The backstory behind the war on cars in the UK


On May 20th, 2019, I gave a talk to the Libertarian Alliance about the damaging political policies being imposed on car drivers in the UK, and the history behind them. Normally, these talks are recorded on video. But on this occasion, an unfortunate combination of circumstances prevented a recording. As this subject is a topical one – and becoming more so by the day – I thought it appropriate to create a “transcript” of the talk, re-constructed from my notes.

Introduction

On April 8th, 2019, London mayor Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) went live in the Congestion Charge area in central London. It now costs the driver £12.50 a day, on top of the congestion charge, to drive in this zone a diesel car built before September 2015, or a petrol car built before 2006. This is an outrageous amount; and it also has to be paid at week-ends! This scheme is planned to be extended to all of the area inside North and South Circular Roads in October 2021. And after that, who knows?

Beyond this, there is talk of charging drivers of diesel cars to enter any of 35 or so cities around the UK. Some cities, like Southampton, have decided not to do this. Others, like Birmingham, are pressing on. Meanwhile, on May 9th the Times began a campaign claiming that “air pollution on the streets is poisoning 2.6 million schoolchildren,” and that this is due to “clogged roads”.

And yet, a recent (May 2nd) Sky News poll showed that more than 50 per cent of a random sample of people in the UK were “unwilling to significantly reduce the amount they drive, fly and eat meat,” either to combat climate change or to protect the environment in a more general sense. This is evidence of a huge disconnect between the political classes and the people!

There is a long backstory behind all this, which not many people seem to be aware of. In the last two years, I’ve managed to pull a lot of this backstory together. So, tonight I’ll bring it out into the open for you. In the process, I’ll identify what I call the Ten Deadly Dishonesties. These are attitudes and ploys that anti-car and other green campaigners have used, many of them more than once, in the course of their political machinations.

Outline of my talk

My talk will consist of five parts. In Part 1, I’ll give a very brief history of the green agenda in general, and the part played in it by the United Nations. In Part 2, I’ll give some backstory behind “global warming,” the central plank of the green agenda. I know that Nico Metten gave a presentation to you on this subject a few months ago; so those of you, who listened to that talk, will already be experts on the science! Therefore, I’ll talk mainly about the history and politics behind the scare, both of which are closely intertwined with the backstory to the war on cars.

In Part 3, I’ll discuss the background, and the regulatory framework within which all this is happening. And in Parts 4 and 5, I’ll look at the two kinds of pollution, which are being used as the main excuses for the war on drivers and our cars. These are: particulate matter (“PM”, and in particular PM2.5) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Part 1: The UN and the green agenda

Those of you who have studied the green agenda will already know that the driver of it, all along, has been the United Nations. This has been so ever since 1970, the year of the first Earth Day. The then UN Secretary General, U Thant, personally sanctioned the Earth Day idea!

In 1972, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) was started, under the directorship of Maurice Strong. Strong was a Canadian oil baron, and he had a scandal ridden career. His attitude can be summed up by the following quote, from a 1997 magazine interview: “Frankly, we may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse.”

This is the first of my Ten Deadly Dishonesties; enmity towards our industrial and capitalist civilization, which has given so much to every one of us. Including, of course, to Maurice Strong. Strong himself, though, is no longer with us. He was implicated in the Oil-for-Food scandal of 2005, went to live in China, and died in 2015.

In 1982, the UN put forward a Resolution called the World Charter for Nature. This included extreme statements, like: “Activities which might have an impact on nature shall be controlled,” and “where potential adverse effects are not fully understood, the activities should not proceed.” The Charter was passed by 111 votes to 1, with 18 abstentions. The USA was the only country voting against.

On to 1987, the year in which a UN report called Our Common Future laid out a blueprint for a “green” future. Maurice Strong was on the commission that wrote it – surprise, surprise.

In 2017, I wrote a headpost about that report, which you can find at wattsupwiththat.com, the world’s No.1 climate skeptic website. Broadly speaking, the report raised alarms on 14 environmental issues. They included species loss, acid rain (later re-badged as “air quality”) and global warming. These are the three that are currently being actively pushed. In terms of the car, Our Common Future focused mainly on third world countries and cities. The agenda to force people in the West out of our cars came later. But the report was hardly moderate. It included extremist rhetoric such as: “Development involves a progressive transformation of economy and society.” And “We are serving notice… that the time has come to take the decisions needed.”

Our Common Future led to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to whose extreme agenda idiot politicians like the then UK Prime Minister, John Major, signed up with glee. As I like to put it, they sold us all down the Rio. In particular, they signed up to a binding Framework Convention on Climate Change, and to Agenda 21 (which has since morphed into Agenda 2030).

The Framework Convention on Climate Change led to the yearly “Conference of the Parties” meetings, about which you’ve heard so much. And, in particular, it led to the meetings in Copenhagen in 2009 and Paris in 2015, which aimed to reach binding agreements to keep global temperatures below some completely arbitrary limit. At Paris, the second of the Ten Deadly Dishonesties became apparent: moving the goalposts. The “limit” touted prior to Paris was 2 degrees Celsius above “pre-industrial levels.” But in 2015, it looked (before the El Niño which started in that year) as though global warming had stopped, and wasn’t going to reach 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, or anywhere near it. So, they arbitrarily lowered the limit from 2 degrees to 1.5! That was moving the goalposts, no? And later on, when we come to PM2.5, I’ll show you an even more egregious example of moving the goalposts.

As to Agenda 21, I read it, and wished I hadn’t. It consists of 350 pages of bureaucratese, in which the word “women” occurs more than 250 times! It includes demands such as: “Significant changes in the consumption patterns of industries, governments, households and individuals.” And “Favouring high-occupancy public transport.” This was where the anti-car agenda came in, seeking to force drivers in Western countries out of our cars. Moreover, Agenda 21 was to be implemented at the local government level. So, it passed under many people’s political radar. A clever trick, no?

To sum up: In environmental matters, don’t believe the UN, or anyone associated with it.

Part 2: The backstory behind “global warming”

The accusation, that human emissions of carbon dioxide are causing catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW), appears to be a factual matter. It ought to be easy to establish the facts beyond reasonable doubt, using honest, unbiased science. Then, if the accusation turns out to be true, it’s possible to make policy decisions fair to everyone. Yet, what we have is a highly charged rumpus, in which governments and virtually all the mainstream media (and, most of all, the BBC) peddle the global warming narrative at the tops of their voices. And those sceptical of the narrative are labelled with nasty names like “deniers” or “flat earthers.”

The organization at the centre of this rumpus is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It was established in 1988; and guess what, it’s a UN organization. It has prepared five major reports so far, the first in 1990, the most recent in 2013. Parts of these reports (including the key “Summary for Policymakers”) are approved line by line by government officials! And in 1996, a section of the Summary was re-worded in a more alarmist way, at the request of governments – including the UK. Then the technical reports were updated to match! Here is the third of my Ten Deadly Dishonesties: politics disguised as science.

The IPCC “process” is currently in its 6th assessment cycle. This isn’t due to be completed until 2022. However, their plan looks to be to keep the pot boiling, by publishing another small alarmist report every few months until then.

On the scientific issues, the temperature data is of poor quality, and is incomplete both spatially and chronologically. Many measurements have been “homogenized,” and filled in from nearby data. The data we do have is noisy and full of errors, and it includes measurements made by different means (e.g. ships, buoys, satellites), by instruments of different types, at different times of day. Many sites on land are of low quality (e.g. near asphalt, or air-conditioning outlets). Many measurements have been “adjusted,” often in ways that are documented poorly or not at all. More often than not, they cool the past or warm the present, so making any warming trend look higher. Could this be doctoring of the data? Hard to prove.

And it’s not just the temperature data. Similar things are happening with sea level data. We know that sea levels have been rising fairly steadily for about 12,000 years. We also know that there are huge differences between sea level rise trends calculated from tide gauges and satellites; tide gauges consistently show much lower trends. Neither trend seems to be increasing much, but we keep on seeing new papers that claim to show a recent acceleration! Make of that what you will.

Moreover, the case for alarm is built almost entirely on computer models. But these models aren’t used to make specific predictions that can be tested, and validated or rejected using the scientific method. All they deliver is “projections,” which cannot be falsified. Furthermore, the results of model runs are all over the place. Even after all the homogenizations and adjustments, models consistently run “hotter” than real-world measurements. And a more basic question: How do we know the models’ built-in assumptions don’t simply reflect the prejudices of the modellers?

