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Protection from double jeopardy

So Theresa May has survived the vote of confidence by her fellow Tory MPs. If nothing else the relief that she must feel knowing that Conservative Party rules mean that she cannot be challenged again as leader until a year has gone by should give her a lively appreciation of exactly what is wrong with the much-touted idea of a second referendum.

67 comments to Protection from double jeopardy

  • Alsadius

    It always amazes me how many people don’t seem to understand that there already was a second referendum. It happened last June, and Leave won the ability to form a working government. A third would just be absurd.

  • Mr Ecks

    The glimmer is that if the FFC can’t get her cockrot through –and tonight’s vote is very likely about the same as Tuesdays vote would have been–then the DUP might keep Jizz out on a case by case basis until her time runs out.

    If she tries any of the other crap–cancel Brexit, the People’s Wank etc then the DUP can dump her then as well.

    Strangely I don’t think she will. She is a mental case who seems bound and determined that we are to be sold out HER way . This limits the scope of the other traitors. If the 180 cunts who supported her ( leaving aside the 20 absolute remainic turds like Soubry, Grieve etc out) can’t force her shite through all they can do is turn on her and demand she join them in halting Brexit or People’s Wanking. She is mental enough to refuse. She is a brazen liar but if you study her patterns she is fixed on a certain course and the stupid slag will not deviate or let it go. She always intended the Chequers sell out–it was not a change of direction.

    So now that the EU have already told her to fuck off it is not clear what she can do. No bullshit re-wording of her turd is going to work. And the amount of fresh ordure landing on the Tory MPs will massively increase. It is hard to see how stupid you would have to be to endorse the worst and most useless POS PM ever. Of course more than a third didn’t.

    She has promised to go before the next election. There is a statement of mutual confidence between the Hag and her shower of shite. The next election might be on her quicker than she thinks. So is she going to piss off and leave them to thrash about or is she lying again and intending to fight an election with her turd as the main policy and all the other good stuff like reviving the old age tax ?

    Might as well save the money and drop No 10’s keys off at Corbyn’s shithole flat. Can it truly be that 180 odd Tory MPs are so far up their rectums that they don’t know that?

    Meanwhile two Yellow Jacket rallies are already announced in London and Birmingham.

  • The Stupid Party is living up to the name as usual.

  • Agammamon

    You guys should start demanding a re-vote. Really drive the point home.

  • Mr Ecks

    No re-vote–the fix would be in.

    Yellow Jacket time approaches. Peaceful at first but massive disruption. Council tax to begin with.

  • Itellyounothing

    Her party have just proven Turkeys will vote for Christmas. The Tory Brand is now dead!!!!!!

  • Sam Duncan

    Worth bearing in mind that Thatcher won a ’22 confidence vote in December 1990, a week before she resigned. May won by a slightly bigger margin, but I don’t think this is over yet. The membership in the country is overwhelmingly against her.

  • Runcie Balspune

    It always amazes me how many people don’t seem to understand that there already was a second referendum. It happened last June, and Leave won the ability to form a working government. A third would just be absurd.

    There was also the original election to vote in a government that would offer the referendum in the first place.

    And then the parliamentary vote to trigger Article 50.

  • For a second time, the Brexit lever has failed to move the Tory establishment mountain.

    To many on this blog, Brexit was always about more than just itself. It was about moving the UK from an environment in which statism was strongly encouraged and rewarded to one with a different set of problems and opportunities – a set which suggested more freedom-oriented approaches.

    At one level, the ‘alternative leadership story’ was a means to check media bias against the leave campaign, but at another, it was a part of Brexit itself. It was a path for moving the Tories in a slightly more Thatcherite direction, just as Brexit was a way of showing politicians that a non-SW1 electorate existed (it assured those who wanted to know, and it alerted those capable of benefiting from the warning). It offered electoral advantage for taking the path, and electoral danger for refusing it.

    Of course, something similar could be said in spades about the 1930s, yet Munich still happened, and still got cheered by all sides of the house. When I consider Churchill’s “For myself, I am an optimist. There does not seem much point in being anything else.”, I reflect that in some ways we hardly know we are born, today. IIRC, in The Gathering Storm, Churchill confesses to one sleepless night in the whole period – and it was before Munich, not after. I slept well last night, though I went to bed feeling unimpressed at the state of public affairs.

  • Mr Ecks

    Via Tim Worstal the EU grandees have given her a big,big 10 MINUTES to re-put her pathetic case to them.

    Every such humiliation is GOLD to all Brexit supporters. If the fuckwit EU set up a Leave supporters manufacturing plant they could not be helping us more.

  • pete

    Since June 24rd 2016 I have seen the wisdom of the Remainer viewpoint prior to that date.

    Referendums are populist and not the way to settle important matters.

  • bob sykes

    It looks like the DUP has all the cards now. Nothing passes without their support. What will their price be? Can they cut a deal with Labour?

  • bobby b

    “Referendums are populist and not the way to settle important matters.”

    If you are trying to determine the airspeed velocity of the average unladen African sparrow, or figure out how many grams in 38.296 pounds, then, no, a referendum is not the way to settle the matter.

    But if the matter involves deciding which philosophical path a country should take, or whether pink or blue is a more fun color, or if country music is good – if the matter is simply one of determining mass preference – there is no better way to decide than referendum.

  • pete

    bobby b, the problems with referendums is that people often don’t understand the issues. Many Remainers have told us that they didn’t.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “bobby b, the problems with referendums is that people often don’t understand the issues.”

    Nobody understands the issues. They don’t in general elections, either. That’s not the point.

    The aim is not to pick the government that will make the best decisions – it’s to pick the government that will make the sort of mistakes that follow from the people’s own beliefs and desires. It’s about being given the choice to make your own mistakes. It’s about ensuring that the people deserve whatever is about to happen to them.

    If the people temporarily vote in socialists, like Corbyn, for example, then they should get socialism. They deserve to suffer the consequences of socialism for the bad decision they made, but it’s their decision.

    In this case, the people didn’t vote in UKIP, they voted in the Tories. The Tories are not UKIP, which is why UKIP had to come into existence in the first place. And while it was making progress at splitting the Tory vote, they nevertheless got far fewer votes, no MPs, and no power. (Imagine if UKIP were in the position the DUP is today!) That was the British decision. This is the consequence.

    We didn’t get a UKIP Brexit, we got a Tory Brexit. They’re different, like UKIP is different from the Tory Party. This is what Britain chose. And while they undoubtedly didn’t entirely understand what they were doing when thay did so, I think it was clear enough even at the time that the Tory solution was going to be very different from what UKIP were after. But most people voted Tory, and this is what we get for doing so.

    As every authoritarian will tell you, the basic problem with democracy/freedom is that people are stupid and ignorant and misguided, and don’t understand the consequences of what they’re doing, so if you want them to make the right choices, and to save them from the consequences of their own stupidity, you have to take away their freedom and their choices and tell them what to do.

    And one of the biggest problems with this mindset is that the people who think they know what the right choices are are people too!

    Freedom is a responsibility. It requires education and understanding, and the humility to understand that we all make mistakes. But they should be our mistakes to make.

  • Runcie Balspune

    This was as expected, the combination of most MPs (on both sides) supporting Remain, plus the wavering Leavers, plus the threat of a Corbyn government.

    It might not have guarenteed a perfect Brexit, but it will deliver some kind of exit and not a reversal, and then with May gone (as she has agreed) the next election can be fought with a leader who makes Brexit better.

    Of course the Tories can prove they are the stupid party and put a lukewarm coerced remainer in her place, but if they want to risk those 17 million votes then that’s up to them.

    It is worth reiterating, the option of a Corbyn led No Deal Brexit or Good Brexit is not on the table, with Corbyn you’ll have either Corbyn and No Brexit or Corbyn and Bad Brexit, so having a May and Bad Brexit is actually preferable, at least things are not slipping backwards.

    The other thing to consider is Corbyn lost his vote of no confidence, so in a sense this helps May make up the deficit in seats.

  • Mr Ecks

    RB–She is trying to lock this crap in place and that excuse will be used by scum coming after her to ensure we will get the EU on our case for good. Saying her turd is better than nothing is just plain wrong. And what she and her scum hope for is that folk will fall for BRINO. The EU WILL NEVER AGREE ANY CHANGE.

    So No Deal it is. If she can’t get her crap through then she can only move by trying to join in to cancel Brexit or hold a People’s Wank. Both equal 20 million plus voters on the Tories arse. It may be Corbyn but UKIP could hold the balance of power.

    pete-You seem to be a confused individual. Who cares what remainiacs did or didn’t understand? If what you mean is that Leavers did not grasp how low and scummy the remain gang in British politics are then you are right. If you think that should cause Leavers to turn coward and give up on their nation and on freedom then PdH’s “play nice” rules once again prevent me from expressing my true opinion of you.

  • Paul Marks

    What 200 “Conservative” Members of Parliament have said is that it is fine for a Prime Minister, Mrs May, to REPEATEDLY LIE to Parliament and to the British people – it is not just “stupid” Perry, it is evil. What happened last night was an act of evil. 200 Members of Parliament supported someone they KNOW is a serial liar, who is filled with nothing but hatred and contempt for the independence of the British people.

    Local Conservative Associations can not escape some blame for this – in many cases they adopted as their candidates for Parliament who are NOT Conservatives, people who do NOT represent the opinions of Conservative Party Members or Conservative Party Voters. It is not true that Central Office mandates candidates – they can suggest, they can put pressure on, but in the end the responsibility is with the Constituency Conservative Associations, and many of them have failed in their most basic duty to select as candidates for Parliament people who are loyal to this country.

    “I will not call an election” (repeated many times) – and then she did.

    “Britain will take back control of our laws” (repeated many times) – and then she agrees to a “deal” which keeps E.U. law in all but name.

    “The vote on the deal will be this Tuesday” (repeated many times) – and then she calls off the vote.

    Liar, liar, liar.

  • Mr Ed

    Mrs May today said that she acknowledged concerns that some in the House did not the ‘backstop’ to be permanent, and to deal with that she said that she would seek ‘legal and political assurances’ about it, knowing damn well that any ‘assurance’ is worthless. So she has conceded that the ‘backstop’ is permanent, and sees nothing wrong in not getting a guarantee that it can be left.

    She knows what she is doing.

    It’s time to impeach Mrs May, and the charge: Contempt of the House of Commons, now made out and found.

  • Paul Marks

    “Referendums are not the way to settle important matters” – but European Union officials deciding important matters, by making the laws, is just fine.

