Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Why I Won’t Vote on May 5th (or is it 7th?) – and Nor Should You

(Neil's Note: This essay is from my archives. The date stamp on it is April 28th, 2005.

Ten years on, I could write almost exactly the same essay again... - except for two things. One, I would be far less kind to both the Lib Dems and UKIP than I was a decade ago. And two, I would raise the question: "Who do I vote for to get all the bureaucrats sacked with their pensions cancelled, and all the politicians lined up and shot?")


On the fifth day, of the fifth month, of the fifth year, of the century that would have been the fifth if the calendar had started in 1601, every adult in the islands called Britain is invited to take part in a charade. That charade is called a general election. It's that time of the decade again, when the politicians offer us a chance to rubber-stamp their system. They ask us to select, from among a field of candidates, which best represents our views. Such selections, totted up in more or less complicated ways, are to determine which of two (or perhaps three) criminal gangs is to be granted licence to rule over us against our wills for the next four or five years.

Democracy, say the pundits, brings power to those who represent the will of the majority. Oh, yeah? Let's look at the record. Last time this charade took place, in June 2001, just 24 per cent of eligible voters voted for Labour. 76 per cent of us didn't. 40 per cent of us – only one per cent less than Labour and Tory voters put together – did the honourable thing, and refused to engage in the farce. Did the will of the majority prevail? Not a chance. The lying, thieving gang that call themselves Labour were awarded another licence of all but absolute power to bully and rob us all.

Looking back at Labour's propaganda from 2001, you can see coming some of the crap they have thrown at us in the last several years. You can sense the glee with which they looked forward to wasting more, and more, and more of our money. You can see them limbering up to clobber us with enviro taxes and regulations. With hindsight, you can snigger at their lies about improving quality of life or helping businesses of all sizes. Though I myself, a victim of IR35 – Labour's cynical attempt to ruin my career and the careers of tens of thousands of other honest, productive, one-man business people – am more likely to snarl than to snigger.

And yet, there is much bad that Labour have done, which they didn't bother to warn us about. There was no mention of starting a war. There was no mention of their accelerating destruction of our civil liberties, although that had started before 2001. There was no mention of banning smoking in public.

So, what do B-Liar and its minions have to offer me this time round? My family better off? I don't have a family. My children with the best start? I don't have any children. My community safer? I don't feel any sense of community in bloody Britain today. All Labour can deliver is the same crap as before. More lies, more spin, more taxes, more wasting of the wealth they steal from us, more bureaucracy, more new "crimes,” more senseless laws and more police to enforce them, more violations of basic human rights like privacy, more destruction of liberty.

What of the most obvious alternative, the Tories? I confess that, twenty years ago, the Tories had me fooled. I was stupid enough to vote for them in 1983 and 1987. But I know better now.

What do the Tories offer this time round? A few good-sounding things. One, lower taxes – they have even been talking about possibly repealing IR35, though I'm not holding my breath. However, they still want to spend more. How can that add up? Two, ending "Blair's war on the motorist.” Nice idea, but a bit rich coming from the party that started that war in the first place!

And although (at last) rejecting the EU constitution and the euro, the Tories still want Britain to remain in the European Union. What, then, will they do whenever the EU orders them to do something that contradicts their manifesto?

And there is a strong whiff of the jack-boot about many Tory policies, like school discipline, more police, more immigration controls and a US-style homeland security minister. Furthermore, they supported, at the time, the war in Iraq. And I get a sense that some of them, at least, are eager for more military adventures.

But the worst thing about the 2005 Tories isn't in the headlines. To find it, you have to dig a little deeper. And, when I found it, I almost collapsed in horror. For the Tories have gone green. Not only have they gone green, but they crow about it! They want to "show leadership on climate change.” They even re-cycle green slogans. My local Tory candidate sent out a letter headed "National vision, local action.” Or was that "Think globally, act locally"?

I want you to think, hard, about the effects your vote will have, if you choose to vote for either Labour or the Tories. Will innocent people be harmed by the policies of those you vote for? Do they deserve that harm? What will those victims think of you, when they find out what you voted for?

If you vote for a political party that is currently in power, you are endorsing its record. You are saying, I like what they have done, and I want more of the same. If you vote for Labour, then, you are signalling your acceptance of their culture of lies, spin and invasive regulation. You are approving their destruction of civil liberties, and their use of terrorism as a lame excuse for it. You are rubber-stamping their war in Iraq, and accepting a share of the responsibility for all the deaths it has caused. You are expressing your support for banning fox-hunting, and for banning smoking in public. You are sanctioning their tapping of our e-mails. You are asking for compulsory ID cards. You are condoning their ever increasing theft of our earnings. You are approving their waste of our wealth, and their bureaucracy. You are applauding their arrogance and their treating us like naughty children or lower life-forms.

If you vote for Labour, you are also committing an aggression against me personally. For you are endorsing IR35. You are saying, it's OK, even good, for politicians to cynically destroy my career. You are, in essence, punching me in the face. What do you think my reaction to you will be, if I ever see you in need or in trouble?

If you vote for Labour, you're either stupid or evil. You're either so damn stupid that you don't understand what Labour are doing to good people, or so damn evil that you actively approve of it. Either way, you aren't my fellow human being.

So, what if you pick the Tories instead? Not much difference there. If you vote Tory, you are endorsing not only their current policies, but also what they did in their last spell in power up to 1997. Don't forget that it was the Tories that first made the environment into a political football. Don't forget that the Tories started the witch-hunt against our cars. Don't forget that the Tories screwed up the railways and the education system. Don't forget that, just eight years ago, so many people were so fed up with the Tories that even B-Liar looked like a better option.

And, now they have swallowed the green gospel whole, a vote for the Tories is also a vote for the Big Lie of our time. That is, the idea that human activities are causing runaway global warming (or is it cooling?), which must be stopped by draconian measures. The political establishment are using this climate-change Big Lie as an excuse to suffocate our Western civilization. If you vote for the Tories, you are – as well as buying more police, more immigration controls and the rest – buying the Big Lie. If you vote Tory, you're stupid, and you're hostile to my civilization. And that means you're hostile to me.

