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]

Samizdata quote of the day

In Britain there is overwhelming popular support for the legalisation of cannabis, yet because recreational drugs are illegal, our cities are being ravaged by criminal turf wars over drug distribution. Taking the products out of the hands of criminals and into regulated markets would not only end the bloodshed, it would end the unnecessary criminalisation of thousands of young people. Drug addiction would be treated as a medical, not judicial problem. The war on drugs has failed and will always fail because humans like to alter their mental state. Voters should be allowed to enjoy drugs safely …

Guido Fawkes

Ever since I attended Essex University in the early 1970s I have been of the the opinion that cannabis can have a very bad effect on some people. I watched it turn a few relatively normal people into excessively placid and “pacific” people who, if you then verbally pressurised them even quite mildly, but in a way they couldn’t handle, were liable to turn on you like cornered rats, in ways that were wildly excessive compared to any rudeness you had subjected them to. In short, cannabis drove them mad. In particular, paranoid. All sense of proportionality in how they defended themselves in a vigorous but basically friendly conversation went out the window. That’s what I think I then saw. And ever since then, I’ve heard further anecdotage that confirms that prejudice.

Which does not mean that I favour cannabis being illegal, any more than I favour it being illegal to smoke, or to drink alcohol, or to borrow money unwisely, or to gamble, or to climb mountains, or to parachute out of airplanes, or to do anything dangerous merely because it is dangerous. Guido frames this as an argument about the right to do drugs safely. I prefer to think of it as the right to do unsafe things, to decide what risks you will take with your life, to make your own judgements about how to balance pleasure against danger.

Insofar as Guido merely implies that dangerous things which you can only get from criminals are a hell of a lot more dangerous than if they are legal, I wholly agree.

Courage in Comedy

Courage is not just a virtue; it is the form of every virtue under test. For a kindness or honesty which is only kind or honest while it is safe is not very virtuous. Pontius Pilate was merciful – till it became risky. (C.S. Lewis)

It’s not just virtue that needs courage. Jokes can need a little courage too. On one of Prince Philip’s visits to Australia, a virtue-signalling politico decided he would be asked the same questions as any immigrant.

Border Official: “Do you have a criminal record?”

Prince Philip: “I had no idea it was still a requirement.”

Witty remarks need wit – and timing (the worthlessness of ‘l’esprit d’escalier’ – that clever retort you think of whle descending the starcase after the party – has been proverbial for centuries). Humour cannot survive a too-timid inner censor (“Can I really say that? Dare I really say that?”) stealing the moment.

I’m not just talking about the overt courage some jokes need. That can be very real of course. Christabel Bielenberg fell in love with a German in 1932 and married him in 1934.

‘There can’t be many weddings in which the father of the bride stops the car on the road to the church and says to his daughter, “You can still call it off.”

In the very last days of WWII in Europe, she walked into the mayor’s office in the German community where she lived and noticed that the picture of Adolf Hitler was missing from the wall. Seeing her glance, the mayor explained he had put it in the fire the day before. Christabel thought of a joke about Adolf and his picture, automatically reminded herself not to say it out loud – and then realised with delight that for the first time in many years she could say it out loud, she no longer had to think first whether everyone present was ‘safe’. In the joke, Adolf muses to his picture, “I wonder what will happen to us after the war?” The picture replies, “I don’t wonder – I know: you’ll be hung and I’ll be unhung.” The mayor, like the vast majority of Germans, had never heard it – and till the day before would not have dared laugh at it. He spent the rest of the aftenoon suddenly guffawing and murmering, “hung – unhung”. Despite everything, the new freedom to laugh seems to have been a relief to him too. He – unlike Christabel but like too many Germans – had not had the courage to remain aware of his inner censor during the Nazi years; it had become part of him.

