Thursday, 31 December 2015

Clash of Civilizations, or War of World-views? - Part 3

Part 3

Now, what of Islam and Muslims? Where do they fit in the war of world-views?

All of us – even children of atheists – are brought up in some kind of moral environment. Frequently, this has a religious component to it, whether though our parents or through schools. When we are young and inexperienced, we tend to absorb the religion we are taught, without questioning it very much. But as we mature, many of us come to question, even to reject, the religions we were brought up in. Some pick a different off-the-peg religion. Some go green. Some grow their own religion. Others conclude that religion is a waste of time, and become agnostics, or that it is a scam, and become atheists.

The point I want to make here is that it is silly to condemn people for the religion they were brought up in. It is no more under their control than is the colour of their skin. Therefore it should not count against them. Statements like "Islam is a warlike religion,” whether true or false, are irrelevant to how we should approach Muslims as individuals.

Now, I do not find Islam a very attractive philosophy. I am not comfortable with its central theme, surrender to the will of God. I don't like its attitude to alcohol, or its subjection of women. (Though Western feminism has tipped that particular balance too far the other way). Nor do I like the fanaticism it can engender, or the suspicion it causes some Muslims to show for non-Muslims.

But, as an upholder of Western values, I will not condemn Muslims for being Muslims. Indeed, I have sympathy for moderate Muslims in Western countries, who must be feeling that they are being made into scapegoats. I will uphold their right to have their religion, as long as they behave reasonably. I will be tolerant towards them, as long as they are tolerant towards me.

There are on the other hand some, that I do condemn for their religious conduct. I condemn those that try to foist their religious viewpoint on others, by threats, force or perversion of law. That is intolerant and uncivilized behaviour.

So, I condemn those Muslims that want to restrict my freedom of speech because I might insult their pesky prophet. But I also condemn those Christians that want to censor the Internet on the pretext of protecting my (non-existent) children from porn. I condemn the Islamists that use or support violence against innocent people. But I also condemn the Christians that want to forcibly ban abortion or the teaching of evolution, and the enviros that want to forcibly suffocate the world economy. Who are they, that they claim a right to impose their prejudices by government force, on people who don't even believe in their dubious deity or their climate-change claptrap?

In reality, there are good Muslims and bad Muslims, just as there are good Christians and bad Christians, good Jews and bad Jews, good atheists and bad atheists. Some Muslims are peaceful and tolerant. I know this for a fact, because I have met examples of them. There exist, on the other hand, aggressive, intolerant Muslims. Those of us who uphold Western values should accept the former, and reject the latter.

But our enemies, the subjection thinkers, don't agree. They want us to mis-understand the war we are in. They want to stir up antipathy and mistrust between indigenous Western people and Muslims. They want Western people to see Islam as an enemy. They want us to see Bush, Blair and co as white knights on shining chargers, rescuing Western civilization from the evil Islamic terrorists. And they want us to support and pay for their next murderous assault on a Muslim country, probably Iran or maybe Syria.

The recent affair of the Danish cartoons was a good example of their propaganda. You have to admit, it took a lot of people in. It gave Western people an impression that most Muslims are intolerant. This brought a reaction by unthinking Westerners against Muslims in general, which in some places, like Holland, led to talk of mass deportations.

But the affair also sowed the seed of something else. Did you hear the nonsense about re-introducing a crime of blasphemy? Did you notice the sermonizing about responsibility and codes of conduct? Did you get the feeling that freedom of speech wasn't being properly defended? Not surprising, really. For these were subjection thinkers speaking. Subjection thinkers don't like freedom of speech. Except for themselves, of course.

The subjection thinkers want to kill our freedom of speech, because they know that it is our weapon against them in the war of world-views. If we human beings and our Western values are to win that war, we must never, ever, ever compromise on freedom of speech. Anyone that wants to restrict freedom of speech, however good and reasonable their arguments may sound, is an enemy of Western values.

And aren't those that want to restrict others' freedom of speech, by their very attitude, admitting something? Aren't they admitting that their ideas can't fairly compete, can't stand the test of open comparison, with the ideas of those they want to muzzle?

The first step towards winning a war is to understand that you're in one. And the second is to identify the enemy. That, I think, we have now done. The war is a war of world-views – Western, individual values versus subjection thinking. And the enemy are the subjection thinkers, including the traitors that today pass themselves off as Western leaders.

It may seem as if the war is unwinnable. For our enemies are many and powerful. And our friends in positions of any power are few. History, though, takes strange turns. The short term prospects look bleak for Western values; and yet, there's a feeling in the air that great change is overdue. That there's another Renaissance coming – or a Re-awakening, at any rate.

Isn't it about time? Isn't it time people woke themselves up from the bad dream, which is life in the perverted societies which today pass for Western civilization? Isn't it time for a resurgence of Western values? For a new dynamism, a new confidence in ourselves and in the future? For the restoration of the human individual to his and her rightful place at centre stage? For a rejection of subjection thinking and subjection thinkers? For Western people to provide an example to those in Muslim countries, and in the rest of the world, so they can liberate themselves too?

Well, isn't it about time?

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Clash of Civilizations, or War of World-views? - Part 2

Part 2

It is easy for Western people to let themselves be fooled into thinking that Islam and Muslims are the cause of many of the problems in the world today. For, indeed, the regimes in many Muslim countries have become more conservative and Islamist in the last twenty years or so. And some extreme Islamists – partly provoked, it must be said, by the actions of Western governments – want to unleash a holy war on Western people, to force us all to become Muslims. These Islamists like to use a nasty tactic called terrorism. That is to say, the violent and essentially random targeting of people who are merely going about their daily business.

Now, of course we should condemn this terrorism, this targeting of innocent people. And we should condemn those that do it, those that support it and those that condone it. Yet, before we start to condemn Muslims in general, should we not consider how those that claim to be our own Western leaders are behaving? How well do they uphold our Western values and our Western civilization?

No interference with privacy or correspondence… or filming us everywhere we go, and tapping our e-mails? Freedom of movement… or no-fly lists? Trial of accusations without undue delay… or long detention without trial? No torture… except when Bush authorizes it? Freedom from arbitrary search… or stop and search on any excuse? No double jeopardy… no, Blair destroyed that one already. The rule of law… or battering us with more and more bad laws, more and more strictly enforced, so that none of us are safe?

How about recognizing our natural human dignity and goodness, and letting us live as we wish, as long as we don't harm others? Not a chance. Just about everything Blair and co do is treating us as if we were the bad guys. They behave towards us human beings with ever increasing harshness and arrogance. They treat us like animals to be broken to their wills. And they want to reduce us to even less than that – to numbers and DNA samples in a database. Similar things are happening, too, in Bush's kingdom on the other side of the Atlantic.

But, some may say, isn't terrorism such a big problem, that we should accept some loss of liberties in order to beat it?

Well, that depends. First, should we not be very, very suspicious of anyone that wants to give away others' liberties? Second, is terrorism really as big a problem as it's made out to be? Could it not be dealt with like any other serious crime, without damaging civil liberties? And where is the objective, rational analysis of the risks from terrorism versus the costs to human beings of lost liberty?

Third, how can we be sure that, if we did accept any suspension of liberties, it would be temporary, not permanent? Fourth, do Bush, Blair and co really want to end terrorism? Or might they just be using it as an excuse for their own agendas – including trampling on our rights? Fifth, can we be sure that they would not use powers given to them to deal with terrorism, against people who have nothing to do with terrorism? Well, can we?

Sixth, isn't Bush and Blair's condemnation of terrorists a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Isn't their starting a war in Iraq – legal niceties apart – just as bad as what the terrorists do? If not many times worse?

All this is bad enough. But terrorism isn't the only excuse the political classes today are using to bully and squeeze us down into subjection. Health, safety, the environment, climate change – all these they have set up like idols to give apparent justification to their harmful policies. Not to mention that old chestnut, Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

I will give you what I call the Law of Political Explanations. If politicians give you one single reason for a policy or policies, it's probably a lie. But, if politicians give you two or more reasons for something, particularly if it's at different times, you can be damn certain they're all lies.

Come on, are there really any thinking people out there who actually believe any excuse any politician trots out any more?

No, it is plain that Western politicians today don't care a damn about Western values. They claim to be our leaders; but in reality, they are traitors to our values and to Western civilization. It is plain that in the real war today, the war of world-views, the politicians and the terrorists are on the same side – the side of subjection thinking, of intolerance, of hatred of the individual. They are not on the side of us human beings.

And what of democracy, the system which is supposed to give all of us a say? What is the value of a vote, if all those that frame the major parties' policies, and practically all of their candidates, are traitors to our Western values? And how can the consent of 22 per cent of people – and a largely deluded 22 per cent at that – be enough to endow a gang like Blair and co with authority to rule tyrannically over everyone in Britain?

When you understand all this, it becomes hardly surprising that we aren't winning the war of world-views. We haven't even been allowed a chance. Imagine, if you will, what would have happened in the Battle of Britain if Churchill and his cabinet had been closet Nazis.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Clash of Civilizations, or War of World-views? - Part 1

(From the archives - April 9th, 2006. Another 3,500+-word, three-part monster. And very appropriate right now, too.)

Part 1

"This is not a clash between civilizations, but a clash about civilization.”

These are recent words of Tony Blair, current tyrant of a medium-sized group of islands called Britain. I live in those islands. I often wish I didn't; but circumstances do not, in the short term at least, favour my moving somewhere better to live and work.

Now, I have no respect for Blair. Blair is the leader of a gang, that passes itself off as a government. That gang does many bad things to people in the islands called Britain, which no government should ever do. Not to mention what it has done in Iraq.

Yet in this matter I find myself, at least partly, in agreement with Blair's words. And against the received wisdom we are frequently fed, namely, that there is today a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.

