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

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

When is it time to quit?

The pseudonymous Sunfish is well known member of the Samizdata commentariat and brings some interesting perspectives as when he is not throwing down pixels in this parish, he is a policeman ‘somewhere in the USA’. And Sunfish has a question…

Governments have goons. That’s what makes them governments rather than debating societies. Even the governments of relatively free societies have them. I would like some guidance from my fellow goons now.

Back in the 1990’s, when I first graduated the academy and became a cop, I thought I was going to go out and slay dragons. I also thought that I would not have to compromise any of my beliefs in order to do so. I can not have been the first libertarian to go into this line of work. However I did not originally sign up to be a drug warrior, tax collector, or the mailed fist of the ‘Mommy Knows Best’ state. Yet somehow, I occasionally end up being all three of those things. Most of the time, though, I think that we still do more good than harm.

But at what point do we actually do more harm than good for liberty? When is it time to quit?

Health care, class conflict, and the Democratic Party

William H. Stoddard of San Diego, California has some interesting commentary on the state of the debate between Clinton and Obama on what they want for US health care policy

Health care policy is a major issue in the Democratic Party’s choice of a presidential candidate. The final debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, in Ohio, spent a reported 15 minutes on it. Yet the mainstream news media in the United States consistently report that there are only very minor differences between the positions of the two candidates. Given this, the argument looks like little more than semantic quibbling over the meaning of the word “universal,” all too typical of Clinton’s struggle to contest Obama’s unexpected rivalry for the nomination.

But the mainstream news media have it wrong. There is, in fact, a vitally important difference between the two positions, though one that their worldview makes them ill equipped to recognize. The difference is that Clinton would compel everyone to purchase health insurance; Obama would not. The standard label for this difference in health policy debates is “mandate,” for what Clinton wants.

Clinton has been evasive about exactly how she would compel the purchase of insurance – which is not surprising, as talking about punishing voters is not a good selling point in an election. The state of Massachusetts, which has a mandate, imposes fines on adults who do not have health insurance. Clinton has not talked about fines, but has suggested garnishing wages or making enrollment compulsory on admission to any hospital.

Of course, Clinton promises to make health insurance affordable to everyone, through subsidies and through massive new regulation of the insurance industry. So does Obama. But what if their plans do not work out? Under Obama’s plan, adults who thought even subsidized health insurance cost more than they could pay would remain uninsured, and at least be no worse off. Under Clinton’s plan, they would be forced to sign up, or penalized for not doing so – and either way they would be hurt. And given that Clinton predicts that fifteen million Americans would remain uncovered under Obama’s voluntary plan, it seems that she anticipates that fifteen million people would have to be hurt financially to make her plan viable – or, perhaps, simply to justify her in calling it “universal.” → Continue reading: Health care, class conflict, and the Democratic Party

Vote green – go blackshirt

Rob Johnston has produced a very interesting essay on the true soulmates of Green Politics in Britain

  • Forbid the purchase of corner shops by migrants
  • Stop people from inner cities moving to the countryside to protect traditional lifestyles
  • Grant British citizenship only to children born here
  • Boycott food grown by black farmers and subsidise crops grown by whites
  • Restrict tourism and immigration from outside Europe
  • Prohibit embryo research
  • Stop lorry movements on the Lord’s Day
  • Require State approval for national sports teams to compete overseas
  • Disconnect Britain from the European electricity grid
  • Establish a “new order” between nations to resolve the world economic crisis

These are the policies of one of Britain’s most influential political parties: a party that has steadily increased its vote over the last decade; a party that appeals overwhelmingly to whites; and a party that shares significant objectives with neo-fascists and religious fundamentalists.

Perhaps – the BNP? Despite its attempts to appear modern and inclusive and the soothing talk in its 2005 General Election Manifesto, of “genuine ethnic and cultural diversity” [1].

Or UKIP? It harbours some pretty backward-looking individuals – but would they stop Britain buying electricity from France if necessary?

Or, maybe, the Conservatives? Could that be a list of recommendations from one of Dave’s lesser-known policy groups – chaired by the ghost of Enoch Powell – quietly shredded to avoid “re-contaminating the Brand”?

