Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Some thoughts on policies for the Brexit Party

I attended the Brexit Party rally at the NEC on 30th June, at which Richard Tice invited those of us interested to submit ideas for policies, which might be worth considering for inclusion in the party’s manifesto for the next general election. This is my response to that invitation.

My background

A brief note about myself. My degree, 45 years ago, was in mathematics from Cambridge. I earn my bread as a software consultant; I have been independent for 26 years now. I am a victim of New Labour’s bad tax law called IR35, which the Tories have chosen to enforce more and more rigorously, and which has consequently all but taken away my access to the market, greatly reduced my income, and now threatens me with poverty in my old age. If there is a silver lining to that, it is that I have had far more time to study and to write than most people who are not employed as academics. So, over the years, I have made myself into an unlicensed political philosopher. I have also acquired a measure of expertise in environmental matters.

My political views

Politically, I’m an individualist libertarian. I want only the absolute minimum of government that is necessary to deliver peace and objective, individual justice. I see the proper function of government as like a referee in a football match; keeping the game of life moving, while stopping the unscrupulous from harming innocents or unjustly enriching themselves, and otherwise staying out of the way. I consider governments today to be far too large, far too wide in scope, far too centralized and far too active. And I’m no fan of democracy as it exists today. I consider it to be merely a bag on the side of the political state, to make people think they have a voice (we don’t, of course – as proved by the Brexit fiasco), and to lend an air of legitimacy to governments that don’t deserve it.

I despise socialism, Toryism, deep green environmentalism and all ideologies that seek to subordinate human beings to higher Causes like God, Government or Gaia. And I think of today’s mainstream political parties as criminal gangs of arrogant, callous, devious, dishonest psychopaths.

I am passionate about Brexit – I regard it as the first step back from the cliff edge. It must, of course, be unconditional – no continuing commitments to the EU. None! But, despite my strong view on Brexit, I’m not a nationalist. Indeed, I regard the current political order of “Westphalian” nation states, that was devised way back in the 16th century and implemented since the 17th, as well past its last use by date.

My view of the Brexit Party

I wrote a review of the June 30th rally, which you can find here: [1]. To sum up: I went there to find out what the Brexit Party was all about. Can it actually overturn the existing system and the establishment that system supports, and give ordinary people a proper voice? On the evidence of one day, my answer was: “I don’t know yet.” But I’m happy to add what little kindling I can provide to the fires the Brexit party is now stoking.

Economic policies

A number of economic policies were discussed at the rally. I can agree with cancelling HS2, and zero EU divorce payment. As to foreign aid, the huge amounts (0.7% of GDP, if I recall) that have been devoted to this hornswoggle are a hang-over from a United Nations commission of the early 1980s, headed by one Willy Brandt. So, I was disappointed that the proposal was only to reduce it, not to scrap it entirely. And the idea of cancelling interest on student loans seems to me to be a good one.

Any relaxation of red tape and onerous taxation on small businesses (whether partnerships, sole traders or companies) is most welcome. I myself would, of course, be more than pleased if IR35 was repealed. Even if that isn’t feasible, the thought struck me that to exempt people over 65 from IR35 might be a way to make it easier for skilled older people to find their way back into the work-place, particularly on a part-time or temporary basis. Such a move might both encourage flexibility in the skilled labour force, and help to counteract the problem of long-term decline in the real value of non-index-linked pensions.

One further thought, which might bring benefits (or even votes): a commitment to retain cash for the foreseeable future. (The key issue here, in my view, is one of privacy).

Environment

Environmental policy is a particular bête noire of mine. I am utterly opposed to the green agenda, and well aware of the shakiness of its scientific basis. Two years ago, I wrote a paper on the 1987 United Nations report that laid the foundations for the green juggernaut, and how the problems it raised had been dealt with. This paper was published at wattsupwiththat.com [2], the world’s most viewed site on global warming and climate change. It will be an interesting read, I hope, even for those who are familiar with the subject; and an eye-opener for those who are not.

On the global warming front, what I would like to see in the Brexit party manifesto is a commitment to a thorough, independent, unbiased audit of all aspects of the matter. Something like what Donald Trump has been trying (but has, apparently, failed) to do with his “Presidential Committee on Climate Security,” but wider in scope, and probably using an international team. It should cover, not just the history and the science, but also (at least): The split between human and non-human causes of warming, error bars and levels of uncertainty, costs versus benefits, interpretation and use of the precautionary principle, the IPCC processes, media coverage (including the BBC), and the UK government’s role in the whole thing, including Climategate and the inquiries which followed it. I have managed to put together enough of the backstory to know that there are many, many skeletons in that particular closet, and many of those skeletons are UK politicians, bureaucrats or scientists. You can find that backstory in Part 2 of my article at [3].

Which brings me to cars. The article gives the backstory to the “war on cars” being waged against us by Sadiq Khan and other greedy politicians. Here, also, there are plenty of skeletons to be found. Such as: moving the goalposts, and making costly commitments on our behalf without rigorous justification. An independent and objective audit of this matter, too, could expose a lot of foul play by politicians and their minions over several decades. Such a proposal might be a vote-winner as well, attracting those who need to drive in London, but won’t be able to afford to from 2021 unless there’s a big change in direction.

Regarding pollution in general, for me the rational approach must be “polluter pays,” in which polluters are required to compensate those affected by their pollution, according to accurate estimates of the social cost of that pollution.

As to energy policy, I’ve not looked at it in enough detail to say “this is what I think you should do.” But I’d suggest that coal fired plants (with scrubbers for the bad stuff) should continue as long as they are cost-effective. Fracking should be encouraged. And nuclear power should be an increasing part of the mix. Solar power should be used primarily for off-grid applications, and wind power – both onshore and offshore – should be nixed.

All this leads to the United Nations. The globalist and green agenda has been driven by the UN for 50 years now; and since the 2016 “national emissions directive,” the EU has been its policeman around these parts. In my view, Brexit is only the first step; UNexit must follow. In the globalist agenda, the UN is the organ-grinder, while the EU is only the monkey. The EU is also, of course, the prototype for George Orwell’s Eurasia.

Immigration and population

Unlike many Brexit Party supporters, immigration isn’t one of my hot-button issues. I take the view that, if they’re good people, they should be allowed to come and live here; and if they aren’t, they shouldn’t. Myself, I would be happy with a points-based immigration system that has no fixed quotas, and doesn’t discriminate either for or against Europeans.

My concern is more with population increase in general, and the attempts to cram more and more people into places where the infrastructure is already creaking. In the borough in which I live (Waverley) the plan seems to be to increase the population by something like 22 per cent over 20 years. Even leaving aside that government shouldn’t be planning our lives in detail like that, this seems rather high. I don’t have specific policy ideas to offer here, but I do think that a big increase in transparency would be a benefit to all.

Other issues

I am interested to know how the Brexit Party plans to address civil liberties issues such as the “snoopers’ charter,” Cameron’s secret courts, and low confidence in the police.

At the rally, Nigel Farage described the party candidates as “people with principle,” who will put “country before career.” This would, indeed, be a pleasant change from the existing system. But will the Brexit party actually be able to deliver the honesty and integrity, which is so sadly lacking in all of mainstream politics today? Particularly given the pressures it will be under from a hostile establishment media, that has little or no concern for truth or ethics? Having never been a member of a political party before, I have no personal experience to compare the Brexit party with. But I would expect that it will require very much stronger quality control systems than any of the old-style parties have ever had.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my suggestions, and I look forward to working with your candidate in my area. He or she is going to have his or her work cut out, as we’re up against a certain Jeremy Hunt.


[1] https://misesuk.org/2019/07/02/an-afternoon-with-the-brexit-party/

[2] https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/04/20/our-common-future-revisited-how-did-the-roadmap-for-the-green-juggernaut-fare-over-30-years/

[3] https://misesuk.org/2019/05/31/the-backstory-behind-the-war-on-cars-in-the-uk/

Thursday, 4 July 2019

A July 4th Message to my American Friends

I receive the Future of Freedom Foundation’s daily message, and today it said:

Yesterday, the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps never was nor will be decided among men. A resolution passed without one dissenting colony, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States. – John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams [July 3, 1776]

And then I looked at the preamble of your US Constitution (1788):

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, …

And I stopped right there. How did “free and independent States,” in just 12 years, turn into “a more perfect Union?” Is that not exactly the same ploy that the EU has used to try to force people in Europe into “an ever-closer Union?” When, back in 2004, I looked at the then proposed “European constitution” (which became the Lisbon Treaty), what I wrote about its very first sentence was:

"Reflecting the will of the citizens and states of Europe to build a common future." Is this not pre-judging the question? We have not been asked.

My American friends, this July 4th, amid the fireworks and the military parades, I think you need to ask yourselves some questions. Is what you have today what your Founding Fathers intended? If no, what went wrong? Who did it? (Alexander Hamilton, I’d guess). How do you get yourselves out of the resulting mess? And how can you prevent such a thing recurring in the future?

While we your friends across the pond are struggling for Brexit, I think you should turn your minds to your own situation. Some of the needed monikers are obvious – Massexit, Calexit (good riddance! some will say) and Nebrexit, for example. Others are more obscure.

I once wrote a (very poor) article, which nevertheless had a great title. “I love Americans, but I hate America.” What I hate about America is its warfare state, and its disesteem for anyone who steps out of line in any way. But many years ago, I lived in Boston for four months and in suburban Chicago for a year. In between the two, I bicycled coast-to-coast, entering the US in Maine and finishing in California. Almost everyone I met, of all races, was good and kind to me. And since then, I have met, and learned much from, many fine human beings, who also happened to be Americans.

I didn’t plan to say anything about Donald Trump in this missive. But I will. If I had to rate Trump as the good, the bad or the ugly, I’d pick ugly. He’s done good things, and bad things. At least, he’s an order of magnitude less evil than the alternative would have been.

So, I’ll say again: I love Americans, but I hate America.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

An Afternoon with the Brexit Party

On 30th June 2019, I attended a “rally” organized by the UK’s Brexit party in the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham. At age 66, it was my first ever party political event, although I had been to an anti-EU meeting in London back in 2005. There were 5,500 people there, so I was told. There would only have been 5,499 without me!

Now, I am uncompromisingly pro-Brexit. Indeed, I see leaving the EU as the first step back from a cliff edge; the sine qua non for any possibility of change for the better in the politics of the islands called Britain. But I seek far more than just Brexit. I am, as those who know me will be aware, opposed to politics. All the dishonest, destructive politics that we suffer today.

Before the Brexit referendum three years before, I had not voted in 29 years. One of my main reasons for voting Leave was that, way back in the 1970s, the European project had been mis-sold to the people of the UK. Other reasons were to put an end to the ceaseless stream of pointless or actively destructive directives from the EU, and a desire not to be there when the EU’s ticking economic time-bomb goes off. Three years later, I am also angry that, in a supposed democracy, with the will of the people being so clearly expressed in a referendum, the political class nevertheless chose to renege on their promises, and to obstruct that will.