I'll re-state that thesis as it comes over from its supporters. There is a civilization called "Islam.” And there is a civilization called "the West.” There is an irreconcilable conflict between the two. And we, as inhabitants of the West, have a duty to support Western political leaders like Blair and George W. Bush in their fight against Islam and its terrorists.

So, what is this "Islam"? Well, it's a religion. It was begun back in the 7th century by the prophet Mohammed and his followers. For its first two centuries or so, it was a religion of its times – nasty and warlike. First by conquest, later by a mix of conquest and trade, It spread to many parts of the world. Today, from western Africa, Turkey and Somalia, to Pakistan and lands south of Russia, in Bangladesh and from Malaysia to Indonesia, Islam is the majority religion. But Islam's adherents – Muslims – also live in numbers in other parts of the world.

As well as being a religion, Islam is a system of law. A rather conservative one, by Western standards. Indeed, most Muslim governments have departed from the strict interpretation of this system, and adopted at least some Western ideas into their codes of law.

What are the political regimes in Muslim countries like? They vary, but to the Western way of thinking, many of them are not very nice. They include monarchies, military regimes and theocracies.

What, on the other hand, is "the West"? Most people think of the West as a loose association of countries with a particular political flavour, namely, some form or other of democracy. Yet the presence, or pretence, of democracy does not imply Western-ness. Europe west of the former Iron Curtain, Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand – it is not controversial to call these societies Western. And there are parts of the world – Russia, China, Japan, India – which most will agree are neither Islamic nor Western. But if we try to define the West as a geographical entity, its borders prove elusive. Are the former African colonies Western? What about South American countries? Is Israel part of the West? Are the former communist countries in Eastern Europe Western?

When we speak of Western values, though, we are on much firmer ground. These are values, which have evolved in Western Europe and societies derived from it over many centuries. Their roots go back to ancient Greece and Rome, as well as to even earlier currents of thought. These Western values have, at times and in places, produced successful societies, societies more dynamic and better to live in than the historical norm. Like Islam, they have been carried, by trade and conquest, to a large part of the world. And they continue to evolve even today.

So, just what are these Western values? They are many. I will list some of them.

To the ancient Greeks, we owe the concept of the rule of law. We also owe to them the ideal of democracy, that individuals should have a voice in the running of the societies they live in. And a sense that there is an order in the world, which we should try to understand.

To the Romans, we owe the development of law and of property rights. To mediaeval times, we owe the ideas of crime as an act outside the bounds of human society; of the mens rea, the guilty mind, which must accompany it; and of the punishment fitting the offence. To mediaeval times we owe also the jury system and the beginnings of rules of evidence.

From the Renaissance sprang several of the important values, which have become Western. A dynamism, a seeking for innovation and discovery. A sense of looking both forward to the future, and back to learn from the past. The ideas of the dignity of Man, and of our mastery over our surroundings. A spirit of free enquiry and criticism.

The 17th century gave us the desire for rational explanations of things, and the scientific method of finding such explanations. It gave us a sense of Man as a creative being. And it brought to the fore the idea that we human beings have rights, which governments must not trample on.

The Enlightenment gave us a sense of the natural goodness of human beings. It gave us a sense that right and wrong are above the arbitrary decrees of rulers. It saw society as being for the benefit of the individual, not the individual for the benefit of society. It set out the idea that government must be for the benefit of the governed.

The Enlightenment also gave us a new optimism and desire for progress. And it celebrated our ability to reason, and our capacity to attain knowledge and understanding.

Enlightenment ideas reached a peak in the US Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. The inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The idea that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed. Freedom of religion. Freedom of speech and of the press. Freedom of peaceful association. Freedom from arbitrary search and seizure. No double jeopardy or self-incrimination. No taking of property for public use, without compensation. Speedy and public trial of accusations, by an impartial jury. No cruel, unreasonable or excessive punishments.

The Industrial Revolution, next, gave us a new spurt of technological progress and more confidence in our ability to master nature. Contrary to what socialists will tell you, it produced a wider distribution of wealth. And it gave a sense that the individual's rewards deserve to be in proportion to his or her contribution.

Other Western values have found expression in more recent times, although some of them may earlier have been thought implicit and not needing to be stated. The dignity of the human individual. To be treated as a person before the law. No arbitrary arrest or detention. No torture. The presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Freedom of movement and residence. Freedom of opinion and expression. Freedom of speech, in whatever media. No interference with privacy or correspondence.

I will give you, lastly, two very important Western values. The first is non-aggression – otherwise said, peacefulness unless attacked. If you doubt that non-aggression is a Western value, think back and remember how smugly the media used to tell us, before Bush and Blair did their droppings in Afghanistan and Iraq, that democracies don't start wars.

The second value is tolerance – tolerance of differences between individuals. You can see the rise of this tolerance in the progress, which has been made against racism in the last half century. And in the lessening of prejudice against homosexuals.

What do these Western values have in common? They represent a way of thinking, which places the individual at the centre of things. Many Western values take the form of much-needed safeguards for us human beings against bad government. But the Western way of thinking is also peaceful, tolerant, dynamic and honest. It values objective facts, objective measurements, rational deductions, rational judgements, objective justice. And it desires prosperity and happiness for all who behave well enough to deserve them.

Contrast, if you will, the opposite way of thinking, which I will call subjection thinking. For the subjection thinker, the human individual is not important. Subjection thinkers find dishonesty, corruption, intolerance, violent aggression, mis-treatment and oppression of people to be all OK. They like to exaggerate problems, such as terrorism, or to make them up, like runaway global warming (or is it cooling?) supposedly caused by human activities. They submerge facts and reason in a sea of lies, propaganda and mental manipulation. And all they can offer us is stagnation, poverty, never-ending conflicts and troubles, fear, uncertainty and despair.

There is indeed a clash about civilization going on today. But it isn't the one the pundits would have you believe. It isn't Islam versus the West, or even governments versus terrorists. For what we are experiencing today is a war of world-views. That war pits Western, individual, civilized values against the uncivilized non-values of the subjection thinkers. And… right now, we and our Western values aren't winning the war.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Who Wants War?

(Recent events in Syria have made this one from the archives - March 20th, 2006 was its date - topical.)

If it was put to a referendum of all the world's adult people, should war be outlawed or not, how many would favour war?

I suspect that most people, if they really thought about it, would want to ban war. It's such a drain – on lives, on resources, on freedom, on prosperity, on happiness. So why should we tolerate it?

Come to that, why should we tolerate those that want to subject others to war? Or those that voluntarily take part in an aggressive war? Isn't here something badly wrong with those that have a liking for war?

Now, I'm not saying we should all be reckless pacifists. Of course we human beings need military defence – as the world is now. As long as warmongers like George W. Bush exist, we need to be able to defend ourselves against them.

Bush and co claim to want to bring democracy to the world. So surely they wouldn't object to us human beings having a say, for a change? Surely they would support a world-wide referendum on outlawing war? And on what sanctions we should use against the mass murderers that order wars, and the violent vermin that do their dirty work?

I'm dreaming, of course.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Community? What Community?

(Neil's Note: This one is hot off the press. Long, and quite complicated; but, I hope, well worth the read.)

In recent months, borders and migration have been much in the news. This is a subject, on which I find myself disagreeing with traditionalists, conservatives and even many libertarians. For, as I wrote in an essay on the Libertarian Alliance (LA) forum back in 2013 [1]: “I favour not so much open borders, as no borders – at least, no political borders, and so no barriers to migration.”

So, a few months ago I set myself to try to understand more fully the ideas of those on the other side of this issue. I owe thanks, first, to Keir Martland for his part in a most illuminating discussion in a comment thread on the LA website in late July. And second, to John Kersey for his clear enunciation of a traditionalist position in his speech to the Traditional Britain Group on 12th September 2015 [2]. This essay is, in part, a reply to John’s views as there expressed.

Why bother?

Let me begin by asking: Why should I, an avowed radical, bother what conservatives think? The answer is simple; I share many values with them. For the part of me, which looks to the past for inspiration, sees great worth in the ideas of the 17th- and 18th-century Enlightenment. Some of these values are: Reason and the pursuit of science. Toleration of difference, most of all in religion. The idea that society exists for the individual, not the individual for society. The idea that human beings are naturally good. Freedom of thought and action. Natural rights and human dignity. Government for the benefit of the governed. Formal equality and the rule of law. A desire for human progress, and a rational optimism for the future.

I would hope that most conservatives today, even those on the further right, would agree with many if not all of these values. And, indeed, with many of my views on what constitutes civil or virtuous conduct. Such as: independence and self-reliance; seeking and telling truth; peacefulness and non-aggression; taking responsibility for one’s actions; respect for property, privacy and other human rights; economic productivity and trade; honesty and integrity.

Moreover, conservatives and I share many enemies; socialists and greens the most obvious among them. So, it’s important to me to try to understand why, on the subject of borders and migration, my view is so far away from people with whom I can agree in so many other ways.


I think that one root of the issue, at least, may lie in a difference in our understanding of what community is. One message I took home from my discussion with Keir is that English conservatives feel a strong attachment to something they call the community, or sometimes “the people.” This seems to be, specifically, a political community; and it’s coterminous with, if not exactly the same as, the state commonly called “Britain” or “the UK.”

In contrast, for me, there’s no such thing as the community. I see each human being as a member of many different communities. (For example, the brass band I play in is one. The LA blogosphere is another). No single one among these communities can be dignified with the definite article the.

Here’s my conception of community. I see the word as having two derivations. First, as a group of people who have things in common. And second, from com- and the Latin munire, to fortify, so meaning sharing walls. Thus, I think of a community as being defined by two aspects: binding forces, which hold the people of the community together; and walls, which separate them from those outside.

