Brian Micklethwait

Sean Gabb’s recent statement about the Libertarian Alliance

by Brian Micklethwait

I know how bored most of my little band of regular readers must be by now with the current travails of the Libertarian Alliance, but I do want to say a few more things on the subject.

I am actually now less pessimistic about the future of the Libertarian Alliance, following this pronouncement by Sean Gabb.  I didn’t, in this posting, predict the total collapse of the Libertarian Alliance, as Sean accuses me of doing, but I did fear it as an outside possibility.  Here, following this, I expressed more serious pessimism.  But in this recent statement, Sean says nothing to suggest that any publications from the era when I did them, or any done since, will disappear, either directly, or by himself going further off the mental rails and therefore hinting at further melt-down for the organisation.  This new statement is still rather graceless towards various people, me included, but that won’t matter if the LA continues to do worthwhile libertarian stuff.

The most important bits, I think, in Sean Gabb’s account are his defences against fears that have been expressed that Sean is an English nationalist before he is a libertarian, and an anti-propertarian in the Kevin Carson mould before he is a libertarian.  (I have not studied Carson’s ideas, by the way.) Had Sean defended himself by saying that he is an English nationalist and a libertarian, a Carsonite and a libertarian, that would have been very troubling, but happily he did not do this.  No English nationalist who really is an English nationalist first and foremost and anything else way behind, were he to read Sean’s statement, could mistake Sean for someone joining him in his nationalist struggle without wanting to influence the intellectual content of that struggle in any way.  In general, Sean contests the suspicions expressed about his opinions, rather than agreeing and then redefining libertarianism to mean this other stuff.  Good.

One thing in particular that Sean says about Tim Evans is, however, very wrong.  Sean accuses Tim of financial misbehaviour.  I don’t believe a word of it.  I think Tim’s handling of the finances of the LA has been excellent, thoroughly honest, and a great improvement, in terms of money raised and then either stored up or well-spent, over the Tame/Micklethwait regime, and then the Tame/Gabb regime.  If Gabb now leads the LA successfully, he will have reason to thank Tim Evans.  With luck, this accusation will not be repeated and will soon be forgotten.  The danger for Sean, and by extension the LA, is that if this accusation gets more mileage, Tim will be put in the position of having to defend himself by proving Gabb wrong, which I am sure he will be able to do but which could get even messier.  Sean would be wise to say no more along these lines.  Unless of course he sees sense about Tim’s handling of the LA’s finances and changes his mind, in which case a public but brief apology would be in order.

As for what Sean says directly about me and about the here-today-gone-tomorrow, electronic fish-and-chip-wrapping nature of blogging, well, there is some truth in this.  Most blogging, certainly most blogging here, is very forgettable.  But that doesn’t mean that it has no impact at all, and certainly not when you add it all up.  Blogging, as practised by those who have done it most effectively (Guido Fawkes and Bishop Hill spring to mind – in the USA, Instapundit), is not only here today but is having lasting impact upon tomorrow.  I think that Sean’s appeal to those who think blogging is mere fish-and-chip-wrapping sets up a false choice, between on the one hand, most blogging and, on the other hand, the more lasting sorts of intellectual endeavour, such as books that last, academic scholarship that lasts, and the best and most lasting blogs and blog posts.  The truth is that blogging of the more chatty sort has its bigger impact by drawing attention towards the more long-lasting stuff.  Look no further than Bishop Hill.  First a mere libertarian blogger, among many others.  Then a specialist blogger about the climate change debate.  Then a writer of a best selling book about the climate change debate.  Would that book have sold so well, and have had the impact it has already had (let alone all the impact that it will go on having in the future), without all of us fish-and-chip-wrappers telling people about it?  Without blogging of any kind, this book would not even have been written.

Anyway, I promised Tim Evans that, if Sean went public with what he had been saying more privately about Tim earlier in the week, I would defend Tim in public.  I now rather wish I hadn’t promised this, because such is the internet that even contesting such an accusation risks drawing attention to it.  I have now defended Tim.  But while doing this, I didn’t want to suggest that nothing else in Sean’s statement mattered, hence the length of this posting.

Brian Micklethwait



  1. I am not a Libertarian but have been to an LA meeting and supported the broad aims of Libertarianism and would be happy to vote for Ron Paul, were I back in the US. I am a Christian before anything else and in line with the monograph written some years ago by Philip van der Elste I can not claim to be a full on Libertarian as it conflicts with some fairly major statements in the Bible. HOWEVER the one thing that comes over from this viz a viz Libertarianism is the sectarian nature and intolerance shown within it. Hippies, you are not. And this very in fighting is what will kill Libertarianism which purports to be inclusive but patently is not. I hope the LA continues. As an aside, Tony Flew’s father was my father’s Tutor so there is some hope for us all that the circle will remain unbroken at least in the eternal sphere. I for one shall continue to support the LA financially as I trust this incident will make some people a little more professional in the management of the LA. regards Peter

  2. Some of us here are beginning to think that this was a targeted take-over (hostile) of the LA, by certain others who felt, enviously, that they ought to own the “Brand” and not Dr Gabb (who has 51% of the shares in the Libertarian Alliance Ltd). They would have sucked it dry of existing content (a sort of asset-stripping, if you like) and simply grafted the name onto whetever else they may or may not be doing.

