Sunday, 31 May 2015

Libertarian London - Part 1

(Neil's Note: This is the first part of a story/political manifesto in three parts, originally written in 2010).

I walk northwards along the Albert Embankment in the September afternoon sun.

It’s 2035. I am over 80 years old now; and I cannot walk quite as fast as I could in my prime. But I can still walk well.

The Ugly Years

I see an empty bench, raised on a small dais like many others along the river bank. I have only been walking ten minutes, but the opportunity of a sit-down is hard to resist.

Across the river, I see an early Victorian monstrosity. It used to be the headquarters, from which the politicals and their hangers-on had ruled over us before the Revolution. I am about level with its south end. And I recall a walk I had done twenty-five years ago, also in September. I had sat, that day, on this very same bench.

2010 had been right in the thick of the Ugly Years. In that time, the politicals and their cohorts had set themselves to control us, to rule over us against our wills. They had made bad laws and intrusive regulations to hem us in, and set traps to catch us out. They had imposed more and more bureaucracy on us in everyday life.

They had schemed to violate our rights and to destroy our civil liberties. They had given police more and more powers. They had spied on us, and recorded our movements. They had treated us as if we were no more than bits of information in a database.

Their financial mis-management had all but destroyed our economy. They had taxed us almost out of existence. They had taken away any chance hard-working people had of ever getting decent pensions. And they had kept on thinking up new excuses to take away even more; green taxes and minimum prices on alcohol, for example.

They had spent the proceeds on things which did us no good whatsoever – like wind farms – and on things that were positively harmful to us, like foreign wars, bloated bureaucracies and spying on us with cameras on every street corner. They had taken away the earnings of productive, honest people, and used them to benefit a corrupt political class and its bureaucratic, enforcement, media and corporate Establishment.

Some of the politicals had been a bit less evil than others, of course. And we had enjoyed, in theory, the protection of the rule of law. But the laws that the politicals had lobbied for and made had become divorced from law. And law had become divorced from its essential purpose, justice.

All this had been accompanied by a torrent of rationalizations. Safety, security, health, recycling, helping the vulnerable, protecting children, fighting terrorism – the politicals never tired of inventing good-sounding excuses for the bad things they did to us.

There was lots of vile propaganda, too. We were a blight and a burden on the planet, we were told. We were bombarded with fear and guilt. Fear of terrorism, fear of overpopulation, fear of runaway climate change. And guilt for being selfish, for damaging our environment, for endangering species, for not doing enough to help the poor and needy, for letting down future generations. Our civilization of economic productivity and trade was not sustainable. We had to change our lifestyles drastically. We had to go “green”, and save the planet. And we had to act NOW!

Of course, anyone with half an ounce of common sense knew, even back then, that this was all hogwash.

Sham Democracy

There seemed to be nothing we could do to get ourselves treated as we deserved, treated as human beings. We had, it was true, something called democracy. It let us vote, every so often, for which political party could claim the limelight for a few years. But the corrupt political parties, and the Establishment that fed off them, had had an unshakeable, vice-like grip on power. And the three main parties, all in on the scam, had ensured that dissenters could never grow powerful enough to challenge them.

A lot of the main parties’ candidates, and so a lot of our so-called representatives, didn’t represent anything other than their own party’s political agenda. They were no more than apparatchiks. So, even if an individual’s vote could have made a difference – which it never had, of course - there was no-one who both had a chance of winning, and was worth voting for.

As a result, for decades many – perhaps even most - of those who voted had done so, not for someone they wanted and respected, but for whichever party they disliked the least. Further, as the politicals’ behaviour towards us became worse and worse, many people began to feel alienated from the system. Those who could began to vote tactically, for whichever party was most likely to unseat the one they hated most. (I recalled, for instance, that I had voted Tory back in ’87, purely from a desire to keep Labour out).