    Also remember that David Davis was negotiating a Canada style Free Trade agreement with the European Union – it was THERESA MAY who sabotaged that (with the MADE UP “Irish border issue” as an excuse). And she has GOT AWAY WITH IT.

    Mrs May has GOT AWAY WITH IT – because 200 Members of Parliament have let her get away with it.

    And meanwhile the media (the BBC and ALL television stations) work every day to poison the minds of the people against independence – with “Project Fear” the establishment campaign of smears and disinformation, designed to undermine the British people, their will to resist.

    It really is as if Dr Goebbels and “Lord Haw Haw” had been in charge of the BBC in 1940.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ed – Mrs May has already been found “in contempt of Parliament”, and there was no punishment at all.

    The chances of Impeachment are zero – although I AGREE WITH YOU Mrs May is guilty, indeed (see above) she has already found guilty.

    No doubt the “Secret Barrister” thinks Mrs May’s conduct is all quite legal and proper.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    May said ‘no general election’ – until she called one.

    May said Parliament would vote on the deal on December 10th – until she postponed it.

    She’s like that character from the Vicar of Dibley: ‘No, no, no, no, no, no, no … yes!!’

    May still says ‘there won’t be a second referendum’ but with her track record, you can place your bets now on another referendum. One that will be fixed by the Establishment to make sure there’s no real ‘Leave’ option on offer, just a meaningless Hobson’s choice between Remain or the Vassal-State Deal.

    Nothing is more certain now than that she will surrender to the demands of the noisy face-painted fools who give every impression that they would gladly crawl naked on their bellies across broken glass for the chance to kiss Juncker’s or Verhofstadt’s shoes.

    Meanwhile 17.4 million disempowered voters look on in disbelief at their antics and realise that Rousseau was right when he wrote:

    “The people of England regards itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing.”

  • mickc

    Happily, some of what she called the “Nasty Party” (nobody else ever did…) weren’t stupid and voted against her.
    She may still be afloat but she’s holed below the waterline. I doubt she has six months left.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Nullius in Verba
    The aim is not to pick the government that will make the best decisions – it’s to pick the government that will make the sort of mistakes that follow from the people’s own beliefs and desires.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “aim” here. I’d say that the aim of a government should be to make the least dumb mistakes possible. I don’t think an unrestricted democracy is a good thing at all, because people make dumb mistakes, and if there are enough of those people then they make the people who didn’t make the dumb mistakes live under the consequences. It is all very well having people make choices and then suffer the consequences, but it is not fair to make other people suffer the consequences too even if they did not make dumb mistakes. And that, making all suffer under the decisions of the majority, is the very essence of the danger of government.

    If my son got a credit card and I had to co-sign for it, you might well say “Well if he gets in trouble by over extending himself, he will have to suffer the consequences”, and to some extent that is true, except that I suffer too from his profligacy. The same is true with democratic decisions. (One need only look at the national debt, for which we are all co-signers, and the unabated democratic pressure to add to it with miscellaneous boondoggles, to see that in action.)

    This is why on constitutional matters in the USA and many other places, it is extremely difficult to change the constitution. If some school shooting happens, we don’t want the government to just follow the noses of the screaming hordes and ban the guns of people who have never hurt anyone. Or when someone says something horrible, we don’t want the baying mob to demand that you can get put in jail for saying stuff they don’t like.

    It is why a lack of a written constitution in the UK really is a major hole in their system of law, since both the things I just mentioned did happen in Britain and there was no constitutional process to prevent it. And both these things were attempted in the USA and were thwarted by the constitutional process.

    I think Brexit is a constitutional matter, and were Britain to have a constitutional amendment process similar to the USA it would doubtless never have passed, though, it is possible that it would have been stopped at the many way stations along the road before it got into the mess it is in right now.

    Of course I think Brexit is the right way for Britain to go, so a bad system has produced a good result. But had Brexit been passed in the same way as, say the 18th amendment had passed, I think things would have proceeded in quite a different way.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Very well said, Fraser. I would only add that even the best written Constitution is no help unless the people constituting the polity, and especially the people who constitute their government, are committed to following it.

    (Which I think everybody here knows anyway, so I’m just sayin’.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It is all very well having people make choices and then suffer the consequences, but it is not fair to make other people suffer the consequences too even if they did not make dumb mistakes. And that, making all suffer under the decisions of the majority, is the very essence of the danger of government.”

    Indeed. But government is supposed to decide the rules by which we interact with one another, and those have to be decided by mutual consent. That’s what government is about. If we’re going to live together, we’re always going to be faced with the consequences of one another’s bad decisions. What if we have a free market, and everyone picks the wrong product, so the better product is five times the price of the most popular one? Even free markets have the same problem. But if you want to gain the advantages of a free market, you have to pay the price, too. If you want the authoritarians to have to follow the democratic rules, you have to follow them too.

    You get the advantages of banding together with the rest of the British, but you have to pay the price of going along with them. You win some, you lose some.

    “It is why a lack of a written constitution in the UK really is a major hole in their system of law”

    That it was a constitutional change was why they went for a referendum in the first place. While Britain hasn’t formalised the process, is does actually have constitutional rules. But our attitude is (as Julie I think agrees) that if the people don’t hold such rules as its current moral principles it believes in then no written constitution can long survive, and if it does, then no written constitution is necessary. It can help clarify your priorities, but a constitution cannot be relied on to stand separately from the support of the people.

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr, I think you’re confusing process with content.

    You won’t find a more rabid supporter of the US Constitution than me. I think that it has cemented into place a pro-liberty philosophy that serves our country well. I love the fact that it was put in place with an amendment process that requires a near-impossible super-majority to effect change. It gives us a stability and continuity that has been priceless.

    But I only value these things because the choices – the preferences – that are contained within it are pleasing to me. The values that drove the drafters and amenders are my own values.

    Had different values driven the drafting of the Constitution, I would not likely place much worth on those same elements of stability and anti-democratic endurance. Had our Constitution set out values that made weapons unattainable, that denied us due process, that defined power as residing in the state, then my love of our Constitution would have been something else entirely.

    There is no value to anti-democratic power unless the decisions already made please you. Our Constitution’s provisions please you, and so you value the stability that comes from denying people the power of a simple majority to change our core values. To be sure, so do I. But if Hilary Clinton drafted and passed a new constitution, or if we adopted the bastardized constitutions favored in Kenya, or by Justice Ginsburg, I doubt you’d be making this same argument.

    Referendums are for situations in which we’re determining preferences, not facts. Whether blue or pink is better is not a question of fact. It’s a matter of preference. Whether Brexit is a desirable idea or not is not a fact – it’s a preference, entirely dependent on how one perceives one’s relationship to state and society.

    We can be thankful that our forebears held values that were close to our own values, and that they found a way to stick generations of their descendants with them. Those values please you and me. But we shouldn’t confuse that with the idea that they made the “right” choices. They expressed their own preferences.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It is all very well having people make choices and then suffer the consequences, but it is not fair to make other people suffer the consequences too even if they did not make dumb mistakes. And that, making all suffer under the decisions of the majority, is the very essence of the danger of government.”

    Actually, come to think of it, isn’t this exactly what the Remainers would say? Possibly that’s an even clearer argument!

  • Julie near Chicago

    NiV,

    Wrt your last, just above: Isn’t it nice that there’s something we can all agree on! :>((

    Wrt your comment just above that, you bet your bippy Julie agrees.

    .

    But much as we might be committed to our Const., written or not, it seems better to have it cast-in-stone, so that we can refer to the fixed standard if need be. By analogy, I suppose most people have a fair idea of how long an inch is; but there are times when you need a more stable reference than measurement-by-eye gives.

    Unfortunately, even the written Const., however well drafted, needs to be read by people who understand its words the same way. In analogy, if one person is measuring an inch by means of a well-worn cloth tape measure and another by a plastic ruler that’s not greatly prone to distortion after much use or due to humidity, they’re likely to end up with ceilings that are 6″ lower at one end of the house than at the other.

    And even the written Const. won’t help if people are not in agreement as to the principles it’s built on and the political and legal conditions it’s supposed to encourage.

  • Eric

    I saw a youtube video the other day that asserted this was just the party no-confidence vote, and that May could still face a no-confidence vote from the full parliament. Is that true?

  • Mr Ed

    Eric,

    Indeed, the vote was an internal matter for the Conservative Party, and here, its MPs. If they had deposed Mrs May, she would cease to be party leader once a leadership election was concluded, but would remain Prime Minister pending the successor’s appointment. The process is that MPs vote and whittle down comtenders to two MPs, who then go to the Party’s membership. Last time, the damp rag Leadsom withdrew from the final 2 after making a throw-away comment about having children, leaving Mrs May unelected by the membership.

    A confidence vote in the House of Commons is however, limited in effect, due to the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, which gives the government 14 days grace after losing a confidence vote to hold another one to overturn the lost vote (sounds familiar?), i.e. to fudge a deal, if not, then Parliament is dissolved and a General Election is held. The Opposition want as much chaos as possible for as long as possible so that Mrs May totally destorys the Conservative Party, so they may wait a while before asking for a vote.

  • Alisa

    Can someone please pardon my ignorance and explain to me how real an issue is the border in Ireland, and how would it play out under imaginary hard Brexit soon after the referendum?

  • Pat

    @Alisa
    The border between Eire and NI has been open since the founding of Eire, long before the EU was dreamed of. The volume of trade and people is small if one discounts locals shopping just down the road. There is a functioning system in place to deal with the different tax rates etc. It would hardly be a.problem to update this should it be decided to levy duties, and in any case the duties levied would be insufficient to pay for the installation and maintenance of a hard border- especially as the locals are likely to sabotage it. And WTO rules allow for a national security exception, something that Trump has exploited.
    So a trivial problem being clutched at as an excuse for not doing something that May and the EU don’t want to do.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Can someone please pardon my ignorance and explain to me how real an issue is the border in Ireland, and how would it play out under imaginary hard Brexit soon after the referendum?”

    I don’t think anyone can be certain exactly how it would play out. It depends on what the ex-terrorists and political extremists do, and they’re not likely to tell you anything that might make you think it was safe to ignore them. Certainly in the past, they took their mutual hatred incredibly seriously (a bit like the Palestinians in its intensity), and the peace today only exists because we managed to convince both sides that they had won. The peace might have lasted long enough for the old vendettas to have cooled – I don’t know. But if they haven’t, then I’d be surprised if they were not already quietly making preparations for some spectacular ways to make their displeasure known, should the politicians try to go back on the Good Friday agreement. I may be being too pessimistic, it may be just another ‘Project Fear’ tactic to stir up nervousness and apply pressure, but I suspect the politicians do take the possibility seriously (and they no doubt have access to the intelligence reports on it). The risk of a re-invigorated low-level civil war starting up again is definitely not one they want to contemplate, in Ireland or Britain.

