Thursday, 2 December 2010

I must be free or die



Every so often I like to pause and think about my politics. I like to clarify where I stand, for no other reason than confusion on the point still arises from time to time. That little box to the left (ah, the left!) more or less sums things up: I am right wing and libertarian. The one thing I am not is dogmatic, meaning that I will look at issues in pragmatic and empirical terms, reaching a conclusion on an independent basis, not through a prefabricated ideology. And, of course, not being shaped by ideology means that I am never consistent!

OK, I’m a libertarian, and I have to stress that this does not mean the same thing as a liberal, at least not in the sense that the word is used in the present time. I believe in freedom; I believe the state to be an intrusive imposition, an attempt to place limits on freedom. Still, we life in communities and communities have to be ordered, so I accept the state as a necessity, just so long as it is kept at a maximum distance. I dislike any form of welfare or state subsidy, which I believe to be corrosive of self-respect and economic freedom. More than that, the high levels of taxation they require do much to bleed the life out of enterprise, impacting on the very people that welfare is supposedly meant to help.

I dislike ideology, no, that’s not strong enough: I detest ideologies and states governed by ideology; I detest, as George Orwell put it, all the smelly little orthodoxies contending for our souls. I question everything, all suppositions and lazy mental shibboleths. It gives me no greater pleasure in debate than to demolish some argument with foundations on second-hand, usually half-digested ideas. Marxists are always fun, but, alas, no real challenge!

Frederick von Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom ranks high among my favourite political and economic texts. I’m now discovering Frédéric Bastiat , a nineteenth century French classic liberal theorist (it meant something different then also!), who wrote an exciting little squib called The Law, the perfect antidote to The Communist Manifesto, published two years beforehand. It’s a wonderful polemic, an attack on what he calls the two forms of plunder – stupid greed and false philanthropy. Everything he says is just so apt; it was then; it is now.

Look at the monstrosity of the welfare state and welfare programmes, both in England and America, across so much of the developed world. One knows exactly what Bastiat means when he talks about the limitless nature of philanthropy; that expenditure does not solve a problem, it just creates a demand for ever more expenditure. In England the monstrosity was taken to a level of near perfection by the previous government, pushing the country to the threshold of bankruptcy. State philanthropy is a perversion of liberty. The only beneficiary is the state itself, the agencies of the state, growing fatter and ever more intrusive.

For me the only true guardians of freedom stand on the libertarian right. The left includes all the others: the statists, the ideologues, the socialists, the communists, the nationalists, collectivists of all kinds. After all, I’m just a fun-loving girl and a free spirit. My philosophy can be boiled down to one simple nugget: stay out of my light and I’ll stay out of yours. I take my stand always alongside Patrick Henry…and Wordsworth, of course!

It is not to be thought of that the flood
Of British freedom, which, to the open sea
Of the world`s praise, from dark antiquity
Hath flowed, `with pomp of waters, unwithstood,`
Roused though it be full often to a mood
Which spurns the check of salutary bands,
That this most famous Stream in bogs and sands
Should perish; and to evil and to good
Be lost for ever. In our halls is hung
Armoury of the invincible knights of old:
We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
That Shakespeare spoke: the faith and morals hold
Which Milton held. - In everything we are sprung
Of Earth`s first blood, have titles manifold.




102 comments:

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  2. Libertarianism, is sadly "good on paper, sh1t on grass". While I agree with the sentiments of the most rabid Libertarian, I have yet to be convinced that pure Libertarianism can be made to work in practice.

    An intersting hypothetical question is how would a Libertarian deal with a big, fat hairy-arsed guy stripping off his clothes in the public thoroughfare outside his house.

    After jumping through lots of Jesuitical hoops, they usually reluctantly concur that they'd call the cops who'd beat up the loony and drag him off to the funny farm.

    I'm being overly harsh here. Britain is in desperate of an infusion of any kind of Libertarianism. I find the Tory party sickeningly Statist - Heathite.