Further, the alarmists’ use of what I call nonscience (a cross between non-science and nonsense!) is on-going. There is technical nonscience, such as unrelated data being grafted together without explanation (Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” was an example of this). Or data inconvenient to the alarmist case being dropped altogether. Or dubious statistical methods that produce “hockey sticks” from random noise, or exaggerate the contribution of a small sample.

Then there is media nonscience. For example, using clever graphs and tricks to spread alarmism. (The “hockey stick” is still out there, would you believe!) We’ve seen photo-shopped alarmist pictures on the front covers of supposedly scientific journals – who can forget that (in)famous picture of a polar bear on an ice floe? Meanwhile, we’re repeatedly told that “It’s worse than we thought.” Or that “97 per cent of climate scientists agree” it’s all our fault! Or that “the science is settled” – when anyone who knows anything about science knows that science is never settled.

Then there is what I call procedural nonscience. And here, we encounter the fourth Deadly Dishonesty: refusing to release data that supports alarmist scientific papers. The reason this is a big issue, is that it makes independent replication of the results – or, indeed, showing that the results were faulty – impossible. There has also been evidence, notably from the Climategate e-mails, of scientists deleting data to evade Freedom of Information requests.

On to the fifth of the Deadly Dishonesties: suppressing dissenting scientific views. The Climategate e-mails, again, show repeated attempts to stop publication of skeptical papers. And there have been several cases in which skeptical scientists have been persecuted, and at least one in which a journal editor was sacked at the behest of alarmists.

The word “Climategate” refers to the release, in November 2009, of e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. These e-mails showed proof positive of the nonscience that was going on. In response, the UK government commissioned no less than three inquiries, none of which did their job properly!

The parliamentary committee (except for Graham Stringer) chose to avoid the most important questions. The Oxburgh inquiry didn’t listen to any critics of the CRU, didn’t cover the controversial areas, and most importantly didn’t look at work done for the IPCC. Yet a senior government scientist described the report as “a blinder well played.” The third inquiry, under Muir Russell, failed to investigate the central issues – Was the science being done properly? And was it being done honestly? So, all the important issues “fell through the gaps” between the three inquiries. Here is the sixth of the Deadly Dishonesties: government whitewash of the problems with the alarmist case and conduct.

But the most egregious of all the bad things the alarmists have done (I have another headpost on this at wattsupwiththat.com) – is more subtle. They have perverted, indeed they have inverted, the precautionary principle. In its true form, the principle says “look before you leap,” or even “first, do no harm.” It means that you should not take risky action unless and until you are very confident the result will be beneficial rather than the opposite. Furthermore, the burden of proof must always be on those wanting to act – and most particularly if they are a government. (This exactly mirrors the presumption of innocence in criminal trials).

Yet in 2002, the UK government re-wrote the precautionary principle. They changed its purpose to: “to create an impetus to take a decision notwithstanding scientific uncertainty about the nature and extent of the risk.” And they used the mantra, attributed to Carl Sagan: “Absence of evidence of risk is not evidence of absence of risk.” It is hard not to hear in this an echo of “absence of evidence of guilt is not evidence of absence of guilt.” If such principles were used in criminal trials, no defendant would ever be acquitted.

There are no less than three Deadly Dishonesties here. Number seven, inverting the burden of proof. Number eight, negating the presumption of innocence. And number nine, requiring the accused to prove a negative – namely, that humans are not causing catastrophic global warming. If you doubt the serious nature of this last, consider: If you had to prove there are no fairies at the bottom of your garden, how would you do it?

Now to the 2008 UK Climate Change Bill. They did make a token attempt at a “cost benefit analysis.” But there was a factor of 7 uncertainty in the costs, and a factor of 12 in the “benefits,” of action to “mitigate” climate change! That’s if we could believe the figures in the first place. Such numbers are useless for making any kind of objective decisions. Yet, the politicians didn’t care, and went ahead anyway. That’s the tenth and last of the Ten Deadly Dishonesties: making costly commitments on behalf of others, without rigorous justification.

And yet, here we are, with the idiots in parliament, on May 1st just gone, declaring (on the basis of no evidence at all) that there’s a “climate emergency!”

Part 3: The background and the regulatory framework

Now for some background to the war on our cars. In the last half century, we have made huge progress in reducing air pollution. DEFRA, the government agency responsible for this area, produce yearly statistics on UK emissions of air pollutants from all sources. These show that progress in reducing emissions since 1970 has been most impressive. For example, PM2.5 emissions in 2015 were less than a quarter of 1970 levels. And NOx emissions were also down, to less than a third of 1970 levels.

That said, since about 2005 the reduction in PM2.5 emissions has slowed. My understanding is that this was the point at which all the “low hanging fruit” – reductions which could be made without causing great pain to millions of people – had been picked. Last I looked, PM2.5 emissions were roughly static from year to year. They may even have started to go up, because of government encouragement for the burning of wood, which produces much PM2.5.

But none of this progress has been enough to satisfy the anti-car extremists. There has been an anti-car movement in the UK since the 1970s, perhaps even before. But it was in 1993, the year after the Rio summit, that the propaganda machine really got going. Our TV screens showed (staged) pictures of rural roads chock-a-block with cars. Of traffic jams in foggy weather, complete with smoking exhaust-pipes. Of the aftermaths of accidents. It was hard, even then, to avoid thinking that we drivers were being set up. Furthermore, organizations that should have defended us, like the Automobile Association, looked the other way, or even added their voices to the witch-hunt.

The responses of successive governments to the anti-car fanatics has been to give them, again and again, enthusiastic support. Blair’s government was extremely anti-car. Almost the very first law they passed was the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997. But far worse was to come. For in 1999, Blair and co agreed to the Gothenburg protocol. I know I repeat myself, but the instigator of this protocol was the UN. It covered a range of pollutants, including PM2.5 and NOx. And for the first time, it set controls on emissions of pollutants. A far better tool for controlling people than earlier policies, which had been designed around concentrations! That was the start of creeping speed limits (including 20mph), speed bumps, bus lanes, congestion charges, “smart” motorways, cameras everywhere to catch us out, and all the rest.

And the Coalition and the Tories have been no better. It’s clear that all the mainstream political parties in the UK are in on the scam. In 2012, Cameron and co agreed an extension to the Gothenburg protocol, which set even more stringent limits on emissions to 2020 and to 2030. They even went to the UN office in Geneva to sign it!

The EU, of course, is also in on the game. It sets “targets” and “limits” for various pollutants. (Because their origins pre-date the Gothenburg protocol, these are based on concentrations, not emissions). Targets are “to be attained where possible by taking all necessary measures not entailing disproportionate costs.” Limits are “legally binding EU parameters that must not be exceeded.” Targets have a habit of morphing into Limits on some arbitrary cut-off date.

The UN and EU strands converged in 2016, with the EU “national emission ceilings” directive, based on the commitments made in 2012. This requires the UK to cut PM2.5 emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. (And 54 per cent below by 2030). Now, here’s the rub. That commitment for 2020 simply isn’t going to be met. It can’t be met; and it should never have been made. That’s why this is such a big issue now. This is another case of making costly commitments on behalf of others, without rigorous justification. It is Cameron and co that should be held to account, not us poor car drivers!

Another thing the EU does is set emissions standards for new cars. Now, diesel cars emit both PM2.5 and NOx. Petrol cars do emit some NOx, but a lot less than diesels; and they produce very little PM2.5. Every five years or so, the EU makes new, tighter standards for emissions from new cars. The Euro 3 standard came in in 2001, Euro 4 in 2006, Euro 5 in September 2010, and Euro 6 in September 2015. The PM2.5 standards have been tightened so much over the years, that Euro 5 and 6 diesels emit only a tenth as much PM2.5 as Euro 3 models. NOx standards have also been tightened, though this has become somewhat moot since the Volkswagen diesel scandal.

For both petrol and diesel cars, there’s also an uncertain amount of PM from tyres and brakes. DEFRA seem to think most of this is of a larger size than PM2.5, so is far less toxic, and therefore not a big problem. But anti-car extremists still try to make a big deal out of it.