It’s not just the comedian who needs a little courage. The audience can also use a little of it. Prince Philip once joked to a British student in China that if he stayed there too long he might acquire ‘slitty eyes’. Thinking people (people not too scared to think) know that a joke does not mean what it literally says (and that Prince Philip did not imagine that the facial features of other nationalities could be caught through proximity, like a disease). Imagine that, back in 1937, visiting a family funeral in Germany, he had told a British student there to beware staying too long lest his head become squarer. The alleged ‘squareheads’ of native Germans in the first half of the 20th century betokened the too ordered, too obedient, too constrained thoughts within them, as the alleged ‘slitty eyes’ of native Chinese in the second half betokened the deceitful propaganda of the CCP. It should not be hard to get the joke’s point – unless of course, the very idea of thinking about an ethnic slur before condemning it is too terrifying to contemplate. “Do not trust China. China is asshole.” as a chinaman in Hong Kong more recently put it.

Orwell explained that putting the mind in a politically-correct box kills a writer’s creativity. Such cowardly conformity also hurts the sense of humour – the sense of humour.

The courage to joke also helps if your position tends to make others nervous:

“I realised afterwards that all his so-called ‘gaffes’ were quite the reverse. They were masterclasses in putting people at their ease. If he’d kept the royal drawbridge up and encouraged deference, all he would have had in his 73 years as the Queen’s husband would have been a series of terrified, tongue-tied people to talk to at a thousand events. For a serious, curious, clever man, that would have been agony. What he wanted was information, and perhaps a few laughs.” (The Truth about Prince Philip’s Gaffes)

And facing your death with courage will often mean facing it with humour. When the brilliant Oxford mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah (not so long before his own death) told Prince Philip how sorry he was to hear he was standing down from official duties in late 2017, Prince Philip replied:

‘Well, I can’t stand up much longer!’

The freedom to make a joke. The freedom to take a joke. Freedoms worth tending in the garden of your mind.

The Streisand-Challenor effect

On the evening of the 22nd March, visitors to the main UK politics subreddit, /r/ukpolitics found a mysterious message saying that the subreddit, which has nearly 400,000 members, had been set to “private” by its own volunteer moderators.

It was the beginning of a cascade. The lights are going off all over Reddit! Subreddit after subreddit was set to private in sympathy with /r/ukpolitics. Most of them dealt with topics unrelated to politics. At its peak the wave of protest closures affected subreddits collectively having tens of millions of members all over the world.

To understand why this protest against Reddit by its own users gained such traction, we need to go back to the 8th of March when the Spectator published an article by its unlikeliest new writer, the radical left wing “gender critical” feminist Julie Bindel, called “The Green party’s woman problem”. It contained the lines,

The formidable feminist author and journalist Bea Campbell, a former Green party candidate, resigned from the party last year after being disciplined, in part for refusing to keep quiet about the shocking and disturbing Aimee Challenor case.

That brief reference to “the Aimee Challenor case” was to have dramatic consequences. A hyperlink on the word “case” linked in turn to this Independent article dated 13 January 2019:

Aimee Challenor: Green star failed to properly alert party of father’s child rape charges Independent investigation found transgender activist only alerted two colleagues in ‘informal’ Facebook message

Having parted ways with the Greens, Aimee Challenor joined the Liberal Democrats. Once again her association with the party ended as a result of child safeguarding issues related to someone with whom she lived. This time it was her fiancé Nathaniel Knight. He claims his twitter account was hacked.

A point to note: these events were widely reported. Given a prompt about a person who had left both the Greens and the Lib Dems under a cloud, anyone who follows UK political news would probably be able to dig up her name in half a dozen keystrokes.

Getting back to the main story, at about quarter to eleven on the morning of the 23rd, the ukpolitics subreddit reappeared. It now carried the following announcement:

→ Continue reading: The Streisand-Challenor effect

How to win the libertarian argument

The converting-Libertarian-Alliance-pamphlets-to-HTML phase of the Brian Micklethwait Archive project continues.

When I add something new, I also add a news update post about it. These usually briefly describe what the update is with, perhaps, a quote. Today’s update about How to Win the Libertarian Argument contains some of Brian’s most important and useful wisdom: how to spread libertarianism by arguing (and not necessarily by winning arguments). I could not choose which quote to use, so there are a lot of them. I’ll repost them here.

When was the last time you *won* an argument, right there in front of you? When was the last time someone said to you: “By heavens! You’re right about this, and I’ve been wrong about it all of my life, until you took the trouble to straighten me out. How can I possibly thank you? Let me, as a pitifully small token of my infinite gratitude, kiss your shoes.”? Not recently, I would guess.