Actually, affiliates of the progressive consensus may be surprised to learn that all the reactionary policies in the first paragraph are from the Green Party’s Manifesto for a Sustainable Society (MfSS) or were adopted at the party’s Autumn Conference in Liverpool over the weekend of September 13-16, 2007 [2].

Of course, the Green Party will protest against the accusation of reactionary politics. However, in an article critical of the G8 leaders in June, George Monbiot, (capo di tutti capi of the green movement) advised readers to judge politicians for “what they do, not what they say”.

For example, as well as supporting ethnic and cultural diversity, the BNP says it accepts:

“… the right of law-abiding minorities, in our country because they or their ancestors came here legally, to remain here and to enjoy the full protection of the law against any form of harassment or hostility…” [3]

But, use Monbiot’s argument, disregard the rhetoric and look at what the rest of the BNP manifesto promises would actually do and it remains a party of racist and neo-fascist ideology – internationally isolationist and domestically reactionary.

The trouble for Greens is that their manifesto pledges would result in many of the same outcomes as the BNP programme.

You will not find the words “Boycott food grown by black farmers and subsidise crops grown by whites”, in the Green Party’s manifesto, but consider Monbiot’s advice about the effects of these policies:

“The Green Party recognises that subsidies are sometimes necessary to protect local, regional and national economies and the environment, and we will support them in these instances” [4].

“Controls such as tariff barriers and quotas should be gradually introduced on a national and/or regional bloc level, with the aim of allowing localities and countries to produce as much of their food, goods and services as they can themselves. Anything that cannot be provided nationally should be obtained from neighbouring countries, with long distance trade the very last resort” [5].

The paradox of arguing for Fair Trade while refusing to buy African vegetables because of “food miles” has been noted many times, but it is a paradox the Green Party simply ignores. According to the Guardian, Britain has two black farmers [6], so any policy to subsidise domestic produce and erect barriers to outsiders will, ipso facto, support white farmers and disadvantage black farmers. Even if supplies are “obtained from neighbouring countries”, white European farmers benefit at the expense of poor farmers in Africa and the developing world.

On agricultural policy in general, Greens will agree with the following sentiments:

“Britain’s farming industry will be encouraged to produce a much greater part of the nation’s need in food products. Priority will be switched from quantity to quality, as we move from competing in a global economy to maximum self-sufficiency for Britain, sustainable agriculture, decreased reliance on petro-chemical products and more organic production” [7].

However, those promises come from the BNP 2005 General Election Manifesto – in a section indistinguishable from the Green Party manifesto:

“To be able to fulfil all our basic food needs locally. To grow as many other products as we can to meet our basic needs (e.g. for textiles, fuel, paper) on a local or regional basis. To enable all communities to have access to land which can be used for growing for basic needs. To ensure that all growing systems use only natural, renewable inputs and that all organic waste outputs are able to be recycled back into the soil or water system” [8].

Perhaps this is why, according to the BNP:

“We are the only true ‘Green Party’ in Britain as only the BNP intends to end mass immigration into Britain and thereby remove at a stroke the need for an extra 4 million homes in the green belts of the South East and elsewhere, which are required to house the influx of 5 million immigrants expected to enter the country under present trends over the next twenty years” [9].

Greens agree with the BNP about migration and the green belt. They promise to: minimise the environmental degradation caused by migration; not allow increased net migration; and end the pressure on the Green Belt by reducing population and stopping growth-oriented development [10]. Reduction in non-white tourism and immigration would be an inevitable consequence of government restrictions on air travel. Few refugees from Iraq, Darfur, Zimbabwe manage to get all the way to Britain without a large carbon footprint, neither can tourists from beyond Europe. → Continue reading: Vote green – go blackshirt

Guido vs. Gracchi

The inimitable Guido Fawkes decides to use Samizdata to explain what he is… and what he is not.

Over on the misnamed Liberal Conspiracy blog ‘Gracchi’ proffers a serious and fair minded critique of my Guido alter ego’s oeuvre, rather than the usual “Guido is an evil baby eating Nazi who once voted Tory, does not use trackbacks and deletes comments” tripe. I will give it a reply here and defend my approach.

