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Brian and I chat for the last time

As promised.

By the way, I found this rather good obituary of Brian by Sean Gabb at The Critic.

Update. The post was initially put up with the wrong link (hence Paul’s comment). It has now been corrected.

13 comments to Brian and I chat for the last time

  • Paul Marks

    Your conversation with Brian on the Middle Ages I have written about before – no point in me writing all that stuff again. Dr Gabb’s obituary is good – but….. (yes “but…..”).

    I do not remember social issues being quite this prominent – they were most certainly covered, but the obituary makes it sound as if they took more of the work of Chris and Brian than I think they did (still people of good will can remember things differently).

    Also there is the glaring omission of foreign policy and defence – what distinguished Chris and Brian from (for example) Murray Rothbard was their loyalty-to-the-West.

    Too often in “anarcho-capitalist” writings one gets “history” that is just not-true. World War II is blamed on Western envy of the trade deals of Nazi Germany (I have a book by Rothbard, his history of American money and banking, that makes exactly this utterly insane claim), and the Rothbardian account of the Post World War II world is essentially the Soviet propaganda line. As for what is written about Ireland and the Middle East – well the most polite thing one can say is “it is wrong”.

    There was none of this with Chris Tame or Brain Micklethwait – they were not pro Nazi Germany, they did not parrot the Soviet propaganda line in relation to the Cold War, they did not support the IRA or various Middle Eastern terrorist groups – on the contrary they OPPOSED all these powers, and (in spite of being anarcho capitalists) they supported Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in supporting the West against the totalitarians. They just wanted to go a lot further than Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan had gone.

    This is part of what made Chris and Brian special – they were anarcho capitalist libertarians who did NOT come out with raving insanity of the Nazi, Soviet (and so on) sort.

    And they spent much more time opposing the Soviet Union than on social issues such as drugs-and-sex – indeed Brian Micklethwait would rather have had a cup of tea and a book on architecture than snort cocaine and go to a “sex party” – but if other people wanted to do the latter, that was their business.

    “Paul – remember Chris and Brian supported the West of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, in the age of “Boris” Johnson and Joseph Biden does the “the West” really mean anything any more?”

    A good question – and I just wish Brain was here to help us answer it.

  • Paul Marks

    Today is the 11th of November – so it is especially important to remember which side people were on in relation to the World Wars and other conflicts.

    The thing about both Chris and Brian is that were on our side. They did not repeat, as truth, the lies of the enemy.

    Would that was true of some other libertarian thinkers.

  • Paul Marks

    On the Industrial Revolution one can make the criticism that both Brian Micklethwait (in the past – not in this recording) and Michael Oakeshott made – the Wensleydale Judgement, saying that people could not sue for pollution of their air or water supplies as this would disrupt “great public undertakings” is clearly a nonsense (ditto “general welfare” or “public interest”). However, the Industrial Revolution did NOT depend on the Wensleydale judgement. People could (and should) have been allowed to sue for pollution of air and water supplies – and the Industrial Revolution would still have happened.

    Overall both the Industrial Revolution and the Agricultural Revolution that came before it, were vitally necessary – if they had not occurred then England, Scotland and Wales would have suffered the same fate that IRELAND did in the late 1840s, where peasant plot based farming and lack of industry (the sort of thing that Greta Thunberg thinks is wonderful) were revealed to be a brutal horror.

    No doubt Ireland was very “Green” (in more ways than one) in the late 1840s – but much of the population was also very DEAD (something for Prime Minister Johnson to think about).

  • I’m so glad this got out. I’ve been worried these ideas died with Brian. Excellent work Patrick.

  • Paul Marks

    “Tommy Robinson”.

    This person has served the role of the “Canary in the coal mine”.

    The state did not like his politics – so they went looking for a crime. Think about that – think what that shows the modern state to be.

    They found alleged fraud on a mortgage application (inflated claims of income) – and if anyone thinks that the state was really concerned about that, then I have nice bridge to sell you. Ditto with other “crimes” he has supposedly committed – such as upsetting rapists, by talking to them (yes – according to the state judges, that is a crime). The “crime” was never what the state (including the judges”) was interested in – the state did not like him, so the state went after him. It was that brutally simple.

