Monday, 28 February 2011

Rapid Decline, Swift Fall

Tacitus tells the tale of AD 69, the Year of the Four Emperors. Here's number three making way:
Vitellius, seeing the City taken, was carried in a chair through the back part of the palace to his wife’s house upon Mount Aventine, with a purpose, if he could by lurking there escape discovery during the day, to fly by night to his brother’s Cohorts at Tarracina. But from unsteadiness of spirit, such too being the nature of dread, that to one who fears all things, present things are ever most irksome, he came back to the palace now desolate and wild: For all his slaves, even the lowest, had slipped away, or else carefully avoided to meet him. Terrifying to him proved the dismal solitude, and every part still and silent: He tried apartments that were shut: He shrunk with horror to behold all void and desart. Weary at last with such miserable and solitary wandering to and fro, he thrust himself into a hiding place sordid and disgraceful, and by Julius Placidus, Tribune of a Prætorian Band, was dragged from it. Behind him forthwith his hands were tied: Thus with his apparel all rent, he was haled along, a spectacle foul and sad, many reviling him, no one bewailing him. Indeed such was the abasement and indecency of his end, as to have banished all pity. There met him one of the German soldiers, and with his sword drawn made a violent blow, whether out of fury and vengeance, or the sooner to release him from insults and derision, or whether aiming at the life of the Tribune, is matter of uncertainty. The Tribune’s ear he actually cut off, and was himself instantly slain. Vitellius they forced, with their swords pointed at his throat, now to hold up his head, and present his face to a deluge of indignities, anon to behold his own Statues tumbled down, and particularly to view the place of assemblies, and that where Galba suffered his bloody doom. In this manner they pushed him forward, and at last into the charnel of Malefactors, where the corps of Flavius Sabinus had lain exposed. One saying there was which fell from him, savouring of no baseness of spirit; when to the Tribune treating him with roughness and insults, he answered, “That nevertheless he had been his Emperor.” Then, under many wounds given him, he fell and expired. The common herd inveighed against him, after he was slain, with the same depravity of heart with which they had caressed him while he yet lived.

Thanks to the Online Library of Liberty

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Leo rising

He who takes pleasure in observing the stars, in London counts his blessings when providence smiles, such as last night. For the first time in a long while I beheld Leo, emblazoned upon the south-west sky. Orion has also taken a fair step eastwards since last I noticed.

More absolute power

Absolute power (or 'come on lads, we've all had a few')

The following passage from Plutarch's life of Alexander illustrates Lord Acton's famous maxim very well: in a drunken rage, Alexander kills an old friend, who is attacking him for his high and mighty self-regard. Later he is consoled out of his grief and self-loathing by the flattery of Anaxarchus, telling him to see himself as a god amongst men, a law unto himself, not bound nor bridled by mortal morality.

Soon after this, happened the affair of Clitus; which, however simply related, is much more shocking even than the execution of Philotas. Yet, if we weigh the occasion and circumstances of the thing, we shall conclude it was a misfortune rather than a deliberate act, and that Alexander's unhappy passion and intoxication only furnished the evil genius of Clitus with the means of accomplishing his destruction. It happened in the following manner:

The king had some Grecian fruit brought him from on board a vessel, and as he greatly admired it's freshness and beauty, he desired that Clitus might see and partake of it. It happened, that Clitus was offering sacrifice that day; but he left it, in order to wait upon the king. Three of the sheep, on which the libation had been already poured, followed him. The king, informed of that accident, consulted his soothsayers, Aristander and Cleomantis the Spartan, upon it; and they both assured him, it was an extremely bad omen. He, therefore, ordered the victims to be immediately offered for the health of Clitus; the rather, because three days before he had had a strange and alarming dream, in which Clitus appeared in mourning, sitting by the dead sons of Parmenio. Before the sacrifice however was finished, Clitus went to sup with the king, who that day had been paying his homage to Castor and Pollux.

After they were warmed with drinking, somebody began to sing the verses, of one Pranichus (or, as others will have it, of Pierio) written in ridicule of the Macedonian officers, who had lately been beaten by the barbarians. The older part of the company were greatly offended at it, and condemned both the poet and the singer; but Alexander and those immediately about him listened with pleasure, and bade him go on. Clitus, who by this time had drank too much, and was naturally rough and froward, could not bear their behaviour. He said, " It was not well done to make a jest, and that among barbarians and enemies, of Macedonians who were "much better men than the laughers, though they "had met with a misfortune." Alexander replied, "That Clitus was pleading his own cause, when he "gave cowardice the soft name of ' misfortune.'" Upon which Clitus started up, and said, "Yet it "was this cowardice which saved you, son of Jupiter as you are, when you were turning your back to "the sword of Spithridates. It is by the blood of the Macedonians, and by these wounds, that you "are grown so lofty, as to disdain acknowledging Philip for your father, and to endeavour to pass "yourself off for the son of Jupiter Amnion."