The article covers the importance of politeness:

The *right* way to be an extremist is to say what you think and why, while absolutely *not* assuming that the person you are talking to has any sort of obligation to think likewise, and if anything while making it clear that you rather expect him not to. You think what you think, and he thinks what he thinks. And if he hasn’t told you already what he does think, then an obviously polite next step would be to ask him to talk about that. The two of you can then try to pin down more precisely how you disagree, assuming you do. It is possible to be an extremist without deviating from good manners, and that is how.

By merely proving that libertarianism and decency can cohere in the same personality, you will be a walking advertisement for the cause, as I might not be.

And it covers how to sell your ideas:

First announce your product, and try to spin out the conversation about it. You do this by finding out what your audience wants, and you try to explain, if you can, why your product will supply this. In the case of El Salvador, find out what the man thinks is now wrong with El Salvador and explain how your ideas might improve things, and why his ideas might only be making things worse.

It offers the sort of wisdom that people on Twitter could do with hearing:

No matter how “extreme” is the opinion I may read in a pamphlet or magazine, I am never, so to speak, at its mercy. I can stop reading it at any moment, and so in the meantime I need not feel threatened or even discomforted by it.

The world is full of people with wildly different views about the philosophical foundations of life, of the universe and of everything, yet on the whole they get along peacefully enough. Where there are major breaches of the peace, these are just as likely to be between peoples with near identical views on “the fundamentals” as between people without such philosophical affinities.

And there are descriptions of the ways in which people change their minds.

The notion that one can “convince” somebody of the truth of libertarianism with one mere “argument” is rooted in a false model of how people think about political matters. Political thought is rooted not merely in “facts” but in contrasting “world views” or “models” of how the world is and how it ought to be improved.

For some anti-libertarians it comes as a shattering revelation to learn that there actually are real live libertarians, and that we mean what we say. Until then they had assumed that people only believed in capitalism for the sake of their dividends. The mere *existence* of a sincere libertarian might for such a person be the decisive, conversion-inducing “fact”.

Do keep an eye on the updates, or follow the Twitter feed if you are so minded. I have been managing about two per week so far.

Last year’s official guidance is this year’s misinformation

“Coronavirus: Face masks could increase risk of infection, medical chief warns” reported the Independent on March 12 2020:

Members of the public could be putting themselves more at risk from contracting coronavirus by wearing face masks, one of England’s most senior doctors has warned.

Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said the masks could “actually trap the virus” and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in.

“For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea” to wear a face mask in the hope of preventing infection, she added.

Sales of the masks have sky-rocketed since the Covid-19 outbreak began, with retailers including Boots and Amazon selling out of the products before the virus had even taken hold in the UK.

Asked about their effectiveness, Dr Harries told BBC News: “What tends to happen is people will have one mask. They won’t wear it all the time, they will take it off when they get home, they will put it down on a surface they haven’t cleaned.

“Or they will be out and they haven’t washed their hands, they will have a cup of coffee somewhere, they half hook it off, they wipe something over it.

“In fact, you can actually trap the virus in the mask and start breathing it in.”

Asked if people are putting themselves more at risk by wearing masks, Dr Harries added: “Because of these behavioural issues, people can adversely put themselves at more risk than less.”

I do not post this in order to mock Dr Harries. She made several reasonable points in the video. If she was nonetheless wrong about the overall effect of the population wearing masks, she was wrong in good company – that was medical orthodoxy at the time. I do not post this in order to advocate for or against wearing face masks. (I wear one when circumstances require, while seeking to avoid the behaviours that Dr Harries warned against.) I post it to show how dangerous it is to censor unorthodox views on medical issues. If would-be censors like the Guardian‘s George Monbiot had had his way, we would have banned all talk of mask-wearing in March 2020.

The Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill is due to pass tonight

In the (Glasgow) Herald, Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf writes,

New Hate Crime Bill extends protection of people

Odd headline. Make that some people.