    I name no names: I should not.

  3. It goes without saying that I, and the blog, would have ceased to exist in the present form. My feet would not have been able to touch the ground in the speed of my ejection.

  4. OK, can everyone just kiss and make up and get on with promoting libertarianism? These sectarian spats will not win public support and frankly most people don’t give a toss.

  5. @Tony
    They know who they are.

    There was, I think, an attempted theft of the brand “Libertarian Alliance”. This may indeed be not unconnected with the fact that there has in recent months been a rapprochement with the other Libertarian Alliance. And the people I finger saw their last chance to confiscate the title before it became invulnerable, just like The Second Reich HAD TO go to war by 1917 (principally against Russia – 2nd-Reich’s best estimate) or it would be intellectually, industrially and economically…..stuffed. People should read the papers of the Imperial German General Staff and its Foreign Office from before 1912, and even before 1900.

    Of course, whatever brand we fight under is not very important. Merely that this one here is getting quite old and well-recognised as brands go. I always used to say, in marketing, that one ought never to change the advertising unless it was unavoidable, and one ought never to change the brand identity and never never never the logo (ours had been criticised, years ago, but almost not at all now) unless one’s back was to the wall, by which time it would be too late anyway and the product is a dog.

    I just hope the other lot are libertarians. They do say so. but then politicians always say things, to look popular.

  6. I will continue to remain very pissed off, as you can all see. And so will the chimpanzee-typrwriting platoons in the Nissen Hut. I have no clue quite what they will decide about all this, but I hear them in the background, having an “extraordinary general meeting” which is what they call a selectiion of vaguely-systematised collective-hooting, under their breath.

  7. “This may indeed be not unconnected with the fact that there has in recent months been a rapprochement with the other Libertarian Alliance. ”

    There is another LA?

  8. Oh, yes, the Great Split of 1983 created two Libertarian Alliances, each with the same logo and claims to apostolic status, and each believing exactly the same things. It took us longer than it should have to recognise the absurdity. Though we now cooperate on a whole range of matters, we do find it most convenient to keep the two organisations separate.

  9. The fact that you posted up Brian’s item is very encouraging, since he clearly rebuts a number of points and makes it clear he is glad that a number of issues have been cleared up. That is appreciated.

    David: I honestly don’t know where you get the idea that there has been some sort of plot to “suck the LA dry” or whatever. The LA has been on an upward curve in recent years and I would be delighted to see it re-connect with the other one.

    It is certainly true – and there is no point gainsaying it – that some people, such as Paul Marks, have been very harsh on Sean over his championing of the likes of Kevin Carson, whom I don’t consider to be particularly libertarian. But that hardly equates to some sort of generalised attack on the LA, or Sean. I have my own criticisms and have been very open about them, such as on the Churchill-as-warmongering-drunk thesis, for instance.

    In fact, I’d say one of the things I have greatly valued about the LA has been how people with differing perspectives can differ but still work together. This is its strength.

    Anyway, I want to wish the LA the very best in future; it fills a key role in our intellectual life and long may it continue to do so.

  10. Dear Tom,
    Thank you for your kind comment. I didn’t post Brian’s piece myself, but I concur with it and have always thought of Brian as my friend. My boy and I were kindly put up by him in 2009 while at the LA conference, which is only a detail but I just wanted to thank him formally in public.

    Let me admit something: I have no idea what kind of “liberal” Kevin Carson is, although I have never found the stuff he writes to be particularly objectionable. This is given that GramscoStaliNazis (sorry, people – you all will learn in the end what these buggers are and that they really believe what they say – hopefully before it’s too late for you and us to act) are rather worse, shown amply in history by their acts. I don’t think that Kevin is advocating the mass killing of his ideological enemies.

    I have promised Sean that I will not say anything more in public forums, about the recent unfortunate events, that may get in the way of repairing bridges and links between everybody here in the UK, who is involved in trying to promote libertarian ideals.

    The analogies that I did use, under fire, and perhaps while angry, indicate that I was upset that (as I thought) certain people might be about to try to “as it were”, “confiscate the Brand”.

    Chris Tame was my friend for 30 years. I feel bad that I did not spend the time with him that I ought to have done, while he was dying: and sometimes I get angry when his friends and mine are attacked. Specially Sean, who is a good man.

    I do not want British libertarians to fall out with each other: there are few enough of us, God knows.

  11. If the whole matter can now be regarded as closed, and whatever public wounds may have been inflicted can be left to heal over, I shall not be unhappy. Some people have unlimited time for sitting in front of a computer and repeating, with endless variation, who said what to whom and when, and what it surely meant, and how everyone else is a scumbag. I have a novel to write and a family to look after.

    There is a world outside the British libertarian movement, and nearly all of it is paying us no attention whatever. I often lament this fact. But there are times when it does our collective reputation no harm.

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