Irritated at this insolence, Alexander replied, "It is thus, old villain, that thou talkest of me in all companies, and stirrest up the Macedonians to mutiny; but dost thou think long to enjoy it?" "And what do we enjoy now ?" said Clitus: " what reward have we for all our toils? Do we not envy those, who did not live to see Macedonians bleed under Median rods, or sue to Persians for access to their king?" While he went on in this rash manner, and the king retorted upon him with equal bitterness, the old men interposed, and endeavoured to allay the flame. In the mean time, Alexander turned to Xenodocus the Cardian and Artemius the Colophonian, and said; " Do not the Greeks appear to you, among the Macedonians, like demi-gods among so many wild beasts?" Clitus, far from giving up the dispute, called upon Alexander, To speak out what he had to say, or not to invite freemen to his table, who would declare their sentiments without reserve. But, perhaps (continued he), it were better to pass your life with "barbarians and slaves, who will worship your Persian girdle and your white robe without reluctance."

Alexander, no longer able to restrain his anger, threw an apple at his face, and then looked about for his sword. But Aristophanes, one of his bodyguards, had taken it away in time, and the company gathered about him, and entreated him to be quiet. Their remonstrances, however, were fruitless: He broke from them, and called out in the Macedonian language for his guards, which was the signal of a great tumult. At the same time he ordered the trumpeter to sound, and struck him with his fist, upon his discovering an unwillingness to obey. This man was afterward held in high esteem, because he prevented the whole army from being alarmed. As Clitus would not make the least- submission, his friends with much difficulty forced him out of the room: but he soon returned by another door, repeating in a bold and disrespectful tone those verses from the Andromache of Euripides:

Alas! what evil customs harass Greece!
[The trophies won hy thousands shall it please One man to claim &c.]

Upon this, Alexander snatched a spear from one of the guards, and meeting Clitus as he was drawing the door-curtain, ran him through the body. He fell immediately to the ground, and with a dismal groan expired.

Alexander's rage subsided in a moment: he came to himself, and seeing his friends standing around in silent astonishment, hastily drew the spear out of the dead body, and was applying it to his own throat, when his guards seized his hands, and carried him by force into his chamber. He passed that night, and the next day, in anguish inexpressible; and when he had wasted himself with tears and lamentations, he lay in speechless grief, uttering only now and then a groan. His friends, alarmed at this melancholy silence, forced themselves into the room, and attempted to console him. But he would listen to none of them except Aristander, who put him in mind of his dream and the ill omen of the sheep, and assured him that the whole was by the decree of fate. As he seemed a little comforted, Callisthenes the philosopher, Aristotle's near relation, and Anaxarchus the Abderite, were called in. Callisthenes began in a soft and tender manner, endeavouring to relieve him without probing the wound. But Anaxarchus, who had a particular walk in philosophy, and looked upon his fellow-labourers in science with contempt, cried out on entering the room; "Is this Alexander, upon whom the whole world fix their eyes? Can it be he, who lies extended on the ground crying like a slave, in fear of the law and of the tongues of men, to whom he should himself be a law and the measure of right and wrong? Why did he conquer, but to rule and to command, not servilely to submit to the vain opinions of others? Know you not (continued he) that Jupiter is represented with Themis and Justice by his side, to show that whatever is done by supreme power is right?" By this, and other discourses of the same kind, he alleviated the king's grief indeed, but rendered him withal more haughty and unjust. At the same time, he so deeply insinuated himself into his favour, that he could no longer bear the conversation of Callisthenes, who before was far from being agreeable on account of his austerity.

Love it or hate it

Saturday, 26 February 2011

In defence of the English language from enemies foreign and domestic

I am the first to admit a willful ignorance of contemporary popular culture. My taste in music is broad, but hardly driven by the "what's hot" column of some tabloid newspaper. I rarely go to the cinema. I own no television. I buy no newspaper. I manage to get through life with the scantiest knowledge of Justin Bieber. But I can't escape forever, my leafy linguistic arbour is threatened. Thus I feel urged to declare war on one word and to seek its extirpation. That word is 'simples'.

As I say, I don't have a television, so puppets in adverts do not influence me or the language I use. To those of you who are; have some fucking pride and speak properly.

When indeed?

Notwithstanding the unnecessary octave shift, a good old tune here from the Staple Singers, 1971.

And a bonus track:'For what it's worth' (tune starts at 00:24)

Lest we forget the subjunctive

The other day I commented over at Anna Raccoon's on a post about the English language and its misuse, asking if I was the only one out there who 'yearns to rehabilitate the subjunctive' (or rather I should have said I yearn that the subjunctive be rehabilitated).

In contrast to our cousins over the Atlantic, who have preserved its use to a far greater extent, it is rarely heard or seen in print in the old country. At least that's my impression, although perhaps now that I've said this, I will see it everywhere. Also, I am conscious of that thing when you write about correct English, you're bound to leave a few howling mistakes in your spelling or grammar, and I'm not 100 per cent sure exactly where the subjunctive leaves off and the imperative takes over, and this guy below may be blundering at the same point:

Anyway, here's the kind of tragic story all good Anglophones must struggle against:
The other day at work I was drafting an internal procedure and wrote, “It is important that the Department create procedures to . . .” After having showed it to my boss, he mentioned that there was a typo or grammatical error, and that it should have read, “It is important that the deparment creates procedures to . . .” I read the sentence over a couple of times and was convinced that my version was correct, and that the difference in conjugation was due to the fact that the sentence was imperative and required the use of the subjunctive. I was told that that might in fact be the case, but that I should still change it to “creates” because everyone who would read the document would see it as an error.
Thus I pledge never to bow to the tyranny of the majority in their ignorance, and will insist that the subjunctive be used whenever it be required, and even places where it be not!