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  6. Adam, you will simply never understand. Slaves are slaves; it makes no difference to me. I pursue no state because I hate the state. I am me. If the whole world stood on one side I would stand on the other. I wasn’t aware that I was fond of quoting your ‘alleged’ comments. I merely reminded you recently of your definition of imperialism. Anyway, best of luck with your victory!

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  9. Suciô, I would readily admit that my position here is personal and pure. I'm not advancing a programme, other than good goverment should always be about minimising taxation and maximising personal freedom within the law.

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  11. Good for you, Ana.

    Re: hairy naked guy. So long as he remains in the street, who cares? If he steps on your property . . . shoot his dick off.

    Libertarianism does not preclude cooperation and social living. It does not preclude kindness and generosity. It merely requires that individuals choose to cooperate, not be compelled by the force of the state.

    The first rule of libertarianism is: Take care of yourself and your own responsibilities. No one else owes you a living.

    There are limits to personal liberty under libertarianism. You may not, for example, engage in activities that harm your neighbours or common property. You cannot compel someone else to do things they do not wish to do. Libertarianism is not lawlessness.

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  14. I always feel ambivalent about making too much of freedom as an individual ideal, as some kind of absolute. Your sense of freedom (I think you'd agree) is linked to cultural factors - notably your Englishness, and your identification with certain strands of English and European culture. You obviously find inspiration in those traditions. I just wanted to emphasize that. And I've got a question. I know you are an unusual person (sparkling intelligence, boundless energy, impish charm etc., etc.) but are your political views unusual (in the context of your friends and contemporaries)?

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  16. Adam, because I love tradition, I love monarchy, I love the ancient folk ways of this country, I love its eccentricity and its differences; I love to hunt on winter mornings and punt on spring days. I dislike reform for the sake of reform, government for the sake of government. If you think I cannot be a libertarian and a conservative you are very much mistaken. A patriot is a person who loves the nation, not the state. And there is a huge difference.

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  17. I wasn't aware that I had accused you of inconsistency but if I did it's doubtless because you tend to be consistent within your own theoretical parameters and I was just pointing out a contradiction. Or maybe I was just being consistently inconsistent. :-))

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  18. Anthony, it's something I strive for consistently.

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  22. Mark, that's very true but there is also something else. There is a strong American element in my influences, particularly the concept of the frontier, open spaces and complete self-reliance. I know the physical frontier ended in 1890 but the idea is still there as a form of inspiration. As far as my political views are concerned I'm not completely unique, almost, but not quite. :-) The other thing, which you have clearly noticed, judging by past remarks, is that I am a terrible romantic. Freedom and romance marry in perfection!

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  25. Yes, I do, and do you remember Zhivago's answer? History killed communism; Pasternak's poetry lives.

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  28. I hate everything you say but not enough to kill you for it. He had previously been detained as a potential assassin.

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  31. If you mean British Conservative politicians probably Keith Joseph, the Lady's mentor. I used to admire El Portillo but he's gone a bit wet!

    Gosh, I'm so cold this morning; there is not enough heating in my rooms; my fingers are numbly dancing across my keyboard! Sorry, good discussion, but I have to go now. :-)

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  37. Sorry, I simply can't let this go. Freedom is worse than Nazism, is it? Adam do you think before you write. I hope not because it's the only way I could excuse absolute rubbish like this. Sorry to be so direct. Now Evil Ana, who is worse than a Nazi and a Communist, even though she is human enough to feel the cold, is exiting, stage right.
    :-))

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  45. "Adam, because I love tradition, I love monarchy, I love the ancient folk ways of this country, I love its eccentricity and its differences; I love to hunt on winter mornings and punt on spring days. I dislike reform for the sake of reform, government for the sake of government. If you think I cannot be a libertarian and a conservative you are very much mistaken. A patriot is a person who loves the nation, not the state. And there is a huge difference."

    That is some good shit, Ana - it will be my quote of the day.

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  47. @ Adam: You have been "Blitzed" by immigration. When the Full effect of immigration manifests itself, you will wish you had been Teutonicized.