    It was the reason that Ireland opted out of the Schengen agreement, allowing free travel across borders elsewhere in Europe. Because Britain wanted to keep it’s border controls, Ireland had to join them, or all those refugees would not be camped at Calais, but would instead walk straight in via Ireland. The same solution for the customs union is available, of course, but it would require Ireland to exit too, and at the least they’d want to hold another referendum there first (which can always give the ‘wrong’ result, as we all know!), the Irish economy is (it is argued) more dependent on their position in the EU, and their largesse, and there’s no doubt the EU itself would be severely unhappy over providing momentum to any potential ‘domino’ effect.

    I guess they might try to set up some sort of ‘electronic’ border as a temporary measure, but I really can’t see it working – it would become an immediate target for smuggling operations and organised crime – and I think that a hard Brexit would inevitably lead to Ireland splitting off in a few years, too. It’s the only practical solution. But the route to get there is full of risks and uncertainties – and I can only guess whether they’re as serious as some fear.

  • Alisa

    Thank you both, I get it now (at least the big picture).

  • I guess they might try to set up some sort of ‘electronic’ border as a temporary measure, but I really can’t see it working – it would become an immediate target for smuggling operations and organised crime – and I think that a hard Brexit would inevitably lead to Ireland splitting off in a few years, too. (Nullius in Verba, December 14, 2018 at 2:40 pm)

    Obviously, I have no objection to Irexit were it to happen, but the EU has huge land borders to its east and south, and is doing very poorly at making the Mediterranean an effective border, so I cannot see the addition of the Irish border as adding significantly to their problems. I agree with Pat – it’s a non-issue being exploited for the reasons Macron said.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “but the EU has huge land borders to its east and south, and is doing very poorly at making the Mediterranean an effective border, so I cannot see the addition of the Irish border as adding significantly to their problems.”

    It sounds like an interesting line of reasoning, but I’m not sure I follow. Does it also apply to the following arguments?

    Even with a giant barbed wire fence along most of the border, the USA already has a huge problem with illegal immigration, so if we set up an unchecked border crossing between the USA and Mexico that anyone can drive trucks (and caravans?) across freely, it shouldn’t add significantly to their problems, right?

    Even with all the border security the USA already has a huge problem with illegal drugs, so if we stopped searching any freight trucks crossing the border at a particular point, it shouldn’t add significantly to their problems?

    The store already has a huge problem with shoplifting even with all the security around the front, so if we opened just one door round the back and allowed people to pass in and out of it freely unchecked, that shouldn’t add significantly to our problems?

    The way it seems to me, whenever prices differ radically in the same neighbourhood, people will see money to be made. If legal businesses are forbidden from participating, criminals will. Organised crime in Ireland was always associated with the terrorist gangs. It might be a quiet and sleepy place right now, but once you open a huge ‘free money’ tap right there in the middle of your country you will quickly attract huge crowds. Prohibition and the drugs war are illustrative of what can happen.

    Even with hard borders, Europe and the USA have huge problems from smuggling. But the hardness of the border raises the price to the point where it keeps it under control. Open even a narrow unrestricted chink in the border, and the flow through it will surely increase.

    And while I grant you that the EU could no doubt survive the experience – I’d even argue that the de facto free trade would even benefit its consumers! – the political ‘optics’ of a tariff-breaking terrorist-funding organised crime spree resulting directly from Brexit would have the Remainers shouting “We told you so!” and demanding that something be done about it. And “something”, of course, would.

    It’s not clear to me how you could stop it, or whether any such measures would work, or why, if it’s so simple, they don’t use it to stop smuggling going on elsewhere. And I’d love to be able to say the obstacle to Brexit was trivial, too! However, one of my major arguments against artificial trade barriers has always been that human ingenuity will always find ways around them, and that it unavoidably and inevitably feeds the money into developing the criminal transport infrastructure instead of into more efficient production. If it was so easy to stop that happening, I’d lose one of my favourite arguments for free trade!

    But if you reckon they could really make it work, please, please tell me how. I’d still like to know!

    In any case, I think the real issue is that the politicians and public see no easy way of doing it, and huge risks involved for them of it not working. If it’s genuinely a non-issue, then someone needs to make the case in the public debate in a way everyone can clearly understand and nobody can refute.

  • Nullius in Verba (December 15, 2018 at 12:43 am), you seem to be missing my point – though it may well be I was equally missing yours. The EU has land borders which it polices. Obviously, it will have to monitor the Irish border as well, once we are no longer in the customs union.

    I was simply noting that the Irexit, though welcome, would not be an essential outcome of a border policed as much as the other EU borders. You are of course correct that absolutely no change whatever in how it is monitored could create issues.

    I think Macron’s explicit comments about how he expects to use the backstop in the follow-on negotiations show the EU leaders’ understanding of how they are using this issue – which, given their level of understanding in general, does not, of course, in itself prove there could be no issue, but is a strong argument for its being simpler than they pretend.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Obviously, it will have to monitor the Irish border as well, once we are no longer in the customs union.”

    But where could you put that policed border?

    If you put it between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, the Northern Irish terrorists will kick up.

    If you put it between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland the Southern Irish terrorists will kick up.

    If you put it between Southern Ireland and the rest of the EU, you’ve just put Southern Ireland outside the customs union. Which like I said is probably the only practical solution, but which you really ought to put to a referendum first.

    According to surveys, about 90% of the Irish currently want to stay in the EU, and they are at the other end of the spectrum to Britain in supporting it. It’s not impossible that they would for the sake of keeping the peace. They’re not absolute unconditional backers of the EU. The Irish were the only nation to put the Lisbon Treaty to a vote, and they rejected it, and they also voted against the Nice Treaty the first time round. But the omens are not good, and even if they do the Southern Irish might not like being forced into leaving the EU by the British. There’s a long history of animosity and national pride there.

    The main point of the exercise is to not tear up the Good Friday agreement (the text of which actually requires being signed up to the ECHR), and re-start the Troubles with a new and completely unknown generation of angry Irish radicals, and the older generation of ex-terrorists currently in the government. I honestly don’t know how likely that is to actually happen, but I don’t think it’s going to be a mere triviality if it does!

  • Alisa

    Niall, what did Macron say?

  • Paul Marks

    The United States Constitution has been horribly undermined, and to talk of a pro liberty culture when most American schools, universities, media outlets, and even large business enterprises, are rabidly HOSTILE to liberty is a bit of a stretch.

    HOWEVER, some scraps of the American Constitution remain – not “interpreted” out of existence or (worse) “interpreted” into doing the opposite of what they were written to do. Nothing, nothing, remains of the British Constitutional tradition – for example, we do not argue over the meaning of the British Bill of Rights because the vast majority of people are unaware that it ever existed. And those few people who are aware that it existed are told that it can be overridden by any subsequent regulation.

    No doubt the “Secret Barrister” (or some such person) will appear (in a dramatic cloud of smoke?) to declare that the very fact that I have written the above “proves” we have Freedom of Speech in the United Kingdom – even though he knows perfectly well that we do not.

  • Paul Marks

    Edna Kenny (the Irish Prime Minister before the present one) did not, when he was Prime Minister of the Republic, see a big problem with the border with the United Kingdom being out of the European Union. No doubt, if asked, he would NOW say there is a terrible problem – just like that lackey of European Union who is now Prime Minister of the Republic, but he did not see one when he actually was Prime Minister. Indeed he set up groups to deal with any small problems that did emerge – groups that were later quietly disbanded, when it became clear that both the new Irish Prime Minister and Mrs Theresa May were stooges of the European Union and had no intention of allowing the 2016 referendum result of the independence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union, to take effect.

    The European Union LOOTED the Irish – in order to make them pay for German creditors who lost money in PRIVATELY OWNED Irish banks. The taxpayers had no legal liability – but the Irish government (like the stooges of the European Union that they are) just gave the banks (and their German creditors) a blank cheque. Yet the Irish do not hold a grudge against the European Union – they will, with pride, point to some road or bridge with an E.U. flag sign and tell you “this was paid for by the wonderful European Union” without mentioning that this same European Union looted the country without mercy during the banking crises.

    David Cullen, “Computing Forever” on YouTube, tries to explain (amongst other things) the present far left state of mind of people in the Republic of Ireland – it is all a bit grim. I suspect that the people of the South (at least most of them) would abort themselves (themselves – not “just” their babies) if they thought it would please the wonderful European Union and the wonderful “international community” in general. The population of the Republic of Ireland (like so many peoples around the Western world) have been, mostly, brainwashed by the education system and the “mainstream media”, and are, mostly, cooperating (indeed cooperating eagerly) with the plans for their own destruction.

  • Fraser Orr

    Sorry, I lost track of this thread.

    @Nullius in Verba
    But government is supposed to decide the rules by which we interact with one another, and those have to be decided by mutual consent.

    I don’t agree with that at all. Individuals are perfectly capable to negotiation the rules by which they interact without the big hand of government. We do this all the time. Rules of a club, terms of service, discussions in romantic relationships on boundaries, legal contracts. These mutual agreements get the specific consent of all participating parties. Democracy does the opposite — imposes the will of the masses on the minorities. (And let’s be clear, all of us are in one minority or another.)

    Now, government does provide a backstop. When violence or fraud are used to deceive people into interactions they would not normally chose, or where contracts need to be enforced. But that idea that the government, by way of the majority vote, should somehow decide what is acceptable and not is at the very core of most of the problems we have with government.

    The government thinks you should help this charitable cause not that one, so we will forceably take your money. The government thinks we should bomb and massacre this group of black people, therefore we will use the military that you paid for (under the delusion that it was there to protect you). I agree to an employment contract with you, but the government doesn’t like it so forceably changes it without the consent of the involved parties. The government decides we need to go to war with this country, so forces you and your sons, on pain of punishment or execution, to pick up a rifle and shoot people you don’t even know and certainly don’t particularly dislike. And on and on. This is what happens when you let the government decide what our interactions with each other should be.

    Even free markets have the same problem.

    Let’s just be clear. Although often used as a shorthand, there really is no such thing as “the free market”. All there is is millions of people conducting voluntary transactions with each other. Each transaction entered into freely based on the belief of each party that they will profit from the transaction. The free market is about individuals choosing their own behaviors and interactions. It is the antithesis of the government deciding for you.