Shut up, Ike

This is a great tune, and Tina looks gorgeous, and it's only marred by what we now know about Ike being a scumbag, she could have done without. He does however play a mean guitar.

That infernal census

More information is being made known about the forthcoming census, including the first question which is thus:

Q1: Are you:
A) A slave
B) A free man or woman

If you answered B, take the census form and throw it in the bin. You don't have to complete it. Only slaves have to complete it.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

DU dossier sent to Defence Secretary

Here's one that recently slipped by me, and no doubt many:

MSP sends dossier on depleted uranium to Defence Secretary: come clean on dirty bombs!

Dr Bill Wilson MSP (SNP) has sent the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, a dossier containing what he describes as “significant evidence pointing to the devastating effects of depleted uranium (DU) on the health of armed services personnel and civilians, and of the UK and USA’s attempts to suppress such evidence and prevent the investigation of the effects of DU” and called on the UK Government to take appropriate action.
DU = dirty bombs
Dr Wilson said, “There is much talk about terrorists potentially using ‘dirty bombs’, i.e. weapons which emit radiation and indiscriminately affect anyone in the vicinity, yet the USA, the UK and Israel have deployed many tonnes of DU-tipped shells. DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years and the microscopic uranium oxide dust that DU shells produce on impact can be blown hundreds of miles, inhaled and ingested. If these are not dirty bombs then what are they?
“There is considerable evidence that thousands of armed services personnel, their families and countless civilians have been and are continuing to be affected by DU in many ways, suffering, for example, premature death, respiratory problems, cancers, stillbirths and birth deformities.

Read the rest at Global Research

Update: I'm adding this interview with Dr Doug Rokke, an expert on DU, and someone who has suffered himself from exposure during the first Gulf War:

Part two; Part three.

This corrosion

Tom Paine, writing at The Last Ditch gets it spot on (as so often):

"That the State could replace - or even do a better job than - a loving family is the most barbarous of the fallacies by which the 1946 generation has lived. They were so hung up on this fantasy that they systematically undermined the very concept of family at every opportunity. They actively encouraged people to depend on a burgeoning, state that would nurture them "from cradle to grave." Not only was that wrong, it was corrosively wrong."

I'll leave out the personal story as to why I agree most vociferously.

(btw if you know from whence the title of the post sprung into mind, voila)

That Cameron speech

"We hope to see a peaceful resolution to these current crises, and we urge all governments to hold a dialogue with opposition groups and set out a pathway to more democratic forms of representation ... but if instead you are thinking of cracking down, busting heads, rounding people up and shooting them, basically holding on to power by your bloody fingernails, we have a range of products to suit every budget..."

cont. page 94

More music

Can't tell you much about this, other than the obvious: Burning Spear playing live sometime in the late 20th Century.

Monday, 21 February 2011

More tickled ivories

I dare say I've posted this song before, but not, I believe this version, but I was looking for something that showed off Aretha's piano playing, and in this she seems like she's having a little fun.

I like it, anyway.

Cutting edge comedy

From the comment thread on the Moose's breakdown of the latest temperance tosh, this time a bunch of ... what're they called, those guys who kill people in hospitals, oh yeah doctors.

The Wasp said...


When you get annoyed with this anti-alcohol bollocks just google Don Shenker and look at the first result - always makes me feel a lot better :)

(Don Shenker is head of Alcohol Concern)

To save y'all the trouble of googling yourself:

Better to rule in hell...

... eh Muammar, you murdering bastard, but not for much longer, let's hope.

Fucking census

Name; age; place of birth; relation to householder.

That's all that was collected in the old census. I've looked up my family tree using the released censii (?), and found it useful. Both mothers-in-law were living in the houses of my father's grandfathers, which allowed me to follow the maternal lines back to their towns of birth. My great-grandfather was working as a postie in Marylebone in 1871 I also discovered, so I guess I don't begrudge the census completely...

But 31 pages? Fuck off.

Hat tip: Calling England

The Brussels Love Boat, or stretching a metaphor to breaking point

Heseltine, the federastic patrician of the Tory Party treason faction. It's almost worth watching Question Time (almost) to hear his strange opinions, such as right at the end of the show, when he justifies millions of pounds of foreign aid to India on the grounds that it was once part of the British Empire, so we have 'responsibilities', nothwithstanding the country's space programme. Earlier the subject of Britain's lost sovereignty is raised (@ 16:44):
"The whole issue of Europe (sic - he means the EU) is whether the nation state enhances its power by sharing sovereignty or tries to maintain a national posture whilst the rest of the world is sharing power, well the rest of Europe (sic - he means the EU) in our case, and the whole view of the last fifty years of British policy has been that Britain gained by being a leading influence in Europe, and that meant that you shared a whole range of decisions.
The verb 'to share' is chosen with care. It sounds so much better than 'giving away' or 'handing over'. It makes me search for examples of other things, like sovereignty, which are unwise to share. Let's go with wife-swapping.

