Review Article by Sean Gabb
KN@PPSTER’s Big Freakin’ Book of Stuff:
Essays, Articles, Rants and Ruminations, 1995-2014
Thomas L. Knapp
Various Formats and Prices
As its title indicates, this book is a collection of essays written during the past twenty years. Some of them are very short – often, in my opinion, too short for a proper discussion of the issues raised, or to show their author’s excellence as a writer. Some are longer. One or two show a measured firmness of mind that I hope will one day be more generally admired than is likely now to be the case. But all show a view of the world, as it is and as it ought to be, that is distinctively Thomas Knapp.
For a summary of what is distinctively Thomas Knapp, take this, from his essay on 3D printing and guns:
A new, free society is building itself in the shell of the dying authoritarian society. Technologies of abundance, with all those technologies imply, are an inescapable feature of that new, free society. The sooner you begin availing yourself of your continuously expanding options, the faster and less violent the transition will be. [p.382]
I take a less optimistic view of the future. But Thomas may be right. At the beginning of 1914, hardly anyone realised that the twentieth century had not yet properly begun, and that it would, over much of the world, be ghastly beyond imagining. Equally, it may be that the twenty first has not yet begun, and that this will flatten the assumptions of the twentieth just as the twentieth flattened those of the nineteenth.
And there are grounds for optimism. Fifty years ago, both in America and in England, being found in bed with another man could get you into prison. Women were legally inferior. Non-whites were decidedly unequal. For all we may deplore the excesses of the gay and feminist and black lobbies, and the legal privileges they are unwisely heaping up for themselves, we live in societies where people are far less despised than at any time in history for their innate differences. Perhaps the breakdown of the old centralised media, and the crisis of legitimacy this has created, will take us forward into a world where the newer forms of persecution – mostly of dissenting opinion and of freely-chosen lifestyle – will also be swept away.
In the meantime, there is much to be denounced, and Thomas thunders away like an Old Testament prophet reborn in the American mid-west. See him on the moves ot ban e-cigarettes:
When they’re not banning tobacco they’re banning trans-fats. When they’re not banning trans-fats they’re banning large soft drinks. And when their soft drink ban gets quashed, their next target is electronic cigarettes. ‘For the public health!’ is the new ‘I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Good Osburn with the devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!’ [p.373]
Or see him on the American national debt:
At no point have I authorized the Congress of the United States to borrow money in my name or on my behalf. Nor have I at any time co-signed said loans, guaranteed said loans, or agreed to repay any portion of said loans. [p.291]
Or see him on his government’s partiality for endless war:
From an anarchist standpoint, war (and preparation for war) is one of the primary instruments which the political class of every country, and their ‘transnational’ partners, use to savage the freedoms and empty the pocketbooks of their subjects for their own benefit. 99% of the time, that’s its only purpose. The other 1% of the time is when one particular clique of the political class is in real existential danger from another clique or cliques, and wants their subjects to bail them out. So, get back to me if the war you’re selling is revolutionary. [p.293]
Now, whole Thomas is a friend, and while I wholeheartedly agree with the three quotations given above, and while I do earnestly ask that you should read his book, and even pay him for it, my general approval does not mean that I am in full agreement with all that I find in his book. Indeed, probably one of the reasons we are friends is that we have agreed on a whole range of issues not to agree, and not to think ill of each other for our disagreement.
What I believe, and I think Thomas agrees, is that libertarian is procedurally different from most other ideologies. Unlike with Marxism-Leninism, for example, or Roman Catholicism, or Sunni Islam, we have no orthodoxy. You are, for the most part, a libertarian if you call yourself one. I make the reservation only because there are some limits. You are expected to have some regard for life, liberty and property. If, to fight the war on “islamofascism,” you support biometric identity cards and the state abduction of children, you need to be deluded or lying if you say you are also a libertarian. But if you are for or against intellectual property rights, or big business corporations, or if you make a reasoned case for certain restraints on liberty in the short term – or if you deny the case for such restraints regardless of the likely consequences – you do not, in my view, place yourself outside the libertarian movement.
