Monday 12 January 2015

What I write in my notebook

I recently purchased a notebook, and find myself writing my thoughts with my excellent new fountain pen.

I have decided, on occasion, to type these thoughts up into blog posts. Unfortunately, I cant contain myself to just one topic, so this is never going to be a particularly popular blog. But it may be of interest to those who know me.

The first post is a rather long diatribe about politics. I actively invite comment because I really enjoy that sort of thing.

I like Nigel Farage. Though once again I appear to be bucking the trend amongst my peers, many of whom seem to think supporting UKIP is an act of moustache twirling villainy.

This is evident in the number of comments I see on my Facebook feed that read simply as: “Nigel Farage is a tosser” or some other variation on this theme. The only thing more annoying than political apathy is folks who seem to enjoy posting the internet equivalent of a witty one liner and then wallowing in endless backslapping until they become so assured of their convictions that not even the most erudite of speakers could begin to dislodge them.

It’s as if the apparent evilness of Nigel Farage is so blindingly obvious that no one who needs it explaining to them is worth their time. This smug intellectual superiority of the left is vexing to say the least.

I have sound and well thought out reasons for liking Nigel Farage. He is a libertarian. He believes in legalising cannabis, prostitution and liberalising firearm licencing to name a few things. No, not flagship policies, not even UKIP policies in some cases, but the man is on record as being in favour of these things.

This is the driving force behind his opposition to the European Union. As if we need a massive additional level of barely democratic government passing even more pointless laws…
Granted, this is where some bright spark traditionally pipes up with “If it wasn’t for the EU we would all be torturing children by now”. Would we? Would you? Would anybody vote for that? We have the mother of all parliaments. We could happily be passing these sorts of useful laws ourselves.
But, I digress. I was attempting to describe my political feelings, not examine the faults of the European Union.

I fear control. I fear the police state. Most of All, I fear “father knows best”.

Virtue is not virtue if it is arrived at by compulsion. It’s just obeying the law. It is rational self-interest. A racist who keeps his racist views quiet for fear of being biffed about the head with a stout stick is still a racist. Just one that values his skull.

Conversely, a racist who is free to air his vile views opens himself up to intellectual challenge. This, rather than belligerence may yet save him from his wrong headedness.
Couple this disturbing social manipulation with some of the more flagrant erosions of civil liberty since 1997 and we start to see a problem. Blair was the worst offender:
·         He wanted to make ID cards mandatory.
·         He wanted to be able to detain us for 90 days without trial.
·         He brought us control orders.
·         He brought us secret courts,‘closed material proceedings’, something the normally fairly sensible coalition government has decided to extend to civil cases.
·         Let’s not forget RIPA – the so called snooper’s charter.
·         Oh, and fun statistic that we now have more CCTV cameras then that famed liberal paradise, China.

This is not to say I am anti the police. I am not, I am pro police. They are heroes.  But they are often used in damm stupid ways. The policeman giving you a ticket for smoking in your car with your family, or investigating something someone posted on Twitter or Facebook is not spending his time investigating a crime which has actually caused tangible suffering. I see that the tradition of lions being led by donkeys is alive and well.

Isn't it time to pull the other way, just a little. Isn't it time to say we don’t need big government? (The EU is the biggest government there is)

Apparently, we no longer believe “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death you right to say it”. We now seem to believe that any deviation from them progressive agenda should be met with state sponsored beatings.

The peculiar thing is that it is often Labour supporters who are the most outspoken opponents of Farage. Ok. They must want to live in an Orwellian police state. That’s misguided, but reasonable. In my not particularly distant youth I was all in favour of sacrificing a little liberty for some security. I can understand the worldview.

Hang on, though. The conversations I have had with labour supporters in my time lead me to believe that they don’t want that. For them, the argument comes back to the economy.
I have always found the Authoritarian/Libertarian political axis to be central to my politics. I have moved around on it considerably. I have never understood the fixation on the left right economic struggle.

Especially as, in the UK it seems more or less settled. Largely capitalist with socialised elements that are deemed essential services. I mean, there is some fiddling around the edges to be done, I happen to think Royal Mail should be re-nationalised. It is an essential service that cannot seem to make a profit (I'm talking about final mile delivery). But largely I believe in a right wing economic model.

