The “Big Tech” Problem


The “Big Tech” Problem 

By Duncan Whitmore

“The legislature, were it possible that its deliberations could be always directed, not by the clamorous importunity of partial interests, but by an extensive view of the general good, ought, upon this very account, perhaps, to be particularly careful, neither to establish any new monopolies of this kind, nor to extend further those which are already established. Every such regulation introduces some degree of real disorder into the constitution of the state, which it will be difficult afterwards to cure without occasioning another disorder.”

                  –  Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

The debate over the power of social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook has intensified this past week when both platforms attempted to restrict the distribution of reports concerning allegations of corruption made against Democrat Presidential nominee Joe Biden. The precise details are unimportant; suffice it to say that the reports are likely to prove damaging to the Biden campaign if disseminated widely amongst the electorate. Both Twitter and Facebook restricted the sharing of the New York Post’s story on the matter, while the White House Press Secretary was locked out of her Twitter account. All of this, of course, takes place against the backdrop of “cancel culture” and the censorship of information (even from authoritative sources) that challenges the official narrative of lockdown and restriction in response to COVID-19.

Although, in this particular instance, the social media companies may end up succumbing to the “Streisand Effect” – the phenomenon whereby any attempt to ban or censor information increases its allure and, thus, leads to a greater degree of exposure overall – those on the right have responded in at least one of two ways to this latest betrayal of the apparent leftist bias that pervades Silicon Valley. Read more

Eighty-six sages


Eighty-six sages

By Neil Lock

This article is about SAGE. That is, the UK’s “Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.” Its self-stated remit is that it: “provides scientific and technical advice to support government decision makers during emergencies.” And it has been front and centre in recent spats about COVID-19 [[1]].

The list of SAGE participants can be found at [[2]]. That list, dated 17th July, shows 86 members, of whom up to about 20 may be involved in any one meeting or topic.

SAGE recently released the minutes of one of its meetings from last month. This was an immediate response to Boris Johnson’s newly announced tiered COVID lockdown system. The Guardian [[3]] titled the release: “SAGE documents show how scientists felt sidelined by economic considerations.” The experts, they said, wanted a dramatic increase in restrictions across the country to check the alarming rise in infections. To include a “circuit-breaker” lockdown of a couple of weeks, and “closure of all bars, cafes, restaurants, indoor gyms and personal services such as hairdressers.”

Read more

The Rising of the North?


The Rising of the North?

By Duncan Whitmore

In a recent essay, we suggested that one of the possible outcomes of the COVID-19 hysteria could be a greater push towards decentralisation of the British state:

[T]he provinces of the UK are beginning to assert more independence and have tailored their own responses to the COVID-19 outbreak. Both government and the mainstream media refer increasingly to “the four nations”. It would not be a bad thing if this was to drive us towards full political independence for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Moreover, the greater emphasis on tailoring responses to specific regions – such as “local lockdowns” as opposed to the London-centric uniformity that was imposed back in March – may create a demand for more regional governance over other areas of policy, particularly when the repercussions from the lockdowns are more keenly felt.

It seems that those repercussions are now starting to bite. The introduction, this past week, of the Westminster government’s “three tier” approach to COVID restrictions has led to a considerable degree of regional backlash, particularly in Liverpool and Manchester, which either are, or could be moved into, the highest tier of lockdown. Such a category is barely different from the general lockdown back in March, resulting in the closure of pubs and bars (unless they can operate as restaurants – a seemingly inconsistent exception), travel restrictions, and no household mixing either indoors or in private gardens. One amusing, but incisive response from locals was the re-branding of a forcibly closed Liverpool pub to “The Three Bellends” in honour of Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and Dominic Cummings – a case, you might say, of a picture telling a thousand words. Read more

My Fantasy Boris – D.J. Webb


 

I must have had a shot or two too many to drink. Whatever it was, my dream—or was it a daydream—appears insubstantial in retrospect. Drifting into reverie, I imagined…

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, rose to his feet at the despatch box, amid anticipation on all sides of the House. Now we had left the EU on the “No Deal”, rumours were flying around that we might repudiate the Withdrawal Agreement and go it alone. Surely not? Surely the Conservatives didn’t have it in them?

“Mr. Speaker,

After extensive discussions in the Palace, we have reached an understanding of English Common Law and the underpinnings of our constitution. Upholding our law remains at the centre of everything this government will do.

Firstly, our fundamental law is the Common Law. Let me expand on this. The Queen reigns and, indeed, is part of the Crown in Parliament and thus at the apex of the legislative as well as executive and judicial branches of government. But what document specifies the Queen’s right to reign? Was there some dusty, long-forgotten constitution passed by the Witan under Alfred the Great? What provides for the Queen’s right to reign? Was it a decree she herself issued? Or a statute signed by her? In truth, any such thing would be circular—it would amount to the Queen declaring herself Queen. In fact, the monarchy’s existence is given in the Common Law. The Queen’s right to reign reflects the fact that there has been a monarch since time immemorial. There is no written constitution that provides for this. Read more

Statism: Conspiracy or Incompetence?