This week Parliament will consider further amendments to the Hate Crime Bill before a final vote on our proposed reforms

By “Parliament” Mr Yousaf means the one with him in it, i.e. the Scottish Parliament. The SNP love this rhetorical trick of pretending the Scottish Parliament is the only one of any relevance to Scotland. Wishing this to be so is a perfectly legitimate goal, but pretending it is already so is premature. Of course all the Scottish people have to do to ensure that the Parliament with Mr Yousaf in it becomes the sole decider of what laws they live under is carry on voting for Mr Yousaf’s party in the numbers they now do.

The new Bill will modernise and consolidate hate crime law and provide clarity. It brings together various piecemeal additions and changes to the law made over time, while also recognising the need to clamp down further on this all too pervasive, damaging behaviour.

As a person of colour the law has protected me, for the last 35 years, from anyone stirring up hatred against me due to my race.

The law cannot have done a very good job of protection, given that he said in the previous paragraph that hate crime was “pervasive”, and that he complains a few paras down about all the hate he receives.

This Bill now extends that protection to people in relation to their age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or variation of sex characteristics (previously known as intersex).

The legislation has come a long way. As Parliament has been considering the detail of the Bill the Government has listened – making changes and reflecting on concerns to improve a piece of powerful legislation that I believe is fitting of the Scotland we live in.

That being the Scotland where race hate crime is pervasive.

Robust Parliamentary scrutiny has been essential to the process.

Concerns over the impact that stirring up hatred offences could have on freedom of expression were raised. And these have been listened to and are being acting upon. We have made a number of significant changes already, including ensuring that any successful prosecution for the new offences must prove that the person intended to stir up hatred. We have also inserted a “reasonable person test” to clarify that when determining if behaviour is “threatening or abusive” an objective test is applied.

By “we” Mr Yousaf means that the SNP reluctantly accepted one amendment from the Scottish Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins. That link takes you to a Guardian article that also notes that “Tomkins and fellow Conservative Liam Kerr failed to secure an amendment that they argued would protect disagreements, for example, at the family dinner table.”

Mr Yousaf continues,

The Justice Committee has offered critical scrutiny and recently held constructive discussions on a freedom of expression clause that would further protect everyone’s right to freedom of speech.

You don’t say whether these discussions led to any action, Mr Yousaf. Hint: they didn’t. His only reason for cooing about how constructive the discussions were is to conceal the fact that the this clause that would theoretically further protect everyone’s right to freedom of speech was not actually constructed, just talked about.

I am confident that our proposed amendment on this now strikes the right balance between protecting groups targeted by hate crime and respecting people’s rights to free speech.

A number of national Women’s Organisations, such as Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender and Rape Crisis Scotland have raised concerns over the inclusion of a Sex Aggravator.

I’m not surprised. They should never have let a Sex Aggravator sit on a parliamentary committee. → Continue reading: The Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill is due to pass tonight

“Adam Smith was on the side of the angels …”

The following is the text of an email that I and all the many others on the Adam Smith Institute email list received today, from the ASI’s Eamonn Butler:

Today marks 245 years since the publication of The Wealth of Nations, one of the most important books ever written.

Smith revolutionised our understanding of commerce. He explained how trade enriches our lives and his works laid the foundations of a whole new field of study: economics.

Today though, Adam Smith’s legacy is under threat from those that would rewrite history.

Smith’s grave and statue have been linked to “slavery and colonialism,” according to Edinburgh City Council.

The grave and statue are being reviewed by the SNP-Labour Coalition Council’s Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group. Their claim rests upon a quote by Adam Smith that said “slavery was ubiquitous and inevitable but that it was not as profitable as free labour“.

This is an extraordinary mischaracterisation.

Smith not only argued that slavery was morally reprehensible, but also provided intellectual ammunition to the abolitionist movement. The link Adam Smith has to slavery was as one of the authors of that vile practice’s destruction.

Smith, writing in the 18th century, thought slavery would continue. He could not have foreseen humanity’s subsequent liberal turn.

But it is abundantly clear that Smith thought slavery was grotesque. Smith wrote, in no uncertain terms, that slave owners’ “brutality, and baseness, so justly expose them to the contempt of the vanquished.”

Smith also argued that slaves are inefficient workers, because they cannot keep the fruits of their labour. His arguments against slavery were used by abolitionists.