    Later on this person was removed from Social Media – it was claimed that he declared that he wanted Muslims to be beheaded, he did NOT.

    Then it became a de facto “crime” to even interview him – or to link to his own site. He was “unpersoned”. The Corporations would hit you if you had contact with “Voldemort”.

    “But I do not like the man – and “Tommy Robinson” is not even his real name, and ..”

    Totally missing the point. I might NOT like this person either (in fact I find his voice annoying) – but if they (the state and the corporations – which are in the same “educated” hands now) can do this to him, THEY CAN DO IT TO ANYONE ELSE.

  • Paul Marks

    As Brian knew well – the best book on the British Industrial Revolution was T.S. Ashton’s “The Industrial Revolution” – a little book that is over 70 years old.

    Why did the Germans lands, or France, not have an industrial Revolution in the 1700s? Because of the Guild System and other restrictions – basically they were not ALLOWED to have an Industrial Revolution and that is why they fell behind. When those restrictions were removed – they did have an Industrial Revolution.

    Back in the 1700s Britain was the only large country in Europe that did not have these restrictions. It also had no serfdom (unlike the Germans lands) and lower taxation than most places. And Britain (at least after 1745-6) was not a battlefield, and had a rich landed aristocracy and gentry who could both grow food (Coke of Norfolk and all that) and invest money in industry. The money mostly coming from domestic large scale farming (not “slavery” or “the Empire”).

    Germany did not catch up in terms of output per man – even after British industry was hit by such terrible things as the Trade Union Acts of 1875 and 1906. But they had more people. Even in the 1930s British output per man (REAL output – not the Nazi fantasy figures) was almost twice German output per man.

    It was not till after World War II that Germany became a more prosperous country than Britain – due to the insane direction that British government policy took under Prime Minister Clement Atlee and others.

    It was not that the war left Germany a “clean slate” – it was that POLICY in Germany after World War II was better.

    The country that caught up in terms of output per man – was the United States.

    By the time my father was born (1913) American industrial output per man was much higher than British output per man. Industrial output in America being higher than that of Britain by about 1890.

    It is interesting to note that the generation of President Eisenhower could clearly remember a society where there was no income tax, no Central Bank (no Federal Reserve paper money), and a functioning Labour Market – no laws pushing “Collective Bargaining” (the Unemployment Creating Machine – as W.H. Hutt correctly described this government pushed thing).

    I am NOT saying that society was like that under President Eisenhower (most certainly not) – but he could REMEMBER a free economy.

    Later generations of Americans can not remember a free economy. And they have been taught by the education system that – at first there was darkness, and then the GOVERNMENT said “let there be light” – what in Britain is called the cult of “Social Reform” which has dominated our politics (gradually taking over) from the 1870s onwards.

  • Paul Marks

    One point that needs to be made – there is nothing wrong with a guild as such. What is wrong is the compulsion to belong to a guild (or not trade) and the compulsion to obey its rules.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Here are some of my quotes, which I’ll cross-post to Croziervision.

    “Persuasive creativity”

    “Liberte, egalite, fraternite only spread after Napoleon was defeated” (Yes, I know you had that as one of your quotes, but it struck me so strongly that I wrote it down anyway.)

    “Todd and McCloskey needed the intervention of Micklethwait”

    Patrick: Todd says spread of literacy, McCloskey says spread of ideology, but literacy leads to ideology (creates battle between new men and old aristocracy)

    “All that mattered was that family structure was what it was when literacy exploded over England”

    The middle section when Brian talked about his impending death was hard to listen to in one way, and very good to listen to in another way.

    I love that after talking about his imminent death he asked YOU if you were in a fit state to move on to Tommy Robinson.

    I laughed out loud when Brian talked about the “Fuck Joe Biden” chants and said, “It’s the only way they have left to make Biden look foolish.” I think his implication was that all the efforts by Facebook, Twitter and the MSM to suppress stories like Hunter Biden’s laptop had worked in the sense that those topics had been pushed out of the public sphere… but that in itself made for a build up of pressure severe enough that American sporting crowds, who don’t usually care much about politics, were moved to engage in political chanting.

