Green industrial revolution, or Great Leap Backward?

Green industrial revolution, or Great Leap Backward?

By Neil Lock

Prologue: The decay of politics

For several decades now, there has been a continual decline in the quality of the political atmosphere, in the UK and elsewhere. In the UK, I think this probably dates back to the 1970s and Old Labour; but the Tories and New Labour have both actively helped it along. Government has lost respect for the people it is supposed to serve. It treats us, at best, as if we were naughty children. It takes no account of what we actually are: thinking, feeling human beings, who need freedom and justice in order to live our lives to the full. In consequence, many people have begun to lose confidence in politics and government, no matter which party is in power. And among such people there is a, slowly but inexorably, mounting sense of exasperation with the political establishment and those in it. The Brexit referendum vote in 2016, and the meteoric rise of the Brexit Party in the first half of 2019, were signs of this.

Meanwhile, the political class and their cohorts (such as bureaucrats, academe, media, big-company bosses) have steadily become more and more authoritarian, arrogant, dishonest, deceitful, untrustworthy, grasping, irresponsible, evasive of accountability, hypocritical, hysterical, and lacking in concern for us “little people.” It is as if they have formed themselves into a giant, psychopathic, criminal gang; and we are their chosen victims.

You can see this in their erection of millions of cameras to spy on us. In their tracking of our Internet and phone usage. In their obvious desire to use any “crisis” they can drum up, such as the COVID epidemic, to take away or restrict our liberties. But nowhere is it more clearly reflected than by their conduct on environmental issues, such as the matter often called “climate change” or, alternatively, “global warming,” “climate crisis” or “climate emergency.” And, in particular, by the UK government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution [[1]], published in November 2020. Continue reading

It’s Time to Stop Despairing

It’s Time to Stop Despairing

By Duncan Whitmore

It is difficult not to feel despondent when considering the enormous loss of liberty that has been inflicted by government lockdown policies in response to COVID-19. This despair has been compounded for many on the right by the final failure of Donald Trump’s attempt to challenge November’s presidential election result, together with the sudden, panicked attempt to remove him from office just days before his term expires, as well as the purging of him and prominent cheerleaders from social media. In this vein, the following quotations – all from prominent libertarians or conservative-libertarians – are not unrepresentative:

“2021 is going to be worse than 2020. Sorry”

“You ain’t seen nothing yet: the worst is yet to come”

“The lockdown is permanent, get used to it. It is all about political control. NOBODY HEALTHY IS DYING.”

It is true that any opponents of lockdown policies need to have a realistic grasp of why these draconian policies have been resorted to and how the situation is likely to pan out. Indeed, enough is now known about COVID-19 for us to be well past the point of lending the state the benefit of the doubt in its decision to continue with those policies. Thus, explanations other than the protection of health must be sought.

Nevertheless, the amount of time spent despairing is beginning to come at the expense of time that could be spent working out how to fight back. Happily, Sean Gabb has helped to buck the trend by offering some reasons as to why the past year has not been all that bad. While Gabb acknowledges that his personal circumstances have contributed much to his relatively sanguine view, it is, nevertheless, a refreshing counterbalance to the torrent of doomerism that seems to be erupting from the right. Continue reading

Money – the Key to Freedom?

Money – the Key to Freedom?

 By Duncan Whitmore

In a previous essay concerning the freedom of speech, we noted that, although liberty as a whole is justified by reference to the non-aggression principle, specific freedoms can and should be promoted in their own right. Equally and oppositely, so too should individual examples of state intrusion into freedom be criticised and condemned on their own two feet. In other words, it is possible, and indeed vital, for us to explain the value of free speech, to oppose taxation, to defend against any possibility of forced vaccination and medication, to press for abolition of all forms of state funded medical care, to argue for the freedom of association, to advocate for the legalisation of vices, to promote free trade, and so on. Such arguments are likely to win us at least partial victories in the fight for freedom, victories which may not be achievable simply by repeating the non-aggression principle.

Many of these individual freedoms are enunciated also in bills of rights and charters of so-called human rights, notably the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. Here we find, amongst others, the protection of the right to religion, to speech, to bear arms, to the security of property against searches and seizures, to silence and due process when accused of a crime, and from “cruel and unusual” punishments. The defence of many of these freedoms has now become especially crucial as Western governments have continually sought to dilute them, sometimes in response to crises and calamities such as Islamic terrorism, and other times as a natural consequence of the growth of the state. It has been recognised that the freedom of speech, in particular, has been subject to a grave assault from identity politics and “cancel culture”.