As Director of the Libertarian Alliance, of course, I might be expected to say this. But, if mine were a belief more widely shared in the movement, much of the time we give to anathematising each other could be put to making the various kinds of libertarian case.
I am not saying that we should avoid argument, when we find that we do not agree on something. Indeed, we are obliged – for the sake of reaching a better understanding of truth, and of advertising that we are a living movement – to argue out our disagreements to the best of our ability. What I do say is that we should avoid any temptation to fall out when we disagree, or to start trading accusations of bad faith or stupidity.
This being said, I will explain one of my points of disagreement with Thomas. He regards it as a mistake bordering on folly to have anything to do with what may be called the political right. As one of the directing minds of the Center for a Stateless Society, he is happy enough to reach out to “the left.” But he is suspicious of everything represented by the Ron Paul movement. He says:
I don’t dispute the possibility that there might have been a point in time when the libertarian and paleoconservative ideological trains found themselves sharing a short section of political track. But that the putative heirs of Ludwig von Mises were possessed of such utter hubris as to attempt not only a long-term hitching together of those trains, but a fueling of the hypothetically resulting powerful locomotive with the worst material they could find … well, that just creeps me out. [pp.175-76]
Without endorsing anything that was said, or that may have been said, by Ron Paul and those round him, I disagree with Thomas. I will note that “left” and “right” are slippery words. For a long term, I tried to avoid using them, but they are embedded in our way of thinking about the world, and cannot easily be avoided.
As I see it, the “left” has four parts:
1. There are the more or less Orthodox Marxists. For the sake of brevity, I include the Trotskyites. Never mind what Karl Marx may himself have said – and there is some ambiguity here – these people are defined by their level of agreement with the practice of the Soviet Union. They are not coterminous with libertarians. Outreach to them is useful, so far as they are often clever, and they make good converts.
2. There are the old-fashioned state socialists. These are people like Douglas Jay, who was a Minister in the post-War Labour Government, and whose most quotable utterance was: “In the case of nutrition and health, just as in the case of education, the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves.” I rest my case.
3. There are the cultural leftists. These are people who have no objection to corporatism at home and militarism abroad, so long as the bombing is “humanitarian” and so long as the oligarchs wear pony tails and give their workers time off to attend gay weddings. They often look libertarian, and some of them can be turned. Also, the corporations they dominate – things like Apple, Google, FaceBook, etc – are essential for the promotion of libertarianism. But your hard core cultural leftist is politically a fan of people like Tony Blair and the two Clintons. He is not a libertarian.
4. There are the syndicalists, the anarcho-communists, the mutualists, and so on and so forth. I accept these are our people, or are potentially ours, and I admire the C4SS outreach to bring them to a better view of market relationships.
So far as I am correct, any outreach to the “left” must be to a small minority of leftists. It is worth trying, but is unlikely in itself to build the critical mass that we do not currently have.
The problem with the “right” is that it is, for anyone on the outside, one great Terra Incognita. But I have spent many years exploring it, and can speak with some authority on its geography. To drop the metaphor, its main common denominator is opposition to the “left” and to the established order. Beyond this, its main groupings may have little in common. We can easily do business with some of them.
We can expect nothing of the hard core anti-semitic or other conspiracy theorists. Giving people like David Duke the time of day will not bring him over in any meaningful sense, and will cover anyone who approaches him in terminal disrepute. Ditto the skinheads. But there are some traditionalists – a very loose term, I agree, and I am mostly thinking of English traditionalists – some mystics, some white separatists, some biblical fundamentalists, and many others, who are worth engaging in dialogue. The best line of argument with them is to show how the actually-existing State is inherently leftist, and that, while they might put themselves on top of this in some kind of electoral or violent coup, they cannot hope to run it. Therefore, they should embrace a conditional libertarianism. Since they have no hope of constructing the police state of their dreams, they might as well settle for a massive scaling back of the police state we have.
