Although I have written on the topic of how a libertarian property rights can be applied to the situation of viruses in two, previous essays, it is useful to summarise this again for a clearer picture. Such an endeavour seems necessary now more than ever, for in spite of increased opposition compared to the first round of lockdowns earlier this year, the various nations of the UK are again heading into some from of lockdown mode as the winter draws near.
Most sceptics of lockdown and restrictive policies designed to “curb” the onset of COVID-19 approach the matter from a utilitarian or technocractic angle – i.e. whether the measures that states are pursuing are an effective and/or proportionate response to the spread of the virus. While this is an invaluable exercise, it does not challenge the principle that the state has the prerogative to obliterate rights and freedoms in the manner that it has. In other words, the notion that, ultimately, our rights could be infringed on a future occasion when someone deems that it is “effective” and “proportionate” to do so is left untouched. Equally intact, therefore, is the notion that our rights are not immovably tied to our status as individual human beings, but are little more than privileges enjoyed at the sufferance of the state. This is not to imply that the principle of liberty has been ignored – former Supreme Court Justice Lord Sumption has been a notable high profile critic of the government in this regard. But the general opposition to lockdowns and other restrictions seems to assume that their only problem is that COVID-19 is simply not a big enough crisis to justify the present level of state intrusion. Thus, there is still a need to emphasise the fact that our rights exist not only in fair weather but in storms and hurricanes also – in fact, it is precisely in exceptional circumstances when rights need the most protection for it is always on these occasions that the state exploits fear and anxiety of unknown dangers so as to achieve greater incursions upon our liberty. Continue reading →
“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.
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. Continue reading →
In a recent post on this blog, the present writer offered an explanation as to why the intellectual accomplishments of Austro-libertarians have been disproportionate to their relatively meagre success in effecting real world change. We concluded that the attempt to merely spread ideas of the justice of non-aggression and the truth of “Austrian” economics is, in spite of its importance, not enough. Libertarians must also learn how to mould these ideas so that they speak to people’s aspirations within the prevailing conditions in which they live.
In a short post on the blog of Bastion Magazine– a relatively new publication which shares similar intellectual and political priorities to those of Mises UK – Ben Lewis has chimed in with something similar, addressing what he calls “the inconsistency of libertarian consistency” – that while conservatives, according to him, concede that libertarianism is a more logically consistent philosophy, this feature does not necessarily make the latter a superior system of thought should it be also inconsistent with “the real life nature of man and society”. These sentiments are in the same vain as three of his earlier blog posts where he discusses voluntary social relations, social duties and his reasons for being a conservative.1
To be fair to Lewis, not every view examined in this essay is necessarily one that he has stated explicitly and it would be wrong to ascribe to him a belief in every matter that is subjected to criticism. However, in the interests of thoroughness, we will examine not only what Lewis has actually said but also that which could be reasonably interpreted or inferred from what he has said.
On Show 24 of the Mises UK Podcast, with host, Andy Duncan, we speak with our Caledonian man in Edinburgh, David Farrer, the power behind the throne on the ‘Freedom and Whisky’ blog site. We talk about the current state of Scotland as regards freedom, whisky, socialism, and secession, given the failure of the 2014 referendum to secede Scotland from the United Kingdom, and the rumblings of a second secessionary referendum planned by the Scottish National Party, slated possibly for 2021.
Imagine this land here, now, if you can! It’s Christmas again, so let us dream a little. Come with me, now, let’s go there….
Imagine this land, where these things I will list for you, are taken for granted. I’m not presenting them in any particular order, they’re just nice things. I could dream up others, but fourteen is a nice number – it’s flashing blue and white and appears to me like a little bar code in my brain.***
You could call them David Davis’s Fourteen Points. Fifteen actually! The number of the Fourteen Points! (Fifteen’s green and red: yellowish in some contexts…)
(1) The State’s organisation is so small and so un-visible, that you can spend most of your life without having to encounter one of its staff. They may be able to help you with the inconvenient documents you’d need, to cover you for travel in less fortunate lands and to call for protection by your State’s global-blue-water-forces – and that’s all. The State still runs a few libraries, staffed by some polite old ladies, and retired colonels who know about organisation and getting overdue books back.
