Saturday, 20 June 2015

Libertarian London - Part 2

All Things English

I continue across the square, with Westminster Abbey to my left. It has not changed in twenty-five years; except that its opening hours are now more convenient for the tourists on whom it depends for its income.

People sometimes ask me why, after the Revolution, we allowed such a symbol of the bad old days to stand, and in such a prominent place too. My usual reply is to quote L.P.Hartley: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

I take the underpass leading south-west, and turn right, through small streets to the Westminster Arms. All this walking and thinking is thirsty work; I need a beer. The pub is small, dark and crowded. But I manage to find a stool in a relatively quiet corner.

I contemplate the renaissance of the English pub since the Revolution. People, who formerly could not earn enough to afford to go out, now can. With “luxury taxes” like those on alcohol abolished, they can do it surprisingly cheaply too. Our scrapping of drink-driving laws gave village pubs, in particular, a new lease of life. And we reduced alcohol-caused accidents in the process. For, when people are treated as responsible adults, they are more likely to behave as responsible adults. (And if someone did cause a death while driving in an unfit state, the charge could be manslaughter).

We also abolished the smoking ban in pubs. We returned the choice of whether people may smoke in a particular part of a pub to the individual with whom it rightly belongs – the publican.

Other things English have not done so badly, either. English cricket is once again at the pinnacle of the world game. The English breakfast is again seen as what it is, the finest way for any human being to begin any day. And the English common law, which during the Ugly Years had become like a dark, overgrown forest with dangerous predators lurking in it, has been re-planted. We revolutionaries pruned it down to its very roots, and it now flourishes again.

The English language, too, has become even more popular world-wide since the Revolution. It can now, truly, be said to be de wereldtaal.

And there has been a resurgence of traditional English values. To name a few: Individual freedom and independence. The rule of law, and equality before that law. Tolerance, and a sense of justice and fair play. Honour and honesty. Contempt for those that try to take for themselves unearned power or wealth. And, not least, what used to be known as the Protestant work ethic.

The Scots, the Welsh and the Irish, meanwhile, have done their own things. We trade with them in a friendly manner, but none of us interferes in each others’ affairs.

The Libertarians

Refreshed, I cross the road into St. James’s Park, and turn left. At the end, I fork right, towards what is now the Buckingham Palace Hotel. It’s run by some of the younger Windsors, too. It’s a very chic place to stay.

I find a park bench, and think again about the past. Since the late ‘80s, I had been a member of a loose and disparate movement of radicals. We had generally answered to the name “libertarians”; though I myself didn’t much like the word, preferring to think of myself as a true liberal.

Our philosophy was one of individual freedom. But there were as many different approaches to that philosophy as there were individuals in the movement. We had our anarchists, who wanted to abolish the state altogether. We had our minarchists, who wanted a teensy-weensy little state. We had our idealists, who seemed to think they could create liberty by using the democratic process to take over the state. We had those who were basically Enlightenment conservatives. And we had those who, if they had lived a century or so before, would have been Marxists.

We each did what we did, working towards freedom in our own ways and in those areas in which we were most interested. We met every so often, to listen to the ideas of our most prominent intellectuals and activists. And some of us got pleasantly drunk afterwards.

Right Wing, Left Wing, Down Wing

In the days before we understood the Paradigm War, libertarians had tried hard to work for freedom inside the political system. We had not had much success.

In the ‘80s, the conservatives or Tories, the right wing, had seemed our natural allies. They were, like us, anti-communist – remember communism? Many of them supported a fair degree of economic freedom. And some of them seemed to be quite decent chaps, eh what? But it had eventually become plain that they weren’t really on our side.

For, all conservatives’ thinking was backward looking. That is almost the definition of a conservative. The really nasty ones – their thinking thousands of years out of date – believed that might makes right. So they allowed relative economic freedom, but only so they could build the biggest possible war machine.

The nicest of the conservatives, on the other hand, were only two or three hundred years out of date. They shared our Enlightenment values, and supported economic freedom for its own sake. But conservatives, as we eventually came to see, couldn’t let go of the political paradigm. Even with the best of wills, they couldn’t see past the state to what needed to come next.

So, some of us tried seeking allies on the political left – so-called liberals. After all, most of them were, like us, against aggressive wars, racism, religious intolerance, elitism and abuse of power by officials. Many of them were decent on things like civil liberties and free migration. And they were more open to new ideas than conservatives.

But the left had serious problems as potential allies. They had fallen, almost without exception, for the green agenda and its “humans cause catastrophic global warming” fraud. And they saw inequalities of earnings – even if fully deserved, for example due to better developed skills or greater effort – as a problem to be “rectified”. So they liked to impose harsh taxes, to seize the earnings of those who honestly earned success. Thus, they became enemies of the economic paradigm. (And they did not seem to understand that, in trying to “rectify” one inequality, they were creating a different, and far greater, inequality!)

Some of us had flirted with the UK Independence Party. For many of us could heartily agree with their core belief – the EU was a menace, and had to be escaped from or otherwise gotten rid of. But they weren’t, short of a revolution, going to get power. And, if they did, they would soon become like the conservatives.

