We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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

The advisability of acknowledging the elephant

This post is not about elephants. I gave you elephants yesterday. Nor is it really about Gypsies and Travellers per se. If you want my thoughts on them, I had some in 2004 and some more in 2011. My post of 2004 was better than my post of 2011 and my post of 2011 was better than this one, but even this late night biscuit of a post is better than this Guardian comment piece which is intended to help Gypsies and Travellers but has evidently made most of its readers more hostile to them. Too many Gypsies and Travellers end up in prison, says the writer, Joseph Cotrell-Boyce, and “this must be addressed”.

It can be assumed that Mr Cotrell-Boyce would like you to sympathise with Gypsies and Travellers, since he is Policy Officer for the Traveller Equality Project. So why does he stir up fury against them by never acknowledging what everyone knows, that Gypsies and Travellers disproportionately end up in prison because they are at the present time disproportionately criminal? For stir up fury he does; comments loudly saying what he will not say have hundreds of recommends, while comments that you would think Guardian-readers would lap up, blaming all the ills of the Gypsies on cuts in council services due to a “Tory big-business agenda”, have, at the time of writing, a zero to the right of them. I am mystified that anyone can argue so ineffectively. To put in a brief nod to Jumbo – “yes, there is currently a crime problem among Gypsies and Travellers” – would not commit him to the belief that this state of affairs is eternal, or is the result of them being lesser beings, or that all Gypsies are criminals, or that most Gypsies are criminals, or that unfair prejudices against them do not exist, or that more education would be wasted on them. He could even continue to assert (may God mend his wicked ways) that what Gypsies and Travellers need is more state welfare and Equality Projects, and would meet better success in doing so. Debate abhors a vacuum and it is a delight to the human soul to shout out what someone else is reluctant to say.

I see this type of counterproductive elephant denial everywhere, but mostly in the pages of the Guardian.

13 comments to The advisability of acknowledging the elephant

  • Clovis Sangrail

    I think the reason for this is not hard to find. Most of the Guardianista and their ilk know that they must deny their patronage groups agency. If he admits that the reason the Roma and Travellers are in prison is largely because they are serial offenders he risks ascribing to them (even if only in passing) the capacity to make moral choices. This is not what is wanted! Such people as the Roma are a rich source of jobs and moral superiority. The fact that he loses the debate is probably not important so long as the right people hear the message and form the right conclusions: he is right on, he is fit for the job, he is one of the elect.

    Such thinking goes right back to the founders of the Fabian Society. They were not primarily concerned with facilitating the moral agency or conditions of the poor but rather in acquiring power by claiming to represent such people and having their best interests at heart. It is no coincidence (to borrow a phrase from the communists) that the early Fabians were advocates of the minimum wage to price the “defectives” out of the labour market and of sterilisation of the “unfit” or that subscribing to these policies in public and in print was a badge of membership.

  • Mr Ed

    A bit of digging suggests that the gentleman who authored that piece works for the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain, which is ultimately funded, apparently in the main, by the Irish government.

    Which is partly funded by the British Government, under the Loans to Ireland Act, which is partly funded by me.

    Now, should it be generally unlawful to receive funds from a foreign State whilst in this one?

  • Paul Marks

    Human beings should be judged as individuals – not as members of groups.

    If an individual commits a crime (i.e. a violation of the body or goods of others) then they should be punished.

    Whether they are a “traveller” or not, should not be relevant.

    As for the government of the Irish Republic – sadly it has become even more “P.C.” than the United Kingdom government (at least in its judgement of other governments – at home the government of the Irish Republic is not nearly as P.C. as it is when denouncing other governments such as that of the United Kingdom).

  • The Irish Government is not so politically correct or stupid as the British government it would seem.

    On 10th April 2002, the President of Ireland signed into law the Housing (Misc. Prov.) Bill(No 2), 2001. Section24 made trespass on land a criminal offence. Northern Ireland, realising the likely consequence of this would be that the Southern Irish travellers would move North, followed with similar legislation

    Thus, the massive influx of Irish gypsy travellers into the UK swelling their already significant ranks. The solution to the problem in the UK is the enactment of similar legislation forcing those who wish to follow lifestyles based upon trespass to either obey the law, go elsewhere (presumably continental Europe) or go to jail.