I myself had reached, by the early ‘90s, another level of alienation yet. I had come to think that even a vote for the least of several evils is still a vote for evil. I felt contempt and loathing for politics, and for all the political parties. With only a very few exceptions, I felt no fellowship with, or respect for, anyone that took an active part in politics. So, I became a conscientious non-voter. For, not only would to vote have been to dirty myself in the politicals’ muck. But also, to vote for the party that gained power would have been an act of aggression against all those unjustly harmed by that party’s agenda.

There was worse. The “constitution”, under which we were supposedly governed, had for much of the time allowed the leader of the party in power almost unlimited scope to do to us whatever he or she wanted. Back in the ’70s, Quintin Hogg had called the system an “elective dictatorship”. He had been right.

A few in the Establishment had seemed to have become aware, that many people were unhappy with what was being done to them. So they aired schemes, like changing the mechanics of voting. But that was just fiddling with trivia. For it totally ignored the real problem – that the entire system was organized for the interests of the political class and their hangers-on, and against the interests of good people.

Oh yes, and on top of all that there was the EU, and the bad laws it spewed out like an erupting volcano. And there was the UN and its agendas. And, in particular, the green agenda that fraudulently sought to destroy our civilization, and to force us back to pre-industrial times.

Brian Haw Square

I walk on along the river. I watch commuter boats whizzing under the bridge ahead. Thanks to the march of technology, they go a lot faster now than they used to.

I turn left on to the bridge. It’s packed with tourists. I hear American and Australian accents; but the majority seem to be Chinese, or Indian, or Malaysian.

I pass the monstrosity. It’s a museum now; a monument to the follies, the evils, and the ultimate demise of politics.

There’s a lot of traffic in the square beyond. For single- or two-seat electric cars are the way many Londoners get around today. So I take the underpass – it hadn’t been there in ‘10 – to the patch of green in the middle. It’s now called Brian Haw Square, after the peace protester. But all protests are long gone from this spot.

I sit on a bench, and contemplate the Paradigm War. With hindsight it’s easy to ask, why did it take us so long to understand what we needed to do? For it all seems so obvious now.

There had been, for thousands of years of human history, two paradigms, or ways of doing things – an economic way and a political way. And the Paradigm War between the two had reached its crisis point in the early years of the new century.

The Economic Paradigm

The economic paradigm centres on the human individual. In the economic way of doing things, each individual makes himself or herself valuable to others, trades with others, and receives in return his or her deserved rewards.

To make the economic paradigm work in a society, four fundamentals are necessary: responsibility, justice, law and equality.

Responsibility has two aspects. First, each individual is responsible for, at the minimum, trying to be a productive member of the economy. And second, each individual bears responsibility for the effects of his or her actions on others.

The second fundamental is justice – objective justice, or, as I call it, common-sense justice. The idea is, that each individual deserves to be treated as he or she treats others. Those who behave well – honestly, peacefully, productively – deserve to be treated well. And those that behave badly deserve to be treated correspondingly badly.

The economic paradigm, through justice, gives people a strong incentive to behave well towards others. So, it encourages an environment of peace and prosperity. And it supports freedoms and human rights for all individuals. Only one thing may ever override individuals’ rights and freedoms; and that is objective justice.

The third fundamental is the rule of law. The one and only purpose of law, in the economic paradigm, is to implement justice – common-sense justice. Law must start from the premise that no individual deserves, at least in the round and over the long term, to be treated worse than he or she treats others.

For example, those who do not commit aggressions deserve not to suffer aggressions. Thus, law must defend the peaceful against the violent. Those, who do not rob, deserve not to be robbed. Thus, law must defend property rights. And those, who do not defraud, deserve not to be defrauded. Thus, law must defend the honest against the dishonest. Any other kind of “law” is a perversion.

The final fundamental is equality. This is not, as some had seemed to think, equality of outcome, or even equality of opportunity. For equality, in the economic paradigm, is moral equality. What is right for one to do, is right for another to do under similar circumstances, and vice versa. Another way to describe it is as equality before the law.