Clearly we all have a political agenda of some kind. Mine is the politics of anti-politics. It stems from wanting to expand the non-political space in life and culture. This flows from my belief in the primacy of individual liberty.

The charge of partisanship does have some validity, I would rather get this shower in government out, but the choice on offer is hardly compelling. It is not as if there was any attempt on my part to pretend to some kind of impartial objectivity. So far as the right-of-centre leaning blogosphere has any influence on the Tories it is often attacking from the ‘right’ of the Tory centre of gravity. The Samizdatistas despair of the Tories, Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome is more hawkish and less socially liberal than his party, even Iain Dale is more Thatcherite than the Tory leadership and my views on tax cuts, the minimal state, free migration and drug prohibition position me in a very different place on the political spectrum to the Tories. It is inimical to Toryism for instance to be a republican, so to characterise me as a Tory seems intellectually lazy to the point of cretinous.

I have written no ideological essays for nearly two decades. There are some still available from the Libertarian Alliance if you are interested – on human rights, the economics of the City and most famously acid house culture.

Gracchi is right to nuance the self-interest charge against politicians, they are more precisely motivated by “perceived self-interest”. I will adopt that phrase from now on. As for my understanding about policy development and the importance of wonks, well I have lived in that world, financially supported think tanks and indeed worked for think tanks in my youth. I just do not advertise it.

The rest of the complaint is based on a poor premise, on the evidence of Guido’s blog I am naive, according to Gracchi. Do you mean Paul Staines or the Guido personality? You are confusing the character with the author. The blog provides a tabloid sensationalist, personality driven narrative. It is meant to entertain in order to be populist. Carefully nuanced argumentation is not what it is about. Complaining that it is populist and not what blogging should aspire to, is like complaining that the New York Post is not the New York Times. You do your thing, Guido will do his thing.

Of course the irony is that more intellectuals, wonks and political thinkers read Guido’s blog than the New Statesman. In Gramscian terms Guido’s blog is now arguably the more important ‘site of struggle’. Discuss.

Why I think Al Bangura will be okay – and what it says about the immigration system

Patrick Crozier has views on the saga of footballer Al Bangura

Many of you will be vaguely aware of the Bangura affair. Al Bangura is the Watford footballer who is about to be deported to Sierra Leone, where, according to him, he is likely to be killed. For extra colour there is some stuff about a voodoo cult and the bizarre ruling that his being a professional footballer with excellent prospects do not count because Sierra Leone is not one of the top 75 football teams in the world. Go figure.

I should point out that I am a half-hearted Watford fan but this does not affect what I am about to say. I would say the same if the guy played for L*t*n. All it means is that I am slightly more familiar with the case.

I have no idea if what Bangura says is true. Frankly, it could be a pack of lies for all I care. Given the stakes involved: the best job in the world or exile to some African shithole, it would hardly be surprising if he were telling the odd porkie. But it does not matter. The way I see it the guy has every right to be here. Not because he is fleeing persecution, not because he is a good footballer, not because he pays his taxes or ‘enriches’ British culture…

But because he is a human being.

I think everybody should be able to live everywhere, subject, of course, to the usual libertarian provisos about property rights.

My guess is that sense and political manipulation of the judiciary will prevail. This has the potential to become a real cause celebre – you can just imagine the stink if he gets sent back to Sierra Leone and does indeed wind up dead – and because of that I do not think it will happen. Or if he does get deported he will soon find a job somewhere else. I hear LA Galaxy are looking to strengthen their midfield.

But it makes me think about all those who are not professional footballers – the ordinary joes who just want to make better lives for themselves or to escape the hope-crushing Kafka-with-machetes world that is so common in Africa. They have to face the more ordinarily-Kafkaesque world of the immigration system without the support of football clubs and their umpteen thousand supporters. For them the difference between prosperity and poverty hangs on a civil servant’s whim. The more honest must be tortured by debates over when to tell the truth and when to lie like crazy. It must be agony.

