Further Comment on Clegg v Farage

by Robert Henderson

Note: We have a mature oligarchy in Britain. As oligarchies mature they become more and more exclusive – the Venetian council in the Middle Ages is a classic example – and the quality of their members becomes less and less. This failure of generational renewal is disguised from the oligarchy members by the sealed nature of the oligarchy and they all go around discounting the views of anyone outside the oligarchy and praising the oligarchies’ members lavishly. Clegg demonstrated how limited our political elite are as individuals. He did not even have the wit not to tell easily revealed lies.

As for Farage, he missed quite a few obvious points in the debates and he is poor at explaining the detail of policies. Time and again he starts making a point or a reply strongly, then two or three sentences later he fades noticeably. Ideally you want him exposed in situations where he can make his point quickly and get out. I could seriously improve his performance by preparing him to anticipate and answer questions in detail a Q and A, whereby you put down all the likely questions your opponent will ask and all the responses he is likely to make and then follow that with anticipated secondary questions and answers. You can go on ad infinitum, but my experience of using them when working for the Inland Revenue and questioning someone under caution is that an initial question or reply and one supplementary is all you can usefully create. Lawyers who have to cross examine often use such Q and As.
The other advice I would give Farage is (1) cut out the jokes because they are generally poor and he is not a natural comic and (2) never but never make the mistake of whining about how hard his job is, as he did in the first debate when challenged over putting his wife on the EU funded payroll – the general public really do hate that sort of thing.
It is important to understand that while the general public detest the likes of Clegg, Cameron and Miliband and have a strong dislike of the EU, that does not mean they have any great liking for or trust in Ukip or Farage. There is also the inertia factor whereby it is the devil’s own job to get people to vote for a party in Britain which does not have a Westminster presence. Moreover, most people will not to vote in UK elections – the turnout in EU elections is generally in the 30 per cents and only in the 60 per cents in recent general elections.



  • “I could seriously improve his performance by preparing him to anticipate and answer questions in detail a Q and A,”

    I missed a “with” out after detail.

  • I think this is a bit unfair to the Republic of Venice.

    The struggle that Venice faced with the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century was an incredibly unequal one (given the vastly greater resources the Ottoman Empire had its command) the failure to really go on the offensive after the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 was indeed a terrible error – but was the poor quality of the statesman of Venice really responsible for this error?

    Similarly was the end of the Republic of Venice in 1797 really due to a failure of the government? Was there an answer to the long range artillery Napoleon had his command.

    For a thousand years the government of Venice had used its geographical location (islands in shifting mixtures of mud and water) as a defence against enemies (starting with the Huns – the people of Venice being refugees who fled into the mashes and famously “built great places of stone on mud and water”) – but Napoleon could just sit miles away and pound the city flat.

    To march out and face Napoleon open battle seemed to offer no prospect of victory (the Austrians had much greater resources – yet they had not won). Yes it is clear that there was a decline in the quality of the government of the Republic (although the last head of state was both honest and brave – but in a terrible position), but what mattered more is that the larger countries of Europe (such as France) caught up with Venice in terms of technology and administration – and, once that happened, scale (size) would make itself felt.

    Oligarchy provided Venice with a thousand years of (basically) sound government (although Dubrovnik was a more liberal example of a rule by an oligarchy – less controlling than Venice, which was stifling in some ways) – can democracy make a similar boast about any large community of human beings?

    Even Switzerland (the democracy with the best record) has seen a vast rise in taxation and regulation over our lifetime – and the currency (at least since the new constitution) is now 1000% fiat.

    Still, one could argue, that the new constitution of Switzerland (indeed every new one since 1848) has been a step away from democracy (which can only really function on a local “Canton” scale) and a move to towards centralisation under an oligarchy of the educated “liberal” elite.

  • As for the United Kingdom.

