I’m sure you’ve been following this bizarre story about the left’s attempt, through various blue Attorney’s General, to use the RICO statute to
persecute prosecute so-called “climate deniers”. One of the targets was the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CEI wasn’t going to take it lying down and punched back:
A libertarian nonprofit group is seeking damages from the U.S. Virgin Islands’ chief law enforcement officer, alleging a politically motivated legal campaign designed to stifle the group’s policy advocacy activities.
Attorneys representing the Competitive Enterprise Institute filed a motion in a Washington, D.C. court on Monday alleging that Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker violated a D.C. law designed to prevent frivolous legal actions targeting policy groups’ rights to free speech and government redress.
The motion is the latest chapter in a developing legal battle between conservative and industry groups that oppose Democratic attorneys general in 17 states who are pursuing racketeering charges against oil giant Exxon Mobil.
Walker subpoenaed CEI last month as part of the anti-Exxon campaign. He demanded a decade’s worth of internal documents and communications about the group’s work on energy and environmental policy.
CEI told Walker to stuff it and shot back:
Andrew Grossman, a BakerHostetler attorney representing CEI, called the subpoena “offensive,” “unlawful,” and “un-American” in an April reply. He vowed to fight the subpoena, which was filed in D.C., where CEI is headquartered.
An attorney representing a group of AGs, including Walker, in their Exxon probe replied on Friday, telling CEI that it is abandoning its subpoena but reserving the right to restart the effort at any point in the future.In response, Grossman and his BakerHostetler colleague David Rivkin filed a motion to vacate the subpoena entirely. They are also asking the court to reimburse CEI for its legal fees and levy additional penalties on Walker’s office as a means of discouraging abuses of the D.C. legal system.
Walker’s “bad faith purpose in wielding this Court’s power to subpoena … warrants sanctions,” the attorneys wrote in a Monday motion. “Sanctions are necessary here ‘to punish abuses of the judicial process and to deter future abuses,’” they wrote, quoting a prior case involving D.C.’s anti-SLAPP statute.
The acronym SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” and refers to efforts to shut down an opposing party’s speech or political advocacy through frivolous lawsuits.
This is what has to be done to stop this foolishness. All it costs the AG is your tax money. So, in reality, it cost them nothing. But the people or organizations they target actually end up having to reach deeply into their own pockets to defend themselves from these frivolous lawsuits.
Here’s hoping CEI is able to whack this nonsense in the head quickly. As their attorney said, it’s “offensive”, “unlawful” and “un-American.” It is also an obnoxious and obvious abuse of power. Time to reel this bunch ideological hitmen back in and do quickly. And it wouldn’t hurt at all if the lawsuit found some of the AG’s personally responsible and made them pay fines out of their own fund for the abuse of their office (not that it will happen … I understand that, but I guy can wish). Short of that, running them out of office will suffice.
Or said another way, anti-authoritarians v. authoritarians. Although the author of the cited article would like you to believe his “coined phrase’ describes a new movement, yeah, not so much. Some of us have been fighting this battle for over 25 years. That said, it’s an interesting article. Here’s the intro (read the whole thing):
A new force is emerging in the culture wars. Authoritarians of all stripes, from religious reactionaries to left-wing “social justice warriors,” are coming under fire from a new wave of thinkers, commentators, and new media stars who reject virtually all of their political values.
From the banning of Charlie Hebdo magazine across British university campuses on the grounds that it promoted islamophobia, to the removal of the video game Grand Theft Auto V from major retailers in Australia on the grounds that it promoted sexism, threats to cultural freedom proliferate.
But a growing number of commentators, media personalities and academics reject the arguments that underpin these assaults on free expression, in particular the idea that people are either too emotionally fragile to deal with “offence” or too corruptible to be exposed to dangerous ideas.
In a recent co-authored feature for Breitbart, I coined a term to describe this new trend: cultural libertarianism. The concept was critically discussed by Daniel Pryor at the Centre for a Stateless Society, who drew attention to the increasing viciousness of cultural politics in the internet age.
There is a reason for the sound and fury. Like all insurgent movements, the emergence of cultural libertarianism is creating tensions, border skirmishes, and even the occasional war with lazy incumbent elites. Some of these rows can be breathtakingly vitriolic, as self-righteous anger from social justice types collides with mocking and occasionally caustic humour from cultural libertarians.