Some objected to the economic paradigm, saying that it created winners and losers, rich and poor. But this objection was easy to counter. For those who develop their abilities furthest, and put most in to the economy, deserve all the riches they fairly earn. On the other hand, those that are too lazy or too dishonest even to try to contribute to the economy, do not deserve to be anything but poor.

Some, too, made out that the economic paradigm discriminated against the sick, or the injured, or the disabled. But that, also, was easy to counter. With one word – Insurance!

This is all easy stuff, I think. Even a child should be able to work it out for himself or herself. And yet, for so long before and during the Ugly Years, even the most venerable professors seemed to find it hard to think these simple thoughts, and even harder to articulate them.

The Political Paradigm

By contrast, the political paradigm had centred on the political state, with its long history of violence, war, deceit, intimidation and persecution. In the political way of doing things, those with power simply did whatever they thought they could get away with. And not surprisingly, this included lying, thieving and harming innocent people.

The political paradigm shunned the idea of individual responsibility. It sometimes held common criminals responsible for their crimes, to be sure. But those that lobbied for, made and enforced bad political policies that harmed innocent people, were never held responsible for what they had done to those innocent people.

Indeed, two of the guiding principles of political states had, centuries ago, been sovereign immunity and irresponsibility. Briefly put, “The king can do no wrong.” So, state functionaries were not to be held responsible for the effects of their actions. And they could claim immunity from prosecution for what they did.

Of course, the politicals had tried to make out that this wasn’t so any more. They tried to tell us that officials were as accountable as any of the rest of us. But this was obviously a lie. You only needed to look at one example – the murder by police of Jean Charles de Menezes in ’05, and what followed – to see through it.

As to justice, in the political paradigm, justice meant whatever those in power wanted it to mean. That was why politicals and their authoritarian intellectual cohorts had constantly spewed out nonsense ideas like “social justice” and “environmental justice”.

In the political paradigm, the state could, if the rulers decided they needed to (whether the “need” was real or not), override the rights and freedoms of any individual. That in itself was bad enough. But the state could also be manipulated by the rulers for their own interests and those of their cronies. And they could use their power to hurt those they didn’t like. That was why politics always created and increased injustice. And that was why the Ugly Years had been such hell to live through.

In that time, the rule of law had been supplanted by the rule of bad laws. The law mill had been working for decades at ever increasing speed, cranking out laws. Laws to violate our rights and kill our freedoms, laws to bloat the state and its bureaucracy, laws to re-distribute wealth from the politically poor to the politically rich, laws to impose on us political correctness and faddist agendas. And they took away more and more of our earnings to fuel their nefarious schemes.

As to equality, the political paradigm, like the economic, had had its winners and losers. The winners, the politically rich, enjoyed power, and the unearned wealth and status which flowed from it. And the losers – the politically poor, who included virtually all the honest, peaceful, productive people – were shat upon. The political state in those days, I think, could have been summed up in two words; institutionalized inequality.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Why War and Terrorism Won't Go Away, until Politics and Institutional Religion Go Away

(From the archives - December 31st, 2004).

As we go about our daily lives, we rarely encounter conflict. Most people we meet in the street, or in the pub, or while out walking, greet us civilly – and often cheerily. Those we trade with – those we serve, and those who serve us – do not do violence to us. And the vast majority of them don't try to use trickery against us, either.

Yet, when we turn on the news, most of it is about conflict. We see the latest atrocities from Iraq or elsewhere. We hear of the latest assaults on our liberties, which dishonest politicians are making in the name of protecting us against terrorism.

Obviously, something is badly wrong here. How can it be, that in a world in which so many good people live their lives peacefully and honestly, there is so much conflict? How can it be that, for well more than half a century, there has not been a single year free from war?

