MISES UK Conference 2018 – Libertarian Toryism, Dr Sean Gabb Reply

Though ultimately about the future, this will also be a speech that dwells on the past. The first past event that I wish to discuss is what happened in June 2017. When I stood down as Director of the Libertarian Alliance, I was asked if I had taken leave of my senses. I was not visibly broken down by age and ill health. I had evidently not run out of things to say. Why, then, was I steeping aside in favour of a young man who was nearly forty years my junior?…

Peter Tatchell and the Total State 2

Like Sean, I have some level of respect for Peter Tatchell. However, these troubling statements of his indicate what I have always said, i.e. that any ideological system, no matter how much it may seem to represent “good causes,” can be twisted towards state-centric and authoritarian ends. Additionally, the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that when former outgroups become powerful they tend to replicate many of the same authoritarian power systems that they previously opposed. Instead of having school kids salute the flag and read the Bible every morning, Peter Tatchell instead wants kids to pledge allegiance to the new state legitimating ideology of democratic, egalitarian, multicultural diversity.

What is most regrettable is that so many anarchists and libertarians (the majority of whom are cultural leftists) cannot see this for what it is. This is the same problem that early anarchists warned about with regard to Marxism and state-socialism, and the same problem that has generally plagued modern revolutionary movements since at least the time of Jacobin France, i.e. “Meet the new boss. He’s the same as the old boss.” Plenty of people who really ought to know better simply regard anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, anti-xenophobia, etc. as such good causes that they cannot see this rising new form of authoritarianism for what it is.

What kind of opposition do anarchists and libertarians think they will be able to offer against the system in a few decades, perhaps sooner, when the old, rural, white people who comprise the Republicans’ constituency die off, and “conservatism” begins to look a lot like today’s Clinton Democrats and “liberalism” begins to look like today’s university administrations? Regrettably, the Left seems to be in a permanent war with the Western culture of the 1950s, a culture that is long since dead. Any serious critique of statism, capitalism, or imperialism in 21st century Western societies must necessarily include a critique of the emerging ideological paradigm of the ruling class, i.e. what I call totalitarian humanism as espoused by what Joel Kotkin calls the New Clerisy.

By Sean Gabb

Ludwig von Mises Centre

I have some respect for Peter Tatchell. He campaigned against the anti-homosexual laws before this was a safe thing to do. He has shown courage on other issues. This being said, I am troubled by his latest set of recommendations. Writing on the 8th January 2018 for The Friends of Europe blog, he declares that “equal rights are not enough.” It is not enough for people to be treated equally before the law. It is also necessary for children to be brainwashed into agreeing with him. He says:

To combat intolerance and bullying, education against all prejudice – including racism, misogyny, disablism, xenophobia, ageism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia – should be a stand-alone compulsory subject in every school. Equality and diversity lessons should start from the first year of primary level onwards, with no opt-outs for private or faith schools and no right for parents to withdraw their children.

…. These lessons should be subject to annual examination, ensuring that both pupils and teachers take these lessons seriously; otherwise they won’t. A pupil’s equality grades should be recorded and declared when applying for higher education and jobs, as it is in the interests of everyone to have universities and workplaces without prejudice.

To see what Peter means, let us take a number of issues:

  • Whether the various races are of equal intellectual or moral capacity;
  • Whether the sexes are of equal intellectual or moral capacity;
  • Whether sex outside an exclusive relationship with a person of the opposite sex is right or advisable;
  • Whether changing sex, with present levels of technology, is advisable;
  • Whether mass-immigration is good for a host community.

I could mention other issues, but these will do. No side in any of them is self-evidently true. The truth of each side must therefore be a matter of argument. In all cases, argument either way rests on assumptions that are themselves matters of argument. For the authorities to classify one side in any of these issues as “hate” is as much an abuse of power as criminalising particular views about the Nature of Christ or the sources of religious knowledge. Let attacks on life and property be punished according to law. But let any opinion stand or fall by the appropriate evidence.

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Cultural Marxism: One of Those Legitimising Ideologies that Come and Go Reply

Totalitarian humanism is only the latest manifestation of a more traditional enemy. Ultimately, our enemy is not any one ideology but the state itself, as Albert Jay Nock pointed out.

By Sean Gabb

Last month, I wrote a defence of Charlie Elphicke, my Member of Parliament. He had been suspended from the Conservative Party while the Police investigated him for an alleged sexual assault. He has still not been arrested or charged. He has still not been told the nature of the complaint against him. It may be that he is about to be unmasked as a serial sex-murderer. More likely, the sinister clowns who direct law enforcement in this country have found nothing that even they regard as an assault worth prosecuting. But, if the former of these possibilities might embarrass me, the general reflections I made on his case stand by themselves. What I wish now to do is to elaborate on these reflections.