Part 4: Particulate matter (PM2.5)

So, what exactly is PM2.5? It consists of small, airborne solid particles. The “2.5” means that particles of this type are less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter. Adverse health effects from PM are believed to come almost entirely from PM2.5, because they are small enough to get through the body’s defences into the lungs. They can also potentially carry chemical poisons, such as nickel and arsenic. I saw recently a Chinese study suggesting that the element vanadium may be a major part of the problem. Though I doubt that; because vanadium, while toxic, is far less toxic than PM2.5 is claimed to be.

One characteristic of PM2.5 is that the particles tend to remain in the air for quite a long time. So PM2.5 pollution can travel far from its source, even across national borders. Making it a perfect weapon for the UN and EU to use to bind national governments, and so to control their people.

On top of all this, experts tell us that PM2.5 is very difficult to measure with any confidence. And furthermore, the mechanism by which PM2.5 causes its claimed toxic effects is not well understood. Contrast this with, for example, arsenic, where we know the mechanisms in some detail. Given that an average Londoner breathes in only about 5 grams of PM2.5 in a lifetime, we need urgently to understand exactly what makes it as toxic as it’s claimed to be. Without this knowledge, we cannot reasonably conclude that PM2.5 is a cause of any health problems; even if we do find some correlation between PM2.5 levels and the incidence of those health problems.

Now for the backstory on PM2.5. In the 1980s, data was collected in the USA, notably from industrial areas in Ohio, to see if there might be a correlation between PM2.5 and mortality rates. As a result, two major studies were published, both claiming to link PM2.5 with mortality. One was the Harvard “Six Cities” study of 1993 – interesting date, that one. The other was the American Cancer Society’s “Cancer Prevention Study II,” published in 1995.

These studies claimed to show a “risk factor” of about 6 per cent for inhaling PM2.5 at and around a typical concentration of 10 micrograms per cubic metre. The mathematics of toxicology is arcane, but this appears to be equivalent to “about 5 per cent of adults who die, die from this cause”. This seems to me high. Moreover, the uncertainties were (and still are) huge. And other studies, for example from California, haven’t found any such correlation. This throws still further into doubt the idea that PM2.5 causes observed health problems.

There are several parallels between the PM2.5 backstory and the global warming one. There has been at least one case of suppressing dissenting scientific views. Epidemiologist James Enstrom used to work on American Cancer Society projects; but they terminated his funding in 1994, another interesting date. In 2006, the ACS accused Enstrom of “misrepresenting scientific evidence to deny that passive smoking was harmful.” And in 2010 his university, UCLA in Los Angeles, tried to fire him, and he had to take the case to court.

In 2000, a special scientific team set up by the US government (the Health Effects Institute) was allowed access to the raw data, by now held by the US EPA, which underlay the 1993 and 1995 studies. They reported that they had validated the original studies. But no independent scientists were allowed access to the data! This is refusing to release data, and perhaps also politics masquerading as science, or even government whitewash. Moreover, in 2013, the US House of Representatives subpoenaed the EPA for the data, but they still refused to release it. I’ve heard that some US scientists, including Enstrom, have since the change of administration been allowed access to early versions of the data, from before the EPA took it over. But as far as I’m aware, the EPA data still hasn’t been released. Does it still exist?

In the UK, in 2009, the government Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) tried to work out how big a problem PM2.5 was in the UK. In essence, they accepted the 6 per cent risk factor from the US cancer prevention study. However, their scientific basis for accepting this risk factor is not clear. Moreover, they tried a novel way of estimating the uncertainty, which amounted to seven experts waving a wet finger in the air, and pooling results. The outcome was a factor of 12 between their lower and upper bounds! Useless for making objective decisions, yet they went ahead anyway. This is making costly commitments on behalf of others, without rigorous justification. Again.

In 2010, another UK government report concluded that in 2008 PM2.5 had caused nearly 29,000 deaths in the UK, with an average loss of life expectancy of 11.7 years. But it could have been anywhere between 4,700 and 51,000.

The rest of the PM2.5 backstory joins up with the NOx one. So, I’ll leave it until the final section of my talk. I’ll now look at the facts and accusations about PM2.5 pollution in the UK.

Currently, the EU limit for PM2.5 (since 2015) is 25 micrograms per cubic metre. For brevity, I’ll call this 25 units. The current average in London is about 14 or 15 units. A few sites in central London are above 20; but as of 2015 at least, there was no place in London at which the EU limit was broken. The UK-wide level is very close to (slightly under) 10 units. But recently, PM2.5 emitted by wood burning stoves has been increasing rapidly – as a result of government subsidizing them! It’s estimated that burning wood now produces twice as much PM2.5 as all road traffic put together. Madness!

Now, to the accusations that are being made about PM2.5 in London. I’ll quote a Guardian article from October 2017: “Every person in the capital is breathing air that exceeds global guidelines for one of the most dangerous toxic particles… Every area in the capital exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) limits for a damaging type of particle known as PM2.5… Nearly 95% of the capital’s population live in areas that exceed the limit by 50% or more. In central London the average annual levels are almost double the WHO limit.”

Sounds scary, eh? But wait – what’s this “WHO?” It’s a UN organization! Let that sink in first, and then I’ll ask: Did you see the goalposts move there?

Yes, this is another case of moving the goalposts, and it’s a lulu. The WHO “guideline” figure for PM2.5 (10 units) is only 40 per cent of the EU limit (25)! Where is the science behind the WHO’s figure? I couldn’t find any. And the date of issue of the “guideline” – 2005, the last year in which Maurice Strong was involved – is suggestive, too.

The “guideline” figure of 10 units is very close to the UK wide average. And the UK is among the less polluted countries in the world. So, this is a ridiculously low number. And it’s worse than that. There’s a background level of PM2.5, which would be there without any human activity at all. Experts say this is about 7 units. So, going from the EU limit to the WHO guideline requires a reduction in the human component of PM2.5 by a factor of 6. That’s not feasible without destroying our industrial civilization. Maurice Strong must be laughing in his grave.

Now, my own entry into this story. I was trained as a mathematician, so I know how to do calculations! In the summer of 2017, I set out to answer objectively the question: are the proposed levels of charges for entry to the London ULEZ reasonable, or are they a gross rip-off? So, I wrote a paper, in which I calculated the “social cost” (i.e. the total expense, to all those affected) of the effects of pollution from cars in the UK, using the government’s figures from the 2009 and 2010 reports. My paper was published by the Association of British Drivers, and later also at wattsupwiththat.com.

I worked out the social cost of PM2.5 emissions from diesel cars in the UK in 2008 as £183 per car per year. This is significant, but it’s way lower than the perceived value of cars to the people who drive them (at least £5,000 per year – £3,500 running cost plus £1,500 capital cost).

I also broke these costs down by Euro standard. Things have got much better since 2008. This is because the Euro 5 standard came in from 2010, with PM2.5 emissions 10 times lower than the Euro 3 cars which had been prevalent in 2008. For a Euro 5 diesel car like my own, the social cost of PM2.5 pollution per car per year is just £21. That’s peanuts, compared with the benefits.

Part 5: Nitrogen oxides (NOx)

NOx is a combination of two oxides of nitrogen, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide. NOx from cars is produced mainly by diesel engines, but also by petrol ones. And it’s very unclear indeed just how toxic NOx is. DEFRA have given different numbers at different times. I’ve even heard that some experts say it’s not itself toxic at all; the only problems it causes come from “secondary” PM2.5 caused by its reactions with other gases, such as ammonia.

So, here’s the backstory. In 2001, Blair and co offered incentives to drivers to buy, and so to manufacturers to make, diesel cars. They did it, apparently, because diesels “emit less CO2” than petrol cars!

By 2006, insiders at the European Federation for Transport and Environment had found out that, in the real world, emissions of NOx from diesel engines were much higher than the limits they were supposedly built to meet. Then in 2009, the London Air Quality Network’s report for 2006/7 identified that the EU limit value for NOx was being exceeded in many places in London. Curiously, the 2008, 2009 and 2010 reports weren’t published until 2012! Might this, perhaps, be another government whitewash? Did Brown have these reports suppressed?