To address these questions, I want to begin by looking a long way back. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors lived in sedentary tribes. These societies were mostly peaceful. Power and prestige were acquired by the mere fact of survival into relative old age. And I think I can make a good guess at how the tribal elders of those days reached their decisions and resolved their disputes. I think that long-ago time must have been an age of consensus.

Then, something changed inside the minds of some of the stronger and more intelligent men. They began to desire power – power over others. They did not want to wait to become elders; they wanted power now. They began to develop their skills in combat and in leading people. They started wars to expand their power. They began to cultivate violence and deceit; for, in war, violence and deceit are considered virtues. The old age of consensus turned into a new age, an age of conflict. The peaceful tribe turned into the warlike state.

From that time, almost to the present, conflict has been the dominant theme of human history. Two organizations – state and church – have flourished, that are characteristic of an age of conflict. The state with its institutional violence and theft, and the church with its mental manipulation and mumbo-jumbo. In an age of conflict, the way for individuals to acquire power and prestige is by orchestration of violence, or by trickery, or both.

Then, some five hundred years ago, came the Renaissance. Again, something changed inside many people's minds. People became more individual, more dynamic, more innovative. The change was gradual from the point of view of individual lives, but it was quick compared with the centuries preceding it.

And it was followed by after-shocks. The Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the 19th-century entrepreneurial spirit, the 20th-century technology revolution. Each helped to make those it affected more individual, more dynamic, more civilized, or all three. Gradually, people became better able to create and to innovate. With, as consequence, a great increase in our ability to master our planet. And, on the other hand, in our ability to destroy it.

But the organization of human societies has not kept pace with these changes. In the West, the much-touted political system called democracy has failed to deliver the benefits it promised. Indeed, it is breaking itself apart. The factional nature of democratic politics, and the imposition of bad policies, are destroying the very sense of "we" that democracy took its legitimacy from. And in other parts of the world, people still suffer under forms of political government that pre-date the Enlightenment and the Renaissance.

There is huge tension here. As individuals, we honest, productive, civilized human beings have outgrown the age of conflict. Yet our social and political structures are still rooted in that age. They not only permit, but actively reward, violent aggression and deceit. No wonder there is so much trouble in the world today!

One form of trouble much in the news is terrorism. But terrorism is nothing new. In 1605, for example, Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the English parliament. And the English still celebrate him to this day! There were also many terrorist assassinations carried out by Anarchists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Modern terrorism, though, has introduced a new feature. This is the, usually random, targeting of people who are merely going about their daily business. Such terrorism dates from about 1968, and its earliest examples were airliner hi-jackings. Since then, the terrorists have added other forms of atrocity, such as bombs in public places.

Why do terrorists do what they do? One thing, shared by just about all terrorist movements, is a grievance. It is well said that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

For example, consider the Chechens. In the 1940s, Stalin had them forcibly transported to central Asia, and they were not allowed back to their homes until 1957. You can imagine why they hate the Russians, even more so since the invasion of the mid 1990s. And why some of them are prepared to take ruthless actions if they think they will aid their cause of independence.

Or consider the Palestinians. Think how they must have felt about having a new, hostile state, Israel, imposed in what they thought of as their territory. However much sympathy Jews deserved after the Holocaust, what happened was hard on the Palestinians. You can imagine that they, and their friends, will have little love for those that did those things – including the British and the Americans. No wonder some of them become terrorists.

These are examples of what I call the Fundamental Problem of Politics. In politics, if your interests are not being taken account of, there is only one way to get your views heard. And that is to start getting really nasty to people. There are many examples of this, not all as extreme as outright terrorism. Such as, the halting – for a little while – of the spiralling rise in British fuel taxes, by the disruptive protest of September 2000.

The Fundamental Problem has a flip side, too. In politics, those who are never nasty to others are likely to end up as victims. In politics, nice guys, and nice gals, come last.