There are several benefits to this approach:
1. When people become conditional libertarians, they may eventually come to believe the propaganda they write – that is, they may be brought over.
2. When the current order of things does collapse, we may find them useful allies in making sure there is no further collapse into naked totalitarianism. Somewhere in his book, Thomas says that there may be only about a hundred thousand market anarchists in the whole world. We do need allies and fellow travellers.
3. Since there will be mystics and traditionalists and the like, some of them might as well be persuaded to incorporate some elements of libertarianism.
The danger to be avoided is that mixing with such people will pull us more in their direction than they are pulled in ours. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that our evangelists are secure in their own beliefs. I think that includes me. As a possible model of this approach, see the speech I gave last year to the Traditional Britain Group.
Therefore, we need a double strategy of outreach. Reaching out to the “right” is just as legitimate as reaching out to the “left.” Again, I do not align myself with anything that he may have said, or that was said in his name. But the broad strategy of Ron Paul is no less legitimate than that of the C4SS.
I should say that I have had this argument in private with Thomas, and his response was that libertarianism is itself a leftist ideology, and all socialists not amenable to libertarian arguments are on the “right.” I find this an unhelpful use of taxonomy; and it avoids a response to the substantive points that I made.
Doubtless, this argument will continue. Rather, however, than say more here, I will end by repeating that this is a fine book, and that you should click on the link at the head of my review and buy a copy.
Thanks for the review, Sean! And thanks for your dedication to disagreeing without being disagreeable. I’m not very good at that. But I’m trying 😀
You read fast!
Yes, I read fast. And then I RE-read slowly. I like to be prompt with my thankses.
I may not read as fast as you think I do — I got an automatic notice of a new post at Libertarian Alliance and got over here to read it before I got your personal email telling me about it. So I started reading about five minutes earlier than you thought I had.
I’m going to bed. The electrician will be here before it’s light.
A rather obscure literary reference don’t you think?
Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him, Firesign Theater, 1968
Hope the electrician visit went well!
I have an obvious interest in getting discussions about the book going, so I’m going to throw out responses to your review one comment at a time and drag it out for as long as possible. Here’s the first:
You write: “[O]ften, in my opinion, too short for a proper discussion of the issues raised, or to show their author’s excellence as a writer.”
I’ve often personally bemoaned having to keep most of my material short, but that comes with the territory and venues I’ve generally picked for attempts at publication.
I occasionally write a long-form piece (a few of them are in the book), but mostly I write op-eds, letters to editors, and blog posts.
The first two types of pieces generally come with hard length limits from the publications they’re targeted at (even with mass-submission op-eds as we do at C4SS, I push for an optimum length of around 500 words and an absolute limit of 800, which is as high as some of the marquee newspapers go; most papers establish a length limit of 200-250 words for letters to the editor).
As for blog posts, it’s always been my impression that shorter is better for most audiences and that I am, if anything, somewhat overly wordy.
Of course, it could be as much long-ingrained temperament as actual needfulness. I’ve been a newspaperman since I was 12 and length limits were always strict. My first newspaper writings were club notices for the local paper. 100 words, not a bit more. And of course my junior high and high school newspapers were 4-8 page affairs with strong competition for column inches.
Except I shall have to write till I drop to pay for all this, the work is going well. Mrs Gabb has gone off to do the school run, and I am seeking comfort in Schubert’s String Quartet in G.
I thought your piece on Bourgeois Libertarianism was disappointingly short. Just as you got into a really interesting discussion, you stopped. you may have noticed that this is less a blog than a semi-Victorian magazine, where articles can go on as long as the writer wants. I suggest there is a market out there for length.
FWIW, I’m planning to eventually come back to “bourgeois libertarianism.” That short piece was really just a short musing on the thought processes of some people at Mises and so forth who seem to think that a free society would just have to look like what they’re already used to.
