Sean Gabb on the New Ruling Class and “Grown-Up” Libertarianism

by Christian Robitaille

It is difficult for any writer to be both prolific and insightful. It is even more difficult to be so while defending opinions that are deemed to be dangerous by the State’s ruling class. Such writers are indeed often ridiculed or ignored. It thus requires courage as well as many other uncommon qualities to dedicate an important part of one’s life to effectively defend libertarianism. It first requires a profound knowledge of social theory and history. It then requires the ability to make sense, in light of this profound knowledge, of what the current state of the world is and to understand how it can be changed. Finally, it requires the skill to coherently articulate an opinion or a program which can be understood by as many intelligent readers as possible. Read more

Always travel with Sean

by Robert Grözinger

Apart from us both being staunch libertarians, Sean and I share a few things more in common. For example, we both were enthusiastic amateur astronomers in our youth. And we both love Richard Wagner. Especially the latter’s music came in handy once when Sean helped me collect some personal effects from my deceased father’s house in Braunschweig, Germany. It was early January 2012. I had to hire a van, driving from my home in the south-west of England. Sean and his lovely wife Andrea kindly allowed me to stay the night in their home in Deal, near Dover. Not only that: Sean had even agreed to accompany me to my old home country and share some of the driving. (When I first put my plan to him some weeks before and asked him to help me, he immediately said he would be “delighted”.) Having gone all the way to Braunschweig, we used the free day we had before returning to pass through the now defunct (indeed, virtually invisible) Iron Curtain nearby and visit the east German medieval town of Halberstadt. Here we soaked in the old history on display in a local museum. I think something he saw there inspired Sean to include it in one of his rip-roaring Alaric-novels. A wax tablet with a richly adorned silver frame it was, if I remember correctly, part of the spoils brought back from Constantinople by a Bishop of Halberstadt during the Crusades. Anyway, on the way out from, and back to, England, we listened to almost the whole of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle (Sean provided the CDs), all the while debating how best to fix the world. Conclusion: If you have to cross half a continent in a van both ways, there is no better way of doing this than by being accompanied by one of the most learned and formidable thinkers of our time, with whom you can conduct a formidable intellectual tour d’horizon, while both of you enjoy music from the most formidable opus by the most formidable composer who ever lived. Thank you, Sean. That trip was a great experience and honour. Read more

Sean Gabb Turns Sixty

by Keir Martland

Over the next few days, there shall follow a short series of articles extolling the virtues of Dr Sean Gabb. A lengthier series could be devoted to his manifold sins and naughtiness. Since Sean is so secretive about his actual birthday, I have decided to start this series some distance from the date itself. The first instalment is by yours truly.

How to begin? Well, if the term means anything, Sean Gabb has been my ‘best friend’ for more years than is medically recommended. Not only can I be sure we are always on the same page politically-speaking, but we also share many of the same social and cultural prejudices, and a common black sense of humour, not to mention cynicism by the bucketload. This is no small feat for both of us since he is without question an Enlightenment man – a Millian liberal, a religious sceptic, a believer in scientific Progress – and I am a Counter-Enlightenment Catholic. For all this, somehow our outlooks often represent two sides of the same coin. Read more

Statism and Judicial Activism

Statism and Judicial Activism

By Duncan Whitmore

In a previous essay concerning the Supreme Court’s judgment against Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament1, we noted that several commentators had criticised the judgment for its “political” nature, calling for greater scrutiny of the judiciary and the judicial appointments process.

It will be argued here that castigating the case as the moment when the judges crossed over from law to politics is wide of the mark, and that a politicised judiciary is a necessary and unavoidable outcome of the growth of democratic statism. As we shall see, this is a trend which Britain has endured for around a hundred years (with an acute acceleration in the post-war era). Consequently, the only way to ensure a relatively impartial, apolitical judiciary is to roll back the size and scope of the state.

The Judiciary in Political Theory

The state’s power of adjudication receives relatively little attention in everyday political discourse. Nearly all of the headlines are attracted by what the executive and the legislative spheres of the state – Presidents, Prime Ministers, parliaments, and so on – are up to rather than the wigged magistrates presiding over dark, dusty courtrooms.

One reason for this is that the non-judicial state institutions have a greater scope to act unilaterally. The government can announce initiatives and Parliament can enact laws without the need for any outside stimulus. The courts, on the other hand, are in the position of having to wait for a case to come before them, i.e. for people to find themselves in an active conflict with other people. The direct outcome of such a case may impact upon only a handful of participants and, even if the principles under scrutiny are far reaching, the judges may rule only on a single specific point at any one time. Moreover, the prevalence of democracy focuses discussion of your political rights on your ability to vote in elections which, in most cases, is not the method of selection for the judiciary. Participation as a jury member is, to be sure, viewed as a civic duty also, but this may occur only a handful times during a person’s life, and direct involvement in a court case as one of the litigants is even less likely. Thus, the perception that the judiciary has a relatively diminished ability to touch everyone’s lives has lent them a degree of remoteness compared to other organs of the state. Read more

How to Deal with Jeremy Corbyn

How to Deal with Jeremy Corbyn
Sean Gabb
(Published in
The Libertarian Enterprise  on the 3rd November 2019)

One of my Books
Learn More
Or read here for free.