I recognize communities at several levels. First, the community of one, the individual; bound together by personality, and walled by human rights. Next, partnerships and marriages, bound together by voluntary contract. Then families, bound together by kinship. The marketplace, bound together by mutual trade. And societies, bound together by shared purpose and sense of belonging. (These include communes, the word I use for societies walled in by geographical boundaries as well as by membership. Monasteries and university colleges are examples of communes).

At the highest level comes what I call Civilization. Civilization is bound together by shared values of, and a shared commitment to, civil behaviour. And it’s walled, not by any geographical boundary, but by a strong distaste for uncivility and for those that practise it. If there was anything I could call the community, it would be this – as yet, unrealized – Civilization.

In my scheme, there’s no place for a political community. Indeed, as I put it back in 2007 [3]: “Any community, of which I could feel a part, would blackball most, if not all, of today's politicians, and many of their toadies.” I feel no sense of community or shared culture with Blair, Brown or Cameron, or with any of their cronies or hangers-on. Far from sharing my values like truth, honesty, non-aggression and respect for individual rights, they actively flout them. Blair, Brown, Cameron and their kind are no more my fellows than Hitler or Stalin would have been.

As to the state, I see its claim of sovereignty, and the moral privileges it arrogates to itself, as incompatible with moral equality, and so with the rule of law and justice. Thus, I reject the state as [4]: “a hangover from a way of thinking that pre-dates John Locke by 100+ years.” And that’s why I say, of the UK state: bugger bloody Britain.

Property and land

Now I’ll backtrack a little way, and talk about property; specifically, land. Early in his talk, John Kersey says that freedom and civilization are based on the premise that land should be privately owned. I heartily agree; indeed, I go further. For me, all containable resources both can and should be privately owned; that is, by individuals or by voluntary societies. This includes areas of land and water, goods and chattels, and even some animals. (But it doesn’t include human beings. This is because humans, being moral agents, can’t be legitimately owned by anyone).

Items of real property, including land and buildings, confer on their owners certain rights. The most important of these, for the purpose of this discussion, is the right to set boundaries around and, at need, within the property. That is, to make and to enforce rules on access to the property, including which parts of it may be accessed by whom, when and for what purposes. Where the property is individually owned, these rules are up to the owner. Where the owner is a group of people, the rules will be agreed in some way among the group.

However, property can also place responsibilities on its owners, as well as giving them rights. For example, someone who buys a gun acquires a responsibility not to use it to shoot innocent people! Succinctly put, property must be used with propriety.

This is also important in the case of land. I see an ethical obligation of all landowners, which I call “non-encirclement.” This means that you must not use your property (either alone or with others) to surround someone else’s, and so to imprison them or to prevent them receiving visitors. And more generally, your right in your land is not so absolute that you can forbid others entirely to pass, peacefully and quietly, across your land if they have no other reasonable way to where they want to go. After all, if you stop them crossing your land, there’s nothing to prevent them doing the same thing, tit-for-tat, to you.

Private and public space

In the 2013 essay I referred to earlier, I built a picture of how borders might exist in a world based on libertarian principles. This included a general presumption of freedom of movement along defined routes (easements), even across property owned by others. In fact, this is not far away from how rights of way in the UK evolved in the first place. Bruce Benson has written a most interesting monograph [5] detailing, among much else, how the UK road system came about, and the shambles which on several occasions resulted from political interference by kings and others.

So, as I wrote back in 2013: “In a libertarian world, land (and water, too) would, I think, become divided into two types of space. There would be private (owned) space, with borders and designated easements. And there would be public (open to all) space, made up of those easements. Furthermore, I expect there would be, ultimately, only one public space, which would be connected. That is, any point of it would be accessible from any other without leaving the public space.”

There’s no place, in this picture, for any borders inside the public space. The only valid boundaries are those which arise from the property rights of individuals, groups, societies or communes. And these boundaries are all either at the edges of, or within, private spaces.

Moreover, these boundaries can only restrict movement from the public space (or from others’ private spaces) into private space, not in the opposite direction. Thus, absent good reasons to deny access to it to specific individuals (for example, to those convicted of serious crimes and thereby sentenced to incarceration), the public space must be open to all, without exception. And once an individual is legitimately in the public space, he has the right to go anywhere in the public space.

The city

Next, I’ll give an example of a society which has a border, and controls who may cross it, but in a way which doesn’t contradict libertarian principles.

Consider a group of people living in an area subject to incursions by warlike, marauding tribes. Growing tired of predations, they decide to work together to erect defences. They form a City Wall Society. The purpose of this society is to build, and to maintain, walls for the defence of the people inside, and gates for passage. All those living inside must be members of the CWS, and pay their share for its upkeep. There will be associate members, too. For example, farmers whose lands are outside the gates, but who have the right to take shelter in the city at need.

Here, we have an embryonic city state. The City Wall Society owns the walls and the gates, and sets rules as to who may be allowed to pass into the city, when and for what purposes. These rules would, for example, secure permanent residence for all full members of the CWS and their dependants. They would allow temporary entry to those specifically invited in by inhabitants of the city. And they would allow for visits, regular or one-off, by tradesmen from outside. Moreover, due to the principle of non-encirclement, no-one would ever be denied exit from the city without very good reason, such as a substantiated accusation of a real crime.

This is a political society, in the strict meaning of the word; it’s a society of the city. And such a community, if its walls and its people are sufficiently strong, could last for a long time. For the city brings an important value, defence against external enemies, to each and every inhabitant and associate. And so, every person in the community has a strong incentive to continue as a member of it, and to do what he can for it.


Now, let’s consider what happens after a most unfortunate occurrence overtakes our city. A besieging king has contrived, perhaps by stratagem, or perhaps by the sheer number and military strength of his warriors, to enter into the city and to take possession of it. He and his cronies have become a ruling class in the city and its environs.

From outside, the city looks little different. As before, some are allowed in, and others not. And the City Wall Society continues to maintain the walls and gates. But inside, there has been a huge change. No longer can individual inhabitants of the city invite in their friends from outside as they wish. The ruling class must approve all such invitations. And no longer is the work of the CWS paid for directly by its members. Instead, the king and his cronies tax the people; then, having taken their (substantial) cut, they pass on to the CWS what it needs to do its work.

Something fundamental and rather nasty has happened here. Property has been replaced by sovereignty.

Let me elucidate. The walls and gates are no longer the property of the City Wall Society. Instead, the king and his ruling class claim ownership of the entire city, including its borders. The property rights of individuals and societies no longer exist. Or, at best, they’re regarded as leases from the king’s “eminent domain.”

And not only have property rights been lost or severely damaged in the transition from a free people’s city to a royal state. But the principle of non-encirclement has been lost, too.

I’ve already written, in no uncertain terms, about what I think of sovereignty [6]. Here, I will add one thing. While boundaries of property are a one way filter, borders of sovereignty are two way. Not only can the king keep out of his city those he dislikes. But he can also forcibly keep in those he chooses to. For example, as Hans-Hermann Hoppe has pointed out [7], prior to 1824 the emigration of skilled workers from England was illegal.

When a king and his ruling class take over a city, the fox is in the hen-house. More; the fox controls the hen-house. Now, it’s true that some of the foxes are a bit less evil than others. On rare occasions, the interests of the ruling class can coincide for a while with the interests of the ruled; the UK from around 1830 to 1901 is an example. To live in a state during an empire-building phase isn’t so bad. But for traditionalists to hark back to such a time, and to claim that going back there is the only way forward, is... the nicest word I can find is myopic.


Living under monarchy palls after a while. People start to ask, why should a king and a ruling class have a right to do to us exactly what they want? And why should we put up with it? So they form a society, with the purpose of overthrowing the rulers. They can readily find two binding forces for such a society. First, a shared culture. And second, to a greater or lesser degree, a common ancestry and shared racial characteristics. Thus, a nation is born. It’s at this point that the idea of “the community” comes into being.

Against a dynamic as strong as nationalism, few monarchies can stand. The king may be unseated entirely, or relegated to a ceremonial role. But, importantly, the power of the ruling class as a whole is not broken; nor is its sovereignty destroyed. Indeed, by exploiting for their own gain the new feeling of “we” among the people, the ruling class can actually increase its power. And as to borders, nationalism makes them more important, not less. The xenophobic nation state is up and running.

Many countries, particularly those in which democracy has not yet been tried or in which it has never been any more than a false front, are today still stuck in this nation state phase. Others, most of all those with a history of liberal values, proceed to the next stage of social disintegration; democracy.


In the same spirit as Gary Chartier’s three kinds of capitalism [8], I’ll here offer you my four phases of democracy.

Democracy-1 is the honeymoon period. People are happy to have (at least apparently) a say in how their lives are governed. Everything seems fresh and new, and anything seems possible. I noticed, at a recent conference in Bali, that many Asian libertarians seem to be “in love” with democracy in this way. I’ve also noticed that this phase can often result in political frivolities, such as the Beer Lovers’ Party winning 16 parliamentary seats at the 1991 elections in Poland.

But honeymoons don’t last. It isn’t long before political factions emerge, looking to take advantage of the situation. The result is what I call democracy-2. In this phase, two factions each form a group of core supporters, and promote policies designed to favour their own supporters at the expense of everyone else. People who don’t feel a strong attachment to either of the factions will tend to support whichever side seems less evil at the time. And this, as often as not, is the faction currently out of power.

Minor parties can also attract such people; so, they can flourish for a time. But rarely do they get big enough to acquire any chance of real power. Thus, as long as democracy-2 lasts, power tends to swing from one side to the other and back again. The social fabric becomes more and more stretched, and the tone of politics becomes nastier and nastier.