180 degrees in 8 years

John Louis Swaine wrote in with an interesting piece about his own ‘road to Damascus’. “It took approximately 8 years to move from being a Labourite teenager to a Libertarian at the age of 23. I used to blog quite a lot so I felt the urge to write something about it. Since the Samizdata weblog has been one of the most important contributing factors for this change, I thought I would submit it to you.”

Most people have a “Summer of ’69” they can relate to; a magic period of youthful exuberance, tempered by important life experiences and left to bake softly in the warmth of the July sun. Mine was in 2001, I was 16 and beginning to ask the bigger questions about society and life.

I had opinions, I suddenly cared about issues. Like virtually every young person I came to the conclusion that equality was of paramount importance and that the only means by which to achieve it was through the prescription of schemes and initiatives by Government. After all, is that not what my generation had been taught? The importance of civil duty, of taking part in the organs of governance and through them making life better for your fellow man?

I dutifully signed up to the Observer brigade. Things could change, things could be fixed and crucially, the fix was always within the grasp of Government.

I did have the benefit of a decent grounding in knowledge of markets. I rather suspect you cannot have spent a significant amount of time growing up in Hong Kong without absorbing it – capitalism and free markets are in the air there, mixed in amongst the toxic levels of pollutants and exhaust fumes. Your chances of developing lung cancer or respiratory disorders may be high but you will also assimilate at least some understanding of how a financial system works.

Tony Blair’s governing ideology therefore seemed intoxicating – using the state to care for one’s fellow man whilst reforming the public sector and embracing free markets. Everything fitted nicely into place.

The first cracks in my political viewpoint began to appear on the 11th of September, 2001… → Continue reading: 180 degrees in 8 years

Basra : British defeat bodes badly for Afghanistan

Paul Staines takes a very gloomy view of the situation in Britain’s two wars

I take no pleasure in reporting this, but it seems to be going unsaid in the British press. British forces are painted, particularly by broadcasters, as having achieved a measure of success in Basra due to superior British peace-keeping techniques honed in Northern Ireland.

The truth is very different. To quote from a report;

Three major Shiite political groups are locked in a bloody conflict that has left the city in the hands of militias and criminal gangs, whose control extends to municipal offices and neighborhood streets. The city is plagued by “the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors,” a recent report by the International Crisis Group said.

The Washington Post reported a senior U.S. intelligence official yesterday saying that “The British have basically been defeated in the south”.

The article went on to say that British forces

… are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace, where a recent official visitor from London described them as “surrounded like cowboys and Indians” by militia fighters. An airport base outside the city, where a regional U.S. Embassy office and Britain’s remaining 5,500 troops are barricaded behind building-high sandbags, has been attacked with mortars or rockets nearly 600 times over the past four months.

In May Blair visited the Basra HQ and came under mortar attack – not a sign of pacification.

The head of the armed forces, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, told the BBC that success depends “upon what your interpretation of the mission was in the first place… I’m afraid people had, in many instances, unrealistic aspirations for Iraq, and for the south of Iraq.” The reality is that once British forces exit Basra the fighting will escalate into a full-scale civil war: Mission failure.

This begs the question – what now is the plan in Afghanistan? They are a people who fought the Red Army and won. The Soviets were brutal and were still defeated. Is NATO going to match and exceed that brutality in pursuit of “victory”? Afghanistan should be monitored closely and elements that present a clear and present external danger should be eliminated. It is not the job of NATO to impose Western values by force as Rome’s Imperial Armies once imposed Roman law.

When Western bloggers ‘get’ samizdata

Dave Walker sees more online samizdat, which he deftly names samizdata. Sounds familiar?

The original Samizdat consisted of textual material intended to criticise and subvert repressive political regimes – it was surreptitiously copied and circulated in a “pass it on to your trustworthy friends” manner.

Today’s samizdata – such as a certain hex string which, in the last month, has spread from one blog across Digg and thence to thousands of blogs and sites – is material which can now also be intended to subvert repressive data management regimes.