In 2014, the European Commission took the UK to court for exceeding NOx limits. In 2015, DEFRA issued a report on NOx pollution, giving a central estimate of 23,500 deaths in the year 2013, and an error range of a factor of 4. It was not clear how much overlap there might be with deaths caused by PM2.5 pollution. They also admitted that the previous estimates for PM2.5 may well have been high. In that same year, the Volkswagen diesel scandal erupted in the USA. What insiders had known since 2006 now became public knowledge. And in 2016, the Royal College of Physicians published a highly alarmist report, which put together figures for PM2.5 and NOx to give a claimed total of 40,000 deaths per year caused by the two together. This has been described by one expert as a “zombie statistic” – every time it’s debunked, it comes back again!

In the same paper as the PM2.5 calculations, I worked out the social cost of NOx emissions from cars. This was a much more complicated exercise than the PM2.5 calculation! For my own car, a Euro 5 diesel, the social cost of the combined emissions of PM2.5 and NOx is £113 per year. Of this, £75 is due to the manufacturers’ fault; the cost would be only £38, if the car kept to the standards it was supposed to. That shows that the London charges are completely over the top. Three ULEZ entry fees would pay for the social cost of the pollution (excluding the part due to the manufacturers’ fault), caused by driving my car for a whole year, all over the UK!

All of this, of course, assumes the government figures I used are correct. But my suspicion is that, in reality, they grossly overstated the toxicity of both PM2.5 and NOx. If that turns out to be so, then pollution from cars is not, and never has been, a real problem. And yet, the idiots that masquerade as a government have pressed on to ban all petrol and diesel cars from 2040 or some such! (And now they’re trying to bring the date forward to 2030).

All this has come about because UK politicians, in cahoots with the UN and EU, have chosen to set hard, inflexible, ever tightening collective limits on what people may do. That is both crazy and tyrannical. As Edmund Burke famously said, 250 years ago next year: “Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.”

To sum up

In the war on cars, as with “global warming,” the politicians, government “scientists” and green campaigners have again and again used the Ten Deadly Dishonesties:

  1. Enmity towards our industrial and capitalist civilization.
  2. Moving the goalposts.
  3. Politics disguised as science.
  4. Refusing to release data, or even deleting data.
  5. Suppressing dissenting scientific views.
  6. Government whitewashing the problems.
  7. Inverting the burden of proof.
  8. Negating the presumption of innocence.
  9. Requiring the accused to prove a negative.
  10. Making costly commitments on behalf of others, without rigorous justification.

We car drivers have been had. But we know it now. Many people, particularly in London, are becoming very concerned about this. When the ULEZ goes out to the North/South circular, we may have enough angry people that we’ll have a gilets jaunes situation on our hands.

And maybe more than that. For the Brexit Party is on the rise, and Nigel Farage is a known climate change skeptic. And he’s also, as far as I can tell, pro-car. Meanwhile in the USA, Donald Trump is trying to commission a “Presidential Committee on Climate Security,” supposedly to give a “fact-based and unbiased examination of the topic of climate change.”

More news has come (since the talk) from Germany, the country that so far has gone furthest down the line of charging ridiculous fees to drivers for simply going about their daily business. There, the problems faced by people who have been forced to scrap their cars because they can’t afford either to pay the fees or to replace their cars, are starting to be publicly discussed (even on TV!) as a major issue.

The fight-back, I think, is just beginning. We are living in “interesting times.”

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15 comments

  • There are too many people.

    • Well Tom, that’s another story. But it certainly isn’t a growing problem in Europe, or North America, or East Asia, as fertility rates in all these areas are below the replacement rate. See:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependencies_by_total_fertility_rate

      • I disagree – I think the existence of too many people is at the root of the problem, and related to it, also there are too many of the wrong sort of people. Eugenics has a lot to be said for it – quality should overrule quantity.

        Ecologism is actually of the political Right rather than the Left. And while I don’t agree with most of what the statist/left-wing green lunatics say – their motivations are suspect anyway – underpinning their screeching is a valid premise. We are part of, and affect, our environment. It’s not good enough just to leave everything down to personal choice or ‘markets’. This is partly because of an uncomfortable but readily-observable truth about human nature: most people are dim, selfish, greedy animals, and if left to their own devices, they would simply pursue their instincts and narrow selfish self-interest at the expense of broader shared interests. The subject of cars is a case in point. Cars do adversely affect the environment. There is a selfish self-interest in getting from A to B quickly. At the same time, there is also a shared interest in not concreting over the entire countryside just for your convenience.
        That’s not to say that people shouldn’t drive or that nobody should own cars or that car owners should be punished. Those are not solutions and amount to barking up the wrong tree. One question we might ask ourselves is why do we need to get from A to B in the first place? Is it really necessary? Often it’s not. It’s also often the case that A is close to B and a car isn’t needed – you could walk or cycle, or maybe use a motorbike.

        You reject the idea of a shared interest/heritage, believing that everything is reducible to private property rights and the practical assertion of individuality. I see this as just naive dogmatic libertarianism, so we differ at a philosophical level. Your solution is more law, not less: you just shift the goalposts as to who are the law-givers. I am quite sure that if society was made up preponderantly of erudite Cambridge mathematics graduates, Classics scholars, and other polite middle-class people with degrees, we’d be well away and a private law society could work wonderfully under such circumstances. Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – it’s not. We have to take the rough with the smooth, and I assume there is some social-evolutionary reason why there are still men around with big muscles who can’t string a sentence together but are good at bricklaying and driving mechanical diggers. Maybe we need them? A eugenic society would value both types and find a symbiosis between them. This would require shared goals, though – only possible if people have the same, or kindred, ethnicity. Those are the circumstances under which you have a smaller state and a greater emphasis on Natural Law.

        • Let me add just one other thing, a point of further clarification, if you will.

          Your premise, as I understand it, is that ‘shared interests – to the extent such exist at all – is simply the sum of individual self-interests (and similar, such as the interests of families, and the like).

          I would regard this as naive. I don’t use the term ‘naive’ in a pejorative way here. It’;s not mean to be insultative, but I do say that you are being technically naive because you are rejecting, or refusing to acknowledge, an important basis for tension and conflict in society.

          Shared interests can conflict and contradict the apparent self-interest of individuals, and moreover, aren’t necessarily the sum of individuals’ self-interests.

          The crux of this is that there has to be a containment of liberty.

          I would go further and even propose the paradox that part of safeguarding liberty involves restricting it.

          This in turn, if the premise accepted, requires that somebody decides what this shared interest is in any particular field. Thus we circle back to the beginning.

          You would seek to emphasise maximal individual freedom of action and allow courts [a veritable kritarchy, if you will] to adjudicate disputes between individuals and other legal personalities. There is no explicit acknowledge of shared interests beyond those that are voluntary, and as such, I think you ignore tacit verisimilitudes that would, inevitably, come to the surface.

        • also there are too many of the wrong sort of people. Eugenics has a lot to be said for it – quality should overrule quantity.

          But here’s the thing: Who is to decide who is worthy to live or die, reproduce or go sterile? You? The state?

          These can only ever be, morally speaking, decisions left to the adult, mentally competent individual.

          Ecologism is actually of the political Right rather than the Left.

          This begs a semantic argument over what “left” and “right” really mean in politics. It’s futile. What it seems we might be able to agree on is that what you call “ecologism” is an authoritarian an statist political mindset. It doesn’t actually matter in practice if it tends towards Stalinist authoritarianism and statism or Hiterlist authoritarian and statism.

          You seem to think that authoritarianism is a bad thing and yet it is the very thing that you go on to promote both above (eugenics) and below.

          We are part of, and affect, our environment. It’s not good enough just to leave everything down to personal choice or ‘markets’.

          You seem to think that that these are mutually exclusive, There seems to be no reason to think that that is so. Markets and people are naturally and inherently affected by the environment (in all its meanings) in which they exist.

          most people are dim, selfish, greedy animals, and if left to their own devices, they would simply pursue their instincts and
          narrow selfish self-interest at the expense of broader shared interests.

          And you are a better judge as to what they want and need in their lives than they are, eh? The implication of your statement here is yet more authoritarianism and statism.

          Furthermore, those “dim, selfish, greedy animals” are human beings. They have a right to choose their paths in life for themselves. No one, no state, no self-appointed do-gooder, has a moral right to usurp this personally chosen direction.

          Additionally, the very phraseology of “most people are dim, selfish, greedy animals” surely betrays a hatred of humanity. This is the very same mindset of control, distaste and hatred that seems to drive the green movement to their desire for control, for larger state, for reduction in personal liberty.