Statism: Conspiracy or Incompetence?

 By Duncan Whitmore

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” 

                  –  Hanlon’s Razor

In some recent essays examining the factors that have brought us to the political, social and economic conditions in which we find ourselves in 2020, we mentioned briefly the role of conspiracies, concluding that it is not necessary to speculate upon their existence in order to explain our current situation. This essay will not examine the phenomenon of conspiracy theories in great detail. Instead, we will look specifically at whether the possible existence of a conspiracy among the global “elite” that aims to reduce the entire human population to enslavement offers a convincing explanation for major societal changes that tend towards a crushing of freedom.

Revisionist History

The common theme of conspiracy theories is that certain key events are planned, directed or orchestrated deliberately by establishment figures in order to achieve a specific, underhand purpose while being passed off either as mere accidents or as the responsibility of other parties. Thus, it is essentially a form of historical revisionism that is antagonistic to those who have an interest in maintaining conventional historical understanding, and so the latter normally deploy the term “conspiracy theory” as a slur so as to dismiss any explanation of an event that differs from that of the official, approved narrative. Indeed, following the enormous increase in state power as a result of government responses to COVID-19, the term has been used to pigeon-hole opponents of “lockdown” measures, particularly after popular protests which were attended by well known conspiracy theorists such as Piers Corbyn and David Icke. Generally, however, such opposition is now being voiced in mainstream terms by those whose credentials make them more difficult to ignore, and so the “conspiracy” element has not received a great deal of attention. No Austro-libertarian can doubt, though, that the power of the state has increased many times over throughout the past century or so, often in response to specific events. It is, therefore, important for us to diagnose correctly the causes of this seemingly unstoppable trend if we are to have any hope of reversing it.

In spite of the fact that it is an unhelpfully pejorative label with a tendency to capture both the serious and the spurious within its ambit, we will continue to use the term “conspiracy theory” to denote revisionist theories which, unlike some proven or persuasive theories, have failed to gain acceptance as accurate historical explanations. Read more

Could Liberty Rise Again?


Could Liberty Rise Again?

By Duncan Whitmore

“I would feel safer if the coronavirus held a press conference telling us how it is going to protect us from the government” 

                  –  Anonymous meme

For those with a passion for liberty and freedom from the state, it has been difficult not to feel a sense of despair at the COVID-19 hysteria. A mere nine months ago it seemed as though Britain was at the dawn of a bright new era as it adjusted to life outside of the European Union. Now, however, our fellow Britons seem to have sacrificed, with little resistance, whatever vestiges of freedom remained in this country all so the state can keep us “safe” from dangers that are no more serious than what we are used to.

Such despair is likely to be intensified when stumbling across something like the following pair of tweets by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins:

Read more

A Second Open Letter to my MP on COVID


I sent this to “my” MP, Jeremy Hunt, earlier today.

Dear Mr Hunt,

When I wrote to you about five weeks ago, the main subject of my letter was de-carbonization of transport. However, I also drew your attention to an article I had had published on the COVID lockdowns, and told you that I had found them to be “way over the top compared to what was actually necessary.”

I have very recently published another article on the subject of COVID – here: https://misesuk.org/2020/09/20/covid-19-is-the-virus-weakening/. The figures show that, over the course of the last three months or so, the lethality of the virus in the UK (as measured by number of deaths divided by number of new cases as at 14 days beforehand) has gone down by a factor of around 60. This means that the virus is now considerably less dangerous than, for example, ’flu. And so, all lockdown measures ought to be released as soon as possible.

And yet, there is now serious talk of a re-lockdown at national level! For “two weeks.” We know from last time round what that means; we were told it would be three weeks, and now it’s been six months. Moreover, it feels like we are locked down harder than at any previous stage. And they want to make it longer, and worse!

The people-haters, that want to lock down as hard as possible for as long as possible and don’t care a damn about how much pain they cause to people, seem to be winning inside your party and others. And the arbitrary and extreme fines they are demanding are a sign of a rapacious monster that has lost all control over itself. I remind you of Edmund Burke’s aphorism that “Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.” And yet, these aren’t even bad laws – they are simply decrees of a small cadre! That isn’t the rule of law. That isn’t England. Moreover, in a democracy, government is supposed to be on the side of the people. It must never do anything which causes harm to those people without full and rigorous justification, which will stand up to scrutiny by objectively minded people (including me).

A national re-lockdown, in my opinion, would result in a meltdown in the public mood. As to myself, I have already lost all respect for the parliament as a whole, and for the great majority of those in it. Such a move would turn my disrespect into contempt and hatred, or worse.

So, I ask you immediately to add your voice in parliament to those who say “No” to any new lockdowns, and to demand that the public be provided with full, objective justification of every one of the measures that are already in place. Moreover, I would ask you, please, to use your seniority and your relevant expertise to metaphorically box the ears of those that are doing these things to us.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Lock

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