It’s not a new trend, folks. It is as old as anti-authoritarianism – and that’s hardly new. But it seems, given the nature of man, that opposition to authoritarianism has always been an “insurgent movement”. For whatever reason, but primarily false “security”, we, as human beings seem to tend toward various aspects of authoritarianism. My guess is because freedom is hard and it allows a lot of things many of us find a bit hard to tolerate (which is part of the irony, since SJW claim to be “tolerant” but are mostly intolerant of any ideas but their own – and don’t mind looking for ways to stifle those they don’t agree with).
Anyway, I’ve been fighting that battle in this format (blog) for 12 years. Before that, a few years on usenet, and before the internet, on multiple BBS sites (you remember BBS’s where you used your dial up and nifty PK zip and PK unzip to send message packets). Authoritarianism didn’t begin when the internet was invented nor has resistance to it been a recent phenomenon.
That said, it’s good that it continues and, in the age of the internet, is growing even more than it was prior to the internet. That’s because people can find each other no matter where they may be. And, it seems, they’re doing so. That’s a very good thing. It allows “calls to arms” and those of a like mind to rally in opposition. Of course, that works for the other side as well, but, as has been my experience, when confronted with their own words, especially as they’ve tried to redefine them (especially when you deconstruct them), well, they are rarely ever able to explain the hypocrisy. The phrase “I don’t think that word means what you think it means” has never been more true with confronting SJWs.
The other important thing that happens is the anti-authoritarian arguments are now broadcast more widely, so for those who are interested, they’re readily available. Some folks know that what they’re hearing from the SJWs isn’t quite right, but they can’t put their finger on the explanation or counter argument. With the number of well written arguments now published on line in opposition to the authoritarian/SJW arguments, that’s no longer a problem.
Because of the internet, that formerly insurgent movement isn’t necessarily isolated to a geographic region or cultural group. It’s no longer necessarily “insurgent”. It now has the ability to spread and spread quickly. I find that to be a consummate “good thing”, even if some guy at Breitbart who is likely in his mid 20s, thinks this is all “new”.
Here’s what the Social Justice Warriors don’t understand. Discrimination is a part of individual freedom. And with that freedom to discriminate come consequences. It is like the right to free speech – you get to say what you want (other than incitement) and you get to pay the social and cultural consequences for doing so. What others don’t get to do, however, is force you to adopt their values and therefore coerce you to conform. That’s totalitarianism, not freedom.
Why force someone who disapproves of your actions to bake you a cake? Lots of other bakers would love the business. This debate has moved from inclusion to demanding that everyone adopt your values.
In a free country, bigots should have the right to be bigots. Americans should also have freedom of association.
American lawyers talk about special protection for religious freedom, and in the Hobby Lobby case the Supreme Court said you could escape onerous parts of Obamacare by paying lawyers a fortune and convincing judges that you are a closely-held corporation with religious objections. But why must you be religious to practice what you believe? This should be about individual freedom.
Of course, government must not discriminate. The worst of American racism and homophobia—slavery, segregation enforced by Jim Crow laws, bans on interracial marriage, anti-sodomy laws, etc.—was government-enforced discrimination. That was wrong, and it was right for the federal government to intervene.
But private actions are different. If I start a business with my own money, I ought to be allowed to serve only libertarians, people who wear blue shirts, whatever. It’s my business!
My customers have choices. If I am racist or anti-gay, the free market will punish me. Enough people would boycott my business that I would probably lose money quickly.
Many important points.
“In a free country, bigots have the right to be bigots.” And they’ll pay the consequences of being bigots. How? See Stossel’s last paragraph. If an owner of a business is stupid enough to exclude a portion of his customer base out of plain bigotry (“no Irish allowed”) there are likely going to be enough of his “acceptable” customers offended by him that they’ll take their business elsewhere. The consequences of his bigotry will be a loss of business, loss of profit and likely a loss of social prestige. That’s how it works in a free country.
Also in a free country, what everyone should demand is “government must not discriminate …“. The onus of non-discrimination shouldn’t be on the individual forced by government, but on government as forced by the citizens of the land.
How these got flipped is a testament to the perseverance of those who would control your life (under the false guise of freedom) and the neglect of those who thought individual freedom would last forever. Just as free speech can sometimes be ugly, so can discrimination. Social and cultural change usually take care of those who are “ugly” by making them suffer the consequences of their ugliness. We’ve seen that proven any number of times.