In the UK, democracy-2 was the norm for a period stretching roughly from the 1920s to the 1980s. It was the norm for several decades in the USA, too. Many people, particularly conservatives, seem to think that we still live under that system. But the reality is otherwise. For in the 1980s – I think I can date it to a particular year, 1987, but that’s a long story and one for another day – in most if not all Western democracies, the transition began to democracy-3.

Under democracy-3, the differences between the political factions become greatly reduced. They may sometimes spout different rhetoric; and they may, perhaps, propose slightly different bad laws. But their ideologies are essentially the same. And their policies are directed, not to the benefit of the people, but for the personal benefit of the political class and their hangers-on, and to satisfy the agendas of special interest groups.

So, under democracy-3, society inevitably descends towards where we are today. Everything is politicized. Government has been hi-jacked by special interests, such as environmentalists, warmongers and the pro-EU lobby. And the interests of the political class and their cronies have become diametrically opposed to the interests of good people. The fox is back in control of the hen-house.

Indeed, the fox is sovereign in the hen-house. It’s this very sovereignty that allows the fox to make the bad laws, and the taxes, and the wars, that harm good people so much. I don’t blame the titular monarch, Lizzie Windsor, for this; my guess is that she’s as much a victim as we are.

Living under democracy-3 is even worse than living under monarchy. For under a monarchy – a hereditary one, at least – you might get a good egg like William IV, or a bad one like Mary. But under democracy-3, those that rise to the top are, almost without exception, the worst, the most dishonest and devious, the most politically hip. It’s a system perfectly made for the Blairs, the Browns, the Camerons and their ilk. Moreover, under democracy-3 the political class and their hangers-on are far more numerous than any king and his courtiers. And so, their interferences with, and predations on, the people will become far more stringent and far more pervasive than those of any monarchy.

There’s a fourth phase of democracy; and it’s a terminal social illness. Democracy-4 is the tyranny of a parasite majority. The Greeks suffer it already; for, as I learned recently [9], 67 per cent of Greeks depend on the state for their existence. It’s ironic that Greece, the so called “cradle of democracy,” is also the first exemplar of its destruction. For the productive 33 per cent of Greeks, there are only two options now: exit (while it’s still available), or revolution.

Multiculturalism and Islam

On to multiculturalism. I confess that, before my discussion with Keir, I didn’t grasp the problem of multiculturalism; or, indeed, why so many people think it’s such a big deal. But now, I think I understand that what they find to be a problem is the idea of having several cultures inside one of these things they call “the community.”

Even knowing this, I still don’t really grok the issue. I look, for example, at one of the most successful countries in the world, Switzerland. Switzerland is a multicultural society, and has been for centuries. Where’s the problem with multiculturalism? Or what about the UK itself? The UK was multicultural long before immigration ever became a talking point. I’ll never forget, on my first visit to North Wales, discovering that they spoke a language I couldn’t make head or tail of, and that the pubs were closed on Sundays!

So, I’m coming towards the view that “multiculturalism” is no more than a label, a convenient euphemism, for something else. Those that decry multiculturalism are really, deep down, saying that they hate immigrants. And often, it’s specifically Muslim immigrants that they hate.

Now, those who know me will be aware that I take a very liberal view towards different religions, and towards Muslims in particular. That doesn’t mean that I’m in any way an apologist for Islam. I find Islam even less attractive than Christianity, which I rejected at the age of 16. I’m not comfortable with its central theme, surrender to the will of a god. I abhor its attitude to alcohol. I'm not too convinced by its attitude to women either. (Though Western feminism, it must be said, has tipped that particular balance too far the other way). Nor do I like the fanaticism it can engender, or the suspicion it causes some Muslims to show for non Muslims. Nor do I approve of the propensity of a minority of Muslims to seek to rip people off.

All that said, back in 1983 I spent two and a half months working in a moderate Muslim country, Indonesia. And it was one of the happiest times of my life. I found the people there, for the most part, to be friendly, helpful and tolerant of Westerners' foibles. (The beer wasn’t so bad, either). And, in England, I have known several fine people, who also happened to be Muslims. So, as an upholder of the values of the Enlightenment, I will not condemn Muslims for being Muslims.

Indeed, I see Muslim immigration less as a problem than as an opportunity. Unlike Protestants, Catholics and Jews, Muslims as a whole haven’t yet been through the process of Enlightenment. Isn’t having so many of them among us a good chance to teach them our Enlightenment values?

In reply to John Kersey

At last, I’m ready to address some points John Kersey raises in his talk.

First, individualism. John says that individualism will cause society “to atomize into multiple and ever-changing identity groups.” I disagree. For individualism, simply put, is a way of thinking that focuses on the individual as opposed to the collective. It concentrates on the rights and responsibilities of individuals and their relations towards each other, rather than on nation states and politics, or on received cultures or religions. It’s a bottom up way of thinking, as opposed to a top down one. And in my view, individualism is a vital part of the way out of the bedlam that is democracy-3 and into a liveable future.

Further, I’d say that if you want to build a worthwhile society, if you want to create institutions to endure into the future, you need individualism at the core of your ideas. The best institutions are always built by people working freely and voluntarily with each other to solve the problems they face. I already mentioned the founding of cities, and the development of rights of way. And there are other traditions, that have grown outside the prevailing political order; the lex mercatoria is a prime example. In contrast, top down systems like nation states can’t build anything, except bureaucracies and war machines.

Second, the “Crown” and its role in setting borders. Now, either this “Crown” is a private landowner, or it is not. If it was something other than a private landowner, that would contradict the assumption with which we came in; namely, that land should be privately owned. But if it’s a private landowner, then it can have no rights over its land that other landowners do not. In particular, it should be expected to keep to the principle of non-encirclement. It should not have a right to prohibit people from crossing its land at, say, the Port of Dover or Heathrow Airport. Nor should it have any right to prevent someone from Slovakia (for example) visiting a friend who has invited him to his home in Kent. The conclusion of my argument is clear: if all land is privately owned, then there can be no national borders.

Third, legal versus illegal immigration. Now for me, what is legal conduct and what is illegal conduct must be the same for everyone. You cannot reasonably claim, of twin brothers Mo and Ahmed, neither of whom has ever committed a crime, that it’s legal for one to be in a particular place in the public space, and illegal for the other.

You can, of course, rightly say that Mo is legally on your property (because he’s a plumber, and you have invited him in to fix a leak), while Ahmed, if he was in the same place, would be trespassing. But to say that an immigrant is legal or illegal is to miss the vital difference between property and sovereignty. All valid claims to set boundaries, across which individuals may not pass, arise from property rights. But if you claim a right to stop individuals from crossing a line in some place you don’t own, like the Port of Dover or Heathrow Airport, you’re not basing your claim on property rights. Rather, you’re arrogating to yourself a sovereignty which neither you nor anyone else has any right to.

Fourth, banning the burqa. However much some of John’s audience might agree with this, I find the idea unlibertarian. In my view, it’s wrong to deny people free expression of their religion, as long as it isn’t intended to be provocative. And moreover, if you’re going to ban the burqa, why not also ban the Sikh turban? Jewish headgear? The papal zucchetto? Catholic nuns’ veils? Or crosses on British Airways uniforms?

Fifth and last, cultural dilution. Here, I’m much more sympathetic to John Kersey’s views. He is discomforted by individuals “whose cultural commitment is to values which are profoundly different from our own.” So am I; and I don’t want them around me any more than John does. But the fact is, that most of them aren’t immigrants. Most of them are British born and bred; yet, far from sharing my values, they commit themselves to socialism, environmentalism, welfare statism, political correctness, warmongering or other uncivil ideologies.

John gives an excellent example of what we’re up against, when he mentions Tony Blair and cronies. He describes their motivations as “short-term, materialistic, self-interested greed and tribalism.” My own view of them is far less kind; definitely not fit to be published on the website of an educational charity!

Let me offer a thought experiment here. Imagine that you have both the right and the power to set an exclusion zone of, say, 100 miles radius around your home. (You don’t, in reality, have either; but this is a thought experiment!) You can set a border around it, and so keep out of your exclusion zone anyone you choose to. Furthermore, you can boot out of your domain anyone you want to, and not let them in again. The question is: who would you exclude?

I know what my own answer would be. Blair, Brown and Cameron would, of course, be the first to go. They’d soon be followed by supporters of Agenda 21, the “humans are causing catastrophic global warming” fraud and other green lunacies. Anyone that supports draconian speed limits or other anti-car policies. Anyone that supports re-distribution of wealth from the productive to the lazy, dishonest and politicized. Anyone that supports any policy intended to tell me how to live, or to subject me to indignity, or to constrain my freedom. Any bureaucrat that ever violated my human rights, for example by stealing a penny of my earnings or intercepting one of my e-mails. Anyone that supports aggressive wars in places like Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. Anyone that tries to rip me off, or treats me uncivilly or dishonestly. Anyone that lies to me, or tries to mislead or to propagandize me, about any matter of importance.

But to economic migrants – wherever they’re from, be it Syria, or Poland, or Iraq, or Greece, or Libya, or even Scotland – what I would say would be along the following lines. “I know of no harm that you’ve done to me. Therefore, I don’t wish any harm to you. So as long as you are, and remain, peaceful, honest and respectful of others’ rights, I’m happy for you to live your lives in my domain.”

Questions for conservatives

Most conservatives and traditionalists are well meaning people. They like to cling to the old ways, because they believe they work. In normal times and places, there’s nothing wrong with this. But the situation today, in the UK, USA and other democracies, is exceptional. The political system, that everybody knows and some are still stupid enough to love, has failed. As it stands, it has only one way to go; down to democracy-4, the rule of the parasite majority. Therefore, radical change is necessary. And that must start with radical change in people’s thinking.

So, my conservative friends, I think you need to ask yourselves some questions. For example: Why do you venerate the state and its sovereignty? Why do you show any respect at all for politicians that make bad laws, taxes and wars? Why do you even pay lip service to a political system that enables your enemies – and mine – to oppress us all? And why do you not only allow, but encourage, the state to prevent people from crossing certain arbitrary lines?

