David McDonagh on Chris Tame: A Dissenting View
Sean Gabb comments: I appreciate David’s moderation of tone. He and Chris got on very badly after 1982, but Chris is now dead, and his personal disputes must be regarded as having died with him. I certainly regard them as dead.
This being said, I take issue with David’s general view of Chris. Without prejudice to the merits of David Ramsay Steele or Mark Brady – and I think I get on well now with both of them – Chris was an important social fact. That the libertarian movement has disintegrated since his death is because neither I nor anyone else has been good enough to replace him as a centre of gravity.
Also, he was a consistent thinker. I agree that he grew less ideological with age, and that he eventually accepted a number of propositions he rejected in his younger days. What this shows, however, is that he was aware of the context in which liberty can flourish. He could have lived as a wooden ideologue, gracing the suicidal wing of libertarianism. He chose instead to look at the facts. The points he raises in his last video interviews may be mistaken. More likely, they are provisional conclusions reached on an intellectual journey he had no time to complete.
I agree that he had a short temper, and a long memory for grudges. I agree that he lacked certain abilities that the present LA leadership both possesses and rates highly. For all this, he remains the most remarkable man I have ever known. I met him on the last Monday in December 1979. Whether for better or worse, that meeting changed the whole direction of my life. SIG
It seems to be folly to eulogise Chris Tame as the best libertarian of his day, as Sean so often does. Why should we even think him better than his slightly older friend, Mark Brady? I think the answer to that is: there no reason whatsoever. Mark seems to have influenced Chris way more than Chris ever influenced Mark. So it seems unfair to Mark to say that Chris was better as a libertarian.
If we look at the LA journal, Free Life, we can see the merits of the LA members up till 1982 and it does not show us much from either Chris or Mark, or much from me, and I am even a bit older than Mark.
In the clip I heard, Chris speaks more like a nationalist rather than a like a pristine liberal. He speaks for England rather than for the LA.
I think the nationalists are right to blame liberals for harming the nation by advocating free trade, including free immigration. I gave an LA talk on this a few years ago [it is on Youtube] to confess to that damage. Chris says the national state has been justified and he says mass immigration will lead to totalitarianism, to a low wage economy, that mass immigration is not free anyway as we have the welfare state, that it is more like an invasion than mere immigration, as the newcomers are hostile to British culture, that the ruling class has organised this to cow the native workers on low wages and that despotism will be the result. He was clear that he was not making an economic case but a political one, but he said that a high wage economy was needed to allow people to be confident.
I think Chris uses hyperbole and exaggerates but that he is basically right that mass immigration damages the nation but is it, thereby, illiberal? The answer seems to be clearly not.
Nationalism and what is now called libertarianism clash.
I think nationalism can be liberal in this pristine sense but that the state and politics itself can never quite be. So Chris departs from liberalism or libertarianism when he makes a political case. But his politics here are clearly nationalist anyway. He is for protectionism rather than for free trade.
Chris cited totalitarianism and despotism but he seemed to hint rather than to make his case. That the nation is broken by mass immigration is as obvious as Chris said it was but so are many other things that liberty allows. In allowing boxing, we allow noses to get broken, for example.
Chris cites class analysis. Can that ever be liberal in the pristine sense? The answer again, seems to be clearly not. Liberalism is about persons not groups.
Even Keynes realised that lowering nominal wages owing to more workers being employed made for a higher real wage owing to increased output, but note that Chris did repeat that he did not want to make an economic case but rather a political one. He certainly was making a political case and it seems a nationalist one rather than a pristine liberal one.
It was not a strong case but then Chris never did seem good at thinking as far as I could see. It seems merely false to, repeatedly say, as Sean does, that Chris was the top libertarian of his day. He was not even better than I was. Nor, really, was even Mark, though they both did help to convert me by earlier converting my friend, David Ramsay Steele, at the University of Hull, [who clearly was better than me back then, and he has been since too], to libertarianism in the early 1970s, who converted me in the late 1970s. He was clearly the best the LA had. I think Sean knows that and Chris certainly did.
But Chris did like publicity more any other LAer. That is what he was best at, and e was best at it by miles.