          There is a selfish self-interest in getting from A to B quickly.

          Is that a problem to you? Seems entirely sensible and reasonable to me.

          At the same time, there is also a shared interest in not concreting over the entire countryside just for your convenience.

          Ah, a good old straw man argument. You are presenting as a binary choice between the “selfish” desire to “get[…] from A to B quickly” versus “concreting over the entire countryside just for your convenience” whereas, of course, there is no such binary choice.

          That’s not to say that people shouldn’t drive or that nobody should own cars or that car owners should be punished.
          Those are not solutions and amount to barking up the wrong tree.

          Glad to see you say this. Indeed, this is where you differ from the green/authoritarian movement.

          But you nevertheless still promote your own brand of statist authoritarianism. We see it next.

          One question we might ask ourselves is why do we need to get from A to B in the first place?
          Is it really necessary? Often it’s not.

          Ah, the appeal to necessity. The all too common weasel words of the closet authoritarian or “reasonable authoritarian”.

          What is “necessary”? Who is to define “necessary”? Is it to be you, again? Is it to be the state? Should we request a chit before travel, having proven the “necessity” of our vehicular journey?

          Surely the moral, ethical and sane answer to “who defines necessity” is the individual. Only the individual knows their needs, knows their preferences, and knows their personal resources. Yes, these “dim, selfish, greedy animals”, as you so hatefully call them, call us, can and should decide for themselves what is right. Because no one else has any better idea than them or has any moral right to decide for them.

          It’s also often the case that A is close to B and a car isn’t needed – you could walk or cycle, or maybe use a motorbike.

          Hah! According to you! But that’s only your subjective opinion. Other opinions can and do exist. Just because you are using the “reasonable authoritarian” approach does not magically make you the arbiter of necessity for other people. Your “reasonable authoritarian” approach does not make your authoritarianism (and consequent statism) and less nasty, selfish or inhuman.

          Remember, the Soviet Union tried this sort of thing. Command economy and all that. It failed. It turns out that the people do make better decisions overall than the supposedly better informed centre.

          You reject the idea of a shared interest/heritage

          Not so. Libertarians do not reject the concept of “shared interest/heritage”. However, libertarians recognise that there is no single agreed form of what “shared interest/heritage” actually means. There seem to be almost as many ideas of what “shared interest/heritage” is as there are people to express an opinion.

          Many people seem to labour under the observably false belief that there is some sort of single “shared interest/heritage” or single “society”. But of course they are merely rejecting those who disagree with them! As such, they are hypocrites.

          believing that everything is reducible to private property rights and the practical assertion of individuality.

          Since we are all individuals and surely, as adults, have a right to control how we dispose of our own property and resources, this is surely self-evidently the case.

          But I must remember that, for you, your fellow humans are just “dim, selfish, greedy animals”. You reject the notion that they should be able to exercise the natural and automatic rights of adulthood.

          I see this as just naive dogmatic libertarianism, so we differ at a philosophical level.

          As I think I have observed above, there is nothing “naive” or “dogmatic” about it. It is simply self-evident truth. You reject it due, apparently to a hatred of humanity.

          Your solution is more law, not less

          Hahahaha! What rubbish. We advocate reduction in law, i.e. less state and less state meddling.

          It is you who have advocated increased authoritarianism, thus less rights for the individual, more law, more state and more statrism.

          you just shift the goalposts as to who are the law-givers.

          Are you seriously redefining “law” to mean personal choice? Good grief.

          “Law” is surely what a minority create (with or without the facade of democratic accountability) to rule over others. Libertarianism (at least in its ideal form) rejects this. Personal liberty and choice are not “law” since they apply to the individual only; they do not apply to others.

          I am quite sure that if society

          Which notion “society” would that be, as a matter of interest? Yours, or one of the hundreds, thousands or millions of others?

          We have to take the rough with the smooth

          Indeed we do. And yet your position here is to attack those humans you hate so much purely to, it would seem, sate your need to force them to comply with your view of how things should be.

          and I assume there is some social-evolutionary reason why there are still men around with big
          muscles who can’t string a sentence together but are good at bricklaying and driving mechanical
          diggers. Maybe we need them?

          Yes, we do. But then libertarians have not suggested that we don’t need them.

          A eugenic society would value both types and find a symbiosis between them.

          Whilst, of course, primarily benefiting those in charge, making the decisions that control other people’s lives. You do see yourself in that position of ultimate control, don’t you.

          • @computersforwar

            Oh dear, I’ve departed from the Sacred Scripture and somebody’s bow-tie is quite askew!

            (i). I didn’t say that the state would define a eugenics programme. I referred to a ‘eugenic society’. I also note that you actually agreed with me! Was that inadvertent on your part?

            (ii). The terms Left and Right do have meanings and ecologism (or just concern for the environment as a moral position, if you like) is not necessarily an authoritarian mindset. It depends, surely, on the context and method of implementation. But even if it is practically expressed in an authoritarian mindset, that would not be a practical objection to it. You accuse me of authoritarianism because you like to interpret anything that isn’t ‘libertarian’ or in sync with your views using extreme language. It’s just in your head and it’s a social pose. “I’m not authoritarian, but you are, so there!”, is how you come across in some of your reply – a bit like a teenager. Personally I don’t much mind whether I’m this or that ‘ism’ in the heads of arrogant people like you, I’m more interested in how well things function.

            (iii). I actually didn’t say that I should decide anything for anybody else. I didn’t refer to a process. It should be self-evident to you that there are things that are broadly agreed on as shared priorities – or how do we get to a market system and how do we conceptualise such things as Natural Law? That involves, at least implicitly, deciding things for other people, does it not? It seems to me that, unfortunately, that’s a fact of life. Even the mechanical functions of a market involve making decisions on behalf of others. Only a very naive person would suggest that the market is a perfect expression of people’s wishes. That said, why would deciding things for other people be so objectionable, as a matter of principle, where it concerns essentials? If we detect a fly tipper, should we refrain from deciding that he’s wrong and stop him because we don’t want to be seen as a ‘authoritarian’?

            (iv). I didn’t say that markets/personal choice and the environment are mutually-exclusive. You’ve jumped to that conclusion in the middle of your dishonest teenage screeching. You go on to say: [quote]”Markets and people are naturally and inherently affected by the environment (in all its meanings) in which they exist.”[unquote] Of course this is true. Where have I suggested otherwise?

            (v). But people are greedy, selfish and dim. It’s true. Why shouldn’t I just state the truth? So what if it’s some ‘ism’ or other? If it’s true, it’s true. Which one of us is doing the virtue-signalling?

            (vi). You do this pathetic, dishonest juvenile thing of singling out sentences and replying to those, as if they are platform statements of mine in their own right. I haven’t said that there is anything wrong with getting quickly from A to B. But you imply that I do think that. You’re a twonk!

            (vii). It’s perfectly obvious that I don’t think that there is a binary choice between concreting over the entire countryside and getting quickly from one place to another. It’s called rhetoric. I’m allowed to use it. It’s not supposed to be interpreted literally. You’re just being an obtuse, bow-tied twonk. Besides which, when we get into the nitty-gritty of this, there is a binary choice: you either build or further develop a road and lose that bit of space or you don’t. Again, I’m not suggesting it means losing the entire countryside, but even just one additional road has a disproportionate effect, so the rhetoric isn’t too far-removed from the reality.

            (viii). I’m not defining necessity for other people in all respects and in all situations, you stupid, blinkered, bow-tied twonk. If somebody gets up in the morning and says to himself, ‘I quite fancy a drive along the coast today’, I have no problem with that whatsoever. I’m clearly referring to situations where people make decisions about going to places because they have to go there.
            I’m not proposing a needless interference in choices, all I’m asking is whether car journeys are always necessary in lieu of other modes of transport. Plainly they’re not. Obviously the individual defines necessity for himself according to his own priorities, but a moment’s thought should tell you that most people don’t have complete freedom of action. They have to go to places because they’re obligated to, they have to earn a living, etc.. I do respect individual liberty, it’s very important, but you’re painting everything rosily and romantically, as if we’re in a Hollywood film and defiantly using a car makes you a character out of Braveheart or something, when it’s actually just a down-to-earth, practical question.