I don’t recall whether I wrote it before or after the exchanges with IanB on his thinking along the lines a law of the conservation of history (e.g. if the Enclosures hadn’t been done by the state, they would have happened some other way, and so on and so forth such that he eventually gets his iPad no matter what).
The historical area I need to research to really elaborate that is the period of time over which the bourgeoisie moved from the left, where they were at the time of the French Revolution, to the right, where they turned up in Marx’s work.
Thomas – That sounds like block thinking. The bourgeoisie has never been homogeneous, and so doesn’t fit into any neat place on a spectrum. The nobility as a class lost heavily in the French Revolution. So did many in the middle classes who had bought incomes from the State, or had lent money on landed security, or who provided services required only in a feudal order. Some of the manufacturers did well out of the military spending, but not all of them. The main beneficiaries seem to have been the usual suspects who knew how to finance the State, and those who picked up some of the confiscated estates and became middling landlords.
I suppose you could squeeze into the bourgeois category those peasants who were able to buy their land. But their radicalism never went beyond cheering as their former landlords got done over. The moment he looked the sort of man who could stop the chaos, they seem to have gone over en bloc to Napoleon, as did virtually everyone else.
Except for those who benefitted from the greater social mobility that came about after 1789, the mass of people at the bottom got nothing but the right to watch the guillotinings. I could add that only a minority of those murdered in the Terror were nobles. Many were priests. Many more were people like shopkeepers and lawyers and small employers.
What most educated people wanted at the beginning of 1789 was a more rational French State than the one they lived under. They wanted things like functioning courts of law and a land registry and a consistent scheme of taxes and some degree of meritocracy. Most of them kept their heads down and survived until Napoleon came along and gave them just about everything they wanted – which seems to have included a moderate police state to keep the proles and the radicals in their place. The idea that they were foaming radicals in 1789 and black reactionaries by 1849 is a Marxist fairy tale. They only gave up on Napoleon when he lost the war. They liked Louis XVIII, and only dumped his brother when he turned out to be useless. They loved Louis Philippe, and after him Napoleon III.
I recommend Alfred Cobban, or my old tutor at York William Doyle. They are good on the myth of a revolutionary bourgeoisie. The latter, indeed, is ruthless in his demolition of the Marxist notion of social class in the early modern period.
The point I (presumably) made about Enclosure was not really conservatism of history. There was no Marxist style inevitability about it. Rather, it was that a society moving into modernity has to in some way shift from agrarianism to industrialism, which means most of the land being farmed by a very tiny proportion of people by traditional standards, a couple of per cent, and everyone else goes off and produces something other than food like shoes, motor cars and internet porn. If you leave it to a free market- with no laws at all affecting things- the small farmers will simply be driven out of business and into the factories by market forces. If you have laws specifically protecting their tenure (e.g. some kind of feudalism) or there is simply no desire to develop economically in people, that will not inevitably happen. But Enclosure was just the way it happened here and, as Paul Marks has constantly pointed out, was a very patchy process at best, with many areas barely affected by the Enclosure Acts.
The basic point- despite Carsonism’s desperate attempts to prove otherwise- is that subsistence farming is a low productivity economic system, and the move towards a high production society requires that it come to an end. That end can happen in various ways, and it is not inevitable if there is no will to develop economically. This seems to be the case in many poor areas of Africa. But if people stay on their subsistence plots, they will remain dirt poor.
But you disclose a theory of history right there — an inevitable “move into modernity,” with modernity defined as the set of economic, property and political relations that we have now.
Now, I happen to agree that advancing technology would likely have changed things in various and earth-shaking ways, and for the better. As it made farming more productive, food supply would have outstripped demand, resulting in fewer farmers producing more food while many farmers went off to do something else (like using that new technology to produce consumer goods for the now much wealthier farmers, quite possibly by working for wages in factories built by people with ready capital they wanted to invest for profit).