There is a second feature, common to many terrorist groups. That is, that they have a religious component as well as a political. In Northern Ireland, for example, terrorism has arisen out of a long history of hatred between Catholics and Protestants. But a high proportion of terrorists today, including the perpetrators of September 11th, are Muslims. So much so, that some scaremongers have tried to raise the spectre of an army of Muslim militants trying to forcibly convert the entire world to Islam through terrorist acts.

So far, I have talked of aggressions carried out by groups specifically set up for a terrorist purpose. There is, however, another class of agencies of violent conflict in the world. Namely, political governments. And they are very effective at killing people. In the 20th century, they caused the deaths of 115 million people in wars, and another 170 million through government action outside wars. Mao Tse-Tung with 40 million and Stalin with 20 million were the leaders in the Megadeath League. And Hitler weighed in with about 12 million.

Let's put the numbers in perspective. For a terrorist group to match Mao's body count, it would have to carry out a September-11th sized atrocity every day for approaching 30 years. Compared to political governments, terrorists are small fry in the killing stakes.

Ah, say the scaremongers, but what if Islamic terrorists got their hands on a nuclear bomb? Or biological weapons? I, for one, cannot conceive of terrorists getting hold of such weapons without the active co-operation of a political government. Such co-operation would be seen as an act of war. And even the stupidest president or general ought to be able to foresee the inevitable and extreme retaliation. So I don't think it's too likely to happen.

Terrorism is bad. No-one should condone it. And certainly it is prudent to take sensible precautions against terrorists. But political governments, particularly in the USA since September 11th, have gone way further than is sensible. Secret FBI and police searches of homes and offices. Secret wiretaps, secret investigations of financial, medical and travel records. Freezing of assets without notice or appeal. "No-fly" lists that ban people from travelling. Extra barriers for tourists entering the USA. And there's lots more to come.

Meanwhile in Britain, the emphasis is slightly different, but the idea is the same. Detention without trial – though this was recently ruled illegal by the law lords. Special courts without juries. ID cards. More police powers. Curtailment of the right to protest.

I think there is a pattern in all this. It is not that an anti-terrorist agenda is, as side-effect, damaging civil liberties. Rather, it is that the politicians have an agenda that includes destroying liberty, and terrorism offers a good excuse to further it. This also helps to explain the scaremongering about nuclear weapons, and about militants trying to convert the world by force to Islam. If people are frightened, goes the logic, they are less inclined to resist the destruction of their freedoms.

But people are starting to get wise to what is going on. In the USA, courts have begun to strike down parts of the "PATRIOT" act as unconstitutional. And one of the British law lords referred to detention without trial in the following words. "The real threat to the life of the nation… comes not from terrorism, but from laws such as these.”

Politicians make out that they are doing these things in the name of security. But they obviously can't mean our security. For, in stomping on civil liberties, they also open up more and more opportunities for their goons to arbitrarily harass innocent people. That doesn't make us any more secure, does it? Pull the other one, politicos.

And then there is the war in Iraq. I think something shattered when Bush and Blair invaded Iraq. Never again could anyone try to claim that democracies don't start wars. Furthermore, their stated reason for the war – Saddam's weapons of mass destruction – has bounced back to hit them in the face. There were no such weapons.

And I have been very encouraged by the reaction in Britain to the war. For people in general are strongly opposed to it. I have heard figures as high as 70% against it. Yet the politicians, apart from a few loony lefties, seem to have been almost unanimously in favour of the war.

I think there is a new factor coming into play. Something deep down in us is starting to speak to us. And what it is telling us is that politics, war and terrorism, violence and deceit, are no longer appropriate ways for human beings to behave. We have reached a point in the development of our capabilities, where we need a better way of organizing ourselves. I myself am coming to feel this more and more strongly, and I think I am by no means alone. But the politicians, wrapped in their cocoons of lies and spin, don't want to know.