I find all the mainstream political parties – Tories, Labour, “slob dims” (as I call them) and greenies – to be criminal gangs. When I heard the Brexit party was gaining support – enough to get at least some “representation” in parliament, unlike their predecessors UKIP – I joined the party, and went to the rally to try to find out what they were about.

Can these guys and gals, I thought, really overturn the current system, and give ordinary people a proper say, at last, in how the UK is run? Or might they even, possibly, become in time able to do more; to unhinge the current system, and replace it by something that works for good people, not for politicized slime?

Before I went, two things had already impressed me about the Brexit Party. One, they keep you informed. I was pleased to receive an e-mail saying that, if I wanted to be considered to be a Brexit Party candidate in the next general election, I should fill out their on-line form. I didn’t do it, because I’m not a natural front man. But I did appreciate the invitation, a lot.

The other thing I liked was that they managed to put together a group of MEP candidates with a hugely diverse range of views. How did Nigel Farage manage to get Claire Fox, a former “Revolutionary Communist,” and Ann Widdecombe, a social conservative with the cachet of having voted against the Climate Change Bill, to stand on the same platform? (My answer to that shows me up as the radical individualist I am: They both care about people more than about politics).

So, to that afternoon in Birmingham. The hall was cavernous, and the occasion loud and full of razzmatazz, Superbowl style. Annunziata Rees-Mogg began the cheerleading, though I saw no pom-poms. “We’re here to fight the establishment and wake up politicians that have ignored us for so long.” “These candidates are people. Not the same old same old.” “This is where we start the fight. Real people start to shape the future.” Stirring words, indeed. But can the Brexit Party accomplish the deeds necessary to back them up?

Richard Tice, party chairman, followed up with: “This is a proper Party.” He told us of the policy team he had set up, and gave us their e-mail address. He said: “Get people moving, businesses moving.” He outlined a claimed £200 billion in government savings: cancel HS2, no “divorce” payment to the EU, cut “foreign aid” by at least half. All this to be used to develop “the regions.” And he proposed to cancel interest on student loans. That’s an idea I need to get my head fully around, but at first sight it looks positive.

The Brexit Party, it seems, has decided that it can cede London to the mainstream parties, and adopt policies that favour those outside London at the expense of Londoners. My first thought is, that’s good tactics, given that few people these days have much time for City slickers or bail-out bankers. Whether it’s good strategy, though, is another question. And whether it’s democratic (whatever that means) is a deeper question yet.

Next up was Tim Martin, founder of Wetherspoons. Now, I’m a Wetherspoon fan, eating (and drinking!) once or twice a week at my local, the Jack Phillips in Godalming. Tim has done a grand job to build his chain, and to maintain such high standards of quality for the price. And it’s great to see businessmen, who create wealth, in a position to influence and even direct the policies of government, which today is such a huge destroyer of wealth.

Tim said one very memorable thing: “I have no problem with European people; they are friends and allies. The problem is the EU.” Proost, mon ami! And he, rightly, cast scorn on the idea that there needs to be a “deal” to leave the EU. “Lots of little deals,” he said. And: “Everything you can buy from the EU, you can buy from the rest of the world.”

Yet, I disagree with Tim about what I consider to be his – and the Brexit party’s – “rose-tinted spectacles” view of democracy. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but in my view the problem with democracy is that it assumes that the people who live in a particular country have some kind of “general will” – as postulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. When you get a binary, divisive issue like Brexit or not Brexit, democracy fails. Whichever way the decision goes, a lot of people will be very angry. Of course, in this case there’s an easy solution. Britain leaves the EU, free movement is maintained for at least a couple of years, and Leavers say to Remainers: “If you want to live in the EU, emigrate to it.” (I told you I’m a radical!)

Then Richard Tice took over again, branding Tory leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt “the blond and the bland.” Of Johnson, I have no personal experience. But I am unlucky enough to have Hunt as “my” MP, and my contacts with him have been far less than positive. “Insipid” would have been a better word than bland, I think.

Then Richard gave us the results of the five-issue poll, which the Brexit Party had sent out to its members a few days before. On that evidence, I found myself on the “moderate” side of the party. For example, I was among the 47% who wanted to reform the House of Lords, as opposed to the 40% who wanted to abolish it altogether.

And then, the most important moment of the whole show. (No, not the air-raid sirens!) Richard Tice introduced his party leader, and I finally learned how to pronounce “Farage.” Did it rhyme with “carriage?” No. With “garage?” No. It rhymes with – wait for it – “in charge.” “Put Farage in charge” is a half decent slogan, no?

Nigel Farage’s speech, I’m sure, is available in many places on the Net, so I’ll just quote a few of the things he said, which were most important to me. “Brexit is an opportunity to make a fresh start.” Yup. “Government doesn’t understand small businesses.” Having had my career ruined by New Labour’s bad tax law called IR35, initially opposed by but eventually more and more heavily enforced by the Tories, I concur heartily. “Genuine apprenticeships” for young people. Yup. “Sensible transport schemes so the country can get to work.” Yup. And back from work in the evening, too.

Here, I was disappointed that Nigel didn’t say more. In rural and many suburban areas, the car is the only viable means of getting around, especially for older people. Yet the political class have been conducting a witch-hunt against car drivers for more than 25 years. With more than 30 million cars registered in the UK, drivers are a huge constituency. Given that the witch-hunt is being conducted using emissions regulations originating from the United Nations, agreed to by politicians like Blair and Cameron that ought to have known better, and enforced by the EU, I think the Brexit party could maybe look towards drivers as a potential source of massive support. Even, perhaps, in outer London.

Nigel Farage ended with: “The old politics cannot be fixed. We need fundamental reforms. The Brexit Party will be the most radical force in British politics in over a century.” Amen to that – as and when it happens.

I stood near the hall exit for a while, people-watching. There was a fairly even gender balance among the audience. Not many were younger than 30, but ages from 30 to 70 were quite evenly mixed. There were a few black people, but I saw almost no Asians; unexpected, considering we were in Birmingham. (Though the gentleman seated on my left, as it happened, was originally from India).

Then, the day’s big disappointment. There’s a Wetherspoon right outside the Atrium exits, and those of us of a convivial disposition wanted to meet some new friends, and to drink a toast to Tim Martin at the same time. But no. We were told at 5:35pm that it would open at 6, so I walked to my hotel, dropped off the Brexit merchandise, and came back. Only to find the door locked, and the place taken over by a VIP party. (Presumably, Brexit VIPs). That was a pity. To build a movement on the scale the Brexit party requires, in my view, needs people new to the movement to be able to relax and socialize with each other after the formal events. The Labour party, after all, was founded on working men’s clubs. I do hope this problem will be rectified before the regional conferences in September.

I did, however, later in the evening meet a fellow Brexiteer and his wife (and dog) in the Little Owl pub, half an hour or so’s walk from the NEC. He was a plumber from Dartford, and a big fan of Nigel Farage personally. We did find some disagreements – my stance on migration is more liberal than his, for example – but we also found a lot in common, and parted friends. I also had some people in the hotel, who had come to the NEC for another event, say to me: “We wish we had gone to the Brexit Party rally!”

So, back to my question “Can the Brexit Party overturn the current system?” I didn’t, on the evidence of one day, find a clear answer either way; but my general impression was positive rather than negative. I’ll certainly keep in contact with them, and do what I can to help. I have also some amateur expertise in certain policy areas, notably “climate change” and pollution from cars. So, I’ll be talking to their policy people about those things. But I’m not letting my hopes get too high just yet.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

On Convivials versus Politicals

Today, I’m going to compare and contrast the two sides in the big battle of our times. I call them Convivials and Politicals. Much of what I say today, I’ve already said in earlier essays. What is new, though, is how I choose to organize it. Think, if you will, of a large, milling mass of people, which re-arranges itself before your eyes into two opposing armies.

The word “convivial” means living together, and in particular living together well. Convivials, or convivial people, conduct themselves in a convivial way. Convivial conduct is treating others peacefully, tolerantly, honestly and civilly, and respecting their rights – as long, of course, as they do the same for you. It is the habitual behaviour of those who are, generally speaking, good people to have around you. It can be summed up as: “Don’t be an asshole.”

The word “politicals,” on the other hand, is one I haven’t used before. I’ve often referred to some of them loosely as “the political class.” But I also include as “politicals” those that hang on to the coat-tails of the political class. Politicals are those that promote, support or take profit from damaging, unjust or rights-violating policies of political governments. They include those that seek to impose ideological, religious or lifestyle agendas on others; to unjustly enrich themselves or their cronies; or to use government power to get away with acts that, objectively, are crimes.

Many people today, it’s fair to say, are not fully on one side or the other. Yet most have a bias. Those towards the convivial side are basically good people, who have not yet recognized the magnitude or the seriousness of what the politicals are doing to them. Those towards the other side, while they may have only some, or only a few, of the characteristics of politicals which I list below, nevertheless support the politicals, if only through voting for them.

Convivials

So, what are the characteristics of convivial people?

If there is one thing above all else that typifies convivial people, it is that they use what Franz Oppenheimer called the economic means. I have paraphrased this as “honest work and fair exchange.” Convivial people strive, as far as they are able, to provide goods and services, for which others are voluntarily willing to pay.

As to their aspirations, convivials usually follow a rule such as: “desire for others what you desire for yourself.” Wanting to live in peace, they desire peace for all. Wanting success, prosperity and happiness, and being willing to earn them, they desire success, prosperity and happiness for all those who earn them. Wanting freedom, they desire maximum freedom for all, consistent with respecting the rights of other convivial people. Being honest themselves, convivials put a high value on honesty. Many also value progress and innovation.

Convivials have, for the most part, the mind-set of the people to whom, in an earlier essay, I gave the name “Uppers.” They take a bottom-up approach to the world. Knowing that they are individuals, and thus different from everyone else, they seek to be tolerant of those who differ from them; for example, in race or culture. They will also tolerate people of differing religious views; as long, of course, as they show similar tolerance in return.

Whenever they can, convivial people take an attitude of live and let live. In particular, they will never seek to force any political ideology, religious dogma, economic injustice, or unreasonable lifestyle restriction on anyone against their wills. Nor will they give support or encouragement to anyone that seeks to force any such imposition on anyone.

Convivials respect truth. When making judgements, particularly those which impact other people, they like to seek out the truth of the matter. They value objective evidence, and seek to avoid being influenced by rhetorical tricks. They value means of seeking truths, such as good science. And they try their hardest to avoid lying to or misleading others.

In ethics, convivials tend to think of right and wrong as being objective, even if it may be hard to work out what is right or wrong in particular cases. They are naturally peaceful, unless attacked. They think of everyone as morally equal; no-one should have moral privileges over others. Recognizing that rights come from our nature as human beings, they respect and uphold the natural human rights and freedoms of others, provided of course that those others reciprocate. And they have respect and concern for all their fellow convivial human beings.

Convivials strive always to be honest, to behave with integrity, and to act in good faith. Whenever possible, they will try to keep the promises they have made. They also take responsibility for the effects of their voluntary actions on others. If they unjustly harm others, they know they are obliged to compensate their victims. Moreover, convivials take responsibility for guiding their own lives. And they strive to be as independent as they can be.

