Perry de Havilland on those Covid demonstrations

Well, I managed to do a posting that I had merely hoped to do for Samizdata, about the Covid demo in London the weekend before last, linking back here to all the photos of it that I stuck up here.

Here. and there, I added some rather rambling verbiage about how I had mixed feelings about such demos. Do they work? What do they achieve? That kind of thing.

And I really liked Perry de Havilland’s comment on my Samizdata piece in response:

Demonstrations are much misunderstood; particularly ones like this (& this was a huge demonstration).

They are not going to change state policy directly because that just isn’t how things work, they are mostly about deisolating activists, they are about demonstrating to the demonstrators that they are not crazy (even if some of them are as is the case in any group of disparate people).

Demonstrations are a building process. Demonstrations in this case are particularly effective at highlighting assorted lies about this particular disease. After all, get hundreds of thousands unmasked unvaccinated people shouting for a few hours face to face, there is going to be an observable spike in deaths each time, right? Right? 🤣

Some demonstrations against the lockdown got hammered by the police earlier on … why? Because they were small enough to get hammered by the police to try and discourage other demonstrations. In this demonstration, the police were so vastly outnumbered, by a march that refused to even tell the police where it was going to march (by design), there was never any chance it could be stopped with truncheons. And the demonstration’s organisation was connected yet dispersed, utterly protean: a couple organisers were arrested before the march to try and derail it, and expecting that, others on various platforms seamlessly took over.

What THAT demonstrates to the marchers is that resistance is not futile, they are not alone. In fact, they are legion. It was an anti-lockdown march but it was also an anti-media march, giving lie to the idea that utterly dominating the media dominates public opinion (as if Brexit had not already proven the falsity of that in the internet age). How many times do crap opinion polls have to get it wrong for demonstrable things (such as election & referendum outcomes) for you to stop believing them when things are less demonstrable?

If you don’t ‘get it; then who cares; you are most likely not the target audience. But these marches are not a pointless hissy fit like some marches, these particular marches are literal in-your-face defiance of instructions by the state intending to protect you from “the inevitable consequences of a terrible disease spreading amongst crowds”. These marches are an absolute refusal to obey & a demonstration that the state relies on your willing even if grudging compliance, because there is a tipping point beyond which they do not have enough people with truncheons to force your compliance. That is what demonstrations like this are for & it is working just fine.

Perry and I have since talked further about this, and it is clear, from his and other comments, that libertarianism, as I merely speculated hopefully, really is spreading amongst those demonstrators. In general, says Perry, a lot of people are going to be radicalised by Covid, more precisely: by the response to Covid. This will take time, as the economic damage done by this response makes itself felt and as the facts start emerging in greater detail, both the scientific facts and the policy making facts. Of course, nothing like all of this radicalising will be in a libertarian direction, but a lot of it will.

And I had completely ignored the crucial point that this one was a demonstration in favour of the right to demonstrate, and in defiance of the claim that demonstrations would spread The Plague.

Perry and I also agreed that if it had been a real Plague – dead bodies in the street, double digit percentage deaths and so on – our attitude would have been very different. This is an argument about the mishandling of medical data, not just a libertarian “hissy fit”, to quote his phrase.

Although, I rather suspect that for many, “hissy fit” is simply a demonstration they don’t agree with. Which was why I mentioned those pro-Remain demos in what I wrote at Samizdata. I disagreed with those demos, yet they were clearly demos, and they clearly will have consequences, even if not those that the demonstrators will be fully satisfied with, of just the sort that Perry described.

Perry also mentioned how getting to know this lady had informed his thinking on these matters. He zeroed in on this sentiment, that I also mentioned in that earlier posting:

Being a dissident wasn’t about overthrowing the regime; it was merely about staying sane.

In other words demos say, if only to the demonstrators, but typically also to many sympathetic but timid onlookers: You are not the only ones thinking like this.

James Tooley talks about Really Good Schools

I’ve just listened to the whole of this podcast (which I encountered here), in which Paul E. Peterson talks (for a little over forty minutes) with one of my most favourite public intellectuals on the entire planet, Professor James Tooley:

It’s not just what he says; it’s the way he says it.

Here is a link to more information about Tooley’s latest book, Really Good Schools. If you want to buy it on Amazon, here.

When I searched Amazon for “tooley really good schools” I was asked if I meant “toilet really good schools”. But, it did at least show me what was looking for.