The Conservatives made two big mistakes in 2017. The first was noticed at once and will not be repeated. This was having Theresa May as their leader and her friends in charge of the campaign. Its effect was similar to pushing a wax effigy about on wheels and stopping it every so often to play pre-recorded and usually malevolent platitudes. Boris Johnson is an undoubted human being, and he knows how to say what people want to hear. Read more

For the Conservatives

How to Deal with Jeremy Corbyn
Sean Gabb
(Published in The Commentator on the 2nd November 2019)

The Conservatives made two big mistakes in 2017. The first was noticed at once and will not be repeated. This was having Theresa May as their leader and her friends in charge of the campaign. Its effect was similar to pushing a wax effigy about on wheels and stopping it every so often to play pre-recorded and usually malevolent platitudes. Boris Johnson is an undoubted human being, and he knows how to say what people want to hear.

There is a chance that the second mistake will be repeated. This was not noticed at the time, and may still not be apparent. It was, and may be, the belief that Jeremy Corbyn’s success in the polls has been a function of Conservative weakness. The standard claim among Conservatives is that he loved the IRA, that he hates Jews, and that his main aim is to make England into a socialist hell – and that no one who is made aware of this could possibly support him.

There may be some truth in these three claims. Indeed, hope that the second is true explains much of his support in the Islamised areas of the country. The important truth, however, is that, while his friends would use his time in office to complete their cultural and political degradation of the country, the main grounds of Mr Corbyn’s popularity are that he detests an Establishment and a general structure of governance that hardly anyone outside the circle of beneficiaries – and probably not the average Conservative voter – still supports.

Jeremy Corbyn is a republican. Well, Elizabeth II has been the most useless monarch in our history, and her progeny are embarrassing trash. I have not been required to swear loyalty to her since I was a boy. I doubt I could now without imagining two fingers crossed behind my back. He believes in abolishing the House of Lords and disestablishing the Church. The first has become a waste of political space. The second is a joke. He is anti-American – and you tell me one effect of this alliance, at least since 1990, that has been unambiguously in British interests and has not produced a cataract of foreign blood. He is a socialist who wants to load the rich with taxes and abolish private education.

Speaking for myself, I am against these last. Even the markets we have are better than pure state control, and the right to educate our children as we please and can afford is fundamental. At the same time, he has an arguable case. Hardly anyone gets seriously rich in this country by hard work in a free enterprise system. Wealth is mostly an effect of getting the right connections in a set of interlocking scams on our savings and our tax money. The private education most called to mind when people hear the words are the great public schools. These are no longer Spartan places where boys have their bodies shaped by team sports and their minds by Greek syntax – where an élite is formed capable of transforming the sciences and conquering and ruling a great empire. They are finishing schools for the children of the merely rich – places where an insulated plutocracy reproduces itself across the generations.

As for his promises on tax and spending, there is no chance of raising the tax burden above the present 40 per cent of GDP. All Mr Corbyn promises is that more of the money will come back to the taxpayers in liveable benefits and useful services. I remember the 1970s. They were hardly a Land of Lost Content. But a bus driver could buy a terraced house in London while his wife stayed at home to look after three children. Again speaking for myself, I could go swimming for one-third the price of a Mars Bar. I could take a bus from one side to the other of London for about the same. I could find the works of Hayek in my small local library, and it was there that I found the texts for learning Latin and Greek. When I went to university, I had my tuition fees paid, and I had a student grant that left me with a small surplus when I graduated. All this, and the tax burden was about the same as now. Ditto the deficit as a fraction of GDP.

There may be reasons why this world has passed away and cannot be brought back. But I can understand why people of all ages listen to promises to bring something like it back. We can denounce these promises all we like as Venezuela plus social workers. That is what the promises may bring. But they are attractive promises. The second mistake the Conservatives made in 2017 was not to see that there was, in the public mind, a positive case for Jeremy Corbyn. There still is in 2019. Ignoring this can and will throw the election.

If asked, my advice to the Conservatives would be to treat Mr Corbyn with almost ceremonious respect. He is, after all, an honest man. I met him once, and I found him personally agreeable – far more so than the usual lying slime who make their way in politics. The best strategy for keeping the Labour vote where it now stands is to make a strong distinction between him and the Labour Party as a whole. It is to paint him as the well-meaning but useful-idiot front man for the actual ruling class, and to concentrate all fire on that ruling class.