(2) There is a flat rate of taxation – say 10% for now – which everybody, including businesses on their profits, might reasonably be expected to pay without complaint. Progressive taxation is not approved of, but people earning under a certain amount are not taxed, which helps with those on a Shilling an hour, until they do better.
(3) The Franchise is a Freehold Property qualification. It is qualified otherwise by age – 21. This has a number of benefits: (I) It cuts the number of voters down to those who own freehold land or buildings, or known parts of or all of a business – businesses, being property, can vote through their owners, and business votes are pro rata. (II) It reduces to almost zero the votes that would currently go to socialist parties. (III) It causes MPs to aggressively strive for all voters to own private freehold property of all kinds. (IV) Elections are important, and competition to gain property is immense.
(4) This land is not in the EU. It has left, and simultaneously, having denounced and repudiated all the relevant “treaties”, has also downgraded its own bureaucracy’s ability to resist and defeat the measures stated. The said bureaucracy is also about 99% smaller. This land is rich, and businesses in EU-enslaved countries compete fiercely to sell their wares here. They need the Gold and Platinum and Rhenium Bars, to prop up their toilet-paper-monopoly-currency
(5) The currencies which circulate in this land are whatever traders here will be pleased to accept as payment: there may be lots, even including fiat-papers, which may have tactical use for things such as holidays. The prevailing one, however, backed by a number of hard Bullions with commodity-prices, such as Gold, Platinum, Rhenium, Iridium, Cobalt and Silver to name a few, is universally respected. Many industrially-useful metals can be currencies. And you can take this State’s Promissory Note that you got, to any branch of the Central Bank, and they’ll hand you in return the right weight of the metal of your choice.
(6) The Police are unarmed civilians who do, for you, what they do just like the lifeboatmen of the RNLI do what they do. The Police have not much to do these days, except sit about at the few remaining “Police Stations”, drinking tea in funny uniforms with pointy hats, and occasionally going out to the odd primary school, to tell humorous horror-stories of what it was like under the “Government”, when “some people used to commit crimes! And people thought that “crime” was caused by “deprivation!” ” (Chorus of screams and laughter from children who can factorise cubics before lunch.) You are allowed to keep any arms that please you, up to but not including heavy artillery for which you need permission from some retired colonel or other, locally: crime, therefore, is very rare.
(7) The State, such as remains in organisation, has no function in employment or wage regulation. There are jobs in which people may work for less than Five Shillings an Hour, even in 2010. There is no “unemployment benefit”.
(8) But the Shilling, restored to its rightful value, and fabricated in Sterling Silver, buys all this stuff at once, from Tesco or from your “local” little shop: a loaf of bread, a pound of butter, a Pound of bacon (454 grams to you lot) for which is for four people, a frying pan, and the electricity to turn it all into good old Bacon-Butties!
(9) There is no “Ministry of Education”: not even a “Department of Skills”. Schools of all sorts flourish – you can even go to an Islamic one in Skelmersdale, or Wigan, or Wimborne, if you want, or a Jewish one in (don’t know) or a sort of funny one started in Birkdale by some scientist-madman who hated the “National(ised) Curriculum” under the GramscoFabiaNazis, and decided that when times got better he’d start his own Science and Engineering Academy for Boys and Girls who were “interested”. He’d take anybody – you just had to agree to turn up every day no-fail (or you’d be sacked) and you’d get lots of “prep”, which meant self-study in your own time, and in return he’d always answer all your difficult questions. A very, very old, smoking man with horn-rimmed spectacles, driving a Hillman Super-Minx, reg no “5518 PL”, goes round schools, when he feels up to it, seeing to it that they at least teach “Joined-Up-History”, with dates of kings and queens and important battles against continental Statists, and the easiest ways to solve simultaneous second-order-partial-differential-equations, for the eleven-year-olds to be able to compute the inter-orbital interactions of Saturn’s moons. Other stuff is up to them.