    The fact that gypsy travellers choose to live lifestyles rooted in illegality is the reason that a disproportionate number of them end up in prison. This is not a new phenomena and has been an issue for hundreds of years, as evidenced by laws against vagrancy, begging and habitual criminals being enacted across Europe to deal with the problem.

    For myself, I am not unsympathetic to the Gypsies desire for freedom of movement, but they have become yet another parasite group who want the benefits of social welfare without the responsibilities. Their abuse of legal aid to get the UK taxpayer to pay their costs of defence against eviction orders is particularly repugnant.

    As always with these things, if we allow any group to disobey the law or be seen as free from prosecution, then the law itself becomes open to contempt and mockery.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    In the traveller’s defence (never thought I’d be on their side of the argument) many of the laws in the UK make criminals out of them.

    For example there was a group of travellers locally who bought a plot of land fair and square. They proceeded to add in hard standings, plumbing and electricity. The local NIMBYs tried to get the council to bulldoze it all for lack of proper planning permission, or at least that’s what they said was their reason. But truthfully they just didn’t want pikeys to be allowed to move in next to them, whether they owned the land or not. Various bureaucratic sanctions followed, and much gloating when the property flooded after 6 weeks of constant rain over the winter. Wouldn’t have happened with proper planning permission, apparently….. 😉

    They’re not allowed on common land. They’re not allowed on private land. And they’re not allowed on their own land. Seems to me their only real choice is to give in and join the “settled”, or to become criminals.

    Of course none of what I have just said refutes the very obvious association between travellers and “tarmac yer drive” themed con-jobbery.

  • Rob

    My personal experience of them is that the 5% figure is surprisingly low. My sample size is low and I have absolutely no desire to expand it.

  • Mr Ed

    Yes JV, but in Libertarian Heaven, surely there is only space for those who oppose planning laws on principle, rather than those who do not wish to follow them when it suits them? They bought the land knowing that planning law applied, so they ‘came to the nuisance’ as it were, and that would have been reflected in the price, so yes, I say, let them live on their land, but let us all be free from meddlesome restrictions.

    It is amazing how often planning permission is rolled out to justify protecting people from themselves, I even heard someone say it prevents supermarkets from buying widows’ houses cheap and building on them, or erecting tower blocks in suburban streets, all from someone who supports compulsory purchase without even a hint of ‘doublethink’.

  • bloke in spain

    @Paul Marks
    “Human beings should be judged as individuals – not as members of groups.”
    All good libertarian fodder.
    There’s a well tried strategy; those can be identifying as belonging to a group, will likely behave as a member of that group. It may not always be accurate but it’s a useful position to start from, when no other information is available.

  • TDK

    Identity politics presumes that unequal outcomes provides a priori proof of discrimination. Ergo we are all equally criminal but Gypsies are disproportionately accused of crime and sent to prison.

    Thus saying that Gypsies commit more crime is a hate crime because it overlooks the explicit and institutional racism that occurs in society.

  • Mr Ed


    Indeed, but if we are ‘equally disposed’ to commit crime, the same goes for ‘hate crime’, then what ‘hate crimes’ might a particular victim group, albeit one by one, commit?

    Is this where the shouting starts?

  • TDK

    Mr Ed

    Ah but!

    Progressives and non-progressives are equally intolerant. However progressive are intolerant of the intolerant, whereas ‘you’ are intolerant of cultural behaviours that are (when convenient) intrinsic to the culture but (when convenient) it is hateful of ‘you’ to draw attention to it.

    We are all guilty!

  • Mr Ed

    TDK, here is a Prog’s dilemma. I once heard a surely apochryphal tale of a British administrator in the Raj saying that it was not permitted to burn widows alive on the husband’s funeral pyre. Reportedly, someone remonstrated with him saying that it was the local custom to do this, to which the retort came to the effect that ‘Yes, and it is our custom to hang people who burn widows alive.’.

    The Prog would probably prefer that the widow BBQ take place unpunished, after all, it involves destruction, ‘authentic’ customs, unpunished crime and a snub to ‘Imperialism’, and any respect for a woman’s right to live (or anyone else’s) is only affected.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Sir Charles Napier. WikiFootia (Charles_James_Napier) has a longish quote of the story “as reported by his brother.” Note–“Sati” = Suttee.

    The version as quoted by Randy Herrst is still the one I like best, for brevity and pith:

    “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”