My vision

My vision is of a world in which property rights are fully respected; but there is no sovereignty. In which there is the rule of law and justice; but there are no politicians to make wars, taxes or bad laws. In which there are boundaries, set by individuals or societies around and within their properties; but there are no national borders, or obstructions to movement within the public space. In which everyone can associate with others to form societies or communes – political, religious or of other kinds; but no-one is forced into the company of those he doesn’t like.

Within that vision, forsooth, there might be an English Traditions Society. They might club together to buy a stately home or several, and form their own communes there. So, they can enjoy long summer Sunday afternoons, watching cricket, eating bacon butties, and drinking warm beer from a bar that doesn’t open until 7pm. And they can deny entry to Muslims; though they may make an exception for members of visiting cricket teams. You never know, I might pop in there from time to time for a pint or two, and to hear how my traditionalist friends are doing.

The vision I’m describing is founded on two ideas. The first consists, broadly, of Enlightenment values, with the rule of law and justice at the centre. The second is the state of nature. That is the condition which John Locke describes as [10]: “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man.”

Locke also says, of the individual under the law of Nature [11]: “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.” Corrupt, vicious, degenerate; these words could almost have been invented to describe the Blairs, Browns and Camerons of today.

There’s a world-wide Civilization to be built out there – a new “great and natural community” of civil people. Those like me, who are doing what we can to bring it about, need as much help as we can get. Do conservatives and traditionalists want to join in?


[10] Second Treatise of Government, §4.
[11] Second Treatise of Government, §128.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Why Should We Tolerate Bad Government?

(From the archives - January 9th, 2006)

If you hired a private security firm to protect your possessions, and they failed to do what they had promised, what would you do? And what if that security firm demanded huge and ever increasing amounts, which they used for purposes that brought no nett benefit to you?

Would you terminate the contract? Would you look for another firm you could trust better? Would you tell your friends about their misconduct? Would you warn people not to deal with them? Or would you just continue paying up, year after year after year, until they have drained you dry?

Suppose, again, that you hired a private security firm to defend you and your freedoms against violent aggressors. Suppose, then, that a violent aggression happened, that took many lives. Suppose, too, that the security firm had culpably failed to act on the warning signals before the attack. And perhaps even, by their deeds, had encouraged the attack?

Would you sue them for negligence? Would you vow to make sure that they are never again allowed to peddle their less-than-worthless wares? Or would you accept them putting more and more restrictions on you, in the name of protecting you against future attacks? Would you accept them killing the very freedoms you had hired them to defend?

If you hired a security firm to protect you, and they did lots of things that weren't in the contract, what would you do? Particularly if a lot of what they did was hostile to you. Like, re-distributing your earned wealth to others? Trying to ruin your career? Draining the economy? Pressing for any busybody agenda that might bring them an excuse for more power over you? Hemming you in with whatever bad regulations they decided to dream up, often supported by arbitrary limits to make it easier to catch you out? Taking away your rights to enjoy the pleasures you have earned? Putting obstacles in the way of your progress? Spying on you? Stopping and searching you on a whim? Treating you like an object or a number, instead of as a human being?

What if, on top of all that, they did things that no civilized human being would ever do – like murdering innocent people, and covering up what had happened? What if they acted like the very criminals they were supposed to be protecting you against?

And what if they tried to excuse their actions with lies and rationalizations? What if they took noble-sounding ideals – like health, safety, security, the environment, fighting poverty – and set them up as idols, fraudulently making them out to be higher causes that overrode your rights as a human being? What if they tried to scare you, or to manipulate you through propaganda, into believing that what they were doing to you was for your own good?

Would you – beyond suing them for damages, of course – press for harsh criminal penalties against them? Would you censure them for their uncivilized acts? Would you reject their lies and dishonesties, and encourage others to do likewise? Or would you stay silent, and accept their felonies, their ruses and their excuses?

If you hired a security firm to defend you, and they tried to arrogate to themselves rights to do things they denied to you – for example, that their operatives may carry guns, but you may not – what would you do?

Would you point out that you are their subscriber, not their subject? That they are supposed to be your servants, not your masters? Would you make it clear that the only right you have delegated to them is a part of your right of self-defence? Or would you kow-tow to them as if they were a superior species to you, and had rights to do things you didn't?

If you hired a security firm to defend you, and they claimed a right to make armed assaults on other security firms and their subscribers, what would you do?

Would you tell them, in no uncertain terms, to concentrate solely on what they are supposed to be doing – defending you and your fellow subscribers? Or would you encourage and support their assaults, with the deaths and maimings of innocent people they would cause?

If all the security firms in your area got together and formed one huge, lawless cartel, how would you view them? If they purported to compete and to offer you a choice, but in reality were all just part of the same cartel, offering no choice at all, what would you do?

Would you reject their charades? Would you refuse to take part in any scheme that gave them an illusion of legitimacy? Or would you dutifully express a preference for one or another of them? Would you put it on the record that you are satisfied with what the cartel have done and are doing to you? Would you signal your approval of their aggressions, thefts and frauds against innocent people? And would you ask for more of the same?

Do not today's political governments do all these bad things to us? You bet they do. And more. So, I make explicit the question: Why should we tolerate bad government? And I give you my answer. We shouldn't.

More generally, why should we tolerate bad politics? Why should we tolerate a system that is so corrupt, that it cannot produce any government that is anything other than bad? A system that, far from rewarding bullies, thieves and fraudsters with the criminal punishment they deserve, elevates them to positions of power? A system that, far from delivering to human beings the peace, freedom, prosperity and justice we deserve, instead fans wars and conflicts, harasses us, impoverishes us and treats us as less than human?

And I give you my answer again: We shouldn't.

Ah, you may say, I agree with you. But what can we do about it? How do we change things, so governments work for good people, not against us?

For today, I leave answering that question, dear reader, as an exercise for you.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

But What If It Isn't True?

(I found this one in the Rhymer's archives. It comes from June 2009 - pre-Climategate. But, with a certain gab-fest coming up in Paris, it's very relevant today.)

They tell us there’s global warming,
They tell us that we’re to blame.
They tell us to cut emissions,
They want us to give up wealth.
But, power is habit-forming,
And lies are a route to fame.
So, why should we trust Green visions?
They don’t care about our health.

We all have already suffered,
Bad green laws, and taxes too.
They’re taking away our birthright!
They don’t want us to be free.
Yet one thought comes through, unbuffered:
“But what if it isn’t true?”
Of course it ain’t. So, be forthright,
And speak truth and honesty.

Monday, 5 October 2015

How to Identify the Humanity Haters

(Another one from the archives - October 4th, 2005. Almost exactly 10 years ago.)

Sixty-six and some million years ago, dinosaurs ruled the planet. Some of them, like tyrannosaurs, were big and violent. Others were big, slow-moving herbivores. Whichever way, they had dominion over the Earth.

Then came a change. Whether it was a change in the global climate, or an asteroid hit, or something else, we do not know. But the dinosaurs died out. And smaller, more dynamic species suddenly found the world more encouraging. So they began to thrive.

Today, I think, we are in a weirdly similar situation. Big political states, with their institutional violence, theft and fraud, rule the world. Big vested interests, quangos, pressure groups and mass media have power too. Meanwhile, big, staid companies lobby for favours. The small – the individual and the small company – are not respected at all. Today's political system is not helpful or encouraging to us human beings.

But there is change in the air. There's a Renaissance coming. Whether it will happen by change in the mental climate, or by some event which moves large numbers of people suddenly to understand what is going on, or some other way, I do not know. But…

Today, I'm going to identify the dinosaurs. But no, that's not quite accurate. I'm going to identify the humanity haters, that today form the backbones of the tyrannosaur states and other big dinosaur organizations. And I'm going to contrast them with the good guys.

To do that, I must begin with some very general comments about how human beings should relate to each other. First, it is wrong to be malicious, aggressive or dishonest towards others. This is reflected in the institution we call criminal law. Those that maliciously cause harm, or use aggression or fraud against civilized people, deserve not only to be made to compensate their victims, but to suffer punishment in addition.

Second, if we damage others through negligence or irresponsibility, we have an obligation to compensate them. This is what civil law is about. It is about restitution for damage or for nuisances.

Third, we should trade with others. We should offer what we can to others, as long as they provide us with what we see as equivalent value in return. There's a long-standing human institution which supports this, too. It's called the free market.

Fourth, we should try to create as much value as we can. In particular, we must make every possible effort to put in more than we take out. There's supposed to be a human institution to support this as well. It's the system by which individuals' rewards, over the long run, are in proportion to how much good they do. An imperfect version of it used to be called laissez-faire capitalism.

Fifth and last, we should be benevolent towards our fellows – that is to say, those who meet their obligations towards us. We should respect them as individuals. We should respect their rights. We should never intentionally let ourselves become a drain on them. And we should do what we can to help our fellows if they are in need through no fault of their own.

Civilized human beings measure up to these basic human obligations, or at least strive to do so. There are, however some that fail to make the effort to meet these obligations. They may, for example, fail even to try to be productive or constructive. They may be a drain on or a nuisance to us. They may violate our human rights. They may be aggressive, malicious or dishonest. Or they may want to pervert law and justice to their own ends. These are not our fellows; they are our enemies. They are humanity haters.

Within the tyrannosaur states and the large dinosaur organizations, you can find many different subspecies of humanity haters. I will describe some of them for you.

First on the list are the Bullies. If you think of the humanity haters as like a soccer team, then the Bullies are the strikers. I don't need to tell you what Bullies do; look in the dictionary. But it's worth noting that there are two types of Bullies, active and passive. The Bully (Active) is the shock troop, while the Bully (Passive) helps him and eggs him on.

