One may smile, and smile, and be a villain

The hold that the worst of tyrants may have over his victim people is ever a fascination. Looking from afar at the rulers of Venezuela or Zimbabwe or Turkey or South Africa, a Briton, lapped in the benevolence, even if benevolent incompetence, that is the wont of government to us, we may be outraged that a tyrant may not only rule, but that so many of the people love them.  We know that Robert Mugabe never won an honest election in his life but elections there were, and millions voted for him and his party.

Presentation is all, for the greater part of the people will believe outward beauty is goodness and ugliness is evil, as Hobbes observes:

The Latine Tongue has two words, whose significations approach to those of Good and Evill; but are not precisely the same; And those are Pulchrum and Turpe. Whereof the former signifies that, which by some apparent signes promiseth Good; and the later, that, which promiseth evill.

But in our Tongue we have not so generall names to expresse them by. But for Pulchrum, we say in some things, Fayre; in other Beautifull, or Handsome, or Gallant, or Honourable, or Comely, or Amiable; and for Turpe, Foule, Deformed, Ugly, Base, Nauseous, and the like, as the subject shall require; All which words, in their proper places signifie nothing els, but the Mine, or Countenance, that promiseth Good and evill.

So that of Good there be three kinds; Good in the Promise, that is Pulchrum; Good in Effect, as the end desired, which is called Jucundum, Delightfull; and Good as the Means, which is called Utile, Profitable; and as many of evill: For evill, in Promise, is that they call Turpe; evill in Effect, and End, is Molestum, Unpleasant, Troublesome; and evill in the Means, Inutile, Unprofitable, Hurtfull.

In this frame of mind, the failings of a ruler seen as strong and better still if he is a handsome man, will mask any number of actual failings – until the police arrive at your own door.

In 1 Samuel 16, the seer is rebuked: “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” All that said, five verses later the chosen king, David, is described “Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to.” Perhaps his healthy, outdoorsman appearance reflected his healthy outlook.  In any case the people of Israel were more likely to follow a king who would inspire by his very appearance.

Poverty, induced famine, violent repression, the end of everyday liberties, all are simple to blame upon others. People are not stupid in general, but prefer to believe comfortable, neat fictions rather than hard, complicated truths, and those who do not understand the actual causes that drive away prosperity, cannot place the blame other than where the tyrant’s words place it.

Ignorance of naturall causes disposeth a man to Credulity, so as to believe many times impossibilities: for such know nothing to the contrary, but that they may be true; being unable to detect the Impossibility. And Credulity, because men love to be hearkened unto in company, disposeth them to lying: so that Ignorance it selfe without Malice, is able to make a man bothe to believe lyes, and tell them; and sometimes also to invent them.

We have now a multitude of sources which can inform, but only if we listen and if they are in the right language, and only if they are controlled by those with a care for freedom and prosperity, which is rare these days. Liberty has been a watchword for centuries in the English-speaking world but not all nations will have the same understanding. If their rulers cry out ‘Liberty’ it is liberty for themselves, like the word ‘Libertas’ carved on the turrets of Lucca and on the shackles that held the city’s galley-slaves. Reason then is not to be relied upon to moderate or to throw down tyrants. It is enough that they should smile, and smile, and be a villain, if they portray an outward appearance to win hearts, and wily enough to shed blame elsewhere.

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One out of three is bad

Not unexpected but you have to worry why.  The phrase stealing about the ears is that the mood is rather ‘Late Major’.

Thirteen years of Conservative or Conservative-led government means there is no one else to blame the woes of the nation on, and there is justified blame. The solution though is worse:  it is as if a man said to himself ‘eating chocolate has given me diabetes, so I will change my diet and eat pure sugar’.

In thirteen years, the narrative wants to move on. to show change is possible. Napoleon III lost his grip in the good times, when the nation felt ‘La France s’ennuie’; and we are not in good time, and Rishi Sunak is no Bonaparte.

The reasons for the decline are well known and were perfectly predictable when the Conservatives put them in place: high tax and the lockdown principally, and now high interest rates. Oh, and the Ukraine War. All these (apart from the last) and Labour-lite policies, which Starmer promised to do more and harder.  And now he is less than a year from being empowered to do so.

Now we have the Renters’ Reform Bill, almost hard-Labour, which can only hurt renters, and landlords, and Starmer will make it worse, but renters will vote for him.

So what do we do?  There is no realistic alternative with actual Conservative policies. The only other sane party with largely sensible policies is Reform UK, and the system does not permit them to advance. So I stick with the Conservatives, in the receding hope that they will reform and grip the system entrusted to them against their own reluctance.

The ‘youthquake’ is real – hatred for the Conservative Party is there. It does not necessarily mean though that they are all socialists. There are plenty of libertarians and hard-conservatives amongst them. They will trickle into the polling booths and vote in a socialist. Such is the madness of the system.

There is no inevitability about anything in politics, except despair.

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Falsity in self-justification

False Principles Of Right And Wrong Causes Of Crime

From defect in Reasoning, (that is to say, from Errour,) men are prone to violate the Lawes, three wayes.

First, by Presumption of false Principles; as when men from having observed how in all places, and in all ages, unjust Actions have been authorised, by the force, and victories of those who have committed them; and that potent men, breaking through the Cob-web Lawes of their Country, the weaker sort, and those that have failed in their Enterprises, have been esteemed the onely Criminals; have thereupon taken for Principles, and grounds of their Reasoning, “That Justice is but a vain word: That whatsoever a man can get by his own Industry, and hazard, is his own: That the Practice of all Nations cannot be unjust: That examples of former times are good Arguments of doing the like again;” and many more of that kind:

Which being granted, no Act in it selfe can be a Crime, but must be made so (not by the Law, but) by the successe of them that commit it; and the same Fact be vertuous, or vicious, as Fortune pleaseth; so that what Marius makes a Crime, Sylla shall make meritorious, and Caesar (the same Lawes standing) turn again into a Crime, to the perpetuall disturbance of the Peace of the Common-wealth.