Here's Heseltine, fallen in with a new crowd of swingers. In order to make friends and influence people he persuades his spouse to loosen up and go with the flow. Into the bargain, he gets to screw other women. But will his marriage be stronger? What if he doesn't actually tell his wife, until they're already at the boat party, it's cast-off and she's half-drunk?

Heseltine represents the federast political class. His wife; the British nation. In following his swinger plan, he breaks his marriage vows, as the political class has broken its oath to us. By keeping us in the dark until we were 'on the boat', he loses all legitimacy or claim of consent.

He, the political class, has benefited, through all his contacts and pig-troughing. His wife, the nation state, despises his treachery. Continuing:
If one takes it at its most extreme, and this is not about paedophilia, it's about industry, Europe is our biggest trading partner, there are going to be common standards, the same specifications, the same harmonisations, all through the industrial manufacturing process, if we are not part of that decision-making, the French and the Germans will fix the rules to help French and German industry.
Here, as usual, the federast picks up a seemingly reasonable point. After all, we must have standardisation, right? But, accepting this on face value for the moment, it does not follow that the British Parliament has to give over sovereignty to a foreign organisation for the good of industry standardisation. Such matters can be carried out between trading nations without any such surrender. In any case, if standardisation has such clear benefits, then surely industry would get on and standardise by itself? Is it not the case that British manufacturers who seek foreign markets will produce for those markets, whether or not they are impelled by legislation?

Lastly Heseltine tries, ironically enough, to use a nationalistic argument for our continued subservience to Brussels. It strikes me as a bit rich, after parading the worthiness of the EU love boat, he now reveals we're only on it to keep an eye on the Frogs and the Square-heads.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Shuffling along

Still in a lazy blogging phase, but I wouldn't want visitors to be totally bereft of novelty, so here's Dollar Brand / Abdullah Ibrahim playing in Montreux 1980.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Defending the faith

Eugen von Bohm Bawerk

I've decided that, in my new self-appointed position as Chairman of the Committee of Doctrinal Purity, my fellow libertarians need to pull their socks up. There's been far to much slackness over the last 100 years or so, and if we're going to get this revolution going, a bit more discipline is going to be required.

So, be forewarned, I will be passing amongst you with my measuring stick and checking beards to be the regulation length and style (see picture), and issuing fines accordingly, which, in keeping with the hard money principles of our exulted patriarchs, will be payable only in gold or silver.

Beyond the pale

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Contemplation and contradiction

I have ended up dwelling rather longer than I intended on the recent words of James Delingpole, due to a rather irate friend/commenter taking umbrage at my position. This being the case, I have found myself re-reading the article to discover the truth of the matter, whether my critique on Delingpole is justifiable or merely churlish.

I guess there are two ways to look at it. One is that Delingpole is at least taking the case to the mainstream media, as the example above indicates. To whatever extent he succeeds in awakening an interest in libertarian thinking, it will be for the good. The other involves a long discourse on the Tea Party, Barry Goldwater, Rothbard versus Kochtopus, American foreign policy, the left versus right paradigm, and the importance in fundamental principle, but that will have to wait.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Laying down the rules

Recently it was reported that a 'libertarian conservative' objected to Katherine Birbalsingh's strict disciplinary code, on the grounds that it was infringing the child's liberty. I would not usually bother with such trifles, but for some reason I feel like examining it - to consult the sacred books of Libertarian orthodoxy and issue a fatwa to resolve matters amongst the laity.

Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure where these venerable texts are located and my British Library card is long out of date (or did I return it in protest over the Biafra - Nigeria War? I forget), so may have to make it up as I go along.

So, we have a scruffy child who won't do his homework. To what extent is it permissible to force him to conform?

To the extent that his parents deem correct.

A child by definition is not fully responsible, nor fully at liberty to do as he pleases, and the parent retains a kind of 'power of attorney' over his affairs. This is the rule, and covers the majority of circumstances. There will be exceptions, but these should not unbalance our view of the issue. The exceptions arise where the child is beyond parental control, due to the child's aberrant behaviour, or the parents' failure in their duty through neglect, incapacity or malice.

But leaving such exceptions aside, and saying only that the principles of justice and equity, to be expected in a civilised, law-governed country, must naturally be applied in such circumstances (and acknowledging that this is not always the case), this rule I declare is based on these presumptions; that the parents love the child; that the child may resent the imposition of discipline, but that this is of secondary importance, as long as the parents consider it in the child's best interest to be so disciplined; furthermore, I believe that common sense and long-standing social norms have set out the boundaries of parent/child and teacher/child relationships. It is reasonable for a teacher to insist that a child obeys the rules, assuming these to be reasonable. The contractual relationship is that the parent has empowered the teacher, who thus acts in loco parentis.