They will also desire justice for everyone; and justice must be according to the conduct of each individual. Thus those, who don’t do harm to others, deserve not to be harmed. And those that do unjust harms to others cannot complain if they themselves are correspondingly harmed in return.

As to government, convivials want it to be for the benefit of the governed. And that means, for the benefit of everyone among the governed, real criminals excepted. They will want government to be honest, impartial, and objective, and to follow the rule of law. They will want it to deliver objective justice to everyone, as far as that is possible. And they will be against war and warlike actions, except in self-defence, or at need in defence of others who are under attack.

In economics, convivials favour honest business and industry. They want low taxes and unfettered access to the market for all. They want property rights to be upheld. They want individuals and voluntary groups to be in control of their own means of production. They want investment decisions to be made privately, by individuals and by voluntary groups. And they favour economic growth, leading to better lives for all those who are willing to earn. And most of all, for those who are poor through no fault of their own.

Unconvivial, disconvivial, criminal, political

As I made clear in an earlier essay, even the most convivial people, on occasions, act in ways that are not convivial. As long as these unconvivial acts do not go too far, they can be dealt with by mutual tolerance; “live and let live,” if you will. Beyond this, if an act causes significant and unjust harm to someone, an obligation to compensate kicks in. However, if an unconvivial act is gross, malicious, irresponsible beyond the bounds of reason or persistently repeated, stronger action may be required against the perpetrator. Such acts I call disconvivial.

In today’s legal systems, the equivalent of disconvivial is “criminal.” Many acts considered criminal by governments – such as murder, aggressive violence, theft and fraud – are, indeed, disconvivial acts. These are real crimes, as opposed to merely disobeying “laws” made to enforce some political agenda. And many of those, that commit real crimes, show psychopathic tendencies. Such as: lying, deceit, recklessness, untrustworthiness, lack of empathy, lack of remorse.

But today’s political system also allows state or government actors, those that agitate for or support bad policies, and their cronies that profit from them, to get away with disconvivial acts. Things, that if done by ordinary people would be considered crimes, are seen as OK when done by the state, or by those to whom it grants privileges. Spying on people, hyping a non-problem with intent to procure political action, re-distributing wealth, or big business lobbying government for favours, for example. I call these acts political acts. Those that commit political acts often show arrogance and extreme dishonesty, in addition to the other psychopathic traits of common criminals. And they seek to use the immunity of the state to evade accountability. So, they are acting in bad faith.

Politicals

Politicals, as I said earlier, are those that promote, support or take profit from damaging, unjust or rights-violating policies of political governments. One trait common to many of them, is that they use Franz Oppenheimer’s political means. That is, legalized robbery; often including feeding at the taxpayer trough. On the other hand, many that are not directly paid by government are nonetheless politicals. Examples are crony corporate bosses (“political capitalists,” as I now call them) and their henchpersons; lobbyists; and agenda pushers in academe and in the media.

Unlike convivials, who all share a basic core of peacefulness, tolerance, honesty and civility, politicals fall into a number of sub-types, which may overlap. There are Bullies. There are Killjoys. There are Bossies, officious and overbearing, wanting to order people around. There are Power-grabbers, always looking to get themselves more of the trappings of power. There are Greedies, seeking power to make themselves and their friends rich. There are Guilt-trippers, that take delight in trying to make people feel guilty for just about anything. There are Snoopers. There are Meddlers, that love to interfere, to regulate, to restrict. There are Enviers; haters of success, and of people who earn it. There are Wasters, that favour huge projects that consume enormous amounts of other people’s resources; while taking their own cut, of course. There are Thieves. There are Dirty-tricksters. There are Troublemakers and Obstructers, that love to put obstacles in others’ way, to make people’s lives more difficult than they need be. There are Stop-the-Worlders, that hate human flourishing and progress; they form the backbone of the green movement. There are Agenda-pushers and Peddlers of lies, scares and “fake news.” And there are Rationalizers or Bullshitters, that do what their name says.

It might seem, at first sight, that all government employees are politicals, if only because they are paid out of taxation. And surely, those government employees that use their work time to promote, support or enforce policies that damage or violate the rights of innocent people, are politicals. But there do exist people who provide a valuable service, yet under current conditions have no other possible employer than government. Honest, non-politicized judges, magistrates and court officials fall into this category. As do honest police, and soldiers whose acts are of an entirely defensive or retaliatory nature.

There are also those, who work in professions which have been largely taken over by the state, such as teachers. With all such people, the question to ask must be: Do they strive to deliver full value to those who have been made to pay for them? If so, they’re OK.

What of politicians? In theory someone, who has gone into politics purely with the intention of making life better for all the people they represent, might be a convivial rather than a political. But in practice, such individuals are rare. Today’s systems of politics and political parties are so corrupting, that even those who enter politics with the highest motives usually end up becoming corrupted. So, the great majority of today’s politicians are politicals.

As to mind-set, most politicals seem to think like those I’ve called “Downers.” Their world-view is top-down. They are collectivists, seeing something they call “society” as more important than the individual. So, they are often intolerant of people who are different from them. They often show dislike or even hatred for those whose political views differ from their own. And instead of “live and let live,” they seek to force their agendas on others.

Politicals seem to have little or no respect for objective truth. Some, even, think that there are no facts. Much of the time, they disdain facts in favour of peddling their narratives and propaganda. And they will mislead, bullshit, insult or threaten those who refuse to accept their narratives.

They also seem to have little or no ethical sense. They think that right and wrong are subjective, or relative to a culture. Many of them see nothing wrong in using aggressive violence or war. Instead of accepting moral equality, they follow George Orwell’s “some animals are more equal than others.” And they, of course, are the ones that are more equal. If they accept any idea of human rights at all, they think these rights are not natural, but are granted by governments, and can be taken away. And far from showing empathy or concern for others, they like to control, exploit and bully people.

Politicals are, almost without exception, dishonest. They frequently lie, deceive, mislead, obfuscate, or seek to suppress the truth. They create problems that are not real, or hype them to make them seem bigger than they really are. They are often hypocrites, exhorting others to behave in one way, while themselves behaving in quite another. They break their promises without shame. They take risks with others’ money, and even with people’s lives. They are often glib and arrogant, seek to evade responsibility, and show no remorse. And many of them seem to have a constant need to virtue signal. All this, they do in bad faith.

For many politicals, politics is about imposing their agendas and ideologies on others. Such as: conservatism (social or religious), socialism, communism, fascism, political correctness, environmentalism or global government. So, they want the state Leviathan to grow ever larger and larger. They want it to pick winners and losers; as long, of course, as they themselves are always winners. They seem to think that, just because some bunch of politicians get together and make a “law,” that makes that “law” right. And they seek to silence, and to punish, anyone who gainsays their narratives. They show no concern at all for the innocent people, to whom their policies cause inconvenience, damage, suffering, or loss of opportunity. Meanwhile, they like to extol the virtues of “democracy,” but they only accept the verdict of “the people” when their side wins.

Politicals have little or no concept of individual, objective justice. Instead, many promote some nebulous “social justice.” In essence, they aim to steal from productive people, take a big cut for themselves, and re-distribute the rest to their cronies and to those whose support they seek.

As to the economy, most of today’s politicals hate honest business and industry. They hate small businesses and productive individuals. They hate private ownership of the means of production, commonly called “capitalism.” Yet, they make exceptions for their big corporate and banking cronies. They are against the free market, and pooh-pooh economic growth. They don’t want anyone to be rich or even well off, except themselves and their friends. And many of them support the deep green agenda, that actively seeks to destroy the industrial civilization which has been such a great benefit to us over the last two centuries and more.

Convivials versus politicals

Here’s the battle scene. On one side, there are the politicals. They do look a bit like an army. They have many officers and “leaders,” that want to set themselves above the others; though they also like to squabble with each other. Many of them are in uniform; whether pin-stripe suits, or police uniforms, or the kind of dress typically worn by middle-aged women in government. There is a perceptible sameness about many of them. They all like, and profit from, the current political system. And they don’t want to give up their privileges.

On the other side are the convivials. They don’t look like an army at all. While they do include some capable of leadership, they have no visible generals or colonels. Each of them is an individual. They are of all races, religions, cultures, social classes, shapes and sizes. Their dress ranges from suits, through casual, to industrial wear like boiler suits. At present, they are less numerous than the politicals. But their numbers are increasing, as more and more people come, oh so slowly, to understand how badly the politicals have been, and are, treating them.

The politicals are aware that the people on the other side are unhappy, and are starting to get angry. But they think of those people as “marks” – prospective victims – or even “deplorables.” And they want to crush them. On the other hand, the people in the convivial “army” merely want to get on with their lives in their own way. More and more, they are losing respect for politics, and for anyone that uses it for their own ends. So, they want the politicals off their backs.

Humans versus Neanderthals

It looks like a mismatch, doesn’t it? The politicals have everything going for them: power, money, organization, media, and many approving supporters. The convivials have no power, little or no money, no or little organization, few supporters as yet, and only a very small media presence, virtually all of it on the Internet.

And yet, and yet… the politicals seem worried. Recall Frank Furedi’s words, that I quoted in an earlier essay: “… most leaders find it difficult to believe in anything other than a scary future.” Recall the politicals’ constant harping on about “sustainability.” Could it be, that they know that the current political system – their system – is unsustainable? Recall the desires of deep green activists to curb, and eventually to destroy, our industrial civilization. Could it be that they, the politicals, could not survive in a free-market civilization without politics? Recall their screams of “there are too many humans on the planet!” Could it be, that their top-down political system inevitably fails when the number of people involved becomes large? After all, a plausible theory says the Neanderthals died out because they couldn’t live in larger groups as effectively as homo sapiens could. Recall, also, the politicals’ hue and cry about “species extinction.” Could it be that – like Neanderthals and homo sapiens – politicals and convivials have diverged into two species? Could it be their species, the political species, that is in danger of extinction? Could it be that homo sapiens convivalis is about to supersede homo sapiens politicus, just as homo sapiens once superseded homo neanderthalensis?

I spoke, earlier, of an “army” of convivial people, who are already aware of what the politicals have done to them. Their numbers are increasing; but, at the moment, slowly. The strategy for convivial people is, therefore, plain as a pikestaff. Get the message out there. Help people to see the politicals for what they are – criminals and worse. Help them to see that today’s politicals are not fit to be accepted into any society of convivial human beings. And that those among them, that have set out their stall to destroy human industrial civilization, are traitors to our civilization, and deserve to be kicked out of our civilization and denied all its benefits. Help more and more people to identify the individuals that are politicals, and to dump them.

Can some of the politicals, perhaps, save themselves – just as, if the genome evidence is to be believed, a few of the Neanderthals did? Surely. All they have to do is reform themselves, start to behave and continue to behave as convivial people, and fully compensate all those they wronged. But until they have done all that, no human being has any obligation to treat them as anything more than criminal vermin. The motto, I think, must be: “No forgiveness without compensation.”

I will end with words of John Locke, who said, of the human being under the law of Nature: “He and all the rest of mankind are one community, make up one society distinct from all other creatures. And were it not for the corruption and viciousness of degenerate men, there would be no need of any other, no necessity that men should separate from this great and natural community, and associate into lesser combinations.”