So, what of the third lot, that call themselves the Liberal Democrats? They have never had power at national level, so we can't judge them on that record. They do, however, have power at the local level in many places, including where I live. And it's a mess. Their favourite pastimes right now are, one, sending out garishly coloured flyers congratulating themselves on how wonderful they are. And two, closing off key roads for weeks on end to install chicanes and speed-bumps on them.

What of their national policies? They talk of a "green backbone" to all their policies. They have big tax and spend plans. They favour more re-distribution of wealth. They talk a lot of crap about communities. They treat the National Health Service as if it was a god. They favour the EU super-state. They, too, want more police and are anti-car. There are a few small pluses, like their opposition to ID cards and to war in Iraq. But overall, I don't see a big difference between the third lot and either Labour or the Tories. If you vote for them, you're stupid, and you're not any fellow of mine.

So there you have the three so-called major parties. There you have the three criminal gangs that alone have any realistic chance of forming the next government in Britain. Labour, corrupt, thieving and authoritarian, and green underneath. The Tories, corrupt, authoritarian and green, and – despite mouthing about lower taxes – still thieving underneath. And the third lot, green and thieving, and no doubt as corrupt and authoritarian as the others underneath. Add a tinge of racism in each of them – more than a tinge, in the case of the Tories – and there you have your choice.

Choice? What choice? Whichever of the three major parties wins the election, taxes will continue to go up and up, and freedom, the general tone of society and the quality of life will continue to slide down and down. No-one who values liberty, honesty or earned prosperity can vote for any of them.

If you really feel you have to vote, what other alternatives do you have? There are, of course, the extreme greens. But their policies are depraved. The Big Lie of climate change is a central plank in their platform. They are actively against earned wealth. They talk of "reducing our burden on the planet" and "tackling the root causes of demand for mobility.” This is a radical, anti-human agenda. If you care so little about human beings that you want to forcibly impose such policies on us, you don't qualify as human.

Then there is the United Kingdom Independence Party, UKIP for short. At first sight, UKIP seems a different and better animal than the rest. They do not, so they say, see themselves as politicians. They are against "ill-conceived intrusive regulation, supposedly to protect our environment, to ensure our health and safety… and to protect us from terrorism.” They say No to "the culture of paperwork, performance targets and spin.” They say No to political correctness. They want "to turn back the culture of regulation and to strive for smaller government.” They are not actively anti-car. They understand the problems, which are stopping very many people (including me) from saving for our own pensions.

But UKIP's main policy, which drives all others, is for Britain to leave the European Union. I can agree with this, though I go further. I would like to see the EU dismantled. My recipe for a Europe worth living in is, open all the borders, sack all the bureaucrats, and pillory all the politicians.

For a few days after I read their manifesto, I thought I might vote for UKIP, assuming of course they have a candidate in my area. For me, a conscientious non-voter of 18 years' standing, this would have been a radical decision. But a few days' contemplation convinced me that voting UKIP wasn't for me. For three reasons. One, though they favour smaller government, their world-view is still top-down, of a state ruling over people, rather than bottom-up, of free individuals voluntarily forming a government to defend themselves. Two, I don't know them well enough to know what I would be getting into. Three, they're not going to win this election anyway.

Next, the British National Party, or BNP. The media tell us that they are neo-Nazi racists. But anyone whose right to freedom of speech is under attack from the political establishment deserves at least some sympathy. If we let them destroy the BNP's freedom of speech today, it will be my freedom of speech that is in danger tomorrow, and yours the day after.

That said, the BNP and other right-wing fringe parties do not interest me. I am not into either racism or nationalism. I see people as individuals, and therefore find it odd, to say the least, for anyone to try to use skin colour as a reason to discriminate against (or for) them. Only how they behave matters.

And I have come to find the idea of nationalism increasingly ridiculous. Most of all when those, that support political policies designed to harm me, try to make out that because of their nationality or residence they have a claim on my resources or energies when they are in need. I find it absurd that, because I was born in Leatherhead, I am expected to feel a comradeship for someone born in Caernarfon or Edinburgh, which I am not expected to feel for someone born in Adelaide, Chicago, Rotterdam or Sofia. I might as well be expected to feel fellowship for someone just because they were born in the same week as I was. (The comparison is apt. For I was born in the same week as B-Liar).

Those, for whom I feel fellowship, are those who are on my side. My fellows are those who, over the long run, benefit me and strive to benefit me, and those who share my values. My kind of community will cherish individual freedom, common-sense justice (the idea that individuals deserve to be treated as they treat others), economic productivity, striving for excellence, honesty and desire for truth. No community, of which I could feel a part, would even admit any of today's lying, thieving, bullying politicians as members.

I will pass quickly over the two parties I call Triveas and St. Creep, that are no more than show-offs for two limelight-craving individuals. And I will end my survey with my friends at the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

Now Howling Laud Hope, unlike all the other party leaders, does something for people. He serves beer. A few years ago, I visited his party headquarters, which is a long day's walk from my home. I received a couple of pints from his very own hand, and had an hour's good conversation with one of his South African supporters.

I am amused by some of the Loony policies. I particularly enjoyed the one about changing the day from 24 to 32 hours, so pubs could be open longer. (It would bring lots of work for us software people, too!) But I do not feel that a Loony vote would be sensible or constructive, even if it was available in my particular bailiwick.

So, I won't be voting on May 5th. I shall continue my 18-year honourable record of loyalty to Nobody. And I think you should be doing the same. Stay home, go to the pub, do what you want. But don't go near that voting booth.