Smith was on the side of the angels, holding humanist views well ahead of his time.

The links, all in the original email, are well worth clicking on.

As Eamonn Butler says, it was liberals, which then meant people who prized liberty, who put slavery on the defensive. It never completely went away, and socialists, national and otherwise, gave it a whole new lease of life in the twentieth century, although lease of death might be a better phrase. And in doing this socialists provided several more mountains of evidence that Adam Smith was right about slavery’s inefficiency, as well as about its brutality and baseness.

Chris Tame (1949-2006): A personal memoir

In an earlier posting here just after Christmas, I solicited compliments, to cheer me up after I’d been diagnosed with lung cancer. Commenters on that posting said nice things about my blogging here over the years, and I thanked them. But older friends and acquaintances, who had been sent an email with the same news of my probably much shortened lifespan, remembered an earlier time in my life, from about 1980 to 2000, during which I was a libertarian activist and pamphleteer. Since this was before the arrival of the Internet, the key items of technology, in addition to the then still primitive but fast developing personal computer was, rather surprisingly, the photocopier. But there was another circumstance, mentioned by many friends, which was of far greater importance to me than any personal computer or photocopier. That circumstance was an individual human being, Chris Tame:

That is a photo of Chris Tame that I recently chanced upon in the vast accumulation of more or less meaningless paper that passes for my filing system.

Three years after Chris Tame died in 2006, I did a talk about his influence and legacy, about how much of a difference Chris Tame made, to all the libertarians whom he got in touch with and whom he put in touch with each other from his 1980s nerve centre at the Alternative Bookshop and then on into the 1990s. Here and now, I want to emphasise what a difference Chris made to me personally. Had it not been for Chris I would probably not have bothered being any sort of active libertarian at all, because without him that would have been just too difficult. Now that I am asking people to praise me, I realise that I want to praise Chris, publicly and in writing and at quite some length, far more than I have yet praised him before.

→ Continue reading: Chris Tame (1949-2006): A personal memoir

Discussion point

In your experience, dear readers, has any comment you have seen in media, whether mainstream or alternative, that refers to “neo-liberal”, “the one per cent” or “globalisation” accurately described free enterprise, the case for free trade and the advantages of severally-owned property? Because in my experience such terms almost always suggest that the metacontext (a trademarked term of this parish) of the commentator/writer is collectivist/statist to some degree. As an example, I came across someone describing today’s UK as being governed by “neoliberalism”, and was not in the least put off by my pointing out that the State now grabs almost half of UK GDP and regulates a goodly portion of the rest of it.

Here is an article from six years ago from the Institute of Economic Affairs that challenges the idea that there is much that is very “neo-liberal” about today’s UK.

The Pontins blacklist

“Secret Pontins blacklist prevented people with Irish surnames from booking”, reports the Guardian.

For the benefit of readers not from either the UK or Ireland, Pontins is a company that runs holiday camps, and 90% of British or Irish adults who read that headline understood without reading another word that it was not the Irish in general that Pontins wanted to blacklist, it was Irish Travellers. (The Travellers, or Mincéiri as the current term is, are a separate ethnic group to the Gypsies or Romani but are often grouped together due to their similar way of life.) Reports of this incident from several sources, such as this later Guardian article by Séamas O’Reilly that I saw after most of this post had been written, confirm that people with those names were not banned from Pontins outright, it was rather that Pontins staff were told to check their addresses against the postcodes of Traveller sites before allowing them entry.

The Guardian continues,

Outrage over anti-Traveller list of ‘undesirable guests’ that was sent to booking operators

A blacklist circulated by the holiday park operator Pontins telling its staff not to book accommodation for people with Irish surnames has been described as “completely unacceptable” by Downing Street.

The list of “undesirable guests” was sent to booking operators, who were told: “We do not want these guests on our parks.” It said: “Please watch out for the following names for ANY future bookings.”

The list, which included names such as Carney, Boylan, McGuinness and O’Mahoney, was an example of “anti-Traveller discrimination”, a spokesperson for Boris Johnson said. The document had a picture of a wizard holding up a wand and staff declaring: “You shall not pass.”

