Hatred, Lust, Ambition, Covetousnesse, Causes Of Crime

As for the Passions, of Hate, Lust, Ambition, and Covetousnesse, what Crimes they are apt to produce, is so obvious to every mans experience and understanding, as there needeth nothing to be said of them, saving that they are infirmities, so annexed to the nature, both of man, and all other living creatures, as that their effects cannot be hindred, but by extraordinary use of Reason, or a constant severity in punishing them.

For in those things men hate, they find a continuall, and unavoydable molestation; whereby either a mans patience must be everlasting, or he must be eased by removing the power of that which molesteth him; The former is difficult; the later is many times impossible, without some violation of the Law. Ambition, and Covetousnesse are Passions also that are perpetually incumbent, and pressing; whereas Reason is not perpetually present, to resist them: and therefore whensoever the hope of impunity appears, their effects proceed. And for Lust, what it wants in the lasting, it hath in the vehemence, which sufficeth to weigh down the apprehension of all easie, or uncertain punishments.

Of all Passions, that which enclineth men least to break the Lawes, is Fear. Nay, (excepting some generous natures,) it is the onely thing, (when there is apparence of profit, or pleasure by breaking the Lawes,) that makes men keep them. And yet in many cases a Crime may be committed through Feare.

For not every Fear justifies the Action it produceth, but the fear onely of corporeall hurt, which we call Bodily Fear, and from which a man cannot see how to be delivered, but by the action. A man is assaulted, fears present death, from which he sees not how to escape, but by wounding him that assaulteth him; If he wound him to death, this is no Crime; because no man is supposed at the making of a Common-wealth, to have abandoned the defence of his life, or limbes, where the Law cannot arrive time enough to his assistance. But to kill a man, because from his actions, or his threatnings, I may argue he will kill me when he can, (seeing I have time, and means to demand protection, from the Soveraign Power,) is a Crime.

Again, a man receives words of disgrace, or some little injuries (for which they that made the Lawes, had assigned no punishment, nor thought it worthy of a man that hath the use of Reason, to take notice of,) and is afraid, unlesse he revenge it, he shall fall into contempt, and consequently be obnoxious to the like injuries from others; and to avoyd this, breaks the Law, and protects himselfe for the future, by the terrour of his private revenge. This is a Crime; For the hurt is not Corporeall, but Phantasticall, and (though in this corner of the world, made sensible by a custome not many years since begun, amongst young and vain men,) so light, as a gallant man, and one that is assured of his own courage, cannot take notice of.

Also a man may stand in fear of Spirits, either through his own superstition, or through too much credit given to other men, that tell him of strange Dreams and visions; and thereby be made believe they will hurt him, for doing, or omitting divers things, which neverthelesse, to do, or omit, is contrary to the Lawes; And that which is so done, or omitted, is not to be Excused by this fear; but is a Crime. For (as I have shewn before in the second Chapter) Dreams be naturally but the fancies remaining in sleep, after the impressions our Senses had formerly received waking; and when men are by any accident unassured they have slept, seem to be reall Visions; and therefore he that presumes to break the Law upon his own, or anothers Dream, or pretended Vision, or upon other Fancy of the power of Invisible Spirits, than is permitted by the Common-wealth, leaveth the Law of Nature, which is a certain offence, and followeth the imagery of his own, or another private mans brain, which he can never know whether it signifieth any thing, or nothing, nor whether he that tells his Dream, say true, or lye; which if every private man should have leave to do, (as they must by the Law of Nature, if any one have it) there could no Law be made to hold, and so all Common-wealth would be dissolved.

See also

Books

Limit voting rights

The government’s report on limiting voting rights has now been published. Dr Richard O’Shea, the Chair of the commission which produced the report is confident that it provides ‘the widest democratic exercise, consistent with ensuring that a vigorous electorate’. He adds: “Voting is an important right, and with all rights come responsibilities. The right to vote will therefore belong to all those who are able to shoulder the responsibility.”

The report “Widening Democracy: Ensuring a Responsive Electorate Fit for the Twenty-First Century”, contains a summary of the recommendations:

The franchise shall be enjoyed by all British citizens and resident Empire and Irish citizens as at present unless specifically excluded.  Those excluded will include:

Those under the age of responsibility, namely 21 years

Psychological research has shown that the adolescent brain reaches maturity only around the age of 21 years old, and while the age varies from individual to individual, testing each potential voter would be impractical and so an age limit should be established on the scientific average age of maturity. In girls this may be 19 years old and in men about 39 years, but 21 is a compromise.