In modern England, the ruling class is not the Queen, or a few hundred life peers, or the Archbishop of Canterbury, or any of the Usual Suspects. There are no longer any Forces of Conservatism. The actual ruling class is a coalition of politicians, educators, administrators, lawyers and law-enforcers, and associated businessmen, who derive wealth and power and status from a state enlarged beyond any reasonable size. Their legitimising ideology is cultural leftism – this being, in the formal sense, a development from various of the Neo-Marxist philosophers of the early and middle twentieth century, but from which anything socialist in the traditional sense of the word has been carefully drained. It is an ideology that justifies its believers in drawing public salaries twenty or fifty times more than the minimum wage. So long as he gives them time off to attend gay weddings, and bans them from smoking at least during work hours, and so long as he sacks them for voicing disapproved opinions, it justifies businessmen in paying their workers less in gold terms than Henry Ford ever did.

These are the ruling class, and their intellectuals are the Blairites who took over the Labour Party after 1987. Though threatened by Mr Corbyn between 2015 and 2017, they appear to have taken it over again. Here is the significance of Brexit. There is a good free market case for leaving the European Union. It is an organisation that traps its member states in a regulatory system of low growth. But it is not socialist. It is instead a coalition of ruling classes broadly similar to our own. By handing formal power to a set of supranational institutions, it makes these ruling classes unaccountable. They are unaccountable if their subjects want freer markets, and if their subjects do not want cultural leftism. They are also unaccountable if their subjects want socialism. I could go into detail on this point, but will not. It is enough to say that, since the 1990s, directive after directive has been passed by majority vote in Brussels that privilege corporate interests above the alleged rights of workers. These directives can only be repealed by unanimous vote. Socialism in one member state can only be brought about if socialists can win in all member states.

Jeremy Corbyn has always known this. Membership of the European Union makes the core of his economic programme illegal. He cannot renationalise the railways or the Royal Mail. He cannot subsidise the re-industrialisation of the North. He cannot protect favoured sectors. He cannot stop a flight of capital. He cannot efficiently tax the profits of the multinational corporations. Yet he is now fronting a set of devices in the Labour Party for preventing our departure from the European Union. He is praising judges whose plain agenda is to stop us from leaving – and who would use their enhanced powers to undo any radical Acts of Parliament he might be able to pass. Why he has been so neutered since 2017 is irrelevant. What matters is that he has been neutered. None of his more attractive promises will be kept, because none can be kept. However many inspirational speeches he gives, to however large and enraptured audiences, his place in this election is to act as the front man for a Blairite restoration.

Here is a suggested poster for the Conservatives. It is in the style of Socialist Realism. In the bottom centre-left is Jeremy Corbyn as a small marionette. He is speaking to a crowd on his left of all ages, colours and classes. The words “Peace,” “Jobs,” “Dignity,” “Equality” come from his lips. Behind him to the right, the strings are pulled by a larger Keir Starmer. Behind him, his strings are pulled by a larger and grinning Tony Blair and Jean-Claude Juncker. Behind them stands a crowd of anonymous men in fine suits. This, or something like it, should see off the scandalous claim that Labour is running an anti-Establishment campaign.

Though it has not yet started, everything else in the Conservative campaign looks promising. It seems resolutely One Nation in its domestic focus. The rejection of a pact with the Brexit Party also seems to be good politics. Because of Donald Trump’s intervention on its behalf, the refusal looks vaguely anti-American. Its vote will probably collapse. Brexit may be painted as unfinished business, and the Johnson Agreement as a fair middle way between the extremes. A few tax and spending cuts would be nice, but may not at the moment be good politics. Promising a bonfire of regulations may be better politics, and they would produce similar benefits. Because they have not armed themselves with the relevant analysis, the Conservatives should probably avoid promising an explicit attack on the actual ruling class – though some reference to that class in the context of Brexit would be desirable, and may be made. But the main point of my present advice is to deal with Jeremy Corbyn, and I think I have said enough.



By Duncan Whitmore

The pervasive issue of human-induced climate change has been hotting up again lately. The recent birth of “Extinction Rebellion”, which pursues the strategy of civil disobedience and economic disruption in order to force governments to “act” on climate change, as well as the creation of a mascot in the form of teenage activist Greta Thunberg, has helped to drive the once fledgling issue back to the forefront of political attention. A “Global Climate Strike” held on September 20th saw children – many of whom have been terrified into the belief that their world is about incinerate – allowed to take the day off from school in order to participate (an unlikely occurrence had they wished to protest against, say, mass immigration). Although Britain has emerged from what has actually been a fairly standard summer in terms of temperature, a handful of record breaking days helped to push climate fear to a high of 85% of the UK population, according to a recent poll.

Fortunately, the latest antics of “Extinction Rebellion” – which have included targeting ordinary East London commuters on their way to work – betray one of the reasons why Murray Rothbard split from his alliance with the left in the early 1970s: that you don’t win any support by attacking, with violent disruption, the very people whose hearts and minds you are trying to convert.1 The fact that these incidents targeted the London Underground and Docklands Light Railway only added to their irredeemable stupidity given that most people accept electrified public transport as a sufficiently green alternative to cars. Nevertheless, the issue itself is a lingering one and government policies committed to tackling climate change remain prominent. Read more

« Older Entries Recent Entries »