Sunday, 4 January 2009

New Year food for thought

In his Financial Times Maverecon blog, Willem Butler says:

“I have become convinced that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance against the encroachment by the powers of the state on the private domain. The better-intentioned a government professes to be, and the better-intentioned it truly is when it first gains office, the more it is to be distrusted.

“After even the most liberal-minded, open-government-committed party takes hold of the reins of government, it takes never more than a single term of office, four years - five at the most - before paranoia takes over. Disagreement becomes dissent, dissent becomes disloyalty, disloyalty becomes betrayal and betrayal becomes treason. The public interest merges seamlessly with the private interest of the incumbents. The state bureaucracy, where it has not been taken over by government loyalists on day one of the new administration, is gradually transformed into an arm of the government. Some formal checks and balances often remain, parliament and the courts among them, but they too are often feeble to begin with and weaken further as the term office of the incumbent government lengthens.

“I have watched this process at work in the UK since I returned here in 1994. It was breath-taking and depressing to observe the transformation of New Labour after 1997, from the party of open government, human rights and civil liberties into an increasingly paranoid group of power-hogging and repressive political control freaks, who have done more damage to fundamental human rights in the past 11 years than any other (sequence of) government(s) in any comparable-length stretch of time since the Glorious Revolution. Fortunately, despite their worst intentions, they have not been very competent - a more competent government could have done much more damage to our freedom and civil liberties.”

There are some interesting comments, one of which, by ‘Blissex’, points out that

“New Labour’s major fault is that they are too poll driven (following rather than leading public opinion), and therefore they have been unwilling to resist the strong demand by a majority of the voters for more repression, less civil liberties, more state interference in private lives.

“If you notice, the Tories have been campaigning for the same, but even further to the right, as it were.

“The big driver is the growing number of elderly rentiers among voters, people who much prefer (the illusion of) safety to liberty, people who are just a little less authoritarian than the usual flog-n-hang them class.

“ASBOs, CCTV, detention without trial, … are all wildly popular with voters, and every time the government or the opposition want to pander to buy themselves some votes without spending they propose new nasty attacks on liberty, especially the liberty of nasty young people to misbehave and irritate their elders.

“The greatest threat to liberty is not the parties, which only do what the polls tell them, but voters, whose demand for practical fascism has driven a lot of politics in the USA and the UK (and several other countries, as in many the baby boom generation has reached middle and old age) over the past 2-3 decades.

“These voters are sitting pretty, vested in careers, pensions, properties, and their main feeling is fear; they see all change as a threat, not an opportunity, a threat to their enjoyment of all they are vested in.”

Fear and self-interest rule OK?

My thanks to Tyger for highlighting the above.


Bodwyn Wook said...

My American "Baby Boomers" now aiding and abetting Israelis in bombing babies in Gaza (and Baghdad) are -- this of course is purely objective and scientific, or neutral, terminology -- a complete load of (you guessed it!) excrement & turds. A dispassionate review of their squalid and stupid, above all /useless/, history reveals that they started out as a stupid gang of dopers and fornicators ("hippies") who proclaimed the moral superiority of vice -- "Luv" -- and wound up of course fulfilling the old adage, about oaks and acorns. Only now they have grown into a singularly diseased and blighted, slimy, stand of bent and twisted trees soon to be cut down for the cultivation of Asian Shitake mushrooms. They are a bunch of howling whiners who all want to be "safe", hate the young especially when the later refuse to --- for them and to put up with their endless hystrical & fake crises ("terrorism", "global warming") and other attention getting misbehavior, and in any case these moral cripples can't stand themselves without money around. Their bent and cracking, barren, branches today are festooned with caked wads of nothing but dried up owlshit and shredded old plastic bags...your UK 'wrinklies' ain't a patch on THESE (scientific or objective, diagnostic, term) /shitheels/! The only question these decaying thieves yet pose to Life is akin to that asked by one of the mobile vulgus of sickly flagellants, in /The Seventh Seal/, and it is: "How LONG do we got LEFT, burden the earth, MAAAAAN?" They bray universally like asses and their accents, especially those of the American South, are acutely annoying. Only worse is the rat-terrier yapping of the unnegrotomane African-American Mr Illinois Democrat Senator President-Elect Barack Obama, a Younger Boomer....

And yes, herein I of course in the foregoing fulfill the other adage, namely "it takes one to know one!"

Jose said...

Sadly, what this article says is true everywhere. Why governments copy the wrong things other governments do is becoming an apparent phenomenon which eventually is not a phenomenon.

As to the government by public polls, as you all know polls can be easily manipulated and questions asked where answers cannot be other than those sought by the pollsters, majoritarily.

anticant said...

Jose, in our younger days politicians were mostly people with a long family tradition of public service, or prominent members of their local communities actively involved in business, manufacturing, trade unionism etc.

Now, politicians tend more and more to be academically trained people who go straight into politics without any other practical life experience. Hence, their fondness for bureaucratic, paperwork 'solutions' which often have little relation to the real nature of the problem.

Jose said...

Yes, Anticant, unfortunately that's true. Politics in our times was also art, oratory, and witty brains at work.

Mediocrity is the qualifying adjective today.

zola a social thing said...

Hope I do not get away from the thread here but :-
Once organised a conference. Did not give the usual ( normal ? ) name tags that should be fitted on the upper body.

One ( American big prof - from the management training regimes ) person demanded that I replace his "tag" with the correct name and status.

Why I asked.

He said that too many people are invading his "private space".

I replied that is because YOU do not them.

anticant said...

You are very much to the point, Zola, but I think there's something missing from the last line.

Name tags are dreadful status symbols. I prefer the scenario where people get together in twos and have five minutes each to find out as much as they can about their partner and then introduce one another to the gathering.

All these more informal human-centred ways of working seem to have gone out of fashion again, more's the pity.

zola a social thing said...

Thanks Anticant : it should have been . .. ... nothing to do with Pinter ... ... but again.


Never verb it all.

You are very kind to me.

Bodwyn Wook said...

Jose, I am sentimental about childhood memories of MacMillan, Eisenhower and all that, and there was more verbal artifice for example in the case of Kennedy and Dr King, but regardless of what Aunty says -- although it is perfectly true as far as it goes -- there is always this moiety in politics of porchclimbers and cat burglars.

The painful crux is between professional academic mediocrity, and populist wowsers who can all too easily back their fannies (and ours!) in fascism.

I happen to think that constitutionalist re-localization of as many public service functions as possible might offer ordinary people a meaningful scale of active involvement in affairs. But there remains the seductive fox of nationalism and "crusades".

zola a social thing said...

Would you vote for Kafka to lead your movement ?

Jose said...

And money, Bodwyn Wook, money. Money that makes ordinary people odd.

Bodwyn Wook said...

Kafka...and HP Lovecraft!

(Borges for Secretary of Pensions...)

And -- Laurie Anderson as "The Forces Sweetheart II!"

Bodwyn Wook said...

PS: My mother's home country here in south-central Minnesota for a fact is a dire epicenter for this foulness; indeed, some scholars deem it to be /the/ dysomphalos:

[The Whatelys, oddly enough and though themselves degenerate, /are/ a cadet branch of the undecayed Old New England Bushs -- ERS]