    We seem to have moved from the influence of a landed “oligarchy” (influence not total control – even before 1832 far from all the seats in Parliament were under the control of landowners, for example the county seats elected by all 40 shilling freeholders, and the borough seats where anyone who had a fire they could “bang a pot on” had the vote), to an “oligarchy” of the “educated” i.e.. of people who receive certain doctrines from their schooling and from university – and from the media, and then operate within the context of these doctrines.

    It is far from clear that this is an improvement.

  • Paul Marks – On the subject of the English franchise, I think this should interest you: http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/the-beginnings-of-english-democratic-thought/

    It is my history finals dissertation

  • Maybe one way to look at it from a libertarian perspective is that the issue isn’t really the form of government, but the scope of it. A prince with limited powers- or simply a hands-off approach- may result in a far more free society than a democracy. The central problem with democracy seems to be that it provides a figleaf of legitimacy to the expansion of the scope of government.

    A clear example here is Britain before and after the 1832 Great Reform Act. There is a general agreement among historians (though mostly being Whiggish, they see it as a positive thing) that the post-1832 Parliament was much more “activist” than before, and that within a generation the sense of greater “democratic legitimacy” had made it acceptable for the State to involve itself in areas from which it had previously felt restrained. My particular little bugbear there is the example of nationalising the telegraph system (which I believe set a disastrous precedent) which probably would have been unacceptable in the less “democratic” Britain before electoral reform.

    The problem is always when the government feels it has the “right” to do anything it so pleases; and there is I think considerable evidence that democracy as a system fosters that belief.

  • Ian – technically the low point for British statism is the early 1870s (as a percentage of the economy) – but I get your point, the whole “spirit” was different after 1832.

    Before 1832 it was not normal practice to bother Parliament with EVERYTHING (why would the landowners who dominated the place be interested in X,Y, Z?) afterwards (more and more) the first port of call for anyone who had a “cause” was Parliament (the representatives of “the people” OUCH)

    Mr Henderson.

    I am just off to work – so I would be just glancing at your work, which is just not fair to you (I do far too much of that – look at something for five seconds and then give an opinion on it)

    Hopefully I will have some time this evening.

  • Yes Mr Henderson – the democratic tradition is not automatically statist (far from it).

    Both in the Classical World (I would dispute that free citizens were always outnumberd by the unfree and by resident aliens – it depended on what ancient city one is talking about, even in Roman Italy citizens actually outnumbered both slaves and Freedmen – which explains why slave revolts were doomed, especially as the children of Roman Freedmen were automatically Roman Citizens themselves) and in the Germanic world there was a tradition of thought that held that if most free men had the vote – they would use it to prevent the government oppressing them with taxation and regulations.

    Even Aristotle (who hated the word “democracy” as much as most of the American Founders did) held that if citizens were independent (i.e. not dependent on the dole – like some urban mob) such a “polity” was a good form of government.

    One can indeed see support for a wide franchise with the so called “Levellers” (and, like you, I admire many of their ideas) and with such thinkers as Buchanan in Scotland – and with many other thinkers. They all would have been horrified at the idea of government officials (let alone people dependent on a public dole) having the vote.

    But Ian has a point also – in the end it is the size and scope of government (not its form) that matters to a libertarian.

    So the question is, what form of government restricts the size and scope of government?

    That depends on the circumstances.

    If one is talking about the State of New Hampshire in the early 19th century then democracy certainly has its charms.

    I can understand why such Englishmen as Major Cartwright (the arch democrat) pointed to the American example as proof that universal (male) voting would be no threat to liberty and property (quite the reserve).

    But a population of state educated people who have been taught to look to the state for everything (from health care to old age provision)? I am not so sure about them.

    Ian’s point is that mass voting tends to lead to mass other things (such as the view that the state should be providing mass services).

    For all our sakes I hope Ian is mistaken – but I have no strong argument to bring against him.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Let those who would have a voice in governing pay for the privilege, prior to each election; and let there be required a showing of some minimal understanding of history and of government (what used to be taught as “Civics”), shortly before the vote in national elections at least (good for one Presidential term, i.e. for four years, in the U.S.).