    (To be clear, you can talk about the macroscopic properties of the free market in the same way you can talk about the macroscopic properties of, for example, a gas. However, these are emergent properties from the particular interactions of individual market participants or gas molecules. A gas is, in fact, a bunch of molecules interacting.)

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    There is no value to anti-democratic power unless the decisions already made please you.

    I don’t agree with that at all. The value in a constitution is that it gives stability and predictability to your dealings with government. Of course were the law that was stable and predictable one that was pleasing to me, all the better, but stability and predictability are very valuable properties in themselves. It allows one to arrange ones affairs to deal with the situation.

    To think differently is to suffer under the delusion that anyone gives a fig about your political preferences. That you somehow, in a democractic system, have the ability to change things and make them better. A love of liberty is a rare thing indeed and certainly rare enough that it is unlikely that you can increase liberty via democractic process. The best you can perhaps hope is to slow down its inexorably growth.

    We Americans were lucky that the consitutional process was captured by a bunch of slave holding idealists (now there is a contradiction in terms) who happened to set the baseline value in a strong positive way. But liberty is a remarkably fragile thing. If you look at its historical development it is amazing that it survived. The history of liberty in England is mostly of two powerful groups trying to form a tyranny, and the equal balance left them with a compromise of liberty. The Magna Carta was about Barons not getting dominated by the King, not about rights for the people. The English bill of rights was about protecting protestants from those evil Catholics. Even large parts of the US Constitution were about protecting the rights of southerners to hold slaves. Since, in each case no compromise empowering the elites could be found, instead an agreement of liberty was found, that trickled down to the irrelevant plebeians. That isn’t to say that many brave men fought and died to procure and protect liberty, but politically and foundationally it is really more a matter of luck.

    So our present liberty is a fortuitous state indeed. At least with a government stabilized by a constitution we can deal with the mix of liberty and tyranny we always have, with the knowledge that it will be largely the same through our lives, and some uppity little politician won’t be able to impose his even worse version of tyranny on us. The idea that some uppity little politician will come along and impose his even better version of liberty is quite simply a pipe dream. Democracy always leads to more and more tyranny — because the demos, the masses, kind of like it better than way. It lets them pretend that they are powerful.

    Many years ago I remember hearing Tom Daschle talking about his reelection as speaker of the Senate (or the house, I don’t remember.) It is funny how something sticks in your head like that. He said he was ready to get back to work for the American people. I had a realization. Back to work at what? Making new laws? My reaction was “haven’t you finished yet?” They have been working on the law for two hundred years. Haven’t they finished yet? Or is the belief that the law is this every changing, ever unpredictable, unknowable mass of rules, capricious from one day to the other? Surely that is exactly the opposite of what the law should be? Congress should have finished that a hundred years ago, and maybe turn up for a couple of weeks a year to tweak it for current special circumstances.

  • If you put [that policed border] between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, the Northern Irish terrorists will kick up. If you put it between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland the Southern Irish terrorists will kick up. … I honestly don’t know how likely that is to actually happen (Nullius in Verba, December 15, 2018 at 1:40 pm)

    IMO (I do not of course know either), I think it very unlikely (so need not raise the question whether it should influence any decision were it likely on either side). For one thing, we have this to thank Muslim terrorists for – they have changed the nature of that game. For another, “Men do not become tyrants in order to keep warm” – and do not become terrorists to negotiate a trade deal. A sensible fast-track arrangement for permanent long-established border residents might annoy the EU’s “any EU citizen can do what any other can do” principles – but would ameliorate whatever temptations there might be.

    The above assumes that by ‘kick up’ you mean ‘kill people’ (more frequently than the decadal random nutter). If you mean ‘kick up a fuss’ then I am sure there will be lots of that. (I am rather hoping the conveniently-influential DUP MPs will contribute to it.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I don’t agree with that at all. Individuals are perfectly capable to negotiation the rules by which they interact without the big hand of government.”

    Governments are one of the means they use to negotiate those rules. Governments are made up of people. The electorate is a component part of the system of government, just as much as the legislators are. Government is not a separate thing from the people. (It’s the same as your point about free markets as a gas.)

    Do you remember the bit in Mill where he says: “Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities”? And makes the point that individual people interacting among themselves can and do do the same thing? This is a common theme in libertarian/anarchist writing, that the government is the source of all our authoritarian woes. It isn’t. The source is the authoritarian streak in people, and government is merely our negotiated mechanism for regulating it, controlling it, and keeping it in check. We see the tyranny of the majority being exercised in its most direct and potent forms through the medium of the government, and therefore commonly identify it as the origin of the tyranny, but this identification is false. The authoritarianism of government is an emergent ‘macroscopic’ summary of the individual authoritarian tendencies of those millions of people.

    “We do this all the time. Rules of a club, terms of service, discussions in romantic relationships on boundaries, legal contracts. These mutual agreements get the specific consent of all participating parties.”

    Not *all* the time. Sometimes we do, on some matters. Which matters we can negotiate and which can be imposed is a matter of convention, (and sometimes, but not always, law).

    You are describing a libertarian ideal. But society is not libertarian, and the people in it are not libertarian. They don’t agree with it. They don’t vote for it. You don’t have the power to force it on them.

    People, unwise as it may be, still choose to make an authoritarian society for themselves. As such, government is a way of negotiating which authoritarian faction gets to dominate. I don’t like it either, but it is what it is. And people choose to try to make their government representative, rather than have rule by the cleverest, best-educated, most qualified, because we feel it is important that our errors are our own. We dislike technocratic elites for good reason. (Although intellectuals still argue for them.) Even the cleverest among us are still fools on most topics, but at least there is some justice in facing the consequences of our own folly.

    ” For one thing, we have this to thank Muslim terrorists for – they have changed the nature of that game.”

    How so?

    And why could the Irish not change it yet again? Generals are always trying to fight the last war, and the Jihadis were never very serious or very professional about it.

    ” For another, “Men do not become tyrants in order to keep warm” – and do not become terrorists to negotiate a trade deal.”

    For one, I disagree with Aristotle. “From each according to his means. To each according to his needs.” People without the means need blankets to keep warm, therefore we must become tyrants to ensure that those with the means provide. People support protectionism to defend their own jobs so they can eat. People join unions so they can raise their wages so they can pay the heating bill. People join revolutions to get their share. Many tyrannies start at home.

    (Phaleas was arguing that conflict is fueled by inequality and envy among the needy – and his solution was itself precisely the sort of tyranny that such revolutionary conflict strove to impose. Aristotle’s counter was that need is not the only source of envy, and that the greatest tyrants he knew of were not being egalitarian but simply greedy. Aristotle is correct that need is not the only motivation for tyranny, but not that it can never be one. Just as no Prince may govern without the consent of the governed, so no tyrant may rise without the support of the ordinary people. Aristotle didn’t know what Communism would one day do.)

    And for another – Irish terrorists have no interest at all in negotiating a trade deal! It’s about nationalism, and sovereignty, and identity. By mucking about with the borders and legal jurisdictions and whatnot, we’re trampling all over their illusions about sovereignty. We’re ripping up the Good Friday agreement. It’s got nothing to do with the EU’s equal-treatment principles – this war and these principles long predate the EU!

  • Fraser Orr

    Nullius in Verba
    Governments are one of the means they use to negotiate those rules.

    Well sure. Governments are also the means by which we bomb innocent foreigners or stone women for committing adultery. Certainly it negotiates those rules too. That doesn’t mean that it is good or right in any sense.

    You suggest that I am being idealistic in putting forward a libertarian view of government, but don’t you think you are too in putting together the idea that democracy actually produces representative government? On the contrary, government is captured by the powerful elites, and it builds a civil service as an immune system against truly representative government (one need only look at the present situation in the USA when the “wrong” person got elected, to see this immune system kicking into high gear.)

    Democracy is an appeasement. It is like religion in that sense. Its purpose is to give the powerless a sense that they are powerful. Prayer and voting are really quite alike. They make the supplicant or voter feel like they have a channel to power to help them deal with the caprice of life, and the fact that that channel is utterly powerless is something so terrible that can’t allow it to be noticed. When I became a US Citizen, one of the questions on the test was “what is the most important right a citizen has”. The “correct” answer is “the right to vote”. To call into question such a view is utterly Unamerican, it is a heresy at which we do not listen or reason, but plug our ears and scream “Allua Akbar”, or “Our vote is sacred.” We all walk around with our “I Voted Today” stickers like we are marking our foreheads on Ash Wednesday.

    In fact it is a vicious circle. People can be powerful by taking charge of their own lives, working hard, making good choices and connections. However, both religion and democracy deceive them into thinking that a fake power is available to them, so they dedicate themselves to that rather than what would actually improve their situation. So these are not only not empowering, they are positively disempowering. And the latest trick, to say because you are black, or female or gay, or whatever else, means that you are greatly disadvantaged and therefore should become more dependent is perhaps the most cruel of all.

    Moreover, religion and politics create a moral framework for people’s thinking. Whether it is Islam justifying the murder of infidels, or the dreadfully disempowering views by other religions on sexuality, or in the case of politics, political correctness, or the utterly morally bankrupt idea that it is ok to forcably take money from one person to give to someone else based on the judgement of elitist elected politician. These things are utterly repugnant to decent thinking people. But moral frameworks created by the elites for their benefit have a remarkable ability to inculcate into the morality of a society. Especially so when they can hide their mendacity under the banner of religion or the mantle of “democracy”.

    And the high priests of the religion profit from their folly, whether those priests wear cassocks or pant suits.

    So the idea that democracy is anything other than a mildly controlled tyranny just isn’t so. It creates mechanisms of power with the fake promise that Johnny or Jenny Voter will pull the levers. But they don’t. It is the elites who use it, and keep the masses appeased with the delusion of power and the satisfaction of bread and circuses.

    The purpose of all government programs, democracy included, is to get politicians re-elected, and to grow the power, budget and reach of the civil service and its quango hangers on. Measured by that metric government programs are, generally speaking, spectacularly successful.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    “The people of England regards itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing.”

    Thread winner

  • Mr Black

    So her loyalists in the party organised a fake “challenge” knowing that they easily had the numbers and it would make sure their own EU agenda had an untroubled 12 months longer to run. I like how easily people are fooled by the establishments failure theatre.

  • Alisa

    Thanks NiV. At least the man is being honest.

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    December 15, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    ” . . . stability and predictability are very valuable properties in themselves. It allows one to arrange ones affairs to deal with the situation.”

    Sure, and bad law enshrined in a constitution tells you that you’re effectively screwed forever. I can’t believe that knowing that – for sure and certain, predictably, so that you can plan on it – is better than having some unpredictability along with the possible ability to change that bad law with something less than an unattainable supermajority.