I have a truth to tell you, which many will find uncomfortable. Democracy has failed. Today's so-called democratic government does not represent the will of the people, or even the will of the majority (if such things existed). It only represents the wills of the politically rich – those that benefit from the existence of a large, active state. It only represents the bullies, thieves and liars that get their kicks out of ruling over people, as harshly as they can get away with. The rest of us are politically poor. We are oppressed, exploited and unrepresented.

The failure of democracy is part of a much larger failure – the failure of politics as a whole. The top-down system of organizing human societies, which has been in place for 3,000 years and some, has reached the end of its road. The hell we are living through today is its death-throes.

Don't get me wrong. Don't call me an anarchist, who doesn't want any government at all. Government is a regrettable necessity. But government need not – should not – be political. It should not take sides. It should be for the benefit of every good human being who has chosen to give his consent to it. It should not have overarching policies to save the world or anything else. It should not try to force people into a mould. In the words of John L. O'Sullivan, that government is best which governs least.

There is reason for hope on May 5th. Only 60 per cent of eligible voters turned out in 2001. We have reason to hope that, this time, the turn-out will be lower. A turn-out under 50 per cent, I think, would be a major watershed. It would be a strong signal from the moral majority that we don't like or want the politicians and their evil activities.

Where might we go from there? How could we replace the sham of political democracy with something to make government work for all good people? In the short term, I think we need to move to a system where people are governed by their own kind of people. Where individuals know that those who govern them share their values, and are on their side.

One rough-and-ready way this might be accomplished is to allow each party's voters to be ruled, in day-to-day matters at least, by a government of that party. Labour voters, for example, could have what they voted for: lies, spin, re-distribution and wasting of wealth (their wealth this time, not ours) and no civil liberties. Meanwhile, Tory voters can have their school discipline and more police, and can sit back and enjoy the lies about climate change. Better yet, those of us who are non-political, and favour liberty, prosperity and honesty, can have a government that does nothing beyond what government ought to do – defend us good people against the bad ones. The different governments would, of course, have to co-operate in certain areas – notably military defence.

Longer term, what we need to do is actually quite easy. Just tell the truth as we see it. For when good people come to understand that politics and politicians are the root causes of most of our evils today, their minds will turn. We must help them turn the top-down, political view of society that has been foisted on them throughout their lives, into a bottom-up, individual view. We must help them learn to value individual rights – like liberty, property, privacy, freedom of speech and association – and to shoulder individual responsibilities – like economic productivity, non-aggression, striving for justice, honesty and respect for others' rights.

The way to get rid of wars, terrorism, racism, bullying, political lies, re-distribution of wealth, real environmental damage and the other evils of our age is to get rid of politics. Politics has passed its last-use-by date. It is time we took it off the shelf, and dropped it in the bin. An important step towards that is for many good people to unite in a resounding NO! to the politicians and their politically rich hangers-on.

By refusing to vote on May 5th, you can do your bit to help. Thank you.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Part 21 and final

21. Enlightenment and endarkenment

Thus far, I’ve presented bottom up and top down thinking as polar opposites. While this is indeed what they are, it’s also true that few people think either in a totally bottom up or a totally top down manner. Each individual tends, by his nature and training, to go one way rather than the other. Those trained in mathematics and science, for example, tend to exert the discipline to think bottom up; while those in “softer” disciplines, like politics or media studies, are far more likely to think top down.

Young children, as I noted earlier, start their lives learning, and so thinking, from the bottom up. And yet, many – too many – seem to reach a point of stagnation. Often, at quite an early stage in their lives, individuals’ mental development seems to stop. And they no longer learn, as they did when children, from the bottom up. Top down thinking seems to take over.

Why is this? I think it’s because they have caught a disease. I call this disease endarkenment. Top down thinking is a symptom of this social ailment. It’s a very serious malady; societies afflicted with it are likely to die, if it isn’t cured. I think of endarkenment as like a cancer – a cancer of the body politic, if you will. And I think of the top down thinkers, or endarkenmentalists, that carry and spread this disease – many of them in high positions in politics, government, academe and the media – as like cancer cells.

The analogy with cancer is, I think, a good one. For, just as cancer cells often don’t stop growing until the host dies, so the cancerous political state doesn’t stop growing until it has consumed its body politic. Just as cancer cells ignore messages sent to them by other cells, so do cancerous thinkers ignore what other people think or want. Just as cancer cells send out messages to other cells to confuse them into doing things against their and the host’s interests, so do cancerous thinkers spew out lies, scares and deceptions to confuse people into acting against their true interests. (They spew out lots of legislation to coerce people into acting against their interests, too). And, just as cancer cells fail to mature and grow up into roles useful to the host, so do most cancerous thinkers fail to grow up into productive, honest, useful members of society.

I’ll contrast this social cancer, which I call endarkenment and whose main symptom is top down thinking, with its opposite. At one level, that opposite is, as you would expect, enlightenment with a small e. Not only is this kind of enlightenment the consequence of bottom up thinking, but it also helps bottom up thinkers move towards further enlightenment.

At a higher level, though, the opposite of endarkenment is also capital-E Enlightenment. That is, a set of values associated with the historical Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries.

For, when I try to list the primary characteristics of bottom up thinking, I find myself coming up with many Enlightenment values; or, otherwise said, liberal values. For example: Reason and the pursuit of science. Toleration and a focus on the individual. 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. Moral equality and the rule of law. A desire for progress, and rational optimism for the future.

The primary characteristics of top down thinking, on the other hand, are very much opposed to these Enlightenment values. I’ll list a few: Superstition. Collectivism. Orthodoxy, dogma and political correctness. Lies, deceit and misdirection. Faux “equality.” Bad laws and injustices. War. The politicization of everything. State control over almost every aspect of our lives. Hypocrisy and double standards. A climate of alarm and much-ado-about-nothing. These are the things that top down thinkers like, and want to force on all of us. These are the non-values of endarkenment.

So, to conclude. It’s clear, to me at least, that endarkenment – a cancer-like social disease, that leads to top down thinking – is the root cause of the evils of our times. And that endarkenmentalists, those that promote top down thinking, are the cancer cells that carry and spread this malady.