What we’re now seeing is a back lash against the SJWs who would use the force of government to make the unwilling comply with their values.
We simply don’t need that if we’re willing to be patient:
Even in the difficult days of Reconstruction, after the Civil War, business began to bring together whites and blacks who might not always have liked each other but who wanted the best deals. It took several years for racists to get Jim Crow passed so they could put a stop to that erosion of the old racist ways. Government helped keep racism going for several more decades.
That last sentence is the key. Jim Crow laws were a product of government! What the civil rights laws did was essentially repeal government mandated discrimination. What we don’t need is a new series of laws that mandate behavior as they did then, even if the new laws are formed with teh best of intentions, they still require the force of government to enforce. And they’ll not be enforced fairly and, as they usually do, will be used to to absurd things to people.
Elizabeth Taylor married nine times. Had she married again, should the EEOC have ordered her to marry someone from an ethnic minority?
A homophobic baker shouldn’t stop a same-sex couple from getting married. Likewise, a gay couple shouldn’t force a baker to make them a wedding cake. No one should ever force anyone to bake them a cake.
Exactly. Here’s the bottom line:
Individuals should be allowed to discriminate. I discriminate all the time. I favor people over others when I choose my friends, jobs, hobbies, clubs, religion, etc. So do you.
Correct. And in a free country that is your inherent right, consequences included.
How do you argue a point with a side which hasn’t a clue how the real world works or what a logical “non-sequitur” is?
I think we all know which side that is.
Here’s the premise put forth by an article in The New Republic:
“Libertarians Who Oppose a Militarized Police Should Support Gun Control”
Here’s a sketch of the argument:
There is indeed agreement between many liberals and libertarians that the militarization of the police, especially in its dealings with racial minorities, has gone too far. But this consensus may crumble pretty quickly when it’s confronted with the obvious police counter-argument: that the authorities’ heavy firepower and armor is necessary in light of all the firepower they’re up against. At that point, many liberals will revert to arguing for sensible gun control regulations like broader background checks to keep guns out of the hands of violent felons and the mentally ill (the measure that police organizations successfully argued should be the gun control movement’s legislative priority following the Newtown, Connecticut shootings) or limits on assault weapons and oversized ammunition clips. And liberals will be reminded that the libertarians who agree with them in opposing police militarization are very much also opposed to the gun regulations that might help make the environment faced by police slightly less threatening.
But it doesn’t “crumble” at all. You have to buy into the premise that it is a more lethally dangerous out there for police than it appears to be. But it isn’t:
The number of law-enforcement officers killed by firearms in 2013 fell to levels not seen since the days of the Wild West, according to a report released Monday.
The annual report from the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund also found that deaths in the line of duty generally fell by 8 percent and were the fewest since 1959.
According to the report, 111 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty nationwide this past year, compared to 121 in 2012.
Forty-six officers were killed in traffic related accidents, and 33 were killed by firearms.
The number of firearms deaths fell 33 percent in 2013 and was the lowest since 1887.
And the drop is credited to bullet proof vests, not SWAT Teams and MRAPS. Pretending that the threat is any higher now than it always has been seems obviously wrong, given the facts. Certainly there are toxic cultures within our society who believe that violence is the answer to whatever they encounter as a problem. And yes, police have to face that potential threat all the time. Do I think police should be armed adequately? Yes, but that doesn’t at all begin to cover what we see among today’s police forces in terms of both equipment and tactics. In fact, I believe it is all of these “wars” on everything from drugs to terrorists which have had a hand in helping to militarize the police.
That said, agree or disagree with that point, gun control is essentially not only been shown to be ineffective but is a non-sequitur in this “argument”. See Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC for proof the ineffectiveness of the ban. But you have to ask, who in this day and age but a clueless journalist would even begin to believe that “broader background checks” are going to keep guns out of the hands of “violent felons?” Have they in the past (their answer is they just haven’t be stringent enough)? Honestly, do they really believe a felon is going to waltz into a gun store to buy what he wants knowing full well he’ll have a background check run? Really?