    “To think differently is to suffer under the delusion that anyone gives a fig about your political preferences. That you somehow, in a democractic system, have the ability to change things and make them better.”

    That’s one of the more depressing statements I’ve read on here, and seems out of character for you. That’s Shlomo territory.

    Two weeks ago, I spent an hour sitting in the private chambers of a state’s governor. We had a long discussion about a piece of pending legislation. At this time, it seems that that discussion is going to alter the words of that pending legislation.

    Over the years, I and some friends have approached politics following the old maxim of “think globally, act locally.” By putting forth effort towards local legislation, local races, and local persuasion, we have made a difference. A demonstrable difference.

    That’s just me, and my own efforts and results. I have no illusions that I could personally have a similar effect on national issues, but I do believe that many people sharing my beliefs and acting similarly DO effect national issues. For instance, I’ll note that, against all odds, Hillary holds no national office.

    There are no powers-that-be that keep us from persuading people to our points of view and voting in conformance to those views, and thus having an effect on our governance. There is simply the difficulty of the non-rich to get points of view heard by enough people to make a difference. But that’s what democracy is, and it’s misguided to mistake the lack of ability to persuade millions with being somehow locked out of power.

    I think it’s probably correct, at the present time, to be pessimistic about the American public’s intelligence about, and interest in, government. But that’s very different from dismissing the possibilities offered to us by democracy.

    (And make no mistake: I sometimes feel very conflicted to claim libertarian tendencies while simultaneously reveling in a constitution that acts anti-democratically to cement into place my preferred philosophies. But that conflict does exist, because that’s what our Constitution is: an anti-democratic power upholding my own preferences.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Well sure. Governments are also the means by which we bomb innocent foreigners or stone women for committing adultery. Certainly it negotiates those rules too. That doesn’t mean that it is good or right in any sense.”

    Agreed, at least from my own moral point of view. But I’d clarify that people differ in their definitions of “good” and “right”, and “innocent” too, and both those examples are cases where it seemed good and right from the point of view of the dominant faction. Given that not everyone is of that faction, not everyone is going to consider it good or right. But they might at least consider it representative of the society they live in, if they believe that the people they live with are neither good nor right, either.

    “You suggest that I am being idealistic in putting forward a libertarian view of government”

    It’s not that you’re being idealistic – it’s a perfectly valid and realistic aspiration and moral standard. It’s just not the one that our society, made up as it is of mildly authoritarian people, has actually implemented.

    “but don’t you think you are too in putting together the idea that democracy actually produces representative government?”

    I agree it’s a simplification.

    “On the contrary, government is captured by the powerful elites, and it builds a civil service as an immune system against truly representative government (one need only look at the present situation in the USA when the “wrong” person got elected, to see this immune system kicking into high gear.)”

    And I keep on hearing that the reason the wrong person got elected was that the Washington elite were now considered by many to be unrepresentative and out of touch!

    Government got captured by a faction that put their own power ahead of representation of the people, and they got kicked in the teeth for it. Sure, they’re fighting back. But the system is designed to provide a curb on that sort of thing. Political elites around the world have received a series of warnings. Stay within the bounds of the people’s tolerance, and you can play your games. Go too far, and we’ll vote for UKIP, for Trump, for Brexit, for Alternative for Germany, we’ll put on yellow vests…

    Sure, there are people who don’t believe in representative government (so long as they’re the ones in charge) and who will try to change the system. Some might succeed, to a large extent. But Machiavelli was still right about Princes needing consent.

    “Democracy is an appeasement. It is like religion in that sense. Its purpose is to give the powerless a sense that they are powerful.”

    It’s a very limited channel for individuals, in that everyone’s power is diluted as one vote in millions. It can only be wielded when millions are discontent, not just when you are. So for people discontent with their situation and with their government, looking around for a lever to pull to make everyone do as they demand, it’s not terribly useful. It serves a purpose, but not that purpose.

    “When I became a US Citizen, one of the questions on the test was “what is the most important right a citizen has”. The “correct” answer is “the right to vote”.”

    We don’t appreciate machines when they’re working perfectly. We take them for granted. The function of votes is to prevent the sort of unrepresentative government that has no limits on its actions – that hands the faction that seizes control of it unlimited power. Unless you have lived in such a State, it is hard to understand how valuable and important a thing that is.

    Another four years living in a country that’s not like North Korea? Hallelujah! You should be jumping for joy and thanking providence for your good fortune! But instead we shrug, like it’s nothing special, and moan about our “first world problems”, and how our vote doesn’t seem to have fixed any of them. That’s not what it’s for.

    “To call into question such a view is utterly Unamerican, it is a heresy at which we do not listen or reason”

    Dogma is deadly. They’re asking the wrong question – they shouldn’t be asking you what your most important right is, but why voting is important. Do you understand the reasons? When people are told “facts” but not the reasoning and evidence for them, the belief is very fragile. It’s the same in science – there’s too much teaching by authority.

    “And the latest trick, to say because you are black, or female or gay, or whatever else, means that you are greatly disadvantaged and therefore should become more dependent is perhaps the most cruel of all.”

    That’s just bribing the electorate. It used to be other people’s money – “Vote for us, and we’ll take from the rich and give it to you poor people”. They’ve just adapted the tactic to hand out “privilege” instead. And of course in a sense it works – vote for these guys, and they’ll give you somebody else’s privilege, which is a ‘win’. Voting can get you what you want. That doesn’t mean it’s “good” or “right”.

    Of course, it should be noted that it mainly works because in the past blacks, women, and gays were greatly disadvantaged. They learned how the world works from the rest of us, and so it’s no surprise if they try to use the same system that was used on them.

    Authoritarians can only imagine an authoritarian world, and in an authoritarian world everyone would naturally rather be on top than on the bottom. Getting them to build a libertarian world when they have the power to choose is the trick.

    “Moreover, religion and politics create a moral framework for people’s thinking.”

    Of course. That’s exactly what they are.

    Humans evolved morality to enable them to live in dense social groups. They enable cooperation, allowing us to live and interact within the same territory without conflict, by setting down common constraints on behaviour. Humans have an especially powerful form (compared to ants, say) because it’s adaptive, able to change to suit circumstance. It often doesn’t matter what the rule is, so long as it’s the same rule being followed by everyone – like driving on the left-hand or right-hand side of the road. The problem with that, of course, is that different moral frameworks can arise, and where they meet the conflict is intense not only due to us stepping on one another’s toes, but also because moral systems include an enforcement system that punishes transgression from it’s rules, this being the primary mechanism by which a society enables convergence on and compliance with a common system.

    Our instinctive reaction to seeing our moral code broken is violent hatred, anger, and/or fear. The reaction to those with a different moral code, or worse, with no moral code (psychopaths) can be extreme. It’s not uncontrollable, but it’s wired in and we’re all human.

    (There’s a very close – and often enlightening – analogy with human language, which is also an evolved system to enable cooperative behaviour, and which also has the same sort of problems with communication breakdown when people develop different languages and then meet up again.)

    Libertarianism is a moral framework, too. It’s an attempt to build a minimal framework with the minimal constraints and therefore triggers for conflict, and therefore enable cooperation across the broadest social group. The bigger your society is, the more successful and powerful it tends to be. The more tolerant it is, the faster it innovates and adapts to change. And the less likely you are to get crushed in its gears.

    But it’s a moral framework, like all the others, and it has to win power by persuading the millions of its merits, like all the others.

    “So the idea that democracy is anything other than a mildly controlled tyranny just isn’t so.”

    Agreed. “Mildly controlled tyranny” is a good description!

    “Thanks NiV. At least the man is being honest.”

    You’re welcome! And it’s been an excellent and enjoyable discussion!

    My thanks to Fraser and Niall, too. It’s been stimulating!

  • Nullius in Verba (December 15, 2018 at 11:00 pm), we had better agree to disagree about the likelihood of Irish terrorism resurging in the immediate future and/or of its having specific relevance to the Brexit UK-EU deal, since the very things you note – for example, that “Irish terrorists have no interest at all in negotiating a trade deal” – are points I would quote in support of my differing view. (Feel free to have the last word in this thread, if you wish.)

    As regards your reply to me re muslim terrorists having changed the game, I’ll make the wild guess you thought I was claiming that our government’s having given itself extra powers to fight terrorism made it more effective – not something I much believe. I meant rather that the “Alluha Akhbar” guys have set a new standard for what a terrorist must do to be newsworthy – both more noticeable and more evil. I do not think any Irish ex-terrorists or could-be-terrorists have at all figured out how to square that circle, yet, nor soon will. (Of course, Churchill’s grasp of how dangerous Nazi Germany was did not prompt him to become an appeaser, nor would it if he’d grasped just how effective the new blitzkrieg tactics would be, and nor would reason to anticipate superior terrorist tactics move me – but that is a separate point and IMO too hypothetical to be worth analysing.)

    Similarly, you “disagree with Aristotle” – and I, on this point, agree with Aristotle, but I wonder if you may in part be talking about different categories of actor.

    – When Karl Marx shouted that the capitalists of the future would sweat for the boils on his face, he was not high-mindedly concerned that someone cold lacked a blanket, any more than he was expecting communism to cure his boils. When such virtue is signalled, true virtue is absent. Those who are genuinely concerned for some guy without a blanket are also, inevitably, concerned for those the revolution trashes to put itself in power: they react more like Christ than like Karl.

    – However, Aristotle spoke of why men become tyrants, not about the many reasons why men may help others to become tyrants. Reading the memoirs of early low-level nazis, their descriptions of how they joined the movement in the 20s repeatedly end with the sentence, “In this way, the problem of my finding employment was solved”. Konrad Heiden (IIRC) called such people, “desperados in search of a pension”, but I think they were in search of a justification. However the promised ‘blanket’ or whatever was a motivator.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “we had better agree to disagree about the likelihood of Irish terrorism resurging in the immediate future and/or of its having specific relevance to the Brexit UK-EU deal, since the very things you note – for example, that “Irish terrorists have no interest at all in negotiating a trade deal” – are points I would quote in support of my differing view.”

    Sure. Happy to agree to disagree.

    The problem is that the peace in Ireland is fragile, and still held together with gaffer tape and lots of “Let’s Pretend”. The Protestants in the North insist they’re British. The Catholics in the South insist that it’s an annexation of their sovereign territory, and that Ireland should be re-united. The Good Friday agreement provides a justification to both sides that they won, by saying that the North are Irish who choose to be British. The Protestants are satisfied that they can be British for as long as they want to be. The Catholics are persuaded that since the Irish made the choice, and have the power to change their minds, that the Irish people have the true power and sovereignty, standing above the British sovereignty, and so Ireland as a single nation is self-ruling and autonomous once again. The Catholics in the North are Irish citizens as well as British ones, with the same protections of their rights as in the South (which is where the ECHR comes in).