It’s also clear to me what the cure for endarkenment must be. The cure is Enlightenment. That is, we human beings need to re-discover, dust off, re-polish and apply to today’s ills the best liberal values of our past. And to carry them forward into our future.

Monday, 20 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Part 20

20. Which works better?

Now, I’ll ask: Which produces better results in the real world? Bottom up thinking, or top down?

I suppose that, at one level, the answer will depend on who you are. If you’re high in the political or religious establishment, you’ll be better off with top down thinking, won’t you? But for ordinary people – for us human beings – it’s obvious that bottom up thinking produces better results.

For consider what has happened in times and places where top down thinking has been in the ascendant. (That is, indeed, for much of recorded history). Religious and political intolerance and repression. Nationalism, communism, fascism and other kinds of collectivism. Wars and pogroms. Misuse of law, violations of rights. Economic stagnation or even collapse. Not too pleasant, eh?

But now, consider: What if we could make bottom up thinking the norm, rather than top down? Wouldn’t it encourage tolerance, individual freedom, the rule of honest law, respect for rights, economic progress and prosperity? What human being would not prefer these things to the results of top down thinking?

Sunday, 19 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Part 19

19. Honesty and hypocrisy

The bottom up thinker values honesty. Indeed, honesty is one of the most important values in his entire stock. Not only does he prize truth and straightforwardness. Not only does he make efforts to understand right and wrong, to do only the right, and to treat people with civility. Not only does he aim to be conscientious and trustworthy. Not only does he seek to earn his living by work and trade, rather than to live off others by theft or deception. No; above and beyond all these, he always tries to practise what he preaches.

The top down thinker, in glaring contrast, is always liable to fall into dishonesty. He may lie, deceive or obfuscate. He may spread fear and alarm without good, truthful and demonstrable reason. He may make promises he never intends to keep, or go back on his earlier word. He may do, deliberately, what he knows is wrong. He may, with malicious intent, harm innocent people, or violate their human rights. He may take tax money to do things which are no benefit, or even a disbenefit, to those who paid the taxes.

But most of all, the top down thinker is always in danger of falling into hypocrisy or double standards. For example, he may tell others that they should cut their energy use, while himself using far more energy than they do. (Yes, that’s you, Al Gore.) He may agitate to force people out of their cars and to stop them flying, while himself being chauffeured in government limos, or going on holiday by private plane. (Yes, that’s you, Prince Charles.) He may promote scares about rising sea levels, while buying beachfront property. He may preach that everyone has a duty to help the poor, while himself not only giving nothing to the poor, but also supporting policies, like a minimum wage, that deny the poor the chance to lift themselves out of poverty.

Thus, top down thinkers demand sacrifices from others. But very few, if any, of them are actually willing to make any sacrifices themselves.

And from the point of view of the bottom up thinker, such hypocritical behaviour by top down thinkers is worse than merely criminal. It is uncivilized. It is hateful conduct. It is sub-human.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Part 18

18. The economic means and the political means

Next, I’ll look at the economic effects, which flow from bottom up and top down approaches. Why are these so important? Because almost everyone – even those with no interest in politics – feels, very directly, the effects of problems in the economy.

I’ll begin with a longish quote from the book The State (first published 1908, English edition 1922) by the German philosopher Franz Oppenheimer:

“There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others...

I propose in the following discussion to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the ‘economic means’ for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the ‘political means.’”

What Oppenheimer is telling us is that using the economic means is very different from using the political means. For, think what happens when we buy shoddy goods or services in a free market. If we don’t like what we get, we can look for, and at need switch to, another supplier next time. Better, even if we don’t ourselves go so far as changing supplier, other people switching will give our supplier a strong incentive to clean up its act.

But when the state provides shoddy tax funded services – like justice or education – then often it’s impossible to switch. And even when the state doesn’t actually prohibit competitors from providing a similar service, it’s still hard to change to non-state suppliers. For example, those who can’t afford private schools for their children, and don’t have the time or resources to homeschool, are in effect locked into the state indoctrination system.

And when the state uses tax money to do truly criminal acts – like favouring its cronies, making aggressive wars, promoting “CO2 causes catastrophic climate change” lies, or intercepting our e-mails – we have no come-back at all. We have no way to say “No!” or “bugger off.” (The commonly touted idea that we can fix such problems by voting differently at the next election is, to use an understatement, laughable.)

To put all this another way. Users of the economic means have to do a decent job. For if they don’t, they will lose customers. So, the economic means is a bottom up approach. You have to give something in order to get something back. It’s a self-correcting approach, too: for the discipline of market competition will eventually weed out the lazy and the dishonest. And thus, the bottom up approach encourages economic progress and increasing prosperity.

But for users of the political means, there is no such discipline. Nothing beyond social pressure – and even this is frequently lacking – obliges them to be diligent or honest. Having reduced or eliminated competition, they can get away with delivering services wastefully, at low quality and often in a dishonest, politicized way. Theirs is a top down approach. The customers have no come-back, so they’ll just have to be happy with what they get.

I think this explains why so many politicians and state functionaries show such a visceral hatred for the idea of competition. And why they show such a loathing for the honest, productive people, who earn success through their own efforts.

But I don’t believe that all state employees, and those whose jobs are funded by taxes, are necessarily bad people. Nor, indeed, are they all top down thinkers. There do exist fine individuals – such as honest, non-politicized judges – who have no other potential employer than government. And in many other professions, like doctors, teachers and academics, opportunities to work in a free market are often limited through no fault of the individuals concerned.

Nor, it must be said, do all those in “private” jobs honestly earn their keep. Indeed, in recent decades there has been a huge rise in “crony capitalism.” That is, the use of political contacts, lobbying and the like to seek favours for companies. There has also been a huge rise in its mirror image, “corporatism,” the use of financial power in attempts to gain political power. And in gambling with other people’s money, in the expectation that the gamblers will receive a bail-out from the state if things go wrong.