    Let no one sell his vote, and let no one have more than one vote in each election.

    If people cannot afford the vote, let them work and save until the next election, or until they can afford it.

    No scheme is foolproof against corruption and malignant growth, but this is in my opinion by far the fairest and safest, and the only possible non-coercive, method of funding government. Some argue that govt. should be financed by contributions (which should be prohibited! under this system, as closing one door to corruption); or by lottery (playing to the “vices” of the people, divorcing their individual political opinions and desires from the concepts of responsibility for earning the right to act on same and linking them instead to “the luck of the draw”); or by having the govt. run some business or other, which is to say, giving it instant incentive to create for itself a financial monopoly and diverting a part of its intention from its proper function governing to the running of a successful business. I cannot see any virtue to any of these methods of financing government, except that of abolishing “taxation.”

    Let there be a Constitution so drafted (or amended) as to specifically and narrowly limit governmental powers to the keeping of the peace (which includes foreign affairs and the military) and possibly to seeing that States do not erect barriers to trade with other states. Let the Constitution specifically point out that Government has no rights whatsoever, but only powers, and that those powers may be limited by the voters as seems required by them. Let the Ninth Amendment be returned to its proper place as the First Amendment, or if there were a new Constitution, let it begin with a statement of the Ninth (referring to governmental “powers,” however, not “rights”).

    Let there be stated as exactly and precisely stated as is humanly possible the conditions under which polities that wish to join the Union may do so. Let the power of States to secede from the Union under conditions requiring, among other things, the assent of the voting citizenry of that State, be recognized, and let there be no power of the Union Government to prevent them.

    Of course, all this assumes that there IS a body empowered to “govern” in the minarchist sense. And the drafting of the Constitution and any Amendments would have to be very, very carefully done. (Personally, I would like to see legislatures convened, whether personally or via telecommunications, only a few times a year, and then only for a short period of a few days — except, PERHAPS, during a national emergency, in case of an issue that must be dealt with at once.)

    On the day when this system is put into operation, the Blessed Virgin will appear at Lourdes, and tears again will flow from the eyes of Our Lady of Akita.

    • England got around 200 years of reasonably bearable govenment by putting all the Puritans on a boat and sending it far, far away.

      We should give that another try.

    • Julie- people would sell their votes, wealthy individuals and corporations would give money to people to qualify for the vote, the haves would use such as system to oppress the have nots.

      • Julie near Chicago

        No doubt, but as I said, NO system is foolproof against corruption. But the abuses you suggest already occur. When Ms. X votes for Obama because “he gonna give me free cell-phone!” she’s being talked into selling her vote. When the Tides, Ford, etc. etc. etc. Foundations and Bill Gates and W. Buffett clamor for amnesty — that’s the Dems trying to get the illegal immigrants’ votes by getting them the “path to citizenship,” and giving them money and bennies helps to move the clamoring toward success.

        However, there can be strong checks against such abuses, and at least there can be no monkeying around with taxes and so forth.

        And the strongest check of all is a polity made up of people who understand history, the dangers inherent in practical politics, and the importance of individual virtue (honesty, cooperation, and respect vs. dishonesty, violence and threat of force, and disrespect in dealing with others; and for the individual, capability, self-responsibility, and pride in oneself — i.e., character) in maintaining the proper functioning of the system.

        • Julie – you are seeking Utopia. Even a passing acquaintance with human nature will tell you that what you seek is a non-starter.

          • Julie near Chicago

            Hence my predictions regarding the reappearance of the Blessed Virgin at Lourdes, and of the tears of Our Lady of Akita.

            – – – – –


            We are all interested in exploring ideas for the best possible political ordering of society. Different systems, each with variations, have had their chance to show the extent to which they work. All have come up short in one way or another, although a few have lasted, or at least one can maintain a pretense that they have lasted, for a millenium or … those were either despotic, or locally despotic with ongoing warlordism in the Provinces. So what.