False Teachers Mis-interpreting The Law Of Nature

Secondly, by false Teachers, that either mis-interpret the Law of Nature, making it thereby repugnant to the Law Civill; or by teaching for Lawes, such Doctrines of their own, or Traditions of former times, as are inconsistent with the duty of a Subject.

And False Inferences From True Principles, By Teachers

Thirdly, by Erroneous Inferences from True Principles; which happens commonly to men that are hasty, and praecipitate in concluding, and resolving what to do; such as are they, that have both a great opinion of their own understanding, and believe that things of this nature require not time and study, but onely common experience, and a good naturall wit; whereof no man thinks himselfe unprovided: whereas the knowledge, of Right and Wrong, which is no lesse difficult, there is no man will pretend to, without great and long study. And of those defects in Reasoning, there is none that can Excuse (though some of them may Extenuate) a Crime, in any man, that pretendeth to the administration of his own private businesse; much lesse in them that undertake a publique charge; because they pretend to the Reason, upon the want whereof they would ground their Excuse.

Constitutionally guaranteed despotism

Americans are proud of their Constitution protecting liberties, but it leaves Americans much less free than other nations.  They are the least free of the Anglosphere (Trudeauean Canada excepted). This blog recently praised John Stuart Mill’s insights, but on America he was naïve in his optimism: they have tied themselves into a habit of despotism. The Constitution is a conspirator in this.

Mill wrote with rather too much hope than sense that:

let them be left with out a government, every body of Americans is able to improvise one, and to carry on that or any other public business with a sufficient amount of intelligence, order, and decision…. No bureaucracy can hope to make such a people as this do or undergo anything that they do not like.

In practice, this means that there are, in the United States, endless layers of government, each with its own bureaucracy, each making new rules to pile on top of rules. While the British legislature is one Parliament that has to cover the manifold needs of the whole realm, from which it is burdened, barely ever able to act swiftly, America has endless little parliaments, each one a village Napoleon, demanding obedience to the alleged will of the people.

Even in the Stepford-Wives streets, much of America has Home Owners’ Associations, with private rules unburdened by the Constitution, commanding eve the very length of grass in a front yard and the position to the inch at which a car may be parked.

If there is no relief from the layers or lawmakers trying to flex their powers, it can be no wonder that American are burdened by more laws that any other English-speaking nation.

It goes deeper though. The Constitution lays down limits beyond which government may not go.  The limits are broad: they do not prescribe every action. A shard of government may be tempted t determine that if the Constitution does not forbid, then there can be no objection to any outrage. That is wrong. On this side of the ocean, Parliament is free to trample on any liberty, but is restrained more effectively by protest from the back-benches than by any laws.

(There is also the other consideration:  one liberty not permitted to our people is a liberty to carry guns, as a result of which Britons can walk freely in the streets without fear.)

The Americans have many advantages unavailable to our islands – they have almost unlimited land, which is therefore cheap , and with it the ability for enterprise to flourish. A gigafactory can be plonked into the desert – here we have to scour the land to find anywhere big enough and desperate enough. In this, Americans will always be freer.

Land though, while a blessing, is also under a curse.

A frequent outrage we read about in America is the light way they have with private property.  Those who were drafting a Declaration of Independence first includes as the trio of basic rights ‘life, liberty and property’, but withdrew the latter at the last minute, as it might prevent necessary forced acquisition for roads – and now every petty layer of government freely indulges in ’eminent domain’ to seize whatever they want.  In Britain, compulsory purchase is a burdensome, slow process and so rarely used – thank goodness for that. It may slow down every major infrastructure project, but better that than to lose our homes and fields and businesses to the whim of a passing council official. Our liberty of property is understood: we consider these right to be so self-evident there is no point writing them down. If we did write them down, they would be weakened rendered as mere paper, with an edge, not a principle written upon the very understanding.

I would love to see America becoming actually the land of the free they sing of. It will take though a major change of outlook and unwonted restraint by may layers of eager politicians, or by voters.  There is no sign of it now. That is a pity.

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No, and neither did she

And what is more, neither did either one believe of the other. What a forest fools social media is, even amongst very intelligent people. Katharine Birbalsingh did not excuse domestic violence, and Jess Phillips MP did not racially abuse Katharine Birbalsingh, and and Jess Phillips knows it, and Katharine Birbalsingh knows it. The Twitter mob, well, they did sink into racial abuse.

One must excuse sensitivity on Mrs Birbalsingh’s part: she has to put up with frequent abuse because of her race – much of it Mrs Phillips’s party. Much of the Labour Party feel that they own all black people and will strike out against one so uppity as to slip their bonds. The irony is not lost on the rest of us. One can also excuse Jess Phillips to some extent – she is one of the vaguely sensible ones, though not so sensible as to realise she may be wearing the wrong coloured rosette – and she needs excuses to get her name in the paper.  In this case it was grabbing a poor excuse to talk about a serious issue.

Both of these ladies are hard-working, honest souls with a desire to serve the public, and one of them has succeeded beyond the most fervent dreams of any of us, while the other sits in Parliament. They agree on most things. They both execrate domestic violence and mistreatment of anyone on racial grounds, and yet the social media forum whips up the angry mob. It is a terrible place, as I have written and will without a doubt write again. For now, there is no more to be said.

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