Tom Paine returns
David Davis (reblogged from The Last Ditch)
It’s interesting to see Tom’s personal discussion with himself, about the effectiveness (or otherwise) of what libertarian bloggers do.
Quite a few readers have kindly told me how much they missed my trip updates since I returned from the USA. Some of them however only started to read this blog to follow my American journey and would be surprised and perhaps even shocked if I returned to my old subjects.
I rather embarrassed myself at dinner at a friend’s house last week. Another guest was a retired senior civil servant and now a substantial London rentier on his savings from the money extorted for him over decades from taxpayers. Predictably, I laid into him about how out-of-control the British State has become.There was some satisfaction, when citing the scandal of the wasted billions at the Ministry of Defence, to find that he had been in a responsible position there – perhaps even (though he was reticent on that point) at the time. However, it’s always bad manners to talk about religion, sex or politics at a British dinner party and I spoiled the evening for my hosts. I wrote a sincere apology to my hostess and have felt much chastened since. I like to think I am a pleasant enough chap, but it seems I have become unfit for polite society.
Some of the ex-mandarin’s arguments were routinely ridiculous. The “social contract” and “consent to taxation” are the crumbliest of political figleaves. It’s a simple lie to describe as “a contract” something even one party never chose to be bound by. His suggestion that I consented by not fleeing these islands did not help. That’s just smug leftist code for ‘**** off if you don’t like it’ and that’s all I hear when they say it. To say my living in Britain is itself ‘consent’ is like saying the stag I saw being devoured by a flock of vultures in Louisiana consented by not running away from the truck that had hit him.
He had no answer to my simple thought experiment of asking, if legal obligations to pay tax were suspended for a year, whether takings would go up or down. Statists never want to answer that question because it exposes the myth of “consent”. The only material group of people who consent to taxation are those – like him – whose loot from others’ contributions exceeds any they make themselves. The vultures, in short. No matter how many more vultures there may be than stags, it’s never going to make it right.
He was right though when he said that there is no appetite among the majority of my fellow-citizens for scaling down the state. When I blogged from Russia and China I felt sorry for the British people as I thought they were being exploited by cynical politicians. Since I have returned to live amongst them, I rather feel sorry for the politicians. Their voters don’t want to hear truths, even arithmetical ones, and their careers therefore depend on palatable lies.
I was also affected by the arguments of another new acquaintance I made last week; a businessman friend of a friend. He told me he aspired to make a billion because that would allow him to make a political difference. Money changes its nature when it is owned in such quantities – as the power of a state with a budget of many billions darkly demonstrates. It ceases to represent pints of beer yet to be bought and becomes raw power. As I was not successful enough to accumulate transformative amounts, why should I mess about fruitlessly arguing for change? Better perhaps to cash in my beer tokens happily in the company of friends, while hoping my ambitious new acquaintance needs a speech writer when he achieves his goals.
As you may have detected, I was a happier man on my US Tour. I was fully enjoying my life for the first time since Mrs P. died. Not because justice and reason had returned to Britain, but because I was thinking about something else. I accept a duty to oppose error for the good of my fellow-man, I really do. But only if my opposition has some hope of making a difference. There is no point in complaining powerlessly as smug, arrogant bastards like my dinner party companion – cheered on by would-be parasites like our resident statist Mark – continue to rape us economically, destroy our liberties “for our own good” and laugh at those of us who see through their claims of benevolence.
There is certainly some demand for a libertarian political rant as witness the 20 places The Last Ditch slipped in the blog rankings while I was happily chirruping about the fun I was having in the States. But there’s nothing in it for those of us meeting that demand. The social-democratic state will collapse eventually under the weight of its debts. Those debts must mount if you punish those who create wealth and reward parasitism – as Britain has done since 1946. I would love to spare my fellow-citizens the horrors that will attend that collapse, but nothing I can say or do will achieve that. So why not, as the USAF Chaplain I was talking to in New Jersey recently has done, invest on the worst assumptions and just enjoy life while awaiting the inevitable?
I don’t want to stop writing, however. I enjoy the process and the mental stimulation it brings. I also enjoy the social aspects of blogging and have missed my readers’ contributions as they fell silent during my trip. So perhaps I should just blog about other things?
I have started to write a book about my tour; a frothy travelogue with a magical realist twist. It will have some political commentary because that’s in my nature, but I will keep it as light as my skills permit. I also have seriously in mind to make other such trips in future, especially if I can secure some sponsorship to cover the considerable costs.
I could blog about writing, about photography, about my trips or about travel in general. I could blog about things I love, in short. That was really what I intended when I started The Last Ditch, but the things I loved were liberty, the rule of law and the economic democracy of the free market. Most of what I have actually written has been about things I hate; the vile forces destroying those treasures.
Life is short and I don’t have the genes reasonably to expect many more active years of it. I have spent most of mine so far serving the interests of others – either for love or for money. Maybe it’s time to serve my own?