    Some novel or other (possibly by Virginia Woolf) opens with a scene where a man lies dying and another character, female I think, goes to the window to draw the curtains and sees that it is snowing. She start to say, “It’s snowing” but doesn’t because what does a dying man care about snow?

    That didn’t apply to Brian He was curious about the world, about what American NASCAR audiences were chanting in 2021 and why Germany got the great composers and Britain the great engineers at the same period of history, right up to the end.

    Edit: I’ll cross post it to Croziervision when I work out how.

  • Patrick Crozier


    Well, if you do succeed in cross-posting it to Croziervision do let us know how you did it. But if you don’t, it’s fine here. I do link to here from there.

    I know I express doubts in the introduction about whether I truly understood what Brian was saying but listening to the recording again and reading your quote of me makes me think I was doing better than I thought. That’s awfully nice to know.

  • Paul Marks

    I used to think that the French Revolution got rid of the guilds (again it is not the guilds as such that are the problem – it is COMPULSORY guilds that are the problem) on August 4th 1789 – but I was quite wrong, it did not happen till 1791. I would have liked to ask Brain why so many works give the wrong impression – why did it take two years?

    French farming was held back in the 19th century by the compulsory division of land among all the sons – ironically the French Revolutionaries denounced the Ancient Regime for “murdering” (or “eating”) younger sons – but it was their regime that did that. If you have to divide a farm among all the sons you tend make sure you only have one son – and that can lead to some very bad things. In German law there were ways round this (and in England you could do what you liked – even in Kent dividing the land was voluntary, if you made a will you could avoid doing that), hence the German population expansion of the 19th century (relative to France) – which may have had a part to play in the French defeat of 1870, near defeat in 1914 and defeat in 1940.

    As the French say “demography is destiny” – if your laws (the compulsory division of land) encourage late marriage and infanticide then your nation will become less powerful over time, and may well become vulnerable to its enemies.

    I would describe what is happening to France and other nations now (in relation to demography) – but I type under my own name, and I suspect that being open such matters is a criminal offence – so “if you wish to know – research the matter for yourself”. I do not believe that any “race” is morally superior to any other “race” – but even holding that position does not prevent a person from punishment in our demented age.

    Brian was quite right about Napoleon – in spite of his achievements (handing back factories to private owners, re establishing the Rule of Law in France, re establishing real money, gold coinage, and so on….) he UNDERMINED the appeal of the French Revolution by his naked ambition (declaring himself Emperor and putting his own family on so many thrones of Europe) and endless wars of aggression put people off. Napoleon actually considered a free market policy (Andrew Roberts, the most recent defender of Napoleon, points this out), but he rejected such a policy – as he held it was not suitable for wartime. His kinsman Napoleon the III basically did follow a free market policy – away from the endless subsidies for various industries that France had followed under King Louis Philippe (anyone who thinks that France followed a “laissez faire” policy before 1848 is wrong), but the regime of Napoleon III had no appeal for intellectuals (such as Victor Hugo) – even though “it could be argued” (code for “I believe”) that the France of 1869 was the freest that the French people have ever been. Not perfect – but there is no perfection in this world.

    Brian mentions Beethoven – and he was a classic example of someone who had idealised the French Revolution, but was totally alienated by the Napoleon declaring himself Emperor and by his endless wars of aggression. If Trotsky had defeated Stalin in the Soviet Union he might have led to the downfall of the Soviet regime many decades before it did fall – Trotsky would have attacked everywhere (as Napoleon did) without carefully subverting these countries first, and he would have united everyone against the Soviet Union.

    On music I hold with the early 18th century (with Bach and Handel) rather than the late 18th century – but Brian is quite right the late 18th century and the early 19th century witnessed the birth of the Romantic movement in art and literature – the stress on EMOTION (feeling), 18th century people (like me) found themselves in a totally different world – a world of depth of feeling and the expression of feeling in art and life.