Does Locke not tell us where we should be heading? Today’s politicals are corrupt, vicious, degenerate men – and women. Let’s get rid of them and their politics. Let’s get rid of arbitrary borders, political agendas, bad laws, wars, injustices and re-distributory taxes. Then, and only then, can we return to our nature, and build a world-wide Civilization of convivial human beings.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

On the Troubles of our Times

Back in January 2008, I took a verbal snapshot of the many bad things the UK government was doing to us at the time. Today, I’ll carry this forward to the present. My purpose is to gain a better understanding of the troubles we suffer under today – and not just in the UK. And thus, to try to fathom what is going on underneath.

My list from 2008

Here are some brief extracts from my snapshot:

“Here in England, the news is uniformly bad. There is financial crisis and looming recession. Food and fuel prices are rocketing. Lifestyle fascists, having already made smokers into pariahs, are now gunning to do the same to alcohol drinkers. Selling our homes has been made harder. The European super-state is being forced on us by the back door. Taxes, as ever, go up and up, even as we are told they are being cut. Cameras film us wherever we go.

“Meanwhile, excuses are trotted out for yet more hassles and indignities to be imposed on us at airports. For yet longer detention without trial. For yet harsher penalties against drivers who break arbitrary speed limits, as those limits are being creepingly lowered. And the ID card project, designed to reduce us all to nothing more than numbers and DNA samples in a database, forges ahead. The agenda of control is out of control.

“All this is accompanied by torrents of anti-human propaganda. From ‘we’re a burden on the planet’ to ‘chimpanzees are more intelligent than humans,’ the humanity haters are having a field day. And, over all, there is a pall of constant fear. Fear of terrorism, fear of recession, fear of climate change, fear of any kind of risk. As sociologist Frank Furedi recently observed: ‘We really do live in an era when most leaders find it difficult to believe in anything other than a scary future.’”

The intervening period

Space does not allow me to give much detail on events since 2008. But I certainly see a continuation and expansion of the trends I saw back then. To be sure, we ordinary people in the UK have won on a few issues. Notably, we managed to stop the ID card project. We somehow deflected their planned “war on alcohol” on to softer targets like soda-pop and chocolate. And eventually the period for detention without trial was lowered to 14 days. But even that is far longer than in other countries. So, many of the woes I listed – government hassling us, impoverishing us, and violating our rights – continue unabated.

In the financial area, for example, the predicted recession did materialize. Failed and failing bankers got bail-outs, which taxpayers had to pay for. Since then, the economy has gone up and down, but mainly down. Industry has declined, as shown by the recent failure of British Steel. Prices have gone up inexorably, without wages increasing to compensate. (An unsurprising result of policies that make energy unnecessarily expensive; along with so called “quantitative easing,” also known as inflating the currency). Taxes, too, have gone up hugely. Every few months there’s a new ruse to take away yet more of our hard-earned wealth, and feed it into the insatiable maw of the state.

As to cameras spying on us, now there’s one for every 14 people in the UK. But also, many of these cameras can now do things they previously couldn’t, like facial recognition. Moreover, Edward Snowden’s revelations made us aware of the scale of the surveillance to which we are all subjected in the Anglophone countries. But since then, there have been repeated calls from the usual suspects for more surveillance! And in 2016, the “Snoopers’ Charter” bill gave them just that; though appeals against it are still going through the courts.

This spying on us, we’re often told, is supposed to be about “fighting terrorism.” Surely, there have been a number of terrorist attacks in Western countries in the last decade or so. To which the media, as is their wont, have screamingly over-reacted. The reality is, that in 2010 non-state terrorism caused about 13,000 deaths world-wide. For each of these deaths by terrorism, there were about 5 deaths in “official” armed conflicts, 40 by interpersonal violence, and 60 by suicide. Since then, the vast majority of terrorist attacks have been in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Many have been in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria; all of which have been targets of military actions by Western governments, which have led to at least a million deaths in those countries.

The fact is, terrorism is nasty and destructive; but political governments are far nastier and more destructive. Terrorism is no good reason at all to curb the rights of innocent people.

Then there is police misconduct and brutality. Confidence in police is low in many UK cities, particularly among black people. There have been cases of wrongful arrest of an MP, and police misconduct against another. Even beside the 2005 killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, there was the dubious killing of Mark Duggan, which sparked extensive riots. And police tasered a blind man. Yet the government want to give police more power, including “emergency” powers to access phone and internet records. And they want to issue tasers to all police officers!

Then there is Cameron’s introduction of “secret courts,” including secret evidence and closed court hearings. A clear violation of human rights; and liable to be used, so it seems, against anyone who annoys the establishment, even in minor matters. Combine this with a suffocating climate of political correctness, in which all of us are in danger of being accused of nebulous and wide ranging “hate crimes,” and you have tyranny indeed.

Add to all this the scandal of many MPs grossly over-claiming expenses. The NHS failing – again. Micro-chipping dogs; will we be next? More red tape to bind businesses. A proposal to abolish cash, so making every item of every purchase, however small, traceable via database to the individual who made it – a boon to the Lifestyle Police, no? If not also to the taxman.

Then there is large scale immigration, deliberately encouraged by government; presumably, to increase the tax base in an attempt to shore up the Ponzi scheme called the welfare state. Accompanied, ironically, by a scandal in which many long-standing UK residents were treated as “illegal” immigrants. And a proposal for tougher prison sentences for “people trafficking!” Meanwhile, asylum seekers can be held indefinitely without any hearing.

But the worst of the worst among the UK political class’s behaviour has been in two areas: Brexit and environment. Despite a very clear instruction from the people, and despite committing to it in their election manifestos, they have failed to take the UK out of the European Union. It’s become clear that many, if not most, among the political class don’t want Brexit, and never have done. They have put their own selfish and party interests ahead of the expressed will of the people. That is atrociously bad faith. Some of them, even, have worked deviously towards an outcome that might look like an exit, but in fact would bind the UK ever tighter into the EU.

As to the environment, all the main parties have descended into deep green madness. They and their media have backed the “humans are causing catastrophic climate change” fraud with everything they’ve got. Not only making energy far more expensive than it need be, but also risking the stability of the electricity grid in the future. They have made a big hoo-hah out of the “problem” of plastic waste. Even though most plastic which finds its way into the oceans comes from Asia; and the UK has never been a significant contributor to the problem. They have made to the EU and UN commitments on air pollution, which cannot be met. To subject us to these inflexible, ever tightening, collective limits was clearly an act of bad faith. But as a result, they are now seeking to make driving cars so expensive, that many of us are likely to lose our personal mobility entirely. Beyond this, they have banned new petrol and diesel cars from 2040. Moreover, our so called “representatives” have capitulated to an extreme and
disruptive green activist group, and declared a “climate emergency” for which there is no hard evidence at all.

The wider world

Looking at the wider world, you see similar problems. Whole governments have been bailed out – Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus. The political classes do not show respect or concern for ordinary people. There is dishonesty everywhere. Political debate has become more and more polarized, and nastier in tone. The green agenda is rampant. Even the churches have bought into it. Meanwhile, life becomes more and more of a struggle for ordinary people.

In many places, there are “grass roots” stirrings from those who are fed up with the whole system. In democracies, new political parties are springing up, like the Brexit party. But nothing seems to be bringing about any real change. The much vaunted “Arab Spring” has all but petered out, with Tunisia the only country in the region to have made significant reforms. And Islamic extremism is on the rise in places like Turkey.

Meanwhile, there are ongoing troubles in countries like the Ukraine, Venezuela, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. And the hopes many Americans and others had, that Donald Trump might prove to be different from, and better than, his predecessors, are starting to fade. Indeed, the USA seems to be continuing its policy of behaving as the biggest bully in the world.

A longer-term perspective

Our troubles today, I think, are the results of more than a century and a half of political and moral decline. There has been, as I described in an earlier essay, a centuries long battle between two opposite visions of politics. One is the top-down Leviathan state, in which the ruling classes essentially have licence to do what they will, and the rights and freedoms of ordinary people are not important. The other is the bottom-up, Enlightenment view, in which government is supposed to be for the good of the people – that is, of all the people. For a brief period in the 19th century, Enlightenment values were in the ascendant. But since then, Leviathan has been fighting back, and has inexorably increased its power, destructiveness and arrogance.

In the UK, it seems to me, the 19th-century reforms towards universal suffrage also contained the seeds of the rot. As I’ve recounted elsewhere, “democracy” has not proved to be much of a check on the state. If anything, it’s had the opposite effect, by giving a false legitimacy to bad governments. This was compounded when the political parties started to appeal to particular voter bases, aiming to benefit their own supporters (and themselves) at the expense of everyone else. Then, during the 1980s, the parties started to converge. The factions within the political class began to align themselves with each other, and against the interests of the people they were supposed to be serving. Something similar happened in the media too. To such an extent, that it’s now very rare for mainstream media to deviate from the politically correct message of the day. Even when that message is no more than lies, deceptions and hype.

Meanwhile, the big corporations got in on the act. They began to lobby government for subsidies, or for policies to favour them or to hamstring their competitors. This incest between corporations and government led to increases in the power and wealth of both, at the expense of smaller businesses and of ordinary people. And so, wealth was re-distributed from the poor and the middle classes to the rich. Meanwhile, the financial sector, encouraged by (and, some say, copying) government, became more and more irresponsible with other people’s money.

To add to all this, the UK political class have enthusiastically adopted the globalist, internationalist and environmentalist agenda, peddled by the United Nations and the European Union. This despite the policies resulting from this agenda being ruinous to ordinary people. But the statist political class don’t care. To act in bad faith, against the interests of the people they’re supposed to serve, has become for them the norm, not the exception.

How did they get away with it?

How has the state contrived to do all these things to us, without sparking a revolution? One way is by offering people “carrots,” to make them think the state is a benefit to them. Education is one example of this. Initially, state provision of education did improve standards; but over the long term, it appears to have produced a dumbing-down. And when a political class sets the curriculum, what will be taught will be only what the political class wants to be taught.

Welfare, pensions and health care are more such carrots. But obviously, carrots have to be paid for by someone. And that can only be the taxpayer. That, and an aging recipient population, are why taxes go up and up. That’s also why they want to get rid of cash; to make even the tiniest transactions visible, and so taxable. And that’s why they encourage large scale immigration, despite the cultural problems it brings with it. All these things, they have done in bad faith.

Another thing the state does is take measures to protect itself. This is what the surveillance is really about – the state seeking early warning of any possible opposition. This is what the political correctness and the secret courts are about, too. The political class want to be able to get anyone they want to, with innocence being no defence. And, while gun ownership has never been a big part of UK culture, I think it no coincidence that the Dunblane massacre was used as a lever to bring in very tight gun laws. All these things, too, they have done in bad faith.

And then there are the scares. In 1918, H. L. Mencken wrote: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” And the state has taken his advice very seriously.

Terrorism is one such hobgoblin; real, but grossly overhyped. The environmental scares – global warming, air pollution, species extinction – are far less real. Indeed, looking objectively into these issues, I find no evidence that any of them is a big problem. To talk, as some do, of climate change as a threat on a par with a world war is sheer lunacy.