            • Continuing my reply to The Great Teenage Screech….

              (ix). My comment about rejecting shared interests/heritage was directed at Neil Lock and his stated position, not at you and all libertarians everywhere in the world. There is no need for you to take offence on his behalf, and I haven’t had the time to go round with a clipboard surveying all other libertarians to ask them. That having been said, I think dogmatic libertarian positions [note the important qualifier] would, if implemented, militate against shared heritage, blood-ties, etc. They make everything transactional and ignore the racial/ethnic basis of the shared social/civic values that underpin property rights. But I have had this discussion with Neil Lock before, if I recall. The reply from people like Neil Lock seems to be either that libertarianism, per se, does not address this issue, it would simply be a matter of free choice, or that libertarianism, if implemented, would allow people to develop their own ideas of what their own heritage is. The latter strikes me as an interesting paradox. You are what you are. It’s not something that people can just make up.

              Anyway, in the case of your reply, you go into Bow-Tie Mode again and start parsing the angel on the end of a pin. This neatly deflects us from the issue and ignores that I did not actually say that there is one single shared idea of heritage for each people, or a single interpretation of it. I acknowledge that heritage can be complex and concentric, but that doesn’t alter my point.

              (x). You state: [quote]”Since we are all individuals and surely, as adults, have a right to control how we dispose of our own property and resources, this is surely self-evidently the case.”[unquote]

              Is it? Have you thought that through?

              (xi). You then accuse me of having a hatred of humanity. I don’t, but if may go into Bow-Tie Mode myself: even if I did harbour a hatred of humanity, that is not an argument. Please stick to arguments. You twonk.

              (xii). Regarding advocating more or less law, you’ve not understood my position which is that I believe in a shared ethnicity and a shared culture, which tends to obviate the need for political law-making. I have no idea if that makes me an authoritarian [whatever you mean by that], but I really don’t care even if it does. It’s not an argument one way or the other. I’m interested in what functions, not holding to some Sacred Orthodoxy. In my view, your ideas would lead to more law, not less, because you don’t take account of shared culture at all, or you do so insufficiently. To you, a shared culture is just something rational that people believe – a series of laws and civic principles – and I think that would be the undoing of your system.

              (xiii). Your apparent type of libertarianism is a dogma. That’s perfectly obvious just from the way you argue. To me, libertarianism is philosophical and an inclination. It’s not an ideology, church or a religious creed. I don’t need to read certain books before I can consider myself in favour of liberty.

              (xiv). I have not defined law to mean personal choice, and I have simply no idea what you are saying or implying in that regard. Law is imposed. That’s the core of my whole argument here. There has to be authority in society or it cannot function. Even within the utopia conjured up by Neil Lock, there would be an imposition of law. No amount of verbal conjury can alter that reality. I am willing to accept that this authority can be entirely cultural, but as explained above, we (probably) differ quite fundamentally as to what ‘culture’ is, so we are going round in circles.

              (xv). I don’t see myself as having ultimate control of society. In fact, I have no interest in any control over anybody whatever. My inclinations are anarchist/libertarian, I just don’t treat it as a rigid catholic dogma.

              • (i). I didn’t say that the state would define a eugenics programme. I referred to a ‘eugenic society’.

                What in heaven do you think you mean by a “eugenic society”? Do you mean that people would choose for themselves with whom they reproduce? If so, this is by and large exactly what we have.

                Here’s the truth of it: If you advocate any kind of eugenics, it means nothing unless you are advocating some authority that can enforce some people’s views of who should reproduce. Your views of who should be allowed to reproduce, it seems, since you are demonstrably unhappy with the composition of the population as it stands.

                And let’s bear in mind that if you do not think that today’s world is a “eugenic society” (in that people already can and do select their own mates by and large) then you will need to describe what you would like to do to change things. Can you suggest anything that would not require more central authority?

                If you are going to suggest that people should just be different and them it would all work fine, then this is the same error that Communists make: Communism would work perfectly if people were just different, but of course people are not and never will be different, thus Communism fails.

                I also note that you actually agreed with me! Was that inadvertent on your part?

                Where do you allege that was?

                The terms Left and Right do have meanings

                Here you make the same error as you make throughout: You want your views to be viewed as objective when they are just subjective.

                Just like ideas of “society”, “left” and “right” certainly have meanings but they very often mean different thing to different people. The key problem with “left” and “right” is that they conflate separate political/moral instincts and each person who uses or hears “left” or “right” will interpret the meaning slightly differently. This is why concepts such as the Political Compass have been created which allow the different political/moral instincts to be separated out and understood separately.

                It depends, surely, on the context and method of implementation

                I accept your point here.

                even if it is practically expressed in an authoritarian mindset, that would not be a practical objection to it.

                Hah, for you maybe! But, as I observed before, other opinions exist. For those of us who do not hate much of humanity (or at least those portions of humanity that you view as below you, the “dim, selfish, greedy animals” you referred to), authoritarianism certainly is a practical objection. Authoritarianism is a problem not a solution.

                You accuse me of authoritarianism because you like to interpret anything that isn’t ‘libertarian’
                or in sync with your views using extreme language

                No. I accuse you of authoritarianism because you advocate control over others. That’s what authoritarianism means. Like it or not, you are authoritarian and you advocate authoritarianism (apparently because it will, you seem to hope, result on a “society” that meets your personal subjective preferences rather than the diverse preferences of the individuals within that “society”).

                is how you come across in some of your reply – a bit like a teenager

                No, I come across as someone who, unlike you, does not base my views on a hatred of much of humanity.

                I actually didn’t say that I should decide anything for anybody else. I didn’t refer to a process

                Don’t be so faux-naive. As with your “eugenic society”, you know full well that the only way to get what you want is for someone (you again, we can only presume) to be the arbiter of what is allowed or disallowed.

                It should be self-evident to you that there are things that are broadly agreed on as shared priorities

                As I said before, of course there are things like shared values. But how people interpret these differs widely. When you say that one particular interpretation is the one true way then you automatically shut out those who disagree. To you that is acceptable.

                It seems to me that, unfortunately, that’s a fact of life.

                Only an authoritarian who hates much of humanity would come to such a conclusion.

                Even the mechanical functions of a market involve making decisions on behalf of others.
                Only a very naive person would suggest that the market is a perfect expression of people’s wishes.

                LOL. Your attempts to quash lines of thought of which you disapprove is… what’s that word… so very authoritarian. Subtle, but authoritarian nonetheless.

                That said, why would deciding things for other people be so objectionable, as a matter of principle,
                where it concerns essentials?

                Good grief, you just can’t keep away from wanting to control those, how was it you put it, “dim, selfish, greedy animals”. And of course an appeal to “essentials” is no different to your earlier appeal to “necessity”: It is an attempt to gain agreement on a seemingly minor precondition to railroad through agreement later on bigger issues.

                If one is to respect liberty, humanity and adulthood, then only the individual has a moral right to decide for themselves what is “necessary” or what is “essential”. Only the individual truly knows their own abilities, resources, preferences, and needs.

                And to answer you question: Authoritarianism is objectionable because it removes that most important quality from people’s lives: Liberty.

                If we detect a fly tipper, should we refrain from deciding that he’s wrong and stop him because we don’t want
                to be seen as a ‘authoritarian’

                As I think you probably know, libertarianism does not prohibit self defence or defence of others. It is not authoritarian to exercise defensive action.

                I didn’t say that markets/personal choice and the environment are mutually-exclusive

                I wrote “you seem to think that that these are mutually exclusive” and, indeed, based upon what you actually wrote that does seem to be the case. For reference, here is what you wrote:
                “We are part of, and affect, our environment. It’s not good enough just to leave everything down to personal choice or
                ‘markets’.”
                As one can see, it does seem that the only reasonable implication of your statement is that you intend the two things (i.e. environmental concern versus personal choice/market) to be seen as mutually exclusive. If you now say that these things are not mutually exclusive then well and good.

                But people are greedy, selfish and dim. It’s true.

                The hater hates.

                You seem to think that this subjective belief of yours justifies your moral position. It seems to me that better people than you recognise that instead of justifying your position and your views, it condemns them.

                Why shouldn’t I just state the truth?

                You are of course free to state your opinion. But do not be surprised when other people point out how, even if it was true, it would be despicable to, as you do, use it to justify robbing people of their adult right to self-determination and liberty.