Habitual drunks

No one drunk should be permitted to enter a polling station to vote, which is widely accepted.  Those who habitually get drunk may permanently affect their brains and with it their powers of reasoning and therefore their choice at the vote.  For those not physically damaged, the inability to control themselves is itself evidence of incapacity to accept responsibility. We have not considered in depth the effect this will have on existing Members of Parliament, but we will certainly be urging the full adoption of this section if the behaviour exhibited to our researcher in the Strangers Bar is repeated.

Drug users

(see ‘Habitual drunks’ above)

Patients diagnosed with certain mental health conditions

A defect in the mind preventing a voter from exercising reason would make him or her a danger to the rest of the nation, and so those conditions will exclude a citizen from the franchise.

There is no suggestion that all mental health conditions should exclude a citizen from the right to vote or to engage in the political process: otherwise there would be no MPs.

Students

(see ‘Habitual drunks’ above)

Civil servants (Grades A to D) and quangocrats

As they already have a strong say in the government of the country through their positions, stronger than voters, so allowing a civil servant the franchise in his or her personal capacity would be to give two votes, which is inconsistent with the principle of equal voting rights.  In addition, civil servants are net consumers of tax money rather than contributors and so would have their participation in the franchise suspended as a cautionary provision in advance of the forthcoming study paper on the principle of “no representation without taxation”.

Dog owners (other than farmers)

This is not a criticism of people who own dogs, and members of all political parties have expressed support for dog-ownership. However those who own dogs do not receive election literature: studies have shown that political leaflets dropped through their doors are instantly devoured by their dogs. Therefore dog-owners, if they go to the polls, do so with no understanding of the issues. This cannot be right if democracy is to work. Therefore the presence of a dog in the household must suspend the right to vote, unless the householder can prove to the satisfaction of the local authority’s election officers that they have a cage or other protection for their post or their filthy mut is kept muzzled at all times even indoors.

People who have no obvious letterbox

For the same reason as dog-owners: they are incapable of receiving election literature. Those European-style bolt-on boxes on the wall with a faux Swiss post-horn motif are acceptable, if poor taste.

People whose letterbox is double-sprung or with a hard brush

This reform had cross-party support and was urged on the Commission by volunteer activists.  Such a letterbox ensures that all political leaflets arrive mangled and often illegible, which is a waste of all the effort put into presentation and frequently leaves the leaflet illegible.  Further, the installation of such a letterbox shows a callous disregard for the safety of volunteers posting leaflets and for postmen.

East Enders

Residents of the Borough of Tower Hamlets will see a severe restriction on their current position:  henceforth they will be limited to one vote each.

Environmental activists

Aren’t you meant to be out hugging a tree or something?  Leave voting to the grown-ups.

Socialists

Because you’ve just misunderstood something; in fact everything.

See also

A new programme, and how to mend it

The list of Bills announced in the Queen’s Speech is tired and uninspiring. Much has been promised before and the question must be why it has taken so long. My concern though is where some of these measures could go awry, and whether they should be neutered or tipped into the long grass.

The Online Safety Bill is a revival of one which has been discussed here before. They could get it right, but so far it has been all wrong. This is a pity, because a good, limited law could be a benefit to vulnerable people, in particular teenage girls and flaky young men, of which there are many.

The Bill is meant to have a mechanism by which consumers may challenge an online forum which blocks them, though it is always open to a platform to set its own rules:  you would not expect for example a forum for vegetarians to allow me on there to promote the health benefits of beef.  However there are competition issues, and these should be a matter for government concern:  if a social media platform wants to limit discussion on any issue, it may do so as a private company, and the consumer’s remedy is to go off to another platform, but if all the main players adopt a common position, that is a restrictive trade practice.  This is a real risk: Twitter could legitimately block Donald Trump when they chose, but when other media companies blocked the operation of an alternative forum that he used, that was a restrictive practice. The sorts of things said by vengeful ex-presidents may turn the stomach but there cartels may not build a wall to prevent legal expression. Can the Online Safety Bill or the Media Bill deal with these competition issues? They should do.

My attention was drawn recently to action by the British Board of Film Classification imposing an ‘Adult Content’ filter on a website (conservativewoman.co.uk) – a site too much given, I must say, to irresponsible vaccine conspiracy ideas, but ‘Adult Content’? Surely not. It may be the section in the Board’s rules on ‘discrimination’, which is wide open for activists to abuse. Mobile companies en masse use the BBFC blacklist, and if such a cartel is tolerated then it must again be subject to rules to prevent anti-competitive practice.

The Renters Bill has been looming for years, and I have discussed its ideas before.  They are bad ideas, which will hurt the very people they are intended to benefit. If tenants cannot be removed, landlords will get out for the game, there will be fewer flat available and rents will rocket. Furthermore, a landlord will be unable to empty his property to improve it and get a better rent, so the quality of homes will decline.  Only slum landlord’s with thugs ready to enforce their word will thrive.