But the fact is that what DID happen IS what happened. State action to dispossess people with clear Lockean claims on land they had long “mixed their labor” with WAS a major factor, as was state action to move from common tenancies to state-issues titles to individuals for particular parcels.
Some people want to undo that. I do sense a certain flavor of that in Carson’s work, but on closer examination he really seems to be pointing a way forward, not backward. Just as the state-favored and state-imposed model of industrial capitalism “moved things into modernity,” new technologies are beginning to free people from the strictures that came with that. And resisting that trend is no different than getting up a riot to destroy the Jacquard looms because they were going to “destroy jobs.”
The obvious question on everyone’s minds in this process is “what to be done about past injustices?”
My view on that is “nothing.” I can no more track down the descendants of the subsistence farmers forcibly displaced in the Enclosures and make them “whole” for injustices they did not themselves suffer than I can get to the moon by putting my head between my legs and spitting really hard.
My expectation is that as we free the markets and kill the state, income and capital accumulation will even out over time in three different ways, the first two of which I heartily approve and the third of which I hope can be avoided:
1) The new technologies which make it cost and price efficient to produce locally and without as much regard to economies of scale as prevailed in the 19th and 20th centuries will compete with, and beat, the centralized, long-supply-chain, transportation-intensive industries. Just like those centralized, long-supply-chain, transportation-intensive industries destroyed earlier local, bespoke manufacturing. Things move on. Creative destruction. Etc.
2) Today’s workers already being wealthier than their analogs of 300 years ago (and the Industrial Revolution as it actually happened DOES get credit for that), it is quite likely that many of them will peaceably and renumeratively take over the failing enterprises operated on the old model where they once worked for someone else and operate them as cooperatives and on new business models. This isn’t something new. I watched it happen with a company in Missouri in the 80s and 90s when the company was prepared to declare bankruptcy. The employees (hundreds of them) got together and were able to capitalize a loan to buy it based on their willingness to continue production at reduced wages to pay off the loan — with shares in the enterprise distributed to the workers annually as the loan was paid off. If I recall correctly, they planned to pay the loan off over 10 years but managed an early payoff in only eight. I haven’t looked in on them in 20 years — can’t even remember their name at the moment — but by the mid-1990s they were considered a model “employee-owned” enterprise. They had shifted their revenue model, but I don’t recall the details of the shift. I think it had something to do with changing from producing new engine parts for sale to manufacturers, to rebuilding engines for truck lines and other fleet customers.
3) The third way, of course, is the specter that haunts Paul Marks — mobs of wage workers with torches chasing the fat capitalist out of town, seizing his factory and setting up a dictatorship of the proletariat on the shop floor or some weird shit like that. I know some people who seem to somewhat expect that, and a few who aren’t troubled by it. I don’t know whether to expect it, but I certainly don’t want it. And I don’t see that it’s inevitable.
Thomas, I specifically said that the move into modernity is not inevitable. The point was that the set of social and economic relations it consists of are, to be inexact, a “package”. You can’t get economic wealth on an agrarian subsistence basis; you can have one or the other. So if your society acquires the modernity package, it will do so by some method of people shifting out of agriculture into other production. Because if everyone does nothing but grow food, all you’ve got is food. You might have a great abundance of food, but you won’t have any shoes, ships or sealing wax, though you probably will have a lot of cabbages and kings.
Nothing is inevitable about this. A society can grind along forever on subsistence agriculture. Indeed, outside recent Europe most everybody did and showed no signs of acquiring the modernity package. But modernity and agricultural enclosure go together. The Enclosure might be by State force. It might be by free market competition, as better farmers drive worse farmers out of business and acquire their land and farm it using mechanisation. It is unlikely to occur under communalism, since this keeps the people on the land who would move off it to make other goods, but it could do. But it’s not about inevitability. It is quite possible for it to not happen.