All this notwithstanding, bottom up thinkers tend to be attracted more to free market jobs, and top down thinkers more to tax funded ones. Thus, bottom up thinkers tend to become users of the economic means. And top down thinkers tend to become users of the political means.

One more important point. We are incessantly told, from politically correct quarters, that we mustn’t be “selfish,” and that we must “do our bit for others.” But using the economic means is quite the opposite of selfish. Indeed, by putting their energies into being productive and trading honestly, users of the economic means have already done their bit for others.

No; in reality, the boot fits the other foot. It’s the users of the political means that are selfish. They’re the ones that do nothing but take, take, take. And they’re the ones that must reform themselves, cure their selfishness, earn an honest living, and start doing their bit for others.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Part 17

17. Ethics and custom

The bottom up thinker knows that it’s natural for us to distinguish truth from falsehood. So, he comes to understand that it’s also natural for us to distinguish right conduct from wrong. Thus, we develop a sense of Ethics.

The bottom up thinker sees that there’s a benefit to all in behaving right, as long as others do the same. So, it’s in the long term interests of each of us to seek to do what is right. Furthermore, it’s natural for each of us, as we gain experience in life, to expand and refine our ideas of right and wrong. And so, to enlarge our understanding of the obligations, which constitute the core of civilized behaviour.

The bottom up thinker comes to recognize that many of the moral rules passed down from ancient times are good and valid. For example, Confucius’ Golden Rule: don’t do to others what you wouldn’t like done to you. It’s also possible to derive some core rules from the Judaeo-Christian Ten Commandments. For example: Don’t commit aggressions. Keep your freely made promises. Don’t steal. Don’t lie or mislead.

But he recognizes, also, that many customs (mores) or traditions of particular cultures or religions – not eating pork, or not drinking alcohol, for example – are not part of the core ethics of civilized behaviour. For anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the religion or culture, these moral rules are optional.

The top down thinker, on the other hand, often likes to pontificate about how people should behave. He usually bases his ideas on religion, or on the traditions and morality which are customary in a particular culture. He wants to enforce obedience to them, as well. But top down thinkers too often fail to live up to the obligations they parrot. Worse, they fail to condemn those that routinely disregard those same obligations.

Monday, 13 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Parts 15/16

15. Education and indoctrination

The bottom up thinker sees education as being exactly what the word's Latin root says: leading out the potential of each individual. And he knows that assimilating new facts and ideas into our mental picture of reality is natural to human beings. That is, learning is a bottom up process. This becomes obvious to him when he watches young children exploring their surroundings, or hears them incessantly asking “Why?”

Furthermore, he sees the goal of education as to teach people how to learn. For anyone, who has mastered the art of learning new things from the bottom up, has the tools to enable them to continue to learn for the rest of their lives. (In the same way, someone who learned to read through phonics has the tools to continue to learn new words for the rest of their lives.) Thus, bottom up education will tend to produce bottom up thinkers.

The top down thinker, on the other hand, sees education, at best, as a process of preparing an individual for life in a particular culture. So, like the look-say trainer, the top down educator looks to stuff his pupils’ minds with information. He seeks to impart top down rote knowledge, rather than the tools which enable bottom up learning. And so, he is likely to turn his pupils into top down thinkers like him.

Worse, the top down educator will usually seek to instil into his pupils the current politically correct views. Thus, he will often discard truth and honesty in favour of lies, misdirection and promotion of Causes. So, top down schooling easily descends even further into indoctrination.

16. Information and propaganda

It isn’t just in our early years that we are all subjected to a barrage of top down disinformation. Watch any TV news programme – preferably with the sound off! – or skim through any newspaper. You will quickly see that virtually everything today’s media spout is no more than a promotion for some Cause or other.

And most of it seems intended to be scary. Our CO2 emissions will fry us all! The oil is running out! Putin is about to start world war three! The government needs to spy on our e-mails so it can “protect” us! Every Muslim you see on the street is a probable terrorist! It’s hard to avoid agreeing with H.L.Mencken that all this is a ruse “to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

The bottom up thinker wants to be informed. So, he doesn’t always shut the media out entirely. But, with practice, he finds it increasingly easy to tell when what ought to be information has sunk into lies and propaganda. And he gives such stuff – and those that parrot it – no respect at all.

In contrast, the top down thinker is too often emotionally swayed by propaganda. And he becomes inclined to support whatever Cause or Causes it promotes.

Friday, 10 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Part 14

14. Empowerment and democracy

The bottom up thinker wants to empower everyone. That is, he wants each individual to have maximum possible power over his own life. He sees peace, honesty, justice and respect for human rights as the only valid reasons to restrict anyone’s freedom in any way. Beyond this, he desires government of each person, by that person, for that person.

In contrast, top down thinkers advocate and admire a charade they call democracy; or in US-speak, Demahcracy. They like to set democracy up on a pedestal, and to make of it an idol to be worshipped.

In democracy, individuals may vote on which of a number of criminal gangs (political parties) they wish to direct a state for the time being. Then, there is a more or less complicated process of totting up the votes. This process determines which gang (or gangs) will have licence to “legally” oppress and exploit everyone for the next several years.

It’s obvious that this system entirely ignores the wishes of the minority. It does nothing at all for those who are alienated from politics, and feel that none of the political parties have any concern for them. And, the way the system operates, it usually ends up ignoring the desires of the majority, too.

And yet, top down thinkers talk of democracy as if it was (in Abraham Lincoln’s words) “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” But to them, the word “people” is singular – really meaning “the populace.” So, they believe that democracy delivers a government that reflects “the will of the people.” That elected politicians in some way “represent” this will. And that this gives the rulers an all but divine right to do what they want to the ruled, without concern or consideration for rights or anything else.