I do, though, find plenty of evidence of skulduggery on the part of the alarmists, of government itself and of its advisors. They seek to curb, and ultimately to bring down, our industrial civilization, which has done so much for all of us – including themselves. They have arbitrarily moved goalposts, e.g. from a target of 2 degrees above “pre-industrial” levels to 1.5 degrees. They have disguised politics as science. They have refused to release data to allow replication of studies. They have deleted, mis-represented and (probably) doctored data. They have sought to suppress dissenting views. They have whitewashed claims of alarmist misconduct. In environmental matters, they have inverted the burden of proof, and negated the presumption of innocence. And they have made costly commitments on behalf of us all, without rigorous justification. In all these things, the political class and their cohorts have acted in bad faith.

Whither the state?

For a while, a state can get away with ruses like these. The political class and their media and hangers-on can lie and distort the truth. They can reject all criticism, never correct their story, and never admit they were wrong. They can intimidate people into believing and following their agenda. They can harass, bully, impoverish or even murder anyone who tries to gainsay them. But over the long term, this is a high-risk strategy. After a while, the statists will start to lose people’s hearts and minds. Indeed, this is already happening.

But the key, I think, is that as Frank Furedi identified, the political class and their media find it hard – indeed, all but impossible – to see any positive prospects for the future. That raises the question: What are they afraid of? What is it, that causes the global political class and their hangers-on to be so negative about the future?

My diagnosis is as follows. I think the political classes know that, despite all their ploys, their state and the current political system are, slowly but surely, losing credibility and support among the people. And once people see through one of their scams, all the others immediately become suspect; and the bad faith that underlies them becomes more and more obvious. It’s becoming clear that the current system is not sustainable, either politically or economically. And that is what makes the statists fearful; because the inevitable consequence is that their system will eventually collapse, and they themselves will be dumped out of power.

This loss of credibility is greatest in the Anglophone nations, like the UK and the USA; but it’s happening in other places, too. As yet, those of us who have woken ourselves up, and have lost all respect and fellow feeling for the state and its political class, are a minority. But we are increasing. When enough people come to understand how badly they have been treated, there will be much anger against those responsible. That anger, properly channelled, can lead to real change for the better.

This is a dangerous time, of course. We must not only spread the truth about the state and explicate our alternatives to it, but we must also stay alive and solvent. But we owe it to ourselves, and to those around us, to be always rationally optimistic about the future. Optimists are sometimes wrong, of course; but we can’t afford to be pessimistic. For in the end, pessimists almost always turn out to have been right!

Friday, 31 May 2019

The backstory behind the war on cars in the UK

On May 20th, 2019, I gave a talk to the Libertarian Alliance about the damaging political policies being imposed on car drivers in the UK, and the history behind them. Normally, these talks are recorded on video. But on this occasion, an unfortunate combination of circumstances prevented a recording. As this subject is a topical one – and becoming more so by the day – I thought it appropriate to create a “transcript” of the talk, re-constructed from my notes.

Introduction

On April 8th, 2019, London mayor Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) went live in the Congestion Charge area in central London. It now costs the driver £12.50 a day, on top of the congestion charge, to drive in this zone a diesel car built before September 2015, or a petrol car built before 2006. This is an outrageous amount; and it also has to be paid at week-ends! This scheme is planned to be extended to all of the area inside North and South Circular Roads in October 2021. And after that, who knows?

Beyond this, there is talk of charging drivers of diesel cars to enter any of 35 or so cities around the UK. Some cities, like Southampton, have decided not to do this. Others, like Birmingham, are pressing on. Meanwhile, on May 9th the Times began a campaign claiming that “air pollution on the streets is poisoning 2.6 million schoolchildren,” and that this is due to “clogged roads”.

And yet, a recent (May 2nd) Sky News poll showed that more than 50 per cent of a random sample of people in the UK were “unwilling to significantly reduce the amount they drive, fly and eat meat,” either to combat climate change or to protect the environment in a more general sense. This is evidence of a huge disconnect between the political classes and the people!

There is a long backstory behind all this, which not many people seem to be aware of. In the last two years, I’ve managed to pull a lot of this backstory together. So, tonight I’ll bring it out into the open for you. In the process, I’ll identify what I call the Ten Deadly Dishonesties. These are attitudes and ploys that anti-car and other green campaigners have used, many of them more than once, in the course of their political machinations.

Outline of my talk

My talk will consist of five parts. In Part 1, I’ll give a very brief history of the green agenda in general, and the part played in it by the United Nations. In Part 2, I’ll give some backstory behind “global warming,” the central plank of the green agenda. I know that Nico Metten gave a presentation to you on this subject a few months ago; so those of you, who listened to that talk, will already be experts on the science! Therefore, I’ll talk mainly about the history and politics behind the scare, both of which are closely intertwined with the backstory to the war on cars.

In Part 3, I’ll discuss the background, and the regulatory framework within which all this is happening. And in Parts 4 and 5, I’ll look at the two kinds of pollution, which are being used as the main excuses for the war on drivers and our cars. These are: particulate matter (“PM”, and in particular PM2.5) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Part 1: The UN and the green agenda

Those of you who have studied the green agenda will already know that the driver of it, all along, has been the United Nations. This has been so ever since 1970, the year of the first Earth Day. The then UN Secretary General, U Thant, personally sanctioned the Earth Day idea!

In 1972, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) was started, under the directorship of Maurice Strong. Strong was a Canadian oil baron, and he had a scandal ridden career. His attitude can be summed up by the following quote, from a 1997 magazine interview: “Frankly, we may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse.”

This is the first of my Ten Deadly Dishonesties; enmity towards our industrial and capitalist civilization, which has given so much to every one of us. Including, of course, to Maurice Strong. Strong himself, though, is no longer with us. He was implicated in the Oil-for-Food scandal of 2005, went to live in China, and died in 2015.

In 1982, the UN put forward a Resolution called the World Charter for Nature. This included extreme statements, like: “Activities which might have an impact on nature shall be controlled,” and “where potential adverse effects are not fully understood, the activities should not proceed.” The Charter was passed by 111 votes to 1, with 18 abstentions. The USA was the only country voting against.

On to 1987, the year in which a UN report called Our Common Future laid out a blueprint for a “green” future. Maurice Strong was on the commission that wrote it – surprise, surprise.

In 2017, I wrote a headpost about that report, which you can find at wattsupwiththat.com, the world’s No.1 climate skeptic website. Broadly speaking, the report raised alarms on 14 environmental issues. They included species loss, acid rain (later re-badged as “air quality”) and global warming. These are the three that are currently being actively pushed. In terms of the car, Our Common Future focused mainly on third world countries and cities. The agenda to force people in the West out of our cars came later. But the report was hardly moderate. It included extremist rhetoric such as: “Development involves a progressive transformation of economy and society.” And “We are serving notice… that the time has come to take the decisions needed.”

Our Common Future led to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to whose extreme agenda idiot politicians like the then UK Prime Minister, John Major, signed up with glee. As I like to put it, they sold us all down the Rio. In particular, they signed up to a binding Framework Convention on Climate Change, and to Agenda 21 (which has since morphed into Agenda 2030).

The Framework Convention on Climate Change led to the yearly “Conference of the Parties” meetings, about which you’ve heard so much. And, in particular, it led to the meetings in Copenhagen in 2009 and Paris in 2015, which aimed to reach binding agreements to keep global temperatures below some completely arbitrary limit. At Paris, the second of the Ten Deadly Dishonesties became apparent: moving the goalposts. The “limit” touted prior to Paris was 2 degrees Celsius above “pre-industrial levels.” But in 2015, it looked (before the El Niño which started in that year) as though global warming had stopped, and wasn’t going to reach 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, or anywhere near it. So, they arbitrarily lowered the limit from 2 degrees to 1.5! That was moving the goalposts, no? And later on, when we come to PM2.5, I’ll show you an even more egregious example of moving the goalposts.

As to Agenda 21, I read it, and wished I hadn’t. It consists of 350 pages of bureaucratese, in which the word “women” occurs more than 250 times! It includes demands such as: “Significant changes in the consumption patterns of industries, governments, households and individuals.” And “Favouring high-occupancy public transport.” This was where the anti-car agenda came in, seeking to force drivers in Western countries out of our cars. Moreover, Agenda 21 was to be implemented at the local government level. So, it passed under many people’s political radar. A clever trick, no?

To sum up: In environmental matters, don’t believe the UN, or anyone associated with it.

Part 2: The backstory behind “global warming”

The accusation, that human emissions of carbon dioxide are causing catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW), appears to be a factual matter. It ought to be easy to establish the facts beyond reasonable doubt, using honest, unbiased science. Then, if the accusation turns out to be true, it’s possible to make policy decisions fair to everyone. Yet, what we have is a highly charged rumpus, in which governments and virtually all the mainstream media (and, most of all, the BBC) peddle the global warming narrative at the tops of their voices. And those sceptical of the narrative are labelled with nasty names like “deniers” or “flat earthers.”

The organization at the centre of this rumpus is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It was established in 1988; and guess what, it’s a UN organization. It has prepared five major reports so far, the first in 1990, the most recent in 2013. Parts of these reports (including the key “Summary for Policymakers”) are approved line by line by government officials! And in 1996, a section of the Summary was re-worded in a more alarmist way, at the request of governments – including the UK. Then the technical reports were updated to match! Here is the third of my Ten Deadly Dishonesties: politics disguised as science.

The IPCC “process” is currently in its 6th assessment cycle. This isn’t due to be completed until 2022. However, their plan looks to be to keep the pot boiling, by publishing another small alarmist report every few months until then.

On the scientific issues, the temperature data is of poor quality, and is incomplete both spatially and chronologically. Many measurements have been “homogenized,” and filled in from nearby data. The data we do have is noisy and full of errors, and it includes measurements made by different means (e.g. ships, buoys, satellites), by instruments of different types, at different times of day. Many sites on land are of low quality (e.g. near asphalt, or air-conditioning outlets). Many measurements have been “adjusted,” often in ways that are documented poorly or not at all. More often than not, they cool the past or warm the present, so making any warming trend look higher. Could this be doctoring of the data? Hard to prove.

And it’s not just the temperature data. Similar things are happening with sea level data. We know that sea levels have been rising fairly steadily for about 12,000 years. We also know that there are huge differences between sea level rise trends calculated from tide gauges and satellites; tide gauges consistently show much lower trends. Neither trend seems to be increasing much, but we keep on seeing new papers that claim to show a recent acceleration! Make of that what you will.

Moreover, the case for alarm is built almost entirely on computer models. But these models aren’t used to make specific predictions that can be tested, and validated or rejected using the scientific method. All they deliver is “projections,” which cannot be falsified. Furthermore, the results of model runs are all over the place. Even after all the homogenizations and adjustments, models consistently run “hotter” than real-world measurements. And a more basic question: How do we know the models’ built-in assumptions don’t simply reflect the prejudices of the modellers?

Further, the alarmists’ use of what I call nonscience (a cross between non-science and nonsense!) is on-going. There is technical nonscience, such as unrelated data being grafted together without explanation (Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” was an example of this). Or data inconvenient to the alarmist case being dropped altogether. Or dubious statistical methods that produce “hockey sticks” from random noise, or exaggerate the contribution of a small sample.