Application of parental authority must take into account the child's individual nature, and is not unlimited -the child is never to be seen as a possession of the parents, the authority over the child is only temporary. This being the case, it is wise for the parents to seek a suitable education for their child, one that fits both the child's nature and the parents' understanding of what a good education consists of. This brings us to larger issues of a political nature, concerning the provision of education and its current organisation under a large degree of state control.

If a libertarian were to take issue with Katherine Birbalsingh, it would be surely over her commitment to state-run education, not in her insistence on discipline, which is absolutely her right to require of any child given into her charge. Even then, it must be remembered that she is first and foremost a teacher, and her views on political issues are separate to her ability to do that job. If there must be a state-run system, the more teachers like Birbalsingh there are the better, and it is one indictment among many that her ilk find themselves levered out of positions of authority within it. So any remonstrance I would make to her would be of the mildest kind, asking her to reconsider her support for a system that has done her down.

Finally, driving the argument from the libertarian point of view, is the belief that a freer system, made up of independent and heterogeneous schools in competition with each other, without such centralised control and interference as now exist, would serve society, the parents, teachers and children, better than the present model.

Further arguments can always be made, disputing the legitimacy of the taxes raised to pay for it, and the malign influence of state-enforced conformity. Nevertheless, we should assume that schools will continue to exist whatever role the government takes, and however they are paid for, and in such places discipline will be required. So, returning to the original question:

So, we have a scruffy child who won't do his homework. To what extent is it permissible to force him to conform?

To the extent that his parents deem correct, always remembering that the child's presence in the school signifies agreement between the parents and the school on any such matter of discipline and that the school retains the right to throw out any child who causes the parents to break this agreement.

Reading women...

... an occasional series.

What I presume to be copyright-anality on the part of Zimmerman's record co., leads me on to Nico giving her own interpretation of "I'll keep it with mine".

Just to piss Hitchens off ...

... I'll follow his excellent speech on the case for leaving the EU with some wicked and decadent music.

Capital Compatible Policy

Hat tip: The Boiling Frog

Friday, 11 February 2011


Seeing as Dylan's original is not to be found on YouTube, I shall console myself with Marianne Faithfull's version of 'Visions of Johanna' a song which came to mind, due to a mis-remembered lyric, which I won't explain for fear of causing offence to my more delicate readers.

Prisoners of Europe

I see this interesting clip of Priti Patel and the Noble Prescott, arguing over this prisoners' voting rights business.

Prescott, I think, feels he scores a rhetorical point- one that Patel is happy to concede - that the Human Rights Act needs to go. Presumably he sees this as one of the key achievements of Labour's term in office. I don't know if he's right in what he alleges, namely that Parliament is powerless to resist the Strasbourg court, unless they abolish the HRA. He ought to note that no Parliament can bind its successor, as the saying goes.

It often seems the case that periferal issues, and I would say prisoners' voting rights is one such, lead to more important issues being dragged into the light, in this case Britain's subservient status in the European Union (yes, I know the ECHR is separate, that just makes the point even more so). Sometimes one thread can unravel the whole blanket. If this leads to Parliament reasserting its primacy against foreign princes and prelates, there will be cause for celebration, and if the HRA were to be repealed, a very welcome debate would ensue on what exactly our rights and liberties as individuals consist of. This, though, seems very unlikely at present.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Libertarian Alliance goes the way of Egypt...

... with crowds of Samizdata bloggers calling for the head of the Dictator Sean Gabb. Or something like that. It seems Brother Number 2 has jumped ship, and all his pals are busy painting the Gabbmeister as some kind of crypo-Hitlerite, all because he suggested stringing up Blair. I, for one, shall not be casting the first stone for that.

It's difficult to get involved when you don't know the people. I attended the last couple of events they held at the National Liberal Club, and found them very enjoyable and worthwhile. The criticisms of Sean Gabb seem largely fatuous, along the lines of "Sean's saying things which will make us look crazy and dangerous, when all we crave is respectability." Well, if the dividing line is between free-roaming libertarians and those who seek domestication, to curl up on the lap of the established centrist-statist-right, I won't have to ponder which way I'll be jumping, and if Samizdata are on one side, all the more reason to take the other. That said, I don't really know what the deal is, and it would be better all round to sort out such things in private.

Delingpole: the unthinking man's libertarian

In politics, one often finds oneself battling those nearer to one's own position. Taken too far, it leads to micro-factionalism. Ignored completely, one's political position becomes compromised and big-tented into meaninglessness. I do not claim to represent the one true libertarianism, but I will at least try to argue the rights and wrongs of any particular case from a libertarian point of view.

Take for example what is euphemistically called an 'interventionist foreign policy'. There are many who support such adventures. Fine. But if you call yourself a libertarian, I will expect you to justify that position on the basis of libertarian principles.