The bottom up thinker, on the other hand, is mindful of Benjamin Franklin’s pithy saying: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” He knows that there is no such thing as “the will of the people.” For, indeed, only individual people – that is, persons – have wills. He knows that it’s all but impossible for a dishonest, collectivist politician to represent, in any meaningful way, any honest, individual human being.

Furthermore, he understands that many people who vote – perhaps, even, a majority – do so, not for the party they want most, but for the one they hate least. And he knows that any individual’s vote in any election that matters is utterly worthless. It’s rare enough for a politician to be elected by a margin of only one vote. But further; when was the last time one vote made a discernible difference to any policy or legislation?

It gets worse. On many if not most issues, all the parties and politicians want the same. What they want is more and more state power. So, far from empowering the individual, democracy falsely makes it appear legitimate to subordinate innocent people to the Causes currently favoured by those in power and their hangers-on.

It’s worse yet. For, on fuller consideration, the bottom up thinker sees that a vote for any of the criminal gangs – or at least, for one that has a realistic chance of winning – is an act of cowardly aggression. It’s an assault against everyone who has been, is being, or will be, harmed by the policies of that gang. It’s morally equivalent to punching on the nose, hard, people you have never even met; and then running away.

Thus, democracy divides. It inexorably pulls societies apart. The victims of bad policies feel harshly treated, and become disaffected. They come to view politics and politicians with contempt and loathing. And, slowly but surely, they lose all fellow feeling with those that support the criminal gangs by voting for them. Yet, top down thinkers agonize over why the “social cohesion,” which they expect to see among the populace, is increasingly becoming unglued.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Parts 12/13

12. Property and sovereignty

The bottom up thinker finds property to be one of the most important of all rights. For property is the expression of our mastery over our surroundings.

The bottom up thinker understands that all justly owned property comes, ultimately, from someone expending time and effort, either to create the property, to improve it, or to earn enough to trade for it. So for the great majority of us, who don’t receive big legacies from rich parents or uncles, all our property comes from our own time and effort, which we have expended in order to gain it. So, property is life. That is why property rights are so important. That’s why they mustn’t be violated. Ever.

The top down thinker, though, envisages a different kind of mastery over our surroundings. That is, sovereignty. In his view, some individual or group – commonly called a sovereign, whether it’s a monarch, a parliament, a politburo, or some other ruling élite – has mastery, not only over a particular area of land, but over the human individuals in that area too.

To him, this ruling élite, the sovereign, is supreme, and it has moral privileges that others do not. All others within its territory are no more than its subjects – literally meaning, “thrown under.” According to the theory of the 16th century Frenchman Jean Bodin, among many other privileges the sovereign is entitled to make laws to bind its subjects. It is entitled to make wars. And it is entitled to tax its subjects.

So, the top down thinker has scant respect for individuals’ property rights. Or, indeed, for any other individual rights or freedoms. At best, he sees them as concessions by the sovereign, which it can take back at any time. And so, he finds it OK to subject people to whatever the ruling élite wishes, however arbitrary or unjust.

13. Government and the state

The bottom up thinker echoes James Madison’s dictum: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” So, he thinks of government as at best a necessary evil. And he wants to restrict its power to the absolute minimum. It must do no more than assure the peace, justice and respect for rights that are necessary for any civilization to be workable.

In his view, government is no more than an institution created by a group of people joining together to defend their security, freedom and property. So, he typically sees the valid functions of government as just three. One, an honest system of civil and criminal law. Two, a means to bring criminals to justice. And three, defence against military attack.

What of the state, as opposed to government? The bottom up thinker understands that the state is the apparatus that enforces the sovereignty or hegemony of the ruling élite in an area. And after consideration, he agrees with Albert Jay Nock’s assessment that the state “invariably had its origin in conquest and confiscation.”

Furthermore, he is well aware of the many ways, in which the state gives its officials moral privileges over mere subjects. For example, if you or I extorted money from people like the taxation system does, would it be seen as theft or worse? Or if you or I premeditatedly killed an innocent person like Jean Charles de Menezes, would it be seen as murder?

Thus, the bottom up thinker clearly discerns the huge difference between bottom up government and the top down state.

The top down thinker, on the other hand, makes no great distinction between government and the state. He sees the state – or government – as an end and a good in itself. He wants to see its power expanded and its institutions perpetuated.

Further, most top down thinkers don’t object to state officials having moral privileges over and above the general population. And they like the state to be very active. In particular, they approve of the state making lots of new and stricter laws, and lots of new and more onerous taxes. Many of them are also eager to see the state making war.

And top down thinkers are themselves attracted to seek and to take jobs with the state. Once in those jobs, they will always look to increase the activities and power of the state, and thus their own political power and wealth as individuals. This is one of the main reasons why politicians behave the way they do.

Monday, 6 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Parts 10/11

10. Rights and aspirations

The bottom up thinker values human rights. In his view, anyone who behaves as a civilized human being deserves to be treated as a civilized human being. And that means that he has certain rights.

The bottom up thinker finds that most of the “human rights” listed in, for example, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights are good and valid. Though such lists often also contain a few claimed “rights” that are not real.

He divides the valid rights into a number of groups. First, basic rights like life (in the sense of not being murdered), dignity, property and security of person. This group also includes negative rights such as not being tortured, inhumanly treated, coerced into marriage, or arrested or detained without charge. Second, rights which must never be violated arbitrarily; that is, without reasonable suspicion of real wrongdoing. For example, no interference with privacy, home or correspondence.

The third group of rights are the fundamental freedoms (or, as I call them, rights of non-impedance). These include: freedom of thought, religion, opinion, speech and peaceful assembly; the right to seek work; and the rights of free movement and residence. And fourth, what I will call procedural rights, such as equality before the law, fair and public trials and innocence until proven guilty.

The bottom up thinker also recognizes that there are many important rights, which are not to be found in human rights literature today. Among these, he may list: No stalking or routine surveillance. No arbitrary or random search. A right to be told the truth. A right to pursue happiness. And a right to say “No” – that is, to refuse to take part in others’ schemes.

