bastards.

  • Tedd

    “If you have to tread on the freedoms of innocent people to catch the lawless you’re doing it wrong.”

    Very nice turn of phrase, that. Reminds me of one of my favourite quotes.

    “Any coward can tolerate tyranny. It takes a brave man to live in a free society.”
    — Bill Hagness, Deputy Chief, Wisconsin Capitol Police, while discussing security preparations for the upcoming Wisconsin State Fair in 2002

  • Jim

    – and to those simpering imbeciles who blather, invariably in dreamlike bliss, “If only one life is saved…

    – then we MUST ban cars! We MUST ban alcohol, in all its forms! We MUST ban bicycles, and vegetarianism!

    What’s good for the goose…

  • Alasdair

    Since the enviro-weenies got DDT banned, thus sentencing millions of people around the planet to death earlier than had to be, isn’t it time to ban enviro-weenies ?