Behind the striking pair, there is the Killjoy. I don't need to say much about what Killjoys do, either. But there's something definitely wrong with those that want to deny others their earned pleasures.

Playing a little deeper, there is the Guilt-tripper. Guilt-trippers are those that try to make us feel guilty for just about anything. If we drive to work rather than walking or taking public transport, for example, or if we don't give lots of money to charity. You have to wonder, though, why are Guilt-trippers so obsessed with guilt? What are they hiding?

Predominantly on the right side of the midfield, is the Meddler. Meddlers like to force us to live the way they want us to, without regard for our individuality. They love to snoop, to intrude, to interfere, to restrict. Regulation for regulation's sake is their favourite pursuit.

Predominantly on the left is the Envier. Enviers hate success, most of all when it has been honestly earned. They hate excellence. And they share the Killjoys' hatred of anything fun.

Behind the Meddler is the Waster. Wasters like huge projects that consume enormous amounts of our resources, without delivering us corresponding benefits, or indeed any benefits at all. They just love wasting our wealth, particularly when some of it finds its way to them.

On the other flank is the Thief. What Thieves love to do is steal and re-distribute our wealth, to finance the schemes of the Bullies, Enviers, Wasters and the other humanity haters.

In central defence are the Obstructor and the Stop-the-Worlder. Obstructors love to put obstacles in people's way, to make our lives more difficult than they need be. Stop-the-Worlders are even more extreme. They hate change. They hate dynamism. They hate progress. The enviro movement, for example, is full of Stop-the-Worlders.

Last, I introduce their captain and goalkeeper – the Rationalizer. All humanity haters are, to some extent, Rationalizers. All mainstream politicians, in particular, are Rationalizers. They claim to care about us; they try to avoid openly showing their hatred for us. They try to make out that whatever it is they are doing to us is for a good cause. For example, health, safety, security, sustainability, improving the environment, fighting crime, helping the needy, eliminating poverty.

But once you start to see these rationalizations for what they are, it becomes increasingly easy to reject them. When you hear a policy proposed that is claimed to be a benefit to people, ask yourself two questions. One, is this an objective benefit to me as an individual? And two, is it a benefit to honest, productive, civilized human beings in general? If the answer to either question is No, you have caught a Rationalizer in the act. You have identified a humanity hater.

And, if you wonder why just about everything today's political governments do seems to be, as one wag put it, "spending a lot of our money while tightening the screws of tyranny a little bit further,” you need wonder no longer. It's because they're a bunch of wasters and bullies. And rationalizers too, of course.

Ask yourself: Who needs the humanity haters? Who needs bullies? Who needs killjoys or guilt-trippers? Who needs meddlers, enviers, wasters, thieves, obstructors or stop-the-worlders? Who needs rationalizers? Why don't we just dump the dinosaurs? Why don't we just reject and ostracize those that don't even try to meet basic human standards like peacefulness, honesty, economic productivity and respect for justice and human rights?

Well, one problem is that a lot of people are still fooled by their rationalizations. So we still have work to do before we can simply shrug them off our shoulders. We have to persuade good people – eventually, very many good people – to see the humanity haters for what they are.

Another problem is that those that hate us have guns, and we don't. But that probably will not matter. Tyrannosaurs had lots of teeth; but that didn't help them. Nor, I believe, can weapons ensure the survival of the tyrannosaur state or the other dinosaurs that depend on it. A dynamic as big as what is happening today – in essence, a re-evaluation of the human condition, the rise of a bottom-up, individualist view of life in opposition to the old top-down, collectivist view – will not be deflected by a few million bullies or by their bullets.

In the meantime, let's do what we can to amuse. In describing the humanity haters, I used the analogy of a soccer team. So let's see what kind of team we could put up against them.

We might have the Lover of Honesty, to outwit the rationalizer. The Lover of Peace and our captain, the Lover of Justice, to defend against the bullies. The Lover of Freedom to tackle the meddler. The Lover of Happiness to mark the killjoy. The Lover of Dynamism and the Lover of Progress, to run at the obstructor and the stop-the-worlder. The Lover of Success, to repel the envier. The Lover of Earned Prosperity, to neutralize the thief. The Lover of Self-esteem to dispossess the guilt-tripper. And the Lover of Competence to run rings round the waster.

I think that might be quite a game of football.

Friday, 18 September 2015

A Conquest

The Rhymer once wrote a sonnet about a woman he loved. Ah, those were the days. But here it is.

I run my hands along her curves. I feel
A subtle sinuosity; complex, but real.
I put my arms around her waist, and hold
A warm, sweet, beautiful sixteen-year-old.
I hold her tight; I take a comfy rest,
As I enjoy the softness of her breast.
I hold her tighter; my nose finds afresh
The subtle perfume of young female flesh.
Next, my desire is for the perfect kiss;
Her lips are quite impossible to miss.
I lure her to my car’s back seat; that done,
We ride to a hotel, and have some fun.
But afterwards, I think: Why was I blind?
I didn’t bother to explore her mind.

Friday, 11 September 2015

How to Re-claim the Law

(From the archives - March 30th, 2005)

The end of law, wrote John Locke, is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.

Bad laws, said Edmund Burke a century later, are the worst sort of tyranny.

The villains that masquerade as government in Britain today do not seem to have learned from either of these sages. For they pile on us bad law after bad law. Their laws are so many and complicated that no-one can possibly know them all, let alone obey them all. In a legislative frenzy, they have invented hundreds of new "crimes.” They hem us about with ever more arbitrary regulations. They persecute whoever is the politically incorrect flavour of the month, for example fox-hunters, smokers or car drivers. They give police more and more powers to interfere in our lives. They want to force on us ID cards and DNA tests. And they prescribe severe fines and penalties for anyone who steps even slightly out of line.

The philosophy of today's laws seems to be that we are too weak and too wanton to govern our own lives. That we are not fit to take responsibility for our actions. That we need to be protected against our own foibles. That we need to be ordered about at every turn.

That we are also to be held strictly liable for any damage (real or presumed) we might be accused of causing, even if we are not in any way malicious, irresponsible or negligent. That it doesn't matter how much cost laws impose on us. And that it's OK for law makers and enforcers to treat innocent people as if we were criminals.

Worse yet is what these villains have done and are doing to law in the wider sense. They undermine the presumption of innocence. They threaten traditional safeguards like jury trial and double jeopardy. They agitate for indefinite detention or house arrest without trial. They claim such measures would only be used against terrorists, but who but a fool would believe them?

Meanwhile, they not only continue but expand their favourite pastime of "legally" draining us of our earned wealth. So putting all of us, however much we honestly earn, in danger of being left destitute in our old age. Much of what they take, they waste. And some they actively use against us. They use our own earned wealth as fuel for the leviathan through which they rule over us and try to impose their wills on us. Preserving and enlarging freedom? Pull the other one.

We need to re-claim the law. We need to make law and government work for good people, not against us. How might we do that? I invite you to consider how, when the lovers of tyranny have been removed from power, we might go about cutting law down to its proper size and function. I am thinking, here, in the context of English law. But I suspect that many of the reforms I suggest will have their counterparts in other systems of law.

The first step in re-claiming the law, I think, must be a negative one. That is, to quickly un-do the worst excesses of what the politicians and their cronies have done to us. I can see no better way to do this than simply to choose a past date, all laws made after which are to be repealed with immediate effect. If I were asked to pick such a date, I would suggest 1st April 1992. That would eliminate all laws made by New Labour, and all laws made by the Tories in their last term of office up to 1997.

I am well aware that this would mean – among much else – tearing up the European constitution and the Kyoto protocol, along with hundreds or thousands of European directives. But so what? They are political frauds. Couldn't the inhabitants of England survive – indeed, prosper – without them? It is law we need, not politics.

The second step in re-claiming the law is a specialist one. It is to distil the centuries of experience, which underlie English law, into a new, simplified law code. How this might be done is a good question. We might entrust the task to a single very eminent professor of law. Or to a committee of such greybeards. Or to several individuals or teams, working in free competition to produce the best code of law possible.

Without pre-judging this question, I think I can give some pointers as to what that law-book might be like.

First, how big will it be? I think it must be small. I suggest 100 pages at the maximum – under 40,000 words. So that anyone who wants to can carry a copy of it around, and refer to it whenever they feel the need.

Second, what will it contain? I think it will have two main parts. One on basic or non-criminal law, one on criminal law. Both will be concerned with principles, rather than with institutions.

The first part will set a framework for the resolution of disputes, and for mechanisms to compensate people who have been treated unreasonably. It will cover personal-law matters, like wills and marriages. It will include the essence of commercial and contract law, and of property law. It will cover torts, and restitution for objective damage caused, whether physical, financial, to the lifestyle or to the reputation.

I think it will also return to centre stage the idea of the reasonable man (and woman). It will reject strict liability. No-one will be liable to compensate unless they have been, in some way, irresponsible, negligent or malicious. Accidents, of course, will happen; but provided those involved have behaved reasonably, compensation for accidents will be a matter for insurance, not for law.

The criminal-law part, I expect, will begin with a list and description of fundamental crimes. Among such crimes might be: Murder. Assault, aggressive violence. Invasion of the home. Invasion of privacy. Theft, in all its forms. Malicious damage to property. Malicious obstruction. Fraud, malicious deception. Bullying or threatening behaviour. Molesting children. Knowingly aiding and abetting others' crimes.

All criminal acts – with two exceptions I will come to – will have something in common. That is to say, crime requires a mental state as well as an action. Criminal law will take account of the centuries-old idea of mens rea; no-one is guilty unless his mind is guilty. Otherwise put, no act can be a crime unless it is done with malicious intent, or such recklessness that a reasonable person would not contemplate doing it.