As far as I can see, there is only one way to do that; to claim that the intervention is in some way not an act of aggression, but rather a defensive act, where the harm that would be caused by doing nothing outweighs the harm caused by the intervention. I will still likely take issue, seek clarification of your reasoning and go away disagreeing, but whether or not I consider you a libertarian, will depend on those answers. War is of far greater importance than, say, the issue of mandatory seatbelts. There's no point being right on all the little things, if you're wrong on the big issues. I'm not, by the way, claiming that such matters are easy to resolve, but let's not brush them under the carpet.

Now, turning to Delingpole, my attention was drawn to a piece in the Spectator, which rattles my cage in a number of ways. To begin with:

"The problem is that hardly anyone seems to understand what the ‘l’ word actually means, least of all ‘libertarians’."

What the fuck are you talking about? If there's one word everyone understands, it's 'I'. And why is libertarians in inverted commas? Well, that last is easy to guess, because James wants to attack some straw man libertarians, from his oh-so libertarian position. First up, is someone who thinks; "children shouldn’t be punished for the ‘victimless crime of not doing homework’. And that they shouldn’t have to do up their ties or tuck in their shirts, either."

By the next paragraph, this opinion has been transformed by Delingpole into "encouraging a child to indulge its natural preference for Call of Duty: Black Ops over homework." Furthermore he tells us; "I’m a scruff myself but I don’t think I can decree that all others should be scruffy too."

So the original assertion that a child should not be punished for being scruffy is transformed, without Delingpole even seeming to realise, into the non-sequitur that a child should be punished for not being scruffy. It's not the same, any more than saying 'I think people shouldn't go to jail for smoking cannabis' is the same as saying 'I think people should go to jail for not smoking cannabis'.

On we go:

"Libertarianism is not some free-for-all where the only badge of authenticity is how far you are prepared to let it all hang out. But there are quite a few self-professed libertarians who think it is."

Who's this addressed at? Not libertarians, surely? No, it's for his rightwing readers, for whom Delingpole plays the role of guide to an exotic region. He is erecting his next straw man, the one about libertarians being libertines, who wish to debauch themselves, and/or care not a fig for the poor suffering others.

"If you don’t want Dutch donkey-porn broadcast on BBC1 before 9 p.m., if you don’t want heroin vending machines in every classroom, if you’re not fighting to help enable Islamist suicide bombers to blow themselves up when and where they want, then you’re not keeping it real."

It's the mention of the BBC which gives the game away. Delingpole is too thick to realise that his straw man would necessarily be against the state-run broadcaster. I'll let his other stupid examples drop, and move on to the last page, where he briefly gets back on track, before ending in a flourish of wankery, and an appeal for some kind of 'broad church' where we can all come together against the 'big government', notwithstanding the rest of the article.

From what I can see, American libertarianism splits into the Mises people and the Koch people. I am down with the Mises people. Delingpole wants to go stroke egos at the Cato Institute, and cosy up with what's left of the neocons. It is for him to explain how his opposition to 'big government' squares with his hawkish position on 'intervention', and if he wishes to bring libertarians together in a common endeavour, he would be better debating real bones of contention, rather than duffing up paper villains.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Lew Rockwell on Egypt

More lazy blogging from me, I'm afraid, so I'll let the venerable Lew Rockwell take up the slack with his latest podcast:

"After 40 years of Made-in-America tyranny, what will happen to Egypt?

War correspondent Eric Margolis and Lew Rockwell discuss the Egyptian army, the monstrous secret police, Camp David, the overcrowding, the food situation, the Palestinians, and Omar Suleiman – the torturer-in-chief for the US – now designated to take Mubarak’s place."

Saturday, 5 February 2011

What Individualism Is Not - Frank Chodorov

Chodorov wrote this article for National Review (June 20, 1956).

The bottle is now labeled libertarianism. But its content is nothing new; it is what in the nineteenth century, and up to the time of Franklin Roosevelt, was called liberalism—the advocacy of limited government and a free economy. (If you think of it, you will see that there is a redundancy in this formula, for a government of limited powers would have little chance of interfering with the economy.) The liberals were robbed of their time-honored name by the unprincipled socialists and near socialists, whose avidity for prestige words knows no bounds. So, forced to look for another and distinctive label for their philosophy, they came up with libertarianism—good enough but somewhat difficult for the tongue.

They might have done better by adopting the older and more meaningful name of individualism, but they bypassed it because it too had been more than sullied by its opponents. The smear technique of winning an argument is as old as argument. The mud with which individualism has been bespattered still hides its true character, and every so often new gobs are thrown at it by “scholars” who simply don't like it. Some of the modern traducers even affect the conservative title.

The mudslinging started long ago, but the more recent and best-known orgy occurred in the early part of the century when the heaven-by-way-of-government muckrakers attached to individualism a value-impregnated adjective—rugged. The word itself has no moral content; when applied to a mountain it is purely descriptive, when applied to an athlete it carries a favorable connotation. But, in the literary usage of the muckrakers, it designated what in plain language would be called skulduggery. It has no more to do with a philosophy than has any form of indecent behavior. Thus, the “rugged individualist” was the fellow who threatened to foreclose the mortgage on the old homestead if the fair damsel refused his hand in marriage; or he was the speculator who made use of the stock market to rob “widows and orphans”; or he was the fat and florid buccaneer who lavished diamonds on his ladylove. He was, in short, a fellow whose conscience presented no obstacle to his inclination to grab a dollar, and who recognized no code of ethics that might curb his appetites. If there is any difference between an ordinary thief and a rugged individualist, it is in the fact that the latter almost always keeps within the letter of the law, even if he has to rewrite the law to do so.