    Because Britain and Ireland come under similar enough jurisdictions (by means of numerous tricks like Ireland having to opt out of Schengen too), the illusion can be maintained that they are simultaneously separate nations and a single nation. But if one side are subject to a different jurisdiction, different legal protections, different regulations, and there’s a policed border between them, it breaks the illusion. If you put the barrier between the mainland and the North, you tell the Protestants there that in fact yes, you’ve handed them back to the South. If you put the barrier between North and South, you tell the Catholics in both North and South that in fact yes, you’ve annexed it.

    They’re not interested in whether they’re in or out of any damn customs union. They’re interested in who really ‘won’ the war. Or rather, that they didn’t lose it. They’ve been fighting this war since the start of the Irish Confederate wars in 1641. I’ve heard Irishmen speak with boiling vitriol in their voices of events that happened more than 200 years ago. It’s a blood feud, a vendetta. And they’ve got very long memories.

    It’s like mucking about with the border between Israel and Palestine. It’s not trade or tariffs they care about.

    “As regards your reply to me re muslim terrorists having changed the game, I’ll make the wild guess you thought I was claiming that our government’s having given itself extra powers to fight terrorism made it more effective – not something I much believe. I meant rather that the “Alluha Akhbar” guys have set a new standard for what a terrorist must do to be newsworthy – both more noticeable and more evil.”

    I genuinely didn’t know what you meant.

    But I don’t consider the jihadists in Britain to be especially noticeable or evil. In the UK they’ve killed roughly 100 people since 2001, an average of about 6 deaths per year, which puts them somewhere in the neighbourhood of “putting on trousers” as a cause of death, and considerably below “bee stings” and “falling down stairs”. There’s a lot worse goes on.

    And it’s fairly easy, if someone of the right mindset chooses to think about it, to come up with lots of easier, safer (for the terrorist), more effective, more devastating, and more evil things to do. It’s actually far more remarkable that terrorists don’t do any of this stuff, than that they do what they do. The art of terrorism, of course, is to make enough of a bloody nuisance of yourselves to buy political concessions, but not so much that it lets them justify taking serious military action against you. You want at least some public support and sympathy for your cause. Your evil has to be ‘justifiable’.

    Apart from the Palestinians taking on Israel, who do a very professional job, the Muslims generally are actually pretty amateurish at this sort of thing. 9/11 went too far, and got a violent response. The stuff about shooting and kidnapping schoolkids just makes them look bad and gets no concessions, only more military support. Market bombings and ‘tribal’ reprisals sort of work in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and so on, but they’re not winning so much as delaying progress. And ISIS revolted even the other Muslims, and got squashed with their support. Frankly, I think the only people who benefit significantly from Islamic terrorism in Britain are the British security services, who get funding and political backing and handy surveillance laws in the name of “fighting terrorism”.

    The Irish certainly understand how the game works. But I’ve no idea if they still feel that way, or if having tasted the benefits of peace for a couple of decades, they still think national pride is worth the price. All I can say is that the fear that they still do is what the Irish-Brexit issue is about.

    “(Feel free to have the last word in this thread, if you wish.)”

    It’s not something I’m bothered about, one way or the other. If I think I’ve still got things to say worth saying, I’ll say ’em. 🙂

  • Fraser Orr

    bobby b
    December 16, 2018 at 12:24 pm
    Sure, and bad law enshrined in a constitution tells you that you’re effectively screwed forever.

    Maybe, maybe not. The problem is the idea that were we to have a bad law, but no constitution, that we have the option of changing it. But the reality of history, perhaps with a few exceptions, is that democracy inexorably leads to MORE tyranny not less. Liberty comes from war and revolution not from voting. Look at the history of the USA: liberty came from a revolution against the British burgeoning tyranny. Look at the history of Britain: liberty came from various small and large wars and revolutions such as the the Magna Carta from the Baron’s war, or the English Bill of Rights from the Glorious Revolution. Look at the history of Germany — only its destruction under WWI and WWII could lead to its present liberal state. But of course that is a risky proposition as Robespierre found out with the kiss of Madame Guillotine.

    It is not impossible for democracy to bring about a slight relief of tyranny, I think Trump’s election is a perfect example — a slight slowing of the growth of the state — but the inexorable process is always toward tyranny until the people have had enough and take matters into their own hands.

    At least with a constitution there is a barrier to slow that process down.

    “To think differently is to suffer under the delusion that anyone gives a fig about your political preferences. That you somehow, in a democractic system, have the ability to change things and make them better.”

    That’s one of the more depressing statements I’ve read on here, and seems out of character for you. That’s Shlomo territory.

    I didn’t word it very well. What I meant was the idea that you can make things better by way of democracy is a delusion. Again, you can certainly nibble at the edges, and if you dedicate your whole life to an enterprise you can make some slightly more substantial difference (for example, by running in front of the King’s racehorse, or getting tossed in jail and assassinated for being an uppity black preacher) but the best you can do is slow it down a bit, nibble at the edges a bit, change things in one area which doesn’t much affect the politicians power, reelection or the growth of government departments.

    However, in the private realm you have massive scope to make a difference. You can invent an iPhone, or you can start a business that gives a dozen people a job, or you can paint a painting that brings joy to people, or be a litigator to help people get relief. One person in the private realm can make a difference in a positive way, in a way that reduces dependence and tyranny. Democracy is a distraction. A trick to deceive people into thinking they have power to change things, when they really don’t, not politically. So people spend their lives dancing to the politician’s tune rather than operating in the private realm where they can actually make a difference, actually reduce tyranny, actually do some good, and have a good time doing it.

    Two weeks ago, I spent an hour sitting in the private chambers of a state’s governor. We had a long discussion about a piece of pending legislation. At this time, it seems that that discussion is going to alter the words of that pending legislation.

    I’m afraid I don’t have access to such high offices. Perhaps you are part of the elite Bobby? (JK… sorry that was a horrible thing to say.) But let’s say you do. How much difference did it make? This new legislation, does it grow the government or shrink it? Does it allow the government to poke its nose into other people’s business? Use money taken from taxpayers to do things that they never agreed to do in the first place? With very few exceptions, just the fact that legislation is being passed almost by definition means that the government is growing, even if you did manage to tweak it a little.

    Like I say, when it comes to passing legislation, aren’t they finished yet? They have been doing it for hundreds of years. The point of the law is to offer a stable set of rules to govern society. How it be stable if it keeps changing? We live in a country where failure to abide by the law can mean severe criminal sanction. And yet the nine best jurists in the country sit on a bench in DC and are often unable to agree what the law means, or what the law is. Surely being subject to a capricious, ever changing law is what Ayn Rand was thinking when she said:

    There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws

    For instance, I’ll note that, against all odds, Hillary holds no national office.

    Yes, the elites definitely made a mistake on that one. Don’t worry though, if you look at what has gone on since they have done everything possible, in the many arms of the state’s immune system, to correct that error and eradicate that “cancer” of Trumpism. Right now, we are watching in the Muller investigation the very perfection of the corruption of the legal system. The very essence of what is wrong where trivial crimes are magnified and massive crimes are overlooked. Where, for example, what should be a trivial crime — cheating on your taxes — is magnified into “a million years in prison” if you don’t sing, or compose, against someone the powerful don’t like.

    “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.”

    This all sounds a bit of a downer. But it isn’t. In truth it is liberating. To recognize that the solutions that we all seek in life are not found at the voting booth — a place where we really have no power — but instead in our own efforts in the private realm should be liberating. I look at all those weeping faces in anguish, howling at the moon, when their candidate lost. It is bogus. They are looking to politics to fix their problems. Instead, be free, be liberated, take charge of one’s own life and make one’s own solutions without expectation that the government will fix it.

    Government is a predator. Just like any animal on the plain we have to make our own way, find our own success. But always keep an eye on the lion. He isn’t your friend, but he isn’t going away, so he is just another thing to deal with while trying to make your own path. And if there is a hard to negotiate swamp, like a Constitution, between you and that predator, so much the better.

    (Sorry, I think I am mixing my metaphors.)

  • bobby b

    “I’m afraid I don’t have access to such high offices. Perhaps you are part of the elite Bobby?”

    I feel obliged to add that some of our states out here have a total population smaller than one-quarter of the population of Chicago. Small fish, tiny pond. 😆

  • Julie near Chicago

    Fraser writes:

    “The point of the law is to offer a stable set of rules to govern society.”

    Not in the minds of most regimes it isn’t, nor in the minds of most people either I’ll bet.

    It seems to me that most people and certainly most of the people in government think that the point of the law is to see that there’s no wrongdoing, and that everybody does the right thing — as decided by the governor (say the Emperor) or the government (with or without some say by the public).

    As for the value of stability, the Kims have got the most stable law I know of.

    Also, whether private, non-governmental action can work at all depends on whether the “law” (such as it may be) and the regime’s or government’s enforcement of none, some, or all of the law, allows said private action.

    .

    Don’t believe the guff about how in a democracy (“the voting both”) individuals have no power. They do have power, but in terms of the outcome of a particular election or referendum the individual’s power is usually microscopic. However, elections and referenda do have outcomes (as a rule they are binary: win/lose, or yes/no); that is because of the cumulative effect of tiny increments, which almost always add up to more for one side of the issue than the other.

    It may be that a thousand men show up to help drag a boulder from A to B, where any 999 of them could do it; but who is to say which one of the thousand is the one whose efforts make no difference?

    But there are also effects that follow on from the fact of the election and also from its results. These can move “public opinion” in one direction or another. And the campaigns preceding the event as well as discussion of the outcome serve the purpose of disseminating facts and issues. (The problem there, of course, is that some of the facts aren’t, e.g. the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, and so many of the issues are murky or garbled. But that’s the hand we humans are dealt, so there we are. There’s nothing new about injustice, nor about injustice sold as justice.)

    . . .

    As for the constant complaints about the laws’ being made by “nine unelected judges”:

    1. This applies to the Supreme Court of the U.S., not to judges at the county level, many or perhaps all (I don’t know) of whom are indeed elected. (As has been pointed out here before, it seems that where judges are elected the electorate in general doesn’t pay much attention to them as candidates and in many cases don’t even know their names. What price directly-elected judges?)