There are, I think, two exceptions, which lie in the borderland between non-criminal and criminal law. One is manslaughter. Because it does not involve mens rea, manslaughter should not strictly be a crime. However, because of the severity of its effects, traditional wisdom – rightly, I think – demands that it should be treated as if it were a crime.

The second exception is contempt of court, or failure to observe a judgement. This provides the escalation procedure, from penalties based on restitution, to criminal penalties, which may include punishment as well as restitution.

The law-book will not lay down specific penalties for specific offences. That, after all, is one of the things judges are for. However, it will set out the principle that the punishment for crime must always, taking account of the circumstances, be in proportion to the crime.

It will also specify the grounds on which criminal judgements should be based. For example, that a suspect must be presumed innocent until proved guilty. That any accusation must be tried without undue delay. That the accused is entitled to a full and fair hearing. That all judgements must be objective and impartial. That individuals may only be penalized if they are culpable beyond reasonable doubt. That it is better that ten guilty go free, than that one innocent is wrongly punished.

The third step is to correct the institutions, which implement the rule of law. I will base my suggestions on the Enlightenment model of government, in which powers are separated into three branches: legislative, executive and judicial.

Of course, political government today has more branches than just the Enlightenment ones. There is the Uncompetitive, providing generally low-quality services that aren't what we want. There is the Politically Corrective (also known as the Meddle Class), providing cushy bureaucrat jobs for those that like to use good-sounding ideals, like racial equality or health and safety, to interfere in people's lives – from a height. And there is the Kleptocracy, that drains us of our wealth to keep the political shebang going. Since none of these branches has anything to do with the kind of law that benefits good people, I will only say; the Uncompetitive has got to get competitive, and the others have got to go. So I will concentrate on the three valid branches of government: judiciary, executive, legislative.

The judiciary are today, so it appears, the least corrupt of the three. Therefore, they will suffer the least pruning. Indeed, they will be more important under the new system than the old. Nevertheless, any judge that makes judgements on grounds of political policy, rather than objective justice, must go. No more Judge Jeffreys!

The executive – enforcers of law, including the police – are another matter. While the best of them do a reasonable job, there are too many that seem to like enforcing bad laws. Too many of them like to pounce on anyone who is or might be breaking some arbitrary regulation that wasn't there just a few years ago. Those that were tasked with preserving and enlarging freedom, but failed in that task, will be pruned as they deserve.

It is, however, in the legislative that the worst problems lie. Indeed, the very existence of the Uncompetitive, the Meddle Class and the Kleptocracy is all the fault of the legislative, and those that greased their palms.

It is tempting to think that we might be able to get away without having lawmakers at all; that our law-book could suffice for ever. I think, though, that this view is short-sighted. The law has to be able to evolve to meet new situations.

But, to prevent today's legislative anarchy being repeated, the powers of the legislature must be strongly circumscribed. Except in clear case of emergency, I think meetings of the legislature should be restricted to – at maximum – two weeks each year. And that no-one should be allowed to be a member for more than – say – five years. By abolishing career politics, I think these two small changes alone would bring enormous benefits.

Here are some of the rules I think lawmakers of the future should be made to keep to. One, no law may be made with intent to harm any individual or group, or to treat anyone worse than they treat others. Two, no law may demean people by taking away their right to make and be responsible for their own decisions. Three, any proposed law must be shown to have benefits outweighing its costs, before it can come into force. These benefits must be objectively measurable. Four, every new law must be reviewed at least every year, to check that the benefits are exceeding the costs. And any law failing this test must be struck down immediately. Five, the law-book must never exceed 100 pages or 40,000 words. If lawmakers want to bring in a new law, and the law-book is full, they must take out an old one to make room for it.

Furthermore, I can see no reason to do away with traditions when there is nothing obviously better to replace them. Therefore, jury trial should be retained. If a case is too complicated for a jury to understand, it should not be brought. The double jeopardy rule, too, should stand.

And government must be seen for what it is – at best, a necessary evil. Government must never again be allowed to become a drain on, or a danger to, good people. It must never again violate any individual's fundamental rights, such as liberty or property, except in punishment for a crime of which that individual has been convicted, or to hold an individual for a short period prior to trial. (And, if they are found not guilty, they should be compensated for what was done to them). So safeguards against wrongful arrest, and provisions for compensating innocent people who suffer harm at the hands of government, should not be emasculated, but strengthened.

The fourth and final step in re-claiming the law is to bring justice to those concerned. To compensate those who have been harmed by bad laws, and to punish, with appropriate severity, those that have perverted the law.

All government officials that ever bullied innocent human beings must make redress to their victims. And those that stole our earned wealth must be brought to account. The wealth which was stolen, and wasted or used against us, must be repaid, together with interest and damages, to its rightful owners – those who fairly, honestly earned it.

What of those that perverted the law? Edmund Burke was right when he said that bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny. Those that lobbied for bad laws, those that polluted the mental climate to try to drum up support for bad laws, and those that made bad laws, are far worse than mere criminals. And when enough good people come to realize this – and that time, I think, is not so far off now – there will be quite a backlash.

When the Revolution (or is it the Renaissance?) comes, I don't think the prospects are going to be too rosy for those with a political record.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

What shall we do with the climate-change fraudsters?

To be sung (in case anyone asks) to the tune of “What shall we do with the drunken sailor”.

What shall we do with the climate-change fraudsters,
What shall we do with the climate-change fraudsters,
What shall we do with the climate-change fraudsters,
When they’re brought to justice?

1. Stop them polluting our mental atmosphere,

2. Call them nasty names like “reality deniers,”

3. Make them pay back the green taxes they’ve stolen,

4. Stop them driving and stop them flying,

5. Stop them using energy, turn off their heating,

6. Make them wear muzzles to sequester their emissions,

7. Send them to Yamal and let them freeze.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Riches and Poverty

(Neil's Note: Three more brief sections from "Honest Common Sense.")


The “rich” get a lot of sneers directed at them. Like “the 1 per cent,” “fat cats,” “idle,” or “uncaring.” Which raises the question: which, if any, rich individuals deserve such censures?

I prefer to separate the question into two. First, how do people become rich, and which of the methods of becoming rich are sneerworthy? And second, when people have control of riches and thus economic power, how do they use their power, and which of those uses deserve scorn?

As to the first question, I see, broadly, seven ways to get rich. First, earning it through honest business in the market. Second, getting it through canny investment. Third, luck – say, inheriting Daddy’s honestly earned millions, or winning a big lottery prize. Fourth, parasitism. That is, while not actually being violent or fraudulent, sucking wealth from the system like a parasite. For example, through commodity speculation, or through asset-stripping of companies.

Fifth, scheming – that is, gaming the system to your own advantage. For example, accepting subsidies, or lobbying for advantages or to harm your competitors. Sixth, the criminal means – such as theft, fraud and intimidation, as practiced by organizations like the Mafia. And last, the political means – which I’ll here characterize as the criminal means plus a false claim of legitimacy. Taxation and currency inflation are good examples of the last category.

With the second question, there is a wrinkle. All of us wield, as individuals, an economic power in proportion to our own wealth. But some – in fact, a small minority – have far more economic power than everyone else, because they also control the spending of organizational budgets. And most are governmental or corporate bosses.

Whether personal or organizational, I see three main ways in which economic power can be used. First, constructively – such as investing in new, innovative businesses or in good, truthful science. Second, neutrally – for example, for your own pleasure and the pleasure of your loved ones or friends. And third, negatively – such as a company screwing its suppliers into dependence, or a government making wars or growing its bureaucracies.

Taking into account all these matters, dear reader, I leave as an exercise for you the following question: Of those who practise the various ways of acquiring and of using wealth, which deserve censure? Or, alternatively: At which of the ‘rich’ should we bitch?

Poverty – Causes

The opposite of rich is poor. Many, many people in the world are poor. A lot of them are very poor. And many more, while not destitute or near it, are far poorer than they deserve to be.

There are many different reasons why individuals are, or become, poor. But all these reasons can, I think, be put into one of four categories. One, lack of access to the free market. Two, lack of ability to create wealth. Three, lack of just reward. And four, debt.

Lack of access to the free market can be due to a variety of causes. For example: Wars or political oppression. Regulatory burden, such as business licensing. Putting people in prison, who aren’t any real danger to anyone else. Tariffs, prohibitions or sanctions. Anti-business culture. Or minimum wage legislation, which prevents people not yet skilled enough to earn the minimum wage from getting jobs at all.

It’s sobering to realize that most, if not all, of these causes of lack of access to the free market come from the acts and attitudes of political governments.

The causes of lack of ability to create wealth divide, for the most part, into two types. First, things which are the individual’s own fault; for example, if they’re too lazy or too dishonest to make the effort to use Oppenheimer’s economic means. And second, things which are no-one’s fault, like illness or disability.

Lack of just reward can sometimes be caused by exploitation of the individual, for example by criminals or by family members. But more commonly, it’s caused by political action, such as taxation or currency inflation. Or by a dishonest, unstable banking and financial system – check out Cyprus. Or by lack of respect for property rights.

Lastly, debt is sometimes a self-caused source of poverty, such as when individuals have spent on credit beyond their means. But debt for individuals can also be caused by others. For example, by overblown legal damages, such as maintenance payments after a divorce. Or by a rapacious state that tries to force its debts on to individual citizens.

Poverty – Solutions

To look for solutions to poverty, I’ll re-arrange the causes of poverty, as above, under three headings. First, things which are the individual’s own fault. Second, things which are someone else’s fault. And third, things which are no-one’s fault.

If an individual’s poverty is caused by that individual’s own fault, the remedy is in the individual’s own hands. No more need be said than: get earning, and if you’re still in debt, pull yourself out of it.