There are, however, also several good sounding ideals (often dubbed “positive rights,” though I prefer to call them aspirations), which are not real rights. This is because to implement them requires violating other people’s rights, for example by forcing them to pay for what they don’t need or want. Such faux “rights” include social security, a guaranteed minimum standard of living, and “free” education.

The top down thinker, on the other hand, often talks a good game about human rights. But in reality, he doesn’t care about others’ rights at all. He may support, for example, cameras on every street corner, or routine interception of people’s e-mails. He may want to control even the smallest details of others’ lives. He may agitate to restrict freedom of speech or assembly. He may support policies that damage the economy, or make it harder for people to find work. He may seek to re-distribute wealth and power from the honest and productive to himself and his cronies. Or to the lazy, or to the dishonest, or to the politically connected. And he wants, of course, to impose heavy taxation to pay for his evil schemes.

11. Freedom and subjection

The bottom up thinker knows, deep down, that he himself is naturally good. So, he sees others – real criminals, of course, excepted – as naturally good, too. And he sees criminal acts, and acts that harm others or violate their rights, as aberrations. They are uncivilized conduct.

Because of this, the bottom up thinker envisions a presumption of freedom as the default in all situations. That is, as long as an individual doesn’t harm others, doesn’t intend any crime and doesn’t violate anyone’s rights, then he must always be free to choose and to act as he wishes. And when there is a need to act with care – for example, when driving a car – the bottom up thinker wants each person to make his own judgements, and to take full responsibility for his own conduct.

In contrast, the top down thinker tends to find many, if not most, people to be naturally bad. This may perhaps, even, include himself. He sees little or no value in individual freedom. He likes to see people controlled, and subjected to authority and discipline. He favours, for example, arbitrary (and ever decreasing) speed and drink-driving limits on the roads. And he wants them harshly policed, so it’s easy to get people, and to force them to toe the line. So, the top down thinker is a subjection thinker.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Parts 8/9

8. Moral equality and faux equality

Hearing much talk of “equality,” the bottom up thinker asks himself: In what sense are all human beings equal? Pondering this question, he comes to understand that human beings are all morally equal. What is right for one to do, he deduces, is right for another to do in a similar situation, and vice versa. This, he sees, is the essential idea of the so called rule of law.

Thus, the bottom up thinker prizes the rule of law. And he rejects claims by some individuals or groups of moral or legal privileges over others.

In contrast, the top down thinker favours some loosely defined “equality,” like social equality, economic equality or equality of opportunity. And he wants to enforce his faux ideal of “equality,” even when that creates far worse inequalities. For example, in the name of economic “equality,” he wants some to have the political power to heavily tax others.

9. Law and legislation

The bottom up thinker recognizes that a system of law and justice is valuable to all good people. As long, of course, as that system is entirely honest, and includes strong safeguards against harming the innocent.

He understands that no-one is perfect. For all of us do, on occasions, cause damage to others. And it’s to the long term benefit of all good people to have a system of objective justice (civil law). Such a system will enable individuals or groups to claim restitution, if they need to, from those who have unjustly harmed them.

Furthermore, he understands that certain acts, fuelled by greed, malice, recklessness or other states of “guilty mind” (mens rea), are criminal. That is, those that perpetrate such acts have gone beyond the bounds of civilization. And thus a system of criminal law, which can punish those that do such acts, is a long term benefit to all civilized people. First, because individuals genuinely dangerous to others can be locked away where they can’t do any more damage. And second, because punishment can discourage both the criminal and others from repeating the crime.

But the bottom up thinker also agrees with John Locke when he says: “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.” He understands Friedrich Hayek’s vital distinction between law and legislation. He sees that, while an honest system of law is valuable to good people, legislation made by politicians is often a huge negative to them. And he is well aware of Edmund Burke’s famous truism: “Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.”

In contrast, the top down thinker sees law as a tool, to be used by those in power to achieve their ends. So, legislation made by politicians is to be enforced, whether or not it’s right or just. And it doesn’t matter whether the motives behind legislation are good or bad, or whether it has bad consequences for innocent people.

So, the top down thinker finds it OK to subject people to political agendas hostile to them. Or to enrich or otherwise favour certain groups at the expense of others. Or to expand bureaucracy. Or to create perverse incentives to encourage people to support a Cause. Or to hurt people they don’t like, or who refuse to follow the latest politically correct fad. Or to victimize those who have earned success through their own efforts. Or merely for the sake of ordering people around.

And he often wants to make lots of tough new regulations, to bind people in an ever tightening noose. He will use any excuse to levy fines or penalties, or worse. He wants to subject people to close surveillance, too. He watches people like a hawk. And “zero tolerance” is his watchword. He wants to single out, and to punish, anyone who deviates from his faux ideal of behaviour in any way, however small.

Thus, the top down thinker likes to promote, lobby for or enforce bad, tyrannical legislation. And he is happy to allow legal or moral privileges to those in positions of power. For example, when police kill an innocent person like Jean Charles de Menezes, he doesn’t want to see them prosecuted for their acts.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Neil's Foibles: No. 1 - King Cuss

(Neil's Note: Apparently from nowhere, a brand new short story just came out of 't mill.
The first of many on similar themes, I hope. Enjoy.)

Neil’s Foibles: No. 1

King Cuss

Long ago, so long ago that most people considered writing to be a tremor in the hands, there was a king called Cuss.

And I hope you don’t find it hard to work out why he was called by that name.

Be that as it may; Cuss came from the family of Truss, the first king of his dynasty. Truss had been a despotic ruler, as evidenced by what our good friend Mr Webster says of his name:

“1 a : to secure tightly : b : to arrange for cooking by binding close the wings or legs.”

But Cuss fancied himself as a progressive king. He preferred crooking his people, rather than cooking them. Indeed, a theory posits that today’s phrase “Cusstoms and Excise” owes part of its derivation to his name.