                You do this pathetic, dishonest juvenile thing of singling out sentences and replying to those, as if they are platform
                statements of mine in their own right.

                Or, to put it another way, you don’t like it when the truth of your hatred is pointed out to you.

                Note that I have dealt with everything you have said in context. You cannot escape your own words.

                It’s called rhetoric. I’m allowed to use it.

                Yes, you can say what you want. But I am also allowed to call you out on it when your “rhetoric” are in fact straw man arguments.

                I’m not defining necessity for other people in all respects and in all situations, you stupid, blinkered, bow-tied twonk.

                Ah, I see. So, it would seem, you think it would be ok if you just do it when you want to, just when you think it is important, or “necessary”, or “essential”. That’s ok then, of course.

                No, of course it’s not ok. It’s selfish and self-serving.

                If somebody gets up in the morning and says to himself, ‘I quite fancy a drive along the coast today’, I hav
                no problem with that whatsoever. I’m clearly referring to situations where people make decisions about going to
                places because they have to go there.

                That makes no sense whatsoever.

                Obviously the individual defines necessity for himself according to his own priorities,
                but a moment’s thought should tell you that most people don’t have complete freedom of action

                As I said, liberty means that each person decide on their choices according to their preferences, abilities, and resources (emphasis added for you). Lack of absolute freedom of action due to a person’s situation in life are very, very different to externally enforced attack on liberty, as you are advocating.

                I do respect individual liberty, it’s very important

                I do not believe you. The totality of your comments here are directly contrary to this.

                Indeed, it seems to be that, many times in this thread, you have stated, suggested and implied that individual liberty is only acceptable to you within the areas that you do not wish to take charge of people’s lives for them. That is not what I would call a genuine respect for individual liberty.

                My comment about rejecting shared interests/heritage was directed at Neil Lock and his stated position,
                not at you and all libertarians everywhere in the world

                From his comments, it would seem that Neil’s views of “shared interests/heritage” are similar to my own. And, regardless of to whom you intended to direct your comments on that matter, my reply to them was relevant.

                They make everything transactional and ignore the racial/ethnic basis of the shared social/civic
                values that underpin property rights

                And I rather get the impression that you over-value the supposed racial/ethnic basis of supposedly shared views. Can o

                You are what you are.

                But we have already established that you think that people are “dim, selfish, greedy animals”. Animals may be driven by their genetics but humans have intellect which may allow them to learn, to change, and to develop their own opinions and preferences that are not solely based upon their “racial/ethnic” background.

                Are you a Nazi supporter, by any chance?

                I acknowledge that heritage can be complex and concentric, but that doesn’t alter my point.

                I am glad to see you say that heritage can be “complex and concentric” (whatever that is really supposed to mean). Nevertheless, the fact that people’s views of what is “heritage” differ so widely in fact does mean that your ideas of objectively shared heritage are largely meaningless in practice. There are just too many different interpretations and opinions about things like “shared heritage” or “society” for any single view to have any widespread meaning or applicability.

                You state: ”Since we are all individuals and surely, as adults, have a right to control how we dispose of
                our own property and resources, this is surely self-evidently the case.”

                Is it? Have you thought that through?

                Yes, it is (in the context of this discussion, of course). Yes, I have thought it through.

                Is the question “have you thought that through?” supposed to indicate that there is some huge, but unseen by me, truth that is nevertheless obvious to you? If so, please go ahead and state it.

                (xi). You then accuse me of having a hatred of humanity. I don’t

                Once again, I must state that I do not believe you. Your statement that people are “dim, selfish, greedy animals” is a fundamentally hateful statement. Furthermore, the entire tenor or your comments and totality of your views overwhelmingly makes it clear that most humans, those whom you refer to as “dim, selfish, greedy animals”, should be controlled because their current choices do not meet with your approval. I would describe that as a hate-driven mindset.

                Remember, I am not just taking individual sentences out of context, as you incorrectly accused me of doing before. Whilst I may well quote a few words of sentences in the text to provide context, I am in fact taking all your comments in the larger context in which they were made.

                you’ve not understood my position which is that I believe in a shared ethnicity and a shared culture

                I do understand this. I have pointed out that your view of shared values is probably somewhat illusory. What is your ethnic background? I am what most people would call white British, and yet I do not seem to share your culture, views, or outlook. If you are white British too then, undeniably, we share an ethnicity but it also demonstrably counts for nothing.

                You can of course promote your views and preferences and find people who share them. Libertarians would defend your right to do so, even though they could not agree with your views.

                However, libertarians see that all this trying to find likeminded individuals (and making it more difficult still by seeking to find them from the same ethnicity as yourself) is pointless. It doesn’t matter. What is far, far more important is for individuals to be able to express their own preferences, whatever these may be, over their own lives. Maybe some of them agree with others, maybe they do not; it doesn’t matter.

                Your approach seems to be similar to that of the EU! It creates arbitrary rules and regulations to which all member countries are expected to adhere, even though they may be unnatural and uncomfortable for the people of those countries. In so doing, the EU actually creates stress and stain where none would otherwise exist and where none need exist. As such, the EU is controbuting to its own eventual fracturing, as the stress grows too much for countries and people to tolerate. If the EU had kept itself as a free trade zone with rules covering only international transactions, stresses would have been avopided since compromises in national life, national laws and national cultures would not have been needed.

                You are making this same mistake: You want everyone to adhere to pne partiocular view of how things should be (coincidentally, of not, this just happens to be the way that you want things to be), and thus you will create enmities and stresses where they are not naturally necessarry. Libertarians, on the other hand, follow the ‘free trade zone’ mindset: We only require containment of liberty where it would harm other against their will (thus allowing for defence), and apply no pressure to comply with any other strategy (nothing to do with ethnicity or anyone’s subjective, and thus wildly varying, views/interpretations of “shared” heritage/history).

                To you, a shared culture is just something rational that people believe – a series of laws and civic principles –
                and I think that would be the undoing of your system.

                This is a common complaint about libertarianism. It has some merit, if some libertarian thinking is taken over-literally. It is often stated as “libertarianism would only work in practice if everyone agreed with it”.

                In fact libertarianism does not need everyone to agree with it: It only requires libertarians to act according to their own libertarian principles. The right of self defence provides for the ability to defend against those who would take without permission or otherewise cause harm.

                Yes, there are may practical diffuculties and I recognise them (but I’m not going to discuss them here) which is why, personally, I view ‘pure’ anarchist libertarianism as an ideal goal but one which probably cannot be reached in practice. Instead I aim for iterative steps in that direction, steps that are at each level sustainable. In all this, I reject the need for authoritarianism which is, in every possible way, wholly counter-productive and damaging to humanity.

                (xiii). Your apparent type of libertarianism is a dogma. That’s perfectly obvious just from the way you argue.
                To me, libertarianism is philosophical and an inclination

                Yes, libertarianism and a philosophy and an inclination. It is also a political and moral structure, one that allows for the greatest range of personal expression. There is no “dogma” in this, just pragmatism and humanity.

                I oppose your statements because you advocate things that are inhumane, selfish, and hateful. You have no genuine excuses for what you advocate: You simply want people to adhere to how you think they should be, instead of respecting people’s inborn right to choose for thesemvles as far as they are able.

                I don’t need to read certain books before I can consider myself in favour of liberty

                I don’t recall recommending any books. Indeed, no one needs to read any books to be in favour of liberty. But since you are opposed to liberty (except of course where you, or people like you choose to allow it) then perhaps some reading matter would help. I won’t recommend anything though since you are clearly content with your views and it is not for me to change them. I comment here not to change you views but merely to provide a moral counter to them.

                Law is imposed.

                Then we agree on that. As I said: “‘Law’ is surely what a minority create (with or without the facade of democratic accountability) to rule over others.”

                And yet you said that “you just shift the goalposts as to who are the law-givers”. This is incorrect. Libertarians don’t shift the goalposts. We simply recognise that the imposition of law on others, as you advocate, is a moral wrong. We do not create any new law-givers; we only recognise that only the individual has a moral right to define the path of their own lives to the best of their ability, resources, preferences, etc.

                There has to be authority in society or it cannot function

                And here we come back to the crux of the issue. There are a number of ways I could respond to this. Here are some in no particular order.