To the socialist, of course, intellectual integrity is excess baggage, even as morality is excess baggage to the rugged individualist. If the word rugged could confound the opposition, why not use it to the full? The fact mat individualism, as a philosophy, looks upon the state with a jaundiced eye would hardly deter the socialist (to whom the state is the all in all) from equating individualism with the manipulation of the state in the interest of the rich. Rugged individualism was a propaganda phrase of the first order. It was most useful in bringing the soak-the-rich urgency to a boiling point.

The phrase gained currency at the time when the leveling mania was fighting its way into the American tradition, before the government, making full use of the new power it had acquired under the income tax law, took hold of the individual by the scruff of the neck and made a mass-man out of him. It is an odd fact that the socialist is quite in agreement with the rugged individualist in advocating the use of political force to achieve one's “good”; the difference between them is only in determining the incidence, or the recipient, of government-given “good.” It is doubtful whether the robber barons (a synonym for rugged individualists) ever used the government, before the income tax, with anything like the vigor and success of the socialists. At any rate, the stigma of ruggedness has stuck, so that the collectivist “intellectuals,” who ought to know better, are unaware of the difference between thievery and individualism.


The besmirching of individualism, however, had a good start before the modern era. The original defamers were not socialists but solid proponents of status, the upholders of special privilege, the mercantilists of the nineteenth century. Their opposition stemmed in part from the fact that individualism leaned heavily on the burgeoning doctrine of the free market, of laissez-faire economics, and as such presented a challenge to their preferred position. So they dug into the age-old bag of semantics and came up with two smear words: selfish and materialistic. Just like the later socialists, they had no compunction about twisting the truth to suit their argument.

Laissez-faire—that is to say, an economy free of political interventions and subventions—holds that the instinct of self-interest is the motive power of productive effort. Nothing is produced except by human labor, and labor is something the human being is most parsimonious about; if he could satisfy his desires without effort, he would gladly dispense with it. That is why he invents labor-saving devices. But he is so constituted that every gratification gives rise to new desire, which he proceeds to satisfy by investing the labor he saved. He is insatiable. The log cabin that was palace enough in the wilderness seems quite inadequate as soon as the pioneer accumulates a surplus of necessaries, and then he begins to dream of curtains and pictures, inside plumbing, a school or a church, to say nothing of baseball or Beethoven. Self-interest overcomes his aversion to labor in his constant drive to improve his circumstances and widen his horizon. If the individual is not interfered with in the enjoyment of the products of his labor, his property, he will multiply his productive efforts and there will be a general abundance for the benefit of society as a whole.

It is in the free market that self-interest finds its finest expression; that is a cardinal point in individualism. If the market is regularly raided, by robbers or the government, and the safety of property is impaired, the individual loses interest in production, and the abundance of things men live by shrinks. Hence, it is for the good of society that self-interest in the economic sphere be allowed to operate without hindrance.

But self-interest is not selfishness. Self-interest will impel the manufacturer to improve upon his output so as to attract trade, while selfishness will prompt him to seek the special privileges and state favor that in the end destroy the very system of economic freedom on which he depends. The worker who tries to improve his lot by rendering better service could hardly be called selfish; the description rather fits the worker who demands that he be paid for not working. The subsidy seeker is selfish, and so is every citizen who uses the law to enrich himself at the expense of other citizens.


Then there is the charge of “materialism.” Laissez-faire, of course, rests its case on abundance; if people want lots of things, the way to get them is through freedom of production and exchange. In that respect, it could be called “materialistic.” But, the laissez-faire economist as economist does not question or evaluate men's desires; he has no opinion on the “ought” or “should” of their aspirations. Whether they prefer culture to gadgets, or put a higher value on ostentation than on spiritual matters, is not his concern; the free market, he insists, is mechanistic and amoral. If one's preference is leisure, for instance, it is through abundance that his desire can be best satisfied; for an abundance of things makes them cheaper, easier to get, and thus one is enabled to indulge a liking for vacations. And a concert is probably better enjoyed by a well-fed aesthete than by a hungry one. At any rate, the economist refuses to pass judgment on men's preferences; whatever they want, they will get more of it out of a free market than one commandeered by policemen.

But the critics of the nineteenth century blithely passed over this point, even as modern socialists ignore it. They insisted on attaching moral content to the free economy; it is a philosophy, they asserted, that puts a premium on things, rather than on cultural and spiritual values. Its emphasis on abundance is materialistic and the ultimate outcome of a free economy is a society devoid of appreciation for the finer things in life.