The main reasoning for this was given to me in sixth form. In a supply and demand economy more boots are produced to meet the demand for boots. Cheap boots, expensive boots, red boots, blue boots. Almost everyone can have boots, and those that cannot afford boots get boots from charities, because people largely aren't callous, and don’t need a government to force them to not be callous.
In a planned economy, the commissar of boots produces however many boots he thinks the country needs (identical) and gives them out on a first come first serve basis. Hopefully the commissar is competent and you don’t end up with a shortage of boots, or a hilarious glut of boots. Even then, the boots are identical, freedom of expression is stifled and net happiness goes down.
My main issue with a left wing economic model is that it is actually more susceptible to corruption then the worst excesses of crony capitalism.  Socialism concentrates too much power in the burocrat and relies on their good nature. History shows us this can go catastrophically wrong.
And, ok, Tony Blair hardly tried to bring us anything on the level of the Cheka, NKVD, Red Guard or Khmer Rouge, but to me it seems that left wing thinking inexorably leads to the worst kind of authoritarianism.

But no one else seems to see it that way. No one else even seems particularly interested in explaining to me why I am wrong to see it that way.

Because I like Nigel Farage, so I am damned.
And for the damned the progressive left has only scorn.

And image macros.


  1. Long post, covered lots of ground. Some I agree with, some I don't.
    I think there are three main points I'd like to make in response.
    1) A considerable portion of the disagreement between you and the majority of the Liberal Left (/Beardy Student Types/Bleeding Hearts/Bottom-Left-Green) on the subject of Mr. Farage is about trust. He has in the past described his political views as you said, but he's been very quiet on the subject recently. He may indeed be a libertarian, but he leads a coalition of view which include some very authoritarian traditional conservatives and he frequently pays their views lip-service. Or, far more often, to be fair, he will very carefully tip-toe up to the edge of endorsing their views and stop just short.
    Now, if you think that withdrawl from the EU is THE most important issue, you may simply view this as doing what must be done to maintain a fragile coalition but for people who either view the EU vaguely positively or simply not as a very high priority, the fact he leads a party containing Neil Hamilton, that he described Kerry "fucking disgusting old pooftahs" Smith as a "rough diamond" and the fact that he has pretty nakedly pandered to xenophobic hard-line anti-immigration sentiment over the last 18 months or so lead many people in Bottom-Left-Green to question whether Farage can really be Bottom-Right-Purple when he is appealing so hard to those who are *very* Upper-Right-Blue (not to mention the recent push for Upper-Right-Red votes he's made).
    In short, you believe Farage is using these people to get us out of Europe. Many of my Bearded Lefty colleages believe he's lying to people like you in order to get his real Upper-Right-Blue agenda into power. My personal view, if you are interested, is that Farage's intentions are more or less as you believe, but he's now the main riding a xenophobic, reactionary tiger and he's going to have serious trouble getting off.
    (In passing, a word of praise for Douglas Carswell, who professes much the same Bottom-Right-Purple stuff as Farage did (and possibly more quietly still does), but who, when the reactionary tiger pipes up with "And then deport all the Muslims!" proceeds to whack it sharply on the noise with a rolled up newspaper rather than making vaguely conciliatory noises.)

  2. 2) You say "to me it seems that left wing thinking inexorably leads to the worst kind of authoritarianism". I really don't think the historical record has your back on this one with regard to Western democratic societies. In British terms, the authoritarian New Labour thing was deeply unusual. Historically, the British Left have almost always been the advocates of civil liberties and social liberalism and the British Right have been the advocates of strong police power, authoritarianism and (historically) imperialism.

    Looking more globally over the scope of the 20th century, women's suffrage, the Civil Rights movement, support for gay and trans rights; all of these have been projects of the Left and were, at the time bitterly and sometimes violently opposed by the Right. Now, as an advocate of Bottom-Right-Purple, you have no obligation to try and defend the Right's checkered record on civil liberties. Libertarians are free to advocate the social policies of the Left and the economic policies of the right. But it strikes me as disingenuous to claim that the Left has a track record of authoritarianism based on a single Blair-shaped datapoint.