Just picking on one thing, my own view is that libertarianism is, or should be, the equivalent in politics to atheism in religion; that is, a rejection of ideology. I do not mean by this that one must be an atheist to be a libertarian, or a libertarian to be an atheist. Simply that the libertarian is the person who, presented with the ideological wars around us, is defined by saying “none of them”.
That’s an interesting proposition, but I’m not sure I fully understand it.
It may be that I don’t know precisely how you define “ideology.” The quick and easy definition I just grabbed from Wordnet is “an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation.”
And with respect to atheism, there are two different types of atheists: Those who do not believe in a Supreme Being or Beings, and those who believe there is/are no Supreme Being(s). The latter version is a religion.
Since the existence of God is one of those issues outside the bounds of rational analysis, I gave up thinking about it long ago.
Comment from MamaLiberty, posted to my blog:
The Libertarian Alliance website will not allow me to sign in to discus, no matter what I do. Even changed passwords… sigh
Anyway, this was my comment there. Perhaps you can convey it to Sean.
Can’t wait to read the book! I’ve been a Knapp fan for quite a while.
What I see as important for the future of liberty is the acceptance of panarchy and pantheism. Each individual already actually governs themselves in important ways, guided by what they believe and want to believe – whether or not they allow others to impose anything on them. That says nothing about the widom, rightness or effectiveness of what is believed, of course, merely that it is so. Same with religion or the lack of it.
Can anyone actually be forced to think or believe something against his/her will? Ultimately, each individual chooses for him/herself, no matter what the pressure or incentive. And, down through the ages, that incl udes a choice between changing belief and being killed. Many millions have chosen death.
The real problem, I think, has been the idea that we must convert each other somehow, that everyone must believe the same things, even more or less, and that all must be governed by the same ideals and methods. I absolutely do not see that ever happening.
Why not leave each other alone to believe as we wish? The only thing that makes it a problem is the intent, and the incredible effort made, to force others to change! If some people wish to live in Soviet communism, or as ca nnibals, what difference should it make to anyone else as long as the communists or cannibals only consume those of their own? That is what must happen, rather than spending our lives trying to make the communists and cannibals sit down in peace and agreement with libertarians and vegans.
As for “us,” the best I think we can do is to become conscious self owners, understanding that nobody has any legitimate authority over another – but that by the same token we are completely responsible for our actions and choices. The necessary ingredients for freedom are so
simple… Do not aggress. Defend yourself if others aggress against you. Associate freely among those with whom you agree, and leave everyone else alone to do the same. In other words, everyone mind the ir own business.
I have no illusion that this kind of society would be any easier to achieve than a purely libertarian sort, but I think it is a far more rational hope.
But you don’t need to sign in, or to supply passwords. You simply type in your comment and hit the post button. The only problem anyone has ever reported is comments that slip into our spam or pending folders.
That’s a long (not meant pejoratively) comment, so I” focus my reply on this paragraph:
“Why not leave each other alone to believe as we wish? The only thing that makes it a problem is the intent, and the incredible effort made, to force others to change! If some people wish to live in Soviet communism, or as ca nnibals, what difference should it make to anyone else as long as the communists or cannibals only consume those of their own? That is what must happen, rather than spending our lives trying to make the communists and cannibals sit down in peace and agreement with libertarians and vegans.”
The rather obvious answer, I’m afraid, is that the world has had considerable experience of Soviet Communism and of cannibalism. Soviet Communism – whether one chose to attribute the impulse to old Russian imperialism or to Communist universalism – demonstrated a rather persistent tendency to do anything but leave its neighbors alone, to say nothing of how badly it treated those unlucky enough to be its subjects. As for cannibals, a little consideration of the limitations for its practice when confined only to their own communities explains their rather enthusiastic consumption of both missionaries, who harangued them to abolish their peculiar culinary practices, as well as wandering geographers and ethnologists, who expressed no objection to cannibalism per se but preferred not to find themselves on the menu.