However, a notable omission in many of these schedules of rights and freedoms is the freedom of money. Money is mentioned in the US Constitution, but it is buried in Section Ten of Article One, which limits the rights of the states. It has no prestigious place within the more memorable Bill of Rights, and fails to illicit the kind of passion that surrounds the First and Second Amendments. Freedom lovers today, similarly, will complain about the loss of our freedom of speech and the seemingly sudden transformation of the country into a police state as the result of the government’s reaction to COVID-19. But they will rarely turn their attention to the fact that the state has the power to print its currency, a power which has only existed in its entirety since 1971 when US President Richard Nixon severed the final tie of the US dollar to gold. Continue reading

COVID-19: the “second wave” – Update

This is an update to my paper of December 3rd on tracking the COVID-19 epidemic in fourteen Western European countries. It uses the data up to and including December 31st 2020. The data sources are the same as before: Our World in Data and the Blavatnik School of Government, both at Oxford University.

The main news this month, apart from seemingly never-ending lockdowns and the ghost of Christmas passed, has been the new, supposedly more easily transmissible strain of the virus, discovered in the UK. Initially, I was a bit skeptical. But as you can see in the graph at the top, the UK (pink line) does indeed have a climbing trend in new daily cases, which over the whole of December is very different from the trends in the other countries. So, I think we can fairly say that there is indeed a new, more transmissible strain, in the UK and perhaps some other countries.

Continue reading

Defining Liberty

Defining Liberty

By Duncan Whitmore

In a previous essay concerning the nature of the libertarian movement, we stated that the purpose of libertarian theory (in contrast to libertarian activism) should be to define and justify liberty – to tell us what liberty is and why it is a good thing. It is to the first of these tasks that this essay will be devoted.

Some readers may regard defining liberty as something of a redundant exercise. After all, we have had many definitions of liberty from libertarian and proto-libertarian thinkers, most of which say more or less the same thing: freedom from harm (J S Mill1); freedom from coercion (Hayek2); freedom from “restraint and violence by others” (Locke3); “Absence of opposition” or “externall [sic] Impediments of motion” (Hobbes4); “unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others” (Jefferson5). Although modern libertarian theory has successfully refined these concepts – Mill’s harm principle was, for instance, notoriously vague – descriptors of liberty used by libertarians today (such as “self-ownership”, “private property” and “non-aggression”) still suffer from lacking several important clarifications. This is not to imply that libertarian scholars have failed to properly define these principles in the past; more that libertarians (myself included) have become so used to reciting them without further thought that a review of what they actually mean would not be out of place. Moreover, as we shall see below, very different consequences can flow from what appear to be relatively minor disagreements or misunderstandings.6 If this is the case within the community of libertarian scholars how much worse can it be outside of it?

One initial problem is that such concepts are themselves reducible to further fundamentals. What precisely, for instance, is aggression? Why are some acts aggressive whereas other acts are not? Does it have anything to do with intended hostility or are motivations irrelevant? What, also, does it mean to have “self-ownership”? Precisely what is the “self” and what does my “ownership” over it allow me to do? Continue reading

COVID-19: the “second wave” in Europe

A month ago, I compared the histories of the COVID-19 epidemic in fourteen Western European countries. At that point, the “second wave” of the virus, which had been building throughout the region for three or four months, was giving governments an excuse to start re-introducing lockdowns. So, I said that I would review the situation in a month or so. That month has now elapsed, so here’s the review. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll now have enough data to form some idea of which lockdown measures have been effective, and which haven’t.

Continue reading

The US Election – A Step Forward for Liberty?

The US Election – A Step Forward for Liberty?

By Duncan Whitmore

At the time of writing, the mainstream media is ploughing ahead with its coronation of Democrat candidate Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, even though, officially, the race still hangs in the balance. Incumbent Donald Trump has refused to concede, alleging fraud and other irregularities in the balloting process that happened to affect a handful of key swing states. Such allegations are likely to result in a series of forthcoming court battles prior to the formal convening of the Electoral College.

Whatever the outcome of this election, enough is already known to make some preliminary remarks concerning the impact it might have on the near future.

The most important aspect – another blow to the ailing polling industry – is that there has been no grand repudiation of the Trump phenomenon. Four years ago, half of the US electorate voted for the man who railed against the liberal/leftist/globalist establishment; and four years later that half has not only refused to budge an inch but has, in fact, added to its ranks another ten million voters. Contrary to the narrative of his supposed racism and white supremacy, Trump also increased his share of black and Latino voters.

All of this is comes in spite of (or perhaps because of) the full weight of the establishment and big tech social media doing everything it could to discredit the legitimacy of the Trump presidency (Russiagate, impeachment etc.) while throwing in its lot with the Biden camp. Continue reading