David McDonagh on the Paradigm that Never Shifts

David McDonagh

Sean feels that mere ideas have failed. He seeks other alternative strategies.

He feels that the latest state efforts to counter terror are bad viz. the Investigatory Powers Bill They have already curtailed civil liberties more than was felted needed during the IRA campaign of the 1970s and 1980s that was an existential to the UK, at least, as it aimed to conquer Northern Ireland. Islamic terrorism, by contrast, has been mild yet all are subject to terrorist suspicion by the UK state. This seems to be largely irrelevant to what the terrorists are up to, Sean says, as the terrorists do not need to use E mail or the telephone and nor do they need to use English anyway, but if ever they do then they might use a version full of religious meanings not particularly understood by the UK authorities who will be doing something other than countering them in storing all data of the Internet for a year. Nor is such data safe in the UK state’s hands.

A police state need not censor or arrest people, it is enough to tell them they are being watched, Sean continues. The current Bill against terrorism might not make a complete police state but it is a step in that direction.

But Sean fears that there is nothing that he can do about it anyway and he asks why none in authority listens to him. This lack of listening of those in authority seems to be important for some reason.

Between 1930 and 1990 many liberal criticisms of the state were made and Chris Tame made a bibliography of much of it and reflected some of it in his essays. They convinced Sean but have had close to no effect elsewhere, he says, though the market has had more favour since about 1980. The IEA may have had some impact there. But now the likes of Antony Flew are dead there will be no replacement. Sean concludes that liberty has lost out.

Evidence on state food fads and on state education have been ignored and/or forgotten, says Sean. So have reports on state failure in other areas.

Sean feels that if the ideas of liberty had been adequate we would have full liberty by now. But important people just do not listen. Otherwise we would have an anarcho-liberal society today. For some reason he imagines that Platonism supported witchcraft but that a mathematical reality is alien to it. In fact, Platonism does its best exactly as a paradigm of mathematical realism.

Sean continues to show similar poor scholarship about witches and other things. He repeats his unmitigated folly of his last LA talk on literature and culture on the sheer delusion that it is one whit germane to liberty. That anyone could think that pop’ songs or East-enders matter in this respect is quite phenomenal. But that is what Sean says he thinks.

Sean looks at the way how the Marxists gave up Marxism for Political Correctness instead and recommends the few pristine liberals to do the same. He thinks in terms of left and right but both are germane only for ordinary statists but irrelevant to Marx’s pristine outlook, and similarly it is irrelevant to liberty.

Sean does not grasp that tax cuts alone is germane and that almost nothing else is to the cause of getting the state off our back. He thinks music matters, as do schools, and he even thinks we need secret schools but why he feels secrecy helps liberty is far from clear, but it all sounds Romantic, I suppose.

Sean says we need to impress right across the cultural spectrum but the stuff he seems to have in mind do not begin to be relevant to the cause of rolling back the state. Sean says intellectual activism is not a complete waste of time but I would never dream of being saying the same about his ideas of culture and general entertainment, as it seems to me to be exactly a waste of time.

Economic analysis is needed to defend free trade and laissez faire and maybe some social philosophy, or sociology, for the general outlook of state free liberty but the rest does not seem to matter very much.

I disagree that Sean has clearly explained his ideas. It does not seem to be even one whit clear as to why he holds them. He seems to be merely confused.


  1. “Economic analysis is needed to defend free trade and laissez faire and maybe some social philosophy, or sociology, for the general outlook of state free liberty but the rest does not seem to matter very much”. The economic analysis for free trade and laissez faire has been out there for decades if not centuries. The masses do not care one jot about the pseudo sciences of economic theory and the often misconception as to human interaction and the notion of laissez faire. The masses, and Sean is correct, care most about self and consumerism to satisfy self. Entertainment in all its forms is top of the list for the masses. If you want change you need to interact with and or find ways to affect people.

    The way this is done now is through understanding commercialism and consumerism and how it has an impact on the masses. With commercialism and consumerism comes entertainment and with entertainment comes ideas reaching the masses; not old tombs gathering dust by worthy intellectuals who were in truth mostly armchair anarchists or thinkers engrossed in their own self defining smog though we need them to 🙂 No, the philosophical bent of the day, in order to reach the masses, is through consumerism and entertainment. As long as the masses are free to indulge in their entertainment consumerism that has to be the media to use. The masses care not one jot for debate on statism or taxation for that matter, as many here can testify to, but on keeping what they have and getting better or more of the same. We have to utilize that media.

    The masses moan about taxation but vote for the continuation of it in order to keep what they want and more of the same. The masses are, and Sean is correct, more concerned with who did what when to who in the daily broadcasting of the soaps than what taxation should be about or even if the state should be taxing us in the first place never mind questioning the notion of state provided for social provisions. Try saying, for instance, you are for the total “real” privatisation and provision of the NHS or schooling and see what happens. The masses want the status quo because they are comfortable with the status quo. We have National Insurance they say so why pay out for something we already pay for?

    The shift in ideas, which is what is needed, often comes from consummative entertainment media. The soaps, EastEnders was mentioned, are a prime example of a way to reach the masses. Producing dusty philosophical tombs from their graves or leafleting in cap and scarf in the high street not so much.