    It ends up with Richard Wagner (an ardent Collectivist Social Reformer who wanted to abolish money and private property in the means of production) – I would have liked to ask Brian if he thought that this stress on emotion (on feeling) had become unbalanced by then. With reason being undermined – by excessive (and uncontrolled) emotion.

    In politics – “Social Reformers” such as Bismarck and Disraeli have no charm for me (and I know that Brian did not like them either), my heart is with such people as Lord Palmerston, an 18th century person still Prime Minister in 1865.

    Of course Lord Salisbury (whose family had helped guide this land since the 16th century) was still Prime Minister at the start of the 20th century – but he was filled with foreboding (almost Defeatism), believing that the Social Reformers could not be stopped.

  • Paul Marks

    Even today it is easier to protect a family business in Germany than it is France – as French inheritance tax (a largely 20th century thing) is much higher.

    But inheritance tax is being pushed in Germany – which could be (over a time) a dagger at the throat of the family owned manufacturing enterprises that are the great strength of Germany.

    I have been forced, by vast amounts of evidence, to accept that the late 20th century “Anglosphere” experiment of handing over most of manufacturing (and banking and so on) to Corporations that have no clear owners is a horrible failure – Dr Sean Gabb and Mr Ed understood this long before I did.

    I always hated the decline of family firms in manufacturing, and I understood that the much cheered “Big Bang” in the City of London was not “deregulation” at all (it was the opposite – it was the imposing of government regulations on private bodies, which led to the decline of self employment and real partnerships in “The City” and the rise of vast corporations), but I did NOT grasp just how big a disaster the (essentially) ownerless Corporate model is. Such things as Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax (as well as high individual Income Taxes) have helped create this horrible mess.

    I would have liked to hear Brian’s view of this.

  • Paul Marks

    There is a possible answer to Brian’s question as to why Sir Sydney Smith is not better know today – as well as the general answer that British people (especially those who campaigned against the Islamic slave trade – which modern education would prefer to pretend did not exist, the education system preferring to teach that the slave trade was entirely British – which was NOT even the largest Western slave trader, that being Portugal) are hated by the education system. Just being British is enough to get someone hated by the education system – and hence the media, the Corporations and so on.

    Sir Sydney Smith had a DEBT problem – which led to him having to live in France for some years (to avoid his creditors). Some of the debt was not his fault – but some of it was, and there was the smell of scandal about him even after his debts were finally paid off.

    It is a similar story with the First World War General Currie – one of the finest British Empire (in his case Canadian – although there was no real difference at the time, indeed the Canadian Bonar Law became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after the war, and the Red Ensign was the Canadian flag till 1965 – these days Canada, or rather the “Liberal” regime there, rejects its history and culture) commanders of the war – was not much honoured.

    Why was General Currie not much honoured? Why was he not promoted to a higher position? Say the positions held by incompetents such as General Gough or General Haig?

    The smell of scandal was around General Currie (as it had been around Sir Sydney Smith a century before) – in the case of Currie, his “borrowing” of money from the officer’s mess of his regiment, before the war.

    Yes the money was repaid – but the smell remained.

    Britain is odd that way – follow policies that get vast numbers of people killed and ruin the country and no one bats an eyelid. But put your hand in the till (as with “Tory Sleaze”) and you are in terrible trouble.

  • Paul Marks

    Whether it is farming, industry, banking (real banking, lending out Real Savings, not the Credit Bubble farce of Wall Street and modern “The City”) or anything else – the key is doing it on a proper scale (the ever changing balance of economies of scale and diseconomies of scale), being open (but NOT too open – for some new things are bad ideas) to new ideas and new technology), and a long term perspective – which is established by family ownership (but without any legal obligation either to divide the enterprise or to give it to the eldest son – this must be a matter for the judgment of the owner in their will).

    Just as an estate owner (the “Landed Interest” that was key to British success for centuries) plants a wood knowing that only their children or grandchildren will really enjoy it, so does the founder of a manufacturing enterprise or a House of Commerce. One “plants the seeds” (as it were) for future generations to really see grow to their full extent.