In point of fact—while the free market is itself a mechanism neutral to values expressing men's desires, whatever they may be—the free market theory rests on the tacit acceptance of a purely spiritual concept, namely: that man is endowed with the capacity of making choices, with free will. If it were not for this purely human trait, there would be no marketplace, and human life would be akin to mat of the birds and the beasts. The economist of the laissez-faire school tries to skirt around this philosophical and theological point; yet if hard pressed he must admit that his entire argument is based on the axiom of free will, although he might call it something else. And that axiom certainly is not materialistic; any discussion of it leads ineluctably to a consideration of the soul.

By way of contrast, it is the socialist (whatever subspecies) who must begin his argument with a rejection of the idea of free will. His theory requires him to describe the individual as purely materialistic in composition. What is called free will, he must maintain, is a batch of reflexes to environmental conditioning. The choices a man makes, whether in the field of culture or material things, are determined by his training and the influences brought to bear on him. Hence, he cannot be held accountable for his behavior. The individual is putty out of which omnipotent government builds the good society, nothing else.


Returning to the defamation of individualism, another value-laden word that was, and still is, hurled at it is hedonism. (At least one modern writer, who maintains that a Christian cannot be an individualist, seems to be championing this nineteenth-century criticism.) The label stems from the fact that a number of self-styled individualists and disciples of Adam Smith associated themselves with an ethical creed known as utilitarianism; the most famous are Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, and John Stuart Mill. The basic tenet of this creed is that man is constitutionally driven to avoid pain and to seek pleasure. Hence, in the nature of things, the only morally good conduct is that which favors this pursuit. But, a problem of definition arises, since what is pleasure for a philosopher might be pain for the moron. Bentham, founder of the school, who was more interested in legislation than in philosophy, solved the problem nicely by drawing up a coarse calculus of pleasure; and then he enunciated a principle of legislation based on it: that is morally good which promotes the greatest good for the greatest number.

Coming from an avowed opponent of privilege and an advocate of limited government, this do-gooding doctrine is a strange anomaly. If the moral measure of legislation is the greatest good for the greatest number, it follows that the good of the minority, even a minority of one, is immoral. That would hardly accord with the basic tenet of individualism that man is endowed with rights which the majority may not tamper with. This contradiction bothered Mill (whose essay On Liberty is high dogma in the individualist's creed) no end; his doctrine of freedom of thought and expression was hardly consistent with the majoritarianism of Bentham. In this philosophic conflict, his loyalty to his father (Bentham's closest associate) and to Bentham won out, and in the event he was logically driven to a qualified endorsement of socialism. Without intending to, he demonstrated the incompatibility of utilitarianism and individualism.

Neo-socialists are not all unaware of the fact that utilitarianism plays into their hands. Nevertheless, when discussion gives way to epithet-throwing, individualism is still denounced as “hedonism.”


If individualism is not what its detractors call it, what is it? That is a reasonable question to ask, but a more difficult one to answer, simply because as a pattern of thought it has engaged many minds over the ages, and has thus acquired a number of facets; philosophy knows no “party line.” Yet, it is possible and permissible to summarize in a single paragraph the principal tenets of individualism, or those which its modern votaries are in some agreement upon.

Metaphysically, individualism holds that the person is unique, not a sample of the mass, owing his peculiar composition and his allegiance to his Creator, not his environment. Because of his origin and existence, he is endowed with inalienable rights, which it is the duty of all others to respect, even as it is his duty to respect theirs; among these rights are life, liberty, and property. Following from this premise, society has no warrant for invading these rights, even under the pretext of improving his circumstances; and government can render him no service other than that of protecting him against his fellow man in the enjoyment of these rights. In the field of economics (with which libertarians are rightly concerned because it is there that government begins its infringement), the government has no competence; and the best it can do is to maintain a condition of order, so that the individual may carry on his business with the assurance that he will keep what he produces. That is all.

What Individualism Is Not - Frank Chodorov, Fugitive Essays: Selected Writings of Frank Chodorov [1980]

Edition used:

Fugitive Essays: Selected Writings of Frank Chodorov, Compiled, Edited, and with an Introduction by Charles H. Hamilton (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1980).

Found here via Institut Coppet

De La Soul

Billy Casper

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Tom Woods rocking the mic

As is often the case with the internet, I was looking for something else, namely Tom Woods talking about his new book: Rollback, but instead I found Tom Woods talking about his book Nullification. It's a great speech, very eloquent and brimming with righteous indignation.

Build 'em up, knock 'em down

Ron Paul bringing the truth to the masses, regarding the green light Saddam got from the US embassador prior to the invasion of Kuwait. I'd heard that a long time ago, but apparently it's surfaced via Wikileaks, and as the majority of people are no doubt ignorant of the fact, it's worth repeating.

Hat tip: UK Libertarian

UPDATE: Hear Ron Paul talking about Lew Rockwell on Tunisia, Egypt and (of course) ending the Fed.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Not exactly Al Quaida is it?

According to the Mail, 300 'anarchists' held a secret meeting in Manchester to plot disruption to the royal wedding. One of them, terrifyingly, likes to dress up as a vampire. Whoever thought anthropology lecturers were harmless, eh?

Firstly, how do you have a secret meeting with 300 people in the middle of a city?

Secondly, how many of the three hundred are undercover police?

Hat tip: Leg Iron