            The fact is however that improvements to prior orders can be made, and can work better than what went before, and can last for as much as centuries despite the inevitable decay of the system — which may however see continued improvements in some areas.

            I draw your attention to both Britain and America, to the rest of the Anglosphere, to Holland, to Switzerland as examples.

            We should not seek cures for diseases, nor even ameliorative treatments, because in the end we will all die anyway?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Can I come live with you guys?

  • Julie near Chicago

    And you will notice, dear Ian, that I appeal to and depend upon the blessings of the Catholic Madonna, not some jerry-rigged Puritan mock-up of same. :>))

    Of course as a former Christian celebrant in the Congregational Church, var. Northern Illinoisius, ca. 1940-1960, I cannot debar ALL Protestants from the fair land of Libertopia.

  • Ian the reason that some religious people left Britain was not predestination (that was the official positing of the Church of Scotland – so no reason to leave over that) or general “Puritanism” (even the Church of England has always plenty of such types – although they are a minority). What made people leave was the issue of state control of the Church.

    For example the Church of Scotland used to allow local people to choose their ministers – but in the time of Queen Anne this choice was taken away. Also in Ireland it was not the Roman Catholics who were subject to the Penal Laws – it was dissenting Protestants also.

    The “Rednecks” are actually (in their first origins – although the culture embraced other people) Irish Protestants. Mainline Scottish Protestants (i.e. those who accepted the authority of the Church of Scotland) actually tended to fight on the other side during the War of Independence.

    It should be remembered that the “Rednecks” are not just Southern – actually they inhabited lands from New Hampshire and Maine in the north to Western Penn (hence the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794) and then on into the rural (especially hill country) South – the great slave owners of the low lands were not Rednecks.

    As for British government – such things as the right to keep and bear arms, and freedom of speech died because no was prepared to defend them.

    Government has been on the rise in Britain (even as a percentage of the economy) since at least the 1870s.

    The modern British attitude is to “grumble but obey”. After all nothing (nothing at all – in domestic politics) is worth risking your life for.

    Such an attitude makes the extermination of liberty certain.

    By the way………

    Predestination actually went into decline in the colonies years before the War of Independence (indeed I doubt it there would have been a War of Independence had it not gone into decline – why fight for freedom if freedom is logically impossible anyway?).

    One story goes as follows…….

    “The mountains block expansion Westward – there is a pass called the Cumberland Gap, but the Cumberland Gap is still hard country, one has to partly unload wagons to get them through the pass, and (you know) Predestination is very heavy, so a lot of people decided to unload their wagons of that”.

    Hence the “Cumberland Presbyteries” of Tennessee (as well as the Baptists) – if you take Predestination out of your wagon, you have more room for your Kentucky long rifle.

  • As for England.

    England had a quiet (“hobbit like”) belief in freedom – at least a lot of people did.

    Tolkien (a Catholic) is an obvious example, but there were plenty of Anglicans also, and dissenting Protestants (such as the Leeds Mercury “Voluntarist” people).

    They did not make as much noise about freedom as the “Scots Irish” (no banging drums for them), but their belief was just as deep.

    But at some point such people became the minority (not the majority) – at least in ruling circles.

    P.E. Moore (the tutor of T.S. Eliot) noticed this in his visit to England in the 1930s.

    Moore (the friend and ally of Irving Babbitt) noted that few people in England (at least few IMPORTANT people) believed in the founding principles of English liberty – freedom (to some extent) still existed, but only because the government had not got around to getting rid of it yet (no one, important, really cared about it).

    Even in Oxford (then the home of Tolkien, Harold Prichard, Sir William David Ross….) the young upcoming types thought that the basic principles of freedom were silly and outdated – when the old generation passed away, they would not be replaced.