Here is reason for hope. The age of conflict, says something deep inside us, is due to end. Just as, all those years ago, consensus reached the end of its usefulness and was replaced by the more dynamic conflict, so now conflict itself is reaching the end of its road.

What will replace conflict? I believe I can make a good guess. The next age, I think, will be more dynamic yet. It will be an age of and for the human individual. It will be an age of competition, of competence. No longer will power and prestige be acquired through violence and deceit. Instead, individuals will gain them, in an atmosphere of peace, honesty and justice, by making themselves better than others. The power and prestige will go to those who do things better, do things quicker, do things cheaper, do what others can't. The Fundamental Problem will be solved. The good guys and gals will come first, not last.

I will leave to your imagination how much better a world an age of competence would bring, compared with the conflict we have now. But I will make some predictions. The politicians and the terrorists will be seen to have been on the same side – trying to perpetuate the age of conflict. Aggressive violence and deceit will be seen as things of the past, as will the moral Neanderthals that made use of them. Politics, and those that can't survive without it, will be consigned to the scrap-heap of history where they belong.

People will lose the old, top-down allegiances based on nationality and political or religious groupings, and will gain new bottom-up ones, based on common interests and co-operation. War will no longer be possible, since anyone displaying warlike behaviour will simply be frozen out of society. And all rationale for terrorism will fade away, as the happiness of the age of competence heals the grievances of the age of conflict.

Furthermore, I think that institutional religions will die away – with a yawn. They just won't mean anything much any more. And the idea, that anyone could ever have tried to foist their particular brand of religion on anyone else, will come to seem repugnant.

Last, I come to the sixty-four zillion dollar question. How do we get from here to there?

Over to you, dear reader. It's your turn to contribute your ideas.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

On the recent UK election

(This is part of a comment I made on one of the blogs I frequent. I don't think it's bad).

As you might expect given my previous statements, I didn’t vote. As I have written elsewhere: “To vote for a political party is to underwrite both that party, and the system within which it exists. It will be taken as an expression of satisfaction with the party’s previous policies, however evil. And it enables the next political government, whether or not you voted for it and however badly it behaves, to claim that you gave it an endorsement of legitimacy.”

Moreover, for me it cuts no ice for anyone to say they only voted tory because the alternative would have been worse. They still voted for the tory party. And the tories won. So, every tory voter bears a share of the consequences of what Cameron and co have already done, and will do in the future.

If I had voted tory, I would have been giving my sanction to their snoopers’ charter, and to all the other evil policies they may choose to implement in the next few years. But by refraining from voting, I have withheld all approval of, and feel no moral responsibility for, any bad thing that Cameron or its minions have done or may do.

Let’s face it; today’s political system has failed. Any system that allows a political élite (or “sovereign”) moral privileges to rule over everyone else will eventually end in tears, no matter how many “bags on the side” you try to put on it. Parliament itself is no more than a bag on the side, a mediaeval attempt to limit monarchical power. Suffrage is just another bag on the side. The fact is, the system is out of date and unsustainable.

Monday, 4 May 2015

A Day Out With Liberty

Recently, I attended the 2015 annual general meeting of Liberty, the biggest organization promoting human rights in the UK. I’ve been a member of Liberty for about 12 years, and I’ve been to their last three annual general meetings.

Now, I’m a radical. That is, I like to delve into the roots of things, and the principles behind them. But politically, I am neither on the left nor the right. For some years, I have identified myself as a minarchist. That is, someone who wants only the minimal government necessary for civilized living. And I’ve consorted for more than 25 years with libertarians – that is, people who want to allow each individual the freedom to do the best he or she is capable of, and to enjoy his or her just rewards. Most of those people, I’ve learned over the years, seem to favour the political right over the left. But Liberty people tend to go the other way.

Normally, Liberty hold their AGM in London. But this year, it was in Manchester. So why did I go all that way from Surrey, where I live?

