Back in January 2008, I took a verbal snapshot of the many bad things the UK government was doing to us at the time. Today, I’ll carry this forward to the present. My purpose is to gain a better understanding of the troubles we suffer under today – and not just in the UK. And thus, to try to fathom what is going on underneath. Read more
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.
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. Read more
By Neil Lock
Every political philosopher worth his salt has written a book, or a chapter, or at least an essay, on the subject of the state. What is the state intended to be? What is the state, in reality? And where is it going? Today, I’ll add to this bonfire my modest contribution of kindling.
Ideas of the state
Since its earliest times, the primary model of the state has been all-but-absolute monarchy. One man is appointed by God (or the gods, or whatever passes for deities in your neck of the woods) to rule over everyone in an area. Being the representative of the gods, he is to be treated as a god. In theory, he can do anything he likes to anybody. Although he does, sometimes, have to be careful when dealing with those of his subjects who know how to wield a sword.
Plato in his Republic, after reviewing several options, came up with the idea of “aristocracy” or “the rule of the best.” His ideal state is ruled over by a philosopher-king. It is a three-class society. The ruling class (the king and his élites) have souls of gold. The enforcing class (soldiers) have souls of silver. Everyone else has souls of bronze or iron, and is subjected to the decrees of the ruling class, as enforced by the soldiers.
The first modern thinker to address the philosophy of the state was Niccolò Machiavelli. His system, like Plato’s, was top-down. He saw the state, whether monarchy or republic, as an organization of supreme political power. He thought that the prince, at the helm of his state, should seek to be feared more than loved. That the “art” of war is of prime importance. That the end of getting and maintaining political power justifies any means. That cruelty and even murder are OK. And that the prince should seek to become a great liar and deceiver.
Today, I’ll take a step back from detail, and try to look at the big picture. I’ll seek to trace in outline the rhythms of human history. Rise and fall, fall and rise. Progress and regress, revolution and reaction. Read more
Neil’s Note: This is an updated, and greatly improved, version of an essay I published here a few years ago.
There’s been a meme going around, for some time now, that politicians are psychopaths. Or, at least, have mental disorders. It seems this meme was first sowed in 2003 by neurophysiologist Paul Broks, who suggested, on the evidence of conduct leading up to the Iraq war, that Tony Blair was a “plausible psychopath.” It was spread in 2012 in an article by James Silver in the Atlantic Magazine. The meme is still around today in the blogosphere, and every so often I catch new echoes of it.
So, today I’ll take a look at how much of a link there may be between politics and psychopathy.
This is the first essay in a new series. In which, I’ll seek to understand, and to diagnose the causes of, the ethical, political and economic ills of our times.
Some of what I say may be familiar to those who have read my earlier work. What is new here, is that I aim to put those, previously only loosely related, strands of thought into context. Metaphorically, in this series of essays I am seeking to assemble a “big crunch” of ideas. From which, in due time, I will aim to draw out material for the “big bang” of cure. Read more
It was a fine day: February 27th, 2019. I drove to a beautiful place in the New Forest. It was 4pm, still sunny and warm; although it had been almost 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) earlier in the day. Compare that with Minnesota, quite a way south of my latitude, where the daily forecast was minus 16 Fahrenheit (minus 27 Celsius).
For a week and a half, we had had exceptionally fine and warm weather for February in England. Ten days earlier, I had sat in a pub garden full of people. Full! That’s rare enough in March; and unheard of in February. And since I was lucky enough to be in a break between work projects, I had walked a lot around my local area during that time.