What Tooley says, in his ingratiatingly polite and scrupulous manner, is that the best way to sort out education is to have a totally free market. He is the world’s leading spotter of private sector schools for the world’s poorest people, and would like to see this sort of thing spread to richer countries. Although, interestingly, he is skeptical about education vouchers. Politically, they don’t seem to work, because they attract such heavyweight teaching union opposition, and crucially, even if they could be made to stick politically, they might well put off the very people who would be best at owning and running such schools.

Tooley and Peterson also talk about the impact of Covid restrictions, and the consequent rise of home schooling, particularly in the USA. But although Covid has revealed that public schools have been bad compared to private schools during this crisis, when the crisis passes, will very much be revealed as having changed with any permanence? Maybe. We shall see.

Patrick and I talk about the current state of libertarianism

I’ve had a busy day doing other things, but last Tuesday, Patrick Crozier and I recorded a conversation about the current state of the libertarian movement, and I can at least today report that Patrick has now done the editing and introductory blogging and linkage, and you can listen to it by going here. It lasts, after Patrick had sliced out the pauses (which we discuss at the end), almost exactly an hour.

As the title of Patrick’s posting alludes to, we speak in particular about how libertarians happen to have been divided about recent Big Issues of the Day, like Brexit, Trump and Lockdown. In each of these arguments, libertarians have been on both sides. However, we both express guarded optimism that libertarians will be more united in the argument that will soon be raging about how best to recover from Lockdown. Our voice may not win, but it will at least be more like one voice.

For further clues about the kinds of things we discussed, see the categories list below. Notice that “Education” is not in this list. For some reason we failed to even mention this.

How to win the libertarian argument with hippos

Once again, I am saying a big thank you to Rob Fisher, for doing his bit to make my life and libertarianising echo in eternity. (Commenters, what movie am I quoting there? I liked that phrase the moment I first heard it.)

If you go to the website that Rob is referring to, you will see that right near the top there is a slowly moving clutch of quotes that come from the publications in question. I think this is a good idea. My strong point is probably not essays, or even long explanations. When I attempt any of those, I generally make some mistakes, especially given that when I wrote a lot of this stuff I was, as now, my own editor. Books? forget it. No, my biggest strength is, or was, single sentences, or at the most small clutches of sentences.

I only just saw Rob’s posting, which went up yesterday, but today is my day here for animal stuff, so, is there an animal connection here? I only started really banging on about animals in an animal rights sort of way when scientists started creating semi-affordable artificial meat, which will mean that we humans can now stop being so mean to animals, which we now do by stuffing them full of food and then slicing them up and eating them. When we’re not just keeping them as pets and merely stuffing them full of food.

However, there is an animal link, at any rate as of now, in Rob’s very kind posting. Early manifestations of which included the subject of “Hippos”, in the bit just under the title where it says what the posting is about. “Opinions on liberty” gets a mention, but Rob would appear to have forgotten to scrub Hippos from the list, Hippos being what goes on a Samizdata posting by default if you forget to mention any subjects. Here, it is merely “uncategorized”. But Samizdata Supremo Perry de Havilland likes hippos, and knows how to make things like that happen.

If you have an argument with a hippo, about anything never mind about libertarianism, chances are you’ll lose, especially if it thinks you are in its way.

Email problems: EIG2BA

I am suffering email problems just now. I can send them, but I can’t receive them.

As of now, I am relying on The Guru to ensure that …:

… which it surely will, eventually.

Meanwhile, the only other thing I did here today was to add a publication to this list of Chris Tame writings that I had missed. Political Notes 148: The Case Against a Bill of Rights. (My thanks to Professor Bryan Niblett for pointing out this omission.)

LATER: Email sorted. Thank you The Guru.

A list of Libertarian Alliance publications by Chris Tame

I’ve been reflecting on the career and achievements of Chris Tame:

Those being three more photos of Chris that I recently exhumed from my “filing system”.

Below is a list of the pieces of writing by him that were published (in some cases republished) by the Libertarian Alliance.

Political Notes 27
The Bankruptcy of the New Socialists
1987, 2pp.

Political Notes 40
On The Side of the Angels: A View of Private Policing
1989, 2pp.

Political Notes 41
Conservatives and the Closed Shop
1984, 4pp.

Political Notes 44
Taxation Is Theft
1989, 2pp.