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  48. @ MGON: Victory was within grasp. If not for the Fuhrers magnanimous gesture in allowing the BEF to withdraw at Dunkirk by halting the Armourd Units. The Fuhrer did not want war with Britain and his peace jestures were ignored by the Barbarian Churchill who escalated the war to new levels of depravity which led to targeting civilians and the holocaust would not have happened as such , they Initally wanted to resettle these people and no nations wanted to take them.The initial hesitation of invading britain cost the war as you were never a serious threat to Germany Without massive US aid in materials and eventually manpower (WW1&WW2)The Same with Russia ,It would have eventually been destroyed with German Technology Had the time table been extended and America not interviened. It took an Emense allied Rat Pack effort to defeat Gearmany all else is a fable.You would still be English and there would be order in the world.

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  50. I support you Ana, do whatever you want and don't give a dam for everything else.

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  51. Freedom itself is a choice. People are as free as they let themselves be.

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  53. Adam, forgive me; I don’t think you are grasping the essential point. This is not a manifesto: it’s a personal declaration of principle. I think it is possible to put a libertarian programme into action, but always tempered by practical considerations. At the simplest I’m merely calling for a system where good government is minimal government; where direct taxation is kept as low as possible, consistent, that is, with good order; that citizens are allowed as much personal freedom as possible, again consistent with good order. Your criticisms are grossly overblown. All those people you mention, all those statists, are the living antithesis of my philosophy, of libertarianism and of freedom.

    I honestly don’t care how distasteful you find my argument- and I most certainly wasn’t looking for your sympathy when I wrote that my hands were cold - , but I seriously question your right to speak for ‘millions’ of people. I, in contrast, only ever speak for myself

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  54. Wyrdtimes, there is no greater freedom. :-)

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  56. NP, yes, I really like that. I am the will to freedom and nothing besides.

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  58. I honestly don't see calling for greater liberty could inspire violence! It used to be a consistent principle that Conservative governments were dedicated to lowering direct taxation, just as Labour governments increased it. It would be nice to return to first principles, not possible, I admit, in present economic circumstances. I see no need to write a separate blog. My ideal programme is a simple one. I would do away with income, property and capital taxes altogether, throwing the whole burden on to indirect taxation. At the same time I would sweep away all those laws that intruded on the liberty of the subject, from hunting to surveillance cameras and lots of points in between.

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  62. In my ideal state there would be no welfare state. :-))

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  67. Oh, my views are 'loony,' are they? Well they are my views, loony or not, never second hand. :-))

    I missed your point on Pitt, who could imagine a world without income tax so well that he imagined it for most of his premiership. Income tax was only introduced in 1798 as an emergency war-time measure. It only became a permanent part of our fiscal system after Peel's Income Tax Act of 1842

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  69. Ahhh freedom. And having right. The root of all the conflicts.

    Hello Ana!

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  74. Adam, for goodness sake, it's a statement of fact that has nothing at all to do with 'invalidating your argument', merely pointing out your error. I repeat: after the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 there was a long period of peace without income tax. I do not believe I have ever advanced a foreign policy agenda based on 'moral zeal', whatever that's supposed to mean.

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  77. ...what started during war was carried over into piece. There, I quoted you! There was a long period, rounded off by me to thirty years, of peace without income tax; so it's wrong to say that it was 'carried over.' OK, you made no error. Let's just drop it, shall we?

    Adam, on another factual point, I never, at any time, said I 'resented you'. If I disagree with you that does not imply any personal amimosity. Do not start inventing things.

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  80. Well, it's wrong, as a point of order or as a general statement. I respect you, I welcome your contributions, even in the midst of the deepest disagreement. I harbour no personal feelings whatsoever.

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  87. Of all of the times you have come here, of all the blogs you have read, you are still not an inch nearer to understanding me or how I think.

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  90. All correct. You certainly understand more than most. :-)

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  92. Adam, as I said by other means, it is nothing to do woth politics and philosophy. It's when you start attributing feelings to me that simply don't exist. Vigour in debate should not be read as anything other than vigour in debate. It is my style.

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