    I suspect the key defeat was as far back as the 19th century

    In the 18th century such ideas as one sees in Ralph Cudworth (back in the 1600s) were a common place – almost everyone (in the Whig mental universe – which included many Tory people such as Dr Johnson) believed in them.

    Of course humans were beings – able to choose between good and bad (which were real things – not just “boo and moo” noises as the vile A.J. Ayer argued in the 1930s). That is why human freedom was both possible and important.

    But in the 19th century more and more liberals fell away from this – not all of them of course (not Gladstone – or even the mass of ordinary liberal voters in the country, or ordinary Conservative voters either), but among the professional “intellectuals”.

    More and more of these started to keep their philosophy and their politics in different boxes.

    There was a background to this – in the past (going way back) some predestinationists had supported political freedom (even though the believed theological freedom was logically impossible). Somehow they managed to keep their theology and their politics in two separate boxes

    In the 19th century more and more professional “liberal intellectuals” started to keep their philosophy and their politics in two separate boxes. Their philosophy said that human freedom was logically impossible – but in their politics they (sort-of anyway) supported freedom anyway.

    However, this was unstable. More and more the politics of the “intellectuals” (i.e. the people who denied the very existence of human intellect – the people who denied the existence of people) fitted their philosophy – just as it had in GERMANY (Britain and American intellectuals might well have found this path without the German example – but it helped them on their way).

    To an “Old Whig” – that the collapse of pro freedom politics followed the collapse of pro freedom (pro moral responsibility) philosophy, would have come as no shock.

    It the philosophy of people like Nick Clegg becomes the norm – so does their politics.

  • Julie – when people mistake free stuff for freedom (“Obama will give me freedom – a cell phone, a house, a …..”) then one is dealing with badness (rottenness).

    They have the capacity for moral choice (they are not like a wall of water released when a dam is blown up), but they are not exercising it.

    Can people reform themselves? With a real effort yes.

    But if they do not reform themselves (after others have tried to help them see the truth) then all one can do is defend against them.

    In short – if people choose to behave like rats (or other vermin) that is how they should be treated.

    “But they are never given the truth” – true, so they should be given it (great efforts should be made), but if they choose to attack anyway (in search of “free stuff”) then self defence (and the defence of others – what Hobbes ignored) is the priority.

  • On Julie’s ideas (not I am slightly less tired and rushed).

    A minimum education standard for voting was once (indeed within living memory) a “mainstream” idea – now it would be considered an absolute outrage (fashions change). However, it would be a very easy to pervert this system – for example insist that people show support for “Social Justice” as proof of their “civic knowledge”. Certainly one could fake support for this evil doctrine – but one should not need to be a liar to have the vote.

    On taxation….

    “No taxation in peacetime” was an English demand for centuries (with the King “living off his own” – the modest profits of his own estates like the Thrain of the Shire).

    Today we have moved do far from this position that it is incredible.

    For the record ……

    The low point of national taxation (at least in the last couple of centuries) was 1874. However, in many local areas the burden of taxation had been on the rise since 1870 – due to the Education Act setting up Education Boards Although they were not compulsory till 1891 – my home town of Kettering rejected setting one up in repeated local referendums.

    It is an odd thing local history – for example I often call myself a 19th century Liberal (a Classical Liberal), but I know perfectly well that in all the debates that actually divided Kettering in the 19th century (whether or not to ban booze, whether or not to have a town council, whether or not to have a Education Board, and on and on) I would be exactly what I am now – a Kettering Conservative.

    So I am a “19th century liberal” who would not have actually been a supporter of the Liberal party (at least around here) even in the 19th century?