Well, there were several reasons. First, I wanted to touch bases with my left leaning liberty friends, particularly with an election coming up, and the prospect of repeal of the Human Rights Act if the tories get in. (Would they also repeal Magna Carta and the 1689 Bill of Rights, if they could?) Second, I love to explore. I’ve “collected” all the major British city centres except Belfast; and my last visit to Manchester was in 1977, since when it has changed a lot. And third, I find any excuse for a plane ride to be a good excuse. And every flight I take is one in the eye for the greenies.

To the meeting itself, on Saturday 25th April. The venue – University Place in the University of Manchester – was, in my opinion, better than the usual venue in London. More comfortable, and everyone was together all day.

The steward team were young and efficient. Now, it’s normal among libertarians to ask: “where have all the women gone?” I can answer that: “Gone to Liberty, every one!” My best guess is that 80% of the white-T-shirted team were pretty young women. So I dubbed them, of course, the Liberty Belles.

The program(me) was better than in previous years. The opening discussion panel was excellent – Professor Janet Beer, in particular, was brilliant. During the coffee break, I told Frances Butler (the current head honcha of Liberty, and someone for whom I have a lot of time) how much better that panel had been than a similar discussion two years previously, which had included three politicians. She obviously took note; for, five hours later, a change of policy for such discussions was announced. And it went in the direction I had suggested.

There was something new in the air this year, too. For the first time, among left leaning people I sensed the same feelings of anger and frustration and contempt and loathing for the political system that I myself have felt for decades.

I’ll give some quotes and reflections from the day:

  • “Accountability.” This word was uttered many times by speakers, panellists and questioners from the floor.

  • “Bad legislation goes through regardless of which party is in power.” (Bella Sankey, Policy Director of Liberty).

  • “If responsibility was an issue, it would include half the government.”

  • “No taxation without representation.” You’d expect an audience mainly of leftists to boo this; but they didn’t.

  • The Asylum Seekers’ Choir. Not entirely in tune, but getting their message over superbly. They had a deserved ovation. (And no, my right leaning liberty friends, they did not sing “Cum Baya!”)

  • “It’s the system that is the problem.” (Owen Jones).

  • “Not a democratic society, but a dictatorship.” (From the floor, echoing Quintin Hogg from 1976).

  • “The Blairite faction were very authoritarian.” (Owen Jones, a labour supporter).

  • “There is a sustained attack on the rule of law by the political class.” (Peter Oborne, journalist – on film).

  • “This all-party attack has been going on for 20 years.” (Peter Oborne again).

  • “Nationalism and xenophobia are the crack cocaine of politics.” (Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty).
Now, I do have issues with some ideas that Liberty people profess. I can’t understand why many on the left seem to have such a visceral hatred of private industry. Nor why anyone with even half a mind could possibly vote for any of the mainstream parties on May 7th. (I have the same problem with my right leaning liberty friends, too; sigh). Maybe I need to get out more, and drink (lots of) beer with liberty friends on both sides.

To go on. My vote for Quote of the Day is tied between Bella Sankey and Peter Oborne. And, if I may, I’ll complete the third side of their triangle, by saying: Bad legislation is not law. (If you are old fashioned, you might prefer Edmund Burke’s version: “Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.”)

I really enjoyed my day out with Liberty, despite too much feminism (though not as bad as last year). And the following day, I was lucky enough to be able to explore Manchester in sunshine – something which even the locals rarely get a chance to do.

Now, I am one of those rare liberty lovers (perhaps the only one in the UK?) who tries to reach out to both left and right. Sometimes I feel a bit like that statue on the hill near Gateshead; however far I stretch my arms, I can’t quite touch anyone on either side. But I felt touched on that Saturday in Manchester.

Leftists like to talk about solidarity. But I prefer “building alliances.” It is clear that Liberty people and libertarians, even those who identify with the political right, have enemies in common. I think it may be worth both sides’ while to get to know each other better.