    2. The SCOTUS and Federal District Courts of Appeals’ judges are appointed by representatives of the citizenry who are chosen by the voters. For instance, see Ilya Somin’s column on this:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/02/17/the-constitution-does-not-require-the-senate-to-give-judicial-nominees-an-up-or-down-vote/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b4f250714297

    Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law.” … [The Senate’s] consent is a prerequisite to enabling the president’s nominee to take up his or her office.

    2. The Supreme Court is not empowered to make the laws, but rather to decide whether a law is properly applied in a given case. (Often this takes the form of “Is Statute X admissible under the law as set forth in the Constitution?) We would all be well-served if people in general could get their heads around this fact. As it is, what the Supremes do in the way of “making” law is to set precedents, which can be and sometimes are altered in subsequent cases. (Lower courts, I understand, tend to rule in accordance with current SCOTUS precedents.)

    This point seems to be widely misunderstood, and it’s that misunderstanding that underlies all the yap about “judges making laws,” and for and against “activist judges.” It is true that sometimes judges do take it unto themselves to rewrite laws so as to legitimatize them as law — see Obamacare, NFIB vs. Sebelius. The fact remains that the dam Act was and still is unConstitutional. But a Court with at least five of its heads on straight could, in principle, overturn this at any time.

    For instance, the opinion of the Court in Plessy vs. Ferguson, which allowed “separate but equal” institutions for citizens of Negro heritage, i.e. segregation in public facilities such as public schools (and more), was overturned by the SCOTUS opinion in Brown vs. Board of Education.

    3. There’s no more reason to prefer “Direct Democracy” in the matter of appointing Federal Judges than there is in the case of electing Congressmen and Presidents.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Julie near Chicago
    “The point of the law is to offer a stable set of rules to govern society.”

    most of the people in government think that the point of the law is to see that there’s no wrongdoing,

    Let’s just contrast these two views. Which are governments truly concerned with — policing the morals of their people or keeping things stable so that they can govern more effectively. I would have thought an aficionado of Sir Humphrey like yourself would answer that the same way I would.

    There are lots of things that would be classified as “wrongdoing” that aren’t against the law (and lots of things that are not wrong doing that are.) Consider what most governments consider the worst crime of all — treason. It is a crime because it undermines the stability of the government not because it is “wrong” in the sense of stealing or killing.

    From what I can see the catching wrongdoers part of the law is actually more about stability than anything — were the government not to do so then the citizen might take the law into his own hands, and we certainly can’t have that sort of anarchy and chaos.

    Now of course what government people say, or even convince themselves to believe is not the same necessarily as the whys and wherefores of what they do. In truth I think most politicians actually sit somewhere between the two, in fact for most the purpose of government is to empower them.

    However, I guess that is a subsidiary point. I actually agree that the point of the law should be stability.

    As for the value of stability, the Kims have got the most stable law I know of.

    That isn’t true at all. In fact it is the opposite. The law in North Korea is “what Kim says goes”. But that is not at all predictable or stable, which is what I am talking about. Stability means this: “given this set of laws, and this set of facts, is the action described by the facts legal or illegal.” This is most certainly not true in tyrannical states like North Korea.

    Also, whether private, non-governmental action can work at all depends on whether the “law”

    Yes of course. But the point of this discussion is the utility of a constitution and the efficacy of political action. If you think of this as a line with the left hand side as tyranny and the right hand side as liberty, any society is at a point on that line, and that point defines the actions that an individual can take. That is your starting point. Not if we move the point the scope of legal private action changes. So does democracy pull us toward liberty or tyranny? The answer is almost always tyranny. What about a constitution? It doesn’t pull us toward liberty either, however, what it do is act a a brake to slow down the speed at which we head to tyranny.

    Constitution hinder government caprice. Political action almost always leads to worse government and more tyranny than less. So in theory unrestrained democracy allows the correction of a malconfigured state. But in practice it doesn’t. Because it depends on the desire of the people to seek out more liberty, and the history of the world is not that at all. On the contrary it is to story of seeking privileged and unfair advantage, it is about voting yourself benefits from the public treasury, which is to say, it is about having the right to spend other people’s money, and punish unpopular minorities (whether they be the rich through taxes, or the poor blacks through Jim Crow). It is about gross over reactions to ephemeral events with things of horrible long term consequences. I don’t need to give examples, because you can already list a dozen without thinking.

    Don’t believe the guff about how in a democracy (“the voting both”) individuals have no power. They do have power, but in terms of the outcome of a particular election or referendum the individual’s power is usually microscopic.

    I am reminded of the 2000 presidential election. I remember President Clinton commenting that this is why every vote counts. But it proved exactly the opposite. They couldn’t count the votes accurately, not even to within a few hundred votes. Your vote does not matter. It makes no difference.

    This fact is exacerbated by this plain fact: the election is, as you say, usually predicated on a binary choice. But who gets to chose what the choices are? If you are hungry and I say “Hey Julie, what do you want to eat, cyanide or hemlock?” You certainly have a choice, but you don’t control your destiny (which I presume would be pepperoni pizza.)

    But there are also effects that follow on from the fact of the election and also from its results. These can move “public opinion” in one direction or another. And the campaigns preceding the event as well as discussion of the outcome serve the purpose of disseminating facts and issues.

    “Disseminating the facts”? Surely you don’t think that the US media is doing anything resembling that?

  • Fraser Orr (December 18, 2018 at 5:03 pm et seq.), after the US Civil War, the Democrats mounted a vigorous claw-back of its outcome, to the point that a negro in 1920 was typically less certain of enjoying unhindered all his civil rights than a negro in 1880, but it is very much not the case that the war’s outcome had no effect, or that the claw-back ever got to where it wanted, or that all of that war’s soldiers should have decided they personally had no effect. (Some no doubt had none, just as some votes prove superfluous in retrospect.)

    Ongoing claw-back campaigns resist both Trump’s victory and the Brexit vote’s outcome – in ways that testify to the need for those outcomes. They are themselves being resisted. We will know in time how much effect they have.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It seems to me that most people and certainly most of the people in government think that the point of the law is to see that there’s no wrongdoing, and that everybody does the right thing — as decided by the governor (say the Emperor) or the government (with or without some say by the public).”

    It’s decided by that small slice of the public who got elected as representatives of the rest.

    Society collectively decides what’s right and wrong. It does so through constant negotiation between neighbours. And it changes: circumstances change, new practices and innovations require new rules to cope with them, new ideas and philosophies are introduced, there are attacks by rivals and resistance by internal groups, and society gradually changes its mind about what is right and wrong.

    However, with change going on, there will be disagreement and ambiguity about what the current rules actually are. You could act thinking that one set were in operation, and suddenly find that the people you were dealing with had a completely different understanding. So the point of law is to agree one unambiguous version, to give everyone certainty. The point of legislators is to keep this one version up to date with what society collectively believes right and wrong to be. The point of civil servants is to enable legislators to put their changes into effect, bearing in mind that the legislators are selected from the public and therefore a bunch of incompetent idiots with no understanding of the consequences of their actions.

    “Don’t believe the guff about how in a democracy (“the voting both”) individuals have no power. They do have power, but in terms of the outcome of a particular election or referendum the individual’s power is usually microscopic.”

    This isn’t the full story. The major exercise of the people’s power in a democracy isn’t the bit where they vote, it’s the bit where they stand for election. Anyone can form a party, announce their policies, and stand. It is perfectly feasible for all the people fed up with our current politicians to get together, form a party, get everyone to vote for it, and sweep out all the old guard in one swoop. You don’t have to pick just from the menu offered to you, you can add your own options to the list.

    The problem, of course, is in the step “get everyone to vote for it”. It’s not ‘the system’ stopping you getting your way, it’s the fact that your ideas are not really as popular as you like to think.

    However, as recent events have shown, if the current incumbents go too far off track, it really can be done.

    “Let’s just contrast these two views. Which are governments truly concerned with — policing the morals of their people or keeping things stable so that they can govern more effectively. I would have thought an aficionado of Sir Humphrey like yourself would answer that the same way I would.”

    Don’t forget that ‘Yes Minister’ also included Jim Hacker, whose goal was to improve the way the country was run morally, (and by so doing improve his own popularity and career, of course).

    “There are lots of things that would be classified as “wrongdoing” that aren’t against the law (and lots of things that are not wrong doing that are.)”

    There are things people think are wrong but not wrong enough to merit punishment or penalty; law is only for those parts of the moral system requiring coercion. There are also things that people disagree on about whether they are right or wrong, or merit coercion or don’t. Those are a work in progress. Law isn’t identical with morality, in the same way that dictionaries don’t specify all the words/meanings in a language.

    “Consider what most governments consider the worst crime of all — treason. It is a crime because it undermines the stability of the government not because it is “wrong” in the sense of stealing or killing.”

    Do you mean sedition?

    A lot of people consider it wrong in the sense of stealing or killing. Overthrowing the elected government by force, or giving aid to foreign enemies in a time of war, can be considered stealing power and will likely involve a lot of killing.

    There is absolutely *no* problem with campaigning to completely change the way government operates, and to change every law, so long as you propose to do so by the legitimate political/electoral process. Stability, per se, is not the goal. Following the proper process for bringing about change is the goal.

    “But the point of this discussion is the utility of a constitution and the efficacy of political action. If you think of this as a line with the left hand side as tyranny and the right hand side as liberty, any society is at a point on that line, and that point defines the actions that an individual can take.”

    I sometimes think of this as like the argument that we should outlaw guns so that criminals don’t have guns. The problem is, criminals don’t obey the law. So outlawing guns only disarms the law-abiding, and leaves them at the mercy of the criminals. Similarly, tyrants don’t follow constitutions, if they don’t want to. Only law-abiding governments follow constitutions.

    The proper function of a constitution is not simply to make certain parts of the system difficult to change (and hence corrupt). It’s to rule on what is within the remit of government to govern. It is to set bounds on the areas of life in which society has the right to coerce its members. It’s to set limits to populist democracy. The idea is to specify those things that are no business of government, or society, and that even if 99% of the population voted for it, would still be wrong to do. It’s meant to be a curb on the power of even a fully democratic government.

    Unfortunately, because there’s the possibility of getting it wrong, there’s a democratic method for changing the constitution, which potentially negates its function. But it’s not supposed to be about “we want our decisions on these particular subjects to be hard for subsequent governments to change”, but “these subjects are none of our business! It’s not for government to decide.”

    “So does democracy pull us toward liberty or tyranny? The answer is almost always tyranny.”

    It pulls it towards what the people are, and people have an authoritarian streak. In our Western society, we have a tradition of being mostly liberal but with a subset of issues where we’re still authoritarian (which changes over time) and democracy holds us there.