Have these rubes never heard of a black market (they can buy guns from Mexican cartels, thoughtfully provided by the DoJ)? Do they not realize that any “violent felon” who wants a gun isn’t going to even try to get one legally? So, knowing that, why in the world would any libertarian grant the absurd premise knowing full well that doing so only limits the freedom of the law abiding citizenry? It’s absurd on its face. And, logically, it is a non-sequitur to any libertarian (again, libertarianism isn’t about shrinking rights and freedoms for heaven sake). How does making it more inconvenient for citizens who aren’t “violent felons” to buy a gun for self-protection going to stop a felon from obtaining his gun illegally? It isn’t.
Because, of course, that’s not what they really want (i.e. incremental change via “broader background checks”). They want a total ban on guns, for government and felons to be the only people with guns and to essentially outlaw then outright. Obviously they are oblivious to the danger of only government having guns and they certainly don’t seem to be able to wrap their heads around the fact that felons aren’t going to pay any attention to the law. Nor will the black market in illegal guns. So why, again, should anyone grant this argument credence?
I swear, you just wonder at times what goes on between their ears all day, because it certainly has nothing to do with the real world or reason.
I think George Will is on to something:
In physics, a unified field theory is an attempt to explain with a single hypothesis the behavior of several fields. Its political corollary is the Cupcake Postulate, which explains everything , from Missouri to Iraq, concerning Americans’ comprehensive withdrawal of confidence from government at all levels and all areas of activity.
Washington’s response to the menace of school bake sales illustrates progressivism’s ratchet: The federal government subsidizes school lunches, so it must control the lunches’ contents, which validates regulation of what it calls “competitive foods,” such as vending machine snacks. Hence the need to close the bake sale loophole, through which sugary cupcakes might sneak: Foods sold at fundraising bake sales must, with some exceptions, conform to federal standards.
What has this to do with police, from Ferguson, Mo., to your home town, toting marksman rifles, fighting knives, grenade launchers and other combat gear? Swollen government has a shriveled brain: By printing and borrowing money, government avoids thinking about its proper scope and actual competence. So it smears mine-resistant armored vehicles and other military marvels across 435 congressional districts because it can.
Examples? Will provides plenty of them.
Here’s the point though:
A cupcake-policing government will find unending excuses for flexing its muscles as it minutely monitors our behavior in order to improve it …
“Improve” should be in scare quotes, because the deeper the medling, the more it “minutely monitors our behavior”, the less it improves it and the more it interferes with it.
But … that’s the state of being now in the US.
Nick Gillespie at Hit and Run agrees with Will but issues this warning:
He’s right that confidence in government is plummeting mostly because of the simultaneously stupid and overreaching actions of politicians, administrators, and bureaucrats at all levels. Recognizing such a reality may be the beginning of (libertarian) wisdom, but as I’ve written before, it also carries a very serious potential risk. Counterintuitively, distrust in government may lead to calls for more government.
And that’s one of the reasons we suffer Leviathan today. Many of our “problems” in the past have had their roots in government interference or over-reach. The real problem is we petition government for relief and government’s answer is always more government.
Here’s a clue: when you ask government to fix any problem it will always answer with more government, regulations, laws, whatever – nature of the beast. Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to look to government for relief from all our problems. The end-state of that is always more government control and less citizen control. And here we are.
A major ray of hope—indeed, the beam of sunshine that’s warming up this libertarian moment—is really the ways in which people are creating workarounds that simply bypass government whenever possible. Taxi regulations screw consumers? Create Uber. Public-school educators are unresponsive? Create your own curriculum or even your own school. Can’t sell unpasteurized milk products? Create a buyers club. Major parties won’t listen? Create the Tea Party. And on and on.
As Matt Welch and I discussed at length in The Declaration of Independents, workarounds are a great thing and easier to pull off than ever, but they have serious limitations (witness foreign policy, Ferguson, the drug war, and so much more). It’s well past time that we start insisting on a limited, trustworthy government that is actually competent and restrained at the few things that it should be doing. That will not only reduce the desire for more government, it will free up even more time and resources for the free-range experiments in living that will actually make the world better, more interesting, and more prosperous.
Btw, I disagree this is necessarily a “libertarian moment” (although like the “Tea Party”, I see the liberals loading up the rhetorical guns to shoot down anything that might take flight suggesting it). However, what Gillespie talks about above is where this sentiment that has grown tremendously over the past 6 years (surprise, huh?) needs to be herded. Whether that’s possible or not will tell us all how “libertarian” the moment has been.