Political Notes 148
The Case Against a Bill of Rights
1989, 7pp.

Philosophical Notes 1
The Moral Case For Private Enterprise

1985, 4pp.
Not available

Philosophical Notes 2
Is Freedom Selfish?: A Debate
(with Michael Ivens)
1985, 4pp.

Legal Notes 20
Why Sado-Masochism Should Not Be Criminalised (Evidence to the Law Commission on Consent and Offences Against the Person)
1994, 4pp.

Legal Notes 30
Freedom, Responsibility and Justice: The Criminology of the ‘New Right’
1998, 7pp.

Cultural Notes 1
Ernest Hemingway and the Failure of Nihilism
1983, 2pp.

Historical Notes 6
An Economic Misinterpretation of History: A Critique of J. K. Galbraith’s Account of American Capitalism
1989, 6pp.

Historical Notes 8
Power, Class and the State in Twentieth Century America
1989, 7pp.

Sociological Notes 1
Man, Concepts and Society
1987, 4pp.

Sociological Notes 2
Change and Pseudo-Change in Sociology
1986, 4pp.

Foreign Policy Perspectives 5
Hong Kong: Another British Betrayal
1988, 2pp.

Foreign Policy Perspectives 16
Hypocrisy in the ‘Peace’ Movement: A Case Study
1990, 2pp.

Libertarian Pamphlets 1
Against the New Mercantilism: The Relevance of Adam Smith
1979, 4pp.

Libertarian Pamphlets 2
Prostitution, The Free Market and Libertarianism
(Includes LA Evidence to the Criminal Law Revision Committee of the Home Office on Sexual Offences)
File currently unavailable

Libertarian Pamphlets 8
Environmentalism and Totalitarianism: An Obituary for Modern ‘Liberalism’
1987, 4pp.

Libertarian Pamphlets 9
The Politics of Whim: A Critique of the `Situationist’ Version of Marxism
1989, 4pp.

Libertarian Pamphlets 14
Libertarianism versus Conservatism: A Debate
(with Gerry Frost)
1989, 11pp.

Libertarian Reprints 1
Different Values: An Analysis of Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner, 1984, 6pp.

Libertarian Reprints 7
Sanitising Marx
1984, 2pp.

Libertarian Reprints 8
The Chicago School: Lessons From The Thirties For The Eighties

1984, 2pp.
File currently unavailable

Libertarian Reprints 9
Stirner in Context: The Profanization of Hegelianism and the Genesis of Marx’s Historical Materialism

1984, 2pp.
File currently unavailable

Libertarian Heritage 7
The Revolution of Reason: Peter Gay, The Enlightenment and the Ambiguities of Classical Liberalism
1992, 7pp.

Libertarian Heritage 12
Guy Aldred (1886-1963): The Socialist As Libertarian
1994, 2pp.

Libertarian Heritage 19
The Critical Liberalism of J. M. Robertson (1856-1933)
1998, 19pp.

This list didn’t take me long to contrive, but it did take longer than I thought it would. There were more than I had been expecting. They were mostly written and published towards the beginning of the LA publications surge that I presided over. I know for sure that Chris had plenty more that he wanted to write, but then his bone cancer got him.

Writing about morality and consequences in a way that hasn’t dated

The latest addition to the Brian Micklethwait Archive is a piece by me called The Morality of Consequentialism and the Consequences of Morality, which was first published over two decades ago. I had completely forgotten ever writing this, and today read it again with much interest.

And with some satisfaction. It’s good stuff, though I say it myself. I say it myself because if I don’t, who will?

What I find so gratifying about how I mostly wrote about libertarianism back then is that because we didn’t need to be obsessed with current events and grabbing media attention (basically because we didn’t care if only a few people read our stuff (photocopier rather than printing blah blah)), I was able to concentrate on underlying principles, keeping mere current events at arms length. Which means that these pieces of mine mostly don’t date that much. If you thought they made sense when I wrote them, you’d still think that now.

Much the same also applies to a lot of the stuff I published by others, which you can find your way to here. (Apart from the Political Notes link, which for some reason seems not to work.)