There is also the benevolent promise of an ombudsman for disputes. This position will fall to institutional capture by activists.

On the other hand, the bill, we are told, will “reform possession grounds for landlords” – maybe the right to remove tenants to improve the property can be retained.

Whatever the government have in mind, they must cast out the demon whispering in their ear – Shelter, an organisation which once did good and is now, regrettably a fake charity pushing a malevolent political agenda.

The Bill of Rights would take a series of articles on its own. The Grauniad has condemned it unseen as a tyrant’s charter, as it would: the Grauniad‘s enmity is generally a promise of a good thing. We shall see.

A programme of increasing individual freedom might have been expected as a reward for sitting out the intolerable lockdowns, but there is little sign of it here, yet.  There may be ways to mould these bare titles and proposals so that we end up more free.

 

Election done – now what?

Well thank goodness for that: I was not elected, so I have no civic responsibilities. I like to think I was respected for ensuring that the democratic process worked, to make my opponent work for his seat and not seize it as a right. I prefer not to think of it as being massively publicly rejected by my neighbours.

I would quite have liked the (minimal) councillor allowance though.

Now my challenge is what to do now as some public service. I do have some civic charitable things I am working on elsewhere, and I am still cornered to help with a local campaign on a doorstep issue, which I will do.  There was that idea of a “keep fit this summer after you vegged for two years of lock-down” promotion, although there are better men to do that than I.

It is unlikely that I will be invited to negotiate a settlement to end to the Ukrainian War, which I could do if surmounting the credibility gap, so some things less earth-shattering is needed for my time and talent.

National government being such a mess, in spite of best intentions at the top, I will write policy papers.  They have usually been short interventions, as no one has shown a willingness to pay me for these.  A few full-length, bluntly worded papers are needed on certain topic, along with the usual fare.

In the dawns after the election I feel rested, but this should not  be a resting year.

See also

Books

Governing locally and its frustrations

Our tiring system of local councils was created in a political accident. Lord Salisbury wished to replace the Metropolitan Board of Works with an elected body like a giant municipal council, but had a minority in the Commons, and the Liberal Unionists would only support him only if he would erect elected councils across the whole country, from Cornwall to Zetland, which was done in 1888-9. They had other ideas to push too – the district councils that followed, just to ensure there is no escape from politics.

The system which preceded this revolution is perhaps better looked at in a separate article, but placed local administration in the hands of justices of the peace. These magistrates when sitting spent most of their time dealing with malefactors, and the rest on roads and bridges, policing and anything that had not been handed to public health boards, poor law unions and so forth. By all accounts, separating government from law enforcement was a tangled task and magistrates still sat as councillors and vice versa often in the same building. The system had been creaking and starting to break for decades so Salisbury’s accident had to happen at some point in some way.

It was not the first time the national government has tried to reform local government and found it created a monster. Hobbes recounts a reform by Cromwell:

The Protector, being frustrated of his hope of money at Santo Domingo, resolved to take from the royalists the tenth part yearly of their estates. And to this end chiefly, he divided England into eleven major-generalships, with commission to every major-general to make a roll of the names of all suspected persons of the King’s party, and to receive the tenth part of their estates within his precinct; as also to take caution from them not to act against the state, and to reveal all plots that should come to their knowledge; and to make them engage the like for their servants. They had commission also to forbid horse-races and concourse of people, and to receive and account for this decimation.

… Between the beginning of this year and the day of the Parliament’s sitting, which was September 17, these major-generals, resided in several provinces, behaving themselves most tyrannically. Amongst other of their tyrannies was the awing of elections, and making themselves and whom they pleased to be returned members for the Parliament; which was also thought a part of Cromwell’s design in their constitution.

– Thomas Hobbes: Behemoth

You can almost feel Cromwell’s frustration at lack of control. It is the eternal tension between needing to give power to local bodies, and then being annoyed that they are not your clones, and keep they making their own decisions. Legislation even today goes in a yo-yo between praising localism and then cursing and stopping it. The major-generals have not been called back, to ensure puritan rule, but Whitehall is pretty effective at the same job  nevertheless.

(The next ruler who tried to muzzle local magistrates was James II in 1688, and that was a move against established local power which saw him driven from the throne.)

The modern system is a frustration to central bureaucrats, but I think that is the point.

Voters may thinks Whitehall’s inner Cromwell is right to try to abolish councils wherever it can, as the constant elections are a bore. The weary electorate may wish the old system of unelected magistrates had continued. It  would make for unresponsive, distant administration with little care for the interests of those they are meant to serve, but it would mean we are no bothered by village politicians hammering on our doors. Those trudging endless streets with leaflets and a forced smile may agree.  In the cold as it is getting dark and yet another letterbox is hidden behind a bush or jammed, know that the Liberal Unionists are to blame.

See also

Books