So, Cuss surrounded himself with advisers. By this, he hoped to gain enough knowledge to defeat neighbouring kings, and so to expand his kingdom. One of these advisers was called Muss.

If you ask why every name in this fable so far ends in “uss,” the answer is: nepotism. Surely, there were families in Cuss’s kingdom called Oof and Ug and Crit and Shap and... But Cuss would only accept advisors from his own family, the Uss.

Now Muss was an intellectual, and a dreamer. He convinced Cuss to go on military expeditions. And, at first, the strategy worked. Cuss quickly subjected the kings of Bog and Brownstuff, and excised their people.

Side note: The Brownstuff people, experts tell us, were a great loss to humanity. For they were, at that time, the best linguists on Earth. They had been the first to invent two syllable words! The Vietnamese, so I’m told, haven’t managed that even to this day. Furthermore, the Brownstuffs had a better (e)scatological understanding than any of their rivals.

But then Cuss, on Muss’s advice, attacked Dong, the king of Bel; generally known to those he had conquered as “the man of iron, who sings.” It was a close battle; but Cuss was defeated. So, Cuss had Muss killed.

On the counterstroke, the enlightened Dong, in contrast to normal practice of the time, ordered killed only those men that had actually fought in the war. And he had his warriors Ding most of the women of Cuss’s tribe, particularly the belles. In less than a year, they would no longer be a nation.

Cuss, now in hiding, wanted to justify himself to his people. And he had heard that there was a new skill called “writing,” which could preserve his sayings for days, weeks or more. The inventor was another family member; his name was Suss. So Cuss called Suss to his hide-out.

Cuss said to Suss, “Write me the story of Muss and his wrongdoings.”

Suss replied (and he sang the reply in his tenor voice, as Cuss permitted for those within his family who could sing well):

“Bring me a leaf large and light green,
Bring me a feather with a point,
Bring me bull’s blood, a big tureen;
Soon, I will write what you appoint.”

It was done. There were many arcane procedures before Suss was ready to write; but eventually, all was finished. Then Suss took the feather in his right hand, dipped its point in the blood, and moved it slowly over the surface of the leaf. The pattern it was tracing became clear.

“Marvellous!” exclaimed Cuss. “But what does it mean?”

Suss cleared his throat. “It says:

There once was a young man called Muss,
Played a trick on the great, good King Cuss.
Muss took us to war;
He was wrong, and we’re sore.
But now he’s up his own Anuss.”

At that moment, Dong entered the room, iron sword in hand and followed by several of Cuss’s personal guards who had defected to Dong.

Time out... Our charter does not allow the depiction of violence or killing. So, we’ll be back after these messages from your local station.

Dong turned to Suss, and asked: “What does your writing really say?”

Suss looked into Dong’s face, and saw a friend. So he replied with the truth. “This is what it says:

Here lies Uss Muss,
Murdered by bad king Cuss;
No fuss, no Muss.”

To which Dong replied, singing loudly in the deep bass which fitted his name so well:

“Dong dinged Cuss’s womenfolk,
And soon there’ll be young Ding Dongs!
I won’t put you under yoke,
As long as you have sing songs!”

Fortunately, Suss was an excellent singer, so he was able to pitch correctly the long, slow words which go with the next part of this beautiful melody.

Dong was very pleased with Suss, and appointed him Vice Regent as well as his Master of Writing. And so, even today, there is still a region of Dong’s former empire which goes by the name of Sussex.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Parts 6/7

6. Justice and social justice

The bottom up thinker sees justice as a fair balance of the interests of each individual against the interests of others. Why else do we talk of “the scales of justice?” Pondering this, he asks questions like: Should some be allowed to behave badly towards others, and to get away with it? And, do some deserve to be treated badly, even though they treat others well? The bottom up thinker comes to answer both these questions in the negative.

So, he concludes that each individual deserves to be treated, over the long term and in the round, as he treats others. And therefore that innocent people, who don’t harm other innocent people, deserve not to be harmed. Furthermore, those that do harm to innocents cannot complain if they themselves suffer harm in return. As Richard Hooker put it in the 16th century: “If I do harm, I must look to suffer, there being no reason that others should show greater measure of love to me than they have by me showed unto them.”

The bottom up thinker also sees that justice of this kind is a public good. That is, it brings a benefit to all. For it gives an incentive for everyone to behave towards others with respect and concern, rather than without.

The top down thinker, on the other hand, has little or no concern for individual human beings. And therefore, he has no interest in individual justice. Instead, he parrots some good sounding Cause like “social justice.” He uses his Cause as an excuse to bias the scales of justice, and to harm and oppress innocent people who have done no wrong to anyone. So, as seen by the bottom up thinker, the top down thinker’s desire for “social justice” actually creates injustice.

7. Deserts and needs

The bottom up thinker wants to see each individual treated as he deserves. So, in his view, anyone who fairly and honestly earns good things has earned the right to enjoy them. “From each according to his abilities,” declares the bottom up thinker; “to each according to his deserts.”

He will, of course, be charitable towards those who are unable to earn satisfaction of their needs for reasons outside their control. After all, if you aren’t willing to help others when they are in need, you can’t reasonably expect them to help you when you’re the one in trouble. But he doesn’t feel that he owes any charity to those whose failure to earn is due to their own laziness or dishonesty.

And what if an individual treats others badly? If, say, he is violent or fraudulent? Or if he promotes, supports or enforces policies that harm innocent people? Or if he commits, or supports, violations of human rights? Can such an individual have any complaint if his victims – and their friends – refuse to help him? The bottom up thinker answers: Surely not. Should Jews feel obliged to help nazis?

The top down thinker, on the other hand, believes in Karl Marx’s aphorism: “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” He wants to break the relationship between what individuals deserve and what they receive. He wants to re-distribute good things from those who earn them to those that don’t. So, he actively seeks to impose injustice on innocent people.