  • Julie near Chicago


    ‘However, it would be a very easy to pervert this system [of requiring some “minimum education standard”] – for example insist that people show support for “Social Justice” as proof of their “civic knowledge”. Certainly one could fake support for this evil doctrine – but one should not need to be a liar to have the vote.”‘

    Unfortunately this is very true. One does all one can think of to disable abuses, but still, abuses there will be. However, in my conception the only questions would be on matters of fact, such as “When was the American Revolutionary War?” “Who was the commander of the American forces at Valley Forge during the American Revolutionary War?” “What event precipitated the American entry into WW II?” “What was the first great document in the movement of the presently Anglospheric countries toward (political) liberty?” “Name the three branches of the American government.” “Of the various statements below, mark which ones are taken from the Constitution or its Amendments.” “Who is the current President of the United States?” “Which of the following statements properly defines the term ‘chattel slavery’?” “Was chattel slavery ever legal in the United States?” “Which of the following is the most accurate description of the Doctrine of Enumerated Powers?” Same for the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers….

    And so forth…. No “Should it policy that….?” or variants. Unfortunately, it would have to be a multiple-choice test. It should be long and thorough, and a high score should be necessary for passage.

    Note that the rules of the game (the Constitutional requirements) should be designed to minimize the cost of government, so as to maximize the number of people eligible to purchase their vote. How this cost would be updated in order to allow unforeseen expenses (wars being the big one), but also inflation or deflation resulting from changes to the hard-money supply, if any, and also falling prices resulting from increased productivity — I’m assuming a free market and healthy economy, with no government intervention allowed in either (already covered that, by implication, in the first posting on this). Also, the voters would not be voting on the bar to be passed on the History and Politics exams. Or, it should take a Constitutional Amendment to change that bar — which should be set quite high, perhaps 90%. I don’t see any reason to change the exam each time it’s given, except for questions whose answers might change — such as, “Who is our current Vice-President?”

    I would make the exam fairly long. People who want a say in government should be willing to invest some time and mental effort into showing their competence to do so.

    Oh well, I’ve invested enough time and effort into commenting on this for now. :>))

  • What put in my mind Julie was the example of work books from American schools – where the basic Bill of Rights are explained in an utterly false way.

    So questions about the Bill of Rights would have “right” answers that are actually totally false answers.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yes, I understand. :>(

    The exam on the Const. and the Bill of Rights would have to have multiple-choice questions where one answer was a direct quote from the document and the other choices were either plausible-sounding ringers or else somebody’s totalitarian fantasy.

    The aim of the exam, after all, isn’t to filter out anybody by their opinion or point of view. It’s just to get voters who know what the thing actually says, regardless of what they think of it. They then express their opinion at the polls.

    There is a problem with questions like “most accurate statement of the doctrine of enumerated powers,” though. We’ll have to find a way to make sure the candidates (candidates for eligibility to run, as well as to vote! *g*) know about such things without running into the problem you’re talking about.

    This sort of issue is one of the main reasons for using the same exam each time — so that the stuff can be worked out properly once and for all, and not be vulnerable to change for the worse. (Or, only minimally vulnerable. “Never say never.”)

  • Alas Julie it would not be you who would be setting the exam.

    I remember reading J.S. Mill saying that private schools should have their efficiency tested by with exams set by the state.

    True this would be better than state schools (I went to one of those and they are terrible places), but even as a boy it stuck me how innocent Mill was (as if any exam set by the state, that putrid blob of incompetence mixed with corruption, could be trusted).

    However, Victorians tend to get on my nerves – even liberal Victorians seem to have an almost Prussian reverence for “the state”.

    I find the intellectual world of the 18th century less irritating. Both Whig and Tory.

    At least before the cult of Frederick the Great (the first statist to be a hero on this island) – a cult I am certainly not a member of.

    By the way Frederick the Great created the first state education system.

    Before then schools (even in Scotland – which some books mistakenly claim had a state education system, actually the formal state control of the system came as late as 1872 in Scotland, before that the law simply said that each local Kirk would run a school open to anyone) were either run by churches, or by private associations or individuals.

    I may well be a silly old man to believe in God – but I think we agree that those who worship the state (the Prussian attitude), or “the people” (the collective – in the manner of Rousseau and the rest of the legion of devils) are more foolish even than me.

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