(10) DEFRA is gone. Zapped. As if it’d never been. Farmers can grow food now, if they like. They are no longer “wildlife” or “countryside” “stewards” – they grow food efficiently and mechanically, for people, and they make real money. Butterflies are a nuisance anyway, being extinct all the time, and as for the white ones, they lay eggs which hatch into nasty caterpillars which eat all our five-a-day-broccoli. If farmers want to conserve wildlife, then they can, and can balance the cost of this against the potential lost revenue from food-buyers. It’s now their choice in this new land. But nobody will come and murder all their animals at gunpoint, and run away, ever again. If their animals get ill, nobody will buy them and they’ll lose money: it’s up to them.
(11) Defence spending is enormous, but astonishingly efficient. The Armed Forces of this nation’s free people, even while inactive which is hopefully most of the time, strike terror into the hearts of evil-doers, other pirates, dictators of legacy-Statist-polities, and anti-liberal governments. The reason for enormous spending is the terrible threats from the other 190-odd “nations’ “ governments, continually received via the “Foreign Secretary”, whose title is soon to be changed to “Minister for War”. Procurement of kit is “open-source”: anybody may tender to provide, say, encrypted radios that work properly in cold bogs and hot sand, or real helicopters that actually exist right now today for hire or sale, and the like. The MOD is a small office in Whitehall with a telephone, an iPod dock for visiting Corporals’ mp3s, a laptop and a few gentlemen, one of whom sees to buying things.
(12) The State has nothing to do with “Culture, Media and Sport”: from “State involvement” with these things, nothing but pretentious trash has been shown to emerge. What “culture” is, emerges by free interactions between individuals and voluntary institutions in this nation. No “grants” are given to any “groups” – whether “gays”, Moslems, LGBT groups, “Christians”, Jedi Knights, Zoroastrians (whatever those are), Jews, Rasta-men, new-agers, Gypsies and other “travelling people”, “settled folk”, or whatever. Each makes his own way and raises his own funds if needed, privately, if need be by jumble-sales in Church Halls. If the Mosque can’t hold a jumble sale, it will be legal for it to hire the Church Hall. I care not.
(13) The astonishingly brazen up-front-scam of AGW has been exposed. Raging mobs of the “bourgeoisie”, irate small-business-owners, and other taxpayers have raided the offices of “climate-consciousness-organisations”, “Green” pressure groups, fake charities and DEFRA, have burnt all the records, malleted all identified hard disks, disk-stores, backups and pen-drives, and turned the staff into the street in the clothes they stood up in. The way is open for anyone, including Mutt and Jeff and their white van, to offer private-building-solutions to local people’s community-nuclear-power stations.
(14) Hospitals abound in this land. The “NHS” is gone, without trace, but doctors, nurses and medicines of all sorts seem to be everywhere. You can even buy penicillins, the early ones, (via the chemist, at first!) in Tesco, as is right. (They’re not for everybody all the time, and scientific education has to catch up some decades of deliberate darkness in short order!) There is a hospital in almost every large village, in all small and large towns, and many in each city. These initially Spartan places (but they will get better) consist of some Doctors each, who do their own rota, plus some Nurses who might shout kindly at you for not taking your medicine on time but who will heroically attend you without complaint in the night if you are in great pain. There are many many interesting and advanced machines, and always a couple of telephonists who know everyone in the area, and perhaps a duty-chemist too, to issue the more abstruse drugs. Plus lots of old ladies under an irascible local retired colonel, who come and clean up properly everywhere with strong stuff, every day, for a few quid. The poor buggerettes would stay alive outside care homes for longer if this was the case – they’d have something to do in their lives. There are no “managers” – the Colonels can do that stuff in their sleep. If you’re poor and can’t pay, they’ll fix you for nothing. If you’re insured, no problem. If you’re Sir Alan Sugar, you might also be asked if you’d like voluntarily to “pop something in this little box, it’s really just for the other ones, who, er, can’t really, you know….” on your way out…
(15) The State wants nothing to do with the internet. Except to be a client, to make its operation more efficient for citizens, so you don’t even have to see anyone if you wanted a passport. Why’d you want a passport? Not to go to Spain [for example] for a holiday: “Spain” and all Spaniards would know you are protected, for you come from here, and they are civilised there, and you’d need no passport – your State has left the EU anyway and so they know you’re “good for the money you carry” and also well-protected forces-wise, so no change of a successful mugging there, then. No, you’d want a “Passport” (a modern wifi one) to call down protection by your Armed Forces, when you go for a working holiday, to less fortunate foreign lands for example – like North Korea or Cuba. You will want to distribute internet-ready computers and usb-G3 wifi devices to the oppressed natives of these poor places in the blinding darkness still. You’d regard it as your duty, so you’d need to go, and be protected by your State’s Armed Forces while you are doing your bit for world liberalism.