To move from the specific to the general. Anyone who looks at this problem from a historically-grounded perspective, rather than as a merely theoretical exercise, must see that the “leave each other alone” principle doesn’t work very well when the two sides have what at least one side sees as an important and fundamental divergence of opinion or practice and that same side does not share the “leave each other alone” principle. That principle must be actively cultivated in every generation and among all social strata, regions, etc. It is constantly being challenged by a selfish impulse in human nature – whether one attributes that impulse to original sin or the evolutionary imperative.
One may agree with this commenter that we ought to get over the idea that we must all believe all the same things. But, any society to persist must have at least a few substantive things on which they do have a general agreement, foremost being a spirit of of what might be called forbearance or tolerance.
Enclosure was about land use – not land ownership (to confuse the two is a common mistake – but still a mistake).
Some counties had a lot of enclosure by Act of Parliament although in only one county (I am sitting in it – Northamptonshire) was this the majority of land. Other counties, such as Sean Gabb’s Kent (although I can never remember whether Sean is a “Kentish Man” or a “Man of Kent” – it depends exactly where in Kent you are from) did not have this type of enclosure at all. Counties that did not have lots (or any) enclosure by Act of Parliament were no less modern in their farming methods than counties that did.
As for the United States there was an effort to introduce the “open field” and “strip farming” system into Massachusetts – but it failed almost at once (it was not a pretty failure). The, rather different, peasant plot system of farming in Ireland was not a pretty failure either – the areas that practiced it (ironically because of old statutes Catholic landowners) went into meltdown in the 1840s. Almost a third of the population of Ireland either died or left (and it varied wildly according to county – counties that had adopted modern farming methods, such as county Wicklow, were hit vastly less hard than counties that had stuck with peasant plot farming).
In Russia peasant communes “Mirs” were actually the invention of the government – first on the Royal Estates and then, after the 1861 move by Alexander II, in areas of Russia which had had the serfdom. The system did not work (it was a disaster – leading to famines) leading to chief minister Stolypin allowing peasants to “opt out” of the system in the early 1900s. Within a few years some peasants were big farmers and others were landless farm workers (as one would expect – people are different, some invest their money and some spend everything they have on booze) the Soviets declared that the landowning peasants (especially if they had employees) were Kulaks (Russian for grasping fist – greedy miser people) and, by and large, exterminated them – also attacked were so called “henchmen of the kulaks” these were landless peasants who tried to defend landowners (normally these people did NOT work for the landowners – they were just people who had a moral conscience). It should be stressed that this was NOT about the really big landowners (they went after1917) it was the peasant landowners who were targeted in the 1930s (there were no other landowners by then).
This was a massive (and decades long) experiment in reverse eugenics – anyone who had shown enterprise (in farming or anything else) was a target, and also a target was anyone who (whilst they might be lazy or hard drinking) was personally decent and brave. Who is left in an area after both the enterprising and the brave have been eliminated? Well the “activists” are left. “New Soviet Man” – cowardly lickspittles of the party, who were both cruel, lazy and criminal.
Still enough past history. Let us move to the book of Thomas – or rather the issues raised (I am not claiming that he holds this or that opinions).
I agree that technology is the hope of the future.
If we had only the technology that existed in 1914 we would have already collapsed into mass starvation and cannibalism – the level of taxation and regulation is so extreme now that only with the advanced technology we possess (no thanks to the state) can Civil Society exist at all.
What technology will exist in the future? I do not know – so it would be foolish to just rule out the idea that nanotechnology and advanced energy producing technology might produce a new age. Just as the industrial revolution was produced by technological developments and real saving (NOT state intervention), so it may be new ways of producing most things may arise. And we may move away from large factories – or whatever. I just do not know.
As for war – real enemies exist, They are not created by a “Ruling Class” for the benefit of a “military industrial complex” (a profoundly odd military industrial complex as the British armed forces have been repeatedly slashed over the last 60 years – without any resistance from this military industrial complex), the United States is heading towards armed forces on the scale of the 1930s (both in terms of numbers of warships and so on – and in terms of the proportion of the economy devoted to the military) – and this is NOT a good thing.
