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.

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