All of us here, in the Libertarian Alliance, and those of us locked in the Lancashire typewriting-Chimpanzees’ blogging-team Nissen-Hut (current temperature here = -3C) would like you all to have a marvellous and 100%-climate-free Christmas, and a relaxing and fully-non-Statist New Year, this time and always.
If you are not careful, we shall release video footage of us blogging.
***I have synaesthesia, I discovered about three years ago – I thought everyone saw numbers as strong colours like I do, and I was disappointed and saddened to find they don’t. Music is very very highly coloured too, for me, a lot (It’s numbers too I guess.) Shame really, it’s nice – others miss out on this sensory experience.
The resurgence of the Libertarian movement in Britain occurred in the late 1970s under the direction of Chris Thame who’s life was tragically cut short in 2006. During his life he was the key person in organising the Libertarian Alliance, which aimed not to repeat what it saw as the errors of American Libertarianism. Firstly it would not contest elections believing these to be a waste of time and effort serving only to divide the movement and exhaust the movement over matters of triviality. Secondly, the Libertarian Alliance sought to avoid the conflict endemic in the Libertarian movement such as the conflict between Objectivists and Austrians and provide a forum for genteel debate.
The Libertarian Alliance saw its role as not engaging with the masses but in targeting the intellectuals – the 5% of the population that were interested in political ideas. Taking its cue from the Fabian Society, it published scholarly articles, organised conferences, spoke at University and appeared on radio debates in the expectation that these ideas would eventually be picked up by the political classes and implemented, much like the ideas behind the Institute of Economic Affairs were eventually picked up and became the template of thatcherism.
Needless to say it didn’t, the Libertarian movement in Britain which peaked in the early 1990s has been in decline ever since with its aging membership not being replaced with young members, to the point where the pessimistic amongst them predict that eventually there will be too few living libertarians to sustain a movement and it might die just as Libertarian ideas were dead through much of the twentieth century. This decline prompted Sean Gabb in conjunction with Chris Thame to resurrect class analysis, which for many has been regarded as the preserve of marxism. They concluded that Libertarian ideas whilst true were not being given the light of the day because they were a threat to the wealth, power and status of the class of individuals who draw, wealth, power and status from an activist state.
The Libertarian Alliance, in spite of this analysis continues its strategy of courting the intellectuals even though their ideas is not in the self-interest of the many statist intellectuals suckling at the states teat. The National Libertarian Front argues that radical political change cannot be achieved by publishing a few more pamphlets rather it must engage in the sorts of visible activism traditionally associated with the ‘far right’ and ‘far left’.
The National Libertarian Front argues that radical political change cannot be achieved by publishing a few more pamphlets rather it must engage in the sorts of visible activism traditionally associated with the ‘far right’ and ‘far left’.
I think it’s fair to say that this is slowly happening here. Many are realizing that we need real life examples of doing without the state. You will probably appreciate that we don’t go in much for “revolutionary” agitation here!
So my focus, for example, is in creating a local “sterling free” trading network for business-to-business and business-to-customer use in my county, and market based affordable housing projects without state subsidy, as a visible example of ways in which people can work fre of the state.
In that, it’s much more of a “mutualist” (see your article on Kevin Carson later) approach of building the institutions that will one day replace the state “organically” rather than trying to persuade a naturally not very revolutionary or activist population to decide on one big momentous change (at the ballot box or otherwise).
Time will tell – people do say that gradualism is a recipe for failure, but equally, our “Overton Window” approach is well enough established.
An interesting analysis. A brief correction: the correct spelling is Tame, not Thame.
On the matter of our strategy, we still see our purpose as providing the intellectual underpinnings for any mass movement that may one day emerge.