Then there is media nonscience. For example, using clever graphs and tricks to spread alarmism. (The “hockey stick” is still out there, would you believe!) We’ve seen photo-shopped alarmist pictures on the front covers of supposedly scientific journals – who can forget that (in)famous picture of a polar bear on an ice floe? Meanwhile, we’re repeatedly told that “It’s worse than we thought.” Or that “97 per cent of climate scientists agree” it’s all our fault! Or that “the science is settled” – when anyone who knows anything about science knows that science is never settled.

Then there is what I call procedural nonscience. And here, we encounter the fourth Deadly Dishonesty: refusing to release data that supports alarmist scientific papers. The reason this is a big issue, is that it makes independent replication of the results – or, indeed, showing that the results were faulty – impossible. There has also been evidence, notably from the Climategate e-mails, of scientists deleting data to evade Freedom of Information requests.

On to the fifth of the Deadly Dishonesties: suppressing dissenting scientific views. The Climategate e-mails, again, show repeated attempts to stop publication of skeptical papers. And there have been several cases in which skeptical scientists have been persecuted, and at least one in which a journal editor was sacked at the behest of alarmists.

The word “Climategate” refers to the release, in November 2009, of e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. These e-mails showed proof positive of the nonscience that was going on. In response, the UK government commissioned no less than three inquiries, none of which did their job properly!

The parliamentary committee (except for Graham Stringer) chose to avoid the most important questions. The Oxburgh inquiry didn’t listen to any critics of the CRU, didn’t cover the controversial areas, and most importantly didn’t look at work done for the IPCC. Yet a senior government scientist described the report as “a blinder well played.” The third inquiry, under Muir Russell, failed to investigate the central issues – Was the science being done properly? And was it being done honestly? So, all the important issues “fell through the gaps” between the three inquiries. Here is the sixth of the Deadly Dishonesties: government whitewash of the problems with the alarmist case and conduct.

But the most egregious of all the bad things the alarmists have done (I have another headpost on this at wattsupwiththat.com) – is more subtle. They have perverted, indeed they have inverted, the precautionary principle. In its true form, the principle says “look before you leap,” or even “first, do no harm.” It means that you should not take risky action unless and until you are very confident the result will be beneficial rather than the opposite. Furthermore, the burden of proof must always be on those wanting to act – and most particularly if they are a government. (This exactly mirrors the presumption of innocence in criminal trials).

Yet in 2002, the UK government re-wrote the precautionary principle. They changed its purpose to: “to create an impetus to take a decision notwithstanding scientific uncertainty about the nature and extent of the risk.” And they used the mantra, attributed to Carl Sagan: “Absence of evidence of risk is not evidence of absence of risk.” It is hard not to hear in this an echo of “absence of evidence of guilt is not evidence of absence of guilt.” If such principles were used in criminal trials, no defendant would ever be acquitted.

There are no less than three Deadly Dishonesties here. Number seven, inverting the burden of proof. Number eight, negating the presumption of innocence. And number nine, requiring the accused to prove a negative – namely, that humans are not causing catastrophic global warming. If you doubt the serious nature of this last, consider: If you had to prove there are no fairies at the bottom of your garden, how would you do it?

Now to the 2008 UK Climate Change Bill. They did make a token attempt at a “cost benefit analysis.” But there was a factor of 7 uncertainty in the costs, and a factor of 12 in the “benefits,” of action to “mitigate” climate change! That’s if we could believe the figures in the first place. Such numbers are useless for making any kind of objective decisions. Yet, the politicians didn’t care, and went ahead anyway. That’s the tenth and last of the Ten Deadly Dishonesties: making costly commitments on behalf of others, without rigorous justification.

And yet, here we are, with the idiots in parliament, on May 1st just gone, declaring (on the basis of no evidence at all) that there’s a “climate emergency!”

Part 3: The background and the regulatory framework

Now for some background to the war on our cars. In the last half century, we have made huge progress in reducing air pollution. DEFRA, the government agency responsible for this area, produce yearly statistics on UK emissions of air pollutants from all sources. These show that progress in reducing emissions since 1970 has been most impressive. For example, PM2.5 emissions in 2015 were less than a quarter of 1970 levels. And NOx emissions were also down, to less than a third of 1970 levels.

That said, since about 2005 the reduction in PM2.5 emissions has slowed. My understanding is that this was the point at which all the “low hanging fruit” – reductions which could be made without causing great pain to millions of people – had been picked. Last I looked, PM2.5 emissions were roughly static from year to year. They may even have started to go up, because of government encouragement for the burning of wood, which produces much PM2.5.

But none of this progress has been enough to satisfy the anti-car extremists. There has been an anti-car movement in the UK since the 1970s, perhaps even before. But it was in 1993, the year after the Rio summit, that the propaganda machine really got going. Our TV screens showed (staged) pictures of rural roads chock-a-block with cars. Of traffic jams in foggy weather, complete with smoking exhaust-pipes. Of the aftermaths of accidents. It was hard, even then, to avoid thinking that we drivers were being set up. Furthermore, organizations that should have defended us, like the Automobile Association, looked the other way, or even added their voices to the witch-hunt.

The responses of successive governments to the anti-car fanatics has been to give them, again and again, enthusiastic support. Blair’s government was extremely anti-car. Almost the very first law they passed was the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997. But far worse was to come. For in 1999, Blair and co agreed to the Gothenburg protocol. I know I repeat myself, but the instigator of this protocol was the UN. It covered a range of pollutants, including PM2.5 and NOx. And for the first time, it set controls on emissions of pollutants. A far better tool for controlling people than earlier policies, which had been designed around concentrations! That was the start of creeping speed limits (including 20mph), speed bumps, bus lanes, congestion charges, “smart” motorways, cameras everywhere to catch us out, and all the rest.

And the Coalition and the Tories have been no better. It’s clear that all the mainstream political parties in the UK are in on the scam. In 2012, Cameron and co agreed an extension to the Gothenburg protocol, which set even more stringent limits on emissions to 2020 and to 2030. They even went to the UN office in Geneva to sign it!

The EU, of course, is also in on the game. It sets “targets” and “limits” for various pollutants. (Because their origins pre-date the Gothenburg protocol, these are based on concentrations, not emissions). Targets are “to be attained where possible by taking all necessary measures not entailing disproportionate costs.” Limits are “legally binding EU parameters that must not be exceeded.” Targets have a habit of morphing into Limits on some arbitrary cut-off date.

The UN and EU strands converged in 2016, with the EU “national emission ceilings” directive, based on the commitments made in 2012. This requires the UK to cut PM2.5 emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. (And 54 per cent below by 2030). Now, here’s the rub. That commitment for 2020 simply isn’t going to be met. It can’t be met; and it should never have been made. That’s why this is such a big issue now. This is another case of making costly commitments on behalf of others, without rigorous justification. It is Cameron and co that should be held to account, not us poor car drivers!

Another thing the EU does is set emissions standards for new cars. Now, diesel cars emit both PM2.5 and NOx. Petrol cars do emit some NOx, but a lot less than diesels; and they produce very little PM2.5. Every five years or so, the EU makes new, tighter standards for emissions from new cars. The Euro 3 standard came in in 2001, Euro 4 in 2006, Euro 5 in September 2010, and Euro 6 in September 2015. The PM2.5 standards have been tightened so much over the years, that Euro 5 and 6 diesels emit only a tenth as much PM2.5 as Euro 3 models. NOx standards have also been tightened, though this has become somewhat moot since the Volkswagen diesel scandal.

For both petrol and diesel cars, there’s also an uncertain amount of PM from tyres and brakes. DEFRA seem to think most of this is of a larger size than PM2.5, so is far less toxic, and therefore not a big problem. But anti-car extremists still try to make a big deal out of it.

Part 4: Particulate matter (PM2.5)

So, what exactly is PM2.5? It consists of small, airborne solid particles. The “2.5” means that particles of this type are less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter. Adverse health effects from PM are believed to come almost entirely from PM2.5, because they are small enough to get through the body’s defences into the lungs. They can also potentially carry chemical poisons, such as nickel and arsenic. I saw recently a Chinese study suggesting that the element vanadium may be a major part of the problem. Though I doubt that; because vanadium, while toxic, is far less toxic than PM2.5 is claimed to be.

One characteristic of PM2.5 is that the particles tend to remain in the air for quite a long time. So PM2.5 pollution can travel far from its source, even across national borders. Making it a perfect weapon for the UN and EU to use to bind national governments, and so to control their people.

On top of all this, experts tell us that PM2.5 is very difficult to measure with any confidence. And furthermore, the mechanism by which PM2.5 causes its claimed toxic effects is not well understood. Contrast this with, for example, arsenic, where we know the mechanisms in some detail. Given that an average Londoner breathes in only about 5 grams of PM2.5 in a lifetime, we need urgently to understand exactly what makes it as toxic as it’s claimed to be. Without this knowledge, we cannot reasonably conclude that PM2.5 is a cause of any health problems; even if we do find some correlation between PM2.5 levels and the incidence of those health problems.

Now for the backstory on PM2.5. In the 1980s, data was collected in the USA, notably from industrial areas in Ohio, to see if there might be a correlation between PM2.5 and mortality rates. As a result, two major studies were published, both claiming to link PM2.5 with mortality. One was the Harvard “Six Cities” study of 1993 – interesting date, that one. The other was the American Cancer Society’s “Cancer Prevention Study II,” published in 1995.

These studies claimed to show a “risk factor” of about 6 per cent for inhaling PM2.5 at and around a typical concentration of 10 micrograms per cubic metre. The mathematics of toxicology is arcane, but this appears to be equivalent to “about 5 per cent of adults who die, die from this cause”. This seems to me high. Moreover, the uncertainties were (and still are) huge. And other studies, for example from California, haven’t found any such correlation. This throws still further into doubt the idea that PM2.5 causes observed health problems.

There are several parallels between the PM2.5 backstory and the global warming one. There has been at least one case of suppressing dissenting scientific views. Epidemiologist James Enstrom used to work on American Cancer Society projects; but they terminated his funding in 1994, another interesting date. In 2006, the ACS accused Enstrom of “misrepresenting scientific evidence to deny that passive smoking was harmful.” And in 2010 his university, UCLA in Los Angeles, tried to fire him, and he had to take the case to court.

In 2000, a special scientific team set up by the US government (the Health Effects Institute) was allowed access to the raw data, by now held by the US EPA, which underlay the 1993 and 1995 studies. They reported that they had validated the original studies. But no independent scientists were allowed access to the data! This is refusing to release data, and perhaps also politics masquerading as science, or even government whitewash. Moreover, in 2013, the US House of Representatives subpoenaed the EPA for the data, but they still refused to release it. I’ve heard that some US scientists, including Enstrom, have since the change of administration been allowed access to early versions of the data, from before the EPA took it over. But as far as I’m aware, the EPA data still hasn’t been released. Does it still exist?

