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.

I have lung cancer

This afternoon I sent out an email message to about fifty or more of my nearest and dearest, saying that I now have lung cancer. Since among my nearest and dearest are those who read this little blog of mine with any regularity, here is the full text of what that said, for all you good people also:

A message from Brian Micklethwait to as many of his friends, relatives and loved ones whom he can now think of to include in this email list.

Please pass this on to anyone else who you think would appreciate hearing about it, with whatever added apologies make sense for me having neglected to include them on the list to start with.

*****************

Dear friends, relatives, loved ones and well-liked ones:

About a week before Christmas, I learned that I am suffering from lung cancer. I had known for a while that something bad was happening. Apparently I have had it for some time, and it has been spreading. From what doctors are now telling me it seems that I may die quite soon. They don’t put it quite like that, but that is how it now sounds.

But, it may not be quite that bad. Being doctors, they are also giving me reasons for optimism, in among the gloom.

First, I do not have the usual sort of lung cancer, the sort brought on by prolonged and heavy smoking, having never been a smoker of any kind. I am told that this sort of “anomalous” lung cancer tends to respond better to cancer treatment than regular smoker-cancer usually does. I suspect that my very dusty home may be part of what set my cancer off, but the doctors prefer to doubt that, at any rather when they speak to me. Genetics? Other unknown environmental triggers? They prefer not to speculate and just to get on with treating me.

Second, cancer treatment has come a long way in recent years. A doctor recently told me that, had I been in my current condition a decade ago, his advice would have been: “Call your lawyer, your priest, and your undertaker, in whichever order you prefer.” Now, my chances are much better.

Third, because I decided to throw the kind of money I can spare at the private medical sector for the diagnosis part of my problem, my condition is now well understood, and I am now, already, getting cancer treatment, from London’s Royal Marsden Hospital in the Fulham Road, which is about as good as cancer treatment can be nowadays.

And, I’m getting this treatment on the NHS. The NHS is overwhelmed by people who have or say that they have medical problems of all kinds and degrees of severity. Had I relied on the NHS to learn the bad news I needed to know, I would probably still not know it. But, once the NHS knows that you have a serious and potentially fatal condition, it then moves fast, and not just technically well but with great human sympathy, if my early experience of treatment is anything to go by, and if what my doctors and my medically expert friends and relatives (such as my sister who was an NHS GP until she retired) are telling me is so. Especially if you are lucky enough, as I am, to live a mere walk away from the Marsden.

So, wish me luck. I may yet live for quite a while. My condition may stabilise. I may even recover. I now doubt that, but you never know.

Some of you will be content to tell me you are very sorry about all this, and that is fine. Such messages mean a lot, and if that is all you want to say to me that’s still a great deal. Just knowing that there are people out there who sympathise means a lot more than you might suppose. (A word of warning. Those who phone me may be subjected to some coughing at my end, a continuous cough having been one of the early signs of trouble.)

If, however, you would like to know more about how to help me in my weeks or months of misfortune, then keep reading, and I’ll tell you. (I have already embarked upon the years version of this scenario, being already over seventy years old.)

The problem is that, especially in these very socially separated times, physical help can be rather hard to contrive. Besides which, very close friends and relatives are already supplying crucial support in ways that are already helping me and cheering me up enormously. Thanks to them, and to the treatment I’ve already been getting, I have had a surprisingly cheerful Christmas.

But, there is something else I ask you to do, should you be so inclined. Don’t just email me about what you can do to help, email the person who is acting as my Senior Coordinating Friend, so to speak. This is Elena Procopiu (she at the top of the email list above). She is the elder sister of my beloved Second GodDaughter, and I am very close to her entire family. Email her, as well as me. Communicate with her about what you might be able to offer, should you be inclined.

I’m sure that all kinds of assistance, such as experience of similar circumstances as well as merely physical help, may materialise in this way.

But, let me now tell you what would really boost my morale.

Tell each other which of my writings you have most liked, and do so just as publicly as you feel inclined. Blogs postings, blog comments, social media, the lot. My circumstances are now no secret. If I do die soon, I would greatly prefer to do this in the knowledge that various things that I have said and written over the years have left behind them a trail of enlightenment and entertainment, and might be fondly remembered, for a while at least.