In the days of the Cold War, samizdat was spread between people who typically knew each other, whereas today’s typical samizdata – even though it could conceivably propagate via USB memory sticks in a similar manner – employs more of a “scattergun” approach. This may well be down to the fact that secret police organisations in Cold War times were not omniscient; by contrast, today’s data management Politburos have access to Google, so the top priority for samizdata proponents is, as well as concealing their identities, ensuring that their data is propagated so widely that the probability of all the sites carrying the data being gagged becomes as close to infinitesimal as possible.

Before the AACS product key, the last major piece of data management-subverting samizdata was DeCSS. DeCSS spread by website, newsgroup and T-shirt, the AACS key has spread much more quickly by blog, wiki and tag indexer. It is a sign of the times, although I am not about to predict that AACS product key T-shirts won’t happen soon.

While the contribution of samizdat and its influence on populations to the eventual fall of various regimes is discussed in detail elsewhere, the effects of samizdata (online samizdata for the purposes of this discussion) are also not entirely straightforward; DeCSS and the falling cost of embeddable processing power clearly influenced AACS, particularly in the case of the upgradable key. However, as AACS could be broken once, on the grounds that key and encrypted material are stored together in a device under the physical control of the user, it can be broken again. The most accurate prediction I can make is that we’ll be seeing a lot more samizdata in future.

What the hell happened to “name, rank and serial number”?

Frequent commenter ‘Old Jack Tar’ has a rather different view than the one being offered up by the UK media regarding the conduct of some of the British naval personnel being held captive in Iran.

Ever since the capture by Iranian forces of fifteen British naval personnel, the UK news channels have been falling over themselves to praise female British sailor Faye Turney. I have heard her described as “professional” and “well trained” and “sensible”.

Really? I beg to differ. From the moment they were captured they should have responded with NOTHING except “Name, rank and serial number”. These people have a professional (and legal) requirement to keep their yaps shut and not give aid with their words to a clearly hostile foreign government.

Yet she appears to have written a ‘heartfelt’ letter home praising the ‘kind’ and ‘warm’ Iranians who kidnapped her at gunpoint, admitting the boarding party had strayed into Iranian waters, presumably in return for a kebab.

My equally ex-RN wife’s remark upon seeing Turney on TV wearing a headscarf was “I would have thanked them for giving me something I could use to strangle one of the guards with when I eventually make my escape, but if they want me to wear it, well I would have told them exactly where they can…”

My good wife is a forthright person and decorum prevents me from finishing her remarks.

“Professional” and “well trained” my arse. Yet I have the sickening feeling this woman will be lionised when she is eventually released.

The debate is over, let the trials begin

Nicolas Chatfort foresees the coming Holy Inquisition… albeit a rather innumerate Inquisition it must be said

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its long awaited pronouncement last Friday in Paris and I am informed by the media that this most definitive of all documents closes the debate on anthropogenic climate change. Now is the time for action, no more discussion will be allowed. I have read the document, and most assuredly it does use uncompromising language ascribing recent global warming to human activity. The science in the document, which I am told was reviewed by 300 eminent scientists, at first sight appears to be impeccable, but I must admit that was a little perturbed to find on page 5 that 0.16 + 0.077 + 0.21 + 0.21 = 0.28 rather than 0.657. I must not fully understand that esoteric form of mathematics known as addition. This level of ignorance on my part clearly shows that I am incapable of judging the merits of the science on my own and I give thanks to the IPCC for taking this burden off my shoulders.

With the debate now settled, what are we to do with those scientific heretics (deniers is a much too mild a term for these dangerous individuals) who continue in their error and refuse to accept the teachings of the UN’s ecumenical council of scientists. David Roberts has already called for climate change heretics to be put on trial, but he goes too far as he appears to want to punish people for heretical statements they made prior to the issuance of the latest UN writ. After all, as the earlier pronouncements from the UN’s ecumenical council were not as definitive as the current one and the debate not yet closed, these unfortunate souls must be given a chance to repent from their errors before they are punished.