    The change in the selected subset of authoritarian issues can sometimes look like worsening tyranny because we learn the prevailing moral system in our youth and are somewhat blind to its pre-existing tyrannies, but when things change we suddenly notice them. The elderly of every generation decry the corruption of the language and morals of its youth, and say things are getting worse. The youth of every generation decry the morals of their elders, and say they’re making things better.

    It’s like technology, or the economy, or the environment. I’ve heard people saying things are getting worse all my life. But I think it depends mainly on your perspective. Life isn’t perfect, but it’s not so bad as all that.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Niall Kilmartin
    the Democrats mounted a vigorous claw-back of its outcome, to the point that a negro in 1920 was typically less certain of enjoying unhindered all his civil rights than a negro in 1880,

    I’m not sure if you are disagreeing with me, but that kind of makes my point. The war won freedom for many (though its outcome is more complicated than that), but then the inexorable monster of the state slowly started clawing back the liberty won.

    It is kind of like the grass in your backyard. It inexorably grows, slowly but surely, but every once in a while you take a radical hatchet to it to prevent it from getting out of control. But once you do, it immediately starts its inexorable growth gain.

    Ongoing claw-back campaigns resist both Trump’s victory and the Brexit vote’s outcome

    Brexit and Trump were both “mistakes”. It is also worth pointing out that neither of them really radically improves the liberty of the individual. Certainly they both make people better off, and reduce, for example, regulatory and tax burdens a little. But the state, under both, still grows, it just takes a wee pause to catch its breath from the outrageous audacity of them voter people.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Fraser! It would most certainly not be pepperoni pizza! It would be Garbage Pizza: Sausage, olives (pref. black), mushrooms, peppers, onion, definitely anchovies, shrimp if available; hold the pepperoni.

    Otherwise, bacon-onion or sausage-anchovy. Deal with it.

    .

    Perhaps we’re somewhat at cross-purposes here. You’re correct in a way: Kim’s law is what Kim says it is at the moment, which (I definitely believe, but do not know for a fact) is subject to change without notice, so in the sense of its particulars, the law is not stable. But it is stable in the sense that it is dependably always and everywhere exactly what Kim says it is. And I was thinking of stability in the latter sense.

    “Which are governments truly concerned with — policing the morals of their people or keeping things stable so that they can govern more effectively.”

    Governments (that is, the actual deciders of what the laws are and how they’ll be enforced: the top-level PTB in the regime) may or may not be concerned much with policing the morals of their people. They are more likely to be concerned mainly with keeping their status, their power, and their pay & perks. Pres. Washington was notably not of this mind, and I daresay there are examples in the histories of other countries, but observation persuades me that that’s the general rule. Of course of the rulers rule in virtue of their or their proclaimed policies’ and agendas’ popularity, they will “police the morals” in accordance with what they take to be their people’s preferences, simply in order to keep their positions. In our country, a given state may decide that the death penalty is appropriate punishment for Murder One, according to what the state PTB thinks the voters want. In our state, the effective PTB largely depend on the backing of the Chicago machine to retain power & perks; they’re not interested in policing public morality except insofar as this or that position is in line with what the Machine wants.

    .

    As to “disseminating the facts,” the fact that lies and distortions are touted as facts by some or even many voices does not mean that no claimed facts are true. You can’t argue that everything is hogwash just because a lot of it is.

    And you can’t argue with the fact that the microscopic amount of weight your vote gives to the perception is what’s popular or desirable adds to the sum total of such perceptions. And in a system where those who want to be among the PTB depend on their acting at least somewhat in line with what seems to be wanted, your addition to the volume of the voices in your particular choir do matter, in future elections and even in the policies of present officials, even if they don’t put your side over the top in the present election (or referendum).

    Also remember, every vote cast for your side cancels a vote cast for the other side. Example: It’s widely believed that a majority of the votes for Trump were actually the result of each of those voter’s meaningful vote against Hillary, and some (much smaller of course) votes were votes against the bulk of the Democratic Party’s policies and actions.

    .

    Anyhow, an interesting discussion, Fraser. Thanks.

  • Julie near Chicago

    My, I see that Niall and NiV both made valuable additions to the discussion while I was otherwise occupied. 😀

    .

    Fraser:

    ‘Brexit and Trump were both “mistakes”. It is also worth pointing out that neither of them really radically improves the liberty of the individual.’

    Um, no one particular meal is likely to “radically improve” the health of the individual. But even a light lunch of bacon and eggs or a Sunday supper of pancakes usually results in an added bit of energy, or at least a slight uptick in mood, and in general to provide a tad of the energy a body needs to keep on surviving.

    An improvement may be small or short-lived, but it’s still an improvement. Forests are made of individual trees after all.

    …Or, for example: Most of us here have reasonably broad vocabularies. But there’s no denying that learning a new word adds to one’s vocabulary, even if by only a tiny fraction of a percent. Not a radical improvement, but an improvement to our knowledge just the same.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Nullius in Verba
    It’s decided by that small slice of the public who got elected as representatives of the rest.

    You say that as if they are representative, but they aren’t. They are part of a party machine, and a system thoroughly rigged toward a duopoloy. One need only look at Britain and the modern liberal party, or the SDP and their failed attempts to work against that machine. The system is designed to keep the system in place.

    Society collectively decides what’s right and wrong.

    That isn’t true at all. That is what we are meant to believe, but it isn’t what actually happens. How many people in the USA seriously think that men dressed as women should be able to use the women’s restroom or locker room? Or how many thing that they should see their electricity bill doubled, or their gas price tripled to salve the prophets of doom? It is a tiny, tiny fraction. However, that is the agenda that is being pushed.

    And again, we have to distinguish between what people say they believe and how their actions manifest their beliefs. Warren Buffett, we are told, has lamented the fact that his tax rate is lower than his secretary’s. However, has he called off his army of lawyers and accountants to reduce his tax bill? I think not.

    On the contrary, “thought leaders” tell us what our morals should be. Let me give you an example. If you are of the left wing persuasion you are probably in favor or women’s right to an abortion and opposed to the death penalty. If you are of the right wing persuasion you are probably in favor of a baby’s right to survive and in favor of hangin’ em high and hangin’ em slow. What connects these two viewpoints on abortion and the death penalty? Such that if a person tells me they believe such and such about abortion that I can predict with perhaps 95% certainty what they think about the death penalty?

    People put themselves in broad, general camps, and then take their moral direction from the leaders of these camps. Most people are too busy earning a living, raising their kids of mowing their lawn to think deeply and philosophically about these things. And remember, half the population has an IQ below 100. Many people just don’t have the intellectual capacity to reason or defend such things particularly effectively.

    Moreover, as I have argued before, having a position on these things that is “true” is far less important than having a position that allows one to fit into one’s social herd. So taking our moral positions from our group leaders is an evolutionary advantage. It is only when life intrudes on your little bubble (when your 15 yo daughter gets pregnant, or someone kills your husband in a mugging) that you actually have to bring your mind (and your emotions) to re-evaluate these things.

    You, NIV, are smart, logical, rational and committed to the truth. Most people are none of these things.

    This isn’t the full story.

    That is true, but the rest of the story is who gets to pick the choices. To use the example I did with Julie, if you are hungry and I offer you hemlock or cyanide, you get a choice but you are still not in control of your destiny. You are still not free.

    it’s the bit where they stand for election. Anyone can form a party, announce their policies, and stand.

    It is a curious point of view. My thoughts are that the government should leave people the hell alone, and so your formulation for fixing this is to become a full time politician and dedicate my life to politics and government? That is insane. It is accepting the premise that government has a legitimate right to do with it does.

    Moreover, and most importantly, the game is deeply rigged against this. Politicians and the state have spent hundreds of years building an immune system to prevent this from happening. Rigging election laws, controlling parties, fiddling districts, onerous requirements, widely spouting the “wasted vote” syndrome, the deeply disturbing FEC and a million other tricks and heuristics.

    The American political system is designed more like the NFL. There are some large number of teams at the bottom that play each other, they progress up and up through playoffs, until the super bowl then the NFC champ plays the AFC champ. As you move up every step of the ladder the system is designed to denude you of your principles, to buy you off with special interests, to get you to compromise “for the greater good” etc.

    So, you idea is the great American dream. The great American theory of political power. But it is not AT ALL what happens in the real political system.

    And what decent person would want to dedicate his life to politics anyway? Anyone who wants to become a politician should be automatically disqualified from doing so. Aspiring to control other people’s lives is not a nice quality.

    It pulls it towards what the people are, and people have an authoritarian streak.

    Two things. First that isn’t true. It pulls toward what the undiluted special interests and “thought leaders” want it pulled toward. And second — so what? Even were the majority to be in favor of a Stalin type leader, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good and shouldn’t be stopped. And, back to the original point, if the people do indeed tend toward authoritarianism, all the more reason to have a constitution to slow the fuckers down.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Julie near Chicago
    Fraser! It would most certainly not be pepperoni pizza! It would be Garbage Pizza

    Ah yes, garbage pizza — the pizza for people who can’t make up their mind….

    But Julie, you are a Chicagoan, how can you speak this sort of heresy? Deep dish, sausage, from Unos or Ginos, is clearly the only way.

    Otherwise, bacon-onion or sausage-anchovy. Deal with it.

    Julie, when will you learn that fish doesn’t belong on pizza? You know, when I am The Universal Benevolent Dictator For Life, and I am sure we can all agree that that would be a VERY good thing, I will have you fishy pizza people carted off the a culinary re-education camp. We can’t have you “people” spreading your fish-on-pizza lies. When I am The Universal Benevolent Dictator For Life you will all eat my pizza preference, every Tuesday night, and 6:30pm (after two minutes of singing my praises, of course.)

    FWIW, I agree with most of the rest of what you said, except about voting, but I believe I have beaten that dead horse quite enough already.

    And regards to your other comment about Brexit and Trump being a small but positive gain, I certainly agree, and I’ll take all I can get. But small steps back don’t come close to overcoming in inexorable tide of the state. Much as I like some of Trump’s changes, the plain fact is that he still spent more than any previous President in running the government. Maybe it grew less quickly, but it still grew.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I know, Fraser, I know, but all I can say is that I owe my degree, not to mention my very continued existence, to the many late-night Garbage Pizzas that we girls on my floor used to order from Nicky’s. You haven’t studied till you’ve done so while trying not to get sausage and tomato sauce on your book!

    (Nowadays, reduced cargo capacity forces me to choose between the bread on which the Real Chicago Pizza is built, or the layer of toppings…. :cry:)

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