Dan Hannan in Australia

Two years ago, which explains the non-up-to-date political references to such things as Brexit, Dan Hannan did a talk in Australia. I found my way to this talk via the Hannan website, and watching this short interview of Hannan by Marc Sidwell (Sidwell is a friend of mine but I’d not clocked this interview until now), and then at the end of that being recommended to attend to this CIS hosted talk in Australia, done, as I say, a couple of years ago, which goes on for a lot longer:

Hannan didn’t talk about the then President Trump in his main speech (which lasts a bit under 40 minutes), but he did during the Q&A. And on the Trump matter, Hannan sat resolutely on the fence. He regarded Trump as “unfit for office”, because a liar about his fornication, his taxes, and just generally, and he welcomed the good liberalising things that Trump has done, but he denounced the public spending spree that Trump presided over and encouraged. He regards the kind of tribalism that is totally pro- or totally anti-Trump as the problem. Transcending tribalism being the whole secret of “western civilisation”.

I take the point about tribalism, but I wonder if Trump could have done his good stuff, both domestically and abroad, without all those character flaws of his. His boorish manner is all mixed up with the fact that he didn’t waste any time trying to suck up to his opponents, the way rival Republicans always tend to do in the vain search for their admiration. Trump was effective because “uncivilised”.

On the broader subject of “western civilisation”, Hannan can’t help attributing the success of what PJ O’Rourke called “that fine trend in human affairs” to his own Anglosphere tribe. The Anglosphere tribe is, he seems to be saying, the anti-tribal tribe.

And I think I agree.

The Brian Micklethwait Archive goes public

Just over a month ago I learned that I will die rather sooner than I had been supposing, and I asked, by way of being cheered up, for people to say nice things, preferably in public, about my various writings and doings over the years.

The most impressive consequence of this rather vulgar entreaty has so far been the Brian Micklethwait Archive.

It is in the nature of this Archive in my honour that if I had constructed it myself it would be an absurdity, which wouldn’t outlast me any more than this blog will. In contrast, the fact that Rob Fisher, a far younger man than me, has embarked upon this project is a source of profound gratitude and satisfaction to me. If I die soon, this will be a big reason for me nevertheless to die in a state of moderate contentment. Posthumous reputations, such as I now crave on a scale way beyond what I merely deserve, do not establish themselves. They have to be established. I want to be remembered as a writer, yet I do not have so much as one book to my name. This Archive that Rob is gathering up, by cherry picking from my many bits of writing over the years, will make a big difference to whatever continuing impact and influence I may have after I have died.

Rob is in charge of this Archive, not me. It needs to be something he is happy to go on polishing and adding to in the months and years to come, so it must be as he wishes it, rather than as I might have wished it. And I waited until he made it public before drawing attention to it, here, myself. Now I feel that I can without upsetting whatever announcements Rob had in mind to be doing.

Great Men don’t need to advertise themselves. Their achievements speak for themselves. Lesser men like me need to beat their own drums. And it makes all the difference when someone else joins in.

Guido before Guido

In among other more tedious tasks like fixing Power-of-Attorney for my Senior Coordinating Friend, for if I stop functioning properly before all the other tedious tasks are done, I am trying to get my writings in something more like order. To that end I have been trawling through old “Libertarian Alliance” (Tame, Micklethwait, Gabb tendency) pamphlets that I published in the 80s and 90s. Picking out mine, of course, but also making sure to grab the sadly few by Chris Tame, to whom I am now determined to pay further posthumous tribute even if it’s one of the very last things I do.

And, I came across a pamphlet with this at the top:

It’s Guido before Guido, first published in 1991.

Read any or all of it here.

My experience of Guido divides neatly into two chunks of time. There was the Why Don’t You phase, when he would beg us to do clever and more eye-catching things than we could be bothered with or had the propaganda talents to be doing. (He later has a spell doing a few Blog Posts for Samizdata, where he bent Perry de Havilland’s ear out of shape in the same way, this time about how blogging could and should be done. Alas the only mention of Guido now at the Samizdata sidebar is the link to Guido Fawkes.)

And then came the glorious and still continuing Screw-You-Idiots-I’ll-Do-It-Myself phase, that I for one have loved and grovellingly admired from the moment it kicked off. No way did I or Tame or Gabb, or even de Havilland, teach Paul Staines everything he knew. But we did help to create an environment in which Guido could watch, learn, listen, and then do his own wonderful thing.

Such recollections are not going to make me die happy. Like Tame, I would have preferred literal physical immortality. But such memories do soften the blow a little, if blow it is about to be.