In the UK, in 2009, the government Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) tried to work out how big a problem PM2.5 was in the UK. In essence, they accepted the 6 per cent risk factor from the US cancer prevention study. However, their scientific basis for accepting this risk factor is not clear. Moreover, they tried a novel way of estimating the uncertainty, which amounted to seven experts waving a wet finger in the air, and pooling results. The outcome was a factor of 12 between their lower and upper bounds! Useless for making objective decisions, yet they went ahead anyway. This is making costly commitments on behalf of others, without rigorous justification. Again.

In 2010, another UK government report concluded that in 2008 PM2.5 had caused nearly 29,000 deaths in the UK, with an average loss of life expectancy of 11.7 years. But it could have been anywhere between 4,700 and 51,000.

The rest of the PM2.5 backstory joins up with the NOx one. So, I’ll leave it until the final section of my talk. I’ll now look at the facts and accusations about PM2.5 pollution in the UK.

Currently, the EU limit for PM2.5 (since 2015) is 25 micrograms per cubic metre. For brevity, I’ll call this 25 units. The current average in London is about 14 or 15 units. A few sites in central London are above 20; but as of 2015 at least, there was no place in London at which the EU limit was broken. The UK-wide level is very close to (slightly under) 10 units. But recently, PM2.5 emitted by wood burning stoves has been increasing rapidly – as a result of government subsidizing them! It’s estimated that burning wood now produces twice as much PM2.5 as all road traffic put together. Madness!

Now, to the accusations that are being made about PM2.5 in London. I’ll quote a Guardian article from October 2017: “Every person in the capital is breathing air that exceeds global guidelines for one of the most dangerous toxic particles… Every area in the capital exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) limits for a damaging type of particle known as PM2.5… Nearly 95% of the capital’s population live in areas that exceed the limit by 50% or more. In central London the average annual levels are almost double the WHO limit.”

Sounds scary, eh? But wait – what’s this “WHO?” It’s a UN organization! Let that sink in first, and then I’ll ask: Did you see the goalposts move there?

Yes, this is another case of moving the goalposts, and it's a lulu. The WHO “guideline” figure for PM2.5 (10 units) is only 40 per cent of the EU limit (25)! Where is the science behind the WHO’s figure? I couldn’t find any. And the date of issue of the “guideline” – 2005, the last year in which Maurice Strong was involved – is suggestive, too.

The “guideline” figure of 10 units is very close to the UK wide average. And the UK is among the less polluted countries in the world. So, this is a ridiculously low number. And it’s worse than that. There’s a background level of PM2.5, which would be there without any human activity at all. Experts say this is about 7 units. So, going from the EU limit to the WHO guideline requires a reduction in the human component of PM2.5 by a factor of 6. That’s not feasible without destroying our industrial civilization. Maurice Strong must be laughing in his grave.

Now, my own entry into this story. I was trained as a mathematician, so I know how to do calculations! In the summer of 2017, I set out to answer objectively the question: are the proposed levels of charges for entry to the London ULEZ reasonable, or are they a gross rip-off? So, I wrote a paper, in which I calculated the “social cost” (i.e. the total expense, to all those affected) of the effects of pollution from cars in the UK, using the government’s figures from the 2009 and 2010 reports. My paper was published by the Association of British Drivers, and later also at wattsupwiththat.com.

I worked out the social cost of PM2.5 emissions from diesel cars in the UK in 2008 as £183 per car per year. This is significant, but it’s way lower than the perceived value of cars to the people who drive them (at least £5,000 per year – £3,500 running cost plus £1,500 capital cost).

I also broke these costs down by Euro standard. Things have got much better since 2008. This is because the Euro 5 standard came in from 2010, with PM2.5 emissions 10 times lower than the Euro 3 cars which had been prevalent in 2008. For a Euro 5 diesel car like my own, the social cost of PM2.5 pollution per car per year is just £21. That’s peanuts, compared with the benefits.

Part 5: Nitrogen oxides (NOx)

NOx is a combination of two oxides of nitrogen, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide. NOx from cars is produced mainly by diesel engines, but also by petrol ones. And it’s very unclear indeed just how toxic NOx is. DEFRA have given different numbers at different times. I’ve even heard that some experts say it’s not itself toxic at all; the only problems it causes come from “secondary” PM2.5 caused by its reactions with other gases, such as ammonia.

So, here’s the backstory. In 2001, Blair and co offered incentives to drivers to buy, and so to manufacturers to make, diesel cars. They did it, apparently, because diesels “emit less CO2” than petrol cars!

By 2006, insiders at the European Federation for Transport and Environment had found out that, in the real world, emissions of NOx from diesel engines were much higher than the limits they were supposedly built to meet. Then in 2009, the London Air Quality Network’s report for 2006/7 identified that the EU limit value for NOx was being exceeded in many places in London. Curiously, the 2008, 2009 and 2010 reports weren’t published until 2012! Might this, perhaps, be another government whitewash? Did Brown have these reports suppressed?

In 2014, the European Commission took the UK to court for exceeding NOx limits. In 2015, DEFRA issued a report on NOx pollution, giving a central estimate of 23,500 deaths in the year 2013, and an error range of a factor of 4. It was not clear how much overlap there might be with deaths caused by PM2.5 pollution. They also admitted that the previous estimates for PM2.5 may well have been high. In that same year, the Volkswagen diesel scandal erupted in the USA. What insiders had known since 2006 now became public knowledge. And in 2016, the Royal College of Physicians published a highly alarmist report, which put together figures for PM2.5 and NOx to give a claimed total of 40,000 deaths per year caused by the two together. This has been described by one expert as a “zombie statistic” – every time it’s debunked, it comes back again!

In the same paper as the PM2.5 calculations, I worked out the social cost of NOx emissions from cars. This was a much more complicated exercise than the PM2.5 calculation! For my own car, a Euro 5 diesel, the social cost of the combined emissions of PM2.5 and NOx is £113 per year. Of this, £75 is due to the manufacturers’ fault; the cost would be only £38, if the car kept to the standards it was supposed to. That shows that the London charges are completely over the top. Three ULEZ entry fees would pay for the social cost of the pollution (excluding the part due to the manufacturers’ fault), caused by driving my car for a whole year, all over the UK!

All of this, of course, assumes the government figures I used are correct. But my suspicion is that, in reality, they grossly overstated the toxicity of both PM2.5 and NOx. If that turns out to be so, then pollution from cars is not, and never has been, a real problem. And yet, the idiots that masquerade as a government have pressed on to ban all petrol and diesel cars from 2040 or some such! (And now they’re trying to bring the date forward to 2030).

All this has come about because UK politicians, in cahoots with the UN and EU, have chosen to set hard, inflexible, ever tightening collective limits on what people may do. That is both crazy and tyrannical. As Edmund Burke famously said, 250 years ago next year: “Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.”

To sum up

In the war on cars, as with “global warming,” the politicians, government “scientists” and green campaigners have again and again used the Ten Deadly Dishonesties:

  1. Enmity towards our industrial and capitalist civilization.
  2. Moving the goalposts.
  3. Politics disguised as science.
  4. Refusing to release data, or even deleting data.
  5. Suppressing dissenting scientific views.
  6. Government whitewashing the problems.
  7. Inverting the burden of proof.
  8. Negating the presumption of innocence.
  9. Requiring the accused to prove a negative.
  10. Making costly commitments on behalf of others, without rigorous justification.
We car drivers have been had. But we know it now. Many people, particularly in London, are becoming very concerned about this. When the ULEZ goes out to the North/South circular, we may have enough angry people that we’ll have a gilets jaunes situation on our hands.

And maybe more than that. For the Brexit Party is on the rise, and Nigel Farage is a known climate change skeptic. And he’s also, as far as I can tell, pro-car. Meanwhile in the USA, Donald Trump is trying to commission a “Presidential Committee on Climate Security,” supposedly to give a “fact-based and unbiased examination of the topic of climate change.”

More news has come (since the talk) from Germany, the country that so far has gone furthest down the line of charging ridiculous fees to drivers for simply going about their daily business. There, the problems faced by people who have been forced to scrap their cars because they can’t afford either to pay the fees or to replace their cars, are starting to be publicly discussed (even on TV!) as a major issue.

The fight-back, I think, is just beginning. We are living in “interesting times.”

Friday, 24 May 2019

On the state

Every political philosopher worth his salt has written a book, or a chapter, or at least an essay, on the subject of the state. What is the state intended to be? What is the state, in reality? And where is it going? Today, I’ll add to this bonfire my modest contribution of kindling.

Ideas of the state

Since its earliest times, the primary model of the state has been all-but-absolute monarchy. One man is appointed by God (or the gods, or whatever passes for deities in your neck of the woods) to rule over everyone in an area. Being the representative of the gods, he is to be treated as a god. In theory, he can do anything he likes to anybody. Although he does, sometimes, have to be careful when dealing with those of his subjects who know how to wield a sword.

Plato in his Republic, after reviewing several options, came up with the idea of “aristocracy” or “the rule of the best.” His ideal state is ruled over by a philosopher-king. It is a three-class society. The ruling class (the king and his élites) have souls of gold. The enforcing class (soldiers) have souls of silver. Everyone else has souls of bronze or iron, and is subjected to the decrees of the ruling class, as enforced by the soldiers.

The first modern thinker to address the philosophy of the state was Niccolò Machiavelli. His system, like Plato’s, was top-down. He saw the state, whether monarchy or republic, as an organization of supreme political power. He thought that the prince, at the helm of his state, should seek to be feared more than loved. That the “art” of war is of prime importance. That the end of getting and maintaining political power justifies any means. That cruelty and even murder are OK. And that the prince should seek to become a great liar and deceiver.

The next thinker on the state’s bandwagon, Jean Bodin, was little better. I’ve written elsewhere about Bodin’s scheme of “sovereign” and “subjects,” in which the ruler or ruling élite has moral privileges over the “subjects” or people. And it bears no responsibility for the consequences of its actions, being accountable “only to God.” This scheme was very successful in its aim of increasing and consolidating the power of the French kings. So successful, indeed, that it is still the basis of the “Westphalian” nation-states of today. But for us poor “subjects,” it hasn’t been much of a bulwark against tyranny, to say the least.

Next, cue Thomas Hobbes. His “Leviathan” – also known as the state or the commonwealth – is also ruled over by an absolute sovereign. Supposedly, the people (or, at least, a majority of them) have consented to this. They have committed to each other, that they authorize and approve whatever the sovereign chooses to do. In essence, Hobbes views the people as a body, of which the sovereign is the soul. Once the system has been set up, there is no possibility of changing it, or of escape from it. And the sovereign may do whatever it deems necessary, including restricting free speech and censoring the press.

It fell to John Locke to introduce, at last, some rights and freedoms for ordinary people. In his First Treatise of Government, he laid to rest, once and for all, the bogeyman of the “divine right” of kings to rule. And in his Second, he outlined a new system, in which government is to be for the good of the governed.