    If of course you do not watch television at all, or very little if you do, you will not understand or comprehend how music or some other entertainment genre reach and more importantly affect the masses via said media; that includes the Internet and social media. This media includes advertising. How often have the dusty tomb brigade pleaded that advertising does not work only to face the fact that sales increase with advertising as trade figures show and marketing activity continues through such media because, well gee, it works. Just take a look at what keeps the tabloids and tv-on-demand running and making a profit. Advertisement and consumerist and celebrity banality are the bread and butter of the masses. The rise against taxation and statism is no where to be seen. There will be grumbles and shaking of heads but no call for real changes to take place. The main way forward is for libertarian ideas to be main streamed to the masses. Music, novels, plays, soap scripts ad infinitum is the way forward.

    Of course we also need society to change from state provision to self-provision. We need the state to be rolled back from its position of control without recall. To do this we need to reach as many people as possible. Therefore, to say the media in all its genres do not and cannot affect the masses to turn away from long held beliefs and activity is missing the biggest opportunity open to libertarian thought. We must use the tools available and not dismiss them because we do not understand them or do not use them ourselves. We must take up every opportunity going to reach people, all people, not just the converted.

  2. Thanks for your criticism Jan. I miss our old exchanges but you were always faster than I am. So I did fall behind in my due replies. But that is the sort of discussion that furthers liberty, but with the unconverted as you rightly say.

    Yes, the economic knowledge basic to social liberty, the main prerequisite of personal responsibility, was achieved by Adam Smith back in 1776. But not only did even Smith err, here and there, but even if he had got the lot quite right, modern expositions of what he discovered would still be needed. As it happens, he thought way more highly of the state than he should have, even though statists tend to overlook how much of an LA type he truly was in being against the state. He thought that the state had some uses but that it was used for things the market could do way better. Richard Cobden and J.B. Say were way more anti-war than Smith ever was. He thought war was important and that soldiers had merit. The later cited liberals somewhat distilled a purer liberalism from Smith.

    I fail to see where Sean is correct on anything, at least on this topic of culture Jan. I feel that you fail to do so too, though you seem have yet to realise it! I suppose I have with Sean too, so far. Maybe I will fail here to get you to see that fact, but I aim to try below.

    Before 1914, the UK public was way ahead in basic economics than they are today and they were more pristine liberal too, of course. They vied their ideas more than they do today. War is always a great aid to the state, as well as being the acme of anti-social activity. This was owing to the legacy of Cobden’s liberal propaganda from the 1830s to the 1860s and as well as that of Herbert Spencer, who had only recently died, still being rated as about the top philosopher in the world in 1914 too; though both reputations seem to get killed off in World War I.

    In the inter-war years, they had nationalism and high tariffs.

    Liberalism is still the top moral meme today but current common sense seeks to dodge vying it with anti-liberal memes but rather to adopt all ideas as if they did not clash at all. So few see democracy as anti-liberal but de Tocqueville correctly told us of its totalitarian tendencies in his Democracy in America (I 1835; II 1940).

    Why is economics a pseudo-science?

    For the state to keep out of economic matters allows liberty. That is the aim of the LA.

    Liberalism is already the top value. LAers also vie ideas to reject the illiberal ones but current common sense welcomes logically clashing ideas. In particular, and owing to past liberal propagandists like James Mill and Francis Place around 1800, most people today think democracy is quite liberal when it is anti-liberal. To vote is a gratuitous attack on others, unless it is for tax cuts, which are merely to negate the negation: to stop taxation from scotching liberty.

    So there is no need for liberalism to make the clearly futile attempts to go into the soaps, pop’ songs and other mass culture for that is irrelevant to its progress. Instead we need to convert the loud mouthed extraverts who concern themselves with ideas, that in the late 1970s in the LA policy statements we called the intellectuals. But we might have more aptly called them the public propagandists.

    The LA does not reject mere commercialism but it is not out to conform to what people want as a firm is but rather it is confrontational and out to discredit illiberal ideas. One such is to take pessimism for reality as Sean tended to do in his last year’s LA talk but this year’s that he gave us on Mill was way better. To be “cynical” in this vulgar sense is not thereby to be realistic. The LA itself is a bit nearer to the old philosophical sense.

    To vote is still seen by many people as a duty. It is not a choice of the regime we want when we vote but more like a side we support rather like we might with a football team. It is a dysfunctional activity. It is not fine, as Sean thinks. But Sean is quite right in saying at the end of his Mill talk that we did not vote for daft Politically Correct fads and the general public never would be so backward in their intolerance. Is that a flouting of my thesis that Sean gets nothing wrong on culture?

    I daily do try saying to people things like that the NHS should be truly privatised. What happens is a discussion with whoever I am talking to; usually.

    Yes, people like things as they are. They suppose they are about as good as we can manage.

    To privatise the NHS is not to propose we pay twice for medical insurance. Presumably, private insurance firms will, by competition or by trial and error, sort us out a better deal than ever the state can.

    I think we do not need a shift in ideas is needed so much as a vying of ideas that we already have, Jan, at least in the top idea of liberty.

    Advertising always was passive, Jan. It merely reminds people to try again something they already like for the most part though occasionally they try to persuade on off peak TV or in lengthy articles in a few magazines. Sales increase by Ads only owing to this reminder. They sometimes inform us of certain outlets of sale.

    Yes, Ads work but fools, like the dead authors Herbert Marcuse and J.K. Galbraith, imagined they could sell anything but the reality is that the entrepreneurship needs to be right if Ads are to aid sales.

    Music, soaps, novels and plays are irrelevant to any future progress towards liberty, Jan. It is not the way forward at all. But you are right that it is pointless just to speak to the converted but then I do not think LAers do only do that but it is quite true that all of them could be way more active than they are.

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