That left – apart from a few fringe loonies - our worst enemies, New Labour and the greens. They formed what I liked to call the down wing. They both wanted to destroy any chance of economic prosperity. And they both wanted to destroy our rights and freedoms too.

To summarize: The political bird had three wings. Right-wingers loved the state and its political paradigm. Left-wingers hated the economic paradigm and prosperity. Down-wingers did both.

No, there was no point at all in trying to ally with anyone inside the political system.

The Paradigm Warriors

I had joined the libertarian movement back when the game had been keeping the ideas of freedom alive in a hostile intellectual climate. I had stayed in it through the worst of the Ugly Years. During that time, our task had been to invent, and to evaluate, routes to freedom which might prove achievable. And I was still there when the game changed again, and we became Paradigm Warriors.

Taking the long view, the political paradigm had gradually been losing momentum over the centuries. So, every so often, the politicals had felt the need to start a new ruse, to fool or to cow people into supporting their paradigm. That was why absolute monarchy had given way to constitutional monarchy. That was why we had “democracy”; and also why it was such a sham. That was why we had suffered nationalism – and the wars it spawned.

That was why we had a bloated, unsustainable welfare state, too. If the welfare system was as good as the politicals claimed, it would have eliminated poverty, wouldn’t it? But it hadn’t. No, the true purpose of the welfare state was to try to fool people into believing that the state was on their side.

That was also why the politicals were so damned active. They liked to make themselves the centre of attention. They kept on doing things to us, hoping that we would notice them and fawn on them. They didn’t seem to realize that what they did to us actually made us angry and disgusted.

That was also why they had foisted on us the green scare agenda. The politicals hoped that people would buy into the scares, accept their measures to “save the planet”, and shower thanks and respect on them. But instead, we saw through the ruse to the lies beneath. So we came to feel for those that promoted the green agenda, not the respect they craved, but the contempt and hatred that they deserved as fraudsters.

The politicals had come up with ruse after ruse. But they had started to run out of workable ruses. Forward-thinking people had begun to see that the political system was unsustainable; that the state was out of date. And that we might be able to hasten its demise by joining the Paradigm War, on the side of the economic paradigm.

So, as Paradigm Warriors, our job had been threefold. First, to kick the intellectual foundations out from under the political paradigm. Second, to explicate the economic paradigm. And third, to sell it to the many who were – most of them unknowingly – desperate for it.

For, if good people were offered a real choice between the two, deciding between the economic and political paradigms was a no-brainer. Only the corrupt, lazy, aggressive and deceitful – in other words, common criminals and the political class – would choose the political paradigm.

Community? What Community?

One major difference between the two paradigms was that the economic paradigm is bottom-up. In the economic paradigm, individuals simply associate, work and trade together, and then disassociate. There is no need for people to feel a collective identity, beyond the team with whom they are working for the time being.

The political paradigm, on the other hand, was by its nature top-down. So it required people to feel a permanent collective identity; to feel a part of the state. The politicals, I had noticed, now referred to their state as “the community”. The reason, I presumed, was to try to give us a warm feeling of membership in their political system and their state.

But that idea of community had broken down. It was only a small step from voting for the party you hated least – or not voting at all – to feeling revulsion for the politicals and for their entire system. How, for instance, could any honest, peaceful human being feel any sense of community with those that had started an immoral war in Iraq, on the basis of nothing but a pack of lies? Or with those that had claimed that human activities caused catastrophic change in the climate, with no proof at all, just a load of non-science, propaganda and appeals to authority?

Any community that I could feel a part of, I used to say, would blackball Blair, Brown and Blunkett, and all the rest of New Labour. And most of those in the other parties, too. I knew I was not alone in this thought.

But I went further. I came to understand that those that supported a political policy – any political policy – that harmed innocent people, were assaulting those innocent people. Using politics against good people, I thought, is like mugging them. No; worse. For it perverts law, the very instrument which should defend us good people against the bad ones, into a weapon with which to persecute us. So I felt for the political muggers and their supporters, not fellowship or community, but anger and hatred. They owe me compensation, I thought; I don’t owe them anything but the contempt they deserve.

With hindsight, it’s obvious that political democracy had always contained the seeds of its own downfall. For politics always led to injustices. And, as the injustices mounted, the victims became angry. Good people lost – as I had - any sense of community with, or obligation to, those that promoted or supported the policies that harmed them. Fellowship is supposed to be a two-way process, we thought. So, unjust politics broke apart the feeling of community, that was necessary to sustain democracy. It destroyed the very sense of “we” that had given the democratic idea its legitimacy in the first place.

A big part of our job as Paradigm Warriors, therefore, had been to bring people to a new and sustainable sense of community. The new community we promoted was the world-wide fellowship of civilized human beings. That is, the community of all those who follow the economic paradigm. And who reject the political paradigm, and all those that use it.

But like the men and women of the Renaissance, we looked not just forward, but back to the best traditions of the past as well. We found it very helpful, that many of the values of our new paradigm were also traditional English values. So English people, along with their new sense of community in civilization, could still feel an Englishness – but an Englishness based on English values and culture, not on politics.

It was also helpful that England – as opposed to Britain - had had no political existence for 300 years. It was, therefore, less of a wrench for English people to adopt the new thinking, than it was for people in many other places.

And that is why the Revolution happened first in England.

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