The Guardian did not open comments for that story. As I said in 2011, that is because it knows perfectly well that Guardian readers hate gypsies and travellers.

However the Times did allow readers to comment on its report of the same events, “Pontins had blacklist of Irish surnames”. The comments, as I knew they would, consisted almost entirely of personal accounts of being the victims of theft, violence and intimidation at the hands of Travellers. This outpouring reminded me of something, but I could not put my finger on what. Then it came to me: the #MeToo movement. That came about when women compared notes about their bad treatment by predatory men. Exchanging their “Me, Too” experiences gave these women the knowledge that they were not alone and brought forth a demand that men in general should examine and change their behavioural norms. The #MeToo movement for women was celebrated by modern society, even when it degenerated into condemning men as a group without trial or investigation. Take note of both halves of that sentence. To forbid people to speak of their bitterness only embitters them more. But the historical record of “Speak Bitterness” movements should terrify anyone who cares about justice.

One of the most highly recommended comments to the Times article came from Patrick Joseph Maloney, who said,

As an Irishman with a name that might have made the list, I sympathise with companies that have to walk this tightrope of exclusion and inclusion.

Not all Irish Travellers are guilty of bad behaviour but a sufficiently large enough minority are.

I understand that the Chinese government recently introduced classes for their tourists on how to behave abroad?

Perhaps Traveller rights groups might consider similar moves as an alternative to simply waving the race and discrimination card? The problem is not one of race….. but behaviour.

The government says it wants to end prejudice against Travellers and passes laws to forbid discrimination against them. Mr Maloney’s comment illustrates how spectacularly that effort to bring about goodwill by law has failed.

Some readers, particularly those new to libertarian ideas, will find it hard to believe that anyone could have any other motive than hatred of Travellers for saying that it would be better for all parties, including the Travellers themselves, if there were no such laws. I can only beg such readers to ask themselves if our current policy is working. People who have done nothing wrong being turned away merely for appearing to belong to a certain ethnic group is clearly unjust. But that is not a description of the bad old days before the Race Relations Act 1965 and the many anti-discrimination laws that followed, it is a description of life in Britain in 2021 with all the laws in place. All that has been achieved by more than half a century of ever-increasing punishments and social pressure is to ensure that these days the “undesirables” are usually excluded by means of a nod and a wink. Whichever Pontins employee wrote that list was unusually careless to put it on paper. But the fact that they did put it on paper, complete with jokey reference to The Lord of the Rings, shows how accepted anti-Traveller hostility is. You don’t put Gandalf clip art on top of an announcement that is likely to be met with outrage. The writer assumed that the staff would accept what he or she saw as the obvious need to keep Travellers out. Evidently most of them did accept it: the blacklist operated for quite some time before someone blew the whistle. I do not consider it wicked to ask what experiences brought the Pontins staff to this state of mind. I assume that there was an implied “after what happened last time” there.

Open prejudice is less cruel than secret prejudice. The sign in the boarding-house window saying “No blacks, No Irish” can be argued against. The quiet word to a member of staff about those people cannot be. A company that openly refuses the custom of members of certain groups purely on account of their race can be challenged – and they lose the custom. But turn them away with a smile and a lie and it can go on forever.

For some, that outcome is fine. What they object to in the anti-racism laws is not that the laws make racism worse but the laws put them to the inconvenience of having to lie. To be clear I object to these laws in principle (people should be free to associate with whom they please) and because I want to see a world where people are judged on what they have done as individuals, not on what someone else with the same surname did. True, there is evidence that the crime rate among Travellers is statistically high, and it is no more wrong to suggest that they need to ask themselves what they should do to change those parts of their subculture that are harmful than it is to urge that males or whites should do the same. But before you condemn the Travellers as a group remember that, like all of us, they have been moulded by their history. Ach, why repeat myself? I said it in my post of 2011 as well as I ever will:

“Welfare” has continued its steady work of ruin. I read a very fine article in the Telegraph about a decade ago which I cannot now find. It described with sadness rather than hostility how, although gypsies had lived half outside the law since time immemorial, there had at one time been countervailing incentives to build relationships of trust with settled people. The gypsies had regular circuits and seasonal work. They needed pitches, employment and customers. They needed people to remember them from last time as good workers and fair dealers. Welfare has eroded that, and their former means of making a living have gone the way of the cart horse and the tin bucket. Nor is the difficulty just that technology has moved on, it is also that the bureaucratic net of form-filling and taxes has tightened so that the casual jobs they once could do within the law must now be done outside it. As in the drugs trade, in illegal trade in labour where there can be no redress for swindling on either side, such swindling is commonplace.