Following enlightened historical precedence (see Galileo), I humbly suggest that the UN create an office to be known as the Permanent Tribunal of Universal Inquiry to investigate into the views of scientists on climate change. Those who publicly repent from their errors would be given leniency, but those who maintain their heretical positions should be handed over to civil authorities for proper punishment. In times past the penalty for the crime of heresy was burning at the stake but, regretfully, this would release too many greenhouse gases, so another form of punishment must be found.

Lord Monckton should be one of the first of the heretics to be brought in front of the tribunal of inquiry. I cite his recent critique of the IPCC report only as evidence with which he condemns himself. He has had the audacity to continue to publish his heretical views even after he was duly informed that the debate was officially over. His critique of the IPCC report is comprehensive and it could cause weaker minds to question the infallibility of the IPCC.

As for other scientists whose views remain suspect, helpfully Canada’s National Post has recently provided a survey of some of the more prominent scientists who have veered from the true path in the past. These individuals are particularly dangerous as they all have reached such high levels of respectability in their professions that they will most certainly pollute the minds of the impressionable if they are allowed to continue to publish their heretical views. I will cite just a few of these scientists to show how much damage these individuals can do.

The first of these is Dr. Edward Wegman, professor at the Centre for Computational Statistics at George Mason University and chairman of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics. Dr. Wegman’s crime is that he verified the McIntyre and McKitrick critique of Michael Mann’s famous “hockey stick” graph, and has also complained that climate change scientists have routinely made basic statistical errors and insists that climate scientists actually consult with professional statisticians when using statistics in their work. I do note that the IPCC, quietly and without comment, has dropped the use of Dr. Mann’s graph from its latest report. The IPCC’s current global temperature graph, which only starts in 1850, will hopefully stop all the embarrassing distractions on the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age.

Then there is Dr. Henrik Svensmark, director of the Centre for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish Space Research Institute. Dr. Svensmark presents an alternate theory on climate change that involves the sun’s magnetic field, cosmic rays and cloud formation. Dr. Svensmark has even conducted experimentation to support his theory. As the IPCC report concedes that cloud formation and feedback remains a major source of uncertainty and its discussion of the role of the sun is limited to solar irradiance, it is clear that an alternative theory that attacks the weakest parts of the IPCC dogma must be silenced.

An what are we to do about Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the Russian Academies of Sciences’ Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St. Petersburg and head of the International Space Station’s Astrometry project? He comes to the puzzling conclusion that the simultaneous global warming on Mars, where there are no man-made (or martian-made) greenhouse gases, shows shows that the sun rather than man’s industrial activity, is the main cause of warming on the Earth. The very fact that the IPCC report did not address Mars warming shows how irrelevant this argument is for global warming on the Earth. Another of his heresies is that the IPCC has the cause and effect backwards, that it is the Earth’s warming that causing the release of CO2 from the world’s oceans, rather than rising CO2 causing the warming. He also points out the surface layers of the world’s oceans are actually cooling. Allowing the dissemination of such information will only cause confusion.

I will stop my indictment of prominent climate change heretics at this point, the reader can follow the link to the National Post if more information is desired. Furthermore, I do not want to leave the reader with the mis-impression that these are the only heretics within the scientific community, there are many more. Although the media is doing their best to keep these unsound views from the public, they can not do the job alone. Now that the debate is over, I urge the UN take immediate steps to set up the tribunal of inquiry so we can rest easy at night and not worry that we may have to weigh the merits of these arguments for ourselves, knowing that superior minds are taking on this awesome responsibility on our behalf.

We cannot but be astonished at the ease with which men resign themselves to ignorance about what is most important for them to know; and we may be certain that they are determined to remain invincibly ignorant if they once come to consider it as axiomatic that there are no absolute principles
– Frédéric Bastiat

First Things

Taylor Dinerman is a professional journalist and one of our long time readers. He has an ability to spur a lively dinner time discussion amongst visitors to North by Northwest in the upper west of Manhattan where he is often to be found. As you read on you will soon discover why!

For many years now I have subscribed to First Things, a monthly magazine put out by Institute for religion and Public Life whose purpose is to ‘advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society’. Obviously not a very libertarian endeavour, but the magazine does, on occasion support limited or small government ideas and stands firmly against the totalitarian monsters of our age. The editor Father John Neuhaus is a Catholic, but a very American one and the magazine is full of great stuff that for a non Catholic and Non Christian like myself (I am a not very pious Reform Jew.) is a window into a culture that is an important part of the world around me.