For example Islam has been in a state of conflict with the West since the 7th century AD – in every century (without exception) this has resulted in vast numbers of deaths. If one dismisses the words of Winston Churchill on this matter, the words of Gladstone are much the same (I trust no one is going to be demented enough to claim that Gladstone was a “warmonger”).
The Chinese regime is massively improving its armed forces and is making new claims to lands and seas – areas that historically have been nothing to do with China are being suddenly declared “always Chinese”.
Even if one ignores Mr Putin’s Russia (perhaps in the hope that Mr Putin will be overthrown, by Russians themselves, at some point – and his regime is a rather personal one, without a strong ideology of its own), neither the Islamic or the Chinese threat is just going to go away (although in the case of China it is true that the “Mandate of Heaven” is subject to change – sometimes very sudden change, and a future Chinese regime may be very different).
For those of us who toy with such ideas as an independent Republic of Texas (the Federal government of the United States of America being near hopelessly bankrupt – especially if one takes the “unfunded liabilities” into account) the “defence problem” is important. It is the defence problem that makes me hope (against all experience) that somehow real reform will come – perhaps via “President Rand Paul” or perhaps by a Constitutional Convention after the collapse of the present United States of America setting up a new alliance of States – confined to military matters alone.
I do not believe in “people’s war”, that farce can not stand against any competent opponent – as the IDF proved against Syria in 1967. And tragically the Soviets proved against the Baltic peoples and the Ukrainians in the late 1940s and 1950s – although it did not help that every British and American agent who was sent in to help was betrayed in advance, the operations really did have a casualty rate of 100% which is high even for intelligence agency operations (Thomas may wish to note that people who have not worn military uniforms are not always without combat experience).
Defence needs scale – it needs large scale armed forces. The sort that Britain used to have before Wilson and Healey got rid of them in the late 1960s (ironically making Britain totally dependent on the United States, a country that neither Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Defence Secretary Denis Healey like), although the “conservative” “Super Mac” had been cutting the armed forces even before Labour came to power. I am not sure that a “Republic of Texas” could defend itself, let alone help anyone else round the world (given both the Islamic threat and the Chinese threat). Although perhaps it could – after all its economy and population would be vastly bigger than, for example, that of Israel.
I will not be subscribing to the comment thread – because I do not believe that even Thomas (with his military experience) is going to give me useful information on the things that interest me. Also I am getting tired and old (as well as ill – no need for the violin playing, I am not going for sympathy) – and a lot of the stuff I would get in replies is predictable. I have read stuff from Rothbardians and so on before, and I really do not want to read it again – at least not on defence and security matters (what they say on a lot of other matters makes sense).
Oh well – the late Sir Karl Popper choose New Zealand during World War II. A country that is larger than some people think it is (it is bigger than the United Kingdom – although with only a fraction of the population of this overcrowded island) and so far away from other places (such as Indonesia or China) that it might be overlooked. Perhaps the young (not me – the young) might want to give the place a look. Especially as it has most of the natural resources it needs – assuming that nanotechnology and so on does not make having natural resources pointless.
You might consider New Zealand Ian – it is less difficult to get into than Australia and much further away from possible trouble.
Off topic, but Thomas, Sean and others may find this amusing; I’ve just received a compliance form from my internet credit card processors. Among other things, it asks me whether I am or intend to fund terrorist organisations. I wonder if they are hoping to ensnare some particularly dim-witted jihadists with this question.
All they’re hoping to do is cover their own asses. If, a year from now, the police discover that you are al Qaeda’s money-laundering connection in the UK, your processor can just say “he, we ASKED him and he said no, so it’s not our fault.”
If you were Oscar Wilde, you might have replied: “Sole purpose of dealing with you.”
Or perhaps, ticked the “Yes” box, and put in the “further information” area: “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.”