In that post I also said much more hated Travellers and Gypsies had become in my village since I first came to live there. Since then it has only got worse. But, as I also said back then, “I really don’t think it is the gypsies themselves who have changed so much. What has changed in the last few years is that they have become a state-protected group. God help them. State protection is better than state persecution as cancer is better than a knife in the ribs.”

Nine years later the cancer is further advanced. For all that, I do not think it is incurable. Human nature is immutable, but laws are not. For now reversing the spread of “equalities” legislation seems politically impossible, but as the years go by and ever-multiplying laws against hate never seem to reduce it, people of goodwill will start to wonder if it might be time to try another strategy.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Delivering the vaccine to the highest risk groups will dramatically reduce the impact on our health. We have already seen in Israel the number of infections falling, especially among the vaccinated, as well as significantly fewer serious illnesses and deaths. Once the UK has reached the stage where those most at risk have received both doses of the vaccine the argument for keeping all of us locked up disappears. We have struggled through a year more difficult than most of us could have ever imagined, and we owe an enormous debt to those who have struggled to keep others safe. Young people have lost jobs and livelihoods – not to protect themselves but to protect their loved ones, their colleagues, and complete strangers. Many will be left with fewer job prospects, fewer friends, more debt, and developing mental health concerns as a result of their sacrifice, and the least we can do to repay them is to not lock them up for a moment longer than necessary. The government needs to return our liberty to all of us, not just those who have been vaccinated.”

Emma Revell

No place outwith the State

“MSPs back criminalising hate speech at the dinner table”, reports the (Glasgow) Herald

HATE speech in the home is set to be criminalised after a Tory attempt to stop it failed at Holyrood.

Critics fear it could lead to over-heated dinner table conversations being investigated by the police under the Scottish Government’s new Hate Crimes Bill.

However MSPs on the justice committee agreed with Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf that there should be no exemption for hateful speech and conduct just because it was in a private dwelling.

He said the law often dealt with events in the home, and an exemption could mean, for example, that someone who urged people in their house to attack a synagogue, but then did not take part, could not be punished for inciting the crime.

Humza Yousaf’s choice of example is disingenuous. There has never been a “dwelling exemption” when it came to inciting a crime, and no one has suggested there should be one. The amendment allowing a dwelling exemption that was unsuccessfully tabled by the Tory MSP Liam Kerr related only to the “stirring up of hatred”.

It is disturbing enough that such an amorphous charge should ever be made a matter of law at all, but whatever he might think of the Hate Crime Bill as a whole, Kerr’s proposed amendment in this instance was limited to suggesting that the rule whereby it becomes a crime to stir up hatred would be suspended if “words or behaviour are used by a person inside a private dwelling and are not heard or seen except by other persons in that or another dwelling”. In other words Kerr did not think it should be a crime to stir up a particular emotion in another person if done in private. By seven votes to two, the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament disagreed. Assuming the Bill passes, it will thus be a crime in Scotland to say words deemed to be hateful, even if done in your own home.

This new crime having been created, will failure to report this crime itself be a crime? According to the website “Ask the Police”, “Whilst there is no legal requirement to report a crime, there is a moral duty on everyone of us to report to the police any crime or anything we suspect may be a crime.” Since asking the same question in “Ask the Scottish Police” redirected me to the same answer, I assume this answer also applies to the separate Scottish legal system. That is only slightly reassuring. Once reported, a potential crime must be investigated. The suspect must be questioned. Witnesses must be called. By the nature of this new crime the suspects and witnesses are likely to be the family members of the accuser. To many that will be a feature not a bug.

I call it a “new” crime, but that is a misnomer. The Scottish Government – soon to be the Scottish State if the ruling party of the current Scottish Government has its way – is set to return to methods of maintaining order that are very old.