For readers of Samizdata the December 2006 issue has an article on ‘The Witness of Dietrich von Hildebrand’ by John Crosby, that they may find interesting. Hildebrand, a philosopher and theologian, was an early and unyielding opponent of Hitler’s who did ‘battle with the Nazi ideology at the level of philosophical and theological first principals.’

He said ‘the signature of the age’ was a certain anti-personalism. One expression of this anti-personalism was collectivism, the philosophy that takes human beings as mere parts in some collectivity. Hildebrand held that each human being as a person called by God and answerable to God is always more than a part in a social whole; as a person each exists before God as his own whole and thus refuses to be completely contained in any social whole. Each is a person at a far deeper level of himself than he is a member of the German State or of the English people, to say nothing of some political party.

There is a lot more like this and despite it being densely argued it tends to enlighten some of our current dilemmas. With a German theologian and philosopher as Pope these kinds of arguments and ideas may get more and more circulation. The Regensburg speech which pissed off the Muslims so much is another example of these kinds of ideas.

Libertarians and small government conservatives may find that on some issues they have a fellow traveler in the Vatican. Of course, the Pope is always going to be Pope first , any comfort he may give to us free market types will always be secondary to that role, but if he moves the Church away from the statist and collectivist doctrines that have occasionally been promoted by the Church over the last couple of centuries or more it will be a monumental change.

If it is done it will be done in language that will be difficult for laymen or non theologians to follow. The good effects (if any) may take years or decades to trickle down, but we all should be aware of the possibilities. This may be overly optimistic, but who knows ‘God’?

There is a link if anyone is interested.

Vendetta vs. Just War

Alan K. Henderson has some seasonal musing to share on this day, the fifth of November. Warning… contains critique and therefore spoilers for ‘V for Vendetta’

This graphic novel V for Vendetta was first published as a comic book series which began in 1982. Many readers will laugh at author Alan Moore’s second-guessing of future history. In the story, the Thatcher government’s loss in the 1993 elections sets up a Labour government whose unilateral disarmament measures somehow keep Britain on the sidelines during a US-USSR nuclear confrontation. The war is triggered by an un-detailed situation analogous to the Cuban Missile Crisis – and there’s even a Kennedy in the White House (which Kennedy we are not told). Why a non-nuclear Africa gets wasted and a non-nuclear Britain survives is not explained.

The likelihood of the next major event – the rise of the Norsefire party into power – is debatable. Post-holocaust Britain would still have a strong domestic military presence. It would have to be weakened significantly for an insurrection to succeed. The story mentions that there were several insurgent factions; perhaps Norsefire sat back while these multiple rebellions sapped the military of its strength. It is also possible that some of these insurgents drew their membership in part from the military.

The story does accurately portray the function of a Fascist state. The church is nationalized but powerless, serving a mere ceremonial function. Surveillance cameras are everywhere (hey wait a minute, some social democracies are like that…) The government also conducts audio in addition to video espionage against its citizens. Separation of powers between executive, legislators, and judiciary is vastly diminished or non-existent. The economy is planned. Propaganda is pervasive. Citizens are forcibly resettled, and some like Evey are forcibly sent to work in certain industries. Undesirables are deported or incarcerated (and sometimes experimented upon). Policemen are granted latitude to allow certain criminals to ‘disappear’, as in Evey’s case. To formally prosecute her for prostitution makes it a matter of public record that the State is not meeting her economic needs as government propaganda promises.

Enter V… His identity unknown, he is one of the last four survivors of the Larkhill Resettlement Camp, where he was subjected to medical experiments involving hormone injections. having escaped, he now dons a Guy Fawkes costume and is orchestrating a vendetta against the Fascist government.

While Alan Moore himself allows the reader to determine whether or not V’s actions are warranted, many have described V as a morally ambiguous character. Such people are wrong; the direction of his moral compass is crystal clear. → Continue reading: Vendetta vs. Just War