                (a) I could say that “yes, authority is needed”. But when you talk about “authority” you are thinking about control from some centre (run, if not by you, by people who are nevertheless like you). Whereas when I talk about “authority” being needed, I am thinking of distributed authority, where each individual has authority over thesemelves as far as they are able to exercise it without harming others. Clearly you cannot conceive of a “society” where authority is ditributed in this manner. It probably wouldn’t even meet your personal definition of “society”. Can you see now why people’s views of things like “society” (or “shared heritage”) can differ so vastly that they cannot share a single view view of how such things should be described, expressed or run? As such, your appeal to a central authority will only (sooner or later) lead to resentment, conflict and destabilisation as people who disagree with you fight back for their personal liberty.

                (b) “Cannot function”. What does that mean? Will the bread not get made and distributed? Well, it works at the moment with no central authority supervising it. What is it that can’t or won’t function where authority is distributed? Again, it is clear that you cannot conceive of a “society” that functions without central authority and yet, interestingly enough, we are communicating using a form of society that works exactly that way. It is a successfuly, very large scale, functionality anarchy. The standards that allow us to communicate using this medium wre not set by any laws or enforced requirement; instead they are set by people adhering to them through choice. And, every so often, people go off and create new standards. Some succeed and some die out. Whilst the Internet is not a direct analogue for ‘real life’, the fact remains that “societies” that eschew central authority can exist, can function, and are real.

                (c) What is the moral authority of the authoruity that you advocate? It is a central authoity that you are advocatig, isn’t it, for the avoidance of doubt. It seems to me that no central authority has genuine moral authouty, except over those who willingly choose to accept its authority. No matter how “reasonable” you see yourself, your authority (or the authority of people like you of whom you approve) to tell others how to act is nil. I reject the authority of any central authority. I live under a central authority at present only because I have no realistic way of rejecting it over myself.

                In short, libertarians accept the possibilities. On contrast, you seek to rule out all possibilities that do not adhere to your personal preferences.

                I am willing to accept that this authority can be entirely cultural, but as explained above,
                we (probably) differ quite fundamentally as to what ‘culture’ is, so we are going round in circles.

                Which surely rather proves the objective point that a law imposed by culture is meaningless. Better, then, to accept that authority is more properly, more morally, more effectively, and more honestly exercised by the individual over themselves than by any central authority that claims right to rule, as you adviocate, with or without the facade of democratic mandate.

                I don’t see myself as having ultimate control of society. In fact, I have no interest in
                any control over anybody whatever

                I am glad to see it. Nevertheless, you have repeatedly advocated for there to be authoriuty (and quite clearly and obviously from context not the individually diustributed kind). So, even if you do not personally wish to rule, you nevertheless want someone to rule. And since you have very specific views about “rule by necessity” (as one might put it), that means you want the rulers to be in your image, so to speak. In short, you want there to be rulers and you want them to rule in a manner that satisifies your subjective preferences and not those of others.

                My inclinations are anarchist/libertarian

                Hahaha.

                • Apologies to all for the typos in that lot. Annoyingly, some text was lost entirely in one passage but I won’t replace it now.

                  • But what’s the point of it all, typos or otherwise? You are not engaging in a dialogue with me, you are just trying to score points. You show not the slightest understanding of what I have been saying. You’re just another arrogant person, not as clever as you think you are, who has read a book or two and thinks he knows everything.

                    I will not reply further. First, because I have already put my point across to you and a quick scan of your latest post shows no further development of your own points. Somebody should have told you that repetition does not improve an argument. Second, because I have to earn a living and go about my business and do 101 other things like cleaning the house, feeding the dog, saying ‘Hello’ to an elderly neighbour, reading a maths book, and cycling along the coast with my dog, and I simply don’t have time to wade through juvenile points-scoring waffle from somebody who thinks an argument is screaming and pointing like a Californian teenage girl and saying ‘Oh my God, you’re, like, soooooo authoritarian!”, and derivative behaviour thereof.

                    Wait….Did I say I was going to say ‘Hello’ to an elderly neighbour? I’m not supposed to do that! Don’t forget, I hate all humanity!

        • computersforwar has already answered most of your points, Tom, so I’ll just concentrate on a few of the most basic.

          As we are having this discussion on a von Mises website, I thought I’d take a quick look at what Mises thought on the subject of individual interests versus shared interests. He said, “Human action is purposeful action.” He followed that up by saying, “Action… is the ego’s meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment.” I take that as support for my view that human actions are the aggregate of individual actions. And I don’t think there are many here – certainly not me – who consider von Mises “naive!”

          That said, I do not reject – as you say I do – either the idea of shared heritage, or of shared interests. Each of us shares some kind of heritage or culture – in my case (and, presumably, yours too) that is an English culture. There are also interests, which all civilized human beings share. For example, property rights and other human rights, personal and economic freedom of choice, and an environment of justice (which to me means, broadly, each of us should be treated as we treat others). And yes, tolerably clean air is among those interests – but not at the expense of outlawing other activities, which bring us more benefit than cleaner air would.

          And when you say “there has to be a containment of liberty,” of course liberty is not absolute. You do not have liberty to kill or to steal from innocent people, for example, because doing so violates their rights. (Though political governments, of course, routinely do both of these). In the case of an activity such as driving cars, which has “externalities” like air pollution, I take – as I said in the essay – a “social cost” view. That is, if your action causes significant damage or risk to others, you ought to be made to compensate them for that damage or risk of damage. But that damage or risk must be calculated objectively and accurately, not magnified out of all proportion using scares and political hand-waving. And if the damage or risk inherent in your desired action is lower than the benefit to you, you should not be prevented from doing it.

          • [quote]And I don’t think there are many here – certainly not me – who consider von Mises “naive!”[unquote]

            I don’t base my views on what other people here think. I do take account of what people say and listen, but I’m not conducting a survey. I’ve explained (or tried to) the sense in which I use the word ‘naive’. I once studied economics to quite an advanced level, and it was quickly apparent to me that economics is a very naive subject. You might say it’s still an emergent discipline. It can’t explain human behaviour scientifically and possibly will never be able to. Similarly, if I say that Von Mises was naive, I’m not talking about his understanding of poker or German whist, or his familiarity with stocks and shares or Louisiana street culture or gang problems in south-west Birmingham. I’m clearly referring to his intellectual habits. It’s not an insult. My view is that there has to be a middle ground between intellectual orthodoxy/catholicism and Panglossian empiricism. In other words, by all means I’ll take careful note of what Von Mises (and similar people) have written and said and adapt my understanding of things accordingly, but I only do so with a large bucket of salt. Books aren’t experience.

            No amount of Von Mises or Rothbard quotes can win an argument. I base my views on the way the world is and the way people really are, allowing for the learning and wisdom of people like Von Mises, whose works – I agree – should be read widely.

            [quote]And yes, tolerably clean air is among those interests – but not at the expense of outlawing other activities, which bring us more benefit than cleaner air would.[unquote]

            Again, just for the abundance of emphasis – I have NOT suggested that cars should be outlawed or that car owners should be punished. I think, in my first post, I was keen to emphasise this, but it bears repeating and re-repeating because people like you (not necessarily always you personally, but occasionally you do this) have this tendency to ignore the nuances of things and turn a discussion/debate into emotive sloganeering. Unfortunately, your own piece does this a little. You don’t acknowledge that there may be a case for the opposing view, you simply pick on the most extreme version of the opposing view. I am not ‘anti-car’, as such. That’s not where I am coming from.

            • I base my views on the way the world is and the way people really are

              More than that, you base your views on a self-claimed hatred of people at large.

              • You are a screeching dishonest arrogant conceited vain stupid dim-witted bare-faced liar.

                I have not declared hatred for people-at-large. I have not even called people-at-large stupid. I have simply referred to the fact that they largely act selfishly/instinctively [dim, greedy, etc.]. Dim is not the same as stupid. That was the context of my remark.

                The point being that, in my view, the maximisation of liberty can only work well on the basis of a social symbiosis. Without symbiosis, liberty is dystopia, an actual hell-on-earth.

                Intelligent people can also be dim in the sense that they lack an understanding of the practicalities of life. Some of the most intelligent people have a very naive understanding of politics and adopt quite naive and tin-earned political views/philosophies.

                • *Correction – tin-eared. (I don’t have access to an edit function for comments on WordPress).

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