This is quite a lot to ask, because I fear that my more impressive pronouncements are scattered in amongst a vast pile of trivia and obfuscation. But, if you want now to cheer me up, try to dig out some of the more worthwhile things that you think I have said and done – often just sentences or paragraphs rather than longer and rarer stretches of eloquence – and hold them up for a bit of admiration and reflection.

Maybe there are photos I’ve taken over the years that you happened particularly to like. Recycle or link to them too.

Here might be a good place to start.

Or you could try here here.

Or here, which still seems to be working after a fashion.

Or you might care to sample some of these recent efforts, if you have the time.

If you recall having attended one or some of my last-Friday-of-the-month meetings at my home, perhaps because you were kind enough yourself to be the speaker at one or some of them and found that particularly helpful and stimulating, then please take the time to tell any other people who might be interested about that.

This is a lot to ask, but if you don’t ask for what you want in life, or in my case potential death, you are far less likely to get it, and this is what I want. If only a few people feel inclined to say and do things along these lines, it would cheer me up lot as I make my exit, if that is what is about to happen.

A late thought. My deadly sin has always been sloth. Had I merely died, one fine day, just like that with no warning, it is almost certain that I would have died failing to say or do many of the things I would have most wanted to say or do before going. As it is, having now been told about my possibly imminent death before it actually comes may turn into something of a blessing for me. Live every day as if it is your last, we are often told. That is pretty much what I am now doing, as best I can manage in my now weakened state. I still have a few public pronouncements that I’d like to offer to the world before I go, and there is every chance that I may now manage to say at least some of those things, the way I probably would not have done had I just died with no advance warning, and even if I had lived for quite a bit longer.

Which I may yet be lucky enough to do. If so, win-win.

Even if it goes win-lose, I don’t feel that I deserve the sort of send-off I am asking for. All my life, I have been showered with advantages, not least in the form of more unearned wealth than most inhabitants of this planet could ever dream of having bestowed upon them. I have not done nearly well enough as a communicator, given all the chances I have had, for me to be able to expect the sort of send-off that I would like and for it to happen of its own accord.

But, I nevertheless ask for it. This is what I would like.

It is putting it mildly to say that not everyone on this email list shares my political inclinations and attitudes, or for that matter aesthetic tastes and opinions. So if all you really want to say to me is: “Bad luck mate. Nice, on the whole, to have known you”, well, I’ll gladly take that.

I’ve tried quite hard to avoid grammatical errors and mis-spellings in this, but some will inevitably remain. It’s now time to stop this and just send it out. More to come, I hope, maybe from me, maybe from others, with news of medical progress, or perhaps just with news of how it all turns out. But if not, then: not. It was certainly good knowing all of you.

All the very best to you and yours,

Brian Micklethwait

If you are personally known to me and want to get in touch with my very dear friend Elena Procopiu, mentioned in the middle of the above text, I suggest you leave a comment below to that effect, and I’ll be sure that the connection is made.

Photos by Jim Turney of the Libertarian International World Convention of 1984

In 1984, I was one of many who helped organise a big Libertarian Conference at Royal Holloway College. US libertarian Jim Turney was one of those who attended, and he took these photos, which he has just emailed to me:

Left to right there: the late Chris R. Tame (who was the super-organiser of this gathering); me; Peter Breggin.

Left to right: John Hospers; me again; a guy who wrote and writes regularly for the IEA, and whom I know well but whose name is locked in a getting-old brain cave (anyone?); Nigel Ashford.

Left to right: Hospers again; me again; the guy I know well but … again; Ashford again; and a guy I genuinely do not know after all these years. Sorry if it turns out I should know him. Anyone?

Turney picked out the photos he had of this event with me in them, and there I am, the thin geek in the glasses. You can tell he’s a politician, can’t you? I can’t be the only person whom he has photoed during those long ago times when only Real Photographers had cameras and the half dozen digital cameras in existence all belonged to NASA. Think how precious such photos might be to some people, compared to photos photoed more recently.

I will now email Jim Turney back, thanking him for these remarkable photos, and asking if he has any more of this event, and in particular any more of Chris Tame.