Until then, enjoy your cupcakes.
My dad used to refuse to watch Hollywood’s version of war or life in the Army. He said it was more of a cartoon than reality. Of course Hollywood is famous for that, and nothing much has changed over the years. My dad enjoyed documentaries about the military (I remember well, “Victory at Sea”) but he preferred real cartoons to Hollywood’s version.
I’m sort of that way with articles about libertarianism. As you know, both sides of the establishment political spectrum are scared to death of real libertarianism. And so they attempt to demonize it and make it “unpalatable” for the mass of the citizenry. The usual procedure is to decide what they want to claim, define their version of “libertarianism” to support their claim and then using their false premise, attempt to logically prove their point.
The latest attempt is an article in Bloomberg entitled “Libertarians are the new Communists“. Now as ridiculous as that sounds, the point of the article isn’t to say libertarians are the same as communists, i.e. pretty much share the same belief systems. But that libertarianism suffers from fatal flaws that ignore human nature just as communism does. And that’s where they try to establish their false premise, i.e.:
Like communism, this philosophy is defective in its misreading of human nature, misunderstanding of how societies work and utter failure to adapt to changing circumstances. Radical libertarianism assumes that humans are wired only to be selfish, when in fact cooperation is the height of human evolution. It assumes that societies are efficient mechanisms requiring no rules or enforcers, when, in fact, they are fragile ecosystems prone to collapse and easily overwhelmed by free-riders. And it is fanatically rigid in its insistence on a single solution to every problem: Roll back the state!
Wow, where to start. Let’s start with “selfishness”. Among non-libertarians this is the most misunderstood concept of them all. What they try to do is make a simple and absolute part of human nature into something else again. Libertarians do not believe that “humans are wired only to be selfish”. What libertarians do believe is that we act in our own enlightened self-interest. That’s a no-brainer. Anyone who argues otherwise doesn’t know human nature. We all act in our own rational self-interest when we do things. And guess what? Sometimes it is in our own rational self-interest to cooperate with others! Oh my goodness. You mean libertarians believe in cooperation. Yes! As long as it is voluntary cooperation, not coerced.
Now, does that sound so horrible or something that is against human nature? Of course not. But to listen to the Hollywood version, well we’re all selfish SOBs.
Number two … no libertarian that I know actually believes that we shouldn’t cooperate to ensure that others rights aren’t violated or people aren’t coerced into doing things they don’t wish to do. How that translates into a system with no rules or enforcers is beyond me. The very fact that libertarians believe in individual rights (rules), are against coercion (rule) and would like to ensure those rights aren’t violated (rules/laws/enforcement) makes a dog’s breakfast out of that claim. It’s nonsense.
By the way, before you get too far into this, let me point out that although in the title, the authors use the term “libertarians”, throughout the piece they pretend they’re talking about “radical libertarians”. Their examples?
Some, such as the Koch brothers, are economic royalists who repackage trickle-down economics as “libertarian populism.” Some are followers of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose highest aspiration is to shut down government. Some resemble the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who has made a career out of trying to drown, stifle or strangle government.
Can you say “establishment hit piece”?
And that’s all this is.
Anyway to wrap it up, look at their final claim – Single solution to every problem is “roll back the state”. Single solution? Have these two bothered to look at the state of the state these days? Are they insisting that rolling back the state is always a bad thing (see I can make unsupported assumptions about them too)? Any prudent student of today’s state knows it has grown out of all proportion to its original design. And, they also know it has become oppressive, intrusive and frankly arrogant in its power. Anyone who isn’t screaming “roll back the state”, whatever their ideological affiliation, is a statist and no friend of liberty.
And that’s how I classify these two authors. They’re establishment statists deathly afraid of the liberty those they try to demonize represent and willing to misrepresent libertarianism as anarcho-capitalism. I’m sorry, but that’s not libertarianism, extreme or otherwise, and ask any self-respecting an-cap and they’ll be the first to agree.
So in essence, what we have in this article is an attempt at political demonization, by misrepresenting libertarianism and giving it the Hollywood war picture treatment.
CATO has the news:
The Reason-Rupe September 2012 poll includes our favorite ideological questions to differentiate libertarians from liberals and conservatives. Using three questions, we can define libertarians as respondents who believe “the less government the better,” who prefer the “free market” to handle problems, and who want government to “favor no particular set of values.” These fiscally conservative, socially liberal voters represent 20% of the public in the Reason-Rupe poll, in line with previous estimates.