I begin by granting that ideologies are in themselves important. They are sets of propositions about the world that are true or false in much the same way as a scientific hypothesis is true or false. They are true or false regardless of what motives people may have for adopting them. This being granted, every person is born with a set of dispositions that draws him to accepting a particular ideology. Some of us are born with a dislike of pushing others around. This will not invariably make us into free market libertarians. But it will incline us to less intrusive formulations of whatever ideology is accepted. There are liberal Catholics and liberal Moslems. There have even been liberal Marxists. Others are born with a will to dominate. These will gather round the most fashionable intolerant ideology on offer.

Last month, I used the examples of Calvinism and Cultural Marxism. These were and are legitimising ideologies. Each has different formal propositions. Each has different enemies. Each has different effects on the character. But their essential function, so far as they can be made hegemonic, is to justify the gaining and use of power by an authoritarian élite – or by “The Puritans.”

If you want to see this case made at greater length, I refer you to my earlier essay. The case briefly stated, I turn to what may follow from it.

This is to suggest that direct argument with the Puritans is of limited value. Our own Puritans are Cultural Marxists for reasons other than the truth or falsehood of Cultural Marxism. Because its surface claims about treating people as individuals, and not being rude to them, are broadly in line with public opinion, it is an ideal legitimising ideology. If our Puritans had, after about 1970, taken up traditional Calvinism, or Orthodox Marxism-Leninism, or National Socialism, they would have got nowhere. The social liberalism of the previous two decades would have rolled straight over them. Instead, there was the combination, in Britain and America, of a large cohort of those inclined to Puritanism and an ideology, or set of ideologies, that could be shaped into a powerful legitimising ideology. It may be that the universe as a whole is locked into a rigid scheme of cause and effect. In this case, what happened was inevitable. But looking only at those parts of the universe we can understand and control, I think there was an element of contingency here. We are where we are because of a largely accidental discovery by the Puritans of a legitimising ideology that worked for them.

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State Censorship, Corporate Censorship: A Libertarian View Reply

Sean Gabb has a timely article on the problem of censorship being outsourced from the state to state-allied institutions in present day society. This should motivate many right-leaning libertarians to rethink the overly neat and tidy “public vs. private” dichotomy that right-libertarians frequently embrace. Instead, we need to apply the insights of elite theory and recognize that governments, corporations, universities, and the mass media are all part of the same state/ruling class/power elite apparatus.

By Sean Gabb

Every age we have so far known has been one of censorship. This is not to say that opinion has been equally constrained in all times and places. Sometimes, as in the Soviet Union, it has been oppressive and omnipresent – even extending to an imposition of orthodoxy on the natural sciences. More often, it has been focussed on perceived criticisms of the established political and religious order. Sometimes, dissent has been permitted among the intellectual classes – especially when expressed in a language unknown to the people at large, and only punished when communicated to the people at large. Sometimes, a diversity of political orders has limited any particular censorship to an area of just a few square hundreds of miles. Sometimes it has been limited by a general belief in the right of free expression. But I can think of no time or place where publication has been absolutely unconstrained.

If I look at modern England, I cannot say that censorship is as oppressive and omnipresent as it was in the Soviet Union. I cannot think of any opinion that cannot somehow be expressed. For the avoidance of doubt, I do not wish to do any of these things. However, if I want to deny the holocaust, I can. If I want to argue for sex with children, I can. If I want to claim that the coloured races are intellectually or morally inferior, I can. If I want to say that homosexuality is a dreadful sin that will be punished by everlasting torments, I can. If I want to argue – in the abstract – for the rightness of shooting politicians, I can. The law punishes what are regarded as inflammatory expressions of such belief. It punishes expressions of such belief when they are regarded as affecting known individuals. But I am not aware of a law that makes it a crime to publish sober and abstract expressions of any opinion.

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Letter from England: Setting the Scene Reply

A discussion of the internal workings of contemporary British politics. Meanwhile, American politics could probably be summarized by a single song.

By Sean Gabb

Ludwig von Mises Centre

I have been asked to write a weekly column on British politics. Since I am writing for a largely American readership, and since Americans mostly know little of what happens outside their own country, and since American politics are presently in themselves of consuming interest, I think it would be best if I were to begin with a brief overview not only of what is happening here, but also of what has been happening.

David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010 at the head of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. The Conservatives had won more seats than any other party in the House of Commons, but fallen short of an overall majority. Whether he governed the country well during the next five years is beside the point. What matters is that he governed effectively within the assumptions of British politics.

He went into the 2015 General Election with the aim of getting an overall majority for the Conservative Party. His main difficulty was not in beating the Labour Party, which was in no position to beat him, but in making sure that millions of disaffected conservatives would vote Conservative and not for the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

Britain had joined the European Economic Community in 1973. This was a controversial change of national strategy, and it had split the Conservative Party. Membership raised fundamental issues of sovereignty and of economic policy. Without ever going away, this split had been of little practical importance between 1979 and 1990, while Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister between. Once she was gone, it had re-emerged with growing force, to cripple the government of her successor, John Major.

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