If, however, individuals are poor through someone else’s fault, then it must be the responsibility of those at fault to fix the problem. And those at fault, almost always, are the political class and their cronies.

So, why not help the economy to become sustainable, by taking away the unearned privileges of those responsible for others’ poverty – such as politicians, bureaucrats and corporatists? Why not simply replace redistributory taxes, bureaucracies, regulations and anti-business culture by justice, competition in a fully free market, pro-business culture, property rights and a stable, honest financial system?

That would go a long way towards eliminating poverty among civil human beings, no? And wouldn’t winding up morally and financially bankrupt political states, and distributing their assets among those they taxed and other genuine creditors, help a lot as well?

Furthermore, the Law of Restitution should apply. Those that denied access for the poor to the free market, or supported or benefited from unjust and dishonest institutions or policies, should be made to compensate those they harmed, and if appropriate punished for their crimes too.

In the last case, where individuals’ poverty is no-one’s fault, then it’s appropriate to set up schemes of insurance or mutual aid. Such schemes existed in the 19th century, for example the friendly societies. But they were elbowed out by welfare states. In a totally free market, re-vitalization of such schemes should be enough to ensure that no-one is poor through no fault of their own. But even so, charity is always available as a final back-stop.

Monday, 17 August 2015

How to Re-lay a Moral Foundation

(From the archives - February 22nd, 2005)

Today in the West, there is a widespread feeling that something is badly wrong with our moral foundations. The political societies we live in have become decadent, and things are getting worse. Almost every day, the Western world is becoming an uglier, a more suffocating and a more dangerous place.

Traditional moral views, like the biblical Ten Commandments, have lost their power. If "Thou shalt not steal" truly is a moral base of today's societies, then why do political governments routinely seize and waste our earned wealth? If "Thou shalt not kill" is a touchstone of good conduct, then how can there be aggressive military superpowers? And as for "Thou shalt not bear false witness"? Politicians and media break it just about every day.

Moral authority seems to have fallen silent. Instead, we suffer the illegitimate authority of a rampant political class. The members of that class use fraudulent rationalizations and mental manipulation in their attempts to justify bad laws. They make their bad laws ever more arbitrary and more hurtful. And they want to enforce them ever more harshly.

What we are suffering today is moral anarchy. I find myself echoing Andrian von Werburg from 1840s Austria. "The anarchy of a studied despotism is intolerable.”

So, what can we do about it? How can we lovers of freedom help to replace this anarchy by a moral order beneficial to all good human beings? To answer this, I think we must first try to understand what morality is.

The origins of morality, say the professors, are in the natures of social beings. They point to how, in groups of animals living together – monkeys, say – all can gain from helping each other. You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours. There comes a problem, though, when some animals try to cheat. They accept what others have to offer, without providing enough in return. Not surprisingly, the honest monkeys don't like this. They reject the cheats. Here is the beginning of a moral code: "Thou shalt not cheat.”

A moral code, then, is a set of rules, which mutually benefits those who keep to them, and ostracizes those that do not. For example, you can see in the Ten Commandments the obvious benefits for good people if those around them do not kill them, or steal from them, or bear false witness against them, or covet their possessions or their wives. And being moral is having, and striving to obey, such a moral code.

These ideas seem sound enough to me. But we human beings are far more than animals. If having our backs scratched was the highest need of human existence, we might start out by behaving like the monkeys. But it wouldn't be too long before someone invented a back-scratching machine. And made themselves a fortune.

What sets us human beings above animals is our creative powers. How, then, can we all gain from helping each other? One part of the answer must be, by using our different creative powers for the benefit of others. I use my skills in software to benefit Mr Jones, who in his turn delivers systems that benefit all his customers, including Mrs Smith, who in her turn…

But there's something missing from this picture. There's someone who hasn't had his back scratched yet – the end of the chain, me. If I benefit others, but that benefit doesn't find its way back to me, I'm getting a raw deal. The missing factor, of course, is trade or feedback. Mr Jones pays me for my work for him, which enables me, in my turn, to hire Mr Robinson to do something I want done but can't do myself. Which means that he can…

There is a name for what I have just described. It's called a free-market economy. Each of us, figuratively, scratches others' backs, in the ways that we find we can do well. And each of us gets our back scratched in return, in the ways that we need and enjoy.

But I missed out something else too. Remember those cheating monkeys? Well, the human race isn't immune from them either. There are those, that want to get their backs scratched without putting in the effort to do anything for others in return. Lazy, long-term welfare recipients are an example.

But others are worse cheats yet. Not only do they fail to do their share for the economy. But they maliciously queer others' pitches too. They bully innocent people. They rob people of their earned wealth. They spread lies, propaganda and dishonest rationalizations. They promote policies designed to damage the economy and the quality of people's lives. They try to push people down into a mire of fear and unhappiness. Of course, you have guessed what I am describing. The political class.

I have come to understand that morality and politics are opposites. For morality is a bottom-up thing. It comes from inside us – it comes from our nature. I find it unsurprising that, in the past, morality has been seen as of divine origin. Politics, on the other hand, is top-down. Politics is ultimately a, more or less obvious, smoke-screen that provides apparent legitimacy and an excuse for the political class to arbitrarily rule. No wonder that, as over the last 150 years or so bad politics has taken more and more of a hold over everyone's lives, morality has correspondingly lost ground.

So, what of modern moral systems? Not much to say, really. The Utilitarians made a good try, with their idea that a right act is one that increases happiness – both of those doing it and of others affected by it. The problem with this is, as they realized themselves, it's hard to draw a line between one individual's happiness and another's. What if an act makes one individual much more happy, and another slightly less happy? Is it right or wrong? How do you determine which? It's hard to do justice to individuals in such a system.

Others, myself included, have come up with lists of duties. For example: Avoiding being a drain on others. Peacefulness, non-aggression. Economic productivity. Helping those who help you. Keeping your promises. Not putting obstacles in people's way. Respect for others' fundamental human rights, like property and privacy. Honesty – not using lies, deceit or mental manipulation. Compensating those you harm. Taking responsibility for bringing up your children. These lists seem to be all very fine and good, until you ask, Why these particular rules, and not others? And there is a deeper question too. Where's the payback to me for keeping to these rules, if others don't do likewise?

* * *

Two opposite poles, between which all moral systems float, are egoism and altruism. Egoism is the idea that you should do what is best for you. Altruism is the idea that you should do what is best for others. And by implication, that you should sacrifice your interests for the sake of others' interests.

Egoism and altruism, each alone, do not work. Egoism, when used by those without respect for others – like politicians – leads to exploitation and injustice. But altruism is even worse. It not only suckers good people into missing out on the happiness they deserve. But it also provides apparent justification for requiring sacrifice from others. As George Bernard Shaw said, "Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other people without blushing.”

Worse yet, with a very few noble exceptions like Mother Teresa, those that promote self-sacrifice do not themselves practise it. Churchmen and politicians tell us that we should do more to help the poor, needy and vulnerable. Yet they do not give up their positions of power and prestige, get out there, roll up their sleeves and get helping these people. They are egoists, yet they preach altruism. Such hypocrites deserve nothing but contempt.

There is, however, a good reason why we should sometimes consider others' interests, even if they have little in common with us. That reason may be paraphrased, "There, but for the grace of God, go I.” When good people suffer accident, or illness, or natural disaster, or are incapacitated by circumstances outside anyone's control, then it makes good sense to do our share to help them out of their troubles. The response of most people to last December's Asian tsunami showed this clearly.

Equally, though, if those concerned are robbers, or spongers, or cheats, or hypocrites, or promote or support political policies to harm us, why should we feel obliged to help them at all? Why should those of us, who value honesty and non-aggression, waste our time, money or compassion on those that cheat us or bully us? No matter how needy they are? After all, isn't rejecting them merely an act of self-defence?

Moralists have tried, with a lot of fiddling about, to find a tenable balance between egoism and altruism. But they haven't succeeded. I think I understand one reason why this is. I think they have been looking for the wrong thing. They have been searching for one great moral system, to knock the socks off all others. They have been seeking a morality that is RIGHT! where all others are WRONG!. They have been chasing after the moral holy grail. Which doesn't exist.

Those who try to balance egoism against altruism have also ignored the very system which can and does provide such a balance – the free market. In a free market, if you start getting too egoist and treating your customers or suppliers badly, you will lose them eventually. And you will get a bad reputation, which will make it harder for you to find new customers or new suppliers. This is an example of what I call common-sense justice. A truly free market balances self and others, by treating individuals in the long term as they treat others.

* * *

When philosopher, activist and student lovers of freedom meet at our international conferences, I am astonished by how relaxed many of us become after a few days. It feels as if, because we have a compatible moral base, including for example bans on initiatory force and fraud, we have far more in common with each other than we do with our so-called countrymen. I think this is something we can and should do much to help along.

We should encourage people to think of themselves as members of a moral community. We should encourage them to think of those far-away people, who share their moral base, as closer to them than the next-door neighbour who doesn't. In this way of thinking, morality does not arise, as it did long ago, from the social group. Rather, the social group arises out of shared morality.

It is clearly in the long-term interest of good people to have a sound moral code, to keep to it as far as they can, and to shun those that don't make an effort to keep to it, or at least something close to it. The question is, what moral code should we choose?

I am going to put into your minds a radical suggestion. What we need is free, open competition between moral codes – as many and varied as possible. What we need is a free market in morality, so that individuals can subscribe to – and be governed by – whichever code suits them best.

What kind of codes will succeed in the moral free market? I will not attempt to pick winners at this stage. Instead, I will try to say what characteristics a successful moral code should have. It will be clear. It will be easy to understand. It will be concise. It will be impartially applicable to everyone. It will bring benefits to its practitioners. And, above all, those who promote it will strive to their utmost to obey it.

Let the competition begin!