Among these likely libertarian voters, the presidential horserace currently stands:
Romney’s share of the libertarian vote represents a high water mark for Republican presidential candidates in recent elections.
I find it difficult to believe 20% of the “libertarian” vote would go to Obama, but whatever.
Bush pulled 70% of the libertarian vote in 2000. But that percentage dropped to 59 in 2004.
So what if Gary Johnson is included?
A pretty even split between libertarians voting for Romney and Obama (7% each).
This is all interesting for a number of reasons. One is that many libertarians like to argue that “true” libertarians would never vote for any Republican or Democrat. Yet when you look at the numbers, and unless you’re willing to exclude about 97% of self-identified libertarians, that’s just not at all the case. In fact, in the last two presidential elections (2004 and 2008), third party candidates have pulled a whopping 3% of the libertarian vote. Yeah big “L” libertarian party types, it’s not selling. A lot of that has to do with “principles” which simply aren’t realistic (you know, like isolationism and open borders? Both have been overcome by events in case you haven’t noticed.). Once the Libertarian party begins dealing with the problems and realities of the here and now, and not how they’d like it to be, you may see those numbers change.
Until then, the lesser of two evils prevails. The reason for the record break this year? Probably because most libertarians understand that Obama and the Democrats pose the biggest internal danger to freedom and liberty this country has faced in quite some time. Is Romney/Ryan the panacea? Are you kidding? But first you have to remove the danger. Then you can work on repairing the damage.
And it won’t be quickly done as all of us know. I look for many “ones step forward, two steps back” days even after Obama is sent into retirement.
But one thing is for sure – this nation cannot afford another 4 years of Barack Obama.
I tend to be more optimistic than Dale about the near-to-intermediate future for the economy and for the culture. This may be unusual for a libertarian, but I’m heartened by many of the ways in which our opponents’ system is unsustainable.
Let me start by saying that, given a certain size of central government, libertarians could do worse than spending almost two-thirds of the budget on a few wealth transfer programs (Social Security and Medicare, both mostly funded by flat taxes, plus Medicaid, which gets much of its funding from the states) and a military like ours. Imagine if that money was spent employing domestic police and busybodies.
But even that government is fiscally unsustainable, so we expect our government to eventually be forced to give up some of its “responsibilities.” Assuming the country avoids a sovereign debt crisis, that adjustment might not be so bad for libertarians. Continue reading
That’s a quote
from attributed to Abraham Lincoln* as delivered by Richard Epstein in his discussion of economic inequality (a meme that is all the rage right now). Interestingly enough, this interview was conducted and broadcast by PBS (as tree hugging sister notes “I’m sure whoever’s idea it was has been sacked. Along with all the llama trainers”).
In any event, this is as good a retort to the #OWS nonsense as you’ll likely find. Enjoy (HT: Insty):
ADDED: Although Epstein doesn’t say it explicitly, essentially he describes “economic inequality” as a benign effect, rather than a malignant cause. Understanding the difference leads to understanding why allowing for the greatest number of opportunities works better at increasing everyone’s wealth instead of trying to equalize outcomes.
* Thanks to DWPittelli for pointing out this misattribution in the comments (“It was the Reverend William John Henry Boetcker (1873–1962) who wrote “you cannot help the poor by destroying the rich” and 9 other related aphorisms in 1916. A printing error in 1942 led to the confusion between some Lincoln quotes and these Boetcker quotes.”).
I’m amazed at times by what I read in major daily newspapers. OK, not as much now as I would have been say 10 or 15 years ago. Maybe it’s just awareness on my part now, but as I get older I am confronted by what I see as half-baked opinion on the pages of such rags than I ever remember before.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m the one that’s gotten sharper over the years and am able to spot nonsense more easily than before. Take for instance, Nina Power of the Guardian. Power is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Roehampton University, so she can be forgiven for being somewhat removed from reality. In her opinion, which the Guardian gladly publishes, the problem of the riots in London and elsewhere can be laid at the feet of government and austerity policies. Why? Well let her explain:
Since the coalition came to power just over a year ago, the country has seen multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march and now unrest on the streets of the capital (preceded by clashes with Bristol police in Stokes Croft earlier in the year). Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures. The government knows very well that it is taking a gamble, and that its policies run the risk of sparking mass unrest on a scale we haven’t seen since the early 1980s. With people taking to the streets of Tottenham, Edmonton, Brixton and elsewhere over the past few nights, we could be about to see the government enter a sustained and serious losing streak.