    I think it's especially unfair to have a go at Bottom-Left-Greeners over this given that a lot of the same people currently criticizing Nigel Farage voted Lib Dem in 2010 (and, for those older than me, 2005), precisely because of all of New Labour's Baby's First Police State crap. Yes, the Bottom-Left-Green is mostly returning to Labour for this election, but that's because all political parties have sub-parties and the Lib Dems are currently being run by the Classic Liberals/Orange Bookers (i.e. their economic right-wing), while in Labour, the New Labour authoritarians have fallen from favour and the socially liberal wing of the party is running the show. If Ed Milliband were hit by a bus tommorow and David Blunkett were elected as the new party leader, I and many of my Beardy Lefty colleagues would jump ship (either to the Lib Dems or the Green depending on whether we felt pragmatic or idealistic).

  3. 3)(This is the bit where I start agreeing with you) I am distressed by the degree of combative and apocalyptic rhetoric being deployed at the moment. I think it's happening on both sides, but that doesn't make it anymore OK when my team does it. Farage (and, in fact, even the xenophobic reactionaries I characterized as a tiger above) is my Opponent not, repeat not, my Enemy. UKIP has a) consistantly advocated change via a purely democratic methodology; no paramilitary wing, no "struggle on the street", no direct action, not even protest marches, b) even the at the apex of their anti-immigration rhetoric consistantly rejected an ethnic or blood-based conception of citizenship or Britishness and c) generally worked hard to exclude anyone with ties to the Nation Front or it's swarm of unlovely semi-fascist offspring (which is why I was so critical of their decision to grandfather in that concillor who was in the news recently)

    Painting your democratic opponents as the Enemy makes me very, very nervous. It's why I dislike and distrust Russel Brand's “democracy doesn't work, we need direct peaceful revolutionary action” line. It's why I could never get on with the Marxists at the secret Left-wing conspiracy parties (plus those guys nick all the good beers). It's why (sorry, I warned you there was a both-sides aspect here), I am not terribly comfortable with the way UKIP has started styling itself “the People's Army” and some of the “LibLabCon has stolen our government” rhetoric that sometimes emerges from that. (It's also why I am not best pleased with some of the rhetoric emerging from the nationalist side of the Scottish Independence issue. Yes, it was close, yes you feel passionately about it, but you lost, guys. Lines like “If the ballot box fails we'll take the issue to the streets” are not OK).

    We live in a democracy and in a society with a long-held respect for the rule of law. Our voting system may be flawed, but we were offered an alternative that we turned down less than 5 years ago. Whatever government emerges from the May elections, be it a majority for one of the two big parties, a simple coalition, a minority government operating via confidence-and-supply or a horrifically complicated coalition that shatters inside of six months, will be our duly elected government and for a long as it lasts we will have to live with it. We may think it is a foolish mistake to trust those lying assholes with power (imagine whichever party leader best fits the description in your mind of a lying asshole), but it will be a foolish mistake made in the agreed upon manner. We'll have to live with that government and we'll also have to live with each other. That's hard to do if you've convinced yourself that 30%(Tory or Labour) or 15% (UKIP) or 5% (Green or SNP) of the people in the country are monsters. They are not, they are the Opponent, not the Enemy. And that's important.

  4. Sorry, had to chop it into pieces to fit the character limit. This is the stuff; a format to talk politics where points can be laid out and replied to at length! Arguing politics on Facebook gets on my wick for that reason.

    1. Ouroboros, I think that you are probably right about Farage riding a tiger. I think that some of the more questionable things done to soothe blue UKIP are a damn shame. I actually cancelled my party membership because I felt UKIPs opposition to equal marriage was cowardly. That said, I as you correctly surmise, feel Farage is simply doing what needs to be done regarding securing an exit from the EU. I am a great admirer of Mr Carswell, he best represents the sort of UKIP I feel represents me.

      On Labours record, I tend to think that the Labour government of the 1970s has to be viewed in the context of the fundamental societal change that seemed possible during the cold war. As I stated in my post, my feeling is that the left/right economic question is largely settled in the UK. Hence to my mind the invention of New Labour, a political party is nothing without relivance. I'll grant you, Ed Milliband might be something different again, but I am not even sure what that would be.

      It interests me that so much is based on faith. I have faith that Nigel Farage is what he claims to be. You, conversely, have faith that Ed Milliband is what he claims to be. If that's what it comes down to we are unlikely to convince each other.

      I would just like to add, while on the topic of faith, and this is not aimed at you. I would like to be taken in good faith, if I say I support Nigel Farage because of his stance on personal freedoms I expect to be taken at face value. Some seem to be incapable to reasoning that anyone who supports him is not, on some level a secret racist.

      Your third point, about democracy, is spot on, and rather wise.