Locke does not use the word “state,” preferring “commonwealth.” His commonwealth is a community, whose chief purpose is the preservation of the property of the people. The purpose or “end” of law, he says, is not to abolish or restrain freedom, but to preserve and enlarge it. All this is to be directed to nothing but the peace, safety and public good of the people; where “public good” means “the good of every member of the society, as far as by common rules it can be provided for.” And if in doubt, the majority should have the final say. Moreover, Locke explicitly allows the possibility of replacing a government which has gone bad.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, sadly, seems to have mis-interpreted Locke’s idea of the majority having the power to resolve issues when necessary. He introduced an idea of “the general will” – that is, the will of the people as a whole. This, in effect, turned Locke’s system upside-down, by subordinating individuals to this rather nebulous “general will.”

On to the twentieth century, and Franz Oppenheimer. He was, to my knowledge, the first to write a whole book simply called “The State.” And he was very clear about what he thought of it. In looking at the ways in which people can get their needs and desires satisfied, he distinguished the political means – in one word, robbery – from the economic means – work and trade. And he said, “The state is an organization of the political means.”

Max Weber saw the state as a monopoly of “legitimate” violence in a particular area. Only it, and those it appoints, may use force in its territory. Albert Jay Nock followed Oppenheimer, but went further; his book was titled “Our Enemy, the State.” He saw the state as claiming and exercising a monopoly of crime. And every expansion of the state shrinks the power of community, or what we might today call “civil society.”

Lastly, Anthony de Jasay, whose book “The State” dates from 1985. For Hobbes, he says, the state keeps the peace. For Locke, it upholds the natural right to liberty and property. For Rousseau, it realizes the general will. But de Jasay understands the state, and calls it out, for what it has become today. The state is a power clique, that acts in its own interests, and picks winners and losers. The winners, of course, being its supporters, and those from whom it wants support. Thus, its acts often go against the interests of ordinary individuals in its territory, or even against the needs and desires of “the people” as a whole. And the modern state relentlessly seeks to maximize its power, by taking away the property and the liberties of its subjects.

What binds a state together?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the binding forces, which hold together communities of human beings. The people who reside in a state’s territory are, indeed, a community. For they all have something in common; namely, living under the rule of that state. So, I thought I would look again at those binding forces, to see how well they fare when put into the context of a state.

The first binding force is a shared humanity. Biologically, the inhabitants of a state are indeed all human. But there is doubt, in my mind at least, whether the ruling classes of states have much humanity. At least, in its sense of “benevolence, or the quality of being humane.” In fact, there’s a good case to be made – and I’ve made it elsewhere – that many of them are psychopaths.

Second comes kinship, as in a family. But the idea of the state as a family, which up until 50 or so years ago was quite widely touted, no longer works. Part of this is due to large scale migration. But a greater part, I think, is due to a general degradation of the feeling of community. Caused, if we are to believe Albert Jay Nock (and I do), by the increasing power of the state.

Next come three facets of co-operation: teamwork, trade and leadership. While in our daily lives we do use teamwork, the state can hardly be seen as a team. For to be a member of a team, you must identify with its objectives. And the objectives of the rulers of the state, per de Jasay, are often hostile to the interests of good people. As to trade, the state makes all kinds of “laws” to restrict what we may do in our dealings with others. I know this from personal experience, having had my career as a software consultant ruined by a bad tax “law” that for 20 years has all but taken away my access to the market. And as to leadership, what I feel for virtually every politician in the world is not respect, but contempt and loathing.

The sixth binding force is a shared belief system, of which a shared religion is a particular case. But as an agnostic, church religion means little to me. And having been trained long ago as a mathematician, my belief system is a strongly bottom-up one. I like to build up conclusions logically from known facts, and I’m skeptical of anything that doesn’t look right. The state and its minions, on the other hand, continuously bombard me with their propaganda narratives. To which, my reaction is to switch off, if not also to disbelieve everything they say.

As to proximity, I do indeed feel a love for the land and people of my corner of the world. For I am a Wessex man. I was born, and now live, in its eastern marches. And I was schooled in its heartlands of Hampshire and Wiltshire. So, if I became a patriot, I would be a Wessex patriot.

As to culture and shared customs, I am an Englishman. I am fluent in, and admire, the English language. I eat an English breakfast each morning. I played English cricket at village level over more than 30 years. I love the English pub; and I have respect for the English common law, when in honest hands. But I have also acquired cultural overtones from other places where I have lived over the years, notably Holland and the USA.

The ninth binding force, enlightenment, is one which I feel very strongly. I am an individualist, and a strong supporter of the values of the Enlightenment. Like natural rights and freedoms, scientific thinking, and tolerance of difference. But today’s states seek to force on their subjects whatever is the political ideology of those in power at the time; be it for example socialism, fascism, rabid environmentalism, or a combination of all of them.

Moreover, statist thinkers are virulently opposed to Enlightenment values. They promote conceits like “post-modern” philosophy and “post-normal” science. They resist human progress, hate honest business and industry, deny the value of facts and rational thought, promote moral relativism, and aim to politicize everything and to impose a suffocating conformism on everyone.

Community versus society

Before I tackle the final putative binding force, nation, I’ll take a look at what I think may be a major cause of our troubles with today’s nation-states. That cause can be brought into focus by asking the question: Do the human beings, who reside in the territory of a state, constitute a society, or are they merely a community?

As I’ve said before, a society has some form of, usually written, constitution. Among much else this will, almost certainly, state the goals of the members as a group. It is likely to have a president or chairman, and a committee or other group of officials. Under its constitution, the society makes decisions based on its principles and interests, and acts on them. Even though some of its members may disagree on an issue, the society as a whole takes only one view.

A community, on the other hand, has no constitution. It has no president or chairman, no officials and no goals as a group. It may spawn societies, which act in certain respects on behalf of all those in the community; an example I gave in an earlier essay is a home-owners’ association. But a community has no “general will,” beyond its own continuation.

In the case of a group of people resident in a territory, if those people also form a society, then the territory becomes what I’ve called a commune. In such a set-up, the territory is ruled over – and, in some sense at least, owned – by the society. In this model, then, the state is in essence the committee of the society, and the people are the members. The state is the head, while the people are the body; this is almost exactly Hobbes’ Leviathan.

If, on the other hand, the people residing in a territory are merely a community, not a society, there is no place for a state. The people have formed the community for the purpose of mutual defence of rights, and they have no agreed agendas beyond that. The private areas of the territory are each owned by individuals, families or societies. And the public areas are common to, but not owned by, all.

There is no need for Leviathan in such a set-up. But there is, nevertheless, room for societies, whose remit is to perform functions for the public good of all in the community. These societies might, for example, adjudicate disputes, maintain the public areas, and defend the community against external attack and internal violence. Collectively, I’ll give these societies the name “governance.” Such an ideal of governance is, I think, not so far from John Locke’s view.

So, which of these two views is the correct one? I find it odd that today’s political states are supposedly founded on a “social contract,” and yet there is no agreed, signed contract between each individual and their government, stating what each must provide to the other. The only case where there is anything like such a contract is when an immigrant applies for, and receives, citizenship in a new country. This suggests that the idea, that all the residents in a given territory have consented to join a society run by a state, is well wide of the mark.

John Locke himself, unfortunately, was rather unclear on this matter. In his Second Treatise, he often uses the words “community” and “society” as if they were almost interchangeable. It is understandable, then, that those who came after him seem to have erred on this point. Rousseau, as I noted earlier, got it very seriously wrong. Even the writers of the US Constitution, in its very first words “We the People,” show that they thought they were setting up a society made up of everyone in the North American colonies. But what they were doing, in reality, was setting up a system of government to replace George the Third. They may have escaped the clutches of one particular king and his state. But only at the cost of erecting another state, and so another sovereign – albeit one called “the people” – in his place.

Nation and state

To return to nation. I noted, in an earlier essay, that if it is a binding force at all, nation is little more than a mixture of kinship, leadership, belief system, proximity and shared culture. I have also observed that many people seem to think of nation, country, “the people,” “society” and the state as essentially the same thing. And those, whose world-view is top-down, regard this thing as being of supreme importance, and the human individual as of little or no importance in comparison.

But if nation is simply the state, then for me at least – and, I suspect, for many others who, like me, are sick and tired of today’s dismal politics – it has lost all power to bind people together. Indeed, the state as it exists today, with its evil traits that thinkers like de Jasay have noted, actively works against many, if not all, of the forces which ought to bind people into communities. Such as kinship, teamwork, leadership and enlightenment.

So, from where does a state get its supposed legitimacy? I will look, first, at the state called “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” Plainly, this state is mis-named; since it is neither united, nor a kingdom, nor in any way great. Be that as it may, the theory seems to be that a silly, rich old woman called Lizzie, who lives in a castle at Windsor, is “sovereign” over all the people in a particular group of islands (and a few other places). And that her cronies, among whom the current chief mafiosa is (was! I just read the news) one Theresa May, thereby have a right to rule over the people, and do to us whatever they think they can get away with.

In the USA, and in most other countries, the legitimacy of the state is supposed to come from a constitutional document. But such constitutions are of no use – indeed, they are dangerous – when applied to a group of people who rightly form a community, but have not explicitly agreed to form a society, and have no general will. And moreover, the political class have a habit of ignoring these constitutions when it suits them.

Democracy

Ah, you may say, but these states are supposedly “democracies.” If people don’t like what the current crop of mafiosi are doing to them, they can vote them out, and vote in another lot instead! My reply is, if only that were true.

Democracy, as I’ve shown in an earlier essay, tends to favour the worst psychopaths for positions of power. Moreover, it encourages the formation of political factions, as James Madison warned more than 200 years ago. These factions seek to enrich themselves and their supporters at the expense of everyone else. As a result, people tend to divide along party lines, and start to lose social cohesion. These dynamics are happening in most, if not all, democracies in the world. I have been astonished, for example, at the personal venom which those opposed to Donald Trump show towards those who support him. They should not be surprised if the backlash, when it comes, is even more virulent. A “community” with such divisions, I think, cannot survive for long as a community.

But after a while, the political factions start to align with each other, and against the people – exactly as de Jasay identified. Now the state becomes totally divided, with the rulers (of all the factions) and their cronies and supporters on one side, and the ordinary people – the victims – on the other. There is no “general will,” no sense of fellowship, and little or no possibility of agreement or even compromise on anything. As shown, for example, by the deliberate failure of the “United Kingdom” political class to implement the Brexit which they had all promised.

In such a state, politics becomes a war, waged by the politically rich against the politically poor. And that’s where we are today.

A world-wide Leviathan

On top of all this, we have the European Union and the United Nations. With the eager co-operation of most of the national political élites, these remote, bureaucratic, unaccountable organizations and their rich hangers-on are seeking to drive politics, all over the world, towards a single planet-wide super-state. What they are trying to create is a giant, world-wide Leviathan, under which there is to be no possibility of freedom, change or escape.

The root of the issue

The nub of all these problems, I think, is not so much democracy per se. Nor is it even the idea of the nation. The root problem is the state. The state in its current form, as devised by thinkers like Machiavelli, Bodin and Hobbes, is a failed system. The state is out of date; indeed, it is already centuries past its last use by date. And it is my view, that the current incarnation of the state must, and will, be the last. The idea, that some have a right to rule over others, has shot its bolt. And missed.

The state has got to go, and soonest. And the question, which must now concern us all, is: With what shall we replace it?