It’s the “brutal cuts” and the “enforced austerity measures”. Note she admits that “each of these events was sparked by a different cause”, however she then rejects that admission and claims that in reality they all come back to government cut backs.
Really? It couldn’t be good old technology aided criminality could it? Or something else completely? Or a combination of other things altogether?
For instance, in the next paragraph, she says:
The policies of the past year may have clarified the division between the entitled and the dispossessed in extreme terms, but the context for social unrest cuts much deeper. The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan last Thursday, where it appears, contrary to initial accounts, that only police bullets were fired, is another tragic event in a longer history of the Metropolitan police’s treatment of ordinary Londoners, especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and the singling out of specific areas and individuals for monitoring, stop and search and daily harassment.
One journalist wrote that he was surprised how many people in Tottenham knew of and were critical of the IPCC, but there should be nothing surprising about this. When you look at the figures for deaths in police custody (at least 333 since 1998 and not a single conviction of any police officer for any of them), then the IPCC and the courts are seen by many, quite reasonably, to be protecting the police rather than the people.
Oh, so it could be all about police harassment then and nothing to do with “brutal cuts” or austerity? It could be that the spark that lit this fire had to do with police treatment of minorities? It certainly seems that is what she’s saying. And of course the riots elsewhere could simply be copy-cat. Criminal gangs who learned the methods used in Tottenham and deploying them elsewhere to loot and avoid the police?
Well, yes, it could be. In fact, it could really have nothing at all to do with the “entitled and dispossessed”.
Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear.
They do? What’s clear is she’s bound and determined to link them, that’s for sure. But clarity … yeah, not so much.
But that is necessary, even if not true, to conclude the following:
Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.
As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as "social problems" (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.
All of that from a riot against police that one could conclude was a long time fermenting. Recall the LA riots – was that because of “brutal cuts” and “enforced austerity measures”? Was the looting that took place then a result of “decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness” or mobs taking advantage of the lawlessness the riots brought to loot what they wanted?
And even if she’s half right – what’s the solution she’d desire? Well “equality” of course. She’d rather trample the rights of those who’ve won “life’s lottery” (even though they worked their rear ends off to do so) and redistribute it to the poor and disenfranchised than ask the poor and disenfranchised to do what is necessary to give themselves a chance in life and quit demanding others do it for them.
Collectivism, although she never comes out and says it, is her answer. And we’ve seen how well those equal societies did, didn’t we? Well at least those of us who had been born before the collapse of the USSR and objectively observed the outcome.
Yes, friends, a whole new generation of collectivists begin to rear their heads, some having never seen what the collectivism of the last century brought in terms of “equality” - Equality of misery, equality of oppression and equality of hopelessness.
The problem in the UK isn’t austerity, it’s the results of collectivism and the fact that the inevitable outcome has begun. It isn’t individualism that’s the fault. It’s a massive state which robs people of incentive through it’s supposed benign acts of state sponsored charity. Why strive if you will be taken care of whether you do or not? Why seek food if you’re not hungry or don’t care what you eat? Why take care of yourself if the state will do it for you? And if you start running out of money, tax the rich bastards who want better.
Uncle Jimbo, at Blackfive, puts the exclamation mark on the real reason London is burning:
Liberal social policies have brought western civilization to the breaking point. They had the best of intentions, just ask them. But they, and sadly we, are getting a heaping dose of the law of unintended consequences. If you train an entire cohort of society to believe that the government doesn’t just offer a safety net but a way of life, well you get this- gangs of scum who will take what they want if the free lunch stops showing up. The chattering class is doing their level best to paint this as a legitimate reaction to dire economic times, and for once I agree with them. This is what happens when you run out of other people’s money.
By the way, this isn’t just a one-off bit of nonsense from Ms. Power. She’s been quite active in the Guardian pages denouncing all sorts of things with titles such as “Don’t Assume the Police Are On Our Side”, which makes me wonder what “our side” might be, and “Happiness has been Consumed by Capitalism” which clarifies the sides.